Zelophehad’s Daughters

The Natural Woman: Enemy to God?

Posted by Lynnette

I sometimes wonder about the “natual woman.” Is she, like the “natural man,” carnal, sensual, and devilish; proud and rebellious; in need of the Spirit to transform her heart? Or is she rather loving, gentle, nurturing, and spiritual?

“It is the natural instinct of women to reach out in love to those in distress and need.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Oct 2006)

“You sisters have divine attributes of sensitivity and love for things beautiful and inspiring. These are gifts you use to make our lives more pleasant. Often when you sisters prepare and give a lesson you put an attractive cloth and flowers on the table, which is a wonderful expression of your caring and conscientious nature.” (James E. Faust, Oct 2005)

“Virtues and attributes upon which perfection and exaltation depend come naturally to a woman and are refined through marriage and motherhood.” (Boyd K. Packer, Oct 1993)

“In the home and in the Church sisters should be esteemed for their very nature.” (Boyd K. Packer, Apr 1998)

“Daughters of God know that it is the nurturing nature of women that can bring everlasting blessings, and they live to cultivate this divine attribute . . . May mothers and fathers understand the great potential for good their daughters inherited from their heavenly home. We must nourish their gentleness, their nurturing nature, their innate spirituality and sensitivity, and their bright minds.” (Margaret D. Nadauld, Oct 2000)

“President Ezra Taft Benson has stated, “Man is at his best when complemented by a good woman’s natural influence.’” (quoted by James E. Faust, Apr 1988)

“I urge you to enhance the natural, God-given, feminine gifts with which you have been so richly blessed.” (James E. Faust, Oct 1999)

It’s true, of course, that we use the terms “nature” and “natural” in at least two different senses in the Church–we talk, on the one hand, about our “divine nature” as children of God, and on the other about the “natural” man or woman who is an enemy to God, whom we have to strive to overcome. I’m assuming that the use of “natural” in comments like these falls into the first category; I don’t really think anyone is suggesting that women because of their natural qualities are not in need of the atonement. However, while I believe they’re well-meant, I still find myself uneasy with these kinds of sentiments.

For one thing, I notice that it’s difficult to find statements comparable to the ones I’ve quoted above about men’s natural gifts or abilities, potentially leaving the impression that women are naturally good in a way that men are not. The fact that men routinely get chastised in the priesthood session of Conference, whereas women are routinely told how wonderful they are in the general RS meeting, also contributes to this. The notion that men are the spiritually inferior sex is one I find to be disturbingly common in Mormon culture. I have no doubt that there are feminists out there who think that women are better than men, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a face-to-face conversation with one. On the other hand, I can’t count the number of Church members I’ve met in my life who have sometimes subtly and sometimes quite blatantly expressed such a belief. (See Eve’s post on male-bashing a while back.) Surely the “all are alike unto God” clause goes both ways.

I find this kind of rhetoric troubling for a number of other reasons as well. An emphasis on the natural goodness of women makes it easy to see female righteousness as being not quite as valiant as male righteousness, as it apparently comes naturally to woman whereas men have to work for it. Such claims (e.g., that women are inherently nurturing and/or good at domestic tasks) can be a way of downplaying the real sacrifices many women make who don’t feel all that naturally good at their role. Women who don’t remotely recognize themselves in the picture portrayed above can be left feeling like the Church is only for women who are loving and sensitive and gentle and a good influence, that there isn’t room for those who don’t fit that description. Somewhat ironically, assertions about the inherent goodness of women are frequently cited as justification for male privilege (the classic “men have the priesthood because they’re the ones who need it” argument). And a serious drawback to coding desirable virtues like “caring for others” as feminine is that it can discourage men from seeking after or exhibiting such traits.

I’m also simply wary of broad statements about naturally feminine characteristics. I think the problem becomes clearer if you take such statements and apply them to humans in general. It sounds odd to say, “humans are naturally caring”–because obviously humans are a wildly diverse group, some of them more caring and some of them less. And I find it equally odd to make such a claim about women in the aggregate. (Note that I’m talking about character traits here, and not sex-linked biological abilities.) I’m quite open to the possibility that there are general differences between the sexes–men might well be statistically more likely to exhibit trait y, and women to exhibit trait x–but I think it’s all too easy to overstate such differences and thereby obscure the vast individual variation within each sex.

