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Sunday, February 4, 2024

Questions on Sustaining and Signing Priesthood Certificates

God invites all of us to be curious, ask questions, and study our questions out in our mind before coming to Him for answers. I don’t believe He just lays it all out without me also putting forth effort to figure out the answers. After I have pondered a question and struggled to understand, I am very grateful for God’s answers.

  • . . . Ask of God. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks, it shall be opened. [emphasis added] Matthew 3:42

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind, then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong. Therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.  [emphasis added] JSH 3:26

After working with women’s councils for the last seven years, I have questions about the rights and responsibilities associated with signing a man’s priesthood certificate. The Lord has given us instructions on how to vote to sustain a man and sign his certificate. He has also revealed how to remove a man’s certificate when his priesthood is called into question. 

“For any who would like to qualify to minister outside his family, he must meet in a community and obtain a sustaining vote of a minimum of seven women. When that is done, all seven who vote to sustain should sign a certificate. . . If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service for the fellowship. . .If a man’s worthiness to function is called into question, then a conference can be convened to deal with the question. . . Removal should be by unanimous vote of the women present, with at least 12 votes against a man to end his authority to act in the fellowship community. . .” Preserving the Restoration, pg. 510-511

Question: If a woman wants to remove her signature from a man’s priesthood certificate after she has signed it, how is this to be done?

I’ve talked to men and women about this question, and most believe the only way a woman can remove her signature from a man’s priesthood certificate is to remove the man’s certificate. This does not make sense to me. A woman might want to remove her signature from a certificate, and it has nothing to do with the man’s worthiness to hold priesthood. Here are just a few reasons a woman might want to remove her signature without removing the man’s certificate.

  • She hasn’t seen the man in a long time no longer associates with him

  • She is no longer part of this covenant body of believers and does not want to associate herself or her name with us

  • The man has left this covenant body of believers

  • She is dead and can no longer openly signify support and approval

  • She doesn’t feel comfortable with the man, but does not have physical evidence and/or desire to call a council to remove his certificate

  • She just doesn’t want to continue openly signifying support and approval for this man

  • The man does not want to be accountable to one or more of the women on his certificate

If I sustain a man and sign my name on his priesthood certificate, I believe this means “I openly signify support and approval.” Sustain suggests something ongoing. 

Sustain: To openly signify support and approval by vote or affirmation . . .  to support as true, legal, or just; or to allow or admit a proposal as valid. . . glossary of terms

If women are only authenticating a man’s priesthood certificate and do not need to continue sustaining the man, then I see no reason to remove a woman’s signature. It is a one time deal and lasts a lifetime. The woman does not need to stay in contact with, vouch for, or continue sustaining the man. Having a daily walk with the man is not implied or expected. But signing a priesthood certificate might mean more than authenticating a document (as when documents are notarized by a notary public). 

Question: What are women signifying when they sign a priesthood certificate?

Question: Is there an ongoing responsibility women have to the man or community after signing a priesthood certificate?  If so, what are the responsibilities of the woman? What is to be done if the responsibilities can no longer be fulfilled by the woman?

Question: What is the purpose and significance of obtaining a priesthood certificate?

If men are not held accountable in the community by requiring them to manifest their priesthood certificate prior to doing priesthood ordinances in the community, what are the reasons for having a certificate?

In the LDS church, we are given the opportunity every year to vote to sustain, oppose, or refrain from voting for our priesthood leaders. We can request our names be removed from the records of the LDS church. We can request to be released from an LDS calling, etc. Giving our sustaining vote is asked for and given on a regular basis.

Without removing a man’s certificate, a woman from this covenant body of believers currently has no release from signifying her sustaining vote for a man once she has signed his priesthood certificate. 

If a woman were to remove her name from a priesthood certificate, I do not believe it would invalidate the man’s certificate, assuming a minimum of seven women on his certificate are still intact. If he no longer has a minimum of seven women on his certificate, it seems reasonable that another woman’s signature could replace the one that was removed. 

Only if the wife were to remove her name from a man’s certificate, would it invalidate his certificate. I think a wife should have this prerogative. She knows her husband’s daily walk and knows his heart and struggles. If she withdraws her sustaining support, he should cease using his priesthood until that support has returned. I do not think it wise to drag personal and private marital problems before a council of 12 women. The wife should be allowed to privately withdraw support and return that support without drawing public attention to their problems. 

In discussing this idea with others, I have heard it said, “But what if the man has a crazy wife who manipulates him by sustaining and revoking just because they had an argument, etc.?” My answer to them is . . .  Sounds like the man has marital problems he needs to work out. It might be better for him to spend his time and attention at home working on his marriage than to go out and perform priesthood ordinances for others. 

I do not want to commit to sustaining any man in the priesthood for a lifetime. My husband is not opposed to my views. His is the only priesthood certificate I could invalidate by removing my sustaining vote. I do not impose these views on other women, and they are free to reason these issues out in their own mind. 

Possible Solutions:

  • All priesthood certificates are renewed on a regular basis. This would cover situations where people flow out of each other’s lives, leave this covenant body of believers, or die. 

  • A woman can request her signature be removed from a man’s certificate allowing his wife time to get another woman to take her place. Records of these requests should be kept in personal journals. This would cover situations where a woman just doesn’t feel comfortable sustaining a man. 

Question: If a man wants to be ordained to the priesthood but does not want to obtain a priesthood certificate so he can perform ordinances outside his family, does he need the sustaining vote of seven women?

“There are people coming from different faiths to associate with fellowships… [they] will  need to be sustained and ordained. They should understand something about  priesthood before being sustained. Once sustained, when ordaining someone to serve in  these fellowships ordain no one to an office, only confer priesthood. Let everyone be equal. Keep lines of authority. It will reckon through the one who confers the priesthood. But power can only come from Christ. 

First time ordinations (after April 2014) should be done within a fellowship. All who are ordained in these communities should keep a record of the line of authority and pass it down. Be prepared to defend those lines of authority using the records kept. All of the women who vote to sustain should not only sign the certificate, but also record it in  diaries or journals. Let records be kept so if anyone questions, there will be abundant witnesses and documentation.” Preserving the Restoration 512-513

The Lord has not yet revealed His mind and will on these questions. There are many different perspectives and opinions. If we pray together in humility and together meekly present our dispute to the Lord, and if we are contrite before Him, He will tell us His part. I am praying for an answer and would like to invite any who are willing to join with me in petitioning the Lord.

  • Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason, and persuasion, rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealousy, which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger, nor to invoke my name in vain as if I had part in your every dispute. Pray together in humility and together meekly present your dispute to me, and if you are contrite before me, I will tell you my part.

Share your perspective and opinions in the comments and let us come together by precept, reason, and persuasion. 

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