Zelophehad’s Daughters

The Problem of Eve’s Submission

Posted by Lynnette

From a feminist perspective, Genesis 3:16 is one of the more difficult passages in scripture.  The last phrase, “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” sets up a hierarchical model of marriage in which men lead and women follow.  Though the terms have shifted (rule/preside for the men; obey/hearken for the women) over the years, the general model remains in LDS teachings and liturgy–providing a topic of endless discussion for Bloggernacle feminists. In grappling with the contemporary arrangement, in which women covenant to hearken to their husbands, I have encountered a number of arguments which attempt to deal with the apparent sexism.  The most commonly cited, at least in my experience, are:

1) The woman only has to follow her husband insofar as he follows God.  This means that a) she has nothing to worry about, because she’s not required to follow unrighteous counsel, and b) she implicitly has access to revelation too, because how else could she judge whether her husband was in fact following God?  (This is the case famously made by Hugh Nibley, among others.)

2) This model is the result of the Fall; gender hierarchy is a characteristic of the fallen world which will be overcome in the celestial sphere.  Many who make this case argue that Gen 3:16 should be read not prescriptively (this is God’s command for how things should be), but rather descriptively (this is a comment about what will happen, but does not imply divine endorsement).

I have some serious reservations about argument (1).  Even if this interpretation is correct, and this is in fact the model being set forth (a debated question in and of itself), I would argue that it still places men in a privileged position.  This is for several reasons.

First, this model doesn’t actually give men and women equivalent access to God.  It might be useful here to distinguish between what I would call primary and secondary revelation.  The former is revelation in and of itself.  The latter is revelation about the validity of such revelation.  In the Church, it is generally accepted that the prophet can get primary revelation for the Church.  Members, on the other hand, are expected to get secondary revelation–confirmation that this revelation is correct–but not their own primary revelation for the Church.  In a model in which men follow God directly, while women follow their husbands–but can independently check with God to find out about the validity of their husband’s instructions–men have access to primary revelation, whereas women only have access to secondary revelation.

Second, the relationship is non-reciprocal.  Men do not have the same obligation to obey/follow/hearken to their wives that is laid on women with respect to their husbands.  This is the case regardless of whether the men are leading in righteousness or not.  Women are reassured that they are not required to submit to unrighteous dominion, it is true–but even in such cases, the structure of the relationship remains hierarchical.  Women may have the right to opt out of following their husbands if they have determined that their husbands are going the wrong direction, but this is a far cry from being in an egalitarian relationship characterized by reciprocal obligations.

Third–and possibly the element of this that I find most troubling–is that even if the ideal happens and men lead in perfect righteousness, women remain one step removed from God.  In fact, in this model God’s interaction with women only seems to be a concession to the realities of a fallen world in which men don’t always lead in righteousness, and women therefore require the ability to consult with God about the appropriateness of their husband’s behavior.  If men always followed God perfectly, there would be no need for women to communicate with God independently, because they could simply follow the direction of their husbands.  This is why I find it cold comfort to be reassured that women are only required to follow men if the men are leading righteously–it still points to an ideal in which God’s communication to women is mediated by men.

It is sometimes argued that this submission requirement should not be seen as demeaning or sexist, because men too are required to submit.  However, I see a qualitative difference between the demand made of all human beings to submit to God, and that made of women to submit to their husbands.  In LDS theology, human submission to God is not some kind of arbitrary demand made by a tyrant who wants humans to grovel before him–rather, it is understood as a necessary part of the process of learning to become more godlike.  But what is the theological purpose of female submission to males? It is telling that the justifications offered for it tend to be practical rather than theological (e.g., the notion that one person has to have the final say).  Surely women do not submit to men in hopes of eventually becoming more like them (how would that be for gender confusion?).  In contrast to submission to God, which is described in the scriptures and in LDS teachings as a necessary part of a dynamic process of growth and development, female submission to males seems to take the form of an eternal role.  This is why I have a hard time seeing the two as comparable.

It might be argued, of course, that submission to one’s husband is simply part of the process for women of becoming like God.  But given that a parallel requirement is not placed upon men, this raises troubling questions about why this would be crucial for women’s progression, but not men’s–and what this might indicate about the eternal status of women and men.

I am not, then, persuaded by (1). This leaves me with possibility (2): patriarchy is a product of the Fall, and will be eschatologically overcome.  I cannot deny that I find this model appealing.  But I see some difficulties.  First is the problem that it conflicts with another notion commonly taught by LDS leaders, that patriarchy is God’s system, and is eternal. And even if one finds a way to deal with that, I think an even bigger problem is the question of why people would be asked to make covenants to uphold a fallen system.  Other covenants call us to something better than a telestial model.  One possible reason for this could be that this particular requirement is in fact a punishment meted out to all women based on Eve’s transgression, rather than a celestial ideal–but as LisaJ recently noted at fMh, this doesn’t mesh well with the Second Article of Faith.

For my own peace of mind, I have tended to simply reject the notion that hierarchical marriage is part of the divine plan.  I would like to believe that language suggesting otherwise can be interpreted as nothing more than the reflection of particular cultural biases.  But I am all too aware that I am every much a product of my culture as those 19th century LDS leaders who preached female inferiority, and every bit as prone to project my own values (which happen to be those of egalitarianism) onto God.  I hope, profoundly, that female subordination is not the eternal scheme of things, that God values women as agents in their own right.  But Eve’s submission continues to trouble me.

66 Responses to “The Problem of Eve’s Submission”

  1. 1.

    Surely there must be a political solution for this. We could gather signatures, and place it before the voters this spring, and make sure that the patriarchal way of doing things is imposed on all of society. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will end up on the ballots as Prop 9 or something. The Church could put out letters urging everyone to get behind it and put forth their best efforts in seeing to it that this gets passed. Then we can all sit around and scratch our heads at the backlash when it achieves a bare majority in the election.

  2. 2.

    I don’t think option 1 is as exclusive as you portray…

    even if the ideal happens and men lead in perfect righteousness, women remain one step removed from God.

    Maybe this isn’t your intention, but pharses like these give me the impression that you are trying to say that if I accept Option 1 – that means I must also accept that God has established an order wherein He has removed himself from communicating with His daughters. This is an overreaching claim. It’s like me saying that I had no personal relationship with God during my calling as a Primary teacher because I merely had to receive confirmation that my Primary President was acting righteously.

    Let’s pretend Option 1 is correct. That would mean that in my family, I would be responsible for initiating the relaying of God’s will regarding the spiritual progression of our family, as a whole. My wife would be responsible for providing a second witness as appropriate, or a contrary voice if she felt I was out of tune. Aside from that she would still be responsible for her own relationship with God and what he wants for her life as well as her interactions with our children, etc…

  3. 3.

