woman at the well

I have mentioned before that I am a young women adviser (teacher/class & lesson facilitator). I have been anxiously awaiting the month of June for the opportunity to explore the doctrine of the priesthood more with our young women. This doctrine to me is exciting; I believe truth about priesthood to be expansive and inclusive, layered in meaning and ever-applicable to every facet of Mormon life and beyond. I think a lifetime is not enough to ponder what priesthood means, but I love pondering it.

There were so many possible ways to approach this lesson, and these thoughts are more about what I’ve learned, not necessarily what I will “tell” the young women. But what I hope for the young women this week is that they can think beyond the obvious and understandable (but I believe potentially reductive) question of “Why do only young men/men hold the priesthood?” to think about the blessings and power and opportunities and responsibilities that flow into their lives because the priesthood of God has been restored.

(Because our site is also designed to address questions from those not of our faith, I hope some of these thoughts can be helpful for those readers, too. Priesthood in our doctrine truly is more than just a who-does-what in the organization kind of thing. Much more.)

I personally believe that so much of the restoration of priesthood keys and authority is about receiving what God has to give us and then helping others also receive. The work of the restoration is, as I said above, expansive. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to have the authority within the functioning of our Church to fill the earth with a knowledge of Christ and to allow all of God’s children, living and dead, the opportunity to receive the ordinances of salvation. Young women are not bystanders in this work. I like to think about how the different restored keys relate to the work that young women can do, now.

I also think of the woman at the well. What Jesus wanted was for the woman to know and understand that what He had to give her was beyond any solution she could find on this earth. Once she came to know who Christ was, how much He loved and knew her and wanted to give her, she was compelled to testify to others so they, too, could come to Him and drink of His living water.

Even as the work of the Church is so expansive, at a personal level, to me, priesthood keys are what figuratively can open up the well for us each to come to know Jesus Christ and to partake of His goodness and His living water. Filled with His love, we then are filled with the desire to help others come to Him and feel His love and participate in ordinances and the work of salvation that bring us closer to God and each other, and make the Atonement fully effectual in our lives.

Let me say here that we as Mormons don’t believe or claim we are the only ones on the earth doing work for God. I am moved and inspired by so many of different faiths (or no faith at all) doing amazing things to serve others, to relieve suffering, to defend the family, to build faith in God, and more. My faith has been strengthened by so many not of my faith! Still, understanding priesthood keys and authority and why and how they matter can help explain what we believe our unique mission includes.

So thinking of my young women, I have thought about what a young woman can do, now, to drink of Christ’s living water and to share it with others. More specifically, what blessings, opportunities, and responsibilities are hers as part of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, made possible through priesthood keys? These are the kinds of questions I plan to ask the young women. Following are some of my own thoughts about this. In another post, I’ll share more of the things I’ve read that have helped me ponder these questions.

– She can receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost), as the Savior has taught is necessary for salvation (John 3:5). [A whole lifetime could be spent studying what these ordinances mean and why they are important, but the bottom line is that they are about pointing our souls and minds to Christ and His Atoning sacrifice, and choosing to commit and submit our lives to God. He then promises to keep us clean through the Atonement and to someday receive us into His kingdom.]

– She can receive the sacrament each week, which keeps the promised blessings of baptism and confirmation alive and present in her mind and heart. The continued promise of having the Holy Ghost with her is a gift beyond price.

– She can go to the temple to serve and receive the ordinances of authorized baptism and confirmation on behalf of those who have died and not been able to receive them. Joseph Smith taught much about the importance of baptism for the dead in Doctrine and Covenants 128. (I recently went with my children to the temple for the first time and that scripture came alive to me all the more. This work that the youth do in the temples MATTERS, a lot. God works across generations. This work is about binding generations to each other and to God.)

– She can do family history work to learn more about her family and also to make temple ordinance work possible for her own flesh and blood who have passed on. This service centered on the temple both helps her remember and ponder her own baptism and confirmation, but also can bless her life with more of God’s power and strengthen family ties and a sense of belonging and understanding of herself.

– She can serve by doing indexing work to make it easier for others to do their family history and/or temple work.

– She can study the scriptures every day and be familiar with and loyal to the teachings of modern-day prophets, thus tapping into the power of the authorized channels (prophets) God has used throughout all dispensations of the gospel for revealing gospel truth, particularly truth about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is a way to connect with God, to drink of living water every day.

– She can serve as a missionary, both formally when she turns 19, but also informally now. The Holy Ghost can help her know what to say and how to reach out and teach others in simple ways. Sometimes it’s just about letting people ask questions.

– She can receive her patriarchal blessing, which can help her understand all the more her eternal worth and help her gain insight into her specific, personal mission and blessings for her here on earth and beyond.

– She can serve in callings when called. In our church, youth start serving formally in their teenage years, working directly with adult leaders, including those who have keys. They formally become part of the body of Christ that is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12.

Consider this quote:

e.g., “When a bishop places his hands on the head of a [young women] class president, it is with the full power of the priesthood that he gives her the delegated authority to lead her class. Her calling to serve is no less potent or real than that of the Sunday School president, the Relief Society president, or any other position in the ward.” See Young Women and the Blessings of the Priesthood for more thoughts on this topic. )

– She can be a force for good in her home through the power of covenants and by participating in family councils.

I’m reminded of Sister Beck’s teaching that women (and I think this can extend to young women) have a responsibility and opportunity to

“help your home be a home that is blessed every hour by priesthood power. It isn’t just when Dad is there. It’s not just when Mom is there. It’s not just when a priesthood ordinance or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as covenants are kept” (emphasis mine).

– She can study, ponder, and champion the doctrine of marriage and the family. [The work of the priesthood is all about . helping individuals and families come to Christ. Eternal life in our doctrine is not just about life with God, but about life within families, with God. This is a key reason why temples are so important to Mormons. The doctrine of eternal families is a key doctrine, part of the living water that has been revealed through the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.]

– She can be a force for good in her community through service and example, by letting the light of the gospel shine out through the way she lives her standards and the way she loves and reaches out to help others.

– She can prepare to receive temple ordinances for herself when she becomes an adult. [More layers of the doctrine of the priesthood are understood in the ordinances of the temple…doctrine to be pondered over a lifetime.] She can prayerfully continue to keep her heart open to what the Spirit can and will teach her about the priesthood and her role as a woman in God’s plan as she continues faithfully seeking insights.

– She can prepare to serve in her future — including preparing for the eternal roles as wife and mother if the opportunity comes (and trusting in God’s promises if those opportunities don’t come in this life); preparing temporally so as to have skills that can enable her to have influence in other ways that she may feel guided to in her life; and ultimately to prepare to be present (either in the flesh or after death) when the Savior comes again.

These are just some of my thoughts, but on Sunday, I look forward to hearing the insights of the young women about how they feel the priesthood has blessed their lives. I believe I love this year’s theme for the youth, because the notion of standing in holy places sums up so beautifully how young men and young women alike can tap into the power and blessings that are available to them through priesthood ordinances and covenants. It’s not just those who hold the priesthood who benefit from the priesthood; the priesthood keys restored in this dispensation benefit us all and are designed to benefit all of God’s children — across all the nations of the earth, and throughout all generations since the beginning of time. As was described in the article above for young women,

“the priesthood to the lifeblood that flows through every part of the body [of Christ — see 1 Cor. 12]. The power and blessings of the priesthood nourish each member and are the source of strength just as blood is to the body. It circulates throughout, that power of God that ‘worketh all in all.'”

And these keys help us prepare the world for the Savior’s Second Coming:

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.