The Stewardship of Priesthood

By Elbert A. Smith,
Member of the First Presidency 1909–1938

Patriarch Elbert A. Smith
Elbert A. Smith

It is not given to woman to have the stewardship of priesthood. No; she is not asked to bear the stewardship of priesthood. All that she is asked to do is to go down into that valley of travail from whence come new souls and come up out of that valley bearing in her arms the male child that shall be a priest; to take him to her bosom and feed him and warm him and clothe him; and as he grows older, to teach the priest, who later shall teach the people. When he grows to manhood and becomes the very apple of her eye, as beautiful to her as Apollo, as wise as Solomon, as brave as Daniel, and as good as John the Beloved—when she has invested in him all that she has and all that she is, and all she ever expects to have and to be—then to give him to the Church and to God; to pray for him all the days of his ministry; and when she has grown old in body and fatal disease has set its hand upon her, and she stands in the valley of the shadow of death between the pillars of eternal mystery, to bear, as my good mother did, her last testimony to the divinity of this work that will ring like a golden bell in the heart of her son forever; perchance later to come back unseen and invisible to observe her son and see whether he has kept the trust.

No, it is not given to woman to have the stewardship of priesthood; but every priest sometime is the stewardship of some woman. Emma Smith was not ordained as a priest. She could not baptize. She could not lay hands on the sick. All she could do was to stand in the doorway of the Mansion House and watch Joseph as he rode away that June morning, go out to the gate to catch the last glimpse of him as he rode over the hill to Carthage; and when the dead body was brought back to her, make a clean bed to lay him on, and after he was buried to set up the altar in her home, close her ears to appeals to go here or there, and say, “I have no home but this and no friend but God”; to establish her “school of religious education”; and teach Joseph and Alexander and David—and later give to the Church two men for the Presidency and one for the Quorum of Twelve. [Actually, Joseph III, Alexander, and David all served in the Presidencey at various times.] She did not have the stewardship of priesthood; but three high priests were her stewardship.

When Mary was crowded out so there was no place for her in human habitation, and she must needs lay herself down on the straw in the manger—and the Son of God, from the courts of glory, crept into her arms, He became her stewardship. She taught Him—the One who should teach all men. When she took Him to the Temple ... Simeon took Him from her arms and said, “Mary, because of him a sword shall pierce through thy very soul.” Think you that during those forty days and forty nights, when He wrestled with Satan in the wilderness, Mary slept? And when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and the twelve apostles could not keep awake, not one hour to watch with Him, when they who had the stewardship of priesthood all slept; do you think Mary slept? And when she saw Him hanging on the cross. . . . No, she did not have the stewardship of priesthood; but the great High Priest of our profession . . . was a woman’s stewardship.

So it may finally be when his work is all done and the minister comes into the presence of God, and God says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” He will also turn to the man’s wife and mother and say, “Exceedingly well done, good and faithful servants; enter in also with him into my joy. Without you, he could never have served; without you now he could never have joy.”

(The Saints’ Herald [January 26, 1927], 97–98; Vision 42:9)