Ordain me…I want your magic, invisible power

The easiest trick to pull on children is to tell them you have a magic token in your hand, which is invisible. It is this token which I will now hide from you, I then explain, should they try to grab it. Everything that happens for good in my day comes through the power of this magic token.

Or, as Lisa Simpson tried to explain to her father:


In more recent cases, by not allowing someone to have this magic, invisible token of power, I ensure that they will organize a movement presupposing its existence, and arguing for its distribution to those arbitrarily precluded from taken it on.  The more arbitrary the exclusion, the more powerful the desire to see the power distributed, strangely enough.

Then I will proceed to initiate sanctions on the persons attempting to acquire my invisible token, and by sanctioning them, only show that indeed I have the power they seek.  I have now punished the children for searching for my magic token, which is, of course, invisible. Only those with special powers can sense it, see it, and even use the magic token. I have the power of the power, the keys to hold the keys to the magic token, which is really the right to hold the magic token, contingent on my assessment of your invisible purity, as measured by vague standards I alone am privy to, and won’t explain to anyone.

The more opposition that is given to my arbitrary exclusion of others from my magic token, the more others seek for my magic token, the more it gains power over them, until they believe it to be real, and then they might offer their lives for it.

But I don’t have the magic token at all, that is why it is an invisible power.

God does not conceal his power, but we conceal our lack of power by performances and rationalizations: magic tricks designed to use belief to stand in for power.

If someone has The Power, the real stuff (which I believe exists), it is pretty clearly explained in accepted LDS scripture what they can, and sometimes, are doing with that power.  And ceremonies and administration duties are not the most interesting of these abilities.

I’d say, if Monson were turning the course of rivers, moving mountains, by the word of power raising the dead, opening the heavens, lifting cities to Enoch; if he was communing with gods and angels (and showing some tangible evidence of doing so), altering weather patterns, and so on, then I’d be pretty anxious to get some of that.

What Priesthood Power can he offer you, Homer?  Lisa replies: Power over others who believe you have that same power.


  1. Great stuff Daymon. As Nibley wrote:

    “Who can deny such a power to another? No man. Who can bestow it on another? No man. We like to think that the Church is divided into those who have it and those who don’t have it; but it is the purest folly to assume that we can tell who has it and who does not… The result is, that if there is anyone who really holds the priesthood, no one is in a position to say who it is—only by the power to command the spirits and the elements is such a gift apparent.”

    If we want to know whether one has authority we should voluntarily follow, it is wise to remember Jesus’ answer to that very question:

    “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

    1. Wait…Daymon was talking about some “priesthood” as That Power a person might have? Nibley’s quote appears to make him say that, but I don’t think “priesthood” is that power of which Daymon speaks. Seems what Nibley accomplishes by saying this is in further planting seeds of unbelief and doubt about who “really” holds that idol called priesthood (and keys, etc.), as opposed to what The Power might really mean.

      1. If you recall from Daymon’s CH Vol 4, Nibley was in possession of his own idols. He practically invented the genre of LDS fan fiction, with works of pseudepigrapha popping up all over the place after the general public absorbed his writings (thank you Huggie Yelbin for the excellent interview).

        But we can look now and see that he was a master magician himself. Instead of claiming “power” like is wont with the Corporation, Nibley’s trick was to distract us. “Look how the Nephite culture ties into ancient Egypt!” was the pitch. We turned our heads and oooohed and aaaaaawed at how it all fit together. Yet what has come of it? Well, we have some good stories, I suppose, with Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, the Mentinah Archive and even the Sealed Portion, the Final Testament of Jesus Christ as translated by Christopher. (Yes. It is here. We have it now. It is unsealed. And it is complete with headers, chapters, verses and given in Holier Than Thou Old English… just like the Brother of Jared wrote it! http://marvelousworkandawonder.com/tsp/download/TSPSecured.pdf)

        Did this help us approach Zion? Doesn’t seem like we’re any closer than we were before, but perhaps a little more confused about what Zion is. Mind you, I like Nibley and his “thinking outside of the box” approach. But it seems to me that he just made a new box that was bigger than the last one, which gave us more room to play around, but we are still bumping into walls.

        How about instead of thinking outside of some box (like priesthood, etc.) we just recognize that there is no box?

