Zelophehad’s Daughters

Can Women Be Exalted?

Posted by Lynnette

One of the questions which came up in my post last fall about my reservations concerning the doctrine of Heavenly Mother was that of female exaltation more generally. It’s an issue that’s been at the back of my mind ever since. The discussion on my recent poll about the Celestial Kingdom inspired me to re-visit the topic, and attempt to sort out what thoughts on the subject I have thus far.

I’ll begin with the somewhat more basic question of whether women are even in the Celestial Kingdom. The last time I looked at D&C 76, I found myself particularly struck by verses 55-58:

They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—

A recurrent problem in interpreting the scriptures is that it’s not always clear when gender-exclusive language is actually meant to be inclusive, and when it’s only referring to males. There are of course plenty of instances when it seems reasonable to deduce that “man” means “humankind.” I think the language in above passage, however, is androcentric enough that female inclusion is at least questionable.

However, we do have scriptural evidence elsewhere which at least refers to the presence of women in the world to come. In Joseph F. Smith’s vision recorded in D&C 138, he reports that included in the righteous dead, he saw “our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.”

In other words, women haven’t disappeared altogether in the next life. This is also, of course, supported by temple ordinances, and the LDS understanding of the marriage relationship as eternal. So I don’t mention D&C 76 to make the case that women aren’t in the Celestial Kingdom; I think such an argument would be difficult to support. But I do think it’s interesting that Joseph Smith fails to mention seeing them. I can see a couple of possibilities:

–This could be simply be a language issue, and “sons” really means “sons and daughters,” “priests” really means “priests and priestesses,” etc.

–Joseph Smith didn’t actually happen to see any women in this vision, but this fact has no theological significance.

–Although there are women in the Celestial Kingdom, they aren’t included in the D&C 76 description because their role or status is fundamentally different. In other words, these verses are specifically a description of what celestial existence means for men. This is the possibility in which I’m most interested, for reasons I hope to develop in this post.

Discussions of exaltation are inevitably speculative. However, based on the ways in which the term is used, I think I can make two general assertions about what it involves: 1) a particular kind of relationship to God; 2) inheriting all that God has and is; becoming like God and sharing in the divine life. I have questions about to what extent either of these can be applied to women.

First of all, the question of relationship. Clearly one of the benefits of the Celestial Kingdom is that those there have a relationship with God which goes beyond that described in lower kingdoms. The notion of more direct, more intimate, closer communion with God is one of the blessings of being in a celestial realm. Such a relationship, I would argue, is not merely a side benefit of exaltation; it is in some sense actually constitutive of it. It is for this reason–that relationship with God is so central–that I find the hierarchal marriage model portrayed in the temple so disturbing. I see it as raising serious questions about female access to God, and therefore the ability of women to achieve exaltation (at least in this sense).

Of course, it is quite clear from the scriptures and from prophetic teachings–not to mention the reports of thousands of believers–that God does indeed interact with his daughters directly. LDS teachings don’t instruct women, to give just one example, to consult their husbands about the veracity of the Book of Mormon; they, like men, are told to go directly to God, and that God will answer them personally.

Given that this democratic, universal access to personal revelation is such a central feature of Mormon life, why give so much weight to this one particular covenant? Why project it into the next life? My answer is that this is precisely what the temple purports to be: a glimpse, however faint, of the eternities. I do not think it completely implausible to suggest that the way in which God relates to men and women inside the temple is meant to give us a clearer notion of what eternal life looks like than does the form that this relationship takes outside of it.

I can imagine, for example, the following scenario. It is possible that in the context of this limited and fallen world, for practical reasons, God chooses to interact with everyone regardless of gender. Not all women are married, not all married women have husbands who are in a position to receive revelation, and the revelation that does get communicated is often ambiguous. In other words, universal access to the divine might be a telestial practice, one necessary in this situation of mortality. In the celestial sphere, however, when presumably all men will be righteous and able to to unproblematically represent God to their wives, there might be no reason for God to interact directly with women.

I realize this is quite speculative, and I am certainly not arguing that such a scenario is clearly indicated by LDS doctrine. However, I see enough in church teachings suggesting that the celestial order is one in which men are in some sense connected directly to God, and women are connected to their husbands–in other words, that women and men do not have the same kind of relationship to God–to see something like this as at least a serious possibility.

The second aspect of exaltation I want to examine is that of inheriting what God has and is; of becoming like God. Given that LDS teachings assert both that God is male and that gender is eternal, it is clear from the outset that at least in some respects, women cannot become like God in the way that men can.

I imagine that many at this point will object that God is not in fact male; rather, God is a married couple. This, of course, brings us back to the problem of Heavenly Mother, and how little we know about her. If such a being does exist, the fact that she is not a member of the Godhead, and that we do not worship her, raises real questions about whether she is even divine. Some argue (see for example the discussion in this thread) that what the scriptures tell us about the Father’s attributes can be similarly applied to the Mother, but I see no reason to assume that this is the case. We simply lack scripture or revelation which tells us anything about her.

What this hole in LDS teachings leads to, I think, is a giant question mark about the meaning, and even the possibility, of female exaltation. Can women receive “all that the Father hath” in the same way that men can?

We do know, of course, that men cannot achieve exaltation without women. This is made clear in D&C 131:2, which tells us that to obtain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom “a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].” Again, however, we have the problem of gendered language. Does this passage also refer to the exaltation of women, or does it simply indicate that men require women to achieve their own exaltation?

Perhaps the passage which gives the strongest evidence for the possibility of female exaltation is D&C 132:20, which describes the situation of an exalted married couple:

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

In this verse, whatever is going on in exaltation appears to be happening to both husband and wife. What does it mean to say that they are gods? It seems to be related to being in the marital relationship; verse 17 explains that the angels “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods.” This suggests another definition of exaltation: the state of being in an eternal marriage relationship. In this understanding of the term, I think there is no question that it is available to men and women alike.

However, I would note that this does not preclude husband and wife having very different roles. The fact that an exalted unit of men and women is “everlasting” and “has all power,” does not rule out the possibility that women nonetheless remain subordinate in the context of that unit. I mention this because this passage shows up in D&C 132–a revelation in which women are frequently described as objects which are given (and taken) from men. Whatever exaltation includes, at least in this context it does not seem to include both parties being treated as agents in their own right.

Both the scriptures and the temple promise great blessings to both faithful men and women in the world to come. However, I think we have good reason to suspect that the form which exaltation takes is substantially different for men and women. The question I have might then be better framed not as, “can women be exalted,” but rather, “what does female exaltation mean?”

79 Responses to “Can Women Be Exalted?”

  1. 1.

    If there are no women in heaven then it is not heaven.

  2. 2.

    However, I think we have good reason to suspect that the form which exaltation takes is substantially different for men and women.

    I’m not so sure.

    I think if we want to look at the temple as instructive, I like to consider the fact that women and men both enter into the Celestial room. And you don’t see the men getting some special privilege or treatment in the Celestial room. All are equal, all have access to all that is there.

    That, and the fact that exaltation in the highest degree is reserved only for a man and woman, married, together, then to me that all says a lot.

    I think it’s also instructive to look at the verses in D&C 76 that come before the ones you quoted, and women have access to all of those things.

    Lastly, think of all the pairing of kings AND queens in our gospel teachings. Have you ever considered that implicit in mentioning of kings and priests is also queens and priestesses? Given all that we hear about the necessity of a man and a woman to make exaltation possible, I don’t think you can decouple the blessings promised to a king from the blessings promised to a queen.

  3. 3.

