From what I've seen, there are four main concerns that frequently arise in conversation which will be addressed here:
- Part 1 will cover
- Priesthood being defined as "Men"
- The idea that the blessings of the priesthood can only be accessed through men
- Part 2 will go over
- Women wanting priesthood ordination, thinking that it is the equalizing factor between the sexes in the church
- The idea that "patriarch" (or presider in the home) means "the one who's ultimately in charge"
Conflict #1: Priesthood being defined as “Men” or “What the men do”It makes sense that many people (members and non-members alike) think that men are indeed the priesthood: The general session of conference for the men is called priesthood session; after the sacrament is passed in church on Sundays, the conducting member of the bishopric usually says something like "we would like to thank the priesthood for the reverent manner in which they served us this day"; male leaders in the church are called priesthood leaders. In recent years, Elder Dallin H. Oaks (an apostle in the church) has put forth great effort to help us understand this concept.
"The priesthood is [defined as] the power of God...to bless all of His children, male and female. . . . Some of our abbreviated expressions, like 'the women and the priesthood,' convey an erroneous idea. Men are not 'the priesthood.' Priesthood meeting is a meeting of those who hold and exercise the priesthood. . . . While we sometimes refer to the priesthood holders as 'the priesthood,' we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned or embodied in those who hold it. . . . The blessings of the priesthood, such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, the temple endowment, and eternal marriage, are available to men and women alike." (Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church, General Conference, Oct 2005)As Elder Oaks stated, saying this is just simply referring to those who are ordained to priesthood offices. However, because it is so commonly used, it is easy to forget the truth. It is vital to understand what the priesthood actually is, as opposed to what many have believed for generations.
I elected not to do that particular suggested activity. Instead, I reminded them of when they were baptized and received the Holy Ghost. I asked them if they knew people who had been married in the temple. I explained that these are some blessings that everyone can have access to because of the priesthood.
Conflict #2: The blessings of the priesthood can only be accessed though men
In the most recent Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting of the church, Elder Oaks again explained that many members (male and female) get confused with priesthood definitions, specifically those of (1) priesthood authority and (2) priesthood power. Priesthood authority is defined as the offices that worthy males in the church are ordained to (deacon, priest, elder, etc.). Priesthood power, however, is a different thing altogether.
"My father died when I was seven. I was the oldest of three small children our widowed mother struggled to raise. When I was ordained a deacon, she said how pleased she was to have a priesthood holder in the home. But mother continued to direct the family, including calling on which one of us would pray when we knelt together each morning. I was puzzled. I had been taught that the priesthood presided in the family. There must be something I didn't know about how that principle worked." (Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Authority in the Family and in the Church, Oct 2005 General Conference)
Elder Oaks had been taught correctly, but was confused in the same way that many members today are. It is the priesthood [defined as the power of God, not the men] which ultimately presides in the home. Elder Oaks’ mother, like her husband, had been sealed (married in the temple) by the priesthood authority of the sealer. It was not her “husband’s priesthood” that gave her the mantle/authorization to preside; it was the power from the priesthood sealing that they both participated in as equals.
"She needed and appreciated the special attention she received from men who held the priesthood—her father and brothers, her home teachers, other men in the ward. However, her greatest strength came from the Lord Himself. She did not have to wait for a visit in order to have the blessings of the priesthood in her home, and when visitors left, those blessings did not leave with them. Because she was faithful to the covenants she had made in the waters of baptism and in the temple, she always had the blessings of the priesthood in her life.” (Daughters In My Kingdom, p.138)
Now, this doesn't mean that a woman who has received the Holy Ghost can lay her hands on someone’s head and give him/her a blessing of health. However, she may be blessed with the ability to know what to do to help someone begin to be healed, either emotionally or spiritually. She also may call upon the Lord, asking that he may use the priesthood (His power) in her behalf to heal another that cannot ask for him/herself.