Saturday, January 14, 2012

Boys and the Priesthood

My husband sometimes says, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there" (L.P. Hartley).  The organization and reorganization of the priesthood in the LDS Church definitely falls into this category, and I don't think most modern members of the LDS Church realize that.  Yesterday I finished reading "The Priesthood Reorganization of 1877:  Brigham Young's Last Achievement" by William Hartley, which brought some light to questions I've had about the priesthood.

The thing that struck me the most was how the priesthood got to the young boys, as it had not always been standard procedure.  I also enjoyed thinking about women's issues of the time, and lastly learned when Church general authorities started receiving a stipend.

Priesthood to the Boys
In 1877, before Brigham died, he wanted to restructure the organization of the priesthood brethren to be more like Joseph Smith had taught  (5).  Before the restructure, things were really inconsistent:  bishoprics without counselors (7), local presiding bishops (6), stakes were not equal to one another (5), some saints weren't officially in any ward even (8).

Brigham Young wanted basically one stake per county (15), so reorganized stake sizes ranged from 1500-4500 people (16).  In reorganizing stakes, it was interesting because it doesn't sound like the prophet always picked the stake president.  In many cases, the stake president was nominated, then voted on (16).  I'm assuming this was a real vote, not just a complimentary sustaining vote, because in another case, a man was proposed to be the stake president and received many opposing votes.  The solution was to have that man be a co-president with the previous president (19).  Not something we hear of today.

Young also produced basically the first handbook of instructions that included how many men (based on the scriptures) should be in each quorum (96 elders, 48 priests, 24 teachers, 12 deacons).  Wards were to combine quorums if they didn't have enough men to fulfill the number requirements (21).

So, to the point -- here's why boys were called "into the work":  "Prior to 1877 there had been a stake deacons, a teachers, and a priests quorum, whose presidencies were sustained at each general conference.  Wards often had deacons quorums but none for the teachers and priests.  They did have groups of ward teachers, but these were not considered Aaronic Priesthood teachers quorums.  The ideal continued to be to call mature men into these quorums, but in practice such men received the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the Aaronic quorums were plagued with vacancies.  The only solution was to call boys into the work" (23). 

One stake reported having 11 year old deacons; another stake typically ordained deacons at age 14.  "The duties of priests and teachers to ward teach [with the older Melchizedek Priesthood men], and deacons to care for the meetinghouses, were not new.  But with more and better supervised quorums, the work was accomplished more effectively. And it was done by youths, giving them some priesthood training before adulthood so that, presumably, they would make better Melchizedek Priesthood bearers" (33).

As I read, I of course, had women in mind and wondered what the women thought about the priesthood being now commonly given to these young men.  Hartley mentioned that it was well received by the boys/men, but didn't mention how the women felt about it (33).

One interesting thing about women that Hartley did mention was in one stake, Erastus Snow, under the direction of Brigham Young, told the stake president he needed to stop 'going "heart and hand with the gentiles"' by "selling and drinking liquor dispensed at the LDS co-op store" or he'd be replaced.  Snow told the women: "I advise you sisters to get together in the capacity of a Relief Society, and gut the store of every drop of liquor in it, and spill the liquor on the ground" (20).  Now imagine getting advice like that from a church leader!  In relation to today, I can see the same guidance in regards to pornography.  The women haven't officially been asked by Church leaders to dash pornography to pieces, but there seems to be a movement by women to do something about it.

Because of the poor overall organization, some wards lacked Sunday Schools, Mutuals, and Relief Societies.  The reorganization was good because it completed these auxiliary organizations -- the women now had their official organization under the direction of the bishop (33-34). 

Have you ever wondered when general authorities started getting a living expense stipend?  In 1877, Brigham wanted the Twelve to have even more broad duties than they'd had in the past, which would make 'it impossible for them to "pay any attention to their own private affairs."'  At that point, they were able to receive a '"reasonable recompense for their services" from Church funds' (28).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Point: Proclamation -- Yes, men and women are still different

Ruth over at Empowering LDS Women brought up the summary of a recent study regarding differences between women and men. In the study:

Scientists at the University of Turin and the University of Manchester say they have developed a new method to analyze personality differences between the sexes, which suggests the differences are much greater than previously thought.
They studied 10,261 people — 5,137 females and 5,124 males — and found key differences.
Women scored higher in:
  • sensitivity.
  • warmth.
  • anxiety.
Men got higher scores in:
  • emotional stability.
  • dominance.
  • rule-consciousness.
  • vigilance (wariness).
They noted significant differences in levels of aggression and life interests as well.