    If there are no cows in heaven then it is not heaven.

  4. 4.

    Lynette, (get the torches and pitchforks ready)

    Who is to say that our sense of male-female union here is really the same male-female union there? What if the CK is a free-love commune? I’m not asking this facetiously.

    If polygamy (and especially polyandry) was truly inspired by God, and is really the order of the CK…

    and if we believe that there are many things yet to be revealed…

    and if we believe that we are all spiritual brothers and sisters who will be sealed to eachother thorugh our temple ordinances anyway…

    and if we believe that God is truly no respector of persons, male or female…

    and if we believe that exalted people can love without jealously or possesiveness and will trully share all things —

    and if we believe that Elohim is plural and refers to a counsel of Gods rather than a single father creator…

    If we can accept all of those things, is it really such a stretch to imagine a heaven where exalted women are free to love and commune with any exalted man she finds worthy?

  5. 5.

    I had a comment brewing in response to the post but #4 has me so creeped out I forgot it…

  6. 6.

    Glenn,
    Wow. that’s a new one.
    Shall we call it Celestial Orgy?

    I have a friend who thinks it’s possible for women to be taken as God’s wives in the CK. I’m not sure how I feel about that one either.

    If this thread had been before the “Do you want to go to the Ck?” thread, I might have voted differently. . .

  7. 7.

    Glenn,

    I’m so happy to see you back around here. You make me laugh like nobody else does!

    Lynnette,

    Fascinating post. I really like how you’ve thought through this question.

  8. 8.

    Jess- that might be taking it a little far. :) I don’t think of it as anything debaucherous, and I don’t think of it as an eternal sex-fest. But I can envision a heavenly society that is “perfect” (and completely unattainable by mortal standards) where there is no jealousy in sharing those kinds of things with anyone and everyone.

    I suggested something along these lines to my wife many years ago, and she still teases me about my future celestial relationship with my deceased grandma (she doesn’t dare take it down the progeny chain). But all those taboo things — are they taboo in heaven? (were they taboo in Eden?) Is it only taboo now because the devil wants us to think of it that way?

    But back to Lynette’s original question — the greatest appeal for me in this kind of CK interpretation would be the complete and perfect equality for women. If a man can’t accept that, then he’s not celetial material in this model. And that has a certain appeal to me.

    Sorry to creep you out, Geoff. I’m sure you’ll get it back, and it will be all the more frothy and potent for the extra brewing time. :)

    And Ziff, you want to really laugh? You should hear my Scooby Doo impression. Rrowsers raggy!

  9. 9.

    Lynnette,

    Interesting post. Personally, I am in the “priests” really means “priests and priestesses,” camp.

    why give so much weight to this one particular covenant? …My answer is that this is precisely what the temple purports to be: a glimpse, however faint, of the eternities.

    I think you are ignoring a fairly prominent aspect of the ceremony, which is that it portrays a journey from telestial space into celestial space. It does not purport to be a glimpse into what it is like in the celestial kingdom. The portion you are referring to does not take place in a celestial setting. Thus, your interpretation seems exactly backward. You suggest that universal access to God might be a telestial thing while in the celestial realm women interact only with their husbands. You simply have the glories and the kinds of interaction mixed up from the ceremony in my opinion.

  10. 10.

    I mention this because this passage shows up in D&C 132–a revelation in which women are frequently described as objects which are given (and taken) from men.

    I’m sure it won’t persuade, but for the record, the same language of being “given” is applied to men elsewhere. See for example John 17:24 and D&C 50:41-42. This language of being given is closely tied to marriage and I believe scriptures like the ones above use that language to make reference to the bride of Christ, of which all of us (men and women) are trying to become a part. Incidentally, the fact that I can only be saved by marriage to Christ as his bride does not bother me. The fact that D&C 132 is about marriage and uses the common language of being given in marriage doesn’t seem to me to be a statement that women are objects. But as I said, I am sure this will not persuade.

  11. 11.

    Ok, I am just going to purge my mind of this whole nasty Celestial Orgy concept and pretend I never heard it so i can get back to this interesting post…

    First I want to second Jacob’s point. Just because something is in the temple does not mean it must be reflective of the Celestial order of things. In fact, the portions Lynnette refers to are specifically associated with lower glory in the liturgy.

    The other point I wanted to bring up had to do with the way Lynnette is utilizing our scriptures. I happen to be a fan of Ostler’s “modern expansion of an ancient text” approach to the Book of Mormon. A key element of that approach is to recognize that scriptures are not given to verbatim prophets from revelatory teleprompters. In other words, to varying degrees we always get some of the medium (in this case, the prophet) influencing the transmission of the message. So it seems very possible to me that the less-than-egalitarian subtle hints Lynnette is seeing in a lot of the revelations given to Joseph Smith are more reflective of the 19th century man who received them than they are of the the God who inspired them.

  12. 12.

    Wow! I thought I’d come back to see a firestorm, and instead I find a celestial orgy! 8O

    Thanks for all the thoughts; despite its rather ridiculous length, this post is pretty half-baked, and I’m sure there are plenty of relevant points that I’m overlooking, so it’s good to hear other perspectives.

    Re #1 and #3, all I can say is that I’m Just a Girl Who Likes Chocolate. :)

    m&m, thanks for that observation about the celestial room. I really can see indications that things might be equal; I just struggle to reconcile them with the information I see suggesting otherwise. We’re in agreement, I think, that exaltation is bestowed on men and women, kings and queens, together. I guess my concern, in a nutshell, is that the fact that men and women inherit these blessings together doesn’t necessarily mean that they are equal in their relationship with each other, or with God.

    Glenn, I’m not even sure where to start with that one! But thanks for the laugh. And you do raise an interesting point in that the current depiction of exaltation in terms of married couples (people go into the CK two by two, kind of like Noah’s Ark) seems to reflect, at least to some extent, contemporary cultural ideals–I’m not sure to what extent our nineteenth-century ancestors would have been on board with it.

    Jessawhy, I think your friend’s idea might even be scarier than Glenn’s . . .

    Jacob, I think you’re getting at the heart of the problem in your observation about this taking place in a telestial setting. I can definitely see what you’re saying about my possibly reading this backward. The lurking question is, I think, this one: is patriarchy the product of a fallen world, or is it the celestial order of things? I’ve read plenty of arguments making the case for one or the other, and I can see evidence on both sides. But with regard to this particular situation, I do wonder–why would we be asked to make covenants that, in essence, reflect telestial values? That’s one reason why I wonder whether it’s not meant to reflect something more celestial, even though it shows up in a telestial setting.

    Thanks also for your observation about other scriptures where this kind of language is applied to men. You’re right that I’m unpersuaded, but it’s not a bad thing for me to be reminded of. :) I find D&C 132 incredibly jarring in the way it talks about women; I don’t think there’s really anything comparable describing men. And while I would probably have a hard time with the language regardless, I think for me it takes on more sinister implications because of other indications that marital relationships aren’t precisely reciprocal, that women are given to men in a way that men aren’t given to women.

    Geoff, that’s certainly a reasonable point about scripture. I’m definitely not one who sees it as falling directly from the mouth of God; I think it’s clearly mediated through fallible human beings. The challenge, of course, is discerning what exactly in it is divine. To be honest, my personal preference would be to to simply ignore all the stuff that sounds sexist to me, and assume that those bits comes from fallible human beings and not God. Sometimes, in fact, that’s exactly the approach I take, for my own emotional sanity. But I fear that when I do that, I’m failing to actually take the scriptures seriously, but am simply choosing the parts of them that sound comfortable. In a sense, I’m wary of my own feminist impulses.

