Zelophehad’s Daughters

Why Are There No Women At This Party?

Posted by Kiskilili

In the past we’ve discussed the problem of women’s exaltation and role in the next life generally. Let’s look now at the complementary problem: women’s absence from the pre-mortal existence.

Cosmogonies around the world often make a connection between creation and procreation: female and male elements unite to engender aspects of the known universe. In striking contrast, Mormonism teaches not just that a single male God called the cosmos into existence, but that a committee of men, operating independently of any women, created the universe in concert. Women, rather than being participants in that creation, are simply counted amont the products of men’s creation.

Unlike the traditional Christian Adam who comes into being in the Garden, the Mormon Adam plays a central role in all three acts of the cosmic drama: as Michael, the archangel, Adam communes directly with the Father and the Son and aids them in their creative acts, and after his mortal probation Adam resumes this position, leading the Lord’s hosts and sounding the trump at the Eschaton. 

Eve’s significance, however, is circumscribed to the Garden and mortality. While God places Michael’s eternal spirit into Adam’s earthly body, Eve is simply fashioned whole cloth from his rib. And within Mormon thought, this actually makes some sense: Eve’s absence from the pre-mortal realm perfectly parallels the even more puzzling absence of Heavenly Mother, whose status in Creation and the eternities, one might falsely suppose, should be assured. Not so. Of Heavenly Mother’s role in the cosmogonic drama we hear nary a word. One almost wonders whether Michael and Jehovah have entirely preempted her.

How do we make sense of this? Where were the women in the pre-mortal existence?

140 Responses to “Why Are There No Women At This Party?”

  1. 1.

    I consider a lot of the temple references to be symbolic and not a reflection of reality. I’ve always assumed that HM would have been part of the process. If the Church ever decides to make HM a core part of worship, I would think the temple presentation would change.

    (Then again, I often consider some references to “God” to be in the plural.)

    Not sure it helps, but that’s my perspective.

  2. 2.

    The question then is: what reality is a group of men symbolic of? (In other words: what’s the interpretation of the symbol, and why?)

    God might be plural, but I doubt he’s dual.

  3. 3.

    They were definitely there. The scant accounts we have of the premortal were written by men during times when women were not held anywhere close to equal grounds. These men didn’t think it was important at all to talk about women.

  4. 4.

    See my post on this subject.

  5. 5.

    I remember a statement from Bruce R. McConkie of all people (not someone I regularly quote) that HM, Eve, Mary, & other notables were all part of the creation.

    Just like women are totally MIA from the BoM, and mostly MIA from the rest of scripture, it’s not because they weren’t there and weren’t important. I’m in agreement with querno.

    But I think there’s value in asking your question, K. How else will things change unless we ask questions.

    Like your post, Megan :)

  6. 6.

    Someone lay the case out logically for me so I can see how it works. Our liturgy is a terribly inaccurate portrait of our own beliefs, as evidenced by the fact that it doesn’t accord well with 21st century values, God’s ultimate truth? Does God reveal more in and through our secular host culture than in and through our most sacred spaces?

  7. 7.

    Mormonism teaches not just that a single male God called the cosmos into existence

    I don’t follow. Doesn’t Mormonism (arguably) teach a Heavenly Mother who (arguably) birthed spirits, etc. And where do we (arguably) learn that only men were in that great heavenly council? I can still see how women are largely MIA premortally, but not nearly to the extent you do.

    (Okay, I arguably used “arguably” too many times)

  8. 8.

    I’m talking about the temple. Does that help?

  9. 9.

    Does God reveal more in and through our secular host culture than in and through our most sacred spaces?

    Perhaps it’s not a more than/less than situation, but perhaps God does reveal truth through whichever avenues are available. Well, personally, I would probably use different language, like “truth can be found” instead of “God reveals.”

    Unfortunately, I haven’t much to contribute to the original post. But like Emily U says, I think there’s much value in asking the questions. So thank you for being willing to ask.

  10. 10.

    Like others, I’d like to believe there were women involved. But I do wish there were stronger evidence for it. It seems to get back to the basic question of the extent to which we can critique our texts/rituals on the basis of our cultural values. One explanation for the absence of women is that of human fallibility, the limitations of those who produced the texts. That’s the explanation I lean toward, myself. But at the same time, I think it might be too easy to conclude that because I want to believe that women were involved, the text must be flawed. As much as I don’t want to give credence to this possibility, I think you can make a fairly plausible case, in the context of LDS teachings, that this was the action of male priesthood holders, an aspect of their eternal role and responsibilities.

    I know we’ve gone around and around that issue here, of how to make sense of our texts. But I also want to ask–bracketing the issue of whether the male-only portrayal is in fact accurate–what does it mean that even if women were involved, knowledge of possible divine female involvement is evidently unnecessary for our salvation? I’m willing to go along with the idea that the reason why women seem so absent is that our texts were produced by men. But we’re still left with a theology in which knowledge of the actions of an all-male Godhead is absolutely essential for salvation–for both men and women–but the same can’t be said for knowledge of any female figures. I don’t see anything that definitively rules out female involvement in the Creation, and I appreciate that; I don’t think we’re at a theological dead-end there. But I’m still unsettled by the fact that our discussion of possible female involvement is based on logical deduction, rather than revelation, or anything actually in our canon.

    (I realize that the Proclamation on the Family, which seems to have achieved some kind of quasi-canonical status, asserts the existence of heavenly parents, which is certainly more than we have elsewhere. But I would say that it’s a bit of a stretch to go from there to any conclusion about female activity in the eternities, especially given that in that document the term God is–rather strikingly–used only for the Father.)

  11. 11.

    I believe there is much we don’t know about the organization of heaven, and all that has and does occur there. The absence of information we have on the involvement of women in the pre-mortal existence, for example, does not in any way mean women were not involved.
    The verses we have in Genesis, “let us make man in OUR image… …male and female created he them show that females were very much present. The roles we played there as men and women for the most part have not been fully revealed. Personally I believe we were all involved in some part of the plan of salvation’s execution to a greater or lesser extent there, and someday as the new testament Paul says, ‘we will know as we are known’. Whatever I did there, I hope I won’t be known for designing the platypus! (grin)

  12. 12.

    One thought that occurs to me is that so many people are comfortable with the invisibility of women based on the fact that we have living prophets who don’t actively offend our modern sensibilities.

    As long as they don’t say anything overt that makes us uncomfortable, many of us feel safe coasting along on the assumption that they have said or revealed more about the equality and personhood of women than they actually have.

  13. 13.

    I like the questions. I don’t have any answers. I struggle with this, greatly. I lean towards that HM and other women were there and made great contributions because if I don’t I am not sure I will believe anymore. Do I have any support for my beliefs? None whatsoever, just dumb hope. I would love something more definitive.

    Thanks for all your posts. I love reading here.

  14. 14.

    @Kiskilili, #8: okay, fine, go ahead and point out how I missed the obvious! ;)

    (makes perfect sense now, btw)

  15. 15.

    meaning, your o.p. makes sense—not the whole absence of females….

  16. 16.

    I responded to Megan’s comments on her blog, but I thought I would note that we are talking about Heavenly Father dealing with the children. The real question we might ask is why does Heavenly Father spend his time on the children rather than the young adults? Why is he handling the nursery by himself?

    I got to thinking about it when a guy came into the English writing lab (I used to go tutor there for relaxation during law school). He really needed a math tutor, but the one assigned him was female and he felt more comfortable with a guy. Now I knew a little math (I tutored advanced statistics as an undergraduate), but still.

    I often wondered what his grade was at the end of the semester because he chose comfort and his own desires for his own frame over working within the set-up.

    But seriously, I always assumed that God had us and Heavenly Mother was with the adults, doing adult things. Kind of like when my wife would be doing that and I would tell the kids not to bother her right now while I played with them and we did things.

  17. 17.

    First of all, of course temple stuff alters with time and I don’t think it would be wrong to say that predominant culture affects that.

    Second, I don’t have any problem at all with the notion that God works with us through the culture we’ve got.

    Third, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a return of a Mormon notion of the divine feminine in my lifetime. Ancient Asherah worship might be a parallel to the concerns there. Margaret Barker might be right, after all.

    Finally, I’ve never taken the temple drama literally, so I’ve never considered what the absence of women might mean in it (Eve being practically absent anyway). So, that’s bad on me.

  18. 18.

    Good questions, Kiskilili. I’m probably just repeating what you’ve already said, but it’s interesting to me that what we know about male participation in the premortal existence is based on scripture, prophetic writings, and temple ceremonies. What we know about women’s participation is that it seems maybe logical that they would participate too. This reminds me a bit of Jacob J’s comment on a thread on Heavenly Mother over at New Cool Thang a few months ago:

    Most of the things said strike me as entirely made up. It seems we feel free to say whatever we want about Heavenly Mother as long as it is something good.

    Like our ideas about Heavenly Mother, which Jacob J identifies so well as being entirely made up, it seems like anything we would say about women in general in the premortal existence is also entirely made up. We can reason about what might make sense, but at far as our official teachings go, there’s nothing there.

    (Sorry–this isn’t at all meant as any kind of “there’s nothing to be said here, move along” comment.)

  19. 19.

    I love that comment from Jacob J, Ziff! That’s exactly what we’re doing. (Don’t worry–you’re not repeating me at all! And even if you were, why would I mind? ;))

    John, first, while it’s true the temple alters with time, it’s also true that it has never yet altered into something with any clear indication that women have souls. It seems we’re very prone to plotting a trajectory of how the temple ceremony changes, then forecasting how it will change in the future, and then putting our faith in that imaginary version. Like Han Solo, “I can imagine quite a bit,” but we’re still left with most of our birds in the bush outside our castles in the air and not in the hand, as it were.

    Secondly, God undeniably works with us through culture insofar as culture is inescapable so God can’t not. But all of our religion is part of culture, so I’m dubious of any efforts to separate truth from culture. Anyway, if we want to invalidate aspects of Mormon thought by pointing to corollaries in the host culture, we might notice that our current cultural climate insists women are people too, which is undeniably fueling the spinning of all this tenuous speculation about women’s participation in the pre-mortal existence. That doesn’t end up being any less suspect, or any less cultural.

    Third, if Margaret Barker is right, I’m a three-toed iguana.

    Finally, isn’t it worse if the ceremony isn’t meant literally? A metaphorical reading might help accommodate belief in evolution and deep geological time; I don’t see how it accommodates a belief that women have souls on a par with mens’.

    Bad on you indeed, young man! :)

    Well Brian, my latest method for trying to be at least somewhat discreet is rather than keeping the content I’m discussing a secret (how else to discuss it?), to keep secret that fact that I’m talking about something secret! It doesn’t work terribly well, but there’s no good solution.

  20. 20.

    Always nice to see you here, newt, miles, Stephen, and Starfoxy!

    Ken, it sounds to me like your strategy is to appeal to what we don’t know under the assumption that we/you actually do know it. We just love refusing to accept the implications of our own doctrine–for example, just because women weren’t involved in creation doesn’t mean they weren’t involved in creation–and then find great profundity in the paradoxes we thereby create. At the very minimum, we’re still left (as Lynnette pointed out) with the problem that it’s apparently important to our exaltation to find out about Adam’s involvement in the pre-mortal realm, where it’s not essential to find out about Eve’s. And then we have the issue not just of a lacuna in our information, but of outright problematic information: Adam was a spirit put into a body, where Eve was not.

  21. 21.

    To address Jacob J’s comment on NCT, wouldn’t we need something like a D&C 138 to “put some meat on the table”?

  22. 22.

    Perhaps I’ve been hearing all the wrong things, but I always got the impression from the Temple that Eve was an absolutely pivotal piece to the puzzle. Indeed the first real decision ever taken on this plant came from her. So saying that she didn’t play a part in Creation (because I count the Fall as part of the process by which human beings became mortal, and therefore the reason the rest of us are here anyway) doesn’t really make sense to me.

    On a personal level, my patriarchal blessing talks a great deal about my involvement in the preexsistence. So if I accept, as I do, that this bit of revelation is real and that gender/identity is eternal, which I do, then I – a woman – seemed to have been quite busy prelife. And since 1/2 the population is female (roughly) I can’t possibly be so arrogant as to suggest I was alone in that business. Several of my girl friends have also talked about similar experiences alluded or confirmed by their blessings, when the topic came up in discussion, so I know I’m not alone.

