Power and Authority

September 2, 2006 | 93 comments
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On Kaimi’s Ensign thread, a conversation about the kinds and quantities of power exercised by the sexes has been simmering. Julie suggested that we open another thread for that discussion, and I’ve obliged.

May I suggest that a distinction between power and authority would be helpful in this discussion? Authority being formally transmitted, institutionally systematized and sanctioned, and often allocated in terms of rights; power being fluid, polysemous and polymorphous, exceeding and obviating the formal channels of authority, often more potent but generally more capricious that institutional authority. The office of a bishop=authority; charisma at the pulpit=power. Right to final word as head of household=authority; smokin hot sex appeal=power. Captain of the army=authority; battering ram=power.

Thinking in terms of authority and power highlights the difficulties with considering gender in the contexts of church and family simultaneously. It was, of course, one of the great achievements of the restoration to integrate family structure into, precisely, ecclesiastical structure, but it’s always been an uneasy fit: the ecclesiasticus, with its formal system, reproduces itself primarily through the transmission of authority; the family, with its organic fluidity, reproduces itself primarily through the exercise of power. Our distinctive and wholesale integration of the family into the hieratic sphere (as distinct from the mere modeling of the family on an ecclesiastical model; this has been a feature of Christianity since at least the early modern period) has also proved to be problematic in the present cultural environment, and recently we’ve seen some gestures of reversal: Elder Oaks’ ideas on patriarchal versus hierarchical presiding, for example, work directly on this problem.

This brings us round to the tasty irony of this thread. The patriarchalists and the feminists are working for precisely the same goal: both want men to invest more in their children. This, in fact, must be one of the foremost objectives of any society that aims to reproduce itself: men do not instinctively invest very much in their offspring, and somehow they must be persuaded or forced to do so because women are, by and large, unable to provision themselves and their children alone. Patriarchalists propose to do this by giving men more authority; feminists propose to do this by giving women more power. I know which alternative I wish worked. I also know which one I think won’t.

93 Responses to Power and Authority

  1. Russ Frandsen on September 2, 2006 at 2:40 am

    Rosalynde,

    Would you please provide a dictionary with your post?
    Love Daddy

  2. DKL on September 2, 2006 at 3:21 am

    Further complicating the issue is this: Power tends to mean different things to men and women. Fight Club highlights these differences. It portrays the goals that society now promotes among men as being those that are desirable to women, therefore constraining men to false goals and leaving them subjugated to women. According to women, a real man looks like an underwear model–all primped and faggy–someone who’ll run from a fight, cry when you punch him, and die without any scars:

    It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn’t toeing my five-year plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I’d be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. Since fight club, I can wiggle half the teeth in my jaw….

    What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women.

    When I hear men and women try to talk about power with each other, I almost always hear people talking past each other. In our culture, men don’t see power the way that women do, and vice versa.

  3. Wilfried on September 2, 2006 at 3:25 am

    “Men do not instinctively invest very much in their offspring”.

    Remarkable statement, Rosalynde, even with your clarification “of any society that aims to reproduce itself”. At the risk of starting a cultural war, could it be that, broadly speaking, from averages, this may differ from culture to culture, country to country? Could it be you looked at this from a more American perspective, whatever that could be? Or would you say it is indeed a universal phenomenon?

  4. Dianna H. on September 2, 2006 at 3:28 am

    Living here in Russia where many if not most of the fathers have abdicated and gotten lost in drugs or alcohol or just disappeared because they didn’t want the responsibilities I can really see the value of putting the father back in charge of the family. Granted, as a humanitarian missionary I am seeing more of the ill effects of absent fathers than might be in the population as a whole but even within the Church here way too many fathers are absent. Sometimes we have to accept that there is a reason for the way Heavenly Father has established the Church and accept it even if we don’t understand it. There are definitly worse things than not being in a position of authority.

  5. angrymormonliberal on September 2, 2006 at 3:42 am

    “The patriarchalists and the feminists are working for precisely the same goal: both want men to invest more in their children. This, in fact, must be one of the foremost objectives of any society that aims to reproduce itself: men do not instinctively invest very much in their offspring, and somehow they must be persuaded or forced to do so because women are, by and large, unable to provision themselves and their children alone. Patriarchalists propose to do this by giving men more authority; feminists propose to do this by giving women more power”.

    A very good point, however I must cast my vote on the side of the feminsts primarily for the utterly amazing revelation of DC 76. Women with power act as a check and a balance for men with power, and when the sexes are equal in a relationship men provide a check on womens power. I think both sexes are equally capable of tyranny, however it has only been the last half of the 20th century that women have had more chances to do that in an official capacity. In an abstract sense, the more persons with power, the less chance of one imposing it on the others. As much as I despise the current administration, I admire the philosphy of the three branches of power in the US government, all keeping watch on each other, and being able to check each other if one steps outside of certain bounds.

    One of the most interesting ideas that emerged from a History of Women undergraduate class I took was that while ‘soft power’ does exist, it’s effectiveness is considerably less than hard power, which in my mind is equated with authority. I find it somewhat strange to compare authority and power, for those who have authority can impose their will on those who don’t, but exhibit signs of power. Take the case of Anne Hutchinson from early american history, and tell me if the soft power exhibited by women in the church bears any resemblance to the hard power, the authority of the male leadership. The well used feminst phrase “Well behaved women rarely make history” has membership altering implications for women who exercise power, especially if it is in any way opposed to the established authority.

    Also, could you clarify the point about how men do not instinctually invest themselves in their children? There must be an absoloutly raging debate over whether this is a social construct or ‘natural’/instinctual urge.

  6. MLU on September 2, 2006 at 3:45 am

    Speaking of fight clubs, It would appear that in the Illiad, Helen’s power is greater than that of Achilles or Agamemnon. I wonder whether women see such power differently than men.

    Sometimes it’s about children. Otherwise, it tends to fight clubs.

    There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters. Alice Thomas Ellis

  7. DKL on September 2, 2006 at 4:05 am

    MLU, good point about Helen. That puts Paris in the place of the faggy underwear model–not too far off the mark.

    Anyway, I think that when you consider the squabbles about power that men and women have, the men tend to talk in terms of Margaret Thatcher and the things that she showed were possible, and the women tend to talk in terms of the frustrations that they (and those close to them feel) about the possibilities that seem closed. This is just a generalization, like saying that women are shorter than men; it points to a distribution not an absolute rule. It’s what I hear (or perhaps just what I want to hear) when I listen to such conversations in real life, and that leads me to believe that it’s valid.

  8. Mark Butler on September 2, 2006 at 7:26 am

    The resolution of this debate really has to revolve around a doctrine of righteous authority and presidential legitimacy. Without legitimacy, authority is tyranny. Without grace, power is anarchy.

  9. Tyler Johnson on September 2, 2006 at 8:11 am

    A couple of comments here:

    1) I agree with Wilfried. My father, for one (who is American, re: Wilfried’s suggstion that this might be a cultural issue) has invested everything he is in his offspring, and the investment seems to me to have been quite instinctual. Has he been softened by the Gospel and made better by grace? Certainly. But I tend to think that any inclination he (or men in general) might have had not to nurture their children is probably the result of a cultural construct, not of anything instictual. Elder Stone said it well: “What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.”

    2) Power=charisma, sex appeal, and a battering ram. True, perhaps, in some context, and certainly illustrative and provacative, but very misleading from a Gospel perspective. For Christians, I would argue that power=being born in a manger, washing the disciples’ feet, and hanging willingly on Calvary’s cross. In my mind, discussions of power in the Church are almost always subverted by using the world’s definitions, which don’t apply in true Christianity. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is largely the fault of men: many men in authority have abused the trust inherent in their positions–however, as D&C 121 reminds us in utterly clear tones, such abuse ends a man’s power immediately. Gospel power is almost the opposite of wordly power: the former comes by service and love, the latter through control. Consequently, arguing about who should get more authority in the Church seems a bit out of place to me. I would argue that we should spend more time serving and less time worrying about who is in control. Please understand, I am not in any way suggesting that women should become “servants” in the wordly sense, and certainly not in some heirarchical or official way. What I am suggesting is that all of us, men and women, would be better off worrying about how to serve, rather than who’s in control. We talk about this problem in the bloggernacle in terms of men and women, but it plays itself out in many other ways. This institutional contruct is the most obvious, but just as women will never sit in certain leading councils of the Church (Bishoprics, Stake Presidencies, and The Quorums of the Seventy and the Twelve), the vast majority of men will also never serve in these positions–hence, the instituional control of the Church is limited to a relative few with the rest of us left as followers. It seems to me, though, that the question this leave the followers is not: “how can I gain more authority?” but “how can I be more Christlike.” Elder Maxwell said, “Thus, developing greater contentment within certain of our existing constraints and opportunities is one of our challenges. Otherwise we may feel underused, underwhelmed, and underappreciated—while, ironically, within our givens are unused opportunities for service all about us. Neither should we pine away, therefore, for certain things outside God’s givens, such as for the powerful voice of an angel, because there is so much to do within what has been allotted to us (see Alma 29:3–4). Furthermore, varied as our allotted circumstances may be, we can still keep the commandments of God!” I know I may be maligned for these statements because I’m a guy, I’m “in control,” so clearly it is easy for me to say that is something we should not worry about. Still, the Gospel paradox that “the greatest shall be the least” seems to me to complicate this discussion much more than we may often acknowledge.

  10. Naismith on September 2, 2006 at 8:45 am

    “…the instituional control of the Church is limited to a relative few….”

    What might be worth adding is that those few may have absolutely no personal desire to serve in that way.

    I happen to know both my current bishop and stake president very well, and they are both clerks at heart. They love serving quietly, willing to devote untold hours, but working in the shadows without any fanfare or attention.

    Instead, the Lord needs them to serve in a more public way. And so they are doing the best they can, with humility to know that they must rely on inspiration since they are basically pretty bad at leading and nobody would follow them on their own merits (no charisma at all–these guys wore pocket protectors until they got their PDAs). And they are growing personally, and making a difference in people’s lives.

    But they have no interest in being “in control,” and that makes our church heirarchy much different from other organizations.

  11. Frank McIntyre on September 2, 2006 at 9:35 am

    “What might be worth adding is that those few may have absolutely no personal desire to serve in that way.

    I agree. I think many of us see the foremost qualification of a Bishop being that it isn’t oneself. Anything else is gravy.

    RW,

    Thanks for the new post. Let me respond to an idea or two from the old. Eve and Kaimi pointed out that men had more types of power (one being more authority) in the family, and so this made it reasonable to say they had more power. I said that this is only knowable if one knows how to translate each type into one metric of power, so they can be compared. Eve said she didn’t see how this could be done. And with that I completely agree. Thus, until one can convert different kinds of power into one metric, one can’t really say who has more. This is a nontrivial problem. In economics we face the problem of translatiing bacon and donuts into happiness, and let me assure you the results aren’t pretty. It is tough slogging :).

