“The sisters flocked to our meetings every week, and the Prophet Joseph met with us as long as he could… He said he that had given the sisters instructions that they could administer to the sick, and he wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul’s day, ‘a kingdom of Priestesses.’ We have the ceremony in our endowments as Joseph taught.”
– Bethsheba W. Smith, Fourth General President of the Relief Society
(Disclaimer: Although I believe the principles expressed in this essay are rooted in scripture, scriptural pattern, and the teachings of modern prophets, the extrapolations are an expression of my personal testimony and understanding. If they are helpful and resonate with you I hope they will add to your testimony and perhaps understanding. If they do not, I take no offense in their dismissal. I freely admit some of the conclusions and perspectives are an expression of my own heart and mind as I’ve spent the last 10 years studying and meditating on this subject. Much of this is an expression of my testimony and personal views. In the end, the Holy Ghost is the teacher and witness of all truth. I hope that you will feel the same witness in the spirit as you explore these principles. It is also my hope that all who diligently seek with a pure heart may have the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon their soul.)
The Priesthood of Our Glorious Mother Eve
In our first essay we explored that priesthood is the power to come into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
It is received through the principle of condescension, and through the process of condescension, we are able to provide veil experiences for others.
The account of the Garden of Eden is so sacred that it is the backdrop of the temple endowment. It is the great archetype of fall and redemption. Its layers of meaning are inexhaustible.
And it is also completely veiled in allegory.
To take it strictly literally would deny it of its ability to teach and inform our human experience. But we must be informed by the spirit. I hope this essay will inspire your own questions and contextualize a possibility of better understanding the divine role of women in the order of the priesthood.
Adam was offered the fruit first. And he refused. He would not, perhaps could not, do for himself what Eve would do for him.
What was the fruit? What did it mean to partake? What premortal covenants and promises had Eve made that would give her the intuition needed to partake?
So much of this account is veiled from us, but it can be revealed through the power of the Holy Ghost if we are honest, pure, and diligent seekers.
What we do know is that Eve convinced Adam to partake.
And this partaking brought Adam through a veil into mortality.
In other words, Eve provided a veil experience for Adam. She brought him through from a terrestrial state to a telestial.
And she did this through her own condescension.
She acted in wisdom and intuition. Perhaps revelation. She acted in faith. And she brought Adam to a place where they could provide bodies for the children of God.
Eve and the Veil
As Eve took Adam through the veil by giving him the fruit, and she continues to bring children through the veil and into mortality. This is a priesthood ordinance.
Eve brings children through a physical veil, and Adam brings those children back through the veil into a redemption. These two veil experiences are an act of creation. They are an eternal round. They are also the veils of the two trees found in the garden of Eden.
To create a child requires another veil experience. A man and woman coming together in sexual intimacy and exchange a token through a veil. It is a priesthood sign, and and an exchange of a token. Creation occurs through this veil experience and a name is given to that creation.
This is why sexual intimacy is put under sacred covenant to enact. It is the coming together of the male and female priesthood and making one.
The violation of covenants of chastity are so serious because it makes a mockery of the highest and holiest of priesthood ordinances.
For this reason, men and women must be sanctified into the laws of pure chastity in order to becomes Gods of creation. They must keep sacred all of the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood.
A man must receive the testimony of his wife that he is pure before her and the Lord. She will witness to his worthiness in keeping the laws of chastity, and if he receives this sanctified and pure state, she will trust him and desire to bond with him through eternity.
The Condescension of Eve
As women give birth they go through a great condescension.
It is my personal testimony that when Eve partook of the fruit she experienced incomprehensible pain. Her personal sacrifice was such that, when we meet her, we will it will be our instinct to worship and praise her. She had knowledge that this sacrifice was required of her. As Brigham Young taught, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (JD 13: 145).
It was like unto the condescension of Christ. And she led Adam into this condescension. It was not something he was going to for himself.
When Eve and her daughters give birth and veil experiences to their children they often approach their own death in this process. They suffer the pains of gestation and delivery as a child of God receives a body and passes through the veil of her own body. It is a sacrifice of flesh and blood.
Eve also submits to another type of condescension as she travails this mortal life.
She condescends with her husband as he chooses whether or not he is going to repent and follow God, or if he is going to exercise dominion and false-authority on this earth.
So Eve and her daughters have a condescension of long-suffering.
They long-suffer with their husbands and at the hands of men who have been put into positions of authority to see if they, the men, will repent.
In the first essay, we explore how many men are called to the priesthood and are ordained to receive this power; and we learn that few of them are chosen. Few men receive actual priesthood.
