Zelophehad’s Daughters

A Thought Experiment

Posted by Lynnette

Imagine a somewhat different temple narrative, in which:

–Those who have darker skin take make a covenant to hearken to those who have lighter skin

–There is one dark-skinned person in the movie, who is silent after the Fall and walks behind the central actor, the light-skinned person (the movie also includes a couple of other light-skinned people who don’t say much)

This is explained as okay, because:

a) It’s a fallen world, and the sad reality is that people with dark skin have been unfairly subordinated–the narrative (and the hearken requirement) are just depicting that

b) The dark-skinned people don’t have to hearken to the light-skinned person unless they are following God, so what’s the big deal?

c) The whole thing is symbolic, and we shouldn’t get so hung up on these details

Writing this is seriously making me cringe. Is there any possible way this could be okay?

108 Responses to “A Thought Experiment”

  1. 1.

    Do people even pay that much attention to the wording of the covenants?

    I think this is perfectly acceptable, since there are some minor light-skinned characters who don’t say all that much either.

    If you just understand it as a hero’s quest, it’s not that offensive.

  2. 2.

    Let’s not forget the point when the dark-skinned people in the room veil themselves, or that God is light-skinned, or that the dark-skinned figure has no preexistence, or that God interacts almost exclusively with those of light skin.

    As far as I can tell, the whole point of the ceremony is to promote egalitarian relationships between people of different skin colors.

  3. 3.

    I’m becoming convinced we need a completely different set of metaphors and a complex reiteration of the gospel to overcome the sin that enwraps us from our contexts.

    No idea of how to bring that about, though.

    We need more truly holy people. Prophets.

    However, what I said is that the ritual reflects the sins of the equivalent of the light skinned people and condemns them and that it is not ok, but part of what we should overcome.

    That won’t happen until we have better context, better filters, more holiness and have transcended the world better.

    and the sad reality is that people with dark skin have been unfairly subordinated–the narrative (and the hearken requirement) are just depicting that

    And is, therefore, something we have a duty to overcome in order for the narrative to be further transformed.

    Anyway, my two bits …

    It won’t happen without holiness and spiritual power.

  4. 4.

    Is there any possible way this could be okay?

    Any possible way? Well let’s look at it from God’s perspective everyone is at least one down from him and must harken to him to retain that position perhaps this arrangement is is less offensive to him than it is to us.

  5. 5.

    Howard, I disagree with your assessment that everyone is at least one down from God. My favorite aspect of Mormonism is that it’s conception of deity and the divinity within every human leads to radical equality between me and God. And you and God. And anyone else and God.

    that radical equality doesn’t get much air play because there’s a lot of white noise interfering with it. But the only real difference between me and God (well other than my *sex* but I’ll set that aside for a moment) is experiential. The difference illustrated by the hierarchy established between men and women in the temple is a difference of *kind* not of experience and as such can never be overcome by my gaining greater experience. Someday I will be a peer to God in the same fashion I am now a peer to my earthly parents. I will never someday magically be male after I’ve lived long enough.

    In my understanding of what God is (based on what I know of Mormonisms theology), God is not an advocate of hierarchy. The whole point of the plan is to get everyone onto an equal plane through exaltation.

  6. 6.

    Stephen, I’d really like your interpretation to be the Right one–one that every temple attendee reaches because the text naturally leads them to understand that the dominion of male over female illustrated is sinful. But that’s just not what the text of the temple endowment naturally leads people to conclude. And the fact–the inescapable fact–that I, as a woman, must perform submission to a man (even though there is no husband in my life, no less) by covenanting to accept a hierarchically structured obedience threesome with husband and god *sanctions* the imbalance presented in the text rather than condemning it.

  7. 7.

    But the only real difference between me and God…is experiential.

    I agree but that is a very significant difference today is it not?

  8. 8.

    You might find it interesting vis-a-vis your little allegory that in the third temple film (the one with Spencer Palmer as the preacher) the character of Lucifer was originally going to be played by a black actor, but after polynesians protested this they at the last minute used a caucasian.

  9. 9.

    Well, I’ve got a longer comment on my blog:

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/2011/05/what-about-reflecting-on-fallen-world.html

  10. 10.

    Howard, it is a significant difference. it is not, however, one that mandates a hierarchical explanation.

    And my real point is not that there is no substantive difference between me and God, or even that it’s wrong to think of God as being in a hierarchical position in relationship to me (though I’m not fond of that approach); my point is that pointing to the difference between God and man as a way to comprehend the sexist hierarchy established in current temple practices or as a means of arguing that God may not be bothered by that hierarchy doesn’t really work. The differences between me and a man and between me and God are radically different in nature. As such, I don’t think I can use the difference between God and humankind as a means of justifying or mitigating the sexism of the temple (or the racism of Lynnette’s alternative endowment). Or even as a means of asserting that God is just not all that troubled by the sexism of the temple and the pain that results.

  11. 11.

    You’re bumming me out.

  12. 12.

    amelia mandates? Mandates is too strong that was not the premise. Sure the difference between God and mankind can differentiated from the difference between woman and man but both are hierarchies which was my point.

    my point is that pointing to the difference between God and man…as a means of arguing that God may not be bothered by that hierarchy doesn’t really work.

    Why not?

  13. 13.

    Why not?

    Why?

  14. 14.

    Why?

    See #4

  15. 15.

    difference between woman and man but both are hierarchies which was my point.

    My point is that:

    Yes. the difference between men and women established by the endowment is hierarchical.

    But NO, the difference between god and humanity is not necessarily hierarchical. It is a significant difference. But it is not a difference that must be understood in hierarchical terms.

    It is simply not possible to understand the difference between Man and Woman as established in the endowment as anything other than hierarchical. It’s not only entirely possible to understand the difference between God and humankind in terms other than hierarchical, but also, I would argue, the core tenets of Mormonism demand that we not think about those differences as hierarchical. Accordingly, pointing to the difference between God and humankind is not a good means of arguing that God may not be bothered by the hierarchical relationship established between men and women in the temple because he has a similar relationship with all of humankind.

  16. 16.

    The dark-skinned people naturally have more of the attributes of Godliness. They are incredible!

  17. 17.

    While it not necessarily hierarchical that is what he seems to choose. I wrote everyone is at least one down from God who would that be? Wouldn’t that be a Prophet? Hasn’t this played out over and over through out time? And some structure beneath the Prophets?

  18. 18.

    Howard,

    You’ve made your point several times without actually engaging the objections. It’s time to move on from this argument.

  19. 19.

    Howard, I simply disagree with your assertion that everyone is one down from God. It may be true that God has developed a hierarchical structure in the church (and I emphasize the may), and therefore in the context of that structure everyone is one down from God. But not everyone’s relationship with God is mediated by that structure; not even every *member* of the church accepts that their relationship with God is entirely mediated by that structure (I sure as hell don’t). the hierarchical structure of the church, even if it is inspired by God (which I reserve the right to doubt) does not necessarily mean that God is *above* me in my personal relationship with him. That’s not how I conceive of my relationship with God.

    And, your point remains beside the point. The real point here is that the difference between God and humankind, no matter whether the relationship manifests as hierarchical or not, is a difference of experience and therefore cannot justify using a difference (an insurmountable difference) of kind as the basis for a hierarchical structure. If you want to argue the hierarchical relationship between God and humankind as a rationale for allowing for a hierarchical relationship between male and female, you’d have to illustrate that being male brings with it a comparable difference of experience that not only justifies the structure, but which also overcomes the objection to building a hierarchy on the premise of people being of different kinds. Which it just doesn’t.