  13. 13.

    Well Glenn, if it’s any comfort, you’re not the only one who’s “gone there.” My wife and I have also speculated that loving relationships are more open in the Celestial Order than here on earth – where there is a need to be careful about people’s weaknesses and insecurities.

    But I think I’d disagree with you on the whole “free-love” thing. I don’t think the Celestial Order involves general polyamory. Our religious model – and the Celestial reality it is supposed to be derived from – are premised on covenant relationships. So I think those kind of relationships are still, in some sense, limited and bounded.

    But I do think that D&C 132 makes it perfectly clear that a vision of a Celestial Kingdom populated by pairing-offs is simply incorrect. Sorry guys, but I really, REALLY don’t think monogamy is the exclusive order of heaven.

  14. 14.

    Okay, then. How about free-solemnized-love? We’re talking about forever here. Just one eternal spouse for ever and ever and ever? Or multiple sanctified covenant-based equal-partner-gods. No swingers. No hot tubs. No cheesy moustaches. Just pure unadulterated heavenly celestial sealings.

  15. 15.

    Lynette, this is an interesting post and thoughts.

    To add my 2 cents worth to answer the question “can women be exalted?” my answer would be (and forgive me is this comes across as bluint or straight-forward, that’s just my nature, though trying to be sincere and sensitive) only if you have sister-wives with you iaw with D&C 132 that you have already mentioned.

    And referring to the issue of the order of our relationships with one another my research and studies have lead me to believe that it will be the Patriachal Order in existence. Refer to 1 Corinthians 11:3-12 which states as follows:

    3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the ahead of the bwoman is the man; and the chead of Christ is God.
    4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
    5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is aeven all one as if she were shaven.
    6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a ashame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
    7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
    8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
    9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
    10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
    11 Nevertheless neither is the aman without the woman, neither the bwoman without the man, in the Lord.
    12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

  16. 16.

    Let the beatings commence.

  17. 17.

    Jothan is a fundie if I remember correctly.

  18. 18.

    Jothan #15, see this post. regarding that scripture…

  19. 19.

    Lynnette: But I fear that when I do that, I’m failing to actually take the scriptures seriously, but am simply choosing the parts of them that sound comfortable. In a sense, I’m wary of my own feminist impulses.

    Meh. Why be afraid to interpret scriptures as your gut tells you? What are scriptures besides revelations other people have claimed to have received anyway? We have discussed this before — I think the only revelations that really matter are the revelations we receive personally. Everything else is hearsay. In other words, I believe scriptures were inspired by God only to the extent that God tells me through personal revelation that they are inspired by God.

    I personally feel certain that exaltation requires real egalitarianism. I think God agrees. If Joseph Smith believed otherwise then I think he was wrong on that subject. So I don’t get wary of my own feminist impulses when it comes to metaphysical/theological questions — I just go with them when I believe God agrees with me. (That’s what Joseph did, right? If he hadn’t he would have remained a Methodist…)

  20. 20.

    Have you ever considered that implicit in mentioning of kings and priests is also queens and priestesses?

    Duh. That was in your post. Sorry.

  21. 21.

    I am sorry if I have offended some. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

    Let it be know that I do not condone unrighteous dominion in any form as has been assumed here.

    If that was your first impression then you do not understand the Patriarchal and Priesthood Order of God.

    Maybe to help clarify this I refer you to this message by Elder Dean L. Larsen titled Marriage and The Patriarchal Order.

    To set the record staight about who I am, I assure you that I am a true faithful Temple attending BIC LDS. I live in the DC area. Served mission to Barcelona Spain.

    In references to the New and Everlasting Covanent of Plural Marriage, I understand and know it to be the law of God that can not be denied. I have researched and studied this principle intensely for the better part of 25 years not only it’s practice in church history but also in many other religions and cultures.

    I can understand some people’s initial aversion to it, but I might challenge you to try to study it and understand it under the inspiration of God. Your exaltation might depend on it.

    Thanks and God Bless

  22. 22.

    “Meh. Why be afraid to interpret scriptures as your gut tells you? ”

    Perhaps because your “gut feeling” is different from my “gut feeling”. Either God is or he is not egalitarian. However convinced you are of your personal revelation that God is egalitarian, there is clear evidence to the contrary in the scriptures and in our temple liturgy – so you have to at least entertain the possibliity that he is not.

    Or are you saying everyone will receive the personal revelation you received regarding God’s character? And if they don’t, should they bother worshipping a God who loves some of His Children more than others?

  23. 23.

    Here are some good additional readings about the Patriarchal Order.

    The Ancient Covenant Restored

    Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home

    I am sorry if this has been a threadjack. I didn’t mean it to.

  24. 24.

    ECS: However convinced you are of your personal revelation that God is egalitarian, there is clear evidence to the contrary in the scriptures and in our temple liturgy – so you have to at least entertain the possibliity that he is not.

    Well I don’t anything in the temple liturgy I would call “clear evidence to the contrary” of an egalitarian god but I can understand how one could come to such a conclusion. I will freely grant that such a thing is logically possible. But of course there are all kinds of logical possibilities in the universe I just don’t get worked up over. (Spaghetti Monsters anyone?)

    And if they don’t, should they bother worshipping a God who loves some of His Children more than others?

    Probably not. If there were such a god I probably wouldn’t worship it.

    (This is related to the “deal-breakers” question Jacob brought up and Seraphine posted on concurrently with this thread.)

  25. 25.

    Jothan,

    No need to apologize. That Ensign article about strengthening the patriarchal order in the home is a real gem. It just puts it right out there, with no more mumbo-jumbo about separate but equal roles and co-presiding.

    I summarize the article with the following points:

    1. It bemoans the “profound shift from the authoritarian family in which the husband-father had the major control over his wife and children”.

    2. “The recent trend in family government is also a departure from biblical teachings. The apostle Paul admonished, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands. …” (Eph. 5:22; see also Col. 3:18.) He also taught that “the husband is the head of the wife. …” (Eph. 5:23.) In addition, the Lord instructed Eve in the Garden of Eden that “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen. 3:16.)”

    3. There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, . . .than that of the father.”

    4. “Let us begin by saying that a Latter-day Saint husband or father presides over his wife and family in much the same way a bishop, stake president, or elders quorum president presides over the specific group to which he is called.”

    (This point seems to directly contradict Elder Oaks’ point, that there is a fundamental difference between the way the priesthood should operate inside the home from the way it does in the church.)

    5. “Little scientific evidence is in at this time, but there is concern expressed in some quarters that the growing rebellion of youth is a logical extension of the shift toward equalitarianism.”

    Whoa.

    6. “Imagine, for example, the confusion that would result if two bishops were appointed over your particular ward”

    This article was published in 1973. It is an embarassment, and we ought to quit pretending that our teachings mean something they don’t. As of 1973, the husband presided over the wife in a hierarchical manner, period. Our leader have recently tried to back away from the cliff, but we shouldn’t be surprised when there is still lots of confusion, and we shouldn’t pretend that our teachings about marriage and the family haven’t changed.

  26. 26.

    Hehe. Good points Mark. What an craptastically embarrassing article.

  27. 27.

    The above talk is exactly the opposite of what our Stake was told in 1998 about how a family is to be run. Elder Scott said, (relying on memory) that some people think a family should be run like bishop’s council where they talk things over and the bishop decides. He said that was not the correct model, The correct model for family leadership is the Quorum of the Twelve. They talk things over and come to a consensus. If one person disagrees then they wait and do nothing until they reach agreement.