In the end, are we not all natural women and natural men, fallen and alienated from God–and yet with infinite potential? And are not all of us, women and men alike, called to come and be born again, to allow grace to transform our nature? To put it bluntly, I don’t need to hear that I’m naturally gentle or sweet or sensitive because I’m female. Rather, I need to hear that despite the fact that I’m frequently proud, cranky, stubborn, unforgiving, etc., there’s nonetheless hope for me.

Note: I included specific GA quotes because I knew that if I didn’t, someone would say, “I’ve never heard anything like this; what are you talking about?” However, while this particular message is (obviously) one I believe to be worth questioning, my intent is not to engage in general GA-bashing, and I’d request that comments keep things respectful.

32 Responses to “The Natural Woman: Enemy to God?”

  1. 1.

    This is wonderful. I wish I’d written this. :)

    I’ve been thinking for a long time that I would love to see women get an honest to goodness tongue lashing. (Preferably for something other than making boys think dirty thoughts- but that’s a whole other ball of wax.) I know that when I hear the “you’re so wonderful” talks it makes me feel good for about five minutes. Then I remember that I know I’m not as good as I could be, and I’m certainly not wonderful. But since everyone thinks I’m wonderful I’d better act like it so I don’t let anyone down, but I’m not really sure what I need to improve on the most. It’s a quick and easy way to make me overstressed and paranoid.

    The scriptures even say to reprove with sharpness- then show an increase of love. That pattern might make me feel horrible for a few minutes, but it gives me a clear goal to work for, with the understanding that I’m not fooling anyone and no one expects me to be perfect.

    That we (including me) are still afraid to directly address women with meaningful constructive critisism shows that we still want to coddle women- something that feels good now but cripples us over time.

  2. 2.

    It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but if there is no receiver, where is the joy of giving? When a person pays you a compliment, accept it graciously and with enthusiasm, as a verbal gift, which indeed it is. Enjoy it. And let the donor experience the joy of giving.

    Secondly, you requested some sort of tongue-lashing to provide something to strive for. This is backwards psychology. Accept the compliment for what it is, if it doesn’t aptly describe you, strive to live so that it does.

    It seems that the issue here is not the GA’s quoted. It is the hearer who is lacking in appropriate introspection.

  3. 3.

    Lynnette,

    You’re forgetting one important proof-text on this subject.

    Aretha Franklin:
    “Cause you make me feel, you make me feel,
    You make me feel like a na–tur–al woman.”

    :)

    I liked this post. I think you’re right, that there’s likely to be good deal more in intra-gender variation than there is in mean variation between genders.

    Just to be a contrarian, though — is it possible that despite the intra-gender differences, that inter-gender differences exist which are still significant enough to merit mention? I mean, just to play devil’s advocate: The amount of intra-gender variation in running ability is quite a bit greater than the variation between genders. Men run anywhere between a 3:43 mile and a 30-plus minute leisurely stroll. And women run anywhere between 4:12 and 30-plus. The intra-gender variation is huge.

    But despite that variation, there’s a very real difference between genders. No woman runs a 4-minute mile, for example, though many men have done so over the past 40 years; men typically run faster than women, speaking in general, at any run you go to. And it wouldn’t really be correct to say, “there are 5-minute-mile men and 30-minute-mile men, and that’s a much broader range than any difference between men and women — so it doesn’t make sense to speak of differences or of traits more natural to one gender.”

    Right?

    (As an aside — I wonder whether one’s perception of the validity of inter-gender comparisons correlates to one’s relative position on the bell curve being suggested for that gender. :P ).

  4. 4.

    Ryan’s right. You clearly need to work at finding more joy in putting attractive cloth and flowers on tables. Your assignment for the next week is to put flowers and cloth on the tables every day in class. And smile as you do it.

    Also, the writer thinks that the reader should try referring to people more often using the terminology of “the hearer” and “the speaker” and “the writer.” The writer thinks that that would make the reader’s writing more virtuous, and less like that damned natural woman. Of course, the reader should only write such sentences after the reader is done putting cloth and flowers on the reader’s class tables. And the reader should smile as she does so. She should remember, she’s finding joy in the whole cloth-and-flowers thing. So smile, dammit. The smiler should enjoy what the smiler is told to do. Only then will she be a natural woman.

  5. 5.

    It’s important to remember that these statements are always in the context of reinforcing prescribed roles for women in the Church. You were spot on when you said

    Somewhat ironically, assertions about the inherent goodness of women are frequently cited as justification for male privilege.

