Priesthood and the Socialization of Males

June 29, 2006 | 104 comments
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Statistically speaking, males seem to be responsible for the great majority of human-made suffering. For example, say what you want about the malleability of human nature, but regardless of time or culture you will find the vast majority of violent crime is committed by males. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that a significant test for the health of any society is how well it does at socializing males out of their less appealing tendencies. This, of course, is where the social construction of gender becomes very important.

Generally speaking, when the unsponsored sector of Mormonism (which includes the bloggernacle) talks about gender issues in the Church, the conversation centers around questions of equity. Is it just that women don’t get the priesthood? Are women improperly marginalized within Church culture? Etc. etc. Obviously, these are tremendously important questions about which people have strong, well-articulated opinions. This post, however, is not interested in equity. Rather, I am curious at how the social construction gender in the Church does in terms of controlling male misbehavior.

Let me lay my cards on the table here. I think that there are basically two strategies for socializing men. One is to exalt the values of sensitivity and compassion. This makes good sense as caring sensitivity is probably the antithesis of the violent self-centeredness that seems to lie at the heart of much male misbehavior. The second strategy is to self-consciously construct a male identity around “male” virtues like strength, courage, and self-reliance but to channel them away from socially destructive activities. (The scare quotes around “male” are to indicate that I don’t think this virtues are the exclusive preserve of men.) My own sense is that the second strategy is likely to be more successful than the first strategy because it has more appeal to the marginal male. In other words, appeals to a more “manly”, identity will have more traction with the male who is strongly attracted to the violent self-centeredness of male misbehavior because such an identity exalts virtues closer to the appealing anti-social behavior. Put in simplistic terms, I think that the model of maleness offered by Rudyard Kipling probably does a better job of dealing with male misbehavior than the model of maleness offered by Friends. Obviously, I am oversimplifying, and I could be quite wrong.

So what is the model of maleness offered by Mormonism, and how well does it control male misbehavior? Of course, the priesthood is a key way in which this identity gets worked out, and it seems to me that it appeals to both of the models that I outline above. On one hand, the priesthood is tied up with stories about power and battle against the forces of evil. It also regularly gets associated with ideas of chivalry in sermons to young men. On the other hand, it also exalts virtues such as kindness, compassion, and meekness. By and large, I think that Mormonism does a pretty good job of socializing males. There are obvious problems. For example, I think that sometimes the Mormon male identity breeds condescension to women. Yet, I suspect that one of its virtues is that it finds a way of combining a “manly” Kipling-esque vision of maleness with the Christian ideals of compassion and kindness.

[By the way, I really am serious about this post not being about gender equity. Obviously, issues of equity get intertwined with issues about the best way of socializing males, but try to keep the comments related to the issue of male socialization.]

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104 Responses to Priesthood and the Socialization of Males

  1. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    BTW, when I am talking about “Kipling-esque” manhood, I have in mind in particuar his poem “If”:

    “If”

    by Rudyard Kipling

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

  2. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    “Statistically speaking, males seem to be responsible for the great majority of human-made suffering. ”

    Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

    Seriously, I think you’re on to something. For men, Christianity has struggled to unite christian virtues with manly ones, which is in part where the idea of chivalry that you cite comes from. I think the *idea* of priesthood does a pretty good job of this.

    Martyrdom is another way in which these virtues are reconciled.

  3. Julie M. Smith on June 29, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    “So what is the model of maleness offered by Mormonism, and how well does it control male misbehavior? ”

    Well, we have to address the inequity created by an all-male priesthood before we begin to consider . . .

    just kidding

    I think even the most dyed-in-the-wool LDS feminist will have to admit that we do an excellent job socializing males. When the worst tales we countensnce as a culture are the Mormon male who slacks on his home teaching, falls asleep in EQ, and lets the kids eat ketchup out of the bottle while his wife goes to enrichment, that’s pretty good, considering the alternatives.

  4. Kimball L. Hunt on June 29, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    Hmm. So what then is the COURAGE TRAIT? (That, yes, women are so attracted to and become dependent upon within manly men — through their subtle appeals to/ manipulations of these capital-em men?) And so that men must vie in this “manliness,” however it should be culturally defined, for the attentions of these women?

    Well (whatever it is! lol), folks whose job it is to continually reformulate culture (artists, lawmakers, psychologists, preachers) must take this inborn manly “courage” trait and direct it against whomever should be their own, perceived, institutional enemies. Which rival impulses (as are channeled within the culture by these competing, “cultural formulators”) will sit there like dry twigs in a tinder box, slowly feeding societal mechanisms for cultural change and/or its preservation — until some conflict between parties produces enough friction to spark this entire tinderbox into flames (i/e civil unrest and warfare). So . . . Nate’s post could be restated, “Mormon preachers do a pretty good job of channeling courage towards the perceived, institutional enemies defined as Immorality and the Gentile World.”

    Visionaries always do this. They inspire the hands-on, brawny leaders among their people to direct their energies towards things they envision (while they also appeal to the womenfolk to follow along, as they are promised to greatly benefit from the visionaries’ idealizations of culture).

    (Of course, the various sorts of cultural, visionary leaders’ ideas and constructs conflict with each other. And sometimes if too much friction should develop between their adherents, all hell can break loose — )

  5. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    mmm….. ketchup.

    Good post, Nate. I think you’re right about how important the priesthood is in this context. It reminds me of the late 90s Christian movement (it had some catchy name) wherein men were to reclaim their fatherhood and be tough!

    And by tough they meant “love, support, and care for your wife and children”.

  6. dangermom on June 29, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Good points. It reminds me especially of the stories I’ve heard of the Church in other countries where ‘manliness’ has often been reduced to ‘machismo, drinking, and cheating,’ and where women routinely do most of the work to keep the family going. In these places, the Church culture makes it clear that men have priesthood responsibilities, and requires them to step up and become better men. And, quite often, they do respond to those expectations. The Mormon patterns of manhood might not be all that we could wish, but I’m very grateful for them when I see some of the other options out there.

    I’m not sure, however, that we can absolve women of causing suffering. It might not be the same kind of suffering, but it’s sure there.

  7. Wacky Hermit on June 29, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Dangermom’s right. Males may be responsible for a lot of large-scale suffering, but women’s cattiness has to be a major cause of day-to-day misery.

  8. Seth R. on June 29, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    I’ve already suggested before that Faith is the real power to invoke God and bind Heaven and Earth. From Miriam to Eliza Snow. Preisthood is not a prerequisite for moving mountains, raising the dead, parting the waters, etc, prophesying, or preaching.

    Priesthood may be more about controlling and channeling the faith of men in acceptable ways than it is about granting additional power and authority. Perhaps Priesthood is not divine license, but divine restraint and restriction.

    Yes, I realize that we don’t talk about it that way. But is it possible we’ve simply failed to frame the facts correctly?

  9. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Look, I grew up with four sisters and no brothers. I yield to no one in my belief in wanton female cruelty. I am simply pointing out that maleness is probably one of the single best predicters of violent misbehavior (and no doubt a fair amount of other sorts of misbehavior as well) across culture and time. I know of no culture in human history where violent crime was not primarily a male problem. (I would love to hear of any counter examples that one might have.)

  10. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Chirp. . . . chirp . . . .

  11. Melinda on June 29, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    The Mormon model of maleness includes a huge emphasis on service. There’s the physical service, like EQ moving companies, that appeal to strength. And missionary work (which women participate in as well) requires raw courage, both physical and moral, in many situations.

    But the priesthood also requires a lot of kind and meek service, like a priesthood leader listening to confessions of sin, or stories of abuse. There’s something both strong and gentle about receiving a blessing of comfort from a priesthood holder. You know the “natural man” in him wants to go into a rage and beat to pieces whatever hurt you, but they’ve got to control that impulse enough to be the channel for God to send the recipient some comfort in his/her pain. That’s a *lot* of self-control. And it exalts compassion and forgiveness over vengeance. Vengeance has caused a lot of the suffering Nate refers to, so eliminating vengeance as an acceptable activity helps break the cycle of suffering.

  12. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    “Martyrdom is another way in which these virtues are reconciled.”

    This is a good point. I have very vivid memories of hearing stories as a young man about the three teenagers who rode ahead of the relief parties sent to rescue the Martin-Willie handcart companies who died of exposure after carrying everyone across the frozen stream. There was a certain death-defying courage and “violent” heroism involved (riding bravely and alone through the winter storms, etc.) yet at the same time it is a tremendous story about compassion and service. The story has stuck with me a some level as an example of what manliness and priesthood are supposed to be about.

  13. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Well put, Nate O.

    Frank M., are you thinking of the Promise Keepers? An intriguing organization. The scene with the Promise Keepers -type group in The Apostle was one of the best in the movie.

  14. Kevin Barney on June 29, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Personally, I would like to see women be given the priesthood. But I freely concede that the current male priesthood does indeed do a good job of socializing men, and involving and integrating them into the life of the church, and it is quite possible that men would be less well socialized and integrated in the absence of a male-only priesthood. I think I’m a far better man than I otherwise would have been for growing up Mormon and going on a mission and committing to service that no professional peer of mine in his right mind would lower himself to do.

