Zelophehad’s Daughters

Women as Possessions

Posted by Lynnette

The extended discussion on Seraphine’s thread about modesty, and in particular the issue raised there about seeing women as objects, has gotten me thinking about another, somewhat related question. To put it bluntly, I’m wondering: do Latter-day Saints believe that in some sense women are the possessions of men?

Scriptural support for such a viewpoint isn’t difficult to find. Consider, for example, Mosiah 13:24:

Thou shalt not covert thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s. (emphasis added)

Here wives are matter-of-factly listed among other things that one’s neighbor owns. This kind of thing doesn’t actually raise my hackles much, though; it’s one of those things I can relatively easily chalk up to a different cultural milieu.

Far more troubling to me is D&C 132, which contains gems like:

And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many. (v. 44; emphasis added)

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood–if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. (v. 61; emphasis added)

Verses like these have deeply disturbed me since I was a teenager. In fact, I find the language used here to describe women in some ways more troubling than the actual practice of polygamy (though I certainly have questions about the latter). And these passages purport to be the direct words of God, which puts them a somewhat different category than comments made by various Book of Mormon prophets, or Paul’s thoughts about gender. So what do I do with the fact that women are here fairly straightforwardly portrayed as male possessions, that they’re given to righteous men and taken away from unworthy ones? As much as I’d like to believe in some kind of reciprocity in these relationships (i.e., husbands similarly belonging to their wives), there’s really no support for that here.

And such language is still alive and well, as demonstrated by the most recent conference in which President Hinckley commented, “Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions.” Elder Holland similarly observed, “Husbands, you have been entrusted with the most sacred gift God can give you, a wife, a daughter of God, the mother of your children who has voluntarily given herself to you for love and joyful companionship.”

Don’t get me wrong, I do realize that both of the above statements were made in the context of encouraging husbands to treat their wives well, and I honestly appreciate that. I’m not citing these comments in an attempt to question their motives. I’m well aware that Church leaders have said all kinds of things about pursuing egalitarian marital relationships in which husband and wife support one another, and that men who abuse or attempt to dominate their wives are regularly denounced.

And yet . . . I cannot hear statements like that without cringing. They remind me that a plausible case can be made that in the context of LDS thought and teaching, women belong to men in a way that men do not belong to women; that although women might be cherished and treasured and valued, they are nonetheless ultimately male possessions. Women give themselves to men (or are given to them)–not the other way around.

But am I wrong? Are phrases like this merely echoes of an archaic way of talking about marriage, and not to be taken all that literally, in which case, can I hope that they will eventually fade? Or do they in fact reflect our current theology and understanding of gender relations?

250 Responses to “Women as Possessions”

  1. 1.

    Thanks for the post. I think there was a similar one at fMh a while ago that led to an interesting discussion about the exact language of the temple sealing being the same or different for men and women (as I recall, there were various opposing views on if both were given and both recieved)
    I think the argument that women are some kind of possession is a very strong one, not just from the sources you site, but also from history, women’s suffrage was only a century ago, wasn’t it? Women as possessions is not a politically correct concept, it’s very unfeminist (and I personally don’t like it), but I think it definately exists.
    My question is slightly different than yours, however. Are there any circumstances under which women being the possession of their husbands isn’t negative? I know there are women who glow when referred to as their husband’s most prized possession (b/c it means she’s ahead of the Porche). But, in terms of the gospel, of Christ giving his will to the Father, of our giving our will to Christ, or in any other gospel light, that the relationship between husband and wife can be unequal and good?

  2. 2.

    This is the one question I have that has *never* been answered to my satisfaction and is at the very root of all my discomforts with being female in our church. I have no thoughts to add right now, but I look forward to the discussion.

  3. 3.

    -Full Disclosure, I’m a guy…although that will shortly become apparent-

    From a guy’s perspective, I don’t want to be the possessor.

    Which is why it’s fun to irritate Mormon gender prejudices…I do all the cooking and feed the baby 50% of the time (formula is the great equalizer…lol)

    You should see the looks we get.

    But again, it’s enough of a problem to be expected to be the one in charge… it requires keeping a constant eye on things or people just assume that talking to me about PK’s callings but not talking to her about mine…

  4. 4.

    Mosiah 13:24 is a word for word quote of Exodus 20:17:

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

    So as objectionable as such language may be, I don’t think you can blame Joseph Smith for the innovation, especially when there is no sign of the common contemporary equivalent – “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” – in LDS liturgy.

    I wouldn’t use the word “possession”, but it certainly seems to me that a husband can belong to a wife,(or parents to children) just as much as the other way around. And the blessing of having a spouse can surely be considered a gift.

  5. 5.

    Are phrases like this merely echoes of an archaic way of talking about marriage, and not to be taken all that literally

    Yep. (In my opinion at least)

  6. 6.

    Are there any circumstances under which women being the possession of their husbands isn’t negative?

    I would say unambiguously no, it can’t be, at root, anything but negative for women to be the possessions of men.

    We turn our will over to Christ because Christ is perfect and only Christ can save us. But mortal men are neither perfect nor salvifically efficacious. Our rhetoric of salvation is awfully dependent on free will, that we all, every individual, turn our will over to Christ for salvation — that as an agent being we turn to God in fear and trembling and all that. Possessions — objects — have no will. And if you’ve handed your will off to your husband/father/possessor, can you still give it to Christ? Logically, it seems clear you can’t, unless that husband/father/whatever be perfectly, seamlessly aligned with Christ, which no mortal can be in mortality.

  7. 7.

    But am I wrong? Are phrases like this merely echoes of an archaic way of talking about marriage, and not to be taken all that literally, in which case, can I hope that they will eventually fade? Or do they in fact reflect our current theology and understanding of gender relations?

    I don’t think this can ever be only one or the other. Certainly, the language is introduced historically and the phrases are fossilized by historical use, and they reflect a history in which women were essentially commodities and that went largely unquestioned. But it seems to me that the history of objectifying women and the historical language of objectifying women are unavoidably both going to influence the way we construct gender relations today.

  8. 8.

    Jessawhy, I’ve also talked to women who feel like it’s a compliment to be referred to as their husband’s greatest possession. I can’t say I relate to that, but it’s probably a good thing for me to remember, that not everyone reacts to the language the way I do.

    As to your question of whether it can be a good thing, I’d probably respond along the lines of Melyngoch’s #6. I can see value in both husband and wife understanding themselves in terms of belonging to the other, but I struggle to see how an assymmetrical relationship could be good for either side. But that brings up another interesting question: does unity require some kind of hierarchy? Often I hear hierarchical marriage, with one spouse ultimately in charge, defended on those grounds–that otherwise, the family unit would descend into chaos. It’s a topic I’d like to explore further.

    Starfoxy, thanks for the comment. Like you, I find this to be a pretty foundational question when it comes to my gender-related concerns with the Church.

    AngryMormonLiberal, it’s good to hear your perspective. I can see how it could be not all that fun to be on the other side of the possessor/possessee divide, either.

  9. 9.

    Mark D., I completely agree that it would be unfair to blame Joseph Smith or the LDS Church for inventing this stuff; clearly it exists also in the Bible and in the historical Christian tradition. I like what you say about how husbands could belong to wives in a similar way, and that the blessing of having a spouse is a gift. What I’m trying to make sense of is that such reciprocity isn’t reflected in our official discourse.

    Also, on the question of liturgy pertaining to marriage, it seems relevant to consider what model of marriage can in fact be found in our temple liturgy (as Jessawhy alluded to in the first comment).

    Geoff J., I hope you’re right. :)

    Melyngoch, that’s a good point that I’ve set up a bit of a false dichotomy in the way I phrased those questions. I think what I’m trying to get at is, how should we read this kind of language? What theological weight (if any) should we give it? Does it tell us anything about eternal gender relations?

  10. 10.

    There is no sense in which I consider my wife a possession.

  11. 11.

    An aside about langugage: doesn’t _my_ wife, _my _ husband, or even _my_ friend, imply some kind of possesion? Isn’t the emotional resistance to the language based in our feeling that to be a possesion strips a woman (in this case) of her agency – or her autonomy, or even her identity. But that is charged with the sensibility of the time we live in, isn’t it?

    If I say _my_ house – well, the house may be mine, God may have even ‘given’ it to me, but that doesn’t itself deprive the house of anything that is natively its own. Nor does it exempt me from the laws that govern home ownership. Similarly, that a wife, or husband, or friend, or employee, might be described as something one _has_, part of one’s treasured ‘possesions’, even, doesn’t deprive them of anything that is native to them. In the case of a person: autonomy, identity, etc. The ultimate example is God: all things, including our existence, belongs to Him, are his ‘posessions.’ He says that the worlds are his – he numbers them because “they are Mine.” And yet at no time does He exercise control over us – nor can He, we read. What is His ‘flows unto Him’ “without compulsory means.” When we lord it over on another person ‘in the least degree’,- and I think that includes subtle and unconscious forms of manipulation designed to _get what we want_ and circumvent another person’s freedom – we grieve the Spirit. Pretty soon it is game over for us as far as the aquisition of a divne nature.

    With all this in mind, I’m not particularly troubled about thinking of my wife as a possesion, a treasured one – and I have much less qualm about her thinking of me as belonging to her. Perhaps God gave me to her – I also give myself.

    ~

  12. 12.

    I think there’s another scripture that may be relevant here.

    Helaman 15:2
    Yea, except ye repent, your women shall have great cause to mourn in the day that they shall give suck; for ye shall attempt to flee and there shall be no place for refuge; yea, and wo unto them which are with child, for they shall be heavy and cannot flee; therefore, they shall be trodden down and shall be left to perish.

    Luke 21:23
    But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

    This scripture is repeated five times in all! (It’s also in Mark, Matthew and JST-Matt.) I’m not much of a scriptorian but I don’t know any other scripture that is repeated so often.

    The physical fact of the matter is that women are more vulnerable than men, particularly in the early stages of motherhood. I think that “possession” is a word suffering from translation difficulties between the language of God and our language. I think that by “a possession” He intends to indicate some thing and/or some one to whom the “possessor” has an obligation. By obligation I mean “owes proper care to,” in the way we all have an obligation to properly care for the stewardships God has given us.

  13. 13.

    Thank you, PDoE, for your beautiful comment. It put something into words I was trying to pinpoint.

    As far as comment #6 regarding a positive aspect of being a possession and the Christ/husband dichotomy, I will try to put into words a concept I only barely understand.

    The story of Adam & Eve is provocative not only because Eve seems to be less righteous than Adam, but because it has been used as an excuse to subjugate women from time immemorial. I think there are two keys to understanding this story.

    Firstly, the covenants we make are to encapsulate an ideal world. Ideally, men would be one with God. That would make it no conflict to be one with one’s husband, because the husband would be one with God. I don’t feel comfortable going much more into the temple covenants in this public forum than that, but hopefully it gives something to think about. Also, ideally, men would respect and love their wives. I relate it to a problem I had with a junior companion on my mission. In a healthy missionary companionship, there is no real difference between a senior and a junior companion. In a dysfunctional one, that difference becomes blindingly obvious. As a corollary, any authority gained from God is dependant on God. This means with the loss of love, concern for the other and the Spirit ends the authority of one over another. If one is not truly acting in God’s name, one has no authority over the other.

    Secondly, being a follower does not mean being a blind follower. This is something our society does not understand, with our laudation of leadership and power. There is equal responsibility of the follower to follow in the Spirit as there is for the leader to lead in the Spirit. In addition, the follower is not cut off from God’s guidance at any time. From personal experience, I believe that God will help us follow our leaders much more often than He will use us to correct them. Learning to follow in the Spirit can be a painful process because we must be humble, but I think it teaches us to become like God more effectively than even leadership can.

  14. 14.

    President Hinckley commented, “Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions.”

    I simply don’t see how Pres. Hinckley can make such an uninformed claim.

    He knows nothing about either my new laptop or my new mitre box saw.

  15. 15.

    I suppose that in trying to make sense of it, I interpret possession in my mind as a way of talking about our responsibility to serve the other, as everyone’s soul is so infinite that no one could ever possess or totalize someone else (thank you, Levinas).

    I think that talking about women only in their relationships to others relates to this topic of the negative aspect of possession. On the modesty thread Elder Oaks was quoted as saying that women are to be wives and mothers in Zion… not streetwalkers in Babylon. The language that concerns me here is also that women seem, to me, to be talked about in relationship terms more than men do: mother, wife, daughter, etc. While there has been a gradual change to address men in relational roles more frequently, in Mormon discourse men are mostly talked about as *men* or Priesthood holders, women are much more often reminded that we are wives and mothers, which implies to some of us that we receive most of our worth through our relationships to men. Yes, I know that Priesthood is also relational, but to me it’s not the same as wife and mother. Even saying that Priesthood leaders need good wives and mothers implies this idea if not balanced with the notion that strong female leaders also need good fathers and husbands. Personally, I hate to see fatherhood and husbandly roles so diminished, and possession discourse itself wouldn’t bother me so much if it were viewed as an equal responsibility we have to the other, regardless of gender role.

  16. 16.

    Good question, Lynnette. We kicked this question around a few years back on T&S, without much in the way of resolution. (See http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=1859 ). The comments there were interesting, and offered some possible interpretations, as well as other instances of similar construction.

    People (on this thread, as well as the T&S thread) have pointed out that these scriptures _can_ be read in a more egalitarian way. The problem isn’t, I think, that one has to read them in a repressive way, today.

    The problem is that clearly, in a prior time, they _were_ read in a repressive way. Women were typically treated as property in the tribal society of ancient Israel — we’ve got all sorts of historical example, one of which is the story from the title of this blog. The use of that language seems to imply divine endorsement of that status quo.

    And so, it creates all sorts of questions for us today. To what extent was God endorsing the (problematic) cultural milieu of the time? If He’s not endorsing the cultural milieu of the time, how should we read that language today? Is it really fair to “update” scripture to meet our own cultural norms? (And how can we tell which scriptures are cultural baggage in need of update, and which are really divine dictate?) And then, when Joseph Smith starts in on the restoration of all things — how much of old Israelite tribal culture gets brought in? There are some things we don’t really _want_ to restore, aren’t there?

  17. 17.

    I think there is a difference between “having” a wife and “owning” a wife. I think that difference makes a world oof difference in the way one reads these verses and ideas.

    My wife is one of the most wonderful things I have in my life, not the most wonderful things I own…

    [please no one take this into a semantical fight over my calling my wife a thing....]

  18. 18.

    The discussion so far has reminded me of a fairly recent (within the past year) thread, where a point was made that since the vast majority of discourse is written and delivered by men, women will always be discussed and addressed in terms of their relationship to men. If I were to talk about any subject, Men, chocolate, dogs, cars, weeds, etc. I would, without fail, address the subject in terms of its relationship to me- simply because that is how I experience the subject. Perhaps we would hear more reciprocity if more discourse was written and delivered by women.

    Which leads me to wonder if perhaps, there isn’t some sort of gender divide in the canon and the female half simply hasn’t been restored yet (if it has ever existed at all). That is to say, perhaps all of the religious texts we have available to us simply aren’t for women, but are strictly for men. If this were true the problematic part wouldn’t necessarily be that our discourse allows a man to think of a woman in terms of her realtionship to him, but rather that we’re expecting this discourse to be just as applicable to women as it is to men.

  19. 19.

    there is no sign of the common contemporary equivalent – “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” – in LDS liturgy.

    By this I assume you mean that, in contrast, in LDS liturgy women are not given by someone else but give themselves to their husbands, which you take as an improvement? (This contrasts even with D&C 132, in which women are given by God.) It may be an improvement, but it hardly strikes me as the ideal. In overly simplistic arithemetic terms, husbands end up with two selves–their own and their wives’. Wives end up with zero selves.

  20. 20.

    Another favorite is the oft-repeated adage, that a virtuous woman is more precious than rubies. (And its unstated corollary, that a woman with a sexual past is therefore probably less precious than rubies.) Gotta love the scriptural affirmations that compare women to rocks.

  21. 21.

    Thomas Parkin (11):

    You raise an interesting point, but I think there are essential linguistic differences between saying something is “mine” and saying that something is “my possession.” Pronouns have no semantic content, only grammatical: they only navigate relationships between other semantically-enabled words, or, more precisely, between those words and the real world. When I say “Lynnette is my looniest sister,” the “my” only expresses the relationship between the semantics (and reference) of “Lynnette” and the semantics of “looniest sister.” Likewise if I say “Peter is Lynnette’s favorite brother, and Ziff is mine” — but notice how different it is, context-free, for me to pronounce that “Ziff is mine.” (Ziff might object to such a declaration, but I think it’s more likely he’d say “What is thy bidding, my master?” in his very best Darth Vader voice.) And if I say “Ziff is my possession,” the only available interpretation is the second one.

    The word “my” or the word “his” or “your” doesn’t mean anything without a grammatical context — it’s just a bundle of free-floating grammatical features looking for something to attach to. But the word “possession” means a lot even outside of a sentence or phrase, and what it means has to do with ownership and control. Genitive costructions, including genitive pronouns, express that things are affiliated and usually specified (e.g., not just any school, but the “School of Rock“; not just any sister, but “my sister”; not just any Darth Vader voice, but “Ziff’s Darth Vader voice.”) The semantics of the word “possession” mean it has a particular kind of specific affiliation, however: one of subordination, ownership, and control. You may be able to argue for a metaphorical usage of the word “possession,” but it’s going to be a metaphor based on the word’s core meaning, not on our hope for what the speaker’s intent really was.

    But you can’t argue that broad grammatical usage makes specific word-choice meaningless, or even less meaningful. The two things are not parallel; if anything, they are perpendicular.

  22. 22.

    There are a couple of strategies with which we attempt to neutralize passages indicating that wives are their husbands’ property (passages that can be found in our liturgy, in GC, and all throughout the scriptures).

    I wouldn’t use the word “possession”, but it certainly seems to me that a husband can belong to a wife,(or parents to children) just as much as the other way around.

    Strategy 1: It is claimed that such statements are implicitly reciprocal–they apply both ways. I had a bishop who explained very carefully to me that everybody understands that husbands are to hearken to their wives exactly as wives hearken to their husbands. Of course wives are their husbands’ possessions–husbands are equally the possession of their wives!

    But if this is what we “mean,” why not state it explicitly? Why do the General Relief Society Presidency not equally remind the sisters that their husbands are their most treasured possessions and should be treated accordingly?

    I submit that not everyone understands the language this way.

    With all this in mind, I’m not particularly troubled about thinking of my wife as a possesion, a treasured one – and I have much less qualm about her thinking of me as belonging to her. Perhaps God gave me to her – I also give myself.

    The question is, why did God ask her to give herself to you but not ask you to give yourself to her?

    We can hardly claim that gender differences are essential and eternal on the one hand and then turn around and ignore gender differences in our own sacred texts. If the relationship is intended to be reciprocal, why is it stated in differential terms?

    There is no sense in which I consider my wife a possession.

    Strategy 2: Empirical counterexamples are marshalled–no husbands actually think of their wives as their possessions, thus the language of “possession” must mean something else entirely.

    How much bearing, though, does our behavior have on what the language means? Using a similar strategy we could argue that fasting means eating a banana for breakfast.

    I think there is a difference between “having” a wife and “owning” a wife.

    Strategy 3: Terms are redefined or reoriented. “Possession” no longer implies “ownership,” any more than do verbs such as “give” or “receive.”

    I understand that we’ve moved away from the model of ownership. But what is the model being advocated, then? It looks to me like mumbo-jumbo. We peel words’ commensensical meanings off of from them without any clear replacement meanings. Following this strategy, it’s hard not to end up arguing that a) gender roles are important and wives are their husbands’ possessions, and yet b) we don’t have the foggiest idea, in practical terms, what this means. (Why then would gender roles be important?)

    What’s unsatisfying to me about all these strategies is that, to the degree I accept the inspired nature of our canonized texts/liturgy, I accept that God has decreed that I am to be another individual’s possession, with little indication that “possession” means something other than “property,” or that “possession” means “how Brother Jones treats his wife.”

    This compromises my relationship with God.

  23. 23.

    the covenants we make are to encapsulate an ideal world. Ideally, men would be one with God. That would make it no conflict to be one with one’s husband, because the husband would be one with God.

    What I don’t understand about this oft-repeated explanation is that the insertion of the husband into the equation is then utterly superfluous (and virtually nonsensical).

    I’m asked to play Following the Leader. Individual X is asked to follow Individual Y. I’m asked to follow Individual X–but the goal is not that I follow X at all, but only that I follow Y!

    Why not then just ask me to follow Y? If the desired goal is that X and I follow Y together, why not ask for that explicitly? What’s the purpose of arranging us in a line, with me behind X?

  24. 24.

    Melyngoch,

    What is thy bidding, my master?

    Now would you please lay off the Jedi mind tricks?

  25. 25.

    While I object to being called my husband’s possession, that’s actually not the part of Pres. Hinckley statement that bothers me the most. Let’s look at the relevant sentences:

    Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions. Wives, encourage and pray for your husbands. They need all the help they can get.

    Men are told to “love” and “treasure” their wives. Women are told to “encourage”, “pray for”, and “help” their husbands. I think that this is pretty common in church discourse. How much better would it be if the general authorities, instead of telling husbands to treasure their wives, said something like, “Husbands, your wives are working hard, and doing important things. Encourage them, help them, and pray for them.”

    While love is great, I don’t particularly care about being treasured. And I know I could always do with more encouragement, help, and prayers. That would be an inspiring message.

  26. 26.

    Kiskilili:

    Strategy 3: Terms are redefined or reoriented. “Possession” no longer implies “ownership,” any more than do verbs such as “give” or “receive.”

    Of course, I am not personally trying to redefine words so much as clarfy what they mean for me, for the sake of discussion. You may discount that attempt if you like, but I hope you do see what difference this makes.

    I understand that we’ve moved away from the model of ownership. But what is the model being advocated, then? It looks to me like mumbo-jumbo. We peel words’ common sensical meanings off of from them without any clear replacement meanings.

    I thought we had moved toward a model of co-ownership. You know, the woman is not the woman’s, but the man’s, and the man is not the man’s, but the woman’s. I hear clear “replacement” meanings all the time. But then, to me, these aren’t replacement meanings, as they were the meanings taught me from the onset.

    Following this strategy, it’s hard not to end up arguing that a) gender roles are important and wives are their husbands’ possessions, and yet b) we don’t have the foggiest idea, in practical terms, what this means. (Why then would gender roles be important?)

    You are making some sort of cognitive leap here based on reasoning not stated, and that I thus do not understand. I could make some assumptions based on your tone, etc, but i’d rather not stereotype you. Why do you feel that gender roles have anything to do with wives being their husbands possessions? Do you feel gender roles are unimportant?

  27. 27.

    How about this?

  28. 28.

    Sorry, Matt–I should have clarified that I did not mean to single you out particularly but was using your comment as emblematic of general trends I’ve observed, which may not have been entirely fair to your comment!

    I’m still somewhat confused about your position: your argument is that, in the case of a term like “possession,” its “appropriate” meaning entails co-ownership?

    If so, I would ask the following: does this apply to restricted contexts only or more generally? (If I say my violin is my “possession,” is it understood that we own each other? Or is it only true of sentient beings?)

