Zelophehad’s Daughters

Patriarchy is Cultural. Is Equality?

Posted by Kiskilili

A popular feminist argument against Mormon patriarchy asserts that it is simply a cultural relic absorbed unquestioningly from the surrounding social textures of past prophets. We learn that Paul was a product of his time, that Joseph Smith made assumptions about women’s status consonant with his own cultural milieu, or that the Book of Mormon’s androcentrism can be dismissed as an unquestioned cultural orientation rather than a divine imprimatur for marginalizing women’s experience. Because women’s subjugation has pretty much always been part of the air previous leaders breathed, there’s no reason to suppose it has ever been divinely inspired. As the Church continues to grow line upon line and precept upon precept, this model proposes, the scales of these unfortunate “philosophies of men” will gradually be sloughed off as further divine light and knowledge are embraced.

Past leaders were, undeniably, products of their time. But here’s the kicker in this line of thinking: current leaders are too. And so are you and I.

The implicit (or sometimes explicit) methodology undergirding this type of argument proposes that where we can identify parallels between “prophetic” teachings and beliefs in the surrounding culture, we are licensed to dismiss such teachings as mere cultural interpolations. In this model, the criterion for distinguishing between “doctrine” and “culture” is that divinely inspired “doctrine” is necessarily in tension with its cultural climate, where uninspired “culture” flows with the current. 

Two general models for understanding the Church across time have popular traction: in one, a fulness of the ancient gospel has been restored, and so we look to the past for legitimacy. Under this rubric of thought, many apologetic projects undertake to identify resemblances between sacred Mormon texts and beliefs and practices in antiquity, on the assumption that it’s these similarities that confer legitimacy, as well as providing the appropriate context in which divine truths taught in the present are best understood.

In the second model, the gospel is becoming increasingly true as it progresses “out of obscurity and out of darkness,” and we place value not in antiquity, but instead privilege the present and projected future. Observe that the “patriarchy is cultural” line of reasoning proposes to do exactly the opposite of the standard apologetic project–identify similarities to cultures of the past specifically because they confer illegitimacy. Parallels are not evidence of inspiration, but a lack thereof. It’s the aspects of Mormonism without parallel that are, theoretically, the most valid.

Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of women’s status in the Church, the progress model has little historical basis. The Church has not, since its founding, moved uniliaterally in the direction of granting increasing religious and personal authority or opportunities to women.

But the bigger problem lies in the claim itself that doctrine can be extracted out of “culture.” Culture refers to human behavior; there’s no escaping it, and there’s no core gospel or set of doctrines that are culture-free. Even taking a watered-down approach that doctrines with prominent parallels in surrounding cultural contexts should be rejected as uninspired could quickly lead to the rejection of much (if not all) of what the Church teaches.

Most damning for feminists specifically, the insistince on women’s “equality” has its roots in Enlightenment thought, and has become a virtual dogma in present-day American culture. Although there are certainly dissenters, it’s hardly politically correct any longer to assert blithely that women are the spiritual or intellectual inferiors of men, and Church rhetoric has adjusted (albeit haltingly and incompletely) to these larger cultural trends. Egalitarianism is as cultural as patriarchy, as much a part of the air we breathe as subjugation was an element in Paul’s atmosphere.  If this is the argument that allows us to reject Paul’s views on gender, it should, logically, lead us to reject our own ideas about equal partnership as well.

File this post under: Why I’m a Gloom-and-Doom Feminist, or What I Have in Common with the Patriarchalists (namely: I don’t think patriarchy can be amputated cleanly from Mormon thought).

73 Responses to “Patriarchy is Cultural. Is Equality?”

  1. 1.

    (As a sidenote, there are certainly ways of resolving the tension between the backward- looking “restorationist” impulse and the forward- looking “progress” impulse–for example, one might propose that the restoration was inchoate and as the Church continues to transform it actually draws closer to its supposed primeval incarnation. But I’ve never heard this idea articulated as such, and a model of this type would suffer from its own theoretical problems.)

  2. 2.

    If this is the argument that allows us to reject Paul’s views on gender, it should, logically, lead us to reject our own ideas about equal partnership as well.

    True dat.

    We muddle through life on lots of things though. Then we die.

  3. 3.

    Speak for yourself sir. I plan to live forever.

  4. 4.

    Yeah. I remember when I first encountered this thought and it made me ill. I can’t deny the logic of it, though I would love to.
    I suppose what it really boils down to is that God is bigger than me. I don’t get to dictate to him what he is or isn’t. There are a lot of things I would like God to be, but those things say more about me, my values and my world view than about God’s true nature.
    There’s nothing for it but to live my life in a way that is consistent with what I value and hope that God isn’t ultimately a sadist.
    Doom and Gloom indeed.

  5. 5.

    (namely: I don’t think patriarchy can be amputated cleanly from Mormon thought).

    Then again, one could cleanly make this same argument about race relations (blacks and the priesthood, even Gentiles in Paul’s day) and yet, somehow, these firm religious institutions have somehow managed to amputate them cleanly from them.

    Granted, I’m one of the first to throw my hands up in the air and say that Mormonism, as a theological institution does not have the theological mechanics in place to absorb it’s own toxic by-products (teaching omnipotent prophets…except not…except yes….except no), but it is swimming in those by-products that creates a slow kind of member mutation.

    For example, when I was growing up I asked my dad why Nephi seemed to think that Dark Skin was a curse of some kind (unabsorbed toxic by-product). The answer? ” Well, the Nephites lived in a time before political correctness.”
    The fact that my father and I had to swim in these radioactive leftovers (left over when the nuclear power-plant that is the functioning institutionalized church has runoff) created in us a kind of mutant mormonism ( think teenage mutant ninja mormons) that more conservative mormons a hundred years ago would have been horrified with.

    I do see your point though. Sometimes, in the down moments I wonder if it is possible for Judeo-Christian tradition to ever result in Women’s rights at all.

    But hey, on the bright side, if there was one thing that jesus never quoted, it was sexist, allegorical curse on Eve bit.

  6. 6.

    teenage mutant ninja mormons

    That is the most awesome comment in the entire history of awesome comments. jddaughter, you have just made my day, week, and year.

    Kiskilili, you can close comments now, because it will all just be downhill from here.

  7. 7.

    teenage mutant ninja mormons

    That’s pretty funny, jddaughter–that would make a good post title. :) (And I suspect it may be downhill from here, Mark!)

    I guess I’m thinking from the perspective of a member on the ground in the Mormon Church, looking for theoretical ways to accept the Church minus patriarchy. Those at the top of the Church are in a different position–they could, in theory, institute changes that would drastically alter the landscape of our thinking about gender.

    But to be honest, although we’ve amputated some toxic teachings of the past–like racist ideas–I’m not convinced we’ve really learned to do more than hobble on the makeshift prosthetic limbs we’ve fashioned for ourselves in the meantime (as it were). Individuals may have made their own sense of the priesthood-temple ban, for example, but the Church as a whole really hasn’t, and in broad terms our Scylla and Charybdis seem to be: accepting God is racist (from our perspective), or accepting the Church makes serious mistakes–even leaders, even when speaking for God. (Personally I’d prefer the latter over the former, by lightyears.) I think the reason we’re still haunted by the priesthood-temple ban, even though it was lifted, is that the issue is theologically unresolved in our tradition (is the God we worship capable of promoting racial discrimination??). And passages in Restoration scripture about dark skin and curses don’t help at all. In fact, I find them thoroughly odious at the same time I find it theoretically problematic to conveniently expurgate or allegorize or identify as “culture” anything in scripture that doesn’t conform to my particular worldview.

    Maybe my problem is that I have the sort of hubris that leads me to defy God, but I don’t have the sort of hubris that leads me to suppose God agrees with me.

  8. 8.

    And it is the presence of those prosthetic limbs at all ( I agree with you on all above accounts) that leads more and more people to realize they are there problems. I think that more people than not will choose option B (that our church and our leaders are mortal and faulty) over option A (God is racist ), which leads to the growth of TMNM.
    I honestly lived my whole life thinking that this was the actual way everyone saw the world (from my mutant perspective), until I got into adult classes and read the manuals, and watched and spoke to pre-mutation individuals. Scared the medallion off me, tell ya what!

    And I agree, the more often I apply the “culture” rule to things though, the most lost in a quandary I get. Everything is culture, and if culture is flawed, then everything is flawed, and then…why am I even reading these scriptures, or listening to these talks at all! What’s the POINT OF HUMANITY and RELIGION! AHHHH!

    Happens all the time.

    I’ve functioned a long time under the thought-brella that God inspires cultures, which then inspire people which then inspire church leaders as they grow up…and that everything from the word of wisdom to seer-stones all came from revelation received from positive changes in the outside world. But that leads to the problem of “What the heck kind of cultural positive was racism and sexism?”

    I’m just trying to look on the bright side. While I wish upon a shiny shiny star that the leadership would make some changes from the top…I don’t know them personally, and even if I did, the fact that I’m still the only one of my friends watching 30 rock tells me that knowing someone personally doesn’t always change their behavior.

    I just figure that if the point of life is progression, improvement, oneness and love, then anything I do that can prevent opportunities for other people to grow, get close to me and help me see the subjectivity of human beings is not of God, and is a part of culture that should be ignored (see sexism, racism…)

    But ya, I feel ya Kiskilili, we are all in the same boat. Great post excavating often glazed over points.

    and Mark….I think I will make Teenage Mutant Ninja Mormons a post title on my blog the second I have time to write one.

  9. 9.

    Heh–too funny! The manuals can certainly give a person a fright. We do seem to be in a quandary on these issues.

  10. 10.

    We muddle through life on lots of things though. Then we die.

    Which should be a comfort to us.

    I’ve a friend who was certain that equality was doomed back in the 70s. She was aware that it is a trend that ebbs and flows in various cultures, going both ways.

    You ought to listen to some Japanese pundits talk about the American fad of racial equality.

    But, it is an interesting admixture.

  11. 11.