    I remember not too long ago me and another guy were manning the nursery during an enrichment night. As I sat on the floor playing with the kids (while simultaneously solving all the world’s problems with my co-sitter), it occurred to me how preposterous it would be to imagine almost any male attorney I work with doing a similar thing. And it also occurred to me that I was the better off for it.

  15. Sheldon on June 29, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Completely irrelevant, but my 10th grade english teacher made our class memorize that poem by Rudyard Kipling. I still have terrible memories of her stomping her little feet on the ground (she was about 4’6″) and yelling at people when they got the poem wrong…

  16. bbell on June 29, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    I agree with number 14.

    On enrichment night in the nursury in my ward 3-5 6 figure income guys sit there and play with the kids. I am trying to imagine my business partners doing this and there is no way.

    Yep LDS males are very well socialized indeed. Another reason for me to raise my 4 boys LDS.

  17. s on June 29, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    I think if you’re going to consider the issue of how the church socializes males (and I think you’ve made some interesting observations on this subject, Nate), you have to consider how society at large socializes males. By and large, masculinity is tied to violence and aggression in the larger culture (a really great movie on this subject is Tough Guise by Jackson Katz–you can find some basic info about the video at http://newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0097-L).

    When you outline the two choices you see as viable for “good” male socialization, you correctly identify that any option that maintains the “manly” Rudyard Kipling maleness is an option that is generally more palatable than one that does not. This is because it maintains many of the “male” qualities that are valued by society.

    In my mind, using models that tap into dominants ideals of masculinity (stories of chivalry, battle, etc), but try to do it in less self-destructive ways, is a good short-term strategy, but in the long term, completely rethinking how we socialize males (revaluing sensitivity, questioning dominant notions of masculinity, etc) is what is going to have the most lasting effect when we think about thinking about how to socialize males in the best ways possible.

    And at some point you’re going to have to address issues of gender inequality (on whatever level you choose to do so). Because the reason that “sensitivity” and “kindness” are less valued are because they are “feminine” traits, and until there is not a hierarchy of “masculine” and “feminine” in our society (which in my mind, is compounded by structural inequalities), those traits are not going to be equally valued. (So, how did I do? Did I manage to keep my comments on inequality tied to socialization?) :)

  18. Russell Arben Fox on June 29, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    For what it’s worth, Boyd Peterson–Hugh Nibley’s son-in-law, author of his recent biography–wrote a fine essay in Sunstone several years back titled “The Priesthood: Mankind’s Last, Best Hope,” or something like that (I’m on vacation now, and can’t look it up). His basic argument was that the priesthood is a great program, not because of any sort of eternal/patriarchal/administrative power associated with it, but because it manages to teach a lot about service and meekness and gentleness–Nate’s first strategy–without being overly feminine. In other words, the argument Melinda made in #11 (great comment, by the way).

    “The scene with the Promise Keepers-type group in The Apostle was one of the best in the movie.”

    You’re talking about the Robert Duvall movie The Apostle, right Adam? Tremendous movie; one of Duvall’s greatest efforts. I knew you had great taste in film.

  19. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    S.,

    Your assumption is that masculinity is whatever we want to make of it. I question that assumption. As Nate O. points out, men, especially young men, have been deadlier in every age and place. Testosterone is not an artefact of culture and upbringing. Males can be made into men, sometimes, but further than that we cannot go.

  20. DavidH on June 29, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Russell,

    The article is titled “The Priesthood: Men’s Last, Best Hope,” in the March-April 1998 Sunstone. I agreed with the thesis then, and still do.

  21. Frank McIntyre on June 29, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Adam, yes those are the ones. I’ll have to rent the Duvall movie.

  22. s on June 29, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    Adam, while I think that biology and chemistry have an effect on who we are (and this includes sex differences), “masculinity” is a cultural construct, which means that it *is* what we want to make of it. I think it’s still possible to question cultural notions of masculinity, figure out how to rethink male socialization, etc., while still acknowledging that there can be chemical differences that affect behavior (which is something that I don’t think we fully understand, anyway). Does this complicate matters? Yes. Does it mean we can’t redefine “masculinity”? No.

    Of course, your question (as well as Nate’s original post) does raise the following question: to what extent can we socialize people out of biologically caused or influenced behaviors? I actually think the church takes a pretty radical position on this (in a very general sense, rather than a specifically gendered one): the Atonement has the power to change our very nature, to make our moral, imperfect, fallen natures (which are linked to our biology), into more refined, spiritual, perfect natures.

  23. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    You are trying to square a circle, Ms. S. The Atonement may be able to do it, but we can’t. And, as I understand the Proclamation, the Atonement won’t, because there is something to being a *man* that is eternal.

  24. s on June 29, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Yeah, that whole “gender is eternal” thing gives me a lot of pause for thought. Personally, I don’t think we have a very clear understanding about what aspects of sex/gender are eternal (vs. what aspects are merely part of the whole cultural/mortal baggage).

    And you’re right–we don’t have the power that the Atonement does; but that doesn’t mean we *can’t* socialize people out of biologically caused behaviors (we just won’t be able to do it anywhere near as effectively or well as Christ can). That doesn’t mean that trying is not a good thing. (We try to socialize children out of all sorts of behaviors we don’t think are good.)

  25. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Sure we *can*, but that does not mean we *should*. The Proclamation on the Family was written to teach quite the opposite – that gender as we know it is of divine design, is in accordance with divine intent, in essentials preceded this mortal life and will be preserved after, and plays a necessary and proper role in the plan of salvation for the human family.

  26. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    “but that doesn’t mean we *can’t* socialize people out of biologically caused behaviors (we just won’t be able to do it anywhere near as effectively or well as Christ can). That doesn’t mean that trying is not a good thing. (We try to socialize children out of all sorts of behaviors we don’t think are good.) ”

    We can hardly ever socialize people out of biologically-caused impulses. We just channel them. In any case, I just disagree with you that traits like courage, a taste for competition, strength, and self-reliance are negative. Socializing from malehood from manliness is enough for me.

  27. costanza on June 29, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Nate,
    Does this have anything to do with your current reading in the history of your new home state? Early Virginia has often been used as a case study for the troubling combination of a (nearly) all male demographic and a weak religious structure (Anglicanism was impotent in early Va. for a host of reasons).

  28. s on June 29, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Mark, what is “gender as we know it”? To what extent is “gender as we know it” a “philosophy of man,” and to what extent is it a divine teaching? I think what we currently understand as “gender” is a whole lot of the former, and only some of the latter. I’m actually okay with the whole “gender is eternal” thing. I’m just inclined to believe that we don’t have a completely clear idea about what “gender is eternal” means. “Gender” is so caught up in the memes we get from all the cultural messages that surround us, that I think it’s pretty difficult to determine what God means by “gender.”

    I think maybe I’m coming across as a little more radical than I actually am. I’m not proposing that we eliminate gender. I just think we need to acknowledge that “masculinity” and “femininity” have been constructed in very specific ways by our society, and that there are some serious problems with these constructions (such as the masculinity=violence association that I pointed out in an earlier response). I want a “masculinity” that includes “feminine” traits like kindness and charity (and a “femininity” that includes “masculine” traits like strength and courage). And while the Priesthood does teach these traits (as Nate pointed out), I want these traits to be valued by society at large and be included in what it means to be a “man” (rather than as just qualities men should aspire to as part of their Priesthood service).

    Adam, I think those traits are positive too. I want them to be options for my daughters. And I want traits like “charity” and “kindness” to be options for my sons. I’m guessing that in at least that respect, we are in agreement?

  29. M.J. Pritchett on June 29, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Kevin 14 (and bbell 16):

    Kevin, I usually agree with you and have had similar thoughts as I’ve worked in “menial” church service activites. However, I wonder if we are misjudging our peers based on their work personas because we don’t know much about their actual private lives. Ditto bbell.

    I work in a big law firm and, though it is hard to imagine it from their “at work” personas, most of the male attorneys that I actually know are in fact caring fathers, involved with their kids lives, and would be perfectly comfortable helping out in nursery or doing manual labor in service activities. It may be that your peers at work would think it would be preposterous to imagine you doing what you do in nursery based on your work persona as well.

  30. queuno on June 29, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    I just wish we’d find a way to socialize men in the Church without involving golf or basketball.

  31. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    S.: I think that you raise some very good questions. I personally think that how we socially construct gender is always open to revision, but we make a grave mistake if we believe that this means that it is indefinitely elastic. There is overwhelming cross-cultural evidence that males are predisposed to violence and agression. Understand why is actually not all that complicated. I think the best explanation is biological. It is about testosterone levels. (Incidentally, one also see the same thing in other large mammals, where testosterone is closely tied to violence and agression.) I think that this means that in the long term we have to find ways of channelling this energy rather than trying to socialize it out of existence. Furthermore, any strategy must be evaluated on its effectiveness in the marginal case.