    “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.”

    No problem, consider it granted. My comments were all about the family– not institutional authority in the Church. Lastly, I’m leaving for the weekend, so feel free to assume I agree with everything anybody says.

  12. Mark Butler on September 2, 2006 at 10:35 am

    The great irony here is that the purpose of the plan of salvation is how to dispense power and glory as broadly and as fairly as possible. The only reason that authority is necessary at all is that without some sort of backbone, the democracy of the natural man rapidly descends into anarchy. Majority rule cannot work is the majority desires something no better than the telestial status quo.

    Presumably in the heavens before the world was, the glory of God was something everyone wanted, and were willing to suffer the pains of hell if necessary to get – to be purified of all their sins. So a very detailed plan of salvation was developed, outlining the whole history of the world, anticipating both our strengths and our weaknesses, and turning the latter upside down by whatever means necessary, so that each of us can be fit for heaven, as members of a truly righteous, loving, and stable society of peace and harmony – a society where all those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice could collectively enjoy all that the Father hath, and as persons have the same glory, influence, and power as the Lord Jesus Christ has.

    But somehow many have the idea that salvation means telling people what to do. On the contrary, salvation involves not exalting oneself, but debasing oneself – becoming nothing in Jesus name. So the ideal authority is the consensus of the whole body of Christ. To have a proper and equal authority as members of the body, i.e. to be equal in heavenly things we must each become sanctified. Then all the officers and administrators are nothing more than executors of the will of the body.

    Now it is obvious that we are yet natural, and not spiritual. We are not sanctified, indeed we are prone to sin. The more sinful we are, the more authoritarian any righteous government must be. Not because the leaders are necessarily more righteous as persons, but because the principles which we signed onto in the pre-mortal life set a much higher standard and require a much greater degree of discipline than which we would derive by the majority vote of mortal men and women.

    Now in the Church all of the leaders are supposed to represent this standard, not make it up (as mortals that is virtually impossible). The standard was already set long ago. The only debate can be about whether we properly understand the standard, and also about whether we properly understand the temporal aspects of the plan of salvation that are currently binding upon us.

    Somehow it seems that men were granted more formal authority in the Church, but naturally lessened spiritual influence in the family. However, the plan is that eventually the family is the Church, and further that as we become sanctified the necessity for authority is minimized. The authority that a father has is only as a proxy for heaven – if all of the members of the family are righteous, anything he has to say in the proper administration of his calling should be manifestly obvious by the Spirit, eventually to the degree that he hardly has to say anything at all – that all the members of his family become prophets. The father no longer has to say know ye the Lord,.for all shall know him from the least to the greatest.

    In short, the purpose of legitimate authority is to end the necessity for personal authority (the government of men), and replace it with purely collective authority (the government of the Spirit), as soon as we are able to bear it. That is what the Quorum of the Anointed – both men and women – is all about. A celestial republic, where consensus is the order of the day. Elohim, the divine concert, the great I AM.

  13. Tatiana on September 2, 2006 at 10:46 am

    One thing I’ve noticed is that women who surpass men in any pursuit, no matter how trivial, totally lose their attractiveness to men. I have seen it happen again and again that accidentally playing Monopoly better or running farther or being better at chess or free cell or boggle can turn a budding romance into something different. Something that is a friendship in which the guy is not attracted to the girl in the slightest.

    Can anyone comment on this? Wouldn’t it seem from evolution that mates who are good at things are desireable? That you’d want to be on the same team with a proven winner? But it seems there’s a very strong impulse in the other direction. Does this seem true to guys too? To other girls?

    I’ve seen girls sandbag and deliberatly lose to guys they liked, but I always felt that was dishonest. I’ve decided not to play any competitive games or participate in any activities which could possibly seem competitive, with guys I find attractive. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, though. It also seems dishonest somehow.

  14. Tatiana on September 2, 2006 at 10:51 am

    If not to them, then to me.

  15. Tom on September 2, 2006 at 10:51 am

    Men have more power and authority in the institutional Church than women. So what?

    Would the Church better accomplish its mission if the disparity didn’t exist? It’s not obvious to me that it would. This could only be determined empirically.

    Does the disparity, per se, cause real harm to people? I don’t see any evidence that it does. Yes, I am a man, but I am intimately acquainted with several women raised in the Church and as far as I can tell they are, on average, at least as well-adjusted, healthy, strong, and self-determined as women outside the church. Yes, this is anecdotal and perception-based, but anecdotes and perceptions are all any of us have in these conversations. And yes, there are many anecdotes of people being harmed by people in positions of power and authority, but would we expect these problems go away if there was no disparity? I wouldn’t.

    The disparity seems only to be a problem to people who (mistakenly, in my opinion) see disparities as equivalent to injustice, subjugation, and devaluation. That is, the problem isn’t that there are real negative consequences to the disparity, but that a disparity exists, and to some people disparity is, by definition, bad. I just don’t see it.

    The way I see it, men and women have different assignments. That men have the assignment to exercise the priesthood and be primarily in charge of the macro decision-making in the institutional Church doesn’t denote anything about the relative value of men and women in God’s eyes. It’s an assignment, not a reward. I don’t see the fact that women, along with most men, are assigned to more micro matters as troublesome.

    And in the family men are assigned to provide and women are assigned to nurture as far as circumstances allow. So what? I don’t see women in the church putting themselves under control of their husbands. In fact, I know of more tyrannical wives than husbands.

    I don’t know all the reasons why men and women have different assignments, but I trust that it’s for the best.

  16. Mark Butler on September 2, 2006 at 11:13 am

    Tatiana (#13),

    I know that is commonplace behavior, but ultimately it is male insecurity or fear of unrighteous domination going in the other direction. I don’t want to marry a power head any more than anyone else does. They are impossible to get along with. So as long as cleverness, talent, ability is accompanied by the spirit of grace which should accompany righteous men and women both, I admire and respect such abilities.

    I am a little surprised you haven’t met men who are flattered at the prospect of marrying someone more capable than they are, especially in the areas where they lack, which are many. Now of course I think most people would hope to have a few areas where they are more capable than their partner is, and one of the wonders of sex differences is that is almost always the case, leading to a greater relationship stability than would be the case if there was only one gender, because each partner needs the other more desparately than if we were all relative clones.

  17. Frank McIntyre on September 2, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Tatiana,

    I did a post at the beginning of the year about a study related to this issue. You might want to take a look. In the sample studied, men did not care one way or the other about intelligence of women smarter than them, but preferred those close to them to those dumber than them.

  18. J. Stapley on September 2, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Sure, power and authority can be sepperated. There is a difference between the gift of healing (power) and the right to administer in to formalized ordinances (authority). There was a huge push to circumstribe charisma with the institution in the early 1900′s, but in reality charisma cannot ever be fully controlled by authority. That said, while ceratain powers will not be constrained by authority, the greatest powers are only available by institutional sanction. No one gets the sealing power without institututional action, the delineation of the Melchizedek priesthood in the JST of genesis links all the powers of elijah to institutional hierarchy. And while a fullness of election can concievably occur through charismatic manifestation, isuch a bestowal lacks the extra powers of the institutional corallary.

  19. Tyler Johnson on September 2, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Tatiana–

    I know lots of guys who are only interested in girls much their superior (of course, then the question becomes: will said girl give said guy the time of day, let alone a date or eternal marriage…)

  20. Jack on September 2, 2006 at 11:41 am

    “The patriarchalists and the feminists are working for precisely the same goal: both want men to invest more in their children.”

    Rosalynde, I think this statement really, Really, REALLY needs to be qualified. I don’t think the context of your post quite does the trick. (imagine me, Jack the hack, telling T&S’s literary genius to better qualify her writing!)

    I don’t believe that all feminists (in the church) are working for said goal with as “pure” a motive as the patriarchalists–as feminists historically have had something more to gain from men investing more in their children than heathlier children. (Not to say that the motive must be impure–hence the scare quotes. Certainly the result of heathlier women in the church is good thing)

  21. Jack on September 2, 2006 at 11:45 am

    “…or would be a good thing”

    ‘Better make that more conditional.

  22. Rosalynde Welch on September 2, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Daddy: here you go! Sorry for the gratuitously wordy post; I drafted this way too late at night, when my worst instincts are the most unruly.

  23. Rosalynde Welch on September 2, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Wilfried, the insight that men invest fewer resources in their offspring relative to women’s investment in the same is one of the primary insights into human behavior offered by evolution. For me, at least, this insight has had tremendous explanatory power for a wide range of phenomena in all aspects of human experience. What is culturally specific, of course, is the extent to and means by which societies get men to behave in ways that are not instinctual.

    aml, what’s the difference between “hard” and “soft” power? I’ve never quite understood it. I like the idea of an equality of absolute power in personal (and political) relationships, but it’s my observation that those relationships are often unstable and difficult to maintain in periods of stress or scarcity.

    MLU, the trouble I see with female sexual power is that it leads women to engage in risky behaviors, it elicits the most brutal and destructive tendencies in male behavior, and it’s concentrated in the hands (or hips) of the youngest, least experienced women. Women who pursue sexual power in their youth at the expense of more lasting kinds of influence will fare much worse in their older age than their sisters who don’t.

    Tyler, re your #2, although I’ve heard this argument many times, I’m not convinced that Christian discipleship implies a renunciation of power or authority. Christ’s humble manner and humiliating death generated a tremendous amount of charistmatic power, as did Mother Teresa’s, Ghandi’s, etc. “Let your light so shine before men,” & co.

    Tatiana: stay tuned for my upcoming post on the Key to All Male Behavior. I’ve figured it out, I really have. It’s going to be great!

    Tom: I sometimes am able to see certain institutional and sociological advantages to a male-only priesthood, but there are real costs to the same as well, and I think we’d all benefit from a frank acknowledgment of these. Among them: a male-only priesthood leads many women to believe they are of less value to God or his Kingdom than are men; a male-only priesthood specially motivates men to channel their ungodly instincts into constructive paths, but affords women have no such encouragement to channel their (different, but not less ungodly) instincts; a male-only priesthood puts women at a disadvantage in pastoral contexts like personal or marital counseling or discplinary actions; etc. I see real efforts being made to mitigate the effects of the first item (ie Sister Beck’s talk in last GC), but not the others.

    Jack: right, feminists want fathers to share the second shift so that the personal costs of employment are not so high for women. I’m not sure why this makes their motives less pure than the patriarchalists. What do you mean?

