not in Primary anymore

why i love elder oaks’ talk (and still support ordain women)


I was late in listening to Elder Oaks’ Priesthood Session talk; at the time he was speaking, from about 6:10 to 6:30 pm, I was waiting outside in a line, hoping for entrance to the meeting in which he was giving it. However, the moment I entered the crowded hotel ballroom where I would have the wifi necessary to listen to the rest of the session, his talk seemed to be the thing people wouldn’t stop talking about. Some had heard the whole talk, others had only heard snippets, and still others knew of it only because of friends, family, and complete strangers who had seen fit to send them messages telling them that Oaks was addressing the movement directly and that if we didn’t stop after listening to his talk we were in open rebellion against God. With such an introduction, I was both intrigued and hesitant to listen. 24 hours later it was the only talk I had yet to hear and curiosity won out; I scrolled through the church website until I found it and hit play.

What I heard was the most informative talk on the Priesthood that I can remember ever hearing. With the recent discussions that have been going on in the wake of Ordain Women, there have been many accusations that those who believe women will one day be ordained only believe so because they do not understand the Priesthood, and there have been misconceptions about it on both sides. Oaks’ thorough explanation of what the Priesthood is and the difference between Priesthood keys and Priesthood authority could not have been more timely.


It was a talk of a lot of firsts. At the beginning of his talk he directly quoted a woman: Linda K. Burton, the General Relief Society President. That has long been a complaint among Mormon feminists; women giving talks will almost exclusively quote men, but there is no reciprocating; the men quote men too. Elder Oaks quoting a woman – and one who was speaking authoritatively about something male-exclusive like the Priesthood, no less – is big!

He then went on to talk about women and the Priesthood. The standard argument is that only men hold the Priesthood, but everyone, women and children included, are blessed by it, etc. etc. Oaks did not use that argument. Instead, he said something quite revolutionary: that women DO have Priesthood authority. “We’re not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their church callings. But what other authority can it be?” I had long heard it speculated that sister missionaries, when they are set apart on their mission, receive some sort of Priesthood authority, but this was the first talk to specifically confirm this. Then he went a step further and said that anyone who is set apart in a church calling by someone who holds Priesthood keys hold Priesthood authority pertaining to that calling. This made me think back to my previous calling as ward chorister; I had never told anyone this, but I had felt a spiritual prompting that as one who picked and led the music I was playing as large a part in the weekly Priesthood ordinance as those who blessed and passed the Sacrament.


I was glad he explicitly mentions tne temple, that the women there both hold and exercise the Priesthood. There are problematic aspects of the temple, as detailed by Rebecca’s post last week or the Feminist Mormon Housewives post The Mormon Priestess, but the fact of the matter is that women DO receive some form of Priesthood in the temple. And not just in a future sense, as in the “kings and queens, priests and priestesses” part, but right now. In the initiatory, women lay their hands on the head of another woman and anoint her. In the endowment both men and women wear a robe, preparatory to officiating in the ordinances of the Aaronic, then the Melchizedek Priesthood. And the full name of the garments that endowed members wear is the Garment of the Holy Priesthood. Going through the temple for my own endowment in January of 2013 is what had originally opened up my kind to the possibility of female ordination, so the temple is dear to my heart.


He reminds everyone that the Relief Society is NOT just a class for the women of the church, and what immediately sprang to my mind was the words of Joseph Smith in the Relief Society minutes, when he spoke of making the society “a kingdom of Priests” and said it should move according to the ancient Priesthood. It is a reaffirmation that the Relief Society, much as I love it in its current form, is not as Joseph Smith and its founding mothers had envisioned it; there were faith healings and many other ordinances that the early sisters once performed that are now under the umbrella of the Priesthood and thus limited to men. While it is amazing to hear the rhetoric changing within the words of his talk from men=priesthood, women=motherhood to women have the Priesthood already, the fact remains that we are far from the kingdom of Priests that Joseph envisioned, and Ordain Women, say what you may about it, is the only group of people right now making steps toward it.