  32. Rosalynde Welch on June 29, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Socialization and social institutions can do quite a lot to restrain or reshape nature—and marriage as a social institution with its attendant ideologocal apparatus is, in my view, one of the most successful instances of this. But the repressive cost of these institutions and ideologies is pretty high, so the social benefits need to be significant. Patriarchal marriage, for instance, compensates for diminished sexual opportunity with increased social status. Priesthood does essentially the same thing, as do most of the other “masculinizing” institutions and processes I can come up with off the top of my head.

    Male violence is, of course, an undesirable effect of the male reproductive strategy, namely to compete with other males for sexual access to females. Female cattiness, on the other hand, is an undesirable effect of the female reproductive strategy, namely to compete with other females for social status and scarce resources to direct to their own offspring. So maybe if we want to curb female antisocial behavior we need to come up with a counter institution, one that will compensate for diminished social status with increased sexual opportunity? ;-)

  33. Doc on June 29, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    “but that doesn’t mean we *can’t* socialize people out of biologically caused behaviors (we just won’t be able to do it anywhere near as effectively or well as Christ can). That doesn’t mean that trying is not a good thing”

    S.
    I triple dog dare you to post that quote in a SSM thread (Not to threadjack Nate)

    Nate,
    I absolutely believe you are onto something. I’ve said this over and over again that without the priesthood the males are left to degenerate into something antisocial. The problem of Matriarchy and the ghetto I have seen elaborated elsewhere in this blog. The natural man is not only an enemy to God but a menace to society unless socialized appropriately. I have never read any statement on this idea that has been very convincing,. S, I do admire your effort however. It is probably one of the best I have seen. ;)

  34. Doc on June 29, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    BTW there is a fascinating essay by Hugh Nibley on this subject at http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=transcripts&id=151

  35. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    S: I basically agree with Nate’s perspective here. I would add that I see the ideal masculine and femine characters like two spheres that almost overlap, but have a purposeful and divinely intended offset, that in part is biological in nature, both “physical” biology, and spirit biology (now there is a field someone should consider). I suspect that intelligences are gendered as well, but have no idea why, except perhaps as a parallel with say positrons and electrons.

    I strongly disagree with those who want to pull the spheres (of character) so far apart that masculine and feminine character hardly overlap. That is strongly contrary to the gospel as I see it. The offset is proper, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should however probably be more definite than much of modern culture wants to make it. I have to admire characters like Joan of Arc or as a lesser exception Margaret Thatcher, but I can’t see roughem-toughem cowboy “Amazon” women without any of the Victorian virtues as a worthwhile ideal, nor the opposite hyper-effeminate concept of a male. In fact neither is a good ideal for men or women – in large part progression consists of incorporating the best character traits epitomized by the other gender, but without abandoning one’s own. I believe this applies for both men and women.

  36. Tatiana on June 29, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    Everyone has impulses inside them that are not good or bad in themselves, but can be put into service of good or bad through their conscious choices. A friend who simply loves beating the tar out of people trained for years as a martial artist and is currently employed as a correctional officer in a maximum security prison. It’s not a job I could do. It’s a violent job. He controls his impulses tightly, and follows the rules carefully, but when he has asked the inmate to put his hands through the slot to be cuffed three times, with no response, then he knows he can go in there and “extract” the inmate from the cell. This is a violent process, but he gets a good deal of pleasure out of doing it quickly, efficiently, and well, and without causing unnecessary injury to the inmate. He has put his violent tendencies into the service of good (believe me, we do not want most of those inmates on the streets, and yet someone must deal with them when we lock them up, and it can’t really be people who abhor violence who work there.)

    A soldier who obeys the rules of engagement might be doing the same thing. People who get a huge kick out of blowing things up might decide to go into demolition. These are honorable professions, and someone must do them. Manliness in the form of disciplined and controlled fortitude, courage, and willingness to put oneself at risk to protect others is highly useful to all of us, and still valued by society, though it’s not exactly the highest paid option for intelligent males. It does seem true that larger society does a fairly poor job of channeling violent or destructive tendencies of either sex into worthy goals.

    It does seem like the priesthood fosters positive channeling of various masculine impulses, but it’s a shame that, by doing so many male-only projects, it also fosters the idea that women aren’t capable or useful in any domain outside the home. I don’t think the one aspect depends on the other. I think we could socialize males very well without strictly segregating so many activities by gender. Despite the many opportunities guys get to do childcare or other hone-cenetered tasks, the church is pretty tomboy-unfriendly. It is improving, I think, albeit slowly. Enrichment often includes one track that isn’t too girly-girly. If we have one program where the young girls model their mothers’ wedding gowns, there will be another on conflict resolution in the home, that’s equally applicable to either gender. I like it when we are allowed to choose according to interest rather than gender. I do wish that girls would serve 2 year missions, and be encouraged to serve missions. I wish that moving members’ furniture and cleaning up after hurricanes or tornadoes were something that any interested member would be invited to help with. It’s possible to socialize males and females both in excellent ways, without labeling every activity or impulse as belonging only to one gender or the other.

  37. greenfrog on June 29, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    I strongly disagree with those who want to pull the spheres (of character) so far apart that masculine and feminine character hardly overlap. That is strongly contrary to the gospel as I see it. The offset is proper, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should however probably be more definite than much of modern culture wants to make it.

    I’d prefer we use such Venn diagrams to depict results of historical studies of population characteristics, rather than prescriptions to which a given individual should be required to conform.

  38. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    “S.
    I triple dog dare you to post that quote in a SSM thread”

    Har.

  39. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t think Mormon men are any better “socialized” than religious men who choose to follow Christ’s example by loving and serving others. Mormons do not have a monopoly on these characteristics, nor do I think Mormon males are better socialized because of the priesthood. In fact, I think that the recent emphasis in Church discourse of the priesthood as the male complement to motherhood could relegate fatherhood, one of the most important socializing forces, to a secondary status.

  40. Kevin Barney on June 29, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    M.J. #29, my perceptions may well be skewed by the work environment, as you suggest, but they remain my perceptions. The women attorneys I’ve known I almost invariably can imagine engaging in works of service to others (outside their families). Among the men, it is pretty much the few religious ones that I can picture doing that. As you point out, my perception may well be flawed, but that’s the way I see them.

  41. Kiskilili on June 29, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    Good post, Nate. I agree with much of what you’re saying and you bring up some interesting points.

    What is it specifically about the priesthood, I wonder, that socializes men appropriately? Although it may be fruitless to attempt to tease out “priesthood” from more general Christian values embraced by the entire community, it occurs to me that some of the positive socialization we’re referring to is simply the result of inculcation of the latter. Kevin Barney’s example in comment 14 is quite charming. However, I see his involvement in the nursery as part of his commitment to the community (which offers him opportunities to serve in a variety of capacities, some of which, such as caring for young children, are traditionally considered “feminine”). It has nothing to do with priesthood specifically, but, I would argue, with being a good Christian.

    I ask this because while I think holding the priesthood undeniably bequeaths some real benefits to men by giving them opportunities to serve, I think such socialization could be accomplished in a more direct manner even in the absence of the priesthood. Jewish men, for example, are, on the whole, fairly nonviolent and disinclined to displays of machismo, even without our “priesthood.” This is why, in contrast to Doc, I’m convinced there are ways of preventing men from “degenerating into something antisocial” even “without the priesthood.” I think there’s more than just the priesthood separating men from barbarism, and some of that “more” might be commitment to core Christian values.

    I hope I’m not straying too far off the intended topic, but one of the problems I see with coding traits such as charity as “feminine” as that, since “feminine” is at odds with “masculine,” absolutely core Christian values are then equally at odds with our construction of masculinity. It seems to me this is bound to result in a masculinity crisis.

    Since the scriptures amply attest that Christ himself had charity, I think we’re better off defining it as a Christian value incumbent on everyone.

  42. Kiskilili on June 29, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks ECS (comment 39)! You made exactly the points I was trying to get at.

  43. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    ” It’s possible to socialize males and females both in excellent ways, without labeling every activity or impulse as belonging only to one gender or the other.”

    Tatiana, I agree with most everything you wrote. I wonder, however, if there isn’t a certain value in gender-segregated activities. I do think that creating a postive model of manliness for males probably requires some activities that are gender-segregated. I don’t really know how much or which activities, but I do think that complete gender integration would probably be a bad idea.

  44. Doc on June 29, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    ECS,
    In an earlier thread I made the argument that Fatherhood is part of priesthood just as Motherhood is part of the Divine nature of women. Each is included in the other but not all defining. There is much more to the redemptive qualities of women than producing and caring for offspring although this certainly is a spirit stretching gift of the creaction of life in which we can share. The same goes for the priesthood as well. Just a thought.

  45. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Kishkilili- Great minds, etc. :)

    By the way, the blogger formerly known as “Elisabeth” is now blogging under her initials.

  46. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t think charity is a feminine trait per se. The pure love of Christ must be manifest as both mercy and justice to be effective. Women just typically seem to be more inclined to implement mercy, and men typically more inclined to defend justice. Of course there are broad overlaps, but we could identify a good size list of Christian virtues that men are statistically more inclined to defend or promote than women, and vice versa, it is just not politically correct for men to believe they are statistically better at anything worthwhile, and the fact that there is so much overlap allows women to deny any such advantage exists, except to women of course.

