Around the blogs: Karen Hall discusses gender discrimination

March 17, 2004 | 21 comments
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In a very interesting post up at By Common Consent, Karen Hall takes on the issue of gender discrimination in the church. She writes:

My concern is the insinuation that women are powerless to affect change in the church. I simply don’t think that is true, and that we have every obligation to use our time, talents, and means to improve and build the church. Think these situations are isolated? How much attention is payed to the scouts vs. the young women in your ward? Think about the jokes about the frivolousness of Relief Society. I think the relevant question is how do we respond to the numerous cuts, insinuations, and “bone-headed” remarks that we are sooner or later exposed to.

I think we have four options. 1) Over time we start to believe the message that women’s experiences in the church are less valuable than men’s. (Sadly, a common reaction.) 2) We “turn the other cheek” recognizing the ridiculousness of the situation, but not reacting. (My usual M.O.–often accompanied by a dramatic eye roll…) 3) We confront the speaker and point out the problem. (Maybe the most healthy response, but come one….I think our strongest cultural trait is being passive aggressive, so how often does this happen?) or 4) We attribute the motives of the individual actor to the church as a whole and slowly become embittered. (Leading, eventually, to some level of apostasy.)

As Glenn Reynolds would say, go read the whole thing!

UPDATE: I should have mentioned this as well when I posted: Karen’s post has attracted commentary elsewhere in the Mormon blogosphere, from Kim Siever and from Dave.

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21 Responses to Around the blogs: Karen Hall discusses gender discrimination

  1. lyle on March 17, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    not to just put retread here, but…

    what about a “fifth” way?

    perhaps one that doesn’t require denigrating, complaining, whining, and creating offense where none is intended, or mountains of hurt and allegedly institutinalized discrimination instead of a divine order that allows men & women to grow in the best way possible in a fallen, mortal world?

    my suggestion would be that we forget that there is any such issue as “gender discrimination,” cuz there isn’t any unless individuals create it, recognize it, and feed it.

    Got a problem? Create a solution…preferably one that doesn’t address the problem. Maybe gender discrimination would go away if…

    1. folks focused on mangifying their talents more?
    2. folks focused on individuals and not gender?
    3. folks supported families and not class warfare?
    4. folks just were plain nice and respected each other as fellow citizens & saints rather than “office holder X” or “sister Z’s husband,” etc…

  2. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for the trackback.

  3. Aaron Brown on March 17, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    “my suggestion would be that we forget that there is any such issue as “gender discrimination,” cuz there isn’t any unless individuals create it, recognize it, and feed it… Got a problem? Create a solution…preferably one that doesn’t address the problem.”

    Oh, come on Lile! Are you serious? It’s only a problem if you choose to let it be? Address the problem by not addressing the problem? Is there any problem under the sun we couldn’t apply this argument to, often with catastrophic results? If my husband beats me, as long as I don’t recognize it as a problem, I can go on cooking his dinners like the good little wife I am, and turn the other cheek?

    This is a great cop-out for bigots, chauvinists, etc. Imagine: I get to make offensive, inappropriate comments right and left, and if anyone ever calls me on it, I will insist no offense was intended and insinuate that the offended individual is too sensitive and needs to reprioritize his/her concerns. I have known several people who use this line all the time as cover for the bad behaviors that they don’t want to change. They shouldn’t be coddled, IMO.

    As a man, I’m afraid I don’t recognize what Karen is talking about as frequently as I might were I a woman. But I can imagine my reaction (as a man) had I been present for the “Spanish prayer” incident she relates in her post. Personally, I probably would have said something vocal and sarcastic, and aimed for a few laughs at the expense of the brother’s silly statement.

    I realize I have a more abrasive approach then most (like you didn’t know that by now), but I’ve found that it can sometimes be more effective than appeasement.

    Aaron B

  4. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    Aaron, you should put that on the other board too.

    And you should answer your email.

  5. Karen on March 17, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    Lyle, the problem is that many women react with alternative #1 and it interferes with their eternal progression. How deeply unhappy would you be if you felt you were never fulfilling your potential?

    Every woman has a different personality, and these cuts affect them in different ways. Like I said, I’ve laughed some comments off in the past–a good sarcastic remark to prick a conscience I always say–but that’s my way of dealing with it. I’ve had in depth and recent conversations with multiple women who worry that they wasted years assuming they couldn’t achieve, and who are worried about female family members dealing with the same problems.

    Why should we ignore a problem, when we can learn and grow from it? Would you counsel a member of an ethnic minority to shrug off a racial slur–a personally demeaning remark?

    As posted on Common Consent, I’ve had wonderful experiences with people in the church being very supportive of my “non-traditional” education and career choices. I teach gospel doctrine, and feel like I have a voice in the group gospel learning that goes on in my ward. I think the church culture can be a caring environment, and the gospel itself is the path to salvation, but that just makes the dismissal or insulting of women all the more jarring. Shouldn’t we, as followers of Christ, rise above that?

  6. Thom on March 17, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    I second Lyle’s suggested 5th way. I was following the thread over at Common Consent, and I have to say I was a bit disturbed by it. I get concerned when people start throwing around words like “discrimination” simply because someone has been insensitive and someone else’s feelings get hurt by it.

    I could make a comment about people with chips on their shoulders that seemingly going around looking to be offended, but that would be insensitive of me.

    I think that we can all find things to be offended about, but the Lord requires us to forgive everyone. I think if we have a specific problem with a specific insensitive person we should ask the Lord for help, and then approach that person in a spirit of love and compassion, letting them know that while you are sure they did not intend it to hurt your feelings, they did. Don’t go to your Bishop about it or react out of so-called “righteous anger” as one blogger put it.

    We are supposed to do good to those that despitefully use us, and return good for evil. Forgiveness and kindness are the lubricating qualities that make it possible for us to serve one another without ultimately murdering each other.

  7. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Thom, we’re not just throwing around words like discrimination — it happens all the time that women get poorly treated in the church, just because they’re women. I am all for forgiving those that offend me, but at the same time if we are seeing system-wide problems, are you suggesting that we should only approach those problems on an individual-by-individual basis? That seems short-sighted to me.

    I’d agree with your approach as a means of dealing with individual offenses, like if Bro. Jones calls Bro. Smith a jerk. But it seems inadequate as a means of dealing with a potentially greater problem.

  8. Aaron Brown on March 17, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Thom,

    I think much of what you say is fine, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that situations where offense is experienced can come in a variety of forms.

    Yes, you’re right that there are people with “chips on their shoulders” who go around “looking for reasons to be offended.” But yes, I’m also right that there are people who go around being offensive and feeling confident that they can invoke your comment to cover themselves. It’s a very situation-specific inquiry as to whether any given incident fits the one description or the other.

    It may be true that 9 times out of 10, publicly vented “righteous anger” is counter-productive. And despite how I probably came off in my prior post, I actually very rarely have occasion to employ it. I certainly don’t look for reasons to. But one other thought comes to mind here:

    There are certain types of public offenses that require public responses, in my opinion. If Steve makes a bigoted or chauvinistic comment at Karen’s expense in Gospel Doctrine class (for example), how Karen chooses to respond to the personal offense is not the only significant question. The fact is, inappropriate public statements create a certain climate and send a message as to what is acceptable to say and do in a Church setting. If not responded to publicly, they can send the signal to other members that they are within the bounds of propriety. (I am a WML who is particularly sensitive to how our meetings can come off to investigators or new members). Sometimes, a public rebuttal is in order.

    Aaron B

  9. Thom on March 17, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    Steve,

    To my thinking, actual “discrimination” requires actual harm that goes well beyond someone being offended or having their feelings hurt. I don’t think the “Spanish prayer” example met that threshold for me, although it is clear that it seems to for many of you.

    I think it is helpful to remember that there is real discrimination in the world where people get truly hurt. I’m not trying to minimize the psychological or spiritual damage that one rude church member can inflict on another, more sensitive member or investigator. I’m merely trying to put it into the larger context of what “discrimination” probably means. When we lump every little sleight in with the bid, obvious wrongs, we either dilute the reactions we should have to real problems, or we convince others we are overreacting.

    You seem to be perceiving what you call “system wide problems,” which I assume you believe stem from “patriarchy” in the church. I wonder if anyone of us truly has enough experience with the whole system to accurately perceive “system wide problems” from our vantage point. I tend to think that each of us have only really experienced anecdotal “individual-by-individual” offenses, and as such, the only way you or I can respond to such offenses are on an individual basis, as they occur, in a spirit of love, and charity, and forgiveness.

    Any broader institutional responses are truly outside of our sphere of influence. We cannot change the hearts of those that offend us by demanding the Lord and the leaders in Salt Lake change the structure of the church. Hearts can’t be changed by organizational edict. But the Lord can help us change our own hearts and the effect that offenses have on us. By responding to offense with love and kindness, we can, in fact, help change the hearts of those that offend us.

    Aaron B,

    It is true that some people go around being offensive. They will have their reward. I also agree that bigoted or chauvinistic comments made in a public forum need to be responded to publicly. However, they need to be responded to with love and concern, in a way that doesn’t fan the fire of ill feeling. We must truly learn to love each other, and treat each other accordingly. Even when the person need to learn to love is being really offensive.

