Wendy Ulrich: How God Expects Women to Use Priesthood Power
Are women meant to simply be recipients of the blessings of the Priesthood or do women actively participate in the Priesthood? Wendy Ulrich, who recently authored a book on the topic of women’s access to God’s power, explains that there are many ways women are able to, and even expected to, exercise Priesthood power.
MORGAN JONES: Hi everyone. Before we get into this week's episode, we first want to thank you so much for tuning in to All In. We're so grateful for your time and for the feedback we've received so far. If you've enjoyed what you've heard, please do us a big favor and leave us a rating or a review on iTunes. Thanks so much.
In one of the first meetings of the Female Relief Society in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith made a promise, "If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates." But what are the privileges of being a woman in the church? Today we talk with author, Wendy Ulrich, about her new book, Live Up to Our Privileges: Women, Power and Priesthood. We talk with Wendy about how women can nourish teach, serve, pray, lead, heal, parent, prophesy, minister and testify with priesthood power. Wendy Ulrich obtained a Ph.D. in education in psychology from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from UCLA, she is the former president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapist, she has been a visiting professor at Brigham Young University and serves as an advisor on mental health for missionaries for the church. She's authored multiple books and is a wife, mother, and grandmother. You're listening to All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm your host, Morgan Jones and I'm so grateful to have the chance to speak with Wendy Ulrich today. Wendy, welcome.
WENDY ULRICH: Morgan, it's a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
MJ: Well, I know that this is a topic that so many people care about. And obviously as women, both you and I, it carries even more importance to us. But when did you first start to take an interest in this topic of women and access to priesthood power?
WU: Oh, I don't know if you can be a woman in the church and not think about this question. You know what is priesthood power in the first place and how do we have access to it? I think when I really started paying attention to the words I was hearing, the experiences I was having in the temple, I particularly started tuning into this issue. But of course, we wonder, just in general, you know, what does it mean to us as women when there are such amazing promises associated with having the priesthood? Do we have access to those promises? Do we have access to those blessings? And I firmly believe that we do, but sometimes it can feel in the ways that reassurance is given to us that we do, that it's sort of like, "Oh, you have everything you need, you just be the receiver, you get to be the receiver of these amazing blessings." But we don't necessarily understand how we participate in gaining the power that goes with those blessings. So I think it's a question we all kind of struggle with at some level or another and wonder, what is our role in this? How do we fit in it? Where do we belong?
MJ: Yeah, I love that. I loved in your book, there's a line, or I guess a couple sentences, where you say, "I also recognize that this book is only one take on how priesthood power and women might intersect or on what our privileges are, or might be. I have confidence that rising generations will expand our reach further and in their own way." And I love that because I think that we're always learning. And I'm interested, as we talk today, to learn more from you and to see how we can expand that reach further.
WU: I hope that we can. I don't want to pretend for a moment that I have any corner on this market, I'm just one person trying to share my struggle with trying to understand this better and one take on how I did that. But I really do believe that the restoration is an ongoing process and that revelation is not only coming to the leadership of the church, but to individuals that will help us expand our understanding of what our Heavenly Father and our Savior have in store for us.
MJ: Why do you think, Wendy, that this topic, and obviously we've said, you know, it's important to women, but why do you think it's particularly important in our day right now?