    Finally if I believe that there is a Heavenly Mother, as I do, who is an eternal exalted being with power and glory, as I believe She must be given her exalted state, then I have to believe that She, a Goddess, must have been infinitely more busy and involved than I or anyone else for that matter.

    Granted patriarchal blessings are not the equivelent of canonized docrine, but they are acknowledged by the Church as revelation, personal though though they may be. Perhaps my logic is bad, but the great question and discussion on the topic got me thinking.

  23. 23.

    Brian, I think exactly. Like we need someone like smalldog to get to GA status and get stuff like her patriarchal blessing canonized.

  24. 24.

    I agree with others who have posted. A lack of mention does not equate to teaching the opposite. It just means that . . . surprise, surprise . . . we don’t know everything.

    My first reaction to this post is “huh?” with a lot of head-scratching.

  25. 25.

    Smalldog, that’s pretty cool about your patriarchal blessing. I think with the Eve thing, she obviously plays a pivotal role in bringing about the Fall (though of course that leaves us with the knotty question of why she is cursed for her role in Creation, while Adam is honored for his), but it’s still rather puzzling that she doesn’t show up in the premortal realm.

    Stephen M., I can see something to the possibility that different heavenly parents might be more involved at different phases of life. But one of the reasons I have a hard time with it is that we emphasize that children here need both a mother and a father; even if one or the other parent is more involved at particular ages, we don’t ever say that there are times when single parenthood is preferable.

  26. 26.

    SilverRain, what is leaving with me a lot of head-scratching in this discussion is the argument that since no women are mentioned, they were probably involved. Given that we have accounts which describe the work of Creation as being carried out exclusively by males, it seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who want to make a case that women were there. As I said earlier, I would certainly like to believe that they were, and I don’t see anything which rules it out–but it’s a possibility that remains speculative; and I find the fact that it’s evidently not important for us to know troubling in and of itself.

    Thinking more about this, I don’t know what to make of the fact that in general, we see it as a worthwhile endeavor to examine all the small details and possible implications of our texts. Except when it comes to gender; then I seem to frequently encounter the argument that the rather blatant fact that women are invisible in so many places doesn’t actually mean anything at all.

  27. 27.

    I agree with Lynnette, SilverRain. It seems a bit odd to say that since a failure to mention involvement by women is not equivalent to saying women weren’t involved, that it isn’t at least suggestive.

  28. 28.

    I agree with Smalldog that Eve is pivotal to the plan–if not exactly in a creative role, then in a necessary but destructive one–and outside the temple we’ve largely embraced the Enlightenment/Romantic notion that the Fall is positive, and thus, Eve should be honored for her choice. But in the temple, Eve is punished eternally for her role. (Of course we also have the old paradox that Eve was created as a subsidiary to Adam and yet was punished by being made subsidiary to Adam.)

    Regarding Eve’s and HM’s participation in the pre-mortal existence: those who enjoy arguments from silence (after all, lacunae present endless possibilities for speculation) are still left with some actual information to account for in their theories–for example, Eve’s creation from and for Adam, not as a spirit put into a body like Adam.

  29. 29.

    Mormonism teaches not just that a single male God called the cosmos into existence, but that a committee of men, operating independently of any women, created the universe in concert.

    I think you are overstating here. You are assuming a narrow interpretation of the temple liturgy with this statement.

    Doesn’t that liturgy (along with other Garden of Eden accounts) also say Michael/Adam represents us all — male and female?

  30. 30.

    Geoff hit on something that keeps coming up for me. An interpretation I keep toying around with is that Adam and Eve together represent a person. Adam represents the spirit and Eve represents the body.
    Setting aside the gender implications for a moment this reading fits rather well for me- Eve created from and for Adam (with no personal history to speak of), her being the cause of the fall, Adam being given authority over her, etc etc.
    So it takes care of some of the problematic implications about gender, but it leads to a whole set of different issues. I haven’t toyed with the idea near enough to say which reading I prefer. I will admit that, given prevalent opinions on spirit-body relationships, drawing an equivalency between a marriage relationship and a spirit-body relationship is problematic at best.

  31. 31.

    Starfoxy, I’ve heard this interpretation as well (or ones like it), but I don’t think you escape the problematic consequences of having actual women directly associated with Eve during the endowment ceremony (i.e. they make the covenants that Eve does while the men make the covenant that Adam does). And as you indicate, the symbolic conclusions we can draw from equating men and women with this symbolism pattern are not all that great–i.e. are we saying that women are the body and men are the spirit? I sure hope not.

  32. 32.

    Great conversation. I’m not sure I’ve heard Starfoxy’s analysis quite like that before, but I like that it’s something new to think about and gives the temple ceremony a different meaning.

    I’ll have to think more about that.

    As far as the Margaret Baker comment, I checked on wikipedia and have no idea what that reference is about. Anybody care to help out a girl in the dark?

    K, great post. I had my husband read it and his response was interesting. He sees the feminist issues in the church are so large and glaring (ahem, you’re welcome honey) that he assumes that this is a large part of the puzzle God has left out for us and will fill in . . . sometime. Maybe it’s the sealed portion of the golden plates or some other revelation, but he’s sure that there has to be something to fill in this gaping hole.

    I’m not so sure. But, one alternative is rejecting patriarchal religions completely and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that either. It’s a bit of a problem. Wait for more revelation and make due in the LDS church, or find something that rings true-er to the feminist soul?

  33. 33.

    By the way, I’m of the opinion Moroni was a trained rat. The Book of Mormon never specifically denies he was a rat, and rats played a significant role in this civilization (as evidenced by their apparent absence–they were such central characters in the unfolding history that they didn’t need to be mentioned). It’s true there are those who insist on interpreting the book literally and narrowly and miss the higher symbolic orders of meaning, which is a darn shame.

  34. 34.

    Geoff, no, the temple liturgy makes it clear that Adam represents men exclusively. What are the Eden accounts in which Adam represents male and female? (And whom does Eve represent in these accounts?)

    I’m not unaware that “‘adam” means “human” in Hebrew, although grammatically masculine, and that it appears with the definite article in Genesis in the J account. I take this as a reflection of the fact that masculine is the default gender and feminine is the marked gender. Humankind is created when the male is created; the female is a subsidiary to that. In any case, it’s not good for the “‘adam” to be alone, which leads to Eve’s creation. If Adam already represented both genders in the story, what need was there for Eve’s creation, and why was Eve a complement to him? It’s clear to me the Adam of the J story represents males; the overtones whereby his name means “humankind” indicate nothing more than that the male is central to this culture’s understanding of humanity in a way the female is not.

    In contrast, in Genesis 1:26 the term is used explicitly for both male and female, and this is the pivot around which the two accounts have been collapsed in our liturgy. But the liturgy has made the situation even more problematic than Genesis. Rather than making Adam humankind, our liturgy suggests that humankind is Adam. Where Genesis 1:26 makes both genders lord of creation and opens space for Lilith, the wife created simultaneously who is Adam’s equal, our liturgy forecloses this possibility, leaves only the account in which Eve is derivative, and then insists Adam alone is lord of creation (and thus lord also of Eve).

  35. 35.

    Starfoxy, I can definitely see the appeal of the spirit-body read once you remove gender entirely from the story (which is well nigh impossible to do to Genesis and more than impossible with our liturgy, which segregates people by gender and maps Adam and Eve onto the participants accordingly–but setting that aside). It’s a puzzle to me why the two are, at best, split apart in the rib episode rather than united. Perhaps the human/”adam” is given a body where it didn’t have one before?

  36. 36.

    Jessawhy, google Margaret “Barker” and you’ll discover all sorts of holy/hole-y theories.

    The women’s hole in the Church is sadly gaping; I’m not sure what would fill it. It almost seems we need a 14-year-old girl to pray in a grove, get gold plates from a female angel detailing Heavenly Mother’s interaction with her prophetesses, and receive revelation on priestesshood with a new-and-improved liturgy.

    It’s not their fault, but the people running the Church have the perspective of men, and the hole seems to be largely invisible to them for the reason that they’re not capable of falling in it. That’s what makes patriarchy self-sustaining.

  37. 37.

    Kiskilili: By the way, I’m of the opinion Moroni was a trained rat.

    Hey, whatever floats yer boat I guess.

    Geoff, no, the temple liturgy makes it clear that Adam represents men exclusively.

    That is certainly a plausible interpretation of what Adam represents. I just happen to believe it is wrong. I think Adam/Michael represents all of humanity. Here are some of the scriptures related to that interpretation:

    In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God. (Moses 6: 9)

    In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5: 1-2)

    Of course I can’t prove that is the most accurate interpretation on the text. I also can’t prove it represents the metaphysical reality in the universe. But the evidence I see is sufficient for me to believe it. So I suppose I could say believing that floats my boat.

    the male is central to this culture’s understanding of humanity in a way the female is not

    Like I said, if believing that floats yer boat have at it.

  38. 38.

    the male is central to this culture’s understanding of humanity in a way the female is not

    Actually I misread this sentence and thought you were describing God’s opinion. But I see now that you were describing a specific culture and I think your argument about that culture is quite plausible.

  39. 39.

    I remember being taught in seminary, in the 1980′s, that “Adam” referred the entire human race. We were also taught that we, the students, (all of us) played a role in the creation of the earth. So these do not seem like far-out stretches to me. I thought that was a general mormon belief. If it was taught in seminary, I would think some of the prophets have also taught this, and as Geoff points out, the scriptures also suggest it. At least they seem to to me, but that may be because I’ve been “primed” to read them that way.

  40. 40.

    This is a really interesting post, Kiskilli, thanks.

    Is it possible that D&C 132 could have any relation to what you’re talking about? I’m thinking specifically of verses 19 and 20, which continually refer to “them” (both the husband and wife) receiving the blessings of eternal life, with no apparent distinction made by gender. “They” will be gods, all things will be subject to “them”, and “they” shall have all power. These verses seem to me to give some pretty strong support to the notion of eternal unions that are equal in power and purpose, giving scriptural weight to the notion that women (or at least, Heavenly Mother) were present and active in the pre-mortal world.

    How do you interpret these verses? How do you think they relate to the temple liturgy? How should we make sense of the fact that these seemingly egalitarian statements come right before some disturbingly mysogynistic language in the parts of 132 describing polygamy?

    Ken said:

    >let us make man in OUR image… …male and female created he them show that females were very much present<

    I don’t know if I can fully agree with this interpretation. The rest of Genesis doesn’t consistently use the plural tense to refer to God, and the Bible has passed through so many hands and languages, can we really be confident of finding meaning and truth in the particular grammar used in one passage of scripture? I guess if that’s so, then perhaps the verses I cited from D&C 132 are useless as well.

  41. 41.

    Geoff, I agree with you that P (and the elaborations on it like Moses)–i.e., Genesis 1:1-2:4–uses the Hebrew word “‘adam” to refer to all humanity.

    J, on the other hand (Genesis 2:4ff), does not. For J, the “‘adam” (with a definite article) exists specifically in opposition to, and as a complement of, Eve.

    No doubt in order to skirt the repetitions and contradictions in the Bible, the temple collapses the two stories at just the point where in P “‘adam” is created, male and female–only in the temple this is the point at which we shift to what scholars would identify as the J account, and “‘adam” refers only to the male. Indeed, unlike in Genesis 1:26, at this point in the temple drama, only a male is created. That’s why quoting Genesis 1:26 doesn’t advance your case.

    If the temple stuck P out to its conclusion, we’d arguably have something closer to a Lilith than an Eve; the disconnect between the creation of woman in Genesis 1:26 and the repetition in the J account in Genesis 2:22 is what gave rise to the idea that Adam had two wives–the first, Lilith, created simultaneously, insisted on her equal status to her husband and had to be thrown out. It’s a pity the temple doesn’t take Genesis 1:26 as a template for the creation of woman.

  42. 42.

    If the Documentary Hypothesis (the P/J nonsense) or reading the Hebrew in context doesn’t “float your boats,” perhaps this will:

    Let’s suppose Adam represents everyone in the temple, where Eve (apparently?) represents only women. Here are some of the hurdles the advocates of this theory have to clear:

    (a) Why do women never make the covenants of or imitate Adam? He represents them too.