      2. Im not sure I would read Nibley that way. Nibley is clearly referring to the power and that the only way you know someone has the power of god is by those fruits (yes he should just abandon the label priesthood). Anything else, including the label priesthood is just an idol as you say. As I see it, Priesthood is just a word that men have used to try exercise social control and enforce mainstream ideology. It is a way for men to act as an intermediary between human and divine, legitimizing the power of the dominant by giving the accepted interpretation of divine will.

        Priesthood quite literally means a hood or order of priests. Its a bunch of priests/men who claim they have an exclusive control over the power of god and then use that power to control others. Im fine using the word to describe those men just like I am using the word priestcraft which is not very different in meaning.

  2. Likewise, it might do us well to look a little deeper into a claim of “authority.”

    “We have the authority because we say we do” does not seem to align with “the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.” Furthermore, scriptural precedence is for those claiming authority to invite the ones who hear their words to “judge” if what they say is true. Deciding for oneself is not akin to “having faith” in leaders, (although that’s what we think). It is seeking evidence that their claims are true. Moroni says it is arrived through “witnesses.” I suppose, though, that our innate gift of discernment for what is “good” and what is “evil” comes into play, as long as we aren’t mixing the two up because we truly believe there is a magic invisible token.

    What fruits have we seen from the latest round of executed authority? The “court of love” casting out one if their own because she had a question about the magic power. Wow. Excellent demonstration. Seems pretty easy to judge using Christ’s Sermon (walk a mile with those who ask, bless your enemies, etc.) as a basis.

    “By the power and authority of this magic token, we hereby cast you out!” Why would anyone want that sort of authority anyway?

    1. Daymon,

      Are you a Smith related to the historically “in crowd” Smiths in the LDS church?

  3. Dear Brother Smith,

    A council of love will be held in your honor at the stake center on…

  4. Daymon,
    Are you a Smith related to the historically “in crowd” Smiths in the LDS church?

  5. “…if we was communing with gods”? Did you intend to write “if he was communing” or “if we were communing”?

    (Feel free to delete this comment after you make the appropriate change.)

  6. And, by the invisible power, I laughed…but felt very bad for you…until I realized that power has no power over you…because it is magical…and invisible, too.

  7. Yeah, well, you’re wrong. I guess you didn’t see that video about keys, the one with all the bishops and stake presidents and stuff. The one with Lee T Perry. They read right out of The Handbook, so it’s real.

  8. April Young Bennett wrote an excellent op-ed that was published in the SL Trib recently. But it left me wondering: Now that these ladies have come face-to-face with this “gentile power” (as you call it) that they crave, and have witnessed its corruption, what does that mean for their cause?

    I have a funny picture in my mind of Native Americans receiving polio blankets. Only, some people have been overlooked, and these organize a committee that petitions the government for their due. They demand their polio-ridden blankets. Fair is fair.

    What rational person would want to be ordained to corruption?

  9. This is a great post; it explains the magisterium’s behavior perfectly.

    But not the women’s.

    It’s not about hunger for power to quench the violence of fire or turn back rivers, but rather freedom from being abused by institutional authority. It’s about no longer wanting a system that awards power to a class of humans that have shown they are heavily prone to abuse others with it.

    It’s about changing an insular, judgmental culture.


    If the institutional authority is worth so little, then there is only equally weak reasoning which justifies withholding it.

    1. So, it’s about allowing women the freedom to be awarded a power that offers nothing but power over others. What can such a power offer other than abuse? Please tell me you don’t really want a piece of that action.

      1. It’s not about wanting power to abuse others. It’s about inequality.

        (I don’t understand why, with this topic especially, people seem to leap to wild conclusions at the speed of light, disregarding the fact of agency (each person chooses whether or not to exercise unrighteous dominion), and history (when one class is above another, abuses always happen). Is this another case of meta-text?)

        I listed in my comment what this is about, as I understand it, as I have seen expressed by the women who are in this movement. I’ve followed both sides of this movement, for quite some time. It seems that even understanding where Ordain Women is coming from can get me into some seriously hot water in Mormondom.

        The Book of Mormon “cycle” we all learned in Seminary shows that inequality is a powerful cause of pride, and the downfall that follows it. In the BoM, it was riches that provided the social power to oppress the poor. In the church, it is organizational position that provides that power. Whether through direct oppression (citing priesthood keys to exercise unrighteous dominion) or indirect oppression (“doctrines” declared by leaders, such as those to justify denying blacks the priesthood), the power wielded is so significant that people will cast their own children from their homes if certain issues arise.