  47. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    Doc #44 – those are interesting thoughts. But we’re taught that both women and men hold the priesthood in the eternities, so priesthood is an exclusively male privilege (“quality”?) only on this earth. I think we also run into trouble when we think of the priesthood as a “quality”or a “characteristic” and not a privilege.

  48. s on June 29, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    Nate (and Adam and Tatiana), I think the idea about channeling is a good one. You’re right to observe that socializing biological tendencies out of existence does not really work all that well in many cases (and is often not the ideal strategy even when it is possible).

    I triple dog dare you to post that quote in a SSM thread

    Heh. I think I’ll pass on that dare. :)

    Mark, I agree with where you end up (not wanting to proscribe extremes for either genders), though I think I’m going to have to agree with greenfrog on the “spheres of character” point.

  49. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    S: No credit to me, of course, but I introduced spheres of character in this thread in #35. My last comment was in the same line, objecting to the claim of any trait as an exclusively masculine or feminine virtue, while affirming there is a statistical offset for many, one way or the other.

  50. s on June 29, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Mark, sorry for the misunderstanding. I know that you introduced that concept–I was just agreeing with greenfrog’s take on it. :)

  51. Kiskilili on June 29, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Mark–I wasn’t at all clear, so let me try again. What I mean is, whether or not we can determine that women or men are “naturally” more inclined to charity is irrelevant–there’s a problem in making statements to the effect that charity is the special province of women (as we’re often taught in RS!). One might argue that such statements are purely descriptive, but in a Church context they carry undeniable prescriptive implications. Once we’ve coupled charity and femininity, we’ve set charity at odds with masculinity. This, in a community striving to emulate Christ, is shooting ourselves in the foot–we’re defining one of Christ’s most salient attributes as “feminine,” and thereby non-masculine. What then is a Christian man to do in order to maintain both his Christianity and his manhood? This is one reason I consider such statements a problem.

  52. Doc on June 29, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Nate,
    I apologize. I feel I am starting to drift off topic and you may delete this post if you wish.

    ECS,
    Your point is well taken. The highest order of the priesthood is celestial marriage. We are commanded to become one spiritually and literally one flesh. I understand that priesthood is a privielege, but It is a redemptive privelege that is designed to tap into the most powerful natural inclinations for good and magnify them as we leave the natural inclinations for evil in our nature behind. I want to state on record that I wholeheartedly agree with Tatiana that there must be a way to foster masculine impulses positively without fostering the idea that women are not useful outside the home. This is where I think our efforts must be focused in order to create a balanced equitable society in which neither gender is diminished. I also believe quite strongly this is what a true celestial marriage can acheive. see the essay in comment #34.

  53. Kiskilili on June 29, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    Mark: “it is just not politically correct for men to believe they are statistically better at anything worthwhile”

    I assume you’re referring to the fact that men regularly confess women are more spiritual, charitable, faithful, etc. etc. And I absolutely agree that I think it’s a serious problem, and such comments annoy me for several different reasons. Where we likely disagree is that I suspect at least part of what motivates this attitude is a justification for authority which is restricted to males (i.e., priesthood), which is often defined as a crutch.

    Even if we were able to definitively establish that, on the whole, throughout human history, women have been more merciful and men more just, this would amount to nothing more than a description. This gives us no indication how Christian men and women should behave. I’m not convinced that virtue should be gendered–I think we’re best off if we all try to embrace all Christian values. Our Master is, as we’re taught, a “hard man, reaping where [he has] not sown” (Matthew 25:24). I understand this to mean that Christ requires mercy of me whether or not it’s one of my innate talents.

  54. Kiskilili on June 29, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    “I absolutely agree that I think”

    Sorry, that phrase is clearly not what I meant to say!

  55. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 29, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    What then is a Christian man to do in order to maintain both his Christianity and his manhood?

    Isn’t the answer to that “magnifiy his priesthood”? In my mind, this covers all that aspect of Christian characteristics and values. Think D&C 121 for example.

    I have no doubt that the Church’s men don’t have the corner on Christianity and socialization. However, I do believe that the oath and covenant of the priesthood, the gifts of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the blessings of other covenants of the gospel can’t help but have a significant impact on men in the Church and their potential for a change in character, not just behavior. Again, I realize there are plenty of good Christians (and those of other beliefs as well!) out there, but my experience has been that there IS a difference with men in the Church, on the average.

  56. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    M&M, could you explain the differences as you see them? I wonder, all things equal, if you’d be able to tell a Mormon man, a Jewish man, a Baptist man, etc. apart by their spirituality/socialization.

  57. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Kiskilili, I completely agree with what you said in #51. I also agree that cases where one can properly dilineate the prescriptive morality between a man and a woman in questions that do not inherently involve gender relations themselves are rather rare. No one should imply that a man should be less charitable than a woman, or a woman less just than a man, rather that every child of God should exercise his or her complete set of gifts and capacities to the fullest, in a way compatible with his or her primary obligation to marry and raise a righteous family.

    In other words, I do not think we generally have go out of our way to be different, I think God created us that way for a purpose. No need to over do it, indeed often we need to mellow it out.

  58. Mark Butler on June 29, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Unless there is some sort of revelation involved of course.

  59. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    Kiskilili & ECS: I really don’t know if Mormonism does a comparatively better job than other systems in socializing men. I am less interested in an argument for comparative advantage than I am in tracing out the anatomy of the particular approach that we have taken.

    As for the feminization of charity, etc., it seems to me that one of the advantages of the male ethos of the priesthood is precisely that it nests compassion, charity, and other Christian virtues in stories about honor, courage, power etc. I think that it would be a mistake to say that the message given to priesthood holders about their duties as men/priesthood holders is that compassion and charity are feminine concerns.

    As for equity and priesthood, I think that if we go very far down the road of that discussion we need to start disaggregating the different aspects of priesthood to talk coherently. If I were in charge of the church — which obviously I am not — I would expand both the administrative and ritual authority of women to create greater equality with men. In this sense, I am all for women “getting the priesthood.” On the other hand, I think that there is tremedous power in “priesthood” as an ethos of godly manliness and I would be loath to loose that. But these are largely topics for another thread. If you want to see some of my thoughts and interests on these matters check out Models of Women and Priesthood, which I wrote about three years ago, so I may no longer believe any of it ;->!

  60. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry, Nate – I didn’t mean to get the post off track. I did want to respond to some of the comments stating that Mormon males are better socialized. I just don’t think that’s true (IMHO).

  61. Nate Oman on June 29, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    ECS: I suspect that realistically neither you nor anyone else has any serious emperical data that would resolve this issue.

  62. ECS on June 29, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    LOL – of course! But if empirical evidence were the standard for most of these blog discussions, I think we’d be stuck reading Frank McIntyre’s posts far too often.

  63. Kaimi Wenger on June 29, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Interesting post, Nate.

    Mormon men are to a large degree socialized differently than other men. As a result, certain _types_ of anti-social behavior are lessened, as compared to the cultural baseline. The classic boisterous drunken frat boy is an overdrawn caricature sometimes, but that behavior is certainly present in culture at large. That particular kind of antisocial behavior is curbed by Mormon male ideals, which are tied to our ideas of the priesthood. You can’t be a good priesthood holder if you’re getting drunk every weekend.

    Mormon men are also socialized to be more kid-friendly; to be more family-friendly; to be more likely to be in the kitchen or watching the young’uns or whatever else. Some commenters pointed that out on my earlier I-like-to-cook post. Also, I made that argument (along with other commenters) in a BCC post several months back. (See http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2005/12/are-mormon-men-sissies/ ). On that thread, I wrote:

    On the other hand, culture at large draws the line in a radically different place than the church. Culture tells men to affirm their masculinity through sports, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and general rugged Marlboro-man-ness. The church, meanwhile, encourages men to affirm their masculinity through family time. The messages are identical on one level, and widely divergent on another.

    Clint Eastwood: Be a man! Smoke a cigarette!
    Gordon B. Hinckley: Be a man! Rock a baby!

    (As fun as it is to make that argument — heck, I’m the one who made it in that comment — the reality is a little more complicated. For example, J. Stapley correctly called me on this argument, by pointing out that Brigham Young probably had very different expectations of manliness.) (Though Brigham Young also seemed interested in male socialization — see, e.g., his famous “menace to society” comment).

    So there are likely to be gains created by Mormon male socialization. In many ways, these are gains above-and-beyond just run-of-the-mill, “worldly” socialization.

    However, the system also imposes certain costs. Mormon male socialization is mingled with messages about male superiority. This creates costs, which are disproportionately placed on women. And so I think that Tatiana is exactly right when she writes:

    “It does seem like the priesthood fosters positive channeling of various masculine impulses, but it’s a shame that, by doing so many male-only projects, it also fosters the idea that women aren’t capable or useful in any domain outside the home. I don’t think the one aspect depends on the other. I think we could socialize males very well without strictly segregating so many activities by gender. ”

    Nate suggests that there is a gain to be had; he’s probably right. On the other hand, the policy also creates real costs. The policy is only a sound one if the costs outweigh the benefits. And dang it, now we’re into empirical land again. ;)

  64. Lynnette on June 29, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    I think the comparisons to other systems of male socialization, particularly other religious systems, might actually be useful in the context of what you’re looking at, Nate (if I’m understanding it), because they raise the question of whether the socialization we’re attributing to priesthood is in fact a result of the priesthood itself, or might be due to other factors (commitment to Christian ideals, participation in a community, etc.). Though I realize that in practice those factors are quite intertwined, comparisons with other traditions might help us tease out what’s peculiar to the influence of the LDS priesthood framework.