    (b) Why is Adam played by a man? Is this of no significance? Would the story be the same if he were played by a woman (and nothing else changed)?

    (c) Gender is, in our culture, a binary. It’s constructed only in relation to its complement. How can Eve have gender if Adam doesn’t? (And how can Eve serve as Adam’s complement if Adam doesn’t have gender?)

    Of course, Adam is often used as a shorthand for “Adam & Eve.” Adam is often used to refer to all humanity–true enough. And God frequently sort of forgets to address the couple and just interacts with Adam in the ceremony. But even in all these cases, when Adam is the archetypal human, he still has gender. He’s very specifically a gendered individual in the story in question. Rather than solving feminist problems, this suggestion creates a different set.

  43. 43.

    Hi curious. Thanks for your comment. I suspect personally that it’s an inconsistent use of singular and plural, and the antecedent of “them” is “man”–after all, it says specifically “he shall commit no murder.” We’re also left with the very lopsided phrasing “man” and “wife” in verse 19, making it clear the woman is subsidiary to the man. And as you point out, the rest of the section leaves much to be desired from a feminist perspective; I don’t think the women are doing the inheriting so much as they are a part of the inheritance.

    In any case, I’m not of the opinion that we can harmonize every sacred text, so I don’t know that it has a direct bearing on our reading of the temple. Whatever one concludes about ultimate reality for whatever reason, in the temple’s portrayal, Heavenly Mother is utterly absent.

  44. 44.

    Kiskilili: Let’s suppose Adam represents everyone in the temple, where Eve (apparently?) represents only women

    You are shifting gears now. The question in the post is where women are in the Mormon premortal existence narrative. If Adam/Michael represents all people (male and female) as I believe then we have our answer.

    Of course there is no denying that in the temple liturgy there is a transition where Adam is split into male and female parts. I agree that this might very well be related to the J to P shift you discussed. But again that is not necessarily directly related to the question at hand about womenin our premortal existence.

  45. 45.

    Kiskilili: Rather than solving feminist problems, this suggestion creates a different set.

    What feminist problems do you mean?

    You mean the ancient Judeo Christian traditions are a problem? Nothing is going to change the past so if there is a problem with the past there is no solution to it.

    Do you mean the metaphysical realities of the universe are a problem? I am not sure what specifically you mean.

  46. 46.

    Hi Geoff. Let me attempt to clarify. I don’t think there’s any chance in heck that Adam represents everyone at any point in the temple ceremony; the factors militating against it are overwhelming, to my mind. I don’t even think the text of our liturgy is remotely self-aware about the issues of source criticism; I suspect the way it was redacted was probably intended specifically to smooth over, rather than highlight, shifts in the text. (That’s surely the point of collapsing the text so as to eliminate doublets, right?)

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s true: Adam is intended to represent all people in the first part of the ceremony (Creation), but only men in the Fall narrative (Eden). Thus, women were involved in Creation, as evidenced by the fact that Adam/Michael participated.

    This solves one feminist problem–women’s utter absence–but replaces it with another feminist problem–women are marginalized by being subsumed within the category “man.” Why can men represent women but not the reverse? Why can Heavenly Mother be found hiding inside Heavenly Father but not vice versa? Gender is never insignificant. Why is it Adam–who, even if he represents humanity, never loses his gender–who plays this role, and not Eve?

    Now let’s look at a fun counterfactual illustrating this problem: Would the ceremony be any different if Eve represented humankind (this is truer to biology, after all, since female is the default sex), and Adam was formed from her rib (also truer to biology, since Eve has a body part that can store another human)? Answer: yes. It would be a different story. What then do we conclude? Adam’s gender is indeed significant, regardless of whom he represents. So if we accept this charming reading, we’re left with a new problem (one that we have anyway at various points in Church doctrine): Men are the default sex and are central to our conception of what it means to be human, where women are the marked sex and are peripheral and contingent.

    In sum, I don’t think (a) this reading is responsible to the text, or (b) this reading is appealing from a feminist perspective.

  47. 47.

    Kiskilili: I don’t think there’s any chance in heck that Adam represents everyone at any point in the temple ceremony

    Well since I am unlikely to convince you otherwise (nor do I care enough to try) we will simply disagree on this point.

    I don’t even think the text of our liturgy is remotely self-aware about the issues of source criticism

    The beauty of the Book of Moses is we don’t have to give rip about source criticism to accept it at face value. If Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God then he had the ability to receive real revelation on the subject. And in the Book of Moses we get:

    In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam

    The endowment liturgy specifically mentions the PoGP as reference material so the connection is pretty easy to make.

    but replaces it with another feminist problem–women are marginalized by being subsumed within the category “man.”

    I’m not seeing the problem you are referring to still. Doesn’t “man” just mean mankind or humankind? Now maybe you have a problem with the way the stories have historically been told? But the past is fixed — there is no changing that.

    Of course the real question in the metaphysical realities of universe. Again, the way a story has been historically told doesn’t effect the underlying metaphysical realities of the universe in the least.

    Why is it Adam–who, even if he represents humanity, never loses his gender–who plays this role, and not Eve?

    I don’t know. I’m pretty sure God knows though. And since God is alive right now you are free to ask. Maybe God will tell you that anciently the men who wrote the stories could beat up women so they figured women were lesser than them — who knows?

    I personally think the problems you have with the way the stories are told stem from an obvious truth: Men have ruled over women for tens of thousands of years because men tend to be bigger, stronger, and able to kill other things better than women can. Of course I believe in evolution and suspect Adam and Eve are entirely allegorical so assuming these sorts of caveman inheritances work better for me than someone who insists modern humans descended from a literal Adam and Eve. But it does allow me to make sense of some of the obviously sexist (by modern eyes) ancient texts we use.

  48. 48.

    The more important issue than whether you accept source criticism is whether you accept the prior assumption behind it: that different texts say different things. The book of Moses and the temple don’t offer us the exact same narrative of the Creation. (And if they were identical, why would the text of the liturgy be kept secret?)

    Also, the particulars of your argument are still unclear to me: are you of the opinion that any time we hear about Adam in any sacred text a hermaphrodite or plurality of people is referenced, based on this verse? If so, I’m still not understanding how Adam’s androgyny/plurality fits with the need for the creation of Eve as his “helpmeet,” or how Eve has gender in the story when her husband does not. (I find this problematic regardless of whether the entire story is allegorical.)

    Also, it’s unclear to me why you’re convinced the book of Moses is unassailable inspiration to be taken at face value, but equally certain the story of Adam and Eve is both (a) allegory and (b) the legacy of cavemen. I’m not understanding what method we employ in discerning which sacred text falls in which of these three categories. (I might add that, if it were self-evident, presumably cavemen’s ruminations would not have landed in the canon to begin with.)

    “Mankind” does not mean the same thing as “humankind.” It’s a particular construal of humanity that privileges the male.

    In the latter half of your comment you move into a discussion of ultimate metaphysical reality, as if it, accessed independently of text, religion, or culture, can serve as a hermeneutic in understanding our liturgy. My interest in this particular post, though, isn’t in God per se but rather in what the text says and its implications. If you yourself choose to pray about why Adam, a hermaphrodite, is passing as a male in the temple ceremony, I suggest you blog the response you receive under the preface “thus saith the LORD,” as I imagine it will be of some interest.

  49. 49.

    Kiskilili: The book of Moses and the temple don’t offer us the exact same narrative of the Creation.

    Ok.

    (I assume you had a reason for pointing this out but that reason is not clear to me.)

    are you of the opinion that any time we hear about Adam in any sacred text a hermaphrodite or plurality of people

    Nope, not necessarily “any time”. But I do think that it is likely the pre-Garden Adam/Michael character represents all of humanity (as I have consistently stated here).

    it’s unclear to me why you’re convinced the book of Moses is unassailable inspiration to be taken at face value

    What gives you that idea? Feel free to assail the Book of Moses if you wish. I just pointed out that since we get the Book of Moses from a known prophet who is universally accepted by Mormons (Joseph Smith) it has an edge on J or P from the documentary hypothesis when discussing what “Mormonism teaches” (see my #29).

    but equally certain the story of Adam and Eve is both (a) allegory and (b) the legacy of cavemen

    Where have I expressed any certainty in either of those things? Maybe you have me confused with someone else? (BTW, if evolution holds true then all human texts (including this conversation) are the “legacy of cavemen” to one degree or another.)

    “Mankind” does not mean the same thing as “humankind.” It’s a particular construal of humanity that privileges the male.

    Snort! Good one.

    you move into a discussion of ultimate metaphysical reality

    Well if you would prefer to avoid the important stuff in this discussion I’ll oblige. As I said in #29, I simply think you grossly overstated things when you made rather narrow claims about what “Mormonism teaches” related to women and the pre-existence.

  50. 50.

    The point of pointing out the differences between Moses and the temple is this: “Adam” doesn’t necessarily mean in the temple what it’s said to mean in Moses. In any case, your argument loses traction once you try to apply the insight that “Adam” is both male and female selectively–if Adam only means this sometimes, then you have to work to make each case–especially when applying this reading severely disrupts the flow of the narrative.

    I don’t want to discuss ultimate metaphysical reality with you because you seem to think you have a corner on it, but your methods for discovering it aren’t susceptible to public scrutiny. So an impasse seems inevitable.

  51. 51.

    Kiskilili: “Adam” doesn’t necessarily mean in the temple what it’s said to mean in Moses

    My task was never to show it necessarily means the same thing in Moses and the temple. My task was simply to show that it could mean the same thing in both. That is plenty to refute your original assertion where you said:

    Mormonism teaches not just that a single male God called the cosmos into existence, but that a committee of men, operating independently of any women, created the universe in concert

    Mormonism in fact does not teach this. That was my point from the beginning.

    I don’t want to discuss ultimate metaphysical reality with you because you seem to think you have a corner on it

    Hehe. Unfortunately your perception is flawed here. I may seem to think that to you but the reality I don’t think that.

    Of course I often bring the subject up of underlying metaphysical realities in your threads because you seem to like to flip flop between making metaphysical claims about what God thinks and making claims about what various texts/liturgy mean. But it always seems to turn into a shell game when I try to pin down the claims you are actually making.

  52. 52.

    Kiskilili, I disagree with your perceptions when you responded to my post.

    You said, “Ken, it sounds to me like your strategy is to appeal to what we don’t know under the assumption that we/you actually do know it.”

    I said there is much we don’t know… so how is there an assumption we/I know what we don’t? I made no such assumption. I implied no such assumption. When we become exalted we will be able to know all of those things that we don’t now know. That last is not an assumption, unless you wish to categorize all scriptures as being assumptions. Additionally, I have no particular strategy when I write what I write beyond what I say.

    And then:

    Kiskilili said, “We just love refusing to accept the implications of our own doctrine–for example, just because women weren’t involved in creation doesn’t mean they weren’t involved in creation–and then find great profundity in the paradoxes we thereby create.”

    Okay. what implication did I refuse to accept? What paradox did I create? Examples please. Any ideas on our pre-mortal life other than what has been revealed is speculation, including mine. Has it been revealed that women weren’t involved in creation? No. Has it been revealed that all of us were not involved in creation? No. Does the FACT that such has not been revealed mean that we were? No, neither does the FACT that such has not been revealed mean that we weren’t! it is pure speculation on my part to propose that some or all of us helped during creation. EVEN IF I suspect we did, I have no proof nor do I pretend to any.

    And the example you gave is not a paradox, and IS what I accept.

    Kiskilili said, “…We’re still left with the problem that it’s apparently important to our exaltation to find out about Adam’s involvement in the pre-mortal realm, where it’s not essential to find out about Eve’s. ”

    Again, this confuses the importance of knowing the covenants and other aspects taught in the temple with knowing specifics about what Adam and Eve were up to in the premortal-existance. I find no where is it true that I MUST know about Adam’s or Eve’s activities there, but what I do know to be true is:
    It is essential to know the covenants and other temple particulars required for exaltation. This
    happens to be explained and taught via the creation story in the temple from the patriarchal perspective. I agree that as a result, it is largely orientated around the principle presiding characters who are male.
    Now just because we don’t have a complete account of what everyone did in the pre-mortal life with regards to and even specifically with regards to Eve, why is that a problem?
    Tell me why that is a problem. I will grant you that it IS a good question; but I don’t think it should be viewed as a problem. Please let me know exactly how this is a problem.
    For we know that all spirits – male and female – were present in the pre-mortal realm. Many scriptures in the D&C attest to this: D&C: 238, 93, 49, to name just a few.
    Now, could the temple covenants have been taught from the female perspective as it pertains to eternal reality? I personally don’t see why not! However, we are taught that the order of Heaven is patriarchal; and that perspective is the only teaching we do have currently of that matter. Again, I fail to see why that is a problem. If the Lord wished to reveal from Eve’s pre-mortal point of view all of this, I am sure He would. He certainly could. Does it demean anyone or anything? I don’t think or feel it does.

