Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Why I Hate Mother’s Day

Posted by nhilton on June 22, 2007

On last year’s calendar, in the little box representing Mother’s Day, I made a note to myself:  Leave town next year!  I make this same note on every calendar, every year.  I never leave town on Mother’s Day.  Instead I stick around for those who might want to shower me with appreciation and gifts in honor of my mothering efforts, not wanting to disappoint them.  Come Mother’s Day morning I cringe at the sound of kitchen activity, hoping I can dodge breakfast in bed and the accompanying crumbs because I’d really just like to be left alone for once!  I get ready for church wishing the morning could be stress-free (No shouting, “Hurry up!  Get in the car!” fifty gazillion times.   My husband usually fills that role for me on Mother’s Day.)  If I make it to church in good humor, the speakers usually destroy that good humor with sappy anectdotes of unbelievable moms and childhoods punctuated with a wilted flower awarded to all women over the age of 18.  Why can’t they just hand out chocolate?  (This year the flower was replaced with “The Testament”  DVD.  I sent it over to my non-member single lady neighbor, via my eight-year old, since we already had a couple copies.) 

I really hate Mother’s Day.  It’s never enough.  Not enough appreciation.  Not enough truth.  Not enough realistic portraiture of the “ideal” Mother whom I might stretch to emulate.  And I’m certainly never enough.  It’s all just a pile of…   When the sun sets I begin to breath easier, knowing I have a whole ‘nuther year until I have to endure Mother’s Day again.  It’s like the whole day just misses my boat.  But, yet, I have no idea how to fix it.  I don’t even know what’s wrong with it—me.  By the way, I know at least 2 other women who feel exactly the way I do.  They told me so in the hallway as we were leaving church.  Unsolicited.

This year our maverick bishop had five women speak–yes, five.  The last speaker had about 90 seconds, but she did speak.  Each sister had been asked to speak about a woman from the scriptures.  I found their talks remarkably refreshing in contrast to usual Mother’s Day memorials.  (But I bet it ruined their Mother’s Day!)  I know it was balm to my soul to have the meeting “scripture based.”  Calling it that is really a stretch, but it was pointed in the right direction.

In considering my personal distaste for the holiday that always seems to fall short…if only it weren’t on Sunday and I could at least go out to eat at a nice restaraunt and go shopping afterwards…or maybe just send my husband and kids to the park for the day…I decided that what is missing is a real mothering role model.  Clearly the world needs such a role model or there wouldn’t be things like “Mother of the Year,” just to name one such title. 

Where is this role model? Proverbs 31?  I’ve always wondered why women, & mothers especially, are so left out there on their own with no plan, model, instructions, etc.  Men have God the Father and His Son, along with a slew of prophets and good ol’ boys to pattern after.  Women get the un-mentioned, un-named, un-heralded and un-heard-of. 

For example, a new General Relief Society President, the leader of the world’s largest women’s organization, was sustained during the last Conference & she didn’t even get a split second of camera time or a chance to say “boo.”  Go figure!  

Women must read between the lines, infer, and fabricate in an effort to identify with a mothering role model, especially a divine one.  There must be a good reason for this:  Women are already so amazing that they can go it alone?  God trusts women a lot or is more forgiving than I’ve supposed?  Women are too competative and perfectionistic and would kill one another, or themselves, striving to meet a divine model of mothering?  Having a model doesn’t matter? 

So, for you Sisters out there, and you Brothers who are sons, husbands, fathers or brothers of Sisters, what’s your take on this female enigma?  Don’t just brush it aside.  Women want to know.  It’s a question many women have, spoken or unspoken, and one that should never be brushed under the rug. 

Where do the scriptures give direction, hope and solice to mothers with moral authority backing it up?  If tomorrow were  Mother’s Day, and you had to speak in church, what would you say?

94 Responses to “Why I Hate Mother’s Day”

  1. m&m said

    Don’t just brush it aside. Women want to know. It’s a question all women have, spoken or unspoken, and one that should never be brushed under the rug.

    I have to be honest. I don’t like being lumped with “all women” with this sort of post. I know these feelings are really, really real for a lot of women, but please don’t generalize it completely to all of us.

    My thoughts? I think the Savior is the role model for all of us. His example and the teachings of the prophets surpass gender. Fathers don’t look to prophets because they are men and fathers, and they aren’t speaking to us as fathers. We look to prophets because they are God’s mouthpieces and they tell us all how to be good people, regardless of gender, regardless of roles.

    I’ve always wondered why women, & mothers especially, are so left out there on their own with no plan, model, instructions, etc.

    Can I disagree with this? Modern prophets spend a lot of time talking about how to be good parents. And again, the scriptural principles we are taught teach us all, regardless of our gender or roles.

    I do struggle with finding the right balance in my mothering (how much is really enough?), and there I am with you, but I think like anything else, we are supposed to look to the Savior — for the characteristics we should develop and also for the peace we need when we “don’t feel enough.” Fathers are, too. We all are. He’s the answer. Direction, hope and solace come from the Savior. “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden….” If that doesn’t describe motherhood, what does? :)

    I also have to wonder if we had more “role models” of women in the scriptures if we would simply beat ourselves over the heads even more with how imperfect we are compared to them. :) (Prov. 31 is enough for me, thank you. That alone is more than I could ever do in my lifetime!)

    I also want to ask: What do we really know about Heavenly Father and what His model of fatherhood is? Is His nature really about fatherhood in particular, or can’t it also teach us about divinity in general, and about what characteristics we should strive to develop and receive through grace? Elder Holland tells us even then that the Savior came to teach us of Father’s characteristics, so again, all points to Him. And again, His characteristics and teachings surpass gender in almost every instance.

    Again, I know this is a big issue for a lot of women, and I worry about expressing my thoughts because I don’t want to offend, but I want to say that not all women feel this way and maybe we don’t need to!

    Pat Holland talked about this once. Search in her talk on “heavenly mother” and see what she has to say. She has always been one of my heroes, and I think she hits the nail on the head. I ache for more women to be at peace with what we have, because I love Mother’s Day, I love being a woman in the Church, I love how the atonement helps me in all aspects of my life. Do I struggle? Of course. But I don’t think having more females in the scriptures would help me figure out balance better. I think it all goes back to Christ.

    And perhaps that’s just what I would say in a talk. :)

  2. nhilton said

    m&m, I stand corrected & did change “all” to “many” in my post. Thank you.

    I, too, have taken the stance that you have in your comment here: that the Savior is our focus, or should be, and any other model could distract us from him. In many cases, this is true, and obviously ultimately is since Father in Heaven has taken a back seat to the Savior, only to introduce His Son.

    However, this being said, I think searching the scriptures for that which resonates with women from a female point of view, if that’s even possible, is helpful. I love being a mother. It’s just “Mother’s Day” that I don’t like. I have 5 daughters. They’ve eached asked this question about their identity in God’s plan, in the church on Earth and simply as female. A dear friend has 7 daughters & they’ve each asked her and many of them still struggle with the issue, even after being given the explanation you’ve provided. It’s not a new or unique question. However, I don’t think men have the same void that women do because of the role models they’re given, even if they reach outside the male prototype and can speak to women, too. Saying that the need some women feel for a divine mothering role model is filled by Jesus & his prophets may only lead to guilt if women are left still feeling the void. Perhaps we simply need to recognize the void & move on.

    I’m not trying to get caught up in the question or detract from the Savior as our central focus, especially if they’re no answers, but I believe there is an answer in the scriptures & that’s what my post is meant to inspire.

  3. m&m said

    I never know quite what else to say. The void is real, I know, but I am personally not convinced that the void needs to be there. I think there is a lot we can get from the scriptures, but also a LOT from our modern prophets. This is part of the reason why I don’t feel a void. My brain understands the reason the void might exist (and if I let it happen, I can sometimes go there in my brain, but to be honest, I choose not to). But truthfully, I just don’t see how a woman can wonder about her place while listening to our prophets. I really just don’t understand how that is possible. There is more to the gospel than just the standard works. The Restoration is a huge part of what makes being a woman so exciting to me, because the gospel truths through latter-day prophets give us so much vision about who we are!

    Argh. I worry about saying anything because I really, really don’t want to add more guilt or come across as dismissive or uncaring. I dont want to brush it aside. Rather, I want to shout from the rooftops why it is that I don’t feel that void, or how that void has been filled. I don’t think there is anything wrong about wanting to know more, about having questions. Who doesn’t about a lot of things? But I think there are lots of ways to go about dealing with questions, and sometimes the ways I have seen this issue approached seem to make things worse. But what do I know as someone who’s not feeling that void in the same way? I just want to share that non-void somehow, but I’m afraid I can’t. But I believe it can be filled, and usually that will be more by the Spirit than by info in the scriptures per se — that and trusting in the teachings of the latter-day prophets. That’s been my experience anyway. Look to the prophets for answers, because I believe they are there. I see the fulness of what we need for these kinds of answers as being from the canonized scriptures in combination with latter-day prophets’ teachings. That combination is what keeps my bucket filled to overflowing!

  4. cherylem said

    You raise a good point and one worth talking about, especially as this relates to our scripture study. The introduction to the Women’s Bible Commentary with Apocrypha (Newson and Ringe, Editors) defines the situation this way:

    “Although women have read the Bible for countless generations, we have not always been self-conscious about reading as women. There are many reasons why it is important that women do so. Women have distinctive questions to raise about the Bible and distinctive insights into its texts: our experiences of self and family, our relationship to institutions, the nature of our work and daily lives, and our spirituality have been and continue to be different in important respects from those of men. But there is another reason, too. Because of its religious and cultural authority, the Bible has been one of the most important means by which woman’s place in society has been defined. Throughout the centuries, of course, the Bible has been invoked to justify women’s subordination to men. But it has also played a role, sometimes in surprising ways, in empowering women. Increasingly, it is difficult for a woman, whether she is a member of a religious community or not, to read the Bible without some sense of the role it has played in shaping the conditions of her life.”

    I believe this is a great discussion to have. Having sat in on and participated in many discussions regarding women/church (not necessarily our church, though I’ve had many of those also)/interpretation/scripture study/ the need for models and the need to be a model for women, I would like to offer the following suggestions.

    1) These can sometimes be emotional discussions, filled with grief, hunger, passion, purpose and testimony. It is usually good (I’ve learned through my own awkward attempts at participation) if participants can say: “this is what works for me,” and “this doesn’t work for me.” Or . . . “I like it when . . .,” or, “I’d like to share my own experience,” etc etc . . . you get the point.

    That is, our comments to each other are not necessarily there to convert each other to our particular point of view, but to lay ideas and experiences on the table so others can study them and use them in their own thought processes. I can read m&m and say to myself: hmmmmm. This is interesting. I’ve experienced something like she is writing about but not in every respect. And I can read nhilton and say: Yes. I too believe as women we lack role models in the scriptures and in the church. And this is why I feel this way . . .

    And as we look at the scriptures specifically, I can grow from reading both points of view, and any others that may be added here.

    2) I would hope that our discussion would not be so gender specific as to exclude the wonderful, insightful men on this blog. I’ve loved listening in on the conversations held previously regarding gender issues and gender-related readings.

    So, Nhilton, where would you like to start?

    And I’m going to respond more specifically to the comments so far in my next post.

  5. Jacob J said

    It sounds to me like the problem might be that you think Mother’s Day is about you. It’s not. It’s about your mother (I didn’t notice any mention of her in the post). For your kids, and for your husband, it is about you. If you don’t hate your mother, why would you hate the day we set aside for you to honor her?

  6. cherylem said

    I think your specific question, if I read you correctly, has to do with the sense, the feeling, that we lack female role models in scripture, and because of this, we also lack female role models of a certain type (but we don’t lack all role models) in the church. The biggest lack (again, just trying to hear what you said) is that of a Heavenly Mother, the partner of our Heavenly Father. That is, we believe in her, but she doesn’t present for us teachings, doctrines, gifts, authorship, and perhaps most of all, she doesn’t present her person to us, her daughters and sons. We miss her. We yearn for our mother. We do not want her to be absent. We want to talk to her, learn how she lived and lives, find out how she has showed courage, intelligence, love, and healing. Those of us who are women (and I think many men also, those who know what it is to learn from their mothers) want to be like her. But how can we be her or be like her when she is so absent? Who can teach us how to be like our mother when she is only a name and not a reality in our lives?

