All this talk about scriptures brings up a perennial discussion topic which I think has so far gone undiscussed on Times & Seasons. Does it matter that the language of our scriptures is all based on older English usage which allowed the use of he/him/his to refer to persons of either gender? How about in our hymns?
I’ve borrowed the title of Lavina Anderson’s excellent essay on this topic as the title of my post partly to be provocative. I don’t agree with all of her conclusions in that essay, and I don’t think I feel as strongly about it as she does, but I think she makes important points. Here are a couple of them:
“[A common] argument is that “man” is a generic which includes “women” as part of “all mankind” I concede that the term has in fact been so used and still is. But I do not buy the argument. Rather I see “man” as a categorical nound, the existence of which implies a correspondent: man/woman. Other examples are husband/wife, parent/child, teacher/student, master/slave. Correspondence is not the same as inclusion. The category of “husband” predicts but does not include the category of “wife” any more than the category of “child” includes the category of “parent.”
It is an unfortunate historical and social fact that most of these categories connote hierarchy–subservience and superiority. Precisely for that reason, then, I think we should be both scrupulous and courteous in acknowledging the real existence of each category. If one cannot exist without the other, then both deserve to be named.”
I conclude with an experience of my own. Once, on a Sunday when the Sacrament Meeting was devoted to commemorating the founding of the Relief Society, I included “As Sisters in Zion” as the closing hymn. One member of the bishopric was troubled and came to tell me it was inappropriate for one gender to have to sing as if they were the other. I enthusiastically agreed with him and suggested that we draw up a list of hymns that would be inappropriate for mixed-gender gatherings based on that criterion. He got my point after I rattled off about a dozen hymns (including about half of the sacrament hymns) ;>)
So, what say you–does it matter?