Summer Seminar Working Papers 2013: The Blessing Female

The Blessing Female

By Helena Bushman

The relationship between Mormon women and the priesthood has somehow eluded specific definition since its inception during Mormon origins, yet it has also developed as Mormon understanding of the nature of priesthood itself has gained clarity and definition over time.  Initially the power of God was accessed via spiritual gifts, including the faith to be healed and the faith to heal1, which came ungendered.  They were gifts of the household of faith, 'given to "the children of God," male and female.'2  Doctrine & Covenants section 46 contains an enumeration of some of these gifts; "to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration" (verse 15), "it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal" (verse 16), "the word of knowledge" (verse 18), "And to others the discerning of spirits" (verse 23) etc.  We may also refer to the 7th Article of Faith, which says, "we believe in the gift of tongues, prophesy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth".

However, there was a gradual shift in focus regarding the "power of God" - from being accessed via spiritual gifts to being accessed via "priesthood"3.   Over the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th centuries the gift of healing or laying on of hands was formalized as a ritual or ordinance of priesthood, and migrated from a realm shared by men and women to a realm of male privilege.  The laying on of hands became a solely priesthood function and any role that women had to play was slowly phased out. 

In critique of this policy shift there have been various efforts by LDS scholars to argue that there was a greater female role in practices now termed "priesthood" during the early days4; popular sources of evidence include: accounts of Mormon women giving blessings or performing healings5; quotes about women and priesthood taken from the Minutes of the Women's Relief Society of Nauvoo6; references to the women's roles in LDS temple ceremony7 (Toscano and Quinn); and quotes from patriarchal blessings for women which specifically mention being blessed with the priesthood (Newell, Quinn, Stapley and Wright etc). 

Yet, Stapley and Wright point out that "it is important to note that "priesthood" has meant different things at different times.  What often happens is that people take current definitions and then try to map them on the past (or the converse)."8 

Still, the Doctrine and Covenants itself links the gifts or power of god with the authority of priesthood (36: 4-5, 84:21, 121:36-37). Likewise, Harrell observes that in LDS literature prior to 1832 including the Book of Mormon, there was no concept of priesthood apart from one's calling, and authority was understood as being inherent in what are now termed offices. Callings to ministerial offices made no specific mention of priesthood being conferred.9

This absence of a firm definition and understanding of priesthood presents the opportunity to try and re-evaluate the notion through the lens and values of the 19th century saints.  This paper will chart the rise of the female priesthood debate through a contextualised study of three of the sources of authority outlined by Maxine Hanks10 namely blessings, the relief society and the temple, and explaining how they contribute to the debate as a whole.  The most important of these is the temple, and the strong female role can be inferred from Tullidge when he wrote the following:

"The Mormon women, as well as men," wrote Edward Tullidge in 1877, "hold the priesthood.  To all that man attains, in celestial exaltation and glory, woman attains.  She is his partner in estate and office […] In the Mormon temple, woman is not merely implied, but well defined and named."

With this policy shift in mind, from the gift or power of god to the authority of priesthood, it seems that if a female priesthood is to be 'found' one must first establish an understanding of the concepts of priesthood, as they emerged in the 1830s-40s, and evolved from the 1830s-90s.  For it is only once we comprehend the perspectives of the early saints that we can grasp the complex notions of a female priesthood.

Regarding the emergence of a formal priesthood, in 1834, Oliver Cowdery wrote the following in a letter to W.W. Phelps:

"But, dear brother think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his hand the holy priesthood, as he said "upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!"11

The publication of this reported 1829 angelic ordination in the Messenger and Advocate in 1834 was the first published announcement of the event, five years after it happened.  Dan Vogel suggests that the general membership of the church had been 'apparently […] unaware of the angelic source of the priesthood they had been exercising for the previous four years'12.  Even though D&C 13 dates the event as May 15th 1829, this section wasn't actually published until 1876. 