    This rhetoric is at least a century and a half old, when men used the inherent goodness and purity of women to argue against women’s suffrage and standing for office. It also creates a binary: if a woman is perceived as not measuring up to the stereotype, then she must be a “fallen woman.” You’re nurturing or you’re a failure as a woman.

    This spiritual superiority rhetoric also strikes me as a form of doublespeak. Although women are supposedly the ones who are spiritually in tune, it is male prophets, GAs and local leaders who are constantly hearing the will of God and passing it on to both men and women in official capacity.

    Finally, I agree that it negatively reinforces men’s self-conceptions as non-nurturers. It has practical implications: who takes the infant during third hour? Who changes the diapers? Who deals with the crying child? Men are getting better at taking care of children in the Church (compared to 15-30 years ago, but still there’s a long ways to go), but I think this is because society at large has broken down some of old roles and this has spilled over into the American Church culture. Still, I hate it when someone asks me if I’m “babysitting” my own children.

  6. 6.

    Thanks, Starfoxy. :) I’ve also thought a lot about the fact that women don’t get seem to be called to repentance much. And I’ve wondered whether it might be partly connected to the fact that we are mostly addressed by men, at least when it comes to authoritative kinds of talks, and the image of a man calling a group of women to repentance strikes me as a bit awkward. I can imagine a woman with a Sheri Dew-like speaking style pulling it off, though. To hold people accountable for their acts, to call them to do better–those are things you do with adults, and I think that’s why it bothers me that women are more likely to get a pat on the head and told that we’re wonderful.

    Ryan, I have no doubt that statements such as the ones I quoted are intended as compliments. But compliments also send messages. For example–if in a family the girls are complimented for their appearance, while the boys are complimented for their abilities, there’s some clear communication taking place about the ways in which each gender is valued. I think messages like those are worth examining.

    Kaimi, Kaimi, (so contrary), point taken–there probably are inter-gender differences worth mentioning. However, my focus here is on moral/spiritual qualities, the ones we’re called to develop as Christians, and in those areas I would in fact argue against major inter-gender differences.

    As an aside–I wonder whether one’s perception of the validity of inter-gender comparisons correlates to one’s relative position on the bell curve being suggested for that gender.

    Not a chance. The fact that I personally have never really related to a lot of this femininity stuff hasn’t biased me one bit on this issue. :P

  7. 7.

    Okay, here goes another gender generalization, but I find that women tend to be hard on themselves and feel that they are never quite measuring up, more so than men. I asked my husband about how he feels when he is called to repentence in general conference and he says it doesnt’ bother him, he probably needs it. I think many women would feel very discouraged if they were told that they weren’t doing enough.

  8. 8.

    Here your criticism, your ears are thick and your heart fat and your minds blind that you cannot take even a compliment without criticism, also Isaiah 3:16-24.

  9. 9.

    John, thanks for your comment. Like you, I find the juxtaposition of claims about the natural spirituality of women with the fact that men are the ones authorized to proclaim the will of God to be an odd one. And I appreciate your point about the problem of men getting the message that they aren’t supposed to be nurturing.

    Sally, you raise a really good question. I agree that many women already feel overwhelmed and inadequate, and being raked over the coals is likely not the medicine they need. (I’d be curious to hear more of the male perspective on this– I’ve heard both from men like your husband who don’t seem overly bothered by the constant chastisement, and from those who feel rather tired of it.) However, I honestly don’t think that providing encouragement and calling us to be better than we are has to involve laying on the guilt on the one hand, or making sweeping claims about natural goodness on the other. In fact, I’d say that I’ve heard lots and lots of conference talks aimed at both sexes which balance the two nicely.

    Theophilus, I’d refer you to my response to Ryan in comment 6. I think this is about more than the question of accepting compliments. I’d also note that when women complain about being put on a pedestal, that’s often the response– what’s wrong with you? Can’t you just appreciate that we think you’re wonderful? Which neatly sets things up so that if women note that the pedestal is an awfully confining place to live, they can be easily dismissed as “ungrateful.”

  10. 10.

    Lynette,

    Really great post.

    Sally said:

    Okay, here goes another gender generalization, but I find that women tend to be hard on themselves and feel that they are never quite measuring up, more so than men.

    This may be very generally true, but I would still be careful about making this assertion. I think the constant pounding men receive in the Church takes its toll on a lot of male members. The BYU Counseling Center gets a lot of traffic from male students with complexes about how they’re not measuring up.

  11. 11.

