September Ensign

August 30, 2006 | 159 comments
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The September Ensign rocks. No two ways about it. As regular readers probably know, the Ensign sometimes takes flak in the bloggernacle for its shortcomings. Some of the perennial complaints are that it does not portray strong women and that it does not pay sufficient attention to single (particularly divorced) members. This month’s Ensign addresses both of those prongs very well. Two of its features are sufficiently strong that it’s hard to decide where to start.

One of the items that really stands out the gorgeous six-page, fifteen-picture spread on Women of the Old Testament. It features paintings of different kinds, as well as carvings. The paintings branch out significantly from the Old Testament usual suspects — Eve, Sariah, Ruth-and-Naomi, Esther, maybe Rebekah — and include depictions of Hagar, Rahab, Abigail, the widow of Zarephath as well, and even two different paintings of Puah and Shiphrah (extra credit if you can say who those two are without looking it up). The exhibit draws heavily on the work of Elspeth Young — extra props for displaying the work of a female artist — and includes work from several other artists, both male and female. Each work includes a small caption and tie to scripture.

If this were the only thing that really struck me about this month’s Ensign, I probably would have written it up. The pictorial is a great way to point out women in the scriptures. It’s given on-the-cover billing, too. Kudos to the Ensign for this exhibit on Old Testament women. (My only criticism — a small one — is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more description of the art itself; e.g., “oil on canvas, 1982″ or the like. This is a minor criticism, though; the pictorial is really a good one.)

The Ensign then covers more traditionally underserved ground in Kaye Terry Hanson’s lengthy, analytical, and thoughtful article, For the Divorced Single Parent. As with the women pictorial, there is a lot to like here.

The article avoids stigmatization of divorce or any focus on messy details, and instead focuses on how to make the best of the situation. I loved the fact that it does not condemn the divorced parent; divorce is reality for many church members, and this article goes a long way towards recognizing that.

I loved the article’s length and throughness. It clocks in at six pages, eighteen different suggestions, of one to three paragraphs each. This is a nod to the reality that there are no quick-and-easy answers. This article could have been really bad — a one-page piece saying “I got divorced, then I said a quick prayer, and everything sudenly got better.” Instead, it is really good. It makes no claims to quick or easy solutions, and focuses on long-term ideas and strategies.

I enjoyed the substance of the suggestions. Parts may not work for everyone — I don’t know how many divorced single parents get super-home-teacher, for instance. But other portions were quite strong and broadly applicable. The suggestions on time for oneself and on forgiveness were thoughtfully done. The point about the reality of continuing contact with a divorced spouse matches many cases I know. And I have to love an Ensign article that extols the value of a single mother returning to graduate school to better support her family.

When it rains, it pours: This month’s Ensign also brings an article written by a member of the General Primary Presidency — we have women leaders in the church, too, and they can and do speak on doctrinal matters — as well as a nice article on fatherhood that contained a lot of material I liked. Top it all off with a nice four-page historical article, with multiple photos, about the Relief Society building and the women who made it possible.

If you haven’t yet opened your copy of the September Ensign, let me recommend that you do so.

159 Responses to September Ensign

  1. angrymormonliberal on August 30, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    That September Ensign currently lies in pieces in our trash can…mostly over the fatherhood article. Since I no longer have it in front of me, I\’ll have to reconstruct what was going on from memory. Now, I was raised in the LDS church and have a fairly high tolerance for the Ensign and it\’s unique editorial style and article selection policies. My wife however, does not. Her lack of tolerance for cowsh in the church is one of the reasons I love her so much. Before we go to bed we\’ve been reading either the Book of Mormon, some selection from the Bible, or in this case the Ensign. She read the article on Fathers, the first presidency message and got progressively more upset as she read. If I remember correctly it started out with a quote stating in a basic sense that in order to get rid of juvenile delinquents we should \”Put the father back in charge of the home\” a quote that dated from the 1950\’s. The article got progressivly patriarchal from there, but in a disjointed, cut and paste kind of way that makes me speculate that the article may have been assembled from old talks and then given a cursory editorial once over and quickly published. Then there was the article about surviving cancer, not a good topic in our house as 3 relitives are currntly fighting it; thus we now have a very low tolerance for articles that are designed to make hormonal pregnant women cry. So she ripped it up and tossed it out. I was in full agreement, for the sake of the first article. The variety of viewpoints, eh wot? I\’m glad you enjoyed it, perhaps I shall have to find those women of the old testament articles

  2. Ed Johnson on August 30, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    The FP message is a lightly edited version of this 1974 general conference talk. Nearly all the Ensign FP messages are talks recycled in this manner.

  3. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    angryliberal,

    I found some of the fatherhood article to be eye-rolling as well (that assertion that there would be less juvenile delinquency if fathers were more in charge). But then, there are often portions of the church magazines that make me roll my eyes. (Such as the weird Friend several months back — “don’t get tattoos, get ice cream instead”).

    The stranger parts of fatherhood article were mitigated to some degree, I thought, by the prophet quotes immediately following the article (which I remember liking), plus all of the other things I liked (as mentioned in the post).

    (This from memory; I don’t have my copy with me (at work) and it’s not on lds.org yet.)

  4. Dan on August 30, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    I would have liked to see a picture of a prophetess giving a blessing through the laying on of hands.

  5. Téa on August 30, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    I thought of Lisa B’s artwork quest when I saw the Old Testamnet women layout, Kaimi.

    Did anyone else find the description of the Relief Society building dedication, well, strange? It read as if none of “the sisters” were in the RS building itself while President McKay offered the dedicatory prayer.

    I’m very curious about the new member emphasis in the October Ensign, wondering how different (or not) it will be from an ordinary issue.

  6. angrymormonliberal on August 30, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Ah…the lightly edited post explains a great deal. Thank you Mr. Johnson. While I will go to extraordinary lengths to disprove mormon urban legends, I’m often too lazy to track down an answer about my own suspicions myself when I can impose on the collective knowledge of the bloggernacle. My wife may perhaps have more of a problem with this than I do. She was under the impression that they were written specifically for each Ensign. I always thought they were ghostwritten by poorly paid Ensign staffers and then signed off on by general authorities. This allows me to ignore them if they were particularly objectionable.

  7. Aaron Brown on August 30, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    “I found some of the fatherhood article to be eye-rolling as well (that assertion that there would be less juvenile delinquency if fathers were more in charge).”

    Why is this assertion worthy of a roll of the eye? Is this really such an outrageous claim? Aren’t there reams of studies which show that single parenthood (which usually means single motherhood and an absent father) correlates with higher levels of all sorts of social ills? Granted, I can imagine these points might have been presented offensively or in an irritating manner; I’ve seen plenty of gender nonsense bandied about in the Church to be sure. But this is hardly a prima facie ludicrous claim.

    No, I don’t have the Ensign handy, and I haven’t read the article. Maybe after I do, I’ll see this in context and share your sentiment. We’ll see.

    Aaron B

  8. Ed Johnson on August 30, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    “She was under the impression that they were written specifically for each Ensign.”

    Yes, I think a lot of people are under that impression, and the Ensign does nothing to dispell that notion. I find it pretty odd that they don’t note somewhere that the talk was given before. I don’t think they’re exactly trying to hide it, though…Pres Hinckley even mentioned in conference a couple of years ago that one of his FP messages on Pornography was a recycled talk.

  9. bbell on August 30, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Sorry guys,

    The social sciences back up the claims in the fatherhood article. Common knowledge and openly discussed in the LDS circles I am in.

    Aaron B is right.

    The Ensigns HAVE recently gotten better. I really appreciated the article a couple of months ago about date rape and its aftermath.

  10. Ed Johnson on August 30, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    Aaron, I had the same reaction that you did…in a world where the fathers of juvenile offenders are usually absent, there is nothing too shocking about suggesting that this absence contributes to the problem. I believe that the original context of the quote appears to have had more to do with fathers being seen as strong authority figures than just being there at all, the concept of putting “the father back at the head of the home” is probably flexible enough to accomodate more modern sensibilities (much like the concept of “presiding”).

    (BTW, the FP message is here.)

  11. cchrissyy on August 30, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    I liked the female art, I liked the divorced article.
    I didn’t much care for the fatherhood message.
    And I didn’t know the FP messages were recycled. They ought to be attributed as such if they are.

  12. Kevin Barney on August 30, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    The way it was portrayed in comment 1, it was not talking about the virtue of otherwise absent fathers being present (on which I’m sure we would all agree), but rather the need to “put the fathers back in charge of the home.” You really can’t see why a feminist would blanche at that comment?

    (Caveat: I too have not read the article or the issue. I leafed through it, as I always do, and read almost none of it, again, as I always do.)

  13. Tim J. on August 30, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Here’s the quote, from the second paragraph of the FP message.

    “Speaking in general conference some years ago, President Stephen L. Richards (1879–1959), First Counselor in the First Presidency, quoted from an article, written by a veteran criminal court judge, titled “Nine Words That Can Stop Juvenile Delinquency.” The nine words suggested by the judge were “Put Father back at the head of the family.” President Richards concluded from the article “that the primary reason for the reduced percentages of juvenile delinquency in [certain] European countries was respect for authority . . . in the home, which . . . normally reposes in the father as head of the family.”

  14. bbell on August 30, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    Hey Fellow Wilmette Stake alumni….

    If not offending feminists is the church’s goal its doing a really poor job of reaching that goal.

  15. sarebear on August 30, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    He didn’t say the issue was perfect!

    I’m eager especially for the artwork; I have a hunger for that, and combined with the theme of Old Testament Women, well, it sounds great! Not sure where I mislaid the issue, though, as I usually do when it arrives in its wrapper.

  16. Mark Butler on August 30, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    The striking think about many feminists is that they insist that women have all sorts of innate superiorities over the male sex, and then the slightest suggestion of an inversion in any area throws them into a tizzy. And then they call males sexist.

  17. Mark Butler on August 30, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    “striking thing”

  18. Mark Butler on August 30, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    In most contexts, by the way, that is called an inferiority complex. Rather than complain about culture and history, and spill endless ink claiming superiority in every traditional male field of endeavor, why not just actually demonstrate it? There are plenty of opportunities available.

  19. gst on August 30, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    I too enjoyed the article on coping with divorce. In fact, it gave me the push I needed and I’m having papers served on my wife as she comes out of Curves tonight. Thank you Ensign!

  20. Aaron Brown on August 30, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    “The striking think about many feminists is that they insist that women have all sorts of innate superiorities over the male sex, and then the slightest suggestion of an inversion in any area throws them into a tizzy. And then they call males sexist.”

    This is a very easy claim to make, but only when you take the whole spectrum of “feminist” approaches and opinions, pretend that any and all “feminist” conclusions are present in the one, particular feminist you’ve constructed in your head, and then attribute a selectively chosen combination of “feminist” views to your said feminist. Your imagined feminist may seem like a total hypocrite in your head, Mark, but I have yet to meet her in real life.

    Aaron B

  21. Costanza on August 30, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    I always find in amusing that we are surprised when we find that the Ensign, or other church publications, are uneven. Yes, I always find something to roll my eyes about in the Ensign, but no more frequently than when I peruse other periodicals to which I subscribe like Dialogue, the Journal of Mormon History, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, History of Religion, the Western Historical Quarterly, or the Journal of Religion and American Culture. Finding things with which to disagree is a sign of intellectual rigor and I welcome it, even in the Ensign.

  22. Eve on August 30, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    “The striking think about many feminists is that they insist that women have all sorts of innate superiorities over the male sex, and then the slightest suggestion of an inversion in any area throws them into a tizzy. And then they call males sexist.”

    Actually, Mark, in the Mormon world the rhetoric of innate feminine superiority belongs, by and large, to the gender-role traditionalists. The Mormon feminists I know would love to see it dismantled because it so obviously serves patriarchy–you sweet, dear angelic women are so divine that we bumbling male oafs just have to be in charge because otherwise we couldn’t be prevailed upon to do a darned thing, etc.