        King Benjamin spoke, at length, about inequality. Afterward acknowledging there were so many ways to sin that he couldn’t talk about them all. And with full knowledge of that, he chose to address inequality for the bulk of his warnings, knowing what it does to men’s hearts when one has an advantage over another: opens the door to a great number of sins that would not otherwise be possible.

        When individuals are granted equal treatment within an organization, the abuse of subordinate classes is heavily discouraged because there *are* no subordinate classes. It takes time–sometimes a full generation, as can easily be seen with church members and the whole “seed of Cain” fairy tales. But things get better for the previously subordinate class.

      2. If the goal is to implement total equality in all things, I think probably more than “change” is required here. You are talking about revolution, and I doubt it will happen by working inside the existing culture, which I agree, is often created by people who are insular and abusive; but not all of them, of course, and not always.

      3. Daymon, radical change has happened for non-whites, both in the church and in our culture at large. I know some older church members that still cling to the “see of Cain” stories and look down on blacks because of it. But, by and large, church members don’t treat people of color (whatever color) anything like they did forty years ago.

        I believe the same kind of thing can happen for women.

      4. Radical? Really? They get to exercise discrimination, as some call it, against half the population of the church.

        Any significant change in discrimination against non-whites is probably more to be attributed to broader trends in American culture, than to anything the Church has done.

        What really changed, with opening priesthood ordination to men, regardless of skin color?

        Doctrines? Practices? If you believe that God will reward you for having a certain ordination, than I suppose you might say there will be a bit more color in heaven. But come on. All the important things in the BoM are done by faith.

      5. Daymon, I’m not sure I follow the reasoning behind your first comment. It seems, to me, that blacks went from being considered less worthy, with less worth, than whites, to a far more equal footing, generally-speaking. Church members tend to not quote early church presidents’ racist remarks anymore, and the whole atmosphere at church isn’t as hard as it once was. Am I wrong there? Going from less-than and looked down upon to equal in the sight of God (according to official doctrine) seems like a pretty radical shift to me.

        Second comment: exactly. I believe that’s what’s behind the push for equality for women in the church. But like the lessening of prejudice based on skin color, equality for women seems to be a good thing.

        What changed? Whites no longer had a way to put themselves above those who had previously been banned from holding priesthood. I know there have always been people who have loved and treated all members of the church equally generously, regardless of where their DNA came from. It has been my experience that they aren’t usually the majority.

        I’m not looking for ordination from men. The only connection, the only association I seek is that with Jesus Christ and the Father, directly.

        I’m not saying that ordination to organizational authority equals authority in the eyes of God. I’m only talking about in the eyes of men. And while that’s often quickly pointed out as greedy and grasping, that’s not where I’m coming from. I just want to see fewer male bigots puffed up with the authority they have due to their office in the church. I want to experience less head-patting, myself, when I wish to be heard. I want all of this fear of women to end and to just be fellow members of the body of Christ.

        And you’re completely right: all things of importance in the eyes of God are done by faith.

        Am I any clearer yet?

    2. Oh, and the institutional authority is not worth so little; it’s obviously worth much in terms of a certain kind of power. That is the point, which explains its being withheld it (who would want to share that kind of power everyone?), and which makes any movements to actively seek it out suspect in my book.

      Make no mistake, it’s about changing an insular, judgmental culture alright…changing it, apparently, to also allow women the institutional authority to further insulate and judge.

      I want no part of it…in fact I hereby confer “my priesthood power” on you, Annalea. Do with it what you will, and good luck with it, seeing as it’s not about healing sick folks, or raising dead loved ones, or fire fighting, or averting floods for the good of all.

      1. Chuck, I’m at a loss as to how this comment is going to help us understand one another better.

        I’m not seeking institutional authority, fwiw. And whether or not I have authority from God isn’t something I’m willing to discuss here. 😉

      2. I’m confused then. If not seeking institutional authority, why seek for what they call “priesthood”?

        If trying to change “Mormonism,” it changes every time someone uses the word.

        If trying to change who gets to use that word for themselves, then you have run up against imaginary power, and this is easily countered or taken.

        If trying to change “the Church,” you are trying to change an imaginary institution: the word does not refer to any single thing that can be changed.