In Buck's Theological Dictionary 1831 the word 'priesthood' does not have its own entry but it is mentioned in the entry for 'priest'; 'priesthood' is defined here as the collective word for priests, particularly in reference to Judaism, and not as the power bestowed upon individuals by the laying on of hands.  Buck's entry defines a priest as "a person set apart for the performance of sacrifice, and other offices and ceremonies of religion"13, and focuses on who held the office of priest e.g. before the promulgation of the Law of Moses it was the first-born of every family, fathers, princes and kings, and among the Israelites after their departure from Egypt, priests were confined to one tribe, and indeed the role was made hereditary in the family of Aaron.  Apart from the additional point that the first-born of that family automatically became high-priest as long as he had no legal blemish, it seems the role and the powers therein were automatically passed between generations, and not individually ordained regardless of your position in society. 

If Buck represents the general consensus regarding the widespread view of the priesthood at this time in the 1830s, then the knowledge that an angel had directly bestowed it upon Joseph Smith would have offered a significantly new definition.  Many religions feature angels bringing messages or giving signs, but in no other faith has the priesthood specifically been brought by angels.  It is evident then that a complete understanding of the priesthood was still a ways off.  This was a new meaning for the word priesthood and a new concept to comprehend.  Thus while the concept of female priesthood may be non-existent in the church's doctrine today, this is not necessarily the case with the early saints, when the framework of the word had yet to be defined.

The chronology used to argue for the presence of a female priesthood and to outline the development of female 'ritualistic healing'14 (giving healing blessings or laying on hands) is well documented but still important if we are to establish a well-informed context.

The earliest recorded instance of a healing blessing by a Mormon woman is attributed to Sarah Studevant Leavitt in 183515; whilst praying for a sick daughter she saw an angel who told her to get the girl out of bed and lay "hands upon her head in the name of Jesus Christ and administers to her and she should recover"16.  Stapley and Wright interpret this as an indication that Mormon women could see themselves as increasingly important participants in the ritual community, as Sarah "clearly viewed herself as both able and qualified to receive and act upon a personal revelation to heal her daughter"17.  Other early examples include Phoebe Woodruff administering to her sick husband Wilford while on a mission in Maine in 1838, and Lucy Mack Smith, in the same year, blessing a sick girl to live18.  

Patriarchal blessings may have also contributed to these early instances.  In 1837, Joseph Smith Sr., the church patriarch at the time, said the following words in the blessing of Eda Rogers: "In the absence of thy husband thou must pray with thy family.  When they are sick thou shalt lay hands on them, and they shall recover.  Sickness shall stand back."19  In the same year he blessed Sophia Packard: "Thou mayest Call God thy father for thou shalt have faith to heal the sick when why children are sick thou mayest lay thy hands upon them in faith and they shall recover"20.  Stapley and Wright and Newell all recognise an endorsement of women performing these healing works within these words, especially the specific instruction to administer to the sick by the laying on of hands, 'the common form of administration among Mormon men'21.  Other patriarchal blessings were even more explicit; Zina Huntington was blessed that "the Priesthood in fullness is & Shall be Conferd upon you"22; Charles W Hyde blessed a woman in 1875 that she had a right to the fullness of the Priesthood23, and Mary Ann Dowdle was told that she was "chosen in the eternal worlds receive the fullness of the holy Priesthood with crowns and principalities and powers"24.

Patriarchal blessings were (and still are) sources of wisdom and to some extent prophesy so the appearance of healing gifts in blessing words may have instigated or at least encouraged further healing works.   

