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Priesthood and Girlhood: The View from 1933

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 27, 2011

This is the official lesson used in the Bee Hive program in 1933 to teach young girls about the priesthood:

Priesthood as It Affects Women

There is nothing more essential to the girlhood of to-day than a proper conception of the Priesthood of God as existing upon the earth, and an understanding of her relation and responsibility thereto. As part of a wonderful self-development program Bee-Hive girls give consideration to this subject.

Priesthood is delegated authority to act for God. All men in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive the Priesthood if they are worthy. There are 137,540 men holding it in the Church to-day, of whom 68,000 are youths of the lesser Priesthood. The Aaronic or lesser Priesthood is first conferred upon them; this includes power to officiate in temporal activities. As they increase in wisdom and understanding, greater advancement is given them, and, if faithful, the higher Priesthood called after Melchizedek is conferred upon them. The latter gives the right to officiate in all the spiritual offices of the Church.

Women do not hold the Priesthood, but they do share equally in its blessings and gifts bestowed in temple courts, in civic, social and domestic life. “The man is not without the woman in the Lord, nor the woman without the man.” So said Paul, and so taught Joseph Smith.

Office and Priesthood carry heavy responsibilities requiring constant labor and time. No woman could safely carry the triple burden of wifehood and motherhood, and at the same time function in priestly orders. Yet her creative home labor ranks side by side, in earthly and heavenly importance, with her husband’s Priesthood responsibilities. His is in the market place – hers at the hearthstone. He is the leader and she follows, not because she must, but because she wills. She is as happy in her sphere as he is in his. That he would bungle and spoil home life if he sought to enter woman’s sphere is as sure as it is that she would emasculate his affairs if, or when, she attempts to prove her equality by crowding man out of his place. Exceptions to both rules there are and may be. Exceptions prove nothing. Man can do women’s work, women can do men’s work. What then? Does it pay? Will individuals or the race be any better off?

Whenever this order of living has been reversed in individuals or in national life, the loss to women and to society is far more tragic than the loss to man himself. Moreover, in the Church, men can and do share faithfully the burdens of home life when necessary, and women happily enter the market place of public activity whenever or wherever she desires, or has any special gift therefor. But Mormon women generally choose home life as their major occupation, making public activities incidental.

The people of this Church could never be “priestridden,” because every man holds a certain portion of that sacred authority to “act for God on earth.” This is a kingdom of priests, such as Moses dreamed of establishing when he came down from the Mount with the tablets of stone, only to find Israel worshipping false gods.

The Priesthood holds the power to officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel, but functioning in priestly offices does not affect its power or increase its resultant divine status. The humblest man or woman who has received blessings in the Temples may and will, if faithful, achieve the same glory and exaltation accorded to the presiding high priest. Glory is intelligence self-controlled – as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Girls should use their mighty influence to help a father, brother or sweetheart to attend Priesthood meetings, to honor his calling and to magnify his great responsibility. Women and girls share the blessings of the Priesthood and should delight to honor all those who hold this God-given power.



11 Comments »

  1. I have to admit that this is mixed for me. There is definitely some problematic wording in paragraph 2, particularly.

    While I would happily choose to be at home, the choice becomes a lot less happy when I’m told that I SHOULD choose it because I was born a woman. And while I would happily follow my righteous husband, being told that his proscribed happiness is in leading while mine is in following, is deeply troubling.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2011 @ 7:08 am

  2. “Yet her creative home labor ranks side by side, in earthly and heavenly importance, with her husband’s Priesthood responsibilities. His is in the market place – hers at the hearthstone. He is the leader and she follows, not because she must, but because she wills. She is as happy in her sphere as he is in his. That he would bungle and spoil home life if he sought to enter woman’s sphere is as sure as it is that she would emasculate his affairs if, or when, she attempts to prove her equality by crowding man out of his place.”

    Wow. Couldn’t help but think of George Banks in Mary Poppins…

    I confess I’m happier with The Family, A Proclamation to the World’s more subtle phraseology” “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

    Comment by Paul — September 27, 2011 @ 8:17 am

  3. I found this to have a very negative tone, as if the author was chastising the girls for even thinking about women holding the priesthood. In contrast, the current YW manual doesn’t address the fact that women might even ask why they can’t hold the priesthood.

