In light of this "pants protest" I have seen so many people say things like "Next, women will want the priesthood." Well, guess what? You already have it. You've had it since 1843.
The full essay is here (http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=1171) but I have pasted the main point of the whole thing.
For 150 years Mormon women have performed sacred ordinances in the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every person who has
received the LDS temple endowment knows that women perform for other
women the “initiatory ordinances” of washing and anointing. Fewer know
that LDS women also performed ordinances of healing from the 1840s until
the 1940s. Yet every Mormon knows that men who perform temple
ordinances and healing ordinances must have the Melchizedek priesthood.
Women are no exception.
Two weeks after he organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith announced his intention to confer priesthood on women. He told them on 30 March 1842 that “the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” and that he was “going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch's day—as in Paul's day.” In printing the original minutes of the prophet's talk after his death, the official History of the Church omitted Joseph's first use of the word “Society” and changed the second “Society” to “Church.” Those two alterations changed the entire meaning of his statement. More recently an LDS general authority removed even these diminished statements from a display in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art which commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Relief Society.
On 28 April 1842 the prophet returned to this subject. He told the women that “the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them that they may be able to detect everything false, as well as to the Elders.” The keys “to detect everything false” referred to the signs and tokens used in the “true order of prayer,” still practiced in LDS temples. Then Joseph Smith said, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time. . . .” For nineteenth-century LDS women, Joseph's words were prophecy and inspiration to advance spiritually, intellectually, socially, professionally, and politically.
Mormon women did not request priesthood—Joseph Smith would soon confer it on them as part of the restoration of the gospel. His private journal, called the Book of the Law of the Lord, specified the priesthood promise in his instructions to the women on 28 April 1842: “gave a lecture on the pries[t]hood shewing [sic] how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto these blessings. by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments.” Joseph clearly intended that Mormon women in 1842 understand their healings were to be “gifts of the priesthood,” not simply ministrations of faith.
The conferral of priesthood on individual women occurred through what Joseph Smith and associates called the “Holy Order” or “Anointed Quorum” (men and women who had received the priesthood endowment). On 4 May 1842, six days after his remarks to the Relief Society, Joseph introduced nine men to the endowment. The following year, on 28 July 1843, Presiding Patriarch Hyrum Smith, an original member of the Holy Order, blessed Leonora Cannon Taylor: “You shall be blesst [sic] with your portion of the Priesthood which belongeth to you, that you may be set apart for your Anointing and your induement [endowment].”
Two months earlier Joseph Smith and his wife Emma were the first couple to be “sealed” in marriage for time and eternity on 28 May 1843. Then in September the Presiding Patriarch blessed Olive G. Frost, one of Joseph Smith's plural wives, that “you shall be blessed with a knowledge of the mysteries of God as well as the fullness of the Priesthood.”
The men who received the Holy Order endowment in 1842 did not constitute a fully organized “quorum” until a woman was initiated in 1843. At 7 p.m. on 28 September 1843, Joseph Smith was “by common consent and unanimous voice chosen president of the Quorum” by eleven other previously endowed men. Next, Emma Hale Smith became the first woman to receive priesthood and its fullness. Willard Richards had referred to the men as “the quorum” in their prayer meeting of 11 September 1843, but Joseph did not officially become the Anointed Quorum's president until the day he admitted the quorum's first woman.
As newly sustained president of the Anointed Quorum, Joseph administered the initiatory ordinances and priesthood endowment to his wife in an upper room of the Nauvoo Mansion. The record of “Meetings of the Anointed Quorum” shows that at this same meeting, Joseph and Emma also became the first couple to receive the “second anointing” or “fullness of the priesthood.” By this ceremony they were each “anointed & ordained to the highest & holiest order of the priesthood.” Later church historians in Utah deleted Emma's name from the 1843 description of the prophet's “second Anointing of the Highest & Holiest order.”
However, church historians were more direct about the second anointing for Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith. Apostle and Church Historian Wilford Woodruff specifically called the ordinance a “second anointing,” and the History of the Church describes the ordinance as: “My brother Hyrum and his wife were blessed, ordained and anointed.”
