Chains

July 20, 2007 | 90 comments
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We sometimes hear two related but distinct chains of reasoning about the consequences of what are perceived as womens’ natural tendencies.

Chain One: Women are naturally more spiritual than men. Therefore, men need a strong incentive to force them to better develop their spirituality. Therefore, men are given the Priesthood and church leadership.

Men’s primary role in church is thus intended to compensate for their perceived lack of natural ability.

Chain Two: Women are naturally more nurturing than men. Therefore, women should be the primary child raisers, so that children are raised in the most nurturing environment possible.

Women’s role in the home is thus intended to rely on the perceived presence of this natural ability.

Some Questions:

Do either or both of these chains reflect your experience with LDS culture and/or doctrine?

Are either or both of these chains accurate, as a matter of fact?

Are these chains logically consistent? (Can they be reconciled?)

Could we flip the two? For example: Women are naturally more nurturing; therefore men need to stay at home to best develop that trait.

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90 Responses to Chains

  1. TMD on July 20, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Why do either matter? Both are rationalizations for people unwilling or unable to accept the more fundamental answer that women do not hold priesthood offices because the revelations restoring the priesthood have not said that they should hold them.

  2. Greg B. on July 20, 2007 at 11:27 am

    There are no good measures for spirituality, so the first claim is jejune. The second claim is easier to study, but still problematic.

    Because women have historically been the nurturing sex, how can we know whether an innate tendency to nurture drives this behavior, or whether nurturance is the result of heavy exposure to nuturing situations? Here’s what we do know from countless studies:

    Mothers vary widely in their sensitivity to their children. There is no evidence of an innate “maternal instinct” that leads all women to be good nurturers.

    Fathers who are primary caretakers are just as nurturing toward their children as are
    mothers. Men exhibit the same capacity as women in their care taking when provided opportunities.

  3. mpb on July 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

    You’re right, TMD. People probably shouldn’t think too hard about why things are the way they are, much less discuss it with each other.

  4. Alan Jackson on July 20, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Chain Three: The roles of men and women were designed by a perfect and all knowing heavenly father and have been reiterated by our first presidency in the proclamation to the world so we should apply that knowledge to our own lives the best we can.

    Sometimes we should work with the tools available rather than wishing we had different tools.

  5. Alan Jackson on July 20, 2007 at 11:37 am

    #2 There are no good measures for spirituality, so the first claim is jejune.

    Not true at all, while not perfect you can use all sorts of things to measure spirituality because faith without works is dead. How about the percentage of worthy women vs men attending the temple? I know in our area there is a major problem with the male work falling behind the female work being done.

  6. Kyle R on July 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    “Are either or both of these chains accurate, as a matter of fact?
    Could we flip the two?”

    (Sorry but how do I italicise words or lines on this blog?)

    In my experience Chain Two seems very accurate. Women are (in general) very much more nurturing, and need to be the primary child raisers so that this nurture is a constant in a child’s life.

    We could perhaps cheekily flip one element of Chain Two internally, rather than the logic per se.

    Chain One: Women are naturally more materialist than men. Therefore, women need a strong incentive to force them to better develop their spirituality. Therefore, God gave women Motherhood.

  7. Dan Ellsworth on July 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    It is true that there are wide variations in women’s and men’s ability to nurture, but I have no problem attaching generally speaking to the propositions in Kaimi’s chain #2. An interesting illustration of this issue is the Grameen Bank, which only gives its microloans to poor women — not men — with the understanding (proven by experience) that women are far more likely to make decisions in the best interest of themselves and the next generation.

  8. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Contra Greg B., the evidence for something like a maternal instinct is pretty solid. Contra Kaimi W., I don’t think the priesthood is primarily about church leadership. In my mind priesthood and fatherhood are ultimately the same thing, so priesthood is about making sure that fathering has a distinct and necessary place in the home. Church leadership is an outgrowth of that.

  9. Greg B. on July 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Alan,

    Religiosity and spirtituality are distinct–but related–domains. Is the range of spiritual experiences and practices is broader than than behaviors embedded within religious tradition and ritual? Can you think of any other factors (other than differing levels of spirtituality) that may well explain temple attedance ratios in your area?

  10. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 11:55 am

    As a theoretical matter, I think to reconcile claims 1 and 2 you probably accept one of the following claims:

    A) “Spirituality” is easier to learn than nurturing is. In other words, church priesthood functions are likelier to teach men ‘spirituality’ than being the homemaker would teach them ‘nurturing.’
    B) While church service teaches “spirituality”, high levels of ‘spirituality’ is not the necessary prerequisite for church service. In other words, I’m noticing that Claim 1 is a claim about what church service teaches and Claim 2 is a claim about what you need to bring to the table to effectively be the primary caregiver.
    C) The home is more important than church.