    Nauseating, fulsome, and insulting to both men and women. Let’s end it.

  23. Mark IV on August 30, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    Eve beat me to the punch, but she said it better than I could have anyway. The relevant passage from this month’s FP message is:

    How infinitely more productive and satisfying it is for a woman to build up her husband rather than tear him down. You women are so superior to men in so many ways…

  24. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Mark IV writes:

    “Eve . . . said it better than I could have anyway . . . ”

    Which is clearly because she’s one of those dear, sweet, angelic women, and so much more naturally spiritual than us men . . .

    :P

  25. Geoff B on August 30, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Kaimi, a Bloggernacle veteran like you should have known that any attempt to write anything at all positive about the Church or the Ensign or Church doctrine would be treated with contempt. Thanks for trying, however, it’s nice to occasionally see something positive.

  26. Seraphine on August 30, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for the Ensign review. I have to confess that I opened my Ensign, saw the fatherhood stuff and promptly shut it again. It looks like I need to open it back up and look at some of the later articles.

  27. Eve on August 30, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Kaimi, my delicate feminine sensibility caused me to blush, eyes modestly downcast, at being praised in so public a forum, but let me allay your natural gentlemanly worries without further ado–you will be most relieved to learn that I recovered my poise with the aid of my smelling salts. And may I express my deepest admiration that you have overcome your manly oafishness and have been prevailed upon to do a darned thing, of your own free will, even! Very nice post.

    Seraphine, I winced at that article too. I’m glad to hear that the issue gets better. I let my subscription lapse–I’ll have to read it online.

    (Wait a minute–I’m supposed to be on a Bloggernacle fast! I was getting online to work. How did I end up here?)

  28. Julie M. Smith on August 30, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    (Wait a minute–I’m supposed to be on a Bloggernacle fast! I was getting online to work. How did I end up here?)

    Led by your wandering womb, prolly.

  29. Eve on August 30, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    Julie, why, of course. In my feminine weakness I forgot all about my own hysterical propensity for irrelevant diversion.

    Back to the straight and narrow….

  30. Mark Butler on August 30, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Eve,

    I completely agree that any notion of essential overall superiority on the part of either gender is nauseating. I was referring to the idea outside the Church however that if women ran the world all the major problems would go away, a concept which is common enough.

    Now as a matter of principle I believe that it is the Lord’s plan to make all of us his true equals if we will but let him, both men and women. I don’t imagine that will amount to erasing gender differences, but I have no problem at all with women pursuing excellence in any traditionally male dominated field (or vice versa).

    It would be wonderful to read more outstanding female authored books on theology, or law, or history for example, particularly ones without some sort of axe to grind. I really don’t feel personally responsible for what somebody did fifty or five hundred or five thousand years ago. I do feel that the Lord has a purpose in the creation of gender, I don’t know all the details, but certainly everlasting male dominance is not one of them. That is kind of pathetic if you ask me.

    A real man should want the cooperation and joint-presidency of women to the greatest degree that doesn’t involve erasing the design of gender completely. The design of gender does seem to entail specific statistical superiorities in a handful of specific areas, but this idea of absolute, innate, or essential superiority is ridiculous, whether males re males, males re females, females re females, or (horror of horrors) females re males.

  31. Mark Butler on August 30, 2006 at 8:21 pm

    I might make an exception for the most vile of the military arts…

  32. Tatiana on August 30, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    I enjoyed it a lot, but then I almost always do. I guess I’m just grateful to have the church, and all its over-the-top corny, sweet, and hokey advice and teachings. It’s like a loving mom, when you’re already fully grown, and you can thank her for her kindly. well-meant advice and then just go and keep your own counsel. But there’s no doubt that she loves you and wants for you the best. Also, the church is right about so many things, just like my mom. =) I didn’t find the fatherhood article offensive, maybe because I yearned all my life for an active, engaged father. When this issue was done, I wanted to read more. I particularly enjoyed the article about Niceraguan saints.

    I want a family so badly! There is no article about families that is too old-fashioned and quaint for my taste! Perhaps somehow I will learn something that allows me to get one.

  33. Jack on August 30, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    Well, wait a minute–

    What if returning to “father as head of household” really served as the best deterrent to juvenile delinquency?

  34. Naismith on August 30, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    #30 Mark Butler wrote:
    “Now as a matter of principle I believe that it is the Lord’s plan to make all of us his true equals if we will but let him, both men and women. I don’t imagine that will amount to erasing gender differences, but I have no problem at all with women pursuing excellence in any traditionally male dominated field (or vice versa).”

    But are they going to have to pursue that excellence the same way men do, or are we going to let them do it a different, woman’s way? I think it is unfair to ask women to pretend they are men.

    When my husband went to graduate school, his wife did all the laundry, cooked all the weekday dinners, managed the family finances, did all the shopping, and kept track of all the child-related appointments for a family with three children. When I went to graduate school, I still did laundy-shopping-cooking-etc. My husband’s contribution to lightening my domestic load was that he did the dishes, if he was in town and got around to it.

    Fortunately I was smarter than him (at least according to the GRE) so that I got a prestigious University Fellowship and had good funding without having to do an assistantship. But I do feel sad that because of limiting my classes to those I could take while my children were at school, I couldn’t take some courses I would have enjoyed–in particular any of the ethics courses offered by Marvin Olasky, one of the great conservative thinkers of our day, which were only offered in late afternoon.

    I think the playing field would really be “equal” when it comes to pursuing careers if we allowed women to do things at a pace that suits them, spreading out graduate coursework over a longer period, for example. I understand that BYU used to do that, but they got into trouble when it came to accreditation, because only by having fulltime students (doing it the male way) is a program considered serious.

    You might say that my difficulties were due to having a slug of a husband (he was actually a postdoc at the time and trying to fulfill his responsibility to provide for the family so I don’t consider him a slug) and not my gender per se, but nowadays I have a graduate-student daughter whose husband took time off of his career and is as supportive as a husband can be, and yet they have this challenge of a baby who won’t take a bottle, and only mom can breastfeed.

    So please let’s not pretend that it is as easy for women to accomplish stuff as it is for men.

  35. Kristine Haglund Harris on August 30, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    “It would be wonderful to read more outstanding female authored books on theology, or law, or history for example, particularly ones without some sort of axe to grind.”

    You are joking, right?

    (“please, please let him be joking,” she thinks, “it would be such a hassle to compile a list (just for starters) of Pulitzer- and Nobel-prize and MHA award-winning works by women, and he would be so embarrassed about forgetting that the only LDS Macarthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize winner is a woman and mother of five children…”)

  36. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    We all know that you want to post that list, Kristine. :)

    I double-dog dare you. . .

  37. Mark IV on August 30, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Kaimi, even if she posts a list of books by women we can dismiss them all on the grounds that they were written by history-makers and therefore not well behaved. You know, a bunch of axe grinders.

  38. Jack on August 30, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Kristine,

    I think the defining word in Mark’s comment is “more.”

    Naismith,

    One of the sad realities of maintaining the gender divide with respect to how each do what they do is that men are generally “slugs” at doing what they don’t want to do.

  39. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 11:04 pm

    Yep. Women who behave rarely make history — didn’t someone say that somewhere? can’t think of who — so it’s likely that they wouldn’t write history, either.

  40. Kristine Haglund Harris on August 30, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    Jack, actually, I think the defining word (phrase) is “female authored.” Anyone who still seriously makes that distinction with regard to books on theology or history has a lot of catching up to do. (I’m far less familiar with legal writing, but I’m sure someone around here could comment on whether “female authored” is still a meaningful category within that genre).

  41. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Kristine (#40):

    “I think the defining word (phrase) is “female authored.â€? Anyone who still seriously makes that distinction with regard to books on theology or history has a lot of catching up to do.”

    But cf. http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=130#comment-11016 (not an authorship comment per se, yes).

  42. Starfoxy on August 30, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Well if we’re going to rip him apart, then we need to do the job properly. I believe the key word is outstanding. While he may be willing to admit that there are lots of books by female authors, it’s that there aren’t enough good ones to be bothered about. Perhaps all the books were too filled with axe-grinding to have addressed the subject properly. :)

  43. Kaimi Wenger on August 30, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    Good point, Starfoxy.

    (See . . . this is why you’re my favorite blogless commenter! :P )

  44. WillF on August 30, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I just want to recommend the article written by Lois Sewell about living with cancer. We had the pleasure of being fellow ward members for a couple of years. I trust her words.

  45. Tim J. on August 31, 2006 at 1:15 am

    I guess this means you won’t be a guest blogger at FMH anytime soon, eh?

  46. Jonathan Green on August 31, 2006 at 2:37 am

    Mark Butler, I deleted your last two comments, arrogantly taking advantage of my power to do so, and the fact that no one has filled me in on the unwritten rules of comment deleting, and my colleague’s being sound asleep. I don’t think this is a good place for you to air your problems with feminism, since the topic is rather how good the latest issue of the Ensign is, and I don’t think you’ve done a great job so far in your comments with writing abougt a sensitive issue. If only you had a blog where you could write about feminism to your heart’s content. Oh, wait…

    When all you North Americans wake up in the morning, Kaimi can decide if he wants to host a discussion of feminism or not.

  47. Mark Butler on August 31, 2006 at 3:19 am

    That is your prerogative, Jonathan. I only wish that you would be consistent and delete nearly every comment in this thread, starting with comment number one. This whole thread so far is a discussion on the problems feminists have with the Church and ancilliary issues. I certainly did not broach the subject.

    Considering that I did not do anything but give a fair answer to the charges leveled in comments 35 and 42, it seems that deleting my last two comments without deleting the others is an arbitrary and irrational standard not befitting the standards of this distinguished web log.

  48. Deborah on August 31, 2006 at 6:53 am

    Kaimi: I agree. The Ensigns of the last three months have been particularly good — the topics and contributers are feeling increasingly diverse and *real* in their tone. I hope it’s a trend that continues!

  49. WillF on August 31, 2006 at 7:37 am

    The deletions (I’m assuming between comment #44 and #45) make Tim J’s comment (#45) look like it is responding to my comment (#44). At least I am assuming this is where they happened, because Tim J’s comment makes no sense as a response to mine (in my mind anyway).
    As far as controversy goes, thanks in general people for motivating me to pick up and read the Ensign for myself this month.

  50. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Kristine, Eve, Starfoxy— I didn’t like the tone of Mark’s comment, either. And yes, absolutely, women have made outstanding contributions to many intellectual fields, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Juanita Brooks being only two examples of several in our own tradition. But don’t you think that the emerging techniques for understanding brain biology are showing pretty clearly that there are thoroughgoing sex differences in cognitive functions? And that, much as I hate hate hate it, those differences are going to be reflected in the kind and quantity of female achievement? We’re just beginning to have real data on this, and the conclusions we should draw are far from clear, but I think we’re going to need to take the lead in acknowledging and interpreting this information, or risk others doing so. (But probably none of you disagree with any of this.) There’s still some value in sounding the notes of discrimination, oppressive socialization, and lousy men, but those hypotheses are becoming less persuasive as totalizing explanations for the achievement gaps at the highest levels, I think.

    For my own part, while I’m coming around to (grudgingly) accepting the probability of thoroughgoing sex differences, I’m not at all convinced that those differences are complementary, except for, you know, the equipment. It looks to me (*not* based on my own personal experience with my husband) that most of the time they are rather tragically incompatible.

    By the way, anything that references Stephen L. Richards is goign to be seriously cringeworthy. I was trawling for something a while back, and came across a whole series of conference talks on the fathers issue that managed to get a rise out of even my weary od hackles.