    On the whole, I’d agree with you that the Church does a pretty decent job of male socialization. I think there’s a lot to be said for it. However, I am concerned with the issue (which you mentioned) of how the system potentially affects the way in which LDS men view women. Does socialization in a male-only system which is closely tied to authority make it more difficult for men to take women seriously? I don’t mean that as an accusation, but as an honest question.

  65. Russell Arben Fox on June 30, 2006 at 7:53 am

    Mulling and Musing (#55): “Again, I realize there are plenty of good Christians (and those of other beliefs as well!) out there, but my experience has been that there IS a difference with men in the Church, on the average.”

    Lynette (#64): “[Comparions] raise the question of whether the socialization we’re attributing to priesthood is in fact a result of the priesthood itself, or might be due to other factors (commitment to Christian ideals, participation in a community, etc.).”

    Lynette’s comment about “participation in a community” is, I think, an important key to understanding and analyzing the difference in degree and kind of male socialization that M&M observes taking place through the church. Unlike a great many other excellent Christian churches, our church has both an ecclesiastical and a theological “structure” (including everything from the ward system to covenants about building up the Kingdom of God in the temple) that emphasizes participation in a given community. While ward-shopping certainly happens in the LDS Church, basically, you’re expected to find your corner of Zion, go to church every week, and serve those people in that place. It is one thing–and a very good thing, in terms of male socialization–to be committed to Christian ideals; it is another, even better thing (says I, the communitarian), to be obligated to put those ideals into practice in a particular place and time in full “public” view. While I’m happy to speculate about what it means to be a “citizen” in the Kingdom of God, or what the drawbacks might be to our centralized, correllated system in terms of building communities around the world, the fact is that on a personal, man-to-man level, “membership” is a big deal to Mormons, far more so than it likely is to your average Methodist, and that makes an important difference.

  66. Daniel B on June 30, 2006 at 8:08 am

    #6 “I’m not sure, however, that we can absolve women of causing suffering. It might not be the same kind of suffering, but it’s sure there”

    Men can’t be excused when they act like neanderthals…but the natural selection of extreme traits in men by women does seem to encourage it in subtle ways sometimes. For instance, the idea that war is a purely male enterprise was a bit undercut for me by footage showing women spitting at male conscientious objectors during world war I. And I think we’ve all seen that school yard behaviour where after a fight it’s the winner who walks off with the prettiest girl on his arm. While male rage and agression are no doubt as hormonal as ‘cattiness’, men are often socialised to completely hide sensitivity or fear. But those emotions don’t go away and quite possibly the emotional silence they feel obliged to practice eventually finds its way out as angry behaviour. Women can quite often be ‘emotionally censorious’ of men and this perhaps is a way of ‘causing suffering’.

    Also, the worst kind of violence doesn’t have to be physical. Women can be rather ‘tribal’ in their own way and perpetrate hideous forms of emotional violence against people they disapprove of or, especially, other women they judge to deserve it. When a group of women decide they want to ‘get’ someone – especially other women – the emotional violence they’ll practice through malicious gossip, social exclusion or actually plotting the victims ‘punishment’ can often be quite breathtaking and shocking to men who, for all their admitted faults, generally like to see a sense of fairness and fair play even in conflict.

  67. ECS on June 30, 2006 at 8:19 am

    Russell – excellent points. I agree that Mormons generally have a strong committment to serving their own community and this contributes to better behaved males (how are we defining “socialized”, anyway?). To Lynnette’s point, I think that it would be interesting to compare the Mormon experience to other tightly-knit, socially-distinct religious communities and family organizations, because I’m having difficulty identifying what is specifically unique about the male Mormon socialization process.

    However, one thing that separates Mormon males from males in other religious groups is that the priesthood is open to all worthy males. And in a religion where, theoretically, every male child could grow up to become a prophet, Mormon males may perhaps develop a more egalitarian outlook. Not sure how this plays out practically speaking given the Church’s solid hierarchy – just a thought.

  68. s on June 30, 2006 at 8:58 am

    As for the feminization of charity, etc., it seems to me that one of the advantages of the male ethos of the priesthood is precisely that it nests compassion, charity, and other Christian virtues in stories about honor, courage, power etc. I think that it would be a mistake to say that the message given to priesthood holders about their duties as men/priesthood holders is that compassion and charity are feminine concerns.

    I agree, but what I think is interesting about your point, Nate, is that you are saying that in order to make these values “non-feminine” (and, therefore, worthy of attention), we have to tie those qualities to more “masculine” traits. My general point has been: in an ideal world, do we want to have to nest compassion and charity in stories about power in order to make them palatable virtues for men? Maybe that’s a good short-term solution. But wouldn’t a better long-term solution be to 1) continue to discuss and formulate charity in non-gendered ways (which is what Kiskilili proposed), and 2) rethink how we define “masculinity” so that we can encourage virtues such as charity without having to appeal to “manly” virtues like honor and courage (which is what I proposed)? It’s not that I think honor and courage are bad (on the contrary!), I just think ideally we should be able to encourage charity and compassion for their own sake.

  69. Nate Oman on June 30, 2006 at 9:17 am

    s.: I don’t think that linking compassion and charity with stories about other virtues means that we are not encouraging them for there own sake, it simply means that we are using different rhetorical strategies with different audiences and that we are trying to work those virtues out in ways that are vivid for all. As for life in an ideal world, it depends a great deal on what the ideal is supposed to look like.

    There is a sense in which any gendering of virtues is going to raise concerns about equity because it can be taken to imply asymmetry, which in turn seems to undermine equality. The problem, is that without virtues it is difficult to figure out how one ought define gender. If a thing is not defined in terms of its virtues, what might it be defined in terms of? Hence, I understand and sympathize with the desire to problematize any gendered presentation of virtues. On the other hand, I worry that without some sense of gendered virtue gender becomes in effect a moral and ethical embarrassement, or at anyrate an irrelevent category. Yet given the centrality of gender to our lived experience I worry that defining it in virtueless terms impoverishes our lives. The trick, it seems to me, is to come up with ways of thinking about virtuous manhood or virtuous womanhood that avoid the pathologies to which gendered accounts of virtue are prone. It does mean, however, that we must be willing to problematize the liberal and post-liberal dream of a self that can be completely self-constituted.

  70. Nate Oman on June 30, 2006 at 9:21 am

    Incidentally, I am planning on shutting down this thread after 100 comments (if it gets that far) as an experiment in changing the tone of discussion on the blog. FYI.

  71. Nate Oman on June 30, 2006 at 9:33 am

    To totally shift gears: I have been using socialization to mean something like the internalization of particular norms, such that those norms guide one’s choices. In technical terms (and no doubt someone will correct me if I am misusing the term) the idea is that “socialization” makes norms endogenous to our utility function.

    I suspect, however, that much of the real work of controlling male misbehavior has to do with exogenous forces, like increasing the opprotunity costs of misbehavior. Criminal law is the most obvious example of this, but there are lots of other things, such as providing material rewards for good behavior. For example, most violent criminals are poor. There are two stories you can tell about this. One is that the poor are somehow morally inferior, victims of bad socialization, or whatnot. In other words, the misbehavior of poor criminals is endogenous. The other story is simply that the opprotunity costs of crime are lower for the poor. For example, a short stint in prison may be a relatively mild sanction for someone who is not doing much else. On the other hand, if you are a comfortably middle-class attorney even a short stint in prison could have very, very high costs, e.g. loss of job, loss of law liscense, etc. On this view the moral character of rich and poor is the same, but the incentives are different. In other words, the determinants of male misbehavior are exogenous.

    In looking at Mormon males we have to ask ourselves the question of the extent to which what we are seeing is the internalization of a particular set of Mormon norms (or the internalization of a set of universal norms in peculiarlly Mormon ways if you prefer), and to what extent we are simply seeing something like “being a middle class American.” To answer the question what you need is a big dataset that allows you to measure various kinds of male misbehavior in relationship to other variables. Then you start controlling for various demographic characteristics in the attempt to isolate the effect of Mormoness alone. Which is just my way of saying that you probably can’t know the answer to this question by looking at your ward and then generalizing.

  72. Frank McIntyre on June 30, 2006 at 9:52 am

    ECS: “I think we’d be stuck reading Frank McIntyre’s posts far too often.”

    Early manuscripts of Dante’s Inferno included this as a torment for the particularly remorseless sinner. Dante’s editors felt it was “just too much”.

  73. Kiskilili on June 30, 2006 at 10:16 am

    I hope my comments aren’t inappropriate or off-topic, so I’ll make this my last. Thanks for a very interesting discussion, Nate.