    Secondly, if “possession” implies an entirely reciprocal relationship, is it possible to switch the possessor and possessee without changing the meaning? (My computer owns me=I own my computer.)

    The cognitive leap I’m making comes from stated teachings of the Church:

    A. Gender roles are important.
    B. Wives are the possessions of their husbands.

    I understand “gender roles” to involve the ways in which the genders are asked to behave differently. I understand “possession” to indicate a differential, rather than reciprocal, relationship–i.e., the possessor and possessee cannot be switched without changing the meaning. Thus, the husband’s possession of the wife is an instance of gender roles.

  29. 29.

    Vada,

    Based on your comment, would you agree that the brethren seem to think that the men of the church need much more help, encouragement, etc.? This seems evident also in the very different discourses presented to priesthood and relief society in broadcasts–the former often having an air of ‘shape up’ and even reprimand, and the latter often focused on encouragement and compliments? If so, would you rather that the relief society discourse be more similar to the priesthood one (since ‘shaping up’ seems to suggest a greater agency, at least to me)?

  30. 30.

    I think you’re on to something, K.

    Implied reciprocity is one common response to the expressed concern — i.e., that statements about husbands owning their wives should imply that wives also own their husbands.

    But as a church we emphasize different gender roles, and implied reciprocity is absolutely _not_ the norm in many other gender contexts.

    Most members, for example, wouldn’t say that there’s implied reciprocity in the statement “a husband may give a priesthood blessing to his wife.”

  31. 31.

    Good point! Elimination of gender identity (“women behaving as men,” etc.) is usually presented as a threat to the established order. So it fascinates me that downplaying prescribed gender differences (“if women are their husbands’ possessions, that must mean men are equally their wives’ possessions”–effectively eliminating stated differences between men’s and women’s roles) is so frequently presented in the context of orthodoxy.

  32. 32.

    formula is the great equalizer … lol

    I find it sad that anyone would consider using an inferior form of infant nutrition for the sake of equality. My son-in-law does more than half of the childcare for their baby, but he would bring the infant to my daughter’s office to be fed.

  33. 33.

    What I don’t understand about this oft-repeated explanation is that the insertion of the husband into the equation is then utterly superfluous (and virtually nonsensical).

    ………

    Why not then just ask me to follow Y? If the desired goal is that X and I follow Y together, why not ask for that explicitly? What’s the purpose of arranging us in a line, with me behind X?

    Because in the process X learns something from having the responsibility of holding the priesthood for his family, and blessing them and baptizing them, etc.

  34. 34.

    Along the lines that Kiskilili was describing, I was thinking about under which circumstances we take the gender roles at face value and which ones we slightly (or obviously) change the meaning. I think these circumstances vary with surrounding culture. In the US right now, it is not at all appropriate to see a woman as a possession, so if we hear language like this in the church, we spin it so that it means reciprocity. However, the “priesthood” and “men as ecclesastical leaders” doesn’t seem to have the same spin and I think that is because these doctrines are confined to the church where it is more acceptable for women to be subjected to men. There is no “spin” on why women don’t have the priesthood. If asked, women seem to respond on either extreme: depricating, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly handle that responsibility” or arrogant, “I don’t need it, I’m already better than men” Either way, it’s not the same language, neither is generally understood as the acceptable version of a troubling inequality.

  35. 35.

    So one way of reading our sacred texts (perhaps hinted at in comment 13) is that women and men both follow God and the differences in phrasing (men follow God directly, women through men) are ultimately insignifant and are intended to portray an equal and reciprocal partnership in which both parties have equal access to the divine. (Several problems militate against adopting this reading.)

    Another way of reading our liturgy (perhaps hinted at in comment 33) is that men, for whatever reason, are allowed closer access to the divine and increased responsibilities that entail leading women to the divine. This latter reading, in contrast, is clearly hierarchical.

  36. 36.

    What I don’t understand about this oft-repeated explanation is that the insertion of the husband into the equation is then utterly superfluous (and virtually nonsensical).

    Not if you take into account the doctrine in 1 Corinthians 11:11 (neither is the man without the woman . . . .) If we are whole only with another, and we are meant to learn to work together as one, then it makes much more sense.

    I, personally, don’t see much difference in listening to my husband as long as he is listening to God and listening to God directly. In both cases, I’m asking God and seeking confirmation and inspiration from Him. Additionally, the one does not preclude the other.

    I also think a bit too much is read into these things. I think most of the wordings that are agonized over are mostly a result of habitual phrasing on the part of the speaker. I know I have a personal relationship to God, so anything saying otherwise must be misinterpretation on someone’s part. That is enough for me.

  37. 37.

    Also in the Doctrine and Covenants, we find that a husband can force a wife over her objections to accept her husband’s choice of another wife. This practice differs from the Old Testament practice of polygamy (the Law of Sarah) where first wives played active roles in selecting additional wives. Polygamy is a unique way women are treated as possessions/property and traded among men. Perhaps Mormon history of polygamy informs some of the Mormon discourse on women being possessions.

    64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.

    65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

  38. 38.

    If we are whole only with another, and we are meant to learn to work together as one, then it makes much more sense.

    I’m still not understanding. If husband and wife are meant to “learn to work together as one,” as equal partners, it makes much more sense to create a hierarchy in which husband stands between God and wife? If you’re right, wouldn’t it make more sense for both to hearken together to God?

    I, personally, don’t see much difference in listening to my husband as long as he is listening to God and listening to God directly. In both cases, I’m asking God and seeking confirmation and inspiration from Him. Additionally, the one does not preclude the other.

    I see a big difference. The one does not preclude the other, but women are not even asked to hearken to God–that’s an assumption we bring to the text. On the other hand, women are explicitly asked to defer to their husbands. If God is responsible for this phrasing and yet God does not intend for us to take it seriously, he should have phrased it differently.

    I think most of the wordings that are agonized over are mostly a result of habitual phrasing on the part of the speaker.

    The question is why the speaker is habitually phrasing things to indicate women are second-class citizens.

  39. 39.

    Kiskili(28), no worries, I am grateful for the respectful dialogue in any case.

    To me there is an obvious difference between a spouse as a possession and a violin, so I would say the limit is then to sentient beings.

    Anyway, I think you are being somewhat overly literal here. My wife calls me honey sometimes, but I do not worry that she is in that word relegating me to the status of bee vomit.

    As for Gender roles, I think it is emprically proven that there are gender differences. As to the implications from that to appropriate gender roles, that is harded for me to say. I will say that I went through Gospel Principles chapter on gender roles last night, and It only had some minor real differences noted, and primarily notes “In marriage neither the man nor the woman is more important than the other. They are equal partners and should work together to provide for the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the family.” as the over-arching rule prior to any mention of difference at all. The message seems to be equal but different, and the gender roles seem to be somewhat flexible.

  40. 40.

    Matt W., the wikipedia article you linked to discusses “sex differences”. I would argue that there is a world of difference between “sex differences” and “gender differences”.

    If this were merely a debate about semantics, then perhaps I’d agree that we can take these words too literally (I enjoyed your “bee vomit” comparison!). That said, these are words used in our sacred texts to construct and maintain our religious community and our most intimate familial relationships. Given their importance, it’s crucial that we understand exactly what these words mean (and why).

  41. 41.

    ECS, I was focusing mainly on the psycholigical section under that entry, it does contain the caveat:

    Studies of psychological gender differences are controversial and subject to error. Many small-scale studies report differences that are not repeated in larger studies. Self-report questionnaires are subject to bias, particularly if the subjects are told that the questionnaire is testing for gender roles. It is also possible that commentators may exaggerate or downplay differences for ideological reasons.

    Anyway, since you would argue the difference between sex differences and gender differences, please do. I would probably agree with most of what you say, but I would say what you call gender differences are what I would call gender stereotypes. The trick is differentiating between the two, which I have not yet seen a solid study which convincingly can present the final word in that regard. I hope we can agree on that, at least.

    And as far as these words being in our sacred texts, I would say that we have just as much room to move on that, since we are not bible inerrantists…

  42. 42.

    Hi, Matt. Apologies in advance if I come across harshly–I admit to being obsessed with this issue, and my obsession has nothing to do with you personally. :)

    I have no doubt there are different sex-based tendencies, although I’m not convinced we understand them adequately, let alone that certain gendered models for behavior that the Church presents represent the best or even a necessary codification of those apparent differences.

    Literal and metaphorical readings exist on a spectrum–metaphorical readings necessarily invoke more “literal” implications and associations. So even if “possession” is merely a metaphor for the relationship between wife and husband and does not delineate property in any legal sense, what makes it an appropriate metaphor? Its currency as a metaphor derives from its more “literal” usages.

    If it does not indicate anything about gender, why does it always go one way? Where is the talk in which Sister Beck enjoins the sisters to treasure their husbands as their most prized possessions? Where is the scripture in which God gives virgin husbands to valiant women?

    Additionally, who is authorized to decide when to read prophets’ words “literally” and when to read them “metaphorically”? Obviously I can’t legitimately suggest that the injunction to do my visiting teaching is a metaphor indicating I should be friendly to my fellow RS sisters–it means something more specific. Several sources (liturgy, conference talks, scriptures) converge to indicate that wives belong to their husbands. What hermeneutic authorizes me to dismiss the literal implications of these sources?

    I appreciate that gender roles are somewhat flexible in the Church, and have grown increasingly flexible over the course of my life. But that flexibility has a definite limit. I cannot willfully change the wording of ordinances to reflect what I would rather promise God, or what I would like my relationship to God to entail, nor can I go through the temple as a man, for example.

    I take Church language literally because it purports to be the most accurate way of discerning the contours of my relationship with God, and this matters deeply to me as a religious person.

  43. 43.

    we have just as much room to move on that, since we are not bible inerrantists…

    The question is, are we temple inerrantists? Are we General Conference inerrantists? What’s our hermeneutic for creating interpretive “room to move”? In discussing the Bible, we typically invoke false translation and “vain and conspiring men” who supposedly altered the text, rather than prophetic misunderstanding of the divine will or the like. But neither of the former options gives us much “room to move” when applied to contemporary sacred texts.

  44. 44.

    Kiskilili,

    I should know better than to address this issue with someone who is admittedly obsessed with it… but here I go anyway.

    Is your obsession over the metaphysical question of whether women actually become the property/posession of men in the eternities? Or are you convinced as I am that such a notion is utter poppycock?

    If you are convinced with me that this one-way posession/ownership thing (meaning the silly idea that husbands literally own their wives in the eternities to come but not vice-versa) is a ridiculous and false doctrine; then doesn’t that reduce this overall discussion to be about what some people might incorrectly believe in the church? If it is the latter it seems to me that the stakes are pretty low.

    If you are seriously concerned about the metaphysical/theological truth behind the matter isn’t that something you should take to the source? What I mean is, God certainly knows the answer to this one and this isn’t the type of thing that we can all turn to him for answers to?

  45. 45.

    Geoff J., if I may -

    Kiskilili can certainly speak for herself, but if you were to proceed in this conversation under the assumption that she actually has already attempted exactly what you recommend, you would be on safe ground.

  46. 46.

    Right — good point.

  47. 47.

    then doesn’t that reduce this overall discussion to be about what some people might incorrectly believe in the church? If it is the latter it seems to me that the stakes are pretty low.

    I disagree that the said stakes are low. The question of whether or not a husband ‘actually’ owns his wife has less significance than whether or not a pervasive belief of such exists. Such a belief has the power to not only shape our interpersonal relationships, but it also has the power to shape the policy of the Church. I would say that if the Church hierarchy holds such a belief (and I believe that their cultural heritage has imbued them with such a bias), we are affected greatly by it.

  48. 48.

    The question of whether or not a husband ‘actually’ owns his wife has less significance than whether or not a pervasive belief of such exists.

    This seems incredibly backwards to me. Geoff is operating under the assumption that very few people, if any, believe that husbands ‘own’ their wives- an assumption I agree with. Most men that I know would laught at the idea. What Kiskilili and Lynnette are getting at is that, regardless of what most people on the ground believe, the most straightforward reading of our doctrinal texts is that wives belong to their husbands as possesions. While I’m currently quite content being married to a man who does not see me as a possesion, I’m very troubled by the notion that one day when everything is restored to its proper order we’ll all finally understand that the texts were literal and that I, as a woman, exist only as an appendage to my husband and will exist as such for all eternity. On the ground practice is nice for now, but eternity is an awful long time, and I’d like to know what exactly I should be looking forward to.

  49. 49.

    Both SilverRain (#36) and Geoff J (#44) raise an issue that I’ve been trying to sort out for myself, namely, how does (and should) one’s personal experience of God fit into all of this? On the one hand, I have to say that my own conviction that God doesn’t see women as objects or property, that he interacts with us and values us as full human beings, is to a large degree based on my personal religious experience. However, that doesn’t make me less troubled by the extent to which I see a rather different viewpoint reflected in Church teachings.

    For one thing, I don’t find it possible to neatly separate my experiences with God from my experiences with the Church, the two are intertwined. The ways in which I pray, in which I imagine and understand God, are profoundly shaped by my participation in the LDS community and the doctrines which it espouses. If the portrayal of God I encounter in church is of a being who seems more interested in communicating with men than women, for example, how could that not at least to some extent affect my religious life? In fact, few things in my life have more deeply challenged my faith in a loving God than LDS teachings on gender. That’s one reason why I find it difficult to ignore statements I find painful even if they might be potentially countered by personal revelation.

    And when the experiences I’ve had of God in my personal spiritual practice do clash with the portrayal of God I encounter elsewhere (in the scriptures, in church liturgy, in the teachings of General Authorities), that raises some real tension for me. Of course I’d like to believe that God is the way I want him to be, that I can dismiss unpalatable ideas like women as property simply on the basis that they’re unpalatable. But I think I have to be open to at least the possibility that I’m incorrectly interpreting my own revelation on this matter, that my beliefs are overly grounded in contemporary notions of egalitarianism, after all, don’t we have scriptures and prophets and so forth precisely to serve as a check on personal revelation run amok? It seems that lately I’ve heard again and again that we should look for patterns in Church teachings to discover those things that are most central and significant to our faith. And if language indicating that women belong to men runs through the scriptures, teachings from General Authorities, and liturgy, I’m not sure I can simply ignore it. Church doctrine about gender haunts me not because I actually believe that God values women less, but because such doctrine constantly reminds me that no matter how much I might believe that God doesn’t see women in such a light, I might be wrong.

    Of course, there are a variety of ways to deal with a perceived tension between one’s personal religious experience and Church teachings. One is to reject a straightforward read of such teachings in favor of something more favorable-sounding (e.g., attempts to re-define the meaning of preside in a non-hierarchical way, or to read temple liturgy as containing an implicit reciprocity). I have to admit that I’m uneasy with approaches like this, however, because they often seem to ignore what our texts actually say in favor of what we wish they would say. I also think that we have to be accountable for the straightforward reading of our texts, in other words, if someone takes statements like these literally and believes that women belong to men, I don’t think we can say, “well s/he should have known that that’s not really what it means.” If that’s not really what it means, I think there’s much to be said for directly communicating that fact.

    Another way of dealing with this is to re-think the extent of God’s involvement in the Church, to question whether particular phrases and teachings are truly inspired. I’ve certainly at times ended up opting for that route. But I’m all too aware of its dangers, of the fact that I may well be exhibiting hubris in thinking that I can discern what is truly inspired in the Church, and what is simply cultural baggage. And if I take that perspective, I still can’t escape the question: if God is genuinely involved in this church (which is something I believe), why does he allow (and even seem to be endorsing) the propagation of such notions? I also have to figure out what sense to make of the fact that I, as a believing Mormon, have found more peace in my relationship with God by taking certain doctrines less seriously, what does that mean about my belief in the Church?

    Someone might here play the card of “God’s ways are not your ways” and argue that female subordination and God’s goodness aren’t necessarily incompatible, that I’m simply not understanding how the patriarchal order benefits women, that I’m relying excessively on “worldly” reason in approaching these topics. But I don’t buy into a framework in which the Spirit is set up in opposition to reason. God speaks to us, after all, in our minds as well as in our hearts. I’m all too aware that my reason is fallible, that my conscience is culturally shaped. But I nonetheless believe that I am accountable to my best sense of right and wrong.

    Where does this all leave me? Rather confused (as this long-winded comment doubtless demonstrates). I do not personally believe that God sees women as male adjuncts or possessions; in fact, I deeply believe in a God who is no respecter of persons, who relates with all his children directly, who does not endorse dehumanization of any group of people. This belief is grounded both in my personal experience and in my understanding of the Christian message, and I believe that a solid case can be made for it. However, unsettling though the possibility may be, I think I have to at least acknowledge that there are other plausible interpretations of the situation.

  50. 50.

    When I say “Lynnette is my looniest sister”

    Umm, Melyngoch, do you think you could perhaps refrain from making clearly false statements on this thread? :P

  51. 51.

    Lynnette- I agree with absolutely everything you just wrote. I just don’t feel comfortable assuming that God is everything I think He should be, especially when it entails selective readings, and creative interpretations of doctrine. This always reminds me of the common description of Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia- “He’s certainly not a tame lion.”

  52. 52.

    Thanks, Lynnette. I think you’ve cogently explained a Mormon Feminist’s position with out being accusatory and putting anyone on the defensive.

  53. 53.

    Lynette, you’ve captured my thoughts exactly! I would just add more angst over, “what if God really does see me as a possession of men, as somehow inferior? What if that’s true?!!” It’s such a difficult inner struggle. (I’m going to copy and paste your comment and send it to everyone who cares in my address book.) What a great way of explaining the tension I feel every day. Everytime I read about men in the scriptures and wonder, “Does this mean all mankind, or just men?” Sometimes it’s not as obvious as you’d think.
    I think the idea of women as possessions is manifest in many practices of the church where women appear to be on an inferior level to men. There are subtle ways that women are seen differently throughout the church. For example, I went to a Visiting Teaching workshop tonight where we learned that the standards for a visit by the sisters are not as rigorous as the standards for a man’s home teaching visit (which I knew already). The teacher then refuted the assumption that “Visiting teaching isn’t as important as home teaching,” by saying just that, as if it was an explanation of some kind. I find it hard to refute that assumption when the programs are set up to reflect that inequality. It may be a silly example, but I see them everywhere.

  54. 54.

    oops, the quote at the end should be followed by, “by saying that it is as important as Home Teaching, . . .” (too late, must . . . sleep . . .)

  55. 55.

    Wow. I must admit I am surprised…

    Well let me state that I am certain that anyone who thinks God sees women as possessions or property is simply wrong. Has anyone here ever had a revelation from God that remotely indicates that God sees women as something less than beloved daughters? I find even the implication that the God we all worship would see men as his children but women as something less than that (what? pets?) utterly repugnant. But from what I can tell so do you all. I would bet the farm that there is not a Mormon general authority alive that would say that God sees women as possessions or property. The idea seem so preposterous to me — so ludicrous — that it is only now that I’ve realized that any person in this church could take it seriously.

    So of course the language in the scriptures that might be read that way is wrong. But don’t take my word for it — ask God himself. He’s still around now just like he was when all the canonized revelation were given after all. If someone — anyone (including a former prophet) — ever did believe that God sees women are less than men or possessions/property they were simply wrong. But I’m not convinced any prophet ever taught such a thing anyway.

    BTW — I put up a post recently that had some quotes I think y’all would find very interesting. Here is one of those quotes from Elder Erastus Snow:

    In other words, there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female.

    I firmly believe Elder Snow is right.

  56. 56.

    Hmmm… The link to that post sort of disappeared or something. Click here to see the whole Erastus Snow reference and other supporting materials.

  57. 57.

    Thanks, Starfoxy, Becca, and Jessawhy, it’s nice to hear that my rather long attempt to articulate some of my thoughts on this made sense to someone!

    Geoff, I very much appreciate the strength of your convictions regarding this matter. For what it’s worth, in case it wasn’t clear in my above comments, I share them. I’ve certainly had my share of conversations with God about this topic. And as I said earlier, my belief that God equally values women is in fact primarily based on personal spiritual experience.

    However, the point I was trying to make was that such experiences, though I deeply value them, haven’t eradicated my feminist concerns. This is partly because they stand somewhat in tension with my understanding of certain Church teachings, and I don’t see an easy way to resolve that tension.

    I’d also note that a deep conviction that God sees women as full human beings doesn’t necessarily equate to a conviction that the Church likewise takes that view (unless you completely conflate the two). And no matter my personal beliefs about God, I find it difficult to be part of a religious community which despite numerous explicit declarations of a belief in equality, nonetheless formally subordinates women in a variety of ways–especially because of the influence my church membership has on my personal religious life.

    (By the way, I hope it’s clear that I’m simply trying to untangle my own rather complicated experience here–I’m not trying to make sweeping generalizations about female experience in the Church, which I realize is quite diverse.)

  58. 58.

    There have been so many interesting observations and comments on this thread; I appreciate all the thoughtful contributions. Just to pick up on a couple of the ideas that have been mentioned:

    Starfoxy, I have to say that I’m quite intrigued by your suggestion in #18 . Are we perhaps taking religious texts aimed at men and written by men, and which therefore primarily describe women only in relation to men, and unthinkingly assuming that they apply equally to women simply because that’s all we have? Definitely something to think about.

    Naismith (#33) said (in response to Kiskilili’s why should I follow X, if the point is that both of us are to ultimately follow Y):

    Because in the process X learns something from having the responsibility of holding the priesthood for his family, and blessing them and baptizing them, etc.

    I’m still trying to think this out, but I can imagine a scenario in which women are responsible for certain things and men for others, but both of them are nonetheless equally enjoined to follow Y together. So I’m wondering whether having men responsible for priesthood ordinances and blessings truly necessitates that they be the ones formally charged with leadership. (Actually, it seems that given the frequently repeated notion that motherhood is the calling that puts you closest to God, one could make the case that men should covenant to follow their wives, given the latter’s apparently closer connection to the divine. ;))

    Another thought, getting back to the specific issue of women as possessions. ECS in #37 raised the issue of polygamy, which I see as fairly central to this discussion. I have to wonder to what extent our language about marriage (women giving themselves to their husbands) is a holdover from the days of polygamy, and perhaps tied to our belief in its continuing existence in some form (I think Ziff and others made this point on the FMH thread where this issue came up). This is total speculation, of course, but if the language were different, and women and men gave themselves to each other, would that pose any kind of problem for the current situation in which a man can be sealed to more than one wife?

  59. 59.

    RE #49 Lynette

    The ‘nailing jello to the wall’ school of Mormon doctrinal exposition has always driven me nuts. It is a strength of the church, I have to admit. You can justify almost anything if you look in the right places and quote the right quotes. Evolution, anti evolution, feminist, anti feminist, modern medicine, anti modern medicine; it’s all there. It’s how Sunstone, Meridian and Bo Gritz mormons can all end up going to the same church and actually getting along. But it is infuriating none the less.

    You’ve cognizently summarized the issue around feminism and the role of women here, I know what I believe but I don’t know what the church preaches. Indeed, within my short life there are Hinckley and Benson, both of which have said vastly different things… just depending on when I pull the quotes out.

  60. 60.

    Thanks Lynnette,

    In #44 I asked if the question was about the actual truth behind the question of whether women will ever become the possessions/property of their husbands or anyone else. In #49 you indicated you personally hoped not but were afraid that such might be the case. But then in #57 it sounds like you are whistling another tune after all and you really don’t worry that there is a chance you will become the possession of someone else after this life (so we agree on that).