        It seems to me that the wisest option for Church Leaders is to keep saying No, until finally saying Yes. Then their power will seem more real, and will be really defended by those who fought to get it.

        They will say Yes, but only if the math works out: more converts, fewer inactives.

      3. Clarification: I, *personally* am not seeking institutional authority. Ordain Women is. I’m not part of their cause.

        And I agree totally on the conditions for the CL’s for saying “Yes”.

    3. I agree the reasoning for withholding the authority is weak, and arbitrary; which is a display of power itself. but I cannot see why one would participate with an “insular, judgmental culture” anyway, willingly. What does one have, if one changes it, but the same structure, implemented by different people? Are women really less prone to abusing power than men? It is the nature and disposition of nearly all men, but I don’t know that Joseph Smith’s claim is exclusive to “men,” if you know what I mean.

      1. History seems to say that women are less prone to abuse power than men. (And I recognize that I use the term “history” at my own peril. I’m not a cultural anthropologist, so bear with me.) On a personal level, I believe that has to do with most women’s ever-present awareness of male privilege, and being too familiar with being subject to power abused.

        Quotes from Joseph and Brigham show that they personally believed that women were not as subject to the pride and unrighteous dominion as men were. (I don’t know if/when I’ll get a chance to look them up. It seems I came across them recently. If I do find them, I’ll cite them here.)

        As for participating in an “insular, judgemental, culture”, I honestly can’t see why one would want to. Well, unless you were one of the ones with power in it. Especially power to judge.

        But the culture isn’t the same thing as the church, is it? It is the overlay that the members put over the structure, rites, and worship of a religious tradition that many of us were raised in, that many love. I’m struggling with a lot of facets of the faith I was taught, growing so much stronger in other facets, and it’s a nice tangle to sort through, separating culture from scripture, meta-text from actual text. (I really appreciate your work, btw. I need to make more time to read further through the Cultural History.)

        But Mormons are faced with a really sticky situation, if they find the insular, judgemental culture isn’t to their taste. It often means shunning, loss of employment, loss of friendships, and even family ties. It shouldn’t be that way . . . and there is more than one way to address that. Working to remove the stigma of leaving the church is one way. Another is to help loosen up that troublesome and unhealthy culture. (Culture that isn’t universal across the globe, but seems especially pernicious in the US.)

      2. As far as serious abuse (i.e. criminal), I do believe women are less likely to suffer it at the hands of other women than from men. As far as regular abuse of power (e.g. being a jerk as a leader), that may be a potential risk regardless of gender..
        But right now, sexism parades around wearing the mask of “priesthood authority” such that questions can’t even be raised without accusations of “not following priesthood counsel” and/or “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed.”

  10. I’m not so sure that King Benjamin was speaking to first-world women’s problems around equality in “the priesthood” or institutional abuse of subordinate classes. King Benjamin’s people, if you recall, were a war-torn group who had fought many battles, killed many Lamanites, and had been “wicked” for quite some time. Also, they were of the House of Israel and subject to the Law of Moses. Things are quite different for us, although there may be some overlapping themes.

    I could be mistaken, but I think Chuck’s question is, “Why would women want something which is by its ‘nature’ (if indeed an imaginary thing has attributes) is so corruptible?”

    “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” My assumption is that this applies to women as well.

    “Almost all men” is a pretty large group. It’s like saying, “Almost all of the food is tainted with salmonella, there is a little which isn’t, but no one knows which is which.” Of course it’s not mine to say who should be able to take a bite, but it is probably baffling to many why a person would want to eat something which is most likely poisoned in the first place. Some may even feel that they should passionately warn others of partaking of such a thing (or offering up “their own” if others want it so badly). I don’t think such a gesture should be taken maliciously.

    1. Take a look around you. Inequality comes in many flavors. But it breeds the same type of issues. Wealth, education, social power, age, clothing styles, and many more. Inequality creates classes, and one class will always assume power over the other.

      Yes, King Benjamin’s people were in a very different situation. But that doesn’t mean that their emotions and responses to the same dynamics we find ourselves faced with weren’t similar to ours.

      Again, the point isn’t to grasp power, to wrest it from men. It is to remove the disparity based on gender. When womanhood stops being the reason such a huge part of the church cannot do certain things, then the poor treatment that comes to this subordinate class should diminish, as well.