    Daniel B. (66): “Also, the worst kind of violence doesn’t have to be physical. Women can be rather ‘tribal’ in their own way and perpetrate hideous forms of emotional violence against people they disapprove of or, especially, other women they judge to deserve it.”

    I absolutely agree. I don’t think we talk often enough about female aggression and how, lacking clear socially sanctioned ways for expressing it, women often resort to indirect and (therefore) sometimes very hazardous outlets.

    M&M (55): “Isn’t the answer to that ‘magnifiy his priesthood’?”

    This is exactly what I’m implying. We’ve discussed a little how the priesthood socializes men by creating formal opportunities for them to publicly practice Christian ideals. I’m suggesting another aspect of that socialization is that the priesthood is male-only and entails authority. I’m suggesting further that this system is reinforced by our not infrequent claims that women have an innate capacity for charity that men lack. Women, then, don’t even need the priesthood, whereas men are given an opportunity of participating in something that preserves their masculinity (or so the reasoning goes). (But I’m also questioning the soundness of claiming women have an innate capacity for charity to begin with.)

    I do believe there are genuine general differences between women and men (though I’m not convinced any of our methodological approaches for determining them are sound), and I’m quite sympathetic to the desire to maintain some gender segregation. But I’m also interested in examining the effects of the current arrangement and the rhetoric that maintains it.

    I think there are ways in which the system we have is self-reinforcing in that at least some of the traits we’re attributing to men and women respectively are nothing more than the result of power dynamics. My understanding is that those in power, whether men are women, are more likely to display characteristics such as strength and justice, whereas those who are subordinate are more likely to show sensitivity to others’ feelings. At least one of the reasons the former characteristics have been coded as masculine and the latter as feminine is that men have traditionally held power where women have been subordinate.

    So one of the aspects of priesthood that interests me is that, although it confers authority, it does it in such a way as to demand mercy, sensitivity, and willingness to serve of its holders. I think I’m partly echoing what Nate said in the original post, that priesthood on the one hand provides men with an opportunity to exercise authority, a traditionally masculine activity which is further specifically coded as such by being male-only, but at the same time requests that they exercise that authority in a way that is consonant with Christian values.

  74. s on June 30, 2006 at 11:29 am

    I don’t think that linking compassion and charity with stories about other virtues means that we are not encouraging them for there own sake, it simply means that we are using different rhetorical strategies with different audiences and that we are trying to work those virtues out in ways that are vivid for all. As for life in an ideal world, it depends a great deal on what the ideal is supposed to look like.

    I can sympathize with the “rhetorical strategies” approach, though even if we frame things in this way, we still need to look at the consequences of our rhetorical strategies and decide if they’re consequences we’re willing to live with.

    The problem, is that without virtues it is difficult to figure out how one ought define gender. If a thing is not defined in terms of its virtues, what might it be defined in terms of? Hence, I understand and sympathize with the desire to problematize any gendered presentation of virtues. On the other hand, I worry that without some sense of gendered virtue gender becomes in effect a moral and ethical embarrassement, or at anyrate an irrelevent category. Yet given the centrality of gender to our lived experience I worry that defining it in virtueless terms impoverishes our lives.

    As for the problems you raise when thinking about gender and virtue, I don’t really have any good solutions. The church clearly doesn’t want us to abandon the notion of gender. The issue for me then becomes: how does the church define/formulate gender? You propose that gender can only be defined as a collection of qualities or virtues. While I agree this is one way gender is often defined (and one the church often embraces), it is not the sole definition of gender. For instance, we can define gender primarily in terms of roles (as Judith Lorber states in “The Social Construction of Gender,” “As a social institution, gender is a process of creating distinguishable social statuses for the assignment of rights and responsibilities”). Or, we can think about gender as a social process that we all “do” or “perform.” Neither of these definitions of gender say that gender needs to be tied to morality, though I can understand why the church would want to talk about virtues in relation to gender (since religion is in the business of morality).

    My central complaints are that I think the church’s definition of “gender” is unclear (or contradictory at best) and that I find *a lot* of problems with the way virtue and morality get tied to gender in the church. I can understand your desire to not take the issue of morality out of the picture (it’s probably not even a feasible option), but I think in the church we need to be 1) a lot more cautious about how we define “gender” and other gendered terms like “femininity” and 2) cautious about making gendered moral prescriptions that cause problems like those outlined by Tatiana, Kaimi, and others on this thread.

  75. Dan Richards on June 30, 2006 at 11:41 am

    I hope this slips in before the 100-comment cutoff…

    I’m interested in how women shape the way men respond to the pressures of priesthood socialization, primarily in the pre-marriage context. I’ve been surprised at how frequently General Authorities tell stories of how they were not planning to serve a mission until they fell in love with a girl who wouldn’t settle for a non-RM, after which they got their act together. Leaving aside the question of whether marriage prospects are an appropriate motivation for missionary service, there is clearly some truth to the belief that a returned missionary enjoys enhanced status in our community, and will thus be more attractive as a mate.

    But I think there’s a limit here. Based on my experience in the cauldron of frenzied mate selection at BYU, I came away with the sense that an overabundance of kindness, compassion and meekness can be a liability. There was a recent discussion somewhere about whether the EQ Pres in a singles ward is the alpha male, or whether “spirituality” is equated with “wimpiness.” The much-maligned film, “The Singles Ward,” addresses this dynamic–the pompous EQ Pres loses the girl to the bad boy with a heart of gold, but only after he mends his ways.

  76. Mark Butler on June 30, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    I agree that the role based conception of gender is more coherent than the virtue based conception of gender. Stating that a certain virtue is inherently associated with one gender is a dangerous thing.

    I have to radically dissent from the suggestion that the priesthood is a socially sanctioned “outlet” for aggression. That is even worse than the idea that marriage is a socially sanctioned outlet for lust.

    Even without the priesthood, even among some of the least poorly “socialized” male groups, honor is all about holding aggression in abeyance until there is a legitimate threat to the proper order of things. The priesthood is the ultimately heavenly expression of such an honor system – that aggression in promotion of selfishness and self dealing is the end of priesthood, but that aggression (vigilance, zealousness are probably betters words) is sometimes required in the defense of the good of all, the righteous interests of heaven itself.

    That kind of zeal is an honorable thing in women as well, of course, an should be *taught*. Statistically or biologically speaking though, males seem better suited to handle grave threats to the social order, by the use of force as a last resort – in a theocracy both the police and military functions have to be considered aspects of the duties of the priesthood, particular aspects that are hard to imagine being held on a statistically equal basis in the heavens above.

  77. Mark Butler on June 30, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    I should add that I think any conception of heaven that does not allow for the use of force as a last resort to maintain its very existence is a more than a little naive, and that many of the particularly unique functions of the priesthood exist in a continuum of least intrusive means of maintaining social order, always holding love and persuasion as the highest ideal, the principles that *legimitize* priesthood authority in the first place, but resorting to increasingly severe forms of defense, when faced with dire threats to the family of heaven. The priesthood is often spoken of as the “arm” of the Lord. The arm does not seek its own good, but seeks the good of the body, as directed by the Spirit.

  78. Ziff on June 30, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    I think that Mormon male socialization is likely no better than general Christian male socialization. That is, I would be surprised if the priesthood provided any special benefit. Given two active church-going men, one Mormon and the other non-Mormon Christian, I doubt there is a difference.

    But I do suspect that there is an indirect effect of priesthood on male socialization. Men don\’t participate as much in churches that ordain women as they do in churches that ordain only men. So given two men who nominally belong to Mormon and non-Mormon Christian churches, the Mormon man is more likely to be active in church in the first place. And he is therefore more likely to get better socialized, but only because he\’s more likely to be in church in the first place, not because of any particular difference between Mormons and other Christians.

    To summarize, I am arguing that this model

    priesthood –> better male socialization

    is not as likely as this one:

    priesthood –> increased likelihood of church attendance –> better male socialization

  79. Seth R. on June 30, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    I still sometimes wonder if it’s a good thing that “the lawsuit” has replaced “rapiers at dawn” in our society.

  80. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 30, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    Unlike a great many other excellent Christian churches, our church has both an ecclesiastical and a theological “structure� (including everything from the ward system to covenants about building up the Kingdom of God in the temple) that emphasizes participation in a given community.

    I think another thing that makes us different is that the socialization of males typically begins long before priesthood officially enters the picture. They are pointed toward the day when they will 1) be baptized, 2) receive the priesthood, 3) go on a mission, 4) get married in the temple. I imagine most other boys are pointed toward school and marriage, but not with such spiritual landmarks along the way.

    In addition to this milestones, young men have mentors and teaching throughout their youth. Ideally, father is the greatest mentor, who models priesthood as it should be. My children don’t see their father’s priesthood as dominating authority — they see him serving in Church, giving blessings on occasion, and going to meetings to learn more about being a good and godly man. My son is being taught to respect and care for women, not that he is better in any way. I think this concept of authority being problematic can easily be mitigated by proper training in the home. That can — and ideally should — begin early in these boys’ lives. I’m passionate about gender roles, priesthood, etc., but you had better believe that my children are going to understand their equality before God. And I hope that they will see and sense and learn the partnership aspect of marriage, and partnership aspect of Church functioning.