    But the second part of my question in #44 was if it wasn’t really an issue of believing that becoming a possession/property to another person will really happen to you or any other woman, then it must be a question of whether other Mormons believe you will. In #57 you said “I’d also note that a deep conviction that God sees women as full human beings doesn’t necessarily equate to a conviction that the Church likewise takes that view.” The major problem with this comment is that the Church doesn’t have a mind of its own. People take views. Do you know of Mormon anywhere in the world who holds a conviction that all women will literally become the property or possessions of their husbands after this life? I don’t. As I said in my last comment, I’d bet the farm that no GA believes such a ridiculous thing.

    So it appears to me that nobody here believes women will literally become someone else’s possession, and that we know of no one anywhere who really believes that. So why all the hand wringing?

  61. 61.

    Geoff, I see your concerns as quite literal. I’m not thinking in terms quite that black and white. Perhaps the concern that women are literal possessions isn’t as great as wondering what we are, if we’re not possessions, exactly, but we don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges as men, either. It’s a strange place to be, in sovereignty limbo. The first example that comes to mind is husbands calling forth their wives in the resurrection. Wives may not be property , per se, but we’ve never learned about that doctrine as being reciprocal (how could it be?).

  62. 62.

    Geoff, I see a similiar communication problem here as on the previous thread about Dallin Oaks’ pornography talk about women becoming objects. You say here that it’s “ridiculous” to assume that _any_ Mormon in the entire world or any General Authority believes that women are property.

    But how to account for the numerous scriptural references (including in the Book of Mormon, the D&C, and in the temple ceremony) to women as the property/possession of a man? Or the references to men “ruling” over women or “presiding” over women? Do the GA’s simply dismiss these sacred texts as “ridiculous”? And if so, how did they come to that conclusion?

  63. 63.

    Kiskili, I’m not ignoring you, but I have multiple papers to write and lots of work to do. I am still thinking about what you said.

    In short, I would HOPE (I can’t say think or believe, as I am absolutely uncertain) that members of the church are fundamentally “God inerrantists” and pliable in all other areas. I think there is evidence for this, in that the temple has changed, the leadership has changed, and statements in General Conference have changed…

    Back to the papers… I mean who really cares about the evolution of transnational businesses?

  64. 64.

    ECS: You say here that it’s “ridiculous” to assume that _any_ Mormon in the entire world or any General Authority believes that women are property.

    Actually that is not what I said. I said any doctrine that has women becoming property is ridiculous and false. I asked if anyone here knows anyone in the church who believes that doctrine. I strongly suspect no one here knows anyone who actually believes that. (Do you know of anyone who believes that?)

    All these other questions people are asking (about presiding and whatnot) are interesting enough. But they aren’t the specific subject of this thread as far as I can tell so I am trying to stay on topic. The question asked is if women are or ever will be property/possessions. The simple answer is no.

  65. 65.

    Jessawhy,

    Can you elaborate on this “husbands calling forth their wives in the resurrection” thing a bit? Is that in the canon somewhere?

  66. 66.

    The major problem with this comment is that the Church doesn’t have a mind of its own. People take views. Do you know of Mormon anywhere in the world who holds a conviction that all women will literally become the property or possessions of their husbands after this life? I don’t. As I said in my last comment, I’d bet the farm that no GA believes such a ridiculous thing.

    Geoff, this is the quote I’m referring to. You did not mention “doctrines”, but people’s “views” and “conviction”. Since you keep questioning my ability to read plain English, please help me understand the difference between what I said you said and what you said.

  67. 67.

    Geoff J

    President Hinckley commented, “Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions.”

  68. 68.

    Geoff J

    I’m like you, I think, “There’s no way such a doctrine would be true! Absolutely not!” about a lot of things. Then it turns out that such doctrines are true. That was my first reaction when told about polygamy. I thought the girl at church was crazy. I also thought that there was no way God would endorse a man marrying multiple women when his wife objected, but He did (with Emma). Based on most of the Old Testament, I feel that God does not act in ways that I would expect quite a lot of the time. I think that’s why we have scriptures, to teach us. I think we can’t be taught if we ignore what they say and simply cry, “It can’t be so!”

  69. 69.

    Geoff,
    pardon me for interrupting, but I’m familiar with that idea too, and an attempt to search for a quote failed to find anything other than apostate temple links. Hopefully, if the idea is relatively orthodox, somebody else will succeed at finding a reference.

    anyway, the idea is that resurrection is a priesthood ordinance, and that men call wives from the grave first. It requires knowing her name, and explains why not vice versa. There are, of course, scriptures where the Lord calls people forth from graves, but priesthood is His power delegated to men, and in this teaching righteous men get to raise their families.

  70. 70.

    As to “husbands calling forth their wives in the resurrection”, this is a bit of folk lore in the making, but When I went to the Temple to be sealed to my wife, there was a gentleman temple worker who brought this up. It is the one and only time I’ve ever heard it mentioned. He brought it up only to point out that it meant the wife had the right to not come to her husband in the resurrection if he lived unworthy of her. It definitely was not presented in the fashion that women were possesions.

  71. 71.

    One more thing. Here Is a quick search of lds.org for “most prescious possesions.” Note that children are parents’ most prescious possessions, and family is everyone’s most prescious possession. (I figured these were more relevent than the other most prescious possesions, books, a hygiene kit, our testimony, and jewelry.)

    Anyway, if family is everyone’s most prescious possession, regardless of gender, then I don’t think the wife being the husband’s most prescious possesion is that much of a stretch, nor does the concept negate the idea that the husband is also the wife’s most prescious possession. (Though it would be interesting to see survey data on men and women discerning in spouse or children were the “more prescious” thing to have.)

  72. 72.

    Well, I can certainly see why my comments might appear to contradict each other, because my experiences, feelings, and even beliefs on this matter are in fact somewhat contradictory. ;) As I said, I’m still trying to sort out my own perspective here–so thanks for being patient with my confusion.

    Anyway, I’ll try once again. I believe that God doesn’t see woman as possessions. I really do believe this. But I can’t escape my awareness that I’ve opted for this particular belief from a multiplicity of potential interpretations. And when I go to church, read the scriptures, etc., I find that I have to continually confront a different understanding of God–which at least for me, keeps it an open possibility that my convictions on this matter are wrong.

    I wonder if part of the reason why I’m maybe not communicating this terribly clearly is that when I talk about religious belief, I don’t mean something that you’re absolutely convinced is true because you’ve definitively ruled out all alternatives–but more of a kind of approach to the world which you enter into in hope, but which is also open to continual revision as you gain more understanding. As I see it, faith by its very nature includes an awareness of the possibility that some of even my most deeply held convictions aren’t entirely accurate–if I had complete certainty, after all, it wouldn’t be faith. And I don’t see faith as something static but rather as something dynamic, something which grows and changes–which implies that my current beliefs and understanding of God are imperfect, that I can’t claim to have “arrived,” so to speak, and figured it all out. I really could be wrong, even about some basic things.

    And as to the question of whether “the Church” can hold a view, as opposed to individuals in the Church. I would argue that there does in fact exist a body of doctrines and teachings that we refer to as belonging to the Church as an institution in a way that goes beyond the beliefs of particular individuals. We don’t say, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc., were of the opinion that God is corporeal–rather we say, LDS doctrine is that God is corporeal. So my question isn’t whether individual General Authorities believe that women are possessions (though given their language, I think it’s at least possible that some might subscribe to a sort of kindler, gentler version of this model in which wives do in some sense belong to their husbands). As angrymormonliberal mentioned, LDS doctrine is notoriously difficult to pin down. But I’m nonethess trying to figure out here: what are the implications of our various scriptures, liturgy, and prophetic teachings on this matter? Even if they don’t indicate that women are eternally property, they nonetheless might convey something about eternal gender relations–which is why I’m not sure that other issues (e.g., men presiding) are in fact irrelevant to this discussion.

  73. 73.

    I hope I’m not exhausting my welcome, but here is a thought from President Hinckley in 2002:

    In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey.

    She is not your servant, your chattel, nor anything of the kind.

  74. 74.

    Rilkerunning (#68) said:

    I’m like you, I think, “There’s no way such a doctrine would be true! Absolutely not!” about a lot of things. Then it turns out that such doctrines are true. That was my first reaction when told about polygamy. I thought the girl at church was crazy.

    Thanks for giving such a clear and concrete example of what I’m trying to get at. Of course I’m horrified by the idea that God might not see women as full human beings. But quite candidly, I’m also horrified by the Abraham and Isaac story, and by a number of other things in the scriptures. I struggle to find ways to account for them. But I don’t think I can dismiss the questions they raise, or the challenge they pose to my faith.

  75. 75.

    Not exhausting your welcome at all, Matt, and thanks for mentioning that quote.

    Okay, here goes another ramble. I see this as one of those situations in which you get different messages from different places (e.g., this scripture says a, this one says b, the temple says c, and this particular prophet says d), and the challenge is to figure out what to do with them all. One option is to attempt to harmonize them into one giant whole; to say, in essence, even though they might sound contradictory, they actually all mean e. But to be honest, I don’t think that usually works; most such attempts that I’ve seen fall into incoherency. Another is to pick either a, b, c, or d as the lens through which to read all the others. But as Kiskilili mentioned earlier, I’m not sure we have a clear hermeneutic for making such a judgment, for privileging one particular source. Thus we have the current situation in which, in my opinion, there really isn’t a clear and unambiguous answer to the question of whether in LDS teachings, women belong to men in a non-reciprocal way–whether they are, in some sense, male possessions.

  76. 76.

    I think I’ll just back away from my comment about men calling forth women from the grave. If it is legitimate, I wouldn’t know where to find it. If it’s not, we’re no worse off than before, right?
    Geoff, I appreciate your comments on this thread. It’s always nice to have someone who sees things from a different perspective. There are a lot of us who seem to have the same feelings and thoughts on this issues, and honestly, I want someone to challenge them. I want to hear someone say, “There is no way that God values you any less than he values men. You are equal and destined for an equal glory despite the injustices of this life.”
    But, that feel good message isn’t always backed up by scripture, which, as others have pointed out, is troubling. I was thinking about this last night and I believe there are stories of women as possessions in the OT, NT, BofM, and D&C. (and possible the pearl of great price, but I’m not very familiar with it). It really is a pervasive concept, possibly a principle, depending on how you define that term. Matt, I really like that quote by Pres Hinckley, but the possessions he’s talking about there are negative. The quote he gave at the most recent conference does say women are the possession of men, although in a much more positive way. It doesn’t change the principle, though, does it?

  77. 77.

    Lynette, so the question isn’t really about the problem of the place women hold in the church, but is a question about how we know what the truth, doctrinally speak, is. I’ve been studying widtsoe, and I found his views on epistemology pretty spot on for me. For Widtsoe, it all comes down to our own ability to reason as the final stopping point in deciding what is and isn’t truth.

    The problem, of course, is that this leaves us to pick and choose our religious beliefs and values in a cafeteria-style fashion based on the information made available to us. (whether it be made availabe by blog, tract, revelation, scripture, prophet, or otherwise.)

    It is a challenging dilemma to be in, but so long as we are willing to continue putting forth effort to express our ideas and are equally willing to adjust our ideas based on the ideas of others, I think we are able to work it out.

    All that being said, I find it reasonable, based on the evidence presented to me, that the Church had never held to the idea the women are possessions or objects to be owned or used by men.

    Now back to the “calling forth in the ressurrection” comment, I did find an apocryphal reference to it in the JOD. It is a bit unclear who is being called forth, but I think it could be understood as meaning wives…

    Fair warning, it’s in the middle of an apologia for polygamy:

    What is this order for? It is for the resurrection; it is not for this world. I would not go across this bowery for polygamy, if it only pertained to this world. It is for the resurrection; and the Spirit of the Lord has come upon the people, and upon the ladies especially, to prepare the way for the fulfillment of his word. The female sex have been deceived so long, and been trodden under foot of man so long, that a spirit has come upon them, and they want a place, and a name, and a head; for the man is the head of the woman, to lead her into the celestial kingdom of our Father and God.

    I have proved to my Father and God that I am willing to forsake wives and children, and labor all my life time to build up his kingdom and never enjoy the society of a companion while I live; that I did in my young days, and I feel the same today. By and by the word will be given to me and my brethren to arise from the dead in the first resurrection, and receive the keys thereof, and go and call forth the rest.

    As for the man being the head of the woman bit, I’ll post on that some other time. I almost excised it from the quote, but thought I ought to leave it in for integrity’s sake.

    What is interesting, to me, is the implication here that in the Gospel (even in a polygamy period) is meant to enable women from being trodden under the feet of men.

  78. 78.

    I just typed a wonderful comment on this thread, but my computer ate it. Grr. I’ll try to re-create it, but just keep in mind it was amazing the first time around, even if it isn’t this time :).

    Lynnette, your #49 summed up many of my worries and concerns amazingly well. Thanks.

    To try to answer Geoff J — I don’t really spend any time worrying that I will be my husband’s literal possession in the eternities. I do, however, spend a considerable amount of time worrying about what the exact nature of our relationship will be, and what our exact relationship with God will be. While there are many church teachings saying that men and women are equal, there are also many teachings that the men are over the women, and I can’t reconcile these. I want to privilege the equality teachings, but I have no real reason to, beyond my own desires.

    The teachings that cause me the most worry are those of the temple. We are taught that the temple is the House of the Lord, and that we are closer to Him there than anywhere on earth. We are also taught that the doctrines and ceremonies of the temple are essential for us to attain eternal life. It is those very doctrines and ceremonies that teach that I will be following my husband for the rest of eternity, and that my relationship to God will only be through him. While I know that the ceremonies have changed before, and I have hope that they will change again, I think it would be arrogant for me to assume that they will change in the way that I want simply because it’s what I want.

    I also worry because we have no evidence or example to tell us that women will be anything other than second-class citizens in Heaven. We pray to Our Heavenly Father, and have no relationship with our Heavenly Mother. As far as we know, she was not involved in the creation of this world, and her only part in the plan of salvation seems to be to help in the creation of us as spiritual beings. I have no desire to be simply a spiritual baby machine, any more than I want to simply be a physical baby machine in this world. We no longer teach that women’s only roles in this life are that of wife and mother, but we’re not far from such teachings, and our teachings still indicate that those are our only roles in the eternities.

  79. 79.

    Jessawhy, dunno if you saw my 71, but it summarizes why I’m not worried about the possitve possesions quote. Also as I said to kiskili, earlier in the comment thread, I think that when we speak of sentinet beings as possessions, we mean something different than when we speak of others.

  80. 80.

    TMD (#29),
    Thanks for responding to my comment, and sorry it took me so long to reply back. To answer your question, yes, I would like to see the talks to men and women be more similar, “reproving betimes with sharpness…and the showing forth afterwards an increase of love”. But I won’t comment further here, since the discussion seems to have moved beyond that. I think I’ll write up my own follow-up post on the subject, though, so stay tuned.

  81. 81.

    Matt, I did see your #71, and I understand what you’re saying. However, I can see it the other way as well. Just because those cases of possessions don’t preclude reciprocity doesn’t mean they include it.

    Anyway, if family is everyone’s most prescious possession, regardless of gender, then I don’t think the wife being the husband’s most prescious possesion is that much of a stretch, nor does the concept negate the idea that the husband is also the wife’s most prescious possession.

    This just seems like an easy out. One reference to the family as a possession doesn’t mean that other references to women as possessions can be read in the same light. I think there is definately a reasonable reading that women are under control of men, if not literally their possessions. Still, I’ll grant you the more generous reading as well.I might even wager that there are more GA quotes about wives as possessions than families as possessions, but I’m not willing to do the research to back that up :)

    BTW, where are Eve and Mark IV? They always contribute to such a fun dicussion.

  82. 82.

    Jessawhy, I am having a lot of fun obsessing about this. Thanks for continuing to invite me to be insane on this. Maybe I am more obsessed than kiskili…

    Anyway, President Hinckley, the accused in this situation, seems a good place to start to me. Let’s see what he says about family and wives as possessions.

    Wives as possessions:

    “My brethren, you will never have in all of your lives a greater asset than the woman into whose eyes you looked as you joined hands over the altar in the house of the Lord. She will be your most precious possession in time or eternity. Respect her as your companion. Respect her and live with honor together, and there will be happiness in your lives.”

    BYU married students’ regional conference, Provo, Utah, 11 Feb. 1996.

    Families (or co-equal Marriage) as Possessions:

    Brethren and sisters, keep your affections within marriage. Regard as your most precious possession in time or eternity the person with whom you joined hands over the altar in the house of the Lord and to whom you pledged your love and loyalty and affection for time and all eternity.

    “Overpowering the Goliaths in Our Lives,” Ensign, Jan 2002, 2

    I could wish for you nothing better than a good marriage, a happy marriage, a marriage fruitful in the sweet and satisfying things of life. Your marriage will not be excellent if it is marred with argument, if it is filled with disrespect one for another, if there is any lack of loyalty or devotion to one another. Cherish your spouse as the greatest possession of your life and treat him or her accordingly. Make it your constant goal to add to the happiness and comfort for your companion.

    “The Quest for Excellence”, devotional address given at BYU on 10 November 1998

    The first of these I call Respect for One Another, the kind of respect that regards one’s companion as the most precious friend on earth and not as a possession or a chattel to be forced or compelled to suit one’s selfish whims.

    “Except the Lord Build the House” Ensign, Jun 1971, 71

    So, including the quotes already given, for President Hinckley it’s Family 4, Wife 2. (The game isn’t over yet of course. I’ll keep digging. I’m really still looking for Kiskili’s holy grail, “the husband as possession” quote.)

  83. 83.

    Matt W. – what about quotes where women are told they have a claim on their husbands to provide for their families (which would include the woman)? I could be making such a quote up from thin air, but I seem to remember GAs telling women they are entitled to rely on their husbands to bring home the bacon. Now, of course this doesn’t mean that the men are actual possessions of the women, but it shows that the women (theoretically) have a claim over the men in some cases. (yeah, but how exactly are the women supposed to force the men to work, I hear you saying.) Just a thought.

  84. 84.

    Ok, in a moment of utter bizarreness, let’s look at one of my above quotes again….

    Brethren and sisters, keep your affections within marriage. Regard as your most precious possession in time or eternity the person with whom you joined hands over the altar in the house of the Lord and to whom you pledged your love and loyalty and affection for time and all eternity.

    “Overpowering the Goliaths in Our Lives,” Ensign, Jan 2002, 2

    Brethren, keep your affections within your homes. Regard as your most precious possession in time or eternity she with whom you joined hands over the altar in the House of the Lord and to whom you pledged your love and loyalty and affection for time and all eternity.

    “Overpowering the Goliaths in Our Lives,” Ensign, May 1983, 46

    So it’s either Family 4, Wife 3, or Family 3, Wife 3, or Family 3, Wife 2, or Family 4, Wife 2….

  85. 85.

    Lynette and Jessawhy,

    I certainly can’t stop you from wringing your hands over the question of whether you will literally become the possession/property of your husband someday. You say you don’t believe it will ever happen; I say the idea is theologically ludicrous; an yet you both seem to want to hold on to it because it while it is totally untenable as a practical possibility it remains among the millions of logically possible metaphysical nightmares that might obtain in our universe. But heck, if you are interested in being paranoid about logically possible metaphysical nightmares why stop there? There are all sorts of other even scarier nightmares about the nature of reality that are logically possible. Why not wring your hands over some of them?

    Or we could discard the innumerable list of logically possible metaphysical nightmares we can dream up and confine our energies to actually plausible metaphysical realities based on the revelations and information God has given us. How about this — if you can show us even one example of any prophet in any time who believed women would someday literally become the property and possessions of their husbands after this life then let’s discuss that. If not, I submit that worrying about that idea just because it is logically possible is a colossal waste of time. Why not go with the solution that all the evidence points to? That is: The possession language used in scriptures and by modern prophets is entirely figurative and applies to family members “owning” each other omni-directionally.

  86. 86.

    Ok, so while this doesn’t mean the husband is not a possession of the wife, maybe he isn’t the “most precious” one:

    “If there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured. . . .

    “Sisters, guard your children. . . . Nothing is more precious to you as mothers, absolutely nothing. Your children are the most valuable thing you will have in time or all eternity. You will be fortunate indeed if, as you grow old and look at those you brought into the world, you find in them uprightness of life, virtue in living, and integrity in their behavior” (“Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 99).

  87. 87.

    ECS: please help me understand the difference between what I said you said and what you said.

    Doh! Don’t you attorneys live for such word parsing? ;-)

    Ok, the difference is in the subject of what I called ridiculous. I actually said the doctrine in question is ridiculous. You implied that I said that the assumption “that _any_ Mormon in the entire world or any General Authority believes that women are property” is ridiculous.

    People can assume whatever they want about what other people think — even if they are wrong. I am not calling such assumptions into question. I am calling the doctrine ridiculous though.

    (Just a point of clarification — let’s not let this sidebar be a threadjack)

  88. 88.

    Thanks for your question, Geoff–like Matt, I’m swamped and really shouldn’t be here :), so I’ll try to just respond quickly to a few points.

    For me, the stakes are enormously high. I’m fairly certain I will never be any man’s possession in this life–that’s within my power. But I’m genuinely very, very, very worried that God nevertheless regards me as a possession rather than a person, and considering the barrage of conflicting information the Church produces on the subject of gender, I don’t consider my anxieties at all unfounded. It’s not that I believe God doesn’t value women as people, exactly; it’s that I suspect it quite strongly, and I have no solid evidence with which to refute it.

    (If anything, I’m not obsessed enough over the issue. It cuts to the heart of my religious identity and my relationship to the divine, and one could hardly be too obsessed over such issues.)

    I’m not sure whether I can dismiss ideas simply because they strike my own culturally constructed preferences as “preposterous.” It’s preposterous that God would require baptism for salvation, or that God would sort people into kingdoms for eternity, or that God would allow the Romans to execute his Son as a common criminal.

    In my experience with God, he basically never provides elaborate intellectual responses to my questions. Based on spiritual experience, I feel I have reason to believe God loves me and simultaneously feel I have reason to believe God is involved in this Church, an institution which, from my perspective, teaches me God does not and cannot view me as fully human, and thus cannot truly love me.

    How do I make sense of this conflicting information? We often talk in the Church as though we’re certain which propositions we can use to critique which others, but I don’t see how. In logical terms, the most parsimonious explanation is that God is a liar. (Actually, positing a God who is not completely good solves a huge number of theological problems immediately!)

    So it may be “obvious” to some that painful doctrine must be false, but it’s anything but obvious to me. On the one hand, I could use my experience of God’s love to critique the idea that certain teachings of the Church–teachings which are anything but peripheral, teachings that are enshrined in our liturgy and to which we explicitly make ourselves accountable–are not God’s will. Or I could use the teachings of the Church to critique my belief in God’s love.

    Given that the Church sends all sorts of contradictory messages, how can I know which doctrine to privilege? What feels good isn’t always true. It feels good to believe I have $10,000 in my checking account, but ultimately I’m going to be happier if I take seriously indications to the contrary. It feels good to believe God loves me as a person and not simply an object that can facilitate his sons’ salvation, but I feel obligated to take seriously the numerous indications to the contrary. There’s a possibility that in the end I’ll be happier learning to accept that, from God’s perspective, I’m not a human agent worthy of a relationship. It’s not up to me.