    The fact remains that it is inherently discriminatory to create a power structure premised exclusively on limited differences of kind (e.g., sex, skin color, etc.).

  20. 20.

    Howard, some people are in the same category as God and can move up and down the hierarchy and ultimately become like God. Some people are in an eternally separate, lower category.

    Personally, I won’t tolerate a God who tolerates racism.

  21. 21.

    Just a quick point – skin colour or race is not held to be an eternal difference, whereas we are told in “The Family: a Proclamation to the World” that we were male or female before the world began, and will continue to be so in the eternities to come.

    Also, I haven’t been through the temple (apart from baptisms), but we choose the specific person to whom we covenant, through marriage, don’t we? I mean, the “Hearken” covenant in your analogy wouldn’t apply to all white people, just the one (even though the one person you choose has to be white), right?

  22. 22.

    Bouncer I have addressed the objections to #4 am I required to also engage them?

  23. 23.

    Ok…well I’ll leave you with this. Who is equal to God?

  24. 24.

    Heavenly Mother?

  25. 25.

    I am, Howard. As are you, Lady Gaga, and everyone else. I am God’s equal in the same fashion in which I am Obama’s equal. He may have more power at the moment. And he may have more experience. But we are not only of equal worth, we have the same opportunities.

  26. 26.

    Dark-skinned people are incredible! So incredible that only one gets to speak each day of General Conference, and light-skinned people fill up 9.5 out of 10 hours.

    Interesting analogy.

  27. 27.

    Re #4–I expected people might be perturbed at my comparison, or find it offensive, but I didn’t expect someone to come by to defend racial hierarchies. How about we not go down that road.

    Aurynn (#21), yeah, that is where my analogy breaks down–we don’t have teachings about race as an innate, eternal characteristic. The point I was trying to make if this narrative comes across as offensive if applied to other groups, maybe it’s something we should be questioning. I don’t really know where I stand on gender essentialism, but I’m open to the possibility of some kind of eternal difference between men and women. But that doesn’t make these aspects of the ceremony any less troubling to me, because if it’s based on eternal gender difference, what is that telling us about the nature of women–that there is something inherent about us that means that we’re better off being subordinate (and mostly invisible)?

    As for the choice thing, I don’t think that mitigates the problem in that you’re still in a hierarchical relationship (even if it’s a very benevolent one.)

    Mark (#16), lol! That totally explains why this would be the case–it’s always good to subordinate and marginalize those who are most godly.

  28. 28.

    What I especially wanted to call into question was the defense that the temple is all symbolic, and this means that seemingly offensive things really aren’t offensive. I have no problem with symbolism, the hero’s journey, etc. But I think my scenario here would never happen in the contemporary church simply because of unease about what it conveys about the meaning of skin color, and because of the danger that people would use it as a justification for racism. In constructing a symbolic narrative, it’s a good idea to also keep an eye on the message that it conveys on a more concrete level, because the former isn’t going to somehow magically counteract the latter.

  29. 29.

    Lynette, thanks for that response. I was interested in your analogy, and wanted to share my thoughts about it. I’m not sure what it means to me that my reaction is different when it’s applied to different groups. Something for me to think about, and I think gender essentialism only complicates it!

    I agree that it is still troublesome to be in a hierarchical relationship, but I think it does help that it can be a benevolent one – I think it would be worse if it was not to one specific person that I chose.

  30. 30.

    Aurynn, I definitely agree that the gender essentialism is a complicating factor. What I see so often in the church is that when any particular practice is questioned (e.g., male-only priesthood), the immediate answer is, well, men and women are different. As if that alone answered the question. My view is that whatever those differences may be, given the immense overlap between the genders, I’d vote for a default of equality in the absence of pretty strong evidence for gender-based differential treatment.

    Anyway, thanks for chiming in!

  31. 31.

    Aurynn, You say:

    I agree that it is still troublesome to be in a hierarchical relationship, but I think it does help that it can be a benevolent one – I think it would be worse if it was not to one specific person that I chose.

    The problem is that even though you think you know the person you choose well enough to know he wouldn’t abuse that benevolent hierarchy, you may be surprised (see comment #76 on Melyngoch’s post about the hearken covenant for an example).

    And the fact that an individual woman chooses to subjugate herself in a hierarchical relationship to an individual man doesn’t address a point similar to the one Lynnette makes in #28: The fact that *every* woman who receives her endowment must enter that covenant establishes a certain acceptability for sexism; and the fact the sexism is “benevolent” because mitigated by the fact that the woman chooses the individual man to whom she subjugates herself doesn’t prevent the universal application of the covenant from creating sexist attitudes that have concrete consequences for many people.

  32. 32.

    Lynnette, in #27 you state that we don’t teach that race is an eternal characteristic, as we do with gender. But the thing is, we used to. Bruce R. McConkie specifically taught that the spirits in the pre-mortal existence who were less valiant are, in this life, known as “the negroes.” So he was teaching that (certain) characteristics associated with race are eternal in nature.
    The fact that pretty much everyone now rejects this doctrine gives me hope for a diminishing of ideologies involving gender essentialism. Not much hope, though.

  33. 33.

    Lynnette, I love your analogy. As I told you, my husband wants to print it out for easy reference (he’s that kind of guy). It’s an excellent example of how some people feel that that part of the endowment is very offensive. I often think that comparisons like this are some of the best tools to help others understand that point of view.

  34. 34.

    I’m hoping this question will come across as sincere and not a trick, because I really hope for an answer:

    Suppose you discuss this video with your closest friends and relatives, many of whom are dark-skinned. All of them are aware of the objections/offense felt by others, but none of them are in the least bothered by the video. What then? You can understand how one could feel offense, but the dark-skinned people you care most about don’t even think about it.

    (P.S. I thought the analogy was fine, but I really hated having to write my comment within that framework. Yucky feelings.)

  35. 35.

    You should have yucky feelings. Discrimination is yucky. Even if those discriminated against accept the discriminatory policies.

    The question your’e asking, BrianJ, is premised on another question: “If women themselves don’t feel hurt by the gender discrimination in the endowment, and the resulting discriminatory practices in the larger church and its culture, does it matter that the endowment is discriminatory?”

    My answer is an unequivocal Yes. yes yes yes. We don’t have to go very far back to find groups who were discriminated against being largely content with the status quo being preserved. Less than a hundred years ago, for instance, a majority of women were perfectly content not to have the vote. Take a look at this lovely 1915 ad, for instance. But I don’t think we could now argue that denying women the right to vote actually wasn’t a problem just because the majority of women were content with not having that right.

    The fact of the matter is that just because some members of the group discriminated against are content with working within the discriminatory system does not mean that we should let the discriminatory system stand.

    As to your “what then?” question, I’d say that even if these women you love most are not hurt (or even if they consciously say they’re not hurt; I would argue that it’s impossible to live inside a system that discriminates against your entire kind without being hurt in some fashion, even if the hurt is subsurface rather than overt) by the system, you still work to change it. And you certainly don’t argue against changing it (I’m not implying that *you* are doing so; just using an editorial “you”; wanted to be clear on that).

  36. 36.

