LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks has a message for Mormon women: They already have the authority of the priesthood.
Women, young and old, can speak and act with authority, Oaks said in Saturday night’s all-male priesthood session of the faith’s 184th Annual General Conference. Those who serve as full-time missionaries “perform a priesthood function,” as do women officers or teachers in church organizations.
Oaks addressed more than 20,000 men and boys seated in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more — men, women and children — watching online.
The Relief Society, for all adult LDS women, “is not just a class, but something they belong to — a divinely established appendage to the priesthood,” Oaks said. “Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”
Beyond that, he said, male leaders who preside over the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”
But “men are not ‘the priesthood,’ ” he emphasized. “Priesthood power blesses all of us. It is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life.”
A group called Ordain Women has been pushing to be admitted to the church’s all-male priesthood and were rebuffed from entry to Saturday night’s meeting.
Other speakers discussed the dangers of pornography, addictions, distractions of technology and religious opposition, as well as the importance of choosing “heroes” and exercising moral courage.
“There are countless ways technology can distract you from what is most important,” said Randall L. Ridd, second counselor in the Young Men Presidency.
He suggested that the young men “be where you are when you are there.”
“When you are driving, drive. When you are in class, focus on the lesson,” he said. “When you are with friends, give them the gift of your attention.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, told the assembled crowd of men and boys to watch out for three contemporary ills: selfishness, addictions and competing priorities.
“Past generations had their struggle with variations of egotism, but today we are giving them serious competition,” Uchtdorf said. “Is it any coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary recently proclaimed ‘selfie’ as the word of the year?”
All these problems can be overcome by following Jesus Christ, he said. “It is our privilege, our sacred duty and our joy to heed the Savior’s call; to follow him with a willing mind and full purpose of heart.”
Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, urged his listeners to be an example of Christlike living to those around them.
“Each of you will be a model of a priesthood man whether you want to be or not. You became a lighted candle when you accepted the priesthood. The Lord put you on the candlestick to light the way for everyone who surrounds you,” Eyring said. “You can be a great model, an average one or a bad model. You may think it doesn’t matter to you, but it does to the Lord.”
The evening’s final speaker was LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, the 86-year-old leader of the 15 million-member faith, who spoke about the challenge of a changing religious landscape.
“Inasmuch as the trend in society today is rapidly moving away from the values and principles the Lord has given us, we will almost certainly be called upon to defend that which we believe,” Monson said. “Will we have the courage to do so?”
He defined inner courage as “doing the right thing even though we may be afraid, defending our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintaining those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
Every believer faces fear, ridicule and opposition, he said, but faith can make one strong.
“Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle,” Monson said. “Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval.”