    Kiskilili said, “And then we have the issue not just of a lacuna in our information, but of outright problematic information: Adam was a spirit put into a body, where Eve was not.”

    This is a flat out wrong assumption from incomplete material; why you would even infer that I can only wonder at.
    HERE is the truth of the matter: the scriptures only say that from Adam’s rib, God “made he a woman”.
    Are we to suppose that means Eve does not have a spirit, or that her body and spirit were both created from the rib? That is NOT what is said. And not in light of other scripture and revelation we have. The scripture simply fails to mention any more detail for Eve. And yes, for that, you can blame those males who probably are responsible for the written accounts of the matter. ;) Obviously they failed to see how the modern female might take offense at their incomplete detailing of the female throughout all such historical writings concerning the human family.

    I don’t disagree with most of your points of view, but I honestly feel some of your points of views are being presented from too personal a position rather than a strictly academic position.

    But it is a good discussion.

    Ken

  53. 53.

    Oops! I had thought Kiskilili had quoted what I said,

    “The absence of information we have on the involvement of women in the pre-mortal existence, for example, does not in any way mean women were not involved.”

    as being a paradox; but what Kiskilili actually said was not what I had said, and would indeed be a paradox.

    That’s what I get for reading too fast. ;)

  54. 54.

    What I’m hearing is that the gendered aspects of our presentation of the story are “cultural,” rather than “inspired.” Setting aside my fundamental problem with this dichotomy, what’s the method whereby we sift the “philosophies of men” (I use the term advisedly) from holy writ? Surely the litmus test can’t be whether something offends our modern sensibilities, since our modern sensibilities are the very essence of what it means for something to be “cultural”!

  55. 55.

    Now just because we don’t have a complete account of what everyone did in the pre-mortal life with regards to and even specifically with regards to Eve, why is that a problem?
    Tell me why that is a problem. I will grant you that it IS a good question; but I don’t think it should be viewed as a problem. Please let me know exactly how this is a problem.

    It’s only a problem if you think women matter.

  56. 56.

    Of course I often bring the subject up of underlying metaphysical realities in your threads because you seem to like to flip flop between making metaphysical claims about what God thinks and making claims about what various texts/liturgy mean. But it always seems to turn into a shell game when I try to pin down the claims you are actually making.

    Maybe this will clear things up: I’m not making any metaphysical claims here at all. I’m not discussing God the fundamental participant in ultimate reality, but God as a character in a mythological drama, God the community construct informed by a series of sacred texts. Like a religious studies scholar, I’m simply bracketing metaphysical questions and analyzing textual myths (but under the assumption that for community adherents who accept the appropriate faith claims, said myths and their corresponding rituals invoke, participate in, and sustain ultimate reality).

    Hence the preface: “Mormonism teaches,” which grounds my statements clearly in human society rather than in the world of supernal vapors beyond. “Mormonism teaches” isn’t intended to make a definitive all-encompassing statement about everything Mormonism teaches, but simply to reference the fact that the particular instantiation of the myth that I’m analyzing is peculiar to the Mormon community.

  57. 57.

    Except how you read the narratives seems quite at odds with how most Mormons read them and how the people who constructed the narrative you find so problematic interpreted it. i.e. There’s more than little playing fast and lose with context here.

    Geoff I actually think there’s a lot of similarity between the JST and the documentary hypothesis. Unless one thinks Joseph was restoring some original ur text (unsupportable IMO) then you have creating a midrash. But I think that’s how most scholars now interpret the DH. Lots of pieces that developed which we can hypothetically associate with four main theological movements. Compare and contrast the Moses working of Gen 1 with the KFD for example.

  58. 58.

    But is there a gloss on the text that’s more authoritative to the community than the text itself? (Let alone that’s tied to ritual or designated sacred/secret?)

    The development of points of disconnect between sacred text and community of interpreters is fascinating. What complicates matters with the temple (unlike with many sacred texts) is that at least in theory we don’t need an “Oral Torah” constraining its interpretation, since the “Written Torah” itself can change (though it’s nevertheless relatively inflexible).

  59. 59.

    But the way you are treating the text is literalistic and assumes it was dictated in a way it wasn’t. Plus, as I said, you’ve decontextualized it from its natural contexts and placed it in a new feminist context where you are criticizing it. That hardly seems fair. Especially when the criticisms simply can’t be made in the original contexts. For BY Adam was God and already had a wife long before the events. That view was rejected. The contemporary view (which is a heavy lens through which the ceremony is taken) is that we all were involved in creation and that Adam was at best akin to a foreman.

    I also think you’re discounting Geoff’s reading too much since it is abundantly clear that with a few minor changes the temple is simply quoting or narrating the stories of Genesis 1. So Genesis 1 is the primary text people refer to. (Triply so given that few memorize the temple text so as to be able to engage in literalistic readings)

    Put an other way – often there is far less to the text than appears. I think you’re just reading way too much into the text.

    It seems hard to make a feminist critique of Mormonism when Mormons simply don’t read the text the way you do.

  60. 60.

    Kiskilili said, “It’s only a problem if you think women matter.”

    You have a good way of expressing yourself succinctly and to the point, which I lack. So bear with me here!

    I appreciate you sharing your point of view; if I hear you correctly, you feel that the existing pre-mortal informational disparity between male and female roles therein as presented today, for a host of reasons, is a problem, or at the least problematic.

    Well, guess what;I feel it would be nice to know more on that topic too. I am not that unlike you at least in that regard. But we don’t know more.

    Since we have not been given much on that topic (as well as a host of several other topics), then there follows that there should be a reason – known of course to the Lord – as to why there are things He has chosen to not bring before the knowledge of the world.

    Yet, even though I would like to know more about many many things, I don’t view my lack of knowledge on any of them as a problem, or the fact that more has not been revealed as a problem.

    Do not suppose now that I think women don’t matter! Of course I strongly believe all people: women, children, men – all people matter, every one.

    As little Timothy said, “God bless us every one” is a phrase I think the world needs to take more to heart!

    Laters. ;)

  61. 61.

    Clark (#59):

    I haven’t made any comment as to whether the text was inspired (I’m assuming by “dictated” you mean dictated by God? Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding. I specifically deferred addressing the text’s relationship to ultimate reality).

    I am reading literalistically, but a hermeneutic that bypasses the literal is unsustainable.

    The temple differs from Genesis in some key respects–among them, Adam is now part of the divine council God addresses. This may be a “minor” change, but it shifts the dynamics of the story. Specifically because the text is an elaboration of Genesis and we have Genesis extant, examining the points where it departs should be instructive.

    Where is this “contemporary view”–that Adam was a foreman–codified? Not in the temple, which is the primary text I’m analyzing here. You’re the one who’s “just reading way too much into the text.” I’m pointing out women’s absence from this section of the story, which, whatever conclusion you reach about it, is undeniable on its face. You’re introducing an allegedly universal assumption about creation into the text to argue that the text itself is insignificant, and you yourself admit that this assumption is foreign to the actual text–a “lens.” “Often there is far less to the text than appears.” Indeed. Perhaps when women are absent from a story, they’re simply absent from a story.

    (I’m not sure what your reference to memorization is intended to convey–are you implying that the ceremony doesn’t matter since people don’t remember it?)

  62. 62.

    I appreciate your comment, Ken.

    Your view seems to be that lack of knowledge cannot in and of itself be problematic. I think even from an orthodox perspective some lack of knowledge is problematic, since the entire Restoration is based around the value in seeking and receiving answers in this life.

    But I’m not sure this issue is most appropriately framed as a simple lack of knowledge. It’s a lack of women in an actual text, which is itself a piece of information.

  63. 63.

    Kiskilili: I haven’t made any comment as to whether the text was inspired

    This is one of the problems here. You have not laid your cards on the table. The problem is that you are playing fast and loose with Mormon cultural assumptions.

    1. This is a Mormon site and so people will assume you are using Mormon assumptions as your backdrop
    2. The Mormon assumption is that the authors of our sacred texts were inspired by the real and living God
    3. Using the standard Mormon assumptions, when you start making claims about the real meaning of our texts and authorial intent you are making claims about God’s opinion (to one degree or another at least)
    4. When you make comments about God’s opinion you are making metaphysical claims (whether you want to or not).

    Now the way to avoid that problem is to make your assumptions about the inspiration behind our sacred texts clear. Most of us in the bloggernacle assume God inspired them and we approach these conversations with that assumption. Is that the assumption you are entering with? Or are you utilizing the non-believing purely academic paradigm — as in, “let’s analyze the fictional myths of this people”? If you want to avoid making metaphysical claims then you need to clearly explain that you are not assuming the texts are inspired by God.

  64. 64.

    I am reading literalistically, but a hermeneutic that bypasses the literal is unsustainable.

    Well there’s a whole philosophy of language debate in that statement. But I’ll not bore the rest of folks by disagreeing. I’d just say that the literal often is just the appearance of unconsciously biased ways of reading.

    In any case the issue isn’t bypassing the literal but whether we stay with the literal.

    The temple differs from Genesis in some key respects–among them, Adam is now part of the divine council God addresses. This may be a “minor” change, but it shifts the dynamics of the story. Specifically because the text is an elaboration of Genesis and we have Genesis extant, examining the points where it departs should be instructive.

    Yes, but once again this is where context matters. And recognize that to Brigham Young this is how to read Genesis/Moses. (I think how he reads it is wrong, although I have no trouble with Adam being part of the divine council – especially in light of Abr 3)

    Where is this “contemporary view”–that Adam was a foreman–codified? Not in the temple, which is the primary text I’m analyzing here. You’re the one who’s “just reading way too much into the text.”

    The difference is that I’m reading into it in terms of two main contexts (constructor of the original main ceremony in 19th century and modern mainstream sensibility) whereas your reading appears to be just as context dependent. It’s just that you see it as a kind of literalism whereas I recognize it’s just as much a reading in as what I’ve mentioned. The difference is that I recognize they are all just “readings into the text.”

    I’m pointing out women’s absence from this section of the story, which, whatever conclusion you reach about it, is undeniable on its face.

    There is no explicit mention of the feminine in the text in this section for sure. But then no one denied that. The question is what the role of Adam is symbolically in the section based upon Genesis 1 rather than Genesis 2.

    You’re introducing an allegedly universal assumption about creation into the text to argue that the text itself is insignificant, and you yourself admit that this assumption is foreign to the actual text–a “lens.”

    No, I’m not saying it is foreign. I’m saying it forms a context that affects meaning that is inseparable that contaminates the text from its very origin. To say otherwise is to deny the textual dependence upon Moses and Genesis. It’s not an independent account. Further it is an account explicitly symbolic. And the nature of the symbols in historic use just doesn’t line up with how you are using it.

    I’m not sure what your reference to memorization is intended to convey–are you implying that the ceremony doesn’t matter since people don’t remember it?

    I’m saying that the way the text is presented mitigates against it being read in a literalistic fashion the way people unfortunately read scriptural texts. The fact it can only be encountered as a play that can never authoritatively be made a traditional text is amazingly significant in terms of how we interpret it.

  65. 65.

    Reading this conversation, which admittedly may have lost me at various points, I can see a couple of different arguments being advanced as to why women don’t appear in our creation narratives:

    (1) Women weren’t actually involved.
    (2) Women were in fact involved; they just don’t appear in our version of events.
    (3) The men portrayed are meant to represent both men and women.

    If (1) is the case, we’re left with the question of what that means about the eternal status of women.

    If (2) is the case, the question is why, then, they don’t appear. A few possibilities:

    a) Women’s participation wasn’t significant enough to warrant a mention.
    b) This is simply an artifact of the fact that the narrative was produced by men.