    I would love to do a study to find out how men and women in the church interpret these principles and actually translate these principles into their every day life. I would imagine that most couples in the church make decisions together even if they strongly believe in the Proclamation on the Family etc. I asked a friend who strongly believed in the need for men to preside what presiding meant to her in her relationship. She said that if they had different opinions about what should be done and couldn’t come to a agreement then she would be willing to follow her husband. I asked her if this had ever happened. She admitted that it hadn’t. Additionally, it seems that in conference talks etc. examples of men making the final decision are given as examples of what not to do and examples of men and women counseling together to reach a decision are explained as what we should be doing.

  4. 4.

    Lynnette: Once again another fantastically written post. I don’t have much to add here but I just wanted to give you my thanks and say that you’ve pretty much summed up (in, what I would congratulate you as an applaudably non-confrontational way) my struggles and dismay about the whole issue as well. Thank you and I hope to see you again sometime! That lunch was a vacation highlight for me.

  5. 5.

    “I think an even bigger problem is the question of why people would be asked to make covenants to uphold a fallen system”

    Lynnette,
    I’ve been putting forth option 2 for a few years now, although I’m not sure what to really think about things anymore, but in any case let me help clarify idea #2 a bit. If the hearkening is a description of the fallen world and not God’s instruction on the way things should be, then (ok, catch this now, it’s the twist) the women covenanting to hearken are not really promising to hearken, they are agreeing to enter the general conditions of the fallen world. So, we all must live in this world, we all agreed to come here just as Eve stepped out of paradise to come in the world. Remember the whole temple experience is supposedly symbolic, and that moment is symbolizing the agreement we all already made to step in to this world.

  6. 6.

    Oh, one more thing. I just wanted to respond to Beatrice’s comment because I think she has a good point there. In practice it does seem like the great majority of couples (especially younger couples perhaps?) are acting in egalitarian relationships and that this sort of partnership is more and more often given as the ideal.

    I think that makes this whole discussion even more confusing. We are receiving mixed messages in “real life” vs. theology and rhetoric way. If the equal relationship is what couples are encouraged to cultivate, why does the preside/hearken model and wording still exist in our Ensign articles, Sunday School manuals, and Temple ceremonies?

    I think I’d be much less stirred around about the whole thing if Correlation could get on the ball there and give us a unified message one way or the other. As it stands now, it makes for a confusing mire for everyone to wade through, whether this difficult (even impossible?) negotiation happens consciously or unconsciously.

  7. 7.

    I’m a proponent of #2.

    First is the problem that it conflicts with another notion commonly taught by LDS leaders, that patriarchy is God’s system, and is eternal.

    I don’t think LDS leaders have said that patriarchy is eternal. But I could be wrong. Quotes?

    I think an even bigger problem is the question of why people would be asked to make covenants to uphold a fallen system.

    This is only a problem is if the temple endowment is taken more literally. But if we look at it from the perspective that everything in the ceremony is symbolic, including the covenants themselves, than the problem is not so problematic. The way I see the ceremony is not that we make several covenants, and each is equally important, or in other words, I don’t take it as okay, I need to do x,y, and z. Rather, I see the covenants as symbolically part of the narrative story of progress. We start in the telestial room and work our way to the celestial, and we likewise start with covenanting to keep lower laws and end with higher laws. The culmination of our covenant making, what we are progressing toward, is not really a law at all, but to be in a relationship with Christ. This progression can be seen in the nature of the covenants, our physical movement, and our ceremonial clothing changes. We are symbolically on a journey, and the hearken covenant is merely a portal to this earth life to begin that journey. The greatest evidence of this I think is that fact that during the journey we are separated male and female, until we get to the celestial room, in which we are free to mingle. To me this shows that, 1) patriarchy is not eternal, 2)the pathway to equality is through Christ, 3)the point of our spiritual journey in this life is to progress from patriarchy to equality. The closer we can get to that ideal in this life, the closer we come to being celestial.

  8. 8.

    I don’t think LDS leaders have said that patriarchy is eternal. But I could be wrong. Quotes?

    I’m not sure if these are the type of thing you’re looking for, Katie, but here are a few. It sounds like the patriarchal order is said to be linked with marriage in being eternal.

    There are references to a patriarchal priesthood. The patriarchal order is not a third, separate priesthood. (See D&C 84:6–17; D&C 107:40–57.) Whatever relates to the patriarchal order is embraced in the Melchizedek Priesthood. “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to [the Melchizedek] priesthood.” (D&C 107:5.) The patriarchal order is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood which enables endowed and worthy men to preside over their posterity in time and eternity.

    –President Packer in a 1993 Ensign article

    Those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood covenant and promise, before God and angels, to magnify their callings, to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44), to marry for time and all eternity in the patriarchal order, and to live and serve as the Lord Jesus did in his life and ministry.

    In return the Lord covenants and promises to give them all that his Father hath, meaning eternal life, which is exaltation and godhood in that eternal realm where alone the family unit continues in eternity.

    In return the Lord admits them to his eternal patriarchal order, an order that prevails in the highest heaven of the celestial world, an order that assures its members of eternal increase, or in other words of spirit children in the resurrection. (See D&C 131:1–4.)

    –Elder McConkie in a 1982 Conference talk

    Ideally, the Latter-day Saint family is presided over by a worthy man who holds the priesthood. This patriarchal authority has been honored among the people of God in all dispensations. It is of divine origin, and that union, if sealed by proper authority, will continue throughout eternity.

    –Elder Nelson, in a 1999 Conference talk

    “… 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 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.”

    –Joseph F. Smith in a 1902 Juvenile Instructor (no, not that Juvenile Instructor) article, quoted by Elder Perry in a 2004 Conference talk

  9. 9.

    Ack! Well that is troubling. Chalk my previous comments up to wishful thinking and selective hearing.

  10. 10.

    Elder Bruce C. Hafen:

    “Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to “rule over” Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. A ruler can be a measuring tool that sets standards. Then Adam would live so that others may measure the rightness of their conduct by watching his. Being a ruler is not so much a privilege of power as an obligation to practice what a man preaches. Also, over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.”

    Could it be a biblical mistranslation that causes this anguish?

  11. 11.

    Lynnette,

    I realize that this discussion is taking place within an LDS context, but even for a LDS feminist reading, don’t historical and textual considerations have a place?

    It feels like you have skipped a few steps that would include a description of why the specific literalist reading of Gen. 3. is valid in the first place. Or, is it simply a matter of such a reading being the over arching assumption of the LDS context and therefore such a description is not seen as necessary?

    Be that as it may, the LDS reading of Gen. has structural problems. Here are three very brief points in a sketch:

    1) On the most basic textual level Gen. is not a literal history that sets up a theological system. Gen is the hebrew attempt to describe the origins, not only of humanity, but of the ethical basis of existence. In crafting this story the hebrews used the tools available to them including stories & themes borrowed from other cultures.

    2) There is a logical problem in the LDS literal reading of Gen. In that on one hand it is understood that the eating the fruit initiates the knowledge of good and evil, but the deliberations that Eve and Adam are not void of the categories of good and evil. All literalist readings have this problem, if not for Eve, certainly for Adam his response shows that he understands the difference between good and evil prior to eating the fruit. This reveals the mythic structure of any origin narrative. In trying to explain the origin of a specific type of knowledge, the authors created a story in which that knowledge was already present. This structure seems impossible to escape.