    Kiskilili, just as the political theorists love to remind us, there’s no exit from culture, any more than there is a way out of language. And yet… To say that all ideas are equivalent simply because they are all cultural seems a harder proposition to defend. It seems to me that any cultural system has postulates that are central and those that are more peripheral, ideas without which the edifice as a whole will fall and those that simply adorn the walls. This means that cultural systems can and do change over time, and that there are internally legitimate grounds for arguing that one aspect of a tradition should dominate another.

    Mormonism has in the past gone through transitions that are as shattering as abandoning sexism would be; the racial transition is mentioned here, but I’d more centrally highlight the transition away from plural marriage. That’s a change which removed what had once been, for many, perhaps the central pillar of the Mormon edifice, yet the structure was pretty successfully rebuilt without it. Mormonism as a cultural system isn’t necessarily quite so brittle that acknowledging female equality would break it.

    Nor is it the case that Mormonism entirely lacks cultural resources for arguing female equality. Indeed, Paul’s texts themselves provide various such resources — as do temple rituals, 19th-century history, various components of the Old Testament, and so forth. Equality does exist in tension with patriarchy, and vice versa, but the point is that neither idea is a foreign invader in the Mormon ecosystem.

  12. 12.

    Nor is it the case that Mormonism entirely lacks cultural resources for arguing female equality

    Part of that is that starting with Brigham Young there is a huge volume of statements and sermons on the equality of women, that a woman can make as a good of a doctor, lawyer, accountant or legislator as a man; that women are not property but are equals in marriage; that women should be given the vote (remember that Utah gave women the vote before any other area, had it taken away by Congress and then restored), etc.

    A huge volume of such statements.

    But.

    This entire thread, and some other posts in the bloggernacle, got me wondering just how much of absorbing the local culture is like the Children of Israel encountering the worship of Ba’l and Astarte.

    I am still mulling that over.

  13. 13.

    Stephen M, another useful takeaway from this post is that pretty much 100% of Mormonism could be regarded as an absorption or reflection of the “local culture…”

  14. 14.

    JNS, it’s a good reminder that all ideas in our tradition aren’t equivalent in status simply because all are “cultural”–some are surely more central than others. At the same time, I’m not sure what method we apply in determining which beliefs are “core” and which are “peripheral”: how many people believe them? (Do we look at it diachronically, or maybe give more points the higher up the totem pole those people are?) How prominent it is in our sacred texts? (Yet much of our doctrine hardly follows from scripture.) How appealing it is to me personally? (Likely the most popular method!) Personal revelation? (Nice, but erratic.)

    I’d certainly like to think “there are internally legitimate grounds for arguing one idea should dominate another,” but, to bring the issue home: are there internally legitimate grounds for arguing patriarchy is uninspired or problematic and should be dominated by our more egalitarian passages and impulses? It seems demonstrating this is the challenge Mormon feminists face. I certainly think we could give up patriarchy; the problem is how I go about arguing that we should.

    The implicit criterion you hint at is that the Church could give up a “peripheral” issue but not a “core” one and go forward relatively unscathed–even if Church members, not to mention leaders, widely regarded the issue in question as central. Given the tectonic shift away from plural marriage as our example and the evidence the Church is therefore quite flexible (one might suspect it’s a veritable contortionist of sorts), I’m not sure how we even go about finding a “core”–it seems hard not to fall into an “everything is peripheral because everything could change” morass that’s as sticky as the “everything is cultural” morass. Although I believe patriarchy could be eliminated, I see no reason to think a belief that women have souls couldn’t equally be eliminated.

    (As a side note: I’m not sure as an institution we’ve resolved polygamy any more than we’ve resolved issues of race, as evidenced by the fact that it continues to wreak havoc with people’s faith and opinions about it–was it inspired? is it practiced in heaven?–are all over the map.)

  15. 15.

    The upshot is, if I’m going to move into a castle in the air, at the very least I’d like a bungee cord that enables me to touch the ground from time to time. :)

  16. 16.

    Stephen, perhaps a more apt parallel would be that it’s like the children of Israel encountering the worship of YHWH–one hypothesis suggests they basically borrowed the cult of their national God from the Kenites (people like Jethro). In support of this idea is the fact that YHWH seems to be especially associated with the area south of Israel–Teman, Paran, etc.

  17. 17.

    Kiskilili, I agree that we haven’t resolved many issues from our past. I would claim that we’ve nonetheless made serious changes to what appeared as core aspects of our identity and nonetheless survived.

    I agree that core vs. peripheral isn’t a universal or even a generally decidable criterion. From a Mormon perspective, I think the only really defensible long-term criterion for deciding what to keep and what to change is relying our sense of right and wrong as shaped by the Spirit. That may be a hit-or-miss proposition in the finite term, but it’s nonetheless the fundamentally Mormon answer, I think. I don’t think you can locate foundational claims for Mormonism in anything other than the voice of God, generally as carried by the Spirit. That’s why Mormonism can continue to exist across quite striking changes in theology and practice — that core belief in connections between God and humanity persists. And so ultimately, I think, the way for a Mormon to argue against patriarchy is to argue that it is in conflict with her or his moral sense.

  18. 18.

    Kiskilili,
    I like the way you’ve articulated this tension. Other threads have touched on this topic, but haven’t dived into it as deeply.
    I’m still trying to figure out where I stand, but the discussion here is helping me see the different sides. Thanks for the post.

    Side note: We just watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and my 6 yo loves it, so the Teenage Mutant Ninja Mormons comment especially made me laugh.

  19. 19.

    Kiskilili –

    I’m curious. I understand you no longer attend the LDS church. I don’t fault you for that; I contemplate leaving about every other week, myself. But reading this post, I’m confused and trying to figure out where you’re coming from – is the problem that you’ve left, but you’re worried that the Mormons (or your understanding of Mormon doctrine) are right, and that God really is a big, mean sexist in the sky? Or do you no longer believe that, but you’re just trying to show the rest of us still-practicing Mormons that our attempts to reconcile our doctrines/rituals with the notions of an egalitarian God are hopeless, illogical, and pathetic?

    I hope this doesn’t sound too combative; I’m genuinely interested in understanding where you’re coming from. But then, I’m not really sure where I’m coming from these days, so maybe you and I are in the same boat – drifting and rocking on waves of hopes, fears, wishes and doubts.

    My mode of operating these days is to try to remember the times I’ve felt God’s presence in my life, and cling to those memories for dear life. I haven’t received much clarification of confusing doctrine; I’ve just felt (occasionally) overwhelmed with a sense of peace and love. So I’m left to conclude that whatever else turns out to be true, that God is loving and good. But I don’t know – maybe he’s a crazy sadistic dictator who lives on a spaceship above the earth, and has some kind of remote control that messes with my seratonin or dopamine or oxytocin levels, making me feel all warm and fuzzy and trusting, just to get me to comply with his nefarious plans.*

    I guess I’m just trying to hang on to some particle of faith, like Seraphine said – just hoping that those feelings of love reflect some reality, in which God is a loving and good entity. And yes, I suppose I’m being culturally myopic, and defining good as not oppressive, cruel, and sexist.

    *I realize that an alternate and more easily supported hypothesis is that my brain chemistry fluctuates without aid from aliens or deity, but I’m still rooting for the good and loving deity theory to win the day.

  20. 20.

    Past leaders were, undeniably, products of their time. But here’s the kicker in this line of thinking: current leaders are too.

    I can’t agree with this. When I joined the church in the mid-1970′s, President Kimball’s teachings on full partnership in marriage were radically different than what had been the status quo in mainstream USAmerica. BYU at that time was doing everything suggested in THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, offering women part-time scholarships, opportunities to return with kids in the summer to recertify or finish a degree, distance learning scholarships, etc.

    So I don’t think the church reflects the social reality around it. It was totally radical back then, and seems to fit into societies around the globe nowadays.

    And it doesn’t bother me that the way church leaders use “patriarchy” is not the way used in some dictionaries, because at work I use “robust” all the time in a way that most people don’t.

  21. 21.

    Naismith, I don’t think you’re right. In fact, President Kimball’s idea of “full partnership” was basically one that about half of Americans in the 1970s rejected in surveys as too old-fashioned.

  22. 22.

    Paul says: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

    “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. …

    “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. …

    “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

    “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” (Eph. 5:22, 23, 25, 28–29.)

    This is often misunderstood, both by husbands and by wives. Consider it well, and do not contend nor argue with your Heavenly Father. When a man gives leadership in his home as Christ gives leadership in his church, little else can be desired.

    *********************************************************

    There are numerous young women who are worthy, attractive, educated, well-groomed, and appear to be most desirable. . . . . If you have had fewer opportunities [i.e., marriage proposals], you need to evaluate yourselves carefully. Take a careful inventory of your habits, your speech, your appearance, your weight, and your eccentricities, if you have any. Take each item and analyze it. Can you make some sacrifices to be acceptable? You must be the judge.

    Are you too talkative? Too withdrawn? Too quiet? If so, then school your thoughts and your expressions.

    Are you in the wrong location? Could a move to a new location open up a new world to you?

    Is your dress too old-fashioned, or too revealing, or too extreme? Are you too demanding? Do you have any eccentricities in speech, in tone, in subject matter? Do you laugh too loudly? Are you too demonstrative? Do you overdo? Are you selfish? Are you honorable in all things? Would you want a family? Would you be glad to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a good man every day? Would you keep your former friends close to you at the expense of your husband?

    *********************************************************

    Certainly it is not easy for the woman to bear the child in distress and discomfort, but still her desire should be to her husband, for he will preside over her. . . .

    Concerning marriage and the roles of man and woman, let no man defy God or set aside his divine program. . . .

    Why do some allow themselves to criticize—criticize God’s plan? Why can’t they accept their roles in life and be grateful for them?

    Recently in a local paper appeared an article by a courageous woman who said,

    “The scriptures designate that a man’s most important responsibility in life is to be the guide, the protector and provider for his wife and children. In the beginning when God created man and woman, he said to the woman, ‘thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule [but I like the word preside] over thee.’ [Gen. 3:16.] The Apostle Paul reaffirmed this when he said, ‘the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.’ ” (Eph. 5:23.)

    This woman speaks of the so-called intellectuals who would change the plan of God. She seems to be one of those who believes that God knew what he was doing when he organized the family of man.

  23. 23.

    Naismith, I don’t think you’re right.