  11. Matt Evans on July 20, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I think it’s undeniable that woman are more righteous than men, on average, (I think “righteous” is easier to define than “spiritual,” and for this post serves the same purpose). Like Alan suggests, if we believe that faith without works is dead, behavior matters, and behavior is observable and quantifiable. I agree with Adam about the priesthood, and believe the instrumental value of the male-only priesthood is to involve men in their family and community. (Covenant-first sexuality serves a similar purpose.) I have no idea whether this sociological benefit is the primary reason God reserves the priesthood for men. Here are some facts I wrote in an earlier thread about women being more righteous. Compared to men:

    – women are more likely to convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ
    – women are more likely to attend church
    – women are more likely to pray
    – women are more likely to say Thank You
    – women are more likely to comfort a grieving person
    – women are more likely to hold a current temple recommend
    – women are less likely to sit while watching other people work
    – women are less likely to steal
    – women are less likely to commit adultery
    – women are less likely to assault
    – women are less likely to murder

  12. TMD on July 20, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    mpb:

    My objection is that both chains try to connect the holding of priesthood offices to at best stereotypical characteristics of people who, though certainly striving, remain in imperfect and sometimes quite ‘natural.’ Though perhaps commonly heard, and perhaps in limited circumstances insightful, there is no deep theological reasoning here.

    Moreover, by connecting the priesthood to sterotypes of human characteristics, if one stops holding those sterotypes as valid, it becomes logically difficult, at best, to continue to sustain the underlying revelation. This is problematic, from my perspective, because it privledges human reasoning over revelation and responsiveness to the HG.

    Also, I think so closely connecting the priesthood to these kinds of characteristics to priesthood creates false expectations (themselves ‘chains’ of a different sort) for how priesthood offices supposed to be exercised, at least in some, which may cause them to be more resistant to promptings of the spirit to act differently. This is also undesirable.

  13. Silus Grok on July 20, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Regarding the first: All of the attributes that women are supposed to exemplify are perfectly exemplified by Christ — a man. So either our logic is not fully-realized, our understanding of essential gender is lacking, our language insufficient to express the thoughts. Or, more likely, a bit of each.

  14. Alan Jackson on July 20, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Greg,

    There can always be other factors to explain any fact, that was just an example. I believe that participation in ordinances are an expression of spirituality and so they are linked more closely than you are implying. The correlation is not perfect, there are lots of people that only observe outward commands and there are those who may be very spiritual but for physical reasons beyond their control they cannot participate as much as they would like to.

    Of course judging individual spirituality is a dangerous road, but I don’t think you can dismiss the question of judging related spirituality (of broad groups) out of hand the way you did.

  15. Greg B. on July 20, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Adam,

    I agree that women have historically been the nurturing sex, but how can we know whether the tendency to nurture is natural or a result of social conditioning? Can you provide the “pretty solid” evidence and citations for the nature argument?

    I think you’re spot on with regard to the purposes of the priesthood. It seems to me, too, that priesthood is about making sure men place family first in their lives.

  16. Matt Evans on July 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    “Can you think of any other factors (other than differing levels of spirtituality) that may well explain temple attedance ratios in your area?”

    Women hold more temple recommends than men, and this isn’t due solely to women’s greater life expectancy; women are *more likely* to hold a temple recommend. I’ve never seen it broken down by age group, but I’d guess it’s true of every age cohort except around 19-25.

  17. Jacob on July 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Of course women are more spiritual! That’s why they’re not good at math!

  18. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I agree with Adam about the priesthood, and believe the instrumental value of the male-only priesthood is to involve men in their family and community. (Covenant-first sexuality serves a similar purpose.) I have no idea whether this sociological benefit is the primary reason God reserves the priesthood for men.

    Agreed.

  19. Frank McIntyre on July 20, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    “I agree that women have historically been the nurturing sex, but how can we know whether the tendency to nurture is natural or a result of social conditioning?”

    It is not obvious that this matters. If the social conditioning cannot be undone for a small enough cost, roles may be based on the facts on the ground rather than whether or not such tendencies would exists in some unknown and unknowable “natural” state.

    “Regarding the first: All of the attributes that women are supposed to exemplify are perfectly exemplified by Christ — a man. ”

    Silus, imagine that there is a distribution of righteousness across people– some more righteous than others. It may well be that the average woman is more righteous than the average man. This could still be true even if the most righteous man were male. It would be even easier if male spirituality had a higher variance than female.

    “There is no evidence of an innate “maternal instinct” that leads all women to be good nurturers.”

    Once again, I don’t think an argument based on “all women” is defensible. The average nurturing of men and women can still be quite different.

