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Oldies But Goodies: LDS Power Women

I ran across a passage in the comments at a feminist mormon website, that sparked a response in me. The discussion was commenting on an article that referenced D&C 25:7 , “And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit.” The comments about this topic seemed to veer off into a discussion of the (lack of) power of women in the LDS church. I wondered if the women who commented on this issue were mis-defining the words exhort and expound. So let’s define the words for use here. Encarta defines exhort as “to urge to do something” or “give earnest advice.” Exhort is defined as “describe and explain something.” Synonyms are “urge, press, push, encourage, insist, pressure, and explain, expand, on, talk about, give further details about, develop, illustrate.” Clearly these are teaching activities. The discussion points out correctly that the majority of the teachers in the church are women including Gospel Doctrine, seminary, Primary, etc. But some of the comments seemed to think this was an activity that involved power. Thus the discussion seemed to veer of into a discussion of female power within the church. I see this type of thing pop up once in a while and it puzzles me. For instance, Sonnet says:
When we “expound” upon something, our mastery of an idea grants us the authority to experiment with, redefine, and reshape that particular idea. It’s a creative act. In the official structure of the church, we grant this kind of authority to very few.

First, many teachers have commented that they have benefited more from learning about a topic in order to teach it, than they expected. If we assume a teacher first has “mastery” of the topic we are way off base. And if we assume that we have mastery because we are called to teach, we need some humility. Second, the only one allowed this kind of “creativity” is God. We teach what the Lord wants us to teach. As a RS teacher I find that I “expound” regularly regarding the text but so do the others in the class who have their own uplifting experiences to share. I urge, encourage, explain and illustrate but I don’t redefine, experiment or reshape the topic to fit my own personal gospel. Our creativity comes into play when we are trying to find a way to reach our class members. But it should never reach the point of redefining or reshaping doctrine.
Lulubell commented about her experiences:

I was more often than not disappointed with the messages and activities– homemaking, staying virtuous, preparing to be mothers and wives. What I really wanted to do was get to college, graduate and find my way in the world, not sure if that would be motherhood, a career, or a combination of the two. While I, too, have been a teacher, let’s face it– we have very little power or authority in the church. Even our 12 year old boys have more power than we women do.
I take issue with her characterization of the power women have in the church. I wonder what kind of power she is looking for? I was Primary President for a little over two years and had so called “power” as the world may see it over the direction of our ward Primary. But it was far more work and stress than that little bit of so-called power was worth. Sure I could have done what I wanted but that isn’t the way things are supposed to work and I think the Lord (through the Bishop) would have yanked me out quickly. But I saw first hand that the Bishops and quorum leaders were in similar situations. The real problem of power in the church, for many unhappy women, is actually a problem of dominion. How much power do we want? Do we want to change doctrine? Do we want to extend callings? Do we want to arrange sacrament meetings? I always wonder just what kind of power these women want? Satan wanted God’s power and look what happened to him.
Do we think the Bishop or Stake President or Elders Quorum leader has power? Ha! He is a servant not a master. He deals with the rancor, pettiness, counseling, gossiping, people who want to criticize but not help, unrepentant sinners who must be removed, and –oh yea- weddings. He hunts for cooperation and planning in carrying out the programs of the Lord, as well as trying to serve the needs of others around him. He sometimes sets a calendar item. The only real power the priesthood has is priesthood functions, such as blessings, which by definition only operate on God’s will, not the desires of the one pronouncing the blessings( see D&C 121:37). As the saying goes, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. Where’s the “power”? His only real power is in righteousness. And that is available to us all male and female.
I would suggest to any LDS women who feels slighted and that they have no power, to study D&C 121: 36-46 thoroughly. It does not just apply to the men. It gives the Lord's definition of real power and is not gender specific. Apply it to whatever role you find yourself in.
36.That the rights of the priesthood (motherhood, wives, women in general) are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred 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 (woman).
38 Behold, ere (s)he is aware, (s)he is left unto (her)himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men,(women) as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood (womanhood, femaleness, motherhood, wifehood), only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest (s)he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That (s)he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men (humans), and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
 (My changes to gender and emphasis added for clarification)
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