    Back to mentors. Young men get to home teach with a high priest. They have close association with the bishop, who has a key responsibility for the Aaronic Priesthood holders. They have other YM leaders who have an impact on their lives. They get to go to priesthood meetings, Fathers and Sons outings, etc. with their fathers, and learn what it means to be part of a community of men who want to be like God. (And then they are part of that larger community of Saints who want to be more like God.)

    In addition to scouting, young men from ages 8 on up have other programs they participate in to help them develop spiritual characteristics. (Young women have them, too.) They learn to serve and study the scriptures and establish habits of spiritual health that, ideally, last them a lifetime.

    Young men ideally also have a peer group to help reinforce good triats and behavior. They point each other toward missions. They share their faith and create a safe place for sharing spiritual, sensitive feelings. They challenge each other to bear their testimonies.

    Finally, and I think most importantly, even with all programs, mentoring, teaching, etc. aside, I think we can’t overstate the power of ordinances and doctrine to change people from the inside out. Programs end up being shallow if we don’t become “saints through the Atonement of Christ.” Without the Spirit and the doctrine, we can’t fully come to Christ and become more like Him; only He can really change our natures. That is why I feel the Church has a unique potential to help men and women change their natural-man tendencies (whatever they may be). We have the ordinances that link us to the Spirit and the Atonement; we have the doctrine from prophets (refreshed weekly in Church and, ideally, daily in our homes at some level), consistenty reminding us of what it means to follow Christ, and we have the covenants that cause us to bind ourselves to Him and to being more like Him and to follow our leaders to that end (and, ideally, to have that always in our mind and hearts and desires). Priesthood becomes part of that system of doctrine and covenants for the men. Fulfilling roles in the family in the Church comes into play for both genders as well. These all help us become. In short, ideally, the Church becomes a system for becoming, not doing. That takes “socialization” to a different level. It’s not just suppression of bad tendencies; it’s a fundamental change in character.

  81. costanza on June 30, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    “Incidentally, I am planning on shutting down this thread after 100 comments (if it gets that far) as an experiment in changing the tone of discussion on the blog. FYI.” Why 100? My young men’s president 20 years ago used to always babble about how everyone should be in by midnight because the Holy Ghost lost power after 12 AM. Should all good blogs be home by 100?

  82. Kimball L. Hunt on June 30, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Women for millennia were busily going about being kind and nurturing and selfless and to have emotionally bought in to doing the tasks necessary to endow the next generation. But when that first guy came out of his mother’s tent and revealed the divine will to make this formerly matriarchal enterprise a “profession,” then, this, like all professions, had to be formulated as EXCLUSIVELY masculine in order to engender it culturally: Civilized men being those who’ve made gentle women-ness a gentlemanly trait?

    To whoever above mentioned the SINGLES WARD movie (although I haven’t seen it) regarding the “badboy” cultural doublestandard:

    Isn’t it true that contemporary women, whether in the general culture or The Church of Jesus Christ, don’t want to deviate from their respective norms too much towards their being preceived as too prudishly goody-goody either. ‘Caus while RMs will say they want pure, undefiled, innocent women — yet alas whom they often respond to are ones who are also unabashedly flirtateous, a hard skill for them to have picked up without their being just a touch worldly? So perhaps somewhat mixed of messages abound in both directions?

  83. Mark Butler on June 30, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    Reminds me of Anne Shirley’s statement to her friend Diana – something like “I don’t want a wicked man; but I want a man could be wicked if he wanted to”.

    I don’t agree with the proposition that flirtation requires worldliness – that sounds too Augustinian to me – no doubt guidance regarding “how to flirt in righteousness” is a nascent market in the secondary literature.

  84. Nate Oman on June 30, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    “Should all good blogs be home by 100?”

    Generally speaking, it is probably not a bad rule of thumb.

  85. s on June 30, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    The trick, it seems to me, is to come up with ways of thinking about virtuous manhood or virtuous womanhood that avoid the pathologies to which gendered accounts of virtue are prone. It does mean, however, that we must be willing to problematize the liberal and post-liberal dream of a self that can be completely self-constituted.

    I meant to add one more comment earlier, which I forgot (and then maybe this will be my last comment). :) I’m okay with problematizing the liberal self, but in my mind, it’s still the best default. For instance, it may be true that women’s biology generally makes them better at certain things and men’s biology makes them better at other things (I’m not sure to what extent I actually do believe this, but for the sake of this argument, I’ll accept it as a possibility).

    In my mind, the best response to the above is *not* to proscribe a certain set of behaviors for men and another set for women (because it’s what they’re best at, or because it’s where their virtue lies). There are so many exceptions that general prescriptions will end up doing the opposite of what we intended for many people (i.e. the men whose biology inclines them away from aggression and towards sensitivity will think they can only be a virtuous man if they are “manly” and “courageous”; they will end up feeling like “bad” men, even if they are virtuous in ways that are more “feminine”). For this reason, I think the liberal self (even if it’s not the model that best fits the actuality) is the model that is currently the best default.

    (P.S. I make these comments as a woman with a number of “masculine” virtues–intellectualism, rationality, and a strong sense of competitiveness, among others. I thought for the longest time I was a defective woman because these virtues don’t show up in models of virtuous womanhood.)

  86. Mark Butler on July 1, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Costanza (#81), My YM leaders in the eighties had it not as the Holy Ghost losing power at midnight, rather that he “went to sleep” at that time. (smile)

  87. Mark Butler on July 1, 2006 at 2:17 am

    s (#85), I agree that any model of virtuous womanhood that does not include those virtues is defective. I think that is the point (one of them anyway) Jane Austen was trying to make with Elizabeth Bennett and Lucy Montgomery with Anne Shirley.

    - perhaps excepting competitiveness, which is a little questionable in men as well. Too much pride involved in too many cases. My father always taught me how impressed he was that Koreans competed to be humble – we have some of the same dynamic – you first, no you first. I guess if done insincerely that can be a bad thing, but properly understood I think that sort of graciousness, even and especially in its sincere chivalric expression, is a wonderful and proper thing, not an apology for superiority.

  88. Jeff Day on July 1, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Nate said: ‘Yet, I suspect that one of its virtues is that it finds a way of combining a “manlyâ€? Kipling-esque vision of maleness with the Christian ideals of compassion and kindness.’

    I think that, although Christian Ideals, Rudyard Kipling allowed Freemasonry to “tame” him, as likewise did Joseph Smith et al when the Priesthood organization was re-established. With virtues and ideals such as Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Brother Love, Relief, Truth, Temperence, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, Caring for Widows and Orphans, Honesty, Chastity, Keeping a tongue of Good Report, Faith, Hope, and Charity, with its sublime lessons designed to make Good men better, and raise people up to nobler thoughts. I wonder how many of these ideals existed in the Ancient priesthood organization. But, it is no surprise that the “manly” ideals of Kipling would basically agree with those of his Masonic brethren — our early LDS leaders — in setting up the patterns for our quorums.

    I think the Priesthood quorums today are alright. Except, too often I see a really slacker attitude towards being part of the quorum. It is considered to be more of a “class” than anything else by a large majority of Church members, and it is not often enough that we come together informally as quorum members to socialize and enjoy each others company. We need to regain the sense of “belonging” to a sacred band of men, a special group, if we want the quorum to be truly effective in not only its fellowship opportunities but in exacting good work towards others and in inculcating those ideas necessary in order to make men better in such a way that they are impressive upon men’s souls. We seem, in a large part, to have lost our spark and zest. Fortunately, this is one area of the Church that is directly in our hands to improve. Any Quorum member can step forward and encourage his Brethren to become closer for this purpose, and as such a small group, the goal seems very attainable at a local level.

    It is much more than a feminizing of the men – simply speaking, corralling them into possessing the virtues of Love and Mercy, but rather should extend to every act of their life in a manly way – to make one’s word have such repute that it is trusted implicitly. To be the strength able to complete any task of physical labor which our Sisters (and especially widows) may ask of us and rightly expect us to perform (for it should simply be our duty). To go into battle with the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit to overcome any foe, none daring to molest or make afraid, to bring our Brothers and Sisters (Children of God) both outside and inside of the Church out of the ways of darkness and error and into light and truth. This is manhood, or priesthood.

    ~Jeff, a “Mormon Gnostic”

  89. Mark Butler on July 1, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Well, the first thing to do to make a quorum more effective is make it run more like the way the Quorum of the Twelve is run today, and less like a First Presidency and a bunch of also rans. It is hard to feel like a true member of a quorum if your opinion doesn’t count for anything. When was the last time you saw a quorum take anything other than a sustaining vote, or actually deliberate instead of acting more like a debating society? Or the last time you saw a quorum president feel he had to establish a consensus before undertaking a serious initiative of his own creation? Or properly act like a *preside*-ent and not a visiting line authority?

  90. s on July 1, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Mark (#87)–yes, competitiveness can be questionable for the reasons you mentioned. Maybe a better word than “competitiveness” is “drive” or “passion.”