    Carol Lynn Pearson has written and spoken very movingly of the church as the “motherless house,” and the effect this motherlessness has on the entire church body.

    m&m points out to us that Jesus Christ is the example for all, that our prophets speak for all. She presents for us a model that feels joy and completeness within the church as it now exists. I can feel her joy and her desire to express this joy – without offending any. Her joy is: there is no void, no meaningful absence, no lack. This is her truth and she speaks it with conviction and confidence. Her reference to Sr. Holland’s talk is a good one. I especiallly like this from that talk:

    “Our loving Father in Heaven seemed to be whispering to me, “You don’t have to worry over so many things. The one thing that is needful—the only thing that is truly needful—is to keep your eyes toward the sun—my Son.” Suddenly I had true peace. I knew that my life had always been in his hands—from the very beginning! The sea lying peacefully before my eyes had been tempest-tossed and dangerous—many, many times. All I needed to do was to renew my faith, and get a firm grasp on his hand—and together we could walk on the water.”

    I like this because of its emphasis on keeping one’s eye single toward the Son. In all our questioning, our honest conversation, our expression of opinion and experience, I too believe, as nhilton and m&m have already said, perhaps in different ways, that this is the most important thing of all. It is as we keep our eyes and hearts toward the Son that we engage our questions, and hopefully will find our answers.

    I think the questions and the answers are important. We live in a world that demands these answers. As we model our belief to the world outside our church doors, we’d better have some answers, because the questions nhilton raises will be asked more directly and more harshly than ever before. Conversions may depend upon how we can answer the question of female modeling in the scriptures and in the church. How our sons feel about priesthood, how our daughters feel about continued membership and activity, how we feel about ourselves, will also depend on the way we think about this issue, and the answers we find.

    These are just some beginning thoughts. I think this discussion can take a long time, be careful and slow, and also be strengthening for us all.

  7. nhilton said

    #5 Jacob J: “For your kids, and for your husband, it is about you. If you don’t hate your mother, why would you hate the day we set aside for you to honor her?” Exactly. First, for my kids & husband I don’t feel good enough…is anything/one EVER good enough for your kids & husband (spouse)?…a bad case of perfectionism sets in on Mother’s Day. Second, I don’t hate my mother and I try to honor her the best way I can on Mother’s Day & every day but it’s a long-distance relationship & I miss her.

    This is a good segway to the real point (thanks Cheryle for getting it) and that is that I miss my Mother in Heaven and her upstanding daughters who might be a light to me as I try to do better as a mother myself…kinda back to my first point here, rather cyclical I think.

    I like Sis. Pearson’s term “motherless house.” I’ve read enough of her to know she deeply resonates with this post but worry about the focus she places on this issue to the point of distraction from the Savior. Per some of her other writing themes, I also question her judgement and depth of testimony. This is merely my reaction to her writings and I probably would benefit a great deal from a heart to heart with her in person.

    I think this worry, temptation, stumbling block, etc. is a real reason, if not the main reason, why faithful sisters shy away from this conversation saying that they have enough & don’t need more. I respect Sis. Holland but think once again she’s having to bandage a wound. I don’t think the fix is permanent. Other women are afraid of opening this can of worms & candidly discussing this issue. It’s thin ice. Some have been ex-communicated for their voiced views & the resultant actions that dwelling upon this subject has led to. It’s these sisters who, if they had engaged in a discussion long ago with faithful, sister scriptorians willing to go the distance with them on the subject, might have been spared the pain of the diverting distraction.

    On this annonymous blog I think we’re all safe so let’s open up. :)

    Oh, & I think Cheryle meant “exclude” instead of “include” in #4. ? So, Brothers, have at it!

    Here’s an eye opener on just how insecure the lack of information makes women in the church: There’s a mantra all females, 12 and older, recite at least weekly that states who they are and their relationship to God and how they fit into His divine plan & what He expects of them. The boys have no such thing, unless you want to call the scout oath something akin to the Young Women’s theme. Hardly. Odd? No, not really. Clearly the need is with the women & not with the men so obviously there is a void & the theme is an attempt to fill it. BTW, this is not a critisism of the theme. I love it, know it by heart & have recited it countless times both verbally & in sign language. It’s inspired. But why is it needed?

  8. m&m said

    I appreciate the way you help put some bounds on the discussion. And you have done a kind job of not trampling on my feelings about this, because in this internet sphere, they are not always very welcome, or very respected. THEY are often brushed under the rug, so thank you for not doing that.

    But if I may, could I point out something that stifles me a bit, while we are in meta-mode for a minute? I’m really sensitive about this generalizations thing, so just know that up front. And please try to understand the spirit in which I say this.

    You say: “Carol Lynn Pearson has written and spoken very movingly of the church as the “motherless house,” and the effect this motherlessness has on the entire church body.”

    Carol Lynn has strong feelings about this, but I don’t want her to speak for me. To be frank, her piece on a motherless house was one I really disliked. I realize SHE feels that way, but I don’t. You might and I want to respect and understand that. But “this motherlessness” doesn’t affect many of us in a personal sense, and it’s really, really important to me that that be remembered, or else it will hinder discussion, at least for me.

    I come to this discussion with great trepidation and insecurity because of the sensitivity of the topic and the unpopularity of my point of view. These generalizations hinder the “my experience is” discussions for me that I think you wisely reminded us these need to be.

    Not to be a pain, but just to help you understand more where I’m coming from. You say: “we’d better have some answers, because the questions nhilton raises will be asked more directly and more harshly than ever before. Conversions may depend upon how we can answer the question of female modeling in the scriptures and in the church.”

    Might I ask if we can just keep this discussion at the idea that questions and seeking for answers are simply important because they are important to us as individuals, right here, right now? Feeling like we HAVE to get to answers to convert or answer to others feels like putting undo pressure on an already sensitive topic…pressure that again makes people like me feel that my point of view isn’t welcome…because I don’t feel the same urgency for the big picture reasons you might. I want to know why this mattets to YOU, not have us impose why it “might” matter “out there.” Not that what we do in our lives doesn’t have an effect, but I don’t believe it’s our place to decide what issues need the most attention for the world’s sake, for the sake of conversions. And it complicates discussion for our purposes, IMO. At least it does for me.

    I think we can get at the same sharing of thoughts without feeling we are duty-bound to find answers. If answers distill, great. If not, we learn about each other at least. :) I just wonder if we can depressurize the issue just a bit. ;)

    Am I making sense? Is this OK to say? Like cheryem in another post sharing delicate, personal feelings, this is that type of comment for me. Please try to understand. I hope I haven’t offended anyone.

  9. m&m said

    I respect Sis. Holland but think once again she’s having to bandage a wound. I don’t think the fix is permanent.

    Hm. I’m not sure I agree with you. I deeply feel that she just realizes that we don’t know all things and that is OK. I also see her looking to the scriptures for guidance and insight on these very topics, just as you say you want to do here. So maybe she really IS OK, and is inviting us to be OK, too? Not just bandaided, but really, wholeheartedly aided. Does she struggle? Yup, and she admits it. It’s one of the reasons I love her so much. But aren’t the struggles of feeling frustrated with our imperfections, feeling overwhelmed and never enough, etc. wounds that are there because we are still trying to invite the Savior’s atonement to bind those wounds? Would more women in the scriptures really help us do that better? I’m asking an honest question.

  10. m&m said

    ergh, didn’t close the italics tag, I guess…. [Fixed now.]

  11. Ray said

    You asked for a man’s input, so . . .

    I read a fascinating book in college titled “The Changing of the Gods” by Naomi R. Goldenberg. It described the rise of the goddess movement in the last half of the 20th Century – at least, that’s the time period my brain says it addressed, too many years after reading it. It’s central point was that Catholicism portrayed God as male and men as His earthly manifestation to such a degree that women lost any perception of themselves as divine – and, therefore, turned to modern goddess movements in order to replace what had been lost to them. In that light, scriptures that were written by, and predominantly for, men tend to express their perspective on their relationship to God – often to the exclusion of women.

    Two points about our own time and church:

    1) We are called heretical particularly for our concept of eternal progression – and that central concept places women right alongside men as equal partners throughout the eternities. When we “leave the world” and enter the temple, there is no Priesthood distinction between men and women. I find that absolutely fascinating – as if to say that it is only by leaving the limitations of the world and entering God’s House that women can understand and exercise their full potential as women. The Proclamation to the World mentions specific primary roles, but it also counsels husbands and wives to share even these primary roles as equal partners. Our modern prophets, particularly Pres. Hinckley, have focused extensively on honoring and sustaining women. We men usually don’t live the ideal we preach in this regard nearly well enough, but there are no higher promises for women AS WOMEN than there are in this Church.

    2) Women tend to be more critical of themselves than men are of themselves. They also tend to care more about what others think than men do. This means that it is much more of a nightmare for a Bishopric to plan and execute Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day than on Father’s Day. I know from personal experience that there will be complaints about Mother’s Day talks from someone no matter what is said every single year in almost every, if not every, ward. Frankly, I think every single complaint I have heard about Father’s Day talks over the years have come from women, as well.

    I have been married for over half my life now, and I don’t have any easy answers – but I do have an intellectual crush on m&m, so, “What she said!” :-) Seriously, there is more material focused on women and their importance in the overall Plan of Salvation in this day and age than ever before in the history of the world. My only advice, since I know my wife wants just a listening ear more often than she wants advice, is to take advantage of those materials and thank the Lord above that you live in this day and age and have access to an organizational structure that truly and sincerely values and exalts womanhood as it does – not in a temporary way like other churches, but rather in an eternal potential way that really and truly exalts.

  12. m&m said

    When we “leave the world” and enter the temple, there is no Priesthood distinction between men and women.

    I’m actually going to disagree with this in the tiniest way, or at least remind us of something that has intrigued me. Men have to be ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood before entering the temple. This isn’t the case for women. Something different is going on in the temple than what we usually deem “receiving the Priesthood.” Do I know what that is exactly? Nope, but I have put priesthood is on my list of topics for the year. Like maybe I want to spend the whole year studying it, because I think we really have sooo much we don’t understand about it. :)

    That said, overall, I think the temple is a profound place to start to understand what equality means to God and what it can mean to us…that God is no respecter of persons and that we all have the opportunity to return to His presence. We are all given what we need for that to happen. That is powerful, foundational doctrine if you ask me. :) And I agree with you, Ray, that women in this day and age in the Church have so much. My opinion is that the trick is really learning to see these things in the way God designed and defines them, not based on what the world defines as meaningful, powerful, equal, loved or whatever else. IMO. :)

  13. cherylem said

    #7nhilton: i fixed the exclude/include. Thanks. Dyslexic fingers struck again.

  14. RuthS said

    I hated Mother’s Day for years. My mother hated Mother’s Day. I guess she was embarrassed by the attention and dismayed that once a year her kids did things to please her while the rest of the time she was more or less their servant. And although my kids got great joy out of bringing me breakfast in bed I dreaded being left to myself in my room to pretend to like it so I wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t mind the flowers and I thought it was a great inovation to give potted plants, at least they were still alive, (I was a little envious when my husband got a candy bar on Father’s Day.) The booklets with talks about the glories of motherhood just left me irritated. I felt like they were somehow criticisms of me–not very rational–and induced feelings of guilt. The whole day was more or less a guilt trip. I suppose that began to change when I taught a lesson on motherhood in Relief Society. I started out by asking the question, if the word mother were a food what food would it be. The answers were chocolate cake,some kind of pie, an ice cream sunday and lots of other delicious and rich delicacies. Then I asked the same question about motherhood. The answers were broccoli, culiflower, sourkraut and other foods that might be really good for one but that nobody said with a smile. So having a mother evoked more pleasnt thoughts than being one.