Even in the nineteenth century church publications usually called the second anointing by such euphemisms as “fulness of the priesthood,” “higher ordinances,” “higher blessings,” or “second blessings.” However, LDS publications in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries sometimes identified the ordinance by its actual name: second anointing.
Of the relationship between the endowment's initiatory anointing and the second anointing, Heber C. Kimball explained: “You have been anointed to be kings and priests [or queens and priestesses], but you have not been ordained to it yet, and you have got to get it by being faithful.” In the second anointing, the husband and wife are ordained “King and Queen, Priest and Priestess to the Most high God for Time and through out all Eternity.”
Thus Emma Smith began the fulfillment of the prophet's promise to make the Relief Society “a kingdom of priests.” She was anointed to become a “queen and priestess” in the initiatory ordinance of the endowment and was ordained to the fulness of those offices by the second anointing. First counselor Sidney Rigdon later commented on this event: “Emma was the one to whom the female priesthood was first given.”
A common misunderstanding claims that women receive priesthood only through temple marriage or through the second anointing—both of which a husband and wife must receive together. However, such was not the view expressed by many of the Anointed Quorum's original members, who learned about the endowment directly from Joseph Smith.
Brigham Young's 1843 diary associated the endowment of women with receiving priesthood. On 29 October 1843, for example, he noted that Thirza Cahoon, Lois Cutler, and Phebe Woodworth were “taken into the order of the priesthood.” That was the day those three women individually received their endowment. They did not join with their husbands to receive the second anointing until 12 and 15 November 1843, respectively. When his own wife received the endowment on 1 November 1843, Brigham Young wrote: “Mary A. Young admitted in to the hiest [highest] orderer [order of] Preasthood [sic].” She did not receive the second anointing with him until three weeks later.
On 3 February 1844, William Clayton's diary noted that he “was permitted to the ordinance of washing and anointing, and was received into the Quorum of Priesthood.” On that same occasion, Jane Bicknell Young was also endowed and received “into the Quorum of the Priesthood.” The prophet's secretary later noted: “All the first quorum with one or two exceptions were present both male and female.”
Joseph Smith's uncle John Smith subsequently pronounced a patriarchal blessing on Maria Turnbow which specified that it was through the endowment ceremony that a woman receives the priesthood: “Thou shalt have an Endowment in the Lord's house [and] be clothed with the Power of the Holy Priesthood [to] be able to redeem thy fathers house. . . .”
Bathsheba W. Bigler Smith shared this view. She entered Joseph Smith's Anointed Quorum in December 1843. “I have always been pleased that I had my endowments when the Prophet lived. He taught us the true order of prayer. I never like to hear a sermon without hearing something of the Prophet, for he gave us everything, every order of the priesthood,” Bathsheba remarked. “He said he had given the sisters instructions that they could administer to the sick and he wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul's day, `A kingdom of priestesses.'”
In February 1844 stake patriarch John Smith told an LDS woman that she had a right to priesthood from her birth. “Thou art of the blood of Abraham thru the Loins of Manasseh & lawful heir to the Priesthood,” he said to Louisa C. Jackson. She was not among the elite Mormon women who received the endowment before the opening of the Nauvoo temple in December 1845. Referring to her eventual sealing and second anointing, the patriarch added that this woman “shall possess it [priesthood] in common with thy companion.” Louisa's blessing showed that any Mormon woman had a birthright to priesthood which depended on no man.
John Smith's blessings to Maria Turnbow and Louisa Jackson clearly show that a Mormon woman receives the priesthood for herself through the endowment. A Mormon woman and a Mormon man receive the higher priesthood blessings only as a couple through the sealing of marriage and through the second anointing (or “fullness”). As Apostle James E. Talmage wrote: “True, there are certain of the higher ordinances to which an unmarried woman cannot be admitted, but the rule is equally in force as to a bachelor.”
Uncle John Smith's church standing and experience make it difficult to regard him as misinformed when he affirmed that there is a female birthright to priesthood. A special counselor in the First Presidency since 1837, John Smith became a member of the Anointed Quorum on 28 September 1843, the same day his nephew Joseph received the second anointing. From then until he blessed Louisa Jackson, John Smith received four months of private instruction from the prophet about the Holy Order of the Priesthood during the frequent meetings of the Anointed Quorum.