On 28 April 1842 Joseph Smith came to speak to the newly formed Nauvoo Relief Society. Among the many important things mentioned, two stand out for the purposes of this article.  First, he stated that "healing the sick…should follow all that believe, whether male or female"25, echoing the words of the New Testament (see footnote 1).  The other is described I Joseph Smith's journal; "gave a lecture on the pries[t]hood shewing [sic] how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood"26.  Joseph also said that "the society should move according to the ancient priesthood", that he would "make of this society a kingdom of priests" and then announced that he would "now turn the key to you [the relief society] in the name of God and this society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time…."27

Quinn suggests that Joseph Smith intended that the women who heard him speak would understand their healings were to be priesthood gifts, as opposed to simply ministrations of the spirit28, and that keys should be understood as referring to the priesthood, rather than tools with which to 'unlock' barriers to knowledge and intelligence.  This very literal approach to the sources – a direct and face-on analysis – is effective in this case as it positively concludes a connection between women and the priesthood.  Furthermore Joseph Smith's commendation of the women's actions allowed them to feel justified and perhaps also encouraged in their spiritual exercises29.

Joseph's 'vision' for the Relief Society was a high-reaching and ambitious one – a Society of female "priests" with a sense of spiritual equality with men, both moving according to the ancient priesthood.  Maxine Hanks suggested that one could speculate, based upon the comments by Joseph Smith to the Relief Society, that when the Society was organized, he envisioned it as formalizing women's spiritual gifts or powers into an organized society of female "priests" led by Emma who was "ordained" and through whom revelation would flow down.  Thus, in 1842 the Relief Society itself may have been viewed by Joseph and Emma and the women as a female avenue of priesthood, especially since this occurred before they were inducted into the Temple endowment, a year later30

The restoration of the temple endowment, also called the "holy order" or the "anointed quorum."31 , was another major development in the alignment of women's spiritual practices and women's priesthood.  Women were first inducted into the Temple anointing and endowment in 1843.  Interestingly, it was Emma Hale Smith who initiated the women into the temple rites.  Emma was anointed to become a "queen and priestess" in the endowment and then "ordained to the fulness of those offices by the second anointing32. Then, she anointed the other women, initiating them into the holy order of the temple.  Patriarchal blessings given to women began to feature links between the priesthood and endowment in their words; Maria Turnbow was blessed that she would "have an Endowment in the Lord's house [and] be clothed with the Power of the Holy Priesthood [to] be able to redeem thy fathers house…", and Louisa Jackson that she was "of the blood of Abraham thru the Loins of Manasseh & lawful heir to the Priesthood"33.  Although women had been administering to the sick before the temple was built, and these healings continued after women were able to attend the temple, the temple ceremonies were "a space where women received an expanded liturgical authority and administered rituals of salvation"34 and where they were positively encouraged to "experience the power of the Restoration through healing"35. Thus, healing was one theme in temple ritual, with baptism, washing and anointing all being ascribed healing purposes, with the first recorded example of female participation in a washing and anointing ritual for the sick occurring in December 184536. Additionally and perhaps more importantly, Joseph's 'vision' for the Relief Society as "a kingdom of priests" was fulfilled in the temple, in the church's most sacred space.

Thus, it seems that within the formative years of Mormonism, 1830-44, Joseph's vision for women was one of equality, even if that equality was a distinct women's priesthood, parallel to men's priesthood37 (MH interview).  In fact, Hanks sees Mormon women as having received "priesthood power" in four ways during the first twenty years of the church, 1830-50, via women's spiritual practices, the Relief Society, the Temple endowment, and the call to preach38.

However after Joseph's death in 1844, and the migration of the Church to Utah in 1847, coinciding with Emma's separation from the church, Joseph's vision of women as "priests" or having "priesthood" began to fade becoming less vivid and eventually conflicted.  Although Mormon women in Utah revived and expanded the Relief Society (Cite Women of Covenant), it became viewed as an "auxiliary" rather than a "kingdom of priests".   And though women continued to initiate women into the endowment (Cite endowment houses and SL temple) this eventually was seen only as "initiatory" and less in terms of "priesthood".  Meanwhile, women persisted in their practice of blessings and healings outside the temple, which began to attract criticism.

