Romantic Paternalism

Mormon Matters welcomes our newest guest poster.  Kate Kelly graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Political Science. She served a mission for the church in Barcelona, Spain. She is currently in law school at American University’s Washington College of Law, the only law school in the nation world founded by women. She has had a career of various and sundry amazing jobs. She has been a mortgage counselor, an interpreter, an English teacher and spent last summer in Manhattan working at the Center for Constitutional Rights, as an Ella Baker legal fellow. She and her nurturing, gentle angel of a husband blog at www.kateandneil.com.

“Our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination. Traditionally, such discrimination was rationalized by an attitude of ‘romantic paternalism’ which, in practical effect, put women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.” Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973).

BYU is closing its Women’s Research Institute, and I, along with many others http://supportwri.blogspot.com/, am distressed by this decision. My distress comes, not only because of the consequences of this shortsighted move, but because it is emblematic of the overall problem in the church of romantic paternalism.

Forgive me a personal anecdote. There are many things that are sacred about LDS temples and not discussed outside their walls, however, the fact that they are staffed almost exclusively by surprisingly spritely octogenarians is not one of those details. As a newly married couple my husband and I went to the Salt Lake temple to do sealings.  When I got married I kept my surname and, for some reason it is only in Mormon contexts that this seems to particularly baffle people. This confusion almost always surfaces in American temples (since in many parts of the world, like all of Central and South America, it is social custom for the wife to keep her name). On this particular occasion one of the aforementioned elderly crew was having a hard time understanding why, though we were legally and lawfully wed, we had different surnames. He demanded that I give my reasons for such a decision, and not satisfied with the fact that it was my prerogative, he insisted that I was not respecting my husband. His final snide remark to me was, “well it will be nice when the light finally comes on for you.”

This angry brother was not alone in his contempt for independent women. I have seen many comments from people in the past few days that it is a shame that BYU is closing its Women’s Research Institute. I think that it is not only a shame, but also a sham. The official claims from the school are that the dissolution of the Institute will actually increase support of, funding for, and emphasis on women’s studies. This is emblematic of the doublespeak the BYU administration has perfected in response to concern over many issues. Less is more. Closing is just a way of beginning anew. We are shutting this program down because we find it so, so very important.

It is this same doublespeak that is used to simultaneously compliment and limit women in the church. As a Mormon woman I find it very uncomfortable to hear men talk about their wives in public settings from sacrament meeting to general conference. Traditional “feminine virtues” abound. Wives are described as “sweet,” “angelic,” “virtuous,” “charitable,” “compassionate,” “kind,” and, most importantly, “beautiful.” One Sunday we were asked to talk and I dared my husband to describe me as his “courageous,” “strong,” “intelligent” wife. I don’t want to be “cherished,” I want to be taken seriously.

There is a cohesive and powerful message to women running throughout the church. You have a (wonderful, glorious) place, stay put! This message runs throughout the history (ahem, polygamy & the ERA) and modern role models provided for women. You want to know why “Utah Women Lag Behind the Nation in Higher Education”  just watch General Conference any given session. All of the women who speak fit a very neat stereotype in their appearance, the subject matter of their talks and their delivery (which was described by my own father this way: “Hm, I don’t really know what it is about them, but NO MATTER what they are speaking about, their tone of voice seems to convey that they are talking about knitting.”).

This stereotype is also, of course, very pervasive in LDS culture. Last fall, as a first year law student studying in San Diego, I was invited to an event for all of the LDS law students in the area. There were approximately 30 students and their respective families in attendance. I was the only female law student. We took turns introducing ourselves in a circle after the meal while “the wives” played with children in an adjoining room. All of the men introduced themselves and said, “(insert female name) is over there with ‘the wives’.” When it came to us, everyone turned to my husband to introduce me. The experience was both surreal, and disconcerting. We both felt that the temporal context of that event might better have fit the 1970s, when my mother was attending law school, or 1870s for that matter.

This institutionalized approach of romantic paternalism in LDS culture needs to end. BYU, and the church in general need to take a leap into the 20th Century (not to mention the 21st). Women and men are equal in the sight of God. We are not more virtuous. We are not lovelier. We do not want to be held to a different standard, or be seen through a colored lens. We want our concerns, choices and academic pursuits to be taken seriously.

Back at the Salt Lake Temple in the sealing room that evening, in a moment of perhaps poor judgment, I replied to the obviously irritated temple worker, “that’s funny brother, I was about to say the very same thing.”

Comments

comments

130 comments for “Romantic Paternalism

  1. November 17, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Traditional “feminine virtues” abound. Wives are described as … whatever terms the current culture values. I still remember reading through obituaries of pioneer women about how they gave used clothes to the poor (instead of selling them to ragpickers) but how they were thrifty, so they always cut off all the buttons. To those writing the obituaries, that was a perfect blend of charity and thriftiness. To me, it was proof the ladies wanted the poor to freeze. Then I realized, they were stylized into their culture. It is a matter of what the listeners as a group need in order to hear, as much as it is what the speakers want to say.

    On the other hand, when I introduced my wife at a JRCLS function, I introduced her as smarter, younger, taller and making more money than I did. One of the other women (her husband is now an area authority) hit him in the ribs and said “introduce me like that.”

  2. November 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

    My husband simply turned to me & let me introduce myself.

  3. KW
    November 17, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Wow, several thoughts:

    First, any who have met my wife, JulieAnn in the comment sections here on Mormon Matters or in person know that she is fiesty, opinionated, an excellent writer and dare I say it after that post? — beautiful.

    Second, the current incarnation of romantic paternalism in the Church is an outgrowth of the Church/members positioning themselves with the fairly far right politically with its “family values” and KSL’s usurpation of “Focus on the Family.” In most regards the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more in keeping with a liberal left leaning view (not to mention the Law of Consecration – Hugh Nibley anyone?), but that is eschewed in favor of staunch conservatism. Feminist ideology (Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are not a feminist icons) is more aligned with left leaning politics, so the Church avoids them.

    Third, I brought up politics because it is an example of the Church being led, not by leaders, but by trying to maintain a conservative appearance. The positioning hasn’t changed in thirty years. Read the arguments against the ERA and insert gay marriage and you will see they are still using the same copy. The more successul politicians in the Church already know better — Romney and Huntsman have both come out in favor of civil unions at various times in their careers.

    Fourth, at least in part, I think that because Feminist causes are often aligned with the GLBT causes and the hierarchy’s concerns of sex and morality come into play much more than we acknowledge in decisions like the WRI at BYU. The test of almost any gender studies class is going to be heavily influenced and filled with writings of lesbian feminists, some of which perceive that all male/female sex is rape. It is an age old conflict at BYU, not just in the WRI — true education that analyzes all different points of view and controlling the ideas that flow into our young adults heads.

    Finally, the Church has a conflicted history on its views towards sexuality and it feels that the pendulum is still swinging away from polygamy. (Reynolds v. US, 98 U.S. 145 (1878)). Even in 1878, George Q. Cannon attempted to defend the Church’s position on polygamy in terms of romantic paternalism: “We married women instead of seducing them; we reared children instead of destroying them; we desired to exclude from the land prostitution, bastardy and infanticide.” It seems that the Church is still trying to prove that the lascivious Mormon of the silent film era is a figment of the public’s imagination by utilizing its romantic paternalism.

  4. November 17, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Dear, sweet, precious Kate Ransom.

    JK JK JK JK JK JK JK JK JK!

    Kate, excellent post. Thank you for your inspired indignation at the very very mortal sexism that afflicts Mormon hierarchy mistaken for inspired Theology that then becomes culturally rationalized through upthrown shoulders and fence-sitting conspiracy theories.

    jb

  5. Thelma
    November 17, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Kate Kelly, thank you for putting to words what I have been feeling for so long. That women are put on a pedestal, but not allowed to move. The rhetoric from leaders has been gradually changing I feel like.
    I do remember one day when I was in the Women’s Research Institute and I was talking with one of the researchers there, and she was telling me the history of the relief society and how at the turn of the century it was so supportive of women’s rights – and how women were encouraged to not just create beautiful homes, but think and act thoroughly in their community. I wondered when it changed. And it makes me said that this sort of search for knowledge about the sisters in the past is now fading. And I don’t care what BYU says, I don’t believe they cut the program for the good of furthering women’s research.

  6. November 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Oh, you are so right on. But, on a cautiously optimistic note, I think things are kind of sort of starting to change a little bit (I’m much more cautious than optimistic). It’s an isolated incident, but when my husband and I married we both decided to hyphenate our last name. The sealer gave as an odd look when my aunt corrected him after pronouncing us Mr. And Mrs. His bachelor name, but he didn’t say anything. But on the other hand the old lady filling out the paperwork thought it was awesome. The vast majority of young couples are eerily TAMN like, but I know a number of young families that are less than traditional, and while they get some flack, there’s also decent pockets of strong support or at least treating it as no big deal. Occasionally letters to the editor at BYU like this: http://universe.byu.edu/node/4184 will pop up. And at least there are a decent number of people fighting the WRI closure. They probably won’t win, but it’s a great bit of pushback.

    Hopefully the more and more people choose to live in different ways, and the more normal it seems the more perceptions will change and we’ll start talking about and treating women with respect as human beings, not appendages of the men and children in their lives. Our leadership and far too many members may still be caught up in romantic paternalism, but I’m clinging to hope from every encouraging change I see on the ground.

    Also, on a total side note – I’m also attending WCL. I had no idea there was another female, LDS student here. So, hi!

  7. November 17, 2009 at 10:07 am

    KW- I have no doubt that attitudes towards women are fueled by the political rhetoric of “the right”. I think the parallels you draw between the ERA and the current gay marriage debate are interesting. Although, you don’t find many gay people fighting vehemently against the passage of “marriage for all” legislation. Women in the church were some of the most active voices AGAINST the ERA. I think the church is trying to refine its position… for example, on November 5th, 2008 Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose “civil unions or domestic partnerships.”
    JB- hahahahahha. Thanks!
    Thelma- I know that Utah was very pro-suffrage at the turn of the century, but I’m not sure that it had as much to do a progressive view of women’s rights as it did with the large female population being counted for voting purposes. In a Susan B. Anthony biography I read it talked about her visits to Utah and her heated arguments with the suggragists there because she say polygamy as an inherently misogynistic practice.

  8. November 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

    re 7:

    Kate, I actually have only skimmed the comments, I wanted to respond to comment 7. I think there are gay people in the church who are fighting against the passage of marriage for all legislation. The difference is that a woman who fights against the ERA is visible…you can’t hide your sex. On the other hand, you can hide your sexuality to an extent.

    So, what we have to look at instead are the people who have admitted their homosexuality. Instead, we’d have to look at those homosexuals who are in “ex-gay” movements or who are struggling to “overcome” their homosexuality, and who have made that public in some way (forum posting, blogs, attendance at these conferences, etc.,). From there, we can determine if these gay people truly do buy the church’s position on marriage, on sexuality, etc.,

  9. November 17, 2009 at 11:10 am

    One thing that always confused/annoyed/amused me about the gender essentialism in the church was the way people would describe supposedly “feminine” virtues (“charitable,” “compassionate,” “nurturing,” etc.), and I’d think “But I want my son to be those things too,” and they’d describe supposedly “masculine” virtues (“courageous,” “strong,” “intelligent,” etc.), and I’d think “But I want my daughters to be those things too.”