    BrianJ – Same here. On the internet there seem to be many who are upset about it. In real life the women who participate in church are not upset by this.
    Sometimes I think it is a good thing to learn from a difference perspective here. Other times I forget that many commentators online are not actually church members or are not currently believing members. That doesn’t mean that no believing members are ever hurt by this. But it is important to remember that I do not know everyone on the internet or what their honest agenda is.
    If someone chooses feminism to be their number one view and purpose then they will have substantially different opinions than someone who puts commitment to the church before their feminism. While I think feminism is needed, it is not on the top of my list.
    In my experience, what is different about the bloggernacle discussions of this topic that I have read is that there is a prevailing assumption that the church is wrong. In my real life, when I discuss these kinds of things with others there is an assumption that the church is right or close enough to right in an imperfect world. Definitely a different discussion.
    I do occasionally discuss things with my completely inactive sister, but she never went to the temple and she’s been gone long enough that it feels more like discussing things with a random agnostic who just has a little more knowledge than average. She has her own path and no angst about the Mormon one.

  37. 37.

    Brian, I know what you mean–it made me feel really icky to write the post, and I’m still somewhat ambivalent about having done it. I thought of doing something lighter, like goblins and zombies, but I don’t think it would have really made the point I wanted to make. Obviously, I wanted to be jarring.

    And that’s a totally fair question. If women in the church pretty much generally wanted patriarchy gone, things would probably still be muddled (because we’re also dealing with the question of how change occurs and continuing revelation and all that), but maybe somewhat less muddled.

    But women who are unhappy may well be the minority. And I don’t think it would be fair for me to just dismiss the experience of those who aren’t bothered by this stuff–accusations of who’s more enlightened vs. brainwashed seem to get thrown around way too often. I know plenty of people like those you describe, who can see why someone might be bothered by this, but this really isn’t an issue for them, and I don’t want to say that everyone should necessarily share my angst.

    So do I have any basis for arguing for a change that not everyone cares about? (I’m just trying to think this through.) Issues like female ordination I think are a lot more complicated. But with this one, it seems to me that there are women who are devastated by this kind of thing, enough that it harms their relationship with God and the church–and then there are those who genuinely aren’t bothered by it. But I haven’t really encountered a lot of people who like the temple because of stuff like this.

    And based on that, I think I can make an argument for change. For those who are being hurt, it would make a huge difference. For those who don’t care, I don’t imagine that it would significantly alter their temple experience if the stuff that horrifies the first group were changed. (I could be wrong, but that’s my sense of the situation, from talking to people who are okay with things as they are.) In other words, I see a huge potential benefit with not much potential harm.

    (Before anyone jumps in to point this out, I do realize that I don’t get to make these calls. But since the last set of changes to the temple involved a survey, I’d like to hope that the church does care about what its members are thinking, and this isn’t a situation of some passive waiting for revelation out of the blue before anything gets considered.)

  38. 38.

    SORRY!
    ” In real life the women who participate in church are not upset by this.” should read more like
    “In MY real life the women who I know and participate with in church do not SEEM to be upset by this.”
    Hope that helps fend off a few of hordes of the attacks I am now imagining from people who are completely active, full tithe paying to the actual LDS church (not a random charity), do their callings, have a testimony, aren’t resentful of 3 hours of church, who watch General Conference in order to be edified rather than finding fault but can’t abide the word hearken.

  39. 39.

    The women I know seem to not go to the temple all the time because it takes a long time, it requires babysitters, our lives are busy with children’s activities, it feels awkward because of all those old people, it seems like we should have memorized everything by now but we are embarrassed we haven’t, we hate that half awake half asleep feeling and we start wishing we could take a real nap and that doesn’t seem reverent, we spent all those years pregnant and nursing so we had a valid excuse not to go but it isn’t any easier to make time now, we would rather spend time talking to our husbands when we go out on a date because there is so much talking that needs to happen when you raise a family and share a household together, we would rather go out to dinner if it is time for a date, our husbands would rather play xbox, or we aren’t old and retired, we have so many other commandments that we are doing that we figure we’ll do the temple one more when we are old and retired…..But when we actually do manage to go we are happy we went and have a good experience. Sometimes it is just normal, reverent sitting, but sometimes we have a stronger spiritual feeling of comfort or inspiration or answers to questions in our lives. We usually leave the temple with faith and hope and strength.

  40. 40.

    So my question to you, jks (and it’s meant as a genuine question; I promise I’m not trying to bait you)–would you be less likely to have that positive experience, leave the temple with faith and hope and strength, if the stuff I’m objecting to here got changed in the next re-write of the ceremony?

    Because I think it would be fabulous if more women could have that experience of the temple being positive, and it’s kind of heartbreaking that for so many of the women in my life, what others describe as source of spiritual strength has been something so devastating.

  41. 41.

    It strikes me that you (a generalized you) may think that when other people explain their honest perspectives they are trying to explain away, at least minimize, your disillusion and pain. The natural reaction is to reassert your experience and your pain, since you know they are real. This won’t get us anywhere.

  42. 42.

    “This won’t get us anywhere.”

    Sorry. don’t even know what I mean by that. 2 AM and I need to find a pillow is what it means.

  43. 43.

    Thomas, I don’t doubt the honesty or sincerity of your perspective. But I do think that making the kinds of moves you’re making, in moving to a symbolic interpretation (if I’ve been reading you correctly), is a way of minimizing the problems. Not that I think at all that you’re out to do that–as I’ve read you, you’re offering a perspective that has been helpful for you. But I think that’s the practical effect of re-casting things symbolically.

    I also–and this is a more general comment–think that before we move to symbolic interpretations, as enriching as they may be, need to grapple with what is being communicated on the most literal level. I would in fact say it’s irresponsible not to seriously think about that question. We all know that the sacrament is symbolic. But in the contemporary church, we don’t use wine. Because giving people wine, even if it’s meant to symbolize something else, would convey a message that we wouldn’t want to convey. We wouldn’t say, well it doesn’t matter that it’s alcoholic because the important thing is what it symbolizes.

  44. 44.

    Since I’m up at 2:00 am as well, a few more thoughts. I don’t really know what I think about writing posts like this. Truth to tell, I’m a little uncomfortable with it. (I actually put it up, then chickened out and took it back down. But then I figured, if we’re going to do feminist fireworks, I’d might as well continue the discussion. In for a penny, in for a pound.) Because this post is meant to be offensive. That’s the point. But I also know that people who love the temple might well feel that I’m ridiculing sacred things. And racism in the church is in itself is an explosive topic (with good reason). So what in the heck, I am asking myself, am I doing playing with this kind of fire?

    Maybe I’m just tired. In the five years we’ve been blogging, I’ve seen woman after woman come out of the woodwork to talk about how the temple makes them feel like second class citizens, has negatively impacted their connection to God, has caused them in some cases to leave the church. I’ve been involved in argument after argument about how it should be interpreted. And we can discuss it forever, but while we do, the experience that is supposed to be the pinnacle of our religious practice is causing immeasurable pain. I know that’s not true for everyone. I know that the Bloggernacle isn’t necessarily the best representative of the church as a whole. But at some point I have to ask, as I did in the OP, how can this possibly be okay?

    And it’s crazy-making to be in a situation like this and realize that there is nothing at all that you can do to change it. Nothing. You just watch it happen over and over, and the people who could change it genuinely don’t seem to see the problems. (I’m not saying at all that I think the leaders of the church are malicious. If I believed that, I wouldn’t stay in the church. But the things they say make me suspect that feminists simply baffle them.) It’s heart-rending. And honestly, I cannot see what good is coming out of this. If we’re going to have this much collateral damage, wreak this kind of spiritual havoc in even a fraction of our member’s lives, it seems like at the very least, it should be in defense of something crucial. But what I see being protected are rituals and language from the nineteenth century. I have to ask, rather than engaging in the complex task of explaining how this doesn’t actually undermine female personhood, why not just change the language to make that clear?