  89. 89.

    Vada: I have no desire to be simply a spiritual baby machine, any more than I want to simply be a physical baby machine in this world.

    I very much share your theological concerns here on behalf of my wife and three daughters. I suspect you didn’t see the link I posted earlier. Check it out here. It provides some theological food for thought on solutions to this problem.

  90. 90.

    ECS Hicnkley actually mentions that in one of my favorite recent talks.

    The excerpt in question:

    I receive letters from time to time suggesting items that the writers feel should be dealt with at conference. One such came the other day. It is from a woman who indicates that her first marriage ended in divorce. She then met a man who seemed to be a very kind and considerate individual. However, she discovered soon after marriage that his finances were in disarray; he had little money, yet he quit his job and refused employment. She was then forced to go to work to provide for the family.

    Years have passed, and he still is unemployed. She then speaks of two other men who are following the same pattern, refusing to work while their wives are compelled to spend long hours providing for their households.

    Said Paul to Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Those are very strong words.

    The Lord has said in modern revelation:

    “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken. . . .

    “All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age” (D&C 83:2, 4).

    From the early days of this Church, husbands have been considered the breadwinners of the family. I believe that no man can be considered a member in good standing who refuses to work to support his family if he is physically able to do so.

    I’d like something more explicit in regards to husbands as possessions, but I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you…

  91. 91.

    [That God views women as possessions] remains among the millions of logically possible metaphysical nightmares that might obtain in our universe.

    Except that, given our liturgy, our scriptures, and our policies, I consider it a very prominent logical possible: more prominent than the possibility that God views women as people.

    Why not go with the solution that all the evidence points to? That is: The possession language used in scriptures and by modern prophets is entirely figurative and applies to family members “owning” each other omni-directionally.

    In what way does “all” the evidence point to this? Women giving themselves to their husbands points to their not being their husbands’ possessions? God giving women away points to women not being possessions?

    Of course the Church says women are men’s equal partners and are equally valued, but that’s not all it says, and that conflicts with other teachings and practices. I can’t choose the statement from the Church that I like the most and critique everything else from that perspective.

  92. 92.

    I certainly can’t stop you from wringing your hands over the question of whether you will literally become the possession/property of your husband someday. You say you don’t believe it will ever happen; I say the idea is theologically ludicrous; an yet you both seem to want to hold on to it because it while it is totally untenable as a practical possibility it remains among the millions of logically possible metaphysical nightmares that might obtain in our universe. But heck, if you are interested in being paranoid about logically possible metaphysical nightmares why stop there? There are all sorts of other even scarier nightmares about the nature of reality that are logically possible. Why not wring your hands over some of them?

    Geoff, we aren’t quite as irrational as you seem to think we are. The reason many women worry is not because they’ve considered all metaphysical possibilities and randomly (irrationally) chosen one to hold onto (out of all the possible nightmares). Some women worry because other experiences they’ve had in the church reinforce their belief that, perhaps, maybe eternally things aren’t going to be the equality they hope for. Which, in my mind, makes Lynnette’s question above quite valid:

    “But I’m nonethess trying to figure out here: what are the implications of our various scriptures, liturgy, and prophetic teachings on this matter? Even if they don’t indicate that women are eternally property, they nonetheless might convey something about eternal gender relations, which is why I’m not sure that other issues (e.g., men presiding) are in fact irrelevant to this discussion.”

    When you have experiences in the church that make teachings on eternal gender roles difficult to understand or accept, it can be hard to understand how to read scriptures like the ones on women being possessions.

  93. 93.

    Kiskilili: given our liturgy, our scriptures, and our policies, I consider it a very prominent logical possible: more prominent than the possibility that God views women as people.

    All of our liturgy, scriptures, and policies, as inspired by God as they may be, came to us through the filter of prophets. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that those prophets knew what they really meant when they wrote them down and they understood what God meant when he revealed them too. So I renew my challenge that I submitted in #85 to you or anyone else reading: Show us even one example of any prophet in any time who believed women would someday literally become the property or possessions of their husbands after this life. I submit that exactly 0% of the prophets through whom our liturgy, scriptures, and policies came believed such a doctrine. It is demonstrable that modern prophets don’t believe in this literal property doctrine you are worried about. (Matt has given us several quotes to that effect.) When I combine that with my own personal understanding of God I am confident in asserting that the literal property/possession doctrine is false and pernicious as well as untenable in the face of the evidence. I submit that the only “evidence” in favor of such a doctrine is an incorrect and wholly unsupportable interpretation of our liturgy, scriptures, and policies. But again, if someone does have evidence that some prophet some where (anywhere) believed in this literal (rather than figurative) possession/property thing I am all ears. In the absence of such evidence I cannot imagine how anyone could take this idea to be a plausible metaphysical reality.

  94. 94.

    Geoff,

    No, that is not a fair reading of my statement. You said that the “idea” that the GA’s believe women are property is “preposterous”, and then you implied that no Mormon could ever reasonably believe that women were property.

    These are your words:

    People take views. Do you know of Mormon anywhere in the world who holds a conviction that all women will literally become the property or possessions of their husbands after this life? I don’t. As I said in my last comment, I’d bet the farm that no GA believes such a ridiculous thing.

    I would bet the farm that there is not a Mormon general authority alive that would say that God sees women as possessions or property. The idea seem so preposterous to me, so ludicrous, that it is only now that I’ve realized that any person in this church could take it seriously.

    The only difference between my characterization of your statements and your actual statements is that I used the word “assumption” in place of your words “conviction”, “view”, and “idea”.

    It’s okay if you disagree with me, but I’d appreciate it if you would read my comments carefully before you accuse me of “nasty” debating tactics, and dismiss my comments out of hand for “parsing” words instead of addressing the substantive issues raised therein.

  95. 95.

    I think that a lot of the talk of possession relates back to a more general idea discussed here of gender inequality. I hope that the promise “the first will be last, and the last will be first” will apply to gender relations in the next life, as I would say men currently are commanded/expected to lead their wives and family and are in essence “first.” As far as I can tell, Adam and Eve were equal before the fall, and unequal afterwards. This leaves me with despair and confusion: despair that Eve is apparently punished, cursed, or made to covenant that Adam will rule over her, and confused by modern revelation that says what she did was a great thing, a blessed thing, while she is still placed under a strange covenant that appears to be a punishment for being the first to free up mortality to all those spirits. (These latter-day revelations also imply that Adam’s first choice was not so great–a choice that we also see Adam make in the Saxon Genesis B and medieval French mystery plays.)

    I wonder if what Eve did was such a blessing, then surely, surely, she must get rewarded for doing what Adam would not do until she presented him with the catch-22. While I do see great inequality, and I have many of the same thoughts and fears that have been eloquently expressed here, I just keep thinking that this inequality has got to be temporary. The Lord will have to reward us daughters of Eve for enduring these temporal inequalities and striving to understand and live higher principles in the meantime.

    I’m not saying I think we should be complacent about it. We should strive harder than ever to have increasing revelation and equality. I’m just saying that these hopes are all I have to cling to when I wonder why I am not seen as equal before the Lord in my mortal life.

  96. 96.

    ECS,

    Based on that last quote I think can see our disconnect here. When I said “The idea seem so preposterous to me, so ludicrous, that it is only now that I’ve realized that any person in this church could take it seriously” you thought the “idea” I had in mind was the idea that someone somewhere in this church might believe such a women will become the property of their husbands after this life. I don’t think that idea/assertion is wrong — in fact it seems likely to me that out of 13 million Mormons some small number of Mormons actually believe in such a silly and wrongheaded concept.

    So no, I don’t think “it’s “ridiculous” to assume that _any_ Mormon in the entire world … believes that women are property” (#62). I think it is perfectly legitimate to assume that — and in fact I do assume it. I just think anyone who believes such a thing is dreadfully wrong.

  97. 97.

    Geoff J
    I think the fact that section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants is still canon is evidence that currently presiding authorities see no problem with women being “given” and “taken” from men. If women have to free will in the exchange, how does that not make them a possession? Isn’t that the very definition?

  98. 98.

    oops – it should be “no free will,” not “to free will.” sorry

  99. 99.

    If women have no free will in the exchange, how does that not make them a possession?

    No amount of free will on the part of a woman will make a man (her husband) qualified for exaltation. If she is qualified and he is not then they can’t be sealed in the eternities. (And of course the opposite is true — the choices of a husband won’t make a wife qualified for exaltation.) That is the point of that passage as I read it. It is a warning to men that they cannot be sealed to their spouse if they do not fully honor their covenants.

    Again — do you have any evidence that any prophet throughout the history of the earth believed that women will literally become the property of their husbands? One can superimpose that reading onto the canon but if the prophets didn’t believe that why on earth would we superimpose such a silly and nightmarish interpretation onto our scriptures?

  100. 100.

    More specifically Rilkerunning — do you have any evidence that Joseph Smith thought women would literally become the property or possessions of their husbands in the next life? I know of no such evidence. In fact I think there is evidence to the contrary. So since Joseph is the conduit of through which we received section 132 his personal opinion on this literal property thing ought to carry a great deal of weight in the question of whether such literal ownership of a spouse has any basis in reality.

  101. 101.

    I guess I’m having trouble understanding how you can’t read that women are sometimes seen as possessions in scripture and especially the temple dialogue. What do you mean when you say “literally”? I think my example answered that. I think that they must literally believe that for them to be okay with section 132.

  102. 102.

    Matt W: Thanks for those quotes. They are comforting to me. I believe Pres. Hinckley wants us to take care of each other and cherish each other. I also appreciate your bringing modern revelation into the conversation, it adds a spirit that helps me continue this discussion.
    Geoff, I think you may be getting hung up on the “literal possessions” and while that is the topic of this thread, many of us have commented that being a “lesser citizen” or “not an agent”, or “not fully human” is also a concern that parallels this idea. Perhaps you are so focused on the title of this thread (and I applaud you for that!) that you are missing out on our actual concerns. I can see where you’re coming from. It does sound preposterous that any sane individual would think that women could be the eternal possessions of men. Especially coming from such brilliant women as the ones who post around here. But, it is just for that reason that I think you may not be seeking to understand this point of view, only to refute it.
    You keep restating your challenge, but I don’t think that one quote from any modern general authority that says if women are possessions of men in the next life will really change the concerns expressed here.
    Do you?

  103. 103.

    Rilkerunning: Um, women have no free will in getting married? Wow, do we do things differently down here in Texas than from where you live.

    Geoff J: While I agree with you in sentiment, you are driving me crazy on this one! “Prove to me God thinks women are men’s property” seems some what in line with “Prove to me God exists.”

    Kiskili: Our liturgy, our scriptures, and our policies? wha? I think I’ve cited enough President Hinckley quotes on gender equality at this point to put our liturgy and policy in “women not property” territory. And since Paul says they are neither male nor female in Galatians 3:26-28, it doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the scripture area either…

  104. 104.

    jessawhy: I don’t think I can speak to the larger picture of feeling like a second class citizen. My wife doesn’t feel that way seems like a lame response.

  105. 105.

    Rilkerunning: I guess I’m having trouble understanding how you can’t read that women are sometimes seen as possessions in scripture and especially the temple dialogue.

    What do you mean? I can do that. So can you. I am simply making arguments about why such a reading is unwise and unsupported by the evidence.

    What do you mean when you say “literally”? I think my example answered that.

    See Kiskilili’s #88. She fears that women become the literal property of their husbands — in a way a slave is property to a master. She is seriously concerned that “God does not and cannot view me as fully human, and thus cannot truly love me.” I am arguing that none of our liturgy, scriptures, or policies support such a doctrine.

    What you pointed out in section 132 is not an example of such literal ownership.

    Jessawhy – I’m glad to hear you are not buying the literal ownership idea. Not everyone in this thread is in agreement with you on that yet and I have been responding to them to argue that there is no solid evidence to support such a notion.

    I understand there are other issues people have too. (They have been nebulously alluded to here.) But since there are those who are still defending this literal ownership idea (and that is the topic of this thread) I am still engaging that topic. Is it so wrong to not wander off topic? Especially when the core topic is still on the table…

    Matt – You are misreading me mate. I have not been saying “Prove to me God thinks women are men’s property”. I have been asking for any evidence that any prophet actually believed women would become the literal property of men in the the life to come. The topic of this post is whether such a thing is a fact about our universe and the evidence provided that it might be is our liturgy and scriptures. My counter is that unless there is some evidence that the prophets who gave us that liturgy and scripture meant that women will become the property of their husbands then any reading that claims God meant that is too strained to be considered legitimate. It is a question of hermeneutics. A reading of our scriptures has been suggested and I am providing arguments against such a reading based on the evidence.

  106. 106.

    Matt W
    I was speaking specifically of section 132, where husbands married women without their current wife’s blessing, and the idea that any woman who opted against this will be damned. If a woman is so subordinated in her marriage, I see this as being a possession, not an equal partner.

    Geoff J
    I appreciate your attitude that such a reading is unwise – I think it speaks volumes about your views about women. I don’t, however, think the message I’m receiving about women being lower class citizens is off base at all.

  107. 107.

    Matt, I appreciate your honest response, much better than saying things are just fine or that they’ll be okay. I’m glad your wife doesn’t feel this way, it’s hard to deal with this tension all the time. FWIW, I didn’t feel this way a few months ago. I had a crazy feminist awakening and now the world just looks different, and although it’s painful, I think I’m changing for the better. Let’s hope your wife doesn’t have the same kind of awakening (at least for your sake! It’s been very difficult on my husband). And yet, my husband triggered my awakening when he admitted that he doesn’t admire his mother as a spiritual example (but he admires her in every other way), I then began to realize that women aren’t revered as spiritual leaders in the same way men are, and I just kept going from there.

  108. 108.

    Matt, btw, congrats on your new baby, I saw the picture on your site, she’s beautiful.

  109. 109.

    Thanks Jessawhy, I revere both my Catholic mother and my Mormon wife as spiritual leaders.

    More importantly, I found the “most precious possession” quote from man to woman:

    Young lady of Zion, you can largely determine whether you marry for time or for eternity. Do not let whimsical fashion keep you out of the temple and bar you from your greatest blessing. Fashion perishes with this life. Your choicest, dearest possession is your husband and children. Is it possible that you do not want them forever?
    (Get Married and Marry Right by Joseph S. Peery, Improvement Era, 1921, Vol. Xxv. December, 1921 No. 2 .)

    And one more thought, just because I just searched through 500+ search results relating to “possession” and “husband” (David O. Mckay must note that family is the most precious possession in every talk he gives!)

    Anyway, I thought this was an interesting point.

    Note that it is the man who leaves his parents and cleaves unto his wife. (Genesis 2:24.) In view of the patriarchal society in which this passage was written, one would instead expect to hear the reverse: a woman leaves her parents and cleaves unto her husband. Three important insights are, then, encapsulated in this summary statement: the woman is an independent and equal creation, marriage does not make her the possession of the man, and achieving oneness should be the common goal of both.
    (Dawn Hall Anderson and Marie Cornwall, eds., Women and the Power Within: To See Life Steadily and See It Whole [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 59.)

  110. 110.

    Oh and the best part about my new daughter is that her sister is even now sleeping on the floor under her crib so they can have bunk beds…

  111. 111.

    Rilkerunning, I admittedly don’t often puruse the polygamy section of 132, as it doesn’t apply to me. Can you be specific? Are you refereing to where a woman would be “destroyed” is she did not keep the law as it is explained to her in such a case? MY reading shows Joseph Smith as being told to do as Emma says and to ask for the first wives’ permission in any case.

  112. 112.

    Women are “given” and “taken” in section 132. This is how we refer to objects, not people whose free will we respect.

    Geoff, as far as I can tell, your strategy is to assume that (a) indications that women’s agency is curtailed are insufficient grounds for qualifying women as “possessions”–the term must be employed explicitly–but (b) anytime the term “possession” is employed explicitly, it is used metaphorically, so all such references can be eliminated from the discussion.

    Elder Holland in the last conference says that wives voluntarily give themselves to their husbands. He refers to a wife as a “gift,” which smacks suspiciously of ownership. You could argue that he means both spouses give themselves to each other in a way that neither one has a greater claim on the other, but our liturgy suggests he means wives give themselves to their husbands and husbands receive wives. If God expects me to give myself to another person (who is not asked to give himself back to me), in what way am I not to become this person’s possession?

    I submit that Elder Holland believes wives are the eternal “possessions” of their husbands. If he takes the temple seriously, he has every reason to. I’m not saying he believes husbands should tyrannically lord over their wives. But even benevolent, “symbolic” ownership is oppressive to me. I don’t want to be even a metaphorical possession.

  113. 113.

    #58 – I know there is other ancient scripture not yet revealed, and I think it is highly possible it may be written by/for women. Part of the scarcity of such records either way inarguably represents historical female oppression. Since women became educated they have written mountains of literature. It is our sorrow that so much of it is from women who don’t possess faith in God, and those faithful women who do write are effectively trailblazing feminine faith-based literature.

    In an attempt to explain what I mean, I’ve used a model I was taught to use as a missionary to explain the role of a living prophet. I certainly hope the links work.

    Most people have trouble with the prophetic mode, seeing it like this: Perceived Prophetic Model
    It is actually more like this: Actual Prophetic Model

    If you apply that to the relationship of husband, wife and God, most people see this: Perceived Patriarchial Model
    I see it more like this: Actual Patriarchial Model

    In the actual model, although the husband prays and receives revelation on behalf of his family, the wife is in no way cut off from God and from Spiritual confirmation. If a woman is not married, taking the man out of the equation doesn’t cut her off from God. I think at least part of the reason the Lord has set up this model for both prophetic and patriarchial revelation is to teach men a type of protective responsibility that comes naturally to motherhood, and to teach women to rely on and work with men when nature has very little demand for it. It is intended to fuse men and women together, and not to deny anyone blessings from God’s guidance. Any difficulty in accessing God’s counsel by either party in a marriage is a result of “philosophies of man.” Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate philosophies of man from scripture, since man’s perspective colors any attempt to commuicate God’s will. But I think that is part of the shadow of the veil – something we can expect to live with for most of our lives, but will not exist in the next.

    As our Church focuses on personal revelation along with listening to proper authority (a mix that is almost unique among religions) it is natural that there be a great deal of confusion over interpretation of some of the more nebulous points of doctrine. Patience and humility are wonderful (but difficult) virtues to apply in these cases. They will be harmonized some day. Though I know it doesn’t necessarily help with the frustration of sorting things out today, I will say that I believe in this case the journey is the destination.

  114. 114.

    I apologize for any typos. I plead exhaustion.

  115. 115.

    I say the idea is theologically ludicrous; an yet you both seem to want to hold on to it because it while it is totally untenable as a practical possibility it remains among the millions of logically possible metaphysical nightmares that might obtain in our universe.

    Geoff, I don’t think that’s fair. I can accept that you disagree with the interpretation we’re proposing, but it seems a bit over the top to reduce it to nothing more than one of millions of logically possible but highly improbable scenarios. If it’s truly that bizarre for someone to take this as a serious possibility, and there’s nothing at all in our religious tradition which points to it, how do you account for the wild coincidence that out of all the possible metaphysical nightmares one might choose to wring one’s hand about, so many of us have independently settled on the exact same one?

    How about this, if you can show us even one example of any prophet in any time who believed women would someday literally become the property and possessions of their husbands after this life then let’s discuss that.

    It sounds to me like you’ve rather narrowly defined the kind of evidence you’re willing to accept on this matter. If I’m understanding you correctly, nothing short of an explicit statement along the lines of “women will literally become property in the next life” is going to fit your criteria, and you’re then using an absence of such statements as a reason to dismiss any and all concerns about the implications of women-as-possession language.

    I realize the way I framed my questions in the initial post might have been misleading, but my primary concern isn’t actually with the possibility that women will “literally become property” (whatever that even means). Rather, my concern is that this language indicates that women aren’t considered to be fully human, subjects in their own right; that they’re eternally in a secondary and subordinate role. And I do, unfortunately, see a fair amont of evidence that such a thing could be the case.

  116. 116.

    Alisa, I don’t really have anything to add to what you said, but I did want to say that I appreciate your comments. I’m also confused by our doctrine about Eve (what she did was necessary and good, and yet all women are required to enter into a covenant of subordination because of it?) But like you, I cling to a hope that the inequalities are temporal, and not eternal.

    Matt, I’m impressed with the diligence of your research! And I have to give you points for actually finding a quote in which husbands are referred to as women’s possessions, even if you did have to go back to the 1921 Improvement Era to find one. :)

  117. 117.

    Kiskilili: But even benevolent, “symbolic” ownership is oppressive to me. I don’t want to be even a metaphorical possession.

    Well if metaphorically becoming the possession of someone else is all you are worried about now (as opposed to the literal concern you expressed before) then the good news is that you have free will (in the libertarian sense no less) so you never have to be even a metaphorical possession. To become the metaphorical possession of another person, as I understand it, is to enter a loving relationship of total trust. The scriptures indicate that through such deeply loving relationships comes the greatest possible joy. (“Lose yourself and find yourself” and all that…) Christ wants us all to enter such a relationship with him so he can “own” us in that sense and he want me to enter such a relationship with my wife and become one with her as well. But no one is forced to enter such a relationship — it must be freely chosen or it isn’t a true loving relationship. If you don’t want such a relationship in your life (with a husband or even with God) then you never will be compelled to experience it. Sounds awful to me but at least you could get your wish of never being figuratively “owned” by anyone else…

  118. 118.

    Lynnette: how do you account for the wild coincidence that out of all the possible metaphysical nightmares one might choose to wring one’s hand about, so many of us have independently settled on the exact same one?

    Well apparently no one here actually arrived at that metaphysical nightmare at all. There have been some noises made about believing that women might literally the property of their husbands, but when I have pressed the issue. neither you nor Jessawhy nor even Kiskilili have been willing to actually step up and admit to believing such a thing happens. So it turns out y’all must have been bluffing. That is good news to me though because a literal belief in such a thing is theologically untenable in Mormonism. As I mentioned in #117, a belief that we can become figuratively/metaphorically owned by one another is central to the gospel so I am all for that. Of course that kind of ownership applies equally to men and women.

    PS – I can’t argue that there have been and continue to be attitudes in the world and the church that hold women as second class citizens. I think you are right about that and I abhor such attitudes. In this thread I have been arguing against a specific metaphysical claim being made here.

  119. 119.

    If you don’t want such a relationship in your life (with a husband or even with God) then you never will be compelled to experience it. Sounds awful to me but at least you could get your wish of never being figuratively “owned” by anyone else…

    As I understand Kiskilili, she’s not so much objecting to the notion of being figuratively owned, but specifically to the requirement to enter into a relationship with another human being in which this ownership isn’t recpriocal. I know that you personally think it is, and I can certainly see a number of reasons to think (or at the very least hope) that such a thing might be the case. But I also think Kiskilili raises a valid point when she notes that such reciprocity isn’t actually reflected in our liturgy.

  120. 120.