There has been a question of the propriety of the Relief Society practicing upon their gifts almost from the start; Joseph silenced the first set of qualms as noted by Eliza R Snow in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book; "Respecting the female laying on hands, he [Joseph Smith] further remark'd, there could be no devils in it if God gave his sanction by healing— that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water— that it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith, or  if the sick has faith to be heal'd by the administration."39  In 1857, after returning home from washing and anointing a sick woman, Mary Ellen Kimball "thought of the instructions I had received from time to time that the priesthood was not bestowed upon woman.  I accordingly asked Mr. [Heber C.] Kimball if women had a right to wash and anoint the sick for recovery of their health or is it mockery in them so to do" He responded that as long as they were obedient to their husbands and administered in the name of Jesus Christ rather than by the authority of the priesthood, then that would be acceptable.  However he went on to say "they might administer by the authority given to their husbands in as much as they were one with their husband".  Does this mean that women can invoke priesthood if they are administering with or in the presence of, their husbands?  Or perhaps it is a reference to being sealed in the temple, and only then can women invoke the priesthood?  There are instances of men and women healing together, and there are those who believed that women only have access to the priesthood when married and that is solely through their husbands.  We can only speculate here but it seems that Heber C Kimball's notion of priesthood authority is grounded in wifely obedience and servitude.

Opinions regarding the relationship between women, healing and the priesthood did not even approach consolidation until almost the turn of the century, and even then there was debate until into the 20th century when female administering to the sick died out.  In 1878 Angus Cannon, Salt Lake Stake president, responded to a question about women and the priesthood saying that they could only hold the priesthood in connection with their husbands, that they could anoint the sick and pray that the sick might be healed, but that they had to "be careful how they use the authority of the priesthood in administering to the sick"40.  Again we have the priesthood connection through husbands, but the mention of the word 'authority' is thought provoking as it could refer to either the substance or form of the priesthood – in the case of the former, it would mean women using the power of the Melchizedek priesthood to administer the sick, but if the latter it could mean simply saying the words 'authority of the priesthood' when administering.  In 1880 John Taylor confirmed in an address that women held the Priesthood "only in connection with their husbands, they being one with their husbands"41.  This echoes the words of Heber C Kimball decades earlier, suggesting that this could have been the general consensus. 

Another element of general consensus seemed to be that the acts of healing performed by the sisters was an act of faith; in October of 1880 a circular was sent from Salt Lake describing the administrative details of the Relief Society including composition and duties, for the benefit of "authorities of the Priesthood and Latter-day Saints".  A section discussing the sick said "they [the women] should administer in these sacred ordinances, not by virtue and authority of the priesthood, but by virtue of their faith in Christ […]"42.  The letter also suggested that women only administer within their families.  Eliza Snow answered similar questions in the Women's Exponent, but while the church authorities suggested a family focus, she mentioned nothing at all on this subject.  She agreed that it wasn't simply the Relief Society who could administer but rather anyone with faith, but where the authorities suggested only faith was required, Snow was adamant that only those who honoured their endowments should administer.  It is interesting to see that while the authorities were seemingly chipping away at the specific role of the Relief Society, by requiring that those administering honour their endowments, Snow was attempting to simultaneously comply with a diminishing vision of women yet also preserve it – by linking the administration of blessings with the honoring of their endowments, and linking women's authority to the temple.

In 1888 Wilford Woodruff responded to a list of questions sent by Emmeline B. Wells, editor of the Exponent and the imminent Relief Society General President.  The letter made "careful distinctions between the temple ordinance of washing and anointing, the Church member's practice of washing and anointing, and the priesthood ordinance of anointing in connection with a healing blessing"43.  In 1895, Brother Torkel Torkelson who was sought after in the community for his healing blessings, recorded that two women came to wash and anoint his wife before she went into labour.  He happened to be at home so they asked him to bless her and seal the 'holy ordinance', which they had performed.  This referral to an 'ordinance', despite Woodruff's careful separation, shows that "the distinction drawn at the higher levels was not so restricting at the lower"44.  It also reminds us that opinions are wide and varied, and continue to be that way.