WU: Well, of course, women in many parts of the world, are seeing a great expansion and the opportunities that are available to them. And there's a great emphasis, as I believe there should be, on equality and on women having opportunities that are equal in what they choose to do with their lives. And so it's really kind of disconcerting for a lot of people to say, to take a look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sort of wonder, "Well, why can't women hold the priesthood?" That's the way the question is usually addressed. I think it doesn't do us a service, however, to stop with that question, the way it's asked. We need to consider more deeply what exactly is the priesthood? And do we have a role in that priesthood? Because I believe that we absolutely do, that there's important work for women to do in the work of God. In the world, I got really interested, you know, just kind of what is priesthood? You know, what is what does that mean exactly? So I went to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and looked up what does priesthood mean? And the really profound definition was, "priesthood is the work of priests." And I thought, well, that's not particularly useful, you know. So what's the work of priests? And I look that up and the work of priests is to function in the religious rituals of a particular faith. So religions that emphasis sighs ritual, have priests and religions that don't emphasize religious ritual have something else, a pastor or a minister or some other title is usually given to the leadership roles in those states, in those churches. And what was interesting to me about that is that at one level that really limits— it felt much more limited than my understanding of what priesthood is that it's just performing the rituals of the religion. Religious rituals are typically done in a very programmatic, sort of ritualistic way, you know, they're always done the same way. It doesn't take particular charisma, it doesn't take particular wisdom, it doesn't take particular spiritual power to perform those rituals. As a simple example, my father, who was in an inactive member of the church, but who was a priesthood holder, baptized me. He didn't need particular power to do that, he just needed authority and that was enough. So what am I authorized as a woman to do? Do I participate in performing the religious rituals of my faith? Absolutely, I do. And so if we're going to limit the role of priesthood to that we can say with conviction to anyone who's asking, "Oh, I have priestly authority in my faith to do all kinds of things." But we also have a different understanding of what priesthood is to begin with. Joseph F. Smith said, "Priesthood is the authority and power delegated to man, the authority and power of God, delegated to man for the salvation of the human familyâ€” to work in the earth, for the salvation of the human family." And others have clarified that priesthood is not just what priests do, it's what God does. It's the very power of God to create, to redeem, to resurrect to accomplish all of his work in the world. And that makes it both a lot more important to know where I fit into that power and a lot bigger definition of what priesthood really is about than just performing rituals. So on both fronts, women have important work to do in the work of the priesthood. And it's important that we understand what that work is, because it is the work of God, as we understand it, and not just the work of humans performing religious rituals if that makes sense.
MJ: Yeah, I love that. I think it's so powerful to think about, how do we participate in these ordinances and in these rituals of our faith? One thing that came to my mind as I began to read your book, was it brought back this memory, and it was funny because I had not thought of this in years. But I grew up in North Carolina, and my family, my dad would go and take the sacrament to this little older lady that was in our ward, who was homebound. And I remember she lived kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and my dad would always take me with him to take the sacrament to her. And I remember that I would watch this little old lady and as my dad would say the sacrament prayer, she would always recite it right along with him. And it was always, you know, under her breath, but she always said the whole thing. And I remember asking my Dad, "Why does she do that?" Like I thought it was so weird. And I remember my dad with like, complete respect for this woman, told me that that was a way that she was remembering the covenant that she was making and honoring that covenant. And I remember that her faith made an impact on me, even as a little girl, first that she wanted the sacrament that badly, and was humble enough to allow someone to come out of their way to give it to her, but also that she was so reverent in honoring those sacrament prayers. How have you seen women honor the priesthood in profound ways in your life? And how have those examples impacted you and the work that you're doing now?
WU: Well, first of all, let me say, I was I am touched by that story with the way that your father honored the priesthood and involved you in the work of the priesthood. I've heard of a lot of fathers taking their sons with them and I think it's, it's so tender that he took you. What a sweet opportunity for you to learn about the priesthood and participate with him in that function of the sacrament. I also love the story because this woman is reminding me of the hymn that we sing, you know, "Oh God, the Eternal Father, who dwells amid the sky, in Jesus name we ask thee to bless and sanctify this bread, and this cup of wine that we may all remember." It's like that song and the experience that you had both remind me that we're participating in this prayer, we're not just listening to it, we are able to be part of the "we" that the priest uses. He doesn't just say "I" do this, he says "we" do this. And maybe he just means the, you know, we of him and the other priests that are there at the sacrament table. But that hymn makes me feel like we're all included in our ability to pray that prayer. And that his job is to officiate and make sure that the prayer is said correctly and done properly, which is the role of the priesthood in the church, in large measure, I think. To make sure that things are done the way they're supposed to be done, that the covenants and the ordinances are not changed, and that there's oversight for what happens, but we're all participating. It dawned on me one day, the deacons aren't the only ones passing the sacrament here, I pass the sacrament every single day, you know, every single Sunday. Everybody around me is passing the sacrament. It's the job of the deacons to make sure everyone receives, but everyone participates in passing the sacrament. And we all participate in many ways in the work of the priesthood. I really felt that strongly when I went to the temple and I started really listening to the language there. Elder Ballard says "We are endowed with power when we go to the temple, and that we all are given that power." And I felt that in the temple, I see that in the temple, in the ways that Joseph Smith said he was going to make of the Relief Society, "a kingdom of priests," and that quote, is still being used today in official places to describe what we do as women. We function as priests in the temple in a real way. In providing the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who have lived on this earth. And we are, we are sort of vested with that priesthood power and authority when we go to the temple ourselves. And then when we return, we are acting in a priestly role for others who are waiting for those ordinances to be done for them.