    But then I wonder, what if I’m wrong? What if in fact female subordination is the thing that’s so crucial that it’s worth all of this madness? That is a bleak, bleak thought. It’s taken too many years for me to develop any kind of serious trust that God is benevolent. It’s still a shakier belief than I wish it were. And I can only imagine with a sort of wild longing what it would be like to be in a tradition whose central religious rituals would reaffirm that tentative faith, rather than pose a serious threat to it.

  45. 45.

    Let’s run through a couple of parallel arguments and see what shakes out.

    Women in the church are generally happy with the patriarchy presented in the temple, therefore, those of us who think differently should not try to change anything.

    People who are not members of the church are generally happy without the church in their lives, therefore, those of us who think differently should not try to change anything (through missionary work).

    See the problem? Embedded at a very deep and real level in the Mormon worldview is the idea of bringing the more “truthful” perspective to those who are unaware of what they are missing out on by not embracing that perspective. We are unconcerned with how happy people are without the restored gospel, we are only concerned with what we feel to be true. I’d say it’s the same thing with the temple and gender inequality in the church in general.

    So sure, women and men in the church may not generally be bothered by the gender inequality in the temple, but they should be. And it is up to those of us who recognize the problem to peaceably and faithfully help the rest see the problem so they too can start to hope and pray for change.

  46. 46.

    Fascinating post.

    It promotes so many questions.

    Do we think be subject to another person is bad? That to be asked to subjugate yourself to another is inherently wrong?

    Choosing race is very interesting too. It is an almost inherently offensive topic for most americans. Does that void any function it might serve as a comparison?

    Could we not use something more equivalent like eye colour or height which don’t carry the same multi-generational connotations as baggage?

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I disagree. Quite the oppossite, but the example is so heavily weighted towards coming over as offensive that i think you have watered down the feminist message.

    Finally, do we think it is wrong to be inferior generally? That hierarchies are simply wrong de facto?

  47. 47.

    I missed one.

    Is the truth meant to be comfortable, fair, egalitarian, or reasonable?

    Is it required to be?

  48. 48.

    Lynnette, great post! And I love your #44 also. Sorry I have nothing to add now.

  49. 49.

    Do we think be subject to another person is bad? That to be asked to subjugate yourself to another is inherently wrong?

    I think this is an interesting point. How much of our desire to be egalitarian is a remnant of American culture? We are engrained to believe that equality is a more progressive, more enlightened view point, but plenty of other cultures disagree. Monarchy governments and class and race hierarchies are all alive and well. I agree entirely with your point, Lynnette, but I have those dark horrifying thoughts, too. What if God really does want me to be subjugated to my husband? What does that mean about me? Are all my feelings and desires something to be overcome? What part of me is the “natural woman” and what part is the core me that I want to be true to?

  50. 50.

    jks, I can appreciate that everyone in your circle finds the temple enlightening.

    But I wonder whether you aren’t implicitly setting up conditions whereby no problems in the church can ever be acknowledged. If we only take the concerns of the righteous seriously, and by definition no righteous person can ever have concerns, then we’ve sealed ourselves off from evaluating how our teachings and rituals affect people.

  51. 51.

    I’m an acitve happy mormon church attending full tithe payer wife of a current bishop. I’ve been lurking on the bloggernaccle for about a year now and read quite a bit. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about these issues. Previously I had come to terms with how things were in the temple, because the blessings given to women were greater in the initiatory and the endowment was a stepping stone to sealing. The husband and wife were equal partners in marriage, but the husband was ultimately responsible/answerable/spokesperson for the marriage. Similarly to how it is portrayed in the video. I still feel uplifted and edified when I attend the temple which I do regularly. I don’t think I would have a problem with the changes you suggested. Especially if it giving so many women such hurt feelings. The changes to the ceremony seem to be coming a little more frequently than they have in the past. Maybe a new video will come out soon and surprise us all.

  52. 52.

    Hagoth, I actually think choosing eye color would “water down the feminist message.” Race is an imperfect analogy to gender, but one way in which it’s helpful is that in our society people have been denied access to opportunities on the basis both of dark skin and femaleness.

    Finally, do we think it is wrong to be inferior generally? That hierarchies are simply wrong de facto?

    I think a hierarchy that denies a class of people direct access to God or full agency in their own lives is justified if that class of people is inferior in value (to God) or competence.

    Is the truth meant to be comfortable, fair, egalitarian, or reasonable?

    I think we should be suspicious of a truth that’s unreasonable or unfair. No just God would expect us to suspend our moral reasoning and simply swear allegiance to authority. If God is just, I demand that he appeal to my conscience, imperfect though it be.

  53. 53.

    Thanks for delurking, ads; I appreciate your perspective.

  54. 54.

    Jks #36 –

    In MY real life the women who I know and participate with in church do not SEEM to be upset by this

    .

    The word SEEM is crucial. No one in my ward or stake would every think that I am not happy with several aspects of the temple liturgy. It would SEEM that all is well. In reality, parts of the temple experience cause me pain, anxiety, and even humilitation. I would not dare (in most situations) to reveal this to anyone. It is simply taboo in the church. People would likely say that I need to be more humble or have more faith or assume that I am not truly worthy to attend the temple…and yet…God knows my heart – I’ve given it to Him. I believe that both my Heavenly Father and my Heavenly Mother understand my pain.

    I have had some precious experiences in the temple, but they do not take away the pain. Why sould it have to be this way? There is no good reason that I can understand.

  55. 55.

    @49

    It’s all too easy to think we know better isn’t it. I think pausing to consider that what we think is good or bad, evil or righteous is seldom as clear cut as we’d like to think.

    The OP certainly got me thinking about it.

    @52

    I just think including race inevitably makes it a conversation about race and feminism as opposed to just feminism. Perhaps we’re looking at different versions of ‘watering down’. I’m thinking of the purity of the message and your thinking about potency perhaps?

    As for truth?

    “Maam, I’m sorry to tell you that you have cancer and can only expect to live another three or four weeks at best.”

    One of the best signs of honesty is that it strikes us as unfair, unjust and leaves us in extreme discomfort. It’s the well-meaning lies of would-be friends that cover us like the warm blankets of childhood.

    As for knowing better than God?

    I don’t know where to start. I know plenty of people who know right and wrong better than I do and they’re just people. Isn’t the point of religion that we can learn to follow someone who knows better until we know just as well ourselves?

  56. 56.

    One of the best signs of honesty is that it strikes us as unfair, unjust and leaves us in extreme discomfort. It’s the well-meaning lies of would-be friends that cover us like the warm blankets of childhood.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Hagoth. I guess I’m left wondering–is this true also when God is honest with us? Will we know God is being honest because his position will strike us as eternally “unfair” and “unjust” and leave us “in extreme discomfort”? If so, his idea of heaven is not one I choose to participate in.

    I don’t know more than God. But I demand that God appeal to what I do understand to be right, not to ask me to suspend it.

  57. 57.

    “Maam, I’m sorry to tell you that you have cancer and can only expect to live another three or four weeks at best.”
    One of the best signs of honesty is that it strikes us as unfair, unjust and leaves us in extreme discomfort. It’s the well-meaning lies of would-be friends that cover us like the warm blankets of childhood.

    this example and understanding of truth as always uncomfortable just doesn’t work for me.