    Geoff, I’m wondering whether in your admirably zealous desire to refute the metaphysical notion that some group of persons will turn into property in the world to come, you’ve been pursuing a bit of a red herring. Maybe I should re-frame my initial questions. This is what I’m wondering: even if this kind of possession language isn’t to be taken in a strictly literal, ontological sense, what does it mean that it doesn’t go both ways? And how does it relate to our teachings on gender roles?

  121. 121.

    Lynnette – I’d also like to add to your questions with something that has occurred to me since writing comment #113. If women are, in whatever sense, submissive to our husbands, what ramifications does that have? How does it differ from everyone being submissive to the words of the prophet? Why would the Lord ask us to be submissive on even a temporary basis?

  122. 122.

    Geoff J
    When I was sealed to my husband in the temple I gave myself to him; he did not give himself to me (as per the vows we took). An explanation I have heard offered for this is that because of polygamy, a man is not free to give himself to his wife because he will potentially be giving himself to many women. In this sense, my husband “literally” possess me in a way that I do not possess him. It seems you cannot understand how heart wrenching many women find this. If you don’t understand that, or understand why that would make us feel as though we are like possessions, or second class citizens, I don’t know what more to say. I guess I’m glad it has caused you personally no pain.

  123. 123.

    Lynnette, I guess I should admit that I am much more obsessed with researching things than I am with this issue in particular. This has spilled forth into other concepts now. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration.

    Anyway, as your grander question to Geoff of what does it mean that it doesn’t go both ways? And how does it relate to our teachings on gender roles?

    I think it means men don’t think it’s funny or acceptable to say something like:

    Wives, love and treasure your husbands. They are your most precious possessions. Husbands, encourage and pray for your wives. They need all the help they can get.

    It is however, in modern society, funny and acceptable to say the opposite.

  124. 124.

    Lynette: I also think Kiskilili raises a valid point when she notes that such reciprocity isn’t actually reflected in our liturgy.

    I can’t disagree that the wording of our liturgy might make reciprocity in relationships more clear. But we are back to the two types of questions I mentioned in #44.

    Question Type 1:

    The first type of question is about the actual truth of the matter. Is there really an non-reciprocal ownership thing happening between husbands and wives after this life? This is a HUGELY important question. It cuts to the core of metaphysical questions about who we are, where we’ve come from, and what our potential is. It gets to the heart of what religion and philosophy are all about.

    Based on all the reasons I have outlined in this thread I see no reason whatsoever to believe that an non-reciprocal ownership situation between spouses is really true. In fact, assuming we have libertarian free will (as Mormonism almost universally does) it probably isn’t even logically coherent to say such non-reciprocal relationships exist since free willed people can choose to enter or leave any relationship they want at any time. (Heck, even God can choose to leave the Godhead in our theology.)

    Question Type 2

    The second type of question being asked here is about how the wording of our liturgy might be interpreted by some people. The argument is that someone could think that there is a non-reciprocal relationship in the eternities based on some of the wording of our ordinances or scriptures.

    To that I say: Whoop-dee-doo… Who cares?

    The only thing that really matters is the actual truth behind the liturgy. If the truth is, as I argue, that there is necessarily total reciprocity in relationships between free-willed individuals then this second type of question is extraordinarily trivial compared to the vast import of the first type of question. This second type of question boils down to quibbles about the wording used to describe the metaphysical truths of the first type of question. Certainly such red-pen activities are not worth wringing our hands over (whereas the actual truth of the matter as exemplified be the Type 1 questions is).

  125. 125.

    Lynette: This is what I’m wondering: even if this kind of possession language isn’t to be taken in a strictly literal, ontological sense, what does it mean that it doesn’t go both ways?

    It seems to me you probably had the answer to this specific question (about the wording of our liturgy) when you wrote the post. You were probably right on target when you said:

    Are phrases like this merely echoes of an archaic way of talking about marriage, and not to be taken all that literally, in which case, can I hope that they will eventually fade?

    To which I answer: Yup.

  126. 126.

    Runningrilke: It seems you cannot understand how heart wrenching many women find this.

    See my last two comments. I think deep metaphysical questions are worth getting worked up over. Quibbles over archaic wording in certain liturgy aren’t. If we can agree on the metaphysical questions (as we largely seem to have done here) then all that is left is the quibbling over said archaic wording.

  127. 127.

    I want to come back to the epistemology question (raised earlier in #75 and #77), because I’m wondering to what extent issues related to that lie behind some of the disagreements here. For example, I think we’d all agree that contemporary General Authorities have made many statements explicitly advocating an egalitarian model of marriage. But that can be interpreted in a number of ways. A couple of possibilities:

    1. These statements should be taken as the definitive LDS view on marriage, and they therefore rule out any possibility that marriage is hierarchical, regardless of what might be indicated by other statements elsewhere.

    2. These statements aren’t as authoritative as those which assert a hierarchal model, and should therefore not be taken too seriously.

    3. All the various statements are correct, as egalitarian teachings about marriage and hierarchical teachings don’t actually contradict each other.

    4. There are genuine contradictions between various Church teachings on marriage, with no clear way to resolve them.

    I myself probably lean toward #4. But I can see why if someone were closer to #1, for example, it might be completely baffling to them why I keep raising concerns about the existence of hierarchical, non-reciprocal language.

  128. 128.

    SilverRain, I’m intrigued by the model you suggest (in #113); I can see a lot of ways in which it’s appealing. However, I don’t think I’m clear on the distinction you’re making between the “patriarchal revelation” which comes to men and the “spiritual confirmation” which comes to women. Is it that men get revelation for the family, and women get a spiritual witness that said revelation is in fact from God (but not any unique revelation of their own?) Is it that both get revelation, but only men’s is authoritative for the family? (Sorry if I’m totally mangling what you’re saying!)

    Also, thanks for the additional questions in #121; I agree that those are issues worth thinking about.

  129. 129.

    I have outlined in this thread I see no reason whatsoever to believe that an non-reciprocal ownership situation between spouses is really true.

    All I can see that you’ve established is that we don’t have explicit prophetic statements that women are the property of men in the next life. I’m not sure how you’re making the leap from that to reciprocal relationships. I’m seeing this not as an either/or question (either women belong to men or they don’t), but as a continuum of possible relationships. Even if women aren’t outright owned by men, it’s still possible that they have less freedom and autonomy because of the power differentials in eternal gender relationships. To give another example, it’s also possible that they’re excluded from having a direct relationship with God, even if they aren’t anyone’s possession, because in the eternities God only communicates with women indirectly, through men–and I would argue that being cut off from divine communication actually has implications for one’s personhood. So even if we could definitively rule out the possibility that women are property, I don’t think that would solve all the problems being raised here.

  130. 130.

    Lynnette- I think there is an important distinction to be made with your list- I don’t favor different texts because of their content, I favor them because of their source. For instance, I tend to place much more weight on what is said and done in the Temple than I do on what I read in the Ensign. So, in order for me to write off the hierarchical teachings of the Temple, I find that I have to give more weight to the Ensign than I give to the Temple- something that feels backwards to me.

    For another example D&C 132 (which says that women will passed around like trading cards) is supposed to be God’s words verbatim, written down perfectly and approved by Joseph Smith- the Prophet of our dispensation. Meanwhile the texts that discuss marriage as egalitarian, and a joint effort are presented as lessons in the GD manual, and talks in General Conference. While these texts, theoretically, come from the prophets and count as revelation they don’t carry the same ‘word for word dication from God’ that D&C 132 does.

    I find myself very concerned because the texts I regard as the most important, and authoritative are the very ones that are the most hierarchical.

  131. 131.

    Starfoxy, that’s a really good point. I suspect that most Latter-day Saints would say that scriptural and temple teachings should in fact be given more weight than talks in General Conference. (Until the issue of gender comes up, at least, at which point it seems that almost inevitably a bunch of GA quotes get cited as evidence that the Church couldn’t possibly be advocating hierarchical relationships . . .)

  132. 132.

    If we’re willing to dismiss language that seems hierarchal because of a cultural bias, how can we be sure that the egalitarian view is not equally culturally biased (and therefore dismissable)?

  133. 133.

    Lynette (#127) — You are right about this being at heart an epistemology discussion. We all seek the ultimate truths in the universe in our own ways but I would suggest that the best Mormon way is through direct communication with God. That’s how Joseph Smith got his answers to all sorts of Big Questions and I believe that is how we are all supposed to get them.

    Now having said that, I think one could argue for both #1 and #4 on you list. That is, certainly different authorities/leaders have held different opinions over time, but the clear teachings of our leaders now on the egalitarian nature of marriage now and forever should make the proper exegesis of the unclear wording of our scriptures and liturgy on the same subject which came through former prophets living in former times (when such questions were probably not even asked).

    Re: #129

    The same principle applies. Former prophets gave us scriptures and liturgy. In our modern times exegetical questions have arisen about the role of women in their eternal relationships. The modern prophets — presumably after seeking clarification from God himself — explain that those passages really do mean that there is reciprocal-ownership in spousal relationships.

    Even if women aren’t outright owned by men, it’s still possible that they have less freedom and autonomy because of the power differentials in eternal gender relationships.

    I don’t know what you mean by this at all. What kind of freedom or autonomy might be curtailed? Are you saying that have less than full free will? What sort of assumptions are you making about the next life with this statement?

    To give another example, it’s also possible that they’re excluded from having a direct relationship with God

    Do you think that women are excluded from a direct relationship from God here? If not then what would make you think that becoming exalted would cause such exclusion? The thought makes reason stare… (And there certainly is nothing in the temple liturgy that says women are cut off from God here — Eve makes that covenant before entering this world as I remember…)

  134. 134.

    Starfoxy: they don’t carry the same ‘word for word dication from God’ that D&C 132 does.

    Let me just point out that simply because a revelation is written in the first person it does not mean it is not entirely filtered through a person. There is no evidence that Joseph dictated his revelation in the D&C as if he were reading a Celestial teleprompter. Rather the evidence is that he received pure knowledge and had to articulate that as well as he could in English. (Some have argued for a teleprompter version of the BoM translation but I reject that view as well.)

    I think you are right about a hierarchy though. Canonized scriptures generally come first. But as I mentioned in #133 when there is a need for a clarification on the murkier parts of our scriptures or liturgy modern word of modern prophets hold a great deal of explanatory weight.

  135. 135.

    Lynnette, my institute teacher and stake president both argue that the most recent editions of the conference report are more important for our lives than the entire standard works. I’m not sure if this is a pervasive view (we obviously don’t have to choose between them) but it does contradict your assumption in 131. The idea is, I think, that living prophets are more in tune w/ our dispensation than dead ones. I’m not sure how many people believe that, or if it’s just a visual aid encouraging for us to read the conference report.

    SilverRain, I do like the model you presented, I hope that’s the way it is. But, I had the same questions and confusion as Lynnette. Recently my son needed a priesthood blessing, and my husband forgot (or wasn’t willing, depending on who you ask) to give him one. I know this is slightly off subject, but it caused me a great deal of pain, knowing that I couldn’t make my husband perform this ordinance, and I couldn’t do it myself (the problems w/ calling a home teacher can be explained later). Then I realized, God won’t withold healing to my son because he didn’t get a priesthood blessing. I know in my heart He won’t. I prayed for my son, and I know that God honors a mother’s prayers. So, anyway, I think that’s where your model breaks down. Success in your model hinges on the agency of the man when the woman is not equally equipped to receive revelation/give blessings. That may be the divine pattern, but it’s not clear to me that we are equal in that model.

  136. 136.

    Jessawhy,

    If it helps in the future let me point out that in the scriptures healing is a non-gender-specific gift of the Spirit. In other words, there is nothing in all of our canon precluding women of faith from exercising the gift of healing. I posted on that subject here. [end minor threadjack]

  137. 137.

    There have been some noises made about believing that women might literally the property of their husbands, but when I have pressed the issue. neither you nor Jessawhy nor even Kiskilili have been willing to actually step up and admit to believing such a thing happens. So it turns out y’all must have been bluffing.

    But Geoff, what the hell would I have to do for you to take my concerns seriously? I do appreciate and recognize your unwavering certitude on the issue. I, on the other hand, have merely formed beliefs based on my experiences in the Church–there’s precious little that I’m fairly sure of, and basically nothing that I’m certain of.

    But this isn’t finally a battle over certitude. Must we physically produce God in the flesh to testify to his sexism before we can entertain the possibility that people have genuine concerns over his apparent sexism? If the same threshold of evidence were applied to your own arguments, it would also blow them out of the water.

    It sounds like you’re concluding that since you’re certain God is not sexist, other people must on some level be equally certain, and indications to the contrary are disingenuous. This simply does not logically follow.

    If what we disagree over is whether or not I really do worry that God is sexist, I maintain that I have a privileged access to the evidence. I’m not sure how a space for dialogue can be created between those who disagree unless they accept on faith the sincerity of the other’s conclusions. Maybe we need to reach an agreement that this conversation is therefore fruitless.

  138. 138.

    Well if metaphorically becoming the possession of someone else is all you are worried about now (as opposed to the literal concern you expressed before) then the good news is that you have free will (in the libertarian sense no less) so you never have to be even a metaphorical possession.

    Thank goodness this is true! But what does it mean that the very God who places a premium on agency is giving me a choice between renouncing that agency to some degree–not giving it to him, but to another mortal–and suffering damnation? Does the very fact that God always allows us to choose hell over his principles therefore make his principles moral? (After all, he’s not forcing us to adhere to them–we can always go to hell instead.) I fail to see why it would.

    To become the metaphorical possession of another person, as I understand it, is to enter a loving relationship of total trust. The scriptures indicate that through such deeply loving relationships comes the greatest possible joy. (‘Lose yourself and find yourself’ and all that…) Christ wants us all to enter such a relationship with him so he can “own” us in that sense and he want me to enter such a relationship with my wife and become one with her as well.

    I have a post planned on the role the annihilation of the ego might/should/does play in Mormonism, but all I’ll say here is, I see a huge difference between losing oneself for God and losing oneself for a mortal man, no matter how close to perfect that man is. (And I’m doubtful that any mortal men or women are anywhere near perfect.) It strikes me that women are asked to sacrifice their “selves” at a rate rather exceeding that of men. The fact that everyone is asked to lose themselves in the service of God barely begins to explain that, to my mind.

  139. 139.

    If women are, in whatever sense, submissive to our husbands, what ramifications does that have? How does it differ from everyone being submissive to the words of the prophet? Why would the Lord ask us to be submissive on even a temporary basis?

    Submission to the institutional authority of the prophet is necessary to maintain coherence in a vast and dispersed institution. Maybe I’m overly idealistic, but I don’t see why the same dynamics need operate on the miniscule level of marriage. Hierarchy (and thus submission to general pronouncements) is probably necessary to produce unity when you’re 12 million strong. I’m not convinced hierarchy (and thus submission in an intimate and personal environment) is equally necessary to produce unity between 2.

  140. 140.

    my institute teacher and stake president both argue that the most recent editions of the conference report are more important for our lives than the entire standard works.

    Thanks for your comments, Jessawhy (the story about your son raises a number of problematic and interesting issues).

    Like Starfoxy (130), I see reason to place more weight on ordinances than on the current words of the prophets from General Conference, as important as they are, for a couple of reasons:

    (A) Temple ceremonies are continuously repeated verbatim, with minor changes over the course of decades.

    (B) It is claimed that exaltation is attained through adherence to the covenants made in these ordinances. No such extravagant claims are made for any single session of General Conference.

    (C) Most importantly by far, to my mind, ritual is participatory. I’m under solemn and binding oath to God to behave in certain ways. While I’m sure I’m expected to follow counsel given over the pulpit of the tabernacle/conference center, I am not specifically placed under oath to accept this counsel.

    I’m grateful our leaders are making an effort to clarify the nature of these covenants (marriage is non-hierarchical, etc.). I’m only sorry that their clarifications are not even close to convincing, given the language of said covenants.

  141. 141.

    There is no evidence that Joseph dictated his revelation in the D&C as if he were reading a Celestial teleprompter.

    I’m in complete agreement on this. The problem is that any arguments undercutting the inspiritional accuracy of Joseph Smith’s oracles are equally applicable to all other prophetic statements. If I can’t know that it’s God’s will that President Hinckley refer to women as possessions, why should I believe it’s God’s will that President Hinckley advocate a marriage of equal partners? (as Rilkerunning pointed out already in comment 132)

  142. 142.

    Certainly different authorities/leaders have held different opinions over time, but the clear teachings of our leaders now on the egalitarian nature of marriage now and forever should make the proper exegesis of the unclear wording of our scriptures and liturgy on the same subject which came through former prophets living in former times (when such questions were probably not even asked).

    This is of course a venerable biblical hermeneutic–use the clear passages to elucidate the unclear passages. Unfortunately, it’s subject to a number of serious critiques. For example, who determines which passages are clear? To my mind there’s a lot of very clear wording in our liturgy and our scriptures indicating women are subordinate to men. The tension I see is not between clarity and lack of clarity, but between outright contradictory claims.

    The same principle applies. Former prophets gave us scriptures and liturgy. In our modern times exegetical questions have arisen about the role of women in their eternal relationships. The modern prophets, presumably after seeking clarification from God himself, explain that those passages really do mean that there is reciprocal-ownership in spousal relationships.

    Where do they explain that “those passages” “really do mean” that men and women are equal partners? Our leaders don’t generally exegete the temple ceremony–they simply make doctrinal assertions that may or may not conflict with other claims.

    And if God clarified this issue personally, what prevents them from (yet again) adjusting the temple ceremony to fit this doctrinal development? Canonization has generally fossilized our scriptural texts, but the text of our liturgy is fluid–if “it really means” something other than what it says, our leaders need not add a footnote to that effect. If God has clarified the matter, they’re in a position to change the actual wording.

  143. 143.

    Do you think that women are excluded from a direct relationship from God here? If not then what would make you think that becoming exalted would cause such exclusion? The thought makes reason stare… (And there certainly is nothing in the temple liturgy that says women are cut off from God here, Eve makes that covenant before entering this world as I remember…)

    Eve’s relationship with God is mediated through Adam. Eve is not a priestess to God but to Adam. Her relationship to God is thus oblique rather than direct.

  144. 144.

    In fact, assuming we have libertarian free will (as Mormonism almost universally does) it probably isn’t even logically coherent to say such non-reciprocal relationships exist since free willed people can choose to enter or leave any relationship they want at any time. (Heck, even God can choose to leave the Godhead in our theology.)

    This is exactly the basis from which I assert that women are not fully human in LDS theology, despite all the noises the brethren make to the contrary–I would argue that agency and personal accountability lie at the heart of what it means to be human in Mormon thought. Women are asked (pressured) to use their agency to curtail that very agency, and the cost of refusing is the risk of damnation.

    Obviously, it’s possible for women to fail to develop autonomous adult selves, but although they may defer agency and accountability, they never truly lose that agency: they can always reclaim it by choosing hell over heaven. But those are pretty high stakes.

    But what haunts me more than the amount of agency I actually have is the specter of a God who does not truly recognize the value of my personal agency or think that my “self” is a worthy offering, worth his direct attention.

  145. 145.

    It seems to me you probably had the answer to this specific question (about the wording of our liturgy) when you wrote the post. You were probably right on target when you said:

    Are phrases like this merely echoes of an archaic way of talking about marriage, and not to be taken all that literally, in which case, can I hope that they will eventually fade?

    To which I answer: Yup.

    To which I answer: How on earth do you know this?

  146. 146.

    Based on all the reasons I have outlined in this thread I see no reason whatsoever to believe that an non-reciprocal ownership situation between spouses is really true.

    You haven’t actually outlined the reasons–you’ve outlined the conclusions themselves. You see no reason to believe that it’s true. I see no good reason to believe that it’s false.

    The second type of question being asked here is about how the wording of our liturgy might be interpreted by some people. The argument is that someone could think that there is a non-reciprocal relationship in the eternities based on some of the wording of our ordinances or scriptures.

    To that I say: Whoop-dee-doo… Who cares?

    I care. I’m “some people.”

    More to the point, if you personally don’t care that some people interpret our doctrine this way, there’s no reason for you to engage in a discussion on how to interpret that doctrine.

  147. 147.

    Kiskilili is hereby presented with the “Persistently Obsessive Blogger” award for riding her hobby horse to exhaustion! (The hobby horse’s exhaustion, of course–not hers. One can only shudder to think of the exhaustion of the readers.) Ten comments in a row and counting–this may be a bloggernacle record! Stand by–your Certificate of Doggedness and custom-made Pig’s Head (specially enlarged to accommodate your head’s swollen proportions) are in the mail!

  148. 148.

    I see four different things I need to address, so I’ll do my best.

    Lynnette – However, I don’t think I’m clear on the distinction you’re making between the “patriarchal revelation” which comes to men and the “spiritual confirmation” which comes to women.

    I don’t think there is much difference, other than that men have a specific calling to serve their families and others by acting as a proxy for God. What does this mean? Well, they have a stewardship, a responsibility – a sacred obligation to act as God would act, were He physically here to bless the family.

    If the Priesthood were a human power, all of the perceptions of Priesthood=dominance would be true. The Priesthood is not, however, a power of man, but a power of God. I think the most important and overlooked scripture in blog threads discussing womanhood and the priesthood is D&C 121:34-50. In these (and surrounding) verses, God explains the nature of the Priesthood. We are told that in the instant a man acts in any way unGodly, his priesthood is revoked and he has no authority or power. The most applicable way to act unGodly specifically denoted in these verses is “to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness . . . .” That means the instant a man says “I have the Priesthood, therefore I can dictate to you what to do,” he loses the authority granted by the Priesthood. It is an automatic set of checks and balances. You’ll notice that Eve covenanted to listen to Adam’s council as he listens unto the council of the Lord. It is up to every woman to determine whether or not a given Priesthood authority figure is listening to the Lord. The easiest way to determine that is to ask the Lord.

    I think people often ask things like “should I take out my extra set of earrings?” rather than “is the prophet speaking Thy words when he asks us to remove our extra earrings?” (just for a simplified example.) When you ask the first, it is easier for one’s own will to supplant the will of God. If you sincerely ask God’s will, however, the Spirit can testify to you.

    Success in your model hinges on the agency of the man when the woman is not equally equipped to receive revelation/give blessings.

    Although the woman cannot grant Priesthood blessings, there are very few things that a woman cannot do when there is no worthy Priesthood holder willing to do them. Though a woman doesn’t say “by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” she can pray for healing, as has been pointed out, pray for revelation for her children, etc. The difference is that men have the responsibility to do so. The other difference is that when men give Priesthood blessings, they are not asking the Lord to grant certain blessings, they are speaking as and for the Lord. They may not be speaking the words perfectly, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

    Note: the following paragraph is pure speculation
    I suspect this is one reason why women don’t get the Priesthood – God the Father is male, and the Priesthood is a proxy for God the Father. Perhaps (and this is sheer speculation) there is a similar Priestesshood that involves standing as a proxy for Heavenly Mother. Any such doctrine has not been revealed, and I’m content to wait until it either is revealed, or I better understand the doctrine.
    End of pure speculation

    As far as imperfection in Priesthood leaders goes, I learned something very important fairly recently. There is a certain need to submit to Priesthood leaders, even if what they are saying isn’t perfect representation of the will of God. Hear me out on this.