  10. Randy on March 17, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    Aaron, why does being a white male lawyer (WML) make you particularly sensitive? Oh, wait, I get it, ward mission leader. . . . :>

  11. Kristine on March 17, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Thom, how does being systematically excluded from opportunities to exercise one’s gifts, being regularly insulted and patronized, being excluded from meetings in which decisions that will affect your life are made, et bleeping cetera, NOT constitute real harm? Sexism is a big, obvious wrong, and to the extent that the structure of the church reinforces or excuses sexism, it is complicit in a very real form of evil.

  12. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 5:09 pm

    Thom,

    So for you, mere sexual harassment doesn’t count?

    Also, I’m not sure there are system-wide problems, but I’ve seen enough instances of poor treatment of women that it’s certainly wide-spread. You may think I am exaggerating; that’s fine. There’s certainly not a lot of data out there to provide. I think that you are downplaying the problem. Wouldn’t the safer route be to assume the problem is serious?

    Further, I’m not assuming that the patriarchal structure of the church is the cause; simply theorizing whether it plays a role. I wouldn’t suggest changing the church away from the patriarchy, either, since that’s God’s prerogative.

    But your assertion that “any broader institutional responses are truly outside of our sphere of influence” is I think mistaken. This Church isn’t as immune to the concerns of its members as you seem to imply. It’s not a democratic institution, to be sure, but it is an institution with a response network for problems and a means (albeit a little sluggish) for responding to member inquiries/complaints.

    But I agree whole-heartedly with you when you say, “the Lord can help us change our own hearts and the effect that offenses have on us. By responding to offense with love and kindness, we can, in fact, help change the hearts of those that offend us.”

    I just consider it to be a good start; love and kindness with response to offenses should, in my mind, extend to ensuring that others not suffer needlessly.

  13. Kevin B. on March 17, 2004 at 5:11 pm

    My comments, for what they are worth…
    I know many church members who are insensitive and look down on women, so I know the problem exists.
    I also know many church members who are insensitive to different races, and people from different countries.
    I also know many church members who are insensitive to people who are poor and struggling.
    I also know many church members who are insensitive to ‘sinful’ people who are trying to overcome serious personal problems.
    I also know many church members who are insensitive to other church members whose standards happen to be different.

    What’s the point? Any destructive habit or attitude that can be found outside the membership of the Church can also be found inside the membership of the Church, even among people with high callings. This isn’t to say that the problems incorrect attitudes create aren’t serious and shouldn’t be fixed just because they’re common; these can be very serious problems. But are we making the distinction between the Church and the church members? Following the discussion here and on By Common Consent, I’m sensing that the distinction is becoming blurred…

    I’m a convert to the Church, and still the only member in my family. Before I was baptized, I knew many church members, many who were wonderful Christ-like people, many who were not. After baptism, I met many more church members whom I’d step in front of traffic for, and many who annoyed me so much I wanted to strangle them. But when I was baptized I learned an important lesson: that I was joining the Church of JESUS CHRIST not the Church of {insert name of some church member}. I learned that all church members have weaknesses, many of them obvious and destructive, but that didn’t change the inherent goodness and perfection in the Church itself, because that’s based on Christ and Christ alone.

    Ether 12 says God gives us weaknesses so we may be humble, but that weakness can be overcome IF we’re willing to turn to Christ. Sadly, many in the Church do not. That’s a reflection on the members, not on Christ’s Church or His gospel.
    God will never force anyone inside or outside of the Church to be more righteous, even ward leaders.

    Improper attitudes and actions shouldn’t be accepted and we should always work towards making ourselves and others better people, but the existence of imperfect people isn’t ‘proof’ that the Church is inherently flawed. The Church is supposed to have imperfect people in it, and I’m wondering if many have lost sight of that, and are separating themselves away from the Church without legitimate reason…

  14. Karen on March 17, 2004 at 5:14 pm

    Thom,

    Thank you for your input. I think you bring up really great questions–particularly on the use of discrimination. I think we draw the line in different places, but I’m very sensitive to your criteria and concerns.

    Also, I think that you are responding to the initial question on the other blog, how should women respond when faced with insensitive comments and situations? I’m wondering if you and Aaron are differing more on style than on substance. Knowing Aaron, and knowing myself, I don’t think either of us could argue that any response shouldn’t be backed with Christian love and respect. (Also, knowing myself, I’m the last person to go around with a chip on my shoulder, looking to be offended–I realize you don’t know me, and so you’ll just have to take my word on that…) :o)

    But, sometimes, love and respect require firmness, and I know that women struggle with how they are perceived when they are assertive. That creates a chilling affect, and things that should be said aren’t. I think that talking about it gets people thinking about it. Men, to watch what they are really saying, and women to have the courage to point out that a particular course of action or a particular comment was inappropriate. Just letting these things slide signals tacit approval for the notion that women’s experiences in the church are not as highly valued as men. A notion that I don’t think any of us would agree with.

  15. Chris R on March 17, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    Thom,

    I would like to echo Kristine”s last comment. In additon, discrimination can exist when no harm is readily apparent. The relative lack of women speakers at a General (or even Stake) Conference, does not constitute a “harm,” but can be (and should be seen as) a discriminatory practice. Think of the roles that women (or for that matter ethnic) members of the church play in your ward or branch. Do women seem to always possess certain types of callings?

    I am sure that things are much better than they were in the past, but from the comments listed above, and on Common Cause, it is apparant that discrimination still exists and must be rooted out.

  16. Aaron Brown on March 17, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    I suspect that if Thom and I were made to watch various “offensive” interchange scenarios and were then asked how one should best respond, our answers probably wouldn’t be that different from each other. Karen suggests that we differ more “in style than in substance.” But of course, one’s responsive “style” really is part of the very “substance” we’re talking about.

    Bottom line: I think this is a difficult issue for two people to hash out unless a very specific incident is mutually observed and discussed. I think everyone agrees on the basic principles that should be applied in the abstract.

    Aaron B

  17. Randy on March 17, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    To me, the hardest part of this concerns the issue raised by Kristine, namely, whether the structure of the church reinforces or excuses sexism. It is one thing to try and “root out” individual discriminatory tendencies in members or local priesthood leaders. It is quite another to call for changes to the structure of the church. I’m curious–anyone have a proposal (modest or otherwise)? Or are we just going to wait it out until Christ comes?

  18. Aaron Brown on March 17, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Having said all this, let me now agree with those who have suggested that the bandying about of the term “discrimination” in this thread has been rather problematic. As a collective, we seem to be using it rather loosely. I’m not sure it’s a term that really embraces well all the phenomena we’re discussing.

    Would someone put forth a rigorous definition of “discrimination” please?

    Aaron B

  19. Aaron Brown on March 17, 2004 at 5:44 pm

    Randy asks:
    “Aaron, why does being a white male lawyer (WML) make you particularly sensitive?”

    In all seriousness, as a white male lawyer — who also happens to be 6’5″ tall, has a booming voice, and who can look the part of a “responsible, authoritative Church leader” without much effort (even if I’m not tempermentally suited to it…) — I believe it’s incumbent upon me to speak out where others can’t do so effectively. In other words, if Karen or Kristine decide to stand up to a sexist, chauvinistic “priesthood holder” (for example), they are likely to be dismissed as “uppity women who don’t know their place.” In contrast, if I stand up to one, I’m not likely to be so easily dismissed.

    That’s a sad commentary on how women’s voices are undervalued, but probably an accurate one.

    Aaron B

  20. Melissa on March 17, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    My comments copied from the other blog for those interested:

    Kaimi,

    You made me laugh so hard that the librarian gave me a dirty look!

    You can read S. Johnson’s own account of the situation in _From Housewife to Heretic_.

    Steve,
    My point in bringing up the difference in sustaining practices was just to point out that I notice gender differences (which at time, although certainly not always indicate gender discrimination) This doesn’t mean that I am looking to be wounded or walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I, like Karen, teach GD in my ward and through that calling feel like I am very visible and influential. But, that influence is limited to my ward. If I really wanted to affect any change (and protect myself against suspicion) I would need to follow the advice of one perceptive Mormon feminist I know and “marry an influential man.” This is troubling on Oh, so many levels.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Steve–”what can a guy do?” First, I’m so glad you asked! Your inquiry makes me hopeful because it represents an openness to learn from women’s real, lived experiences in the Church and to change your thinking/behavior/approach because of them. I think this is rare and precious.

    To be fully fair, a lot of the fear that women feel about speaking out against injustice is fear of being ostracized by other women. Mormon women are harsh judges of each other because there is deep insecurity over the widely divergent choices that we actually make. Judgment of each other becomes a way to justify our own choices. Very sad. The roots of this judgment and the ways in which men contribute to this problem is, of course, another thread.

    ——————————————————————————–

    I think “a guy” can do a number of things to help eradicate this fear that I think is prevalent among women.