    (b) seems to be a popular answer. I think one can certainly make a plausible argument for this, but I also think two questions are worth bearing in mind:

    (i) Just like those in more patriarchal cultures, we too are influenced by our cultural ideals, and inevitably read the narrative in that light. In other words, why assume that our culturally biased understanding is more accurate than that of those who created the texts? I’m not saying that that’s not possible, but I’m wary of jumping to that conclusion too quickly.

    (ii) Even if this is true, I don’t see any way around the implicit message that women’s participation isn’t important enough for us to know about it. God clearly works through culture, but we also believe that even given the inevitable limitations of our cultural context, he reveals what is important for us to know.

    Problem (ii) might be resolved by option (3)—women are being symbolically represented by men. However, this raises the question of what it means that males can represent all of humanity, both male and female, particularly given that we have no examples of the reverse. The troubling implication: male=”human”; female=”invisible subset of human.”

    I have to say that I’m somewhat fascinated at the reluctance to even entertain possibility (1), despite the fact that it’s the most straightforward reading. Is it because the idea is so culturally jarring?

  66. 66.

    Another thought. This conversation has focused on the Creation. But I’m thinking about another core LDS narrative about premortality, that of the Council in Heaven. And it’s striking to me the extent to which this is a story about men. A male God puts forth a plan, which is supported by one male, and opposed by another. LDS teachings certainly indicate that women were present, but as much as I appreciate this story of premortality–it’s one of the aspects of Mormonism that I find most powerful–I still sometimes have the uneasy sense that the story of the universe is essentially an epic male drama.

  67. 67.

    Okay, Geoff.

    I’m avoiding assuming either that the texts are inspired by God or not inspired by God. I’m simply analyzing them under the assumption that within the Mormon community they have sacred importance since they’re said to access ultimate reality.

    Scholars don’t analyze myths as “fiction”; quite the contrary, myth is analyzed as an expression of ultimate truth within the social and theological context of the culture that produces it. Bracketing questions of truth/falsity for methodological reasons is not the same as assuming falsity.

    If you insist I foreground my theological biases–i.e., bear testimony–I’m going to insist the norms of the conversation change. A testimony is not a weapon and it has no place in a debate.

    Might I suggest that if you’re opposed to conversations from the perspective of (a) religious studies or (b) non-Mormons, you’re probably on the wrong blog?

  68. 68.

    Geoff (#63) said:

    Now the way to avoid that problem is to make your assumptions about the inspiration behind our sacred texts clear. Most of us in the bloggernacle assume God inspired them and we approach these conversations with that assumption. Is that the assumption you are entering with? Or are you utilizing the non-believing purely academic paradigm — as in, “let’s analyze the fictional myths of this people”? If you want to avoid making metaphysical claims then you need to clearly explain that you are not assuming the texts are inspired by God

    I’m not on board with the way you’re equating academic with non-believing. An academic approach doesn’t necessarily mean lack of belief; rather, it means bracketing questions regarding truth claims.

    I know this question wasn’t aimed at me, but my assumption in this particular kind of conversation is that these texts matter, that they shape our faith as a community, that we examine them in order to get a sense of what the LDS church teaches about the nature of God and existence. I would bracket the inspiration question, because I see this as an academic, rather than a devotional, conversation. I think both forms of discussion are important, but it’s fairly clear to me that this post–as are many (though not all) on this blog–is in the camp of the former. In other words, in this kind of discussion I’m interested in grappling with questions of LDS theology–which of course involve metaphysical claims–but I don’t see any point in arguments about whether those claims are in fact true, or whether our texts are in fact inspired. This isn’t because I don’t think those questions are important, but simply because I don’t think academic discussion is helpful for answering them.

  69. 69.

    ” I don’t think you escape the problematic consequences of having actual women directly associated with Eve during the endowment ceremony (i.e. they make the covenants that Eve does while the men make the covenant that Adam does).”

    I’m way late to this discussion and sorry I missed it! But Seraphine, while I’ll give you “actual women directly associated with eve” during that part at the temple, can I assert that the people in attendance aren’t actually making covenants for themselves at that point, but just being asked to act out part of the story?

    you can really get a lot of milage away from the harkening angst and separate covenants angst if you don’t believe that part of the is an actual covenant being made ; )

  70. 70.

    Well there’s a whole philosophy of language debate in that statement. But I’ll not bore the rest of folks by disagreeing. I’d just say that the literal often is just the appearance of unconsciously biased ways of reading.

    Whereas the allegorical is a consciously biased way of reading.

    The difference is that I’m reading into it in terms of two main contexts (constructor of the original main ceremony in 19th century and modern mainstream sensibility) whereas your reading appears to be just as context dependent. It’s just that you see it as a kind of literalism whereas I recognize it’s just as much a reading in as what I’ve mentioned. The difference is that I recognize they are all just “readings into the text.”

    Actually, you’re the one who originally identified my reading as “literal(istic).” Since the text is an “appeal” (a la Sartre) that exists only in the reading of it, the reader is of course undeniably implicated in the construction of the reading. But surely you’re not implying there’s no way to adjudicate between the validity of different readings (otherwise you’ve undermined any basis for arguing your own reading is superior to mine). In claiming that you “recognize that they are all just ‘readings into the text,’” are you asserting that my reading as just as valid is yours?

    Maybe it would help if you explained how these “symbols” have historically been interpreted, because I’m genuinely unaware of the gender-nullifying interpretation to which you’re referring or its source. (Then, in light of the obvious gap between signified and signifier and the necessarily arbitrary nature of symbolic readings, perhaps you could deconstruct the power structure that legitimated these interpretations and explain why it’s incumbent on me to accept them.)

    Are you arguing that the medium itself–ritual drama–militates against a literal reading and in favor of a symbolic one?

    To my mind, a much more promising approach to ritual than the “symbolic”–explicating the text as a series of necessarily arbitrary associations–would be to look to ritual theorists who read myth/ritual complexes as expressions of the “actual in terms of the ideal,” as the “punctual avatar” of an atemporal transcendent reality (as Gaster has it). In the first approach, Adam is nothing more than a representation of mankind. In the second, Adam is the archetypal man, one particular instantiation of the transcendent preterpunctual reality which participants literally access in assuming his role. (One reason I think this approach holds more promise is that the claim that temple ordinances are symbolic is in tension with the claim that temple ordinances are necessary to salvation.)

    But whether or not Adam is symbolic, gender never ceases to be important to this text. The liturgy itself explicitly insists on the significance of gender to the point of dressing men and women differently, asking them to perform different ritual actions, and seating them in different sections. The text itself insists that men, to the exclusion of women, assume the role of Adam.

  71. 71.

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but I have a thought. There is often much talk about the texts and the temple *words* as being what we engage to get answers to such questions, but I think there is more to consider than just what is on the page and what is on the screen in the temple film.

    What about the experiences we have as we go, in our lives, and in the temple itself? Such experience is as much for women as it is for men. To me, when I look at things in this way, which to me brings things more into a whole picture, the different roles and responsibilities do not leave women out of the picture — in fact, I think we are shown that we play a critical role in the big picture, on every front.

    When you go to the temple, women are right there, receiving all the instruction, vocalizing choices, receiving all that is necessary to receive all that God has. We are there along the way in the Church learning, talking, serving, leading, receiving instruction and making covenants with God — again, all that is required to receive all that Father has. I think it is tremendously significant that we have equal and personal access to the Lord in the temple as we make covenants and are later are able to pass through the veil into the celestial room, as present and open to the blessings of symbolically “making it.” And we were there from the beginning.

    If anything, I think the temple helps bring more meaning to the sacred texts in a significant way. In the Old Testament, for example, we read that it was only Aaron and his sons who go to the tabernacle for the rituals. But in the temple, women are there, too.

    In short, I think such bigger-picture experiential elements our faith are very instructive and can teach us a lot about how God feels about women, and about how His “party” in fact does not exclude us. I can’t imagine any other model for the premortal, either. Family councils involve women — mother and children. It’s as simple as that to me. The premortal council was just that — a family council or series of councils. When you look, too, at how the Church functions, it functions with women being significantly involved in the process of counseling together, making decisions, nurturing and leading and teaching. We don’t have to be able to be a bishop to be critical to the whole picture…which whole, imo, teaches us more than any one part that might be parsed out and analyzed.

  72. 72.

    Lynnette: I’m not on board with the way you’re equating academic with non-believing.

    Nor am I. But that wasn’t my intention so forgive me if I gave that impression. Obviously one can be both believing and academic.

    Regarding the temple liturgy, I think Clark was right on in pointing out that since Brigham Young is considered a primary author of that liturgy his beliefs and intentions have to be included in any worthwhile academic discussion of the meaning of that liturgy. The same goes for Joseph Smith. And since the liturgy has changed over time the beliefs of the later First Presidencies must be considered too. None of those authors believed the “no girls were there” interpretation of the texts as far a I know so anyone seriously suggesting that interpretation has a hard row to hoe.

  73. 73.

    None of those authors believed the “no girls were there” interpretation of the texts as far a I know so anyone seriously suggesting that interpretation has a hard row to hoe.

    Whether or not they believed the ‘no women were there’ interpretation doesn’t change the fact that none of them felt putting women in that part of the ceremony was at all important. That means something.

    Here’s the point as I see it. Take someone from an entirely foreign culture (say an alien) and have them watch the Temple ceremony. What do they learn from it? One thing they do not learn is that women existed before mortality. In order to learn *that* they have to a lot of outside research, and extrapolating, and guessing at what other people thought about things that didn’t warrant writing down.

    It is as if some of you are saying that it’s totally okay to bury any mention of women’s premortal role/existence in the fine print that nobody reads because it is totally equivalent the male role placed at the top of the page in 72pt bold text at the top of the ad.

  74. 74.

    Starfoxy: That means something.

    Great. What does it mean?

    It is as if some of you are saying that it’s totally okay to bury any mention of women’s premortal role/existence in the fine print

    You lost me here. Are you saying the current scriptures and endowment ceremonies are not ok? By what standard are you judging their OK-ness?

  75. 75.

    That means that women’s involvement apparently wasn’t worth mentioning.

    Are you saying the current scriptures and endowment ceremonies are not ok? By what standard are you judging their OK-ness?

    No I don’t think they are okay. The standard that I am using to judge their okay-ness is whether or not I feel God’s love by participating in it. I don’t. I left the temple feeling like I had been demoted from being God’s child to God’s daughter-in-law.

  76. 76.

    That means that women’s involvement apparently wasn’t worth mentioning.

    The question being debated here is why they weren’t specifically mentioned.

    The standard that I am using to judge their okay-ness is whether or not I feel God’s love by participating in it.

    Ok then. I wasn’t sure if you were trying to apply a more universal standard in that last comment.

  77. 77.

    Nothing in the Creation depiction requires that Elohim and Jehovah be exclusively male. While they are depicted at one moment in the film as men, and have always been voiced and acted by men. Equating Elohim with God the Father and Jehovah with Jesus post-date the Temple liturgy significantly. Elohim and Jehovah are active in creating man – male and female – in their own image, implying either than one of them is female or one or both of them are more than one person, male and female.

    That being said, I believe it is unfortunate that the liturgy does not include women even to the degree the ritual does (though even their the entirely passive nature of the female officiator is unfortunate as well), and that the second version of Genesis creation was included (the rib story), particularly since Brigham Young open called the story a fable told to “children” who asked what they were ready to learn.

    While one the one hand I find it unfortunate, Kiskilili, that you would end your post with this question:

    “How do we make sense of this? Where were the women in the pre-mortal existence?”

    and then resort to discounting everyones attempt to answer it (by saying, as best I can tell, that one’s answer must be limited to what the ceremony actually says or depicts), I agree with your apparent point that the Mormon Cosmogony is depicted in an entirely patriarchal, mother-less way.

    As others have said, I believe this reflects the fact that its prophets come from a patriarchal society, that relies on texts that codify patriarchal thought. But Mormonism also contains both the seeds of an understanding of the Mother (unfortunately generally being left unnurtured) and the explict recognition that more knowledge is coming.

    I agree further that we should be hesitant to assume what those future revelations will entail (whether to the Temple Ceremony or Mormonism in general), but I disagree that we should be without hope. Recognizing that our feminist thoughts are a product of our own culture does not mean that it is wrong.