  51. annegb on August 31, 2006 at 10:17 am

    I’ve enjoyed the Ensigns more also. I think the problem is they only have so much space and they have to reach 11 million people all over the world. It’s necessarily generic. I hate the pablum for the masses, though.

    I wrote Sheri Dew a rather lengthy letter telling her what I thought was wrong with her writing. She didn’t respond. Imagine that.

  52. Kaimi Wenger on August 31, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Rosalynde,

    The cognitive science is what it is. Science moves forward, and the science may be as different ten years from now as today’s science is from the science tens years back. So you can color me unconvinced, at least at present.

    However, even if it’s true that phsyical differences explain some of the disparity, don’cha think that multiple millennia of oppression may play a role, too? ;)

    Writing great literature, or history, or political science, or whatever else, is not an endeavor that is likely to be closely tied to physical attributes — as in, say, hitting a baseball. If we’re looking at baseball-hitting ability, we can be (relatively) sure that physical differences between genders account for most of the male-female disparity.

    But so much about contributing to an intellectual field is not physical, but social. Was the person in the right place at the right time; did she have proper mentors; was her work given the exposure necessary for her to develop her talent. That’s a lot different than hitting a baseball. Without proper cultivation, it would be particularly difficult for women (or men, for that matter) to properly develop their talents.

    And for, say, most of recorded history, women just haven’t had the same opportunity to develop their intellectual talents. Don’t make me bring up Shakespeare’s sister, now.

    So yes, I’m on board with you, brain differences may explain part of the gap. Absolutely. Particularly in the math-science area, where the research shows the greatest differences. (Dang, I’m starting to sound all Lawrence Summers).

    How much of the gap is explained by physical difference? Let’s just say I suspect that discrimination and socialization probably played a much larger role than anything else. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on the idea that brain differences are the main reason there’s been no female Aquinas.

  53. Bro. Jones on August 31, 2006 at 10:45 am

    I didn’t like the Ensign pictorial spread on women of the Old Testament–not the principle, but the execution. I’m really, really tired of ethnically-incorrect pictures of Biblical/BoM figures. (See, for example, the pictures of Rebekah, the widow of Zarephath, and the sculpture of Esther.)

    It’s getting better, insofar as we’re seeing fewer blonde Hebrews and Nephites overall, but it still borders on the ridiculous. I know that for most of the Church’s history its membership has been of Western/Northern European descent and White, and it’s only reasonable to expect the art to portray historical figures in a way that reflects the audience. But it’s the 21st century now and not every Mormon has roots in Scandanavia anymore.

    I know it’s a old complaint, but I stand by it. It’s one of many things I hate about our Church’s “canon of art,” and I hope that it improves within my lifetime at least. Recently the Ensign has been great–no, amazing–about featuring people of all races, nations, and walks of life in their articles and photos, and I would love to see our paintings and art catch up a little bit.

  54. jimbob on August 31, 2006 at 10:48 am

    In comment 20, Aaron Brown decries Mark Butler’s comment 16 as a straw man argument, i.e., he’s never met the kind of feminist Mark is describing and doesn’t believe they exist. But then in comment 22, Eve does the same thing, but to the mysoginist end, i.e., that men in the church want to keep women down because they consider them too delicate for real service. Like Aaron Brown said about the fictional feminist, I’ve never met that sexist man in the church in my 30 years of active participation in several states. But no one steps up to suggest that maybe Eve is also knocking down a straw man. Why is that?

  55. Julie M. Smith on August 31, 2006 at 10:53 am

    I’m with Kaimi. Juanita Brooks would regularly leave an ironing board out with a pile of laundry next to and the iron on so that when neighbors dropped by to chat, she’d have an excuse to kick them out and get back to her writing. I’m not sure that many male historians have had to risk burning their homes down just to escape their social obligations and get some work done.

    More seriously, I’m far from convinced that any data on brain difference speaks to nature and not nurture. Other studies have shown that if you cross-dress toddlers and plunk them down on a playground, people treat them differently. So it doesn’t surprise me that that treatment, during a time of extreme brain malleability, makes an actual difference in later brain function and structure. It would be tragic if we attributed to God those things that are the result of gender traditionalists on the playground.

  56. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 10:56 am

    Jimbob, Eve can speak for herself, but I don’t think you’ve understood her at all. The line of thought she’s referencing, I think, suggests that men are inherently less spiritual/religious/righteous than women are, and thus men need the carrot-and-stick of priesthood to keep them in the strait and narrow. This is an argument that I’ve heard many, many times—from men and women—at church and all over the blogs. Indeed, I sometimes find certain forms of this argument persuasive, myself.

  57. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 11:00 am

    Julie and Kaimi, I ardently, fervently, passionately wish that you are right, and I will certainly raise my own daughters with the same expectations and opportunities I provide for my sons. I believe that the data—both sociological and biological—are going the opposite direction, however. As you say, time will tell.

  58. Christian Y. Cardall on August 31, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Kaimi, regardless of whether gender differences are socialized or biological, they are definitely difficult to mask. Take patterns of thought and conversation, for instance:

    One of the items that really stands out the gorgeous six-page, fifteen-picture spread on Women of the Old Testament. … The paintings branch out significantly from the Old Testament usual suspects — Eve, Sariah, Ruth-and-Naomi, Esther, maybe Rebekah — and include depictions of Hagar, Rahab, Abigail, the widow of Zarephath as well, and even two different paintings of Puah and Shiphrah (extra credit if you can say who those two are without looking it up).

    The thing is, I just couldn’t suppress a chuckle at how much this sounds like boilerplate locker room banter about a ‘Girls of the Pac-10′ issue or something. It could almost be a Saturday Night Live Skit. I know you’re trying hard to be a good feminist and all, but I don’t think a female feminist would ever write like this, let alone focus so intently on the visual aspects of the presentation.

  59. Mark IV on August 31, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Jimbob,

    Have you ever heard a man refer to his wife as his better half, or talk about “marrying up”?

    If the answer is yes, then you have met that sexist man.

    Women in the church often complain about being on the pedestal. It is no picnic being underneath it, either.

  60. jimbob on August 31, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Rosalynde (55)–

    I have heard that theory. But I’ve never heard of it as a way to keep women “down,” so much as a post facto guess at why God gave men the priesthood. It does confuse me as to why a feminist like Eve would be against a theory that effectively makes God a feminist–i.e., men are the weaker sex. If her answer is that it’s because it reinforces patriarchy, her argument is with the priesthood itself, not with some high priest’s guess at why he holds it.

  61. Matt Evans on August 31, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Kaimi and Julie,

    To me the strongest evidence that mental aptitudes have a biologically-gendered nature is the abundance of exceptional female writers, a smattering of strong female painters, but not a single outstanding female composer. The nurture angle doesn’t rescue here because women haven’t been discouraged at learning music, relative to men, any more than they have against writing or painting, and for decades more women than men have learned music. (As an alternative to their brothers’ sports.)

    I smiled when I saw the recent headline, “Taller people are smarter,” realizing that, once again, some researcher forgot the self-evident truth that we’re all equal and therefore equally smart. When will *researchers* start being smart? : ) (I should point out that the researchers assume, at least publicly, that the cause for both is superior nutrition (environment)).

  62. John Mansfield on August 31, 2006 at 11:23 am

    From Steve Sailer:

    Apparently, the Patriarchy had conceded to power-share with women in such trivial outposts as law and business, but it desperately clung to that central bastion of male control of society: the college mathematics department.

    All 23 tenured mathematicians at Harvard are indeed men. Yet, can you name one? Do you know even two living mathematicians?

  63. Frank McIntyre on August 31, 2006 at 11:24 am

    I have no inclination to wade into the nature/nurture cagematch, but a colleague just recently told me about a great little bit of research that I’d be interested to learn more about.

    Take two adopted kids raised in the same family but of different ethnic backgrounds. When they are young they tend to have similar outcomes (test scores or some such). Since both are raised in the same home, that makes sense, and gives some sense of the importance of environment for current behavior.

    But by the time the adopteds are adults, that similarity has disappeared. Their outcomes (wages, if I recall, was the measure they used) are no more alike than two randomly picked strangers. And that gives one a suspicion that, at the end of the day, genetics may be extremely important– at least for productivity and quite possibly for a whole lot more.

    The nice thing about this study is that it looks at an outcome in the long term, not just asking if people feel differently or are treated differently in a particular situation on a particular day or in a particular lab, but how actual environmental influences (raised in the same home) translate into long term effects. But I haven’t seen the study yet, so maybe I’m misrepresenting it.

  64. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 11:51 am

    Jimbob, now you’ve made two mistakes. Eve said nothing about women being kept down, and feminists don’t generally argue that men are the weaker sex.

  65. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 11:56 am

    Erg, it gives me a serious case of the shakes when I find myself (equivocally) supporting a position held by the likes of Steve Sailer. This just shows me why women—and feminism generally—needs to take the lead here.

  66. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    “This just shows me why women—and feminism generally—needs to take the lead here.”

    RW: I am affraid that I don’t quite understand what you mean here? Take the lead in what? Doing what?

  67. Mark Butler on August 31, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    I apologize for any inappropriate tone in my comments. I confess to merely being weary of the (male) priesthood as oppression theory which seems to pop up so often. There is real oppression out there, even among a few holders of the priesthood, but I do not think it is fair to color those holders who exercise priesthood influence in the way God intended or very close to (allowing for human frailty) as being engaged in a grand conspiracy to suppress women.

    The priesthood is there to lift us up, not keep us down. As such, if the primary effect is not to ennoble, inspire, save, and exalt both men and women, it is not being exercised in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

    As to feminism, please let me say that it is only a particular variety that I find problematic. I think that there is a great variety of feminism that is a wonderful thing.

  68. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    “It would be tragic if we attributed to God those things that are the result of gender traditionalists on the playground.”

    Is there any reason that I should subscribe to the notion that what is natural is God given while what is conventional is not? Why can’t their be non-divine natures and divine conventions? An affirmative answer, of course, wouldn’t justify any particular convention, but it would suggest that the nature v. nurture debates aren’t giving us any special insight into the mind of God.

    Certainly, if you look in the Book of Mormon, we see “nature” identified almost exclusively with sin and evil. On the other hand, the route to divinity seems to be via conventions such as commandments or covenants.

  69. Tim J. on August 31, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    The great Bloggernacle double-standard continues. We can have women complain about the men in the Church but we can’t have men complain about women who complain about men. That’s just inappropriate and insensitive.

    And Mark’s right, this discussion was going on long before he jumped on board, and you could have simply redirected the discussion as opposed to deleting comments. Ugh.

  70. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Nate, I mean that female neuroscientists in particular need to take the lead in producing and interpreting the data on sex difference—both because they’ll be motivated to examine it with extra rigor, and because they’ll be more credible messengers to feminism in general. Otherwise men like Steve Sailer, whom I find offputting in the extreme, will dominate the discussion, feminists will turn it off, and we’ll all stick in the same old ruts.

  71. jimbob on August 31, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    “Jimbob, now you’ve made two mistakes. Eve said nothing about women being kept down, and feminists don’t generally argue that men are the weaker sex.”

    Mistake One is not really a mistake on my part as much as an apparent disagreement you and I have as to the meaning of this comment: “The Mormon feminists I know would love to see it dismantled because it so obviously serves patriarchy–you sweet, dear angelic women are so divine that we bumbling male oafs just have to be in charge because otherwise we couldn’t be prevailed upon to do a darned thing, etc.” Note the “have to be in charge” language. I stand by my comment.

    Mistake Two represents, once again, my fundamental problem with feminism: I don’t know what it is and neither do you. Everyone–and I mean everyone–has a different definition for what feminism is, yet all of them use the term assuming the person they are talking to knows what they mean by “feminism.” I have personally met plenty of self-descibed feminists who do believe that feminism means that men are the weaker sex. Accordingly, Mistake Two is not really a mistake as such, but, if at all, a mischaracterization of what you or Eve think feminism is, which might vary greatly from what the rest of the world thinks feminism is (or even what the majority of feminists think feminism is).