    I realized that I had enjoyed trying to please my mother on Mother’s Day and had probably learned to hate it because she treated it as hateful. I realized that there really are two sides of Mother’s Day. I started focusing on the purpose of Mother’s Day. That helped me learn how to feel good about my family doing nice things for me. I still don’t read the booklets. But now that my children are grown it means a lot to be remembered and know that I am still a part of their lives regardelss of distances and other things that might separate us.

    I think the Old Testament has many role models for women. I expesially like the daughers of Zelophehad. But, all of the matriarchs in the book of Genesis played significant and even essential roles in the way the covenant was passed on. There are many others. Church history is repleat with role models. The characteristics that Christ embodies and that people strive to develope are all qualities that our society gives to women.

    I believe a good deal of the problem of the percieved supression(I’m not sure this is the right word. It is the only one that comes to mind at the moment.) of women is cultural and not theological. I think it is safe to say Christ is the role moden for human kind. That makes me happy.

    We might make the same covenants in the temple, but the priesthood is still the priesthood. Women have a broader role in that setting because there are some things men cannot do for women, so those tasks are delegated to women. But so what, I can remember when women weren’t allowed to pray in sacrament meeting. When they decided to allow it they came to Relief Society and asked people to sign up if they were willing. Being exempted from the responsibility of holding the priesthood isn’t all bad. Especially when we have so much.

  15. Robert C. said

    Fascinating and difficult issues here. A couple thoughts, coming mostly with the scriptural issues in mind:

    First, Joe Spencer’s recently got me wondering a lot about “sealing” in scripture and the temple (see his recent post at the Reading Abraham blog/e-seminar on Chapter 2 of The Gift of Death, and I think a bit at the wiki). So I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be too far off base to think about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon as containg more accounts of women. Even if we don’t think about the BOM specifically in this way, I think it makes sense to think in terms of the heavens being sealed in a certain sense regarding more women in Israelite history (incl. the future)—that is, in the same sense that we might pray and seek out the “greater things” that are sealed (I have 3 Ne 26:9ff particurly in mind here…), I think it makes sense to seek out a greater understanding for the role of women in Israelite history (again, incl. the future).

    Does this mean I think we should also seek out a greater understanding of our Mother in Heaven? I honestly don’t know (and of course I don’t want to go on record as advocating such a position!). I think the problem with approaches such as Pearson’s is not so much what is being undertaken, but how.

    Julie Smith wrote something at T&S not long ago about Elder Holland’s candid comments about his feelings about the Priesthood ban (Julie was sort of responding to a series of posts at BCC on this topic, sorry I don’t have the link handy…). I can’t remember specifics, but I remember thinking how exemplary his attitude was. This bothered him, and I think he even prayed for the lifting of the ban, crying tears of gratitude when it finally came—but he did not merely sit around complaining, contentiously arguing that things really needed to change. I’m not accusing anyone here of taking this less-effective approach (remember, after all, that Satan is the accuser!), rather I think it’s too easy for us to think in terms of accusation and apologetics, rather than searching and seeking in a way that is humble, prayerful, diligent, faithful, etc.

    I think this is actually a very important scriptural theme, this attitude of searching and striving to bring about the Kingdom, a Kingdom that is always yet-to-come. The word seal I think implies this, a book that is sealed begs to be opened and revealed (similarly, I think a family that is sealed, begs to be perpetuated…). And of course this idea of an open future has been distinctive to Mormonism since its beginning, in the form of continuing revelation.

    I’ve actually been thinking about these themes in terms of veils, following some of our previous conversations. I think this interplay between what is veiled and what is unveiled might be taken as central to the dynamic way of being that we are to think about existence. I think Jim F.’s article on Gen 2-3 points in this direction, that Adam and Eve, who are to become as one, exist in an open relationship to each and to God. If only Adam stands before God, alone and unveiled, then Adam is totalized (to use a key Levinasian term), merely a finite individual. It is only when the unveiled and the veiled come together that fruitfulness (in the Mormonese sense of both eternal progression and eternal increase) truly becomes possible….

  16. nhilton said

    When we “leave the world” and enter the temple, there is no Priesthood distinction between men and women.

    I don’t agree with this statement but feel this forum is an inappropriate place to discuss the goings-on of the temple in any specific ways. I see the same patriarcle order functioning there as anywhere else in the church. Looking in the scriptures, we see that Mother Eve plays an integral role in the garden and we see her courage as protrayed in the PofGP. (Whereas Genesis casts her as a perpetrator and the fall-gal for the rest of humankind) but once she exits the garden she and her daughters become silent partners, almost in a patronizing sense. I assume this is a template for the eternities so I must assume the eternities are likewise patriarcle and equality is a fuzzy thing, even there. This I must simply chalk up to:

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my aways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa. 55:8-9

    This is where I leave a lot of my thoughts. :) I appreciated Ray’s #5 thoughts (ha!) & commend him for venturing where even angels may dare to tread. (m&m has voiced the 2nd half of this fear factor in even discussing this topic. m&m, you’re not alone here. I felt just as you’ve expressed when I read the Deseret News article recounting the comments made by Sis. Bushman re: the Women’s Monument in Nauvoo and her dislike for the one depicting the oldest woman quilting. Women’s roles & identities really are fractured! I wonder why it’s such a difficult subject?)

    Ray mentioned a reading on the subject of women in the scriptures. I recall that Elizabeth Stanton wrote a “women’s bible” as she advocated for women’s right to vote. I always found that remarkable. She obviously didn’t feel like the Bible was speaking to her as a woman. Even modern-day fiction is still promoting this “goddess movement” Ray mentions, i.e. DaVinchi Code. I think it’s dangerous to use any resource, outside of the scriptures & the prophet, to gain information or direction on this subject. You must be soooo careful who you’re listening to! Especially the hungry. It’s plays right into the yearning felt to be told that there is a 2nd half of diety and they’ve been suppressed all along! Poppycock!

    So, the need is there, obviously. And, the reason I pursue the topic is that women (all people) will look for their needs to be filled & if not by true religion, by something else. George Tyrrell said it better,

    “If [mankinds’s] craving for the mysterious, the wonderful, the supernatural, be not fed on true religion, it will feed itself on the garbage of any superstition that is offered to it.”

    Perhaps some women experience a greater need than others for this divine female relationship & modeling. My own experience is that I have felt this need deeply at some moments in my life and at others the need is filled with what I’ve been given.

    RuthS: Thanks for your candor. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my feelings re: Mother’s Day. I can see that there may be a day when it is more enjoyable for me & I do know that I’m really the obstacle to this happiness. I own my problem. Also, I loved your effort to recall specific women from the scriptures who you find examplary. Thank you! I’m thinking you were recalling this about the daughters of Zelophehad: Numbers 27:1, 7? I’d like to know what, exactly, you find modeling in this story. And, how did it feel to you when women weren’t allowed to pray in sacrament meeting? I thought I was old…but I don’t remember this?! I do, however, remember wearing slacks & pantsuits to sacrament meeting when I lived in Baton Rougue, LA as a child. Then, moving to UT where a dress was REQUIRED seemed so strange and sexist…why did those boys get to wear pants & I couldn’t?!

    So, back to what to do with this post: How many participants do we have? Six? I’m not sure it’s even doable with this few interested parties. I hope more people will engage. But, this being what it is, let’s address a question. Is there one you’d prefer or is this a good one:

    Why do many women feel disenfranchised, overlooked, neglected (call it something else if you like) by the church/gospel/scriptures? Is this justified or not? How does one overcome these feelings?

    Ruth addressed this question: “I believe a good deal of the problem of the percieved supression…of women is cultural and not theological.”

    Is this problem NOT THEOLOGICAL? It appears to me, via the scriptures, that it is. What about those daughters of Zelophehad who had to petition for what was rightfully theirs? Tamar comes to mind here, too. Are these theological impositions or cultural?

  17. nhilton said

    Robert C. “So I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be too far off base to think about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon as containg more accounts of women.” This is hillarious and ingenious thinking. Maybe I should use this answer the next time I’m questioned about why there aren’t more female role models in the scriptures. I really can’t contain my laughter…it’s interferring with my typing…:)

  18. Geoff J said

    I suspect this thread is on track for a record number of :-) and ;-) emoticons used.

  19. Robert C. said

    Geoff J #18, in economics research, we’re always looking for ways to measure things that are difficult to measure. ‘Per capita emoticon usage’ strikes me as a good measure of the sensitivity of a blog topic….

    nhilton #17, I was indeed trying to be somewhat cheeky, but I’m afraid I ended up being laughable/comical instead…;-). The issue I’m wondering about, which I’m sure will come up repeatedly when we begin studying Girard more carefully, is how sacrosanct we must regard scripture. I think the stance we take toward scripture, like the stance we take toward any Other, must be faithful, charitable, and diligent, yet not unquestioning. It is the very notion of eschatology—the Kingdom-to-come—that I think calls us to engage in this manner which does not preclude a certain kind of questioning, looking at what is there as well as what is not there.

    I’ll stop now before the light of day is no longer visible in this ever-deepening comical hole I’m digging!

  20. m&m said

    Elder Holland’s candid comments about his feelings about the Priesthood ban

    Here is a link to the interview with Elder Holland where he talks about his feelings regarding the ban. This interview ought to be required reading in my opinion. :)

  21. m&m said

    Geoff J #18, in economics research, we’re always looking for ways to measure things that are difficult to measure. ‘Per capita emoticon usage’ strikes me as a good measure of the sensitivity of a blog topic….


    Women’s roles & identities really are fractured! I wonder why it’s such a difficult subject?)

    What comes to mind is Sister Dew talking about the adversary’s assault on women. I believe she is right that he is actively trying to pull us down and out.

    I think it’s dangerous to use any resource, outside of the scriptures & the prophet, to gain information or direction on this subject. You must be soooo careful who you’re listening to! Especially the hungry. It’s plays right into the yearning felt

    Such great thoughts.

  22. Ray said

    First, I echo “such great thoughts”.

    To start with the obvious, we live in a world full of bigotry of all kinds. “The natural man” issue is real and destructive and truly regrettable. Further, throughout the history of the cultures that dominate our scriptures, the sexism that is exhibited is directed against women. Given this reality, it is unrealistic to expect a lack of emotional conflict among women – as a whole, even if not individually.

    Why do women feel they have to wear make-up and be model thin and wear clothing that accentuates the physical and on and on and on? To attract men who can’t see past the obvious and physical. There is an obvious connection to the hunter-gathered-protector and nurturer roles, so it is deeply ingrained. Therefore, until men rise above their natural selves, women will be faced with the consequences.

    I knew a girl growing up in our small, Utah town who is slightly overweight and rather plain looking by society’s standards. She always felt that judgment and never felt fully accepted by the boys in town – never felt that she was “worth much” as a girl. One day in her late teens, she met a young man who went home and told his mother, “I’ve just seen the most beautiful girl in the world.” About a year later, they were married – and now she glories in her womanhood. I know this sounds Johnny Lingo-ish, but this particular girl still is overweight and rather plain looking. The world still would look at her and say, “She’s nothing special,” but she knows differently because someone else knows differently.

    As to the question, “Why do many women feel disenfranchised, overlooked, neglected (call it something else if you like) by the church/gospel/scriptures?” my response is pretty simple – in reverse order: “Even men in the Church have not understood and valued women as they should.”

    “Is this justified or not?” No, by the Gospel. Yes, by the Church and scriptures, it’s justified, given history, but it is much less justified now – and moving more and more away from being justified as time goes by.

    “How does one overcome these feelings?” By recognizing the theological equality we preach, by fellowship among the sister-Saints, by finding joy and fulfillment in individual circumstances, etc.

    I know there are issues in our own religious past that need to be faced and corrected, but the theological foundation is there to do it the right way – without swinging the pendulum too far and simply creating a different inequality (or false, unmanageable equality) – as we see, IMHO, in nearly all feminist movements in society at large.