    I find it ironic that on a forum named for the daughters of Zelophehad the concept that that there is a difference between the teachings of men and the justice of men and the teachings or justice of God is not apparent. That recognition on the part of Moses and the Lord is the thing that made it possible for the law they were contesting to be changed.

    It seems to me that probably 90% of the things we think we know, especially with regard to the CK or pre- earth life come straight out of our imaginations.

  28. 28.

    I find it ironic that on a forum named for the daughters of Zelophehad the concept that that there is a difference between the teachings of men and the justice of men and the teachings or justice of God is not apparent.

    Stepheny, I think the problem here is one of accurately discerning the golden divine doctrine amid the earthly human dross. As feminists, sure, we’d find it vastly comforting to privilege certain aspects of our doctrine over others, Elder Scott over Elder Larson, temple inclusion of men and women in the CK over Paul. But as Jothan’s comments above rather strikingly illustrate, patriarchal doctrine is alive and well in our scripture and relatively recent discourse and has not been repudiated. It seems somewhat arbitrary, and also somewhat arrogant, to align the timeless, unchanging will of God with our peculiar twenty-first century feminist sensibilities. For one thing, if we make our own sensibilities the principle of doctrinal discrimination, we actually eradicate the possibility of divine communication. How is God supposed to tell us anything if we’ve already decided that anything we don’t like must not be of God?

    I’m actually quite sympathetic to the approach of simply privately rejecting the sexist and oppressive aspects of our doctrine, practice, and culture. In practice such rejections may ultimately be necessary for a sustained relationship with the church–I’m finding that for my own sanity I have to believe in a God who is not a respecter of persons in the way that the Mormon God sometimes seems to be. But this rejection does open big can of worms. At this point in my life I just don’t see any easy answers to the thorny problems of patriarchy.

  29. 29.

    Regarding the Ensign re:1973 and today, who says their is no such thing as continuing revelation.

    Lynnette,
    I have difficulty believing you really take this to be doctrine. It has the look and feel of a straw man, although I suppose from your point of view it is merely exposing some of the dross in our doctrine to pave the way for something more palatable.. I do totally see how believing the temple actually teaches this would be helpful to feminist sensibilities. When one is a minority in society, what power they do have is most often found in exploiting the guilt of the priveleged. Problem is, how do you lay this power down. Is it not just as manipulative and wrong as the unrighteous dominion decried in D&C 121. My advice is to try gentleness, kindness, meekness and love unfeigned. Feel free to reprove me with sharpness if moved to do so, but only if you can show increase of love afterward and build a bond of friendship stronger than the cords of death.

    Back to the subject at hand, your view seems entirely untenable as we cannot obtain the highest kingdom without the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Exaltation means man and woman together. I won’t pretend to know much of the details beyond that, only that wielding power and influence can only be done as applied in section 121.

  30. 30.

    Exaltation means man and woman together. I won’t pretend to know much of the details beyond that…

    I won’t even pretend to know that. But faith is really cool, aint it?

  31. 31.

    #3 Just a Girl who likes Hamburgers, on April 23rd, 2008 at 8:01 pm said:
    If there are no cows in heaven then it is not heaven.

    Very funny and exactly to the point. I actually know people who love to eat and if they won’t be able to eat, even though they are immortal and don’t need to eat in heaven, then they don’t want to be there. Since I have an ulcer and must eat in order to stay alive ,even though it is not a joy, I could care less if heaven is defined as a feast.

    #28 as Jonathan’s comments above rather strikingly illustrate, patriarchal doctrine is alive and well in our scripture and relatively recent discourse and has not been repudiated. It seems somewhat arbitrary, and also somewhat arrogant, to align the timeless, unchanging will of God with our peculiar twenty-first century feminist sensibilities.

    Patriarchy as it has been practiced in modern times is informed by the Romans. The father in the Roman household had the final on word on everything right down to the life of each infant born brought to him for a name. This was any baby born into anyone in his household. If he named the child the child lived. If he didn’t name the child the child died. This is not part of scripture.

    Of course we dropped most of the Roman practices but kept the attitude. Still it was Sarah who suggested to Abraham that he marry Hagar. By the same token it was Sarah who told Abraham to send her and her son away: and he did! It was Rebbecca who sent Jacob away after she engineered the deception that got him the birth right. When Jacob told his wives that is was time leave their homeland the women made the choice to go. It was Rachel who said their father had left them no inheritance so they had no reason to stay. This statement makes it clear that they had inheritance rights independent of their husband, and that their father had, in her view wasted. It was Tamar, whether you like the way she did or not, who secured for Judah and his son an inheritance and made sure his line continued. I could go on about the influence of female regents to boy kings in Judah, but I that would be a bit much.

    So when we start talking about the timeless immutable will of God and patriarchy you have to define what you actually mean by that. The timeless immutable will of God that I can see that hasn’t changed is his desire to bless his children, keep his promises, and see the plan of salvation come to fruition for the people who spend mortality on this earth. The basics of how we work out our individual salvation do not change. A lot of other things might because we all see things through the filter of our own culture, attitudes and experiences. It seems a bit constraining to limit God by tying him down with our own prejudices.

  32. 32.

    It seems a bit constraining to limit God by tying him down with our own prejudices.

    Oh, I’d definitely agree! The only point I wanted to make is that it’s very difficult to know which aspects of Old Testament or contemporary cultural practice are God-sanctioned, and which aren’t. In the OT, the NT, contemporary church discourse, the temple, there are elements that are oppressive and elements that are liberatory. The problem, as I see it, is where to locate God in the contradictions.

    (And in suggesting that limiting God to our contemporary sensibilities might be “arrogant,” I didn’t mean to suggest that you personally were being arrogant. I’m sorry if that remark came across as a condemnation–I didn’t mean it that way.)

  33. 33.

    It seems a bit constraining to limit God by tying him down with our own prejudices.

    Can someone show me a prophet who hasn’t done this?

    Even Paul admitted we all are seeing through a “glass darkly” right? We muddle along the best we can and we Christians try to be like Jesus (or at least we try to be like we think he was…)

    I’m not trying to be too cynical but I do think that we can waste a lot of our lives with unnecessary angst if we have incorrect assumptions about prophets and their writing and opinions.

  34. 34.

    Hear, hear! That’s why I stopped paying any attention to prophets. I’ve been much happier since.

  35. 35.

    I agree with Stepheny’s observation that the patriarchal society observed by Romans (and Greeks) was apparently harsher than that of the ancient Israelites. (Although it’s abundantly clear to me nevertheless that Israelite culture was still thoroughly patriarchal.) But if I’m reading her correctly the implicit suggestion in her comments is that once we can identify a characteristic as “Roman” we can dismiss it as, by implication, not gospel truth (as over against more inspired Israelite culture). This is where I think Eve’s point is relevant. Is this criterion in fact a failsafe way for separating dross from gold? Paul was a Roman citizen–so are his ideas therefore wrong? Jesus likewise lived in the Roman empire–can he also be dismissed as the product of an uninspired culture? And when we can find other Semitic parallels to Israelite institutions, can we discard them as well?

    The reason this criterion is problematic is that we can never escape culture (what human behavior is not a part of culture, by definition?), so following this pattern we’re ultimately led to disregard all evidence. (Mormons should be wary of this approach, given the number of our theologoumena that are the product of hellenistic developments regarding the self, the devil, the afterlife, etc.)