  10. John B
    November 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Kate,
    I enjoyed your post very much. As a man growing up in the church, the marginalization of women and setting them apart by placing them on a pink pedestal always struck me as intellectually dishonest. I’m glad you are speaking up and insisting on equality.

  11. Sophie
    November 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Kate,

    Amen, amen, and amen.

    Sophie

  12. November 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    re: #3 Wow, thanks sweetie.

    In my experience as a Mormon woman, there were two characteristics that seemed to be frowned upon: being intelligent and being opinionated.

    Of course, many individuals (men) in the church are vastly proud of their wives’ intellect. But within the community as a whole, it does not seem to be as valued as a man’s intelligence. It is the norm for young Mormon wives to work so that their husband can get through school. School isn’t just about getting a job; it’s about learning in general. I recall when the Church came out and encouraged women to get degrees. Why? So we can help our children with their homework!

    I remember the furor caused when two women in their late fifties(I hold to this day that they are celibate lesbians) who were companions in the mission field, unmarried and lived together, were called to be Gospel Doctrine teachers in my home ward. That, in our ward, was unheard of. If a woman was called, it was usually because her husband was called.

    When there would be heated discussion in the classes, women were not called on to comment. Women’s opinions were ignored–especially mine. Not only was I young–in my twenties, I was female. If a woman played well with others (aka NOT me) she would be called upon and her comment was usually, as kuri says, “charitable, compassionate, and nurturing”. Anything remotely challenging was met with smiles of condescension.

    I remember these experiences well as I attempted, for a good part of my adult life, to fit into the framework of the Mormon culture. Eventually I learned my place–but I didn’t like it and it didn’t last long.

    My last head-butting session occurred at my father’s funeral in 2007. I was giving one of the eulogies in the Mormon funeral presided over by my three patriarchal brothers. One approached me smiling and said, “So is that your talk?” He motioned to my black folder, the remarks tucked safely inside. “Yes,” I responded. “Can I see it?” He asked, smiling wider. Apparently he lost the toss-up for who was going to approve and inspect my talk to avoid the embarrassment of having ME, the family’s collective ‘wince’, speak from the pulpit.

    I smiled back at my brother and we both laughed. Then I looked him squarely in the eye.

    “No.”

    As a youngest girl in a family of four older brothers, it was very apparent from the get-go how much my opinion “mattered.” I have seen the pervasive attitude in former Mormons, who still haven’t let go of the paradigm. And I have seen it first hand on this site.

    This was and has been my experience as a Mormon and as a woman. Mormons have not cornered the market on sexism. It is everywhere. But organized religion seems to be the largest perpetrator of it. Look at every major world religion and you can see it in one form or another.

    But I remember being completely unsatisfied at the tepid position of ‘help meet’ from the very beginning. I guess I have more in common with Lilith than Eve.

  13. Sophie
    November 17, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Also,

    Awomen, awomen, and awomen.

    Sophie

  14. November 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    From the website about how Mormonism conditions (i.e., ‘programs’) people and affects their self-esteem:

    “Self-esteem and personal power: LDS females

    It is no secret that many Mormon women are depressed. One of the main reasons why is because they have been disempowered by Mormon patriarchy for generations. Mormon patriarchy is rooted in early 19th-century American patriarchy, which evolved from transplanted British and European patriarchy. For centuries, men controlled the main institutions in society (e.g., government, the military, churches, businesses) and allowed women only certain privileges. During the past century, things have changed significantly for females, particularly in Western countries. In the past 100 years, women have empowered themselves as never before in history. They have become political leaders, military commanders, professors, senior managers, surgeons, astronauts, professional athletes, etc. Females have proven themselves to be just as capable as men at effectively using power and authority, and in some cases, better. The Mormon patriarchal order is rooted in an archaic belief system and needs to radically change; LDS females do not have to support the patriarchal status quo in the Mormon Church if they don’t want to.

    Another major reason why many LDS women are depressed is that they have been psychologically conditioned by Mormonism to base much of their self-esteem and identity on being a daughter of a male deity (‘Heavenly Father’) and a ‘wife and mother in Zion’. As mentioned, Heavenly Father is a psychological construct, the product of human thought. To base part (or all) of one’s self-esteem on something that is only a belief is not wise. It is also not prudent to base one’s self-esteem on one’s marital status, which many women, in and outside of the LDS Church, do. Why? Well, what happens if your spouse is killed? With your husband gone, is your self-esteem going to collapse? What would happen to your self-esteem if you discover that your spouse has been having an affair? Will it crumble? Furthermore, if you base your self-esteem on being a mother, what happens to it if you’re no longer a mother because your child is hit by a car and killed? These aren’t pleasant things to think about, but the truth is that they are realities for some women, including some LDS women, and heart-breaking situations happen to people. Life is full of risk.

    Many women in the Mormon Church link their self-esteem to aspects of the lives of their priesthood-holder husband and their children: the prominence of their husband’s calling (e.g., bishop, stake president), his academic and professional successes and how much money he makes, the fact that their sons served missions and their children are married in the temple, etc. Why do so many LDS women do this? Because it brings them approval from Mormon authority figures (the most prominent one being God, as Mormons conceive ‘Him’ to be in their minds) and the LDS community. It reinforces their status in the Mormon ‘tribe’ as a faithful ‘wife and mother in Zion’. But what happens to the self-esteem of LDS women when their priesthood-holder husband becomes ‘inactive’, their sons don’t go on missions and their daughters won’t marry in the temple? It decreases/suffers.

    The deepest and strongest foundation of self-esteem is ourselves. It is the only foundation that will withstand the losses, vicissitudes, and storms of life. Most people, including Mormons, do not understand this profound psychological truth because they do not understand how they have been psychologically conditioned or what healthy self-esteem is based upon (the six practices mentioned above).”

    (See the linked website for a greater discussion of self-esteem and the six practices).

  15. Blair W
    November 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    The Psychological Effects of Mormonism: How Mormonism Affects People’s Self-Esteem: http://members.shaw.ca/blair_watson/

  16. Blair W
    November 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    While many single Mormon females fret about finding “Mr. Right” to take them to the temple, there are non-LDS women putting their lives on the line for the truth: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/11/13/f-interview-elena-milashina.html

  17. Donna
    November 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    We always have to be careful to distinguish doctrine from culture.

    Pure LDS doctrine deems the sexes equal. D & C 76:95 – all are equal in power and dominion in the celestial kingdom. Maybe God needed to say that to remind folks (men AND women) that things will not always be as humankind has allowed things to be. Truly celestial relationships are equal relationships.

    And, what other Christian religion has as a part of its doctrine a declaration that we have a Heavenly Father as well as a Heavenly Mother, who is, BTW, equal to her spouse?

    It is culture that is unequal. I remember that for many years women were not allowed to pray in sacrament meeting. I asked our Stake President why, and he didn’t know. He never called to answer my question, but a few weeks later my Bishop called to ask me to be the first woman to pray in sacrament meeting. Some things stay the same culturally until we think about them.

    Thanks, Kate, for always challenging me to think!

  18. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    #17 – At the same time, Donna, we are told that the human family is a type of the eternal family. What does it mean that in this life the woman is meant to be obedient to her husband as he is obedient to the lord? That’s not a cultural interpretation; that’s doctrine. Perhaps we’re not just talking about a cultural misinterpretation of what the word “equality” means to god, but maybe that is in fact what equality means to god. After all, the entire history of man’s dealings with god has been paternalistic (if not mysoginistic), including the scriptures and including everything we know about the way god operates. But somehow the Celestial Kingdom is going to be a bastion of geder equality? The prospect seems dubious to me.

  19. Lisa
    November 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    You’ve articulated something that has frustrated me for years. I hate Mother’s Day talks because of it. I always called it “reverse condescension.” I am not better than my husband. We are both good people who make mistakes. I am grateful that he has had no problem with me keeping my name. He’s the only Mormon man I ever dated who didn’t.

  20. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    “Back at the Salt Lake Temple in the sealing room that evening, in a moment of perhaps poor judgment, I replied to the obviously irritated temple worker, ‘that’s funny brother, I was about to say the very same thing.'”

    YOU DA MAN!!

    Er…wait…maybe let me rephrase that….

  21. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    #3:

    “Fourth, at least in part, I think that because Feminist causes are often aligned with the GLBT causes and the hierarchy’s concerns of sex and morality come into play much more than we acknowledge in decisions like the WRI at BYU. The test of almost any gender studies class is going to be heavily influenced and filled with writings of lesbian feminists, some of which perceive that all male/female sex is rape.”

    Good point, sadly enough. And note that if BYU did have a “women’s studies” program consistent with Gospel teaching, it would get little respect from the “traditional” Women’s Studies establishment.

    Too often, academic fields ending in “studies” consist mostly of pseudoscientific propagandizing. I get enough of that from (too much of) religion, thank you very much, without having to put up with it from the supposedly rigorous academy.

    A woman who excels in a traditionally male field like law, medicine, physics or engineering does more to combat stereotypes than five people who only discuss the stereotypes.

  22. November 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks, Kate, for an extremely provocative and well-expressed post. I hope that in time the culture of the Church will allow women to be equal with men, and not “separate but equal,” but I suspect it will not be in my lifetime.

  23. Gwen
    November 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Kate,

    I don’t think you should be so offended when other men describe their wives as “beautiful, caring, virtuous, etc.” It’s possible that those women feel very good to hear their husbands say such things. I know I do. Furthermore, just because a woman doesn’t go to law school doesn’t also mean she’s dowdy and her ambition was squashed by the patriarchy. Some women genuinely want to have large families and stay home with their children.

  24. Douglas Hunter
    November 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for the post, you are quite right about our equality before God. There is an LDS theology of inclusion and equality but it needs to be developed and articulated more often.

    As for the church jumping into the 20th or 21st century I think there is a bigger structural problem at work in that the institutional church fully embrace a pre-modern epistemology and ontotheology. This seems to be understood as the same as the gospel. So there is this structural problem at work in that those Mormons who work from a modern or latter context have to convince the rest of the Mormon community that such a context is not anathema to the gospel.

    #18 – “What does it mean that in this life the woman is meant to be obedient to her husband as he is obedient to the lord? That’s not a cultural interpretation; that’s doctrine.”

    There is no such thing as doctrine absent interpretation.

  25. November 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Andrew S.- While I do take the point that sexual orientation is different than other categories that are traditionally marginalized peoples (like race, and gender) I think many would argue that you cannot hide sexual orientation.

    Kuri- Me too! Plus, I think that the “feminine” virtues are descriptions of Christ! Meek, kind, loving etc. That is the Savior!

    Sophie- A-WOman!!!

    JulieAnn- Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think that there is a real danger in belittling anyone for the crime of HAVING an opinion. And, it’s true of women in society. The descriptors of women politicians for example… pushy, overbearing, and bitchy. A male politician with those qualities would just be A POLITICIAN.

    Donna- Amen & hallelujah.

    Blair- Thanks for the excerpt & links. However, I, for one, see myself as a daughter of Heavenly Parents after all “truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.”

    Brjones- I think you bring up an important point & question. Most fundamentally of all. What is “doctrine” and what can we attribute to human error… since we all can pretty much cherry-pick quotes, scripture etc. to back up our preconceived notions and beliefs. Since we know that official “doctrine” can change, like the withholding of the priesthood from black members of the church. Will gender inequality exists forever? Or is it something that will change?