  24. Tyler Johnson on September 2, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Yes, Christ’s sacrifice created (correct word?) an enormous, even infinite, amount of charismatic power, but that’s the great paradox inherent in his life: He who didn’t seek for power (not my will, but thine; thine is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power; I came not to do my will, but that of my Father; he that is the greatest shall be the least) received all of it. In Christ’s case, He had some significant power as the Firstborn and then gave it up to descend below all things. It’s not about how much power he received–it’s about how much he sought.

  25. Tyler Johnson on September 2, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Rosalynde,

    My comments are not meant to reprimand feminists for seeking power; rather, I am questioning hte legitimacy of seeking authority in the Church in general, whether that be a missionary seeking to be the assistant to the President (only an ephemeral authority, but I think the anology holds), a sunday school teacher seeking to be a Bishop, or a Bishop hoping he’ll get called into the new Stake Presidency.

  26. Tom on September 2, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Rosalynde (#23), those costs are so soft. What it comes down to for me is this: despite whatever costs to men and women we may see resulting from the male-only priesthood, I see no reason to believe that as a whole men or women would be measurably better off, better able to accomplish the mission of the Church, or happier, if the priesthood was not male-only.

    a male-only priesthood leads many women to believe they are of less value to God or his Kingdom than are men;

    I understand that people sometimes feel frustrated and devalued, but I’ve seen enough content, fulfilled people in the church that I can’t believe that those feelings necessarily follow from the priesthood being male-only. It obviously depends to some extent on what each person brings to the experience, the perspective from which they view it.

    a male-only priesthood specially motivates men to channel their ungodly instincts into constructive paths, but affords women have no such encouragement to channel their (different, but not less ungodly) instincts;

    This is where stuff gets really soft and sociology-y and debatable. Sure, since women don’t have priesthood responsibilities, the male-only priesthood doesn’t do the same thing for women that it does for men, but it doesn’t follow that women in the Church are being led toward godliness any less effectively than men are. I don’t see any reason to believe that this is the case.

    a male-only priesthood puts women at a disadvantage in pastoral contexts like personal or marital counseling or discplinary actions;

    This would be the intuitive conclusion, but I don’t know that it’s true. Are we sure that women come out worse than men in disciplinary proceedings or marital counselling? While ecclesiastical leaders are more likely to see things from a male perspective, perhaps they are also more likely to give women the benefit of the doubt, being as how women are naturally super-duper spiritual and kind-hearted and angelic and all that. Or maybe they’re so worried about being unfair to women that they overcompensate. Who knows? I don’t think anybody does. And I don’t think that the male-only priesthood necessarily puts women at a disadvantage in these contexts, even if women have been harmed in certain instances.

    We could go on and on with this kind of discussion, but the bottom line is that, all things considered, it’s entirely possible that the male-only priesthood really is the best thing for everyone right now. I actually don’t know for sure that it is–the prophets could be wrong–but I trust that it is. And certainly if we believe what the New Testament says about who Jesus chose as Apostles, we have to believe that there are some contexts in which God is OK with gender disparities, with giving men and women different assignments.

  27. Wilfried on September 2, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Rosalynde: “the insight that men invest fewer resources in their offspring relative to women’s investment in the same is one of the primary insights into human behavior offered by evolution.”

    I’m not a specialist, but as far as I know it’s more complex, with much research still going on. Researchers work a lot with birds to investigate e.g. the rules used by males and females in provisioning of food to offspring in the nest, but also with other kinds of animals, showing the peculiar investment by males to provide parental care. Researchers next relate that to human behavior. E.g. this one. The measure of investment is also, and perhaps primarily, a response to the way offspring requires attention from one of the parents. It’s bi-directional and tied to context and circumstances. See also this: “Male care of young is important for offspring survival and is likely a driving process behind the evolution of paternal investment”. If your statement suggests that investing fewer resources by males is something normal, I don’t think research corroborates that. But others could throw more light on this.

  28. Jack on September 2, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Oh, I get it. I’m kind of slow about these things–though I wonder if there’s still going to be some kind of trade off. You know–if men are spending more time at home then it will be women who must take up the slack with regard to building skyscrapers. Well, maybe not skyscrapers, but surely highways, bridges, schools, homes, hospitals, sewage treatment facilities…

  29. Coventry on September 2, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I think you are quite wrong to assert that family patriarchy is paterned on any broader social patriarchy and imposed on the church. Homo sapien patriarchy has its originated in the family structure and then became the basis for homo sapien society.

    Quote from the Chicago Field Museum (natural history):

    “Mammals make good mothers. All mammal mothers feed their babies milk, and care for them as they grow. Many mammal fathers share child-rearing duties….But lots of mammal fathers don’t even wait around to see their babies born.”

    Charles E. Corry Ph.D. describes the origins of homo sapien patriarchy thusly:

    “Coincident with the retreat of the last great continental ice sheets at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, approximately 10,000 years Before Present (BP), tribes in at least China, India, and present-day Iraq recognized that human males would go to great lengths to protect and defend children, and their children’s mother if they knew they, and they alone had sired her children.

    These early tribes also somehow recognized the great values of a patriarchal hierarchy in terms of engineering and technology, living conditions, health, and security. Among the benefits that accrued to tribes who adopted patriarchy were domestic animals, e.g., sheep and cattle, and plants, e.g., wheat and fruits that enabled them to establish permanent settlements, or cities that define what is meant by “civilization.””

    For a super liberal propogandist expostulation on the death of patriarchy as the social organization of homo sapiens see the full article at http://www.ejfi.org/Civilization/Civilization-14.htm.

    Imagine technological homo sapiens having no natural predators starting to mimic matriarchal mammal societies like the elephants. Social organizations will be run by women fullfilling all the teaching, nurturing, protecting and providing roles. Men will be kicked out of the organization on maturity and wander alone fending for themselves, dropping in on the matriarchal communities only to fulfill their biological obligation to procreate. (What you are imagining is modern day Ukraine, by the way).

    Unless of course Catherine Zeta Jones were the matriarch, in which case it would quickly turn into a one woman society of goddess and drones on the order of insect societies like bees and ants.

  30. DavidH on September 2, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    “One thing I’ve noticed is that women who surpass men in any pursuit, no matter how trivial, totally lose their attractiveness to men. I have seen it happen again and again that accidentally playing Monopoly better or running farther or being better at chess or free cell or boggle can turn a budding romance into something different. Something that is a friendship in which the guy is not attracted to the girl in the slightest.”

    This is not true. My wife and I played chess once before we were engaged, and she clobbered me. We continued courting and were married 27-1/2 years ago. Of course, that first time was the last time we played chess against each other. And since I wish to continue loving my children as well, I make it a point not to play chess with them.

  31. snarkey anonomous on September 2, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    Let’s get all the facts straight here. Mormon women were put on this earth to be subservants of Mormon men. The role of women in the Mormon culture is that of a brood mare. Give the “church” another 5.5 members then be quiet, be very quiet. If the Mormon religion could survive and flourish without women they(women) would be extinct by now. Why Mormon women put up with this nonsense is beyond me. Im guessing the fear of God has been put into them. Sad, very sad.

  32. Mark Butler on September 2, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    I agree with Tyler here. The key to spiritual power is not to seek ones own will, but rather to suffer and sacrifice in fulfillment of the will of the Father. And the will of the Eternal Father is the same as the will of the divine concert.

    So really no one is seeking their own will – they are seeking to fulfil something akin to the general will, or the will of the Spirit. Everybody has a little bit of the spirit, right? And if they are righteous, their spiritual glow / influence is magnified. Seeking one’s own will is the opposite of righteousness, but paradoxically through seeking the will of others (according to the principle of love) they reciprocate and thus ones actual personal discretion is maximized by seeking to fulfil the righteous will of others, rather than seeking ones own will.

    In other words, spiritual power only comes through harmony. Sexual charisma is the arm of the flesh, not the arm of the spirit. Spiritual charisma seems to have gender overtones, but it is something far different. Same thing with brute force (arm of flesh) vs. divine authority (arm of the Spirit). Note that both spiritual charisma and spiritual authority are conditional and can evaporate in an instant, if the holder thereof transgresses against the Spirit.

    Now suppose that a patriarchal superior exercises unrighteous dominion. The Spirit withdraws, and amen (at least temporarily to the spiritual authority of that man, the Spirit being the ultimate means by which the dichotomy between authority and charisma are reconciled. In temporal systems there is a time delay between loss of charisma and loss of authority. In spiritual systems, the loss is virtually instantaneous.

    What this means is though we may indeed have something to worry about the arm of the flesh, we have absolutely nothing to fear from the arm of the Spirit. God could not be God without it. His honor is his power. No one sings praises to a leader whom they are convinced is abusing his authority. The voice of the Spirit is those praises, a choir of amens to every legitimate action.

    So all this stuff about battering rams and sexual attraction doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with the spiritual order of things. The working of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, seems to be the very mechanism by which God keeps his government in line. Perhaps not fast enough if enough people are not paying attention, but a potent and strictly legitimate force for change nonetheless.

  33. Mark Butler on September 2, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    Snarkey (#31), I think that is obviously inaccurate, given even the most casual glance at the operations of the Church, especially including the family as its fundamental unit.

    The only way that perception could be relatively true is if there were no such thing as divine revelation. Then of course mortal men would just be making things up according to their own prejudices. Anyone who believes that does not belong in this Church anyway. The idea of divine authority means we give priesthood and other leaders at least the presumption of inspiration. No inspiration, no revelation, no church to speak of, certainly not the one we claim to be, our flaws in understanding notwithstanding.

    This issue is so fundamental to the way the Church has operated for millennia, going at least all the way back to Adam, that I do not see how anyone who does not believe it is at least temporally justified can maintain a testimony at all.

  34. Superman on September 2, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    Mark,
    Be very careful where you tread. Don’t presume to tell people what they can and can’t believe and still have a testimony. Many people would tell you you are not a Christian because of your Mormon beliefs and you would not like it. Also, learn to discern sarcasm.

  35. Julie M. Smith on September 2, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    I’m coming late to the game, but thanks for the post and especially for the important distinction re power and authority.

    “Patriarchalists propose to do this by giving men more authority; feminists propose to do this by giving women more power. I know which alternative I wish worked. I also know which one I think won’t.”

    I’ll stand agnostic on the question of whether giving women more power will work or not for Gentiles, but I think the genius of LDS thought on this one is that Holding the Priesthood (TM) can give men enough masculine affirmation that they can sit in the hallway at church with a pink blankie over their shoulder and spit-up oozing down the back of their suit coat without feeling like a total wus. Some might say that LDS feminists should consider whether supporting our extremely soft version of Father as Head of Home might be a small price indeed to pay for equal power where it counts AND a man who doesn’t feel like a cheap Alan Alda imitation, but you won’t find me treating doctrine so cavalierly.

  36. Christian Y. Cardall on September 3, 2006 at 1:01 am

    My thoughts on the last paragraph of this post proved too long for a comment, so I have written a post on the origins and waning relevance of patriarchy.