    The dismay over Lynnette’s apparently unfeminist observations reminds me of a post I’ve had brewing for a while. Is the only appropriate feminist position to conclude God is perfectly egalitarian (and therefore would support granting the priesthood to women, revising the temple ceremony, inspiring more woman-friendly scriptures, the worship of Heavenly Mother, whatever else)? Or is it feminist to simply wish God is/were egalitarian without being certain that he is? Since to my mind feminism has a fundamental orientation to how things should be (ethics) rather than how they are (ontology), I see no reason why the latter should be precluded. But it strikes me that liberals and conservatives sometimes have more in common with each other than either group has with so-called moderates, especially in how they see the current state of our doctrine (just not on whether they find it acceptable).

    It seems to me that probably 90% of the things we think we know, especially with regard to the CK or pre- earth life come straight out of our imaginations.

    But the million-dollar question is: who gets decide what the 10% that has some basis in reality is? Among some on this thread, the consensus seems to be that seeing through a glass darkly is virtually akin to being blind–any image we can make out behind that glass is vitiated by the glass’s translucency and should be disregarded. My serious question is, if that’s the case, why be religious at all, if little to no theological evidence has any validity?

    I find it ironic that on a forum named for the daughters of Zelophehad the concept that that there is a difference between the teachings of men and the justice of men and the teachings or justice of God is not apparent. That recognition on the part of Moses and the Lord is the thing that made it possible for the law they were contesting to be changed.

    I suspect there’s a difference between mortal understanding and implementation of justice and divine justice, but I genuinely don’t see how to discern which is which, so I’m sorry if that appears ironic. I like the story of Zelophehad’s daughters. But is that in itself enough to conclude it’s inspired? I also like Arthurian legends.

  36. 36.

    One thing that interests me about women’s supposed exaltation is that women are said, when exalted, to attain the level men are at in this life. Men are ordained priests to God, where women are priests to their husbands. If their husbands become Gods, women too become priests to Gods.

  37. 37.

    Kiskilili: Hear, hear! That’s why I stopped paying any attention to prophets. I’ve been much happier since.

    Really? I thought you have said in the past that you decided God was somewhat malevolent because of what you learned through prophets. Does this mean you have had personal revelation from God telling you he doesn’t think women “have souls in the sense that women are full agents whose experience is worth validating”? I hadn’t heard that. I assumed that your conclusion that God felt mostly “disdain” for all women came as a deduction you made from certain scriptures and liturgy rather than from a personal revelation you had on the subject…

  38. 38.

    Kiskilili: My serious question is, if that’s the case, why be religious at all, if little to no theological evidence has any validity?

    Very good question. I personally am religious because I have had experiences with God that have lead me to be. In Mormon parlance, I have received personal revelation telling me that ought to be actively engaged in Mormonism so I am doing that. I can’t say what drives everyone to be religious. Why are you religious?

    But is that in itself enough to conclude it’s inspired? I also like Arthurian legends.

    Absolutely not. Once again I am not convinced I would be an active Mormon in the absence of revelation telling me to be so. I understand others do remain in the church on so-called “borrowed light” but I don’t envy them.

    Men are ordained priests to God, where women are priests to their husbands.

    I’ve seen you repeat this a few times and I don’t think it is accurate. See this quote from the initiatory wiki:

    In the second stage, the officiator touches the person on the forehead with consecrated oil and states that he or she is anointing the person “preparatory to your becoming a King [or Queen] and a Priest [or Priestess] unto the Most High God”.

    It is the Most High God that men and women are both anointed to become King and Queens to

  39. 39.

    Geoff, I think the language Kiskilili refers to is spoken in the introduction to the endowment.

  40. 40.

    Geoff, to avoid going into inappropriate detail I’ll simply say that the wiki is not an accurate account of the women’s initiatory, which is consistent with the language of the endowment to which Ziff refers.

  41. 41.

    Right, I know what she is referring to. I am just referring to other language in other liturgy and from modern prophets that speaks of us potentially becoming kings and queens, priests and priestesses to God. It is not like women are only projected to become “priestesses” to their husbands in Mormonism and that is the implication I was reacting to.

    Here are some other examples of this point:

    Stapley posted on it here.

    We have this quote from John Taylor:

    Have you forgot who you are, and what your object is? Have you forgot that you profess to be Saints of the Most High God, clothed upon with the Holy Priesthood? Have you forgot that you are aiming to become Kings and Priests to the Lord, and Queens and Priestesses to Him? (JD 1:37)

    But I am aware that there are mixed messages in the liturgy on this subject so I don’t dispute that.

  42. 42.

    My point is that you might personally have a strong religious conviction based in revelation that much of what is taught by scripture, modern prophets, and the temple is absolutely false and contrary to God’s will, and I think that’s great. But other people have revelatory experiences leading them to believe it’s true–take Jothan for example. There’s little on which to build a community if our sole source of religious knowledge is personal revelation, because we quickly reach an impasse.

    I completely agree with you that we only see through a glass darkly in terms of scripture/liturgy etc., although I would extend that to personal revelation as well. But I guess I think even though we can’t be sure what among our sacred texts most accurately describes God, that’s no reason to throw all sacred texts out of the discussion. At least texts are something on which we can build community. So they only enable us to glimpse shadows and mirages of God’s actual nature–a worthwhile caveat. But why not discuss the shape and color of those shadows and mirages?

    I’d really rather not have a discussion about my personal experiences of God, since I consider them private, but I’ve already told you I’ve had negative experiences. Maybe they’re bogus, but why assume the positive ones aren’t? It’s the same problem with scripture–why assume what we’re comfortable with is what’s true?

  43. 43.

    I like the John Taylor quote! Here’s a fun one from Brigham Young:

    After his fall, another name was given to Adam, and being full of integrity, and not disposed to follow the woman nor listen to her was permitted to receive the tokens of the priesthood. . . .

    The order and ordinances passed through here prove the principles taught in the Bible. First, men should love their God supremely. Woman will never get back, unless she follows the man back, if the man had followed the woman he would have followed her down until this time. . . . The man must love his God and the woman must love her husband.

    And let’s not leave out Heber C. Kimball:

    It [the temple] is to bring us to an organization, and just as quick as we can get into that order and government, we have the Celestial Kingdom here. You have got to honor and reverence your brethren, for if you do not you never can honor God. The man was created, and God gave him dominion over the whole earth, but he saw that he never could multiply, and replenish the earth, without a woman. And he made one and gave her to him. He did not make the man for the woman; but the woman for the man, and it is just as unlawful for you to rise up and rebel against your husband, as it would be for man to rebel against God. . . . But if a man don’t use a woman well and take good care of her, God will take her away from him, and give her to another.

    (As quoted in The Mysteries of Godliness pp. 84 and 83.)

    Obviously we don’t have to accept what Church leaders have claimed in reference to the temple, although of course that applies as much to John Taylor as to Brigham Young.

  44. 44.

    A couple more thoughts. One of the basic problems here, it seems to me, is the question of what to do with conflicting information. For example, we have the hearken covenant, in which women’s access to God is clearly mediated through their husbands–and other situations (personal revelation) in which it clearly isn’t. I see some real tension in the messages being conveyed here, and I think it’s important to acknowledge those tensions, and not leap to conclusions that God clearly does/does not interact with women directly.

    Where I’m more uneasy, though, is when one particular teaching/practice/source of information used to interpret what another teaching/practice/source of information is saying. For example, the argument that the hearken covenant couldn’t really mean that women don’t have access to God, because we see women getting access to God in other contexts. Or the argument that Paul couldn’t really mean that women are subordinate, because we have all these contemporary prophetic statements about equality. I’m thinking that before we put conflicting sources into dialogue–which I do think is important–we first have to do our best to make sense of them on their own terms.

