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Latter-day Saint Women and the Priesthood of God: A Believer’s Exploration

by Mark E. Koltko-Rivera

The issue of women and the priesthood has been a matter of concern for many Latter-day Saints for years.

This book changes the entire discussion.

In 2012, the never-before-published Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book was finally made available online. Investigation of this manuscript reveals what almost amount to “lost teachings” of Joseph Smith, including the following:

  • Joseph Smith “said he was going to make of this [Relief] Society ‘a kingdom of priests.’
  • Joseph spoke of “delivering the keys” to both the leaders of the Church and to the leaders of Relief Society.
  • Joseph said “the keys of the kingdom” were about to be given to sisters “as well as to the Elders.”
  • Joseph then said “I now turn the key to you in the name of God.”

This book thoroughly investigates claims that the LDS priesthood is to be restricted to men—and finds no support for such claims. This is a book for both men and women who want to learn what Joseph taught on this issue—and who want to consider possible futures.

From the Preface:


In this book, I claim that there is no scriptural reason not to extend priesthood ordination to all worthy Latter-day Saint women. Statements by well-intended Church members to the effect that the Lord has restricted priesthood ordination to men are expressions of personal opinion, being supported neither by scripture nor explicit modern revelation. Arguments based on the idea that Jesus only ordained men are naïve regarding the way that the Lord seems to work with human cultures and social change. In modern times, it seems that Joseph Smith himself, during the last year and a half of his life, bestowed keys of the kingdom upon Latter-day Saint (LDS) women. Of course, I support all of this from the LDS Standard Works, modern revelation, and the valid historical record. I hope that this information will inform the private discussions that are going on around the Church at this time, regarding this issue.

I do not spend much space here considering the many impassioned arguments that people have made for and against the ordination of LDS women. I am interested in the views of One Personage only: The Lord, as expressed in His scriptures and through His prophets, when the latter are speaking as such. When I have looked very closely at these sources, I have found some interesting historical and doctrinal facts of which many of the Saints seem to be unaware today.

After a brief introductory chapter about the LDS priesthood, I consider teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that are only becoming widely known in this generation, on the subject of women and the priesthood (Chapter 1). I consider separately the justifications that have been advanced for restricting LDS ordination to men (Chapter 2), and the objections that have been advanced against conferring the LDS priesthood upon women (Chapter 3). I then explain the real reasons why LDS women do not exercise the priesthood as of the early 2010s (Chapter 4). I describe what it is that might be best for the Saints to do—and not do—to address the issue of LDS women receiving the priesthood (Chapter 5). In Chapter 6, I consider more general objections—for example, objections to my even presuming to address this subject. Finally, I summarize my thoughts and relate some reflections on this issue (Chapter 7).


Table of Contents


  1. What Joseph Smith Said About Women and the Priesthood
  2. Justifications for Restricting LDS Priesthood to Men
  3. Objections to Conferring Priesthood on LDS Women
  4. The Real Reasons Why LDS Women Do Not Exercise the Priesthood in the Early 2010s
  5. The Future
  6. Further Objections
  7. Summary and Conclusion


About the Author

Mark Koltko-Rivera, Ph.D., holds a doctoral degree from the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University (NYU). He is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association. For his scholarship, he has received several awards: the Margaret Gorman Early Career Award in the psychology of religion (from the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality), the Carmi Harari Early Career Award for Inquiry (Society for Humanistic Psychology), and, on two occasions, the George A. Miller Award for an outstanding recent article on general psychology (Society for General Psychology). He has taught at NYU, the University of Central Florida, and elsewhere. His psychological scholarship has appeared in Review of General Psychology, the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and Psychotherapy. He was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, where he long lived in the East Village. He graduated from Regis High School (NYC), and holds an undergraduate degree from Haverford College (majoring in psychology) and a masters degree from Fordham University (in counseling). Mark Koltko-Rivera converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while attending college. He served for two years as an LDS missionary in the Japan Okayama Mission. He has served in the Church as a home teacher (i.e., priesthood visitor), a Sunday School teacher, a member of a stake high council, and a bishop’s counselor (the rough equivalent of an associate pastor). He has published articles in the independent LDS publications Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and Sunstone magazine.

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