    Obviously, God wouldn’t want us to do anything that would jeopardize our eternal salvation or compromise our ability to serve Him on this earth. However, let’s say that my husband felt that he got a “revelation” that I should wear a green shirt tomorrow. Wearing a green shirt because he asked me to, some might argue, would take away my agency, especially if I don’t like green. In the eternal scheme of things, what could be the repercussions for obedience or lack thereof? At worst, if I obey, I humbled myself to wear a green shirt for no reason. If I disobey and refuse to wear a green shirt, I risk undermining my husband’s confidence in his ability to fulfill his calling as a priesthood leader, and I’ll cause a lot of contention over nothing. That might have serious eternal repercussions for him, for me and for my family. On the other hand, he shouldn’t feel that the Priesthood means he can dictate on a whim what shirt I am allowed to wear, because that would be unrighteous dominion.

    I submit in such cases that the most important thing to determine is whether or not my husband is truly trying to listen to the Spirit, or if he is simply trying to control my choices. It is up to me to ask the Spirit for guidance in determining which it is. If the priesthood (and prophetic counsel) is treated this way, it actually brings you closer to God as you consult with the Spirit more often and more sincerely.

    #139 I’m not convinced hierarchy (and thus submission in an intimate and personal environment) is equally necessary to produce unity between 2.

    I do, as long as the Priesthood is righteously wielded, and this is why. The righteous exercise of Priesthood power is a humbling experience for both the man and the woman. The woman has to humble herself to listen to the council of her husband, and the man has to humble himself to truly understand his wife’s needs in order to minister to her righteously. Humility is one of the most elusive and difficult of God’s attributes to learn on this earth. Humility in this situation encourages a husband and wife to lean upon each other and to treat each other with understanding and respect, rather than enmity and contention.

    #141 If I can’t know that it’s God’s will that President Hinckley refer to women as possessions, why should I believe it’s God’s will that President Hinckley advocate a marriage of equal partners?

    Although it wasn’t my intent to address this when I posted #131, this is where the model of prophetic counsel comes into play. We are required to ask God to testify of the Prophet’s authenticity. This means that we have to humble ourselves and earnestly seek to know the mind and will of God on a constant basis. Every time we hear or read the words of the prophets, we ought to pray for an open heart and understanding mind beforehand and remembrance afterwards.

    If there is something the prophets tell us that we do not agree with, we must seek for Spiritual confirmation. Sometimes we won’t get an answer to “is this true?” “should I do this?” or “is this person speaking Thy words?” until we first pray for humility and understanding. All church members are to exercise their agency in determining what God’s will is for them. That is why there is some ambiguity in certain doctrines in the church. (Other doctrines are specific and clear, but I’m not addressing those.) That will naturally lead to some disagreement, especially as not all people are spiritually in the same place at the same time.

  149. 149.

    Goodness. That was far too long. Sorry about that. Please try to read it anyways, I’m interested to see what all of you think.

  150. 150.

    Kiskilili (#137): If what we disagree over is whether or not I really do worry that God is sexist

    Oh no, there is no question you have such anxieties. And it is quite apparent that you are basing those anxieties in part on your exegesis of sacred Mormon texts. I am arguing that your exegesis of those texts is unfounded and contrary to the evidence (despite your incorrect assessments of what I have been attempting to accomplish in this thread in the rest of you comment #137). Of course you are free to wring your hands over the question of whether God is a sexist based on your other “experiences in the Church” as you put it — I don’t pretend to have access to any of that data. In this I am only interested in addressing the validity of your reading of our sacred texts and liturgy to support your hypothesis that God might be a sexist.

    (#138) But what does it mean that the very God who places a premium on agency is giving me a choice between renouncing that agency to some degree

    What does “renouncing agency” even mean? I am of the theological opinion that we are all beginningless beings with irrevocable libertarian free will. If you are implying that free will can be revoked I simply disagree with such a claim.

    Now if you consider “becoming one” with another person (be it God or our spouse) a form of intolerable renunciation of your agency never fear — no one if forced to become one with anyone. We can all remain single and separate if we so choose.

    Does the very fact that God always allows us to choose hell over his principles therefore make his principles moral?

    Here you are making the theological assumption that God is some kind of benevolent tyrant arbitrarily making up rules in the universe with an implicit “my way or the highway” attitude. I think this is an incorrect view of reality. Rather, I think the fullness of joy God experiences and wishes for us is a natural and irrevocable consequence of loving relationships. Only to the extent that we can enter and sustain the a oneness with our spouse and with God can we experience the joy God experiences. This is the law of the harvest in action and the a beginningless reality of our universe in my opinion.

    I see a huge difference between losing oneself for God and losing oneself for a mortal man

    Obviously. Yet I am supposed to become with my wife if I want to be with her forever. I’d like for that to happen so I am working hard to completely become of one heart and mind with her while we both become of one heart and mind with God. I am not afraid to lose myself in this process though I suppose I can understand if others would be afraid to expose themselves like that.

    It strikes me that women are asked to sacrifice their “selves” at a rate rather exceeding that of men.

    I know. This is the very point that I am disputing.

    (#141)If I can’t know that it’s God’s will that President Hinckley refer to women as possessions, why should I believe it’s God’s will that President Hinckley advocate a marriage of equal partners?

    See James 1:5. Mormonism is founded on the principle of personal revelation.

    (#142)This is of course a venerable biblical hermeneutic, use the clear passages to elucidate the unclear passages.

    Exactly. But the beauty of having literal oracles is that the critiques you outlined of the biblical hermeneutic don’t apply. The living oracle explains the meaning of the passages and liturgy for us in clear terms. When they say there is equity between marriage partners in the eternities that answers our questions about the actual meaning of the temple ceremony.

    Where do they explain that “those passages” “really do mean” that men and women are equal partners?

    See all those quotes from Matt earlier in this thread. You don’t have to believe modern prophets of course, but you’ll be very hard pressed to show they don’t believe in equity between marriage partners here and in the eternities. They are obviously fully aware of the temple liturgy so their views on equity between marriage partners should be seen as a commentary of their exegesis of the temple liturgy.

    And if God clarified this issue personally, what prevents them from (yet again) adjusting the temple ceremony to fit this doctrinal development?

    Again, if the actual truth of the matter is that there is no inequitable ownership in celestial marriages then the fact that some people misinterpret our liturgy is a trivial matter. The prophets are publicly providing us with the proper interpretation already with their teaching on the equity of marriage partners so if all you are pining for is a wording change… well there are better things to obsess over than that.

    (#143) Eve’s relationship with God is mediated through Adam.

    I don’t think this is entirely accurate. Eve and God spoke face to face just like Adam and God did in the narrative. Her relationship with God was un-mediated. There was a mediated covenant in the story — but that is not the same as a mediated relationship. Do you know any women on the earth who don’t have immediate and non-mediated access to God right this very second? I don’t.

    (#144) Women are asked (pressured) to use their agency to curtail that very agency, and the cost of refusing is the risk of damnation.

    Here’s that claim again… Not only do I think it’s not true, I don’t even think it is possible. (Though I admittedly have trouble even figuring out what you are actually claiming here.)

    (#145) How on earth do you know this?

    See all my comments before about a defensible exegesis of our scriptures and liturgy on the subject in light of modern prophetic clarifications.

    (#146) And yes I have outlined the reasons I have come to my conclusions — it is all part of this supportable reading of our scriptures and liturgy I am pushing.

    More to the point, if you personally don’t care that some people interpret our doctrine this way, there’s no reason for you to engage in a discussion on how to interpret that doctrine.

    Based on this response, I think you are missing the point of my comment #124…

  151. 151.

    Geoff J
    I think you have the idea that everyone who thinks that males hold a superior place in the Mormon tradition are lunatics, but I would assert that there is plenty of cause to believe this claim. If not, how could the conversation have gone on this long? If I claimed that the church tells us to starve our children, you could obviously tell me, “No it doesn’t,” and the case is closed. The fact that there is so much discussion about it shows just how much literature there is to support the claim. If it were an absurd idea, there would be nothing more to say.

  152. 152.

    Rilkrunning: I think you have the idea that everyone who thinks that males hold a superior place in the Mormon tradition are lunatics

    Then you are wrong.

    I do however think that God is not a sexist and that our scriptures and liturgy do not support the notion that he is.

  153. 153.

    I would assert that if that were true, your last sentence would read, “I do however think that God is not a sexist and that our scriptures and liturgy do not support the notion that s/he is.”

  154. 154.

    Geoff #136:
    I have read of gifts of healing. I do wonder, however, why there are priesthood blessings with consecrated oil for the healing of the sick when anyone can have a gift of healing or the power to do so? It seems that in the church, rightly or wrongly, we assume that a priesthood blessing of healing holds a little more weight, or is more effective?, than healing as a gift of the spirit.(and, who knows if I even have that gift?)
    Kiskilili #140:
    I agree with your placing the temple ordinances on a higher level of doctrine than scripture or general conference. I was simply comparing the latter two, I hadn’t mentioned temple ordinances, but your reasons are compelling.
    Silverain 148:
    You summed up D&C 121 nicely with this

    We are told that in the instant a man acts in any way unGodly, his priesthood is revoked and he has no authority or power.

    I have pondered this scripture many times and have come to wonder if there are any occassions which a man does actually exercise the priesthood worthily. The phrase “to any degree of unrighteousness” really makes me think that the standard of sinlessness is very high and that very few men actually reach it. What also confuses me about those verses is that they don’t explain how long until the man’s is worthy to use the priesthood again, although I would assume it is until he has repented (but what if it was so small her didn’t notice?) That passage confuses me and sometimes I think it’s there to teach the men and pacify the women. (admittedly a jaded reading)
    There have been lots of threads on the bloggernacle about the need for heirarchy in a marriage. I am one who doesn’t think it’s necessary. Even some of Matt’s quotes illustrate it might not be the way you describe. Also, the thread on this site about the changes in the definition of the word “preside” make me think that even the message from the church isn’t clear as a bell.
    Lastly, Kiskilili, I have to admit that when I read your first response to Geoff

    But Geoff, what the hell would I have to do for you to take my concerns seriously?

    I laughed out loud. It’s nice to hear you yelling on the thread. It gives the whole thread a little more emotion. But seriously, I think you have articulated very real concerns and I think Geoff is doing his best to convey his understanding of the issues as well. The fact that you are both on opposite sides of the fence indicates that there are many opinions that can be formed based on the same church, scripture, and doctrine. Perhaps individual experience is more important that I had previously supposed . . .
    (BTW, how do you keep track of all the comments you want to respond to? It’s hard to do, maybe you could share your secret)

  155. 155.

    Rilkerunning: I would assert that if that were true, your last sentence would read, “I do however think that God is not a sexist and that our scriptures and liturgy do not support the notion that s/he is.”

    First, did you read the post I linked to in #56?

    Second, your response indicates to me that you are more interested in semantics that metaphysics. That’s fine if you are — it’s just that as I’ve indicated several times in this thread, semantics aren’t all that interesting to me.

  156. 156.

    I don’t think it’s semantics. I think I worship and pray to a male god, not a female one. I think the semantics simply reflect this. And I did love the link in #56 and would appreciate that if it were true, but I find confusing the implication that the female rather disappears into the male. (I come to that conclusion by the fact that Joseph Smith saw a male god, and we worship a heavenly father not mother.) Wouldn’t that negate the idea of gender being eternal, or did I miss something in the article? I guess you could say that gender characteristics are eternal, but I’ve always understood it to mean more than that.

  157. 157.

    There’s a preponderance of chicks here who have custom tailored their doctrinal definition of marriage to enable them to bemoan how backwards and oppressive it is. Then Geoff J comes along and demonstrates pretty clearly that all the chicks are off their rockers about their doctrinal definition. You’d think that the chicks would say, “Wow. Thank goodness.” But instead, they just get peevish.

    One wonders how stereotypes get formed…

  158. 158.

    wow, DKL, i’ve been generally impressed with your comments on the bloggernacle, up until now. You’ve mistaken women for fowl.
    Looks like you need some help, buddy.

  159. 159.

    Jessawhy, as a policy, I’ve decided to stop apologizing for disappointing other commenters — it was consuming far too much of my time.

    But I’m always happy to help other commenters expand their vocabulary skills. Here’s the 3rd definition of “chick” from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (20 Apr. 2007):

    3 slang : a young woman

    See how I’ve helped you?

  160. 160.

    Joseph Smith saw a male god

    See comments 50-55 in that thread on that subject.

  161. 161.

    DKL, I know how badly you want the coveted “most reviled commenter on ZD” award, and I’m impressed by your efforts in that direction. But I’m sorry to inform you that buttering up the judges like this isn’t going to win you any extra points; you’re just going to have to compete on your merits, like everyone else. Keep up the good work, though, and you might at least get a consolation prize.

  162. 162.

    DKL, while it is true that many of us are “off our rockers,” :) conclusions to that end based on real worries of Mormon women are not helpful for dialogue or understanding. Feel free to participate in the actual substance of the conversation. Otherwise, please keep your comments to yourself.

  163. 163.

    DKL, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that you’ve decided to give up apologizing to other commenters. Your characteristic Bloggernacle discourse to date has been so abject and self-disparaging that I’ve been concerned for your evidently fragile self-esteem.

    I have every confidence that in time you will develop the self-assurance to manfully defend your own positions–even in the face of stiff opposition. Courage, brother. Your day will come.

  164. 164.

    Geoff (#150):

    But the beauty of having literal oracles is that the critiques you outlined of the biblical hermeneutic don’t apply. The living oracle explains the meaning of the passages and liturgy for us in clear terms. When they say there is equity between marriage partners in the eternities that answers our questions about the actual meaning of the temple ceremony.

    My impression is more that when they talk about equality in marriage, it calls into question just what they mean by “equality,” given that (a) they simultaneously talk about the father being the “head” and “presiding” in the family, and (b) they have the power to change the liturgy, most obviously the temple ceremony, but they do not. It sounds to me like in this version of equality, some people are more equal than others.

  165. 165.

    Geoff, based on your hermeneutical differences, I think you and Kiskilili are inevitably going to end up with different conclusions. (For example, she places a certain amount of privilege on temple liturgy as a repeated, ritual text, and you place a certain amount of privilege of current prophetic statements.)

    I understand that the ultimate hermeneutic you appeal to is the “personal revelation” hermeneutic. But what do you do if you ask God about this kind of stuff and don’t get a clear answer? How are you to then make sense of competing hermeneutics? Because like Lynnette, Kiskilili, Rilkerunning, and the other feminists on the thread, I have a difficult time making sense of the competing hermeneutics. And while my prayers have brought a certain amount of peace, they haven’t brought any kind of clear definitive answers.

  166. 166.

    Eve,

    I’m pretty sure Dave’s underlying problem is related to the fact that he hasn’t gotten the same steady stream of self-esteem reinforcing messages that regularly emanate to Young Women and Relief Society sisters. We can help him.

    Dave,

    To build your self-image and better understand your place, try repeating this mantra, several times per day.

    We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
    Faith
    Divine Nature
    Individual Worth
    Knowledge
    Choice and Accountability
    Good Works, and
    Integrity.
    We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

    It sounds complicated, but remember, it’s the first step towards receiving a nifty little medallion, which is guaranteed to do wonders for your self-image.

    Also, make sure that you’re not wearing halter tops or skirts that are above the knee.

  167. 167.

    #154 – It seems that in the church, rightly or wrongly, we assume that a priesthood blessing of healing holds a little more weight, or is more effective?, than healing as a gift of the spirit.(and, who knows if I even have that gift?)

    I don’t think it’s “more effective” or “more weight(y),” but that it is a matter of speaking on God’s behalf versus asking God for a blessing. Both utilize God’s power, and both are dependant on personal righteousness. As I’ve said in a previous comment, the men are acting as proxy for God the Father. Men possibly hold the priesthood for the same reason men are baptized for men, and women for women. I think it likely that we don’t know everything about the Priesthood yet.

    . . . although I would assume it is until he has repented (but what if it was so small her didn’t notice?) . . .

    This is where my paragraphs about determining whether the Priesthood holder is trying to do the will of the Lord come into play. Repentance isn’t merely a line-item event, it is a process and a mindset. I think unrighteousness hangs quite a bit more upon sincere intent than it does upon actual deeds. Lest you think I’m excusing things such as witch hunts and inquisitions (all done in the name of good,) I’d like to emphasize sincere intent.

    #156 I find confusing the implication that the female rather disappears into the male. (I come to that conclusion by the fact that Joseph Smith saw a male god, and we worship a heavenly father not mother.) Wouldn’t that negate the idea of gender being eternal, or did I miss something in the article?

    No, I think it indicates that we don’t yet know everything. “We believe . . . that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Articles of Faith #9

    #164 that (a) they simultaneously talk about the father being the “head” and “presiding” in the family, and (b) they have the power to change the liturgy, most obviously the temple ceremony, but they do not. It sounds to me like in this version of equality, some people are more equal than others.

    As I tried to say in post #148, this is true, if you ignore that the father is the head only if he is righteous, and that part of that righteousness is respecting and listening to his wife. I think this is an attempt to explain the principles of the Priesthood, and not a mere pacification passage. (Sorry, Jessawhy.)

    #165 But what do you do if you ask God about this kind of stuff and don’t get a clear answer?

    The answer I have for this is not an easy one. Believe me, I understand the pain in it. You wait until you do. For whatever reason, God hasn’t yet chosen to reveal the details of this doctrine. He will, and I trust Him that the truth will be comforting and exhilarating, not oppressive. Meanwhile, I do the best I can with what I do understand (as if that isn’t enough to try to live!)

  168. 168.

    Rilkerunning #153 – I think it is a little difficult to equate the possession of gender with a lack of sexism. God the Father is male, that is all we truly know for certain so far. It is not a faux pas of Geoff’s to refer to God the Father as he, when that is what He is.

  169. 169.

    Oh . . . by the way, I’ve enjoyed this discussion more than almost any other on the “Bloggernacle” so far. Thank you all for keeping it (more or less) equitable and diplomatic. It has really helped me to think these things over.

  170. 170.

    the father is the head only if he is righteous, and that part of that righteousness is respecting and listening to his wife.

    This is worthy of cross-stitching and hanging on the living room wall. Thanks.

  171. 171.

    There’s a preponderance of chicks here who have custom tailored their doctrinal definition of marriage to enable them to bemoan how backwards and oppressive it is. Then Geoff J comes along and demonstrates pretty clearly that all the chicks are off their rockers about their doctrinal definition. You’d think that the chicks would say, “Wow. Thank goodness.” But instead, they just get peevish.

    One wonders how stereotypes get formed…

    There’s a preponderance of dudes here who have custom-tailored their doctrinal definition of marriage to enable them to assert how progressive and egalitarian it is. Then Lynnette Z comes along and demonstrate pretty clearly that all the dudes are off their rockers about their doctrinal definition (i.e., they have not adequately accounted for all the evidence). You’d think that the dudes would say, “Wow. That is of some concern to people who take religious language seriously.” But instead, they just get peevish.

    One wonders how stereotypes get formed . . .

  172. 172.

    Geoff J #160 I hadn’t read all the comments down that far – it’s definitely an interesting idea. It makes me wonder about reading things literally as opposed to metaphorically. In any case, I appreciated the link; I rarely find really new ideas to answers to my questions, so they are much appreciated when they come. In regards to polygamy, I wonder how that would work?

    Silver Rain #168 What I find difficult is that we only have a male God (for all intents and purposes). It just makes me wonder when we’re continually told that the wife is as important as the man, that we can both be exalted, etc etc, and then our model is basically a single father. It seems a disconnect. It makes me wonder if we have a sexist way of viewing God that is incorrect, or if I should be extremely worried about where I will be and what I will be doing in the next life because I have no model on which to base an assumption.

  173. 173.

    We’ve been talking about women as possessions in traditional religious doctrine, but it’s interesting to note that, traditionally, women had no independent legal rights from her husband under the legal doctrine of coverture:

    By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing. Blackstone’s Commentaries

    Incidentally, the legal doctrine of coverture,where a woman’s legal rights and were subsumed within her husband’s – was still in effect when D&C 132 was written. One approach may be to determine how much of D&C 132 is informed by the legal status of women in the 1800s, and how much is a divinely inspired prescription for relationships between men and women.

    Nevertheless, for a host of economic and moral reasons, Western secular society has moved away from the legal principle of women being literally subsumed by men to create a jurisprudence that views both men and women as autonomous, independent entities. As others have pointed out, however, the Mormon tradition does not give us the equivalent of a U.S. Supreme Court decision explicitly repudiating common law doctrines or overturning previous legal precedent.

    Mormons today protest against a plain reading of D&C 132, because it offends our modern sensibilities. Even so, although we may prefer to interpret D&C 132 (and other similar scriptures) to stand for the proposition that men and women are independent actors in marriage, however, we simply cannot offer an equivalent scriptural text as evidence to support this point.

  174. 174.

    I echo Silverain. This is a great thread. It is helping me think a lot about these issues.
    Eve, I think you must be a superhero in your spare time. From now on, I’m calling you SuperEve, for descending and throwing the smack down on our male oppressors (yours was one of many good comments to that end)
    Rilkerunning, I totally agree that it’s difficult to understand the lack of anything feminine to worhsip in the church. Perhaps that would be a good thread on its own.
    So, is there extra credit for having read each post on this thread? Maybe milkshakes for everyone!

  175. 175.

    Ziff (#164): My impression is more that when they talk about equality in marriage, it calls into question just what they mean by “equality,”

    I agree. I am looking forward to further clarifications in the future as well.

    they have the power to change the liturgy, most obviously the temple ceremony, but they do not.

    Not true. The temple liturgy has changed significantly in the last 18 years. Based on current patterns we should not be surprised if further changes happen as well.

    It sounds to me like in this version of equality, some people are more equal than others.

    Whether is sounds that way is an insignificant matter in comparison to the question of whether it really is that way in the eternities. That has been my point here — I argue the evidence indicates that reality is not that way even if some of the language of the liturgy sounds that way to some.

  176. 176.

    I agree with the lack of female example being difficult to live under. I also feel, however, that the time will come when I’ll know my Heavenly Mother as much as I do my Father. Until then, I am asked to be patient and to live up to the doctrine I do have.

    The gospel is a living, growing set of doctrines. That is the beauty of Joseph Smith’s message – that we don’t know everything, that revelation still occurs and that the Gospel is not dead and stagnant! All that has happened since has only illustrated the need for -and existence of- growing, developing religious mores.

  177. 177.

    On a more vital note: I need to know which I am lumped with, a dude or a chick? It is essential that I discover my labels so I may live up to them properly. ;)

  178. 178.

    Seraphine (#165): I understand that the ultimate hermeneutic you appeal to is the “personal revelation” hermeneutic. But what do you do if you ask God about this kind of stuff and don’t get a clear answer?

    You are right that I think revelation must be the ultimate hermeneutic with regard to former revelations. If one is having trouble establishing her own two-way communication with God then the next best solution is to rely on the words of the living prophets to help us interpret the words of dead prophets. So when living prophets realize the church is beginning to wonder about equity between husbands and wives they begin preaching what the reality behind our scriptures and liturgy are. That has been my position all along here. That should be good news to people who are seriously worried that women might be seen a sub-human or property or whatever based on the words of dead prophets — the living prophets have explained that is not really what they meant.