    Lynette,

    On the compliment issue and the messages it sends:

    If the GA’s always complimented men for being naturally skilled with cars, I admit I might feel a bit left out of the loop because as soon as anyone mentions a 350 hemi with scooped air flow injectors and a flux capacitor, all I hear is “Banana, Banana, Banana”.

    Here’s the rub with that analogy (and this is likely a straw man since I am criticizing my own analogy, but it should make my point nonetheless)

    Here are the traits highlighted in your quote:

    reach out in love to those in distress and need
    sensitivity
    love for things beautiful and inspiring
    gentleness
    nurturing nature
    spirituality
    sensitivity
    bright minds

    Now, all of those quotes were heavy on the “all women naturally have…” generalizations, but the attributes weren’t something inane like being mechanically inclined. All of those are Christ-like attributes that every woman should aspire to cultivate. Some may have a harder go of it, but hearing the GA’s say it is a natural ability/trait can provide hope to a woman who doesn’t really feel that they are all of those things. I understand it can also cause despair in those who think they don’t measure up to all the other naturally wonderful women.. But that’s why I say it is the responsibility of the hearer to introspect appropriately.

    Is that too callous?

  12. 12.

    Thanks, Steve M.

    Ryan, I don’t think your approach is too callous; in fact, I think you’re offering a perfectly legitimate read of how such messages are meant to be heard. And I really do appreciate the intent behind them. I don’t have objections to people being told that they have potentially good qualities in hopes of encouraging them to focus on developing those qualities.

    My concern, rather, is with the notion that women are naturally good in a way that men are not, a notion which I think gets reinforced by this kind of talk. You mention that all the things mentioned are Christlike attributes that every woman should aspire to cultivate. But I would add that if they are indeed Christlike attributes, surely every man should be working to cultivate them as well. I would have no problem with comments along the lines of, “as children of God we all have natural capacities for spirituality, sensitivity, and gentleness,” but I’m uneasy when those qualities are discussed as if they were the special property of women.

    Also, one more thought on the compliment issue. I actually think it’s a bit odd to compliment people for what they do naturally. If it’s true, for example, that women are naturally caring, complimenting them for it seems somewhat akin to complimenting someone for having naturally brown hair. (Which does happen, of course, but I nonetheless find it a little strange.)

  13. 13.

    Ryan, I see a lot of good intent in what you’re saying. But I think there are still some unexamined assumptions here that deserve attention.

    For example, after listing traits, you say, “All of those are Christ-like attributes that every woman should aspire to cultivate.” I see. Are these not traits that every man should aspire to cultivate? Furthermore, is there really a basis for believing that women have any kind of advantage, on the average, with respect to these traits? We might be tempted to answer “yes” with respect to some of them — but we should remind ourselves that our views on those points might well be cultural constructs rather than eternal truths, or even empirically verifiable ideas. Consider, for example, the trait of having “bright minds.” Do we believe that women are more likely to have bright minds than men? Or is this trait equally desirable for both sexes — and basically equally prevalent among both?

    Furthermore, some Christlike traits seem conspicuous by omission. What about leadership, decisiveness, courage, initiative, charisma, a revelatory spirit? Should women not aspire to these traits? Would women not then appreciate or benefit being told that they naturally have these traits, on your logic?

    There may be eternal sex differences on important dimensions. However, there’s a long history of claims about supposedly-immutable sex differences that turned out to be rubbish. Women can think logically, do math, compete in the business world, and excel at athletics. Men can cook, care for children, nurture, empathize, and relate with each other in cooperative rather than competitive ways. Hence, I think it’s hard to justify any approach other than treating every claim about on-the-average spiritual differences between the sexes with skepticism until proven wrong.

    And, hey, the Gospels depict women — and men — both as sinners and as saints. Maybe there’s a pattern worth following…

  14. 14.

    Indeed, the natural woman is an enemy to God,
    The answer to your question lies in Isaiah 3:16-24
    16 ¶ Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
    17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
    18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
    19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
    20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
    21 The rings, and nose jewels,
    22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
    23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
    24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of ebeauty.

    And yet, the Feminist might well look at this as mysogynist rhetoric from a proufoundly patriarchal prophet. Seems you can’t win for losing.

    The universal sin that makes us an enemy to God is pride brothers and sisters. If you want to be called on it, hey, I’m game, but also guilty in a human sort of way.

  15. 15.

    Theophilus, you’ve nicely set up a contrast between emphasizing peculiarly female sins and emphasizing peculiarly female virtues. As I understand Lynnette, she’s not advocating the former over the latter. She’s questioning why we need to code virtue and sin in terms of gender to begin with.

