Some might think it odd that I draw attention to this process in relation to a book review of Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes, by Sheri Dew. Be that as it may, for the majority of faithful members of the LDS Church the principle of succession in the Presidency is found to be simultaneously simple, profound and faith promoting. Nonetheless, for a few among us, it becomes a complex issue depending on how the results of the outcome are received.
The bottom line, however, is that before I sat down to write my personal thoughts about Sister Dew's book this was the impression that came into my mind as to how I should begin.
And so I will leave it to you, dear reader, to understand its particular significance along your personal journey of faith to know with stellar assurance, that the LDS Church is the Lord's authorized organization here upon the earth, set forth by God, in order to administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With such a testimony, firmly rooted, comes an undergirding of confidence that will enable power from on high to accomplish one's life mission - of which I know to be a true principle.
As a preface to my review of Sister Dew's book, I want you to know that I don't consider myself qualified to critique her work as a writer. Nor will I be critical of its content, as the reason I was anxious to read Women and the Priesthood is because I knew beforehand that it would be stellar - and it is. Stellar people create like. With that said, these are my thoughts in response, which I know to some may come across more like an ad. That's okay. I wrestled with how to write this post, knowing that it could easily come across as either overhype or too casual. I chose to come across as advocate.
In the introduction to the book, Women and the Priesthood, Sheri Dew explains that the accumulation of content has been on her mind for the past couple of years due to "Increased attention to the Church's doctrine, practices, and accomplishments of its members...", which came to include a focus on LDS women. Disturbing to Sister Dew is what media is saying about "who we are" and of the worst out there she describes as "wildly inaccurate depictions and downright bizarre" - of which, I concur.
She continues by identifying two points of confusion that she feels deserve specific mention, which serve to distort a correct understanding about the standing of Mormon women in the LDS Church, despite continual clarifications by Church leaders: the "temporary practice of polygamy" with its "lingering cloud of confusion" and the fact that "LDS women are not eligible for priesthood ordination". Both concerns are addressed in the book in such a way that I feel most Mormon women will find satisfactory.
Sister Dew goes on to explain that, "Because the doctrine that undergirds this vital and sensitive topic cannot be discussed in isolation from other key doctrines, the attempt of this work is to provide context and suggest a framework from which we can understand how our Father and His Son view women, as well as the privileges women have in the kingdom of God".
“With the witness of the Spirit that God is our Father, that Jesus is the Christ, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Lord’s Church comes a confidence and sense of peace about the manner in which the Lord has organized His Church and the plan our Father has for us." ~Sheri Dew
Sheri Dew's presentation on fundamental LDS doctrines relating to priesthood and women are significant for a number of reasons, having over time become the foundation upon which the importance of her book, Women and the Priesthood, will likely be received by the general membership of the Church - not the least of which, is her highly respected status among the women of the Church.
To many sisters, myself included, the first introduction to "Sister Dew" came when she was called (first single woman), to serve as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency. (1997- 2003) Her initial impact, perhaps partially because of her unmarried status causing many to take particular notice, came in how she was able to communicate, with unusual power, her frank thoughts and personal life experiences relating to doctrine on womanhood, motherhood and the divine destiny and worth of the daughters of God.
Today, Sheri Dew, continues to accomplish her work not because she has come to know what she knows through detailed, first-hand experience of everything she teaches, but rather in spite of it. And yet, together with the unique experiences she has had, as an LDS woman, give her an important lens through which she teaches vital doctrines and principles pertaining to womanhood, humbly, and received by the majority of her audience beyond reproach.
It is difficult, I think, for almost any member to refute her testimony of Mormonism's teachings on things such as eternal marriage, gender equality, and motherhood, to name a few, when coupled with her service to the women of the Church. Knowing that she has never been married, never had children, and among a multitude of titles and experiences she has had throughout her life is currently the President and CEO of the Deseret Book Company, which is indirectly owned by the Church.
In my opinion, if any female member of the LDS Church was ever in a position to find legitimate criticism of the very matters she addresses in her book, Women and the Priesthood, it would be Sheri Dew. Instead, because of her unique view of the Church and understanding of its doctrines pertaining to women, her perspectives are highly credible, powerfully taught and faith promoting to all seekers of truth.
In Chapter 7, God Reserved the High Privilege of Motherhood for Women, is where I felt that Sister Dew absolutely shined! Have you ever heard the saying... "You can take that to the bank"? Well, you can. I can't tell you how many Mormon feminists boldly refute the doctrine on the status of motherhood as a reasonable parallel to priesthood authority - of which Sister Dew beautifully resourced showing that indeed it is. And in fact, the way in which she presented this chapter, I actually started to feel guilty, in that if men find out why they've been given their specific role, they may be the next group to claim "gender inequality"! No spoilers though - go read the book.
“Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with the privilege of priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women the guiding role in partnering with our Father in the act of creation and then in helping His children keep their second estate.” ~ Sheri Dew
Most interesting, at least to me, is that to my knowledge there has been zero public response by any of the usual suspects - often the same who are faster than lightening to bold criticism of General Conference talks, given by prominent LDS leaders, not felt to be in harmony with progressive Mormon thought on current social issues.
I can assure you that this initial silence, likely temporary, has nothing to do with the book, Women and the Priesthood, having missed the mark, by any stretch of the imagination. Or, that it has been judged another standard Mormon response, the likes of which give way to much of what is advocated in opposition of her topic. Nope. Rather, I think the reason for the lack of any current debate/discussion among detractors, about her book, is quite possibly the exact opposite.
And if other LDS women, who like myself, took more time to read it than planned, it is totally understandable. Although the book is quite easy to read through, if one wanted to do just that, its content demands it be pondered at length. I picked it up the morning it was released and had intended to devour it so that I could put my review up immediately. However, once my journey with this book ensued I felt the impression to slow down and not cheat myself out of the experience I ultimately enjoyed, immensely - considering it a spiritual experience.
I also expect that as more members read Sister Dew's book, its content will be quoted extensively and for years to come, which will serve to validate the precision and faith by which I feel it was written. In fact, so strong is truth iterated throughout her thoughtful work, that on nearly every page is found multiple statements worthy of citation by the entire Latter-day Saint community, male and female, and in defense and advocacy of Mormon doctrine on: the differences between men and women; gender equality; priesthood ordination; divine nature; eternal destiny; purpose of life; individual worth; motherhood; womanhood and so on - all within the context of the great plan of salvation.
I found the inspired sequence that Sister Dew organized the foundational doctrines she chose to elaborate on in each chapter throughout the book, masterfully presented. The order, intended to effectively bring her readers to a personal space where revelation stands waiting to be received. To see things as they really are, enables us to push back the relentless distortions constantly thrown in our path, and opens a vision where we see ourselves and how we choose to live our lives important within God's plan. This book is a great resource for enabling that process.
With this information doctrinally placed in full view before a faithful reader, recognizing that although we don't know everything about women and priesthood power and priesthood authority, Sister Dew believes, evident in the work, that what we do have is more than enough to provide the doctrinal foundation upon which women can, without restraint, progress spiritually.
“The idea of change should neither surprise us nor alarm us. Changes in policy and administration, as distinguished from doctrine, are ongoing because the Restoration is ongoing.” ~ Sheri Dew
She does, however, agree that there are potentially some things structurally that could be considered and easily implemented within the Church organization, which could benefit the experience of women and that would not require advocating for doctrinal changes.
Women and the Priesthood also takes on what is often brought out in discussions about gender equality in the Church, which is that men and women receive every blessing of the priesthood upon equal terms, divinely designed, in order to accomplish God's work - and what that actually looks like beyond the stated fact- found in Chapter 6.
"Endowed, covenant-keeping women have direct access to priesthood power for their own lives. The challenge and opportunity for each woman is to learn what that means and how to access that power." ~ Sheri Dew
Having explained what compelled Sister Dew to write Women and the Priesthood, the reader encounters with the first chapter of the book, a frank discussion about perception. I got the impression that LDS women need to be engaged in making sure that public perceptions about who we are needs to be managed by us, collectively.
What may appear to some, as irrelevant, not fully aware of how Mormon women are often perceived outside of the Church, or how some Mormon women misrepresent us, this chapter could be easily passed over. However, it would be a mistake to discount it for the next, and so on... as each progressive chapter is built upon the previous.
Each, providing a spiritual confirmation of the truths taught, opening the door to further personal revelation - which I received throughout reading the book, leading me to take some truly amazing notes, as many things that I've long known, suddenly came together in ways broader than I had previously understood - leaving me filled with the Spirit.
In the back of the book there is a journal section, with a page provided for each chapter so that reader's impressions, questions and insights can be recorded. Very nice touch.
I found this book to be unexpectedly very conducive to receiving personal revelation. Not the actual written words on a page being new, but from what those words provoked because of already held understandings that could be drawn from and added upon. Reading Women and the Priesthood will likely, and should, be a very individual experience for every reader.
In fact, so powerful was my personal experience when reading many of the chapters in Women and the Priesthood, in that I received, multiple times, a sense of deep gratitude for my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what I have come to know and understand of God's plan for me. Including, my very personal understanding of how I receive priesthood power and authority as it relates to my role as a woman in the Church, and most significant my relationship of trust with God. I know that God desires each of His daughters to experience the joy that comes from feeling confident that we are doing what He sent us here to do.