    1. Notice the injustices yourself and make it clear that they matter to you (i.e. this is not just a “woman’s” issue)–I have male friends who are more conscious of gender injustice than am I. I feel “safe” to talk to these men because I know their consciousness has already been raised. I don’t have to “do battle” with them because they already notice and care about the issues and I know it.
    Melissa | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 – 5:08 pm | #

    ——————————————————————————–

    2. Think hard about the roots of gender discrimination. This is the reason I bring up the supposedly “boring” issue of the sustainings. What is behind the difference? Perhaps nothing. But, perhaps something (i.e. discrimination). I think that this kind of “hard thinking” about the reasoning behind various practices and policies are why they change. Why did women start speaking in general conferenc in 1987? Why were women “allowed” to pray in Sacrmament meeting about the same time, etc? Because people were thinking hard (asking questions) about these practices. Here are a couple of questions: Why should there be a member of the First Presidency as the final speaker in the General Women’s meetings? There are no women in leadership in the General Men’s meetings. Why are the RS and Primary Presidencies not pictured in the Ensign with the members of the 12 or 70? Why is the women’s organization of the church called an “auxiliary?”
    Melissa | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 – 5:08 pm | #

    ——————————————————————————–

    3. Are there women in your ward who read the scriptures in a gender-neutral way or who sing the hymns in a gender-neutral way? Do you ever sing along with them that way?

    4. How well do women get listened to in your ward? I don’t mean about what night to hold YW on. I mean how well do women get listened to about doctrine, about scriptural interpretation. Do you take the women in your ward seriously? Do you know them personally, their challenges, their hopes, their heartbreaks?
    Melissa | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 – 5:09 pm | #

    ——————————————————————————–

    5. Do you know the members of the General RS Presidency? How about the Primary Presidency? If not, why not?

    6. Are women involved in decision-making on the ward and stake level? Do they particpate in ward and stake conference? I can’t tell you the number of ward and stake conferences I have been in when not a single woman spoke. What kind of message does this send to the women in the audience?

    I could go on and on, but this is good for now

  21. Restoring Lost Comments on November 25, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    [Restoring Comments Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    I would like to know what practical changes you would suggest in terms of church administration. I don’t know that some snot-nosed deacon acting uppity about women and their role is the place to start.
    I think the most important question is this: to what extent can women be involved in accomplishing the mission of the church. No part of the mission of the church is inherently male (with the possible exception of certain ordinances), but ordinances are the equivalent of whited sepulchres if the spirit isn’t behind them. Women can and should play a huge role in perfecting the saints, proclaiming the gospel, and redeeming the dead.
    I have found women’s voices to be valued in the church, although the level of value given varies from situation to situation. I recall one sister in a stake I lived in who insisted on attending all stake priesthood meetings. While I found this a little different, apparently she had done it for years and didn’t make a big scene while she was there.
    What about the recent worldwide training broadcast in which the focus was on the three auxiliaries, with significant time given to the presidents of each auxiliary?
    Someone over at Common Consent has poo-pooed Elder Ballard’s efforts to make counsel meetings more inclusive. How does that contribute to any improvement when you take the most vocal advocate of the huge role women should be playing in stake and ward leadership and deem him a hypocrite?
    Comment by: MDS at March 17, 2004 06:23 PM

    *****

    I can’t get back to the Comments at Common Consent. Are there technical difficulties or have I just been silenced :) ?
    Comment by: Melissa at March 17, 2004 06:36 PM

    *****

    Melissa,
    comments are working OK for me… maybe just give it another try. Patience!

    MDS: I like the way you phrase the question in terms of overall accomplishing the missions of the church. That’s a positive way to approach things.
    Not sure what practical changes I would suggest to church administration. Perhaps none at all are necessary in terms of hierarchy (others may disagree). It really wouldn’t take much by church leaders to help everyone take women more seriously. Here’s a few things I’d like to see, for example:
    1. A serious talk given by a woman in General Conference.
    2. More autonomy/trust for the Relief Society as an auxiliary.
    3. Women speakers that don’t address the congregation in their ‘primary’ voice.
    What did I think of the recent training broadcast? I thought it was only O.K., because the time among the auxiliaries was spent in surreal role-plays and where almost every sentence by women started with, “I’m so grateful for”….
    I don’t think Kristine was poo-pooing Elder Ballard’s efforts (and certainly not calling him a hypocrite!), just pointing out that they were an earnest effort that didn’t quite go far enough, in her opinion. I think Elder Balland has done a pretty good job, personally! But Kristine’s right, just a tiny bit of action to go along with his talk would go a long, long way.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 17, 2004 06:51 PM

    *****

    1. A serious talk given by a woman in General Conference.
    I know the term “serious” is inherently subjective, but my feeling is this has been accomplished many times over. I, for myself, would love to hear more from the General Relief Society Presidency in conference. I usually listen to the General Relief Society Meeting with my wife over the internet, and have really enjoyed the focus on the mission of the church that has been quite strong for the last few years. It seems to me that the female leadership is more willing to call a spade a spade when they feel like we are falling short than the men. The focus of these meetings continues to emphasize working together with the Priesthood to accomplish the mission of the church, and this was the same theme of the auxiliary training.
    2. More autonomy/trust for the Relief Society as an auxiliary.
    What would this mean, in practical terms? Are they not trusted now? What would they do differently with this “new” autonomy?
    3. Women speakers that don’t address the congregation in their ‘primary’ voice.
    I’ve heard this complaint before, and am certainly in agreement that some sisters have a hard time shedding the ‘primary’ voice, even while speaking in General Conference. How does this speak to the question of discrimination? Has the mean patriarchal church somehow forced the sister to sound that way, or has she made a conscious decision about how she wants to present?
    Comment by: MDS at March 17, 2004 07:09 PM

    *****

    Steve,
    1 and 3 are not administrative changes at all. The speakers at conference pick their own topics, and I am fairly certain the women are not given instruction to speak in a “primary voice.”
    2 sounds like it could be an administrative change, but I’m not sure I know what you mean by “trust” the RS more. What are you suggesting we do to give the RS more autonomy?
    Comment by: Randy at March 17, 2004 07:13 PM

    *****

    MDS: please don’t put words in my mouth; I’m perfectly capable of being inflammatory all by myself ; )
    My point was to disagree with Karen’s assertion that individual misbehavior can be considered aside from the larger problem of gender discrimination in a patriarchal structure. I used the example of Elder Ballard to show that, while he said great things about including women’s voices, what he did, as a function of the church structure, NOT because of his personal sexist views, had the effect of reinforcing sexist opinions and behavior among the members of the stake I lived in. I don’t think Elder Ballard’s a hypocrite; I think that his correct and admirable ideas are necessarily compromised by the current structure and culture of the church.
    Comment by: Kristine at March 17, 2004 07:29 PM

    *****

    My bad. Following a conversation can be difficult when it takes place at multiple locations.
    What needs to happen, in your opinion, to more fully implement Elder Ballard’s vision of how things should work?
    Comment by: MDS at March 17, 2004 07:54 PM

    *****

    On a MUCH lighter note…
    I would just like to point out that, with the sole exception of a comment from Nate Oman on the Ghana Temple, ALL of the “Recent Comments” are devoted to this thread. Wow, Karen, I think that’s a first at T&S. No competition from competing threads. Don’t you feel oh so special?
    Also, for those who have often wondered what it’s like to make the Top 10 “Most Comments” list on the right side of the screen, I can now tell you (I’m now #10)… It is truly a lifechanging experience. The fame and fortune is a bit hard to take initially, but you learn to cope somehow.
    :)
    Aaron B
    Comment by: Aaron Brown at March 17, 2004 07:54 PM

    *****

    Kristine, I think that’s an interesting assertion. Why can’t individual misbehavior be considered separately from the church structure in general? If that were true, then it is akin to saying that it is impossible for individual members to “behave” themselves in the church structure as it now exists. I don’t think that’s correct. I think plenty of members, of both genders, manage to “behave” themselves. It is not impossible for the offenders to quit offending.
    Comment by: Karen at March 17, 2004 08:00 PM

    *****

    Aaron, I read you loud and clear about being on the right side of the screen. It’s like being at the Oscars!
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 17, 2004 08:08 PM

    *****

    Karen, sorry, I phrased that badly. It’s not that individual misbehavior can’t be considered separately, only that the structural contributions to individual misbehavior can’t properly be ignored.
    A non-Mormon example (which may or may not be a useful analog): there’s no question that Jeff Skilling personally behaved unethically; however, a discussion of how to respond to his wrongdoing which did not consider and attempt to address the unethical culture that enabled (and likely encouraged) his personal criminality would be inadequate.
    Comment by: Kristine at March 17, 2004 08:13 PM

    *****

    MDS asked: “What needs to happen, in your opinion, to more fully implement Elder Ballard’s vision of how things should work?”
    Um, how about a leadership training tour where Elder Ballard and a couple of other apostles travel with the General RS President, YW President, and Primary President and model a ward council meeting. And how about if, after that, Elder Ballard and the other apostles go sit in the pews and listen to each of the three women give talks on aspects of leadership and current emphases of church policy. How about if the RS President addresses the Priesthood Session of conference?
    …somebody pinch me; I’ve obviously drifted off into never-never land :)
    Comment by: Kristine at March 17, 2004 08:20 PM