    Ultimately, I believe we should, as Moroni says, hope for a better world. I think that includes this world and the next. I believe our faith is deeply flawed, but I believe in an ongoing restoration, as fast as we as a people prepare ourselves to receive it.

    Joseph said the people would suffer all sorts of things physically for the gospel, but would shatter like glass if he taught anything contrary to their traditions. Is it really so surprising, if he believed that, that the Temple would reflect those traditions so much?

    Perhaps God is mercifully patient with the backwardness of his saints.

  78. 78.

    The standard that I am using to judge their okay-ness is whether or not I feel God’s love by participating in it. I don’t. I left the temple feeling like I had been demoted from being God’s child to God’s daughter-in-law.

    I always feel so sad reading things like this.

    It is as if some of you are saying that it’s totally okay to bury any mention of women’s premortal role/existence in the fine print

    Here, though, it feels that you are essentially saying that if others don’t buy into your not-okayness, they are selling out somehow or something like that. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all. I can respect and sympathize with the fact that you struggle with the temple, but that doesn’t mean others have to, or that if they don’t, they must be missing something.

    We all engage these things differently, and I think it’s essential to respect that reality.

    So, for example, you assert that

    “What do they learn from it? One thing they do not learn is that women existed before mortality.”

    That is *your* perception, but may not reflect others experience or perception or feelings.

  79. 79.

    that one’s answer must be limited to what the ceremony actually says or depicts

    What if — just what if — there is method in the limited literal information we have?

    Just what if? It’s something I have thought about and wondered about. What if the hope for a better world (more understanding about eternal womanhood, etc.) can be found now in embracing the ambiguity and accepting it at some level, rather than insisting that the better world will come simply in the form of more explicit information?

    What if?

  80. 80.

    Maybe you could try making an actual argument, m&m, instead of endless rhetorical questions. “What if” just isn’t enough for people who are experiencing pain and engaging in this kind of inquiry and the troubling questions that it raises. Some people want to actually know what can be known, instead of waving it all away with vague dismissals.

  81. 81.

    Sigh. I wish I hadn’t engaged you at all. Now we’re in for another fun round of “I don’t understand feminism at all, but I know it’s wrong, for reasons I can’t explain. Here, have some vague pleas for patience and the benefit of the doubt.”

  82. 82.

    m&m

    And what if – what if – the hope for a better world (more understanding of heaven and hell) can be found by embracing the ambiguity (heaven and hell dichotomy and people rewarded according to their actions) and accepting it at some level, rather than insisting that the better world will come simply in the form of more explicit information (like D&C 76)?

    Sure, one could argue that what we have is sufficient.

    I have seen the face of the Mother in our Temple ceremony. I have heard Her voice in the liturgy. I still expect that the day that more understanding via more explicit information will be as beneficial received as The Vision was.

    Should we work with what we have? Sure. Should we accept that what we have is sufficient. I think Brigham Young would call such thinking damnation and I would agree.

    Why not simply say “A Bible, A Bible, we already have a Bible”?

  83. 83.

    z, sorry — I’m not trying to be dismissive. I should have phrased that better. These are actual questions I ask, questions that I think are worth having on the table. Here’s why. In my view, if the solution to wanting more clarity is always ‘out there’ we have no control over any pain or frustration we may feel. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t expect more knowledge and understanding over time (we know for example that the plates had much, much more that was sealed that was not translated). But I also don’t believe being stuck in pain in the meantime is where God wants us to be.

    I throw the questions out there because as I have seen the lack of specific information, or some of the other things that people assume and assert are all negative, as I have actually embraced the ambiguity, I have found more clarity. I think it is limiting to look only at the obvious for answers. I think it’s also unfair to blame the prophets for all the ambiguity or the pain. For all the D&C 76s we have, we also have lots of questions that aren’t directly answered, if you really think about it. That isn’t always a bad thing because it gives us the chance to both walk by faith and also to engage the Spirit by seeking, hard.

    If such an approach doesn’t work for others, then fine, but it’s not meant to be dismissive. I’m sorry it came across that way.

  84. 84.

    Well, m&m, you’re a nice person, you really are. But your arguments just aren’t as persuasive as Kiskilili’s. It seems to me that you don’t have any actual rebuttal to her points, and you’re saying the solution is to wander away and think about something else instead, until we die, because experiencing pain and frustration is so bad that it should deter us from analyzing the information that we have and seeking an answer that stands up to reasoned inquiry. If that’s your position, are you really surprised that people don’t find it satisfying?

    It’s not very clear to me what you mean when you say you “embraced the ambiguity”. And, for the reasons that Kiskilili has articulated, I don’t see ambiguity. I see a persuasive argument that women are not considered important. Your pointing to their being permitted to participate to a limited extent is not persuasive because it does not address the greater participation of men, now and in accounts of prior events. The fact that you’re falling back on ‘embracing the ambiguity’ only demonstrates the weakness of your case on that point.

  85. 85.

    z:

    I see a persuasive argument that women are not considered important.

    I’m curious what you mean by this. Who specifically are you persuaded considers women less important than men? Brigham Young? God? Someone else?

    Also, I don’t really know what you mean by “less important” — could you shed some light on that?

  86. 86.

    I mean less important than men.

    I’m persuaded that Mormon doctrine generally, prophets/the people who wrote/dictated/purported to have been inspired to write various texts, a large number of current and prior LDS individuals, and, I fear, God HIMself, all consider women less important than men. Their spiritual advancement of less inherent value, their well-being of lesser significance, their spiritual experiences less authoritative, their leadership potential inadequate, their very personhood of a qualitatively less important nature. It’s obviously not something one can fully explicate in a blog comment, but suffice it to say that that’s what I think, for all the reasons discussed on this blog over the years. I’m not going to debate it with you in this context because it’s far too complex a topic. Read the entire blog archives and you’ll have a better sense of what I mean.

  87. 87.

    Why are there no women at this party?

    Because it’s a Priesthood party, and on this earth women do not yet/will not hold the Holy Priesthood.

    Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff both taught that it is through the power of the Priesthood that all worlds are organized (and redeemed).

    If
    A: Only Priesthood power creates worlds;
    and
    B: Only men hold the Priesthood;
    then
    C: Only men participate(d) in the creation of the world
    is a logical conclusion. Depicting the creation story without females present naturally follows their line of reasoning.

    Is that the way it really happened? I don’t know. But I think that’s why the liturgy is as is–our current teachings do not allow for women using priesthood power.

  88. 88.

    I fear, God HIMself, all consider women less important than men.

    Well if God HIMself does indeed consider women less important than men (whatever “important” means to you in this context) there is likely nothing that can be done about that.

    Of course I don’t believe that is true and there is nothing in Mormonism that requires we believe it but if you really want to believe that you are certainly free to do so.

  89. 89.

    Once we ask about God (or perhaps better, Heavenly Mother’s) view of women, we’re talking about faith claims. But I don’t think it unreasonable to suggest the temple ceremony existentially subordinates the female to the male by depicting women’s creation as contingent on, and secondary, to men’s and by transposing one member of this party (the male) into the creation story with other males to the specific exclusion of the female member of the party.

    Téa makes the obvious logical connection between men’s divinely authorized power in this life and in the previous one.

    The alternate view, that gender is insignificant to our portrayal of God and Adam, (a) treats the text in an arbitrary manner; (b) only makes the issue more acute; and (c) still suffers from a failure to portray women as important.

    The arbitrariness of the reading can be illustrated as follows: once we loosen the gendered aspects of the characters, how do we know when to stop? Does Eve represent Adam in his subordinate status to his wife? Can women be priests like Adam? Will there be a time when men experience painful childbirth like Eve? The text itself insists on the importance of the gender of its dramatis personae. We like to gush over the democritization of worldly distinctions in the temple. What we fail to mention is that one distinction remains and is codified. This reading arbitrarily isolates one section of the text and asserts gender is insignificant to it while maintaining gender is of primary significance to the rest of the text, without any indication from the text itself what sets this section apart in its treatment of its characters.

    If the “proper” reading of the text is that women participated in Creation, the issue is only more acute and less comprehensible: why then are women not depicted directly? What would be lost by including women?

    Finally, if Adam, a male, represents both genders, the male is the privileged sex. We haven’t escaped the problem that women are existentially subordinate.

  90. 90.

    OK, z, I can see what you mean. Talking about ‘embracing the ambiguity’ without explaining what I mean by that in a more tangible way can sound wishy-washy and cop-out-like.

    My comment that I started is getting too long, and now I need to get ready for bed. I will share more (either in a comment or a link to a blog post) when I have a little more time.

  91. 91.

    once we loosen the gendered aspects of the characters, how do we know when to stop?

    We don’t know for sure. No more than we know what parts of these ancient narrative should be considered literal history vs. allegory. These are mysteries we are left to grapple with.

    What would be lost by including women?

    Isn’t it obvious? The male authors might have had to start making their own sandwiches if they let on about that.

  92. 92.

    Lots of comments since I was here last. I’ll just make a few more comments then bow out of the discussion.

    Kiskilili, I’m not sure “valid” is the term I would say. I think a good reading takes into account the evidence in the text and context(s). Often there are many defensible readings of a text. I don’t think the way you read the text in your post is defensible because it doesn’t take into consideration several important contexts.

    That said, I can understand someone thinking the ceremony could do with more women. I wouldn’t agree Eve is always passive. (I think the encounter with Satan in Genesis is too complex for that) So don’t think I’m simply rejecting your ultimate complaints. I just think you go to far when you suggest the Mormon interpretation when it just isn’t.

    Does the temple subordinate women? I think in some senses it’s clear it does in a certain sense. (Think of certain covenants) So I can understand a feminist being upset with those parts. However I think in practice that shouldn’t be taken as practical subordination. But I recognize for some people, especially some women, that can be a big stumbling block. I can but say that culturally there is hierarchy and honestly I don’t see it as a big thing. I don’t feel bad that in certain senses I’m “below” the President, or the Bishop or so forth. Neither am I particularly concerned that I’ll never be a GA. While I understand those who look at such matters through the prism of a group – whether gender, race, nationality, culture or whatever. At the same time I have a hard time personally thinking in that way. Just because in practice I think when one steps back one quickly sees that there isn’t much real world difference. What real world difference there is comes from people who (to me) make too much of a deal of it. (i.e. men who use it to exercise unrighteous dominion or, in my view, women who use it to become insecure about the religion or lose self worth) Recognize I’m not saying this is their choice. Some people will for various reasons just naturally get attracted to those interpretations. The best I can do is offer competing interpretations that I think are more defensible and healthier. I don’t think God loves any of us less than an other.

    Hopefully that comes off the way I intend. It’s kind of difficult to phrase in such a way so that I’m not misinterpreted. Probably I failed. But what I’m gesturing at is the idea that our interpretations should have a strong element of charity towards the text and towards how we let texts affect us. Admittedly I also think that is an ideal we’ll never reach. But I think it’s worth striving towards.

  93. 93.

    Oh, regarding the other point. I think the idea is that Adam prior to his “birth” (i.e. Genesis 1) is to be treated differently symbolically from after. There are some textual clues to that in the ceremony itself, but I’d feel uncomfortable getting too specific due to the nature of the temple. However clearly Genesis 1 & 2 are different even in Moses or the other accounts of it.

    The main reason for thinking all of us were involved in Genesis 1 is due to Abr 3.

    I’d also say that the fact we’re told to think of ourselves as the actors in the “play” of the temple affects how we view it. One might say that sexual differentiation doesn’t take place until the transition well into Genesis 2.

    As to your argument that if a symbol is “male” yet represents the “female” that “male” becomes privileged. I’d say yes and no. (I’d note that in the scriptures themselves it’s far more complex with many feminine symbols used for all people – although not necessarily done in such a way that they avoid criticism from feminists: think Hosea or Song of Solomon) I think one has to accept that women weren’t treated well through history and that there was a sense of male privilege that was unfortunate and thankfully we’re starting to move away from. How to deal with that in terms of texts we have that are so old is difficult to figure out. I don’t have easy answers for that.

  94. 94.

