Young Women Lesson: What does it mean to sustain my Church leaders? Plus Bonus Lesson: Should I serve a mission?

How to be sensitive to Young Women when Teaching about the Priesthood

Throughout the month of June, young men and young women of the church will study the priesthood. The introduction to this section of the Young Women curriculum contains this note:

Be sensitive to young women who live without priesthood authority in the home or have negative examples in their lives.

By all means, do be sensitive to such situations, but I wonder why it did not occur to the authors to remind teachers to be sensitive to the fact that all of the students in the class are young women and therefore excluded from the priesthood?  Sensitivity to this issue is paramount as we prepare to discuss the priesthood in Young Women’s class every week for a whole month.  Some of the young women in your class may feel concerned, frustrated or hurt as they watch their male peers administer sacred ordinances of the priesthood every week and receive higher offices of the priesthood every other year.  Spending a month discussing ordinances they are not allowed to perform and offices they are not allowed to hold could exacerbate these feelings.

How can you be sensitive to young women who struggle with their exclusion from the priesthood?

  • Foster an open forum for discussion. Don’t chastise young women for expressing concerns.
  • Express empathy. Validate their concerns.  Simple statements like, “Yes, that is hard,” go a long way.
  • Do not use folk doctrine to explain gender disparities.  Explanations like, “Women have motherhood instead of priesthood,” or “Women access the priesthood through their husbands,” are even more unsatisfying when directed toward young women, who do not have children or husbands.  Another common folk doctrine is that women don’t need the priesthood because they are more spiritual than men; this idea stereotypes men as spiritually weak.
  • Avoid statements like, “I’m glad women don’t have the priesthood.  I wouldn’t want the responsibility.”  First of all, eschewing responsibility is antithetical to the Young Women values and theme. Secondly, the priesthood is a sacred gift, not a burden.  Finally, it is untrue that women of the church lack responsibility.  Many callings held by women in the church are as time-consuming as male callings.  More importantly, women are as responsible as men before God.
  • If young women ask your opinion, you may share it briefly but do not attempt to sway theirs. Clarify that you are expressing an opinion, not doctrine. Encourage young women to seek their own answers by “study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7).

Now, on to the lesson plan:

How do I sustain church leaders?

moses_aaron_hurBegin with a scripture story about the prophet Moses. His people were at war with the people of Amalek.  Moses went up to a hill to watch the battle and brought his rod with him, the same one he had used when he cursed the Nile while persuading Pharaoh to free the Israelites, and that he had also used to strike the rock of Horeb so that it gushed water for the Israelites when they were in the desert and thirsty.

Exodus 17:8–13

 8 ¶Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

12 But Moses’ hands awere heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Notice how Aaron and Hur are holding their arms up as they physically sustain Moses in the drawing. How does this story relate to us as we sustain our priesthood leaders and others with callings in the church?

Turn to the next chapter of Exodus and read another account from Moses’ ministry.

Exodus 18:13-24

13 ¶And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.

14 And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?

15 And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:

16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.

17 And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.

18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:

20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.

21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, cmen of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, observed that Moses had a leadership style that could use some improvement. This organizational chart shows how Moses was leading the people, with very few tasks delegated to anyone but himself. Jethro informed Moses that a leadership model that involved more of his congregation would be more effective, as represented by this organizational chart.

How did Jethro sustain Moses?  How can we follow the examples of Moses and Jethro as we serve in callings and sustain others in callings?

Sustaining the Priesthood and Priesthood Holders

While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as ‘the priesthood,’ we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike. 2 -Dallin H. Oaks


The priesthood is “without father, without mother, … having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Heb. 7:30), nor maleness nor femaleness. It is head to them both. Male and female alike come under it and must understand their true relationship to it, one to serve as priest within it, the other eventually as a priestess. Men here are given the priesthood power, but both man and woman must bring themselves into submission unto it, rather than she unto him as a person. The man must assume the same relationship of honor and obedience to priesthood truths and doctrines that the woman does. That is, it precedes them both. For the man to assume that because he “holds” the priesthood that it is his or that he is somehow exalted in importance is a serious distortion. – Gib Kocherhans Reference A

How is the priesthood different from priesthood holders? Why would it be important to differentiate between the priesthood and priesthood holders?