  23. I’ve neglected this discussion for the simple reason that my only responsible approach to the original question necessarily inhabits that region between a total threadjack and the most direct response of all. I haven’t the time I wish I had tonight to address it, so I’ll just put it forward in the shape of a question:

    Might the obvious lack of female role models in the scriptures indict our understanding of the scriptures rather than the texts themselves?

  24. m&m said

    Might the obvious lack of female role models in the scriptures indict our understanding of the scriptures rather than the texts themselves?

    I actually think this might be some of what Sister Holland was getting at. FWIW.

  25. Robert C. said

    nhilton #16: “I think it’s dangerous to use any resource, outside of the scriptures & the prophet, to gain information or direction on this subject.”

    The problem is that it is, in many important respect, not very clear how we should interpret scripture or what prophets say. That, in a very real sense, is the main purpose of this blog (and one reason we like try to keep things focused on “the Word” and interpretation thereof…).

    Joe #23: I think what you say goes without saying, and has been acting unsaid in this thread. The question is, how is our understanding indicted? One rather obvious (and very caricatured) response is that women are not as important as men—this would indict our understanding (that men and women are, in some sense, equal) but not the text, as you suggest. But (obviously) it’s an answer most of us would not find satisfying, contrary to the Spirit somehow, and more literally contrary to the idea of “equal partners” that we find in the Proclamation and counsel we’ve been given over the pulpit. So what are some new ways to think about this?

  26. Robert (#25),

    Thanks, I see how my question was ambiguous now. Let me reask it less ambiguously:

    Might the obvious lack of female role models in the scriptures indict our understanding of what the scriptures are far more than it does our understanding of what the scriptures say?

  27. RuthS said

    What I like about the daughters of Zelphehad is that they were advocates for themselves. They are in a calamitous position because their father has die in the wilderness leaving no male to inherit. There is no precendent for female ownership of land. So they come up with a plan. They decide to take their case directly to Moses. They communicate very well. They know exactly what the negetive thing is that they want to change. This is a specific complaint based obvious and observable harm to their status within the community. The will never have a place in Israel by virtue of their father’s inheritance. They present their case to Moses along with their petition that they be allowed to have an inheritance, lands that would have been their father’s had he not died. Moses grants their request and changes the law with the stipulaltion that they not marry outside their tribe. According to From Eve to Esther by Leila Leah Bonner p. 126 Midrashic sources give this account of their conversation on how to approach Moses. “They [the daughters said] The compassion of God is not as the compassion of men. The compassion of men extends more to men than to women, but not thus is the compassion of God; His compassion extends equally to men and women and to all. . .”
    These women are considered very wise because they chose to approached Moses at exactly the right time. They showed knowledte of the law. They made exactly the best case and they succeeded. They set a good example for all women in faithfulness and wisdom in dealing with men.

    How did I feel about women not being able to pray in sacrament meeting. I didn’t even realize it was a policy until they came in and asked for volunteers. I don’t think I had missed anything by not praying in sacrament meeting. Maybe it was only a local policy.

    I wonder sometimes if sisters who feel disenfranchised and left out would really feel any better if it were a woman on the other side of the bishop’s desk. Some of the most painful expereinces I have had in my life in the church have been the result of dealing with women. I’ll never forget how long it took me to work through and recover from the Education Councilor in the Relief Society telling me I couln’t even act as a substitute teacher in Relief Society because I didn’t love the sisters enough. I was an angry person who needed to get in touch with my inner child and face whatever really bad thing had happened in my childhood so I could move on. I wasn’t angry when I walked into her house, but I was sure angry when I walked out. Women are just as capable of abusing power as men are. So what is it that the women who feel this way really want? What negetive consequences are a part of their lives that are observable in the real world? Just feeling disenfranchised isn’t really enough to get at what if anything might be helpful. I feel disenfranchised when I don’t have a calling. Is that what they are talking about. Hypotheically speaking I might feel dienfranchised when I don’t get speak in church, I don’t get to pick the songs? Give us something to work with.

    The fact that women don’t have the priesthood is doctrinal. The fact that some women feel persecuted is not. The fact that some men feel that they are entitled to be abusive and controling because they are priesthood holders is a perversion and amen to the priesthood of that man.

  28. nhilton said

    Ruth S: You say, “Just feeling disenfranchised isn’t really enough to get at what, if anything, might be helpful. I feel disenfranchised when I don’t have a calling. Is that what they are talking about. Hypotheically speaking I might feel dienfranchised when I don’t get speak in church, I don’t get to pick the songs? Give us something to work with.”

    Disenfranchised because there is no female diety and very few female role models, especially on mothering, in the scriptures.

    Thanks so much for your “daughters of Zelphehad” explanation. Those are such commendable traits you’ve illustrated! Thank you! I have really overlooked these 5 sisters as role models and have gained as you’ve highlighted them here. Thanks! What is the “Midrashic sources?”

    Joe: “Might the obvious lack of female role models in the scriptures indict our understanding of what the scriptures are far more than it does our understanding of what the scriptures say?” I love your question. Please give some direction in answering it here. :)

    Geoff: I love your observation: “I suspect this thread is on track for a record number of emoticons used.” Definitely a “Relief Society” thread if I’ve ever seen one. We’re only missing a table cloth & hand-outs. I think it’s because the lack of voice inflection & body language prohibit us from using warm fuzzy tones which would help smooth the potential storms inherent in this blog topic.

    Ray 22: You say sisters can find solution to their negative feelings outlined in this blog thru “the theological equality we preach, by fellowship among the sister-Saints, by finding joy and fulfillment in individual circumstances, etc” My whole point here is questioning the “theology” of the scriptures regarding women. Where do you read this theological equality in the scriptures? Maybe Joe would say it’s not there & it doesn’t matter. I do think sisterhood between the sister-saints would be a nice thing & it’s a shame it’s so scarce, per RuthS’s experience. I’ve been on the receiving, & sorry to say the dishing, end of this destructive kind of interaction between sisters. I know it’s a carnal kind of behavior sisters are more prone to, but likewise, sisters are also more prone to the warm fuzzy kind of behavior, thus the plethora of emoticons in comments posted by sisters here & on other threads. And your third solution really rings true to me: finding joy & fulfillment in individual circumstances. How do you think this is medicine for the illness we speak of?

  29. Robert C. said

    Joe #26, so, if the feeling of disenfranchisement is that “there aren’t enough female role models” in the scripture, than it seems you’re saying we shouldn’t read the scriptures in order to find role models. OK, I’ll buy that. I’m guessing you’re also hinting at the idea that if we become engrossed in trying to figure out what the scriptures really are and what they are really saying and how we should really read them, then this issue and many others sort of disappear—and that the very absence of more women in the scripture disrupts a reading of scripture that tries to impute any meaning about gender balance or role models. Hmmm, am I anywhere close to what you have in mind?

  30. Ray said

    nhilton, I didn’t say that the theological equality is found in the canonical scriptures. It really isn’t – at least not explicitly. It can be inferred in passage like John’s Intercessory Prayer, but the fact that women were among the disciples to whom it applied is not obvious in the passage.

    The theological equality comes from non-canonical teachings and writings and practices of our modern leaders and time. The Proclamation to the World on the family is a great example. (e.g., Primary roles shared in practice as equal partners by husbands and wives.)

    As to finding joy and fulfillment in individual circumstances, that one sometimes requires a change of heart and mind. As you imply in discussing the two-edged sword of sisterhood, women can be very critical of themselves and other women. The challenge for many is to let go of the need to define self-worth by how they believe they are viewed by others – which is particularly difficult if their spouses or parents or friends are reinforcing that tendency by focusing on outward appearance over internal purity and spiritual glow. I sincerely believe that committed Mormon women (and those of other religions, as well) literally exude beauty (for lack of a better word) beyond their natural physical appearance. If a woman has no one to recognize and compliment that beauty, she must find and recognize it in prayer – and that can be difficult for many women.

    That’s why men have such an awesome responsibility and, IMHO, will bear the burden of blame that accompanies shirking that responsibility. That’s why, IMO, talks directed at women tend to be gentle and encouraging, while talks directed at men tend to be much more blunt and accusatory and corrective.

    In conclusion, a sister missionary said, when asked how she could be so happy all of the time, “When I wake up, if I’m happy, I smile. If I’m not happy, I smile until I convince myself that I’m happy.” She knew, deep down, that she was blessed and had a good life, so she smiled until she recognized it again that day.

  31. m&m said

    Where do you read this theological equality in the scriptures?

    I don’t think we can address our theology without addressing prophetic statements through the course of the history of the Church as a complement to and interpretation of the scriptures. They have always talked about theological equality. (I was just reading some quotes from BY on that topic today!) If all we needed was the scriptures, I think the Lord wouldn’t send living prophets as well to keep us clear on important topics. This is one of those topics where I think it is absolutely essential to look to what they say on these things. The more confusing and heated the topic, the more I feel I need to cling, sometimes white-knuckled, to what the Lord’s mouthpieces have to say.

    I actually posted a compilation of quotes on this topic just a couple of weeks ago and then found out that such compilations are potentially copyright violations, so I took it down. But suffice it to say that I filled 15 Word doc pages of quotes that deal with this topic, and I am confident I could have doubled or tripled that amount easily had I had the time and energy to do so. The consistency in teachings about this topic was exciting, even stunning, to me. The prophets seem unflinching about their perspective, unapologetic on the order of things. I really feel them inviting us to believe what they say, to really internalize and live it. I really know of no other medicine, but that of course reflects what works for me.

    S’more thoughts (my own, take them for what they are worth); It seems to me that sometimes the wrong questions might be asked on these topics. (Again, I realize this may not work for others, but this is the way I approach tough issues.) Rather than asking questions that question the validity of what the prophets teach or take an approach of frustration and assumptions that women are somehow second-class (which is often what I have run into in other places), I start with the assumption that what prophets teach is true (plant the seed, if you will). I do this even if my brain says something different. (I went through this same thing when struggling with the whole gay marriage issue, wondering why it mattered so much.)

    I then ask questions to explore the specifics. On this topic, e.g., What is the patriarchal order really about? Since men and women are equal (God is no respecter of persons and all of that, plus prophetic teachings on that topic), what can I learn about what the patriarchal order means to eternal concepts of equality?) Along those lines, what is priesthood really about? What can I learn about priesthood and other roles and responsibilities that differ between the sexes, based on the Lord’s definition of equality? Why is the divine design to have different roles (presiding/providing/protecting for men and nurturing/motherhood for women)? What are the parallels between these roles? What are the differences, if any? How do our different roles complement? What purposes might these complementary roles serve? What does the gospel teach about equality that worldly philosophies cannot and do not? What then of such worldly philosophies are consistent with the gospel and which are not? etc. etc.

    One of the things that from my perspective seems to frustrate these issues even more (when I see people frustrated) is to try to get the gospel to fit into a philosophy’s framework, rather than the other way around. I don’t think that will work. We aren’t supposed to try to change the gospel. I don’t even think we are supposed to do much to fundamentally, doctrinally (or often even structurally) change the Church (not to say we don’t have input once in a while, but on these fundamental issues, I don’t see them as up for grabs). I tend to think more that we are supposed to let the gospel and our membership and the doctrines and teachings change us — to get us to be able to have more of “the mind of Christ” — to see a little less “darkly.” Equality is not an earth-only concept in the plan of salvation. It reaches to eternity, so in my mind, questions need to be addressed in a different way, with a different mindset and different method of learning, namely revelation. That ultimately can only be experienced, not simply talked about or reasoned out. I can’t package and fully explain what I have FELT, but I can tell you it’s real. :)

    The more I take this approach, the more I feel I understand, somewhere deep in myself, so whatever ache or wondering or pain that might be there from a lack of understanding (because I understand why the questions are there!) is replaced by a peace and a conviction that all really is well.

    So, anyway, FWIW, that’s what works for me. And maybe I’m just repeating myself over and over again. If so, I’m sorry.

    I’m also sorry that some of you have had painful experiences at Church. I have felt nurtured by both men and women, heard and involved and cared about and important and loved…and that of course influences my feelings on all of this. (When you see how the order of things really DOES and CAN work, you have less reason to question it!) I suspect it’s harder for someone who have experienced unrighteous dominion in any setting to have faith in the system and teachings. And I wonder, in fact, if this is something that might contribute to individuals’ pain?

