Thursday, September 13, 2012

Priesthood as a Requirement for Salvation

I was feeding my baby his bowl of mashed bananas and strawberries while listening to the April 2012 General Conference address by Robert D. Hales entitled "Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service" and had to pause everything to write down this simple, brief thought that I had.

Priesthood ordination is a personal requirement for the exaltation of men.  Men must be ordained to at least the office of Elder before they can enter the temple and receive their own endowment.  The sacred ordinances of salvation that are offered in temples only come to men after they have received the priesthood and continued in a state of worthiness.

Priesthood ordination is not a requirement for the salvation of women.  I won't try to answer why that is the case right now.  BUT the claims that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is chauvinistic and unfair to women because women are not offered priesthood ordination falls on its face right at this point.  The injustice would exist if priesthood were a requirement for female salvation and women were barred from receiving it.  Since it is not offered and is not required, there is no loss.

Now, we might look back to the first 140 years of Church history when not all worthy male members could be ordained to the priesthood and because of that could not enter the temple, and we could become worried or upset that salvation was withheld from good, deserving people.  I won't try to answer why that was the case, either, because speculation usually isn't accurate.  However, in this case there are two pieces of good news.

First, baptism is the gate that leads to the presence of God the Father.  Baptism is the first ordinance we receive and it is all that is required (when just looking at the ordinances) to be able to return to our Heavenly Parents.  Baptism has NEVER been withheld from anyone based solely on their race, nationality, or gender.  It is strictly a matter of a person having faith in Christ and obediently living by His precepts (including the cleansing principle of repentance).  Therefore, in this dispensation, salvation, even without the priesthood and temple ordinances, has always been available to every person of every race and of both genders.    

Second, while baptism (and our worthiness) gets us into the Celestial Kingdom, exaltation (becoming like God) does require further ordinances and obedience.  Those exalting ordinances are only performed in temples.  The good news is that we not only perform these ordinances for ourselves while we are alive, but also do them vicariously for those who have died.  Members of the Church who did not live to see the priesthood's extension to all worthy men (1978) and temple ordinances to all worthy Church members, can have that work done for them!  It is necessary, it is available, and it is done vicariously as though the person were making the covenants for him/herself.  Nothing is lost! 

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