  37. DKl on September 3, 2006 at 2:47 am

    “Men do not instinctively invest very much in their offspring”

    The more I think about this, the more I share other people’s astonishment at it.

    Thomas Sewell, in his book Knowledge and Decisions notes that married men with children earn more than any other demographic (male or female), while single women without children earn more than single men with children–and they have since the 50s(!) (which, incidentally, is a fact that seriously undermines the popular mythology about the significance of feminism in shaping the role of women in the workplace).

    I can tell you exactly why: A friend of mine turned down a job offer in Boston for 6 figures with more advancement opportunity. He lives in the midwest and earns 5 figures. He turned it down, because he liked the city in which he lived. He was single without children, and his 5 figure income suited him fine. Unless his wife was the main breadwinner and the change in city conflicted with her career, I don’t know a man with children who would turn down a job offer that was a 30% pay increase (after adjusting for cost of living), provided better advancement opportunities, and did not involve a career change. In other words, married men do invest in their offspring. The disparity of incomes is proof.

    This points to my earlier comment about what women mean vs what men mean in relation to power and authority. And as Fight Club (the book, btw–not the movie) contends, the semantics of the woman wins out. A man might work his ass off to support his family, but society tells him that because he doesn’t change the diapers he’s not invested in his family.

  38. DKl on September 3, 2006 at 2:52 am

    I should add that Sewell’s controls for age when he makes his comparisons. So that the income impact of marriage and children cannot simply be written off as correlating to a disparity in ages.

  39. Tatiana on September 3, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Mark Butler (#16), You make an excellent point about the importance of avoiding unrighteous dominion in the other direction. Certainly there are always, between any two people, some areas where each are superior. I suppose the ideal would be that in each domain, the partner who was best (in a moral sense) would lead, and the other would follow and learn, but any reasonable division would work.

    Frank McIntyre (#17), I would love to read that post about the study! I can’t believe I missed it! Can you link to it? I’m seriously trying to understand what’s wrong, and willing to entertain any possibilities. Of course, flattering ones like “I’m just too intelligent” are attractive candidates (laughs). (Though looking here at all the brilliant beautiful married women posters, rather takes the wind out of the sails of that one.)

    Tyler Johnson (#19), I can quite understand only falling for people who are your superiors. Everyone I’ve fallen for has been vastly my superior in important ways, even if I am better at silly details like calculus or music theory. Miss Manners said that courtship is the attempt to attain the affections of someone far better than you deserve. (grins) I think that’s a given.

    Rosalynde (#23), I can’t wait for that post on the Key to All Male Behavior! Way to advertise and keep us eagerly reading Times and Seasons!

    DavidH (#30), (grins) So it’s okay to let it happen once, as a sort of accident or something? Just be sure never to make that mistake twice? I’ll remember that! ….. We’re joking about this, but are women supposed to excel at things or not? Do you understand how it feels to grow up being told that you are NOT supposed to be good at stuff? How is that not horribly oppressive? Imagine saying “Hey Dad, guess what, my team won the championships!” and having him reply “That’s okay this time but just DON’T let it happen again, okay?” How can we laugh about this situation and not realize that it’s soul-killing for girls to be taught they’re not supposed to do well? It reminds me of the cartoons I saw in old New Yorkers from the 50s in which young attractive secretaries being mauled by their old fat ugly bosses on the job was presented as a subject of fun. I’m so very happy that is now a subject of lawsuits instead of snickers.

    I join many others in disagreeing with the statement “Men do not instinctively invest very much in their offspring.” It’s bad science to say that. Lots of pop evolutionists, anthropologists, and so on, might say such a thing but it’s a “just-so” story. Scientists historically are just as bad at drawing conclusions about human behavior from their observations as any of the rest of us. Read Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man” for a good discussion of this phenomenon.

    About institutional power being held by only a few, that’s a valid point. However, the fact that not one of them is female means there is a systematic bias in the highest levels of decisionmaking. Here is an example. Once in India there was a rash of rapes of young women, and the consensus among the lawmakers was that a curfew keeping women inside after dark would be the best fix. Indira Gandhi overruled saying “Why keep the women in when it is men doing the raping? If anyone has a curfew it should be men!” The curfew idea dropped, after that, but had she not been head of state, and spoken up, it almost certainly would have passed. There are going to be things that all men think are reasonable that most women will have a different perspective on. Without at least some representation by actual women, you don’t get all the insights you need to come up with good solutions. Our system, which is impacted greatly by prayer and inspiration, is still entirely male. We don’t even pray to Heavenly Mother and ask her what she thinks.

    It’s similar to the idea that whites could, by being sensitive, honest, and well-meaning, adequately represent blacks and other minority groups in government. Obviously, each elected official should do his or her best to represent fairly everyone in their constituency. However, if the elected government has NO minority representation whatsoever, can anyone doubt that minority interests will not be well represented? No matter how well-meaning and diligent our representatives are, I feel much better if there are people who have actually lived it, as I have lived. A great example of that was the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill controversy. All the professional women I talked to had experienced the sorts of things Anita Hill testified of again and again. We none of us had any tendency whatsoever to doubt her, who had no interest in doing what she did, and in fact, was a sacrificial lamb. I admire and respect her enormously. Every one of us had been put in a position where our own behavior was questioned, and where the assumption of guilt was clearly on our side, because of the inappropriate actions of men in power over us. The situation was SO pervasive back then that I expect it was 100%. That is, I didn’t know a single professional woman who couldn’t tell 3 or 4 such stories. However, the men in power at the time, and most in the world that I discussed it with, felt she was lying and he was innocent. A HUGE gender divide on this issue. I don’t think men who didn’t have the actual workplace experiences could adequately represent me on that issue.

    So, while I agree totally that power in the church means loving service, that we are not of the world, that if the priesthood power is exercised unrighteously, it vanishes, there is still an awful lot of decisionmaking going on in the church that could benefit in wisdom and fairness from more female input and power.

  40. Rosalynde Welch on September 3, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for the additional comments, all. I’m taking a lot of heat—rightly so, probably—for the bit about men’s investment in their children. I should have written, “The reproductive tradeoff offers two primary strategies: a large quantity of offspring versus a smaller number of high quality offspring. Men tend to pursue the former and women the latter, except when environments (material or cultural) intervene to make it more advantageous for one or both sexes to act differently.” Those particular circumstances could entail the conditions of patriarchy: paternity is assured (in theory, at least), and the number of sexual partners is limited. You will note that this DOES NOT mean that fathers don’t love their children. Nor does it mean that fathers don’t invest in their offspring. It just means that they will invest in their offspring most heavily under certain circumstances—being married with a relatively small number of children, for example.

  41. Mark Butler on September 3, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Superman (#34), I am not saying in the slightest that people cannot believe whatever they want, including the peculiar combination of belief that the Church is divinely inspired and possessed of a milliennia long conspiracy to deny women of a divine right to the priesthood.

    As long as one keeps the commandments and have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, it doesn’t matter too much exactly what he or she believes, although an incorrect belief is ususally spiritually enervating.

    But this conspiracy is a bit much, involving such oddities as Jesus was maliciously discriminating against women when he chose twelve men to be his twelve apostles, when he personally appeared and called the vast majority of the ancient prophets, when he chose a male angel to speak to Mary, and other male angels to deliver most other messages in the scriptures, and on and on.

    If this was some sort of dire evil that needed to be corrected why didn’t the Lord call a woman to the the prophetic leader of the last dispensation, instead of a poor benighted sexist male like Joseph Smith?

    So I am glad that people have a testimony despite belief in this sort of grand conspiracy theory, I just do not know how they do it. One of the intellectual wonders of the world.

  42. Naismith on September 3, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Re 39
    “Without at least some representation by actual women, you don’t get all the insights you need to come up with good solutions. Our system, which is impacted greatly by prayer and inspiration, is still entirely male.”

    I don’t find this to be true, at least at the ward level where I have spent most of my time working.

    Some years ago I was on the ward council as ward newsletter editor. When we had meetings and discussed a possible activity, program or approach, the bishop would turn to me and ask me by name for my opinion on issues that had nothing to do with the newsletter. Once I quipped that as a journalist I shouldn’t have an opinion, and he insisted that he didn’t waste talent, that if I was at that meeting he was going to use me and request my advice as a mother, wife, and thinker.

    That’s pretty much the model I’ve seen. Lots of counsel and collaboration in any decision-making.

  43. Julie M. Smith on September 3, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    To clarify, Naismith: you agree with the first sentence of what you quoted but not the second, correct?

  44. Starfoxy on September 3, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Naismith- I’d like to point out that what your bishop did in your ward is not built into the structure of the church, but is based entirely on his idea of what is fair. In other words you weren’t able to add your input because of how the church is organized, you were able to add your input because the bishop took initiative to include your opinions.

    And to all the other who have invoked the idea that unrighteous dominions leads to the instant removal of Priesthood power: Until we have a Spanish Inquisistion style ‘Amen Squad’ that busts in and releases men who have exercised unrighteous dominion on the spot, then we will have to deal with the reality that, regardless of whether or not a man really holds the priesthood, there will be unrighteous men performing priesthood duties and exercising institutional authority. Of course it will all be worked out at judgement day, but that is of very little value to those who are being hurt by such abuses now.

  45. Rosalynde Welch on September 3, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    LOL, Starfoxy! “Amen Squad”—I love it!

  46. Julie M. Smith on September 3, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    “a Spanish Inquisistion style ‘Amen Squad’ that busts in and releases men who have exercised unrighteous dominion on the spot”

    Gospel Doctrine Teacher is no longer my dream calling.

  47. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 3, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Until we have a Spanish Inquisistion style ‘Amen Squad’ that busts in and releases men who have exercised unrighteous dominion on the spot, then we will have to deal with the reality that, regardless of whether or not a man really holds the priesthood, there will be unrighteous men performing priesthood duties and exercising institutional authority. Of course it will all be worked out at judgement day, but that is of very little value to those who are being hurt by such abuses now.

    If the tables were turned, and women were in the “authority” positions, do you not think that the same problem would exist somehow? Are not women affected by the temptation to unrighteously exercise authority? This is a statement about human nature, not about the structural problems of the Church. No structure can prevent such problems. Only individuals who understand their nothingness and reliance on God can help prevent such problems.
    I think Naismith’s example is a good illustration of this concept — that ultimately, the structure is not the problem. Individuals who violate their authority are the problem. And, no matter what structure we had, there would be those who would abuse their position or authority or power. The natural self is a powerful beast to subdue — and that is true for men and women.

