Saturday, November 7, 2015

Women and Gifts of the Spirit: Read All About It

Recently, the church came out with this article, titled Joseph Smith's Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women. I was glad to see them address this topic. It is something I have been familiar with since combing through the Relief Society Minutes in preparation for a Relief Society activity a year and a half ago.

I thought they were thorough in their summary of what Joseph Smith actually taught, but less thorough on why we don't do it that way today. Frankly, the logic explaining it was lacking. For example a quote from the article:
The second aspect of Joseph Smith’s teachings to the Relief Society that may be unfamiliar today is his endorsement of women’s participation in giving blessings of healing. “Respecting the female laying on hands,” the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record, Joseph said that “it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith,” and admonished, “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.”30 Some women had performed such blessings since the early days of the Church. At that time, Latter-day Saints understood the gift of healing primarily in terms of the New Testament’s teaching that it was one of the gifts of the Spirit available to believers through faith. Joseph Smith taught that the gift of healing was a sign that would follow “all that believe whether male or female.”31
During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have the gift of healing.32 “I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters,” testified Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift.33 In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow explained in 1883, “Women can administer in the name of JESUS, but not by virtue of the Priesthood.”34
I can verify that Joseph is quoted correctly here, as this is what I came across and read as well. The next quote is from the next paragraph in the article:
Women’s participation in healing blessings gradually declined in the early 20th century as Church leaders taught that it was preferable to follow the New Testament directive to “call for the elders.”35 By 1926, Church President Heber J. Grant affirmed that the First Presidency “do not encourage calling in the sisters to administer to the sick, as the scriptures tell us to call in the Elders, who hold the priesthood of God and have the power and authority to administer to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ.”36 The current Handbook of Instructions directs that “only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted.”37 
I find this explanation for our current practices woefully lacking. Yes, the priesthood can administer to the sick, but to deny woman to do so in faith, is denying the gifts of the spirit.
And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. Moroni 10:8

Parable of the talents

In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents. Because of the similarity of the word talent as we use it, and talent (a form of currency), as used in this parable, it’s easy to get stuck on a particular meaning. But talent doesn’t necessarily mean talent, meaning it doesn't mean your physical or mental abilities. The talents the Lord wants you to multiply in this parable are not your talents of singing, dancing, acting, instrument playing, poetry, or car mechanics. A talent in this parable has monetary value. It’s something of value that God gives to His servants. This could be spiritual gifts, spiritual knowledge, or as it is described in a section of D&C the right to pursue priesthood (meaning that one has been ordained of man and has to opportunity to receive power in it through God). Once you are given something of value from God, He means you to use it.

As mentioned in the scriptures, Joseph Smith (quoted in the article above), and the Lectures on Faith (Lecture 3, paragraph 23), God is no respecter of persons. The gifts of the spirit are freely given. Many of which are manifest (as with the day of Pentecost and Christ’s original 12 disciples) during an outpouring of the Spirit. These are actual occurrences known as baptisms of fire. As I described in my Baptism of Fire post, I dreamt visionary dreams after such an occurrence.

Gifts of the Spirit as found in Moroni 10:9-16, include these: that he may teach the word of wisdom, teach the word of knowledge, exceedingly great faith, healing, work mighty miracles, prophecy concerning all things, beholding of angels and ministering spirits, all kinds of tongues, interpretation of languages & diverse kinds of tongues.
All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. 
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men. Moroni 10:17-19
There were women testified of in the Old and New Testaments who had the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Likewise Joel and Moroni prophesied of the same occurrence/s:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. Joel 2:28-29
Your gender and your skin color do not prevent you from receiving any of these gifts. These are not, and cannot be given by man. These are given from God, and He is no respecter of persons.

So if you are a woman with the gift of healing, or at some point in your life you find that you are blessed with it, you are left with a choice… Do you obey the men who suppose they have the authority over the gift of healing, and that you do not? Or do you obey the God who gave you a gift and use it as He intended, in His service, rather than hiding it where it does neither you nor anybody else any good?

My advice is to use it freely in His service, without gain. This is my advice for those with any of the spiritual gifts. Heal. Prophesy. Teach. Work mighty miracles. But do not be afraid to use it.

And if you do not possess these gifts? You may seek after them. As we know from modern revelation given to the church in D&C 46:8-9, we are encouraged to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given… they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.”(D&C 46:8-9)

So seek spiritual gifts, but not for a sign, not to be seen of men, not for praise, worldly gain, or worldly glory, but for the benefit of others.

Ask for the gifts that the Spirit directs you towards.

And we are promised that, “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)

A Common Mistake

Whenever we make the assumption that the way we’re doing things now is the right way, we run the risk of misunderstanding what the way is. To do this is presumptuous, vain, and proud. If you already believe you have it figured out, there is no room and no opportunity for you to learn what God would teach you in the matter. You kill the opportunity to gain knowledge through the Spirit. You hamper and handicap yourself, effectively setting up a stumbling block you can’t see around.

This is the problem I see with the church’s article. There’s a lot to be learned from it, but this assumption leaves us trying to interpret the scriptures that contradict the articles’ conclusions in a way they were not intended to mean. I imagine a lot of the corruption in our bible comes from this tendency of man. When the word of God from the past didn’t match what God’s people were doing, and they were convinced the way they were doing it at any given time was correct, then they had to make the past narrative fit the current one. This is how knowledge is lost. This is how plain and precious things are removed and later require a restoration.

The article assumes Joseph Smith, knew less about this than we do know. It does not open to the possibility that his knowledge was in line with the scriptures. That he knew MORE about it than we do. Because the way we do it now must be correct…right?

I have had the opportunity (only once) to participate/mostly observe a blessing of healing given by women to another disabled woman. I can honestly say I don’t know the outcome of it, whether she experienced healing or not, but I could see why Joseph saw no harm in it. It was a beautiful experience.

As the church’s article points out, women used to give blessings of healing, but only the men are permitted to now. Joseph said he saw no harm in it. The man through whom we received The Book of Mormon, restoration of priesthood and its ordinances, latter-day revelation, and this church. A man so close to God that God was able to bring this to us through him. More than any subsequent leader of the church. But the one who brought the most knowledge, knew less about spiritual gifts than we do today?

Are you sure?

Would God give you a gift you weren’t supposed to use?

There’s an easy way to know the truth of this matter. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…

 It doesn’t really matter what I have to say about any of this, but God can give it to you straight.

Go ask Him.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I am learning God trumps. I follow Yeshua, him and him alone. In many dreams now I have had the gift of healing and of giving blessings to others. Also to cast of evil, and unclean spirits. The latter I do while I am awake now. Great question, "Would God give you a gift you weren't supposed to use?