I have personally never been bothered by the fact that men hold the priesthood and women don’t, but I recently started to wonder, “Why doesn’t this bother me?” I could see arguments building up around me for why women should hold the priesthood, and I couldn’t adequately explain why I didn’t agree.
Now I can.
The priesthood is the power of God on the earth. The same power that created the heavens and the earth. The same power by which miracles are done. Miracles like prophecy, revelation, visions, healing the sick, preaching the gospel for conversion, speaking in tongues, and calming storms. And yet, even though women can’t hold the priesthood, miracles like these are be done by women AND men.
Church history is full of examples of women healing the sick (often receiving revelation about how to do so). The mission field is full of sisters who preach with profound power, and have the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues. I have never in my life felt I was less able to receive revelation because I am a girl.
There are, of course, certain tasks that only worthy, priesthood-holding men can perform. For example, only men perform sealings to bind families together for eternity. In fact, all the “saving ordinances” are performed solely by priesthood-holding men. However, even a worthy man with the power to seal cannot seal himself to his family. Another sealer must be present in order to perform the sealing. This is the same for all the “saving ordinances”, including baptism, and confirmation. A man cannot baptize himself. A man cannot give himself a blessing. A man cannot be his own judge. Another worthy priesthood holder must be present for him to receive these blessings.
And this is the key. No single person can save themselves.
You see, the priesthood is symbolic: it teaches us that no one can get to heaven without someone else opening the door. And ultimately that someone is the Savior…
…and the Savior is a man.
When these ordinances are performed for us, they are performed by a man representing the Savior. As Elder Oaks pointed out in his recent conference address on the priesthood power, “Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used.” When a priesthood-holding man performs a saving ordinance for us, it is not because that man has any special power. It is because the Savior has special power, and the man has been asked to represent the greatest man that has ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe women read too far into this decision God made for men to hold the priesthood. I don’t believe our loving Heavenly Father was leaving some sort of cryptic social commentary on what women can and can’t do. I don’t think this decision was about women at all. Maybe, Heavenly Father simply hopes that when a son of God places his hands on our head we’ll be reminded of THE Son of God, whose life and death gives the priesthood its saving power. After all, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
I am grateful for all the wonderful and worthy men in my life who have stood in the Savior’s place and opened the doors of salvation for me. I’m grateful to my Father in Heaven who prepared a way for all his sons and daughters to become the best version of themselves. And I am also grateful for the Savior, who lived the perfect life I could not live, and yet took upon himself the pain of my mistakes and failings, and did what I could not do: conquered. I am grateful for all that reminds me of him.