    The more I think about this, the more I think that if we all do our parts (in whatever roles God has ordained for us) to become more unified, more in harmony with the Spirit and with each other (someone discussed this above) the differences of roles, positions, authority, etc. won’t matter much at all. When my husband leads out in righteousness, for example, I am not “one whit” behind him, and he counsels with me and works in unity with me as wife and mother in our family. Whatever authority he has is simply to bring us together in Christ. My role involves the same goal. I feel there is power in that order when we each understand and embrace the roles God has give us. In the Church, regardless of position or calling or authority, we all have opportunity to do things that add to God’s glory, and we each are important in that process of bringing souls to Christ.

    I don’t see how concern for who has authority or position doesn’t become focused on self, thus taking the eye off what brings glory to God. He has given us different responsibilities that I think somehow maximize our collective and individual abillities to bring glory to Him if we adhere to and embrace them. I have felt and seen that time and time again — in my family and in the Church. When it doesn’t work, it’s because one or more individuals miss the boat, not because the structure or order is faulty.

  48. Julie M. Smith on September 3, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    “I don’t see how concern for who has authority or position doesn’t become focused on self, thus taking the eye off what brings glory to God.”

    M & M, you know by now that I have no beef with the current separation of powers in the Church. However, I think I have more sympathy for those who do ‘have a beef’ about it than you do. I don’t think they want power for power’s sake–I think their concerns are not coming from a selfish place. No one really wants to be a bishop. But many women do want to know if the fact that they can never be a bishop means that God doesn’t love them as much, trust them as much, think that they are capable of doing the job, think they are spiritual enough, etc. etc.

    So while I agree with your overall position, I object to your characterization of those who disagree with us.

  49. Starfoxy on September 3, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    “If the tables were turned, and women were in the “authorityâ€? positions, do you not think that the same problem would exist somehow? Are not women affected by the temptation to unrighteously exercise authority?”

    I think what I said is completely unrelated to advocating for non-male only priesthood. I’m pointing out that saying “well if he did that then he doesn’t really have the priesthood/authority anyways” is pointless. Regardless of whether or not Heaven recognizes that man’s priesthood and authority, people on earth still do. We cannot act like the ‘amen’ clause has any immediate effect that is able to protect people from abuse at the hands of unrighteous leaders male or female.

  50. Naismith on September 3, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    Re 43
    “To clarify, Naismith: you agree with the first sentence of what you quoted but not the second, correct?”

    I am not sure if I agree with it or not. The statement, “Without at least some representation by actual women, you don’t get all the insights you need to come up with good solutions” seems to assume the idea that the differences between men and women are greater than the differences between individual men and women. I am not sure whether that is accurate. I could wholeheartedly endorse the notion that, “having lots of insights increases the likelihood of good solutions.”

    The reason that I question whether any woman would represent *my* best interest is sad experiences. For example, I have found that female doctors give me worse care than male doctors. The women doctors I have seen (a limited sample size to be sure) have all been very judgemental and dismissive of my concerns, perhaps because they compare my stated problems to their experience, and found it dissimilar. For example, I am in the worst standard deviation of women as far as nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. It takes a lot of medication and IV support to get me through a pregnancy, and 100 years ago, I would have probably died. So I tried going to women doctors, and they figured I was a neurotic housewife trying to get attention, who wouldn’t be so sick if she had more interesting stuff in her life. I found that I got much better care and more sympathy from male doctors whose own wives suffered severe nausea.

    This is not just my random impression; there are reasons to believe it is a common phenomenon: There is a great deal of research on the “medical socialization” that doctors receive in training, such that their primary identification is as a physician, irregardless of race or gender, and also another body of literature about how men get better care because their economic impact is taken more seriously; I suspect that nowadays the less-good care that was found for “women” in past studies is mostly for women who are not employed.

    So I am not sure, if we had women serving in LDS leadership, would they be sympathetic to other women and truly represent us? Or maybe the only ones being called would be those with clean cars, perfectly decorated homes, etc. and they might not have any idea what it is like to be a single mother or have a kleptomaniac child or whatever.

  51. Jack on September 3, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    “Regardless of whether or not Heaven recognizes that man’s priesthood and authority, people on earth still do.”

    When you say “people” I hope you’re implying “men” as well as “women.”

  52. Naismith on September 3, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Re 44
    “Naismith- I’d like to point out that what your bishop did in your ward is not built into the structure of the church, but is based entirely on his idea of what is fair.”

    Not quite true. Ward councils are indeed part of the structure of the church. And knowing what I know now about how ward councils should/can work, I would not hesitate to state my opinion on anything under discussion at that meeting, which is designed to be attended by both men and women.

    All that particular bishop did was teach me something about my job on the ward council.

  53. Tatiana on September 3, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Julie (#46) ““a Spanish Inquisistion style ‘Amen Squad’ that busts in and releases men who have exercised unrighteous dominion on the spotâ€?

    Gospel Doctrine Teacher is no longer my dream calling. ”

    This made me laugh long and hard! =)

  54. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 4, 2006 at 12:09 am

    I don’t think they want power for power’s sake…No one really wants to be a bishop.

    Actually, I have heard a few say that they would like such a leadership position, because of the specific things a bishop can do, perhaps. So perhaps it isn’t always about power, so I’m sorry for jumping the gun on that comment. (Julie, I would appreciate if you give me the benefit of the doubt, though, and not assume that I am completely unsympathetic. I think sometimes you jump the gun on characterizing _me_.) But is looking for a position or authority as a sign of God’s love fundamentally a dangerous place to be in general? Should I think that God loves me less if I am never a RS president? Or my husband less if he is never a bishop? I find it hard myself not to equate God’s love with position, but I don’t think that is healthy or correct or founded on sound principles. If we seek for external signs of God’s love, I think we will end up disappointed in one way or another. At least that has been my experience. I think the answer lies in finding His love within, regardless of what is going on around us. Don’t know if I’m making sense there…..

    In short, my whole point was that we all have a place in God’s work, and looking for God’s love in our position or authority is looking in the wrong place — and that is true even without including priesthood in the mix. I don’t say that unsympathetically at all. I say that with a great deal of sadness that such feelings exist, because I think they are misplaced. If I could package the conviction I have of God’s love for His daughters and share it, I would. But I know I can’t, and I can’t convince anyone that God really does love His daughters equally, but I still want to be able to express that point of view with the hope that someday those who struggle with this can feel that too. I don’t claim to understand the whys of it all, but I do ache for women to know God’s love as things are now. It’s there. It really is.

  55. paul frandsen on September 4, 2006 at 12:22 am

    “But many women do want to know if the fact that they can never be a bishop means that God doesn’t love them as much, trust them as much, think that they are capable of doing the job, think they are spiritual enough, etc. etc.”

    How often is this feeling motivated by poor priesthood leadership (ie. oppressive, demeaning, condescending etc)? I have wondered often if those who struggle with these feelings do so out of poor past experiences with male priesthood leaders and fathers. It is an interesting thought in light of the ideas Naismith mentions regarding medical care and her experience with same and different gendered physicians. Perhaps it is the leader, not the gender that is the problem.

    Since reading on T&S about this topic over many posts, I have queried several women in the local church and in my family. While a small sample size, none of them had felt inadequate or that God didn’t love them. (The big confound being their unwillingness to express their true feelings with a male priesthood holders). Nevertheless, they said these thoughts did not plague them while growing up in the church. A random, widely administered survey of women in the church would be VERY interesting to me. Nothing like this has ever been done has it? It would be fascinating to look at what elements are associated with dissatisfaction (ie.family situation, education, parenting style etc.)

    Testimonies born today represented a lot of satisfied members…

  56. Jefferson Kohn on September 4, 2006 at 12:37 am

    Paul, I conducted a similar sample of women in the local church about their feelings after first attending the temple. I was curious how they would react to women temple worker’s roles as well as the explicit endorsement of patriarchy in the endowment. None of them felt that “God didn’t love them,” but 6 out of 7 said after their first temple experience they felt God loved them less. Those 6 women felt marginalized and hurt. Two of them were offended nearly to the point of never returning to the temple–fortunately, somehow they are still with us. These women were not reacting to any particular “bad priesthood leader” but to position of women in the church in general as expressed in the endowment ceremony.

    I don’t draw any conclusions from this survey or have any good suggestions. I would simply feel like an idiot telling these women, “it’s okay, you can be a mommy.”

  57. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 4, 2006 at 1:49 am

    “But many women do want to know if the fact that they can never be a bishop means that God doesn’t love them as much, trust them as much, think that they are capable of doing the job, think they are spiritual enough, etc. etc.�
    How often is this feeling motivated by poor priesthood leadership (ie. oppressive, demeaning, condescending etc)?

    I wonder how often this might be motivated by insecurity. Don’t shoot me for saying that. I’m reflecting on what causes me to look at external measurements or factors or validation — and it’s insecurity. I want something concrete, something that somehow equals value, love, validation, etc. in my mind. Something that I can really hold onto. But that’s because I don’t trust my value, God’s love, etc. within myself. Might that be a possible factor as well with this issue? I suspect that I’m not the only one who looks for external validation when I’m feeling insecure/ not good about myself for one reason or another.

  58. Mark IV on September 4, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Rosalynde, you have made an important distinction, I think. I would like to expand your definition of power to include gospel teaching, as well. You mention charisma from the pulpit, but I think those who teach gospel doctrine and seminary and institute also wield significant power, and there are few checks on it. There is only one adult in the ward who has the attention of most of the adults for 45 minutes a week, and it isn’t the bishop.

    Although you didn’t mention the exercise of unrighteous dominion, it has been explored in the comments. Our tendency is to think of unrighteous dominion as a My Way or the Highway style of leadership, but I think we should expand our definition to include all the pitfalls enumerated in section 121. Any attempt to gratify our pride or our vain ambition or to cover our sins is out of bounds. My own experience tells me that there is an ego boost to be derived from having a captive audience, and I, for one, experience stong temptations in this direction.

  59. David Holmes on September 4, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Just Thinking — Hello, I\’m new to the blogosphere and particular LDS blogs. I am fascinated with the whole \”uncensored\” synaptic firings that permeate these pages. But, hey, since brevity seems to be preferred, I shall proceed to the thoughts echoing in my gray matter…

    Firstly, cultural (read: worldy) constructs applied to \”power\” or \”authority\” seem to me to just muddy the waters of a perfectly clear message from the Father. In other words, Earthly titles just mess up the purity of the Father\’s plan of happiness.

    Secondly, Christ and the apostles taught that our Father\’s plan is centered around individual worth and happiness (despite the inumberable souls that have access to the same happiness). The Father\’s concept of power (as has been eloquently stated already) is soley bestowed upon those who take upon the mission of the edification of others. Authority, on the other hand, comes from God and cannot be granted exept via His divine pattern (i.e. priesthood authority manifest in the family unit – the Sealing Power, or the Holy Spirit of Promise acting within the hearts of husband and wife). These two reasons are why Lucifer was just so wrong. It was he who sought Father\’s honor (power) in order to execute authority upon the hearts of his brothers and sisters. He failed to realize that power and authority are intimately connected. It\’s the whole yin & yang; the more you give the more you are given kind of thing.