  91. Kimball L. Hunt on July 2, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Jeff:

    I’d agree that the “‘ If ‘ poem Man” and the “ideal man of priesthood-callings magnification” could be pretty close to the same? Well, if ya change wagering on pitch-’n’-toss (There’s nothing in free-&-accepted masonry about gambling?) to, I don’t know, high-risk venture capital or something.

    (And that line about not lookin’ TOO good nor talkin’ TOO wise in a Mormon context . . . could be interpreted as not crusading TOO much about societal issues yet seeking first the kingdom of heaven?)

  92. Kingsley on July 2, 2006 at 3:47 am

    The “many hands make light work” principle came to me strongly as a young man by virtue of my priesthood quorums. Laying sod lets off steam. It was always interesting to discover that Brother X could fix your plumbing, Brother Y your computer, Brother Z your face (following a particularly violent Turkey Bowl e.g.). I sort of got introduced to work by virtue of my priesthood quorums, that is, work of all kinds. It was a sort of Mission Impossible situation where you learned to rely on one another because everyone brought a different skill to the table. Well, I didn’t. I’ve not seen the same sort of organization in other churches, even the very tight-knit ones in small communities. I witnessed, when young and impressionable, many men being “manly” in unique and useful ways. Love-r-ly.

  93. Kristine on July 2, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Kingsley!!! You have achieved the blessed/cursed status of a sort of mythical presence–no one actually cares what you say anymore, we’re just so excited to see your name under “Recent Comments”! (not entirely true, I did read your comment :) )

  94. Rosalynde Welch on July 3, 2006 at 12:35 am

    Nice discussion, everyone! As usual, I see it both ways, and thus am of absolutely no use to anybody.

    For a classic example of a priesthood narrative working as a vector of socialization in precisely the way Nate describes, see this story from last month’s New Era. It manages, rather brilliantly, to preach the virtues of humility and service while simultaneously bolstering the moral authority of the hierarchical priesthood offices. (And it’s written by someone who has the same name as my uncle, but isn’t, I don’t think.)

    As for empirical data, there probably isn’t much, or much reliable, but we do have a little. Tim Heaton works with the data from the National Survey of Families and Households in his article “Are Mormon Families Really Different?” from _Contemporary Mormonism_. On domestic conflict, he shows that Mormons and non-Mormons report very similar responses to conflict; it appears that Mormon men deal with disagreement and conflict in largely the same way that non-Mormon men do. The only statistically significant finding is that disagreement is about 10 percent mroe common in LDS families than in the population as a whole, but the data provide no evidence that physical violence is more common among Mormons.

    In fact, all the data shows that Mormon families, for better and for worse, are not really very different at all from non-mormon families. The only observable areas of difference are in family size, abstention from and disapproval of extra-marital sex, and a more traditional division of labor. Which would support my suggestion above that priesthood rewards diminished sexual opportunity for men with higher social status.

  95. Mark Butler on July 3, 2006 at 1:46 am

    Rosalynde (#94),

    I don’t know – to me there is something rather perverse about talking about the priesthood as a compensatory status award. I can see that the surface effect might be there, but the only way the priesthood can make sense is if we examine God’s purposes for the various orders of the priesthood in the context of the plan of salvation, the natural state of mankind, and the body as a divine creation intended to help us *overcome* sin, not instill it.

    Without such an examination, I suspect any other sociological commentary is little more than whistling in the wind.

  96. Kaimi Wenger on July 3, 2006 at 9:54 am

    Rosalynde,

    So your theory is that Mormon men get to sleep with fewer women, but in compensation we get to boss them around at church?

    That sounds like the mother of all bad trade-offs — no wonder that men don’t stay in the church!

  97. Kaimi Wenger on July 3, 2006 at 10:04 am

    (Rosalynde’s theory also raises the question of why anyone would ever be a progressive Mormon man. Recruiting motto for progressive Mormon men: We get to keep the limits on sex, and also try to undercut our own higher social status! Yeay!

    Clearly progressive Mormon men have some self-flagellation issues. Hmm. I suppose I could start wearing a hair shirt, too, couldn’t I?)

  98. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Mark Butler,
    Understanding things from a sociological/biological perspective is never the whole picture, but it is helpful to understanding the whole picture.

    “Rosalynde’s theory also raises the question of why anyone would ever be a progressive Mormon man.”

    Its a play for higher status vis-a-vis the other men who aren’t progressive.

  99. Rosalynde Welch on July 3, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Okay, so I think the link to the New Era story is fixed now; I know there’s something tricky about linking to things on lds.org, but I always forget what.

    Kaimi, the sex/status tradeoff wouldn’t be specific to Mormon priesthood, it would be the mechanism of all patriarchies. Mormon families and communities are more patriarchal than their American counterparts, so the tradeoff would be more pronounced among Mormons. I could be wrong about this, of course, but it makes sense to me.

    And Mark, it is a frankly instrumental account of priesthood, granted—but hasn’t this entire thread been about instrumental views of the priesthood?

  100. Mark Butler on July 3, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    I do not deny that the idea has some contribution to status among males, my point is that it is woefully inadequate to explain God’s motivation for the priesthood order in the context of his design of physiological nature. In other words, why would he organize the Church and kingdom of God in such a manner for not other reason than to compensate for capacities he himself designed?

    My main complaint is that too many seem to take human physiology as a given, and the priesthood a and ex post facto creation of man rather than pursuing the question of what pre-mortal problems God intended to solve through the establishment of both priesthood and physiology.

    When we speak of human nature the question always comes up which nature are we speaking of? Nature prior to spirit birth? Prior to mortal birth? That which was added in mortal birth? i.e. what in the world did God have in mind in the first place?

    Listen to Brigham Young dissent from Paul:

    It is fully proved in all the revelations that God has ever given to mankind that they naturally love and admire righteousness, justice and truth more than they do evil. It is, however, universally received by professors of religion as a Scriptural doctrine that man is naturally opposed to God.

    This is not so. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of God,” but I say it is the unnatural “man that receiveth not the things of God.” Paul, in another place, says, “if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” That which was, is, and will continue to endure is more natural than that which will pass away and be no more.

    The natural man is of God. We are the natural sons and daughters of our natural parents, and spiritually we are the natural children of the Father of light and natural heirs to his kingdom; and when we do an evil, we do it in opposition to the promptings of the Spirit of Truth that is within us. Man, the noblest work of God, was in his creation designed for an endless duration; for which the love of all good was incorporated in his nature. It was never designed that he should naturally do and love evil.

    (Brigham Young, June 15, 1862, JD 9:305)

    Clearly we are talking about two different senses of natural, and the resolution between them has a lot to do with the credibility of the idea that the priesthood is there just as a compensatory status symbol.

  101. Julie M. Smith on July 3, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    “Mormon families and communities are more patriarchal than their American counterparts”

    I’m sure I cannot find the citation but a study done awhile back showed that Mormons talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. By which I mean: they will claim beliefs in patriarchy, male as head of household, etc., but when they describe their behavior, it is more egalitarian than the American average.

  102. Mark Butler on July 3, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    I disagree with the idea that patriarchy, in the LDS sense, implies despotism. A father is supposed to preside, not dictate. Presidency means a responsibility to teach correct principles and promote a righteous consensus. Dictatorship and self-dealing are the end of presidency. So indeed the LDS version of “patriarchy” may be more egalitarian than the world at large. Jesus set the example – of mine own self I am nothing. I came not to do my own will, but the will of my Father, and so on,

    Try to explain priesthood as status symbol in the context of the following scripture:

    Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers—
    9 For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God—
    10 Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.
    11 Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel. The Lord hath said it. Amen.

    Why lineage? Because it is the *family* order of salvation. Priesthood leaders either act as effective saviors of those they preside over or they are worthless.

  103. Mark Butler on July 3, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    That is D&C 86, by the way. What I am suggesting is that no one has any basis for disagreeing with *righteous* priesthood leadership, by definition. If a husband and wife both have the spirit of revelation, what is and what is not righteous should be manifest to both of them.

    The purpose of the plan of salvation is to make us one with our Father in heaven – one as in *equal* with him (as a person) or any other exalted person. The priesthood should be seen as a system to acheive a righteous equality, not a righteous inequality. The key to righteous equality is inspiration unto the unity of the faith – between husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter. The only apparent inequality is temporary – when one person is inspired and the other isn’t, one effectively represents the will of God and the hosts of heaven, and the other his or her own will. There is no contest. God does not dictate his will, but hapless be the person who fights against God.

  104. Kaimi the enforcer of patriarchal social norms on July 3, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Wahoo! I’m sneakin’ in a comment at number 104.

    With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more (comments).

    However, this comment openly flouts Nate’s rule of no-more-than-100 comments. Thus, it is yet another example of anti-social behavior by males. Also, I like to break things. Violently. Smash them. Hulk will smash comments.

    However, my violent tendencies have been reined in by church socialization and priesthood. Now, I just like to tell women what to do. So . . .

    I note that there are a lot of women posting comments on this thread. No more, I say! I’ve just closed comments, as per Nate’s prior rule. So you can’t post any more comments here. Hah! I’m enforcing the patriarchal heirarchy, as defined earlier by Nate. How do you like them apples?

    I am man. Hear me roar.

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