    Lisa- Can I just say, Mothers Day Talks = eeeewwwwwww! Sounds like you found a wonderful man to marry. My husband and I never even actually had a discussion about this, so I guess it was less of a “decision” than something that just made sense for us. Another reason why I think we need a WRI at BYU = Mormon men. My husband was one of VERY few male students in Valerie Hudson’s politics of women class at BYU. I think it should be REQUIRED!!

    Thomas- I accept the (gender inappropriate & oppressive) compliment. J/K. J/K. 😉 Actually, I felt pretty bad about it at the time. But, this sprite was all up in my business & I couldn’t resist.

    & I hope to not only excel in a “male-dominated” field but, to change it.

    Madam Curie- I hope that in the church, and the world at large in every nation on this earth women will demand to be treated as equal. The powerful majority is rarely apt to concede power that is not wrenched from its clenching fists!

  26. November 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Kate–

    I not sure how I feel about this issue. I am still evaluating.

    Question: Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, to what degree? Do you belong to NOW? What about your politics, pro-choice or pro-life? Of course, you don’t have to answer these questions, but I think there fair in light of your post.

    I’ve been married for many years. My wife and I have never discussed the concerns you bring up. They don’t exist for either of us. She is well educated, especially in the scriptures. If an octogenarian questioned her the way one did you, she would turn the other cheek, bring it up to me over dinner, smile–and together we would exchange encounters we’ve had with seniors.

  27. Mary Grey
    November 17, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    As a young stay-at-home mom, I have come to be very aggravated at all the times I hear that I should get fulfillment from housework. We would never tell at man that he should be fulfilled by doing sales presentations and paper work at his job, but I as a woman am constantly told that the “better” I am as a woman, the more I’ll be fulfilled in doing dishes and laundry and changing diapers. I don’t do these because it fulfills me, but because it simply has to be done. Thanks for the great reminder to people that women have brains, opinions, courage and worth that extend beyond just supporting the men in their lives. We actually actively contribute in important ways (which do not include hovering angelically over the rest of humanity). The Lord did not send us here to be passive quilt makers.

  28. November 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    re 25:

    The only person it can’t be hidden from is of course the homosexual him or herself. But can a homosexual act in a completely “heterosexual” way and give no clue of his or her homosexuality to others? Of course!

    Can a woman or can a black person act in a “male” or “white” way and give no clue of her woman-dom or black skin? Not so easily.

  29. Jen
    November 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Kate-

    “Wives are described as “sweet,” “angelic,” “virtuous,” “charitable,” “compassionate,” “kind,” and, most importantly, “beautiful.” One Sunday we were asked to talk and I dared my husband to describe me as his “courageous,” “strong,” “intelligent” wife. I don’t want to be “cherished,” I want to be taken seriously.

    I understand what you are saying, but I view compassion, virtue, charity, and kindess as virtues that take much strength and courage to exemplify. It is a strong woman who can respond with a compassionate response rather than a non-caring one. It is a courageous woman who chooses to be charitable when she has every reason to be selfish and it is an intelligent woman who is kind rather than rude and inconsiderate. Intelligence is a lot more than being book smart, it is the ability to make choices that make situations better, not worse, and make choices to love rather than to hate.

    I personally know after many years of not being cherished that it is something that I am extremely grateful for now. I don’t think there is that big of a difference between being cherished and appreciated. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t value being appreciated.

    I wish I had more time to write, but I have to run. Thanks for the post.

  30. November 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Kate–

    PS (see #26)What do you think of Sarah Palin?

  31. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    #29 – Jen, and others, I won’t attempt to speak for Kate, but my opinion on the matter is that it’s not the terms “sweet,” “virtuous,” “beautiful,” etc., that any woman would find inherently offensive. It’s the fact that it appears that these are the standard compliments, and that they are, as a matter of course, different from the compliments routinely paid to men. Even if one were to feel that the “feminine” compliments are equal in value to the “male” compliments such as “courageous,” “strong,” etc. (which is debatable), it is understandable that some women may be bothered by the fact that there appears to be a standard differentiation between the perception of the values that men can bring to the table as opposed to those women may possess. That’s not to say that there aren’t innate differences between men and women; I believe there are. But it’s really a matter of drawing artificial distinctions between genders that I think many find offensive.

  32. GM
    November 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Never have I ever felt put on a pedastal by my husband (now ex) or church leaders. I would love to have been described that way by anyone at any point. As a single mother in this church I appreciate that I am perceived as a strong, independent woman as well as beautiful, virtuous, kind, compassionate, etc. Try being a single parent and then see how you perceive things. While I agree that it is a shame that BYU is closing the WRI, I don’t think that will stop strong independent women from finding their place in this society.

  33. November 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I love the post, Kate! The double talk wears me out. It’s hard to find angles from which to refute statements that are basically self-refuting.

  34. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    “What is “doctrine” and what can we attribute to human error… since we all can pretty much cherry-pick quotes, scripture etc. to back up our preconceived notions and beliefs.”

    I agree with this. The problem is, in this instance what is being questioned is an attitude that is pervasive throughout the history of the church, and continues to be prevalent, and has been conspicuous even in the writings of church leaders over the years. When something is borne out in practice, I think the burden is on the person arguing that such practice is NOT rooted in correct doctrine, to support his or her position. So if anyone is cherry-picking, I would submit it’s those who would suggest that this attitude, which clearly exists in practice, is not an accurate reflection of church doctrine. I think that generally members of the church accept things like the endowment as fairly authoratative sources of doctrine. That said, I’m not an expert on church doctrine, so I can’t say for certain what is or isn’t accurate. I do think there’s a tendency among members of the church, when they encounter a teaching or practice they find distasteful, to just assume that such teaching or practice is an incorrect interpretation of true doctrine, thereby making themselves feel better about it. That’s just my perception.

  35. November 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I agree with brjones–often the implicit criterion by which we decide certain ideas are non-doctrinal is that they’re not appealing to us personally. That isn’t very rigorous.

  36. G
    November 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    kate, you’re my new hero. just had to say. thank you.

  37. November 17, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Great post Kate!! I am glad you stood up to the temple worker. Those things are unfortunate given the location, but I don’t thing God smiles upon just letting things go ALL the time… my father is an ordinance worker and has a lot of fun stories… like when he “came out” so to speak in favor of gay rights, IN the temple, after some other workers were saying some unkind things about “the gays.” A few jaws may drop when we “stand for something” but others I think are given something to think about and MANY change and grow.

    Mary Grey #27 – “I have come to be very aggravated at all the times I hear that I should get fulfillment from housework” – Who is telling you this? I strongly question their feminism because the whole point to me it seems is equality and allowing/supporting women in WHATEVER role they wish to take. If a woman wants to work, great, but if she wants to be a SAHM, the great! The point to me is both roles are embraced.

  38. Jen
    November 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    #31 brjones-

    Honestly, I don’t place a lot of value on what compliments I get or don’t get. I try to live my life the way that I feel is best and work to not have any regrets. At the end of the day, my feelings of internal value come from God. I haven’t always felt this way, I once placed much more value on what others said and thought of me, but life experience and time have taught me that it doesn’t matter if I am referred to as intelligent or stupid if I am happy and at peace with my life. In other words, I don’t waste my time being offended because I am not being complimented in a specific way. I think it is very liberating when we are able to let go of other’s perceptions of us and just trust in ourselves enough to live as we believe and desire.

  39. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    #38 – Jen, I appreciate what you’re saying, but you do understand that what you’re saying is that you don’t care if the church devalues you as a woman, because your self-esteem comes from god alone. We’re not really talking about the things one person says to another person. We’re talking about an institutional attitude toward an entire group of people. If you disagree that the church, or at least many of its members, do this, then that’s one thing. If you don’t particularly care, that’s great. I don’t think, though, that it is unreasonable for people to hope for more from their religion, and I don’t think it’s petty to be offended by it.

  40. November 17, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Jared- I most certainly consider myself a feminist. I saw a comment recently that was a play on a feminist slogan that went something like, “Feminism at BYU, the notion that feminism is radical.” (Ok, it was probably catchier than that.) But, I think that all serious humans should consider themselves feminists. I do not belong to NOW. I WISH that this exchange was just one rouge senile-a-rino, but really to me (and apparently many others a la the comments here) it is emblematic of a larger system-wide problem. Oh… and I am anti-unwanted pregnancies. But, I favor preventing them, rather than terminating them.

    Mary Grey- “hovering angelically over the rest of humanity” hahahahahaha. Love it! Thank you so much for your input.

    Kiskilili- Thanks. And, yes. It totally wears me out. Sort of like always being on the defensive.

    Andrew- Definitely not as easily. Apples & oranges. True.

    Jen- I am glad you are being appreciated/cherished/loved!!! And, I’m not sure you really can be any of those without being taken seriously. I see the two as tied. Inextricably.

    Brjones- “artificial distinctions between genders” yes. that is it. If I had a dollar for every time I heard in church that women are natural nurturers, I’d be able to pay back my law school loans in no time flat! And, every time I think, “what the heck?!?!” (in true Mormon non-swearing fashion of course 😉 ) I know PLENTY of women who are NOT natural nurturers.

    Kiskilili/ Brjones- I do think that more progressive people in the church are as susceptible to “cherry picking” as anyone (more so?). It’s an easy-out to think that anything that rubs you the wrong way is an incorrect interpretation of doctrine. It allows us to maintain sanity (/activity) at times.

    GM- I agree. It won’t stop us. But, it certainly won’t give us a leg up either.

    G- Thanks so much for saying so. I really appreciate it.

    Adamf- Wow. Now, that is BRAVE. But, at the same time, what more appropriate place to talk about equality and charity towards all humans than in the temple? Thanks for sharing.

  41. Jen
    November 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    brjones-

    “I appreciate what you’re saying, but you do understand that what you’re saying is that you don’t care if the church devalues you as a woman, because your self-esteem comes from god alone.”

    No, that is not what I am saying, because if I felt the church was devaluing me as a woman I would care, but I don’t feel devalued by the church as a woman.

    “We’re not really talking about the things one person says to another person.”

    Kate was specifically talking about how men compliment their wives, and I was referring to that specific portion of her comment to which you responded.

    “I don’t think, though, that it is unreasonable for people to hope for more from their religion, and I don’t think it’s petty to be offended by it.”

    I agree with you that it is not unreasonable for people to hope for more from their religion and if people feel a passion to work for change, then I think it is important to do so. As far as being offended, I have found that feelings that stem from offense tend to affect us negatively and don’t do much more than that. I think if something makes us feel negatively then we can use that energy to do something positive and work for change, otherwise, it can turn us into unhappy, angry people.

  42. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I have worked alongside and trained under the supervision of fantastic women health-care providers who I consider to be strong role models. Some have left active practice for a time because they want to be at home full-time with their children, others return to work shortly after maternity leave and their husbands have stayed at home to be Mr. Mom. It has been rare that I have encountered the LDS female physician. I have hoped that, perhaps, one of my daughters would aspire to enter the medical field…the oldest, being only 7. She has a fantastic stay at home mom, and having become a father later in life, I have been able to be there with my kids in a way that would have been much more difficult if I had become a father during college or medical school. When I asked my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when she answered, “a mom”. I would love to see her have the strength, wisdom, independence, character, and constancy that my female professional colleagues have. But I can’t argue against her desire to emulate the great influence she sees AND the strength, wisdom, independence, character and constancy in her mom.