  16. 16.

    She’s questioning why we need to code virtue and sin in terms of gender to begin with.

    I’m not going to weigh in on the particular values in question but I’d say the reason virtue and sin can be/are coded in terms of gender to begin with is the differences between the genders. There are a number of things (as mentioned in an earlier post) that all of us, male and female, ought to be cultivating but I think that some of the things that make for a good woman don’t necessarily make for a good man. Also, coding them in gender speak may simply be a way of making them accessible and understandable to the average woman or man who, it’s been shown, tend to communicate differently. So perhaps to God, it’s the same virtue but it’s cloaked in different terms for each to meet the needs of each.

  17. 17.

    Men are more likely to be violent criminals than women. Maybe GBH is onto something :)

  18. 18.

    but I think that some of the things that make for a good woman don’t necessarily make for a good man

    Can you give us any examples? We are all taught to come to Christ, and to gain Christlike attributes, and that this is the only way to become perfect. It seems to me that this means we should all be cultivating the exact same attributes (namely, the ones that Christ had).

  19. 19.

    Lynnette said,

    the image of a man calling a group of women to repentance strikes me as a bit awkward. I can imagine a woman with a Sheri Dew-like speaking style pulling it off, though.

    I’ve always thought this, too. However, it concerns me that she is the only woman I’ve heard speak who has this, dare I say, “manliness” of manner that makes people sit up and pay attention. I wish more women would speak that way. Is her manner perhaps related to her singleness? Most of the other sisters (who happen to be married) come across as sugary-sweet, time to go to the kitchen and get a snack during General Conference speakers.
    I also don’t think I’ve heard Sheri Dew give talks like the ones quoted above. It would sound very strange from her. (if anyone has evidence to the contrary, I’m happy to hear it)

  20. 20.

    but I think that some of the things that make for a good woman don’t necessarily make for a good man

    Can you give us any examples? We are all taught to come to Christ, and to gain Christlike attributes, and that this is the only way to become perfect. It seems to me that this means we should all be cultivating the exact same attributes (namely, the ones that Christ had).

    The things you are thinking of, the ways to become perfect and Christlike, I would say are attributes of a good person, period, and should be cultivated by men and women alike. However, I believe that there is a sacred and eternal component to gender that makes the two halves into a greater whole. Different virtues and such that complement each other. I’m no expert on the subject so please forgive me if my examples are unpolished but I’m going with what makes sense to me. So, for example, women tend to be more community and consensus-oriented whereas men tend to be more hierarchial. Between the two traits, the communities needs for such thing as organization (see here for an example) and connection (sorry, don’t have an example for this) are met.

    There is no reason that I know of for this to be the case, beyond that’s the way God has made the world. These tendencies have been there from the beginning of time and have been found in just about every culture, so they can’t only be the product of “dead white men.”

    It comes down to someone has to organize and someone has to nuture. It’s a necessity for society– there will always be times when what is needed is leadership, not concensus and there will always be times when what is needed is connection and understanding, not orders. As I said, there’s no reason I know for men to tend to be the one and women to tend to be the other except that that is the way it is. I would add that we can’t be re-inventing the wheel with every generation; for things to move smoothly there must be things that don’t change and nothing is more fundamental to a society than it’s organization and division of duties.

  21. 21.

    I completely agree. The type of generalization you cite, I believe, hinders more than it helps. It always makes me feel like curling up into the fetal position and asking God’s forgiveness.

  22. 22.

    Can someone define nurture? It reminds me of gardening, which I totally fail at, and I don’t know how it really applies to life (motherhood, etc).
    any thoughts?

  23. 23.

    This is kind of getting into the territory of Kiskilili’s latest post on masculinity, but I’ve been thinking about the fact that, as Vada pointed out, Christ is held up as the example for both men and women. That makes me believe that men and women are called to develop the same virtues, that there isn’t a set of “masculine” ones and a set of “feminine” ones. I therefore don’t see a basis for encouraging women but not men to focus on developing attributes like gentleness or a nurturing nature–in fact, if it’s true that women are more naturally nurturing, and this is a Christlike attribute, wouldn’t it make sense to spend more time encouraging men to be nurturing (since women would presumably be less in need of such a reminder)? And if the “ideal” woman truly does exhibit different virtues and qualities that differ from those of the “ideal” man, why don’t we women have a female Christ figure to pattern our lives after?