    Power (read \”honor\”) is a matter of influence. Look at it this way: how much do you want to do for someone who is very nice to you? Well, our Father has been Eternally \”nice\” to us and we owe Him our complete allegience and returned influence. We return influence by helping others realize their true potential as children of an Eternal Father who can therefore bless them Eternally. A quick study of the Savior\’s life will reveal this pattern of success (He has earned His place at the right-hand of the Father because of the \”really nice\” things He did for us).

    Thirdly, power is within our ability to grasp. Just spend your days making sure others that you are blessed to come in contact with have their hands firmly grasped around the iron rod of the scriptures. Authority is granted you from the Father because of the loving service you have rendered. The lanauage of the culminating blessings that can be ours reveals this simple and sublime pattern that, formulated by God Himself, will propel the persistetant partisioner to paradise worlds without end.

  60. BJohnson on September 5, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    ““a Spanish Inquisistion style ‘Amen Squad’ that busts in and releases men who have exercised unrighteous dominion on the spot�

    Gospel Doctrine Teacher is no longer my dream calling. �

    What a great calling! Sign me up! Of course, the real beauty of it will be that nobody will expect your coming.

  61. Naismith on September 6, 2006 at 7:11 am

    Re 55
    “A random, widely administered survey of women in the church would be VERY interesting to me. Nothing like this has ever been done has it?”

    Yes, I’m sure it has. But the results haven’t been widely disseminated because it was proprietary marketing research. A few years back, I was at a professional conference devoted to pubic opinion research (surveys, focus groups, and the like) and I found myself sitting next to the North American director of research for one of the big protestant denominations. I asked him lots of questions, and he was pleased but surprised to find an interested audience, having felt somewhat like a fish out of water amongst the political pollsters, etc. I assured him that I saw the benefit of his research since I worked in lay ministry for my own church, and whenever a new program was rolled out, it had been pilot-tested and evaluated, etc. Of course he asked what church, and when I told him, he raved at some length about how excellent our church’s research department was–the envy of all other American churches, according to him. He also was surpised that I didn’t work for the church (tried to explain living thousands of miles away from SLC) and seemed amazed that our little sect produced enough social scientists that some could work for other employers. (Well, okay, our numbers must indeed seem small compared to the membership of his group.)

    When the endowment ceremony was modified in 1990, it was rumored that the changes reflected the results of a 1988 survey of 3,400 endowed members. If the leaked copies were accurate, I am impressed that they asked about whether people ever fell asleep at the temple:) And when a temple was built in our area, we were told that the practice of having only sister missionaries staff the question booth was a result of market research–that non-members found sisters to be more approachable.

    Back in the 1980s, Tim Heaton and Stan Albrecht did a major research project that was published widely and quite a bit was used in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. But haven’t seen much along those lines lately.

  62. paul frandsen on September 6, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Re 56

    ” 6 out of 7 said after their first temple experience they felt God loved them less.”

    It saddens me to hear this. I have enjoyed hearing Julie Smith’s take on the issue of the temple wording and it’s effect on women. From what Naismith said (#61), it seems that the church is aware of these effects and trying to lessen them. It would be nice to have chapel sessions or group temple study sessions wherein men and women are able to ask questions about and discuss the endowment. This would allow feelings to be vented and misunderstandings (if the perception is a misunderstanding) to be resolved. While also allowing a deeper understanding of the endowment as a whole and more powerful worship experience.

  63. plutarch on September 6, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Re: Comment 56. Disenchantment after one’s first temple experience is hardly limited to women. It may be more common than having a transcendent experience the first time, regardless of gender. This supposition is based purely on anecdotal evidence, however. It may be true that first-time female attenders are put off for different reasons than men are.

    It does seem that inept or insenstive leadership some of the time is a fact of church life, although there are also spectacular examples of the opposite. This isn’t to denigrate inspiration, which is widely present but is generally filtered through individuals and personalities. And inept leadership isn’t limited to priesthood leaders, either.

  64. Rosalynde Welch on September 6, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    I like your style, plutarch. I hope you keep commenting. Paul, you too. Do you think Grandpa could set up a Frandsen family chapel session sometime?

    I’d somehow missed Tom’s #26, and I’m not sure if he’s still following the thread. But if you are: you used the word “soft” several times in reference to the personal costs to women of a male-only priesthood. What do you mean by this? That they’re negligible? Or unverifiable? Or merely unquantifiable? On the larger question, I don’t know whether God is a sort of celestial utilitarian and has designed his Kingdom to distribute the greatest quantity of justice to the greatest number of members; it’s quite plausible that he is, and that ordaining women to the priesthood would have a number of unforeseen effects, the net effect of which would be an injustice of a much greater degree than we see now (when we’re looking at the rights of the priesthood in terms of justice, that is). Even if this is the case, I don’t know why you seem so reluctant to acknowledge that there are, nevertheless, some costs for women in the present arrangement.

  65. paul frandsen on September 6, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Rosalynde,

    A chapel session with extended family including discussion from all members (rather than a lecture format) would be extremely interesting/rewarding. I can’t be there for thanksgiving (which would be a great time to do it), but maybe Amy could go and fill me in… I doubt your headed to Utah anytime soon?

  66. Jack on September 6, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    “But many women do want to know if the fact that they can never be a bishop means that God doesn’t love them as much, trust them as much, think that they are capable of doing the job, think they are spiritual enough, etc. etc.�

    What about men? What about those who *do* hold the priesthood but are never called to serve in “higher” priesthood positions? Is it because they are not trusted enough to do so? (in their own minds, that is) That’s a recipe for disillusionment if their ever was one–unless you’re like me. I’d be happy playing piano in the primary for the rest of my life.

    “None of them felt that “God didn’t love them,â€? but 6 out of 7 said after their first temple experience they felt God loved them less. [...] These women were not reacting to any particular “bad priesthood leaderâ€? but to position of women in the church in general as expressed in the endowment ceremony.”

    Is it possible that the *world* may have something to do with creating these negative assumptions?

  67. Starfoxy on September 7, 2006 at 12:01 am

    Is it possible that the *world* may have something to do with creating these negative assumptions?

    Regardless of who or what creates these negative assumptions, I would say that the church and it’s leaders carry responsibility for providing ways of correcting them. Those who are to lead and guide us should be communicating with us on a level we understand, and should be addressing common misunderstandings.

  68. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 7, 2006 at 1:39 am

    67
    I’m gonna be blunt here because I don’t know what else to be. This is not said out of lack of compassion but out of a bit of disbelief. It strikes me as unfair to put the blame on the church and its leaders when there are plenty of people (many women included) who don’t share these negative assumptions, at least not in such pervasive ways. Where there are questions, I think much is left to the individual to seek for understanding and inspiration from God — trusting in what our leaders have taught (very clearly and repeatedly) and continue to teach. In short, I think there is a lot of teaching that is done to counteract such negativity; perhaps some of the responsibility lies with individuals to trust in that teaching a little more rather than wait for some clarifications that may never come in the way desired (at least not in this life).

    For example, I hear our leaders teach that God has ordained the (priesthood, hierarchical, patriarchal) orders we have (in other words, that this is the way God wants things to be); the temple ordinances were given by revelation; men and women are equal before God; men and women have divine roles that differ in some ways but are equally important in God’s plan; women are beloved daughters of God, etc. That seems “on a level we can understand.” (Or maybe I’m not understanding what you are seeking, or what more you think we should expect.)

    I believe our leaders teach us these things knowing there are misunderstandings, but expecting us to trust in what they have taught related to those misunderstandings. Do we believe those basic things they teach? If we don’t, why should we expect that anything else they teach would be accepted, either? (I see too many of these basic teachings argued away, which is why I pose that question. I also have repeatedly experienced how difficult it is to address these misunderstandings because such concerns are not easily changed by dialogue, and any effort to address misunderstanding often is met with resistance. Thus, I tend to conclude that the resolution lies largely between the individual and God and an understanding that can come mostly through the Spirit, leaning on these basic teachings to help spiritually break through mental barriers of cognitive dissonance. I realize this is easier said that done for some (!!!), but I believe it is possible, because so many people seem to me to be at peace with the way things are, with what we have already been taught by our leaders.) What it seems to me, then, is that the variable to “manipulate” is essentially not the teaching but individuals’ levels of peace with (or understanding of) the teaching. Thoughts?

  69. Naismith on September 7, 2006 at 7:12 am

    Re 65
    “What about men? What about those who *do* hold the priesthood but are never called to serve in “higherâ€? priesthood positions? Is it because they are not trusted enough to do so?”

    Not to mention that some of those who DO get such callings wonder if they are beihng punished or need to learn a lot.

    I was thinking of this thread on Monday, when our ward had a Labor Day picnic at a lake a few miles out of town. Upon arriving, the bishop checked out the restrooms, and decided the women’s restroom was not acceptable. He grabbed a friend (a counselor in the stake presidency, as it happened) and they went into town and bought a mop and cleaning supplies, and came and spent about half an hour cleaning the women’s restroom so the sisters could have a decent place to use.

    I don’t think 3% of the people there realized that they had done it, because most folks were in the water or playing volleyball. But when I think of “higher” callings, I think of incidents like that.

  70. Mark Butler on September 7, 2006 at 10:16 am

    m&m,

    I concur with you that the order of the Church as we know it today is temporally justified. That does not mean people understand it, unfortunately. I also think it is apparent that many aspects of female participation in the ministry of heaven have not been fully revealed and are not yet fully reflected here on earth. What we do know is the divine role and calling of motherhood, which is a parallel to the divine role and calling of fatherhood. Both are ultimately more significant than any other form of priesthood a person can hold – in fact fatherhood and motherhood are the prototype of all priesthood – using the priesthood in the general sense, a divinely authorized ministry.

    Now provided that the time is fast approaching for such far reaching changes to go forth, the problem is that a formal recognition of the motherhood proxy aspects of the priesthood on par with the fatherhood proxy aspects of the priesthood seems to require several sections worth of Doctrine and Covenants class revelations so that it can be organized the way God intends. I think that the Relief Society and the Primary, and Young Women are all types and shadows of this motherhood proxy order of the priesthood, and simply lack formal recognition as such because the revelations as to the proper names, titles, and order of things are not available.

