Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. So glad you could join us for this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. Well, today we finish our series on the book, the LDS Gospel Topics Series, A Scholarly Engagement. We are looking at chapter 13, a chapter written by Margaret M. Toscano. It's titled Joseph Smith's Teaching on Priesthood, Temple, and Women, A Critique.
And of course, that title, Joseph Smith's Teaching on Priesthood, Temple, and Women, was the title of the Gospel Topics essay that covered this issue. Before we go on, we should mention that Margaret Toscano, according to the bio at the back of the book, is an associate professor of classics and comparative studies and department chair of world languages and cultures at the University of Utah. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in comparative literature.
She co-authored with her husband Paul the book Strangers in Paradox, Explorations in Mormon Theology, which was published by Signature Books in 1990. Eric, I would say that of all the Gospel Topics essays being critiqued in this book, Margaret Toscano seems to be probably the most upset with the essay that she was given the job of covering. She doesn't have a lot of good things to say about this essay. In fact, she's pretty harsh in some areas when she's discussing it.
Well, let's just let her speak for herself. If we look at page 326, what does she say? The church essay admits that many members will be surprised by the priesthood language Smith used to describe women's place in the church, which indicates most members are still unaware of the existence of historical evidence for women's ordination in the Mormon tradition.
The thesis of the church essay is that Smith's statements about women and priesthood do not mean what they seem to mean. To make this central point, the essay employs the technique of gaslighting, that is, the rhetorical or psychological technique of making someone believe that what they have observed or read or understood was an illusion, a flickering of light that clouds one's vision and judgment. Now, of course, that phrase gaslighting comes from, as it says in the footnote, from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 stage play that was titled Gaslight.
Later, it was a film in 1944 that had Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in it. That phrase, gaslighting, has been used a lot when it comes to trying to make people feel uncomfortable for things they think are happening or that are basically given the impression that it's not happening like that at all. This use of the phrase gaslighting here is not meant to be flattery, that's for sure, but she's going to use it again at the end of the article. She goes on to say, the church essay seeks to convince readers that 1. Smith never ordained women to priesthood and never intended to do so. 2. The temple priesthood does not confer authoritative keys or have any efficacy in the church organization.
3. The Relief Society, which is a women's auxiliary that Joseph Smith put in place and had his wife Emma, she became the first president, was never intended to be a priesthood organization, and 4. Anyone who thinks otherwise is under a misperception and misguided. The purpose of the church essay is to show that Smith's words, views, and actions with respect to women and priesthood exactly correspond with those of LDS church leaders today. Eric, now this essay and the one that we were covering earlier in this week, Dealing with a Mother in Heaven, were written towards the end of 2015. These were the last two essays that were included in the 13 total original essays put out by the church and posted on their official website.
You don't think it was kind of an afterthought, do you? The two, you could say, are kind of related, because the questions that were raised by the two authors in the chapter Dealing with Mother in Heaven raise some very good questions about whether or not Mother in Heaven should be considered as a part of the Godhead. Now you would think if priesthood is necessary for Mormon males today to become a god, wouldn't priesthood also be necessary if a female was to become a god?
In this case, of course, Heavenly Mother. So I can see a correlation, I guess you could say, between the two chapters and the points that they're trying to make, because Margaret Toscano is just as much a feminist as the two authors of the chapter that we covered earlier this week. So I'm sure they all share a lot of the same ideas, and naturally they all would want to have this priesthood that the church only gives to males.
But what does she go on to say on page 327 regarding these four points that are made in the essay? In taking this stance, the essay ignores significant scriptural and historical evidence that indicates the opposite, namely that one, Smith intended the Relief Society be a women's priesthood organization. Two, he viewed the temple priesthood as the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood restored by Elijah, a priesthood that encompasses all the church orders of priesthood together with their keys, powers, and rights.