    *****

    Wow. Amazing what can happen when you forget your power cord for your laptop.
    I think the gender gap is real at church. I also think the education gap is real. As is the financial gap. Oh and I guess the spiritual gap. As Christ states in Matthew 14:7,
    For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
    It is our challenge to assist the poor among us to become heirs to the kingdom whether it be spiritually, educationally, financially or gender-gap related. Openness in conversation is the way to start. Hurt feelings get you nowhere. Until someone knows your feelings have been hurt or you’ve been treated unjustly they cannot change. There will always be that lunkhead that just doesn’t get it. They aren’t all men.
    Comment by: cooper at March 17, 2004 08:55 PM

    *****

    While I agree structures certainly can affect bad behavior, especially among those prone to it, I sometimes think that we place far, far too much emphasis on the church structure to the exclusion of individual consideration. If people are becoming offended because of what they see as slights in the structure, then to me the problem is as much the perception of ones value being tied to the structure.
    I don’t mean that we don’t need church. Far from it. Merely the church is at best a facilitator. If we keep requiring all these leadership sessions done in a “gender appropriate way” then I think we’ve missed the forest for the trees. (IMO)
    As for knowing the members of the RS board or PM board, I admit that I don’t. But I probably couldn’t name all the apostles anymore either, let alone the 70′s, Presiding Bishopric, etc. I’m not sure that is really a way to value them.
    I’m all for women’s voices. But sometimes I think we put undue stress on things that don’t really matter too much. Certainly most posting here will disagree with me on that. But I think we sometimes need to worry about salvation as coming from ourselves a bit more and not look at what the church is or isn’t doing for us. From my own experience looking to the church or church structure to solve problems ends up leading one away from the gospel. You’ll always be dissatisfied.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 17, 2004 09:02 PM

    *****

    MDS,
    I also usually listen to the Priesthood Session with my husband over the internet, and have really enjoyed the focus on the mission of the church that has been quite strong for the last few years. Oh wait . . .
    Comment by: Michelle at March 17, 2004 09:50 PM

    *****

    Ok…I have yet to read the other posts; yet I forgot to add one more thing:
    What are sisters & brothers in the Church going to do about anti-male discrimination in the Church? Frankly, I’m tired of being discriminated against . . . and the women don’t seem to be noticing it or doing anything about it; and most men just suck it up and are silent. Frankly…I’m pretty sad that all of us can’t just respect each other as individuals.
    Comment by: lyle at March 18, 2004 12:03 AM

    *****

    Well said lyle. I agree. There is a lot of male bashing, but no one seems to worry about it. How long is the priesthood going to have to endure the sniping about home teaching?
    Comment by: cooper at March 18, 2004 12:16 AM

    *****

    “…I am fairly certain the women are not given instruction to speak in a ‘primary voice’.”
    But somehow most of them do; I guess we’ll just leave it as a mystery of the universe.
    All this talk of “fixing” the Church has me intrigued. I think I agree with Clark. If we really look hard enough, this is probably not the only flaw. Asking for the Church to be something it is not, IMO, doesn’t get very far. But if you’re a woman, then I suppose with this flaw, you’re gung-ho and hopeful about the idea of radical change.
    Frankly, I don’t think someone like Kristine (bless her heart) would be satisfied until we have something like the Quorum of the 24 Apostles and Apostlettes. And honestly, I don’t think I ever want her satisfied…at least all the way, because then she’d be such a bore. :-)
    Comment by: Bob Caswell at March 18, 2004 03:24 AM

    *****

    Questions::
    1. “Is there any problem under the sun we couldn’t apply this argument to . . . [?]”
    -Exactly! My thoughts exactly. If we focus on the goode and the positive, and work to expand these, rather than focusing on the negative…who knows but that a new Zion on earth could be created.
    2. “the problem is that many women react with alternative #1 and it interferes with their eternal progression. How deeply unhappy would you be if you felt you were never fulfilling your potential?”
    -Good point; women, and men, shouldn’t let others tell them what their worth is. If we don’t focus on loving god and magnifying our talents/fulfilling potential…each person would be miserable. Letting others tell him/her how much they are worth only makes it worse…and is probably related to co-dependence, for which such individuals might want to consider counseling/assertiveness training/taking accountability for their life rather than blaming others.
    3. “Oh, come on Lile! Are you serious?”
    -Um…yes. I presume you are? Is it a joke to have a different and/or conservative and/or alternative viewpoint? ;)
    4. “Why should we ignore a problem, when we can learn and grow from it?”
    -Because if you focus on what you are strong in, rather than dwelling on the weak, then the strength will gradually spread to all other areas (ok, condemn this as ‘trickle down spirituality’ if you will, but it worx). Do you want to learn and grow from problems? Or from opportunities, achievement, etc.?
    5. “Would you counsel a member of an ethnic minority to shrug off a racial slur–a personally demeaning remark?”
    -Yes, {duh, imo}. why dignify such a patently absurd comment with a response…let alone letting it bring the target’s spirituality down. Why? Cuz I can only be offended when called a “stupid white boy” [recent occurence, in s. philly, btw], if I choose to take offense. I can either “feel hurt,” or I can adopt the attitude of the Lord and understand that those individuals who make “personally demeaning remarks” are really only tarring/feathering their own inadequacies.
    6. “I think the church culture can be a caring environment, and the gospel itself is the path to salvation, but that just makes the dismissal or insulting of women all the more jarring. Shouldn’t we, as followers of Christ, rise above that?”
    -The Gospel & church is a caring environment; and one which can only be nurtured by our own/each individuals choice to be nurturing/supporting rather than condemnatory/judging. As followers of Christ, we rise above insults to others, whether based on immutable characteristics such as gender, or the exercise of moral agency, by “being” nurturing & supporting. IMO, I would enjoy & love being in your SS class.
    7. “if we are seeing system-wide problems, are you suggesting that we should only approach those problems on an individual-by-individual basis? That seems short-sighted to me.”
    -Great point Steve. I think that Boromir in LotR felt the same way…he could have solved system-wide problems if he had the power of the ring; yet that blasted short-sided Frodo was too busy solving problems on an individual basis; from building up individual relationships with the other members of the Fellowship to his special bond with Sam. I certainly felt this way during my college life…figuring that if only I could become a powerful/influential person, that I could solve system-wide problems and create the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However…and perhaps this is just me (but i doubt it, IMHO), but my greatest capacity to fix system-wide problems has been one heart, one mind, one soul at a time . . . i.e. just like missionary work. If all wo(men) were angels…there would be no need for govt, and if everyone was a Saint…we would live in Zion and everythign woudl be peachy. Well…how is the Kingdom of God currently being built?
    8. “how does being systematically excluded from opportunities to exercise one’s gifts, being regularly insulted and patronized, being excluded from meetings in which decisions that will affect your life are made, et bleeping cetera, NOT constitute real harm? Sexism is a big, obvious wrong, and to the extent that the structure of the church reinforces or excuses sexism, it is complicit in a very real form of evil.”
    -As Thom mentioned…if this is a real system wide problem, it can and will only be addressed at the correct level of authority in the Kingdom of God [remember, that does mean HF + HM] . . . aka The Prophet & the Apostles & other leaders of the church [maybe like the various presidencies, the 70, primary, RS, YW & YM?]
    -If you feel the structure of the Church reinforces evil and/or is ‘complicit’ in such…I don’t have, nor could give/create an answer for you. I think you make some really great points…no one wants decisions affecting their life made by others; yet…such is life. Just as Clinton haters during the 90s and Bush haters right now.
    9. “It is quite another to call for changes to the structure of the church. I’m curious–anyone have a proposal (modest or otherwise)?”
    -Yes, I have a proposal. Oh wait, i already made it and it was summarily dismissed without any real discussion. No stress, I’m used to it. I’m not smart, logical or eloquent [or nice?] enuff to be more than one of 3-4 conservative voices regularly muffled out and ignored by the more liberal crowd. ah…how i long for BYU sometimes (ok, only occasionally).
    10. “Or are we just going to wait it out until Christ comes?”
    - Meaning what? That the Church is somehow flawed and we are just in a trial of our faith, enduring until Christ fixes everything for us & liberates us from male guilt? I don’t think so…but if so; hey…i’ll repent and admit i’m wrong. However, I don’t think that the Lorde wants us to just sit and wait…on anything, whether it is pro-active efforts to be ‘stewards’ over the environment, (I knew there was a reason I bought a gas-electric car rather than waiting for the Lorde to cleanse the atmosphere when he comes again); etc.
    Alternative ways to imagine/create:
    1. “Imagine: I get to make offensive, inappropriate comments right and left, and if anyone ever calls me on it, I will insist no offense was intended and insinuate that the offended individual is too sensitive and needs to reprioritize his/her concerns.”
    -Um…Imagine: You get to make positive, appropriate comments that build you and others up instead of criticizing/stirring up contention, etc. Imagine: the individual who makes offensive, inappropriate comments is ignored…and is thus robbed of attention, etc. Assuming of course that the individual is in the wrong; and not the rest of the PC and/or non-PC crowd.
    2. “I’ve had in depth and recent conversations with multiple women who worry that they wasted years assuming they couldn’t achieve,”
    -Which, IMO, might have empathic benefits, butto co-opt Aaron’s words, simply coddles harmful behavior; i.e. if women are ‘wasting’ their lives’ cuz they are ‘worried’ they couldn’t achieve…perhaps they should stop worrying, start doing, and start reaping the fruits of achievement. ditto for men.
    3. “The relative lack of women speakers at a General (or even Stake) Conference, does not constitute a “harm,” but can be (and should be seen as) a discriminatory practice.”
    -Why? If the Stake President doesn’t call a single woman to speak or pray or anything…and has an all male choir sing, with no singing in the congregation and a woman never utters a sound beyond breathing…this is discrimination? I guess we weren’t there to know…but was the Prophet Jacob’s “bouche”/you nasty evil sinning menfolk talk discrimination vs. women just because he didn’t trot the women/children who had been harmed up on the stand to bear their testimonies and/or publicly share how they had been harmed? Or what woman X or children Y & Z thought should be done to fix the situation?
    4. “Think of the roles that women (or for that matter ethnic) members of the church play in your ward or branch. Do women seem to always possess certain types of callings?”
    -Ok. Let’s see, in my branch, men run the young men’s program, women run the young women’s program, men run priesthood and women run relief society. primary and nursery and sunday school are run by & taught by both genders and the branch presidency are, um, well…men. So…there we have it. There are more men in leadership positions! Discrimination alert, sos, etc. Oh wait…wasn’t there something about leaders being servants, and vice versa? Hm…
    5. “it is apparant that discrimination still exists and must be rooted out.”
    -Ok. Um…who should lead the charge against discrimination? I know open the floor for nominations. Oh, I can’t do that? why? Oh yeah…there is something about the Prophet being God’s steward; and individual members dealing with their immediate sphere of influence.
    6. “In other words, if Karen or Kristine decide to stand up to a sexist, chauvinistic “priesthood holder” (for example), they are likely to be dismissed as “uppity women who don’t know their place.” In contrast, if I stand up to one, I’m not likely to be so easily dismissed. That’s a sad commentary on how women’s voices are undervalued, but probably an accurate one.”
    -Aaron…I guess I missed how you being tall and male automatically made you some type of authority figure…no offense, i don’t want to get pounded…but I guess I wouldn’t automatically give your opinion any more weight than Karen, Kristine, Karl or Sr. Chauvinist.
    -I couldn’t disagree more that women’s voices are undervalued. I have yet to hear one single individual here even suggest that Women’s voices, opinions, etc. are worth any less than any other of God’s children; male or female.
    Comment by: lyle at March 18, 2004 04:03 AM