  32. Robert speaks my thoughts exactly. Thank you.

    The whole earth groaneth under the weight of sin, and I am not at all convinced that (Platonic) politics is going to better the situation at all (at best it only shifts the contexts of our neuroses again and again). For that reason, I can’t help but think that all of our call for change, and all of our attempts at liberation, and all of our desire to change the world amounts to (1) an explicit disregard for Paul’s exhortation to be subject to the (obviously oppressive) powers that be, and that precisely because (2) our task is otherwise.

    So what is our task?

  33. RuthS said

    nhilton These are the Rabinic citation for the daughters of Zelophehad. Sipre, 89-90, 107,. 126, 26b, 107n. That inclues Sipre Num. 29a, 108n; 115, 160n, 30b, 109n; 133, 140n. (Pinchas), 31a, 108.

    This discussion is most frustrating because to me it doesn’t seem grounded in anything concrete. So I have a couple of thoughts on isolation, alianation and disenfranchisement. 1. You can’t be disenfrancised if you have never been franchised. Having the franchise has lots of meanings but the disenfranchised are people who have lost the right to vote. So how does not finding satisfying role models in the scriptures disenfranchise anyone. The female role models that are in the scriptures there because they are women who help move the story along, just like the ones in history books or anyother book that has a thesis the author (in the case of the Bible authors) is trying to develope and support. Why does this constitute a personal affront to women?

    2. It seems clear to me that scriptures are interpreted through the filter of the person who is interpreting it and the values of the society in which they live. So why arent’ Eve, Deborah, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Tamar, the daughters of Zelophehad, Mary, Martha the Samaratin woman at the well and others not enough? Is it because they are not dieties.

    3. I looked up Carol Lynn Pearson’s article on the Motherless house writen in 1992 when she saw this great upheavel movement turning the world upside down and bringing goddess worship back. It gave me a headache. Logic and psychology might tell us that she misses her own mother who died when Pearson was only 15. She is balming a distant not very empathetic god for her loss. The horrifying statement by a seminary teacher that God might have many wives and not just one she could identify with really through her for a loop. But, that is not scriptural. It is just an opinion. Although, it might not be entirely illogical given D. & C. 132.

    4. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. No man, or woman, can reach the Father or the Celestil Kingdom any other way. To suggest that there might be some other diety that mankind or womankind might need to relate to in order to fill some kind of void is a denial of his mission.

    5. How do I deal with feelings of ailiantation and isolation when imperfect men or women do something that hurts me because I don’t undestand it. The first thing I try figure out is if it is really about me. It is so freeing to recognize that everything is not about me. Sometimes, maybe even 99.44/100% of the time when someone does somethng really insensitive and hurtful it is about them because they are really hurting and what they need is kindness and a nuetral response. After all what you feed grows and if you answer an offense with something offensive then everything escalates. Then I have this little mantra that I say to myself that helps a lot especially when it’s something over which I have no control. “It’s not my problem.” repeated over as many times as necessary. But the thing that really makes the greatest difference is that I read the scriptures every single day. I read them from beginning to end cover to cover without any particular goal in mind except to read them through sometimes without even marking new things. I just read them to feel the spirit. I don’t ask any questions of them. I just let them speak to me. And they do. And I feel close to the Lord and I let him fill my soul with peace until there is no room left for the pain and alianation. That in addition to setting a perfect example for all and washing away our sins and our tears and quieting the storms in our brest is the essense of the Atonement. Beside Him there is no Savior.

  34. Ray said

    Sorry, nhilton, I forgot to answer explicitly your last question. (“How do you think this is medicine for the illness we speak of?”)

    My wife was the YW Pres. in our ward for the last 3 1/2 years. One of the things I like best about the program now is the intense focus on individual worth. Embedding that early in the teenage years and strengthening it throughout those years can allow young women to avoid basing their views of self on what others (especially men) think of them. When this happens, they are more likely to find joy in whatever they choose to do – to be agents unto themselves, if you will. I think that’s powerful medicine, since it puts the prescriptive power in their own hands.

  35. Robert C. said

    RuthS #33 and Ray #34, I like what you’ve written, though I worry that both a “it’s not my problem” attitude and a mistaken view of “individual worth” can become distractions from a focus on helping others. In fact, I think a strong case can be made that “everyone’s problems are mine” is the more scriptural attitude, which is an attitude which turns us to the Savior because it’s so overwhelming. Also we discussed related issues a while back in regard to the Beatitudes, starting esp. with this comment and following.

  36. Ray said

    I agree, Robert, but it really is hard to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself.

  37. Robert C. said

    Ray, I agree with what I think you are saying, but I’m leery of the “love yourself” way of phrasing it. Jim F. has expressed the concerns I have fairly well in this article (which is from 1992, so I’m not sure Jim would stand behind everything he said in the article, though he hasn’t removed it from his website…). Here’s an excerpt that gives the gist:

    Sometimes we say we cannot love others unless we love ourselves first. Given the teachings of the world, that claim has become so seemingly obvious that we don’t question it. But is it true? I see no reason to believe it is. For one thing, to me, the most obvious problem is that loves seems necessarily to be love for something that is other than oneself. Love of self is a strange thing. Love seems to be a desire for something (though not always a need of it). But I can only desire what is other than myself, never myself. If that is true, then self-love is a contradiction. In the second place, when the scriptures speak of God’s love, it is always his love of something other than himself–of his children (Galatians 2:20, 1 John 4:11, and Moses 1:39), of the world (John 3:16 and D&C 34:3). There are no scriptural references to Divine self-love.

    Some defend the claim that self-love is necessary if we are to love others by referring to part of Leviticus 19:18: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” After all, this scripture has been repeated by Christ several times, and it seems to refer to the necessity of self-love. But it is not clear that it does. In the first place. The scripture assumes that those to whom it is addressed love themselves, but it doesn’t command them to do so.

    I tend to think about this in terms of God’s love for us: inasmuch as God loves us and we love God, then we indirectly (by transitivity) love ourselves—but it is this loving ourselves via God that makes all the difference. In some ways perhaps this is just a very subtle linguistic distinction, but this distinction has made a big difference in the way I think about many things….

  38. Ray said

    I have no argument with that, Robert. I was using convenient shorthand – trying to be brief, for once. Rooting one’s love for one’s self in “divine nature” is loving one’s self via God, IMHO.

  39. cherylem said

    I think one of the problems in reading as a woman scripture and latter day prophetic view about any story, topic, or teaching is that almost universally the story, topic or teaching is given from a male point of view. This is not a wrong point of view. It is not immoral. It is not bad. In fact, reading, as a woman, the male point of view is often, for me, very satisfying, fascinating, and enlightening. I learn a lot about men generally reading and listening to their point of view, and since I like men and enjoy their company (as well as the company of women) it would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t enjoy their point of view. In terms of direction from God given through men, I pay attention. I learn from this.

    I also understand that I am still hearing God’s word filtered through a male point of view.

    For a moment I want to put aside the idea of Heavenly Mother and talk about what I think is a very reasonable expectation and understanding that God can also speak through women, and that women have a point of view (in general, and not in every specific) that differs from men’s. The scriptures simply don’t give us this point of view, or don’t give it very often, or give it filtered through male authorship. So I have to read around what is written to try to decipher what or how a female point of view might enlarge, expand, or resonate with me, and with the whole church body, if it had been written. What I am reading much of the time is men explaining the gospel, giving gospel history, without really giving us a true voice of the woman’s point of view, or even that her point of view is important, or her part in history is important.

    Even when women speak in the church, they tend to repeat the male point of view in terms of authoritive discourse. A woman speaking in sacramant meeting WILL speak to the entire congregation, but most often she will do this by quoting male leaders. This is not wrong. It is just not complete.

    I think a reasonable person’s expectation, especially if that reasonable person already believes in equality of purpose and roles, would be that women as well as men have said things that can be quoted and taught from for the benefit of all. (And I am not saying this never happens.)

    To illustrate what I mean, consider Genesis 2 and Moses 3. There we get a little bit of what Adam thinks when he first sees Eve. But we don’t get what Eve thinks when she first sees Adam. She is actually kind of a void until he names her and says her purpose. Reading this story as given, we might think that all women are a void until they are called and named by a man.

    I would like to have Eve’s point of view.

    When the women stand at the cross, we get them as a picture, but we don’t get their point of view.

    When Paul says women shouldn’t speak in church and should have their head covered, I would like to know the women’s point of view regarding this.

    Regarding Sr. Holland’s talk already referred to, which I really do like very much, which has the ring of truth and profound experience to me, but which also probably exists as a talk because Sr. Holland has gained her authority through her husband. It is not reasonable to expect or assume that this is the only way women gain authority, or that this is even the preferred way.

    In my opinion only, of course.

  40. cherylem said

    2 Nephi 9:21 says, in part:
    “he suffereth the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”

    What does this mean? How does this work? Does the Holy One of Israel know what it is to be pregnant, to have a baby? If he suffers the pains of women, does he also experience their joys? Does he understand the female half of the sexual union? If so, is he male and female? Or is this simply not relevant? Or, in following Jesus, do we become genderless? In becoming genderless, do we lose something of the joy of gender? of sexual union?

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful about a Person whom I love, follow, and worship. It’s just that the questions remain and I am very interested in how others think about this.

    One more comment, to follow.

  41. cherylem said

    m&m #8,
    I wanted to respond to your desire to keep this discussion personal and individual. But before I do, I wanted to speak specifically to your courage in writing here. I have read your posts several times, at least three times each, trying to understand what you understand, to see through your eyes. You really have written well, and in a way I can hear, and I appreciate this.

    In fact, I’ve appreciated the entire discussion, and again congratulate nhilton for starting this post.

    By the way, Robert, I’ve sometimes wondered if the sealed portion of the BOM had more about women. Given the pattern, it is probably not likely, but one can always hope.

    I think we discount too lightly the work of Christian feminists and even the work done regarding female dieties in the distant past. Patai’s work is exceptional, and Marija Gimbutas opened for us a whole new way of thinking (though I think she was naive about men and women’s capacity for violence and human sacrifice, no matter which diety was being worshipped).

    I think it unfair to say that FOR THIS ISSUE we should limit ourselves to read only scripture and the words of our prophets. We don’t say this to our philosophers, or our historians, or our own theologians. The only thing we ask of any of our academics and seekers is that they keep their priorities straight. I think it is reasonable to make the same demands and offer the same freedoms to women and men who are trying to understand gender as it relates to scripture and to life in the church generally.

    Now, to my point as mentioned at the beginning of this comment. I would like to suggest that it is important to the church generally and to how the church presents itself to think about the issue of women/priesthood and preside/nurture: how these are defined, how they work.

    Some time ago I sat at lunch with some dear women friends of mine. I was the only church member there, and the conversation turned to spirituality. Because I live in Michigan, there have been some prominent LDS people here, including George Romney, our one-time and really quite beloved governor. Because I work in city government, my friends at this lunch were civic and/or political. That is, one is the Economic Development Coordinator for the city in which I work. The other was the Mayor at the time (she is still on our Council).

    The conversation shifted to a memory of George Romney, whom the Mayor admired very much. She admired his emphasis on volunteerism, she admired his honesty and his family. There is an award our city gives annually: The George Romney Volunteer of the Year Award. A year or so ago I wrote the nomination for the man who received this award.

    So we’re sitting there talking about spirituality, about Mormonism, about a highly admired LDS figure. And I thought (this may be not a good thing to say about myself – so again, don’t throw tomatoes), how do I invite these women to church? They are movers and shakers. They expect to lead men and women. They expect to be where the action is, where decisions are made. The Mayor, for all she was and is a political conservative, had left a church years before because of the male-dominated leadership.

    How would I explain to them the gender roles in the church? Would I give a scriptural basis for these roles? How would I explain that I’d like them to take a look at my religion (the place where I learned a language in which to know God, I say to them), but they would need to understand that even at the local level, the three primary leaders of the ward would be all male, that all responsibilities in the church would be decided by men, and that in many cases still, if they were going to be offered a job in the church (I’m deliberately speaking non-mormonese here), their husbands would be asked first.