    President Hinckley described how he always tried to provide the opportunity for Sister Hinckley to “spread her wings” during their marriage. As I have watched our family become (under my companion’s leadership) the keeper of horses, chickens, ducks, goats, turkeys, and rabbits, I keep telling myself, as I step around the doodoo, that I’m hopefully on the path to having the type of marriage success exemplified by the Hinckleys.

  43. Kahalia
    November 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    via Apron Stage
    Kate why have you replied to everyone except #23,Gwen?

    I recall when the Church came out and encouraged women to get degrees. Why? So we can help our children with their homework!

    As a first generation African American college graduate I bristle at the criticism I get from my family about my DECISION to be a stay at home mom. Only women judge each other about the work they do as parents. I have never heard my husband carry on about what a bad dad another brother is.

    PS Is that the worse story you can give about a temple worker? I once heard a couple agreeing about what a great leader HITLER was. lol, only to keep from crying.

  44. Kahalia
    November 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    “I recall when the Church came out and encouraged women to get degrees. Why? So we can help our children with their homework!”
    Sorry I forgot to put that in quotes, that was from another poster.

  45. November 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Kahalia- Glad you are keeping me on my toes. i didn’t see #24 or #25 or #30… phew this blogging is keeping me busy! Your point reminds me of that movie with Julia Roberts… Mona Lisa Smile. There is a part at the end when a student chooses to marry instead of pursing a legal career. The teacher is obviously distressed:

    Katherine Watson: But you don’t have to choose!
    Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
    Katherine Watson: No one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
    Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
    Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
    Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
    Katherine Watson: I didn’t say that.
    Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.

    I think it’s true that a woman should be able to choose home and family over anything she likes. But, for that to be a choice, a true choice, she has to have unrestricted options. If that’s your bag, grab it & don’t look back!

    AND, what in the world? That Hitler story really beats out my grump ANY DAY!

    Gwen- please see above

    Douglas Hunter- I can’t help but think of this in terms of “originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. It seems so foreign to those of us who live in modern society to interpret the Constitution in terms/paradigm of 1787.

    Jared- Sarah Palin is a media hog & a misogynist. Women misogynists make me the saddest of all.

  46. November 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Everybody- One of the most amazing people I met on my mission was a young housewife (ama de casa= lover of home, sounds so much nicer in Spanish). She decided to marry and have children young so that she could have large family. All of these decisions are VERY unpopular in Spain where people have few children if any later in life. She went on national TV to defend her decision to have children and spend all of her time rearing them. She was a brave and inspirational person. Her dedication awed and encouraged me.

    She was a great example of rockin’ your own vision of life!

  47. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    November 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    well…. nothing was on Tv and I tried to get interested in this topic but… just couldn’t do it… real yawner…

  48. November 17, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    #43 Kahalia–

    Hitler become one of the worst, most evil, men that ever lived. But it wasn’t always that way. I’ve talked with people who lived through the nightmare of the third reich. They tell a story about Hitler being an inspiring leader that did a lot of good in Germany in his first years. As time went on–is when he became the Hitler we know today.

  49. E
    November 17, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Kate, thanks for the post! I think in describing Mormon “romantic paternalism” you have said it like it is. Even though I could not care less about the closing of the Womens Research Institute at BYU and doubt the value of such programs, I can really give you an amen to your call for an end to the “institutionalized culture of romantic paternalism” in the church. Your story about the event for LDS law students and their wives was painfully familiar to me. We all have our anecdotes and I also really like your response to the elderly temple worker. I am also sure you are sweet, forgiving, nurturing, lovely, and beautiful. 🙂

  50. Rose
    November 17, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    “This is emblematic of the doublespeak the BYU administration has perfected in response to concern over many issues. Less is more. Closing is just a way of beginning anew. We are shutting this program down because we find it so, so very important.” As someone who has worked at BYU for decades, all I can say is, “AMEN! That is exactly how the speak is spoken at BYU.”

    In response to the post that declares a feminist is necessarily pro-choice and a member of NOW, I beg to disagree. In fact, I’ve decided I’m a Red State Feminist, who asserts that feminism cannot be defined solely as Blue State Feminism. Take the quiz from the link on this page to see if you are an RSF, too:
    http://redstatefeminists.org/principlespolicies.html

  51. Robbie
    November 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Traditional “feminine virtues” abound. Wives are described as “sweet,” “angelic,” “virtuous,” “charitable,” “compassionate,” “kind,” and, most importantly, “beautiful.” One Sunday we were asked to talk and I dared my husband to describe me as his “courageous,” “strong,” “intelligent” wife. I don’t want to be “cherished,” I want to be taken seriously.

    HAHAHAHAHAA. She gives away how askew her perception is when she admits that she thinks it would be totally crazy and worthy of a dare to have her husband describe her as courageous, strong, and intelligent from the pulpit. Anyone who thinks there would be gasps or even so much as a second thought from the congregation needs to seriously check back into reality.

    As for being taken seriously… perhaps she should stop acting like such an infant.

  52. Kate S.
    November 18, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Thank you Kate. It was a great article. I just read a very distressing message in the Daily Universe.
    “Also, the reorganization will more than triple the amount of discretionary money available for women’s research at BYU, so the protesters’ claim that women’s research will receive less funding is a lie! Finally, don’t forget that this decision was well thought out by highly spiritual and intellectual individuals.

    It is morally wrong for us to question the judgment of our inspired leaders. Stop crying about the loss of your feminist club. Men seem to be doing perfectly fine without one.”

    People here are some of the smartest, yet things like this are done and said. Apparently God just decided to take a break from managing BYU…

  53. MrQandA
    November 18, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Kate S.

    I tried to avoid getting involved in this post because to be honest I’m a bit of a an ignorant pig when it comes to women’s rights.

    But you quoted that BYU will triple the “DISCRETIONARY” money available to women’s research, “so the protesters’ claim that women’s research will receive less funding is a lie!”. I am not an intelligent person but even I can see through this. Discretionary is normally a nominal amount of money that is allocated within a budget to use on adhoc projects. If the WRI budget was $2m pa the discretionary money would be circa 10% of that budget***. So tripling the discretionary money only brings it to $600,000, this is clearly spin and your interpretation of the announcement is wrong.

    ***(i would just add if BYU is ran like the Church or any other business then the discretionary budget is minimal, clear, and specific justification for funding is required. “House of Order”).

  54. MrQandA
    November 18, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Kate S.

    I just noticed that you were not advocating the point, I apologies. As mentioned before I’m not that intelligent. haha

  55. Anne (U.K)
    November 18, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Thanks, Kate, for this post.

    I was reminded of an incident which happened to a female friend and myself when we went on a temple trip a few years back. We both had young families, and we took three days away. At one point we were talking to the Matron and a temple worker, who asked (looking round) ‘and where are your husbands?’ Kind of felt like we were being accused of being on some sort of LDS Thelma and Louise type indulgent rampage! We replied ‘at home looking after our children’. It was an odd moment. Now I am single again, I don’t think I would be so polite.

    Living outside the Corridor, most women here now work; it’s having the choice so to do if that’s what the couple decide, that is important.I don’t beleive any of them are looked down upon for their decision, especially not in the current climate. As for that Daily Universe quote : yuuuk!!

    It would, however, be so pleasant to hear more women in GC not employing the ‘special sister’ voice. They cannot possibly speak like that in real life, and as soon as I hear The Voice, personally, I switch off mentally.

  56. South Bend Cougar
    November 18, 2009 at 4:51 am

    So sorry to see continued posts on the “picked on” elements of feminism, homosexuality, intellectualism, and why Church leadership just can’t seem to get it right. I didn’t see any referece to the “Proclamation on the Family” and the “doctrinal role” of parenting. Joseph Smith tells us that much of what he knew had to be withheld because it went contrary to the “traditions” of men and women. Poligamy comes instantly to mind but the whole concept of “celestial parenting” and “worlds without number” is clearly a part of what he was thinking. To those of us who know what JS was doing in Nauvoo 1842-44 there is still much to comprehend. I think that for those prepared for a celestial existence don’t gather around and complain about those that aren’t.

  57. November 18, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Kate, great post. Some of the talks in GC that have made me the most irritated over the past decade are the “romantic paternalist” talks… “divine adorment of humanity” anyone? P.S. You are in my ward–I’ll try to remember to introduce myself on Sunday.

  58. November 18, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I don’t think that the frustration exhibited in this post and most of the comments will ever be alleviated in the person who persists in seeking an external temporal locus of fulfillment.

    There is only one person who can teach you how God sees you. The Church can help you know how and who to ask, but it can’t teach you what you are. Words can be so easily interpreted through the colored lenses we all wear. Only the Spirit can show you clear, un-tinted truth. Once you learn who you are before God, you understand the eternal destiny of humanity—male and female—better. When you do, you see the truth behind the culture. That truth frees you from frustration and fear.

    No amount of argument or words can hope to accomplish that.

  59. Jeff Spector
    November 18, 2009 at 9:05 am

    My first impression reading this post was of someone who is very insecure with themselves and “choosing to be offended.” My, my, getting mad an an 80 year old temple worker is mearly reflecting the attitude he grw up in, right or wrong? Being upset that the “wives” were in another room playing with the children, while the high and mightly law students were in the other room?

    I support women having the choice to “be all that they can be” but there must be residual respect for those who choose differently. And do you seriously need a women’s studies program to suceed? Claudia Bushman didn’t, Sandra Day O’Conner didn’t, Most women who have acheived great things didn’t do it through a women’s study program, but through good old had work in spite of obsticles placed before them.

  60. MrQandA
    November 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Measure twice, Cut once. hopefully this time I have the right end of the stick!

    Jeff Spector –

    “do you seriously need a women’s studies program to suceed? Claudia Bushman didn’t, Sandra Day O’Conner didn’t, Most women who have acheived great things didn’t do it through a women’s study program, but through good old had work in spite of obsticles placed before them.”

    I have thought long and hard about this one, All things being equal there is no need for specific “Minority Groups”, but things are not equal despite the US having a President of African decent, and the UK having had a Woman leader, racism and discrimination has not abated in these cultures. I agree the exceptional individuals can and do make it through to gain power and influence, however those who are slightly above average become victims of institutionalised discrimination. Inbred mediocre “men” infest many of our organisations or a stooge such as Sarah Palin is planted into power.

    Looking at the LDS Church, the Women of the wards are the true strength of the membership, they are the real backbone of mediocre priesthood holders like me. I do wish that the influence of women in the senior hierarchy was more transparent, I also wish that the patronising “your special” tone in GC would stop. I switch off during the “Sisters” talks because of that Sweet Spirit style where as I really enjoy the women who talk in sacrament.

  61. James
    November 18, 2009 at 10:19 am

    MrQandA

    Im 100% behind you on this also left out was Juanita Brooks.

    I am also seeing Jeff this weekend in London and wanted to make sure we could have a heated conversation.

  62. Jen
    November 18, 2009 at 10:42 am

    SilverRain-

    AMEN! Your comment is 100% on and how I feel as well. You are able to express your thoughts so much better than I am, thank you for writing your comment.

  63. November 18, 2009 at 11:12 am

    #59 Jeff Spector–

    While reading your comment I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 3 and his vision of the daughters of Zion.