    But certainly someday they will be and unless one thinks that women will spend eternity in vacuous enterprises, I think we should treat all who are engaged in the work of the ministry of Christ with the honor and respect they deserve as citizens of the Saints and joint-heirs with Christ. No man deserves additional respect simply because he holds the Priesthood. He only deserves respect to the degree that his ministry is according to the truth, with proper benefit of the doubt according to office and calling – in other words who and what he truly represents. The same for women as well – the idea that a Relief Society president does not hold a divine calling, and have an authority worthy of the same type of respect one might give an Elder’s quorum president or a High Priest’s group leader, when she is acting in righteousness, is truly deplorable.

  71. Mark Butler on September 7, 2006 at 10:53 am

    I realize by the way that technically, for example a bishop’s claim to presidency trumps a stake relief society president’s claim to presidency. However, there are two things worth mentioning – the authority of a bishop is temporal, not eternal anyway – in other words not according to the proper order of things, but divinely authorized nonetheless. Also, something is definitely wrong if there is a regular contest of wills between the Relief Society and the (male) Priesthood.

    I believe that administrators who are inclined to run their stewardships on the command and control model of government should read D&C 121 and 107 over again. The only circumstance I can see where the hard line of authority should be exercised is in exigent conditions – war, natural disasters, emergencies, and so on. Otherwise it should be D&C 121 all the way. The Church should not be run like the military except when absolutely necessary. It should be run be inspired consensus.

  72. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 7, 2006 at 11:13 am

    think we should treat all who are engaged in the work of the ministry of Christ with the honor and respect they deserve as citizens of the Saints and joint-heirs with Christ.

    I agree with what you have said here. (And basically the whole of that last paragraph. Generally speaking, I see the kind of respect you describe and perhaps that is part of why I don’t feel slighted as a woman in the Church.)

    Now provided that the time is fast approaching for such far reaching changes to go forth, the problem is that a formal recognition of the motherhood proxy aspects of the priesthood on par with the fatherhood proxy aspects of the priesthood seems to require several sections worth of Doctrine and Covenants class revelations so that it can be organized the way God intends.

    I’m not sure if I follow you here, nor am I sure that we need the kind of revelations you are speaking about. But perhaps I’m not understanding you here. I think you and I are thinking about different things that need “understanding.” For me, understanding/accepting the current order of things has come by trying to live according to what we have now, and by pondering things that might appear at first blush to be “unfair.” As I have done these things, I feel my understanding and acceptance of things has grown. Does that mean I perfectly understand the eternal order of things? No, but I’m not sure we need that knowledge at this point. After all, we don’t really know much about anything in the next life, do we? I think perhaps before we can get more revelation, we need to work toward acceptance of that which we have already received. Again, I realize that is easier for some than others…not trying to discount that reality at all. But do we assume that more revelation would be any easier to accept or understand than what we currently have?

  73. Starfoxy on September 7, 2006 at 11:48 am

    M&M, I get the impression that you are taking my statement in a broader context then it was meant. I’m thinking specifically in regards to the Temple. I don’t think that you will disagree with me when I say that we should be able to turn to the church to find correct doctrines, and that the church is the best source of correct doctrine on the face of this earth. However, if Paul Frandsen’s numbers are anywhere near representative (6 out of 7 said after their first temple experience they felt God loved them less) then there is an obvious lack of information about the Temple and how women should relate to it’s teachings. Even President McKay said that we were failing to adequately prepare members for the Temple.

    You say “Do we believe those basic things they teach? If we don’t, why should we expect that anything else they teach would be accepted, either?” I’m not wanting more teachings, or advanced classes, I’m wanting *remedial* classes.

  74. Mark Butler on September 7, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    m&m,

    My position is that we should recognize whatever we have received from God as an absolute blessing, and not complain too much that he has not given us more, but first try to understand and magnify the best possible implementation of what we have.

    However, that does not mean that we can say that there will not be such revelations and extensions in the future. I am not inclined to believe that we will ever reach such a state of perfection that something could not be improved. It even seems that after we all (hopefully) make it to the celestial kingdom that there are plans for futher progression after that (cf. D&C 130:10).

    I also have to say that I do not think certain aspects of what is taught in the temple are word for word critical (i.e. certain parts may legitimately by revised under inspiration and revelation), and that indeed someday we may have more detailed instruction into the proper order of things, because what we have is not currently at the level of detail of a general conference talk on the subject.

  75. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 7, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Starfoxy,
    Thanks for clarifying. I wondered if I was misreading you a bit.

    That said, I still think some of those basic teachings that I mentioned can indeed be a framework for seeking understanding about the temple. If I go to the temple truly understanding God’s love for me as a woman, then shouldn’t that be the perspective through which I seek to understand what happens in the temple? If I leave feeling feeling less loved as a woman, is that my leaders’ fault? I don’t think so. They’ve already told me that He loves His daughters as much as His sons. So, I submit that it’s because perhaps I am not understanding or trusting in what I have been taught. The leaders have given us the basic tools we need and leave a lot to us.

    Incidentally, some of what I said in my previous comment about my own experience and how I have gained insights and felt peace was said with the temple specifically in mind.

    I will also say that after having my a-ha experience (related to the temple) that I previously wrote about (on Roxcy) and mentioned here once, I realized that the leaders are giving us more than we think. (I was really studying about the temple and had some tremendous insights [and for a second wondered why such things aren't taught more] — and open on my bed was an article by Elder Nelson that would have lead me to the insights I had received! That put my in my place! I realized that we are being taught so much, but I hadn’t taken the time and put forth the effort to discover the layers of meaning in what was already given!! I suspect more often than not this is the case.

    (Here are links to Elder Nelson’s talk on preparing for the temple and the article I mention above can be be found here .) Combine that with (e.g.,) teachings I mentioned in my other comment and I think that is a pretty good foundation with which to approach the temple. At the same time, overcoming mortal constructs while trying to understand godly things can be difficult for some. But I think the responsibility still lies with the individual at a significant level rather than with the leaders. After that epiphany with Elder Nelson’s words, I was humbled and sobered to consider what I had missed. How many other things have I missed? I shudder to consider that question. But it makes me want to study more intently what our prophets and the scriptures teach us.

    I also think it’s probably pretty deliberate that more direct temple prep is not given, because part of the purpose of the temple is to individually discover the symbolic teaching and to seek for understanding through the Spirit. Since we are all at different levels of spiritual readiness at any given time, the Lord makes it possible for us to receive what we are ready for.

    I plan to prepare my children more specifically than I was prepared by taking advantage of talks like Elder Nelson’s. I want them to be more familiar with the scriptures than I was (esp. the OT), and use the references that Elder Nelson gives, as well as continue to teach the basics about the order of things. And teach unflinchingly of God’s love for all of us. And then encourage them to understand within that framework.

    Anyway, as hard as it can be sometimes to have to learn for ourselves, I think that is what we are expected to do.

    Mark,
    I think we are probably basically in agreement. We know there are yet many “great and important things” to be revealed. How and where we will receive that revelation is yet to be seen. Until then, I still think we need to treat what we do have with care, but I suppose you agree with that, so….

  76. paul frandsen on September 7, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    to clarify. the ’6 of 7′ numbers were Jefferson Kohn’s. In my lifetime of church membership I have not met only one member in person who was vocally dissatisfied with the temple ceremony (a male). Not until stumbling into the bloggernacle did I find more widespread dissatisfaction.

    the ideas set forth by mark and m&m are beautiful. there’s is spiritual power in looking inward and to God in finding answers to cognitive dissonance with church/God’s teachings. it seems that the humility required to undergo such an exercise is precisely one powerful reason why church membership in this life is important.

  77. paul frandsen on September 7, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    …i have met only one…

  78. greenfrog on September 7, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    mullingandmusing wrote: I believe our leaders teach us these things knowing there are misunderstandings, but expecting us to trust in what they have taught related to those misunderstandings. Do we believe those basic things they teach? If we don’t, why should we expect that anything else they teach would be accepted, either?

    A teaching (by anyone) should stand or fall on its merits. Just as a negative ad hominem attack does not affect the merits of an argument, neither does a positive ad hominem assertion of the speaker’s holiness affect the merits of an argument. Sometimes, Church leaders (like others) offer reasons for their conclusions. Sometimes those reasons make good sense. Sometimes they do not. When Church leaders make bad arguments, I think it is wrong for us to resort to ad hominem support for the conclusion, when the proffered rationale is so wanting.

    If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

    Here is a way to know: experience — not a “take my word for it, I’m Jesus.” Not a “take my word for it, I’m the prophet.” Instead it is “try it out, discover your own experience with it, and be honest to that experience.”

    (I see too many of these basic teachings argued away, which is why I pose that question. I also have repeatedly experienced how difficult it is to address these misunderstandings because such concerns are not easily changed by dialogue, and any effort to address misunderstanding often is met with resistance. Thus, I tend to conclude that the resolution lies largely between the individual and God and an understanding that can come mostly through the Spirit, leaning on these basic teachings to help spiritually break through mental barriers of cognitive dissonance. I realize this is easier said that done for some (!!!), but I believe it is possible, because so many people seem to me to be at peace with the way things are, with what we have already been taught by our leaders.)

    Curiously, I agree that the solution lies between the person and God, as well. But as we live in a community of Saints, and as God does not appear to have seen fit to communicate the same conclusions to everyone, we have to find ways to interact with one another. IMO, telling the individual, “You just need to pray (and not ask for more light and knowledge) until you agree with the rest of us,” isn’t the basis on which I’d like to come to be of “one heart and one mind.”

    What it seems to me, then, is that the variable to “manipulate� is essentially not the teaching but individuals’ levels of peace with (or understanding of) the teaching. Thoughts?

    If I say something that a small fraction (like 1%) can misunderstand to their detriment, maybe that seems like not too big a deal. But, if I’m (aren’t we all?) tasked with leaving the ninety and nine and pursuing the one, I’d be very concerned about addressing and correcting the misunderstanding.

  79. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 7, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    When Church leaders make bad arguments, I think it is wrong for us to resort to ad hominem support for the conclusion, when the proffered rationale is so wanting.

    If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

    I am not sure that I suggested ad hominem support. In fact, I shared at least my own experience that experience and living the doctrine has helped convince me of its truthfulness.

    But as we live in a community of Saints, and as God does not appear to have seen fit to communicate the same conclusions to everyone, we have to find ways to interact with one another. IMO, telling the individual, “You just need to pray (and not ask for more light and knowledge) until you agree with the rest of us,� isn’t the basis on which I’d like to come to be of “one heart and one mind.�

    Not ask for more light and knowledge? I am not sure I follow you there.

    Also, how would you like to come to one heart and one mind? I struggle to see how Zion can be reached without unity of doctrine and some level of shared understanding.

    …But, if I’m (aren’t we all?) tasked with leaving the ninety and nine and pursuing the one, I’d be very concerned about addressing and correcting the misunderstanding.

