The Gospel Doctrine lesson #25 manual objective is “to inspire class members to follow the example of the sons of Mosiah by sharing the gospel and ministering to others.”
To assess how women and men can obtain power and authority in teaching.
Who has “power and authority” to teach? How are power and authority obtained? Should they be sought after? For what purpose? What do power and authority accomplish?
For much of my life, I believe I would have associated “power and authority” with male priesthood, as certainly many members do. This instinctive association is justified by numerous verses linking the two (e.g. D&C 107:8, D&C 113:8, D&C 128:9), and is supported by the administrative setup of the church and the responsibilities of priesthood holders. Yet it is not an exclusive connection. Power and authority do come with priesthood keys and callings executed righteously. They also come with priesthood ordinances administered both to women and men in the temple. But Alma 17 lays out a path to power and authority without specific mention of priesthood:
2 Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
3 But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.
The sons of Mosiah (v. 2-3)
- Were strong in the knowledge of the truth
- Were of sound understanding
- Searched the scriptures diligently
- Knew the word of God
- Prayed and fasted much
“Therefore” (v. 3)
- They had the spirit of prophecy
- They had the spirit of revelation
- They taught with power and authority from God
How does a woman teach with authority and power? Alma’s “for-therefore” structure here suggests a formula that any of us could follow, regardless of ordination or office.
Knowledge of scripture is not enough, of course, to be authoritative “unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21). What does it mean to search scripture diligently? How do we become strong in our knowledge of the truth? How do we become women and men of sound understanding, and what does that mean?
What is the word of God, and how does is differ from scripture? See Ammon’s beautiful soliloquy, “they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us” (Alma 26:13) and the description of the conversion of the people of Alma, “their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word” (Alma 5:7). See also 2 Nephi 32:3, which sets “the words of Christ” in parallel with “the power of the Holy Ghost.”
What is the spirit of prophecy? It is the testimony of Jesus (see Rev. 19:10, Alma 6:8, and Joseph Smith’s July 1839 sermon found in History of the Church 3:389). By this definition, women and men are equally entitled to the spirit of prophecy. How do we obtain a testimony of Jesus?
And what is the outcome of all this? It is effectiveness in teaching. The end result of power and authority thus acquired (with the spirit of prophecy and revelation, delivering the word of God) is “faith” (Rom 10:17) and “the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21). Joseph Smith taught, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148).
My challenge to every woman of the church, whatever perceptions have guided her to this point, is to pause and envision herself clothed with power and authority. When you do so, do you see your present self? Do you see yourself at some point in your past (perhaps while you taught your children, or served your mission, or labored in a calling)? Or do you envision yourself in some distant eternity?
Whatever steps Alma lays out for us to achieve this vision, the first step is believing we can.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Women and the Priesthood, Sheri Dew
“Eliza R. Snow said that Latter-day Saint women have greater and higher privileges than any female on the face of the earth. I absolutely know that is true. We could talk about the issues of trying to work with priesthood leaders. I’m like everyone else: I’ve had glorious experiences working with priesthood leaders, and I’ve had terrible experiences working with priesthood leaders. I get that whole picture.
But I also believe that when you look at the spiritual privileges we have, it’s just astonishing. The saddest imaginable thing is if we don’t realize what God has given us. And if we don’t realize it, we are in no position to learn how to draw upon the power of God and how to draw that power into our lives to bless us. Imagine how sad to get to the end of your life and find out that you had it all along, but didn’t access that power.”
Reflections on the Divine, Fiona Givens
“Whenever we become too comfortable in our paradigms, that is the time for a shift. The Lord wants us to look for Him in the chaos and disorder that is often our life experience. It is then the revelation comes and we experience that we are loved by Someone whose vulnerable beauty draws us to Him with an infinite and loving power. It is then we see God’s gentle face all around us.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
The Power of Goodness, Janette Hales Beckham
“My plea for each of us is to recognize that God has given each of us power—the power to act, to choose, to serve, to love, and to accomplish much good.”
Spit and Mud and Kigatsuku, Chieko Okazaki
“You are powerful! Where does that power come from to ‘do many things of [our] own free will’? It comes from the Savior himself. Feel that desire to serve in your own heart.”