    This may be something that doesn’t occur to many, but how do I explain that our University presidents will probably never be women?

    I don’t know how to explain this.

    I have had friends come to church, by the way. In the last three months, I’ve personally invited a woman friend, and a couple, and they both came. So it is not as if I don’t make the invitations. I just don’t know how to explain the gender roles in any way which makes sense, because they don’t make sense to me.

    Yet the woman friend who came is also a healer. Would she be expected to stop healing if she joined the church?

    I know there are men on this blog who have women equals and bosses at work. Would you invite them to church? How would you explain to them the church hierarchy?

    I am really interested in this.

    Last, these are questions our daughters WILL face. I would rather that my daughter not vote with her feet – out – but that there would be some kind of real discussion about this.


  42. Jim F. said

    Cheryl, not that you meant otherwise, but this is a problem that we men and our sons also face with our wives, mothers, and sisters: how do we explain the gender differences in the church? I think that may be the most difficult issue that the church has ever faced.

  43. cherylem said

    Jim F,
    Thanks. And yes.

  44. shelleyj said

    Cheryl #41
    I’m having a hard time responding to your questions, because, in my opinion, the heirarchy that exists in our worldly society simply cannot be compared to the “heirarchy” (I’m not even sure that’s a proper word for it) that exists in the Church. (Matthew 23:11-12, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, John 13:14-17, King Benjamin’s address). In my opinion, whatever power/position/”success” we have achieved in the world becomes irrelevant when we consider our membership in the Church. In the Church we seek not to lead, to govern, to control, to be recognized, etc., but to learn of Christ, to learn how to allow Him through the Atonement to change us, to serve, to learn to love. So my answer as to what place a successful woman can expect to find in the Church would be: a servant within the Lord’s kingdom (although I probably wouldn’t word it that way, but you get the idea).

    That being said, I realize that this doesn’t answer all your questions, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m giving a flippant the-ward-greeter-is-just-as-important-as-the-biship kind of answer. I honestly feel these things, and coming to view my membership this way has helped me shift my focus from looking inward (What does the Church do for me?) to looking outward (How can I draw closer to Christ, more fully become His disciple, and serve those around me?). I haven’t always seen things this way, and I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m finally going in the right direction.

    That being said, I my experience in the Church has been virtually entirely positive. My father and brothers are good men who see women as their equals, and I really haven’t seen men in the Church exercise unrighteous dominion (as it seems you have). On the contrary, nearly all of the discrimination and judgment I have experienced in life has been from other women. So my please understand that my intention is not to criticize your position or to imply that your concerns are unwarranted. But this is how I see things, and how I would describe my membership in the Church.

    m&m 1, 3, 9:
    Can I just ditto everything you’ve said? Seriously, I have been very reluctant to comment on any blog related to gender issues, because I feel the way you do but have not known how to explain it (and, since people on this blog don’t know me, I think I’m more likely to be misunderstood if I don’t say things exactly right). Thank you for your willingness to share what seems to be the minority FUTW view, and for articulating it so clearly.

  45. cherylem said

    Thanks for writing. I’ll be very brief because I’ve said enough for awhile. But I just want to clarify: my comments have not been about unrighteous dominion. This is not the issue I’m addressing.


  46. Robert C. said

    Cheryl, I love how well you’ve articulated these issues and concerns. Your comments have me rethinking Elder Holland’s statement of regret about the doctrines that were proposed regarding blacks and the priesthood. I don’t think there exists any explicit doctrine regarding, say, women and the priesthood, so I think it rather unwise to try and second guess the reasons that women don’t hold the priesthood, or to put some sort of bound on what God can or cannot do with the Church in the future. Nevertheless, we will most likely be asked questions about this, and more frequently in the future rather than less.

    One thought (and, again, please don’t take this or anything else I ever say as anything more than just a thought!) somewhat along these lines is that I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that these are results of our cultural situatedness. In this sense, I think the issue we are confronted with is one that essentially amounts to priority. Perhaps there exists an ideal form of government, but it is not a primary objective of the Church to establish a form of government (well, I guess the Kingdom is itself a form of government, so my point is easily deconstructed, but I think/hope what I’m trying to say is at least somewhat coherent…). Thinking about why the Church isn’t overtly political, on race or gender issues as well as economic and social issues, might help us understand what “one thing is needful” (Luke 10:42).

  47. m&m said


    As I read your earlier comments, I suspected that this experience (which you had mentioned in another post) presses on your mind and heart with this issue. I understand why it does, and I can understand your feelings at some level because these ARE tough questions. I can FEEL the intensity of those feelings. I can put myself in your shoes and understand. Really.

    Rather than go on here too much here, I thought I would link to something I wrote a few months ago which gets at my thoughts about the concerns we often have about sharing with people who “might” have issues with this, that, or the other about our church or doctrine or whatever. As real as the questions are, I don’t think that we can address them head-on because 1) we don’t know all the answers (and guessing is dangerous business as Robert said) and 2) I don’t think that this is the most effective way to invite the Spirit to convert. I believe that the harder the questions, the more people need the Spirit to work through them (or to be able to let them go, whatever is appropriate).

    This doesn’t negate the reality or intensity of the questions, but that post gets at my concerns about starting with or focusing too much on questions that aren’t our roots, that often create more questions than answers, that can cause trees of testimony to wither or not get planted in the first place. I think we need to share the “root” truths with confidence and power. (BTW, I’m a WIMP when it comes to sharing, especially in today’s P.C.-driven (and PC driven, information-flooded), culturally-charged, minefield-filled world, so it’s not like I don’t understand or share the concerns you have!!)

    But ultimately, if we share in fear of what others might not like, I fear we likely will inhibit the opportunity for the Spirit to convert and help them know what is true and then let them receive the spiritual gifts that can help work through the rest. None of us can work through these issues for each other, and so I think we can’t expect to do that for potential invesigators, either.

    In short, I don’t believe any of us has the ability to answer these questions sufficiently. I think it’s really risky (maybe even foolish) to think we can, beyond exploring our own thoughts (and even then, only as we have roots firmly planted).

    And so, to be honest, I don’t even want to try. I want to invite others to get rooted first and then let them discover and find answers for themselves with the Spirit’s help. Is there really any other way? I don’t know that I have seen any other way really work in conversion. Can these questions be addressed without true conversion, without true spiritual foundations? I don’t believe they can be.

    Alas, I go on anyway here. I hope you can feel of my heart in this, and the spirit in which I share these thoughts. I agree with what I just saw from Robert: One thing is needful and that is what I think we should focus on as we share the gospel, regardless of what questions might come up. Conversion is to Christ first and foremost, through the Spirit and then through ordinances. Everything else is a lifetime process of discovery. If it were not so, there would be no such thing as blogging. :)

  48. m&m said

    Just a quick analogy that came to mind:
    If you set two friends up, both of whom you know well, you might anticipate how they might mesh and how they might clash. You might even try to talk to them about potential problem spots (which may or may not be a good idea)…ultimately, though, you have to let them work through it, experience the relationship, and see if they feel anything. If they don’t feel anything, marriage wouldnt’ be an option and you wouldn’t want it to be. You want them to FEEL the love and commitment.

    And then once they do, you might be inclined to warn them about the challenges that lie ahead with marriage and parenthood and all that la-la land couples don’t see and won’t hear even if you tell them. Most of these kinds of things just need to be experienced. You want them to know that they love each other and want to be with each other, but you can’t talk them into loving each other, nor can you preempt the learning by experience they will have to go through with that commitment they choose to make.

    I think something similar happens with conversion. We want to try to anticipate what might mesh and what might be a challenge, but in the end, they have to experience it for themselves and see if they “fall in love” with it (feel the Spirit enough) to move forward. If they do, they will also come to realize that not everyone is perfect, and there are questions and challenges along the way, but that foundation of love, commitment, etc. will get them through, if they feed that foundation always.

    Come to think of it, this is an apt metaphor given the marriage theme in the scriptures, is it not?

    (This came to mind perhaps because I always feel a slight urge to spoil a reception by going up to the bride and groom and saying, “do you know what you are getting into?” (as wonderful as marriage and parenthood are, they ain’t always easy!) Anyway, FWIW, I thought that was another way to share my thoughts.

    And I am sorry if my way of sharing isn’t quite the best style given the sensitivity of this topic…I’m trying, but I realize I’m probably falling short and again I plead for your compassion in spite of my weakness.

  49. RuthS said

    Cheryl what you have given voice to is certainly a valid concern in may ways. I remember someone asking how to teach the gospel in Asia to non Christians. The answer was the same way you teach Christians. A woman was batized in our ward a few months ago. She was converted after serveral months of investigation. She has had a long career in government. As far as I know no one has talked to her about gender issues. As far as I know she hasn’t been bothered by them. I have it on good authority that before she was called to teach in the ward someone asked if it might be intimidating for her to be asked to teach when she was a brand new member. Someone allowed as how she could handle herself because she testifies before Congress all the time. Why would she be intimitated by Relief Society.

    To her teaching a lesson or speaking in Church is not the same thing as testifying before Congress. She works hard and prepares and she does indeed handle herself well. No one would guess that she is not a long time member. But, because I know her I see her still working on her confidence and struggleing to understand some of the basic doctrines, I see her trying to respond to the demands of her job and the LDS lifestyle that offers the opportunity to be involved in something church related virtually everyday.

    Another self employed woman who has been a member for maybe three years now, threw herself into all the activities at the beginning. One day she when I mentioned I had missed her for a few Sundays she explained that when she was first baptised she made the church the center of her life. But, her business suffered. Her house flooded. So she was going to have to cut back and only give a little. She doesn’t want leadership. She is busy with other things.

    There are a lot of really high powered women in this area. A goodly number of them are single and attend one of the singles wards. Their main concern is not leadership. Their main concern is that there aren’t enough men in general in this are and not enough LDS men in particular.

    So I guess what I am wondering is if sometimes we don’t let our fears about things we see as being problematic color our thinking about how someone else might perceive us as a group. People around here who have mentioned gender issues to me have all been men.

    Having lived with these issues a good long time part of it in a ward where there was a thriving femenist group. I do understand where y’all are coming from. There was a real divide and resentment between career women and the other women for quite awhile. It seems like that has passed. Maybe not. Our church is not the only one with these kinds of issues. Joseph Smith was ahead of his time in this regard. Since then there has been a backward slide. It takes a long for these things to change. It could be another 100 years before policies change and we learn how to deal with these issues. We may never.

  50. JakeW said

    Umm… I consider myself highly unqualified to speak even remotely about gender issues, having only been on one side of the coin my short life, but I’ve been wondering as I skim through these if this whole struggle with men vs. women in the church and what role they have is strictly an American issue. What do church members worldwide think about it all? Is it even a burden for them?

  51. JakeW said

    One more question: have we even begun to explore just how much our culture is infesting our perspective, giving us a totally wrong approach to the whole issue?

  52. How do we explain the gender roles in the Church?

    What if the very ideas of “explanation,” “roles,” and “gender” are patriarchal in nature?

    Explanation, the giving of an account, presupposes public or even political accountability, the ability to write up accounts and stories “with a man’s pen,” in Isaiah’s words (I’m more and more convinced that writing itself is paternal in nature… though I need to re-read “The Laugh of the Medusa”). The very “ex-” of “explanation” is a masculine figure, and the polis before which such an explanation comes is the masculine economy par excellence. To explain: to describe, that is, to de-scribe or to render written, to father or to engender the text (the ink flowing from the pen is as significant here as the flesh of which the parchment is made).

    Which is not even to begin to think “roles” or “gender.”

    My point is this: how are we ever going to sort out such a question? It is the most difficult question that has ever come before the Church, the most difficult situation with the direst consequences for the Church, and—as has been said several times in this discussion—it will be a question we shall have to face, women or men, quite soon. But what can we do besides ask questions? And leading questions at that? Every political (note the implication of the word “policies,” which floats about a discussion like this so constantly) attempt on our part will (must) be another manifestation of the will to power. The relationship between feminist thinking and feminist politics is not unlike the relationship between Marxist thinking and communist politics. So what are we to say, and what are we to do?