  72. HP on August 31, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Regarding the “Women in the OT” article, was anyone else irritated that it was only a pictorial? I mean, I appreciate a picture of Ruth showing devotion to her mother-in-law as much as the next person who appreciates such things, but wouldn’t an article about those women have been even better?

  73. Eric Russell on August 31, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the bloggernacle, it’s that I will never say that men are more spiritual in any way and I will never say that women are more spiritual in any way. For regardless of your intentions, both are misogynistic claims.

  74. Rosalynde Welch on August 31, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    LOL, Eric! My work here is done. Good night, and good luck. ;)

  75. Téa on August 31, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    I will never say that men are more spiritual in any way and I will never say that women are more spiritual in any way. For regardless of your intentions, both are misogynistic claims.

    Amen, Eric, though one should add that the latter is demeaning to both genders.

  76. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    HP:”I appreciate a picture of Ruth showing devotion to her mother-in-law as much as the next person who appreciates such things, but wouldn’t an article about those women have been even better?”

    No.

  77. HP on August 31, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Why?

  78. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Because words are not necessarily better than images. Indeed, many an article on the scriptures published in the Ensign contains considerably less exegesis than was involved in many of those art works.

  79. HP on August 31, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    Fair enough. But wouldn’t a well-done exegetical article have done more to clear up the ambiguity with which we treat women in the old testament than another half dozen Liz Lemon Swindle knock-offs?

  80. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    “But wouldn’t a well-done exegetical article have done more to clear up the ambiguity with which we treat women in the old testament than another half dozen Liz Lemon Swindle knock-offs?”

    I doubt it.

  81. HP on August 31, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Again, why?

  82. Christian Y. Cardall on August 31, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    I respond here to Nate’s #68.

  83. Eve on August 31, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    Wow! This discussion really seems to have caught fire since I left last night. I’ll try to wade back in gingerly.

    Jimbob, Rosalynde has defended me most eloquently. I’d just respond to your latest by pointing out that

    (1) “men in the church want to keep women down because they consider them too delicate for real service” isn’t at all what I meant, as Rosalynde noted, and as you noted, I’ve never heard anyone, feminist or gender-role traditionalist, advance that particular idea.

    (2) as Rosalynde said, feminism is not coextensive with the belief that women are the superior sex. Some gender-role traditionalists believe this, some don’t; some feminists believe this; some don’t. I don’t see that there’s anything about feminism (or the gospel!) that would require me to embrace such a belief.

    (3) the nebulousness of feminism is also a problem for many other contested terms, among them “Christian” and “Mormon.”

    For what it’s worth, and to the extent it’s possible to make a general statement about a group of six million, I’ve never thought or claimed that men in the church want to keep women down. I think that in our somewhat post-feminist age, we’re culturally uncomfortable with institutional inequaliy between men and women, so we’re spinning post-hoc explanations of our male-only priesthood. As a thoroughgoing sinful, fallen, weak, mortal woman, I tend to find the justifications (which, I should add, are usually very well intentioned) more disconcerting than the practice they justify. I don’t find it spiritually helpful to hear about what an elevated plane I’m on by my very nature, when I’m all too aware of my own shortcomings. I’d rather hear some practical advice to the sinful.

  84. jimbob on August 31, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Re 83: Fair enough. I’m sorry I misread your comment. I’ll stop my thread-jacking now, and return to my first love, car-jacking.

  85. Eve on August 31, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Mark Butler (#67) said,

    “I confess to merely being weary of the (male) priesthood as oppression theory which seems to pop up so often. There is real oppression out there, even among a few holders of the priesthood, but I do not think it is fair to color those holders who exercise priesthood influence in the way God intended or very close to (allowing for human frailty) as being engaged in a grand conspiracy to suppress women.”

    Although of course I don’t know what you said in those deleted comments, Mark, I suspect this misunderstanding lies at the heart of much heated debate over feminism. If I might dare to speak in the name of Mormon feminism, the feminist critique–as I understand it–is institutional, not personal. The LDS church and family are structured so that men have more power than women do. Various LDS feminisms see that power imbalance as problematic to various degrees and so seek various remedies. But the feminist critique is not an accusation against individual men any more than a post-1978 critique of Mormon doctrine on race is an accusation against individual whites.

    What I find wearying about this misunderstanding is that it throws me into the position of constantly having to reaffirm my love and respect for Mormon men (yes, I have been happily married for over ten years to a Mormon man I adore, yes, I love my brother and other Mormon men I’ve been privileged to associate with and learn from, yes, I want nothing but the best opportunities in life for my two nephews, yes, I think most Mormon men are civil and respectful, etc.) Too often, feminist culturally defaults to “man-hater.” I find it unfortunate that declaring myself a feminist should necessitate a fairly ongoing defense of my love and respect for men.

  86. Eve on August 31, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    jimbob, you’re very kind. I hope that carjacking goes well (or wait a minute–do I? is that moral? Too bad I’ll never know–blogging time is up again!)

  87. Mark Butler on August 31, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Eve,

    The thing is, I do not see the fundamental doctrines of the Church, particularly a division that by all accounts has lasted for over six thousand years, perhaps a thousand times more than that, as legislated here on earth, but rather in heaven. That doesn’t mean it is everlastingly eternal legislation, but it seems to be the way the Lord wants it in temporality, for whatever reason he wants it that way.

    So I am frustrated with the implicit suggestion that we men in the Church should just rise up and “give” the priesthood to women. It is not ours to give. My first reaction is don’t take it up with us, take it up with the Lord.

    My second reaction is that I can’t imagine the Lord making such a fundamental division without some sort of valid purpose, however temporary, so if one files suit with the Lord over the matter, I suspect one is likely to get back the same answer Job did, as Moggett described so well in her recent post on the subject. Either that, or just be patient and magnify the opportunities and privileges you have been blessed with and see how the Lord’s strange act plays out in the long run.

    Now personally speaking, I have a goodly number of serious, borderline incapacitative afflictions that I am sure the Lord could heal me of if he chose to do so. I believe he will someday, if only in the resurrection. I really have barely a clue as to what benefit such afflictions serve, considering that have been to date effective bars to getting married or even staying in the same full time job for years at a time. And yet all I get is an answer to be patient, that everything will work out, that all promises will be fulfilled, and so on.

    Now I am not saying that femininity is an affliction, quite the contrary, it is an enormous and in my opinion much undervalued blessing (as true masculinity is also). I am simply saying that the Lord has mysteries which he has not yet revealed, and we should be careful about the implicit accusation that he or his anointed servants are engaged in the greatest deprivation of justice since the world began, when no doubt the reality of the matter is far more temporal far more spiritual and far more subtle than that. The great paradox of course is that everything that the Lord does in temporality is intended to prepare us for eternity, even when eternity is upside down from how we tend to think of things here. The transition is not called the Lord’s strange act for nothing.

  88. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    ” I hope that carjacking goes well (or wait a minute–do I? is that moral? Too bad I’ll never know–blogging time is up again!)”

    So long as the car jacking in question occurs (1) in response to a default on a legally enforceable obligation that is (2) secured by a security interest in the car and (3) is carried out by the person to whom the obligation is owned or their agent and (4) proceeds without a breach of the peace, it is at least legal.

    Two points: (1) the security interest in question needn’t be perfect it must merely have attached and (2) although cars are personal property, attachment and perfection of security interests in cars is not governed by Article 9 of the UCC as they are personal property covered by certificate of title statutes.

    For more details, feel free to drop by my Secured Transactions class on the day we cover default, foreclosure, and reposession.

  89. Melinda on August 31, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    I liked the article on fatherhood. There are so many millions of talks extolling the divinity and importance of motherhood, that it was nice to see some balance. Fathers are good people, and they need some encouragement from time to time. There’s no harm in telling them that being a father is as important as being a mother.

    And how many women in real life are going to object if their husband actually exercises some spiritual leadership? It might be a welcome relief for him to be the one to plan the FHE lesson, or suggest that the two of them make a decision a matter of fasting and prayer. I know more families where the husband/father has totally abdicated his spiritual leadership in favor of the wife/mother than I know of families where a husband and father actually tries to unrighteously dominate. Of course, I know many families where the husband and wife work together in a partnership too. Maybe I’m just naive and run in the wrong circles, but when women start in on gripe sessions about their husbands, the complaints are more about how the wives have to carry the family spiritually and they wish their husbands would do more, than that they feel oppressed spiritually by his overly-burdensome patriarchal hand.

  90. jimbob on August 31, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    Re 88:

    Two points: (1) the security interest in question needn’t be perfect it must merely have attached and (2) although cars are personal property, attachment and perfection of security interests in cars is not governed by Article 9 of the UCC as they are personal property covered by certificate of title statutes.

    But the latter point is only true if not in the hands of a dealer holding them as inventory, if I remember my A9 at all. Otherwise, you could never finance the inventory of a car dealer.

    Now I’m threadjacking about carjacking. I firmly apologize.

  91. Julie M. Smith on August 31, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    “The LDS church and family are structured so that men have more power than women do.”

    The definition of ‘power’ that you have to hold to make the above statement true is a tragic, short-sighted thing.

  92. Frank McIntyre on August 31, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    “Maybe I’m just naive and run in the wrong circles, but when women start in on gripe sessions about their husbands, the complaints are more about how the wives have to carry the family spiritually and they wish their husbands would do more, than that they feel oppressed spiritually by his overly-burdensome patriarchal hand.”

    I agree.

  93. Julie M. Smith on August 31, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    Re #92: same here.

  94. Beijing on August 31, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    A new study shows that simply checking “female” just before taking a math test lowers women’s scores, whereas being asked to think about why one chose to attend an elite college just before taking the same test closed the gender gap. The author’s conclusion: “With a pretty simple manipulation, we could significantly reduce this gap,” which suggests that “there might be things that make all of these biological factors go away.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083002858.html

  95. Nate Oman on August 31, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    It is hard to tell much about a study from a newspaper collumn, but if I am reading it right it sounds as though cuing didn’t cause much of any variation for the men. Interesting…

  96. It's Not Me on August 31, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    Hmm. I really do enjoy the different perspectives I am exposed to on this site. To be perfectly candid, however, I was a little turned off by complaints about how the Ensign (the Church) isn’t producing a magazine perfectly to everyone’s liking. Perhaps all these perspectives haven’t had as much of an effect on me (broadening my own) as I thought they had, because what I got mostly from this discussion is people complaining about the Church. I’m not saying nobody has a right to do that, but I did not find it enlightening.

  97. John Mansfield on September 1, 2006 at 9:16 am

    That Washington Post column would have really pleased Henry Higgins. If we can just avoid reminding women of their sex, they start thinking like men.

  98. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 11:07 am

    I took a look at the underlying study. The sample was for 90 students (half female). 30 asked the gender question, 30 in a control group, 30 asked about being in an elite college. This means that the sampling error is going to be larger than one would like. In particular, neither of the test female groups was enough different from the control group that the result couldn’t be attributed to sampling error. _But_, the two tests cases were statistically significantly different from each other– meaning sampling error would only explain the gap one time in 20.

    The newspaper talks about the gender gap going away, but this is in the sense that the gap can be explained by sampling error. It is a little disingenuous because the control group gap is also probably statistically insignificant (ie– the sample was so small that you could not reliably say there was a gender gap in the control group either). In the female identity test case, men go up and women go down, so that the difference looks like it might be significant. But the paper (as opposed to the newspaper article) does not talk about this, so I am not sure.

    I think this is an interesting result indicative of the malleability of test scores, but you’d need a bigger sample (to cull out sampling error) to say much more.