And we know why they are not chosen to receive an actual endowment of priesthood power. (Remember, those that are ordained are what we referred to as “called” (D&C 95: 5))
Behold, there are many called (ordained), but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men…
That they may be conferred (ordained) upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man…
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose (through their ordination), they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121: 34 – 40).
Because woman is called to come to this earth and enter into a covenant relationship with a man, she will experience, to some degree or another, unrighteous dominion.
It may be in a serious and abusive way, or it may just be through natural institutional marginalization. But most will suffer because of it.
(Women also abuse their power, but that will be a topic of another essay)
A Help Meet
This, I believe, is central to understanding what it means to be a “help meet”.
Bruce Satterfield interprets the term help meet as such:
“The phrase “help meet for him” translates the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo. These words are a little difficult for me to translate. Ezer literally means, “help” and is similar in meaning to the English word ‘help.’ However, kenegdo, translated ‘meet for him’, is more difficult to translate. The root word, neged, literally means ‘opposite’, ‘in the presence of’, ‘over against’, ‘in front of’, ‘corresponding to’, or ‘aside’. Literally, kenegdo means, ‘opposite as to him’ or ‘corresponding as to him’.
The sense of the phrase ezer kenegdo is ‘an equal but opposite helper to him’” (“The Family Under Siege: The Role of Men and Women,” Ricks College Education Week Presentation, 7 June 2001).
As an “equal but opposite helper to him,” may I suggest the following:
The hardest thing a man will do in mortality will be to learn to humble himself before God, repent with fear and trembling, put off the natural man, become a new creature in Christ, and receive priesthood power.
To receive priesthood power a man must be completely divested of his natural instinct to usurp unrighteous dominion, have his heart set upon the things of this world, to have vain ambition, and to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men.
A man must also be completely divested of his sexual lust.
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman (including his wife) to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42: 23).
A man must not stop repenting and working out his salvation until his calling and election is made sure. The confidence of this blessing is what gives both men and women power to bring their posterity through the veil. Until a man has this, he has no assurances in this life.
So taught Brigham Young:
“For us to think that we have an inheritance on the earth is folly, unless God has declared, and sealed it upon us, by revelation, that we shall never fall, never doubt, never come short of glorifying him or of doing his will in all things. No person, unless he is in the possession of this blessing, has the least right to suppose that he has an inheritance on the earth” (Brigham Young. JD 17: 118).
These things are very, very difficult for the natural man, and can only be achieved by complete submission to the atonement of Christ and the power of the Redeemer to transform and then seal.
I believe 100% that this is the purpose of a help meet. It is to help husbands go through the process of transformation and be endowed with priesthood power.
It is to suffer with them, as they seek to repent and follow God with full purpose of heart.
It is to be patient, long-suffering, kind, and a powerful influence to help a man go through his own necessary condescension.
A woman can receive very powerful and specific revelation on how to help a husband repent, keep his covenant, and transcend his natural man condition.
A woman is a help meet as she helps her husband bring forth fruit meet for his repentance.
In the same way a wife approaches death as she gives birth, so must a man go through a process of the death of the natural man in deep and complete repentance. Men need to repent much deeper than they often even assume.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean women aren’t repenting of their natural man condition also; but men have a unique fallen nature and proclivity to usurping unrighteous dominion that, with the blessing and help of women, can be submitted to Christ and redeemed.
So, Eve is a help meet to Adam. And she blesses him and sustains him in his calling to the Holy Priesthood. And she is a help meet in his repentance.
And she will stand as a witness against him if he fails to repent and hearken to God.
For this reason, Eve is veiled from Adam until he is brought into the presence of the Lord and endowed with priesthood power.
Eve and Her Veil
As discussed here , the veils of the temple are partitions of holiness. The glory of both the Lord and women, in their respective veils, are kept within a veil and hidden from men until they sufficiently prepare themselves to be brought into their presence.
The Lord chooses who will come through the veil and employs no servant there.
And so do women.
They choose for whom they will lift their veil and eternally covenant with.
The man does not part the woman’s veil. Her veil is her power as a help meet. And she is protected by a sacred covenant to only hearken to her husband as he fully repents and hearkens to God.
Brigham Young taught:
“I say to my sisters in the kingdom, who are sealed to men, and who say, “We do not want this man in eternity if he is going to conduct himself there as he does here”—there is not the least danger in the world of your ever seeing him in eternity or of his seeing you there if he proves himself unworthy here… But if you are not at fault, be not troubled about being joined to him there, for no man will have the privilege of gathering his wives and children around him there unless he proves himself worthy of them” (Brigham Young, JD 17: 118-119).