    In other words, I’m not convinced that we can use the fact that women have direct access to God in other contexts as a hermeneutic for interpreting the hearken covenant. I think it’s a fair move to say, that covenant obviously isn’t the whole story, because we also have this personal revelation stuff. But I don’t think the existence of the latter somehow negates, or can be used to explain away, the message of the former.

  45. 45.

    m&m, no need for apologies–it was kind of a long post, and I myself hardly remember which details I included. :)

    Doc, I’m not sure how to respond to your comment. I get the impression that you’re maybe responding to the (admittedly somewhat provocative) title of the post, rather the argument I’m making? I’m not disagreeing that exaltation is achieved by men and women together. What I’m specifically wondering is whether it involves something different for women than for men. (Though I’m not averse to also discussing other fun questions which people have raised, such as how many men and how many women . . .)

  46. 46.

    Mark IV, that article is really something! What I found most interesting in the context of this discussion was its citation of this 1902 comment from Joseph F. Smith (emphasis added):

    There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, and especially when that organization is presided over by one holding the higher Priesthood, than that of the father. The authority is time honored, and among the people of God in all dispensations it has been highly respected and often emphasized by the teachings of the prophets who were inspired of God. The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is, then, a particular reason why men, women and children should understand this order and this authority in the households of the people of God, and seek to make it what God intended it to be, a qualification and preparation for the highest exaltation of his children. In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount.

    A number of church leaders seem to have understood exaltation as inherently linked to the patriarchal order. (I was looking through lds.org the other day, trying to get a feel for how the term “exaltation” was used, and it was interesting to see how often that connection showed up.) That link has been strong enough in the history of church teachings, I think, that it’s questionable to what extent we can decouple exaltation from patriarchy.

  47. 47.

    “The lurking question is, I think, this one: is patriarchy the product of a fallen world, or is it the celestial order of things? … why would we be asked to make covenants that, in essence, reflect telestial values?”

    Lynette,
    consider where that falls during the story line. the covenant is actually preceded by an explanation… don’t want to quote here but do you know what I mean? It explains that the husband mediator part is directly caused by the fact that Eve ate first. So then she has to covenant, and then the live participants do it like her.

    therefore
    1) I think it’s clearly a fallen world thing, not the celestial way
    2) I don’t think it’s presented as something we should do, but it’s a recognition that we are living under the fallen world’s patriarchal system. I think the “yes” is the agreement we all made to come out of paradise and live in this world, with its limitations and injustice.

    I can’t reinterpret John Taylor and the others above for you, but I can totally give you a reason why that part of the ceremony happens, without having to understand it as instruction that women are actually asked to be hearkening. It’s just descriptive of the fallen state of the world that we agreed to come live in. now let’s fix it :)

  48. 48.

    The existence of our Heavenly Mother is the last secret of the Bible that has been revealed in these last days.

    The earthly systems are only a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. In Hebrews 8:5, it says that the earthly sanctuary was only and copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary. This means that the reality is in heaven, and the things made on this earth are the copy and shadow.

    Romans 1:20 says that God’s invisible qualities can clearly be seen by looking at what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    The Earthly family system is also a copy and shadow of the Heavenly family system, which is the reality.

    Elohim God made the Earthly family system. It is a life giving system. It is made up of a father, mother and children. Mother is the ultimate life giver.

    What was God’s will in creating all life in this manner?

    It is a copy and shadow of the Heavenly family system.

    The physical father on earth is a copy and shadow of our spiritual father in heaven as the Bible testifies.

    Physical children on earth is a copy and shadow of the spiritual brothers and sisters in heaven (us).

    The physcia mother(primary life giver) is a copy and shadow of our spiritual mother who gives us spiritual life.

    Galatians 4:26 — But the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother.

    Even Jesus testfied to the Heavenly Mother through the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In the parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet, with Jesus (our Father) being the bridgroom, and us being the guests.

    He never mentioned anything of the bride. It was because it was not time for the bride to appear 2000 years ago. Without the bride, the wedding banquest cannot take place.

    In Revelation 19:7, we see that the bride will appear in the last days.

    Revelation 21:9-10 we see that the bride is the heavenly Jerusalem that is coming out from heaven to the earth in the last days.

    Galatians 4:26 — But the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother.

    Second coming Christ has come in these last days as prophesied and has revealed to us our true Mother, the last secret in the Bible.

  49. 49.

    Here is my albeit simplified view:

    equal does not mean being the same (or even that everything given to one is the same as given to another)

    I won’t go into what exactly equal means, since it could be interpreted in so many ways, but I don’t think in the Celestial Kingdom women will still be feeling inferior. I don’t have a problem seeing minor differences in exalted states of men or women, since, as I said, I don’t think being equal is being the same.

    like does not being the same

    Thus “becoming like God” is not becoming the exact same as God – we can be like Him and be female even though He is male

  50. 50.

    Interesting perspective, Mel–I like your idea about “like.”

    I guess I’m still trying to figure out what “equal” does mean, because I don’t see how it can possibly not include “sameness.” Usually “equal” seems to mean “same amount.” When applied to people, I assume it means “same amount of value.” To me, it seems too easy to glibly pronounce men and women of equal value and consider the issue closed, as though that excuses us from exploring what the implications of that are–what is this “value”? Are there equal obligations toward different people of equal “value”? What justification could there be for subordinating an entire group of people to another group if the former has equal “value” (or ability?) to the latter? It’s tempting to slip into a morass of phenomenological equality in which people feel equal, so it ceases to matter what that means and whether some “equation” of sorts can be balanced (as the term implies), and people who point to differentials are chided to “feel” equal, which becomes the palliative solution.

  51. 51.

    Hi, cchrissyy! It’s nice to see you around (so to speak)!

    I agree with you that Eve covenants specifically because of the role she played in the Fall, which makes her subordination look like a product of the Fall rather than the situation that obtained in Eden. (I’m not so convinced, though, that Eve was on entirely equal footing to Adam earlier–made from his rib, derivative of him and for him, and all that.)

    I should admit there’s very little of the story that makes much sense to me at all, but the covenant by its nature is explicitly prescriptive rather than descriptive. And Ben Sirach (in the Apocrypha) has, I think, as good an explanation for her subordination as any: Eve’s choices result in evil, so Eve must be controlled by Adam in order to contain the situation (meaning her evil impulses). By implication, women in general have a propensity toward evil so subordination to men is necessary to ameliorate the already bad post-Fall situation.

    If this is the case, then when women are perfected and our inherently evil natures eliminated, perhaps we can be equal to our husbands since the rationale for our subordination (men’s superior righteousness and self-control) will have been eliminated.

    But two things strike me as odd about this. This certainly makes sense if women are inherently evil in a way men are not, so we need to be given less agency to lessen the amount of havoc we can wreak. But if we don’t accept this assumption, then why does God punish me for what some woman in a myth did? I’m not accountable for that. (The second article of faith is interesting in this regard–men aren’t punished for Adam’s transgression, but are women punished for Eve’s?)

    Secondly, since I’m not endowed, I’m entitled to live the supposedly celestial law if I marry by being equal to my husband. But God obligates people who want a relationship with him to live the terrestrial law instead. Why wouldn’t God want us to strive for celestial behavior? In other ways he seems to expect it–for example, God never asks us to covenant to steal for the Church, just because this is the fallen world and that’s the only way to get ahead and make the most of a rotten situation.