  64. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 11:14 am

    #58 – If all a person needs is his or her relationship with god, then perhaps the church should stop preaching that there is no salvation except through the saving ordinances of the church (big “C”). Obviously people are free to decide how they’re going to feel and how they’re going to react to things that they encounter. But you’re ignoring the fact that the church is the decider and purveyor of “true” doctrine; individuals don’t get to decide what is true or false. It’s a little pollyanna-ish to imply that one should just be able to ignore everything that doesn’t make them feel warm and fuzzy in a church that claims so much control over one’s salvation. The fact is, according to LDS doctrine, what the church thinks absolutely is relevant. For that matter, you should care what your bishop thinks, since he has the power to take away your temple recommend or even your membership. It’s beyond oversimplistic and, in my opinion, disingenuous, to act like all relevant matters of religion are between god and the individual. If you believe that you’re in the wrong church.

  65. Jeff Spector
    November 18, 2009 at 11:19 am

    61, James. We’ll have plenty to discuss.

    MrQandA

    “however those who are slightly above average become victims of institutionalised discrimination.”

    But, I have found that that is true regardless of gender, ethnicity, or even itelligence. It has to do with politics. And more precisely, political correctness.

    BTW, I don’t like that “Sweet Spirit” stuff anymore than the next person. I think it is condesending at worse, and usually not true at best.

  66. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 11:19 am

    #56 – Preach on, SBC (and we should print up a handout for the sisters serving in the primary who missed it).

  67. Jen
    November 18, 2009 at 11:30 am

    #64-

    brjones-

    How did you get all of that from SilverRain’s comment? I am not going to try to speak for her, but I don’t think she is trying to say that the church isn’t important. I also don’t see her as pollyanna-ish at all. Are you familiar with her blog at all? If not, I would recommend you check it out.

  68. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 11:53 am

    #58 – I guess I didn’t make myself clear – I apologize. What I was trying to say is that I interpreted SilverRain’s comment as saying that how one feels about him or herself is between him or her and god, and that this is essentially free from the church (although she noted that the church has a hand in this). She also seems to be indicating that she disagrees with people who complain about the issues that are being discussed in this thread. I think that is a very oversimplistic view of spirituality and religion, both on a practical as well as a theological level. Personally, I think it’s much more healthy if a person can find their value and establish their relationship with god apart from what the church tells them is or isn’t true, but I think it’s unrealistic to think that most people are going to be able to do that. This is particularly true when, in my opinion, this is not really the agenda the church is pushing. I think the church definitely encourages people to have an individual relationship with god, but I also think that the church is highly involved in prescribing the appropriate manners in which members should do this. I just chaffe a little bit at comments suggesting that people should essentially not be worrying about this, when it’s an issue that people have to deal with over the course of their entire lives. I honestly think it’s wonderful that many people are not bothered by this, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that people who are should basically just get over it.

    In any event, I didn’t mean to attack SilverRain. I’m not familiar with her blog, but I will definitely check it out.

  69. SteveS
    November 18, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I come late to the conversation. Thanks, Kate, for writing this up. I’m conflicted about how I feel about the dissolution of the WRI. I agree that it sends the wrong message, but I also respect the academy’s right to shape its institution to best meet the needs and desires of the degree-seeking students it teaches. Its true that the WRI provided a valuable venue for women’s voices to be heard and research to be done, but with no majors and only a handful of minors in women’s studies, its hard for the administration to justify continued investment with so little return in the primary function of the university’s purpose: teaching young people. I work at BYU, and my department was under the microscope recently for the very same reason: we were asked to respond to the question “are our services and budgets appropriate to the needs of the student body we serve?” It becomes difficult for administrations to act decisively without PR fallout when the underperforming units are so politically charged (WRI, Social Work BS, etc.) By contrast, very little stink was made when earlier this year 1) the entire College of Health and Human Performance was dissolved, with majors from this college divvied out to Life Sciences, Fine Arts and Communications, and the Marriott School of Management, or 2) when the College of Humanities dropped their Humanities Music Emphasis degree program.

    I wish more students and faculty cared about women’s issues at BYU. But I’m sure there’s a significant mistrust of this field of academic study because of attitudes that have perpetuated in the Church. We see this same principle in the recent Salt Lake City ordinances passed to prevent housing and employment discrimination against homosexuals: it wasn’t certain how the city council was going to vote, and there were many voices of opposition to the proposed ordinances _until_ the representative from the Church rose and voiced the _Church’s_ support for the ordinances (nevermind that the Church had already successfully negotiated exceptions to the ordinances for all religious organizations, and, their backhanded comment that the ordinances “do no violence” to the institution of marriage). The council voted unanimously in favor, and the most public voices of opposition looked even more sheepish and ignorant now that their church wasn’t on their side. Tellingly, Church supporters’ public opinions in the DN, SLT, and Daily Universe commenting on these developments generally expressed the same sentiments as the PR rep did in the council meeting. Similarly, the attitudes about women expressed by Church leaders invariably influence the perception of women in society, and color most LDS’ attitudes towards voices that might not fall in lock-step with the rhetoric coming out of Church HQ in SLC. I suspect this contributes to the low interest in womens studies on campus. But as evidenced by the gay rights ordinances in SLC, LDS public opinion sea change doesn’t occur at the grassroots level–there’s too much institutional buy-in to the hierarchical flow of doctrine and policy for groups like WRI to make much of a difference in teaching the next generation of LDS young adults (unless we’re willing to wait 50 years for these same young people to become the leaders of the church so as to be able to make changes), and I’m not aware of any representatives from the WRI sitting on committees focusing on addressing the needs and rights of, and attitudes toward women in the Church.

    Jared: “Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, to what degree? Do you belong to NOW? What about your politics, pro-choice or pro-life? What do you think of Sarah Palin?” Come on! These questions are completely irrelevant to the topic! From the post, its quite clear that Kate espouses certain feminist attitudes. She doesn’t need to answer questions like this so you can draw inferences about her based on your own attitudes toward people who fit these categories! Please, Jared!

  70. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    #67 – I would add, Jen, that although SilverRain is not intending to argue that the church is not important, I’m curious what the implication is when someone essentially advocates having a relationship with god that transcends and, in some cases, usurps the church. Again, I think that’s a great philosophy, but if it’s appropriate to have an understanding of spirituality or of onesself that potentially goes against what the church presents, then of what need is the church?

  71. Mike S
    November 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    #69: SteveS

    If you have read many of Jared’s other comments, his world-view largely consists of fitting people into categories and interacting with them based upon which category they fit best. Not that that is necessarily good or bad, but it just seems to be how his mind works. I took his comment in that regard and basically ignored it. It appears most others do the same.

  72. SteveS
    November 18, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Mike S: Yeah, I’ve been noticing it more and more lately, and I’ve called him out about it on at least one other post. I’m hoping that if he can recognize when he’s doing it, he’ll refrain, realizing that its not an appropriate avenue of inquiry in social situations. imo, ignoring it works for regulars, but when guests like Kate arrive, she doesn’t know Jared’s modus operandi and the cycle gets perpetuated.

  73. Jen
    November 18, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    #70

    brjones-

    “I’m curious what the implication is when someone essentially advocates having a relationship with god that transcends and, in some cases, usurps the church”

    Are you referring to a specific person or situation? For me personally, if I were to receive counsel from a bishop about a personal situation, I would take it to the Lord and ask Him if it is what I should do. If I felt differently from what the bishop counseled I would follow my heart and the answers from the Lord. I think that is what we are expected to do, to seek God’s will for our own personal lives and to seek confirmation in the counsel we receive.

  74. Jen
    November 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    MikeS-

    “If you have read many of Jared’s other comments, his world-view largely consists of fitting people into categories and interacting with them based upon which category they fit best”

    Is this not categorizing Jared?

  75. Thomas
    November 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    #60: Sarah Palin is probably not ready for high national office, but then neither is the vain adolescent mediocrity who holds the Presidency, much less the wise-in-his-own-conceit VP.

    As helpless as Palin looked in her Katie Couric interview (seriously, who thought a two-hour taped hostile interview was a good idea?), she never said the interior of the Earth was “several million degrees” hot, or that the Americans liberated Auschwitz, or that FDR went on TV after the stock market crash. I can understand disagreeing with her politics and cultural attitudes, but the level of hatred for the woman is frankly beyond my understanding.

    My impression is that, far from facing oppressive discrimination, any person from an underachieving social group who shows even a glimmer of ability is more likely than not promptly scooped up and launched into the so-called meritocracy. (Which, of late, has amply demonstrated its own thoroughgoing mediocrity.)

    I perceive that society has lost the ability to measure wisdom. It goes gaga over a machine politician who knows who Reinhold Niebuhr was (tho’ I bet That Man knows nothing about Rudolf Bultmann or Rene Girard) and can give a good high-flown speech (which, when read closely, proves to be remarkably free of content). It worships the form of intellectualism — the right attitudes, the correct positions on faddish issues, the right pedigree — but misses the substance.

  76. Donna
    November 18, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Great discussion!

    In my 54 years on this planet I have had many opportunities to observe many human beings and human institutions. All are flawed, including the church I love.

    I believe that as we get closer to the end of this world (in 2012, according to Hollywood!) some things get closer and closer to the ideal. This is inarguably true of women’s rights and status. Things are not perfect, but better than they were.

    When I was a young lawyer judges called me “honey” from the bench and asked me if I shouldn’t be home making dinner for my husband rather than being in the courtroom.

    To all of you younger women out there, I say IGNORE the idiots! Do what you know is right, and let the consequences follow.

    I have had a fabulous 27-year career as a lawyer and prosecutor, including being part providing just consequences for murderers, rapists and child molesters. I have had the privilege of making a difference for the better in the lives of thousands of women and children.

    But, all of that pales in comparison to the importance in my life of the privilege of mothering and raising four amazing human beings, including Kate, the author of this post.

    Women CAN have it all, and often do. But, I believe it is hard to have it all at once, and I have taken turns in my life focusing on different roles.

    In the Celestial world, all will be equal, but that doesn’t mean “the same.” Nor should they be.

    And, I for one am thrilled and very humbled when anyone calls me “beautiful,” “virtuous,” etc., especially given my age!!!

  77. November 18, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Br. Jones: “#58 – If all a person needs is his or her relationship with god”

    Since the rest of your comment is based on this first statement, I’ll address it as symbolic of the whole. I never said that (nor any of the other words you put into my mouth). I never even came close to addressing the purpose of the Church as a whole. My comments were meant entirely in the narrow focus presented by this original post.

    I imagine that your own rather unfortunate perception of the Church and its purpose colors your interpretation of my words. Please, try to understand what I am truly saying before telling me what I am saying.

  78. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    SilverRain, as I said before, I apologize if I misinterpreted your words. It was not my intention to put words in your mouth. The way I interpreted your comment was that the things about which are being complained in this thread are largely cultural, and that through one’s relationship with god, through the spirit, one can realize what is really true. In other words, it seems like you were saying that mormon culture has gotten this one wrong, but through communion with god one can realize the truth of this issue, which will bring a happiness that simply complaining about the cultural realities will not. My argument with this take is that I disagree that this is simply a cultural issue. Church doctrine specifically places women in a position of obedience to their husbands, as their husband is obedient to the lord. I’m not sure how communion with the lord is going to change this fact, unless you believe that the church has got it wrong on this issue (and I’m not saying you do or do not believe that). Perhaps you were saying that the lord can explain it in a way that makes women understand the doctrine in a way that the church has not. What I was trying to express was, if the church declares a doctrine, and one feels they can go to the lord and get a different answer, then what is the point of the church declaring doctrine at all? I also did not mean to address the purpose of the church as a whole. I was merely using this topic as an example. Incidentally, I don’t think my perception of the church and its purpose is any more unfortunate than yours. That’s purely a matter of opinion.