The great blessing of a man who has repented and is endowed with power and priesthood is that he receives the revelation of the divine feminine. He is shown who his wife is unveiled, he comes to know his mother and her glory, and his Mother in Heaven is revealed to him.
This is the pattern of Nephi’s dream. He witnesses both the condescension of Mother Mary, Christ, and the witness of the Tree of Life, which in large part represents our Mother in Heaven.
For this reason, I believe, the knowledge of both our Mother in Heaven, and the divine feminine remains veiled as a mystery to the covenant body of priesthood on this earth. We know of her presence, but know next to nothing about her.
She remains veiled until the covenant body of the priesthood collectively repent, are redeemed, and receive a fulness.
The Principle of Hearkening
As Adam hearkened to Eve to come through our first veil, Eve covenants to hearken to Adam to come back through the veil into the presence of the Lord.
It is a perfect priesthood chiasmus.
This chiasmus of priesthood is articulated in the following scripture:
“But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal – First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—” (D&C 29: 30 – 32).
Adam hearkens to Eve in her role as creator. Eve hearkens to Adam as his role as a servant.
A husband that desires to repent and humble himself into the depths of meekness will earn the love and respect of an eternal wife. By honoring his desire to covenant with God and sacrifice all things for Christ, she can trust her heart in a covenant with him.
By hearkening to her husband, she desires to be blessed by him – to be served by him – and she accepts and honors the sacrifice he performs to be worthy of that love and covenant.
Eve’s desire to hearken is a type of anointing.
The Queen makes the King. The Queen anoints the King. It is by her choosing to honor him that he lays claim to the blessings of eternal life.
If she unveils herself to him, and honors him and his condescension, a woman makes the man. It is through her witness and consent that he is received as a patriarchal servant.
This is, of course, as long as she lays claim on eternal life herself. She must be one that has authority in the presence of God. She must have a claim to eternal life by virtue of her sacrifice and obedience.
In the same way that through Adam’s hearkening to Eve, it made her a creator on the Earth, if he is worthy of her (and she herself is a worthy daughter of God), it is through her hearkening to him that empowers and capacitates him to be a Savior on Mt. Zion.
A King is not higher than a Queen, and a Queen is not higher than a King. It is through the mutual yielding to each other in their respective roles that they together are exalted.
The Law of the Lord
The Law of the Lord is the principle of yielding to the individual who seeks to sacrifice everything in their life in order to be a servant to you.
A Lord is a condescended servant – someone who has sacrificed their life for the salvation of others.
Christ yields to his Father because his Father gave all he had for Christ.
Adam yields all he has to Christ because Christ gave all and sacrificed all he has for Adam and Eve.
Eve blesses Adam and becomes one with him as he sacrifices all that he has for Eve and their family. It is through this law of submission that all are exalted.
If a man does not have a righteous woman that will witness for him that he performed the sacrifices necessary to be worthy of her sustaining, he will not be able to ascend into the Patriarchal order.
Why doesn’t a man covenant to hearken to a woman?
Adam did hearken to Eve.
I believe there is a premortal type for all of this in the symbolism of the partaking of the fruit in the garden. I believe this account is archetypical of pre-mortality, and reveals the nature of the relationship of man to woman before we came to this earth.
Adam does not explicitly covenant to hearken to Eve because it is not the way that he anoints her as a Queen.
He does, however, relate to her in the spirit of hearkening – a continuance of his honor and love for her from the world from which we all came. From when he first hearkened to her.
The spirit of hearkening to her is imbedded in the law of God and in the oath and covenant of the priesthood. This Law of God is to “be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” (D&C 121: 41 – 42).
This is in the spirit in which Adam continues to hearken to Eve.
Eve hearkens to Adam for his benefit and hers. Just as it was Adam’s benefit to hearken to Eve. It benefited them both.
Eve hearkening to Adam completes the chiasmus. It allows the last (Adam in his condescension), to become the first.
“He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all” (D&C 50: 26).
Why are Men Ordained?
Men are ordained, or authorized, to perform ordinances. This is how a man will provide veil experiences for women and their children – by receiving actual power to give an ordinance.
It is important, though, not to immediately assume we understand what this means – to provide an ordinance.
An ordinance has two components: a ritualistic/physical and a revelatory/spiritual.
This is the why the great D&C section on the priesthood instructs:
“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84: 20 – 21).