Learn Together

Divide the class into two groups. Ask one group to read Daughters in my Kingdom, Chapter 8, under the subheader “Single Sisters and the Priesthood” and consider the question, “How can we have the priesthood in our lives if we do not have a priesthood holder in our lives?” Afterwards, they should report their conclusions to the rest of the class.

Single Sisters and the Priesthood

Many Latter-day Saints have never been married. Others are single because of the death of a spouse, abandonment, or divorce. Like all members of the Church, these members will be blessed as they remain faithful to their covenants and do all they can to strive for the ideal of living in an eternal family. They can enjoy the blessings, strength, and influence of the priesthood in their lives and homes through the ordinances they have received and the covenants they keep.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks told of the faithfulness of his mother, who was widowed at a young age. Having been sealed to her husband in the temple, she did not consider herself single; nevertheless, she had to rear her three children alone. Elder Oaks recalled:

“My father died when I was seven. I was the oldest of three small children our widowed mother struggled to raise. When I was ordained a deacon, she said how pleased she was to have a priesthood holder in the home. But Mother continued to direct the family, including calling on which one of us would pray when we knelt together each morning. …

“When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family. At the same time, she was always totally respectful of the priesthood authority of our bishop and other Church leaders. She presided over her family, but they presided over the Church. …

“The faithful widowed mother who raised us had no confusion about the eternal nature of the family. She always honored the position of our deceased father. She made him a presence in our home. She spoke of the eternal duration of their temple marriage. She often reminded us of what our father would like us to do so we could realize the Savior’s promise that we could be a family forever.”27

Another man told of his mother presiding in the home: “Just as I was preparing to serve a full-time mission, my father left our family and the Church. Under these circumstances, it was difficult for me to leave home for two years, but I went. And while I served the Lord in a faraway land, I learned of my mother’s strength at home. She needed and appreciated the special attention she received from men who held the priesthood—her father and brothers, her home teachers, other men in the ward. However, her greatest strength came from the Lord Himself. She did not have to wait for a visit in order to have the blessings of the priesthood in her home, and when visitors left, those blessings did not leave with them. Because she was faithful to the covenants she had made in the waters of baptism and in the temple, she always had the blessings of the priesthood in her life. The Lord gave her inspiration and strength beyond her own capacity, and she raised children who now keep the same covenants that have sustained her.”28

These women understood that they received added strength and help through the covenants they had made and kept.

Ask the other group to read this excerpt from Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church, by Dallin H. Oaks, and consider these questions, “What are the Lord’s principles for use of priesthood authority?  When should a man not be honored in his priesthood?”  Afterwards, they should report their conclusions to the rest of the class.

The family proclamation gives this beautiful explanation of the relationship between a husband and a wife: While they have separate responsibilities, “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; emphasis added).

President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315).

President Kimball also declared, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man “should not be honored in his priesthood” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 316).

There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus taught: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, … but I say unto you …” (Matt. 5:27–28). For example, the Savior contradicted the prevailing culture in His considerate treatment of women. Our guide must be the gospel culture He taught.

If men desire the Lord’s blessings in their family leadership, they must exercise their priesthood authority according to the Lord’s principles for its use:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41–42).

When priesthood authority is exercised in that way in the patriarchal family, we achieve the “full partnership” President Kimball taught. As declared in the family proclamation:

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, [and] compassion” (Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Church callings are performed according to the principles that govern all of us in working under priesthood authority in the Church. These principles include the persuasion and gentleness taught in the 121st section, which are especially necessary in the hierarchal organization of the Church.