  79. November 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Too many great comments to respond to all!! Except… Mom. Thanks & you are awesome.

    Everyone else, thanks for taking the time to read the post & caring enough to comment. I think this is a great conversation to have & whether you agree or disagree you should also talk with others around you (people you can discuss with face-to-face!!) about it.

  80. November 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    #76 Donna–

    I’m a lot older than you, but I just have to say-I find you very attractive just from reading your comment. I’m very happily married so my flirtation is within temple recommend parameters.

  81. November 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    #69 Steve S.–

    Thanks for applying to be my guide, but that position has been filled by the Holy Ghost. 😀

  82. hawkgrrrl
    November 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Jared – “I’ve been married for many years. My wife and I have never discussed the concerns you bring up. They don’t exist for either of us. She is well educated, especially in the scriptures. If an octogenarian questioned her the way one did you, she would turn the other cheek, bring it up to me over dinner, smile–and together we would exchange encounters we’ve had with seniors.” Is this response supposed to make it sound like you have an ounce of understanding of women? ‘Cuz it doesn’t.

    Kate – great post! I tend to take what I call a post-feminist perspective. I am not going to let others define my choices, and they haven’t! By the same token, I try hard not to judge those whose interests differ so greatly from my own. Not sure I care about WRI, but I do absolutely care about women’s issues. Yet, I think women have to enter the world confidently, setting aside any limitations others try to impose.

  83. November 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Kate ~ Loved the post. I’m not LDS but my husband is. In August we moved across the country from Washington state to Illinois so that I could pursue my MA in history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

    When DH began attending the LDS ward, he mentioned that he was looking for work. People were incredulous. “Why did you move all of the way out here if you didn’t have a job lined up?!” they asked. It’s a question I can’t help but think we wouldn’t have gotten had the gender roles been reversed. Is it not quite common for LDS couples to move to different states so that the husband can pursue a graduate degree? Do Mormons usually expect the wife of the graduate student to have a job lined up beforehand? I rather doubt it.

    Paternalism. It needs to die indeed.

  84. November 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I can see where you are coming from, I think. I will try to clarify.

    “Church doctrine specifically places women in a position of obedience to their husbands, as their husband is obedient to the lord.”

    There have been discussions on this before. I have pondered and prayed about this, and feel that it does not mean “as” as in “in the same manner as” but “as” as in “while” or “insofar as”. Some might call that parsing, but to me it is what the Spirit has taught me it means. That actually places women in the exact same position of trying to obey the Lord with the additional injunction to respect and defer to their husbands when they are obeying the Lord.

    “I’m not sure how communion with the lord is going to change this fact, unless you believe that the church has got it wrong on this issue (and I’m not saying you do or do not believe that).”

    As is perhaps more clear from my example above, I do not believe the Church has it wrong, I believe that popular interpretations of Church doctrine have it wrong. I feel that when a person goes to the Lord for help in understanding Church doctrine, they will be enlightened. This is similar to “saying that the lord can explain it in a way that makes women understand the doctrine in a way that the church has not,” but that 1) I don’t believe “the Church” (and by that, I suppose you mean the leadership) sees it that way, and 2) I don’t feel that the Church has the responsibility of making anyone understand doctrine. They can help and guide, but that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the individual, as is taught in the missionary discussions. (The Lord speaks to the prophet, we hear the prophet and take it to the Lord, who then teaches us the truth of it by the Spirit.)

    In other words, I don’t think that “a different answer” is what a person will get when they go to the Lord. That would indeed circumvent the purpose of the Church. I believe that a more clear understanding of the doctrine is what is received, if a person is willing to receive it.

    I believe these things because I have experienced them, and I don’t think I’m any different than any other person, so I have confidence that it would be the same for anyone who takes it to the Lord.

    I hope that clarifies my point.

  85. Mike S
    November 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    #74: Jen

    I wouldn’t define it as a characterization but more of an observation. I don’t really think anyone fits into much of a category anyway, as they may feel one way on some issues and other ways on other issues.

    And in terms of overt characterization, I also don’t recall that I’ve ever given him a list of categories and asked him to self-rate himself into one of them (ie. “Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, to what degree? Do you belong to NOW? What about your politics, pro-choice or pro-life? What do you think of Sarah Palin?” in this case. “TBM, cafeteria Mormon, ex-Mormon, atheist, etc.” in other cases.)

  86. brjones
    November 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    #84 – Thanks for the clarification, SilverRain. For what it’s worth, I always interpreted the phrase “as he hearkens unto the voice of the lord” in exactly the same way you have, and used to describe it in just that way. In other words, when a husband is exercising unrighteous dominion, a wife is under no direction to “obey” him. I still see a command to obey your perfectly righteous husband as somewhat of a state of subservience, even if in theory you would receive exactly the same direction from the lord were you to get it straight from him, but that’s just my opinion. I guess ultimately it’s going to come down to whether or not one sees a woman’s role in the church and in the gospel (even in its perfect form) as marginalized when compared to a man’s role. For those women in the church who struggle with those points of doctrine, I would definitely agree with your original post that it’s unlikely that any external source is going to bring true comfort.

  87. November 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    #82 Hawkgrrl–

    ?? Please elaborate.

  88. amy
    November 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    @KW–who are the lesbian feminists who think all male/female sex is rape?

  89. November 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Hawkgrrl, Kate, and Bridget,

    I think I agree with your comments. I just wanted to weigh in that the importance of the WRI actually existing is to have staff constantly working on different areas in their research. They will also be able to devote more time into finding additional funding sources to continue their research. I was down in the office just recently and I have an amazing amount of respect for the women in that institute.

    As for the comment back in the 50s or so about not having a men’s research institute. My response is a simple one, that is what the rest of college is. Especially since men are the ones conducting a majority of the research, they will automatically take their bias into the research. I’m not saying that they can’t overcome this bias, but some faculty members don’t want to acknowledge they may hold a bias. Though I support maintaining the WRI, I’m afriad that the fight has been lost as no media attention has been given to the cause. Just a thought….

  90. amy
    November 18, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Oops, didn’t mean to post yet!

    @JulieAnn, I really agree that men in the church are proud of their wives’ intellects, but my experience has been that a woman’s intelligence is constructed still as something of a sexy accessory. At the end of the day, womens’ intellects are sexualized and objectified rather than reckoned with–as long as the women meet the initial criterion of meeting a certain beauty expectation. If they don’t, no amount of brains will ever be considered sexy, let alone substantial.

    @Gwen, I am personally offended when my husband describes me as “beautiful, caring, virtuous, etc.”, for the record. Kate may not want to assume that these descriptors offend all women, but she is correct in assuming that she is not the only woman they offend–though her offense would be enough to matter. Feminism is about being able to be valued and have a voice whether or not you are “beautiful, caring, virtuous, etc.” and whether or not you go to law school. Which brings me to my next point.

    @Jared, I am a Feminist. Whether or not you consider yourself one, I would have to challenge your idea that Feminist ideologies do not exist for you and your wife. As long as one in three women in the United States will be a victim of sexual violence during her lifetime, Feminist political analysis is prescient for anyone who knows a women he/she would prefer was not assaulted. Feminist ideology is deeper, wider, and richer than a pro-choice bumper sticker, but, since you mentioned it, I am pro-choice, not because I am pro-abortion but because I am pro-trusting women. Perhaps if the world were a safer place fewer of them would feel the need to turn to abortion, as Kate insinuated, so perhaps that should be our first goal. Besides, pro-choice is the libertarian thing to do, and I am not afraid of a little radical right wing politics. Incidentally, an infant stillborn at full term cannot be sealed to its parents, so I suppose the church does not acknowledge unborn children as deserving the full rights of humanity either. Just a thought.

  91. Donna
    November 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    David O McKay said in the 1950s: “Home is the center from which women rule the world.” Pretty radical for a Mormon leader in the 1950s!

    This may be very radical of me, but I have always thought the Lord gave men the priesthood in an attempt to make men equal to the power women have. They aren’t, of course, but He tried! My authority for this (among other things):
    President Hinckley quoted with approval the following: “Men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, and inherent authority and power to be the saviors of human souls and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children” — Elder Matthew Cowley

    What does it matter if a mother performs a miracle by rocking and soothing and, yes, healing a child – and the man must do so by exercising priesthood authority? Which is the lesser miracle?

    A few years ago, I watched President Hinckley being interviewed by Larry King. King asked: “Why don’t women have the priesthood?”
    President Hinckley responded: “The Lord hasn’t told us to do that yet. If the Lord tells us to give women the priesthood, we will.”

    When women and the church are ready, women will have the priesthood on this earth, just as they will in the next world.

    But really, it is silly to talk about “power” over others anyway, because leadership in Christian doctrine only means you have a greater opportunity to serve.

    As Christ told His disciples before he got on the ground and washed their feet: “He who is chief among you, let him be the servant of all.” So you see, “leadership” in a Christian setting always means SERVANT.

  92. November 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    #17 Donna ~ And, what other Christian religion has as a part of its doctrine a declaration that we have a Heavenly Father as well as a Heavenly Mother, who is, BTW, equal to her spouse?

    Mormonism has no such doctrine. It teaches nothing official about the existence of a divine feminine (no, not even in the family proclamation) and even if a heavenly mother does exist, we certainly don’t know that she’s “equal to her spouse.” We also don’t know how many heavenly mothers there are. Past church leaders taught that God the Father was a polygamist.

    Other Christians believe different things about God and gender, including (a) that God is essentially a genderless being and (b) that God is both masculine and feminine. IMO, both of these options are superior to believing in a Godhead that consists of three beings who are literally, sexually male in every way possible—which is what Mormonism does teach.

    I have started a series to discuss LDS and traditional ideas on a divine feminine here: Can God Give Birth?

  93. November 19, 2009 at 12:34 am

    re 88:

    amy, I’m not kw, but I know the line has been attributed to Andrea Dworkin. Her actual line was something like “violation is a synonym for intercourse” from the book Intercourse.

  94. Krisanne
    November 19, 2009 at 2:50 am

    “Mormonism has no such doctrine. It teaches nothing offical about the existence of a divine feminine.”

    Bridget Jack Meyers, have you been through an Initiatory session or an Endownment session in the temple? If that’s not clear indication of the divine feminine, I’m not sure what is.

  95. November 19, 2009 at 5:06 am

    #94: That may be the most bizarre statement I’ve read on the bloggernacle yet.

  96. MrQandA
    November 19, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Amy – “At the end of the day, womens’ intellects are sexualized and objectified rather than reckoned with” What are your thoughts on Evolution, Natural Selection, The Selfish Gene ?

    Although very complex (I don’t really understand it)simply put the majority of the human race is looking for immortality through there Genes, for some reason males look for healthy genes in beauty and females look for health genes in the capacities of the hunter gatherer. there are a small majority that don’t fit into this gene driven theory, and these are possibly the best our society has to offer, but there unselfish genes won’t be around for long.

  97. November 19, 2009 at 6:26 am

    #94 Krisanne ~ No, I haven’t.