    3) This problem is magnified in the LDS context. in some LDS descriptions Eve boldly followed the will of God by initiating the “fall” and making families / children possible. So again, she knew what she was doing, she knew good and evil prior to eating the fruit but the LDS reading draws attention to this in a greater way than do other literalist readings. What is more, the decision that she and Adam faced was one in which they would have to do both good and evil at the same time. For Eve in order to be faithful to the will of God (in LDS descriptions) she had to break a commandment of God. She did good and evil at the same time, in the same action. in Gen 3:16 she is being punished for breaking the commandment, But there is no reward for being strong enough and knowing enough to be true to the will of God even though she had to break a commandment of God to do it. How much sense does this make? Eve did what was necessary, she acted in accordance with the will of God but is punished for doing so by being placed in a subordinate relationship to her male counter part.

    These are very schematic points but I think they suggest the direction one needs to go in, if one wants to uphold a strictly literal reading of a passage such as Gen 3:16. One would have to attempt to divide the mythic structure from the theological structure, to remove the literary from the literal. But even writing that is full of problems. . . .

  12. 12.

    Katie, I believe the understanding of authority and patriarchy is changing very slowly over time, and I personally think we still are a generation or two from seeing the effects of that change in the highest levels of leadership, but I’m certain it will happen – because I see it happening.

    Having said that, I agree completely with the last part of your #7. When you consider the “stage” (or “kingdom”) at which each covenant is made, I think there is a very direct correlation. The hearken covenant is a telestial covenant, but the journey is supposed to move from that to the higher law of women interacting directly with the Lord – as is the case when someone leaves the terrestrial and enters the celestial.

    I believe the endowment is a grand morality play that portrays figuratively our possible journey from the pre-mortal life (the Garden) to the post-mortal end (the Celestial Kingdom) – with a depiction of our lives all along the way. In a telestial state, we live (by covenant) a certain way. In a terrestrial state, we live (by covenant) a certain way. In a celestial state, we live (by covenant) a certain way. The key, imo, is the standard we live outside the temple – the telestial, terrestrial or celestial one.

    So, I also see a modified version of #2 – based fundamentally on the fact that I view the entire presentation as figurative. (It also helps that I see the Garden of Eden narrative as figurative and allegorical, but that probably is a threadjack for this post.)

  13. 13.

    The questions you bring and the issues you discuss are thorny ones, and I’m not sure I have the answers. I do believe that at least some of the problem here lies in our mortal conception of power and hierarchy, however.

    To borrow your example, does God esteem prophets more than the rest of the Church membership because they have greater access to revelation? I may be wrong, but I have to believe the answer is no.

    Christ turned all preconceptions of the hierarchy in on its ear when he proclaimed that he that is greatest among you will be your servant, even slave if you take a more literal translation from the Greek. I don’t know in our own cultural context if we can ever appreciate how radical this idea is.

    If we take these words literally, Christ’s power actually comes from the service he provides us. It comes from lifting us up and perfecting us. It comes from service. Likewise, priesthood power comes from service. Its only power and value can come as it lifts and helps others.

    It isn’t about status, control, or prestige. These are weak substitutes for the only real source of power as we are told in section 121. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but in the end I have to believe it is possible to have both a patriarchal leader, and an equal partnership in marriage.

    As mortals, we all worry about being cut out from hierarchy or being degraded, devalued, or oppressed.
    Yet the entire for basis for all these feeling is comparing ourselves with others. This is the root of pride and ultimately leads only to enmity and conflict.

    That said, the question remains why is patriarchal leadership necessary for anyone? Why men and not women? I don’t know, and surprisingly enough, I do find it troubling.

    Blogs like yours have led to do an inordinate amount of soul searching on these issues and to try to correct my own sexist worldview whenever I can recognize it. I know the inequities and abuses a patriarchal system can lead to are very real. I just can’t see the standard feminist answers as the solution. Like you, I’m torn.

  14. 14.

    Caitlin, actually it’s a mistranslation of the Bible that’s being offered as a “solution.” The Hebrew preposition b- (bet) means “with” in the sense of “by means of” (“I’m typing with a keyboard”), not in the sense of “together with” (“I’m singing with my sister”). In addition, certain Hebrew verbs, among them “to rule,” take b- where English verbs take direct objects or other prepositions; thus mashal b- means “rule” or “rule over” in English. Prepositions are the slipperiest parts of speech across languages; you simply cannot translate them in isolation, anymore than you can look up a dictionary definition and choose the one you like. There are syntactic constraints. The phrase doesn’t mean “rule with.”

    (Of course, you don’t need to study Hebrew to deduce this–the phrase “rule with” doesn’t fit the context of the verse.)

    Additionally, a “ruler” in Hebrew has nothing to do with measuring devices, as it does in English. I’m afraid Brother Hafen’s reading is wishful thinking run amok.

  15. 15.

    My question is quite possibly in left field, novice at scriptural exegesis that I am, but Kiskilili, under your explanation, could a proper reading of the passage be that Eve’s desires “shall be to her husband and he shall rule ‘by means of’ thee?” It still seems to create a slightly awkward juxtaposition, but might perhaps reconcile better with the notion that “ruling” is a team effort. In addition, instead of a berating of Eve by God, perhaps God is providing counsel on how their new fallen condition can be overcome, i.e. by cleaving (which in and of itself suggests some measure of equality). Reaching?

  16. 16.

    I don’t think we comprehend the terrifying reality of a Living God–let alone what it means to submit to Him.

  17. 17.

    I don’t think we comprehend the reality of a Living Goddess…

  18. 18.

    A question I have that I don’t see often addressed in these discussions :if we are to believe that the apparent inequality in the endowment is the result of describing a fallen world and that, by the end (the celestial room), this inequality is gone, then why are the promises made to women different than they are to men? The promises of what eternal blessings women vs. men will receive don’t match up, and to my ears at least, sound unequal. How do we account for this?

  19. 19.

    Hannah, I have no idea what you mean, and I don’t want verbatim quotes from the endowment, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to plead ignorance on this one. Sorry.

  20. 20.

    Hannah: I know what you’re saying and I think it’s a very valid point. Same as the inequality of language in the Sealing ceremony.

  21. 21.

    Hannah- That is something that I’ve noticed as well. One person I know thought that it is a hamfisted way of implying perfect unity (unity achieved through complete absorption of one person into the other).

    I tend to think that the wording you mention supports my understanding that the Lord women converse with is not, in fact, The Lord, bur rather her husband who is her Lord. I really wish I had a feminist interpretation of this, but I’m not that acrobatic.

  22. 22.

    #21 – Now you really have lost me, since I have been a veil worker and have no idea what you mean.

    Someone e-mail me privately and explain, please. (fam7heav at juno dot com)

  23. 23.

    Thanks for the comments, all, and especially for keeping this a civil conversation. Lots of interesting ideas here; it’s getting late, but I’ll try to respond to at least some of them.