      That seems like a logical and reasonable approach to me, considering that a couple of centuries of male-only leadership hasn’t solved the problem of unrighteous dominion.

      1. You’ve done some thinking, Annalea. I find myself in the same predicament in which you find yourself. Trying to understand both sides has gotten me into trouble as well, not with the ‘church’, but with friends who are in the church who are worried that in not fighting OW I am in spiritual jeopardy. I have seen the suffering of younger women (because I have a few in my life). I have heard their cries about inequality; it isn’t just male towards female; there is a particular type of female who bands with the male perspective and stares down these young women, or at least they feel that. I do, finally, understand how these young women feel, but it has taken a lot of time and patience and letting go of my own prejudices and reading the articles they want me to read. Now I understand, and I suppose the only good in that is that it has strengthened my relationship with them (daughters). One in particular doesn’t believe there is any priesthood power on the earth but that all the forms that tell women they are inferior need to be shown, at least, for what they are; she doesn’t want the priesthood. Another doesn’t want to hear about ‘supporting’ the priesthood anymore; she doesn’t feel she has any ‘priesthood’ to support, so it’s unendureable to hear about it endlessly. I now fit nowhere. I am very wary of any kind of power. I believe very much in equality. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how not to exploit people in third world countries (hard to do when you live in America; a person ends up doing most things locally or by herself, by hand, even, which is not always easy, especially for an older person). But this is what I feel strongly about–and hungry children, all children, but the thought of hungry LDS children is an especially painful one.

        Thank you for your words. I want no priesthood. I don’t even think I am one of those who has been blessed with any kind of healing gifts. But I do know that what these women want is not what a majority of LDS men and women think they want, because I have heard voices very close to me that have convinced me otherwise. The American culture and the American economy/government has also disappointed them.

      2. Seems like a risky path to take, considering what we have seen. As the stereotype goes, women have a more nurturing approach than men and may not be prone to seeking power, but if we’re going with clichés, then you have to throw in the other aspects as well: gossiping, the tendency to form cliques, etc. (I don’t believe these things, btw.) For that matter, gay men have a sensitivity that straight men lack (again, a stereotype). There are all sorts of “groups” who could be considered oppressed in the Church.

        While King Benjamin’s people had similar dynamics, we can’t claim to know very much about their culture, other than what is said in the Book of Mormon. For all we know, women were revered and had a much higher status in their culture.

        For me, it has to come back to a creative paradigm shift. Or as Alma said, “Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”

        I can’t say what this looks like at this point, but I can tell you what it isn’t: another church, another prophet, a tweak of what we have (which we know doesn’t work). Maybe it will be created by you or by all of us spontaneously. But I can say for myself that if there are those — men or women — who will be wielding a fictional power which is a corruption of the real thing, (and which can’t be “uncorrupted” by an appeal to those who hold that power), then count me out. Been there, done that. I don’t want what the Church holds. It is a phantom. We can talk about equality for the sexes, races and whatever else, but let’s not force it upon something which is empty. It only adds to their perceived “power” over its members. As the angel said to Nephi, “…for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.”

  11. @DJL–

    Yes, it is important not to collectivize, but the fact is that women can have their particular tendences that can be hurtful, just as can men.

    I have, in the distant past, worked with open-hearted, open-minded, fair men and with scheming, vicious women.

    This is part of the problem with movements that align with gender or age or race–

    but it is still important to be aware, always aware.

    1. LDSDPer,
      That is exactly my point. What’s to say that if one “tendency” (say, to obtain power) isn’t a problem for women (which I’m not sure is true), then another one won’t take its place (say, scheming and viciousness)?

      There needs to be a complete shift in our thinking, in which “groups” have no relevancy to joy and prospering. If an ‘advantage’ over others is given because I belong to a certain group, then my tendency will be to eventually use it as such. If we take that possibility out of the picture, then I think we can avoid all the problems we now see in the world. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I know that it doesn’t look like the Church.

  12. If priesthood is a fellowship (i.e., first between man to man, second between man and angels, third between man and Christ, and lastly between man and the Father), then the statement “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” begins to take on a new meaning.

    The person who exercises control, dominion, or compulsion, and/or aspires to the honors of men, DISQUALIFIES themselves from an increase of future fellowship. Thus, in most cases he/she will be left to a fellowship among mortals.

    Maybe it really is an act of mercy that men (and not women) administer the affairs of the Church.

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