    In the end, I think the answer is simple. Our saying and our doing must become one act: we praise God (who is, after all, still God, whatever that means). Praise: thinking/thanking as an act without political implications or that implicates the political per se. Praise: forgiving and repenting, that is, confessing our nothingness and God’s greatness. Praise: remaining subject to the powers that be, but subject then with the most radical freedom, the only freedom possible.

    Praise: God’s throne is high in the heavens, and His (His, I think, or at least I quote) mercy and love are over all the inhabitants of the earth!

  53. shelleyj said


    I understand that your comments are not about unrighteous dominion, but I see how my comments may have given the wrong impression (that’s what I get for trying to write coherently after working for twelve hours). My intention was simply to try to explain why gender issues, particularly as they relate to the priesthood, have not been an issue for me personally, even though I realize that they are a real concern for others. I’ve seen a tendency for some to suggest that women who are concerned about the priesthood are weak in their testimony and just need to get over it. I do not feel that way, and did not want to give the impression that I do. On the contrary, the ability to remain faithful, to honestly seek for answers in the midst of real concerns and real pain, takes a tremendous amount of faith. I understand how difficult it can be, because I have had my own issues to struggle with, they just haven’t been these issues.

    I hope that better explains my feelings about this.

  54. RuthS said

    RobertC #35 I only resort to “It’s not my problem” when there really is nothing I can do to make a difference and I have no control or ought not to have any real control. I totaly agree that we do have community responsibilities for taking care of the poor and needy and helping out where we can.

    In response to Cheryl “2 Nephi 9:21 says, in part:
    “he suffereth the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”

    What does this mean? How does this work? Does the Holy One of Israel know what it is to be pregnant, to have a baby? If he suffers the pains of women, does he also experience their joys? Does he understand the female half of the sexual union? If so, is he male and female? Or is this simply not relevant?”

    I am reminded of a statement by Russel Means (Native American Activist) about why his tribe has rites of passage for braves that involve cutting themselves. The burden of it was, so that they could try and feel the birth pains of their women. I have had five children and mercifully can’t remember what it was like to be pregnant or to experience labor. When I had all day and all night sickness and couldn’t keep anything down it might have mattered, but I just don’t remember. If pain is pain (and it might not be that simple) then it seems to me that it simply doesn’t matter. What Nephi is talking about is the process that leads to death. And that process treats us all equally. I have never believed that each person’s individual pain is part of the equation. Just my opinion.

    I have lived in wards with four star generals and congressmen. In those wards they sereve under civilian and men of lesser rank. Inside the chapel they are equal in opportunities for service regarless of what goes on in their professinal lives. I have come to the point where I am grateful for an opportunity to serve.

    I would like to hear quotes from women. I would like to read a biography of Eliza R. Snow or Emmaline B. Wells. Why hasn’t a women written those stories? Why isn’t there a compilation of teachings of modern women speaking to their sisters? That might prove most interesting.

  55. Robert C. said

    Joe #52, that’s a pretty dense comment. In order to try and unpack it, I’d really like to take up Romans 13:1 quite carefully. I’ll try working up a post later this week (unless you or someone else beats me to it, which I would welcome…)—can you be thinking how you might explain this a bit less densely to those of us who aren’t very familiar with Helene Cixious but still want to understand how her thinking can help us understand Paul better, esp. in light of the issues raised on this thread? Also, I think I’m not alone in needing help understanding precisely what you mean in terms of the gap between Communism and Marxist thought (in particular, isn’t there a sense in which any political implementation of Marxism is un-Marxist, at least in a certain, important sense?).

  56. m&m said

    Rom. 13:1 — that will be an interesting post!

    I like Joe’s thoughts on praising God, even if I never fully get what he means. What I sense him saying is that if we get bogged down in discussing too much of all of this, we are missing the mark. ?? Too simplistic, perhaps, but maybe a teeny weeny bit close, Joe?

  57. Ray said

    FWIW, my stab at interpreting what Joe said:

    “Intellectual exploration is important, to some, but if it sacrifices joy and praise and exultation and laughter and real experience then it kills the power of the thing being discussed.”


    “If talk doesn’t inspire walk, strong lips won’t save weak knees.”

    Again, FWIW, I think one aspect of communal religion that needs to be restored from our modern beginning is the practice of joyful communal praise and worship. The Solid Rock Church up the highway might be an apostate extreme, but directed emotionalism isn’t automatically a bad thing. In this context, what would be wrong with doing away with Mother’s Day talks and treating it like some wards do the Christmas program – as one long songfest celebrating mothers and our testimonies of their importance?

  58. Ray said

    P.S. – As long as “Love At Home” is not on the program.

  59. Robert C. said

    On second thought, rather than jumping ahead of the SS schedule to Paul, I think the same issues (that Joe is pointing to) can be taken up in this week’s SS lesson, esp. in thinking about Jesus’ relationship to the world in John 17. In particular, I think we see Jesus praying that the disciples might attain a oneness that is absolutely free of any kind of power play, a oneness that we can enter into only if we follow the Savior’s example of foresaking any desire for ourselves and seeking only the Father’s will instead. It’s this completely a-political, other-worldly attitude that we see over and over in scripture that seems rather unconcerned with power structures. Rather than trying to change existing power structures, the Savior’s call seems to be simply to disregard such, but serve others, submit to others, and to not worry about power—give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, forsake the world…. Of course there are all sorts of “but what about” questions we can ask about this call (like the proverbial woman in an abusive relationship), but somehow it seems that to worry about these conditions and scenarios is to miss the call itself. It this forgetting of self for the sake of the other that seems to be the only way to make oneness possible. If I voluntarily submit to a power, then that power does not really have any power over me, right? (Of course this is in the wrong spirit, but one time when I got detention and the teacher said “OK, you can go,” I replied, “no, please, not yet—I really want to finish this chapter I’m reading first.” Still a will to power (i.e. resentment), but nevertheless quite satisfying to feel that kind of freedom which think Joe is hinting at….)

    Anyway, I’d still like to take up Romans 13:1 in this light, but this week I’m going to keep thinking about John 17 (and the extremely similar ideas in Mosiah 15, and I’d like to try to keep some momentum going at the wiki on that passage…).

  60. m&m said

    I really love these thoughts. I’m afraid to say anything else except that. Thanks.

  61. Ray said


  62. It always weirds me out when I become a point of interpretation! A word or two, I guess, of interpretation of my own comment.

    First things first, my critique of “explanation”: I realize that this paragraph is dense, and I imagine that I meant it to be so. I should probably point out this, though: I wrote it (and would write it again) in all seriousness! I don’t know that it was interpreted otherwise, but I now see how it might be so, that is, interpreted as a demonstration of the sheer silliness to which scholarship inexorably aspires. Those are very real questions I was raising.

    In my paragraph beginning “My point is this,” I am trying to draw an important implication, rather than any kind of conclusion, from my critique of “explanation.” That “explanation” (and “roles” and “gender”) may well be conceptual products of patriarchy suggests to me that we cannot even raise the question we are raising without already having compromised the questions we hope to raise. That is, we can only think about patriarchy, sexism, gender roles, etc., from within patriarchy, sexism, gender roles, etc., and we have no recourse to any kind of objective no-man’s land from which to think about these issues. And because of that very fact, coupled with the fact that answers are at least outlined if not simply determined by the questions that call them forth, anything we try to do or to say about the “woman question” is doomed to idolatry, to violence, to oppression, etc. I end this paragraph by raising the only question we still can raise in what appears to be the face of nihilism: what then are we to do or to say?

    Hence, my paragraph on praise. The only way that our thinking about these questions can escape the negativity of idolatry is if our thinking becomes thanking, becomes a praising response to God’s summons rather than a summons (if not an indictment) of God. We should be thinking about all of these questions, in all rigor and with all the scholarly acumen in the world. But we must be doing so in response to a call that renders our thinking iconistic rather than idolatrous. Only then do we read the texts with unveiled faces, with mirror-like faces in which the light of God becomes flesh (our countenances engraven so as to show the image of God).

    To sum up: we must be thinking about all of these things, but precisely because Love thinks them in us (us: the body of Christ, etc.).

  63. m&m said

    Silly me for even trying to paraphrase what Joe says. :) I’m so out of my league here….

  64. Ray said

    Well said, m&m.

    My summary was both serious and a bit tongue in cheek, but I really like what you just said, Joe.

  65. I’d write up a critique of the word “league,” but that might just get silly. :)

    Besides which, I’m not sure who isn’t out of his or her league on a blog about teaching and the scriptures!

  66. Robert C. said

    Joe #62: “he only way that our thinking about these questions can escape the negativity of idolatry is if our thinking becomes thanking, becomes a praising response to God’s summons rather than a summons (if not an indictment) of God.”

    But then where is there room for questioning responses like Abraham in Genesis 18, or the prolonged summons it seems we see in the Book of Job? What is prayer, after all, if it isn’t a summons of God, at least at times? “Ask and ye shall receive,” not just a means of giving thanks.

    In other words, I think you are raising good points that provide very important context for the discussion above, but I’m not sure that what you are saying (or seem to be saying..!) is an indictment of the foregoing discussion per se. I think the questions that nhilton and cheryl are raising (and, importantly, the way they are raising these questions) are, in effect, a form of prayer.

  67. m&m said

    Hey, Robert!
    I raised some questions, too. :) :) :)

  68. Robert C. said

    (m&m #67, I was thinking of nhilton and cheryl b/c it seemed to me they were asking the more “faith-challenging questions”—I didn’t mean to leave you, or RuthS, or Ray, or anyone else out who has asked very good questions and made very interesting points on this thread!)

  69. m&m said

    I know, I’m being obnoxious. Sorry. :)

  70. RuthS said

    Robert and Joe it looks to me are finally articulating the real heart of the matter. All I can say is hear, hear!

  71. Jim F. said

    I’ve hesitated to take part in this conversation and those on some of the other threads because I don’t want to Feasting Upon the Word to become one more LDS blog about everything rather than a blog about scripture study and teaching.

    In spite of that, I am fascinated by Robert’s question. Like Joe, it seems to me that there is something true about the idea that we ought not to challenge God, that our relation to him ought primarily be one of gratitude rather than demand. Yet, from Abraham to Joseph Smith we see prophets challenging and demanding rather than only being grateful. In Abraham’s case, though I am sure he was deeply grateful for the blessings he received, we see very little of that gratitude in the scriptures.

    It seems that we have two true principles: (1) Because we depend on God for everything, all of our relations to him ought to be relations of gratitude rather than demand, and (2) we are independent agents who have the right not only to supplicate our Heavenly Father, but sometimes to make demands on him.

    I’m not sure what to do with that apparent contradiction, but I should note that though it is an intellectual contradiction, I don’t feel any contradiction in my lived life. Somehow the contradiction disappears in worship and daily life.

  72. shelleyj said

    Could the dichotomy perhaps be that we begin entirely dependent upon Him, but that ultimately He wants us to stand on our own? He created us, continues to bless us, and has made it possible for us to become as He is, and for this we show gratitude. But His goal is for us to become like Him, which can only happen if we want to become like Him, and we show whom we want to become by the things we ask Him for.

  73. shelleyj said

    I must not know how to use the xhtml tags correctly–only “want” should be italicized. [Fixed.]

  74. Thanks Robert, Jim, and others, for this serious response. Habakkuk comes to mind immediately, perhaps because it is the densest example of complaint literature immediately directed to God, and in the form of a prayer. But I’m not sure it does not remain within the bounds, strictly speaking, of praise. I think I’ll work up a post on this question, on complaint as praise. And it will be easy for me to make it a cross between a scriptural question (raising questions about Habakkuk, etc.) and a teaching question (one of the questions I am personally asked the most as regards my teaching is whether I think I am justified in being so profoundly pessimistic when teaching). Hmm…

  75. Ray said

    Look at D&C 121 and 122. If JS hadn’t complained, he (and we) might not have gotten one of the most beautiful reassurances in all of recorded scripture. We are commanded to endure to the end (and to endure well), but I can’t think of a single instance when we are commanded to suffer in silence – except when it is a public display of suffering, intended merely to highlight our suffering for public adulation.