    I am not sure there is a “right” or “wrong” to this, since it was my impressions, looking at marriages outside the church, of which I wanted no part.

    I remember in the 1970s seeing marriages where the man would come home and flop on the couch, and where the wife had to beg for money for a new dress or whatever, because he was seen as controlling the money since he earned.

    By contrast, the LDS husbands came home and changed diapers, tossed a salad, or whatever was needed. The money they earned was shared, and all the work in their home was valued so that having their name on the paycheck did not earn them special privileges.

    That was what I saw when I joined the church. And I wasn’t disappointed in my own marriage.

    We left Utah in 1980, and I was horrified at how I was treated when we moved to the East Coast for my husband’s schooling. In Utah, I handled all our financial affairs, insurance contracts, etc. and nobody batted an eye because it was accepted that we were partners. Out in the East, I was nothing–they patted me on the head and wanted to talk to my husband.

    In fact, President Kimball’s idea of “full partnership” was basically one that about half of Americans in the 1970s rejected in surveys as too old-fashioned.

    And your reference is…???

    Really, I’d like to see it, because I am not sure there is a survey (even today) that really gets at what he was teaching. I was not particularly interested in policies that allow women to act like men. I was more interested in policies that valued the contribution of women in a womanly way.

    And how many other colleges of that era supported mothers the way BYU did, with part-time scholarships, distance-learning scholarships, and summer opportunities? Exactly what was described in the FEMININE MYSTIQUE. Neither the university where my husband did grad school, nor where I did grad school, nor where I currently work came anywhere close to fulfilling the role that Betty Friedan laid out. But that was just in a few states, maybe there is someplace better?

  24. 24.

    Naismith, the phrase “allow women to act like men” is a symptom of what we’re talking about. You have a view of gender that fits in the 1950s, really; it’s not surprising that you can’t see how the church’s gender teachings in the 1970s were retrograde. In any case, the church has basically reversed course on much of what Kimball had to say…

  25. 25.

    More specifically, regarding survey data, the General Social Survey is a good source for this kind of historical question regarding attitudes. One useful question is as follows:

    Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Women should take care of running their homes and leave running the country up to men.

    As of 1974, 64.4% of Americans disagreed with the statement; the question was discontinued after 1998, when 84.6% of respondents disagreed and the attitude reflected in the question basically fell out of circulation.

    The prior question seems to substantially conflict with President Kimball’s position that women should be led by their husbands; it suggests that as of the 1970s a lot of Americans were at least willing to start considering the idea of women in a leadership role. Another question more certainly conflicts with LDS church teachings up until the 1990s:

    Do you approve or disapprove of a married woman earning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supporting her?

    As early as 1972, 65.4% of Americans approved of a married woman working outside the home even if her husband was capable of supporting her; by 1998, this figure reached 82.2%.

    A third question seems to speak, perhaps a bit indirectly, to your concern about “women acting like men.”

    Would you say that most men are better suited emotionally for politics than are most women, that men and women are equally suited, or that women are better suited than men in this area?

    In 1974, 62.6% of Americans claimed that men and women are equally suited for politics.

    Just for fun, here’s another one:

    Now I’m going to read several more statements. As I read each one, please tell me whether you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with it. For example, here is the statement: A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.

    In 1977, a bare majority disagreed with this statement (51.1%), but a clear majority emerged in agreement with the statement the next time it was asked (in 1985, 60.8% of Americans agreed that working didn’t hurt mothers’ relationship with their children) and has persisted ever since.

    On each of these positions, President Kimball and the church at the time tended to side with the minority (other than the 1977 bare majority on the last question); on each of them, the church has subsequently made major moves in the direction of the majority.

    I agree that BYU was for a long time unusually willing to accommodate students who were mothers. The rest of the LDS church was, however, much less flexible regarding gender. The quotes from Kimball that the anonymous interlocutor (not me!) added above are illustrative.

    Regarding your personal experience, you’re right to say that it isn’t falsifiable. But the inferences that you draw about mainstream American beliefs regarding gender in the 1970s are falsifiable — and, indeed, false. (When you say, “President Kimball’s teachings on full partnership in marriage were radically different than what had been the status quo in mainstream USAmerica,” that just isn’t right — the mainstream’s “teachings” were a bit ahead of President Kimball in emphasizing equal partnership between spouses, even if mainstream practice wasn’t.)

  26. 26.

    Naismith, the phrase “allow women to act like men” is a symptom of what we’re talking about. You have a view of gender that fits in the 1950s, really;

    Not hardly. I don’t vacuum in high heels and pearls, I don’t think “father knows best,” I do think women need an education.

    it’s not surprising that you can’t see how the church’s gender teachings in the 1970s were retrograde

    .

    I joined the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1973, I took various women’s studies classes during the 1970s. I had read Betty Friedan, Robin Morgan, etc. I subscribed to Ms. magazine for some years.

    What I saw in the church was radical and better.

  27. 27.

    Naismith, that’s great — it doesn’t fit with what President Kimball was actually saying as quoted above and in many other passages, but I’m glad you found a way to find something good.

    What do you think it would mean for a woman to act like a man, anyway?

  28. 28.

    Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Women should take care of running their homes and leave running the country up to men.
    As of 1974, 64.4% of Americans disagreed with the statement;

    And just a few years later, in 1980, Sister Paula Hawkins became the first married woman elected to the US Senate; they had to change the name of the Senate Wive’s lounge for her husband. In doing so, she was following in the footsteps of the many LDS women who had served in public office. Quite a few of the general RS presidencies have been elected to the state legislature. So why would those findings be in conflict with church teachings?

    A third question seems to speak, perhaps a bit indirectly, to your concern about “women acting like men.”

    Okay, let me explain what I meant by that. I am sorry if it wasn’t clear.

    When I said “policies that allow women to act like men” I am referring to policies that appear progressive and egalitarian from the outside, but really hurt women. For example, my university’s decision that undergraduates must be enrolled fulltime. This removes a pathway for mom to earn a degree while her kids are in school. Or the policy that people have to work fulltime to earn benefits, meaning that if a mom wants to be home with her kids after school, she can’t get a good job. Or the policy that only paid employment, not volunteer work, can be used to qualify for a job.

    Those are policies that value the way men have traditionally done things. I am not impressed. I would like society to value what women do. I would like to see, as Betty Friedan described so well in The Feminine Mystique, accommodations for moms. I’d like to see respect for their work so that workplace re-entry is seen as a change in job, with their work at home considered as employment in a different field.

    Would you say that most men are better suited emotionally for politics than are most women, that men and women are equally suited, or that women are better suited than men in this area?
    In 1974, 62.6% of Americans claimed that men and women are equally suited for politics.

    And I don’t know why President Kimball would disagree. BTW, Nancy Pelosi is a woman who didn’t shape her political career the way men do. She raised her children, then ran for public office, a woman’s way of doing things.

    Also, a lot of the survey data regarding a wife’s employment don’t impress me as being contrary to the church because ever since I joined the church, I’ve never heard counsel that wives should not pursue a career. Only concern about mothers with young children focussing enough on the kidlings during those early years. Which is by no means the same thing as a wife.

  29. 29.

    Naismith, I just have to say you haven’t been listening closely to church leaders. Maybe that’s for the best.

  30. 30.

    Naismith, I just have to say you haven’t been listening closely to church leaders.

    Oh, surely you can be a bit more condescending that that if you try?

    Here are some of the statements from Pres. Kimball that I found radical and positive and caused me to join the church. You may disagree with the interpretation, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t listening.

    First of all, he said on numerous occasions that he preferred “preside” rather than “rule.” It was about order, not power.

    Second and along the same lines, he said, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’ ” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man “should not be honored in his priesthood” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 316).

    And that was another great thing I loved about him. He didn’t think women should respect their husband’s priesthood just because they have a penis. That respect had to be EARNED. He said: “No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world…” Which means that she doesn’t have to follow him per se, only follow Christ.

    And of course, he was well known for his oft-cited statement, “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”

    At the same time, there were voices (the book OPEN MARRIAGE for one example and many other feminist texts) who argued that the reason women should pursue a career was so that she could be a full partner, that only by doing the same stuff he does can they be equal.

    I reject that. Birthing and nursing a child are also acts of great value. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because men can’t do them. Pres. Kimball had it right in preaching equal partnership, without conditions.

  31. 31.

    I really like Valerie Hudson’s (BYU Poly Sci professor ) definition of marriage from an LDS perspective. It puts a spin on it I haven’t seen before. http://squaretwo.org/Sq2AddlCommentarySherlock.html#hancock2

    Now, you can see the problem here. If the telos of marriage is gender equality—a teaching of how the two halves of humanity are to relate to one another so that when new members of humanity are brought forth they will be taught this correct principle from birth—then the student’s question was right on the money. “Traditional” marriage is simply not what LDS members believe marriage is, for “traditional” marriage is based on a hierarchy of men over women, and oppression of women in all facets of society based on the template found in “marriage.” Given the greater light and knowledge revealed to the LDS, it would be abominable to stand together with those who advocate “traditional” marriage, for it is the opposite of what marriage means, we believe, to God.

    And, as this essay shows, gender equality is not just some PC ideal. There is good evidence that greater gender equality in marriage gave the world sustainable democracy and greater levels of interstate and intrastate peace. Apparently, freedom and peace are the natural blessings that come from following the Lord’s version of marriage. I won’t repeat this argument here, but urge readers to examine it carefully.

  32. 32.

    What I find utterly incomprehensible about Hudson’s argument is the claim that the LDS have received “further light and knowledge” leading us to eschew “traditional [hierarchical] marriage,” even as women are obligated to hearken to their husbands, to be priestesses to their husbands, and to give themselves to their husbands. This “light and knowledge” is not non-hierarchical. Rather than construing the situation as one in which the Mormon Church is at the vanguard in developing gender egalitarianism and the host culture lags behind in accepting it, it’s clear to me the situation is exactly the reverse: the Mormon Church has only belatedly and halfheartedly incorporated egalitarian language into its discourse, but without bothering to eradicate the patriarchal ideas with which it directly conflicts.