    Ryan, that’s a fair question, and I’m honestly not sure what I’m saying (or even what I think) about God’s communication with his daughters. Both my own personal experience and a number of Church teachings would lead me to believe that of course God interacts with women as well as men, is as interested in a direct relationship with his daughters as with his sons. But I have to admit that aspects of the temple (and not just the particular covenant being discussed here) raise some difficult questions for me regarding that subject.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re suggesting that the man is primarily responsible for receiving revelation for the family as a whole, but this doesn’t mean that women can’t still receive revelation for their own sphere (in addition to revelation confirming or possibly contradicting what their husbands are saying). But I’m not quite sure how you’re getting this from the hearken covenant. Is it that women are only covenanting to follow their husbands in the specific circumstance of the husband getting revelation for the family as a whole? In the context of the liturgy, I don’t see any indications that the covenant is that narrowly circumscribed. And I might be misinterpreting you, but I’m not quite following how “hearken” gets translated into “provide a second witness or dissent if necessary.”

    Also, I have a difficult time with the idea that men are the ones who are primarily responsible for getting revelation for the family. To go back to your example, I can see the need for this kind of set-up in an organization like the Primary (or any other church organization), where you have a president who gets revelation for the organization as a whole, and others who get it for their particular part of the organization. But I don’t see why it would be necessary in the context of a marriage relationship; it would make more sense to me if the husband and wife were equally responsible for seeking revelation about the family as a whole, as well as their individual lives and particular family relationships.

    Beatrice, my observations are similar to yours. I think the Church is in the rather odd situation of being much more egalitarian in practice than in doctrine. And as Pinto accurately points out, it’s not only practice; egalitarian ideals are frequently preached over the pulpit. Why, then, have they not made it into the temple? Pinto is right; this is an area where we actually seem to be in desperate need of some Correlation! I should repent of my complaints about them. ;)

  24. 24.

    Pinto, thanks for the kind words. And it’s great to see you commenting here! That lunch was so much fun; you should definitely let me know if you pass through my neighborhood again.

    cchrissy and Katie M., thanks for your thoughts on this. As I said, I can certainly see the appeal of option two. I like the idea that this is actually something to do with entering into mortality, with all of its challenges and inequities. And yet I have my nagging doubts. Maybe I would have an easier time with it if it were clear, in scripture and in liturgy, that patriarchy was something engineered by (fallen) humans, which we progress out of as we get closer to the divine. But I keep on running up against the fact that God is portrayed as the one commanding it, the one setting it up. And like others on the thread, I’m troubled by indications that patriarchy doesn’t seem to be eradicated as one enters into the celestial realm.

    Douglas, to answer your question, I didn’t get into the historical and textual issues surrounding Genesis 3 because my concern in this post was with the contemporary model of gender relations in LDS liturgy—specifically, with some of the various apologetics that have been proposed in defense of it–and not really with Genesis 3 itself. (Also, because I lack the expertise to write any kind of exegesis of Genesis 3.) I mentioned Gen 3:16 because it’s the traditional basis for the hierarchical model. However, it seems to me that the hearken covenant poses the same problems whether or not one reads Genesis literally. Whether I see the Adam and Eve account as something that actually took place in history, as a kind of existential description of the human situation, as a theodicy attempting to account for the origin of evil, as something else altogether—I’m still going to be asked to make this covenant, to commit myself to this particular model of marriage. That said, I very much agree that the standard LDS read of Genesis is a confusing one, and I’m quite sympathetic to the kinds of issues you’re raising.

  25. 25.

    It’s clever, WJ :) , but no. There are a number of Hebrew verbs that take the preposition b- (usually translated “in” or “at”) for their objects (other examples include “fight” or “choose”). Adam no more rules with Eve than a king rules with his kingdom.

  26. 26.

    I, too, wonder why, if patriarchy is not the eternal order of things, women are priestesses to their husbands rather than to God, or give themselves to their husbands. Also, if accepting patriarchy is nothing more than a metonym for accepting the fallen world, what makes it an appropriate metonym? Is patriarchy a particularly important aspect of this world, from God’s perspective, and if so, why? This reading might fit Genesis, but the very nature of a covenant precludes a descriptive reading. Additionally, it would be painfully ironic if people who married outside the temple were free to live the celestial law God wants us ultimately to adopt (egalitarianism) where people who married in the temple were obligated to accept a fallen order (patriarchy).

    We don’t have to covenant to accept death, or sin, or even painful childbirth (anymore), or working by the sweat of our brows–these things just happen. The very fact that we have to commit to patriarchy is a tacit concession to the fact that it is avoidable. As such, it’s difficult to understand why, if God opposes patriarchy in the long-term but cannot help accepting it as a byproduct of the fall, he pushes people into committing to it in their fallen state.

  27. 27.

    Douglas, I agree there’s a whole slew of problems in our reading of the text, although I’m not quite understanding where that gets us when we critique the passage from a feminist perspective. The most obvious problem I see is that the supposedly conflicting commandments (multiply and don’t eat of the fruit) occur in different accounts as the Documentary Hypothesis has it, the first in P and the second in J.

    Certainly there are well-known parallels to aspects of the story in Gilgamesh and Adapa (food that grants godlike powers, snakes thwarting the attainment of said powers, sex (?) as a catalyst for undergoing an ambivalent civilizing process, etc.). Are there any parallels in other ANE literature that you know of to Eve’s subordination specifically? (Obviously Lilith has literary and etymological parallels, and if we want to venture as far as Greece we get Pandora’s Box).

    “Know” can mean “experience” and “good and evil” can mean “good and bad experiences” (rather than ethical awareness); this is how I read the text in Genesis.

    In any case, if we’re reading in historical context, the enterprise of separating literal from literary seems entirely wrongheaded to me, as there’s no evidence ancient Israelites ever formulated such conceptual categories. I see nothing in Genesis to authorize us to posit the mythological/aetiological as a non-literal category.

  28. 28.

    I look at this pretty much in accord with Lynette’s last paragraph in the OP. To me, Gen. 3:16 is an aetiology, not commanding that the man dominate the woman but explaining in a mythic way why that is the reality.

    For literalist Mormons, that idea was then scriptural and taken as normative for marriage relationships. It continued to be culturally-based, but now that culture was enshrined in scripture, which makes it harder to see it for what it is.

    In practical terms, we are ever so slowly evolving to a model of egalitarian marriage, but we are unwilling to give up our scriptural literalism on this point, which leads to harmonist attempts to have our cake and eat it too–what k. calls “chicken patriarchy.” To me, it’s easier to just give up on patriarchy than try to harmonize it with egalitarian relations in marriage.

    And k. of course is right about the translation of Gen. 3:16. Elder Hafen’s suggestion is well-intended, but it doesn’t work. The concept of ruling “over” is inherent in the verb itself; the preposition b- is simply denoting the object of the verb. The NET renders “dominate,” which makes harmonistic explanations very difficult!

  29. 29.