    1. While your example is difficult and unfair and creates discomfort, it is a *particular* example. It is not a “Truth” being applied systematically and in such a fashion so as to be unfair to an entire class of people based on their sex. or race. or eye color. Or any other arbitrary characteristic. It is also an example of what I think of as situationally unfair realities that arise out of particularly circumstances. It’s deeply unfair that some people die young or suffer disease or get hit by a tsunami. But those are inequities caused by particular circumstances in people’s lives; they are not caused by the systematic application of discriminatory policy. That makes a big difference.

    2. While I get the whole notion of the wicked taking the truth to be hard, I think it directly contradicts pretty important Mormon notions to assert that truth or honesty is, by definition, going to result in discomfort and inequity. To the contrary, most Mormons would assert that if one is right with God and has peace of conscience, they would actually *not* experience the truth/honesty to be hard, but instead would find peace and strength in it (sorta like the “warm blankets of childhood”). Which means I can only read your assertion as a masked method of trotting out the old, tired notion that if someone is uncomfortable with or critical of something in the church it’s because they have a sin somewhere they need to address. I simply don’t accept that logic.

  58. 58.

    I think a hierarchy that denies a class of people direct access to God…is justified if that class of people is inferior in value (to God) or competence.

    For clarification how do you see the priesthood which was extended to certain classes of people while excluded from other classes through out history but includes more classes over time?

  59. 59.

    “Maybe a new video will come out soon and surprise us all.”

    I would appreciate a change to Adam’s hairdo.

  60. 60.

    For clarification how do you see the priesthood which was extended to certain classes of people while excluded from other classes through out history but includes more classes over time?

    Sorry but I’m cutting this one off before it gets started. I realized when I wrote the post that it might turn into (another) debate about blacks and the priesthood, but I think if we go that route, it will take over the conversation. It’s an important question, but it’s not what I want to discuss here.

  61. 61.

    Howard, if you’re referring to the pre-1978 ban denying certain men the priesthood and denying certain men and women access to the temple, I think the situation was unfair and morally wrong.

    If you’re referring to the levitical priesthood in the Bible, I don’t think the parallel is terribly useful since “priesthood” meant something very different. Priests were a professional class, and ritual slaughter was their means of livelihood. In exchange for the priesthood, they were systematically denied access to land.

  62. 62.

    60 Why don’t you consider it without blacks in the priesthood?

  63. 63.

    Kiskilili gets a pass because she wrote her comment before I tried to stop the conversation, and hey, she’s my sister so of course there’s favoritism. But really–we’re re-hashing enough debates on this thread without mixing another huge one into the mix. Yes, the church history of differential treatment of dark-skinned people is the part of the background to this post. But I want to talk specifically about why some find the temple ceremony offensive. The end. (As in, drop it.)

  64. 64.

    jks, I’ve been thinking about your #39. You know, the feminist women I know also worry about kids and babysitters and social awkwardness, and if they don’t have kids they worry about work and school and deadlines and dating (and obviously those with kids get to worry about that stuff, too). We’re living pretty normal lives, wondering how to pay the bills, wondering if we can make it out of bed for church. The kinds of comments you’ve been making, whether intentionally or not, have given me the impression that you’re not sure if feminists are real people. In terms of what you said, the only difference I see between the kinds of women you’re describing (and I do think Anabelle’s point about “seem” is a relevant one, since a lot of people just don’t talk about this stuff) and the real, live feminists I know is that the latter don’t get to have the temple as the kind of refuge that you do.

  65. 65.

    Re, Hagoth #46:

    Choosing race is very interesting too. It is an almost inherently offensive topic for most americans. Does that void any function it might serve as a comparison?

    Could we not use something more equivalent like eye colour or height which don’t carry the same multi-generational connotations as baggage?

    I thought about that, and I realize that using such a loaded analogy would probably alienate some people from the get-go. The problem is that I really wanted to make a point about how the justifications for this would be deeply offensive in another context. There wasn’t a good way to do that without being offensive. I think with eye-color or height, since there’s isn’t really discrimination in our society based on those (okay, a little with height, in that tallness is associated with positive attributes), they don’t pack the same punch. The problem, like Kiskilii noted, is that we’re marginalizing people who have a history of being marginalized (and whose theological status has been unclear in our church), and that adds an extra layer of disturbingness.

    Ziff, I’m glad you liked my #44. It’s the kind of thing you write in the middle of the night and wake up and think, okay, that was on the “dumping my feelings onto the internet” side. ;) But it might clarify where I’m coming from, I hope.

  66. 66.

    Enna, #49, that’s one of the issues that makes this so challenging for me, too. We talk a lot about how everyone is limited by their culture. And I can’t not apply that to myself. Like most Americans of my generation, I’ve grown up believing in egalitarianism is the ideal. And I’m not beating around the bush: I’d prefer that the values of my culture shape the temple, rather than ideas from the 19th century. But there is something a little suspect if that’s my only argument.

    Where I usually end up (when I’m in a less bleak place, at least), is saying that if there’s one thing I want to hold on to in my faith, something I would argue is central, is that God is loving, that God is no respecter of persons. In my personal experiences with God, I have no reason at all to think that he doesn’t see me as fully human. And that gives me a grounding that I think is based in more than just contemporary cultural ideals (though even that is doubtless shaped by them–I realize we can’t jump into some a-cultural spiritual vacuum), to challenge that which diminishes the personhood of women.

  67. 67.

    At the heart of Lynnette’s deliberately uncomfortable analogy is this very uncomfortable question: why are we comfortable treating women in a way we would never (never again, let us hope!) treat dark-skinned people? I don’t think we need a less offensive analogy, because I don’t think we should be less offended. We should be more offended. We should be deeply offended at the systematic, institutionalized subordination of any of God’s children. Nowhere is such subordination more offensive than in God’s church, and nowhere in God’s church is it more offensive than in the sacred rituals we believe are required for exaltation.

    If we find it horrifying to contemplate a ritual featuring multiple white characters and a single black one (let’s say), the black one created almost as an afterthought for the white hero, then almost immediately ritually subjugated to the white hero and silenced for the duration of the ritual–a subjugation all blacks present are required to ritually participate in and accept–the question is, why _on earth_ do we find this horrifying spectacle acceptable when we substitute the word “woman”?

    The problem isn’t that Lynnette’s analogy is offensive. The problem is that we are insufficiently offended by what is before our very eyes.

  68. 68.

    Hagoth, #55:

    I’m thinking of the purity of the message and your thinking about potency perhaps?

    I think that’s a good way of putting it.

    One of the best signs of honesty is that it strikes us as unfair, unjust and leaves us in extreme discomfort. It’s the well-meaning lies of would-be friends that cover us like the warm blankets of childhood.

    I’m not really on board with this one. Maybe I’m not seeing why honesty would necessarily produce those results. I think it gets used in our culture that way at times (people who sadly state that they’re only being so mean because they have to be honest). But speaking as one who’s spent most of my life seeing the world through a lens of depression, sometimes I’ve found honesty to be much more positive and healing than I ever would have dared guess.

    And I think we have theological reason to believe that ultimately truth and love aren’t different. And I’m thinking of D&C 121, and the requirement that if you’re going to reprove, it should be when motivated by the Spirit, and followed by an increase of love. I think that really needs to be the context for truth-speaking.