    Naismith, it sounds to me that your absolute central feminist concern is that opportunities be created for mothers of young children. This is certainly a laudable goal (although I’m still not convinced it should be female-exclusive), and it’s possible the Church is a utopia for young mothers; I have neither experience nor data to confirm or deny this.

    However, on a number of other classic benchmark issues–regardless of whether you accept them as valid or not–I find it irrefutable that the Church is not “leading” the culture in change, but lagging behind the curve: (a) marital hierarchy: when Elizabeth Cady Stanton married in 1840, she refused on principle to covenant to obey her husband; 169 years later the Church has yet to fully embrace Stanton’s ideal; (b) ecclesiastical authority: Congregationalists started ordaining women in 1853; the Mormon Church in 2009 is still excluding women from most positions of authority; (c) the divine feminine: in 1973 Mary Daly famously suggested that “if God is male, then male is God,” an observation that has significantly reoriented how God is discussed in many religious circles. Yet the Mormon Heavenly Mother continues to lurk in the shadows. Etc.

    It sounds to me that you’re arguing essentially that the Church was ahead of the culture in embracing, effectively, the ideals of 3rd-wave feminism–different life-paths are valid, women should be supported in a decision to make childcare their fulltime jobs, yet wives are still equal partners to husbands–at a time when the “culture” was caught up in the excesses of 2nd-wave feminism. You raise two issues: women and childcare, and married women’s equal power to their husbands.

    Regarding the latter: it’s hard for me to take President Kimball’s advocacy of “full partnership” at face value when he also endorsed, implicitly and explicitly, the idea that women should “obey” their husbands. While he may have condemned unrighteous dominion, he did not thereby condemn righteous, benevolent, dominion, which is dominion nonetheless. If the wife only follows the husband as a roundabout way for her to follow Christ, the structure placing the man between the woman and Christ is nonsensical. The Church is significantly behind broader cultural values on this score and the progress that it’s made–the 1990 changes to the temple ceremony, Elder Oaks’s recent evacuation of meaning from the term “preside”–are, I would argue, a response to pressure from broader cultural norms.

    When it comes to the former, the Church was clinging to 1950s values around women and childcare, and no doubt created a supportive environment for women to raise children. But I think it would be a mistake to construe this as an example of the Church being ahead of the curve–the Church was behind the pendulum swing, so when it swung back (as some of the excesses of the 2nd wave were reined in) the Church met it (only on certain issues!) as the Church itself swung forward.

    Historians have made a good case that Quakers really did play a central role in spreading abolitionist ideas. The thought that the institutional Mormon Church has made a parallel contribution to the promotion of gender egalitarianism in American culture is ludicrous.

  33. 33.

    I’m as lost as you, Jane. :)

    I don’t think it’s a bad approach to put faith in one’s experience of God’s love; it just doesn’t work emotionally for me right now. It’s too hard not to feel I’m in an abusive dynamic in which it’s acceptable for God to brutalize me in the name of love.

    Although I formally resigned my membership (specifically to annul my endowment), I haven’t stopped believing in the Mormon God or his involvement in the Church. The post-Enlightenment question everyone seems to be fixated on is “what’s real?” and consequently, resigning is construed as a loss of belief in a model of ultimate reality.

    I have plenty of issues in that department, but I’m much more interested in the question “what’s good?” My biggest problems with the Church aren’t with things I think are false, but with things I think are bad. I’d like for there to be comforting doctrine that clears them up; I guess I just want it to be plausible too.

  34. 34.

    Thanks for your response, Kiskilili. I’m grateful you didn’t take offense, even though I worded my questions ungracefully. Your answer makes a lot of sense; I feel like I understand your position better.

    I want to know what’s real, and I desperately want to believe that what turns out to be real is also what’s good, at least in the eternal scheme of things. I grant you, our LDS theology isn’t always really comforting on that score; I’m just hoping against hope that the problematic bits are wrong.

    I’ve had a mantra for the past couple years, that goes like this: “God is good. He knows everything. He’s good.” (Or sometimes it’s a prayer: “God, you are good. You know everything. You are good. You know everything.”) I say it over and over in my head while folding laundry, driving, etc.. It doesn’t sound very sophisticated or profound, but I guess these repeated phrases are part of my attempt to convince myself that ultimately, what’s good is true, and vice versa. That God comprehends all the things that baffle me, that he knows all the answers to the questions that keep me up at night. He knows what’s real, and he is good. The ultimate, eternal reality must be good. I’m not sure if I believe that, but I need to believe it.

  35. 35.

    What I find utterly incomprehensible about Hudson’s argument is the claim that the LDS have received “further light and knowledge” leading us to eschew “traditional [hierarchical] marriage,” even as women are obligated to hearken to their husbands, to be priestesses to their husbands, and to give themselves to their husbands. This “light and knowledge” is not non-hierarchical. Rather than construing the situation as one in which the Mormon Church is at the vanguard in developing gender egalitarianism and the host culture lags behind in accepting it, it’s clear to me the situation is exactly the reverse: the Mormon Church has only belatedly and halfheartedly incorporated egalitarian language into its discourse, but without bothering to eradicate the patriarchal ideas with which it directly conflicts.

    But Hudson is saying that kind of traditional marriage is wrong. http://squaretwo.org/Sq2AddlCommentarySherlock2.html She is using reasoning that I have not seen with scriptures I have not seen used. Some of her position, in a situation where careful speech is required, is similar to what I have seen on the Bloggernacle. That is, the priesthood is the cure if used as intended. She is taking it a step further by saying that the priesthood itself is meant to ensure gender equality. A foundation has to be laid before taking aim at modern prophets…..she is doing it in an environment that requires faith promoting dialogue. Her foundation is traditional marriage that has produced gender inequality is wrong. That means church practice and tradition in violation of this principle is wrong as well. And that would include Pres. Kimball’s less than enlightened statements by extension. Even in the midst of that, the enlightened statements are there. But what we have done with what we have should not be confused with what we have.

    And yet there was something more important, in the eyes of the Lord: “Behold, [among the Lamanites] their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children” (Jacob 3:7), whereas among the Nephites, “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you” (Jacob 2:35). When the love between husband and wife is broken by gender inequality, love dies and destructions come—because God cares if his daughters are weeping. I say it again: God curses societies that practice prevalent hierarchical marriage, concubinage, polygamy, and other practices that undermine gender equality in marriage.

    Regardless of the glitches, I like where she is going with this because it gives us an elevating way out.

  36. 36.

    I find much about Hudson’s vision of marriage based on absolute equality between men and women very heartening, and even inspiring. It is, of course, vastly preferable to the horrifying alternatives she describes–women as chattel to varying degrees, without any control over when and whom they marry or their own sexuality or fertility, or the chilling description of a Mormon man who told his wife that she was a biological vessel who existed to build up his priesthood kingdom. Considering that such patriarchal norms have been far more common than egalitarianism throughout human history, and considering that such norms continue to prevail in much of the world, I think the arguments for gender equality cannot be made too strenuously.

    Her foundation is traditional marriage that has produced gender inequality is wrong. That means church practice and tradition in violation of this principle is wrong as well.

    But that’s precisely the problem with her analysis. I find it disingenuous of her to claim that we LDS stand at the vanguard of egalitarian marriage, in opposition to the retrograde “traditional” marriage practiced by “the world.” (J. Nelson-Seawright has provided ample evidence on this very thread that in the industrialized West the rest of society has been ahead of us Mormons in regarding women as the equals of men.)

    The sad fact is, we Mormons continue to ritually subordinate women to men in our most sacred space, and we continue to practice polygamy in our sealing practices. We simply do not practice the egalitarian marriage Hudson wants to claim that we do. By the terms of her own analysis, Hudson should reject the temple ceremony and consider us a society cursed by God for our hierarchical and polygamous marriage practices. The further light and knowledge that Mormons allegedly possess about what she sees as the true purpose of marriage–gender equality–has entered our discourse as a belated and equivocal embrace of feminist ideas that have arisen in the broader culture.

    Simply put, Hudson’s vastly oversimplifying our complex and contradictory rhetoric about gender. She’s cherry-picking her discourse so that Mormonism says about gender what she wants it to say. Don’t get me wrong–it’s what I want it to say as well, and I desperately wish it did. But it simply doesn’t.

  37. 37.

    The sad fact is, we Mormons continue to ritually subordinate women to men in our most sacred space, and we continue to practice polygamy in our sealing practices.

    I assume you mean we practice polygyny which isn’t exactly true. In reality, all spouses are sealed in work for the dead…granted it is a back door situation. If we assume that sealings are only valid for men it creates a problem beyond gender disparity because it brings the validity of sealing itself into question. I didn’t immediately put two and two together to realize Hudson was behind this: http://www.womanstats.org/ I first learned about it from one of her coders. I think it is good to take a step back and put our problems in perspective. That doesn’t mean this is not a vital matter but it does tend to take the edge off ritual subordination to realize what marriage still does to women without our freedom and advantage.

    Simply put, Hudson’s vastly oversimplifying our complex and contradictory rhetoric about gender. She’s cherry-picking her discourse so that Mormonism says about gender what she wants it to say. Don’t get me wrong–it’s what I want it to say as well, and I desperately wish it did. But it simply doesn’t.

    We all cherry pick just as all religions create a canon within the canon. We regularly make distinctions between what is said vs what is happening so I am not willing to say that Mormonism doesn’t include gender equal discourse. It demonstrably does. The direction of Mormonism has been determined by what is emphasized and what is ignored, much in the way Mary Douglas wrote about history as waves of remembering and forgetting in How Institutions Think. So what do we want to remember and what do we want to forget? As for her advocating rejecting the temple ceremony, anyone who is troubled by gender inequality is rejecting parts of the temple ceremony. We put up with it is about the best that can be said because to accept it is to accept that women are an afterthought. I do not accept that. I also don’t think that any ritual created today would contain anything that implied that. There is also private vs corporate going on. Where we might accept ritual subordination to a man we have a equal relationship with it is far more difficult to accept corporate subordination to a mass of nameless men. (Brings up images of Dennis Potter’s work on corporate salvation). That is where I find value in what Hudson is doing and how she is attempting to reframe the rhetoric. I don’t see “belated and equivocal embrace of feminist ideas” to be a bad thing. However, I think Hudson’s international work takes this beyond “feminism”, a word which divides rather unifies. OK, I’m rambling.

