Lesson 13: Women and the Priesthood

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 91–96


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand how the priesthood can bless us as women.

The Priesthood Benefits All Church Members

“[The priesthood] is … the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 139). The Lord has assigned to men the chief responsibility for the governing and presiding over the affairs of the Church and the family. They in turn are to use this sacred power to bless and benefit all members of the Church—men, women, and children. President Brigham Young said:

“Priesthood is to be used for the benefit of the entire human family, for the upbuilding of men, women, and children alike. There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ. … Men have their work to do and their powers to exercise for the benefit of all the members of the Church. …

“So with woman: Her special gifts are to be exercised for the benefit and uplift of the race” (quoted by John A. Widtsoe, comp., in Priesthood and Church Government, rev. ed. [1954], 92–93).

Men and women have different but equally important responsibilities in the home and the Church. Priesthood power can help each person perform those responsibilities for the benefit of all.

Because priesthood power is on the earth today, great blessings are available to all worthy Church members, whether they are old or young, male or female, single or married.

  • What can women do to honor the priesthood?

Many privileges and blessings of the priesthood are discussed in lesson 12, “Priesthood Ordinances.”

Elder John A. Widtsoe explained other benefits of the priesthood:

“Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession. …

“The man holds the Priesthood, performs the priestly duties of the Church, but his wife enjoys with him every other privilege derived from the possession of the Priesthood. This is made clear, as an example, in the Temple service of the Church. The ordinances of the Temple are distinctly of Priesthood character, yet women have access to all of them, and the highest blessings of the Temple are conferred only upon a man and his wife jointly” (Priesthood and Church Government [1965], 83).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the companionship role of the priesthood and women: “In the true Patriarchal Order man holds the priesthood and is the head of the household, … but he cannot attain a fulness of joy here or of eternal reward hereafter alone. Woman stands at his side a joint-inheritor with him in the fulness of all things. Exaltation and eternal increase is her lot as well as his. (D. & C. 131:1–4.) Godhood is not for men only; it is for men and women together. (D. & C. 132:19–20)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 844).

  • What blessings have come to you because of the priesthood?

Every Member Should Honor and Support the Priesthood

Just as everyone in the Church benefits from the priesthood, so everyone is responsible for honoring and sustaining the priesthood. Priesthood bearers are continually reminded “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). Women are likewise counseled to honor the priesthood, to be grateful for its power, and to show respect to those who hold it. We are also responsible to support the priesthood. To support means “to promote the interests or cause of; … to uphold or defend as valid or right” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. [1993], “Support,” 1184).

Some ways we can honor and support the priesthood are suggested in the following scriptures:

  • Display a poster of the following list or refer to the information on the chalkboard. As each scripture is read, ask the sisters to listen for suggestions to help them honor the priesthood. Beside each reference write the suggestion given.

    Doctrine and Covenants

    D&C 19:23: learn of Jesus Christ, listen to His word, be teachable

    D&C 20:33: take heed, pray always

    D&C 58:26–27: be anxiously engaged in a good cause

    D&C 64:33–34: be not weary in well-doing

A Woman’s Relationship to Priesthood Leadership in the Home

It is the husband’s responsibility to preside and provide leadership in the home. A Melchizedek Priesthood quorum manual explained:

“In the perspective of the gospel, ‘leadership’ does not mean the right to dictate, command, and order. On the contrary, it means to guide, protect, point the way, set the example, make secure, inspire, and create a desire to sustain and follow. Literally, the husband is to lead the way” (The Savior, the Priesthood and You [Melchizedek Priesthood course of study, 1973–74], 172).

While the father is the leader in the home, “his wife is his most important companion, partner, and counselor” (Family Guidebook [1999], 2). A husband and wife must work together to strengthen their family and teach their children the principles of the gospel. By fulfilling her role as counselor to her husband, a woman can reinforce her husband’s position as head of the home and encourage greater family unity.

We also honor the priesthood when we treat our husbands with the same gentleness, kindness, and love they should maintain as bearers of the priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled the Relief Society to “teach women how to behave towards their husbands, to treat them with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness” (History of the Church, 4:606–7).

Trust and unity can be found in a home where both husband and wife earnestly seek the best interests and happiness of the other. In such a setting, both will have joy in their association, and each will have opportunities to attain fulfillment.

In a revelation given to Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph, the role of a wife and her relationship to the priesthood is set forth. The Lord told her:

“Thou art an elect lady, whom I have called. …

“And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words. …

“Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride. Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him.

“Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive” (D&C 25:3, 5, 14–15).

  • What was Emma instructed to do for her husband? What are the blessings that come from following this same counsel today?

Support to Priesthood Bearers in the Home

As women in the Church, we can have great influence on the priesthood holders in our home. We can support and encourage our husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons in fulfilling their priesthood responsibilities. If we request a blessing and then honor that blessing, we communicate our support of the priesthood. We can also strengthen the priesthood bearers in our home by including them in our prayers. The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled women of the Church to “concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in their husbands; … that we should arm and sustain them with our prayers” (History of the Church, 4:604–5).

We must work continually to perfect our own characters and fulfill our responsibilities. We may also need to encourage and gently remind priesthood holders in our home to honor and magnify their priesthood callings. Young women as well as mothers can do much to encourage young men to attend their meetings and prepare to serve missions. Elder David B. Haight said: “You young ladies have a profound influence on young, masculine behavior. … Your influence with young men is important. You encourage Church standards and dress and conduct” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 56–57).

When a wife has a positive attitude about her husband’s duties in the Church, it makes it easier for him to carry out those duties. Her attitude also communicates to their children that having the priesthood in the home is a great blessing.

  • How can a woman organize her daily activities so that she can better support her husband in his priesthood callings?

A Woman’s Relationship to Priesthood Bearers in the Church

Just as a righteous woman can exert much influence for good by sustaining the priesthood bearers in her own home, she can also strengthen the Church when she supports the leaders in her branch or ward and district or stake. We support our leaders when we accept Church callings willingly and fulfill them faithfully, realizing that a call from the priesthood is a call from the Lord. We can honor the counsel of priesthood leaders—our husbands, home teachers, bishops or branch presidents, stake or district leaders, and General Authorities. We should refrain from criticizing priesthood leaders and teach our children to do the same. Sustaining and supporting the priesthood is more than just raising our hands or saying that we support the priesthood. It is learning, praying, obeying, and serving in a good cause.

The Lord has provided priesthood leaders to set the course to follow, under the Lord’s direction. Our responsibility, then, is to listen and heed righteous counsel as though it were from the Lord. “And whatsoever they [priesthood leaders] shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be … the will of the Lord, … the mind of the Lord, … the word of the Lord, … and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4).

When Harold B. Lee was President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he gave the following advice to all Church members about supporting priesthood leaders and particularly the prophet: “We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Conclusion

The priesthood is a great blessing from God to all of His children. All members of the Church should honor the priesthood and develop Christlike attributes in their relationships with each other in the home and the Church. Women who are trying to develop these qualities can strengthen priesthood bearers and bless their families and the Church. The happiness and influence of women will increase as they honor and follow their priesthood leaders.

Challenge

Use this lesson to increase your understanding of the priesthood role in your family.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review lesson 12 in this manual, “Priesthood Ordinances.”

  2. 2.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson or write the information on the chalkboard.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.