    *****

    Here’s a few things I’d like to see, for example:
    1. Members who pay equal attention to any/all speakers during conference; and don’t write them off cuz they are “not the prophet,” “not an apostle,” “not a GA,” “Not a … ,” etc. IMO, I’m happy with my growth; cuz I used to follow such practices…years and years ago.
    2. Members who don’t use harmful and hurtful stereotypes to describe other individual members’: voices, personal inspired choices of topics, use of poems, lack of poems, use of hymns, lack of hymns, discussion of the most important matter in life (i.e. the atonement & family life), etc.
    3. A woman who I can date who will announce that she is/invite herself to attend PH session with me and/or will allow me to go to Women’s conference/Relief Society Conference, etc.
    4. I could put down Men’s Conference…but that would just be shot down as discriminatory. Hm…
    Comment by: lyle at March 18, 2004 05:57 AM

    *****

    Lyle, you do have Men’s conference, it’s called Priesthood session. It happens twice a year.
    Comment by: Mary at March 18, 2004 09:30 AM

    *****

    I hate to have to ask this, but I’m new around here, and to blogging in general. Would somebody fill me in on what the important shorthand being used means? Please? “IMO?” I’m sure its obvious, but I’m at a loss. Thanks.
    Comment by: Thom at March 18, 2004 09:41 AM

    *****

    Reading through the many comments thus far, I am struck by the discord of so many. The Lord has said, “Be one.” If we are not one, we are not of the Lord, yet complaint after complaint is leveled against the church, its leaders, its structure. The gender wars are entirely concocted by people who seek not unity but power. Who generates such discord? It is not God. Like it or not, there are differences between men and women, and, for whatever reason, God has chosen to place priesthood and leadership responsibilities with men. This is not some slap in the face to women, and to read criticism after criticism really makes me sad. In my mind it is just another example of how worldly philosophies have negatively affected even good church members. That is not to say that legitimate criticism may be directed at specific individuals, both men and women, who show insensitivity and/or hostility to members of the opposite sex. But, to suggest that the Church’s administrative structure, revealed by God, is inherently “discriminatory”, shows a shocking lack of faith in God’s plan and in His restored gospel, in my opinion.
    Comment by: Brent at March 18, 2004 10:21 AM

    *****

    IMO = In My Opinion
    One I’m not positive about but am assuming:
    IMHO = In My Humble Opinion
    Comment by: Bob Caswell at March 18, 2004 10:29 AM

    *****

    Thom, a little blog primer:
    IMO = in my opinion
    IMHO = in my humble opinion
    YMMV = your mileage may vary
    IANAL = I am not a lawyer
    LOL = laugh out loud
    ROTFL = roll on the floor laughing
    SUYI = shut up, you idiots (made that one up).
    Brent: I agree with your call that we try to be as one, and that the gender wars are largely divisive. I would point out though that the church’s structure is by definition “discriminatory”. Whether the distinctions it makes are OK forms of discrimination is another question.
    That said, no one here is questioning God’s plan, the authority of leaders of the Church, or the restored gospel. I don’t think people have been advocating giving priesthood to women or making dramatic, significant structural changes. It’s clear from everybody on all sides here, I think, that we love the Lord and his Church. But does that mean we can’t see any problems in the Church?
    I’m asking because I’m really curious to get your ideas here — can a faithful member of the Church still point out perceived problems? Or, in your mind, does having faith in God and his Church mean that any situation, no matter how extreme or repeated the scenario, must be an individual problem? I’m not just speaking about this gender issue but of any hypothetical. Is there ever a situation where you would say, “yeah, the Church has a problem here?”
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 10:36 AM

    *****

    For what it’s worth, I really don’t like the constant use of web abbreviations in civilized discussion forums (including this one). They have their place, in instant-messaging conversations. Not elsewhere, in my opinion.
    Comment by: Kaimi at March 18, 2004 10:41 AM

    *****

    Oh Kaimi, loosen up! Abbreviations are the future (along with e-committees). Just think of the time saving: your last post could be, “FWIW, I really don’t like the constant use of web abbreviations in civilized DF (including this one). They have their place, in IM conversations. Not elsewhere, IMO.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 10:53 AM

    *****

    Perhaps I should have just written, (hereinafter “PISHJW”)
    FWIW, I RDL the CUOWA in CDF (ITO). They HTP, in IMC. NE, IMO.
    Comment by: Kaimi at March 18, 2004 10:58 AM

    *****

    Steve, you ask “can a faithful member of the Church still point out perceived problems?” I am a lawyer so you will have to excuse me when I answer your question by saying yes and no. The focus of the problem is the key. You would be wise to raise questions about individual members who make offensive and/or insensitive remarks about members of the opposite gender. I think, however, to identify Priesthood leadership meetings, and the lack of women in attendance, etc. as evidence of some level of nefarious discrimination is not appropriate. I don’t see how one can say he or she is a “faithful member” of the Church while attacking the revealed structure of the Church.
    Your question also raised the issue of “perceived problems.” I would ask all of us to evaluate our perceptions and determine whether there is a real problem or only one of our perception. If it is a “perceived problem” then from whence does the perception arise. Are we being fair in our analysis? Is our analysis tainted by the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture, or is it based on a sound doctrinal understanding of truth? Are we striving for unity, or breeding contention?
    Now, in all of this, there is always room for improvement. I could identify any number of problems in the administration of my ward for instance. Where appropriate I attempt to influence things for proper change. I don’t think there is anything wrong if Karen or Kristine while serving in an auxiliary, or anyone for that matter who is in an appropriate position to do so, talk to their priesthood leaders to suggest implementation of the directions from our general church leaders (e.g. Elder Ballard, directions from WW Training, etc.). If a priesthood leader dismisses such overtures as being made by “uppity women” then that is that individual leader’s problem, and the complaining party has the responsibility to fulfill her (or his) duties in the best, most effective manner to build up the kingdom. My experience is that most priesthood leaders want to do what the Lord wants, and would be completely open to expand the involvement in women, consistent with the revealed structure. That is why the endless pinpricking and fault finding bothers me so much.
    As to your broader question about whether the Church may have problems. I guess my answer is generally no. We are led by a prophet of God and 14 other individuals who we sustain as prophets seers and revelators. When we purport to identify problems with the direction the church is taking or the way in which it is structured, we cannot be faithful to it. I have mentioned this previously, but I have a friend who is convinced the “Church is wrong” on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. That is fine and dandy for him to believe that, no matter how wrong he might be, but he is not being a faithful member when he fails to support the Church’s position. We are not to be laws unto ourselves. As for other situations whether extreme or oft repeated, I cannot speak to hypotheticals, and I do not believe the situations described in the various comments above present a church-wide or church supported problem (i.e. any such problems are individual in nature) or that some of the examples present a problem in the first place (e.g. Priesthood leadership meetings).
    Comment by: Brent at March 18, 2004 11:12 AM