    But I know of several LDS religion teachers and philosophers who have somehow managed to go through the Initiatories & Endowment and have come away from them still not believing in a Heavenly Mother, so I really don’t think it’s as clear as you claim it is. I know for a fact that Heavenly Mother is not a character in the Endowment drama. Strange that she’s been omitted if she truly is “fully equal” with the Father.

  98. November 19, 2009 at 8:52 am

    a) PERFECT example of romantic paternalism = “Home is the center from which women rule the world.”

    b) Again from the hymn 292, “truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.” But, that’s pretty much it. I would concur that the equality of our heavenly parents is not taught as doctrine. In my many visits to the temple I have not come away with any additional insight or specifics than the last verse of “O My Father.”

    I think we like to take these little inklings we get & transform them into “radical” doctrines in our minds. But, let’s face it, it’s not taught/believed/spoken about by the majority of church members, much less “the brethren”. So, in my view we can’t really hang our hats on it. If that were the case, we could just believe anything we wanted and just say that others don’t truly understand the doctrine like we do. But, then are we Mormons or do we just have our own little version of Mormonism?

    Amy- A-wo-men!!

    #96 MrQandA to echo Kiskilili: “That may be the most bizarre statement I’ve read on the bloggernacle yet.”

  99. hawkgrrrl
    November 19, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Jared, you asked me to elaborate why your statement doesn’t give the impression you understand women. Here goes:

    “I’ve been married for many years. My wife and I have never discussed the concerns you bring up. They don’t exist for either of us.” Just because you’ve never discussed something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It may not exist for you, any more than menstruation or pregnancy or osteoporosis does, but that doesn’t mean that she has not encountered sexism at church or elsewhere. Just that she hasn’t discussed it with you. Why would she? You are dismissive of it, and as a man in a patriarchal church, it can’t possibly negatively impact you personally in a way you can easily identify. She probably just talks with her female friends who would understand.

    “She is well educated, especially in the scriptures.” You are unclear what you mean by “well educated.” Bachelor’s degree? Master’s? M.R.S. degree? Does reading the scriptures count as a substitute for actual higher education in your mind? If so, that’s a ludicrous premise.

    “If an octogenarian questioned her the way one did you, she would turn the other cheek, bring it up to me over dinner, smile–and together we would exchange encounters we’ve had with seniors.” My guess is that if she felt she was treated in a sexist manner, she would talk with one of her female friends about it (probably rolling her eyes about it), not you. After all, ‘these issues don’t exist’ as you put it. Also, this scenario you paint in which your wife meekly brings her concerns to you over dinner (presumably that she prepared for you, lovingly) and you both share a gentle chuckle – IME, this is NOT how women talk about their marriages or their husbands. This description is man-speak, and from a female perspective is a total fantasy about how women think. Would she turn the other cheek? Sure – most people would. The guy’s old, after all. We tend to cut old dudes slack, especially being raised with a respect for our elders in the church. And I would assume your wife is a nice person.

    I’m really not trying to pick a fight – but that’s why I conclude you don’t really understand women. I’m sure you have other fine qualities.

  100. November 19, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Jack,

    I think the existence of a Heavenly Mother is a mainstream Mormon belief, to the point that I’m surprised that you know devout Mormons who don’t believe it. That said, I agree that there are very few if any clear teachings about her supposed nature. And, amusingly, the reasons given for not talking much about or worshiping her are usually romantically paternalistic in nature (e.g., Heavenly Father doesn’t want her name taken in vain).

  101. Thomas
    November 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    #89: “As for the comment back in the 50s or so about not having a men’s research institute. My response is a simple one, that is what the rest of college is. Especially since men are the ones conducting a majority of the research, they will automatically take their bias into the research.”

    Yes, the research output of the BYU geology department is clearly male-biased. Far too much research of peaks and too little of valleys, for instance.

    By “the rest of the college,” maybe you mean “the rest of the colleges of social sciences and humanities.” I’m a bit more skeptical that the hard sciences are all that susceptible to sex bias.

    #90: “I am pro-choice, not because I am pro-abortion but because I am pro-trusting women.”

    Oh, I agree. So much that I think that women ought to be exempted from the Civil Rights Act. Because prohibiting them from engaging in racial discrimination would be distrustful.

    If abortion destroys something that’s close enough to human life for government work, then it is absolutely consistent with libertarianism (whose fundamental principle is the nonaggression principle; libertarianism doesn’t require us to leave people free to injure others) to restrict it — certainly at its later stages.

  102. November 19, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Kuri- Yes. Yes. & yes. Although I have not heard any “authoritative” justification for why Heavenly Mother is not discussed, when (on the rare occasion) it come up in church I have most certainly heard the “she is TOO sacred to be mentioned…” line.

    I love this quote by Susan B. Anthony “I pray every single second of my life; not on my knees but with my work. My prayer is to lift women to equality with men. Work and worship are one with me. I know there is no God of the universe made happy by my getting down on my knees and calling him ‘great.'” And, by the same token, I think, what God of the universe would be offended by a mortal cursing him/her. Seems like they’d be above that. Pun intended.

  103. November 19, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    #100 kuri ~ I completely agree that Heavenly Mother is a mainstream Mormon belief. I believe that it’s widely held and popular. I don’t believe that the LDS church has declared Heavenly Mother’s existence in an official, uncontested capacity. The hymnbook isn’t exactly a fountain of official doctrine, and the “heavenly parents” clause in the Family Proclamation is vague enough that it can be interpreted in other ways.

    Evangelical scholar Paul Owen, who has had extensive interaction with LDS scholars, left this comment on another blog last year sometime (I can’t access the source right now). This comment is long but it really sizes up the alternative viewpoints well:

    Some Mormons understand our “heavenly parents” in terms of the Father and the Holy Spirit for example… I wasn’t denying that the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is officially taught. However it has never been officially defined or interpreted in terms of God the Father having a wife (though that is commonly assumed). Some Mormons understand Heavenly Mother as the Holy Ghost, others as a reference to a feminine aspect within the being of God, and I have even seen it suggested that Jesus is the Mother figure, as the one through whom mankind was created in the image of God (”let us make man in our image” being applied to the Father and the Son)… The LDS Church has never defined the Heavenly Mother language in a prescriptive manner. It is not an official teaching that God has a wife. The view that the “Heavenly Mother” actually refers to the feminine aspect of the being of God was advocated by Erastus Snow, himself an apostle. The language used in the statements of the First Presidency on the Origin of Man and Evolution (which vaguely speak of “the universal Father and Mother”) are ambiguous enough to allow for this alternative interpretation…

    I know for a fact that Roger Keller, who teaches religion at BYU, does not believe God has a wife. At least that’s what he told me a few years ago. Nor does Blake Ostler (a very well known and respected Mormon theologian). It was Richard Sherlock (an LDS philosophy professor at Utah State University) whom I believe I first heard suggest the possibility that Jesus could be our heavenly mother, given his co-participation with the Father in creation (”let us make man in our image . . . So God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them”). It is interesting for instance, that in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul grounds the ordering of the genders in the relationality within the Trinity between the Father and the Son.

    There is a strain of piety within Western Christianity that has long conceptualized Jesus as a nurturing heavenly mother figure. This is especially evident in Anselm and Julian of Norwich. So it’s not like such theological moves are lacking in precedent. And yes, before someone asks, many Mormon theologians do want to be in conversation with the wider Christian theological tradition, so voices like Anselm do matter in these discussions.

    As for views that would relate Heavenly Mother to the Holy Ghost, or a feminine aspect within the divine being, see Bergera, Line Upon Line, pp. 98, 106.

    I don’t deny that the language of Heavenly Parents and the Universal Father and Mother suggests that God has a wife. Likewise, the fact that (they teach) God the Father has a physical body suggests that he was once a man like us. But suggestions and prescribed teachings with official definitions are not exactly the same thing. When a doctrine is not officially defined, it allows LDS theology considerable room for creative engagement with the wider theological tradition. When you participate in forums like the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (as I do most every year), and enter into open conversation with those sorts of people, who are very much insiders (not liberal LDS apostates), it becomes apparent that the boundaries of “official” Mormon doctrine are a lot more fluid and flexible than evangelical apologetic literature would convey.

    It should be noted that Blake Ostler clarified to me on another blog that he’s open to the possibility of a heavenly mother, he just doesn’t think it’s established doctrine or necessary to LDS belief.

    My apologies to Kate for de-railing her thread a bit. If Mormons want to believe or not believe in a Heavenly Mother, I won’t say much in this context, but if they want to say that this vague, undefined, unofficial idea sets them ahead of the rest of Christianity on the issue of female identity & deity, that’s when I have to speak out.

    And as Kate pointed out, teachings about heavenly mother have traditionally been markedly paternalistic. If the HM teaching is accomplishing anything, it’s enforcing paternalism, not liberating women from it.

  104. November 19, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    FYI if anyone wants to continue the discussion tonight live on the radio. I’ll be on with Sarah Vranes from 6-7pm MST on Radioactive. We’ll be discussing this post & the WRI http://www.krcl.org/radioactive-main.htm Call in!

  105. November 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Jack,

    Except for the Holy Ghost part, which I’ve heard before (but as I understand it, that’s a speculation that the Holy Ghost is female, not that there is no Heavenly Mother), Owen’s discussion sounds very foreign to me, as I suspect it would to most Mormons. It’s a bit too scholarly perhaps. While I agree that there is arguably no “official doctrine” about the subject, I’ve never been a fan of convoluted Mormon arguments (often used in apologetics to explain away what used to be mainstream Mormon belief) about what is and isn’t “doctrine.” If it’s taught at church and (almost) everyone believes it, it’s “doctrine” to me. By that definition, I’d say that the existence of a Heavenly Mother is doctrine.

    That said, I agree with you. I see nothing particularly “liberating” about a female god whom no one is allowed to worship, and who is subordinate to a male god and perhaps paternalistically protected by him.

  106. Douglas Hunter
    November 19, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    #45- “I can’t help but think of this in terms of “originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. It seems so foreign to those of us who live in modern society to interpret the Constitution in terms/paradigm of 1787.”

    That is another example, not only is it foreign to modernism, but from a structural or post-structural frame of reference, its bizarre and naive to think that one could ever fully understand the context in which the document was produced or the thought of those who produced it. Further, there is a degree to which doing so is simply a form of logocentrism an, attempt to fix the play of the signifier, despite the fact that evidence that such play can not be stopped fills volume after volume of case law etc. I don’t expect everyone to comprehend interpretation the same way, but I do think we must strongly reject those who, in an overtly political act, insist that their interpretation has sole ownership of the truth [sic.] of the text.

    #59- “And do you seriously need a women’s studies program to suceed? Claudia Bushman didn’t, Sandra Day O’Conner didn’t, Most women who have acheived great things didn’t do it through a women’s study program, but through good old had work in spite of obsticles placed before them.”

    It was my pleasure to be invited to dinner with the Bushmans about 6 weeks ago. While Claudia may not have benefitted from a women’s studies program; from our conversation that night, I take it that the courses she is currently teaching are essentially women’s studies courses being taught from a feminist perspective. I don’t want to put words in Claudia’s mouth but I am lead to believe that she feels feminism and women’s studies are of significant value. Further, when I was working on a women’s studies minor in college I would say that the department as an intellectual community was a wonderful place and did a great deal for the women there, more than one can surmise from the outside looking in. Judge not, dude!

  107. November 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Kuri ~ If it’s taught at church and (almost) everyone believes it, it’s “doctrine” to me.

