Priesthood blessings equally available to all, LDS leaders say in new statement

By Tad Walch, Deseret News

Published: Sat, June 28, 2014, 10:10 a.m. MDT

 President Thomas S. Monson (center)  President Henry B. Eyring (left) and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (right) in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 04, 2008.

President Thomas S. Monson (center) President Henry B. Eyring (left) and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (right) in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 04, 2008.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Saturday about priesthood in the church, church service, questioning and apostasy.

The three-paragraph statement, posted Saturday morning on LDS.org, said:

"In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of his children, the blessings of his priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and his children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

"We understand from time to time church members will have questions about church doctrine, history or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

"Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine."

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the two presiding quorums of the LDS Church. They meet as a council once a week in the faith's Salt Lake Temple.

The statement comes at the end of a week in which media attention focused on the decision of an LDS bishop in Virginia to excommunicate Kate Kelly for action he said “has threatened to erode the faith of others.”

Kelly — the founder of an activist organization known as Ordain Women, which advocates the ordination of women to the LDS priesthood — learned she was excommunicated on Monday following a disciplinary council convened by the bishop.

Saturday's statement is consistent with recent teachings from LDS General Authorities regarding the role of questioning, doubt and priesthood authority within the LDS faith.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church's First Presidency, spoke at a recent LDS general conference about the honest search for truth through questioning.

"In this church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth," he said. "It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.”

In the church's most recent general priesthood meeting, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, noted the doctrinal bounds LDS leaders act under with regard to sharing priesthood ordination and authority.

"But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood,” he said.

Elder Oaks said that although they are not ordained to the priesthood, LDS women already act with the authority of the priesthood in their church callings.

"We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their church callings," he said, "but what other authority can it be? … Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”

Elder Oaks made those remarks during a meeting that was the subject of a direct action protest by Kelly and the Ordain Women group.

A national survey of Mormons found that 90 percent of Mormon women oppose the ordination of women. The percentage rises to 95 percent among LDS women with a high religious commitment.

Saturday's statement by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles contributes to public understanding of apostasy in the LDS Church.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

1. jeanie
orem, UT,
June 28, 2014

Very well stated by the brethren.

I have lived long enough to see the social trends pendulum sway from one side to another like a ship without a rudder. I am grateful to be aboard a steady ship in the LDS church. As a woman I find the opposite of oppression in my membership and participation.

2. Poppa Alan
Fruit Heights, UT,
June 28, 2014

The first time I heard of 'Ordained Women' I knew it would lead to loss of membership to those that created it and pushed its agenda. People speak of Satan's evil, such as stealing, murder, adultery, coveting those things that are not yours. (the ten commandments people!) but they don't recognize his greatest tool to bring us down is the struggle within. Whether it be within ourselves or as a group. This woman seems to feel that what she is doing is right, She says she still loves the church but she's wrong. She can't love the church when she is being manipulated by Satan. I feel so bad for her and all who follow her. Come back to the light!

3. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
June 28, 2014

All service in the church has equal merit in the eyes of God. Your experience, however, may not reflect that. And they'd really rather you not point that out.

4. Vince here
San Diego, CA,
June 28, 2014

Would the priestesses and women in position of power in the Bible have their positions taken away if they were living today?

5. Harrison Bergeron
Holladay , UT,
June 28, 2014

The underlying assumption of the Ordain Women bunch is based on an erroneous belief. They think they can change who gets ordained to the Priesthood the same way they would change a department store's return policy on a dress (or pant-suit maybe) they don't like. Arguing with the clerk will get you nowhere in this case. The manager cannot help either.

You have to go to the owner in this situation. And the owner is God. They have his direct line, if they will use it. But they should understand that what they are asking is for Him to rethink His entire creation. It is like asking Him to change which gender has babies. Of course, with God, nothing is impossible. Though, it would seem like a more reasonable request to ask God for understanding about why He did things the way He did.

"...seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works." (Jacob 4:10)