Nowhere does he say that women will never be ordained. There is a part where he states that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve “they are not free to alter the divine decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood”, but we already knew that. Ordain Women fully recognizes that the Priesthood does not come from the First Presidency; it comes from God. We never asked them to alter the Priesthood, and no one who believes in the power of the Priesthood would. What we are asking is for them to ask God, for though they cannot alter the current pattern of the Priesthood, God can (and has on several different occasions).


Combine all this with President Uchtdorf’s talk in the same session that quoted the ninth article of faith which states that “God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God”, and I don’t feel rebuffed at all. Rather, I feel justified in my participation with Ordain Women and look forward to the day when we will see the work come to fruition. As Uchtdorf asked this conference, “When our time in mortality is complete, […] will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength?”

9 Responses to “why i love elder oaks’ talk (and still support ordain women)”

  1. Derrick Clements

    Excellent article. I agree with you that Elder Oaks’ talk was exceptionally progressive. When I taught at the MTC, I would often remind my missionaries that both the elders and the sisters had been set apart with power and authority from God, and it was so great to hear an apostle validate that. Women who already serve in the church are not just fulfilling assignments but are acting, equally with men, with autonomous authority of God. That is so exciting to me.

    One point you make I want to take some exception to: “the fact remains that we are far from the kingdom of Priests that Joseph envisioned, and Ordain Women, say what you may about it, is the only group of people right now making steps toward it.” I totally agree that we have a lot to go to live up to the original vision of the RS, but in addition to OW, I would say that many other feminist Mormon groups are making steps toward it as well. Including this blog, which is separate from OW; other Mormons who don’t embrace the label feminist but who nevertheless work toward feminist ideas; and the church itself, which has over the last several years seemed to be on a fast-forward track toward expanding opportunities for women and equalizing the sexes.

    It is a great time to be part of the body of Christ, with lots of different body parts doing what they alone can do. I am grateful for OW, I am grateful for church leadership, and I hope I can do my part to make the world and the church a better and more divine place.

  2. EW

    We don’t really know what Joseph meant by his statement, but if anything Elder Oak’s talk perhaps helped define it when he made it clear that the RS is an appendage of the Priesthood. (Meaning organization – not that members of RS are appendages. Already seen on other blogs where that has been twisted to mean women again are being labeled as subclass or less than. Sheesh)

    I think that it is significant, particularly in light of every office in the priesthood is an appendage.

    I do not believe you are off the mark in your thoughts about the temple. As I learn about my ancestors, and their journal writings, participating in a second annointing, I think that such an experience would shore up your thoughts on the matter.

    So what now of OW? Is it worth supporting an organization that may jeapordize your church membership? (Not saying it factually does, or will, but precedence has been set in the past, and members have lost reccomends and been X’d over mailed petitions, so I can only imagine to added potential to those in OW)

    The Church PR has indicated that discussion on LDS women’s matters have been in process for some time, that OW does not have a voice, and will not be invited. Also since the same has had very strong directives pre/post the OW action. (Let’s not kid ourselves – the church views the activity of OW on April 5th as a protest) Do you foresee OW raising the level of demonstration, or will support be merely an online statement?

  3. tristin

    This. This was exactly my sense during Oaks’ talk. It opened the way for a future revelation more than any previous statement from the leadership has. The foundation is set and it is just a matter of taking the next step now (asking The Lord).

  4. Anonymous

    My question is… Why did OW defy the requests of the church to stay off of church property? This defiance seems to suggest that OW is not willing to accept a no answer even if the Prophet said that God said no to women receiving the Priesthood. I think the best direction OW can take is making the case for more sensitivity toward female concerns (of which the Church has already made considerable strides recently) and not ask for ordination. God has made small exceptions to ordination in the past, but the pattern since the pre-mortal life has been to ordain men. That pattern is gender-based and since gender is an eternal characteristic, it appears the pattern of priesthood ordination will not change, most likely for the eternities.