  20. Eric Russell on July 20, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Does anyone actually believe “chain one” as God’s incentive for male Priesthood? I keep seeing it brought up in the bloggernacle, but I can’t recall ever actually hearing it taught in church. Is there a source for this idea?

  21. Kathryn Soper on July 20, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Spirituality is, in essence, loving God and others.

    I don’t believe for one minute that women are inherently more spiritual/capable of loving God and others than men.

    I believe society and biology and mortality cause that illusion.

    Women nurture children into life, using their bodies. Biology’s default setting is for the mother is the primary caretaker for the child. Women who live the default setting will naturally have a unique bond with the child, and that translates into a more nurturing approach to humanity in general.

    I believe that men and women have different “mortal overlays”– fallen coverings that mask their true selves. After having five sons and two daughters I don’t believe that male aggression/female nurturing is all the work of social conditioning.

    That said, it’s much more socially acceptable for women to behave in nurturing ways. Boys are conditioned out of their inherent compassion much more so than girls are.

    I believe the combo of these situations makes girls/women more inclined to act in loving ways. And this is spirituality. But I don’t believe that men’s hearts have an inherently smaller capacity than women’s. I don’t believe Heavenly Father is one whit less loving than Heavenly Mother.

    Does this mean that women have an advantage over men in mortality? That the combo of circumstances makes it so that they can more easily love others and God here on earth, thus making their salvation easier to come by?

    Maybe, in this one particular instance. But women have tremendous mortal challenges of their own. James E. Talmage said as much.

    Separate but equal, I say.

  22. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Greg B.,

    A great many differences between men and women are brain differences that seem to be driven by hormones that are present even before birth. Sex differences are apparent even in the very, very young. Here’s an article that is obviously not from a social conservative perspective that makes that point:
    http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/gender.html

    From my current state of knowledge, I would say that the argument that sex differences are principally social constructs is equivalent to the argument that we might just be brains in vats, which we cannot refute but is fairly pointless. I suppose it would even be possible to argue that pre-natal hormones don’t refute social construction because parents learn the sex of their children early and engage in different kinds of behavior depending on the sex. However, I have not mastered the literature by any means and I’ve met reasonable, intelligent people who believe in social construction as the prime factor.

  23. Ardis Parshall on July 20, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t buy into either chain. As some have noted, it is necessary to add “generally speaking” in order to make either one tolerably true.

    But ordination to the priesthood is not “generally speaking” — it is absolute, available to an individual man no matter how spiritual and/or nurturing that man may or may not be, and unavailable to any individual woman no matter what incentive or compensation she might need.

    There’s a similiar weakness in tying priesthood too closely to fatherhood. Men receive and exercise priesthood long before they’re fathers, and regardless of whether they ever do become fathers. “Nurturing” is not an equivalent assignment, despite current rhetoric — anyone who equates the value of a childless adult’s occasional nurturing of nephews or Primary classes with the value of a parent’s constant nurturing of a child has a very low appreciation of parenthood and should not have children.

    This is not in any way a call to change practices with regard to priesthood or expectations with regard to providing for/nurturing children. It is only a claim that until our rhetoric includes roles for all of God’s children, whether male or female, parent or not, we haven’t reached a satisfactory understanding.

  24. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    It would be even easier if male spirituality had a higher variance than female.

    Who knows? There are several characteristics on which men do have a higher variance than women, though. I’m not aware of any in which women have a higher variance than men.

    Doctrinally I think there’s a strong case to be made that the basic person is not the individual but the couple, not the union of spirit and body but the union of male spirit, male body, female spirit, and female body. That being so, I would expect that Christ as the exemplar would exemplify a good deal many stereotypically female traits. I should really put up my post sometime about how Gethsemane and the cross show male and female characteristics.

    It may also be true, as Julie S. argues, that marriage does actually work a blend of male and female in that the spouses start to take on each other’s characteristics. I note that there’s good evidence that married men tend to be less agressive, less violent, and so on and there’s a little evidence that this is not just a selection effect.

  25. Frank McIntyre on July 20, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Ardis,

    “But ordination to the priesthood is not “generally speaking” — it is absolute, available to an individual man no matter how spiritual and/or nurturing that man may or may not be, and unavailable to any individual woman no matter what incentive or compensation she might need. ”

    This is a good point. But it turns out that sometimes the benefits of hard and fast rules outweigh the costs. See, for example, the Word of Wisdom– “Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints”. As best I can tell, that is saying that a guideline was issued for all saints, even though it was designed specifically with the weakest in mind.

    Likewise, priesthood ordination may be another general rule that, were it costless, could be adapted on a case by case basis. But to do that in mortality is beyond us, so God gives us a universal rule and we live with it until “that which is perfect is come”. For now we “know in part,” but then we shall know even as we are known and see as we are seen.