    Proud Daughter of Eve, I’m not sure I entirely understand your argument. I’ll grant that it might well be true, as you say, that “women tend to be more community and consensus-oriented whereas men tend to be more hierarchial.” But even if that’s the case, I’d still see it as valuable for men to work on developing connection/relational skills, and women to work on developing leadership skills. I see it as important not only for communities to have both of those dimensions, but for individual human beings to have them as well.

  24. 24.

    RoastedTomatoes, all I can say is that I completely agree. I especially like your point about women as well as men being depicted in the Gospels as both saints and sinners

    ECS, I’ve often been tempted to take up a life of violent crime, but fortunately my sweet feminine nature has intervened.

    Annegb, I can relate all too well to that image.

    Theophilus, I think Kiskilili concisely summed up my point. But just for the record, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be dead on if you want to call me on the sin of pride. I will say, however, that I’m quite free of tinkling ornaments about my feet, bracelets, headbands, rings, and nose jewels.

    Jessawhy, I also found Sheri Dew’s style to be tremendously refreshing (even when I disagreed with what she was saying). And I think you’ve hit on the problem–speaking strongly and authoritatively has been traditionally coded as masculine or “man-like.”

    And that’s a good question about the meaning of “nurture.” Hmm. This is hardly anything earthshattering, but I usually think of it along the lines of acting in ways that encourage the growth and development of others.  Which is pretty vague, I’m realizing.  (Then again, maybe “nurture” as we use it in the Church isn’t actually meant to have any connection to the way it’s defined in the dictionary or is used elsewhere in the world . . . ;))

  25. 25.

    LOL, Lynnette. I just watched a preview for National Geographic’s Lockdown II: Women Behind Bars. Not many meek and submissive “sweet spirits” to be found there.

  26. 26.

    As always, ECS, you raise a pretty good question.

    I’ve always assumed you could draw a pretty straight line from the level of testosterone in the brain to the amount of agressive behavior the owner of the brain displays. But there are plenty of people who are awash in testosterone who manage to modulate their behavior, so I guess I need to rethink my assumptions.

    For some reason, Lockdown II: Women behind Bars sounds like something that would require a visit to the bishop’s office after viewing.

  27. 27.

    For the record, the current women’s world record in the mile is around 4:12 and falling fast. We’ll see women running under 4 minutes within the decade. And men have lowered the record only to about 3:43 (?) since Roger Bannister–the gender gap is closing remarkably quickly in countries where women and men receive roughly equal encouragement and funding for serious athletic training. There’s likely to always be a pretty profound gap in sports where sheer muscle mass and upper body strength are important, but at least in running, untangling biological effects from cultural ones suggests a more limited role for biology than we might have suspected a few decades ago.

    I’m inclined to think that the organizational skills and spiritual gifts necessary for building Zion are more like running than power lifting.

  28. 28.

    I’m late to the table, but I offer a hearty “amen” to your assessment of these discomfitting talks. They always remind me of Louisa May Alcott’s quip that “men put women on a pedastal and then ask them to get down on it.” While I doubt GAs ever have such insidious conscious intent, those talks illicit in me the analysis Kaimi mentions: “Hmm, I’m being told–again–that I’m essentially superior to and by some people who have been socially constructed as superior to me in almost every structural sense. I need a donut.”

    I don’t doubt that the speakers are sincere, or even that women generally exhibit these characteristics more frequently than do men (whether from lower testosterone or societal conditioning I can’t say). And I suppose as a hyper-mama type, I should bask in the praise of my nurturance. But, see, it’s my nurturing spirit that most balks at those talks, exactly because I care about so many women who find essentialist gender equations deeply *personally* hurtful and at odds with what they know about their own nature. The academic dissections? I can deal with those, even enjoy them. The friends who want to curl into fetal position or flee the church because they’re certain they can’t measure to the church’s active requirements when their passive, inherent natures fall short of the mark? That just makes me nuts. It makes the spiritual, kind, nurturing, soft me NUTS.

  29. 29.

    Another fun quote to ponder, even if I’m not exactly sure what it means or if it just sounds cool:

    then i awoke and dug that if i dreamed natural dreams of being a natural woman doing what a woman does when she’s natural i would have a revolution ~ Nikki Giovanni

  30. 30.

    Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their meta-analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.”

    Dweck’s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concern–they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.

    This is from the NYT ‘The Power (and Peril) of Praising your Kids’ from BCC’s sideblog (I’d put the link in, but whenever I do that the comment gets snagged by the spam filter). The whole thing is worth reading, and has many interesting implications for what is being discussed here.