    *****

    Brent: “As for other situations whether extreme or oft repeated, I cannot speak to hypotheticals”.
    Oh, come on, man! That’s what this board is FOR! Hypotheticals and conjecture! Save your hard rules of evidence for the courtroom.
    As for, “I don’t see how one can say he or she is a “faithful member” of the Church while attacking the revealed structure of the Church”, that’s true enough, but is the entire Church from top to bottom the result of revelation? Every policy, instruction, manual, everything? Are you really saying that the Church can never have anything wrong with it? I’m not so sure; perhaps you could provide some handy quotes/scriptures to support this idea of a Church Inviolate?
    As for you not believing that “the situations described in the various comments above present a church-wide or church supported problem,” you’d perhaps feel differently if you were a woman. (Maybe I’d feel differently about it, then too, though!)
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 11:23 AM

    *****

    Steve I am not suggesting a “Church inviolate” and was merely commenting based on complaints about such things as priesthood leadership meetings. Can someone criticize some of the manuals and other procedural aspects not necessarily part of the “revealed structure”? Sure. But when we hear Elder Oaks talk about some of the new teaching manuals and lesson materials (e.g. Teachings for Out Time) and about how the Church leadership prayed over the form and content of such materials, I wonder what is to be gained from being critical. I do believe we are led by inspired individuals who are human beings and can and do make mistakes. However, knowing that their intent is to do the mind and will of the Lord, and that they have keys of administration in fulfilling their divine callings, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when what may be more trivial matters such as policy, manuals and the like are not necessarily to my personal liking.
    Also, I don’t think being a woman would make any difference in my opinion. My wife and I talk about such issues and they do not bother her. Why? Because she doesn’t have a problem with the structure of the church. She doesn’t view everything as men v. women. In fact, she generally has a problem with those who criticize the church as being male-dominated. She gets exercised when some women in RS chafe at the teaching that women should not work outside the home. Therefore, your suggestion that if I were a woman, I might feel differently is merely speculative. I do not believe I would.
    Comment by: Brent at March 18, 2004 12:05 PM

    *****

    Brent: “Therefore, your suggestion that if I were a woman, I might feel differently is merely speculative.”
    I sure hope it’s just speculative, for many reasons! It was to suggest a different perspective — that backfired, since apparently if you were a woman, you’d be like your wife.
    You said, “I do believe we are led by inspired individuals who are human beings and can and do make mistakes.” The rest of your post seems contrary to this assertion, though, or at least it reduces its scope. Maybe, if church leaders make mistakes, you believe they are only de minimis. That’s a view consistent with your earlier posts, and I have no problem with it. In fact, for the most part, that’s my view too and that’s how I live my life. You may be able to see, though, how others may not be as comfortable as you and me.
    Lastly, re: people who “chafe at the teaching that women should not work outside the home.” There is no general teaching that that women should not work outside the home. I defy you to show it to me! Women SHOULD chafe at that idea. Now as to whether MOTHERS should work outside the home, that’s a different animal. So be it.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 12:17 PM

    *****

    Mary, to point out: Women’s Conference is a BYU sponsored event. Priesthood Session is just that. So is the RS broadcast at conference time. My husband has longed for a time when he could take two days to be with the brethren, talk about issues important to his spiritual, emotional and physical well being and possibly get some ideas on improving himself all the while being with his friends and enjoying their company.
    That’s what the church does for us with Women’s Conference.
    I just wish we could all enjoy the fact that we are fighting this fight together and that our real enemy is Satan.
    Comment by: cooper at March 18, 2004 12:20 PM

    *****

    Bob, I wanted to respond to your comment about “Apostlettes” (btw, yuck–that sounds almost sacreligious to me). The first apostle was a woman (see John 20). There’s probably also a case for considering the witness of of Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other unnamed women in Luke 24 apostles, at least in function, even if the office wasn’t yet named. Junia is explicitly called an apostle.
    I don’t think this means that the church should instantly change and start calling women to the Quorum of the 12 (you can start breathing again, Brent!), only that there’s no really good reason to believe that the current order of things is inevitable or meant to be eternal.
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 12:27 PM

    *****

    oops–I meant “considering the witness of …. _apostolic_”
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 12:30 PM

    *****

    Cooper,
    Here, here. For all that’s been said here, I’d like to emphasize that unity and love for each other is critically important. Our enemy is Satan, not each other or the Church.
    I’ve been critical in my posts, perhaps a little too much so — I really love this Church, and the people in it.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 12:30 PM

    *****

    Steve, you are correct, I misspoke. I meant mothers. There are absolutely no teachings suggesting a woman who is not a mother ought not to work outside the home. Incidentally, it is the chafing about teachings about mother’s staying home that bothers my wife.
    Comment by: Brent at March 18, 2004 12:34 PM

    *****

    And another thing, did you just apologize? Again?
    Comment by: Brent at March 18, 2004 12:36 PM

    *****

    Brent, NO WAY is that an apology. Calls for love & unity aren’t inconsistent with calls for change, you know that…
    You know that I will never apologize again!!
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 12:58 PM

    *****

    At Steve’s request, I would like to apologize to everyone for all of Steve’s comments. :)
    Aaron B
    Comment by: Aaron Brown at March 18, 2004 02:19 PM

    *****

    (thunderously roars) AAAARONNNN!!!!
    http://www.khaaan.com/
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 02:47 PM

    *****

    Brent:
    Can you help? Or anyone else? I’m going to look up some links Steve sent me; but I am at a complete and utter loss.
    It seems that either I don’t know how to put words together and form a thought that might be engaged in rationale discusion;
    or
    I am something called a troll, just ‘ranting’
    or
    no one else can come up with arguments against what i’m posting?
    I’m just confused…and since you seem to get more respect here; maybe I can learn from you…
    I’m guessing, not knowing, that Matt Evans, is similarly frustrated…as his posts seem to get ignored fairly often and I haven’t seen him of late.
    Comment by: lyle at March 18, 2004 03:12 PM

    *****

    Kristine, I think you are equivocating between the two senses of Apostle. Today we almost exclusively use it to mean the priesthood office. But even in the early LDS church it had the more expansive meaning of a witness of Christ. So in a sense we are all to be apostles. But I think you err to equate that with the office, let alone priesthood. Admittedly the terminology can be maddening due to these multiple uses. (Which is why I suspect the more generic sense of apostle fell out of popularity)
    I’d add, of course, that no one can call themselves as an apostle simply because of perceptions of discrimination. That would presumably be up to God to decide who to reveal himself to and whether to let them talk about it. That he hasn’t done so seems to lay the blame on his feet and not church structure.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 18, 2004 03:59 PM

    *****

    lyle, I too am much the troll. I used to think I needed to change my user name to thread killer because I seemed to do just that. Then i re-read a few of my comments and others. lyle – please know that your comments are very worthy. I for one have not ignored them and find them to be objective and honest. Sometimes posts just can’t be answered immediately. If you are seeking an answer, try re-phrasing your comment and begin again. Don’t let the profs here intimidate you. Bigs words, as mentioned by Pres Packer recently, don’t always mean any more than the small ones. They’re usually there to be exclusionary.
    **Puts on flame suit.**
    Comment by: cooper at March 18, 2004 04:26 PM

    *****

    Hi Everyone,
    I’ve been exceptionally busy lately. In addition to the demands of our growing business and Operation Give, I had surgery on my broken knee last week and am supposed to do 9 hours of physical therapy every day. Needless to say I haven’t had much time to blog.
    I stumbled on to this conversation and felt compelled to respond to Lyle’s concern. I’ve never felt that my posts are ignored — and the fact that T&S posts ranked 1, 2 and 4 for most comments were mine shows that people don’t disregard something simply because I wrote it.
    Comment by: Matt Evans at March 18, 2004 04:36 PM

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    Clark, perhaps I am equivocating. But we do it all the time the other way–we say, for instance, that Deborah and Huldah weren’t really prophets, even though they are clearly functioning in that office. If the terms and their usage are that slippery, they can certainly slip the other way. In any case, Junia, at least, is actually called “apostle.” I don’t know how much clearer it could be.
    cooper–drawing conclusions about people’s intentions based on their vocabulary seems unnecessary and unkind. Some people are used to academic discourse; some aren’t–I haven’t noticed any exclusionary intentions around here. How about if everyone talks in the way that’s comfortable for him/her and we give each other the benefit of the doubt?
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 04:38 PM

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    BOD given. I have decided I no longer wanted to use latin et al any longer. My mom and dad (medical profession) use it all the time I find it very tiring. I also do find it exclusionary. It is not said with malice. I am not judging anyone by their choice of language. I do find that a point can be made, to the benefit of all, with simple words. Thus the flame suit. I haven’t drawn conclusions – I have stated my perception and none other.
    Comment by: cooper at March 18, 2004 04:48 PM