  38. 38.

    Juliann, I don’t think Hudson’s feminist credentials are in any doubt. That said, I do think that Hudson’s arguments about the superiority of LDS ideas on gender in relation to secular ideas among advanced industrial democracies are unhelpful. Hudson’s useful efforts in other domains don’t prop up her failed argument in this one.

  39. 39.

    RE the Hudson argument, allow me to indulge in the terrible practice of a self-promoting cross-link to my post at BCC from this afternoon.

  40. 40.

    Naismith, it sounds to me that your absolute central feminist concern is that opportunities be created for mothers of young children.

    No, I am just sharing why *I* joined the church, as a young mother. So of course those were my top concerns at that stage of my life.

    However, on a number of other classic benchmark issues–regardless of whether you accept them as valid or not–I find it irrefutable that the Church is not “leading” the culture in change, but lagging behind the curve: (a) marital hierarchy: when Elizabeth Cady Stanton married in 1840, she refused on principle to covenant to obey her husband

    I would also refuse to obey my husband if it was merely obeying him because he has a penis. Of course we are not supposed to talk about the temple ceremony, but I think it is common knowledge that the covenant is not between the marriage partners, but between each partner and God.

    (b) ecclesiastical authority: Congregationalists started ordaining women in 1853; the Mormon Church in 2009 is still excluding women from most positions of authority;

    Most men are also excluded from most positions of authority, so what is your point?

    It sounds to me that you’re arguing essentially that the Church was ahead of the culture in embracing, effectively, the ideals of 3rd-wave feminism–

    No, I am arguing that what the Church was teaching was NOT traditional marriage of the 1950s, and closer to second-wave feminism. It was really cool to see things put in practice that I had only read about in Friedan’s book.

    Regarding the latter: it’s hard for me to take President Kimball’s advocacy of “full partnership” at face value when he also endorsed, implicitly and explicitly, the idea that women should “obey” their husbands.

    Except of course, that he did not.

    If the wife only follows the husband as a roundabout way for her to follow Christ, the structure placing the man between the woman and Christ is nonsensical.

    Or simply a way of having order.

    The Church is significantly behind broader cultural values on this score

    Or ahead, depending on your viewpoint.

    a

    nd the progress that it’s made–the 1990 changes to the temple ceremony, Elder Oaks’s recent evacuation of meaning from the term “preside”–are, I would argue, a response to pressure from broader cultural norms.

    I loved Elder Oak’s talk, and here is the interesting thing: he described something that happened when he was a young boy, decades before. His mom was living those teachings 40+ years before. So I doubt social pressure today was much of a factor.

    You should choose to live however you think best. I choose to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The teachings fit with me, and made sense because of my previous activities as a feminist and reading of Friedan, Morgan, etc.

    That my not be your take, fine. But like Hudson, I firmly believe that the church offers something radically different from the 1950s “Father Knows Best” kind of marriage. It is inaccurate to claim that church teachings keep women there. They clearly do not.

    It may be a different place than you personally want to go, but it is not regressive or repressive or 1950s.

  41. 41.

    The quotation: “The Mormon Church in 2009 is still excluding women from most positions of authority.”
    This is correct statement. In practice, it gets worse, as the GA’s allow stake presidents broad powers to discriminate against women. There are no basic set of rights enforced for members, so stake presidents or bishops can decide to that women cannot have tithing paid under their own names or that a woman cannot attend the temple until her husband wishes to attend or that women cannot represent themselves in an action and must have their husband represent them.
    When I see unrighteous dominion and unjust actions, it reminds me of what Martin Luther King stated in 1967 about organizations that discriminate:
    “We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
    When stake presidents act with unrighteous dominion, then non-participation with their group is the only action they leave the victims.
    We were blessed to have lived in a time when the civil rights movement succeeded in awakening a passion for equality between the races and began awakening a passion for equality between the sexes. Yes, men grant women jobs that are overseen by the priesthood. No, we are not treated as equals in our religion, we are treated as subservient “helpers”.
    LDS church leaders seem to prefer a negative peace, devoted more to “social order” than a positive peace, devoted to social justice and equality.
    I liked the comparison given by blogger J. Nelson-Seawright on leaving the politics to the men. We have learned that women can be politicians, too.
    We must realize that as members, we are supporting an ethic and an organization that does not wish to provide equal treatment to women. It took until 1974 for our church to provide equal treatment to all races.
    When we reflect on providing equality to all God’s children, the major discussions break into themes.
    The timid ask, “Is it safe?” The politically correct ask, “Is it popular?” the powerful elite ask, “Is it convenient ?”, and the consciencious ask, “Is it right?”
    Thank you for questioning.

  42. 42.

    Of course we are not supposed to talk about the temple ceremony, but I think it is common knowledge that the covenant is not between the marriage partners, but between each partner and God.

    This isn’t common knowledge at all. It’s wishful thinking. Women make covenants with their husbands. Women are subordinated. I’m thrilled so many people have created for themselves a little wormhole in this structure that leads to an alternate egalitarian universe, I just don’t find it legitimate.

    Most men are also excluded from most positions of authority, so what is your point?

    Fact: all worthy Mormon men are ordained. Fact: no worthy Mormon women are ordained. Fact: other churches started ordaining women before Mormons.

  43. 43.

    It’s a sad reminder, Jo, that stake presidents (universally male) can still create idiosyncratic policies that further exclude women, for example from praying publicly in sacrament meeting, from participating in administrative meetings, or from attending the temple without their husband’s permission (until relatively recently a churchwide policy–I think this as much as anything is indicative of the structure in which the temple places women, where their access to God is mediated through their husbands).

  44. 44.

    If the wife only follows the husband as a roundabout way for her to follow Christ, the structure placing the man between the woman and Christ is nonsensical.

    Or simply a way of having order.

    If it actually does create order, it’s because in some way women are subordinated to men. If we really were egalitarian, we wouldn’t need to achieve order in this way.

  45. 45.

    anyone who is troubled by gender inequality is rejecting parts of the temple ceremony. We put up with it is about the best that can be said because to accept it is to accept that women are an afterthought.

    Not necessarily so! I’m troubled by gender inequality but haven’t rejected that part of the ceremony.

    I have no problem with Hudson cherry picking, but I think she should do it in a responsible way: that is, acknowledge the aspects of LDS though with which she disagrees and articulate the method by which she’s chosen to privilege one position over another, to make gender equality the index of validity in her assessment of doctrine, in the way that Lynnette suggests here. What I find disingenuous is the way she’s eliding certain prominent aspects of Mormon thought entirely in order to construe Mormonism as a beacon of gender egalitarianism and the “world” as awash in patriarchal assumptions. If she’s rejecting aspects of the temple, great: but I want her to spell it out.

  46. 46.

    I’m troubled by gender inequality but haven’t rejected that part of the ceremony.

    Can you elaborate how that is possible? It is a yes/no committment. Being troubled requires a maybe or I think response.

    Nelson-Seawright, I wasn’t making an appeal to authority in noting Hudson’s credentials. I am saying that others with experience that exceeds our narrow focus on our limited corner of womanhood have something to bring to the table. I don’t see much willingness to acknowledge what Hudson is saying let alone unpack it. I’m actually very surprised with the automatic dismissals and stereotyping. Howver, I suspect the very mention of SSM brings out defensive nonresponses. I was hoping that would not become the focus. I think Hudson is being Becked and it is unfortunate that we don’t give accomplished women the opportunity for a hearing before jumping on them in the name of feminism.

  47. 47.

    What I find disingenuous is the way she’s eliding certain prominent aspects of Mormon thought entirely in order to construe Mormonism as a beacon of gender egalitarianism and the “world” as awash in patriarchal assumptions.

    I can only imagine where we would be if we measured what had been said to make a standard for racial equality. We had to ignore a lot….and do considerable cherry picking. There is bountiful “unegalitarian” gendered language in Mormon rhetoric. But can you admit that there is at least some egalitarian rhetoric along with some scripture?

  48. 48.

    But can you admit that there is at least some egalitarian rhetoric along with some scripture?

    Juliann, no one here has denied that, nor would they, since it’s clearly a matter of record; in fact, commenters here have repeatedly acknowledged that the scriptures and the church do contain egalitarian rhetoric. Indeed, such acknowledgments are implicitly made every time we point out the contradictions in the church’s position.

    I can only imagine where we would be if we measured what had been said to make a standard for racial equality. We had to ignore a lot….and do considerable cherry picking.

    Indeed we have and do, and race inhabits a very vexed position in Mormon discourse that’s generally swept under the convenient rug of “folk doctrine.” In fact, a parallel sanitizing process to the one in which Hudson is engaging is at play.

    I don’t see much willingness to acknowledge what Hudson is saying let alone unpack it….I’m actually very surprised with the automatic dismissals and stereotyping.

    I haven’t seen any automatic dismissals, let alone any stereotyping. On the contrary, we’re showing Hudson the respect of taking her seriously in trying to show where her argument fails as well as acknowledging the strengths of her position (as both I and Jay Nelson-Seawright did above).

    Howver, I suspect the very mention of SSM brings out defensive nonresponses. I was hoping that would not become the focus. I think Hudson is being Becked and it is unfortunate that we don’t give accomplished women the opportunity for a hearing before jumping on them in the name of feminism.

    Again, I don’t see any dismissals in the name of feminism, nor any “defensive nonresponses.” (And I really don’t think SSM has anything to do with our arguments on this point.) On one level the dismissal has nothing whatsoever to do with feminism; it has everything to do with an accurate representation of the facts. The problem isn’t that Hudson isn’t feminist enough; it’s that her account of Mormonism simply isn’t true.

    We’re just making a very simple point, really: Hudson’s attempt to make LDS doctrine the pinnacle of gender equality is an inaccurate representation of both our recent history and our current doctrine and practice. No one’s maligning Hudson personally, nor is anyone calling her considerable achievements or accomplishments into question–indeed, as I mentioned before, both I and Jay have acknowledged those accomplishments. (And I don’t think the Julie Beck phenomenon has any bearing on the arguments under consideration.)