    Again, this perhaps makes sense if we believe mortal women are so predisposed toward evil that our behavior needs to be contained at all costs, and the celestial law would simply be too dangerous for us right now.

  52. 52.

    Again, this perhaps makes sense if we believe mortal women are so predisposed toward evil that our behavior needs to be contained at all costs, and the celestial law would simply be too dangerous for us right now.

    I don’t know if it is because women are especially evil (as compared to men) but I can imagine that full agency and equality for women in general might be too dangerous in a specific way.

    As far as I can tell from church policies and doctrine, the only absolutely vital event that every person must experience in order for the plan of salvation to proceed is birth. Everything else, (growing up, baptism, sealings, endowments, etc) can happen vicariously, or posthumously; you know, ‘it will all be sorted out somehow.’

    As far as I know, a person must be born alive in order for ordinances to be performed for that person. If that policy is indicative of belief (rather than logistics) then every spirit has to be birthed (carried to term) by a woman. It is obvious then that for every spirit, there must be a pregnancy and birth performed by a woman.

    If women throughout the history of the world had been given the choice, I think lots of them would have had far fewer kids than they did. I also think that selfish or wicked reasons (aka damnable reasons) would not have been the primary motivators for the reigning in of fertility. In other words women would choose to have fewer children for reasons that are not sinful and cannot be punished.

    One thing that a patriarchal structure clearly does is place control of sexual access to women in the hands of men, which by extension places control of a woman’s childbearing in the hands of men. If a woman cannot freely choose when, or with whom she has sex then she also cannot choose when or with whom she has children. And a man who does not have to perform the physical act of pregnancy and labor is likely to be less careful about how and when it happens.

    I can go wild with speculations about what this means for women’s place in life the universe and everything, but one thing I am very certain of is that if political social and physical equality for women had been present throughout human history then the number of people who have been born on this earth would be much lower than it is today. I also think that this information is pertinent to the execution of the plan of salvation.

  53. 53.

    Um, that last comment was me. Just so you know.

  54. 54.

    The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity.

    Maybe one of the reasons the devil became the devil is because in the pre-mortal existance he recognized the inequality of the patriarchal order and sought to “destroy the agency of man” by sharing it with women. We all know he was an intellectual, so it would only make sense for him to be a feminist as well. ;)

  55. 55.

    Starfoxy, I wondered if it was you. I think I’ve heard a little bit about your theory before, but you’ve fleshed it out here even better. It is fascinating. I’ve thought a lot about women’s role in the plan as it relates to giving birth. I believe that women give this first ordinance to their children, and that we should recognize and celebrate it.

    Actually, there’s support for your idea that men have control over women’s sexuality/conception on a thread here. Their point is a little different, but it’s the science behind semen coagulating to prevent another man from fertilizing the egg.

    Glenn, the devil as a feminist? That’s a good way to get yourself banned from any number of blogs around here. Keep it up. Outer darkness for you.

  56. 56.

    If a woman cannot freely choose when, or with whom she has sex then she also cannot choose when or with whom she has children.

    Here are some thoughts on this from a biological perspective. I saw a recent episode on “Nature” about how the female of the speces has a lot of control over who she mates with (often way more power than the male). Usually the males go to great lengths to attract a mate and females can freely choose who they mate with based on their perceived “fitness” of the males. Females often ruthlessly regect males that they don’t see as being fit.

    I don’t really see what aspect of the patriarchal structure limits females choice of who they have sex with. From a historical perspective I guess I could see this if you are talking about arranged marriages, but in many of these cases parents were arranging marriages for both their sons and their daughters. It seems like there are a lot of historical examples of cultures in which the males woed the females to marry them. From a religous/temple perspective, I don’t really see how the patriarchal order limits a woman’s choice about when or who she has sex with.

  57. 57.

    cchrissy, thanks for your perspective. It seems like we’re back at the question of whether Genesis 3:16 is meant to be descriptive or prescriptive–is God saying, “thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee” simply as a description of what’s going to happen in a fallen world (not necessarily an endorsement)? Or is this a divine command, meant to set out appropriate female behavior? I really want to believe the former . . . and yet the fact that we’ve made this into a covenant makes it difficult for me to see it as non-prescriptive. Though it sounds like you’re interpreting the covenant not as one to hearken, but as something broader–a willingness to enter the fallen world, with all that goes along with that? Interesting! I can certainly see the appeal of that approach. Though I have to admit that I’d probably be more persuaded if the language more directly indicated that’s what was going on. And if men and women made the same covenant, since (presumably) we all agree to come into a fallen world. On a bit of a tangent, it’s interesting that the curse of Adam (eating bread by the sweat of your brow) doesn’t show up in our liturgy in the same way.

    Like Kiskilili, I also wonder about the possibility that women are, in essence, punished for Eve’s transgression. This is particularly odd, I think, given the notion in LDS theology that Eve’s act was something good. (That of course gets to the larger problem of the ambiguity of the Fall in LDS thought, which is simultaneously described as a sin/transgression, and as positive and necessary. I’m not sure quite how to put those pieces together.) Last summer while I was doing some work with LDS history, I was intrigued to learn of indications that some19th century LDS women understood participation in polygamy as one way to redeem themselves from the curse of Eve. It made me wonder about the historical development of our views on the subject.

    Glenn, we know from C.S. Lewis that the devil is female. Maybe the downfall of the White Witch was that she was a feminist. ;)

  58. 58.

    Beatrice- I tend to focus more on the ‘when’ part rather than the ‘with whom.’ Certainly women have historically had less choice about who they marry than men have had (with fathers and husbands frequently brokering the deal between themselves). I only see this effecting the birthrate in that it could force women who might not want to get married at all to marry and subsequently have children.

    I think the biggest culprit is a woman’s rights within a marriage, and her ability to make a living outside of marriage. For example marital rape wasn’t even illegal in the United States until just a few decades ago. If a woman was married she had no legal right to turn down sex, and therefore no guarantee that she would not get pregnant. In this way the decision on how many children she bears is effectively removed from her hands.

    Another example is in restrictions on women in the public sphere. If I can’t support myself, go anywhere, own property etc. without a husband then I’m left with a choice between abject poverty, or marriage and the unrestricted childbearing that comes with it.

  59. 59.

    On the subject of equality and sameness, I’m thinking that where I would conflate the two is that I find it troubling if women don’t have equal (read: the same) access to God, opportunity for growth and development, status as full agents. In that sense, I suppose you could say that I do indeed want women to be “like” men. (Which isn’t to say, however, that I accept the notion found in some early Christian writings that in order to be saved, women would need to actually become male.)

    If I’m reading you correctly, cchrissy, Starfoxy, and jessawhy are all perhaps touching on the possibility that women share a disproportionate burden of the consequences of the Fall? (Or maybe, put another way, of the burden of what is necessary for life in mortality?) I’d have to think more about that. Contemporary mainstream Christian theology doesn’t usually read the Fall as a historical account, but as a myth which articulates something fundamental about human experience—our sense of fallenness, of things being wrong somehow. But interestingly, I haven’t come across many discussions of gender among those who take this approach. And I’ve wondered—if that’s how you’re going to interpret the Eden story, as a kind of articulation of the existential and historical situation in which humans find themselves, what does it mean that Eve is the one to take the fruit?

  60. 60.

    Kiskilili, I think there are some aspects of “sameness” in equality. But, I think perhaps we take them too far – if we continue on that path, does that mean that if we all must be exactly equal, do we all have to have the same hair color, eye color, skin color, # of children, etc?