The researchers measured behavioural traits in a broader fashion than previous studies did. They argued that these broader definitions provide a more accurate description of personality characteristics. "We believe we made it clear that the true extent of sex differences in human personality has been consistently underestimated," they write.
I just love hearing studies that validate inherent differences in men and women because we ARE different.  Makes me say, "Point:  Proclamation!" I really believe that nurturing comes a bit more naturally to women -- particularly when the nurturing involves young children.  I also believe that men are generally better protectors, in part because of their generally larger size (however, they do need to be taught to protect, not to take advantage of).  I think both men and women are capable of being providers, but they may go about it a little differently.

Ruth brought up a very good point in her post inspired by some of the comments on the study summary.   Apparently, some commenters took the research as evidence that women are inferior to men and shouldn't be in leadership positions.  (So rude!)  Ruth concludes, "That, to me, is the essence of feminism. It isn't insisting that I am exactly the same as men--I'm not, and to be honest, I don't want to be. It is merely insisting that my differences do not make me inferior, and demanding the respect that each of us deserves as human beings. . . ."

The comments go to show what our society values: the men traits.  If we flipped things around and placed greater value, or an equal value on such things as sensitivity and warmth, comments would probably be different.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Raising Girls

Last October I had an interesting conversation with a friend regarding motherhood and raising daughters.  I should have just blogged it then, but I wrote it in my journal so I wouldn't stay up so late on the computer, which doesn't make any sense because handwriting takes so much longer, and now I have to type it up anyway!?

I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about all of it, but wanted to put out the ideas for some feedback.

Just for background, this friend is a mother of slightly older children, including some of marriageable age.  She said that many of her friends with married sons and sons of marriageable age, are complaining about their daughters-in-law (or potential DILs) because these younger women expect their husbands (or future husbands) to go to school, work, cook, and if they have kids, help care for them in ways such as putting the kids to bed. She said the girls look at having a family as a burden (I suppose something to push off to someone else like their husbands) when it should really be an honor to care for a husband and kids.

She also said that she thinks a big change in the girls stems from girls' sports -- making them more aggressive.  Sports activities takes not only the girls out of the home, but also the mothers; therefore, the girls don't see the mothers being homemakers anymore, so they don't know what to do when they marry -- they don't see homemaking as their responsibility.  My neighbor did say she felt ballet and other feminine activities were okay, though, because they don't cause the aggression.

Later, she sent me an e-mail emphasizing how sacred this time with young children is, and that we don't need to be on the go all the time -- it's okay to be home and not be signing up to help with everything (I'm way guilty of that one).

Anyway, it was an insightful discussion, and I want to know what others think.  Particularly,

  • Is it a common attitude among young, married women to look at having a husband and a family as a burden and the care for them not primarily their responsibility?
  • Do you think sports and the aggression that comes along with sports is carried into a younger woman's overall attitudes and affects her relationships and marriage?
  • Do you think activities such as dance, although a more feminine past-time, could also have a negative impact on a girls view of homemaking because it, too, can take her and her mother out of the home so much?
  • How can we raise our girls with homemaker/mother/caregiver qualities, yet still help them be competitive academically/professionally (which can be very important as a lot of women don't marry)?  I had a really hard time valuing both roles, and favored the latter qualities.  I wish I could have had a better balance of the two.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Understanding the Priesthood

I'm beginning a little quest, finally.  I started gathering some articles regarding the priesthood, it's organization, and history a while back, but was finally driven to actually start reading them because I had to teach a lesson on the priesthood to the 11 year old girls in our ward today (I didn't teach any 11 year old boys because there are none).

Sometimes understanding the priesthood can be difficult, especially when you start hearing people question it and why only men hold it.  I wanted to get to some fundamentals, so that's where I'm starting here.  I've read three articles so far, which are the ones I'll cite today, but I'll add another two or three installments as I get the other articles read.

Let's start with the basics from my lesson:

Q:  What is the priesthood?
A:  The power to act as God on the earth (Primary Lesson) or Gods power and authority to man (Bateman)

Q:  What are some of the blessings of the priesthood?
A:  Receiving a name and a blessing; being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; receiving a blessing when sick; partaking of the sacrament; serving a mission; being married in the temple.

Q:  Who receives the blessings of the priesthood?
A:  Anyone, male or female, who is worthy and properly prepared.

Q:  Who holds the priesthood?
A:  A male who is worthy and properly prepared.

Q:  What are some of the priesthood keys?  (I didn't get into this one in class.)
A:  Repentance, baptism, kingdom (organizing the Church, I'm guessing), gathering (missionary work), sealing (temple) (Bateman).  Also, if a person holds priesthood keys (the prophet), he can delegate them to others.  (Bateman, Priesthood Manual).