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    Kristine I don’t quite understand what you mean by “office.” I suspect that this is the underlying problem I have with your criticisms. My sense is that you equate office and role but as I understand them, there is a rather big difference between the two. Indeed some of the more interesting parts of LDS history is the conflict between the two.
    The problem with the term apostle is that in the early church many were called apostles who today we’d not consider apostles. When we say “I don’t know how much clearer it can be” is simply to equate words with meaning. That’s my point. It is anything *but* clear that we can do this.
    What we have to do is look at the usage you claim and then see if all uses of the term match that usage. I think that clearly they don’t.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 18, 2004 04:53 PM

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    Just to clarify the use of apostle, here’s one example from Joseph which I think makes things more complicated. (Similar quotes could be found for other terms, like prophet)
    This day the Council of the Seventy met to tender
    an account of their travels and ministry, since they were
    ordained to that Apostleship. (DHC 2:346)(Joseph Smith,
    December, 1835)
    I next called upon the quorums and congregation
    of Saints to acknowledge the presidents of Seventies, who
    act as their representatives, as Apostles and special
    witnesses to the nations, to assist the Twelve in opening
    the Gospel kingdom among all the people, and to uphold them
    by their prayers, which they did by rising. (DHC 2:418)
    (Joseph Smith, Kirtland Temple dedication)
    …the Seventies are ordained Apostles and
    when they go forth into the ministry they are sent
    with power to build up the Kingdom in all the world
    and consequently have power to ordain High Priests
    and also to ordain and organize a High Council.
    (History of Brigham Young Manuscript, Dec. 14, 1845)
    Of course those are related to the equality between the quorum of the 70 and the quorum of the 12. But I think they are enough to point out the complexities in terminology.
    I think many would see D&C 18:9 as problematic to your use of apostle as well. (I’d also include Paul, but clearly that is more controversial)
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 18, 2004 04:57 PM

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    Since we’re bandying words about, a few thoughts.
    An apostle in the greek sense (as I assume it was used in teh Greek NT) is someone who is sent with a commission. It’s a nominal form of the verb apostellw, to send in an official capacity. This is why Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. Reading our modern definition of “a special witness” back into the NT in John 20 is equivocating, IMO.
    Second, prophet is not equivalent to president of the church, nor do I believe that prophet = priesthood holder. The gift of prophecy is a gift of the spirit, not an office. Huldah, Deborah and others were clearly functioning prophetically, e.g. providing divine guidance to those who were seeking, as well as military guidance (cf. Alma 43:23 “as soon as they had departed into the wilderness Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp; and Moroni, also, knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites.”)
    Comment by: Ben at March 18, 2004 05:00 PM

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    Lyle,
    Subject to the usual caveats, and in as gentle (but firm) of a tone as possible, let me suggest that you’re likely to draw more responses if your comments are more coherent in tone and structure, and follow standard ideas of formatting and grammar. Many people post here, with many different viewpoints; there is certainly no boycott of any particular view. However, as you may have noticed, you are the only regular poster here who writes in your particular, highly unorthodox style. When you present your ideas, you are asking the reader to engage in dialogue. The reader is more likely to do this if you follow standard rules that are designed to make this dialogue easier.
    I suspect that if you present your ideas in a way that makes them clear to the reader and does not try to force the reader to do extra work to understand what you’re saying, you will have more success in engaging in dialogue.
    I think it’s a shame that you allow your good ideas (of which you certainly have your share) to be undervalued by refusing to present them in standard ways. I sincerely hope that you start making comments in more standard form, and I believe that if you do so, you will have a better time starting and continuing dialogues around here.
    Comment by: Kaimi at March 18, 2004 05:00 PM

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    Kaimi/all:
    thanks. i’ll certainly try to think my stuff through more thorougly before I write…so that it comes together better.
    not to hijack the thread further, so if there are any specific helps, please email me. perhaps if someone could help me re-write some of my posts above so that I could see how they would be done in a more orthodox manner?
    Comment by: lyle at March 18, 2004 05:13 PM

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    Ben, the issue isn’t whether apostles are commissioned but what kind of commission. I don’t think the “special witness” (largely picked up from Protestants) is a misreading back. Rather the idea is that those who see the savior are given a commission during that visitation. The problem is that the other sense of Apostle as an *office* (as opposed to official) is different from this. One can be commisioned to the priesthood calling of Apostle without seeing Christ and thus not being commissioned as an apostle in Paul’s sense. One can have the priesthood office without having the office of being one of the 12. (As has happened at several times in church history when there were more than 15 Apostles) One can see Christ, be specially commissioned and not be an Apostle. One can be an Apostle and not have seen Christ in the flesh.
    The problem is that merely knowing the Greek etymology of the word doesn’t necessarily tell us much about how the early Christians used the word. We must beware the fallacy of etymological explanations. Word use frequently violates the historic evolutionary history of the word.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 18, 2004 05:16 PM

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    Yes, thank you clark, I’m aware of the etymological fallacy.
    My point was that OUR definitions today frequently have little to do with how the word is used in the NT, which is what I was pointing out.
    Comment by: Ben at March 18, 2004 05:41 PM

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    There’s way too much taking place on this thread to be able to comment on it all. So since Lile is feeling marginalized, I’ll just respond to a couple of his responses to me:
    Lile wrote:
    3. “Oh, come on Lile! Are you serious?”
    -Um…yes. I presume you are? Is it a joke to have a different and/or conservative and/or alternative viewpoint? ;)
    Aaron responds:
    Lile, you’ve argued that the way to deal with certain problems is to pretend they aren’t happening. You’re entitled to this opinion, but it is an insult to “conservatives� to label this view the “conservative� alternative.
    Lile wrote:
    “Aaron…I guess I missed how you being tall and male automatically made you some type of authority figure…no offense, i don’t want to get pounded…but I guess I wouldn’t automatically give your opinion any more weight than Karen, Kristine, Karl or Sr. Chauvinistâ€?
    Aaron responds:
    I’m glad to hear it, Lile! I certainly wasn’t arguing that I’m owed deference because of my self-description. Rather, I was making the unfortunate observation that I, and others like me, sometimes receive more deference because of these qualities. (You know the old joke/observation about how inordinate numbers of lawyers and successful businessmen are made into Bishops?) I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s probably a bad thing! So to the extent you don’t give my opinion more weight than Karen’s or Kristine’s, I am nothing but pleased.
    (Well, actually, I do want everyone to agree with me on everything, but it’s not because of my height or sex. It’s because of my infallibility complex.) :)
    Aaron B
    Comment by: Aaron Brown at March 18, 2004 05:44 PM

    *****

    You know, once you get the hang of it infallibility isn’t all that complex. ;-)
    Comment by: William Morris at March 18, 2004 06:36 PM

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    But Ben, I’m not convinced that our use of apostle does have little to do with how the word is used in the NT. Which was why I objected to the etymology. My only point was that there isn’t a single univocal sense to the term.
    Perhaps a step back might make my position a tad clearer. I think that many criticisms of any organization often look to flaws or discriminations within the structure of the organization. However often these criticism rest upon unfair power-relations. Yet these criticism typically confuse actual power relations with formal power relations. I think that is what Kristine was doing.
    To be more precise I think someone can be respected and have a great deal of effective power without being in a formal office. Look at say Hugh Nibley. Someone can be in a place of official power but have their influence somewhat negated. Look at Ezra Taft Benson during the 1960′s. These things are much more complex than they appear.
    To me apostleship is an excellent example of this. We have informal lines of power — apostles who function as such merely because of their witness. We have formal lines of power — Apostles who function as such because of their place in the heirarchal organization.
    Perhaps I’m reading too much Foucalt in all this. But most criticism of church structure seem to miss this crucial fact. It is odd, since I think the history of the church is oriented around just this tension.
    Comment by: clark goble at March 18, 2004 06:38 PM

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    Clark, what would you say is Hugh Nibley’s effective power? Maybe I don’t understand your distinctions properly (didn’t Foucault come up with that pendulum idea?), but I don’t see how effective power can exist or have a real impact in a church that depends so much on formal hierarchy.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 06:46 PM

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    I was responding particularly to Kristine’s comment, which, IMO, was trying to define Mary as an apostle [in the NT] on the basis of an apostle being a special witness [a more modern description]. I was disagreeing on the basis of what Greek I’ve had. I don’t think the others in the NT would have said “Mary saw him and can witness, so she’s an apostle!”
    I’m not at home and don’t have my BDAG handy, but how about Mark 3:14-15
    “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send [apostellw] them forth to preach [kerussw, a frequent synonym for euangellw, to evangelise, spread the good news].
    And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.”
    We even get a suggestion at what the NT apostles’ commission is (which I said nothing about previously).
    That’s one representative example of NT usage, showing that Jesus sent the apostles and what commission he sent them with. I edited several references out, since I’m trying not to make this too defensive. I realize that more than one occurrence is necessary to define a word, which is what I’m trying to do, contextualize the NT use of “apostle”. Someone else in another post showed how it had broader meaning in JS day than it does today.
    So, is this completely unrelated to what an apostle is in the NT? Way off? Fundamental misuse of original language? Since I’m neither lawyer, philosopher nor political theorist, I’m just trying to post in what I do have some training in- old dead languages:)
    (Not that that training is particularly gainful- If you ever visit Chicago, you may see me downtown with a sign, “will translate and normalize Akkadian for food:)
    Comment by: Ben at March 18, 2004 06:52 PM