    [Kiskilili]places a certain amount of privilege on temple liturgy as a repeated, ritual text, and you place a certain amount of privilege of current prophetic statements

    I must point out that privileging one’s personal interpretation of the current wording of the temple liturgy over the interpretations offered by modern prophets is nigh an incoherent position to take. The modern prophets change the temple liturgy regularly so they of all people can explain the metaphysical reality it is intended to portray.

  179. 179.

    ECS (#173): One approach may be to determine how much of D&C 132 is informed by the legal status of women in the 1800s

    Absolutely. And thanks for the useful additional information. In my opinion we tend to vastly underestimate the imprint the filter of a revelation (meaning the prophet through whom the revelation/knowledge is transmitted) has on the wording of the revelation. Joseph certainly received knowledge from heaven, but God leaves prophets to sort the pure knowledge out using the paradigms they already have. There is no Celestial teleprompter for prophets. That is why all revelation must be examined and evaluated within the cultural context it was given. And that is why modern prophets acting as exegetes are so valuable to the church as a whole.

  180. 180.

    That should be good news to people who are seriously worried that women might be seen a sub-human or property or whatever based on the words of dead prophets, the living prophets have explained that is not really what they meant.

    No, women _were_ property and possessions under the law when the Bible, Book of Mormon and D&C were written. On what basis do we re-write the history and psychology of the men who wrote these words? These men had no reason to foresee that women would be considered independent human beings more than two thousand years into the future. I think the honest approach is to scrap the offending scriptural texts and say, as President Hinckley said, that they’re just not “doctrinal” and that we don’t follow them any longer.

  181. 181.

    Geoff, LOL – obviously I’ve already answered that question for myself :)

  182. 182.

    Right ECS — just because there is cultural bathwater in some revelations given through former prophets does not mean we should throw the baby (the vital truths contained there) out with it. Again that is why modern prophets as exegetes are so valuable to us (in addition to our own personal revelations from God).

  183. 183.

    I must point out that privileging one’s personal interpretation of the current wording of the temple liturgy over the interpretations offered by modern prophets is nigh an incoherent position to take.

    I’m starting to think I’m unaware of the text to which you’re referring–is there an official authorized interpretation the the temple ceremony published somewhere, indicating its “true” meaning?

    If you’re simply referring to statements in general that GAs make about gender relations, I have two responses:

    (A) GAs make conflicting statements. What leads us to give more weight to egalitarian statements than statements that women are the possessions of their husbands? (To clarify: I’m not arguing that we should give more weight to the latter, simply that using the former to dismiss the latter is problematic.)

    (B) General statements on topics which our liturgy also treats are no more authorized readings of that liturgy than my saying “slavery is wrong” is an exegesis of scriptural passages on slavery. I’m simply stating my view, which may or may not conflict with other canonized views.

    The modern prophets change the temple liturgy regularly so they of all people can explain the metaphysical reality it is intended to portray.

    So your argument is that since they have the right to change it, they equally have the right to explain it. And my argument is that they don’t explain it–they simply make general observations which conflict with it–and that, in fact, as doctrine changes there’s no need for them to explain it exactly because, if they’re serious, they can change it.

    The temple liturgy has changed significantly in the last 18 years. Based on current patterns we should not be surprised if further changes happen as well.

    I certainly hope you’re right. I’m just less willing than you to put my faith in a projected future ceremony I’ve divined by plotting the trajectory of previous changes. The future ceremony I hope for is not the ceremony in which I participated.

    Question (as a sidenote): Imagine a woman covenants to obey her husband in 1989 and then has her endowment annulled in an effort to be honest with God and acknowledge that she does not actually intend to obey her husband. In 1990 she is rebaptized, and in 1991 she returns to the temple. Is she allowed to make different covenants in the new-and-improved ceremony? Or is it simply the case that the covenants she made previously are once again in force? Which version of the ceremony is binding on her?

  184. 184.

    Ah, now I understand. One person’s “bathwater”, however, is another person’s “baby”. And, given the ambiguity of the texts and the cultural “filters” through which we receive revelation, the “bathwater” isn’t so readily distinguishable from the “baby”.

  185. 185.

    That is why all revelation must be examined and evaluated within the cultural context it was given.

    The implication is perhaps that, if we can identify an attitude in (for example) the D&C that we can similarly identify in Joseph Smith’s culture, we can attribute that attitude to the culture rather than to the divine.

    But similarly, if President Hinckley asserts that women and men are equal partners, we can identify this attitude in his surrounding culture. Women’s marital subordination has generally become unpalatable in the US especially since second-wave feminism. So why attribute this attitude to the divine?

    (I’m certainly not arguing that we should dismiss such statements, or even that I do personally–I’m just problematizing this approach.)

  186. 186.

    Mormons today protest against a plain reading of D&C 132, because it offends our modern sensibilities. Even so, although we may prefer to interpret D&C 132 (and other similar scriptures) to stand for the proposition that men and women are independent actors in marriage, however, we simply cannot offer an equivalent scriptural text as evidence to support this point.

    Very true. I realize the implications of decanonization scare us, but the process does have precedent (the Lectures on Faith). I doubt it’s realistic to hope for, and I don’t claim to know the will of God on the matter, but it certainly would be nice if the Church would just remove 132 from the canon.

  187. 187.

    Also, Kiskilili, The very fact that ‘wife as property’ is unpalatable these days makes the continued insistence on using the possesive/subordinate language feel more significant. If it is not at least partially true, why hang on to it so desperately despite how offensive we find it?

  188. 188.

    On a more vital note: I need to know which I am lumped with, a dude or a chick? It is essential that I discover my labels so I may live up to them properly.

    Maybe DKL could publish a handbook called “Dudes, Chicks, and the Hermaphrodites Who Love Them”! “You might be a chick if . . .”

  189. 189.

    the father is the head only if he is righteous, and that part of that righteousness is respecting and listening to his wife.

    Thanks for your ideas, SilverRain. Here’s what confuses me about this sort of reasoning:

    If by “respecting and listening to his wife” we mean that he accords his wife equal say in the relationship, then the statement is nonsensical. Effectively, the father is the head only if he, righteously, resists being the head.

    But if by “respecting and listening to his wife” we mean that he in some way directs the family and has the ultimate say, but is nevertheless still obligated to take his wife’s opinion under advisement, we’re advocating subordination. It’s a friendly kind of subordination, but subordination nonetheless.

    (There are other interesting comments I’d like to respond to, but I’m running out of time today. Jessawhy, my hat’s off to you if you can even keep up with this thread!)

  190. 190.

    Kiskilili: What leads us to give more weight to egalitarian statements than statements that women are the possessions of their husbands?

    First, we should heavily weight the preponderance of egalitarian statements that have become increasingly common in recent decades as this question has become an increasing pressing matter to church members. Second, I am aware of exactly zero statements in the last 50 years about “ownership” in marriage that were intended to be taken literally rather than figuratively.

    than my saying “slavery is wrong”

    You saying “slavery is wrong” on a blog and a prophet saying “slavery is wrong” over the pulpit in General Conference are VERY different things. Therefore, when prophets repeatedly preach egalitarianism in marriage over that worldwide pulpit we can indeed see that as a crucial exegetical filter for our reading of the texts (including the temple liturgy).

    because, if they’re serious, they can change it

    Sounds to me like you have a beef with their management style mostly. I’ll let you work that out on your own.

    Question (as a sidenote)…

    All I can say about that question is that I don’t believe that administrative red tape will interfere with anyone’s eternal progress or happiness.

    Re: #185 — Completely separating eternal truth from our cultural paradigms is probably impossible. That is partially why personal revelation is so vital.

    for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really care, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. (Jacob 4:13)

  191. 191.

    ECS,

    I’m a little confused by your comment #184. There is some relativism to be accounted for, but there is also truth and untruth. In the analogy untruth is the bathwater and truth is the baby — that is not subject to relativism as you implied… For instance, either women become the property of their husbands in Celestial societies or they don’t — if they don’t then the implication that they do is bathwater.

  192. 192.

    Lynnette, Saraphine, and Eve, I think I’m beginning to understand here what I need to do in order to fit in here: I’ve got to find something about the church that I can construe as damaging to women, and then cry like a little baby about it.

    Unfortunately, most of the participants here don’t seem very adept at identifying real issues with women in religion. It all focusses on minutia, and most of it relies on an outlook that distorts the subject matter beyond reasonable recognition. Perhaps it’s a matter of having a blind spot, or maybe it’s just a matter of not having any balls. But why not argue that the New Testament couldn’t actually be true because the savior of mankind is a altogether a guy? Why complain that you don’t get instruction to pray to Heavenly Mother, when you could go for the jugular and complain that the only two required elements of any prayer involve the names or titles of men? And why aren’t women allowed any say in church disciplinary counsels? Why is it more important to be the literal son of God than the literal son of Mary?

    I think I know why: Because feminism doesn’t give a rip about the place of women in the world. It’s just a way of advancing a left wing agenda under the umbrella of minority protection. In the early twentieth centuries, those advancing eugenics were all wealthy Nordics. In the late twentieth century, those advancing feminism are all peeving chicks. Why shouldn’t I be skeptical?

  193. 193.

    DKL: you’ve got one thing femine going for you. Every time you comment, the stereotype of what a woman is supposed to behave like when she is PMSing comes to mind.

  194. 194.

    Now if you consider “becoming one” with another person (be it God or our spouse) a form of intolerable renunciation of your agency never fear, no one if forced to become one with anyone. We can all remain single and separate if we so choose.

    My concern is that the recipe for making two spouses into one involves mixing in more of one spouse’s personality than the other. Men are not asked to become one with their wives in the same manner that women are asked to become one with their husbands.

    Here you are making the theological assumption that God is some kind of benevolent tyrant arbitrarily making up rules in the universe with an implicit “my way or the highway” attitude.

    I probably wasn’t clear–I was not personally making this assumption but was simply accepting it as a philosophical proposition for the sake of advancing the following argument: the opportunity to choose damnation over God’s commandments itself does not render those commandments moral. God’s actions cannot be justified as moral on the basis that he has appointed misery as an alternative to them.

    The prophets are publicly providing us with the proper interpretation already with their teaching on the equity of marriage partners so if all you are pining for is a wording change… well there are better things to obsess over than that.

    I doubt it. Words matter. The prophets are publicly providing us with teachings to the effect that women are the possessions of men, which could easily be construed as clarifying the temple ceremony in a completely different way.

    The words of the prophets require interpretation every bit as much as the liturgy or the scriptures.

    Women are asked (pressured) to use their agency to curtail that very agency, and the cost of refusing is the risk of damnation.

    Here’s that claim again… Not only do I think it’s not true, I don’t even think it is possible.

    It’s called willing subordination. Thought experiment: Is it philosophically possible for a person to vow, on pain of death, to become a slave to another person? If so, this individual has used their agency to curtail that agency. Few choices are left to them: they can die, or they can defer to someone else’s choices on their behalf. (On a smaller scale, we’re constantly using our agency to expand or contract that agency.)

    Eve and God spoke face to face just like Adam and God did in the narrative.

    But then, strangely, God, presented with Eve “face to face”, addressed Adam directly (“you”) and Eve indirectly (“she”), commanding a covenant which would make the oblique nature of this relationship permanent. In light of this fact, can we really assume it’s coincidence that he never addressed Eve again but allowed her to be escorted by Adam everywhere she went?

    Based on this response, I think you are missing the point of my comment #124…

    I think I missed the point of your comment #124. I read it as indicating that, unless I have an airtight case that women are eternally subordinate to men, I should consider the matter “trivial.”

  195. 195.

    Geoff, honestly, until I went to the temple I accepted a rough equivalent of your reading. Now I feel betrayed.

    DKL–Are you hoping to get yourself banned so you’ll have something fun that you personally can cry like a little baby about?

  196. 196.

    On the question of how to interpret modern GA statements that support egalitarian marriage, I think that one of the factors making it difficult to unproblematically accept what they’re saying is that such a view is really a relatively recent innovation; it’s not as if Church leaders since the 19th century have been consistently teaching that marriage is an equal partnership with shared responsibility for decision-making and no one getting the final say. On the contrary, the way we describe marriage has changed quite a bit. I’d like to dismiss earlier, more starkly hierarchical views on the basis that they were simply a reflection of a broader culture which assumed that the husband was in charge. But if I do that, I think I have to at least leave open the possibility that the current emphasis on equality is also simply a reflection of a broader culture which currently values egalitarianism.

    Sometimes I wonder–in another century, how are our current Conference addresses going to sound to Church members? Will it be like how the Journal of Discourses sounds to us (sometimes rather bizarre, and reflecting cultural assumptions we don’t always share?) What things are they going to attribute to the strangeness of early 21st century Western culture?

  197. 197.

    DKL said (#192):

    I’ve got to find something about the church that I can construe as damaging to women, and then cry like a little baby about it.

    That would be really cool, actually! Please feel free to send me a guest post submission anytime. :) A picture of yourself crying like a baby would be a lovely addition, but that’s of course optional. It sounds like you’ve already got some good topics picked out; I’d love to hear your take on why it’s more important (or not) to be the literal son of God than the literal son of Mary.

  198. 198.

    Lynette: in another century, how are our current Conference addresses going to sound to Church members? Will it be like how the Journal of Discourses sounds to us (sometimes rather bizarre, and reflecting cultural assumptions we don’t always share?)

    Of course we will sound bizarre and dated to people who read our words in 100 years. We are inescapably influenced of our own cultures.

    That’s why personal revelation is so indispensable here. God is the only constant actor in the earth-play over time. I have pitched modern prophets as exegetes only as a back-up plan to those among us who are having difficulty receiving personal revelation; but frankly, that is a distant second place solution. Plus it takes at least the yea/nay kind of personal revelation to even know if what a modern prophet is true (or at least that what we think they are saying is true or not). In the end there is no getting around personal revelation in Mormonism (or in all of Christianity in my opinion.)

    If what we all seek is “eternal life” then Jesus made it pretty clear what is required:

    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

    Knowing God and knowing about God are two very different things. Knowing God requires dialogue with God so there is no eternal life for us until we can figure out some method to create a personal revelatory relationship with God. (See the 30+ posts we have put up on personal revelation at the Thang here.) It has become increasingly obvious to me that no amount of reason or argument is going to make Kiskilili feel better about her anxieties. So I think she will simply have to take this stuff to God himself and get a direct answer on how he feels about her and all women.

    Look, either men and women are equal in God’s eyes or they aren’t. Either God can answer each of our inquiries or he can’t. If he can, then he can answer the question about the equality of men and women. My hope is that by participating here I have shown that if someone receives a personal revelation that indicates God does love women as much as he loves men and that the is equality between the sexes in the eternities, they will at least know that such a view is not contrary to the teachings of the Church and the teachings of modern prophets.

  199. 199.

    Also, on this issue of egalitarian language–it’s not as if we’ve dropped or renounced all hierarchical language; we still talk about presiding, fathers as the head of the family, etc. As far as I can tell, what’s happened is that we haven’t really distanced ourselves from a hierarchical model (though the language in many instances has been softened). Instead, we’ve just added an egalitarian model to the mix, so to speak. And as others have said, I think this egalitarian model would have a lot more teeth if it came accompanied by explicit rejection of hierarchical language.

  200. 200.

    Hi, Geoff J.-

    My #184 was acknowledging – as you pointed out – prophets receive revelation through their own personal cultural “filter”. So it doesn’t make sense to say that the modern prophets today tell us what the words of less modern prophets (i.e., Joseph Smith) “really mean”, because Joseph Smith had no inkling that 100 years in the future women would become independent marriage partners instead of legal property. Joseph Smith really did mean to say in D&C 132 that wives were to be traded among the men, in accordance with the men’s righteousness. This principle: that wives are property and can be traded among men against their will sounds a lot more like “baby” than “bathwater”, no?

    K’s comment #185 sums up my thoughts on this very nicely (thanks, K!)

  201. 201.

    Kiskilili: DKL, Are you hoping to get yourself banned so you’ll have something fun that you personally can cry like a little baby about?

    I’d love to get banned here. Is that an offer?

  202. 202.

    DKL – how about if you show some balls and ban yourself?

  203. 203.

    Lynnette: A picture of yourself crying like a baby would be a lovely addition, but that’s of course optional.

    Unfortunately, that’s out of the question. I don’t cry, because, as you may well know, real men do not cry. I do, however, have this photo to offer in homage to modern feminism, which came up (in addition to a bunch of photos of Johnny Dep) in response to the query “cry baby” in google’s image search.

  204. 204.

    I will admit that it was only with great trepidation that I clicked on DKL’s link to a picture in the comment immediately following ECS’s challenge to show some balls.

  205. 205.

    Mark IV, I laughed so hard at your comment that my fiance (who has on headphones) asked me what was funny. :)

  206. 206.

    Geoff J, although we may differ in opinion on a lot of things, I do want to say that I recognize you are truly trying to communicate the following:

    My hope is that by participating here I have shown that if someone receives a personal revelation that indicates God does love women as much as he loves men and that the is equality between the sexes in the eternities, they will at least know that such a view is not contrary to the teachings of the Church and the teachings of modern prophets.

    While we do appreciate it when people don’t think we’re completely crazy for having feminist concerns (since we think we have some legitimate reasons for having them), it does help to know there are people out there who interpret things in the way that we *want* them to be interpreted. So thanks for sharing your perspective.

  207. 207.

    #189 Kiskilili – Effectively, the father is the head only if he, righteously, resists being the head.

    In a manner of speaking. The doctrine of “least shall be greatest” is hardly new to Christianity.

  208. 208.

    Geoff,
    I really liked your last comment. I felt the Spirit when I read it (can I say that on a thread like this?) and I know you were sincere in wanting people who question to know that there is a legitimate perspective that doesn’t see the same concerns (although it is still difficult coming from a man, how’s that for sexist?). That helps me a lot because as I come upon these problematic doctrines and practices I think “Why aren’t there more people upset by this?” In the end, I think that you’re right about personal revelation as a way to answer that question. Indeed it is much better to know God than to know of Him. Thanks for your comments.
    I have been thinking about this thread a lot, of course, and have been considering why women have always (well through most of history) been subordinated to men or owned by men, etc. Right now I’m 12 weeks pregnant with my 3rd baby and I realize that there just is a big difference between men and women and that women have a type of physical vulnerability that men don’t have. That simple idea helps me understand where the physical ownership comes from (it’s not good, of course, it probably started with cavemen and we’re just beginning to shake it off) But, I then began to wonder if this vulnerability translates to a spiritual level. I’ve always thought of men’s and women’s spirits being equal in a way our bodies aren’t. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but that idea has affected my perspective on this conversation. Are we really equal? Do women deserve an eternal equality, the kind we hope for?

  209. 209.

    I’ve thought about this so much, and am a little terrified of the answer. After all, we have Brigham Young telling us pretty unequivocally that women are not equal to men, and there has been some doctrine floating around about different races being inferior in the pre-existence. So the idea of not all spirits being equal isn’t new. If women are intrinsically of lesser value than men, it would answer a whole lot of questions and make the whole picture make a lot more sense. Terrifying!

  210. 210.

    I can’t believe it. Christ first revealed His divine mission to a woman.
    He allowed a woman to anoint him. He was attended at his death by women. Most importantly, He showed his resurrected body first to a woman The most spiritually tender moments in Christ’s life were witnessed and attended by women. I cannot see how one can truly fear that women are anything less than equal to men, and potential possessors of unequaled power and glory. I cannot see how one could truly believe that they are loved any less or given any fewer honors than all that God has to offer.

  211. 211.

    Rilkerunning: was that last post a quote from above?

  212. 212.

    It sounds to me like in this version of equality, some people are more equal than others.

    Geoff (#175): Whether it sounds that way is an insignificant matter in comparison to the question of whether it really is that way in the eternities. That has been my point here — I argue the evidence indicates that reality is not that way even if some of the language of the liturgy sounds that way to some.

    But wouldn’t you agree that what it sounds like the GAs and the temple ceremony are saying are a good indicator of how things actually will be in the eternities?

    I know that you disagree that there’s any evidence that should cause a woman to be the least bit concerned. After all, what kind of a god would value sons more than daughters? I agree with you here: if God’s view is that men are people and women aren’t quite, then I’m an atheist.

    Kiskilili, you’ve mentioned (in #88 and 142) contradictory claims coming from the church and the question this raises of how they should be resolved. One GA says that the man is the head of the family and his wife is a “treasured possession” while another says that husband and wife are equal partners. (Geoff, I know you see the preponderance of the evidence on the “equal partners” side.) I’m sure it’s a bit much to expect the teachings of GAs across time not to ever contradict one another, and even at the same time they may not agree.

    But to the degree that a single vision can be inferred from many GA statements, the most straightforward conclusion I can see is this: GAs still subscribe to the “women as possession” idea. Because the idea of women as being outright property offends our sensibilities, they also throw around a lot of discussion about “equal partnership,” but in saying “equal,” they don’t appear to mean “equal” so much as “not as unequal as it used to be.”

    Geoff, I agree with you that it’s good to hope for future change in the temple ceremony. But how long have we been hearing about equality in marriage, and we still have a temple ceremony that explicitly sets the man above the woman? It seems like if they were really serious about all the “equality” talk, they would have already changed the temple ceremony. That they haven’t leads me to the conclusion above, which is that they’re not serious about equality.

    I’m sorry to be such a cynic. ;)

  213. 213.

    Rilkerunning: was that last post a quote from above?

    I think Rilkerunning’s #210 was a new comment and the quote mark wasn’t supposed to be there. I’ve taken it out to make this clear.

  214. 214.

    Jessawhy – How can the short term physical limitations women experience during pregnancy justify their status as “property” or “possessions” of men? I don’t understand why women deserve to be treated as property or dependent children because of their reproductive capabilities. We don’t ask men who suffer from disease or accident to relinquish their status as an independent human being while they recuperate.

    It’s like saying polygamy was justified because women needed to be supported financially after they joined the Church. Well, just because you choose to support women in need doesn’t automatically entitle you to sleep with them, does it?

  215. 215.

    ECS, I’m not at all saying women deserve the mistreatment they’ve experienced or being property of men, I’m saying that I can understand how it has happened. My comments were meant to be an observation, not an endorsement. While learning more about feminism, I’ve been discovering the inequality of the history of mankind and seeing it in a new light. It’s just my first thought down this road of self-discovery. I do think our bodies are unequal, not just during the gestation. Women are generally not as strong as men, and are more subject to rape and abuse by men. (of course there are exceptions) I don’t think women should have been property of men as before, but I think our bodies have a unique vulnerability that is feminine, I can understand why men have taken advantage of it over the course of human history: the classic triumph of the strong over the weak. As I am very new to feminism, I welcome ideas to the contrary, perhaps my views of women have been colored by the men who have written the histories, who knows. My real point is wondering if women’s vulnerability or weakness translates to spiritual inequality as well.

  216. 216.

    Geoff (re #198), for what it’s worth, I’m not sure we’re actually all that far apart. As I said earlier, I personally believe (though in a faith way, not a knowledge way) in the equality of men and women in the eyes of God. And I agree with you about the importance and centrality of personal revelation, though I’d add that I think our interpretation of it is far from infallible, which is why I’m a bit hesitant to give it quite the epistemological weight that you do.