    I’m sorry if I sound like I think the “one” should be left alone to find her way back. That is far from the truth. I have spent countless hours in the past several years trying to do just what you describe. Sadly, most of the time, my efforts have felt futile, and sometimes have been met with hostility. Each situation is different, but I still think that the person struggling has some responsibility in finding peace if that is what is desired. That doesn’t mean we ever stop caring or trying, but we can’t force someone to do anything she doesn’t want to do. And if someone is convinced that the Church or the temple or whatever else is unfair, it’s a difficult task to try to convince that person otherwise. Resolution really is something that ultimately has to be reached at a very personal level. I’m still trying to figure out how to help others along in that process, but more often than not, I have found that such people don’t really want someone who doesn’t struggle to reach out. They’d often rather talk to those who do and find empathy, rather than interact with someone with a different perspective. Again, that has been my experience. Kind of a rock-and-a-hard-place situation, ya know?

  80. greenfrog on September 7, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    m&m, I probably misread some of your comments. Sorry about that — projecting my own experience and thoughts onto them.

    Resolution really is something that ultimately has to be reached at a very personal level.

    I agree with this — one person at a time.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to help others along in that process, but more often than not, I have found that such people don’t really want someone who doesn’t struggle to reach out. They’d often rather talk to those who do and find empathy, rather than interact with someone with a different perspective. Again, that has been my experience. Kind of a rock-and-a-hard-place situation, ya know?

    Sometimes in my life, it is only when I have encountered someone’s empathy for my situation that I could relax enough to begin to consider others’ views.

  81. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 7, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    m&m, I probably misread some of your comments. Sorry about that — projecting my own experience and thoughts onto them.

    No problem. Easy to do.

    Sometimes in my life, it is only when I have encountered someone’s empathy for my situation that I could relax enough to begin to consider others’ views.

    I have had similar experiences. But in the end, *I* have had to make the choice to change and open my heart. *I* have still had to be willing to consider others’ views. My experience has been that some people simply aren’t so willing. That is where reaching out becomes hard. Not that I stop, but again, I can’t force someone to open her heart. But I would hope that if and when that opening happens, that she would know I was there and cared.

  82. greenfrog on September 8, 2006 at 11:34 am

    …some people simply aren’t so willing

    Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish volition from ability.

  83. David Holmes on September 8, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    Thank You Mark Butler and M&M and greenfrog for keeping on thought!!

    *Man vs. Woman* are just some of the *cultural constructs* I was referring to. In attempting to understand the Gospel plan from a mortal perspective, even the honest but casual seeker of truth has to admit that the Gospel is structured around the concept of harmony. Can it be directive, social, and analytical… sure. However, within the family (as we choose to become part of it); we are trying to get along. It is only when we are lacking because of neglecting the true Light of Truth that we seek justification, rationalization, and stereotyping ourselves into more *tangible* (worldly) factions in an attempt to find peace for troubled souls on some level. Its when we feel unloved to some degree that we seek the companionship of others (other than God) to strengthen us.

    This is by design because of the Eternal familial relationship that we are engaged in becoming involved with. That is why (as y’all have said) it is our responsibility to kling to our God and walk with Him whiteknuckled through the inferno to the green grass on the other side. Simultaneously, we must (if necessary) drag each other through the flames in order that those of us that are being dragged can have the opportunity to walk on our own with the Master.

    As a man, you’re darn right I felt a little disillusioned after my first experience at the temple. However, I am so greatful for the continued cousel by our leaders that I return often. It is one of the few places where I can *dump* and focus on the happiness that is offered to us all.

  84. Eve on September 8, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    m&m, isn’t it fundamentally contradictory to “force” someone to “open her heart”? Utlimately the only hearts we can open are our own, and in my experience anyway, the most effective (and maybe the only effective) way to influence someone is to open our own hearts to them and be willing to be influenced by them. It’s been my experience that when we lament others’ stubbornness or the hardness of their hearts, or throw up our hands and say that only God can help them, our own hearts are usually hardened against them in the frustration that we can’t get them to do what we want or to agree with us. It’s a frustration we’ve all felt (who hasn’t felt this way in dealing with children or adolescents, for instance?) but isn’t it ultimately the Satanic frustration that comes from trying to control others?

  85. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish volition from ability.

    Maybe you could explain what you mean here. It sounds like you think some people aren’t able to exercise their agency (and that sounds more blunt than I want it to, so try to understand what I’m saying here.) . But I’m hoping I am misreading you.

  86. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    84
    Um, Eve, I think you are misreading me in a big way. (I don’t know why this seems to happen so often.) I agree with you. Maybe that wasn’t clear in what I said, and if that is the case, apologies for not being more clear. But go back and read what I wrote. I realize that each person has to decide when and how to open her heart. I can only share what has brought me peace, and try to understand others’ points of view. (this is a major reason I have hung out in th e’nacle– not only to express my point of view but to understand others’ perspectives as well!) And whether it comes through or not, I seek to care about others. Hence my comment that, “I would hope that if and when that opening [of the heart] happens, that she would know I was there and cared.” I don’t see what is Satanic about that…. :)

  87. greenfrog on September 8, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Me:

    Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish volition from ability.

    m&m:

    Maybe you could explain what you mean here. It sounds like you think some people aren’t able to exercise their agency (and that sounds more blunt than I want it to, so try to understand what I’m saying here.) . But I’m hoping I am misreading you.

    I suspect you’re not really misreading me. I can think of a number of occasions when I was perfectly incapable of opening up to a particular possibility. Just as it’s impossible to get from Dallas, TX, to Seattle, WA, without passing through other states, it has equally been impossible for me to get from one (messed up) mental construct/understanding/perception/worldview to the much better construct/understanding/perception/worldview without first passing through a variety of other mental places. And such mental “places” are not in the least merely stepping stones I can readily skip on and over to reach the preferred spot — some of them have been my home for years at a stretch.

    And it is only when I’ve lived in them long enough to have perceived their limitations and weaknesses that I’ve begun to consider (1) the possibility that they are not final resting places, (2) that there might be something better than them elsewhere, and (3) whether I’m strong enough to move in the direction of something better.

    I do know that one of the keys that has enabled me to begin to see through the walls of the home I’m occupying is the empathy of another person who, I believe, *really* loves me as me.

    But without that vision occurring, I don’t think it’s even useful to theologically distinguish between volition (“he’s just hard-headed and stubborn, so he won’t do what’s right”) and ability (“without further development, he’s not able to perceive how X and Y could be better than his current Z”).

    We don’t expect instantaneous conversion of non-members when missionaries first knock on their doors. And when we find that baptismal challenges frequently get rejected, we don’t conclude, “Well, he’s just not choosing to do the right thing.” Instead, we move line upon line, and precept upon precept. Sometimes establishing the next lines and the next precept can take years and years. I don’t attribute the pace exclusively to the volition of the recipient.

    Also (mostly as a tangential footnote), I note that despite our official doctrinal line about temptation beyond resistance and the inalienable nature of moral agency, there is plenty of evidence that human volition is not the sole determinant of human behavior. My own experiences with depression and anti-depressants has shown me that some mental constructs cannot be improved by tugging on one’s own bootstraps. Without the right chemistry, I could have tugged till I dropped without lifting myself even a millimeter off the ground.

    (how’s that for an impenetrable mixing of metaphors?)

  88. Eve on September 8, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    m&m, it’s certainly possible. My only point was that the only hearts whose softness or hardness we should consider are our own. It’s all too easy to accuse others of hard-heartedness without examining the states of our hearts towards them–at least, that’s been my experience. I will confess that I’m somewhat suspicious of waiting around for others to open their hearts to us and of framing our interactions with them in terms of an imagined future in which they come to understand us or share our point of view. (The real challenge for a Christian–and I personally find this very difficult–is to work toward a hoped-for future in which we understand them more and more completely and allow them to soften our hearts.) And I think we need to be careful not to identify open-heartedness with agreement with our own positions, and closed-heartedness with disagreement. Perhaps that isn’t what you meant, but that was what I understood to be implicit in your comment. If it’s not, of course, please do clarify.

    I also have to say that I can’t accept your characterization of people who have questions about the church as unwilling to consider different perspectives than our own. Those of us who question the church’s stance on certain issues, simply by virtue of our continued activity, are forced to confront and entertain other perspectives almost ceaselessly, week after week. When it comes to gender, I’m fairly regularly immersed in positions with which I disagree. It is, to say the least, a bracing experience.

    I suspect the real challenge in these disagreements is to be willing to meet each other on equal ground and to take each others’ perspectives and experiences seriously. And I also suspect that the presumption of understanding is the source of a great many misunderstandings. What looks like the same issue often isn’t, and the answers that speak peace to one person’s soul may only wound someone else more deeply. I absolutely love what Margaret Young said on her post about working with Darius–although each of us has some understanding of some version of what it means to be human, each of us ultimately remains a mystery. Paradoxically, I think respect for that ultimate mystery, for what we cannot and never will understand about one another, is the only basis of real dialogue, in part because that respect constantly calls us toward deeper understanding, never allows us the complacency of thinking that we have understood.

    Wilfred’s recent story about Nathalie actually illustrates this nicely, I think. How easy it would be to think the girl’s just stubborn and rebellious and hard-hearted, that all of these lessons and talks and explanations just aren’t getting through to her, she’s just determined to flash her body around in defiance of God and the church and all standards of decency, when–as is so often the case in Wilfred’s wonderful parables–it turns out there’s something else going on, something more.

    When it comes to people, there’s always something more. Always.

  89. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    greenfrog and Eve,
    Thanks for your clarifications. I understand more of what you mean now.

    Eve,
    Just one clarification from my point of view.
    I also have to say that I can’t accept your characterization of people who have questions about the church as unwilling to consider different perspectives than our own.

    I think I was speaking more specifically about personal experiences I have had. Greenfrog was advocating reaching out to the one to seek to clarify misunderstandings, and I was mostly describing what has been my personal experience in trying to do that. Like I said, though, I realize my efforts are imperfect at best. And what I hear you saying is that they are also possibly misdirected, as some are not necessarily unwilling per se, but burned out on hearing the same thing. I suppose patience and an open heart must go both ways then, no?

  90. Eve on September 8, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    I suppose patience and an open heart must go both ways then, no?

    Absolutely :)

  91. Alison Moore Smith on September 8, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    Thinking about the first temple experience…

    I had two reactions:

    (1) Is that it? Either I don’t get it at all…or there’s nothing to get. (I found it was the former.)

    (2) Holy cow! Women can do things in the temple that they aren’t allowed to do outside of it.

    I’ve appreciated all the changes…particularly the hairdo updates.

  92. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 8, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    I suppose patience and an open heart must go both ways then, no?
    Absolutely :)

    Just so you know, in my experience, they sometimes don’t.

  93. Eve on September 8, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    M&M. that has been my sad experience as well.

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