  99. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 11:10 am

    Nate,

    In the paper, it says that the men do go up after being asked about their gender (statistically significantly).

  100. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 11:17 am

    “The LDS church and family are structured so that men have more power than women do.�

    Julie said, (91) “The definition of ‘power’ that you have to hold to make the above statement true is a tragic, short-sighted thing.”

    Not at all. I’m using the term as I believe it’s most typically used in this context, to refer both to the priesthood and to the institutional authority and influence associated with it. I can’t see how it’s tragic or shortsighted to define power in terms of the authority of God on earth, what we believe is the power by which the cosmos was created and miracles are performed.

    I certainly didn’t intend my statement to be controversial–I was striving for a simple, factual description of gender asymmetry. Men hold the priesthood. Women don’t. There are, of course, many paths to take from that point. One is to de-demphasize the priesthood’s importance and to emphasize the personal agency and spiritual gifts we all have access to, the strategy Sister Beck took in the last conference. Another is to seek compensatory feminine power to explain the asymmetry (women are so much more spiritual than men, women have the parallel gift of motherhood, etc.). Although thinking in terms of the power one does have is excellent practical advice which I try to follow in my daily life, I don’t find these approaches either persuasive or comforting as explanations. I think we’re far better off facing the gender asymmetry head-on and considering it clearly. Too often the elaborate explanations offered for it don’t even begin by admitting its existence, and too often they end in linguistic revisionism worthy of 1984.

    I’m actually open to the possibility that there are good reasons for that gender asymmetry, but if there are, I don’t believe we’ll find them until we start talking about the elephant in the room instead of talking, often very nervously and defensively, all the way around it. (And although in an ideal world it wouldn’t be relevant to the points I’m trying to make, I suppose I should go on record here as saying I’m not particularly interested in holding the priesthood. What I’m very interested in is understanding why, as a woman, I can’t, why we practice hierarchical marriage (or at least claim that we do but then usually don’t), and what these facts mean about God, my faith, my religion, and the church.)

  101. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Eve,

    I think the only way to say that women have less power in the LDS family than men do is to adopt a definition of power that excludes the power that women have– thus getting the result by default.

    You define power as “the authority of God” which is indeed a marvelous power, but it is not the only kind of power. Stalin, for example, had none of that power, but he did have the power of guns and prisons. Mothers do not exercise the priesthood, nor do they have control over guns and prisons, but they do have the power that comes from, for example, nurturing and raising children. And they appear to exercise more of it than men do. Any definition of power, particularly in a family context, that does not account for that is neither convincing nor useful.

  102. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Certainly, Frank, mothers have a great deal of power in raising their children. As do fathers, who also have additional power (the priesthood) mothers don’t have.

    My goal wasn’t to map out the various kinds of power one might conceivably exercise (physical force, knowledge, rhetoric, guns, gulags, gentle persuasion, love, etc. etc.). I was just trying to point to a particular gendered power disparity in the LDS Church and consider some explanations offered for that disparity. That’s all.

  103. Kaimi Wenger on September 1, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Frank,

    Agreed, there are several types of different power. Let’s look at a few of them, and see to what extent they’re readily available by gender.

    Priesthood (authority of God): Available to men, unavailable to women.
    Ecclesiastical authority (ability to enter into church leadership roles): Available to some degree to both genders, but much more so to men than to women.
    Ability to raise and nurture children: Available to both genders; in practice, more often exercised by women.

    Eve’s position can be reasonably constructed from those facts, can’t it?

  104. Mark Butler on September 1, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    I can’t think of any conceivable theory whereby the divine authority of a mother over her own children is not comparable to that of her husband, indeed far exceeding it if he his not diligent in his duties. In terms of practical influence, at least for the first dozen years of life or so, it is inevitably greater than that of any (married) father.

    So for now, we can temporally define the priesthood as the divine authority given to males. Certainly females have all sorts of divine authority given to them, just not in the same offices as males. A mother, a teacher, a Primary or Relief Society president, any calling or assignment in the Church, endowment, even membership itself, taking upon the name of Christ – that is all divine authority of one sort or another, when exercised in righteousness.

  105. Starfoxy on September 1, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    I find it interesting that so shortly after discussing the article on fatherhood, where it was asserted that fathers have an incredible amount of influence on their children, we’re now discounting the idea that fathers have even *comparable* power to mothers in the influence of their children.

  106. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Eve,

    “I was just trying to point to a particular gendered power disparity in the LDS Church and consider some explanations offered for that disparity.”

    That’s fine, and I understand that you are not trying to rail on and on about anything, but you’ve run into a pet peeve so I hope you’ll tolerate the rebuttall. My (and I think Julie’s) point is that without addressing the other kinds of power, the power disparity you point out is too limited to be useful. Suppose we live in a world where only men can use five dollar bills, but both men and women can use dollar bills and ten dollar bills. You point out that men have far more five dollar bills and that women have none(!). You leave the implication that men have more money (in your example, more power). You ignore that women often have as many or more ten and one dollar bills.

    The types of bills are types of power, the total money is like the total power in the LDS family. Ignoring ten and one dollar bills in order to concentrate on five dollar bills does not strike me as very wise. Saying men have more power in the family is only the obvious fact you treat it as if you completely ignore the ten and one dollar bills held by women. And both Julie and I find it objectionable to ignore money when the goal is to count up money.

    Kaimi,

    Hopefully that answered your question.

  107. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Starfoxy,

    I think the issue is that one is a relative statement, the other is absolute. Saying that I am rich if I had a billion dollars is certainly true. But it is just as true that Bill Gates is way richer than me. It is also true that I am comparably as rich as someone else with a billion dollars. However you rank motherhood vs. fatherhood, I think both are extremely important.

  108. Tim J. on September 1, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    “I find it interesting that so shortly after discussing the article on fatherhood, where it was asserted that fathers have an incredible amount of influence on their children, we’re now discounting the idea that fathers have even *comparable* power to mothers in the influence of their children.”

    I think the article was directed at father’s because so many fathers are failing with their familial and spiritual duties, as were alluded to above. As fathers, we often need reminding what it is we need to be concerned with, whereas mothers don’t seem to have the same problem.

    Fathers certainly do have influence, but that influence can also be a negative one, and probably moreso than a mothers’ ever could be.

  109. ECS on September 1, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Frank – even Milton Friedman would agree that one dollar bills aren’t equivalent to five dollar bills. And what kind of power does the ten dollar bill represent that both women and men have individually? Regardless, the crucial point in your analogy is that women can’t use five dollar bills, and five dollar bills seem to be the only currency most merchants recognize as legal tender.

  110. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Frank, I suspect the difference between our perspectives is that you accept one or both of the strategies I outlined for dealing with our gendered asymmetry of power–that the exercise of the priesthood isn’t particularly significant in light of other kinds of power available to both men and women, or that women exercise some compensatory, parallel power, such as motherhood. I’m more skeptical of these well-intentioned explanations–I don’t see the types of power women can exercise as parallel to the types restricted to men.

    Where I think your analogy falls apart is that two fives and a ten are, for purposes of exchange and money-counting, indistinguishable.
    However, the “soft” power both women and men exercise, such as parental influence, is not formally recognized or ritually valid in the church. Another way to state the asymmetry is to point out that the church can be fully organized without any women, but it can’t without men (or priesthood holders, if you will). As far as the church’s formal organizational structure is concerned, men are indespensible; women are auxiliary. Our discourse about the family parallels this: Adam was created first, then Eve, as Paul notes. Adam exists prior to Eve; Eve exists for Adam. She’s a helpmeet to him; he’s not a helpmeet to her.

    Here’s my counter-analogy: our economy exchanges green tokens for some goods and services, and red ones for others. Both men and women can use the green tokens, but only men can use the red ones, and women can access the good and services exchangeable only for red tokens only by their association with men. I don’t think this is that radical a notion: Boyd K. Packer’s key analogy (in the November 1993 Ensign, “For Time and All Eternity,” sorry can’t make the hyperlinke work) says more or less the same thing.

    Now if you want to bring in motherhood (let’s call that a pink token, naturally) as an example parelleling the red priesthood token (only women can exchange pink tokens) that’s fine, but if we’re going to count all the money, as you rightly insist we should, then we need to bring in fatherhood too (let’s call that a blue token, naturally) as another example of something only men can exchange. So when we count the money and power at the end of the day, men still have more, particularly of institutional power. Many people argue this disparity isn’t a problem. Perhaps it isn’t. I’d just like to see us start by admitting it’s there.

    I’m now out of both token colors and blogging time, so I’m publicly declaring my intent to get off the Bloggernacle to ensure that I don’t sneak around behind my own back and get on when I should be thinking very deep, important academic thoughts (and cleaning the toilets, darn it). I’m feminine and devious that way.

  111. Starfoxy on September 1, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Fathers certainly do have influence, but that influence can also be a negative one, and probably moreso than a mothers’ ever could be.
    I don’t buy that for one second. Power is power. If a father can cause more real damage to his family than a mother could then the father has more power than she does. We can’t say, “oh, mothers only use their powers for good!” without falling into the idea that women are just plain better than men, which is utter rubbish, or without denying that women have real agency.

  112. Julie M. Smith on September 1, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    “Frank – even Milton Friedman would agree that one dollar bills aren’t equivalent to five dollar bills. ”

    They are if you have five of them.

    “Regardless, the crucial point in your analogy is that women can’t use five dollar bills, and five dollar bills seem to be the only currency most merchants recognize as legal tender.”

    Which means that most merchants are ignorant fools who are losing sales because they won’t accept a fistful of ones. Pity them, yes, but don’t think that giving women $5 is the best solution to their blindness. What they need is a basic lesson in economics.

    Re Eve’s #110: You, again, have restricted your definition of power to exclude women and then complained that women are excluded. You’ve also defined the family following Paul and not President Hinckley–a bizarre move. Your token analogy only works if you think fatherhood and motherhood are parallel *in practice*, which they clearly are not.

    Kaimi, I think it’s past midnight on this thread, but maybe someone with more energy than I can open another thread on Power. I think we all have a little more to say about that.

  113. ECS on September 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Nice snippy reply, Julie, but you miss my point. My point is that in Frank’s example, the five dollar bill represents something the women cannot have: the priesthood. Five one dollar bills are _not_ the equivalent of one five dollar bill. Similarly, the merchants aren’t losing much, because merchants cater to the holders of legal tender – the holders of the five dollar bills. The women don’t have any real buying power alone, so why bother catering to their needs?

  114. DKL on September 1, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    ECS, either I don’t understand you or your response is not altogether coherent. You’re objecting to the analogy because you feel like Priesthood power ($5 bills) is the only form of social or organizational power in the church (so that Franks $1 and $10 bills aren’t genuine currency in your mind). That sounds more like the pipe-dream of a fundamentalist than a rational reply.

  115. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Eve,

    I think Julie does a good job of pointing out the problem with your analysis. Speaking of the LDS family, it is just not useful to ignore the power mothers have. If you wish to analyze the LDS family, you can’t label it “soft power” and pretend this makes it ignorable. That is like ignoring checks because only wimps use “soft money” like checks.

    ECS,

    I think the problem is that you are trying to apply to a broader instiutional example, but I am talking about Eve’s claim that men have more power in the LDS family.

    The merchants, in this case, are those influenced by the power. In the family, that is the parents and the children. Do children view fathers as more important than mothers? Surely there are families like that, but as a blanket statement it is nonsense. The five dollar bill, in my example, is a kind of power that women don’t have, but they have other perfectly valuable and powerful forms of currency in the family. I am not sure that anybody would argue with this, but Eve’s original comment ignored that definitionally and I (and apparently Julie) think that the definition she was using was a hopelessly natural man definition that has little value to how God sees things and how saints should see things..