MJ: That's beautiful. It reminded me, I just went to an institute class last Wednesday, and the teacher was talking about how when we go to a temple sealing, that we're participating in that ordinance by sustaining the ordinance, just by being in attendance. And that he talked about the how that's why we have to have a temple recommend to attend to sealing because we're adding our faith to that ordinance and kind of sustaining it for that couple. And I had never thought have it that way, but I love that.
WU: Yeah, that's beautiful. And that's one of the ways that we get authority, is through a recommend. We are given a recommend by someone who has the keys, that authorizes us to go and perform ordinances in the temple, to go and receive ordinances and sustain ordinances and witness ordinances in the temple. We can be given authority through a calling and a setting apart, we can be given authority through an assignment that someone gives us to do the work of the priesthood in the world. So what I started looking at, as I tried to understand this better, was what are the offices of the priesthood assigned to do, and what is my role as a woman in each of those offices? And it was helpful for me to realize that in every office there was important work that I did, or there were important things that I do just naturally in my life that are drawn on symbolically to explain what that work is that that office entails. You bring up a sealing, I was very aware one day as I was doing sealings in the temple of children to parents, that there are a lot of people who don't need that ordinance done because they have been born in the covenant. They don't need that ordinance to be done in the temple separately, that's already happened from the moment they were born when they were born to a couple who had been sealed in the temple prior to that birth. And it's really kind of interesting to think about it in that regard. There are only two ways that a child gets sealed to the parents of that child, one is through a ceiling ordinance in the temple and one is through birth. When a woman, who has been sealed in a covenant relationship, gives birth to a child, she is in essence, providing for that child, something that can only be provided in another way through a sealing ordinance in the temple, that ordinance not being necessary if she has given birth to that child. So there are lots of ways that women participate in many aspects of the work of the priesthood, even and including the sealing ordinances that are held so closely.
MJ: I have never thought of it that way. I love that thought. I want to kind of dig a little bit deeper into this idea of kind of breaking it up into the different priesthood offices. And that's something that I loved in your book. You break it down with Deacon, Teacher, Priest, so on and so forth. How did you decide to do that and what were your biggest takeaways in writing the book in that way?
WU: Well, I decided to do it because it was just trying to understand what is it that the priesthood does, what is the priesthood charged to make sure happens in the world? Because I think that's my understanding of howâ€” that's my best understanding of it. When I tried to figure out what is priesthood exactly, just from my own experience in the church with it, it was really hard for me to imagine exactly what it was that men had that women did not. Clearly, women do a lot of things in the church, we function in priestly roles in the temple, we function in priestly roles in the home, we function in priestly roles in teaching and presiding. So I started looking at it and saying, what is it that men do that women don't? And I really couldn't think of a unilateral thing that they do. I started looking at well, do they perform ordinances? Well, yes, but women perform ordinances in the temple. Well, then, do they have some presiding role? Well yes, but women preside in the primary and in the young women's and in the Relief Society organizations. Well then, do women only preside over females and men preside over both? Well, to some extent, but primary presidents not only preside over the children in the primary, both boys and girls but over the teacher who teach them, both men and women. So I couldn't find anything that really was like, just, you know, done deal. This is what men do that women do not. I'm not saying there isn't something women don't have offices in the priesthood, are not given specific offices, and they're not given specific keys. But what exactly does that mean? I had a really hard time finding anything. So I started looking at it saying, alright, let's look at those offices. What do deacons do, what do teachers do, what do priests do? And do women have a role in each of those things? So I started with deacons, that seemed like a pretty, you know, simple place to start. And I looked up the history of deacons in the church, and I looked in the Doctrine and Covenants and basically, all it really says about deacons is they are to teach and preach and exhort and expound the scriptures, which it says about every office basically, in the priesthood. And which clearly women do lots of and which Emma was specifically blessed with the ability to do. And then they're to help the priests, that's all they are to do. And I found out that deacons were not 12-year-old boys when the church was first restored, they were adult men. And they were