  49. 49.

    in fact, commenters here have repeatedly acknowledged that the scriptures and the church do contain egalitarian rhetoric.

    Being new to this blog, I am outside of the culture here. What you are saying obviously makes logical sense to you. It does not to me as someone entering the room. You are saying there is a contradiction. You are not saying paradox and I think a contradiction is a clash of alternatives. That presents choice yet that choice is being characterized as “true” vs “untrue” at which point there doesn’t seem to be a contradiction unless someone wants to back falsehood. There is also nowhere to go with this when my saying that outside perspectives are vital produces the response that Hudson’s accomplishments aren’t being questioned and she isn’t being maligned. That is a nonsequitur. However, I sincerely thank everyone for their patience. I have learned much but I am apparently not expressing myself effectively and it is time to bow out.

  50. 50.

    Juliann, I hope you won’t bow out; this is a useful conversation.

    That said, I don’t really understand how Hudson’s perspective is an outside one. Outside of what? Hudson lives in Provo, Utah, and works at BYU. I’m not sure how much more of an insider in Mormonism it’s possible to be. Does Hudson have outsider credentials because she does professional work on women’s status outside the U.S.? Well, for that matter, I do professional work on those issues, as well — a point you wouldn’t know, and one that seems totally irrelevant to the discussion. So I guess I don’t understand the conversational point that your reference to Hudson’s professional efforts was meant to make.

    I’m not really sure why counterarguments to Hudson should be seen as “automatic dismissals.” I first read her piece within a day or two of when it was published; I reread it several times before I wrote and published my partial rebuttal at BCC. Other people, notably including TT at Faith Promoting Rumor, have written careful (and, I think, rather devastating) critiques of other aspects of her argument. The point I’d make about these critiques is that they engage the substance of her argument and are undertaken in a spirit of scholarly debate and dialogue — presumably, this is the kind of discussion Hudson would hope to start by publishing a piece like this. It’s the kind of discussion scholars have.

  51. 51.

    Juliann, I’m sorry if it seemed to you that I dismissed Hudson without engaging her arguments. Here’s where I take issue with her (in addition to the problems TT and JNS have raised–I don’t have time to write anything more elaborate at the moment, but this is a start):

    President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that, “God our Eternal Father ordained that men and women should be companions. That implies equality . . . There is no basis in the gospel for inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife.”

    Hudson takes Hinckley’s statement at face value–that, indeed, nothing within Mormonism would lead a sincere adherent to believe in “patriarchy” as traditionally understood. I think this is actually a misreading of his statement. If gender equality really were so obviously a foundational principle of the Church, he would not have needed to point it out. I believe the subtext of his statement is that there is in fact a basis in Mormonism for concluding men are superior to, or accorded more power in the relationship, than women. Unfortunately, President Hinckley did nothing to integrate his belief in gender equality with the Church’s commitment to presiding husbands and hearkening wives.

    And Elder Bruce C. Hafen, putting the icing on the cake, teaches us that the King James translation in Genesis 3:16 (“and he shall rule over thee”) is a mistranslation. In Hafen’s words, “over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.” [4] After her courage in partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—for Mormons believe that Eve was courageous and wise in that decision, not evil or airheaded, and that God was very proud of her for her choice to partake–Eve was told that Adam would rule with her, with Adam’s earning that privilege through fulfilling his family and priesthood obligations.

    Wishful thinking. The Hebrew is perfectly clear: husbands rule (over) wives. The preposition in question does not mean “together with” in any event–when it means “with” it means it in the sense of “by means of.” But with this particular verb, it effectively marks what in English is the direct object. We’re massaging the text beyond all recognition if we accept these creative rereadings.

    So, gentlemen, Mormons have greater light and knowledge on this issue.

    The implication is that belief in gender equality is unique to Mormonism. The idea that gender equality is not advocated outside Mormonism is demonstrably false: this would surely be news to Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Stuart Mill, etc. Conversely, the idea that women’s subordination is nowhere advocated within Mormonism is equally absurd: this would surely be news to Brigham Young, Spencer W. Kimball and company.

    In short, I object strenuously to any characterization of Mormonism as a bastion of gender equality. The Mormon Church still hasn’t fully committed even to marital equality, as evidenced by the temple, the FamProc, and our lesson manuals. If we limit ourselves to talking about the Church only as we wish it were and not as it is, we deprive people of forums in which they can process their negative experiences with our own doctrine, and we obviate any need for change by accepting self-blinding as a solution. I have no objection to people declaring that God advocates gender equality, though I’d be interested in how exactly they reached such a conclusion. But I do have a problem with people claiming the Mormon Church is unequivocally committed to gender equality. It just ain’t so.

    Similarly, I find the way we’ve “dealt” with race wholely unsatisfactory. If we refuse to repudiate past doctrine or deal responsibly with offensive sacred texts, we leave the issues open and unresolved. At the same time, when people are genuinely hurt by our doctrines that we’re pretending don’t exist, our impulse seems to be to prevent them from articulating problems that threaten our commitment to seeing the Church as we wish it were. I don’t think we should willfully ignore anything or do any cherrypicking; I think we should face our problematic history and sacred texts head-on.

    To clarify my earlier comments: (a) I don’t consider the Church anything approaching a feminist nightmare in which women are forcibly suppressed; there’s absolutely egalitarian rhetoric mixed in; (b) I rejected the temple ceremony in that I had my covenants annuled as a formal statement that I don’t intend to keep them; what I meant when I said I didn’t “reject” the ceremony was that I have no reason to assume women’s subordination is not divinely inspired–in other words, I haven’t necessarily rejected that it’s God’s will.

    In any case, I hope we haven’t driven you permanently away simply because we disagree! I find discussions like this one useful, and I disagree with everyone on some issue or other. (In fact, what I’ve concluded about Mormonism and God seems to be unique to me, so I’m bound to spark disagreement anywhere I go.) Anyway, thanks for adding your voice to the discussion and keeping our blog interesting.

  52. 52.

    I am SO gay for Kiskilili! I may start my own fan club on Facebook. For real.

  53. 53.

    Ditto crazywomancreek.

  54. 54.

    a theological institution does not have the theological mechanics in place to absorb it’s own toxic by-products

    Ironically, the unfortunate history of classical theology is the generation of compelling logical arguments for why certain toxic byproducts are part and parcel of the one true faith.

    Mormonism certainly tends to be rather less subject to this style of ratiocination, however. On the contrary, unremittingly hostile thereto. That leaves far more room to maneuver, if closing the door to systematic theology done right.

  55. 55.

    First some housekeeping. I have not been chased away, I just don’t think a ‘yes she did, no she didn’t ‘ argument is productive. JNS, regarding “outside perspective” you said “Outside of what? Hudson lives in Provo, Utah, and works at BYU.” From her bio: She taught at Northwestern University and at Rutgers University, eight years as director of graduate studies at the David M. Kennedy Center for International and Area Studies, author, co-author, and editor of many scholarly books and articles on international relations, national security, and foreign policy. In my opinion that places her or anyone like her as a candidate for adding unique perspective to religion. I find theology informed by social/political/whatever theory an ultimately more enriching study.

    Kiskilili, you said “Similarly, I find the way we’ve “dealt” with race wholely unsatisfactory.”

    I did not intend to say or even imply race issues had been “dealt with”. I said that we have to ignore a lot of past rhetoric to create a new standard. Surely you are not arguing that we do not need a new standard. I have been very involved in some of the efforts Marvin Perkins has mentioned on T&S so I am well aware of what we have not dealt with at all but that is a different matter than having to create language for the future. I think it is important to represent each other’s words accurately. A discussion cannot be productive without that because we end up chasing our semantic tails instead of advancing the dialogue.

  56. 56.

    As for the status of LDS women…both in practice and theology…the problem has been identified again and again. We agree that LDS ritual subordinates women to men and that a male only priesthood has negative ramifications whether intended or not. It is not something I disagree with or desire to endlessly restate. I am looking for something useful that might push toward a solution or at least open a way to envision progress. Without that, Kiskilili, I think your understandable conclusion and withdrawal are the only available solution, perhaps even the only appropriate one.

    I am puzzled that a series of unequivocal statements from authoritative sources are discarded out of hand because there are conflicting statements and Elder Hafen botched a Hebrew word. I particularly do not understand how or why something meant to illustrate a maxim erases the maxim itself. For me it merely proves that Hudson is not any better of a Hebraist than Hafen. What I think is most problematic, however, is a demand to remove “creative rereading of scripture” from the table. We would not have the NT without creative rereading let alone JS’s creative reworking of a Christianity that would not itself have survived without rereadings. So not only is scripture routinely and creatively reread, as we are currently doing with scriptural references applied to race, (again see Marvin’s T&S blog) we have the advantage that our theology gives us a mandate to do so.

    Hudson has teased out the beginnings of a cognitive structure in which to reframe gender issues even though she is presenting a rebuttal revolving around SSM. However, you change her wording. She is not saying “ church”, the word you use. She is actually saying “LDS theology” or “a zion community” with equivocal wording like “could be” or “makes possible” much of the time. A Zion community is a description of potential not achievement.

    We are at cross purposes because I use this as a Weberian ideal type where you are demanding a literalness that ensures disqualification at every step. I have numbered some quotes that I find useful. The first has rich potential in the interplay between equality and love that needs to be expanded. Even last week’s SMPT conference offered more on this.

    1. Equality plays an important role in LDS theology, being integrally linked to the concept of “love” in LDS theology, and therefore we must not fear to embrace it.

    2. Public rejection of hierarchical marriage when speaking in defense of marriage is a priesthood duty.

    3. A Zion community lives the fullness of this commandment. Zion, as we know, is a place where the saints are equal in both heavenly and temporal things, which makes sense given what we know about the Church of the Firstborn, as noted above (D&C 70:14; 78:5-7). They must come together presuming the equality of each person and then acting on it to remove any discordance between the ideal and the lived situation. They cannot form Zion by coming together unsure of each other’s equality, or doubting it, or not even thinking about how it should order their relations.

    4. LDS prophets have emphasized that the marriage relationship is not a mere means to a good end, but a good end in itself which then makes possible other good ends.

