Should Sisters Use Laying On of Hands to Give Blessings of Healing?

by | Jul 24, 2022

Queen Esther

I don’t have an immediate answer – but Joseph Smith certainly did.

Highlights for Esther

Esther’s story of courage and triumph is one of my favorite Old Testament stories. For the painting above, I chose crimson cords and indigo cloth since those were considered luxuries during her time.

Esther makes a great movie script. Have you seen ‘One Night With the King’? Here is a short 1-minute scene:

Surprising Discovery

As I researched this week’s lesson – I was directed to a speech Joseph Smith gave the Relief Society back in 1842. It appears to be an accidental link by BYU Citations – because the only connection is a three-word phrase when Esther says she would have “held my tongue.” (Esther 7:4)

Joseph Smith says, “let all hold their tongues.” That was enough for BYU to consider Joseph and Esther references for each other. I think it was a clerical error because the context is not related.

BUT – what a happy accident for me because I discovered a unique passage and teaching by Joseph Smith directly to the sisters. It deserves to be passed on and shared. See what you think of the quote below? What reaction do you have?

The Prophet Joseph Smith Empowers the Relief Society

Some sisters were chided for healing the sick by the laying on of hands. Do you know what Joseph Smith’s response was?

He said the reason of these remarks being made was, that some little foolish things were circulating in the society, against some sisters not doing right in laying hands on the sick.

…President Smith continued the subject, by quoting the commission given to the ancient Apostles in Mark, 16th chapter, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th verses,

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

No matter who believeth, these signs, such as healing the sick, casting our devils, etc., should follow all that believe, whether male or female. He asked the Society if they could not see by this sweeping promise, that wherein they are ordained, if it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority, which is conferred on them; and if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.

He said, if God has appointed him, and chosen him as an instrument to lead the Church, why not let him lead it through? Why stand in the way when he is appointed to do a thing? Who knows the mind of God? Does He not reveal things differently from what we expect?

…Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick, he further remarked, there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administration. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pgs.223-225)

This exact quote also appears in The First Fifty Years of Relief Society in your Gospel Living app. (1.2.7 April 28, 1842). Look under the “History” tab.

My Questions

Immediately, my first response is, “why did this drop off the scene, and why isn’t it frequently taught? (I sincerely want to know what happened.) My quest? To understand why this isn’t ingrained in our Latter-day Saint culture as standard practice when it once was? I’ve never heard this in Church before, and I’ve been an adult member for a few decades.

My next response is…this makes so much sense because I’ve seen its miraculous truth (accidentally). So, it falls right into my understanding and life experiences.

I’d like to know how do you feel about this? Have you heard this topic before, and what is your reaction?

Please, if you do comment, keep your response focused on principles and not about personalities (villains) or grudges. I will read all your comments but abstain from publishing inflammatory or bitter ones. They do not help. (Love you anyway.)


Update: I found a wonderful resource for this topic that is FREE.

Barbara Morgan Gardner is a highly qualified individual who teaches Religion and Church History at BYU. She has a couple of Ph.D.’s as well (including Harvard). Her book Women and the Priesthood in the Contemporary Church is available on Kindle for no cost.

I’ve started reading and I’m quite pleased with the content so far. I will be devouring it!

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  1. Nicole Cloward

    For more understanding we should all read: The Priesthood Power of Women.
    By Barbara Morgan Gardner. It is excellent!

    Here is the description from Amazon.

    President Russell M. Nelson recently voiced a concern that too many of our brothers and sisters do not fully understand the concept of priesthood power and authority. I fear that too many of our brothers and sisters do not grasp the privileges that could be theirs.

    Some are surprised to learn that priesthood authority, privileges, and power apply to women as well as men. On the other hand, many women feel undervalued, voiceless, and marginalized regarding the priesthood. Our limited understanding and frustration often stems from the priesthood being taught too narrowly.

    The Priesthood Power of Women relies on the standard works and teachings of the living prophets to help all members, especially women, more fully understand God s power and take full advantage of the powers, blessings, and privileges available to them in this mortal journey by

    *clarifying truth regarding the priesthood, for both men and women.

    *further expanding our knowledge of the priesthood, and

    *strengthening and empowering us as we seek to better fulfill our priesthood responsibilities and make full use of priesthood privileges.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      Thank you for that wonderful recommendation. It sent me down a great path. The same author recently wrote a newer 28-page book mini-book on the same topic that is FREE. I’ve started reading and I’m quite pleased with the content so far. I will be devouring it!

      For those who are wondering – Barbara Morgan Gardner is a highly qualified individual who teaches Religion and Church History at BYU. She has a couple of PHD’s as well (including Harvard). Her book Women and the Priesthood in the Contemporary Church is available on Kindle for no cost.

  2. Shannon Steele

    It has always been my understanding that any healing, especially the miraculous variety, ultimately comes from God; if healing occurs, I cannot imagine making a fuss about the conduit. Clearly any given miracle must have had God’s approval.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      You sound so much like Joseph Smith! Thank you for sharing your perspective and I tend to agree with you.

  3. marcamerrell

    One afternoon I noticed a commotion at our non member neighbor’s house. I felt to go see what was going on. A toddler had fallen into a spa and it was a while until the toddler was found. This happened about 25 years ago so I don’t remember if it was a little girl or little boy. The women, who were the child’s aunts, were on the driveway sobbing. At one point I held one of the women in my arms as we sat on the driveway and I tried to comfort her. Life
    Flight had taken the child to the hospital, but the women were beside themselves with anxiety because of guilt for not finding the child sooner and were so afraid the child would die. In any case, I asked if we could say a prayer and we all prayed for the child, who survived. My husband was the Bishop at this time, and for some reason I felt this needed a woman’s comfort. No laying on of hands, but I felt that the Lord was there and expected me to offer the comfort and prayer. I think it was faith that was needed and some times faith and prayers are as strong as a Priesthood blessing. Wasn’t it President Nelson that said endowed women have the power of the priesthood? My testimony is that God loves and respects us, His children, and when something is important to us, it is important to Him. Of course, we can not supersede His plans.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      Thank you for sharing such a touching experience. I enjoyed reading this and about your compassion and courage.


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