In fact after his ordination as patriarch to the church in 1849, John Smith also described the ancient dimension of this female birthright to priesthood. In his blessing to Caroline Cottam in March 1853, he referred to the “Priesthood which Abraham sealed upon his daughters.” He also blessed Elizabeth Bean in May 1853: “I seal upon you all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and all the priesthood that was sealed upon the daughters of Joseph in the land of Egypt. . . .” He made a similar statement in a blessing to another LDS woman in November 1853. According to the presiding patriarch, a female priesthood continued throughout the centuries until the sojourn of the twelve tribes in Egypt.
According to first counselor Heber C. Kimball in 1857, Jewish women continued to have priesthood in the early Christian era. “Was every woman qualified to raise that child [Jesus]?” Kimball asked. “No. You will find that Mary was of the Royal Priesthood, which is after the order of God. . . .” Like her ancestors among the Hebrew women of ancient Egypt, Mary of Nazareth also held the “Royal Priesthood” which is now called Melchizedek.
On 7 December 1845 Apostle Kimball had recorded the names of twenty-three men and nineteen women who “are members of the Holy Order of the Holy Preasthood [sic] having Recieved [sic] it in the Life time of Joseph and Hirum, the Prophets.” Of these nineteen women, three had not yet received the second anointing. In the temple a week later, Kimball's diary noted that Brigham Young “appointed W. W. Phelps and P. P. Pratt to instruct the brethren and sisters . . . more fully into the nature and importance of the blessings and powers of the Holy Priesthood which they had received . . .” Kimball's observations that women received the priesthood through the endowment are significant because he usually expressed misogynous views.
That same month Patriarch John Smith made it clear that a woman did not need a man to receive and use the priesthood. To a woman whose husband was a non-Mormon, the patriarch said on 16 December 1845: “thou hast a right to the Priesthood by inheritance from thy Fathers, and if thy companion refuses to take his place and receive the gospel and you abide faithful you shall not be deprived of the privilege of haveing [sic] it sealed upon you in fullness in due time.” Eleven days later, he told Mehitable Duty that she would use her priesthood to bless both her non-Mormon husband and children: “the Priesthood in its fullness shall be confer[r]ed upon thee in due time [—] thou shalt have pow[e]r ov[e]r thy relatives & friends & thy husband & children to lead them whethersoever [sic] thou wilt in as much [sic] as you seek faithfully & truly to preserve them in the bonds of the new & ev[e]rlasting covenant.” When he gave these blessings in December 1845, John Smith was serving as the church's presiding patriarch after Patriarch William Smith's excommunication two months earlier.
In a published 1845 sermon, Apostle Orson Pratt also spoke of women receiving priesthood, but he did not specify how it was conferred. “You too, my sisters, will take a part therein,” the Times and Seasons reported, “for you will hold a portion of the priesthood with your husbands, and you will thus do a work, as well as they, that will augment that glory which you will enjoy after your resurrection.”
Another member of Joseph Smith's Anointed Quorum, Joseph Young, also affirmed that LDS women received the Melchizedek priesthood when they were endowed—not through the sealing or second anointing with their husbands. He gave this blessing to Zina Young Card in 1878: “These blessings are yours, the blessings and power according to the holy Melchisedek Priesthood you received in your Endowments, and you shall have them.” Young had been senior president of the First Council of Seventy since 1837 and an ordained patriarch since 1873. Zina was his niece and Brigham Young's daughter. In 1877, Edward Tullidge's Women of Mormondom reflected the view expressed by general authorities for thirty-five years: “The Mormon women, as well as men, hold the priesthood.”
Several other early LDS general authorities held similar views about women and priesthood. However, they were more tentative than Joseph Smith and those who received the prophet's personal instruction about the endowment. “They have the Priesthood,” Presiding Bishop Edward Hunter preached in 1877, “a portion of priesthood rests upon the sisters.” With even greater reserve, in 1888 Apostle Franklin D. Richards asked of the men “present who have received their endowments” the following question: “Is it possible that we have the holy priesthood and our wives have none of it? Do you not see, by what I have read, that Joseph [Smith] desired to confer these keys of power upon them in connection with their husbands?” However, Joseph Smith's 1842 promise, Hyrum Smith's patriarchal blessings in 1843, Brigham Young's 1843 diary, William Clayton's 1844-45 diary, Heber C. Kimball's 1845 diary, and patriarchal blessings by John Smith from 1844 on and by Joseph Young in 1878 all show that LDS women receive the Melchizedek priesthood through the endowment alone.