Sheri Dew takes her reader symbolically by the hand, chapter-by-chapter, and in essence walks them through their original conversion experience (in warp speed), as she reiterates who we really are and why that's important to know in order to have the faith necessary to discover and accomplish one's life's mission - which she explains is different for each person and can only be found through personal revelation, which God expects His covenant children to receive. (Chapter 3.)
When I finished reading,Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes, I felt empowered as I, too, am a Mormon woman who believes the very same doctrines that Sheri Dew not only embraces (as do many of you), but acts upon every day of her life - evident in her own personal mission and its effects on those she is given to influence.
The knowledge of who we are - truly believing that our nature is divine - releases the necessary faith that compels a righteous woman to reach up for further understanding of what that means, by asking faithful questions of her Father in Heaven with patience and confidence that He will answer.
"Questions are good. Questions lead to answers..."
"The crucial issue is not about asking questions, it is the spirit in which questions are asked.” ~ Sheri Dew
For those who struggle to know, with certainty, your own personal mission here in mortality, as a daughter of God, I strongly recommend reading Women and the Priesthood, which I am confident you will find empowering to your spiritual growth. (Chapter 2: Women Have a Divine Errand)
Chapter 5, Women are Vital to the Success of the Lord's Church, should be helpful to sisters who feel, or question, that women are marginalized within the organization of the Church. Sister Dew boldly refutes that claim, among other false accusations of gender inequality, by pointing out that what Mormon women regularly do in the Church requires ordination of women in other Churches.
In my opinion, Women and the Priesthood: What One Woman Believes, by Sheri Dew, is an extremely important book to the entire LDS community, male and female, due to its relevant discussions, in response to past and present confusions and intentional distortions, about who Mormon women are and their vital role within the organizational structure of the LDS Church; reflective of the plan of salvation and reiterated today in the doctrines taught within, The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
Most significant to women of covenant is the encouragement found throughout the book in the instruction given to know, not that they do have priesthood power, but how they access priesthood power, given them in the temple, directly, and most important what priesthood power will enable them to accomplish, by faith, here in mortality.
"We as women are not diminished by priesthood power, we are magnified by it."
~ Sheri Dew
As you embark on your own journey of faith through the pages of Women and the Priesthood you will learn with greater clarity why specific doctrines discussed in each chapter of the book are vital to an understanding and development of a personal conviction that Jesus Christ actively stands at the helm of His Church, and that the role of women, with its inherent rights and privileges, is divinely designed.
The key to finding joy and happiness, has always been, and will always be to follow Jesus Christ and keep His commandments given to Him by our Father in Heaven.
As in all times throughout the history of the world and recorded in sacred scripture, we need the word of God. We need to know His thoughts on matters a progressive world advocates as good, which are clearly contrary to righteousness making the necessity of a living prophet upon the earth during these last days spiritually critical to our safe return back into His presence.
I firmly believe that when we accept His Plan, we are bound by covenant to receive Him through the one He has divinely appointed to hold all priesthood keys necessary for salvation and who is sustained by the membership of the Church, as a prophet, seer and revelator authorized to direct His word, the use of His priesthood power and authority, and to direct the modern-day children of Israel. I also feel confident that how he brings about having the right man for the job in place, is divinely managed, in order to have exactly who the Lord wants at a given time and for specific reasons.
I also know that as members, and perhaps especially as women, living during a time when the world is so very loud and our worth is challenged, daily, that great faith is required to turn away from that which can easily beguile even the most diligent daughter of God.
But we must exercise that faith in Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ with complete trust that all things are intended to work for our good - exactly in the same way He comforted the Prophet Joseph Smith, when he lay helpless in Liberty Jail. We are never in bondage when we choose to understand how God brings His greatest work about. Just ponder on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and what He was required to pass through in order to overcome the world.
The emphasis that Sister Dew closes her book with is powerful: Converted Women Can Change the World.
"Our influence today can be greater than the influence of any group of women in the history of the world."
Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes, by Sheri Dew, is a book that you won't want to have not read - it's that important.
"The fact that women are not ordained to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is for some a sticking point, a hot topic, even a potential media controversy. Others aren't troubled by the issue at all. But wherever you fall on that spectrum, you'll be fascinated by this doctrinal exploration of a topic that is crucial for both women and men to understand.
In Women and the Priesthood, Sheri Dew discusses the varying responsibilities of men and women in the context of key doctrine of the Church, including the eternal truths that women are vital to the success of the Lord's church, that God expects women to receive revelation, and that both men and women have access to God's highest spiritual blessings.
This enlightening book shows how studying the doctrine of the priesthood will help you find the answers you seek about women and the priesthood, about women in the Church, and about the vital influence righteous women can have in the world."
Source: Deseret Book