    I haven’t looked at this for some time, but I once read a christian feminist tract that pointed to the parallels in Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7 as them referencing one another and this having some sort of symbolic significance to show that the ruling and the desire where not good things. Maybe Kevin or Lynette or someone can eluminate my vague memory? ( I can no longer recall if it was a parallel or an inversion)

  30. 30.

    Oh, found it in the NET footnotes

    3 tn Heb “and toward your husband [will be] your desire.” The nominal sentence does not have a verb; a future verb must be supplied, because the focus of the oracle is on the future struggle. The precise meaning of the noun ?????????? (tÿshuqah, “desire”) is debated. Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET). However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply. And third, it ignores the usage of the word in Gen 4:7 where it refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.) In Gen 3:16 the Lord announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle. See further Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” WTJ 37 (1975): 376-83.
    4 tn The Hebrew verb ?????? (mashal) means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the Lord simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious.

  31. 31.

    Ray, I think that what’s being referred to in #21, and perhaps what is being alluded to in previous comments is the idea that sisters converse with their husband at the veil, rather than with the Lord. That idea was mentioned on the discussion at FMH also.

    I think it’s a real stretch of the meaning of the ritual to take that interpretation for several reasons. First, there is no significance to who portrays any roles in the endowment. It makes no difference which temple worker or actor plays the role of Eve; it’s still Eve. In the filmed version, the same individual in a single endowment session is sometimes represented by an actor on the screen, and sometimes by a live temple worker. The change in actor does not suggest a change in character. So likewise, it’s still the Lord at the veil regardless of whether the person ritually portraying that role is the person’s husband or someone else.

    Second, some sisters are endowed with their husband or husband-to-be in that role, while others are endowed with a random veil worker taking the role. In neither case is there any indication that the person represents himself, rather than the Lord. For those who are endowed with a veil worker taking that role, there is no indication that the veil worker represents her husband. It doesn’t make any sense for some sisters to ceremonially converse with the Lord and others to converse with their husband when they are endowed. Rather, they are all conversing with someone who represents the Lord in the ritual.

    Further, there are multiple occasions leading up to the veil ceremony when mention is made of Adam and Eve, and their (male and female) posterity conversing with the Lord. The clear implication is that all will be conversing with the same individual.

    I can’t see any acrobatics in the plain meaning of the ritual. From the time of the fall, a plan is contemplated in which Adam, Eve, and their posterity will each converse with the Lord and be return to his presence. That plan is ceremonially implemented when each of us personally encounter the Lord at the veil. If any understanding of the ritual involves acrobatics, it’s one which involves putting someone else at the veil other than who is explicitly stated to be there.

    “The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. And whoso knocketh, to him will he open.” 2 Nephi 9:41-42

  32. 32.

    I actually blogged on this a while back, that theory number 1 is the command to hold in check the natural results of theory number 2 — that is, because of fallen natures women subordinate themselves to men, and the covenant is one not to follow blindly.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/11/28/if-your-heart-is-turned/ is my reading of things.

  33. 33.

    [...] (a fascinating little place I like to peruse every now and then, surfed from there to this interesting article with plenty of parallels for Christian evangelicals, and am now planning to put on my ipod (finish [...]

  34. 34.

    When a previously endowed woman is married in the temple, there is a short ceremony at the veil with the only apparent purpose being to provide the husband with one of the tokens that belongs to the woman, which is used to enter into the Lord’s presence. The husband stands in for the Lord at that time – not an anonymous temple worker. That event is part and parcel of a temple marriage.

    I think it’s a mistake to write off the role of the husband at the veil. The temple has symbolism everywhere, and having the husband stand in God’s shoes is not irrelevant to the matter at hand.

  35. 35.

    In addition to what Ann states, there is the promise of what men and women are endowed to become- which is kings and priests to the most high God, and queens and priestesses to their husbands.
    I also believe that Adam is declared to be Lord over all the earth, so there is precedent in referring to him (a husband) as “the Lord.”

  36. 36.

    “It makes no difference which temple worker or actor plays the role of Eve; it’s still Eve.”

    To the contrary, I’m pretty sure a male temple worker has ever played that role…

  37. 37.

    *never not ever

    hah, sorry.

  38. 38.

    Sorry Pinto, I guess I don’t know what you’re saying that’s contrary to what I said. Substituting one temple worker for another doesn’t change the fact that it’s Eve. If hypothetically, my mother played the role of Eve, she would still represent Eve in the ceremony, and would not represent my mother. I hadn’t said anything about the sex of the actor, but I suppose that if a male temple worker were cast as Eve, it still wouldn’t make the character someone other than Eve.

  39. 39.

    Left Field, I appreciate the explanation. I understand the argument; I just don’t get how someone gets there with the actual wording of the endowment itself. I understand how they get there; I just don’t get it.

    That’s cool, however, since I think much of what happens in the temple is subjective, anyway. (Actually, that’s one of my favorite things about it.) I’m willing to grant that the interpretation might be correct, as long as those who espouse it are willing to admit that it’s the most stretched of the possible interpretations. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, especially since some of my own conclusions are more stretched than others’; it just means I don’t see it.

  40. 40.

    I tend to agree with you, Ray. That interpretation is not one that I had ever heard of, or would have ever thought of. To me, it seems incredibly difficult to reconcile that idea with the rest of the ritual. To me, the ritual hangs together into a coherent whole to a large degree because the Lord personally and individually brings each one of Adam and Eve’s posterity back into His presence. To inexplicably put one of Adam and Eve’s posterity in the place where the Lord is expected seems rather jarring and to me renders the entire ritual leading up to that point mostly incoherent. It would be sort of like getting to the end of It’s a Wonderful Life and then finding out that Clarence the Angel is really George Bailey’s brother, and then trying to figure out how to have the story make sense in that context.

    To Ray and me, the problematic alternate ending for the endowment seems like a stretch. However, it is apparent from some of the comments that there are those for whom the alternate ending doesn’t seem stretched at all, and who conversely have have trouble making my understanding work for them.

    Generally speaking, I agree that the understanding of the ritual is best left to the individual, and I think temple presidents and others generally avoid explaining the endowment for that very reason. However, if there is a common interpretation that results in a problematic understanding of the ceremony, it might be appropriate to consider some clarifying revision.

    My guess is that those who are in a position to make revisions and clarifications in the ceremony are, like I was, completely unaware of the alternate interpretation. Perhaps revisions in the ceremony would be more likely if temple presidents could be made aware that the identity of the person behind the veil is a point of confusion for some.

  41. 41.

    Doc (#13), I think you make a legitimate point about power being linked to service in Christ’s teaching, and I appreciate that priesthood power is described this way; I love the ideals conveyed in D&C 121. At the same time, I don’t think that in and of itself really addresses the question of why some are excluded from the priesthood solely on the basis of gender.

    I’ve been thinking about this observation:

    As mortals, we all worry about being cut out from hierarchy or being degraded, devalued, or oppressed.
    Yet the entire for basis for all these feeling is comparing ourselves with others. This is the root of pride and ultimately leads only to enmity and conflict.