  116. Starfoxy on September 1, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Do children view fathers as more important than mothers? Surely there are families like that, but as a blanket statement it is nonsense.

    Keep in mind that the article on Fatherhood that we were so recently discussing, had as one of it’s major premises that children who don’t have fathers in their homes don’t have the opportunity to learn to respect authority figures, thereby leading kids to disrespect school, church, and state authority figures. I think this makes Eve’s point for her, because if we accept this (and since it is in the FP message I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that the church, at least, expects us to), a mother is either not an authority figure at all, or at least not an authority figure that kids can respect.

  117. Jack on September 1, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    Ah, it’s all clear to me now.

    The reason for all the focus on women in this issue is so they could slip in the tid-bit about fatherhood without getting too much flack.

    It’s all a ruse.

  118. ECS on September 1, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    That’s fine, Frank. We don’t need to argue about whether, de facto, a father has more or less “power” than a mother in a particular family, because this differs from family to family. However, if you look at most of the Church literature and in our scriptures on the roles of fathers and mothers in the family, the father is placed squarely at the head of the family, because he “presides” over his family.

    I’m not sure whether, de facto, this presiding power bestowed on the father by the Church over his family is greater than the woman’s unique power to “nurture” the family, but it’s pretty clear from Church doctrine that the father wields more authority over his wife and his family than the wife wields over her husband.

  119. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    ECS,

    “We don’t need to argue about whether, de facto, a father has more or less “powerâ€? than a mother in a particular family, because this differs from family to family.”

    I’m glad we agree :)

    Starfoxy, pointing out that fathers are good at getting kids to respect authority figures does not imply anything about a mothers power or lack thereof. Power is not reserved to the ability to get someone to respect authority figures (as important as that is).

  120. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Oh, and I think I misrepresented Eve’s definition as being hopelessly natural man. I think Eve’s claim was that power was solely the authority of God (essentially power=priesthood), which is wrong, but not “natural man”.

  121. Mark B. on September 1, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    At last, Nate. A comment (#88) that I could understand on a first reading, and that makes perfect sense.

    Except, perhaps, the use of the term “carjacking” to describe a repossession without breach of the peace may just dilute that term’s meaning to nothing more than theft. I suspect that carjacking generally means theft by force or threat of force, and it would, by that definition, constitute a breach of the peace.

    Still, a quick summary of the laws relating to attachment/perfection of security interests are like cool waters to a soul made thirsty by this thread.

  122. Mark Butler on September 1, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    I think it is worth noting that technically “priesthood” is not authority – offices, callings, keys, and assignments are authority. Now as far as spiritual power or influence is concerned, the doctrine of the priesthood as taught in D&C 121 applies just as well to women as it does to men.

    One of the problems as I see is that some men go around inflating their priesthood into something that it is not, sort of like an automatic trump card, or some sort of spiritual exclusionary zone. I think that is a problem, and I think it should be and can be corrected through proper and repeated teaching of the doctrine of the priesthood – namely the way the Lord works through individuals to accomplish his work. In the long run, I do not think the doctrine of Christ, which clearly applies to both men and women, and the doctrine of the priesthood are all that different.

    I also think that as much as possible both men and women should try to ignore the attitudes of others who view them as spiritual weaklings, and to magnify their callings and responsibilities in righteousness, according to the Spirit of the Lord.

    That is sometimes a difficult thing, but more than a few will tell you of similar problems when temporally presided over by persons who abuse their authority in half a dozen different ways. And if someone really is abusing their authority or ignoring your reasonable suggestions, take it up with God, in faith believing that you shall receive.

    The number one thing about authority, especially punitive or judicial authority, is never exercise that which you do not have. That is God’s job. Trying to exact your own retribution is relying on the arm of flesh, taking it up with God is relying on the arm of the Spirit. I believe this principle applies unto all.

  123. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    Frank, Julie, but I did include women! (Note to self: evidently pink tokens not a hit, not memorable. Perhaps teal? Fuisha?) For the record, I really don’t care which way we go on this, including soft power or leaving it out, but if we’re going to include women’s power in the family, we have to include men’s, and thus though the terms of the comparison increase, the power differential is unchanged. As Frank said, we gotta count it all–if we’re going to throw the women’s soft checks (motherhood) on the pile, we’ve got to throw the men’s soft credit cards (fatherhood) on, too. (And hey, soft is no term of denigration–I’m all about that soft power, prefer it even. Just trying to make a distinction between it and institutional authority. If you prefer some other, less feminine (!) term–informal power?–fine by me.)

    Frank said,

    “I think Eve’s claim was that power was solely the authority of God (essentially power=priesthood), which is wrong, but not “natural manâ€?.”

    Well, I’m flattered to hear I’m coming up in the world from “natural man” (to natural woman, perhaps?), but no, that’s not my claim. My claim is really very simple and uncontroversial: in the LDS Church, men have power (the priesthood and accompanying institutional and familial authroity) that women don’t. Or if you prefer Boyd K. Packer’s analogy, men have two keys (priesthood and fatherhood), women have one (motherhood). I wasn’t trying to give an exhausive analysis of power in the church or out of it, and I certainly never said that the priesthood is the only power in the church or the world or the family or the cookies aisle in the Safeway’s on Third and Walnut. I’m just pointing a simple gender difference, one established by institutional policy and well attested worldwide. Walk into any Mormon church. Who runs the meetings? Who exercises the priesthood? Who stands at the head of the [family, ward, stake, church]? Men do. Women don’t. If you doubt me, I invite you to perform this fun, easy experiement at your local chapel this Sunday at __ o’clock. (Hey, unlike so many abstract Bloggernacle debates, this one can be resolved by a simple check of the evidence!)

    Julie, nah, I don’t prefer Paul to President Hinckley–I’m just pointing out that it’s the Pauline view and not the Hinckley that ritually organizes the family. Let’s hope that changes. And a token analogy, like any other, is inevitably reductive (for the record, it’s Frank, not surprisingly, who started us on all of these economics metaphors)–but the point you make about a motherhood-fatherhood parallel applies in spades to a motherhood-priesthood parallel. They’re even more dissimilar *in practice.*

    I wonder if part of the dispute here isn’t a confusion of priesthood and fatherhood. Fatherhood isn’t priesthood, as evidenced by the 99% of fathers worldwide who don’t hold the priesthood. Priesthood is something above and beyond, institutional and ritual, unlike motherhood, which is fundamentally biological.

  124. Frank McIntyre on September 1, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Eve,

    I agree with most of your comments, but the reason we have been going on is because this is not what you said before. You said:

    “The LDS church and family are structured so that men have more power than women do.�

    And while this is reasonable if arguable for the Church, it just is not at all that way for the family unless you ignore the power of motherhood. As best I can tell, you adopt the “token” analogy instead of mine for the same reason Kaimi does. Ya’lls method is to “count up” the types of power and then note that men have one more type than women. But this is like saying that I have 6 five dollar bills, a one, and a ten and you have 7 bills of either ones or tens, but since none of them are five dollar bills.clearly I must have more money than you because I have 3 types to your 2. More “types” of power does not mean more power.

    Your token model loses this clarity because you are not able to translate between one color and another. But your claim about male power can only be made if you can take all the types and translate them into one dimension -> power.

    And I take full responsibility for the economics analogies. So clean and concrete, it brings tears to the eyes!

  125. Julie M. Smith on September 1, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    Eve, maybe we are too far apart to have a productive conversation, but here’s where I disagree with you:

    “but I did include women”

    . . . only to immediately discount their power because it isn’t institutional and/or hierarchical.

    ‘f we’re going to include women’s power in the family, we have to include men’s, and thus though the terms of the comparison increase, the power differential is unchanged”

    If your only metric is that men have two tokens on the table and women have one, I suppose this is true. But it doesn’t make sense to conclude that the husband’s priesthood + fatherhood means that he has more power over the actualities of family life than the wife does. As someone stated waaay back, the women I know would be delighted for anything that would bring their husbands closer into the family circle and invite them to take more responsibility for the family. I’ve heard this lots but I’ve never heard a woman say “I wish he’d quit gathering the children for family scripture study!” or “I wish he’d quit counseling with our son to avoid inappropriate media!”

    “I’m just pointing out that it’s the Pauline view and not the Hinckley that ritually organizes the family.”

    Hardly. How many women do you know who don’t ask questions at church and save them for their husbands at home? How many women do you know who will prophesy in public (with their heads covered, of course)? How many couples do you know who abstain from sex for a period of fasting and prayer?

    “Let’s hope that changes.”

    If ‘that’ refers to the Pauline view, I don’t think there is much of it going around among the Saints. If ‘that’ refers to the idea that the father presides, I think it would be a tragedy for women (mostly), men (secondarily), and children (thirdly) if it changed.

    “but the point you make about a motherhood-fatherhood parallel applies in spades to a motherhood-priesthood parallel. They’re even more dissimilar *in practice.*”

    I suppose evaluating the (dis)similarities of two such institutions is too subjective to bother with, but my point was that thinking men have more power because they have the priesthood and the fatherhood tokens is to neglect the power that the motherhood/womanhood token has. That’s was my main objection to your very first statement about power imbalance and to this you haven’t really responded. You’ve just said again and again that men have a lot of institutional power. No one is debating that. What we are debating is whether institutional power (1) is the only kind worth considering and (2) whether women have other kinds of power.

  126. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    “And I take full responsibility for the economics analogies. So clean and concrete, it brings tears to the eyes!”

    Frank, LOL. They certainly bring tears to mine. When my husband waxes eloquent about economics, full-blown sobs.

    “More “typesâ€? of power does not mean more power.”

    Thanks for this addendum to your analogy, which–clean and concrete though it undoubtedly was–I am beginning to suspect went clean over my head. Now I think I better understand your position. And though it breaks my heart to introduce the following heresy [pause for gasps of alarm] this is where I suspect the economic analogy breaks down. I still maintain that the woman’s single key, or all of her tens and singles, or all of her pink and green tokens, do not add up to as much power as the man’s two keys, or five dollars bills, or all of his blue and green and red tokens–and that men have more power in the church and the family than women do. But I suspect that we’re going to have to step outside economic analogies (how, for instance, does one measure power, or compare different types?) to consider the question. If you, gentle reader, lack the emotional wherewithal to set off into the heretical and possibly nonexistent wilderness beyond the economic pale, fear not. I lack it myself.

    And that, boys and girls, is how we emptied and inventoried all of our virtual pockets and came, at last, to disagreement, agreement, and–most important of all–general good will.

  127. DKl on September 1, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    Since I’m prone to turn threads about the Iraq war into discussions about slavery and the civil war, I’ve no room to talk at all. But how exactly did a post praising the inclusiveness of an Ensign issue turn into yet another thread about the brutal injustices of our lay priesthood?

    From my point of view, it’s awfully hard to take gripes about who has the priesthood seriously. I write it all off as a fixation on something out of reach. Kind of like how I’m always thinking about beer, cigarettes, and coffee.

  128. Julie M. Smith on September 1, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    “men have more power in the church and the family than women do”

    Ahhh, now we are down to brass tacks. Men clearly have more institutional power in the church. But depending on how you define ‘church’ and ‘power,’ I’m not sure that men have more power in the Church than women do.

    But as for the family–no contest. Women clearly have more power in a traditional LDS family than men do. That seems so self-evident to me that I’m having a hard time even articulating it. Most men aren’t even on the premises when they are awake for more than a few hours per week and so everything from the most trivial (what kind of bathmat?) to the most profound (what kind of emotional climate?) is determined by the mother. Even taking the most conservative view of what a father’s presiding role means (the kind Adam Greenwood would espouse and I would disagree with), the power that comes along with presiding pales against the lived experience of what the mother does and the control she exercises over the realities of family life.

