By Elizabeth Pinborough

The objective of the Gospel Doctrine Lesson #13 manual is “to strengthen class members’ testimonies that Jesus is the Christ and that the priesthood keys bestowed on the Mount of Transfiguration have been restored.”

Our Objective

To comment on the priesthood keys as they relate to the Relief Society.


Celebrating the Relief Society

On March 17, I attended a Relief Society gathering commemorating the organization of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. The speaker was Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt, assistant visiting faculty member in Brigham Young University’s Department of Ancient Scripture. Her address was masterful. Meaningful. Empowering.

She shared the story of a spiritual impression she had as a thirteen year old — that God wanted her in Ethiopia. Eventually research for her dissertation led her there, where she observed the cultural rituals of Ethiopian women.

She led her listeners through one of these rituals — the buna — wherein women gather daily to drink a hand-ground coffee and talk.

Women of all ages interact in the ritual space, and younger generations are educated in the ways of the ritual and the ways of womanhood. Such a gathering provides a support system for women, which accompanies births and other momentous occasions, too.

An American Mormon Buna

The women of the East Millcreek Ward sat around circular tables listening to Sister Platt speak. Although we were in a stake center gymnasium, it was easy to draw parallels between Relief Society meetings and the buna.

I felt reverence for the women who surrounded me. I was among holy women. Each had many years of incredible life experiences to share that I could learn from. Each made the time to come celebrate a gospel that welcomes and celebrates women.


Sister Platt also mentioned the priesthood power Relief Society sisters have as they uphold their covenants. Who is to say that these powers do not constitute priestesshood? I think they do. The government is upon Christ’s shoulders and He allows men and women to govern with Him in the kingdom, each in their own sphere.

Of Keys and the Kingdom

“A Key Was Turned in Latter-days” is on page 310 in the green 1985 hymnal. Toward the end of the hymn-selection process, hymnbook compilers realized there were no hymns about women. They asked my mom, Jan Pinborough, to write one, and she chose to describe the first Relief Society meeting in 1842.

Jan said the original lyric she wrote was “I now turn the key in your behalf,” reflecting one quotation of Joseph Smith’s words. When a reviewer looked over the hymn, she said that Joseph Smith actually said, “I now turn the key to you.”

“I love the idea that he turned the key to women, rather than just for them,” she told me. “That women have keys. There is power in the keys and power in faith and power in complementarity, power in things working together.”

The entrance to God’s kingdom is not through any earthly door. Baptism is the gate that leads to eternal life, and other priesthood ordinances follow in succession. So the believer is led from lamppost to lamppost into the kingdom. We live by the light we have and wait in faith for more.

Read more from Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt:

Pathways for Female Socialization

Sisters in Transition: Moving from the Buna Coffee Ritual to Relief Society

Living Your Covenants Every Day

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

Reflections on the Divine, Fiona Givens

I particularly love Revelation 12. You have this beautiful image of a woman with the stars and the moon… a gorgeous vision of this woman. She’s pregnant, she delivers her child… the child is caught up into heaven and then she is left to confront the dragon. We know the dragon is Lucifer because the scripture informs us that he took a third of the host of heaven with him. So you have this woman, who has just been delivered of her child, and she’s confronting Satan on her own. There is no way that she can withstand the assault. Verse 6 is the pivotal scripture and on that particular day when I read it, my whole universe was illuminated by joy and my Weltanschauung was forever altered.  It was pretty much like James 1:5 was for Joseph; it took my breath away: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” We read that she flees into the wilderness – what we call the apostasy – where she is fed of God. The church is not destroyed, it does not utterly disappear. It retreats underground, where the Spirit nourishes it. That was so overwhelming to me: how does God nourish a church in the apostasy? How does He nourish a church that no longer has priesthood keys and ordinances? Well, He sends her the greatest philosophers, poets, writers, composers and thinkers of all time. God doesn’t create ex nihilo; one can’t restore something that isn’t already there; the building blocks for the Restoration were always there…It was a garden in which goodness, beauty and truth were nourished until they were ready to come forth to be reunited with Priesthood keys and ordinances now restored.

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.

The Priority is Family, Annie Bush

What comforts me, in this completely crazy world that we live in, is to have women who are engaged in the gospel, who have superb priorities, irrevocable faith, who have suffered very hard trials, and who have maintained their faith, who serve others, who are examples. For me, that is very, very enriching and it strengthens my own faith.

Other Related Women’s Voices

 Partakers of the Glories, Elaine L. Jack

Spiritual gifts are powerful priesthood blessings. They increase our capacity as we develop them by drawing on the storehouse in heaven. 

Women’s Greatest Challenge, Barbara B. Smith

As sisters in Relief Society, we have a noble heritage, present challenge, and a vision of greatness to be. With the organization of the Relief Society came the Lord’s program for his daughters. The cornerstone of that work was to become deeply engaged in relieving suffering among his children.

Melanie Riwai-Couch: The Legacy Of The Relief Society


Sheri Dew "Not Bystanders"