    Comment by HokieKate — September 27, 2011 @ 8:23 am

  4. In case anyone wonders or doesn’t remember, I’ve been posting articles from the past that address women and the priesthood (they all have “the view from” in the title, so can be easily searched from the Topical Guide link) as it was taught in various times. Mostly I’m doing this without comment now, although when enough “views” have accumulated I may do a synthesis that notes what changes from generation to generation, and what is common to all, and the progression of any change.

    I’m still looking for a Primary lesson I saw before I started collecting these pieces that relates to HokieKate’s comment — the lesson contained advice to the teacher on how to handle questions from girls who asked why their brothers were being ordained and they were not.

    As for my personal opinion, my lack of comment should not be taken either as approval nor as rejection of any particular comment or article. I’m still in the data-gathering stage.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 27, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  5. Looking forward to your work on this, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 27, 2011 @ 9:23 am

  6. In all this, let’s remember that one person’s explanation is just that: one person’s explanation. And we all seek out explanations that satisfy our minds. Leaders offer their explanations; magazine editors offer their explanations. And while these explanations seems to represent or stand in for the truth, they are not the truth — they are just good faith explanations.

    So men and women of good will have tried to answer questions that arise, such as why only men hold God’s priesthood. We will never know the truth unless God himself tells us. But as time passes and our culture changes, our explanations will change, too. I see nothing sinister in these changing explanations — indeed, I welcome them. If we ever did adopt a monolithic unchanging explanation, we would probably err. I love this flexibility, because one person can have his or her own understanding or explanation and another person can have his or her own differing explanation. This diversity of thought is wonderful.

    In this context, I love reading how Latter-day Saints in the past thought of this matter, and other matters, too.

    Comment by ji — September 27, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  7. I found the line “All men in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive the Priesthood if they are worthy.” to be surprising. I had to glance back at the title and double check the date of this lesson. In 1933, this was not an accurate statement; that statement wouldn’t become accurate until 1978.

    Comment by Keri Brooks — September 27, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  8. Good catch, Keri!

    The YW lesson I was referring to us the one I just taught this spring: http://lds.org/manual/young-women-manual-3/lesson-12-the-blessings-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng

    I don’t know if the other manuals are significantly different.

    Comment by HokieKate — September 27, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  9. Thanks, HokieKate, for adding that to my research file. That lesson echoes this 1933 view, and very closely parallels Daughters in My Kingdom, in stressing that women receive all the blessings of the priesthood, defining those blessings for the most part as ordinances. It goes beyond those, though, in recognizing other facets of the priesthood — the obligations and promises (the oath and covenant) that are also blessings of the priesthood, without comment on whether or not the promises of verses 33-34 (being sanctified in the spirit, being renewed in body, receiving the Lord. and being received by the general church in his name) are available to women, or why/why not

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 27, 2011 @ 11:30 am

  10. I, too, like Keri, looked at the date and was surprised. Did the writer not view black men to be men? Or were black men not allowed in the Church at all at that time?

    Anyway, it seems to me like the writer is confused, especially in the transitory phrases between paragraphs four and five. I find myself wanting to assume that the article was written by a man, but at that point, who knows?

    I found that it rubs me wrong to hear it implied that only men can adjust to differing circumstances, that they are above society when it says, “the loss to women and to society is far more tragic than the loss to man himself.”

    Whenever I read these types of historical documents I wonder, “What things that are being written now are going to be shocking to us and future generations?”

    Fascinating, isn’t it?

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — September 28, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  11. It is!

    As far as black men, mentioned by Keri and Michelle, I don’t think the author of this piece, whoever it was, intended to comment on race at all. I suspect, rather, that the idea of black members of the church wasn’t even on the author’s radar — if you had asked him or her about blacks directly, there would have been an instant recall of the priesthood restriction and all that it meant in that generation, but I suspect that in the absence of a direct reminder the whole issue simply never crossed the author’s mind. I have no way to prove that, of course, but that’s my instinct.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

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