    Thanks for your comments, Clark. You suggest that the method for counteracting deleterious interpretations is to offer competing interpretations that are more “defensible” and “healthier.” From a methodological perspective I find it useful to separate what’s defensible (accountable to the text) from what’s healthy (let’s say in this context construes women as people). Whether or not you agree with me that any particular text lends itself to “unhealthy” interpretations that are also defensible, surely you agree that at least theoretically these two categories need not converge. Sometimes the most defensible interpretations from the perspective of responsibility to the text are also the most damaging. If we adopt a near-nihilistic Reader Response approach to text that locates all blame for offensive interpretations in the reader (not in the author or the text), we live in a moral universe in which a person could say “screw blacks,” and then insist anyone who took offense was at fault for failing to find a healthier interpretation that took account of appropriate contexts.

    In this vein, we need a concept of intertextuality that’s not so rigid that it precludes riffs on earlier texts from providing new information. As a practical (not theoretical) sidenote, reading the temple in light of its “context” in the Bible, such as J and 1 Timothy, potentially exacerbates the femninist issue I raised here; in J God stumbles upon the creation of women and accidentally produces the animals as byproducts. It’s hard to understand how women’s pre-existent status fits with this view, except perhaps to suggest that the God of this text is not entirely competent. And the author of 1 Timothy connects women’s social subordination to her existential subordination and insists women are contingent where men are central–hardly a reading of Genesis that exalts women.

    My focus in this particular post was on the existential subordination, since we’ve discussed the social subordination ad nauseum in the past. So I would just point out that men’s ecclesiastical subordination does not apply to their personal relationships with God; women’s marital subordination in the temple, in contrast, is in fact explicitly connected with a hierarchy placing them at one remove from God. God stands in the same relation to men that men stand to women, a fact which not only disadvantages women structurally, but also results in the paradoxical situation that in their very act of drawing close to God (in holy space), women are pushed away by the creation of a barrier in the form of men.

  95. 95.

    For a post with the word “party” in the title, this thread has been exceedingly sobering.

  96. 96.

    That’s because you didn’t get an invitation to the party, so you’re suffering the Evil Fairy Syndrome.

  97. 97.

    Kiskilili,

    If you are serious about finding the true meaning of these texts don’t you think you should focus on the intent of the authors? Obviously the texts didn’t write themselves so authorial intent is crucial.

    We are dealing with quite a few texts related to the creation narratives and several different authors. Since we are bracketing God in this conversation I’ll only mention the humans we know of. Here are a few:

    Book of Moses — Joseph Smith (largely a midrash of Genesis)
    Book of Abraham — Joseph Smith (a revelation)
    Temple Ceremony — Probably a lot of people but Brigham Young gets most of the credit
    Genesis — Who knows? (There are entire fields of study related to this question and the documentary hypothesis is a pretty persuasive idea but of course we don’t know the specific authors)

    So since we are looking at this as Mormons we mostly need to look at the opinions and intent of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young related to women. As I noted before, the Book of Moses makes a strong case for Michael/Adam representing both males an females. I see absolutely nothing in the other teachings of JS or BY that would support your rather outlandish reading of their texts where women are either sub-human or not at all involved in pre-mortal councils — but of course I am open to being shown where that support lies.

    Of course the Genesis account is less clear on this issue than the PoGP accounts. So in that sense it seems to me that the religions that accept Genesis but not Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as prophets would have a much more difficult time refuting your suggested reading than Mormons would.

  98. 98.

    As I already said, we need a concept of intertextuality flexible enough that it allows riffs on earlier texts to provide new information. Every responsible hermeneutic suggests starting with the text itself.

    I’m not sure Moses is a midrash in the classical rabbinic sense–I don’t think it’s nearly as sensitive to textual “bumps” as the rabbis were–but in labeling it such, aren’t you basically suggesting it’s an expansive, creative, egregiously biased and wholly unpersuasive read of Genesis?

    Setting aside for the moment the methodological problems in accepting such a source: Are you just arguing from silence, or do you have an authoritative source from Joseph Smith or Brigham Young detailing women’s involvement in Creation?

    (As a sidenote, watch for my forthcoming pamphlets on JS and BY respectively: “The John Stuart Mill of Mormonism” and “I Wish I’d Stayed for Seneca Falls.” It’s a crying shame innocent terms like “obey” were horribly twisted into prescribing women’s subordination! Poor Brigham Young is probably rolling in his grave that he’s not being celebrated alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton.)

    I’m still not seeing why it’s outlandish to argue that in the temple’s portrayal, females play no role in the Creation.

  99. 99.

    Are you just arguing from silence, or do you have an authoritative source from Joseph Smith or Brigham Young detailing women’s involvement in Creation?

    A little of both. We do have Moses 6:9 from Joseph Smith as I mentioned earlier. That is pretty good evidence about Joseph Smith’s views on the subject. But I am admittedly not motivated to do much more research on the subject. I’m certainly willing to hear any counter evidence about Joseph Smith’s views though.

    I’m still not seeing why it’s outlandish to argue that in the temple’s portrayal, females play no role in the Creation.

    Perhaps you are right. I just think that your reading is hyper-literalistic. I suppose you could also use that hyper literalism to argue that women are in fact nothing more than spare ribs of men.

  100. 100.

    Note I wasn’t asserting BY accepted women’s involvement in Creation. So far as I know he didn’t. My point was that how he interpreted the ceremony was quite different. My claim about women’s involvement refers to the 20th century. I think much of BY’s view have been rejected. Relative to extratextual evidence I think one has to recall that the Book of Abraham also has variants to all this that may well inform or reflect Jospeh’s own views. The main proof text is Abr 3:22-26

    And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

    Often this is taken to refer to only to God, how the “we” can refer to the one like unto God (usually taken to refer to Christ, but sometimes Adam) however an other reading is that it refers to those in this council.

    The argument against this is that it only referred to the leaders. However I think that hard to reconcile to verse 22 where it indicates it’s all the intelligences.

    Immediately following this the creation account of Genesis 1 starts, tied to this counsel. Relative to the temple, the context is clear (I think anyway).

  101. 101.

    Brief answers to a few other comments. I’m not advocating anything like reader response or its inverse. I think we have to look at the range of likely interpretations given the context of the times. However charity also demands we recognize the limits of the author and that they can grasp to say something beyond their ability to say it. If we are interested not in the corporate public meaning of the text but the author’s intent(s) then I think we have to acknowledge their ability to make mistakes and look beyond those for meaning.

    Regarding health, I guess I’m saying that a principle of charity for public texts means we ought for interpretations with roughly the same strength pick the healthier one. I think some people go the opposite way, for various reasons, and pick the one that is most offensive.

    Regarding your complaint about structural differences I agree that is more present by the very nature of the priesthood. And certainly that relationship is emphasized in the temple. That is a difficult issue. However that’s different from your post above.

    One should note that for his time Joseph’s treatment of women was amazingly progressive. (We’ll ignore polygamy for the moment) The creation of the Relief Society seems to parallel the rise of the priesthood structurally. Yes the authority issue is different. But for its time the similarities are surprising. The extension of that into the temple was also quite progressive – and irritated Masons to no end. (Although interestingly it paralleled Adoptive Masonry from France where you had adjunct lodges with women) All of that it part of the context for the temple.

    Is it what “liberal feminism” want in gender relations? Of course not. I see no evidence that Joseph wanted gender relationship such that in terms of structural authority the genders were swappable. (i.e. exchangeable) And that inherently, for liberal feminism (note – I’m not using that as a pejorative), means it is bad.

    Can this be reconciled within Mormonism? I’m skeptical. But some think it can and argue based upon some comments about the Relief Society for it.

  102. 102.

    Geoff, I don’t think Moses 6:9 indicates women played a role in Creation; I think it’s a simple gloss on Genesis 1:26 that makes explicit the connection between the term for human there and the name of the first individual man in Genesis 2-3 (highlighting the fact that the Hebrew “’adam” means “human” and thus there’s a connection in vocabulary between the creation of “’adam” in Genesis 1:26 and the creation of “’Adam” in Genesis 2:7). But rather than applying Adam generally as a term for humankind, even this very passage goes on to refer to Adam as a single man. (One good indication Adam is a man here is that women are biologically incapable of begetting, which Adam does in the very next verse.)

    Hi, Clark. While it’s true some of Joseph Smith’s ideas may have been somewhat progressive for his time, I’m of the understanding (I’m no 19th century historian) that women’s philanthropic organizations were not uncommon. Also, we have to look at this fact in the context of the attrition of the Relief Society’s power since then.

    I’m not as invested in asserting the fungibility of male and female personally as I am in exploring the question of what it means fundamentally to be human in Mormon theology and whether women qualify.

    Sometimes the very interpretations that are charitable to the text are uncharitable to those who are marginalized by the text. People’s spiritual well-being is often sacrificed at the altar of the text’s unassailability.

  103. 103.

    In Nauvoo the Relief Society was designed to be much, much more than a philanthropic organization. Likewise I am convinced the temple and the rise of the RS are quite related.

  104. 104.

    I agree that Moses 6:9 is a difficult to see prooftext on this Geoff. Moses 2:27 is more plausible; however then you have the problem of the order of creation. Since the JST makes Moses 2 a spiritual creation (whatever that means) but then has everyone not made until verse 27 after everything else is already made. This would be more an argument for why men and women weren’t helping with creation (since they were made too late). Now obviously there are ways around this and Abraham 3-4 is more interesting here. (It’s also a problematic text for the idea of Jesus as brother – but once again there are ways of resolving this by saying “spiritual” is a planning session)

  105. 105.

    Sometimes the very interpretations that are charitable to the text are uncharitable to those who are marginalized by the text.

    Right, but what I’m arguing is that the marginalization process is itself primarily due to choosing the less charitable reading. Not entirely of course. But the very question of marginalization is itself complex in terms of hermeneutics. Since you appear familiar with the academic discussion on this I’m arguing Derrida over Foucalt.

  106. 106.

    To clarify that last point, the power of chosing that uncharitable reading is the power to marginalize. So you get the paradox of those defending the marginalized as marginalizing precisely by neglecting other readings and by themselves marginalizing what is in the margins of the text.

  107. 107.

    It seems to me that the men on this thread (Clark/GeoffJ) are arguing that women choose to read their marginalization in the scriptures/temple, but that it’s not necessarily there (instead, them feeling marginalized by the text is an “uncharitable” reading). I think the marginalization is pretty obviously there (there are *no* women in the story of the pre-existence, etc.). I think there are multiple ways of interpreting that marginalization, some more charitable than others (see Lynnette’s possibilities in #65), but even the most charitable readings cannot erase the presence of women being marginalized (which is troubling, no matter how charitable of a reading you choose).

  108. 108.

    Seraphine,

    The degree to which the story is troubling is entirely subjective. But I don’t begrudge anyone finding it troubling.

    I do think the more literally one reads the tale the more troubling it potentially becomes. (Talking snakes? Men made of dust? Women made out of ribs? All of those could be troubling if taken literally)

  109. 109.

    Geoff J, yet again, I am kind of baffled by your response. The marginalization of women is happening at the symbolic level too. The story of Adam and Eve is not a story about the meaning of talking snakes. However, it *is* a story about the meaning of gender, gender relations, gender and creation, etc. Since gender is really important to the symbolic interpretation of the text, the marginalization of women directly impacts how we might interpret it.

  110. 110.

    However, it *is* a story about the meaning of gender, gender relations, gender and creation, etc.

    Really? I’m not really convinced that is what the story is about. But my interpretation of the meaning of the tale is subjective — just like yours is.

    (See here for an “Eden as Allegory” post I wrote a few years ago wondering if Adam and Eve represent parts of each of us — sort of a left-brain right-brain thing. My overall views have evolved a bit since I wrote it but it is an example of alternate takes on the meaning of the story.)

  111. 111.

    Seraphine, that’s not what I’m saying. I think a certain class of marginalization is unescapable. One of my posts was all about that. I just think that how bad that marginalization is varies between interpretations and that a principle of charity ought inform which we take. I do think pushing too many conclusions from the fact only three men are mentioned in Creation is unwise. In one sense there is marginalization in that. But I think the degree of marginalization isn’t as bad as some make out given the larger texts of which this one is a part. That said, I think it would be fantastic to have more texts about women in the scriptures. It’s sad there isn’t. This is an issue where a lot more light would be helpful.

  112. 112.