    I personally feel, Lynette, that I, as a woman, do have equal “access to God, opportunity for growth and development, status as full agents” despite the covenant language. I do not feel the need to ask my husband if I can pray to God and receive revelation about myself or if I can make decisions about my life. As a marriage relationship should have “equal” partnership, I would discuss any revelation or decisions that might impact him, but that does not prevent me from making decisions solely about myself.

    I can see how perhaps that covenant language might make some women feel angry or denied certain respect, but I admit I don’t feel any less vital or important because I say I will follow my righteous husband. It is similar to (read: like?) covenanting to follow Christ or another leader, be they male or female (not that I am comparing my human husband to the perfect Christ :) It requires some amount of humility.

    Just my perspective. :)

  61. 61.

    What, you don’t think I’m perfect?!? ;)

  62. 62.

    I have it on good authority that I’ve mixed my mel’s. Who knew there were two?

    Apologies. ;)

  63. 63.

    I love it, Glenn! That’s the best theory of the Fall I’ve heard yet!

    Starfoxy, I wonder why God didn’t just make child-bearing and pregnancy pleasant? and have human women give birth to litters of babies, like litters of puppies or kindles of kittens? :)

    Thanks for your follow-up comment, Mel. I appreciate your ideas and suspect we’re largely in agreement. Here’s my current thinking on this topic:

    We accept it as dogma (in the culture at large) that everyone is “created equal”; it’s thoroughly unpalatable to suggest otherwise. The problem is, everyone isn’t equal in any measurable respect: equal height, equal abilities, equal strength, equal physical characteristics. There’s a whole range of observable diversity that this purported equality has to accommodate. And the easiest way to accommodate it is to bleach equality of any useful meaning. People are said to be “equal” in spite of obvious differences. But equally what?

    Regarding certain different characteristics, I think it’s fair to relativize differences and value them: not everyone has equally black hair, but why should black hair be better than red? we might ask. So people don’t need to be equal.

    Where equality is still helpful is in our assertions that, regardless of extraneous background, one standard should be uniformly applied to different people, essentially a system of “justice.” Equality can be used to refer to the standards to which black-haired people and red-haired people alike should be held, provided hair color has no relevance to the particular situation.

    But where I think it gets dangerous is when we assert that differences in standards can be relativized: not everyone has equal access to God, but why should we claim it’s fundamentally better to have a direct relationship with God rather than an indirect one? Why not value both, as with hair color?

    The reason why is that this situation is different from hair color. If we’re religious then we probably accept as axiomatic that closeness to God is an incontrovertible good, in a way black hair is not (as beautiful as it is). Just because some differences are good (eye color, skin color) doesn’t mean all differences are good (wealth, poverty).

    So by claiming that “equal” means “same” on some level, I’m making a simple observation about how the term is applied, not arguing that everyone must be equally everything. Saying everyone should have equal access to God does not imply everyone should also be of equal height, for example, because height isn’t demonstrably relevant to the issue of divine access. Other characteristics, however, might be. A system in which not everyone has equal access to God’s presence, as the temple sets up, can only be considered “just” to the degree that women, by virtue of some inherent characteristic, are not as worthy or deserving of that divine access for whatever reason.

    And I guess I see following a man as fundamentally different from following Christ, but this comment is already ridiculously long, so I’ll stop now!

  64. 64.

    I have it on good authority that I’ve mixed my mel’s. Who knew there were two?

    Obviously someone is not a fan of the Spice Girls.

    Did I say too much?

    I think I said too much.

    Where’s that big rock to go hide under…

  65. 65.

    K.,

    Here’s a link that may help in establishing your theory: http://youtube.com/watch?v=-uJ04d4bmRY

    :P

  66. 66.

    Dear Sister Kaimi,

    Thankfully the URL you somehow snuck past The Bouncer included the name of the site you were linking to and I was therefor able to avoid the evils that abound so abundently (I am told) on youtube. But for real proof, you need turn to nowhere but your scriptures:

    D&C 52:14

    And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is a broad in the land, and goeth forth deceiving the nations—

    In olden days, broad meant chick.

    (like money, the root of all evil indeed!)

  67. 67.

    “Can Women Be Exalted?”

    Yes.

    Next question.

    Seriously, sometimes we think too much.

    Also, often we hold on to the limited understanding of previous prophets even after current ones have spoken. Anytime I see quotes by BY, HCK, BRM, or even JS without quotes from GBH or TSM or any current prophet and apostle, I usually respond with, “Whatever. What are we being told now.”

    My father used to say, “If we lost all of our written scriptures tomorrow, it would be no big deal. We still have the living prophets and apostles.” I wouldn’t go as far as he did and call it no big deal, but I agree with the basic point.

    Now, we are being told women can be exalted – and there simply ain’t no ambiguity in how we are being told it now. We have absolutely no idea what exalted life is like (other than it’s like God’s life), but we are told women will be exalted. That’s good enough for me.

  68. 68.

    Sorry for the mel confusion, didn’t know there were others :)

    I agree, Kiskilili, with your comments on equality and its various applications and meanings.

    I guess I just don’t agree about women’s unequal access to God, but it is ok to have different opinions, of course! Thanks for your explanations – very interesting.

  69. 69.

    Thanks for your participation, Mel. I’m glad we can amicably disagree!

    Ray, which prophet said that and what was the operative definition of exaltation? And what I’d really like to know is whether only women alive when such a statement was made can be exalted, or whether women from earlier (or future) generations have a shot at exaltation as well? ;)

    I guess I want a religion in which contemplating doctrine and prophetic statements is not viewed as a vice.

  70. 70.

    I guess I want a religion in which contemplating doctrine and prophetic statements is not viewed as a vice.

    Good luck with that, K.

  71. 71.

    I am just really sorry I didn’t get back for everything from 47 to now. I really wanted to talk this out with everybody, but life got in the way!

  72. 72.

    “I guess I want a religion in which contemplating doctrine and prophetic statements is not viewed as a vice.”

    Sounds like Mormonism to me. :)

    Seriously, our doctrine and prophetic statements are anything but consistent; actually, they are all over the map. Contemplating them is half the fun of being a member. All I’m saying is that, when push comes to shove and there’s a conflict between old statements and new statements, I take the new ones as authoritative for me.

    (Fwiw, I also believe that the old ones are much more fun, since they speculated much more than our current prophets do. I like that our current ones speculate less in many ways, but I also miss the wild stuff that individual apostles used to say. When you never know what’s going to come out of someone’s mouth, there is a bit of excitement that is fun.)

  73. 73.

    What about when the conflict is between current statements and current statements? (Or are you arguing that scripture and liturgy are effectively defunct in favor of living oracles?)

    Ann, maybe I should start my own religion and be my own prophet. Religious contemplation will then entail a lot of narcissistic navel-gazing about the inconsistency of my own statements. :)

    cchrissyy, my life should have gotten in the way! Yet here I still am blogging when I should be doing Serious Stuff. Signing off for now . . .

  74. 74.

    Alas, K’s statement in #73 is in direct conflict with her prior letter of March 14, 2007 regarding the epistemology of inconsistent prophetic statements. It is with a heavy heart, then, that I abandon my discipleship in Kiskililism and denounce her as a fallen prophetess with no more prophetessic calling; and conclude that I must now turn to the only viable religious alternative, Lynutheranism.

    (That is, mere Mormon universalism, as opposed to pagan Mormon universalism.)

  75. 75.

    It’s obvious Joseph made it all up. God would never exclude anyone.

  76. 76.

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