The next issue with ambiguously defined boundaries was whether women could seal the anointing after the washing and anointing.  In the Relief Society general board meeting where this was discussed President Elmina J Taylor said she felt equal benefit from the sealing of the sisters as from the elders "but thought it wise to ask the Priesthood to seal the anointing when it was get-at-able"45.  Although she claims the two sealings would be equally effective, she goes on to say that "if the brethren decided that women could not seal the anointing then we should do what they say".  She did add that she saw no reason women could not since women had done it before46, but this deference is indicative of the increasingly precarious position of female administering in the church, and a sense that the elders only allowed them to perform these rituals if they  [the elders] did not feel imposed upon in any way.  Earlier in 1901 Louisa Lulu Greene Richards former editor of the Women's Exponent, wrote a letter to the church president Lorenzo Snow saying that his sister, Eliza R Snow Smith had passed on instruction from her husband the Prophet Joseph Smith, regarding the importance of the sealing element of anointing and blessings, which "should never be omitted".  Richards wrote that "we follow the pattern she gave us continually.  We do not seal in the authority of the Priesthood, but in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"47.  Another semantics issue arose in the form of whether the word 'sealing' could be used, or whether 'confirm' should be used.  The worry that seemed to plague the authorities was using the holy and sacred wording of the temple ordinances out into the world in the form of very similar blessing wording48.

At some point in that first decade of the 20th century, the Relief Society circulated a letter on its letterhead, entitled "Answers to Questions".  There was no date but at the bottom was written "Approved by the First Presidency of the Church"49.  Among the points put across by the letter was that administrations by women to the sick were not necessarily a Relief Society function, that no priesthood permission was needed to participate in the performance of these duties, that any endowed woman might perform these duties, that women should be very careful to avoid resemblances in language to the temple forms, and that while blessings should be sealed a priesthood holder was not required to do it.  In 1908 Joseph F Smith responded to a letter from Nephi Pratt emphasising that the sisters washing and anointing others was NOT an ordinance, and should not be confused with the ordinance of laying on of hands for the healing of the sick.  He also said even those women who had not received their endowments could participate in the washing and anointing50.  Here Joseph F Smith has put a clear boundary between the sacred ordinance, and the non-sacred washing and anointing.  He is further detracting from the ritual by saying that any faithful church member perform it.

We have seen in the overview that there is a significant body of evidence connecting women and the priesthood, and some seemingly very clear.  These days the concept of women laying their hands on another a pronouncing a blessing seems rather strange to most of the us, but that is only because we are aware of the ritual as a priesthood function.  This was not necessarily the case in early saint society; the priesthood was restored in 1829 but as suggested by Dan Vogel, the fact that the angelic element was only published in 1834 suggests that it was not fully understood, to the level that we feel we understand it today, for some time.  Furthermore as previously mentioned, spiritual gifts were ungendered – it was as likely for women to heal as men, although interestingly women never performed any other of the temple adopted rituals such as sealing marriages or performing baptisms. 

It is hard to ignore those patriarchal blessings that specifically mention women being blessed with the priesthood.  Take for example the patriarchal blessing given to Zina Huntington; "the Priesthood in fullness is & Shall be Conferd upon you"51.  This appears to be undeniable proof that the women were given priesthood – it says as much right there in the words and syntax.  But then we think to ourselves how can this be?  There have been no female bishops or stake presidents?  No female baptisers?  This is because we are inappropriately applying a modern context of the priesthood to the 19th century, when in fact, as mentioned above, modern understanding of the priesthood was decades in the making.  This suggests that there is potential for other interpretations of the priesthood in these early days.  One is that the priesthood was the direct power of God.  Indeed there are very few occasions that Joseph Smith himself invoked the power of the priesthood when he blessed the sick52, the majority of the time he would rebuke the disease in the name of Jesus Christ. 