    Where it seems that we differ is that I don’t think that such equality is unambiguously being taught by the Church, and for me that’s a serious concern. I might not agree with all of Kiskilili’s conclusions on this, but I do think she has good reasons for thinking what she does, that there really are indications that gender relations in the next life might not be truly egalitarian, much as I hope that they are. In other words, I think she’s putting forth a plausible interpretation of the evidence, and regardless of what my own views on the subject might be (which is something I’m still sorting out), I think I have to at least take it seriously.

    In any case, I appreciate your participation in this thread, and the intent behind it. You’ve raised a number of interesting issues, and I hope to come back to some of them in the future.

  217. 217.

    Ziff (#212): I agree with you that it’s good to hope for future change in the temple ceremony. But how long have we been hearing about equality in marriage, and we still have a temple ceremony that explicitly sets the man above the woman? It seems like if they were really serious about all the “equality” talk, they would have already changed the temple ceremony. That they haven’t leads me to the conclusion above, which is that they’re not serious about equality.

    I’m sorry to be such a cynic.

    This is a perfect example of what I described as a Question Type 2 in comment #124. Earlier in your comment 212 you indicated that you have concluded for yourself that God doesn’t view women as lesser being than men (else you would be an atheist), so you have resolved the important metaphysical question for yourself one way or another already. Therefore, I can only conclude that your beef in the quote above is with semantics and with the management of the church. There is a major problem here I think. In a thread where people like Rilkerunning and Kiskilili are expressing deep-seeded and legitimate fears about their standing in the universe and before God, you are diluting that message by mixing in your peevish bellyaches about the earthly managers of the church. I think mixing trivial gripes about the way the various church leaders say certain things etc has no business being thrown in with the legitimate and deeply felt metaphysical fears expressed here. In other words, these Type 2 questions don’t deal with the important issues at all and only end up supporting the point of people like DKL because they are trivial and peevish. The Type 1 questions about the way things really are could not be more important.

    As I indicated, I think ultimately it requires direct personal revelation from God in one form or another to find our answers to the actually important Type 1 questions. Of course the trivial and peevish Type 2 questions can be answered by personal revelation too because they are basically gripes with middle management and we all have a standing interview with the Owner of the church. But I suspect the answer to such Type 2 questions is usually — “quit yer whining — you know how I feel about you so ease up on your criticism of the semantics of others”. But again I think it demeans the concerns of the real questioners (Type 1 questions like those that Kiskilili and Rilkerunning have) to throw in these quibbles with wording and criticisms of church leaders as if both types of issues are even in the same league.

  218. 218.

    Lynette: Where it seems that we differ is that I don’t think that such equality is unambiguously being taught by the Church

    No I don’t think that at all. Yes, I personally have found sufficient evidence for myself through the scriptures, our liturgy, and words of modern prophets, and most importantly my personal experiences with God to be very confident that God loves men and women equally and that men and women are equals in the eternities. But I never said that such a message is unambiguous in the church. Rather I said that all of our liturgy and scriptures can be read that way easily and should be read that way because of the position modern prophets have taken on the subject recently. I fully understand that they could be read differently — I just think the evidence from modern prophets in recent decades speaks against such a reading.

    So yes, Kiskilili’s take is a plausible reading — but only if we are willing to deeply discount the last several decades of modern prophetic statements on the subjects of gender equality.

    (Plus many of us would have to ignore the personal experiences we have with God on the subject… But since that is private evidence rather than public I will leave it in a different category.)

  219. 219.

    Geoff (re: #217), first of all, could I refer you to #2 on our comment policy:

    2. You’re welcome to explain why you completely disagree with someone’s ideas, but personal attacks are not acceptable. This includes such behaviors as name-calling, insults, or questioning other people’s personal righteousness.

    Referring to someone else’s comments as “peevish bellyaches” rather detracts from the civil tone we’re trying to maintain here.

    Secondly, I don’t think you’re giving Ziff a fair reading. This stuff isn’t peripheral; it’s precisely because of the way our leaders are talking, because the language of the temple ceremony continues to remain hierarchical, that people like Kiskilili and Rilkerunning are questioning their eternal status. And I’m not convinced that you can dimiss such concerns as quibbles about wording or mere semantics. Our knowledge of God, after all, is inevitably mediated by language.

  220. 220.

    Geoff, I think it’s very unkind to dismiss people’s sincere concerns as ‘peevish bellyaches.’ The management and statements of leaders really do affect our lives, and most of all it’s offensive and condescending that they expect women to believe their empty platitudes about equality. If they really meant it, they’d change what needs to be changed. If they aren’t willing to make those changes, it’s just hot air. And being patronized and condescended to by one’s church leaders is no small concern.

  221. 221.

    I fully understand that they could be read differently, I just think the evidence from modern prophets in recent decades speaks against such a reading.

    That sounds reasonable enough; thanks for clarifying your position. I myself don’t see the evidence from modern prophets as being nearly that clear, but I think that issue has already been hashed to death on this thread, so I think I’m going to leave it at that. :)

  222. 222.

    Jessawhy- I agree with your explanation about why physical differences between men and women account for disparate treatment, but why would this translate into the spiritual realm as well? Do you think women are spiritually weaker because they can’t do as many push ups as men? Or what do you mean by “spiritual inequality”?

  223. 223.

    #210 – I love those stories about Christ, SilverRain (why are you Silver? and Rain?) I do agree with you that Christ loved women. But I don’t think we can extrapolate from these Biblical stories that Christ saw women as independent actors and equal to men. After all, the stories of Christ’s compassion, love and concern for women are also told of Christ’s love and concern for children.

    My favorite scripture, however, is that “God is no respecter of persons”. Perhaps we can believe that not respecting “persons” includes not respecting (i.e., privileging) the sex differences between men and women?

  224. 224.

    SilverRain, I know it was about a gazillion comments ago (okay, maybe only sixty or seventy), but I wanted to respond to your #148.

    I don’t think there is much difference, other than that men have a specific calling to serve their families and others by acting as a proxy for God. What does this mean? Well, they have a stewardship, a responsibility – a sacred obligation to act as God would act, were He physically here to bless the family.

    I’ve been trying to think of a way to coherently explain why I’m so uneasy with this model. Maybe it’s because if one spouse is seen as representing the divine, even if it’s for the specific purpose of blessing the family, that strikes me as a rather enormous power differential. We don’t relate to God as equals, after all, even though everything he does is for our well-being. I’m perfectly fine with that in the context of a divine-human relationship. But I’m somewhat less comfortable with it in the context of a relationship between two human beings.

    I think the most important and overlooked scripture in blog threads discussing womanhood and the priesthood is D&C 121:34-50.

    I actually appreciate those verses quite a bit. But this is my concern. Even if men are warned in the sharpest terms that their authority will disappear if they abuse it, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re the ones given the authority. And it seems to me that vesting authority in one spouse but not the other precludes any possibility of a truly egalitarian relationship, no matter how benevolently that authority is exercised.

    When I bring up this kind of thing, I often get accused of being overly concerned with issues of power. (And maybe I am, my siblings may recall that I claimed to have “taken charge” of our family of origin at the age of 14. ;)) I certainly have no doubt that I could stand to learn more humility. But I’d hope to be able to do that in the role of a full-fledged adult. If husbands represent God in a marriage, it’s hard for me to see how wives aren’t thereby cast into a role akin to that of children.

    Goodness. That was far too long. Sorry about that.

    Not at all. If posting excessively long comments were considered a problem around here, most of us would have been kicked off the blog long ago. I would say that you’re in good company on this one.

  225. 225.

    Lynette: it’s precisely because of the way our leaders are talking, because the language of the temple ceremony continues to remain hierarchical, that people like Kiskilili and Rilkerunning are questioning their eternal status. I completely disagree with your claim here. Only personal revelation will adequately answer Kiskilili’s and Rilkerunning’s questions about their eternal status. It simply won’t do to lay the blame for their lack of personal revelation at the feet of any other person on this earth. Look, if the wording of the temple liturgy precluded women from believing they are equal to men even when God reveals that truth to them then you would have a point here. But that simply is not the case. This church is chock full of women who read and hear the same scriptures, talks, and liturgy and have no trouble believing God when he tells them of their infinite worth and equality with men through the Holy Spirit.

    In the end it is a pretty simple binary question: Are women equal to men in God’s eyes? A simple yes or no from God will do the job for each of us.

    In fact many of us have received that simple yes answer from God. So if someone has received that yes answer from God, s/he can then properly understand God’s meaning behind the wording of our scriptures and liturgy on that subject. Yet if that same person continues to snipe at current church leaders for not saying these true concepts in the exact type of wording they want (or for not changing the temple liturgy to suit their personal preferences) there is a problem. If you don’t like calling such an attitude “peevish bellyaching” what should we call it that means the same thing?

    This is my biggest beef with these discussions. There are important things to talk about here and there are trivial hobby-horse things to gripe about. Giving the gripes over semantics the same weight as the real issues (the metaphysical truth and actual opinion of God on the subject, regardless of how our leaders have articulated that truth in their weakness) is a tragedy.

  226. 226.

    Geoff, if I understand your position, you’re arguing that personal revelation is a kind of ultimate trump card, the hermeneutic which one should use to interpret everything else. But I don’t see things that way. I see personal revelation as one source of truth among many. It’s not infallible; in fact, at least in my experience, it’s highly vulnerable to misinterpretation. So given a situation in which my understanding of a personal revelation tells me one thing, and my understanding of Church teachings tells me another, I don’t think I can simply assume that the former must be correct and on that basis decide to ignore or radically re-interpret the latter without even considering the possibility that I might need to revise my interpretation of the personal revelation. I think if we’re going to take our religious texts seriously, we have to put them in a real, two-way dialogue with our religious experience, in which both have the potential to challenge our understanding and interpretation of the other.

    Yet is that same person continues to snipe at current church leaders for not saying these true concepts in the exact type of wording they want (or for not changing the temple liturgy to suit their personal preferences) there is a problem.

    I think you’re missing the point. My concern (and I believe Ziff’s as well, if I understood his comment) isn’t that the wording doesn’t quite match my personal preferences. My concern is that the wording at least potentially indicates that my belief that God values men and women equally is incorrect. The fact that this belief is (largely) based on my interpretation of my own religious experience doesn’t make it invulnerable to being challenged by other sources of religious truth. You may disagree that I should consider this kind of thing to be a serious challenge. But I don’t think it’s fair to assume that nothing but “petty sniping” is going on this situation.

    Also, I don’t see how you can neatly parse out “real, metaphysical” issues from “trivial, semantic” ones. It’s not as if we have some “pure” access to metaphysical reality that comes unmediated by interpretation; even when God speaks to us, he does it according to our language and understanding.

  227. 227.

    Geoff (#217,225):

    I do not think personal revelation and church experience are as easy to separate as you think they are. I agree with Lynnette (#226) that personal revelation does not actually function as the ultimate trump card, as you seem to be arguing that it does. As long as we believe the Church is at least somewhat inspired, personal revelation and church experience are going to be reinterpreted in light of each other.

    It’s not as though we can reason with nice, unambiguous statements like these:

    The Church declares that the proposition “Women are possessions” is TRUE.
    God declares that the proposition “women are possessions” is FALSE.
    Therefore, God trumps the Church and we can conclude that the proposition is FALSE.

    The reality is more likely to work like this. A woman, concerned about whether God values her as a person rather than a possession, prays about the issue and gets a peaceful feeling in response, which she interprets to mean that yes, God does view her as a person. But then she hears General Conference and Elder Holland says she’s a precious gift and President Hinckley says she’s her husband’s possession. Then she plans activities for Relief Society and is reminded that women’s activities are subject to approval by men, but men’s activities are never subject to women’s oversight. Then she worries about her sick child and is unable to bless him. Then she does sealings in the temple and is reminded that she is expected to give herself to her husband, while he is not expected to give himself to her. And she begins to wonder if perhaps the peaceful feeling God gave her in response to her prayer didn’t mean “Of course I value you as a person,” but more, “Of course I value you, dearest pet, first among the animals.”

    If Joseph Smith had the First Vision, and couldn’t settle in his accounts for a while whether he had seen one person or two–in a vision!–can it be surprising if less dramatic forms of revelation are sometimes subject to reinterpretation?

    What I’m saying is that your Type 1 and Type 2 categories of concerns are not as easily separable as you’ve presented them. Some women feel devalued because of their church experience. It’s not as easy as you seem to think to cast it all aside and assume that an answer to a prayer can be used as a basis for ignoring it. I think it can be particularly difficult for us as men, to understand how constant the drumbeat of church experience is in telling women that they’re not quite fully people. A few comments about equality in marriage in General Conference and even an answer to a prayer can hardly stand up to the institutionally repeated message that women are less than men.

    This is why my complaint about how GAs run the Church is directly relevant to Kiskilili and Rilkerunning feeling like God might think of them as possessions. So what if you or I think that surely God must value women as he does men? That’s easy for us to conclude, as men, as the stakes aren’t nearly as high for us. What would help Kiskilili and Rilkerunning to be more sure of this conclusion (I suspect) is for the Church to stop speaking with a forked tongue on the topic, change the temple ceremonies, stop talking about women as things in General Conference, and give women some real authority in the Church so that their Church experience and personal revelation can be univocal in declaring their value as people. As long as the Church continues using its present approach of preaching equality on one hand, but allowing the temple and the distribution of authority on the other hand to tell women that they’re not really equal on the other, can it be a surprise that some women take the message that God thinks they’re less than fully people?

  228. 228.

    To follow up with Lynnette’s comment, many faithful members of the Church, including Eugene England, Hugh B. Brown, and others, received personal revelation that the Church’s practice of denying priesthood to Black members was wrong and publicly disagreed with the policy/doctrine.

    Would you consider these men’s protests against the priesthood ban “sniping” and “belly aching”? I mean, they had already received personal revelation that God loved Black members as much as he loved White members and that God wanted Black males to have the priesthood. Are you saying that this personal revelation should have been sufficient, and that they should have kept quiet while their Black brothers were denied the blessings of the priesthood and the temple?

  229. 229.

    Ziff #213
    You were right, thank you. My baby pounding on the keyboard as I type is my defense!

  230. 230.

    ECS,

    You are a smart person. Surely you can tell the difference between the approach and tone taken by people like England and Brown and the approach we are taking here, where it is apparently OK to characterize the statements of church leaders as empty platitudes and hot air. We can say that they deliberately patronize and condescend to women, and that they speak with forked tongues. After all that, I think Geoff J.’s use of the term ‘peavish bellyaching’ is actually pretty mild.

    I haven’t participated much here because I am quite sympathetic to the idea the women as a subordinate and possession of man is actually a real problem, and others have articulated it better than I. I don’t think we should doubt anybody’s experience when she says something is painful or confusing.

    But we have moved beyond that now, and we are exhibiting one of the most annoying traits human beings can display: the blissful obliviousness to the possibility that we ourselves might actually be mistaken about a thing or two. I don’t think there is any question that the men who lead our church are constrained, to some extent, by the culture that produced them. But so are we, and it isn’t asking too much to ask that we recognize that. A little charity would go a long way.

  231. 231.

    All right all you peevish bellyachers and people speaking with forked tongues (including myself), I’d hate to see what was a civil, substantive conversation degenerate into an argument about who’s behaved the most obnoxiously, or an extended discussion of whether accusations about petty sniping are worse, better, or roughly the same as accusations about empty platitudes on the incivility scale. So this is a friendly request that everyone dial down the rhetoric a bit. Further accusations, or use of language that sounds even vaguely inflammatory, run the risk of 1) being deleted, or 2) being replaced by the Bouncer with comments about pink merman costumes. (I’m not sure which of those is the better threat . . . ;))

  232. 232.

    [inflammatory comment from Lynnette deleted]

    What continually surprises me is that some people don’t even bother to differentiate between shades of pink; they seem to actually believe that it doesn’t matter all that much whether one is wearing blush or bashful.

  233. 233.

    But we have moved beyond that now, and we are exhibiting one of the most annoying traits human beings can display: the blissful obliviousness to the possibility that we ourselves might actually be mistaken about a thing or two.

    You’re completely right of course, Mark. I have obviously been waaay too over-the-top and full of myself with my comments.

    The Bouncer visited me last night in my sleep, and he was not a pretty sight, green-and-silver sequins notwithstanding. He warned me of dire consequences if I didn’t cut out my peevish bellyaching and rambling about forked tongues in blissful obliviousness of the triple-fork in my own tongue.

  234. 234.

    Ziff (#227),

    For a second, I thought you were responding to Geoff’s comment 217,225 and I was worried that the length of this thread was truly getting out of hand.

  235. 235.

    Jacob, lol. If we get up to comment 217,225, I think we had all better seriously ask ourselves just how we are managing to find so much time to blog.

  236. 236.

    Jacob, I was actually trying to anticipate based on a statistical model what Geoff would be saying in comment 217,225. Unfortunately, my model appears to have been full of errors.

  237. 237.

    LOL, Mark. Thanks for the compliment. I was trying to frame the issue generally, however, i.e., what to do when your own personal revelation conflicts with official policy of the Church (the priesthood ban, the temple ceremony, etc.). Certainly a respectful tone in voicing concerns is important, but I guess I’m more interested in exploring the idea that personal revelation may prompt you to want to change the Church policies/doctrines you believe are incompatible with your personal revelation. And so how do we do that? Or should we even try?

  238. 238.

    #223 I love those stories about Christ, SilverRain (why are you Silver? and Rain?) I do agree with you that Christ loved women. But I don’t think we can extrapolate from these Biblical stories that Christ saw women as independent actors and equal to men. After all, the stories of Christ’s compassion, love and concern for women are also told of Christ’s love and concern for children.

    I think Christ’s love for children is different than what we are talking about. After all, Christ showed His love for children by talking with them and blessing them, but He never used them as sole first witnesses to His divinity. That indicates a significant spiritual power.

    #224 that strikes me as a rather enormous power differential. We don’t relate to God as equals, after all, even though everything he does is for our well-being. I’m perfectly fine with that in the context of a divine-human relationship. But I’m somewhat less comfortable with it in the context of a relationship between two human beings. . . . If husbands represent God in a marriage, it’s hard for me to see how wives aren’t thereby cast into a role akin to that of children.

    (I apologize ahead of time) it isn’t about power. That’s really the point I’ve been trying to get to. It’s about teaching husbands to act as God. I believe that women will have similar opportunities to learn to act as Mother some day. I also suspect She is more involved than we realize. Those two ideas, naturally, are not doctrine. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to act on those suppositions until and if it is revealed through the prophet.

  239. 239.

    Some other idea occurred to me. When we watch children grow, there is a “mother’s time” and a “father’s time” – a time when the child needs and clings to the mother, and then a time when the child needs and learns from the father. Perhaps it is a similar situation with us. Perhaps our “mother’s time” happened before this life. Now that we are branching out, proving ourselves and learning to be independent beings, we are in our “father’s time.” It is just a thought that passed through my mind as I pondered this.

  240. 240.

    Oh – and SilverRain has multiple levels. That is all I will say.

  241. 241.

    Lynette: you’re arguing that personal revelation is a kind of ultimate trump card, the hermeneutic which one should use to interpret everything else. But I don’t see things that way.

    Ziff: I agree with Lynnette (#226) that personal revelation does not actually function as the ultimate trump card, as you seem to be arguing that it does.

    In the immortal words of Larry the Cucumber: You couldn’t be more wronger.

    This thread is getting unwieldy so I’ve responded to this point at my blog. See my response post here.

  242. 242.

    ECS 222

    Jessawhy- I agree with your explanation about why physical differences between men and women account for disparate treatment, but why would this translate into the spiritual realm as well? Do you think women are spiritually weaker because they can’t do as many push ups as men? Or what do you mean by “spiritual inequality”?

    As I said before, I’m just starting to think about these things and threw these comments out like a hook, to see if I could get any bites. I wonder if others have thought about the possibility of spiritual inequality (perhaps there’s a better wording) or that it’s utterly preposterous. I’m open to any opinions, just trying to think through why God would only give his priesthood to men, and covenant with them directly, etc. (all the things we’ve been talking about) It was when I realized that the physical differences accounted for the disparate treatment that I began to wonder if it applies on a spiritual level as well? Personally, I hope not, but I am just trying to imagine some reason why things are the way they are. If God does love and value us equally, perhaps we are different on a spiritual level and need different power (priesthood) and interaction with God (covenants). Just thinking aloud, here.

  243. 243.

    Only personal revelation will adequately answer Kiskilili’s and Rilkerunning’s questions about their eternal status. It simply won’t do to lay the blame for their lack of personal revelation at the feet of any other person on this earth. Look, if the wording of the temple liturgy precluded women from believing they are equal to men even when God reveals that truth to them then you would have a point here. But that simply is not the case. This church is chock full of women who read and hear the same scriptures, talks, and liturgy and have no trouble believing God when he tells them of their infinite worth and equality with men through the Holy Spirit.

    I’m not sure exactly how you’ve reached the conclusion I’ve had no personal revelation–I just see a whole lot of ambiguity and some apparent conflict between some of my experiences with God and certain experiences in the Church–a conflict with no obvious resolution–where you see multiple sources of truth lining up neatly. (Also, I’m hesitant to discuss actual revelation in a public forum since I consider pitting my personal revelations against others’ a recipe for train wreck.)

    I do think taking the temple liturgy seriously preclues women from construing themselves as men’s equals. And I’m disinclined to give any epistemological weight to numbers–a lot of Mormon women have concluded they are men’s equals. A lot of other people have concluded the world is flat. I’d like to assess the evidence for myself.

  244. 244.

    Lynnette wrote

    “…a plausible case can be made that in the context of LDS thought and teaching, women belong to men in a way that men do not belong to women…”

    It strikes me that children belong to women in a way that they cannot belong to men.

    We each have different but complementary roles, the sum of which equals a family unit.

  245. 245.

    I realize this thread is pretty much dead (so i’ll understand if no one responds), but I read a comment (#59) at fMh yesterday that really applies to this conversation.
    In sum: This man (ex-Mo) is being asked to give permission for his wife to be sealed to someone else in the temple. He seems gracious enough and wants her to be happy (he’s in another relationship) but feels offended on her behalf that she would have to ask his permission to remarry, as if she is some kind of property. The next comment says both ex-husbands and ex-wives need to give permission for the other to be sealed to another spouse. Is this true? I am waiting to hear back from my sister-in-law whose ex was remarried in the temple (not sure if she had to give her permission).
    Anyway, I can see this guy’s point. It does appear that we hold on to some of these ideas that women are under the control of their husbands (even if they are divorced) in an eternal sense. It’s eternal polygamy and it is disturbing to many women, and I suspect affects decisions people make in this life. Such as; I will not marry a woman who has been widowed, I won’t be able to be sealed to her. Or, I will not marry a man who is widowed, I don’t want to be his second wife in the next life. I am honestly surprised that the PBS program didn’t comment on the issue of polygamous sealings and their inequality.

  246. 246.

    Jessawhy, see this comment from another old FMH thread.

  247. 247.

    thanks, Starfoxy.

  248. 248.

    Apparently there is something similar in the Jewish religion.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/fashion/06love.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

  249. 249.

    [...] (Acts 10:34)–but there’s a lot there that confuses me–for a few examples see Lynnette’s original post on women as possessions as well as examples in the comments that [...]

  250. 250.

    [...] Zelophehad’s Daughters: Women as possessions [...]

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