given a lot of responsibilities for taking care of a lot of the sort of nuts and bolts kinds of stuff things like making sure the fires were stoked to warm up the church or, you know, that the walks were shoveled and all kinds of kind of mundane things that I thought, well, you know, I do a lot of that kind of stuff. But as I look back into the New Testament history, there's a wonderful story about the converts of the church after the time of Jesus Christ, and they consisted of both Jews and Gentiles or Greeks. And there's this story where they're trying to hold all things in common, apparently, they're eating together, they're doing everything together, where the Greeks are complaining, the widows among the Greeks aren't being neglected in the daily ministrations of the food. And so Peter says, basically, well, it doesn't make sense for us to quit the work of the ministry to wait tables, and the word for waiting tables is "deacons", the word from which deacon comes. So a deacon is basically somebody who waits on the tables, somebody who passes out the food. And so they chose seven really righteous, worthy, menâ€” Stephen, the first martyr of the church was among them, who were given the role of being the waiters on the tables to make sure that this was done in a fair and equitable way. Now, I don't know what that story was all about, you know, I don't know if, I mean, I've wondered what were they not getting? You know, were they like hiding in their rooms in black? Because that's what you were dead in Greek culture when you were a widow, so nobody bothered to feed them? Or was it that, you know, in Greece, everybody, he eats lots and lots of olives and the Jews only ate them as delicacies and so they felt like they weren't getting enough olivesâ€” I don't know, you know what it was. But it was very important that the resources of the church be distributed equitably and fairly. And so I began to think of the role of a deacon as being in a ritual sense, exactly that. To make sure no one is neglected in the administration of the sacrament. But I also began to think about the ways that no one needs to be neglected in all of the administration of the resources of the church. And I thought about all the ways that God makes sure his children are fed. From the time of the Garden of Eden, he creates man and woman and then the first thing he basically says to them is what's for dinner? You know, we see all these examples in the life of Christ, of feeding the 5000, of the Last Supper, of all of these ways that feeding people, physically and spiritually, was an important part of what needs to happen in the church for everybody to have their basic needs taken care of and feel cared for and feel loved and know that, that they matter. And then they can begin to work on the higher principles of the spiritual principles of the church. But I began to think about all the ways that women do that from feeding their families, to taking compassionate service meals to people, to overseeing the welfare distribution of the church. These are Deacon-like roles in many ways. And it changed the way I think about those roles when I realized this is godly work in the world. God pays attention to making sure people are fed. And he uses the priesthood to make sure that that oversight occurs, that no one is neglected in the daily administrations. So that's just one example of the ways that the work of the priesthood, as we currently understand it, which is current, by the way, there's nothing that says deacons have to pass the sacrament in the Doctrine and Covenants, that can change over time. But there is a principle there, that's important, which we is we need to make sure everyone gets the blessings of the gospel fairly and equitably.
MJ: That idea of there being parallels is so fascinating to me. And as you told that story about making sure that everyone's fed, it reminded meâ€” I was just recently, a good friend of mine from my mission, I was friends with their whole family and their oldest daughter passed away after her third battle with cancer. And it happened in the middle of that snowmageddon storm that happened up in the Northwest. And one of the things that they said, so their ward, you know, came out and they were plowing and the snow just kept coming in. So every five minutes they were going back overâ€” and this is in a farming community, so they all have their plows and their tractors. But one thing that stood out to me was, their other daughter posted their experience and one of the things that she said was that the sisters from their ward, stayed there feeding their entire family. And she said, I knew that they were in there, in the kitchen, worried about how they were going to get home, but they just kept the food coming. And so I think that you're so right, that we feed in both spiritual and physical ways. And making sure that everyone is fed is so so so important.
One thing that I love that you point out in the book, is how men in the priesthood are able to kind of see their advancement through these different ordinations. So as they progress, they go into different offices. And you say this in the book, "Might women who do not hold these offices still grow in priesthood power by contemplating and pursuing aspects of the responsibilities and privileges associated with them?" How do you think women grow in priesthood power, if not through ordination?