And three, he intended a group or quorum of anointed men and women holding temple priesthood fullness to govern the church. The evidence for this alternate view, though not abundant, is significant because the church essay presents only documents and arguments supporting the view that only men have the right to priesthood offices and to govern the church. The essay misrepresents information anachronistically to compel the conclusion that the view of current LDS church leaders on the question of women and priesthood is identical to Smith's. Well, let's stop there, because if she's correct, what does this say about the leadership of the church? If Margaret Toscano is correct in her assumptions, why are these men not listening to what she feels Joseph Smith was trying to portray? I get the impression that Margaret Toscano, because the church is not listening to what she thinks Joseph Smith was really saying is, what, trying to protect their power? And if they are in fact trying to protect their power, what does that say about them as men in charge of the church? Wouldn't that be a huge flaw in their character that not only needs to be confessed but repented of, and how do you do that when, as she sees it, they're involved in something that's inaccurate? Well, we brought it out yesterday, and today I think we have the same question.
What does she want to have happen? Does she really want the church to go ahead and say that women have the priesthood? What's that going to say to the average Latter-day Saint who's faithful in their beliefs?
Why this now? Why haven't we had it for the past two centuries? I think it's going to raise more questions by making a change than just leaving it alone. It would also raise the question, wait, we've been told that the church leadership can't lead us astray, and obviously by not allowing women to hold the priesthood for any number of reasons. If she's right in her assumptions, it seems like they have been leading the church astray, just as we would argue that the church has certainly been leading the church astray when it came to those of African heritage from holding the priesthood themselves. Priesthood is a very important aspect in Mormon theology.
For us as Christians, it's not that big of a deal, because we find in the New Testament that there is a priesthood of believers. So I guess what I would say to Margaret Toscano is, hey, if you want the priesthood, Margaret, come on over to our site and you can have it. She had some statements in her conclusion that I wanted to cover. One positive effect of the church essay, she says, is that its writers take seriously the statements and actions of Joseph Smith, which is not always the case in a church that privileges the words of living leaders over dead ones. And she's right about that, because in the 14 fundamentals and following the prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, the 13th president of the church, made it very clear, you don't take the words of the dead prophets as superseding the words of the living prophets. She goes on to say, since the past is always a helpful lens through which to view and analyze the present, the Gospel Topics essays can serve as a beginning point for fruitful discussions.
But then she has a however. However, the essay on Joseph Smith's teachings on priesthood, temple and women uses a gaslighting technique to obscure the historical information from Smith's life and work that justifies the priesthood ordination of women in the LDS church. Well, in looking at these essays, let's wrap it up this way. The LDS church, we know, did not put any names on any of these essays.
They were all anonymous, which caused a lot of confusion when they were first released in 2013. The church finally had to come out and say, hey, look, we're behind these. You should not only read them, you should know them like you know the back of your hand. So that tells us as Christians that we have a valuable source of material here that we can use when challenging our LDS counterparts. But what did the church say about these Gospel Topics essays and the importance that the leadership felt regarding them? And this is an article that was titled, New Essays Address the Topics on Women, Priesthood, Mother in Heaven. And the article in the second paragraph says, These essays complete a series of 13 that the church began publishing in 2013 to provide an accurate resource for its members to gain insight and understanding into some of its teachings, practices, and history. The 13 essays, and this is being written in 2015, published to date, were prepared through extensive research by men and women, church scholars, and carefully reviewed by members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities and women leaders to provide an official, authoritative, and transparent source of information. That statement alone tells us that we can, in good conscience, use the Gospel Topics essays in a witnessing scenario. That being the case, and because these essays are, as you say, are supposed to be more transparent, they're probably going to contain some information that might surprise some of the Mormons we may be talking to. If so, let's use them, folks.
Let's use them to our advantage. Let's challenge our Latter-day Saint friends and loved ones to explain some of the things that we have read in these essays and ask our Mormon friends what they think about these things. Many times I have found that Mormons, when you bring up a certain portion of their theology, if they did not know about that portion of theology, they can sometimes be offended by what you just said. Have them go and check it out, and you'll find that later on they may come back and say, Oh, well, I guess we do believe that. It's no big deal. And then use that inconsistency in how they view that teaching in showing them, Hey, there's something wrong here, otherwise you wouldn't have acted the way you did.
Why all of a sudden is it okay with you now? We've covered all 13 of these Gospel Topics essays. We also have included all of the episodes from this series that we have done on this book called the LDS Gospel Topics series. You can see all of that by going to our website, mrm.org slash Gospel Topics essays with hyphens between Gospel Topics and essays. We encourage you to go there. I think it will be very informational for you. Have a great weekend. Thank you.
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