So, I think you can look at it this way:

The prophet holds the keys of (there are probably more, and I could be incorrect in my assumptions as I'm drawing my own summaries from the articles):
  • The gospel of repentance (JS-H 1:69)
  • Baptism by immersion (JS-H 1:69)
  • The kingdom (organizing the Church, I'm guessing) (Bateman)
  • Gathering (missionary work) (Bateman)
  • Sealing (temple work) (Bateman)
However, because the prophet can't possibly personally oversee all of that for an entire worldwide church, he delegates the keys to others through the organization of the priesthood:

  • Mission presidents
  • Branch presidents
  • Temple presidents
  • Stake presidents
  • Bishops
  • Melchizedek Priesthood quorum presidents (Elders, High Priests, 70s, Apostles)
  • Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents (Priests (Bishop), Teachers, Deacons)
Because those listed above still can't oversee all the duties associated with all the keys for every person, they then delegate a portion of their authority to others to help them, but they do not pass on the actual "keys"(Bateman, Priesthood Manual).

So, I think you can look at it like this:

  • The prophet needs to organize the women in in a certain area of the world.  He delegates the "keys" to a bishop to organize them.  The bishop needs help in this and calls a woman to head up the other women; she then has the authority to organize the women.  I think this whole process brings clarity to me regarding the statement about the Relief Society being organized after the manner of the priesthood.  Not only is one of the priesthood duties to organize the members of the church (the women in this case), but the women's organization of president and counselors follows the same pattern as the priesthood organizations/hierarchy.

  • Another example:  The prophet needs to give the temple ordinances to the women in the church, so he calls and gives the "keys" to a temple president, who organizes the work at the temple, and calls/delegates women to be temple workers to administer the ordinances to women.  (That's always been a big question of mine of how do female temple workers get the authority to administer the ordinances, as they are so similar to priesthood blessings?  It seems like they would need to hold the priesthood to do this.  Under this outline, though, it's just a priesthood responsibility that has been delegated to them.  You can also see this as an explanation for how women were able to give blessings in the early days of the church.  They didn't hold the priesthood, but they were given the authority to carry out this priesthood responsibility. 1/15/12 update:  Another reason the women were allowed to bless in the early days of the Church was that the church wasn't fully organized -- there were not yet temples (see Oaks).  Once temples were built, the blessings could occur there, rather than outside.  This could be compared to baptisms for the dead being performed in bodies of water; however, as soon as the temple was built, they were done in the temple.)
I started reading "The Priesthood Reorganization of 1877:  Brigham Young's Last Achievement," by William Hartley.  In it, Hartley states:

The revelations [concerning organizing the priesthood] said what but not always how.  Implementation therefore required new approaches at times, as Apostle Orson Pratt explained it in 1877:

To say that there will be a stated time, in the history of this Church, during its imperfections and weaknesses, when the organization will be perfect, and that there will be no further extension or addition to the organization, would be a a mistake.  Organization is to go on, step after step, from one degree to another, just as the people increase and grow in the knowledge of the principles and laws of the Kingdom of God, and as their borders shall extend.
Based on that quote and the process of delegation mentioned above, I think it's worth looking at one more example.

  • The prophet needs to get the sacrament to the people every Sunday.  There's no way he can do that personally, so he delegates those "keys" to presidents of the Aaronic Priesthood to take care of it (Deacons, Teachers, Priests (Bishop)).  They in turn, administer the sacrament to the members of the Church.  I don't know that there's anything stating that the Aaronic Priesthood holders HAVE to take on that duty (I'm still studying), but that is the way it is currently organized.   Perhaps it's good for the young men to have this early practice of service in a formal church setting as they are training to serve in other priesthood offices someday where they'll have even greater responsibility and organizational duties.  Also, I'd suppose that if the Lord wanted it another way, he could change the process.  He could say, instead of giving the duties of the sacrament to the Aaronic Priesthood, why don't you delegate the duty to the young women; but, that's just not the way it's currently organized.  Pratt said things can change and obviously they did change regarding women giving blessings as mentioned above.
So, that's what I've concluded for now.  I probably have some errors in there, and I'm sorry I didn't cite everything perfectly, but to me, it helped the priesthood make the most sense that it's ever made.  If you've had any great insight regarding the priesthood and its organization, be sure and let me know.


I also read "Sacred Keys of the Aaronic Priesthood" by Gibson, but didn't use it in this post.


1/15/12:  Additionally related to this is Dallin H. Oaks talk:  The Relief Society and the Church.  Fantastic!  (See the comments below.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Death of Pretty

I really enjoyed this short article, "The Death of Pretty," in The National Catholic Register by Pat Archibald.  Archibald points out that women used to display an essence of beauty, innocence, and virtue, whether or not they really were.

"By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact.  That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it."

However, now days, "Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. . . .  It is ironic that 40 years of women’s liberation has succeeded only in turning women into a commodity.  Something to be used up and thrown out. . . .But here is the real truth.  Most men prefer pretty over hot. . . . Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real or imagined. . . .  Nobody wants to be thought of as innocent, the good girl.  They want to be hot, not pretty.  I still hope that pretty comes back, although I think it not likely any time soon."