Saturday, January 23, 2021

D&C 36: A Partridge and a Pair of Decrees

This section, given for the benefit of soon-to-be-up-and-coming member of the church Edward Partridge, essentially covers two subjects:  a statement of intent for Partridge's immediate fate and a broader commandment for the spreading of the gospel.

The Personal and Specific
God begins by saying some nice things about the future bishop.  Before he decrees that Partridge will be given the gift of the Holy Ghost by Sidney Rigdon, God extends an oddly preemptive calling (verse 1):
Thus saith the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel: Behold, I say unto you, my servant Edward, that you are blessed, and your sins are forgiven you, and you are called to preach my gospel as with the voice of a trump;

This revelation was given on December 9, 1830.  Edward Partridge was baptized on December 11, 1830.  Can you imagine getting your mission call before you're even baptized?   I guess if anyone has the right to count his chickens before they hatch, it's a god with infinite foreknowledge, but it sure seems like Edward Partridge's conversion was so rushed that the checklist got a little jumbled up.

The Impersonal and Universal
Four verses in, the revelation shifts away from Edward Partridge and speaks much more generally.  There's some key phrasing to take note of, especially in verse 7:

And this commandment shall be given unto the elders of my church, that every man which will embrace it with singleness of heart may be ordained and sent forth, even as I have spoken.

Wow, nobody told Brigham Young.

Every man who embraces the commandment to preach the gospel and cry repentance may be ordained and sent forth.  Right there in scriptural revelation given to Joseph Smith himself, God clearly leaves the door wide open without feeling the need to mandate any restrictions on the basis of race.  And in case verse 7 isn't clear enough for you, verse 4 specifies that this commandment is given "concerning all men."

That should plainly indicate that black people should have been invited to the party all along.  And if you interpret men in this context as a synecdoche for humankind, it's not too hard to see how women shouldn't necessarily be excluded from priesthood ordination.  It helps that verse 5 doesn't even bother using the word men:

That as many as shall come before my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun., embracing this calling and commandment, shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations—

To be fair, this is a continuation of the thought in the previous verse, a thought that does contain the word men, but if that's men as in mankind rather than men as in dudes, then maybe this verse is a basis for admitting women into the priesthood.  Regardless of how it was intended when it was written, I think it's a valid interpretation of this scripture that can't be definitively refuted without the help of later, more overtly misogynistic teachings.

Based on the words God spoke right here, maybe all the fuss about keeping women from being ordained is pointless because God's totally on board with it.

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