    I do think you’re on to something here, in terms of concern arising from comparison with others. I can’t deny that the status of women in the Church bothers me precisely because I’m comparing it with the status of men. Is this, then, an instance of pride? Since pride is indeed an unfortunately reality in my life, I’d be surprised if it were playing no role at all in my thinking on this. ;)

    But I don’t think that’s all that’s going on here, as I don’t see concerns about gender (or other) inequity as necessarily stemming from pride. I’d like to think I’d be equally bothered if women were the gender at the top of the hierarchy, and it wasn’t clear that God interacted directly with men or saw them as full agents.

    That said, the question remains why is patriarchal leadership necessary for anyone? Why men and not women? I don’t know, and surprisingly enough, I do find it troubling.

    Unsurprisingly enough, I suppose, I’m on board with you there! Thanks for your comment.

  42. 42.

    One more thought on the differing interpretations of various aspects of the temple. I think you can probably take any one element that appears troubling and find a way to put a more egalitarian spin on it. What I find more disturbing is the pattern that emerges when you look at different parts of the liturgy. If female subordination showed up only once, and everything else was unambiguously egalitarian, I might be more persuaded by arguments that the subordinationist reading was the faulty one (or at least, something limited to a particular realm, like the fallen world). But when I look at all the different places in which gender hierarchy appears–and take that together with things like the FamProc and D&C 132–I find egalitarian readings much less plausible.

    I agree that there’s some degree of subjectivity in one’s interpretation of the temple, but I’m hesitant to take that too far, because I don’t accept the kind of textual nihilism which posits that all interpretations are equal, and the temple means whatever you want it to mean. (Not saying anyone on this thread has proposed that–quite the opposite, in fact, seeing as how people are arguing in favor of their particular interpretations!) I think the language matters, and is worth grappling with. And following from something Left Field said in #40, I’ve wondered–if it is indeed the case that temple ceremony isn’t mean to convey gender hierarchy, why don’t Church leaders revise it to make that clear? I could be wrong, but I’d have a hard time believing that they’re unaware that that message is being conveyed.

  43. 43.

    Lynnette,
    I hadn’t thought of this.

    I’ve wondered–if it is indeed the case that temple ceremony isn’t mean to convey gender hierarchy, why don’t Church leaders revise it to make that clear? I could be wrong, but I’d have a hard time believing that they’re unaware that that message is being conveyed.

    That is deeply disturbing to me.

  44. 44.

    Looking at modifications that have been made over many decades, I think it’s clear that the ceremony is becoming more and more egalitarian. The ~1990 changes were the probably the most dramatic, though it is a gradual process. But the fact that it is changing in that direction argues against the idea that church leaders are unaware of the problem, and against the idea that changes are not being made. I am confident that the trend will continue as additional revisions are made. The problem is that revisions are not made very often.

    However, on the specific issue of the identity of the person behind the veil, I do find it quite plausible that they are simply unaware that anyone is interpreting it in the problematic way that has been discussed. I guess the main reason I find it plausible is because I was also oblivious to that interpretation. I imagine that they think it’s already perfectly clear. After all, the person is referred to as “the Lord” on perhaps a dozen occasions, and is never referred to in any other way. In addition, as I already discussed, the “husband is lord” interpretation really goes against the grain of the rest of the ceremony, making the meaning of the ritual largely incoherent–though I acknowledge that others evidently find a way to make that interpretation consistent with the ritual story as they see it.

    Also, as Ray alluded to, there are at least two occasions where the wording is in direct contradiction to the idea that in the case of sisters, “the Lord” is really referring to her husband. On one occasion, the fourth wall is briefly broken when reference is made to the person representing the Lord at the veil. This is a pretty clear indication that the actor represents the Lord, and is not “the Lord” himself. On another occasion two divine personages are in conversation and use the first person plural in reference to giving information at the veil to the posterity of Adam and Eve. The male and female posterity of Adam and Eve are the ones receiving the information. The divine personages (and not any of Adam and Eve’s male posterity) are the ones giving the information.

    There are probably ways to make this even more clear, but it’s not likely to be revised at all if those making the revisions are unaware that some are (mis)interpreting the ritual in this way. Hence my suggestion to discuss this issue with the temple president.

  45. 45.

    That’s a good point, Left Field; the ceremony has shifted in an egalitarian direction over time, and that gives me hope that things will continue to move in that direction. I’ve heard that the changes in the 1990s were the result of a survey; if that’s true, I wish they’d do another one.

    On the question of the identity of “the Lord,” you may well be right that Church leaders are unaware of alternate interpretations. (I don’t really have anything to add to that discussion, except that it’s interesting to note that there seems to be a gender divide in this thread regarding the most plausible interpretation.) I do think they must be aware that the ceremony has patriarchal elements, though. For all the ways the Church has moved in an egalitarian direction, it’s still clinging to soft (or chicken) patriarchy, and I’m curious as to why this is. My guess would be that it’s tied to fears about the breakdown of the traditional family. But I’d like a better sense of just what is being preserved by holding on to this kind of language–because (from my admittedly biased perspective), the cost, in terms of women who find the temple horribly painful (and I do realize that not all women have that reaction), is outrageously high.

    And to what extent are Church leaders aware of that cost? They clearly know that there are women who are unhappy with the model of gender relations, but (as discussed in another recent thread here) my impression is that they see it as a problem which arises from the bad behavior of individual men. In this narrative, if women don’t like patriarchy, their problem is that they haven’t experienced the guidance of a righteous patriarch–and so the men get called to repentance, yet again.

    In any case, I think the suggestion to discuss things with the temple president (and perhaps other ecclesiastical leaders) is a good one–as you say, things aren’t going to change if those who have the power to change them aren’t aware of the problems.

  46. 46.

    What I am really curious about is all the men and women who do find the temple experience uplifting and enlightening. How do they interpret the patriarchal nature of the ceremony and apply it in their everyday lives? If you look at past general conference talks there is much more talk about husband and wife counseling together and then men making the final decision through spiritual guidance (similar to a bishop talking to his counselors or the president of the church talking to the quorum of the twelve). However, this is not how things are discussed in General Conference currently and Elder Oaks talk on priesthood leadership in the home and in the church suggests that we shouldn’t interpret things this way. I really want to know how people apply temple teachings to their everyday life. Do they just ignore certain things? Do they actively try to establish a patriarchy in the home? And what kind of patriarchy do they set up?

  47. 47.

    Ann, I agree that we shouldn’t disregard the role of husband as The Lord in the veil or short veil ceremony.

    My husband and I discuss this exact same issue every time we go to the temple (yea for having an open minded spouse!), and lately, our conversations have been full of questions likes these:

    Could it be that we’re looking at it from the wrong perspective? Could it be that, when preparing to take on the responsibility of a marriage covenant, it’s to the HUSBAND’s benefit to see her through the Lord’s eyes, however symbolically?