    That said, I totally agree that the truth can be difficult and unsettling. But I think that genuine truth, the kind that sets you free, is ultimately constructive as well. If you’re getting hit over the head with a so-called truth that just beats you down, I am suspicious. And even if the truth can be something that is disquieting, that doesn’t mean that if something is uncomfortable, that is evidence of its truthfulness.

  69. 69.

    Please forgive me for going back in time to comment #5. Amelia said:
    “I will never someday magically be male after I’ve lived long enough.”

    And that got me thinking about my aging parents who really aren’t that different now in terms of sex. What I mean is, the differences that seem so evident (and so overused in gender discussion) of Mom being able to bear children and Dad just the “donor” aren’t there any more, so, yes, as you age more and more we are magically changed, sort of. I hope you get the gist of what I’m thinking. Dad has gone through an amazing change in his lifetime, as has my Mom. Dad grew up in a “macho” culture of Mormonism, and he sees now that he can be a “nurturer” just as much as Mom was and so he changed. And Mom, well, she already was a feminist Mormon housewife, but they both just walk slowly now, they both just “putter” around the house now, they both just are pretty much on the same level now.

  70. 70.

    kevinr, I agree with amelia’s point (gender hierarchy doesn’t make sense in the way that divine-human hierarchy does because the aims are different.) But I really like your observation. After all the debates about what is means to have eternal gender differences, it turns out we’re all human, that we share a lot more than we don’t.

  71. 71.

    I’ve had a personal experience with women who I am certain don’t object to anything in the temple and who would never describe themselves as feminists. I am also 100% certain that they would be offended at the suggestion that they are subjugated in the church.

    These women were in a newly called YW presidency (about 2 months), when the husband of one of the women was called to be the new elder’s quorum president. All three women were certain that the wife of the new EQP would be released from YW because they just assumed that whatever the elders were doing was more important than what they were doing.

    As it turned out, their pessimism was unfounded. She wasn’t released and they had a productive and successful presidency. But the point is that their false expectation didn’t just materialize from nowhere. These decidedly non-feminist women had internalized the message so thoroughly and subtly that they didn’t even realize it. This is one reason why the subordination is damaging, even if people honestly say they are happy with things as they are and cannot understand why all those cranky feminists keep making waves and behaving badly.

  72. 72.

    if there’s one thing I want to hold on to in my faith, something I would argue is central, is that God is loving, that God is no respecter of persons

    that’s exactly what I try to remember, too :)

  73. 73.

    Eve, I’m soooo cross-stitching that and hanging it on my wall!

  74. 74.

    (er, that=#67)

  75. 75.

    All three women were certain that the wife of the new EQP would be released from YW because they just assumed that whatever the elders were doing was more important than what they were doing.

    Are you sure that was the reason that they thought she might be released? If there are children, then not wanting to have both parents in high-stress callings is a matter of sanity.

    I remember when Barbara Winder was called to be general RS president while her husband was serving as a mission president. He had to be released so that they could go to SLC for her calling. So I’ve never thought that it went one way.

  76. 76.

    Naismith, the reason for their assumption was that there were children in the home, and they assumed that since he was called, she would be released, since presumably somebody had to be home with the kids and it obviously wasn’t going to be the husband.

    This raises another curious question about the way we treat men and women differently in the church. When a man is being considered for a calling in a bishopric or stake presidency, nobody cares if he works 60 hours a week and is out of town half the time. In fact, we often see that as a reliable indicator that he is competent. Let’s give him a calling that requires another 20 hours a week away from home! Yet a woman who works outside the home on even a part-time basis is often overlooked for callings because we assume that she just can’t handle it all.

  77. 77.

    Naismith, the reason for their assumption was that there were children in the home, and they assumed that since he was called, she would be released, since presumably somebody had to be home with the kids and it obviously wasn’t going to be the husband.

    Of course it goes the other way just as often, as we see in the case of Sister Winder. When I was called as RS president, my husband was released from the bishopric specifically so that he could be the one at home with the kids.

    This raises another curious question about the way we treat men and women differently in the church. When a man is being considered for a calling in a bishopric or stake presidency, nobody cares if he works 60 hours a week and is out of town half the time.

    Do you have data suggesting that nobody cares? In my experience, they do care. When my husband was called as bishop, he promised the stake president that he would never travel for work unless it was absolutely necessary. This really sucked for him, because he never got to take any of the plum assignments, or stop off and do a bit of personal travel on the way. It definitely had an adverse affect on his career development. And we could never be gone on vacation for more than one Sunday, which is quite a challenge when traveling to other continents.

  78. 78.

    I had to start at the ‘hearken’ post to get the full context of this post, and frankly, so much has been said that I find myself unable to track it all. First, allow me to disclose my bias:

    I too have covenanted mentally to ‘hearken’ to my wife. I too believe that impasses can be resolved without invoking a ‘trump card.’ I too wish that our temple liturgy were more egalitarian. Nonetheless, the point of this post, as I understand it, is to compare the overt racism of the ‘alternate endowment’ suggested by this post to the subtler sexism under discussion of the ‘actual endowment,’ in hope that the contrast will dispel said subtleness and reveal the sexism of the endowment for those who struggle or refuse to see it.

    I’d like to point out that the endowment ceremony was revealed to Joseph and codified by Brigham within the context of plural marriage. Sure, the endowment has undergone extensive revision since then, but what we consume today is still the legacy of that context: plural marriage. To me, it is therefore obvious why an egalitarian liturgy is not possible, however desirable it may be to me personally: plural marriage is still doctrine, even if it is no longer practice.

    As for the hierarchical distinction between God and humankind as a template for justifying the same between Man and Woman: While due consideration ahs been given to the idea that we (men and women) are equal with God, at least will be eventually as part of the Plan, why has no one conjectured that the ‘hearken’ part of the covenant and other sexist liturgical items are merely temporary conditions of the Fall, and not in fact expected to last ‘Worlds without End.’ It was, after all, pointed out by someone (my apologies here) that things were egalitarian between Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. If the point of the Atonement is to bring about a ‘Restoration of All Things’ then why have we implicitly insisted up to this point that the way things are done now is the way things will persist into the eternities, unless the liturgy is changed.

    Besides, perhaps the sexism of the temple serves as sufficient explanation for Prop 8: How could a marriage between two men or two women ever be anything but egalitarian?

    NOTE: The preceeding paragraph was entirely tongue-in-cheek. My apologies to anyone who took offense.

  79. 79.

    amelia, jks, Lynnette: thank you for your replies. I appreciate how you articulated your concerns and, in true ZD fashion, did so without pushing your conclusions on me. I also appreciate Lynnette’s 2AM openness in #44 that I think illustrates some of the conflicting thoughts in my mind regarding this issue. There’s the question of what to think, and then there’s the question of what to do about what you think—and how much of that to do. None of that is completely settled in my mind, although the first is more settled than the last.

  80. 80.

    @56

    Couple of suggestions for uncomfortable truths God might share with us.

    You can do this! (insert anything, a calling, handling a tough situation etc etc)

    or

    You can do better!

    No matter how well we think we have done.

  81. 81.

    @57

    Absolutely not my intention.

    I simply meant that truth can be uncomfortable, really uncomfortable.

    I didn’t mean to comment on the recipient of truth in any way.

  82. 82.

    @65 Great clarification.

    I suppose I thought that using eye colour might work as it would strike readers as ridiculous to persecute people for such an arbitrary reason.

    Which is the argument of the feminist, I think.

