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.