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    I posted that last before your new comment. I’m not talking structure, just words. Beyond that level, I’m Foucalt-ed:)
    Comment by: Ben at March 18, 2004 06:54 PM

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    Clark, (et al.) It was a simple point. If the etymologies, etc. are confusing, leave the words out. The point is that we have very clear scriptural accounts of women functioning in ways which they are currently not allowed to function in the church–there is no reason to suppose that some of those roles might not be allowed for women again in the future. That is all. Obfuscate at will.
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 07:00 PM

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    OK, I think I see what you’re saying Ben. My apologies. I think we’re saying much the same thing on the word level, although I tend to think the “special witness” entails a calling given by Christ or the Holy Ghost. But that’s getting down into a tangent which distracts, I suspect, from Kristine’s original aim.
    Steve, Nibley’s power comes because so many people treat him as an authority on the gospel. This without having formal authority. (Note the parallel to the word “apostle’s” split) Lots of people put Nibley’s writings, especially his non-apologetic writings, as worth more than many others including many GAs. If that’s not power I don’t know what is.
    To me power is affecting others. Your comment of, “I don’t see how effective power can exist or have a real impact in a church that depends so much on formal hierarchy,” is what I see as problematic. I think you state the fundamental assumption many make. I think it a significantly incorrect assumption.
    BTW – the Foucalt I’m talking about is the 20th century French philosopher and not the 19th century French scientist. I tend to disagree with Foucalt *a lot* but think he makes some rather fundamentally correct statements about power. (Although he is himself dependent upon Nietzsche for a lot of those observations)
    Nibley is but one example. An other would be Bruce R. McConkie whose writings gave him influence far beyond what his (then) position in the 12 did. For instance I think most would agree McConkie had far more practical power than Pres. Kimball, despite having far less formal power. We can point to others as well. Look at Talmage and Roberts around the turn of the 20th century for instance. The “battles” between Orson Pratt and Brigham Young are an other example.
    An other example would be the “prophetess” named Hubble who led to D&C 43. This was an example of providing *more* formal power to offset informal power. (The formal power allowing more practical informal power for Joseph) Very similar events — often with women seers — took place with Brigham Young in the Utah era.
    Comment by: clark at March 18, 2004 07:12 PM

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    I fundamentally disagree, Kristine. I *don’t* think it obfusication at all. Rather I think that Steve’s point over on the related thread defines the fundamental divide on this issue. It is formal vs. informal lines of power. Those unduly focused on formal lines of power will always repress the role of informal lines. Reading the scriptural accounts they will *assume* all accounts are formal lines.
    I personally think that *today* in the church women do act as prophets of the informal sort. I believe they always have. Indeed I think one unfortunate stereotype is the belief that women are more natural propehts than men.
    I believe that any criticism of the church structure that ignores this play of formal and informal power lines will fundamentally be flawed.
    Comment by: clark goble at March 18, 2004 07:23 PM

    *****

    Clark, I get the formal vs. informal power thing; I really do–I even have a lovely soapbox sermon on the problems with forcing one group into exercising exclusively informal power. (I will spare you for the moment) But it’s tangential to my point here, which is that women in the scriptures clearly exercised formal, official, ecclesiastical, direct (choose your favorite term) power in ways that are forbidden to women in the church today.
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 07:36 PM

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    Clark my man, I was joking about Foucault…
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 07:47 PM

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    I hate to make my participation in this thread be confined to one-line quips, but Steve:
    Aren’t we all? ;-)
    Comment by: William Morris at March 18, 2004 07:50 PM

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    Clark,
    I have to ultimately reject the role of informal power in the Church. Not because it doesn’t exist, mind you, but because today all that matters is formal power. Even Hugh Nibley, popular author that he is, is not a definitive authority. When the chips come down in this church, the formal power will always win.
    This formal/informal split is a nice dynamic to bring up, and I can indeed see it as a hermeneutic for church history, but in today’s church I think it’s a dead issue. What’s more, it’s of little consolation to women to say, “well look at all this informal power you have!”, whilst a no-nothing man with a pinch of formal power can push them around.
    As to Kristine’s use of scripture to illustrate the formal power of women in the primitive church, well, that’s a pickle. We do believe in the organization of the primitive church, don’t we? But ultimately that’s an unpersuasive argument in my mind, for much the same reason the formal/informal dialectic fails: it’s not applicable to the church we live in today. Yes, the primitive church may have had women in positions of authority, but frankly, there are plenty of other aspects of the primitive church that our current org never thought about incorporating (although my church building currently resembles a catacomb).
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 07:57 PM

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    Some of the issues that have been raised on T&S and Common Consent about women will be discussed at a seminar this weekend at BYU entitled “New Scholarship on Latter-day Saint Women in the Twentieth Century.”
    Talks include topics on role messages, the ERA, religiosity and life satisfaction among LDS women, living the Proclamation, sister missionary stereotypes, Mormon women and second wave feminism, and contraception, among others.
    My point: For all the work that still needs to be done, the Church is aware of the need to respond to these issues.
    Comment by: Melissa at March 18, 2004 07:58 PM

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    Mr. William Morris,
    That’s the best post on this thread so far! Yeah, baby.
    Comment by: Steve Evans at March 18, 2004 08:02 PM

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    Aaron B says way up the page:
    “But I can imagine my reaction (as a man) had I been present for the “Spanish prayer” incident she relates in her post. Personally, I probably would have said something vocal and sarcastic, and aimed for a few laughs at the expense of the brother’s silly statement.”

    And I say: right on, Brother B! Or have we decided upon Brother Aaron? [ http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000520.htm ].
    I don’t have answers for how to better address the issue of gender discrimination and the Church. And addressing it institutionally in a fundamental way if one believes, as I do, that the formal priesthood divide between women and men is divine direction [I'm less sure on how that gets played out in actuality, but...] However, what I do know is that I it’s great to witness men in leadership positions who show they are aware of the gender discrimination issues and do what Aaron would have done — either via humor or more straightforwardly — and take brethren down a notch when they indulge in chauvanistic behavior and acknowledge women when they bring up concerns, etc.
    I’ve had a few experiences of this in the past several years. It’s cool to see. And it’s something that reaffirms my commitment [in addition to the more private testimony stuff] to maintaining a close relationship to the institution of the Church so that I can liberalize (so to speak) LDS discourse in this and other areas.
    Comment by: William Morris at March 18, 2004 08:04 PM

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    Kristine, I understand your claim to formal power examples. I just disagree with them. I think your example of apostle is simply incorrect.
    Steve, oops. My stupidity sometimes knows no bounds. I am so often watching to not get too technical and bring up names that I miss obvious humor sometimes. Perils of discussing similar topics with such different audiences. (Many of whom are familiar with scientists but not philosophers)
    Regarding formal vs. informal power, I suspect we’ll just have to disagree. I think that while formal power is given to try to affect the play of informal power, it is *always* informal power that triumphs. So I fully admit that in this discussion my bias is that informal (and especially invisible) power is always far more important than formal power.
    Kristine, the issue about exercising formal vs. informal power by women and the inequity of having most of ones power informal is a very good topic. I think it is one of the more fruitful approaches of analysis. I suspect though we’d disagree since I devalue formal power so much. Indeed I tend to think formal power is given to make up for weakness on the informal front. I think that Quinn’s analysis in Extensions of Power supports that view. I also disagree with Steve that such an analysis is only applicable to church history. I think, if anything, the modern church ends up with a practical emphasis on informal power *precisely* because of the rhetorical focus by many of formal power.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at March 18, 2004 08:14 PM

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    Clark, which example of an apostle–Mary or Junia? Mary I’d grant is probably an apostle only in a functional or informal sense, but Junia seems as likely to be official as not; we don’t have enough information to know.
    And isn’t there some rule around here that if you invoke Quinn to authoritatively back up your view, you automatically lose the argument? [ ;^ ) ]
    Comment by: Kristine at March 18, 2004 08:49 PM

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    William–thank you for expressing that attitude. As disheartening as it is to witness the “chauvenistic behavior” you talked about, it’s just as heartening to see individuals aware of it and addressing it–of both genders, because really, this is a problem affecting everyone at some level. This has turned into a rather far-flung discussion…but I just wanted to make it clear that the original intent was not to “man bash” but to bring some awareness to the fact that actions reflecting gender bias still go on, and at times go un-answered. I think that a large part of the solution is simply talking about it…
    Comment by: Karen at March 18, 2004 09:31 PM

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    Kristine, I know it was a joke, but the Quinn bit is interesting. I think Extensions of Power is interesting precisely because of how it considers power. It has lots of other flaws. But I think that there is a lot of historic evidence in both

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