On Sunday our Relief Society lesson in church was on the topic of the priesthood. It was presented by our wards really nice sister missionaries. They are young and cute and full of enthusiasm. As soon as they launched into their presentation and announced the lesson title, I had to forcibly hold back a sigh as I reached for my pad of paper and pen. I use them to distract myself by writing letters. I do my best writing while trying to avoid other things.

Since we are still new in our ward I am trying very hard to have no opinion on anything that rubs me the wrong way. It is one thing to correct false doctrine if you have years of ward service. It is completely different if people are still trying to learn your name. I think I should ease myself into this ward, not stunning them by letting my freak flag fly too soon. We hope to live here for a long time and I am planning on having friends someday.

Anyway, back to the lesson. These sweet, earnest sisters told us of a recent mission meeting where some priesthood holder of importance (their mission president? a visiting general authority? the area president? I can’t remember who they said it was and it really doesn’t matter. Just that he was a man with the priesthood.) talked to the sister missionaries about the necessity for sisters to pay attention to the priesthood. That someday they would be wives to priesthood holders, maybe even hosting priesthood leaders in their home or supporting their husbands in their leadership callings. Or maybe they would be the mothers of sons who hold the priesthood. It was really important they respect and appreciate the priesthood because someday they would have the privilege of serving some man who had it.

My mind instantly went to early church history, during Joseph Smith’s time when women were using the priesthood as active tools of healing and support in equal measure with the men. Of course, I suppressed my instinct to comment and started writing. I admit I got lost in my words and it took a few minutes for me to notice the change in the room. I regret I wasn’t paying attention to the class conversation because I know short-changed myself. By the time I started listening again, a never married woman over the age of 50 had raised her hand and gently reminded the sister missionaries that the priesthood for women was much more than serving a husband or son. Some women weren’t married or had no sons and it still had purpose for them, too.

Then another woman explained that she was a single mother who didn’t have the priesthood in her home. She talked about how much she appreciated all the worthy priesthood holders who helped her in her role. The class conversation unfurled softly as woman after woman talked about how the blessings of having humble men willing to serve Heavenly Father by ministering to His daughters had affected their lives. There was no Us vs Them mentally. I listened quietly as women shared stories of their personal lives, trusting that class members would understand.

The class ended when a middle-aged woman with six children, recently divorced after 27 years of temple marriage, said that when she thought of the priesthood she didn’t think of her husband. She thought of her father. He was a good man who struggled with severe OCD back in the day when there wasn’t public awareness of it. It was a crippling condition for him. He had to work very hard to control his compulsions. Her father was asked to give a child who was deathly ill a blessing. He sincerely, with full intent, prepared himself to bless the child. He gave a beautiful blessing and a miracle happened. The child recovered fully and is now a Bishop. The grown man often talks to this sister about how her father’s blessing saved his life. He and his family were so grateful that her father was the instrument prepared to give that blessing at a crucial time.

I can’t speak to whether priesthood blessings can change foreordained events or if it is wrong that women in the church aren’t currently using the priesthood in the same way that their male counterparts do. What I can do is tell you that the feelings of gratitude in that room were real and ran deep. These women taught me what is important. It is not about society-imposed gender roles. It is about being willing in our hearts to serve as needed, without reservation or desiring recognition. We are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, each here to serve others in whatever way we can.