End Note:  This lesson was originally titled, “How do I honor and uphold the priesthood?”  The lesson title in the Young Women curriculum later changed, and the title of this lesson plan was changed to match.

Bonus Lesson:

Should I Serve a Mission?

This lesson is adapted from an Aaronic Priesthood lesson in the Priesthood and Priesthood Keys unit called Why Should I Serve a Mission?  There is no corresponding lesson about missionary work in the Young Women curriculum but this topic may be of interest to many young women, especially given recent changes in missionary policy.

Preparing to Serve

Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.

We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service. –Thomas S. Monson, Oct 2012

Show the video: Missionary Work: A Priesthood Duty. Before sharing the video, it may be useful to note that the  segment of the video about preparation for a mission is illustrated with photos of elders, but the same preparations apply to women.

What are some of the ways you can prepare if you choose to serve a mission?

Ask the class to read D&C 4.  What are some of the qualities they should strive to develop in order to become worthy to serve as missionaries?  How might they develop these qualities?

Making the Decision

Ask each young woman to read one of the five testimonials in the article, Young Women and the Mission Decision, Ensign, January 2013 and then explain to her classmates how the woman they read about made her decision about missionary service. What are some of the different ways women might approach this decision-making process? What are some of the different ways the Spirit might confirm the decision?

Guest Panel

Invite one or more returned missionaries to attend the class and respond to questions from the young women about the mission experience.

Live What We Are Learning

Invite the young women to consider how they will live by what they have learned today. For example, they could:

  • Talk to a returned missionary about his/her mission experience.
  • Read a chapter from Preach My Gospel.
  • Write a letter or email to a relative or ward member who is serving a mission.
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at


  1. Great lesson! Love the suggestions at the beginning! The simple act of not blithely dismissing sincere questions can make all the difference.

    What a difference it would have make for me as a young woman.

    Many thanks for the time you put into this!

  2. Thank you for this, I love it! I love the bonus lesson too. I don’t get why we don’t have anything preparing girls to serve missions. I understand that it is not a duty. I have a laurels class of seven girls and three of them have openly expressed a desire to serve missions while others are unsure. So about half of my girls are planning to go in a year or so, yet we have no curriculum or activities designed to help them in this. Even the girls who don’t currently think they would go would benefit from lessons on missionary work and preparing themselves to enter the temple. I was planning to steal this lesson from the Aaronic Priesthood manual anyway.

  3. I never comment on websites, but I just feel the need to respond to one of your comments in the introduction. Although I appreciate your sincere efforts and ideas, I am troubled by some of your words. You stated, “…remind teachers to be sensitive to the fact that all of the students in the class are young women and therefore excluded from the priesthood.”
    Women are not excluded from the priesthood. On the contrary, the blessings of the priesthood are available to every man, woman, and child on this earth. I don’t feel that a belief that women are excluded from the priesthood is accurate, and this belief conveys a lack of knowledge regarding the priesthood that should be addressed by the teacher within herself before she tries to teach the Lord’s precious daughters, lest she convey this false notion in her message.
    Please prayerfully read the talk “Power in the Priesthood” by Neil L. Andersen. My favorite passage is, “A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift.” Women are not excluded from the priesthood any more than they are excluded from the warmth or light of the sun.
    I’m saddened that any sister would feel excluded from any of the Lord’s gifts to his children, and the priesthood is certainly one of his greatest gifts. The Lord will certainly hold accountable any priesthood holder who made you or any of his children feel excluded from the blessings of his priesthood. Sorry for the length, but I just feel such sorrow for any woman who feels as you stated.

    • I would stand by the statement- women are excluded from the priesthood. I didn’t say they were excluded from many of the priesthood’s blessings, though by nature of not being a part of the priesthood, are excluded from some blessings. For example, the man opening the drapes, probably feels a sense of accomplishment for what he can do for his family and for the people around him as an instrument of God. That in itself is a blessing that women do not get to have, even though they can have ordinances administered to them.

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