  129. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    Julie, I hope my responses to Frank clarify the answers to your two questions. Yes, of course institutional power isn’t the only kind worth considering, and yes, of course women have other kinds of power. (I don’t think anyone would seriously deny either of those claims. I certainly didn’t and don’t.) It’s just that the other kinds of power women have men have as well. That’s why I’m “immediately discounting” them (or not–as I said, throw it all on the heap, women’s soft power and men’s, if you wish!)–I can’t see that they’re relevant to the disparity I’m trying to look at here.

    What I was hoping to consider is the implications of the institutional power imbalance, but it seems, to my considerable surprise, we can’t agree that there is one, or at least, we can’t agree that it’s significant. We typically rush over the fact that men have the priesthood and women don’t–I’ve heard variations on the same reel of highly emotionally charged and generally unteneble post-hoc justifications for that fact for most of my life. I’d just like to clear away the hand-waving “but women are so spiritual/but women have this other kind of power” for a moment and consider that bare fact, which didn’t used to need to be surrounded and obscured with all of this explanatory rhetoric. Perhaps it’s really not so scary. (And maybe it’s not! As I said before, I’m agnostic about having the priesthood, myself. Not one of the fish on my grill.) But if we’re really comfortable with it, if we really accept it as God’s will, then why do we (speaking collectively here, of Mormons in general) get so twitchy when it comes up?

    I actually agree with your observations about family life–I just don’t see how paternal absenteeism relates to the issue at hand, the issue of gender asymmetry in institutional power. My very truncated reference to Paul (which I don’t blame you for being confused about) was a reference only to his interpretation of the Fall and to our ritual enshrinement of that interpretation. Bizarrely, but happily (or maybe not bizarrely–I’m no comparative religionist able to evaluate typical courses of religious change), our on-the-ground practice departs considerably from our doctrine on this point.

    And I really don’t think there’s any reason being far apart on an issue means we can’t discuss it productively, so long as we’re civil. Frank’s clarifying comment about different kinds of power leads me to suspect that there’s a lot of misunderstanding going on here, that many of us are talking past each other. I’ve done the best I can to make my case, several times and in several ways, and I don’t think I can do better than I have. So goodnight to all. It’s been fun.

  130. Eve on September 1, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    DKL, you are so right, as usual. You have inspired me to abandon my halfhearted, halfcocked campaign to (1) completely take over Kaimi’s fine Ensign thread, (2) inspire Nate to explain the circumstances under which a car may be legally jacked–which may yet prove relevant to those under which a thread may be, treatise forthcoming, and (3) storm the pulpit, wrest the microphone from the bishop, and demand immediate ordination. Oh, and the right to say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting.

    Instead, I’m gonna start thinking really hard about beer. Maybe that’s what’s missing from my life.

  131. Rosalynde Welch on September 2, 2006 at 12:54 am

    Frank, Julie, we’ve been around this ferris wheel a few times now—and I certainly hope Eve will stick around T&S long enough to go around it a few more with us—so let’s see if we can do some negotiating here. Frank, I’m sure you can set up some sort of market for this kind of thing, can’t you?

    If you will frankly and plainly acknowledge that men are allocated an institutional authority in church that is not available to women, then I (and perhaps Eve? she speaks my mind with such exactness on this matter that I flatter myself I may speak hers) will acknowledge that tit-for-tat scrooging is a poor way to approach the problem. I think both sides have come around to this, but only after 100+ comments. Next time let’s both start from here, and see if we can’t get in line for something a little more interesting. Matterhorn, anyone?

  132. DKL on September 2, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Eve, LOL. Good choice!

  133. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 2, 2006 at 2:50 am

    But if we’re really comfortable with it, if we really accept it as God’s will, then why do we (speaking collectively here, of Mormons in general) get so twitchy when it comes up?

    I think it’s often because 1) there are those for whom this is a “fish on the grill,” and we want to help them take it off, but 2) such people often won’t take “it’s God’s will” for an answer. That leaves an uncomfortable situation, struggling to find a thorough mortal answer for a heavenly decision that extends beyond our natural-man frames of reference and ability to simply sit down and explain. Perhaps there are reasons we can articulate that may have some merit, but even if they are legitimate, they often are rejected anyway because they are often insufficient to someone who struggles with such issues. I think the truths of these things are most likely going to be discerned through the Spirit anyway, not easily discussed and articulated in casual conversation, especially with how charged these topics are. These things are really God’s to explain, aren’t they?

    Sometimes we have to just say, as I think someone did above, that we don’t know why God has ordered things the way He has. But He has, and since He’s a perfect God, we can trust that He has good reasons for it all. Like Nephi, we know He loves all of His children, but we just don’t know the meaning of all things. And that needs to be ok. That’s part of what faith demands of us. Trying to explain away what necessitates faith to accept never really seems to be successful in the end. For me, anyway, the way to learn more of the “why” of things is to accept God’s “because I said so” as a start and let that seed grow. The battle of minds and perspectives never really seems to yield much clarity and understanding on such tender topics.

    I think I just repeated myself. Sorry. It’s late.

    Just recently, I have watched my husband grow more and more comfortable in his role as the “head” of our family and marriage, and I see amazing things happening — to him as an individual, to us as a couple, and to our family as a whole. I feel a partnership between us that is extremely effective, and a spirit in our home that is palpable. It’s hard to articulate in words how right it all feels, but my testimony of this divine order in the family has grown. It’s not something a social scientist could put a finger on. There is a spiritual dimension that is just right.

    I have found that with other principles that haven’t necessarily made sense to my mind at first…as I accept them on faith, then understanding comes, slowly with time. Hard for minds like mine that are information-based and “why” oriented. :) But the whole Al. 32 is a process that works, if I’m patient enough.

  134. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 2, 2006 at 3:46 am

    p.s. My intention was not to say discussion is fruitless (although often impasses are reached on topics such as this because of polarized points of view of what “should” be or what is “right”); I was mostly trying to address Eve’s question about why we get all “twitchy” when topics like this come up. I think it’s because we really don’t understand fully all the reasons why things are the way they are, but we try to explain them anyway because there are many people for whom “because God said so” isn’t enough.

  135. Deborah on September 2, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Kaimi: I just down-loaded the magazine — you forget to mention the gorgeous Minerva Teichert painting (my favorite, in fact) that graces the inside front cover. It could be subtitled: Angels Bearing Fruitbaskets.

  136. Nate Oman on September 2, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Jimbob: Re comment #90, which I just saw, as I understand it most state statutes governing cars don’t issue a certificate of title until the car is sold to the consumer. Rather, dealers have certificates of origin or some other non-title document. The effect of this, is that new cars in the hands of dealers are ordinary goods and inventory under A9 and can, as you point out, be perfected via an ordinary UCC-1 form, covered by a floating lein, etc. When a consumer buys the car, a certificate of title issues and A9 no longer applies. As to the former security interest in the inventory, I don’t think that it survives the sale both because the car is not covered by a certificate of title, and also because the consumer would be a buyer in the ordinary course of business. My understanding, however, is that a dealer in used cars sells them under the certificate of title, and therefore perfection in the inventory of a used car dealer cannot be via a UCC filing.

    As far as I know, however, the method of perfection has no impact on one’s remedies on default, so either way you can repo provided there is a defaulted debt, a security interest, and no breach of the peace.

    Happy car jacking!

  137. grego on September 5, 2006 at 10:54 am

    How come all the pictures in the divorced section were of women, or a mother and children??

  138. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    Mark Butler wrote:
    “So I am frustrated with the implicit suggestion that we men in the Church should just rise up and “giveâ€? the priesthood to women. It is not ours to give. My first reaction is don’t take it up with us, take it up with the Lord.”

    Or is it?

    Perhaps my greatest…hmmm…issue with the priesthood thing” is that it doesn’t really matter in an institutional sense if women take it up with the Lord, since we aren’t in a position to do anything about it…no matter what the answer. The only people whose answers could make any difference are those who–according to the own words–don’t think it’s an issue at all, even to women. So, why would they ask in the first place?

    In my recollection, there has been no revelation given, without a question first being posed. So if no question is asked (because no issue is recognized), no answer will be given.

    How did blacks get the preisthood? According to President Kimball, it was after he pleaded with the Lord for YEARS on the issue. Is anyone pleading this issue for women? And, no, I don’t even mean pleading that we can have the priesthood, but perhaps just for some clarification on why we can’t. Maybe they are. I’d love to know that.

    As an aside, how was it determined that MOST scripture applies to both men and women–even though written toward “he”–but the priesthood sections were specifically only male-oreinted, even though written the same way? Or was it just an assumption? So, to answer m&m, when did we find out it was really “God’s will”? Did anyone actually ask about the distinction? And if it is, will it always be? (President Kimball didn’t mind praying about something that McKonkie had said was contrary to God’s will. Perhaps it’s not wrong to ask about such things ourselves?)

    Julie, in #28 something occurred to me. Could your statements in the last paragraph indicate that women who go to work, give up their most profound power, by putting themselves in the same position as the men who “aren’t even on the premises when they are awake for more than a few hours per week”? That would put them both NOT presiding AND NOT having the “lived experience.”

    Now can we get on to the real issue for women in the church? That is, why the bishopric in every ward I’ve been in for the last 15 years has insisted that only men can open sacrament meeting with prayer..because “only a priesthood holder can invite the Spirit.”

  139. Julie M. Smith on September 7, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Alison, I’ve never heard what you describe in your last paragraph. It’s false doctrine, plain and simple, and a pathetic example of ex post facto reasoning. (Would you then conclude that the Spirit cannot be present in Relief Society?) Ignore it.

    As for your penultimate paragraph, I think you are on to something.

  140. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 12:46 am

    The only people whose answers could make any difference are those who–according to the own words–don’t think it’s an issue at all, even to women.

    I think most women in the Church don’t feel it’s an issue either. At least that has been my observation.

    So, to answer m&m, when did we find out it was really “God’s will�?

    I think the fact that Joseph Smith was receiving some pretty specific instructions about how things should be restored (priesthood, Church organization, etc.) is a pretty good sign that this is all in accordance with God’s will.

    Combine that with the fact that prophets are authorized to interpret scripture and there hasn’t been variation on this topic from Joseph Smith on. And I don’t think the leaders are unaware of these issues and how they bother some people. But I don’t think this compares with the blacks and the priesthood because we as women can receive every ordinance necessary for salvation. The blacks couldn’t. Huge difference there, ya know? :)

  141. Alison Moore Smith on September 8, 2006 at 2:01 am

    Julie, have you not at least seen this practice (that of only allowing men to open Sacrament Meeting), if not the false explanation? My bishop in Florida had apparently been met with “the issue” so often as a stake president in the northeast that his first reaction was, “Not the prayer thing again! Clear down here?”

    I’ve seen is over and over, year after year, in various states and stakes. I always wonder if anyone ever reads the handbook anymore. I wrote specifically about my experience with it again just last month. If you’re interested, it’s in my response in the subsection titled “Forced Non-Policy” on this page:

    http://www.mormonmomma.com/mini/cosbybook.html

    FWIW, I have asked your very question on more than one occasion, wondering how we managed without the Spirit in any female-run auxiliaries. Generally it has been met with a furrowed brow.

    Being a woman who changed her life plan to stay home with her first (and five subsequent) babies ONLY because President Benson specifically said we should, I find the implications behind what you said very intriguing. I’ll have to ponder that more.

    m&m, you may be right, but I have seen no indication that what would have been an obvious cultural assumption on Joseph’s part was ever questioned specifically by him–or anyone else. And we have a vast record of things he DID question–including those things he questioned because WOMEN brought up issues that seemingly hadn’t occurred to him. And considering our current prophet–and, frankly, most of his generation (including my own mother)–could hardly see what the fuss might possibly be about, I still believe it’s at least somewhat likely that no one who is, as they say, in a position to do something about it, has worried too much about it.