Local patriarchs in pioneer Utah also referred to women's priesthood rights. For example, stake patriarch Charles W. Hyde blessed a woman in 1875 that she was “a daughter of Ephraim and [had] a right to the fullness of the Priesthood and thy children to the fourth generation.” Hyde was the last man admitted to Nauvoo's Anointed Quorum and had given similar blessings to women since his ordination as a patriarch in 1853. Patriarch Ola N. Liljenquist indicated that this female birthright to priesthood was by premortal foreordination. He told Mary Ann Dowdle that she “was chosen in the eternal worlds to receive the fulness of the holy Priesthood with crowns and principalities and powers. Thou art of the lineage of Ephraim and an heir to all the blessings by birthright and election.”
Patriarch Liljenquist made explicit what is implied in Mormon theology—that women were also forechosen to priesthood authority before birth. In 1844, Joseph Smith made that specific claim regarding LDS men: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was.” This reflected Old Testament and Book of Mormon statements about foreordination of men to priesthood office and to an “order” of the priesthood (such as Melchizedek). However, Mormon scripture's most detailed view of the premortal world did not differentiate between men and women in this forechoosing to authority: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these [not just the male ones] there were many of the noble and great ones; and God . . . said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits [not just male spirits], and he saw that they were good . . .” (Abr. 3:22-23). This includes females among “all” God's intelligences and spirits who were noble, good, and forechosen (or foreordained) to be leaders and to receive authority.
Currently for males this foreordination to authority is fulfilled in LDS priesthood office. For females this foreordination is fulfilled in their receiving the priesthood endowment and opportunities for church service. This foreordination is the theological basis for Patriarch John Smith's blessings during Joseph Smith's lifetime that women have a “birthright” to priesthood.
For those who marshal other proof-texts that women do not hold priesthood separate from their husbands, the earliest example came from Brigham Young. LDS women “have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God,” he preached in March 1845. “Outside the pale of this they have a right to meddle because many of them are more sagacious & shrewd & more competent [than men] to attend to things of financial affairs.” Then he added, “They never can hold the keys of the Priesthood apart from their husbands.”
This earliest limitation on women's ecclesiastical authority did not deny that endowed women receive a conferral of Melchizedek priesthood. Instead Brigham Young first denied that women had any claim to administrative authority within the church, “to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God.” Second, he denied that a woman “can hold the keys of the Priesthood” by herself, for the reason that this right of presidency comes to women only through the second anointing.
These were not denials that Mormon women receive priesthood through the endowment, as indicated by President Young later. In January 1846, he wrote of “the anxiety menifested [sic] by the Saints [not just men] to recieve [sic] the ordinances of the Endowment & no less on our part to have them get the Keys of the Priesthood . . .” In 1867 he preached that God was “bestowing upon His sons and daughters, who are worthy, this priesthood, and kingly power to increase subjects and obtain territory, to extend the greatness of their kingdom forever . . .” In an 1874 sermon he also said: “Now brethren, the man that honors his Priesthood, the woman that honors her Priesthood, will receive an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of God.”
As indicated in Brigham Young's 1843 diary and the Nauvoo blessings by Hyrum Smith and John Smith, women receive priesthood through the endowment. Women receive the keys of presidency with their husbands through the second anointing. This “fullness of priesthood” confers on women the right to rule and reign as eternal queens and priestesses.
The historical evidence that women hold priesthood is also consistent with the definition of priesthood “keys” in the LDS church's Encyclopedia of Mormonism. “The keys of the priesthood refer to the right to exercise power in the name of Jesus Christ,” explains the article and then adds, “or to preside over a priesthood function, quorum, or organizational division of the church.” In the previously cited, uncensored minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, Joseph Smith promised “keys of the kingdom” to women in 1842. As indicated, Brigham Young and Franklin D. Richards reaffirmed the conferral of priesthood keys upon women through the temple ordinances.