    As I’ve struggled with the “submitting” aspects of the temple — especially my perceptions of inequality regarding who-knows-what-about-whom after the short veil ceremony — I have the most trouble when I look at it all solely from my view point. I’m starting to suspect, however vaguely, that some of this submitting stuff is supposed to impress upon the menfolk the responsibilities of exercising the priesthood on behalf of his family. I’m not saying that every guy DOES view it that way, but maybe that’s supposed to be a part of it.

    Years ago when I was engaged, my mother warned me not to view the endowment as a bonus to getting married. One of the reasons you have to be endowed before you can get married, she pointed out, is because you’re supposed to consider if you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of the endowment (if you can’t pass the LSAT, she insisted, you probably aren’t ready for Law School). And if you aren’t , then you obviously aren’t ready to be sealed. It supposed to make us stop and think and evaluate whether or not we really understand and are ready for the responsibilities that come with the covenants.

    I mean, could it be that some of this ruling/presiding/whatever-you-want-to-call-it issue comes from not understanding what this is supposed to teach the guy about his responsibilities, or what it’s supposed to make HIM think about?

    (Mind, I’m not saying that most guys really use the veil ceremony or the female-focused language of the endowment as a self-evaluation tool — but well… shouldn’t they? )

    Oh, and I mean all of this really seriously. I’d LOVE to know what most guys are thinking about during a short veil. I know that there have to be other male perspectives outside of the “I’m the boss of you!” school.

    (gosh, I hope that all made sense. It’s much too much past my bedtime to be trying to make sense)

  48. 48.

    I hope you will excuse me just dropping into this conversation. I will formally introduce myself over on the other thread however, I have been following this conversation and wanted to pose a question I have had for many years.

    Why is it that women are required to veil their faces? Is this type of question allowed outside the temple? When I have asked about it inside the temple I have been told that all the answers to questions such as this can be found in the scriptures. Obviously, the answers that I found there were not satisfactory or I would not be posing it here.

    To contribute to this question,

    “What I am really curious about is all the men and women who do find the temple experience uplifting and enlightening. How do they interpret the patriarchal nature of the ceremony and apply it in their everyday lives? ”

    I will say that I, for the most part, do find the temple experience uplifting. I subscribe to the earlier mentioned idea that the submission role is a result of the fall–because Eve was first to partake… I guess I have interpreted it in my every day life as an explanation for why women have been cast in the roles they have since the fall rather than as an example of how to structure my relationships. Maybe something more to overcome or put aside–like the natural man. I always anticipated things would change in the next phase of our existence and found the statements posted by Ziff (#8) interesting.

  49. 49.

    A comment on the veil covering the woman’s faces… I’ve been told that it represents the veil like in the temple that covered the holy of holies. Women to Heavenly Father are special and sacred and it is to be a reminder to men how precious they are and should be treated. Read in the Bible about the sacred way the priests were to treat the area in the temple called the holy of holies. Also, only certain authorized men are allowed to enter the holy of holies, which makes sense in a marriage perspective. I wish more would be explained in the temple so that misunderstandings don’t persist. This one bothered me until I heard an explanation.

  50. 50.

    A comment on the veil covering the woman’s faces… I’ve been told that it represents the veil like in the temple that covered the holy of holies. Women to Heavenly Father are special and sacred and it is to be a reminder to men how precious they are and should be treated. Read in the Bible about the sacred way the priests were to treat the area in the temple called the holy of holies. Also, only certain authorized men are allowed to enter the holy of holies, which makes sense in a marriage perspective. In other words, it is honoring women to cover their faces. Think about God and the things he “covers” and “keeps sacred”. Things such as our bodies. In our culture we tend to associate coverings with shame and other negative connotations, but God uses veils and coverings to protect and honor. I wish more would be explained in the temple so that misunderstandings don’t persist. This one bothered me until I heard an explanation.

  51. 51.

    Why don’t men get to be veiled? I think we could use a reminder of how precious and holy and special they are and how their access needs to be restricted and they need to be treated delicately. After all, men play a special role in Heavenly Father’s plan. For example, only men can sire children. I suspect men have a special place in Heavenly Father’s heart for this very reason. Masculinity is a sacred calling. A veil over their faces would be a poignant reminder of this fact.

  52. 52.

    Sorry, that response was probably too sarcastic. Let me try again.

    Here’s what I find disturbing about the idea of explaining veiling as a way of making women holy in the way the holy of holies is shrouded: it implies restriction (and of course restriction is itself one primary motive for veiling in general and what many women find disturbing about it). And it’s a gendered restriction: access to women must be restricted because of their “preciousness,” their “holiness,” but no comment is made on access to men or their status. This model thus construes men as agents and women as objects with which they interact–treasures, maybe, but not people. That’s entirely unsatisfactory to me and, rather than alleviating my concerns with patriarchalism, only underscores them.

    To quote Eve:

    I really wonder how comforted we should be by being “valued” as women. I constantly hear reassurances that I’m valued. I don’t consider that any great compliment in and of itself. I value my toaster oven for the great services it provides me, but I’m hardly interested in hearing gushing rhetoric about how I (like a toaster oven) am valuable to men. Valuing doesn’t necessarily raise women above the status of objects–arguably, it only more easily facilitates our insertion into a list of valued objects. (Handy-dandy rhetorical test: We love you so much, ________. We depend on you. We could never do the things we do without you. If you can take the woman out of the blank and put the toaster oven in it without substantially altering the meaning, you’re not really complimenting the woman.)

    I look forward to the day when I will be acknowledged as a human being with my own subjectivity and who, like men, will have the power to _confer_ value.

    The problem I have with your model is that women are being compared, when it comes down to it, to objects (like the inner sanctum)–holy objects, true, but not people whose own subjectivity is relevant.

  53. 53.

    Hey. Perhaps the veil could be interpreted to represent the hidden nature of the divine feminine. Maybe, someday, when we get the part of the endowment with her in it, and preistesses preside ( hope hope hope *cross fingers*) the veil will be removed…and maybe she’ll yell…I was RIGHT HERE the WHOLE TIME!

  54. 54.

    I’m curious…I see a great deal of similarities between the relationship between our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and between women and their husbands. Has anyone else seen this? I’ll explain:
    Jesus Christ was our Saviour because of His obedience to the Father. We rejoice in the service, love, and ultimate atonement of our Saviour-but we attribute the plan of salvation to our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ, in the pre-existence, is considered the greatest of all because he puts forth a plan. Yet, in being one with his Father, that plan is our Heavenly Father’s plan. Through his obedience and his service he comes from the lowliest of all to the king of kings. We don’t view Jesus Christ as being less powerful than our Heavenly Father or being subjected to him. We worship them both-differently of course-and love them both. In reality, could the admonishment to obey our husbands as they obey Heavenly Father simply be an admonishment to be one with our husbands and with Heavenly Father? We are supposed to be of one mind and work together in our marriages, our families, and ultimately within the church Women are not less powerful than their husbands by obeying them (and are just as entitled to receive revelation and have a relationship with Heavenly Father as our husbands to make sure our ‘oneness’ is being directed in righteous directions). In reality, we gain power as we become one with our husbands and with Heavenly Father. Much the same way that Jesus Christ-became one with his Father.
    Throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon Jesus Christ preaches his oneness with the father and his alignment with the will of the Father. He says that he is in the Father and the Father in Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the only semblance of the possibility that Jesus Christ is being subjected to something that He does not desire when He asks that the cup be passed from Him. But even then, he doesn’t vary with the will of the Father and says “not my will, but thine.” If subjecting myself to my husband (as long as he is being righteous of course) will help make us one, like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, is it really disempowering?
    Also, I LOVE comment #47 MerHEART. I think that is EXACTLY what is occurring.