WU: Well, ordination conveys authority, but it does not convey power. And I noticed in the talks that are given to the brethren at priesthood meeting, there's often counsel given about the importance of living up to our privileges in the priesthood and often that is associated with having power, not just authority. So you have authority to give a blessing but do you really bring the power to that ordinance, is kind of what men are often encouraged to do. One of the questions I had is well, how else do men use power in the priesthood? How do they have power? Because really commonly, the example that would be given would be giving a blessing. Well, I'm not giving blessings these days, so what other options are there available to me and to men for exerting and using and gaining power? And so it was really interesting to me to sort of look at that question and say, alright, so what does power look like as opposed to just authority? And I think, I think it's helpful for me to recognize that that power comes through the gifts of the Holy Ghost, it comes through faith. It comes to both men and women through the power of God, and through our faith and our righteousness and our desire to be empowered in that way.
There's a story I love about Joseph Smith and Hyrum. It was a time when, when everybody was getting cholera. I think they were in Missouri, and everybody was getting cholera, and they'd die within hours. And they were trying to give blessings to heal people, but they were attacked with the disease themselves. They were both deathly ill, to the point that they thought they were going to die. And they felt like the heavens were silent, they didn't know what to do. They gave each other blessings, they were trying to exercise authority to do that. They were experimenting, I think, in the early days of the church with what does this look like and feel like, but these are the two folks with the most experience with this and it was not working. And then, at one point as they think they're on the verge of death, Hyrum says, "I have seen in a vision, mother in the orchard praying for us that our lives will be spared." She was hundreds and hundreds of miles away, why she thought they were sick at that particular moment, I don't know. But she was praying for them. And he said, "and I have been assured that our prayers will be heard." So their ministrations to each other were not being effective, but the prayer of their mother, on their behalf was what Hyrum said saved their lives. And I wonder if it was her prayer and faith that began tutoring them in the importance of that power, to the point that many years later when Joseph Smith was talking to the bretheren and he said, "Don't keep giving blessings that are the form without the power. If you don't have the power, if you don't have the faith, don't just do the form of it." And I think that's what we're seeing men being counseled with today, you know, live up to your privileges. Don't just shy away from the opportunity to step up and figure out how this is done and practice this and try it and no, you're not going to be successful all the time but learn, keep trying. And as I kept reading these things about Brigham Young and President Nelson and President Uchtdorf, and President Packer and other saying "Live up to your privileges," you know, step up, I remember that the first time I could remember hearing that idea of privileges heardâ€” spoken of rather, was Joseph Smith saying to the women of the Relief Society, "If you live up to your privileges, angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. And females, if they are pure and virtuous can enter into the presence of God." What struck me about that is the privileges that are associated with the Aaronic priesthood are the ministering of angels, the privileges that are associated with the Melchizedek priesthood are entering into the presence of God. And he was in essence, offering them those same privileges and saying, if you live up to your privileges, you cannot be restrained from having those blessings given to you that have been offered through the priesthood to all.
MJ: As a follow up to that, I think one thing that would be nice if we were men, is having that, kind of as like a milestone or like a road sign, you know, like "You've made it this far, keep going!" How do you think that we, as women, can know that we're progressing? What are the ways that we can see that?
WU: That is a great question. And I think it's, it's a larger question even than just priesthood. Women have to learn how to get feedback on how they're doing in ways that are not as accessible to them as they are to people who are for example, in a workplace setting. If a woman is home with her children, she may get lots of feedback if she's in a work role about how she's doing, whether she's succeeding, does she get a promotion, does she get a raise? She gets that feedback. And men who are in a work setting will get that kind of feedback. But parents who are home with little kids don't get a lot of feedback, you don't get a lot of information about am I doing the right thing? Is this working, is this not? You know, am I making any progress? It's just kind of figuring it out as you go. And so I think, in some ways, maybe we're getting a little extra training in learning how to get that feedback from the Lord and from our ability to live our own values, from our own study of the Scriptures and our own study of the work of God in the world, to save the human family, and are we participating in that, and how is it going for us? Because ultimately, the feedback we get from the world isn't particularly important anyway, meeting those milestones is pretty much proforma in the church, you turn 12, now 11, and you know, you get the priesthood, and that's the end of the story. And, yes, there's a worthiness requirement but it's a basic worthiness requirement that goes with having a temple recommend, and women are given that opportunity from the time that they are at that same age to find out if they are worthy to go to the temple, which is basically the same set of requirements. So we can still use them as a gauge for our basic worthiness and the status of our faith. But we and men both have to learn how to get from the Lord, where we really stand with him. And that's what matters.
