Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Of Time, Office, and Power

Y-axis = Office; X-axis = Time (pre-mortal to mortal to eternal)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS 
NOT SUGGESTING MOTHERHOOD = PRIESTHOOD

Last year I sat in on a speech therapy session with a patient who suffered a stroke, I didn't think this experience would make me ponder the role of men and women in the Church, but it did. As the therapist began to explore and suggest strategies for the patient to relearn how to do fundamental things for himself, his wife kept interrupting to say she could do those things for him. She had missed the point of her husband’s acute rehabilitation stay. The speech therapist had to explain that this was a time for him to learn how to do things for himself, even when the results were considered inferior to what she could provide. It was the only way for him to make progress. “It’s like he’s starting out as a little child, and I have to support him, don’t I?” Her response confirmed her understanding, and seemed in line with how Latter-day Saint women are asked to sustain the brethren as they grow within offices of the priesthood.

Above I’ve charted a visual representation of “office versus time” to describe how I see things playing out for both genders. It shows woman’s condescension to this mortal realm in which things are governed by lower offices, namely the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods. At this stage in the Plan, Woman agrees to accept conditions as they are, as they benefit Man’s spiritual growth. She may carry out callings with authority granted within those offices, but is not permitted to perform ordinances outside the temple using power not allocated to her. – That is not to say that she is incapable of performing ordinances (she does, after all, have that "other priest(ess)hood"), but much like a person who has the skills to drive, they are first required by governing laws to have a permit. They also need keys. And I believe these permissions are not given to women directly because mortality has rolled forth in the direction of the Father (not the Mother). Or in other words, this is Man's acute rehabilitation program, not so much Woman's. She has already proven herself true and faithful to the principles of the Gospel.

I never intended to test it out, but I can share a personal experience in which I used my “other priesthood” power to confirm that it is real. It was 2012 and I had come home from delivering my daughter. I was suffering from terrible cramping and my newborn was struggling with nasal congestion. Hearing her gasp for air was upsetting my condition even more and my husband appeared torn as to who he should care for in that moment. I could bear it no longer and I instinctively raised my arm to the square, called down a healing blessing upon me and my family, and a current of energy came through the house. The baby went straight to sleep, by belly stopped aching, and peace was restored. My husband was just as shocked as I was. 

I’ve gone back to the temple to ponder that moment and the stories of other women with similar experiences. I’ve been amazed by how many others have essentially picked up the keys* and hopped behind the priesthood wheel when they felt the situation (usually urgent) called for it. Why was this otherwise limited to the temple? Why couldn’t I share priesthood duties with my husband out in the open? As I reflected on Eve cleaving onto Adam -- who is progressing in the direction of Heavenly Father-- I see that this is a temporal setup. This is not the big picture. This is our temporary and literal sub-mission, as we assist our husbands in becoming clean and wise.

X-axis (time) removed. 

What do we as women get out of this? A physical body. A companion who is loving and whole and ours for eternity. We gain families and a knowledge of the Savior who helps us to progress. On a broader scale, women throughout time come to earth with their unique endowments, whereas relatively few men on earth ever obtain divine power. I have to believe that at some point we thought this was a good deal. And I have faith that it is, but it does help to see a way out of the mortal setup. A light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. For that reason, I have figuratively merged each office as they stack on top of each other like an escape ladder (see above). Since Woman left her high estate to join Man on the ground level, she too must obtain the signs and tokens from the mortal endowment (his first; her further) in order to climb  through the levels of the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods. I strongly believe that after the sentinels are satisfied, we will rise up together using the key(s) designated to woman (and revealed to man)  and that, finally, we can unveil our glory. This may happen either in this lifetime (2nd anointing) or the next (exaltation). But it will happen.

At this point, many would say that I’m suggesting women are merely accessories to their husbands and have little to add to this earthly existence. No. In all things men are to counsel with women who actually hold the highest calling to be assumed by mankind: motherhood. And why is it called the highest? It's more than a platitude. Motherhood is a by-product of a higher priest(ess)hood office in which daughters gained skills and power from Heavenly Mother pre-mortally. By extension it must needs be above the Melchezidek and Aaronic offices. This divine nature is meant to bless mankind and goes beyond human reproduction. Thus the Church suffers as a whole when “the priesthood” overlooks women’s contributions and/or doesn’t request their insight when going about its business. It is not good for man to be and —if I might add— act alone when so much strength and power is literally at his side. God is best served and the Adversary rebuked when man and woman work together as a team. That this ideal is not always upheld by imperfect people does not change those underlying principles.

I pray this perspective offers hope, but I don't expect others to see eye-to-eye with me and that's okay. I personally find it liberating, but acknowledge that real life applications sometimes miss the mark. There are plenty of men, for example, who presume that because they “hold the priesthood” they are superior to women (oh, irony). Many misconstrue the charge to preside in the home to imply ownership when, to me, that mostly means they are accountable for each family member receiving all the ordinances pertaining to the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods. I also concede that current constraints on women’s authority likely go beyond what God had intended. 


Extensions of priestesshood, now gone 

Above is an image showing extensions of priestesshood that have been performed here on earth previously, but were done away with during the Era of Correlation. In my estimation, acts such as mothers' blessings of daughters prior to birthing do not take away from man’s apprenticeship in the Aaronic and Melchezidek offices, but instead elevate the family. Even so, this opinion of mine and aforementioned short-comings do not stir within me a desire to alter the framework I’ve described here. I’m inclined to work within it and pray the missing pieces will come together again. For I have faith that, while certain aspects may be lacking, the broader design or rungs on the ladder will nevertheless lift both man and woman. 

This brings me back to my stroke patient. After we spoke with his wife she was committed to letting her husband practice and progress. Our neuropsychologist added that as the husband's decision-making capacity improved, it would bolster his spirit and their marriage if she were to hearken refer to him when appropriate. We also emphasized that she should remain with her husband to prevent him from ever falling. This woman was his key to safety.  As they prepared for their eventual discharge from the hospital, I couldn’t help but think their situation is a lot like what Adam and Eve covenanted to do. They were facing hardship together, each with his/her portion to contribute, but united in a goal to ease each other's burdens and return home. It seemed unthinkable then, that should this patient gain enough strength in his arm that he would raise it to do anything but serve his wife with gratitude. Such is the case with power in the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthood(s), with its promised homecoming even sweeter. 

*I presume this is possible either because 1) being from a higher office grants a general "master" key or 2) the sealing between husbands and wife allow her access onto his power. After talking it over with friends, I'm inclined towards the former since young unmarried women do not need ordination to the Aaronic priesthood prior to entering the temple. 

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