  55. 55.

    Amanda, what a lovely sentiment. Why can’t your husband have the same blessing of losing himself by being obsorbed into YOUR identity? Why can’t he have the same blessings of submission to you? Or do you suppose that God really does see you differently. Your husband must submit to a God, but you must submit to a mortal. No matter how wonderful your husband is…he is not Jesus.

  56. 56.

    You’re right, my husband is wonderful! But he is not Jesus Christ. I covenanted to submit to my husband when he submits to God. So in reality-I’m submitting to God’s will, not my husband’s will or identity. My identity isn’t lost in my husband, it’s lost in God (which we know is only a way of finding it).

    And the next statement-the problem with the fact that my husband doesn’t submit to me. You’re right. This is a problem. So to answer your question-I guess I do believe that God sees me and my husband differently. It could be interpreted as God views women as being inferior to men. But do we view Jesus Christ less important than God? I don’t think so. We view them very differently. We pray to Heavenly Father. We worship Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Why don’t we pray to Jesus Christ? Is God more important than Jesus Christ? Are God and Jesus Christ not equal? I think we view them as different persons with different roles. This is the way I see how it is possible for women to be submissive but equal. Men and women are equally valuable as spirit children of God but different in their roles.

    And I could be way off here. (And there is probably further flaw with my thought process).

  57. 57.

    Interesting thoughts. One of the problems I have with the husband-wife / God-Jesus parallel is that, at least in my understanding, Jesus submits to the Father so that he can become more like him. God doesn’t require submission to keep Jesus (or the rest of us, for that matter) in our place; it’s an aspect of eternal progression. But surely wives don’t submit to their husbands so that they can eventually become more like men. (!) I’m still thinking this out, but it seems to me that it might be useful to distinguish between submission which is a part of eternal development, which enables you to become more like the one you are following–and submission which is an eternal role.

    I’m also troubled by a model of unity which places the costs on only one member of the partnership, in which the wife has to give up her identity in the name of some greater good, but a similar requirement isn’t imposed on the husband. And if the ultimate goal is for both parties to follow God, I don’t understand why they don’t both covenant directly with God. One of the most empowering (and just cool) aspects of Mormonism, I think, is the notion that anyone can go directly to God and get answers; your relationship to him isn’t mediated by any other mortal. So it’s kinda painful to see that potentially undermined in the context of husband-wife relationships. For me, the statement that men and women are equally valued by God is cold comfort if I’m not sure that God also values having a direct relationship with each of them.

  58. 58.

    The biggest problem I have with the Heavenly Father-Jesus and husband-wife parallel is also one of the biggest problems I have with the view/treatment of women in the church — that they are children. Too often things are grouped as “men” and “women and children”, while I think the grouping should be “men and women” and “children”.

    While Christ is wonderful and perfect, and I do worship him, I still don’t see the relationship between Heavenly Father and Jesus as one of equals. They are one in purpose because Christ will always submit to the will of the Father. He does this because, as Lynnette said, he is trying to learn, progress, and become more like the Father. He is still the child in their relationship, and he is learning from His Father’s greater experience. Some day (according to Mormon theology as I understand it, at least), Christ and His wife will create worlds of their own, where He will be the Father, and He will send one of his own children as the Savior of those worlds, and they will have a similar relationship, but this time Christ will be the Father.

    Since my husband is not some perfect being with more experience than I have, whose role and abilities I would like to have later in the eternities (though he is pretty awesome), I just don’t see the relationships as parallel. My husband is not my parent, and I think this analogy just perpetuates the ideas that men are more adult and more responsible than women — an idea that I think is very harmful, for both sexes.

  59. 59.

    But do we view Jesus Christ less important than God? I don’t think so. We view them very differently. We pray to Heavenly Father. We worship Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Why don’t we pray to Jesus Christ? Is God more important than Jesus Christ? Are God and Jesus Christ not equal?

    I actually think there’s a good case to be made that we do view Jesus as inferior and subordinate to God (especially pre-Resurrection)–Jesus submits to God’s plan to fulfill God’s purposes, not the other way around, and he does it for God’s glory. (Now I feel a bit like an Arian.)

    This is the way I see how it is possible for women to be submissive but equal. Men and women are equally valuable as spirit children of God but different in their roles.

    It sounds like you’re resolving the tension by saying women and men are equal in value but not necessarily equal in power. I don’t think this resolves it at all. If women are equally valued or equally capable or equally accountable, why aren’t they gave the same quality relationship with God?

    It seems that more burden is being placed on women to create unity in marriage (by deferring their own needs or desires) than is being placed on men. This just doesn’t seem fair to me.

    I covenanted to submit to my husband when he submits to God.

    There are two ways of understanding the covenant–you submit to your husband when he submits to God, or you submit to your husband in the same way that he submits to God. Although I realize the former interpretation has become quite popular, I think everything in the context militates in favor of the latter–women are placed in a relationship to their husbands that their husbands are placed to God. In any case, why would women promise to submit to their husbands if the intent is that they actually submit to God? The husband has then become superfluous to the structure. Also, why should women have to wait until their husbands submit to God (as this text has it) before they themselves submit to God? There’s no way around it: women don’t have the same quality relationship with God that men do.

  60. 60.

    Anyway, Amanda–sorry if you feel pounced on. :( This issue obviously hits a nerve.

  61. 61.

    (Now I feel a bit like an Arian.)

    And thus we see Kiskilili’s true heretical colors come through . . .

  62. 62.

    No worries ladies. I don’t feel pounced on. I obviously hit a nerve. I’ll give up on the analogy for now, as I’m knee deep in dissertation writing…but I’ll definitely ponder your responses over the next few days. And your blog has a new fan. :)

  63. 63.

    I’m so glad you don’t feel pounced on — we really are nice, but like you said, a nerve. :) And we love new fans — and new friends. We’re glad to have you around!

  64. 64.

    Fresh meat! mwa-ha-ha!

  65. 65.

    YAY Amanda!

  66. 66.

    Yeah, I really am nice! I swear I don’t know where these fangs came from, or the fur–it’s only by the moonlight of certain issues that I look like a werewolf or sound like I’m snarling!

    Just kidding. Glad you don’t feel pounced on. :)

    And thus we see Kiskilili’s true heretical colors come through . . .

    Next I’ll be claiming the Holy Spirit processes only from the Father and not the Son.

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