MJ: That's super powerful. I love that you brought up the temple recommend, as well as, as possibly, you know, at least some sign that we're making progress. I remember, when I went on my mission, I did not want to go on a missionâ€”
WU: You and me both.
MJ: And I remember though when we were driving up to the temple for me to get my endowment, I saw the temple spires, and I started to get emotional. And this thought ran through my mind and it was like, "You didn't want to go on a mission, but you always wanted to make it to the temple and you made it." And I do think that that is that's a powerful reminder that we're on the right track.
WU: It is. It is the most powerful, I think.
MJ: I also love in the book, another part that I am a big fan of, is you talk about a children's book or a book titled "Children's Letters to God," and how there's a letter in this book from a little girl named Sylvia. And she says, "Dear God, are boys better than girls? I know you are one, but try to be fair. -Sylvia" And you respond in the book by saying, "I can answer Sylvia with personal conviction that no, boys are not better than girls. And yes, God is deeply and ultimately fair, and loves each of us personally and perfectly." How have you come to know this?
WU: Well, the way anybody comes to know anything on a spiritual basis, which is by spiritual revelation, and by study and prayer and thinking and struggling with the Lord. We are the house Israel, and Jacob, who was named Israel, was given that name because he struggled with God. That's what the name means. We have to do our struggle. We're allowed to struggle, the Lord expects us and invites us to struggle to wrestle with him over things that bother us. But I'm grateful that Joseph Smith, well, whoever was responsible for that element of the lectures on faith said, "We can't have faith in God if we don't think he's fair." We can't trust him if we don't think he's fair. And it's okay that we wrestle to figure out how is this fair? I don't completely understand why men hold offices in the priesthood and women do not, I don't pretend to have completely understood that because I don't think the Lord has completely revealed that. And I'm okay with that. Because I have come to, to believe, at a very deep level, that the Lord absolutely loves women and men equally, and that the work of women in this world is crucial to the purposes for which we are here. It cannot go forward on any other basis than women doing our roles as well as men doing theirs. So, I have just come to that conviction by personal prayer and personal revelation, that the Lord is absolutely trustworthy, and he is no respecter of persons.
MJ: Thank you. In the book, you quote Linda K. Burton who said, "There is a difference between priesthood authority and priesthood power. Priesthood authority is conferred by ordination but priesthood power is available to all," and then you ask a question in the book. You say, "If both women and men can receive, develop and use priesthood power, and apparently they can, then what exactly is priesthood power and how do we receive more of it?" We've talked about this throughout our conversation, Wendy, but if you had to sum it up, how would you answer the question, what exactly is priesthood power? And how do we receive more of it?
WU: Priesthood power is the power of God. It is the power of God that he delegates to humankind to do His work in the world for the salvation of the human family. And authority, as Sister Burton says, can be given by ordination, it can also be given by assignment, by calling, by being given a recommend, by being asked to do something by anyone who holds the keys for that particular aspect of the work of the priesthood. But we gain power in that work as we have the Spirit to guide us in how we go about it. It's one thing to take a meal to a family, it's another thing to take them what they need most. And I remember a story that was told once in a Relief Society class of a woman talking about her daughter was crying on the phone to her she said, "Mom, my visiting teachers were just here, and they brought me brownies," and she sounded upset. And her mom said, "Well, then why are you crying? What's the matter?" And she said, "Well, I just moved here, I don't need brownies, I need friends. I wish they had invited me to make the brownies with them so we could have talked and spend time together. That's what I needed."
And I think it's the influence of the spirit that helps us go look around and see what's going on, figure out what's happening, ask questions, look for ways that real service is something that you can provide, and not just the form without the substance, without the power. When we are willing to be vulnerable, when we are willing to not know, then we can go to the Lord and ask for help. I'm struck that often when the Lord gives assignments, he just tells people go look around, go see what's happening, go get information. And I think sometimes we don't do that enough. We think we're supposed to go in with the answers with the power. But to be willing to be vulnerable is a great gift in obtaining power with other people, which is really about influence, the ability to have a righteous influence in someone else's life, or with the Lord or with ourselves, that He will answer our prayers. That we can have the strength that we need to confront our demons. That we can have the influence in someone else's life, to bring them to the Lord and to to help them have what they need, in a spiritual way is what the power is, I think that we're trying to obtain. We need the Holy Ghost in order to have that power. So whatever we do that brings that into our lives, that's what we need to be doing more of.