    Clark, I agree that this is an issue that is difficult to sort out because there is a lack of information. And I’m not trying to push a whole lot of definitive conclusions (honestly, I’m really hoping that in the eternities, the type of gendered system that is there more closely fits modern models of equality than traditional models of patriarchy).

    Here are my worries, though. #1: How do I know that my modern notions of equality are more “true” than the more traditional patriarchal models (where women “obeyed” rather than “hearkened”)? Overall (both historically and presently), the church is kind of schizophrenic in its teachings on gender. #2: I have to disagree with your conclusions based on context. I think the degree of marginalization is worrisome given that the texts in which it occurs puts women in a marginal role in a variety of other ways. For me, context aggravates the issues rather than solves them.

  113. 113.

    I think my last response to Seraphine got caught in moderation — can someone help?

  114. 114.

    Geoff, your comment is out of moderation.

    I think there are a multitude of symbolic layers to the Adam and Eve story (it’s not just about one thing), but one of the symbolic layers is clearly gender. Church leaders regularly use it as a story that teaches us about gender. Here’s one of the most blatant examples I could find (and most of the time when Eve is discussed, so is her gender).

  115. 115.

    Thanks Seraphine.

  116. 116.

    An other way to take what I say is to suggest that if a text involves marginalization of some sort one should be careful drawing theological implications from that. We have a lot of texts, some of which are in hermeneutic tension with each other. The work of figuring out a theology is really a work of putting into play multiple texts. (Which is why I advocate not having a theology on these controversial matters but looking at the range of possible theological conclusions)

    The problem is that modern notions of gender, even within feminism, are quite open to a range of possibilities. What some call liberal feminism tends to adopt a certain kind of egalitarianism but other feminists reject that model. It’s really hard to say much since much of our view is biased by the kind of sexual difference we have here in mortality. But even if there were pre-mortal sexual difference we don’t know what that constitutes let alone in a resurrected body. We really know so little theologically that I personally am loath to speculate too much here. And, as you note, over time historically there have been many models even within the Church. I mentioned Joseph was progressive yet polygamy doesn’t seem terribly progressive. Yet around the same time polygamy ceases you see the ending of a lot of kinds of authority for women. So it’s quite difficult to work out what is going on.

    The Adam and Eve story, as Geoff notes, are open to so many interesting stories. And clearly they aren’t intended primarily as history in the modern sense. (Which is different from saying the figures are pure allegory as some suggest – I think there was a real Adam and Eve and a real fall by them although clearly not everyone does) What’s interesting is all the subtle bits in the story that give it a great deal of complexity – more than one expects at first.

    The other creation accounts beyond Genesis 1, Genesis 2 and their variants (Moses, Temple, Abraham) are pretty interesting as well. (I really like Ps 104 for instance – which many scholars consider the oldest account of creation) And beyond theology they find application in myth criticism, psychology and so forth. The allegorical use is as defining gender and even Christ uses it in that fashion. However the use of Genesis 1 hasn’t been so used as much.

  117. 117.

    Clark, you seemingly advocate against “marginalizing” what’s in the “margins,”—apparently treating what’s in the margins as being in the margins. Yet this approach is actually self-evidently accountable to the text. And I don’t think criticizing other readings as being strained constitutes “neglecting” them.

    It’s not clear to me whether your argument is that we can’t draw theological conclusions at all, or just that we can’t draw theological conclusions from marginalization or gender dynamics. The former argument makes good sense . . . from someone who’s not religious. The latter argument requires a case to be made that marginalization or gender have a qualitatively different status from other aspects of sacred texts.

    It’s true we have a lot of texts in tension with each other, but several other texts include equally problematic information about gender. Furthermore, with a few exceptions, those other texts are not the basis for ritual or oaths. Liturgy has a different status from scripture because it’s specifically participatory, and I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize the temple as the social charter for and codification of particular kinds of gender relations. There’s no shortage of problems in the information we have, but I fail to see why that should prevent us from analyzing material in which gender is a prominent category of thought.

    It’s also not clear to me why “charity” for the text entails finding women in the text–the assumptions behind that could use some exposure. Also, I disagree that readings that foreground women’s role in creation in the temple ceremony are as responsible as readings that leave women out entirely–if that were the case, it would simply be a matter of choosing the charitable reading, as you argue (for those who accept the above assumption). But to my thinking it’s a mischaracterization of these different readings to claim that the only thing separating them is charity for the text; another difference is accountability to the text.

    Our liturgy is demonstrably non-static. So from a practical perspective a desire to have more information about women’s roles in eternity is entirely in tension with a desire to read the text “charitably,” which works to inhibit changes to the text.

  118. 118.

    Geoff, I find it absolutely charming to map associations other than gender onto Adam and Eve. But aside from the fact that these are gendered individuals and gender is inarguably an important way of interacting with the world in all known societies (i.e., arguing that gender is incidental to any text is a very steep uphill battle), the temple itself explicitly identifies women with Eve and men with Adam, not everyone with both of them.

  119. 119.

    It’s true we only have information here about the role of three personalities in Creation. But there are only two human individuals in the Eden-story. The stories are being told side by side, and one of those figures has been transplanted into the Creation narrative, which only highlights the fact that the other figure has not. Especially considering the fact that Adam’s gender corresponds to that of the two other characters involved in Creation where Eve’s gender is at odds with theirs, it’s hard for me to understand the argument that this is mere happenstance.

  120. 120.

    Ultimately my point is to not neglect context. And context typically opens significantly the number of defensible readings.

  121. 121.

    At the same time, the context doesn’t necessarily alleviate feminist concerns, since there are plenty of those to be had in the “context” as well.

  122. 122.

    Sometimes yes – and I think I’ve always agree with that. I just think sometimes concerns are exaggerated by avoiding context.

  123. 123.

    I am pretty late to this discussion, but I thought I would throw in my two cents. Although some readings of the text are more troubling than others, what is most troubling to me is that the way in which the text applies to women is often unclear. There are a multitude of cases in the temple and in the scriptures that cause me to think, “Wait, how does this apply to me?” We are taught that gender is important and impacts our premortal, earthly, and post-mortal life so I often don’t know if specific texts are referring to “men” in the specific or more general sense.

    I think that is why the lack of any women in the premortal portions of the text is so confusing. If women were there, we would have a better idea of what applies or does not apply to them. It appears that men have a clearer idea of how the text applies to them, while the application to women is opens up a wider variety of interpretations.

  124. 124.

    I think this is right Beatrice. There’s a lot left to be revealed that some of us desire quite a lot. However unfortunately we can’t control when it will be revealed. That said, I worry about a complacency among many where what we have is good enough. I contrast that with how Spencer W. Kimball struggled with the Lord to get the revelation on Blacks and the Priesthood. Complacency is not an ideal situation for further light and truth.

  125. 125.

    And then we have the issue not just of a lacuna in our information, but of outright problematic information: Adam was a spirit put into a body, where Eve was not.

    it’s also true that it has never yet altered into something with any clear indication that women have souls.

    The temple refers explicitly to “male and female” and says that “we will put into them their spirits.”

  126. 126.

    Good point, Left Field–but there’s a disjunct in the text that’s surely the result of the most recent revisions to it (and also the fact that the text is here shifting between P and J). Where Elohim used to talk about “him” he now speaks of “them”; however, when Adam is actually created the statement remains “we will put into him his spirit . . . that he may become a living soul,” where Eve is simply “formed” . . . after which God “give[s]” her to Adam. I don’t find this a clear indication of female ensoulment at all.

  127. 127.

    I guess I’m not following what you’re saying. Within a single sentence, we have the Creators stating that they will form both males and females and put into them their spirits. If that’s not a clear indication of the Creators forming both males and females and putting into them their spirits, then I’m not sure exactly what kind of clear indication you’re looking for.

    I don’t really understand the significance of the shift between P and J here. Does that take place in the middle of this sentence? It’s obviously been almost 20 years since I heard the previous version of the endowment (and I don’t have the stomach to look it up on the internet), but I don’t remember the sentence in question to have been revised. I know lots of explicit references to Eve were added, but I’m pretty sure this one was always there. In any case, the current ritual has spirits going into both males and females.

    Now, I guess it’s possible that when it came time to actually do it, the Creators changed their mind about the whole putting spirits into women thing, but I think it’s still pretty strongly implied that they followed through. Adam is said to become a living soul when he receives his spirit, the breath of life. Eve obviously has the breath of life also, and is called the “mother of all living.” Adam’s body doesn’t start living and breathing until it receives his spirit. Since Eve is already living and breathing when she ritually appears on the scene, that would imply to me that her body must have also received her spirit, albeit backstage.

  128. 128.

    What makes the statement you refer to less than clear is that just a few sentences later Michael is connected to a physical body following which Eve is formed from and for him without reference to her preexistent status. Unless I’m misunderstanding, you’re referring to an announcement Elohim makes which is an expansion of Genesis 1:26, apparently formerly with male pronouns exclusively (which I believe made the ceremony more coherent). But in any case this passage has obvious potential for indicating women are existentially on a par with men, as evidenced of course by the fact that it’s the classic prooftext for Lilith, who refused to submit to Adam.

    However, the actual depiction of woman’s creation derives not from this verse (P), but from the J account. In fact, with some cross-pollination between strands, the basic pivot around which P and J are collapsed is the creation of humans. Where the announcement partially echoes P, the actual portrayal of the event is drawn basically from J, and Eve is created as Adam’s derivative. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Adam has been transplanted into the first account without Eve. Even you acknowledge that the assumption that Eve has a soul is based on extrapolation (i.e., it occurs “backstage”), which hardly constitutes clarity. The fact is that the two accounts of creation are not in agreement, and although we’ve adopted portions of each, the film actually portrays an interpretation of J–not P–when it comes to the creation of woman.

  129. 129.

    It may be that a strict reading of J in isolation, does not explicitly depict Eve’s spirit. You seem to be arguing that J not only fails to depict Eve’s spirit, but that it actually precludes it, that the account is wholly inconsistent with the concept of Eve having a soul. I’m afraid I don’t see that at all. In any case, Latter-day Saints participating in the temple ritual do not read the account either strictly or in isolation.

    Even if J is read in isolation, Latter-day Saints bring to the table a the prominent teaching that we all have preexistent spirits. Even the animals of the J account have spirits by LDS tradition. The idea of “soulless” humans or even “soulless” animals is completely foreign to Mormonism. Mormons will read souls into the account, whether they are specifically mentioned or not.

    But more importantly, the account is not presented in isolation. The temple ritual as you say, weaves together components of P, J, the Book of Moses, and other sources. There is no indication that we will or are expected to tease apart the various sources and then consider them in isolation. In fact, the ritual places the J account in context with P in such a way as to make it abundantly clear that both Adam and Eve have spirits. The echo of “we will put into them their spirits” has barely died down before both Adam and Eve appear with clear evidence of having spirits. It is inconceivable that the Creators simply changed their mind while walking into the Creation Room. We see Adam become animated when he receives his spirit, and so when Eve walks into the room fully animated a moment later, the clear implication is that her body has also been animated by her spirit as we have heard only moments before that she would be.

  130. 130.

    Which only makes it odder, rather than less odd, that Eve is derivative of and contingent on Adam and has no clear pre-existent status.

  131. 131.

    (in response to the question posed by this post) aside from the obvious pandering/meddling, i’m sure women were at the same place in this “pre-mortal existence” as they naturally are now. Why was Jesus a dude anyways?

  132. 132.

    or you could pose a farther reaching question question such as “why didn’t women throw this party”

  133. 133.

    I could of course pose a “father reaching question question” laying out all my feminist concerns at once. But my sad experience has been that people don’t read posts that are more than a thousand pages long.

  134. 134.

    I would read it, Kiskilili. I voted for you for best blogger at the Niblets! (With much love to the rest of the ZDs who were nominated.)

  135. 135.

    :) Ha–I voted for you as best commenter!

  136. 136.

    …male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam

    Have you considered the possibility that this refers to Adam in the premortal spirit and taking the rib was separating the two into mortal their bodies?

  137. 137.

    Yes. I’ve considered it and rejected it.

  138. 138.

    Well let’s see mortal bodies would be wrong due to timing wouldn’t it maybe immortal bodies or just spirit separation? Why did you reject it?

  139. 139.

    That’s not what’s portrayed in the temple.

  140. 140.

    Sorry i read the rest of the thread so i won’t rehash this.

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