Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If ever there was a time...

If ever there was a time for a Mormon woman to give her husband a healing blessing it would be now, as I listen to my husband weeze, cough and struggle to catch his breath as he battles pneumonia.

Why is it that Mormon women are not allowed to give priesthood blessings?

That's a whole long and debatable thing, but the story that I have pieced together is this:

At the time of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the women of the church to laying their hands on the heads of their loved ones and bless them with healing. The women were well known for their faith and the miraculous ministrations that they were able to share with others (1). As the church grew, and after the Prophet died, members of the church began to question, if they were so special, being the Lord's anointed and members of God's church on the earth, why were people of other religions able to bless people with healing and health? If Mormons weren't special in being able to heal, then what made them special and different? How did they/were they going to stand apart from the rest of Christendom? The answer that members of the church came up with was Priesthood. (2) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the priesthood (the authority granted by God, restored through the Prophet, to act in God's name on the earth). Wait a minute, do women have the priesthood? Well, the men do at least. Because of the dubious nature of women's priesthood status, women began to be uncomfortable giving blessings of healing. By 1946, the practice ended completely when the leaders of the Relief Society were told it was no longer approved “for sisters to wash and anoint other sisters."(3)

I'm not making this up and if you are interested to read where I have learned these ideas, I refer you to:
1) A Gift Given, A Gift Taken Away by Linda King Newell
2) Female Ritual Healing and Mormonism (Podcast with J. Stapley at By Common Consent)
3) Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843 by D. Michael Quinn

Hearing my husband suffer is almost enough to make me get over my fear of using priesthood authority improperly and bless my husband as the women of old did. In the name of Jesus Christ without invoking any priesthood authority.

That begs, the question: do I want the priesthood?

No, not especially. But I would like to be able to minister spiritually to my husband and children when sick. I find it upsetting that women of the church were once able to give blessings to their loved ones and they are no longer allowed. In my understanding of things, there was no revelation taking this privilege away. And its very upsetting to me that such a drastic change could take place in the church without revelation. If that is the case, and it is not the will of God to withhold that right from women, then why can't women return to giving blessings?

The obvious answer is that there is enough belief in the church that it is the will of God that any woman who did so would be both in open rebellion to God and the leaders of the church and therefore subject to church discipline and risk placing her eternal salvation in jeopardy.

And that's exactly what it feels like: jeopardy. Either I do what I feel is right for my family and risk my standing in the church or I protect my church status by withholding a known remedy from my loved ones.

I'm tired of it. I only want to care about what is right in the eyes of God and stop caring about the eyes of man.


Amira said...

Jenne, I cannot believe that God would pay more attention to a blessing given by two neighbors than to your prayers for your husband.

There is no doubt in my mind that your prayers for his healing are not in the slightest bit less effective than a priesthood blessing, even if you don't perform any certain ordinance. The gift of healing is not reserved to priesthood holders.

(You know those neighbors would be happy to join your faith and give him a blessing.)

cc said...

I say go for it. Prayers and blessings are all about faith in a power that exists within us all. I kinda believe the official "priesthood" is a way that we boost that faith for those that find it hard to accept our inherent divinity and abilities to use the power of God.

If you feel inspired and have the faith (and your husband does), I think it works.

Hope everyone starts feeling better soon!

Descent said...

Amira, thank you. We have wonderful neighbors and ward members and today we had our home teacher and neighbor come over for a blessing. There's no way he would have called last night for help from neighbors though.

My stubborn husband would not, ever, allow the priesthood to be called in the middle of the night on his behalf. I believe he would not allow his teenage sons to be woken either. The only person he would trust, feel comfortable enough and/or be willing to inconvenience enough is me. As his wife, I have that special place as companion and helpmeet.

My prayers are effectual, that I know, yet there is something about ritual that has power beyond a simple prayer. I do not understand it, but i do know that as a woman I am separated from that. And I believe it is none unjustly. The injustice is further compounded by the idea that it was a gift given and then taken away (and not under the direction of Jesus Christ himself...)

CC, I almost went for it last night and then again today. I believe the only thing stopping me was my husband's fear of orthodoxy which of course I will respect. However, he did not seem opposed to the idea of a blessing invoking the name and power of Christ. This is certainly interesting, and something that I feel will likely be a topic of pondering for a while to come.