MJ: Thank you. I want to ask kind of a personal question. I love in the book in, I think this was just in like the acknowledgment section, but you have a note to your husband. And you say, "My deepest debt of gratitude goes to David Ulrich, my best friend, intellectual sparring partner, most enthusiastic supporter, and trusted and cherish partner in the goal of one day receiving all God has." And I thought that was such a beautiful way of putting that. And I'm curious, why is understanding a woman's access to priesthood power and a woman's role in this and ability to access it, important in a marriage?
WU: Well, if we were to look at the Doctrine and Covenants for help in understanding priesthood power, the most powerful section I know of is the end of Section 121. Given ironically, to Joseph Smith, when he was in an utterly, utterly powerless position, in terms of what it looks like from the world. He's in a miserable jail, he's in horrible circumstances, he has no control over much of anything in his life. And he's talked to about what it means to have power or influence in the life of someone else. And that that only happens through meekness, through gentleness through love unfeigned. That happens through persuasion and long-suffering, that when we exercise control or dominion over the soul of another person in any degree of unrighteousness, we lose power, we are no longer operating under the guise of the priesthood. But that when we do all of these things with meekness and humility and kindness and gentleness, that our dominion will flow unto us without compulsory means forever and ever. We will have influence in someone else's life when they know that we are on their side, we want the best or them. And just curiously, just research on marriage, tells us that one of the most powerful things in a marriage in the success of a marriage is a husband's willingness to be influenced by his wife. That is one of the things that has been found in research to strengthen marriages and to strengthen both parties in the marriage when a husband is willing to be influenced by his wife and to listen to her counsel. We know that as women, we've kind of gotten the message we're to listen to our husband's counsel. But if a husband is going to be operating under the power of the priesthood, it needs to be under those terms of gentleness and meekness, which includes being willing to listen, to learn from others.
MJ: That's so that's so, so powerful. I couldn't help but think of my parents. And I feel like I've been blessed to watch that and that's a gift that parents can give to their children, absolutely. In conclusion, I just want to ask you, Wendy, for you, what does it mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
WU: Well, I mentioned that we are called the house of Israel and that that's a powerful name that means someone who has wrestled with God until God prevails or until we prevail with God. It's not clear which way it goes, from what I understand of the Hebrew word. But I am grateful that the Lord allows us to wrestle and invites us to wrestle with Him, and that Ge is willing to come and join us in the wrestle. And for me, part of what it means to be all in is to be willing to go to the Lord in honesty, when we are struggling with things, and to invite Him into the process, trusting fully as fully as we can, at any given moment, that He is fair, that He is all-knowing, that He is all-loving and kind, that He absolutely has our best interests at heart. And that He's not just withholding something from us out of meanness, or spite or judgment, but sometimes when He's holding something back, it's because the wrestle is part of our growth. Just as a little egg, you know, the chick inside of an egg gets stronger as that chick struggles against the shell and that strength gives the chick, physical strength to deal with the world. The struggles we go through can give us spiritual strength to deal with the world that we live in. One of the greatest powers we have as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the truth that we have is the ability to have peace, no matter what our circumstances are. In the world, you have power if you can control and make other people do what you want. But in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have power when people want our influence, we have peace. We have power when we are able, despite what's happening to us, to find within ourselves what we need to be at peace and to live our values, regardless of the things that are going on around us, regardless of what's happening around us. That's real power.
MJ: Thank you so much, Wendy. Thank you. This has been— I've learned so much just in the last 40 minutes so thank you.
WU: Thank you, Morgan. It's been a delight.
MJ: We're so grateful to WU: for joining us on this week's episode of All In. If you're interested in reading Wendy's book, it is available at Deseret Book and is titled Live Up to our Privileges: Women, Power and Priesthood. For more episodes of All In, visit www.LDSliving.com/podcast, or you can find it anywhere that you like to listen to podcasts. Thanks so much for listening.