What does this mean for women, if anything?  It could be used to form an argument that women did not have the priesthood, and had no need of it because they had the gift of healing instead.  Spiritual gifts came from God, so being blessed with the priesthood could have simply meant having the power of God to effectively use these gifts.  But the aim of this article is not to prove that women don't have the priesthood, quite the opposite.  This article supposes that women do have the priesthood, but not the priesthood that the word represents in the church today - not the priesthood that is used to bless the sacrament or give men the authority to be deacons, priests, bishops or apostles.  The priesthood that women have does not yet have the benefit of sufficient vocabulary to separate it correctly and efficiently, so we will simply refer to it as 'temple priesthood'. 

This concept is based on the idea that women receive a priesthood through the endowment ceremony in the temple, an idea already put forward by Quinn and Knight53.  The patriarchal blessing given to Zina Yong Card by Joseph Young in 1878 is a good example of this as it says, "These blessings are yours, the blessing and power according to the holy Melchizedek Priesthood you received in your Endowments, and you shall have them"54.  The restoration of the priesthood endowment is one of the most significant events that took place in the development of the church, with Ehat describing it as "a staged representation of the step-by-step ascent into the presence of the Eternal"55.  Toscana points out that in Joseph Smith's visits from Moroni in 1823 it was said that the Lord would reveal the priesthood through Elijah the prophet; in fact what this meant was that the fullness of the priesthood would be revealed by Elijah, that he would bring the keys necessary to restore this fullness56 (John the Baptist and Peter, James and John revealed the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods respectively).  Joseph's wife Emma was the first woman to be "anointed and ordained to the highest order of the priesthood", and was then in charge of performing the ritual of these ordinances for the benefit of other women.  If the endowment is for both men and women then this means that both priesthood power and priesthood keys are bestowed upon them.  Joseph's reason for this was because he saw priesthood "as a prerequisite to full salvation"57.  Although the priesthood these days has a heavily administrative theme to it with all the offices and levels to it, Joseph Smith's intention was for it to be spiritual as opposed to bureaucratic.

This article wishes to suggest that the priesthood that women had and still have, is directly from God, is acquired in the temple, but is one that is effective and can be called upon outside of the temple.  But what is this priesthood?  Joseph Smith said that all priesthood is Melchizedek, but that there were different portions and degrees.  Since the current concept of the female priesthood is acquired in the temple it is assumed that it must be Melchizedek.  The female priesthood suffers from a lack of vocabulary to accurately describe it, consequently we are forced to use Melchizedek, with its male connotations, and deal with the gender oriented push-back.  Church doctrine does not accept that women have the Melchizedek priesthood, so why should we try to prove them wrong?  Let us suppose that God's power enters the temple as a beam, and then refracts two ways – one to men, the institutional or bureaucratic priesthood, and the other to women – the temple priesthood, which men also have.  In this context it seems best to remind ourselves of the priesthood's true title, the priesthood after the order of God58 or the holy priesthood after the son of God59.  These official titles seems to conjure up fewer pre-conceptions about gender and allows us to visualise the pure power of God as an element unhindered by social constructs.

Let us first outline the male priesthood.  Richard Bushman suggests the term 'institutional' priesthood; 'male' priesthood as well as being a source of power and authority with which to further the work of the church, is also a great administrative tool.  There are a number of 'levels' within this priesthood, movement and graduation through which will chart the life of a boy as he develops through to manhood.  The institutional priesthood has bureaucratic power incorporated into it, meaning that holders effectively have the powers of the church on earth and heaven behind them, supporting what they say and do (pertaining to responsible usage of course).

