Zelophehad’s Daughters

Elder Christofferson’s Edit Suggests Some GA Doesn’t Dislike All Feminists

Posted by Ziff

As you’ve probably heard, Elder Christofferson’s Conference talk a couple of weeks ago originally included a swipe at “some feminist thinkers,” who he claimed “view homemaking with outright contempt.” This statement was edited in the printed version to be aimed at a more nebulous “some” who view homemaking with outright contempt. This change seems like a clear win for feminists, as the written record, which will likely be referred to far more often than the audio and video recordings of the spoken talk, now no longer has an explicit mention of feminists in a negative light.

But I think an even more positive outcome of the edit is what came out of the explanation for it. Here’s Peggy Fletcher Stack quoting Ruth Todd, Church spokesperson:

Church editors had suggested to the apostle that “referencing ‘some feminist thinkers’ would inevitably be read by many as ‘all feminist thinkers,’ ” Todd explained in a statement. “Elder Christofferson agreed and has simply clarified his intent.”

Okay, so call me a cynic, but I thought that Elder Christofferson’s original intent was to do precisely what Todd’s statement says he wanted to avoid: put down all feminists while using the word “some” to maintain plausible deniability. I really doubt, then, that the edit originated with Elder Christofferson. But whether or not I’m right, the important point in Todd’s statement is that whoever originated the edit did not want it to be thought that Elder Christofferson was putting down all feminist thinkers. This suggests that there are some other feminist thinkers who the editor of the talk thought should not be put down. I think this is huge! Since when has any word from the general level of the Church had anything positive to say about any feminists or feminism? I thought President Packer’s view of feminists as one of the big three enemies of the Church reigned supreme, with others like Elder Nelson clearly subscribing to the view that feminists oppose all that is true and right in the world. Ruth Todd’s statement gives me a glimmer of hope that some GA somewhere does not want all feminists to be painted with a broad negative brush.

8 Responses to “Elder Christofferson’s Edit Suggests Some GA Doesn’t Dislike All Feminists”

  1. 1.

    some feminist thinkers very probably do view homemaking with outright contempt. whatever. some feminist thinkers probably don’t. sure am glad i don’t have to give conference talks, but i also agree with your assessment. just saying, as a feminist thinker, you know.

  2. 2.

    Some Mormon bloggers always ascribe the worst motives to the General Authorities of the church.

    Or do I mean “all”? I suppose it doesn’t matter, since someone who can figure these things out can tell me what I really meant.

  3. 3.

    It is also interesting that the following footnote was added to that statement.

    It is true that many women over many generations have been exploited or saddled with unfair burdens both in family and employment, but selflessness and sacrifice need not and should not become abusive or exploitative. Elder Bruce C. Hafen observed: “If being ‘selfless’ means a woman must give up her own inner identity and personal growth, that understanding of selflessness is wrong. … But today’s liberationist model goes too far the other way, stereotyping women as excessively independent of their families. A more sensible view is that husbands and wives are interdependent with each other. … The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self-chosen service that contributes toward a woman’s personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general” (“Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women” [remarks to the World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Plenary Session IV, Nov. 16, 1999], http://worldcongress.org/wcf2_spkrs/wcf2_hafen.htm).

    I think this is interesting because it gives a slightly more nuanced view of feminism and motherhood and clarifies that homemaking can be demeaning if women are exploited by others.

  4. 4.

    Great catch on the footnote. It got me wondering what other nuances might be buried in the footnotes, so I quickly went through all of the October 2013 conference talks to see. The overwhelming majority of talks contain either no footnotes or only citations. Elder Christofferson actually had two other expository footnotes. Elders Cook, Anderson, and Nelson all had expository footnotes. A few of them qualified statements made in the body of the talk (e.g. Cook–Innocent people too can be enslaved). But most were basically excerpts that had been removed from the body of the talk to meet time constraints. Still, its an interesting exercise to see what the brethren wish they had time to say.

  5. 5.

    “Some” people have used the extreme views of “some” feminists to discount all feminists and more regrettably women’s issues at all. I feel like the church is evolving in its views towards feminists and more widely women’s issues. At least I am hopeful they are. But I have to admit that I am so tired of “some” people painting feminists with such a broad negative brush and using that as an excuse to ignore the real women’s issues that need addressing.

  6. 6.

    …whoever originated the edit did not want it to be thought that Elder Christofferson was putting down all feminist thinkers. This suggests that there are some other feminist thinkers who the editor of the talk thought should not be put down. I think this is huge!

    Great point! It suggests movement. But I think we also need to consider that this is a kind of sweet and sour way to both play to the orthodox while placating criticism. There are two audiences and the larger are chapel Mormons and once bias is spoken from the GC the damage has been done, they are unlikely to even hear or care about the edit.

  7. 7.

    Ziff, I agree that this was an encouraging development, for both the reasons you mentioned. Great post!

  8. 8.

    Just means enough press was given to OW that Church PR is taking them seriously. That or enough women are leaving the church–I’ve heard anywhere from 60-80%–GAs are walking on egg shells to keep them in.

    After all who will cook for the ward Christmas party?

Leave a Reply