After finishing reading the book Women and Authority, I created a challenge for myself: go to the temple and listen carefully for wording that I had heard many times before but not with this new awareness of women's history in the church.
One of the chapters from the book that was most affecting for me was D. Michael Quinn's "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843" where I was impressed by the sources he cited showing clearly that Joseph Smith and other early church leaders believed that women were given the priesthood through the endowment. It was unclear however where in the endowment this could be traced to. One of the clues that I took to heart was that there was a belief that women were anointed and thereby received the priesthood. Anointing only occur in the initiatory ceremony, not in the presentation of the endowment itself.
Thus, my specific challenge. Go to the temple, participate in initiatories and listen carefully to the wording of the anointing as well as the entire recitation. This morning, I had a chance to do that. We had planned to go, do an initiatory and then an endowment session so I could take in the whole thing in the context of this question in my mind. Through an unfortunate series of wrong turns and time constraints however, we only had time for a set of initiatories. That turned out to be for the best because it was only after hearing the ceremony repeated a few times did I clue in on the phrases that were applicable to my question.
The anointing offered no clue so I listened carefully for instances of the word priesthood in connection with women. The only time that appeared together was in the authorizing of the garment as a sacred article of clothing and this is referred to being clothed in the garments of the Holy Priesthood. I prayed to know if this wording (though not understanding specifically what it meant) was the indication that women were granted the priesthood through the temple ceremonies. I cannot deny the Spirit I felt confirming that to be true.
I should also say here that the time prior that I went to the temple and participated in an endowment session, I remember at one point having the distinct impression from the Spirit that because I had progressed through the stages of the endowment that somehow through that process, I possessed the priesthood in some manner. This was even before I read Quinn's chapter on women and the priesthood so before the idea was externally planted that women were given the priesthood through the temple ceremonies.
I don't understand it how it works but I have tried throughout this process to pray and ask specific and clear questions always being willing to accept any answer I was to be given. I don't understand all the implications of this and have many more questions. Was perhaps the wording changed over the last 180 years so more specific phrases referring to priesthood being removed from the women's initiatory? If yes, what did it used to say? And how does it work that women are conferred the priesthood if they are ordained after the order of Melchelizdek?
I was able to learn more about the men's initiatory process from my husband who described the point in time when names needing proxy are ordained to the priesthood and that process is obviously missing from the women's ceremony.
Its obvious that I may not ever understand more beyond the point where I currently am now, but at the same time for years, I said the same thing about where I was then. Who knows what further information or understanding may come to me as I continue this study and seeking? I will continue faithful, relying on prayer and having a much greater appreciation and desire to have the spirit of discernment which will help me to know between truth and error.
There will be many who believe I am in error and I'm scared as to what that might mean for me socially in the church. And yet, if I know if I were to deny the lessons from the Spirit that I have received in the last few months, I would also have to deny the Spirit confirmations that convinced me of the truthfulness of the gospel, that told me that my husband was the right man for me to marry, that told me it was God's will (or he was supportive) of me attending graduate school, or going to BYU, or any of the other many times the Spirit has testified to me of truth.
I do know however that I can't do much with this knowledge. If anything is meant to change in church policy, I must be patient for it and not push for anything or even recognition or corroboration that what I have been told is true. That's okay. That's the way it works on doctrine that hasn't been revealed through the proper channels. People can pray and know and its perfectly fine to believe whatever they are going to believe as long as they don't go out trying to convert people to their understanding. I'm concerned even by publicly saying this on my blog.