The female temple priesthood, for lack of a better name, is the power of God bestowed upon women, as a channel through which to do God's work.  The difference between women and men in the priesthood is that men have the power of the Melchizedek/institutional priesthood and also the authority to use it outside of the temple in a very public and noticeable way.  Women have the power of God in them, but not the authority to use the Melchizedek/institutional priesthood in a public fashion.  They used some form of priesthood when they blessed people, but not the Melchizedek priesthood.  In this way there is no need to feel that women are trying to take the place of men, or oust them or detract from their power in some way.  The emphasis is on two kinds of priesthood power, although stemming from the same source, which is God.  God's power is not finite, so by saying that women have an element of priesthood does not subtract a percentage from that element that men have.  Men have the authority to invoke the power of the Melchizedek priesthood in blessings, and their institutional priesthood gives them authority in the church in the various roles – all positions in the church require a certain level of priesthood authority. Women have access to the power of their priesthood, and therefore authority to use it, but this authority is not to be confused with institutional authority.

This concept suddenly brings a different meaning to our evidence.  Being bestowed with the power of the priesthood in a patriarchal blessing can mean exactly that, with no need to explain away a Melchizedek element, and even when Melchizedek is mentioned, we only need refer back to Joseph Smith's statement that all priesthood is Melchizedek i.e. from the same source.  The temple priesthood allows women to cross Woodruff's category boundaries between the Church member's practice of washing and anointing, and the priesthood ordinance of anointing in connection with a healing blessing.  This temple priesthood power is particularly applicable in the case of spiritual gifts, wherein women can channel the power of God in order to heal.  Before women get their endowments their faith would be the 'active ingredient' in their ritual, and after it will be the priesthood.  Joseph Smith said, "there could be no devils in it if God gave his sanction by healing"60 in other words if the person receiving the blessing was healed, that may be taken to be an indication that God has approved of it.  Temple priesthood especially brings clarity to Joseph's promise to the relief society that they would come into possession of the privileges and blessings and gifts of the priesthood.  Although we are unclear about what the term priesthood truly meant to Joseph Smith and others using it at that time, Emma's ordination in the temple is a primary indication that there was a powerful spiritual position for women beyond having second-hand access to the priesthood through their husbands. 

One of the purposes of a female priesthood is to remind women that their path to salvation is not cut off if they are unmarried in this lifetime.  The female priesthood gives women the authority to administer to others and to access the strength and power of the all female blessing meetings of the 19th century.  It is a reminder that in God's house, the temple, both women and men are required for the most sacred ordinances to be carried out.  Having a female priesthood means male validation is not required.  Quinn's response to Knight's "A Gift Given A Gift Taken" was that "LDS women generally have lost that gift because they have demanded the approval of a Church hierarchy to exercise something the hierarchy did not and could not give them or take away from them.  In Mormon theology, faith and healing are gifts of God, not of the Church, and certainly not of a changeable administrative policy"61.

As Tullidge said, in the temple women are not merely implied but well defined and named.  Their position is crucial and their power great, and they must never be undermined or belittled.  Although Mormon scholars are fortunate to have the extent of documented evidence that they have, there will always be qualms regarding the undocumented evidence, the unknown opinions and the unspoken words.  However it is infinitely better to analyse from what exists than to speculate from what doesn't.  It is my hope therefore that this article will provide a source of ideas for further and more in-depth study, and grow outdated gracefully or be proved wrong in a spectacular and ground-breaking fashion.  



1. D&C 46:19-20 Cf. 1 Cor. 12:8-10

2. Linda King Newell, "Mormon Women and Priesthood" in Women and Authority ed. Maxine Hanks (Signature Books, 1992):24

3. Linda King Newell 1992; Gregory Prince, Power on High (Signature Books, 1995)

4. Women and Authority ed. Maxine Hanks (1992), Sisters in Spirit: Mormon women in Historical and Cultural Perspective ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (Illini Books edition, 1992),  Strangers in Paradox: Explorations of Mormon Theology Margaret and Paul Toscano (Signature Books, 1990)

5. Linda King Newell 1992, Jonathan Stapley and Kristine L. Wright, "Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism" in The Journal of Mormon History 37:1 (Winter 2011): 1-85

6. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book

7. Margaret M. Toscano, "The Missing Rib:  Michael Quinn "Mormon Women have had the Priesthood since 1843" in Women and Authority (Signature Books, 1992