    Lastly, this wasn’t a comparison to the perceived seriousness of blacks vs. women being denied the priesthood. I was an example of how major policy change is brought about. The point being that–even on issues where general authorities have somewhat bluntly proclaimed God’s will to be set–those in authority have spent years pleading with the Lord for an answer that the people can understand. And that ONLY THEN did an answer come.

    That said, as President Kimball said in “Faith Precedes the Miracle,” the blacks were denied the temple ordinances in this life, but not eternally.

    “A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now receive the priesthood…They who have received Christ in faith through authoritative baptism are heirs to the celestial kingdom along with men of all other races. And those who remain faithful to the end may expect that God may finally grant them all blessings they have merited through their righteousness.”

  142. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 3:17 am

    Alison,
    I understand what you are saying. The reason I mentioned blacks and the priesthood is because of the possible reason there was such pleading going on by the prophet. That revelation made temple blessings possible, made missionary work open up in places such as Africa and Brazil — made it possible for the work of the Lord to increase and spread to more nations and all of God’s children on earth — which also meant more work done for those who had passed on. There was a distinctly compelling reason to pound on the doors of heaven. While I don’t want to minimize how difficult this issue can be for some, it doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the same reach and potential effect as the 1978 revelation did. My experience has been that this affects a small minority of people in their personal ideological struggles. I’m not convinced that the prophet’s apparent lack of concern about the issue is all related to his age. I think maybe it’s because it’s really not an issue in the big scheme of things. We as women can receive all of God’s saving ordinances and we have been promised that we can receive all the Father hath in the next life. As Elder Maxwell said, “Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more!”

    I also am of the opinion that our leaders are pretty good at discerning what really needs to be asked. They are keenly aware of the issues that are of concern, they are getting feedback constantly (voluntarily and involuntarily!). In addition, I think perhaps we ought to consider that they are in touch with God enough that He might be able to prompt them as to what needs to happen. Consider for example the PEF and small temples. What an effect these things have had on so many of God’s children, here and on the other side of the veil! I am hard-pressed to think that God is going to sit back and let men (or women — remember that there are women who have audience with the Brethren as well) stand in the way of something that really needs to happen. Of course He gives us room to figure things out, but I am personally confident that they would know if this question needed to be asked now. They don’t need only to be spurred on by external sources. They also can be told what to ask for.

    D&C 50:29-30
    And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.
    But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask….

    3 Ne. 19: 24
    24 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire. ….

    Hel. 10: 5
    5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

    I guess I just think it’s a potential can of worms if we start second-guessing the prophets and expecting them to be asking questions according to what we want to know individually. While I know they care about our individual concerns, their mandate is to lead the Church and the Lord’s work — to consider the big picture. And I’m confident the Lord won’t let them goof in a significant way. That to me is part of what prophetic leadership is all about. And ultimately, since we have the promise of all the Father hath, can we not take comfort in that?

  143. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 3:22 am

    Good grief. I’ve commented too much today. Can you tell I’m avoiding my housework? :)

  144. Julie M. Smith on September 8, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Alison, I’ve observed the practice; I’ve never heard the explanation that only men could invite the Spirit. I could have been clearer.

  145. Mark B. on September 8, 2006 at 11:34 am

    Hot off the press:

    “Men and women may offer prayers in Church meetings.”

    It couldn’t be much clearer, but legends and myths die hard.

    It’s like the mission president here who began one lesson with “you won’t hear this from Salt Lake, but . . .” [that should be enough warning to simply quit listening] and then went on to repeat the old “Wonder bread with the crusts removed is the best for the sacrament.” What ever happened to the 27th section “mattereth not what ye shall eat . . . , if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory”?

    Sometimes the leaders of the church must feel as if they’re playing Whack-a-Mole–and barely breaking even.

  146. DKL on September 8, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Allison, I enjoyed reading the page that you link to. Parts of it were quite amusing.

    By the way, the CHI is online here. I have mixed feelings about its distribution. On the con side: It is not scripture–it’s a list of policy and procedures, the basis for many of which are found in the scripture. (Though it’s worth noting that the scriptures vastly underdetermine its content.) A wider distribution would cause many mormons to take it too seriously and attribute way too much importance to changes that may occur.

    On the flip side, not distributing the CHI also creates a false impression. And much of the folklore and mythology that it dispels remains in circulation thanks to the scarcity of the information that it contains. Also, its lack of distribution creates a “man behind the curtain” kind of feel to policy and procedure. Plus, it’s really quite a remarkable handbook, when you consider that it’s used to run 10s of thousands of congregations participated in by millions of members all over the globe.

    In any case, since I’ve never been in a bishopric or other capacity that would lead me to be entrusted with it, I’ve no express obligations concerning its distribution.

  147. Kristine Haglund Harris on September 8, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Julie (et al.)–it’s not quite as simple as calling it “legend or myth”–there was an official policy of not allowing women to say prayers in Sacrament Meeting for a long time, then a brief period in the mid-80s where some Regional Representatives circulated a letter instructing that only MP holders were to say *opening* prayers, although women could say closing prayers. Luckily, no one ever tried to offer me theological reasoning for these policies. (Luckily for them, that is…)

  148. Julie M. Smith on September 8, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    KHH,

    See #144–I think you are misreading me. I am not refering to the practice but rather the justification that Allison mentioned.

  149. Alison Moore Smith on September 8, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    m&m I don’t disagree with you. I have too much baggage to easily let it go.

    30 years ago a boy in my ward–who had tortured me emotionally at church and school for seven years–was allowed to be a deacon…no matter how cruel he was, and I wasn’t…because I was a girl.

    I had first learned that women didn’t have the priesthood when my older sister was baptized when I was four. (I told my mom that she could baptize me and my dad could confirm me, so that it would be fair. (I felt sorry for her.) Then she explained it couldn’t happen.) Still, I thought having the having the power to act for God, must require something more than just being a baptized male who had turned 12.

    In spite of study, prayer, and service, I still struggle with this issue. Not in the fact that there are differences, but in understanding why they exist or what it means in the eternal scheme of things. Just as I wonder why women and men make different commitments in the sealing. Just as I wonder about polygamy.

    I doubt that my understanding the priesthood is imperative enough for God to prompt anyone in “power” to ask about it–as I think it won’t affect the progress of “the plan” at all. Still I think there’s a chance that God might be willing to answer the question, if asked directly. And I’m not convinced anyone has bothered. I don’t think hoping for an answer is the same as “second-guessing the prophets,” but I’ll think about that some more. Thanks for your insight.

    Julie, have you ever asked a bishop WHY they are only allowing men to open with prayer when you have seen the practice? Maybe that’s why you haven’t heard it. The only three answers I’ve ever received (and I do ask!) are:

    (1) Only a priesthood holder can invite the Spirit into a meeting. (Probably 2/3 of the time.)

    (2) It’s church policy.

    The last only comes up when answer #2 is given and the person is pointed to the handbook for reference.

    (3) It’s part of “the unwritten order of things.”

    Amazing how many personal preferences fall into category #3 when there is no other explanation.

    Mark B., amen. Except that it STARTED as policy, so there is at least a basis for the practice. (Ah, Kristine addressed that.) But it shouldn’t take a generation to get the word about the “new” way of doing things.

    Can I quote you on the “Whack-a-mole”? I’m crying!

    DKL, thanks.

    I have seen the online version and use it for reference when I don’t have personal access, but I don’t feel comfortable referencing it from my site for everyone. I understand the ambivalence about distribution. You make some great points. I just see so much debate about things that have been outlined, that it seems a waste of time.

    My 13 year old just walked in–having no idea what I’m typing–and asked, “How come we don’t call elders “brothers” but we call sister missionaries just “sisters”? Sigh…

  150. Rosalynde Welch on September 8, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    Warning: rant to follow.

    The reason why this particular combination of folk doctrine and practice—and others like it—are so slow in extinction is that they’re nearly indistinguishable from a whole complex of *legitimate* doctrines and practices that are organized by gender in our church. The idea that opening a meeting with prayer is a priesthood duty is rather seamlessly of a piece with, for instance, the idea that calling prayers to order is a priesthood duty, or that running the Sunday School is a priesthood duty, or that interviewing one’s children is a priesthood duty, or any number of other practices that aren’t directly related to the exercise of priestly authority. We’re accustomed to a whole regime of practices that allocate responsibility on the basis of a seemingly irrelevant characteristic—gender—and in this context it doesn’t seen particularly outrageous that women shouldn’t open the meeting in prayer, or speak in Sacrament Meeting, or teach Gospel Doctrine. It seems pretty sensible, in fact. And from there it seems not wholly out of the question that a man, by virtue of his priesthood, should be able to make a unilateral decision on whether or not a family should have another baby, as a friend of mine told me this very week. No unrighteous dominion was necessary, because she defered so immediately to the prerogative of priesthood.

  151. DKL on September 8, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    KHH, I don’t tend to be very careful about drawing a sharp distinction between things that are repudiated because they’ve expired and things that were never right, but you’re right that many of these pseudo-policies are holdovers from an earlier, less enlightened era.

    Regarding distribution of the church handbook: there’s a scene in The Life of Brian where a mob won’t stop asking Brian to minister to them because they believe that he is Christ. Brian flees the mob, dropping a gourd and losing a sandal in the process. One part of the mob seizes the gourd, the other part seizes the sandal, and a conflict ensues between the two factions about whether the gourd or the sandal represents the true meaning of Brian’s teachings. “Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!” vs. “Hold up the sandal, as he has commanded us!”

    If you substitute the JST for the gourd, and a parallel Book of Mormon passage for the sandal, then the Monty Python sketch turns into exactly the kind of argument you might see pop up among mormons concerning some super-fine doctrinal point. I can only imagine how bad it would get if we added the CHI to the mix.

  152. DKL on September 8, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Rosalynde: from there it seems not wholly out of the question that a man, by virtue of his priesthood, should be able to make a unilateral decision on whether or not a family should have another baby, as a friend of mine told me this very week.

    Yikes! What did you say in response?

  153. Mark B. on September 8, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Rosalynde: Just a few days ago I was going to commend you for using “sex” when everybody else was weaseling out and saying “gender”, and then you had to go and spoil it all. Rats!

    I know what my wife would have told me if I had “instructed” her that we were going to have another child, whether she wanted it or not:

    “Fine. Who’s gonna be the mother?”

  154. DKL on September 10, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Here’s a a cartoon to illustrate the potential consequences of a husband trying to dictate how many children a couple has.

  155. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 10, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Allison,
    I just now saw your response. Thanks for sharing a little more of your own thoughts and struggles. I hope someday you will be able to find the understanding you seek. I do believe God cares about our questions and concerns. He just may not answer all of them over the pulpit (or at least not directly). :)

  156. Alison Moore Smith on September 10, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks, m&m. I do, too. It has been interesting, however, that in at least two of the most difficult trials I have faced, God’s answer to me was “exercise faith.” Apparently I have a problem with patience that he is trying to work out of me. I fear this might be one of those times. :)

  157. Naismith on September 10, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    “I was going to commend you for using “sexâ€? when everybody else was weaseling out and saying “genderâ€?, and then you had to go and spoil it all.”

    At least in my line of work, “sex” and “gender” are distinct constructs.

    Sex refers to biology.

    Gender refers to the social or cultural characteristics and expectations associated with a given sex.

    So I don’t see “gender” as a weasel word, but rather something differen than “sex.” Rosalynde’s comments did seem to address gender.

  158. DKL on September 10, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    I have a nostalgic longing for the old days, when gender referred word endings, whose primary purpose was to narrow the possibility of ambiguity when determining which words modified which other words.

  159. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 11, 2006 at 2:11 am

    Allison,
    Well, from what I have seen of your perspective on other things, you have it in you. :) That faith thing can be a doozie sometimes, that’s for sure….

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