  31. 31.

    [...] I genuinely hope this doesn’t come across as sacrilegious, but if women naturally possess Christlike attributes”if, in fact, as Michael Otterson argues, “Stereotypical ‘Female’ Qualities Are Core of What Jesus Taught,”#8220;why was Jesus a man? In a Church that seems to embrace some sort of gender essentialism, what does it mean to that concept of gender that a male Jesus exemplified core female behaviors? [...]

  32. 32.

    I ventured forth this morning to see if anyone in the church recognized the seeming disparity of constraints in the English language of holding to the scriptural truths surrounding “the natural man” as belonging only to men and not applying to women. I am a man and from personal experiences have also been shocked and dismayed by the seemingly never ending contrast where women are extolled and men are chastened in General Conferences, special conferences and leadership meetings while women who were given the same piece of darkness / drive / instinct for evil contained in the spiritual portion of the four-part fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil — The First half of the fruit contains (the spiritual) The Light of Christ and the (physical or temporal elements) that will in its fulfillment rise to the culmination of a perfect immortal body.

    The Second half of the fruit from that Same Tree contained the curses — One part was the (temporal) changing our spiritual fluid to blood with the codes, power and effect to subject us to entropy, disease and death. While its (Spiritual) part was what is termed the ‘natural man’.

    God in His supernal and infinite wisdom of strategy —
    chose to give men and women the exact thing Satan screamed and schemed to have! Namely, the power to control the human being. God gave each man and woman an instinct — a drive– a hunger for the me, me, me.
    The qualities of that same being who is the Father of Lies;
    the corrupter; and one who sought to usurp and steal the Throne from God (who earned His Title, Power and Position of God) by living a Just Perfect Life.
    So God put into that fruit that power and instinct that Lucifer would have done in his declared plan– To drive a person to act without Free Agency — to do as he Lucifer would command.
    But God protected Agency and provided for a choice by having both a Light (The Light of Christ) and a Darkness –the thing which impels a person to [what i call] “the secret heart” (the hidden objective like Lucifer to steal the Throne and be the ultimate Tyrant)
    And contained in this same drive and instinct of the natural man is [what i call] “the finite mind” (the belief rejecting infinite concepts revelation, resurrection, eternal family and eternal increase etc)
    And lastly in this fruit’s nature was imbued with [what i call]
    “the selfish spirit” (the corrosive me, me, me that leads in all aspects possessions, sex and power to its apex of cruelty and murder)
    This then is the “natural man”– And yes the “natural women”.

    One of you quoted the scripture of condemnation and curse upon the daughters of Zion. Let me touch on that a moment–
    Isaiah is a man held precious by Jehovah who is Jesus Christ– and yes that prophecy he saw was not only about wicked women of his age but about the disgusting sins of the women of this Last Dispensation

    Why is it so hard for women to see the carnal and devilish of their natures and why is it so hard for the men of the church to deny such and only laud, praise and elevate women to the blatant disregard of the tares and wolves which exist in life and in the church who were born as women????

    As a man I am so very frustrated with a blindness and careless disregard of the reality of wicked and evil women. Who in the world do you people think Hagar was– who taught her son Ismael to hate the children of Abraham — Ishmael is the father of the Arab people who seek Israel’s destruction. And who do you think wives of Laman and Lemuel were– who taught their children to hate the children of Nephi? My word — open your eyes to history and the reality of evil and the players. Does everything that is not spelled out remain a total mystery?? Who brought secret combinations to the Jaredites, but a woman ‘the daughter of Jared who wanted her father to use the secret combinations of evil — and all that led to the Gadianton Robbers and the destruction of the entire Jaredite nations — every man woman and child??? And who was it that took the fruit first from Lucifer and then used ‘Guile’ to get Adam to partake? GROW UP– There were and there are seriously, most definitely EVIL Women in history and in the world today!!

    There is a “natural woman”. And those men who do not discuss it and reveal its dangers are only the foolish the cuckold. Who apparently can not step away from the “world’s” madness of women worship (prominent in the Hindu Religion and so pointedly seen in Mariology in the Catholic Church– (which fits into the “Orthodox” religion promised to be promulgated by The Adversary on this earth to deceive the children of Adam and Eve from Worship of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost)

    For a group of sisters with such a wealth of background and education– I am dumbfounded!!!

    The “natural woman” is just the same as the “natural man”.