8. http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/09/21/women-and-the-priesthood/#more-20710 7/2/13

9. Charles Harrell, This is My Doctrine (Greg Koffofrd Books Inc, 2011)

10. Maxine Hanks, Introduction to Women and Authority: xvii

11. Oliver Cowdery's letter to W.W. Phelps, 7 September 1834, printed in Messenger and Advocate Vol. I No.1, October 1834

12. Early Mormon Documents Volume II, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1998): 28

13. Charles Buck, A Theological Dictionary, containing Definitions of all Religious Terms (Philadelphia: Joseph J. Woodward, 1831)

14. Stapley and Wright, "Female Ritual Healing" in The Journal of Mormon History 37 (Winter 2011):3

15. Linda King Newell, "Mormon Women and Priesthood": 24

16. History of Sarah Studevant Leavitt, copied from her history by Juanita Leavitt, 1919 (n.p., n.d.) 9-10

17. Stapley and Wright, "Female Ritual Healing": 4

18. Anonymous, "A Representative Woman: Mary Isabella Horne," Woman's Exponent 11 (June 15, 1882):9

19. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13 (14 November 1869):155

20. H. Michael Marquardt, Early Patriarchal Blessings (Signature Books, LLC, 2007):

21. Stapley and Wright, "Female Ritual Healing": 5

22. Linda King Newell, "Mormon Women and Priesthood": 29

23. Michael Quinn, "Since 1843": 372

24. Ibid

25. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Grandin Book Co. 1991): 115

26. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992) 378-379

27. Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, Words of Joseph Smith: 118

28. Michael Quinn, "Since 1843": 366

29. Gregory Prince, Power from On High: 206

30. This view is proposed by Maxine Hanks, in Women and Authority, and in a personal interview on July 8th 2013

31. Michael Quinn, "Since 1843"

32. Ibid: 368

33. Ibid: 369

34. Stapley and Wright, "Female Ritual Healing": 7

35. Ibid

36. Ibid

37. MH interview 2013

38. Maxine Hanks, Women and Authority: xxvi

39. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book?p=33 10/8/13

40. Women's Exponent 7 (1 Nov. 1878):86

41. Journal of Discourses 21 (8 Aug. 1880):367-68

42. Circular Letter, Salt Lake City, Utah, 6 Oct. 1880, Church Archives. 

43. Linda King Newell, "A gift given: a gift taken; Washing, anointing and blessing the sick among Mormon women" Sunstone 6 (Sept-Oct 1981, 30-43):34

44. Ibid: 35

45. Ibid

46. Ibid

47. Louisa L. G. Richards to President Lorenzo Snow, 9 Apr 1901, Church Archives

48. Linda King Newell, "A gift given: a gift taken": 37

49. Ibid: 36

50. Linda King Newell, "A gift given: a gift taken": 37

51. Linda King Newell, "The historical relationship of Mormon women and the priesthood" in Women and Authority: 29. Newell says in a footnote from this blessing that, 'statements such as this are sometimes dismissed as references to the church's highest ordinance, the "second anointing" or "fulness of the priesthood," but that ordinance does in fact confer priesthood power on women'.

52. http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/VKimball.html (6/27/13)

53. Ideas put forward in the aforementioned publications of Linda King Newell and D. Michael Quinn

54. D. Michael Quinn, "Since 1843": 371

55. Andrew Ehat, "'Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?' Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May 1842" in Temples of the Ancient World edited by Donald W. Parry (Deseret Book Co, 1994) 46-62): 54

56. Margaret M. Toscano, "The Missing Rib: The forgotten place of queens and priestesses in the establishment of Zion" Sunstone 10 (July 1985): 17

57. Margaret M. Toscano, "The Missing Rib": 18

58. Alma 4:20

59. D&C 107:3

60. Relief Society Minutes, see footnote 39

61. D. Michael Quinn, "Response: A Gift Given: A Git Taken" Sunstone Magazine, Issue No:29, September-October 1981 p.26