    5. What men learn (or do not learn) in marriage with regard to gender equality affects not only wives, but all women in society.

    6. I have found that men with loving, gender-equal marriages have no difficulty treating me as an equal. However, to the degree that a man is the husband in a marriage that tends towards the hierarchical, I find as a rule that to that same degree he cannot relate to me as an equal.

  57. 57.

    Thanks for your additional comments, Juliann. I think (hope) I have a better idea where you’re coming from. If I understand right, it seems we agree on the following: (a) there are patriarchal elements in Mormonism and (b) patriarchy is unacceptable. Where we differ is in our respective responses to this issue.

    I don’t feel that I’ve discarded Hudson’s statements so much as problematized them. But I have dismissed the conclusions she draws from them. This gets exactly at the issues underlying the original post: what leads one to formulate an Idealtyp around egalitarianism in Mormonism, and not patriarchy? What is the epistemological or ethical basis for privileging the egalitarian elements of our tradition in one’s personal life, and not the patriarchal? What do we appeal to when mediating between different formulations of the Mormon understanding of gender?

    As much as anything, what I find intensely distressing about Hudson’s characterization is the way in which it reinforces a problematic split between public and private doctrine: publicly, the Church celebrates gender equality, while arguably the most robust, most binding instantiation of marital hierarchy in the Church occurs in secret. Why should people only discover how deeply entrenched patriarchy is in the Church in the very moment at which they’re asked to swear eternal allegiance to it? It’s duplicitous. There was a time when I took comfort in the sort of statements Hudson marshals for her argument; after I was endowed, I felt like a dupe.

    By bringing patriarchy in Mormonism to the forefront, I’m not insisting people accept it; I’m merely insisting that it be part of the discussion. If all our doctrine on gender were equally public Hudson’s cherrypicking would bother me less. As it is, she’s reinforcing a dynamic that sets people up for betrayal and leaves them with little recourse for processing their experience afterwards since they’ve been sworn to secrecy. If patriarchal assumptions are going to figure prominently in our most sacred, non-public spaces, I maintain that it is unconscionable to confine our public discussions of gender to egalitarianism.

    As far as literalism goes, I wonder when it became a dirty word. I am, in fact, quite suspicious of christological readings of the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament (and elsewhere), simply because I don’t think how appealing an interpretation is religiously is a good metric for establishing its legitimacy. The challenge for post-postmodern hermeneutics is surely to establish constraints on interpretation that fortify us against the nihilism that embracing the ineluctability of the hermeneutic circle, subjectivity, and the decentering of authority tend toward. If we advocate willful, deliberate eisegesis we’re eroding any possibility for the text to genuinely challenge us. Additionally, my impression is that we often want to capitalize on the instability of meaning in fashioning imaginative reinterpretations at the same time we want to preserve a robust notion of authorial intent; it’s not clear to me how these goals are consonant with each other. In theory, having an open canon should mean there’s less reason to create “salvaging” interpretations of our texts rather than hoping for new and improved texts.

    So perhaps where we’re at cross-purposes is that we envision progress (toward similar goals?) occurring in entirely different ways. Your approach may well be more practical, especially considering that religion tends to change from the ground up and egalitarian assumptions are obviously being absorbed into Mormon thought. But right now, I don’t think I would find anything short of unequivocal, authoritative repudiation of patriarchal values emotionally satisfying. I’d rather a frontal attack than an ambush, even though I think I’m bound to lose. I can’t summon the energy for creative egalitarian reformulations of our doctrine with the shadow of a misogynistic God looming over me.

  58. 58.

    On the issue of whether Hudson is describing the “Church” or an unrealized potential in Mormon thought: actually, Hudson is arguing that her formulation encapsulates not a convenient or ethically appropriate ideal to strive for, but how God himself views marriage:

    But if you take the Lord’s purpose as the true purpose of marriage, you are on much firmer ground.

    The $64,000 question then is how exactly she’s reached the conclusion that her particular formulation of the Mormon view of gender accurately captures God’s mind on the matter, while presumably a competing, overtly patriarchal formulation would not–especially if she’s aware she’s engaging in a process of choosing “what to remember and what to forget” (a la Douglas), cherrypicking,” or creatively reformulating doctrine like the NT authors (and she certainly doesn’t frame her argument this way). As I read her article, the implicit method by which she’s reached the conclusion God supports marital equality goes something like this:

    A. The institutional Church is inspired by God.
    B. The insitutional Church has stated x about marriage.
    C. Therefore, God advocates x when it comes to marriage.

    If this is indeed her reasoning, how is she not obligated to include the information that the institutional Church has also stated not-x about marriage? Surely that problematizes her conclusions.

    If, on the other hand, she’s reached the conclusion that these particular statements are more inspired than others, she’s obligated to lay bare her method: is she choosing statements on the basis of authority? on the context in which the statements were made? on content? based on her own personal revelation when encountering them?

    Above, you wrote:

    Her foundation is traditional marriage that has produced gender inequality is wrong. That means church practice and tradition in violation of this principle is wrong as well. And that would include Pres. Kimball’s less than enlightened statements by extension. Even in the midst of that, the enlightened statements are there.

    So prophets and canonized texts may be wrong in this system, but egalitarianism is unquestionably right. Equality between genders is the yardstick by which doctrine should be measured, regardless of the source.

    But what I’m not understanding is the process by which this conclusion was reached in the first place. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with it–I’m just not seeing what it is. What basis is there in Mormonism for arguing that one’s gender ideology has more authority and more closely represents God’s will than the wording of ordinances or official statements of prophets speaking on God’s behalf? Is it personal revelation? ethics? convenience? As I said above, I think this is the challenge in Mormon feminism: articulating a non-arbitrary, non-circular method for arguing that egalitarianism is appropriate.

  59. 59.

    Re: Kiskilili

    I have no objection to people declaring that God advocates gender equality, though I’d be interested in how exactly they reached such a conclusion. But I do have a problem with people claiming the Mormon Church is unequivocally committed to gender equality. It just ain’t so.

    Well stated. Now, how do we ask for the change needed in the church? Martin Luther King imagined a world without racism. Can we imagine a world without sexism? Would that start with asking for individual rights of all members? Let me know your thoughts on how to encourage change.

  60. 60.

    Juliann, the noteworthy thing to me about Hudson’s essay is exactly the extent to which it fails to integrate Hudson’s professional work with her argument. The entire line of reasoning regarding same-sex marriage involves a complete disconnect from the empirical world that Hudson has studied. That said, Hudson’s arguments about hierarchical marriage do fit that empirical world very well. To the extent that the essay should be read primarily as focusing on those themes, with the SSM ideas as a pure red herring, I think it’s worthwhile although still troubled by an inconsistent definition of equality and an undue reluctance to acknowledge secular and Enlightenment sources of the idea of equality.

    Regarding Hudson’s CV, it just isn’t relevant.

  61. 61.

    If, on the other hand, she’s reached the conclusion that these particular statements are more inspired than others, she’s obligated to lay bare her method: is she choosing statements on the basis of authority? on the context in which the statements were made? on content? based on her own personal revelation when encountering them?

    She quoted church authorities. A series of church authorities from prophets on down. That is what she based it on. My question to you is…have church authorities preached anything but equality in recent years? As I said, I’m new to this topic so there could be quotes that I am unaware of. Just as with the race issue, we are supposed to be following the living prophets….not rejecting what is said now in favor of older statements.

    If we advocate willful, deliberate eisegesis we’re eroding any possibility for the text to genuinely challenge us. Additionally, my impression is that we often want to capitalize on the instability of meaning in fashioning imaginative reinterpretations at the same time we want to preserve a robust notion of authorial intent

    Canonical criticism returns the canon to the community because ” the Bible or any other work, as canon, does not have authoritative value apart from some communal validation”. James E. Brenneman, Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy (New York: Oxford Press, 1997 ), 69. The community will control the meaning of the text so it is the community that needs to be approached as much or more than the text. Postmodernism is too broad to stand on its own in any meaningful way. As to authorial intent, that is a hotly debated topic that I don’t think is relevant to this topic. Brenneman reminds us the book of Jeremiah is canonized, not Jeremiah. Are the statements I posted above useful? Are they supported by scripture or authoritative speakders? Do they stand on their own? I think they do. I see some liberation theology and womanist theology in this interpretation of what a Zion community should be.

    A. The institutional Church is inspired by God.
    B. The insitutional Church has stated x about marriage.
    C. Therefore, God advocates x when it comes to marriage.

    I went through the articles with a marker looking for this. Again, there is nothing about the “institutional church”. She is talking about a Zion community that has not been realized. This is very, very clear and can be validated in another article I ran across. Further, I would never put institution and inspired together. An institution is a thing.

    As I said above, I think this is the challenge in Mormon feminism: articulating a non-arbitrary, non-circular method for arguing that egalitarianism is appropriate.

    I agree. But we need language to do that. That will require listening to a variety of feminists from differing schools of thought (and method,) taking what is useful and leaving the rest behind.

  62. 62.

    Regarding Hudson’s CV, it just isn’t relevant.

    Since you began by rejecting everything she said because of her CV, I consider that progress. ;-)

  63. 63.

    Juliann — comment #62 is insanely insulting and false. This is debater’s talk and not genuine conversation. I reject Hudson’s argument because (a) her idea of equality is ill-defined and self-contradictory; (b) her argument against same-sex marriage is empirically self-defeating; and (c) her representation of Mormon thought as superior to secular thought in terms of gender equality seems transparently partial and one-sided. You argued that, these problems notwithstanding, Hudson’s argument somehow deserves extra respect because she works on international issues related to the situation of women. I rejected that argument, pointing out that Hudson’s voice is nonetheless the voice of an absolute and extreme Mormon insider — which is clearly the case, as she’s been a BYU professor for, I think, more than 30 years. I acknowledge your points that she was a visiting professor at a couple of more famous universities during the early 1980s and that she’s had a productive academic career. These don’t change (a) the quality of her argument, which just isn’t affected by her biography — my original point, if you go back and check, or (b) the fact that she’s an absolute cultural insider and doesn’t (can’t!) speak for women in general or internationally or outside of Utah, etc.