In other words, unless the power of godliness is made manifest an ordinance is not complete. One must have both the physical manifestation and the spiritual. The ritual and the revelatory.
Consider this interesting principle as taught in the book of Mormon. The Nephite disciples are some of the most faithful and righteous priesthood bearers in recorded scripture. Even so, the Lord instructs them in the following way to perform an ordinance:
“And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.
Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 2: 2-3).
Even though they were ordained and authorized to give an ordinance, they had to also receive the power to give a revelatory/spiritual experience. When the Disciples gave the gift of the Holy Ghost, the people were receiving their baptism of fire at the time of the ordinance. This is what it means to give someone an ordinance.
A righteous priesthood holder that has power is able to do this. They are able to give both the physical and spiritual experience in the same ordinance.
(It should be noted, as I am sure the reader may be asking, doesn’t the spiritual manifestation also depend on the receiver? And of course the answer is, yes. But this is also why it is critical not to administer the ordinances to those that are not prepared for the spiritual manifestation. We are warned and commanded not to administer sacred ordinances to those that are unworthy of them – which means they are unprepared for the spiritual manifestation of the ordinance. It is incumbent on the priesthood holder to discern and judge this before they administer an ordinance. (Moroni 6:1; 3 Nephi 18: 29; 4 Nephi 1: 27))
And this is what a man is called to do – to receive this power through his exercising of mighty repentance and faith.
Joseph Smith reference this in his teaching of the following doctrine:
“Repent of all your sins, and be baptized in water for the remission of them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinance of the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, that ye may receive the Holy Spirit of God; and this is according to the Holy Scriptures, and the Book of Mormon; and the only way that man can enter into the celestial kingdom” (Joseph Smith, Teachings and Sayings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).
Again, his ordination is a call to condescend in order to receive actual power.
And just as women perform redemptive ordinances by bringing the children of God through a veil, so are men to be able to perform redemptive ordinances by manifesting the power of God in the flesh for the redemption of his children. They are both providing veil experiences.
Men are also ordained because they are uniquely charged to become “clean from the blood and sins of this generation”. Women are already clean from this obligation in general. Until women have their own families are they brought back into an obligation to come clean from their own personal generation.
Men must come clean through the declaration of repentance and performing the necessary ordinances in power. Until they come clean through their declaration of repentance and ability to give both a revelatory and physical ordinance, they are not yet prepared to be sealed into an exaltation.
The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
Man does not receive priesthood power through ordination – his only authorized to officiate in ordinances. He receives priesthood power through the endowment of the temple. Through this endowment he receives power to give a full ordinance.
It is in the temple that he, in stages, is dressed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.
It is in the temple that all of the covenants, signs, tokens, and names are bestowed upon him to receive priesthood.
It is in the temple that he receives a sacred oath. This is the oath of the High Priesthood.
And all of the process of the endowment is the receiving of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
And women receive the same.
They are clothed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.
They receive every covenant, sign, token, and name of the priesthood.
They receive the exact same oath.
And so men and women, independent of each other, receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood along with every blessing and power associated with the priesthood.
There is no difference.
Many mistakenly believe that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is found in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is only referencing the oath and covenant, some of its blessings, and how it is obtained. Read carefully, we understand that the scripture is describing the temple endowment.
When a man and a woman go through the temple for the first time they are always single. Always. They are not yet married in the new and everlasting covenant until they go through the endowment.
The endowment is the process of being prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord.
This is the calling and election made sure. Being brought to the veil of the temple, having been found worthy, and being admitted into the presence of the Lord represents in ordinance the receiving the promise of eternal life, the Holy Spirit of Promise, the calling and election made sure, and the Second Comforter blessings.
And all of these blessings are intended to be received in this life, while in the flesh.
The veil of the temple does not represent death. It represents the calling and election made sure.
All of these blessings are received first as individuals before we are married (in the covenant).
For this reason, it should be understood that women are clothed and receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood for themselves, independent of their husbands. In other words, they are not holding onto the coattails of their husbands, and exercising priesthood through his ordination.
Brigham Young taught:
“Now, brethren, the man that honors his Priesthood, the woman that honors her Priesthood, will receive an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of God” (JD 17:119).
President Nelson admonished the Sisters:
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him” (D&C 93: 12 – 17).
It is my view that when woman is unveiled from us and we behold her eternal and glorious stature we will see her as a perfect and eternal half to a priesthood whole.
And man will be eternally accountable to her, and she will be eternally accountable to him.
And as our eyes are opened and we see things “as they really are” we will truly understand how man is not without the woman, and woman is not without the man.