  83. 83.

    @68

    That said, I totally agree that the truth can be difficult and unsettling. But I think that genuine truth, the kind that sets you free, is ultimately constructive as well.

    I wish I had written that.

    I suppose I should have said ‘can strike as hard’ rather than ‘does’ which makes it sound as though I am saying that all truth is uncomfortable.

    Your point about genuine truth being ultimately constructive is a real thought provoker.

  84. 84.

    If the point of the Atonement is to bring about a ‘Restoration of All Things’ then why have we implicitly insisted up to this point that the way things are done now is the way things will persist into the eternities, unless the liturgy is changed.

    Richard, I think that this insistence arises out of the association of the temple with the eternal nature of the marriages performed there. Since the hearken covenant seems to (at least partially) establish the nature of the marriage relationships sanctioned in the temple, it’s hard not to see it as saying something about how the marriages are perceived of beyond just this moment. this is reinforced by the inherent inequity in the sealing ceremony (though i’ve also heard that explained in terms of polygynous marriage practices–one woman may be able to give herself to one man, but one man cannot give himself to multiple women; the argument doesn’t make sense to me but people make it).

    While I appreciate the effort to claim what happens in the temple for this life only, I don’t really think that’s how most people see it. It’s akin to the argument that what’s represented in the endowment is exclusively descriptive of a fallen world, rather than prescriptive for either how to live in this world or what will happen in the next. Even if I accept the premise that what happens in the temple is restricted to this life, rather than the eternities, I find it incredibly problematic that the institutional church would prescribe via its liturgy and rituals a means of living in a fallen state that is inherently inequitable. It’s my understanding that we’re supposed to do everything we can to achieve a zion state in this life, not just wait until we’re dead. And I don’t see how this kind of systematic inequality can contribute to that.

  85. 85.

    Amelia (85),

    I certainly agree that endowments and sealings are perceived to be eternal and not temporary. I did not intend to imply that no part of it was eternal, merely suggest that not every part was of necessity eternal.

    Perhaps example may illuminate better than explanation: I do not believe myself, nor do I believe that anyone else does for that matter beleives, that Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father share anything less than a oneness that far transcends mortal conceptions of egalitarian. Perhaps my presumption is not as representative as I imagine, but stipulate with me for the moment that it is: Would Heavenly Mother tolerate the sexism in her mariage with Heavenly Father that you rightfully decry as foul in our mortal implementations? I agree with you that simply stating our Father would never exercise that ‘trump card’ with our Mother does not hold water: The simple fact that the ‘trump card’ even exists torpedoes their oneness and egalitarianism below the water line. So for me, being unable to conceive that God retains a ‘trump card’ as God, I cannot accept that and couple who are exalted as Gods will retain one as well. Therefore, it must be a temporary condition of the Fall, despite your accurate accessment that it may not be a common perception.

    Why wouldn’t the Atonement fix this when it purports to reconcile every other loss or grief?

  86. 86.

    87 I love the concept of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father sharing “oneness” an intimacy so great that they even share minds but if this is true where is she and why isn’t she involved in mortal life?

  87. 87.

    But Richard, if the trump card is exemplary of a fallen state, and if it’s something that will disappear in a truly celestial, eternal marriage, why wouldn’t the temple somehow make that explicit? It seems to me that the point of this life is not to spend some time in a fallen state and then, after we’re dead, to become unfallen. It seems the point of this life is to overcome our fallenness.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I can get on board with your interpretation; I can not get on board with the current temple practices, however, because they don’t actually make it apparent that this notions of marriage (complete with a hierarchical relationship between god, man, and wife in which the man mediates the woman’s relationship with God; in which the woman is given and received, but she does not receive; in which men are given a *trump* card)–they don’t make it apparent that such a marriage is not at all the nature of a celestial, eternal marriage and instead leave it as a model of such a marriage.

    In other words, until the temple ceremony extends in order to provide instruction that the marriage we see between Adam and Eve is actually not the kind of marriage God sanctions, rather than being the kind of marriage God sanctions, I just can’t get fully on board with your interpretation. I like your interpretation. I mostly agree with you. I just don’t think that’s what the actual text of the temple ceremony communicates; in fact, it communicates something quite opposite.

  88. 88.

    Maybe if the sealing ceremony was more explicit (like reciprocity in who gives and recieves), since that is supposed to be the celestial thing were shooting for, that would overcome the “telestial” endowment ceremony.

    Because I think even having men and women go from being separate in the ceremony to together in the celestial room adds to Richard’s idea. of course having men and women receiving at the veil as HM and HF would be even better.

  89. 89.

    Since Adam and Eve the Old Testament mentions Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah and Isaiah’s wife and the New Testament mentions Anna and the daughters of Phillip as prophetess they must have transcended that one down position. Take Miriam for example:

    Exodus 15:20 And Miriam the prophetess the sister of Aaron…

    Micah 6:3-4 O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

    Are we sure the movie is not historical? What has happened to women’s place in the church since these prophetess?

  90. 90.

    Can you imagine julie Beck being called a prophetess? Can you imagine Zion being sent before Monson, Packer and Beck?

  91. 91.

    Are we sure the movie is not historical?

    Yes. I’m sure it’s not just historical. If I only passively consumed the text as an audience member, I may be able to see it as only historical. But when I am required to actively perform parts of the text as ordinances essential to exaltation, it cannot be exclusively historical.

  92. 92.

    Why is the dark skinned person allowed to sit while the light skinned one has to stand?

  93. 93.

    92 So what is the meaning of prophetess? Don’t they have their own direct line of communication with God? If so does it make sense that their husbands would be between them and God in their marriages?

  94. 94.

    The irony of Richard’s interpretation is that the “unworthy” are free to have supposedly celestial, egalitarian marriages, whereas those who keep God’s commandments are “blessed” to live the consequences of the Fall. That in the end, you can more closely approach godliness by staying away from the temple.

  95. 95.

    Isn’t Richard saying: the Fall –> egalitarian –> oneness.

  96. 96.

    Richard, if the trump card is exemplary of a fallen state, and if it’s something that will disappear in a truly celestial, eternal marriage, why wouldn’t the temple somehow make that explicit?

    I’d say it is because we have failed of the necessary holiness and progression, that by our own sins we have failed to be ready to receive that, and are instead with a lesser law.

    Opinions may vary. We need more holy people.

  97. 97.

    If you’re referring to the levitical priesthood in the Bible, I don’t think the parallel is terribly useful since “priesthood” meant something very different. Priests were a professional class, and ritual slaughter was their means of livelihood. In exchange for the priesthood, they were systematically denied access to land.

    Except, of course, for fenced cities, etc.

    Pretty complex all in all, and I think it is an excellent example, as we have transcended that.

    But that entire structure is a different question.

  98. 98.

    why has no one conjectured that the ‘hearken’ part of the covenant and other sexist liturgical items are merely temporary conditions of the Fall, and not in fact expected to last ‘Worlds without End.’ It was, after all, pointed out by someone (my apologies here) that things were egalitarian between Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. If the point of the Atonement is to bring about a ‘Restoration of All Things’ then why have we implicitly insisted up to this point that the way things are done now is the way things will persist into the eternities, unless the liturgy is changed.

    Ah, proof that I am being ignored ;)

  99. 99.

    87 I love the concept of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father sharing “oneness” an intimacy so great that they even share minds but if this is true where is she and why isn’t she involved in mortal life?