    I have no problem with a practical definition of “doctrine” like this. By that same token, since it’s almost as commonly believed that the reason no one knows anything about HM is because God is protecting her from being scorned and mocked by her children, that would have to be “doctrine” as well. However you slice it, Mormonism does not offer a notion of divine feminine that is liberating to women. (My favorite Bloggernacle post on the matter is “Why I Don’t Want to Believe in Heavenly Mother” by Lynnette at Zelophehad’s Daughters.)

    It sounds like you would agree with all that; I’m just summarizing my thoughts on it.

  108. November 19, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I have no problem with a practical definition of “doctrine” like this. By that same token, since it’s almost as commonly believed that the reason no one knows anything about HM is because God is protecting her from being scorned and mocked by her children, that would have to be “doctrine” as well.

    I guess I would quibble with that a little. I wouldn’t put those two beliefs (existence of a Heavenly Mother and explanations for why Mormons don’t worship her or even talk much about her) on the same level. IME, Mormons usually speak as if the existence of a Heavenly Mother is a given. That explanation, OTOH, is probably widely believed, but it’s also the sort of thing Mormons usually preface (in Sunday School discussions and so on) by saying, “We don’t really know, but…” or even “This isn’t doctrine, but….” (Of course, that’s my impression, not quantified in any way, so take it for what it’s worth.)

    But anyhow, whatever we call them, we do agree that the beliefs don’t seem particularly liberating or empowering.

  109. brjones
    November 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    #108 – Either way, as you say, I don’t think the Mormon conceptualization of a Heavenly Mother is very liberating or empowering. If we can’t accept the traditional standby as the definitive reason that she is conspicuously absent from Mormon doctrine, then we must admit that the church has been completely silent on the matter. If that is the case, then it seems to me the possibilities for why she has been shielded from discussion are either a) she isn’t equal to god in either importance or ability to deal with blasphemy against her, and must therefore be protected; or b) she is so special that god doesn’t want to allow her to be subject to such blasphemy. One option paints a clear picture of a marginalized female, while the other is an example of the romantic paternalism that is the subject of this thread.

  110. Jen
    November 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    brjones-

    Until it is over we cannot assume that we just won’t ever know anything about Mother in Heaven. I still leave open option c), which is the possibility of more revelation coming forward about her in these last days.

    I think I will spend a lifetime trying to come to understand God in even the smallest ways. His ways are definately not ours, so I think it is important to always leave open options for things we might never consider.

  111. November 19, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    #99 Hawkgrrrl–

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Apparently this is an important topic for you, maybe even vital. However, I admit it isn’t important for my wife and I–maybe a better way of expressing it would be to say a priority. Its not a priority because its not a problem that draws us into the battle.

    Each of us has numerous battles to wage, and the restraints of resources, time, and energy requires each to carefully choose their battles. Most of the battles we’re dealing with requires our participation because of the pain we experience. The elective battles are those that are dear to our hearts.

    I think it is wonderful that we’re all so different in the battles we’re drawn into by circumstances, and also by choice because of what is dear to our hearts.

    The caution that all of us need to exercise is to avoid becoming overbearing to others as we engage our battles.

  112. Donna
    November 19, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Amen to Jen #110!

    I, too, am on an eternal quest to know and become like God.

    Many of you have very eloquently and persuasively argued that the church has no expanded doctrine about our female God. My point in even bringing this notion up was that we Mormons at least have some concept, when most Christian religions do not, that deity includes a female being. I think that is remarkable and exciting in every way.

    I look for further light and knowledge on this, if not in this life, then in the life to come.

  113. Donna
    November 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Bridget Jack Meyers #92:

    Though there is little doctrine detailing the nature and role of our HM, there is absolute, clear, unequivocal, inarguable Mormon doctrine that establishes that all Mormon Gods (male and female) are equal:

    D & C 76:95 – all are equal in power and dominion in the celestial kingdom.

    Both HM and HF dwell in the celestial kingdom, and therefore are unquestionably equal.

  114. Donna
    November 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Kate #98:

    You could choose to see President McKay’s statement as paternalism if you are looking to find that, or you could choose to see it as a prophetically pronounced absolute truth. I view it as truth, and a remarkably candid statement given the historical context.

    Few men, and alas, too few women apparently, view women’s powers and influences as inherently lesser than men’s just because they have been different throughout human time.

    How sad. This is the ultimate sexism!

  115. Stevo
    November 20, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Wow, totally amazing Kate! When I was young I had 3 sisters and was basically raised by my mom since my dad worked so much. To me, women, were just another type of human being. It wasn’t until later that I found out so many men in the church look down on women and think they have a “place” they need to be in. Like you said, it’s more of a passive stance, “Brethren, wives are your most precious possession”-type of stance, but I think it is a totally incorrect belief to have. I think it’s about time that it is acceptable for women to choose for themselves what kind of life to live instead of being forced to be the stay-at-home mom. If a woman wants to be a housewife, more power to her, but women should have a choice about who they want to be, not just men.

  116. November 20, 2009 at 4:42 am

    #112 & #113 Donna ~ My point in even bringing this notion up was that we Mormons at least have some concept, when most Christian religions do not, that deity includes a female being.

    Did you actually read what I said? Other Christian religions hold that all three figures in the Godhead (yes, even the Son) are, in some sense, feminine as well as masculine. Or that all three figures are in some sense ungendered. At least our feminine concept of deity potentially resides within the Godhead and is worshiped and prayed to. Mormonism’s is none of the above.

    As for D&C 76:95, given that current church policy prohibits women from being sealed to more than one man in the celestial kingdom while men are allowed to be sealed to more than one woman, I would say that men and women in the celestial kingdom are unquestionably unequal.

  117. November 20, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Kate, wonderful post!

    brjones, I have really appreciated your comments on this thread.

  118. hawkgrrrl
    November 20, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Jared #111 – I think you misunderstood my original comment. I consider myself a post-feminist. I am not donning battle gear (do you automatically assume that acknowledging sexism equates to militant feminism?) on this issue because I expect and largely receive equal treatment. That doesn’t mean that sexism doesn’t exist. It absolutely is alive and well (although not to the extent it was in the past) both in and out of the church. But I don’t allow that to limit my choices in any meaningful way. That’s not doing battle; that’s the Velvet Revolution of ideological battle-doing (laughing the old regime out of power rather than fighting it).

    “The caution that all of us need to exercise is to avoid becoming overbearing to others as we engage our battles.” Good luck in your quest to become less overbearing. 😉

  119. November 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    hawkgrrrl–

    It’s always enlightening to have an exchange of ideas with you. Thanks for taking the time.

  120. November 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    D & C 76:95 – all are equal in power and dominion in the celestial kingdom.

    Both HM and HF dwell in the celestial kingdom, and therefore are unquestionably equal.

    That’s not what the text says. It says that all members of the Church of the Firstborn (verse 94) are equal with each other. But they certainly aren’t equal with “God, even the Father,” since they bow before his throne “in humble reverence” (verse 93). Also, some people in the Celestial Kingdom will be servants to others there (D&C 132: 16).

    That’s not to say that those verses say anything about the role of a Heavenly Mother, but the idea that everyone in the Celestial Kingdom is equal is not supported by the text you cited.

  121. November 21, 2009 at 12:10 am

    oh yeah, “nurturing, gentle angle of a husband” LOL i’m pretty sure that’s what Freud would call “projection”

    I think he probably would have called it “irony.” The intentional kind.

  122. November 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Fascinating topic. I don’t really have much to add on the WRT closure, except to say that I didn’t know BYU had a WRT until they announced they were closing it. I didn’t go to BYU, so I don’t know too much about what they offer or don’t offer.

    As for me and my family, we have a very peculiar dynamic going on. I was raised by a strong, independent woman who’s accomplished a lot in her life (postgrad degree, excelled in her career and led her department for many years). She in turn was also raised by a strong, independent woman (left the family farm and got a bachelor’s degree at a time when it was nearly unheard of for women to do so, and supported her children for many years because her husband couldn’t keep a job). My wife, on the other hand, is very traditional and conservative, and we have had some power struggles (her trying to give me power, with me rejecting it). My refusal to preside at family functions has caused some problems (other relatives staring awkwardly as my wife and I argued over who was going to choose someone to say the prayer), but in other ways we’ve settled into a functional relationship (she no longer insists that I drive when the family go somewhere). I guess some traditional conservative male would read this comment and deem me a totally emasculated girly-man. But the way I see it, I’m a real man because I have a penis. Nothing I do or don’t do entitles me to preside over my family.

  123. Sandy
    November 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I find it ironic that the very women who are asking for equality are the same women who have abdicated it entirely. The Church’s doctrine and scripture on the equality of women can be quoted all day and still women will say, “He won’t let me be equal.” You are equal. So be equal. Stop abdicating your responsibility for yourself and shoving it onto someone else.
    I was also raised by a strong LDS woman who taught me to be responsible for my own salvation. She earned a degree when it was not common to do so. But so what? Are women only equal if they have a degree? Only equal if they fit in the box you have created? Are you saying my choice to stay at home makes me less? That it really isn’t my choice at all? Perhaps the Church did a Vulcan mind meld and made me stay there.
    In fact, the influence I hold over my home far exceeds my husbands. Why? Quite simply, I am the one who is home.
    My Great-Grandmother had no degree, but it is said she could rope and ride as wells any man on her ranch. In the 1890’s, I’d call that equal.
    My point is that women are equal already. We have been equal. We don’t require permission to be equal. Women’s studies will not make us more equal.

  124. hawkgrrrl
    November 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Sandy – I agree with you that women should assume equality (which I said above). I’m not clear whom you are arguing with in your comment. Did someone here say that being a SAHM was not a valid choice? I read through the commentary, and I didn’t see that being said.

  125. November 23, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Sandy-I agree, women are equal in capacity. But, if you show up for a job interview equally or more qualified than a man & they don’t hire you because you are a woman… we’ve still got a problem. EVEN if you are equally qualified.

  126. hawkgrrrl
    November 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Just to add to Kate’s comment – if they hire you (as a woman) and then consistently pay you less (currently 77 cents on the dollar to men in like jobs) or expect you to do more work to make equal pay, we still have a tangible problem with sexism in society.

  127. brjones
    November 23, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Sandy, I appreciate your attitude; I wish more women shared it. That said, just saying women are equal does not make them equal – at least not in the way that is being discussed here. Women do not have authority in the church, they are, even in their own homes, subject to a priesthood authority that they cannot hold. This doesn’t mean they’re not equal in value or talents, but it’s a much tougher sell within the context of the church. Furthermore, to turn this back on women who feel marginalized by policies and doctrines that marginalize them, and to poo poo the incredibly strong cultural influence of mormon society, is quite insensitive, I think. Judging by your comment, though, sensitivity isn’t really what you were going for. it seems a little disingenuous to act as though somehow women are only discriminated against or marginalized to the degree they allow themselves to be. I think that attitude ignores reality.

  128. April 1, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Oh, how very, very well you put it. Why didn’t we have more conversations about this in Thailand? I had to laugh out loud several times (esp. your dad’s knitting comment–GC is always inspiring for my spirit and demoralizing for my feminist intelligence).

  129. Genevieve Zorc
    September 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I love this, and I’m linking it to my own blog.  And that’s a perfect way to describe it Shannon–General Conference is inspiring to my spirit and demoralizing for my feminist intelligence.  I’ll be quoting you in the months to come as well. 🙂

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