Joseph Smith on Mormon Women and the Priesthood

LDS Women's Conferece
Image via Deseret News

The following comes from Fiona Given’s article posted to

In the recent conversations surrounding the ordination of women in the LDS church, it has been claimed by some that Joseph Smith envisioned assimilating women into the male priesthood. A close reading of the inaugural meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, however, suggests that Mormon women were originally established in an organization that Joseph Smith envisioned as parallel to and collaborative with the male priesthood. In this Female Relief Society, influenced by the Masonic ideals of Truth, Friendship, and Relief, members were accorded autonomy to run their own organization with their own authority and privileges. (Don Bradley has illuminated these connections in “The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism: Joseph Smith’s Unfinished Reformation,” Sunstone [April 2006]: 32-41.)

Joseph Smith’s grand project of forging a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day found its final and fullest expression in temple-building and temple ordinances. His soteriology involved a revisiting of the ancient concept of theosis, or divinization. In the temple, the rituals preparatory to becoming like God were performed; those priesthood ordinances are administered to men and women, and by both men and women. In fact, the Mormon definition of Deity itself, in reference to both the God Mormons worship and the theosis to which they aspire, entails the full co-participation of man and woman.

In this scheme, the LDS women’s organization as an effectual female priesthood in counterpart to the male priesthood, already established, was vital. “I have desired to organize the Sisters in the order of the Priesthood. I now have the key by which I can do it. The organization of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organized,” declared Joseph. (See Sarah Kimball, “Relief Society Record, 1880-1892,” 29-30, Church History Library.)

Read Fiona Givens full article at

Kylie is a writer at and graduate of BYU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She grew up in a Chicago suburb where she gained a passion for the Chicago Cubs. She enjoys writing and live event video production.