    Obviously it is Heavenly Father’s turn to watch the children and she is doing something else at the time. Part of what he is supposed to do is make sure they don’t bother her while she is busy.

  100. 100.

    I’d say it is because we have failed of the necessary holiness and progression, that by our own sins we have failed to be ready to receive that, and are instead with a lesser law.

    Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; (Ezekiel 20:25)

    But how do we be more holy? Do we follow the bad laws God gave us, the commandments “whereby [we] should not live,” or the laws we wish God had given us that he didn’t?

    In this scenario it seems God set us up to fail.

  101. 101.

    why has no one conjectured that the ‘hearken’ part of the covenant and other sexist liturgical items are merely temporary conditions of the Fall, and not in fact expected to last ‘Worlds without End.’

    Ah, proof that I am being ignored ;)

    For what it’s worth, Richard and Stephen, we’ve actually conjectured that a whole bunch. A lot of feminists have (both inside and outside the church). It’s the question of whether the infamous line in Genesis 3:16, “thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee” is prescriptive or descriptive. A couple of people have already tackled this, but just to add my two cents, I think the evidence against a descriptivist reading (e.g., the text is telling us what is, not what should be), includes:

    –it’s very odd to have people covenant to do something we think of as negative; I can’t think of any other instance where this is the case

    –SWK famously changed “rule” to “preside” in this verse, and we still use “preside” as a positive (see: FamProc)–in LDS teachings, it’s not something that an unrighteous husband does

    –it’s not even clear that there was equality before the Fall (Eve was created for Adam in the second creation account, and that’s the one we usually use)

    –the covenants made in marriage (which we definitely see as eternal) still aren’t reciprocal

    I totally agree with your view of HM and HF, Richard–I just wish that the temple portrayed that as well.

  102. 102.

    But getting back to my post–even if I were on board with the descriptivist reading, I would still find the set-up offensive. The horrible reality is that lighter skinned people have oppressed those of darker skin in mortality. Surely that’s something only characteristic of the fallen world, and not the eternities. So why on earth would we have that modeled in our sacred spaces? Would people really be comfortable with a liturgical requirement that those with darker skin make a covenant of subordination to illustrate the effects of the Fall?

  103. 103.

    Kiskilili (94),

    My most sincere sympathies go out to any and every woman who enters the temple to make the most sacred of covenants and then discovers to her horror that she is second-class to a man; although some would correctly point out that this is simply not the experience of every LDS woman, and others would quibble over how to quantify both its prevalence and profundity, it remains that we discuss this issue for the sake of those affected, not the sake of those unaffected.

    However, this issue is profoundly painful precisely because temple ordinances have profound meaning to those who subsequently feel cheated by them. By calculating the blessings of any alternative to temple marriage, or the endowment, to be of greater value than that of temple marriage, or endowment, itself you have shown us all that changes to the temple liturgy designed to remove all traces of sexism, explicit or implied, is simply unnecessary: The solution is to forgo the blessings of the temple because their promise is a fraud. Why should anyone feel any degree of discomfort or dissapointment with the temple if the better option lies elsewhere? I think you may have succeeded in making this entire post, even the entire cause of Mormon Feminism, rather irrelevant, by advocating this possibility. Dismissal may be more hurtful than disappointment. It would be bitterly ironic if what is accomplished thereby is merely more to abuse the sensibilities of our sisters who still believe than is done in the end to help them. You all at Zelophahad’s Daughters have a good thing going here: Be careful not to disenfranchise yourselves with it.

    NOTE: Please do not take my comments personally; they are made strictly in the spirit of respect and rhetoric.

  104. 104.

    I’d say it is because we have failed of the necessary holiness and progression, that by our own sins we have failed to be ready to receive that, and are instead with a lesser law.
    Opinions may vary. We need more holy people.

    Okay. I’m totally on board with needing more holy people.

    But really?! REALLY?! You really think that God is requiring us to live a law that is by definition fallen, even in your own theory, because we don’t have enough holy people to allow us to live a better way?

    I’m very sorry, but I don’t think that God gives an alternate law that results in the systematic discrimination against and subjugation of half of his children by the other half because we aren’t perfect yet. I don’t think he would ritually require that kind of, by your own admission, Wrong Behavior. In fact, the only example we have of God providing a lower law in place of a higher law (with the Israelites when wandering the desert) teaches us that God gives a stricter guide to good behavior as a lower law; he does not require bad behavior in order to somehow, in some insane stretch of the imagination, compensate for our being not quite good enough yet.

    The very best thing that can be said for this argument is that it’s a justification for the status quo so that the people in charge can continue being in charge. Even if it is wrapped up with a plea for more holy people.

    No God I believe in, or will ever believe in, will sanction, let alone dictate, bad behavior just because his people aren’t quite up to scratch yet.

  105. 105.

    Richard, I think you might be misreading Kiskilili (though she can correct me if I’m wrong)–I don’t think she’s advocating that we should all just give up on the temple, but pointing to the irony of a system in which people get to live a higher law if they don’t go to the temple. Which is what happens if you interpret the hearken covenant as part of the fall.

  106. 106.

    Sorry, Richard, but your #103 just doesn’t make sense. You say you’re responding to Kiskilili #94. She’s not herself arguing that an alternative to temple marriage is better; she’s pointing out that your conception of the temple as requiring us to live a destructive, fallen kind of marriage as some sort of condition of mortality (but don’t worry! No fear! after you’re dead you’ll not have to live this horrible sexism any more!) disincentivizes marrying in the temple and makes it impossible to build a celestial marriage based on the temple ceremony. As a result only those married outside the temple would be able to build a more perfect, celestial marriage.

    That is the natural extension of your interpretation of the temple. It is not the argument being advanced by any of the ZDs.

    Now I did say I’d prefer not to marry in the temple. I simply will not make covenants that enshrine inequity in the foundational ceremony of my marriage. I would perhaps consider a subsequent sealing, with the understanding that my husband gives himself to me as I give myself to him regardless of the inequality of the language of the sealing, but I would absolutely not consider coding that inequity into the foundation of a marriage.

    Even given my stance, I do not think that I’m “disenfranchising” myself or Mormon feminists. I have stated many times and in many places that I have found good things in the temple. In fact, my most precious understandings of divinity and my relationship to it are conclusions I reached largely in the temple. I just don’t think I should have to put up with sexist bullshit that does nothing for anyone in order to get to the good. Especially when the best explanation you can come up with for that sexism is that it’s a representation of fallenness. It’s entirely possible for the temple to represent fallenness without condemning all of us to actually live fallenness.

    And as several of the ZDs have pointed out, the components of the endowment that we’re objecting to are not components that it would harm believers to do without, while doing without them would be a demonstrable good not only for many individuals, but also (I would argue) our entire community. Why on *earth* would we not continue speaking up, calling attention to these problems, hoping that maybe, just maybe, someday, some man in some position of authority will give enough of a damn to do something about it?

  107. 107.

    Lynnette (105),

    Thank you for clarifying to me how I may have misunderstood Kiskilili: If she was merely pointing out the irony of the disparity between temple marriage and its alternatives, then she makes a valid argument and I owe her an apology. If I misunderstodd her it was because I perceived erronously that she was discrediting the value of temple marriage, which if it were so, I fear, would have made mockery of those hurt most by dismissing the relevance of their feelings. Again, thank you for clarifying her position.

  108. 108.

    All right, I think this conversation has gone wild enough. Thanks for playing, everyone. I’ll see you at the next round of Mormon feminist antics.