  5. R A Kay

    Didn’t really matter what Elder Oaks said in his talk, the OW crew was standing by eagerly waiting to twist anything he said to support their personal views anyway.

  6. Kayleen

    And this is why feminist bug me so much… First the priesthood is for MEN! Why do women feel the need to have what men have. Are you so insecure in your role that you need what someone else has? Second, if your married how do your husbands feel? If they agree with you it is probably because he has been imasculayed by women or he is trying to make you happy. Either way you have failed as a woman. Third, where is your faith? I’m assuming you have that. You think you know better than God what needs to happen and why? WOW you must think a lot of yourself… Oh wait you do, that’s why I’m writing on this post.

  7. keliku

    OW and anyone who supports their cause need to read the official response from the Church. They are way off base and do not understand how they have allowed the adversary to twist their paradigm. God, at times, has changed policies, but He does not change ordinances and principles. What OW seeks will never happen during this lifetime, and most certainly not while they are protesting, though they call it what they will. You, they, and everyone really need to read this and then reconsider their/your position.

    If you still insist on your position after reading it, then it is only a matter of time before you leave the Church, guaranteed. It is a fool who thinks that by being ordained to the Priesthood somehow that will “elevate” women more, or make them more credible or more/equally “important”. Fools. Anyone who believes that simply does not understand the truth of it.

  8. Kate

    Hmm…interesting. I also enjoyed his talk very much. I felt that his explanation voiced that it is unnecessary for women to be ordained to the priesthood in the manner than men are, because they are specifically ordained to the offices of Deacon, Teacher, Priest, High Priest. It is not necessary for women to be ordained to the Priesthood, because they are not asked to serve in these capacities. However, they still hold the Priesthood keys for their callings, and are set apart and ordained as missionaries, RS Presidents, Primary Presidents….

    I have had the good fortune of feeling very needed and utilized in the church in many callings. I have been listened to by the other members, both men and women. I guess, I feel like I haven’t been held back by not having those particular offices of the Priesthood, but I certainly feel that I have been ordained with Priesthood power and inspiration for my callings.

    So, that was my main message from the talk. It’s not necessary. Woman already hold the Priesthood….for their responsibilities.

    I really don’t see the need for women to be responsible for other organizations and ordinances (like baptism, etc.) as well. We certainly have enough on our plate, let alone to be constantly worrying that Bishop (sister) Parker and her counselor (brother) Pattinson are alone now at the church because the other counselor couldn’t make it to the presidency meeting. Seems like that complicates everything in the church to add that dynamic. That is just one example, but I see similar issues arising.

    I think the system is nice that men and women have responsibility over different aspects of church service and organization. I am very sorry though that you have been made to feel like a second class member in any way. It seems to me that you are an extremely capable person and need not feel that way. You have much service to give and can do much good in the church to bless the lives of others.

    Perhaps the key is not to worry about who gets the credit. I heard that once on my mission. If we would all stop worrying about who gets the “credit” we could do a lot more good and get a lot more done.

    I think when we stand before our heavenly father, these kinds of things will seem really insignificant. He will want to know what we have done for our families, our fellowmen, the needy and poor in spirit. I will feel to be lacking, but I hope that I will be able to stand before Him with humility and say that I have done all I can to serve without seeking my own agenda or glory.

    I worry that OW followers forget that, and will be embarrassed to see their Heavenly Father and have to admit that they used precious time on earth to try to persuade the brethren of their own agenda instead of using their time, talents and enthusiasm to get to work: teaching, training, feeding the poor, visiting the lonely, caring for the sick, and other more worthy goals.

    However, I also hope that all sisters might feel that they are loved and accepted despite their political views. I feel badly if they feel like they are not as important as men in the church, but I do think that seeking offices in the Priesthood will not be of help in this regard in the end.

    What I do hope is that their message helps all of us be more compassionate to those who feel that they are not taken seriously or listened to in the ward or in ward council. I think that is a reminder we can all use.


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