    There is a difference between “murmuring” and “complaining” – and the difference is fascinating and counter-intuitive, but extremely important. (Murmer: to mumble or express privately an expression of discontent. Complain: to tell of one’s pains, ailments) We are commanded not to murmur, IMO, specifically because such pronouncements are done in a way that breeds discontent. (Think of someone slipping secretively among a group making soft comments to stir up anger or dissent.) However, in a very real sense, part of our prayers are supposed to be focused on our pains and ailments – asking for help dealing with and/or overcoming them. If we don’t “complain” in that sense, we aren’t acknowledging the atonement by trying to deal with our problems on our own. The same is true of repentance. It is totally dependent on recognizing our weaknesses and mistakes and transgressions and sins and, literally, complaining to the Lord about them. Of course, we should not complain to someone who cannot alleviate our pain (like to a mechanic about our blood pressure or a reporter about an internal family matter), but we must complain to the proper person to see any problem fixed. It’s the attitude (complaining in humility) and the focus (complaining to the correct person) that are critical.

  76. RuthS said

    After a week of not thinking about the questions raised here I had an aha moment. This is relevant tho what was said about the male authorship of the scriptures etc. A book called the Book of J was published in 1990. David Rosenberg is listed as the translator and Harold Bloom as the interpreter. Without long a laborious explanation, it is Bloom’s contention that Jehovah was the author of the book of Genesis while J is the person who wrote down what Jehovah revealed. In all of his commentary he refers to J as she. Part of his reason for this belief is the strong women that appear in the book of J.
    The book of J is the version of Genesis alleged to be the original Genesis with all the later added stuff redacted out. So we see a lot of meaning in the Christian Bible that might have changed over the years when the Bible was being added to, edited and put together. Bloom compares J the writer to Shakespeare, Homer, George Elliot and others. If we didn’t know George Elliot was a woman when we see her writings would we believe she didn’t know what it means to be a woman?

  77. RuthS said

    Oops may fingers went faster than my brain. Too many words in the last sentence and and an l missing in believe. [edited — correctly, I hope]

  78. Jim F. said

    For what it is worth, I don’t find Blooom’s claims very persuasive. What constituted the “J” writings is much less clear than he and Rosenberg would like us to to believe. The evidence for female authorship is thin and ad hoc. And, something that I think is most important, attempts to understand the Bible by reverting to the “J” or other documents from which it may have been composed ignore the intention, intelligence, and possible inspiration of whoever gave us the last redaction of the Old Testament manuscript. There’s no reason to believe that the oldest / most original manuscript is the best. We don’t assume that with the Book of Mormon, where the redacted text is the scriptural version rather than the originals from which it was created. There’s no reason to make that assumption with the Bible.

  79. Jim, thanks for this comment. (You mean Bloom does violence to texts! :) ) So here’s the question it leaves me with:

    There are, in direct descent from the historico-critical methodologies that seek out questions of authorship, essentially two pathways to tread right now: one being paved by Walter Brueggemann and one being paved by Brevard Childs. What do you have to say about the debate between those two (one that seems, perhaps, to be fading?), and do you think that either of their models returns criticism to the kind of position a Latter-day Saint ought to be taking in relation to the text?

  80. Jim F. said

    I like the fact that both Childs and Brueggeman offer us alternatives to traditional source criticism. However, I don’t know Childs’s work well, though I am reasonably familiar with Brueggeman’s. As a result, I hesitate to “chose” between them. That said, what I do know makes me think I am more sympathetic to Brueggeman. I think that Childs is too ready to ignore the tensions and difficulties within the scriptures.

    However, saying that I prefer Brueggeman may be just a way of saying that I like people who do scripture study more as I do it. It may just be a way of patting myself on the back. And, though I prefer Brueggeman’s approach, I can also see how a Latter-day Saint could take an approach more in line with Childs. In fact, it may be that Childs’s approach is more in line with the way that Mormons have traditionally thought about scripture.

  81. Robert C. said

    Wow, in doing an internet search to try to get a sense of the differences Joe and Jim are talking about, I noticed that Childs passed away just last Saturday. Perhaps someone familiar with his work could write up a eulogy or something (hint, hint, Joe!). I’ve got a book or two of his checked out from the library that I’ve been meaning to look at, but haven’t had time. Here is a very interesting review by Brueggeman of a recent book on Isaiah that Childs wrote. If someone else doesn’t beat me to it, maybe I’ll write a post giving the highlights of this review (after I’ve put the kids to bed and had a chance to read it, which may not be until tomorrow)—I think it is esp. good background reading for our Mosiah 15 project, thinking about different ways to read and interpret Isaiah.

  82. Robert C. said

    From a little internet browsing, here’s one of the few helpful statements I found on understanding the difference between Brueggemann and Childs:

    Brueggemann sees Childs’ appeal to the great claims of the Reformation and the Patristic claims of the Rule of Faith as keys to interpretation as limiting; the text becomes a servant and echo of “the normative, canonical, orthodox teaching of the church” as in the premodern period. Childs’ program does not see any gain in the modern period.

    This other review of Childs’ book on Isaiah was also somewhat helpful in locating Brueggemann as more willing to take scripture as a loose collection of texts with more responsiblity placed on the end reader to interpret for himself. That is, the sense I’m getting is, very roughly, that Bruegemann is more willing to let scripture be multivocal than Childs who would be more apt to look for (or push) a theologically unifying strand throughout all of scripture. Or something like that—am I even close, Joe or Jim or anyone else who knows enough to inform me?

  83. Yeah, that sounds about right, Robert. I’m going to write up a little eulogy post today.

  84. cherylem said

    I’ve been very interested in the direction this conversation has gone. Somewhere in the area of comment #75 I was thinking about this: the way we interpret scripture and the questions we ask of it say so much about us personally and also speak to the times/culture in which we live. So of course it is very difficult, if not impossible, to say something so definitive as the meaning of scripture A is B.

    Then, as in this post, sometimes we look for answers to questions (the gender issue, among others) that perhaps the scriptures were never meant to answer. The answers may simply not be in the text, ancient or newly revealed. (There are answers there, but perhaps not the specific answers to specific questions we wish to pose.)

    I was also thinking about how difficult it is to discuss some issues without doing violence to the text or to each other. Regarding arguing with God, (comments 71-75) it is interesting for me to think about the difference between arguing with God and arguing with each other. (I do not think we have argued terribly with each other, but our ongoing discussion got me thinking about the dangers of doing this.) Again, reading Girard will have something to say about this difference (the conversation with God vs. the conversation with each other) though I’m not sure we will get that in The Scapegoat.

    Last, someone sent me a link to an article in the Boston Globe (a very long article about the LDS candidate for president – giving his family history in the church, including polygamous ancestors, etc). The article included a letter that George Romney (the beloved Michigan governor I referred to in comment 41) got from a then apostle in 1964 urging him to back down from his “liberal” stance on civil rights. The letter is certainly not official – Delbert Stapley makes this plain – but I do think it points up the danger of thinking we – any of us – understand scripture, Joseph Smith, and our own church history as it relates to our own opinions of things (and I am speaking to myself here). The letter is here: http://www.boston.com/news/daily/24/delbert_stapley.pdf

    In regards to the discussion here, how easy it is for me to read the ancient texts through my own particular point of view, my own blinders. How easy it is for me to line up conference talks (well, not so easy but it can be done) that agree with my point of view. And how dangerous.

    I believe that the ultimate reason such readings can be dangerous is that 1) they take my focus from the divine and 2) they seek for the answer I have already given, not the answer that may be waiting, hidden, for me to discover and 3) such readings can, in conversation or argument, harm others.

    This is not to say I am disagreeing with my own posts above (I do not disagree with myself in this instance), or that I am diminishing the opinions given of others (from which I have learned much). It is certainly not my intent to say that this whole conversation has not been valuable (I think it has been valuable!) and will continue to be valuable.

    Rather, I am saying that I also recognized (again) certain dangers that tempt me, and for whatever reason, I thought I would also add these thoughts to the conversation.

  85. cherylem said

    Thanks very much for the conversation re Bruegemann/Childs, by the way.

  86. Robert C. said

    Cheryl #84, thanks for these thoughts. Not sure I can connect the following thought to what you said, but it got me thinking about the importance and value of conversation with others. One idea I really like in what I’m learning about Levinas, Derrida et al, is the idea of self-discovery through others. I think our culture is inclined to make a clean dichotomy between public and private (i.e. community and individuality), or at least I was previously inclined to think in these terms, to think that “individual worship” was a more robust idea than I think so now. Instead, I think it is in our families, wards, neighborhoods, etc. that we learn who we are and who God is (we recently studied Matt 25 in Sunday school…). All action is, thus, inter-action, and it is precisely in this interaction that we prove/discover ourselves. At any rate, thanks for you thoughtful comments, as always.

  87. cherylem said

    Yes, this came out in SS last Sunday also. For whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot about having an eye “single” to God. One of the people in my class mentioned that yes, but we all learn from each other and represent certain good things to each other.

    So I think self-discovery through others is important. And when we are finished with Girard, maybe we can do some Derrida and Levinas reading also.

  88. RuthS said

    Y’all turned my question into something quite different. Interesting comments. And indirectly you answered my question. It is not what the person has to say that counts as much as who that person might be. Bloom’s scholarship isn’t particularly relevant or the correctness of his position or to whether or not it deserves consideration. Cheryl’s comments about seeing things with her own blinders and lining things up to fit a particular view is quite insightful. It is a great temptation for me as well. Is this a form of proof texting? Being open to different ideas and views where ever they come from is most difficult. And I might add George Ellitot’s contemporaries would not have taken her seriously had they known who she was. Would we relegated her to writing romance or gothic novels if she were writing today? I hope not.

  89. nhilton said

    Wow! You guys have really been at the keyboards! Thanks for all this dialog! I’m been way too busy & am off on a family vacation this week so I haven’t had a chance to read all your input. It looks like 88 comments is just about off the charts & probably not something a new-be would like to venture into. So, after reading these comments it it looks like something we’re all still interested in entertaining, I’ll try to condense the common thoughts & questions & write a new post at which we can continue this theme. If you’d like to help, maybe you could offer a “one liner” hypothesis or question that could be included in this new post. I think the post should be potent in giving us some real direction for our dialog.

  90. aarastas said

    I think that as far as we understand the attributes of our Heavenly Father we understand the attributes of our Heavenly Mother.

    Can we really assume that Jesus and our Heavenly Father are more “one” than Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother? (Cf. Gen 2:24 and John 10:30.)

    The struggle of marriage is the struggle to become one. God, the Father and Mother, for there is no God out side of eternal marriage has become “one”. (Cf. D&C 132:4.)

    Though innate procreatory characteristics of gender obviously continue to play a distinguishing role in the eternal marriage. Do not the attributes of divinity equal the perfect feminine attributes and the perfect masculine attributes combined?

  91. aarastas said

    Obviously I know nothing about XHTML, can someone fix my references? Thanks.

  92. Robert C. said

    aarastas #90, very good points and references, thank you.

    [I fixed your html tags—you had the opening tags right, but forgot the closing tag. That is, you just needed to add: “less-than sign, forward slash, a, greater-than sign.” Of course I added the “Cf.” labels, hope you don’t mind.]

  93. nhilton said

    aarastas #90, great thoughts here. Am I to understand your thinking is that when someone knows my husband, they know me?–In the celestial relm, of course. So we should feel close to Mother-in-Heaven as we feel close to our Father because they’re one as Jesus, God the Father & the Holy Ghost are one? If I’m reading you right, I’m o.k. with this.

    So, how to we access this mother-child relationship via the scriptures? Where is this mother role-model in the scriptures? Must it all be extrapolated from the mentionings of the Father? The Son?

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