    In fact, just for clarity, here are my past comments related to Hudson’s personal life story:

    I don’t think Hudson’s feminist credentials are in any doubt…. Hudson’s useful efforts in other domains don’t prop up her failed argument in this one.

    I don’t really understand how Hudson’s perspective is an outside one. Outside of what? Hudson lives in Provo, Utah, and works at BYU. I’m not sure how much more of an insider in Mormonism it’s possible to be. Does Hudson have outsider credentials because she does professional work on women’s status outside the U.S.? Well, for that matter, I do professional work on those issues, as well — a point you wouldn’t know, and one that seems totally irrelevant to the discussion. So I guess I don’t understand the conversational point that your reference to Hudson’s professional efforts was meant to make.

    None of these statements involves rejecting Hudson’s argument because of her CV. Instead, I’ve consistently resisted your persistent attempts to claim special privilege for her argument based on her CV…

  64. 64.

    JNS, if you substituted Linda Thomas and applied the same standard you would disqualify what she said about black liberation and womanist theology because as a black woman who teaches at a Lultheran school she is an insider.

    Do you agree or disagree with this?

    A Zion community lives the fullness of this commandment. Zion, as we know, is a place where the saints are equal in both heavenly and temporal things, which makes sense given what we know about the Church of the Firstborn, as noted above (D&C 70:14; 78:5-7). They must come together presuming the equality of each person and then acting on it to remove any discordance between the ideal and the lived situation. They cannot form Zion by coming together unsure of each other’s equality, or doubting it, or not even thinking about how it should order their relations.

    Do you agree or disagree with this?

    Zion is only really Zion if black women find peace there.

    Do you agree or disagree with this?

    We must “work with church women to help empower them and to hlep them speak their voice so that church leadership will respond or change.”

    Do you agree or disagree with this?

    A spiritual change of heart within an individual brings aobut a striving for unity and equality, and all who love the Lord will strive to build such a social order.

  65. 65.

    What if we subsituted Noam Chomsky and applied the same standard? Do you agree or disagree with this?

    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

    Or what about Nim Chimpsky? Do you agree or disagree with this?

    Banana me eat banana.

    Q: Is anyone here interested in hiring Valerie Hudson?
    A: No.
    Q: Is her CV relevant to this conversation?
    A: No.

  66. 66.

    Juliann, I don’t have time for a substantive response right now, but just because JNS didn’t accept Hudson’s ideas on the basis of her status or credentials, it doesn’t logically follow that he rejected her ideas on that basis. In fact, what he did was a quantitative empirical analysis of the correlation her conclusions posit. You seem interested in evaluating whether Hudson is an authority, and if we’re stuck in a Mormon epistemological thoughtworld, then authority may be relevant. But Hudson’s qualifications are academic, not ecclesiastic, and in the academic world ideas are evaluated on their own merits. Those of us who have disagreed with Hudson on this thread have done so explicitly because her ideas don’t hold water. Let’s confine the discussion to her ideas and not tilt at windmills.

  67. 67.

    Kiskillili, when someone is mocked and dismissed because they are an “insider” from “BYU” there is decided and indisputable bias that does not part of any scholarship I have been involved with. I am not the least bit interested in discussing Hudson herself but this is obviously not going to move beyond that. I have made three separate enquiries asking specific questions about specific quotes and have been told that the respondant does not have time for a substantive response while the mockery builds. I am stunned that anyone would find offense in the latest quotes I have used (and they are not all from Hudson). I see no willingness to hammer out a cognitive framework by using ideas and language rather than personalities and I see great potential in womanist theology but even that has not garnered even one response. I do thank you for your time and patience and I greatly respect how you have dealt with your temple issues.

  68. 68.

    I have made three separate enquiries asking specific questions about specific quotes and have been told that the respondant does not have time for a substantive response while the mockery builds. I am stunned that anyone would find offense in the latest quotes I have used (and they are not all from Hudson)…I see great potential in womanist theology but even that has not garnered even one response. .

    At this point it might be worth recalling that the topic of Kiskilili’s post was culture, patriarchy, and equality. It was not Valerie Hudson, Linda Thomas, their CVs, their insider-outsider status, their relationship to BYU or to other institutions, or womanist theology. Juliann, if you’re interested in an extended discussion of any of the above, you’ll undoubtedly get more responses by composing your own post on the topic for a blog that accepts guest submissions. I suspect FMH would be happy to host a discussion of womanist theology, for example.

  69. 69.

    First off, let’s do a little more “housekeeping,” shall we?

    1. Blogging is what I do for recreation. I receive no remuneration of any sort for it. Quite the contrary: I pay a yearly fee as a part of the cost of maintaining this website. I am under no obligation, ever, to respond to any commenter, any more than I’m under an obligation to watch TV or hang out with friends (it’s recreation, see). I have an offline life, and, for the record, it’s more important to me than the bloggernacle. Anytime I respond, it’s out of courtesy (and this is especially so for commenters not one of whose comments actually dealt with the content of the original post).

    If this is of concern to my readers, there’s a simple solution: offer me a yearly salary with benefits and I’ll be happy to move blogging higher on my priority list. Until then, I’m not your blogging flunky. I’m not obligated to develop a Mormon hermeneutic for you or to hammer out a cognitive framework for a Zion society or any other random project you happen to lob in my direction. And if I do choose to engage your comments, I may not have time to respond immediately. I’m busy. Deal with it.

    2. No one on the thread has found offense in the latest quotes, and no one has mocked Hudson. I think what’s being mocked is the desultory lurch in conversational topics and the promiscuous name dropping.

    3.

    I am not the least bit interested in discussing Hudson herself but this is obviously not going to move beyond that.

    Au contraire. You’re the one who brought up Hudson herself and you’re the one who has insisted tenaciously on keeping the issue alive. You’re the only one preventing us from moving beyond it.

    Juliann, I appreciate your respect for my position and your interest in the issue of women’s status in the Church, and hope our interactions in the future will be more fruitful.

  70. 70.

    Jo in #59:

    Now, how do we ask for the change needed in the church? Martin Luther King imagined a world without racism. Can we imagine a world without sexism? Would that start with asking for individual rights of all members? Let me know your thoughts on how to encourage change.

    I only wish I knew, Jo. The Church definitely changes, but it’s loath to appear to capitulate, which is why I think a MLK fighting for change on the basis of justice would likely just provoke the Church into digging in its heels.

    At the same time, I have to believe there’s some value in raising the issues and keeping the topic alive. When it comes to feminist issues, I think the first approach should be to identify the contradictions (men preside but men and women are equal partners; Eve was punished with subordination, which is a form of equality, because she’s superior and is honored for her forethought; patriarchy is eternal but it’s also a result of the fall, etc.), and secondly to identify conclusions that don’t follow naturally from our premises (women are more spiritual than men so they’re denied access to spiritual authority, Heavenly Mother is honored by being ignored, etc.).

    In situations in which people are genuinely stifled by the patriarchal structure, unfortunately I don’t know what the solution is. There doesn’t really seem to be a court of appeal, which is part of the problem with patriarchy to begin with.

  71. 71.

    Mark D. in #54:

    Ironically, the unfortunate history of classical theology is the generation of compelling logical arguments for why certain toxic byproducts are part and parcel of the one true faith.

    Mormonism certainly tends to be rather less subject to this style of ratiocination, however. On the contrary, unremittingly hostile thereto. That leaves far more room to maneuver, if closing the door to systematic theology done right.

    Actually, we seem dead set on developing byzantine justifications for practices that were once taken for granted. I’m not sure how we develop criteria for disentangling “toxic byproducts” from the “one true faith”; nor am I convinced that Mormonism’s struggle to understand itself diachronically is qualitatively different from that of the classical Christian tradition, and it’s not clear to me why we’ve closed the the door on systematic theology, or why that would give us more (not less) room to maneuver.

  72. 72.

    J. Nelson-Seawright in #17:

    I agree that core vs. peripheral isn’t a universal or even a generally decidable criterion. From a Mormon perspective, I think the only really defensible long-term criterion for deciding what to keep and what to change is relying our sense of right and wrong as shaped by the Spirit. That may be a hit-or-miss proposition in the finite term, but it’s nonetheless the fundamentally Mormon answer, I think. I don’t think you can locate foundational claims for Mormonism in anything other than the voice of God, generally as carried by the Spirit. That’s why Mormonism can continue to exist across quite striking changes in theology and practice — that core belief in connections between God and humanity persists. And so ultimately, I think, the way for a Mormon to argue against patriarchy is to argue that it is in conflict with her or his moral sense.

    There’s a lot to like about this approach, although I don’t know it would ensure that someone would remain within the tradition. Maybe I think God must in some way be accountable to my sense of what’s rational so I find it useful to point out contradictions and inconsistencies in our ideas about gender on the assumption that not all of them can be true. But I don’t assume God is necessarily accountable in the same way to my sense of what’s ethical. In a parallel vein, I question the temple’s legitimacy on the basis of things like the Documentary Hypothesis, but on some fundamental level don’t feel that the injustice of Eve’s subordination is sufficient reason to doubt its validity.

  73. 73.

    Jane in #34:

    Thanks for your response, Kiskilili. I’m grateful you didn’t take offense, even though I worded my questions ungracefully. Your answer makes a lot of sense; I feel like I understand your position better.

    No offense taken at all, Jane; your questions certainly weren’t worded ungracefully. :) (I was a little slow to respond to the original question only because I got busy with offline activities.)

    I want to know what’s real, and I desperately want to believe that what turns out to be real is also what’s good, at least in the eternal scheme of things. I grant you, our LDS theology isn’t always really comforting on that score; I’m just hoping against hope that the problematic bits are wrong.

    I think some part of me believes God actually is loving, but rather than dousing my anger this is what inflames it. I find the OT God who can be bargained with and persuaded a lot more appealing than the omniscient perfect image of God we’ve inherited from hellenism-influenced Christianity. (It’s interesting that we’ve rejected the ontology of the classical Christian God in favor of an anthropomorphic being whose roots are in the OT, and yet at the same time, in some important ways, we’ve adopted the character of the former God rather than the latter.) I guess I’m hoping in the end to be able to bargain with God and make my case to him.