    Women can be cruel full of hate for that which is good instead of hating Lucifer and evil which was the reason God Himself placed “enmity” in the heart of men and women against Lucifer and his evil and all he brought forth.

    Men — have for years only bashed men and have blindly extolled women as if all were Saints (and by the way the real meaning of Saint is one who is holy– which is the goal of a person receiving the Name of Christ and the command to be perfect like unto Him and His Father) These men have either for fear of retaliation from their wives if they denounced the women who were wicked or discussed the traits of the natural woman OR for their seeming love affair with the false tradition of the world of the ‘love of women’ and denunciation of men.

    Such one-sided and most disturbing talks have grated on all of us men who seek Father and for further Light and Truth from his angels — and who have lived with women who were schemers and tares.

    Are we children begotten unto God the Father — YES
    Are men potential prophets, priests and Kings with the goal of becoming a god? YES

    And are not women blessed to be priestesses and queens to their husbands with the same goal of being a goddess?? YES

    But the reality was that that fruit and its change on every child born thereafter carried that plan and part and that power of the darkness that Lucifer wanted. So God put in the very thing that would ferret out others who had secreted in their being the desire to usurp, to reject living like a god to become a god. He put into women just as he put into men the brain dead hardness to reject revelation “knowing of things to come” the vision of the other side of the veil “seeing” the seer the ‘sight’ and all things pertaining to eternity — which the stiff-necked and hard heart thinks what I call “the finite mind” and God placed in men and in women a drive a hunger an appetite for SELFISHNESS of Spirit that would lead from one iniquity to the next unto total darkness– the paradigm of the ‘captivity of the devil’.

    So WHY do not the General Authorities speak of the guile and scheming mind, the true power of the temptations of Sex of Women and its devastation if not bridled?? Why — maybe just maybe if not for those who are weak and foolish and cater to women and fear offending women when they are married to a woman who might rebel on behalf of those so criticized— Maybe because the world has so inculcated a feeling of insulation and protection around the true nature of the ‘natural woman’ that Such Truths — IF REVEALED and discussed by the General Authorities — would cause the women who are weak and those without strong enough testimonies to REBEL and RIOT and RIP the fabric of the Church Society into little tiny shreds — destroying lives of the innocent babes and children and flaming the temptations of the teenagers and young people to follow after Satan. Maybe??

    I am not quite sure–
    But the reality is there are and exist women full of Guile–
    whose lips are drenched and dripping with Guile
    and no more hold to the blessings and promises and honor
    the constrictions and admonitions of pure lips
    than you can see the Sun at midnight!!!!!

    The glory and beauty and wonderful meekness and power of a perfect woman is wonderful

    But the reality is we are to be seeking the Goal of Perfection!

    I seek my Savior and to always to those things which please The Father as He did and stated was His character– and want to go to my Gethsemane and say of the Prince of Darkness as Jesus stated “he hath nothing in me”

    So should be the sentiment and goal of you lovelies that are the daughters of Eve and a celestial Mother in Heaven.

    Can’t we all — really start talking and being honest about the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the Plan of Salvation– the truths inherent to The Pre-Existence and why we are here on Earth??
    Is it so very difficult seek to see the false Traditions of the world to ‘worship women’ reject Christ and mark the forehead with red (as the did in India and the Hindu Religion) and reject the worship of the Divine Goddess or mother Mary.

    Can you dear ones that are my sisters who made the sacred and binding CHOICE after the War in Heaven to follow Christ — look for Truth about men and the Truth about women and stop with all the blather and puffery about what is and what is not a woman?

    We are here to PROVE we are really Christ’s followers and to reject what is inside of us that we ‘want’ and seek not our own will but Father’s Will — to live as Jesus– who said he did not seek his own will but to do the will of The Father– OUR ONLY DESIRE should be to live what God Desires! And our acts must be What God Requires.
    Following the dictates of our will our thoughts leads only to feed and be subsumed to the control of Lucifer– such was the Plan of God to test, prove and reveal the real character of those on earth
    OUR refinement from base metal to Silver is the Fire of testing. The dross that must be taken away does in fact include the nonsense about women and men that is in the philosophies of Satan spread by his ministers of false religions– and they and their mixtures of truth and lies is Absolutely Everywhere– Hence constant need to Watch and Pray. And the need for the Holy Ghost’s as a constant companion.
    Please my sisters, the princess warriors of Life before this Life– wake up and be what you were to be here in this life.

    These my words are from and by my heart,
    and by my desires for good —
    Your brother Kev

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