  26. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Ardis P.,

    I don’t have a problem with creating absolute distinctions based on significant differences that only obtain generally–some humans are profoundly retarded, worse than beasts, yet we make a categorical distinction between humans and beasts–but I understand what you’re getting at.

    I do think that priesthood and fatherhood really are the same thing. We’ve had this discussion at length elsewhere, but in short my position is that fathers who don’t become priests will be stripped of their fatherhood and priests who don’t become fathers will be stripped of their priesthood:
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=3166
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=2654

  27. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve also noted good evidence that married women tend to be more aggressive, more violent, and so on, but I suspect a definite selection effect in my, or rather, her case.

  28. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Bolt down those frying pans.

  29. Ugly Mahana on July 20, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    “Until our rhetoric includes roles for all of God’s children, whether male or female, parent or not, we haven’t reached a satisfactory understanding.”

    Bravo, Ardis. Thank you for this point.

  30. Jonovitch on July 20, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Greg B. (15), I thought the priesthood was to make sure men spend as much time as possible in church meetings to the detriment of their family. :)

    Jon

  31. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    fathers who don’t become priests will be stripped of their fatherhood and priests who don’t become fathers will be stripped of their priesthood

    Well, I’m glad there’s no confusion about that … links, too. Bonus.

    Still kinda wondering what that means for profoundly sterile men … Or was that covered elsewhere? If so, sorry, my bad.

  32. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    In my opinion, profoundly sterile men will be kept barefoot and pregnant. Wait, sorry, my notecards got mixed up. In my opinion, profoundly sterile men and women who so desire will experience full biological fatherhood and motherhood in the Millennium. Still my opinion, but with more of a basis in doctrine, they will also become adoptive fathers and mothers. Ultimately they will become fathers and mothers the way God is.

  33. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Why the disclaimer? You’re right and we know it. Anyway, rhetoric is practice.

  34. Silus Grok on July 20, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Frank: I appreciate your taking note of my comment, but think I must not have been clear enough… if earthly womanhood is in anyway indicative of essential gender (that vague notion of what it means to be man and woman in the eternities), then it’s odd/counter-intuitive/wrong to say that women are inherently more spiritual than men if that inherency in any way reflects the eternal way of things — especially considering that all of the attributes discussed so often are best exemplified in Christ.

    I understand that men and women may have differing inclinations in reaching this perfect state… but am curious as to the ramifications on what it means to be a man and woman in the eternal sense by such claims.

  35. Greg B. on July 20, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Jon,

    I admit that it’s sometimes nice to have a Priesthood duty to perform or a meeting to attend just to get out of the house! On other hand, my brother-in-law routinely skips mid-week church meetings in favor of “family time.” He’s a better man for it. ;>)

  36. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    #32, gosh, I didn’t see that coming, color me convinced … (and chuckling light-heartedly, and why no smiley-thingamajigs? )

  37. Ardis Parshall on July 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Still my opinion, but with more of a basis in doctrine, they will also become adoptive fathers and mothers. Ultimately they will become fathers and mothers the way God is.

    Yeah, I know. There’s always eternity. But the assignments of priesthood and nurturing that we’re talking about are a mortal reality, and the scheme is incomplete as long as there is no role for childless women in our current understanding of mortality.

    That’s the chief reason I can’t buy into either of Kaimi’s suggested chains. There is no link for me.

  38. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    But wait. That’s not all. Now with even more basis in doctrine, you’ve won your very own …

    Oh, nevermind. Just change the friggin’ rhetoric already.

  39. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm
  40. Thomas Parkin on July 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t buy either. I think they sniff around somewhere in the vicnity of something that is so. But I coudn’t tell you what that something is.

    I think that our arrangements are adapatations to living in the telestial world, and that our best efforts ameliorate rather than transform that basic reality.
    So, yeah, there is always eternity.

    somewhat less the 2 cents, today.

    ~

  41. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Cheers, I’ll follow the links further and catch up, but for now, I’ll just cut and paste what jumped out at me:

    Imagine coming up on Resurrection Morning, marveling in your new body, and then seeing around you the clean-limbed youths you never knew you had.

    I suppose my first reaction would be, well, hi there, who are you?

  42. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    CB, #33, 36, 38:
    Could you elaborate? I don’t know which comment these are in response to or what exactly the response is?

  43. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    That’s the chief reason I can’t buy into either of Kaimi’s suggested chains. There is no link for me.

    That makes sense emotionally, I think. But is it really true that a justification for the priesthood or for motherhood has to include some justification for singleness or childlessness to make sense? That might be true if we didn’t think the plan included a heaping helping of suffering, limitation, and blessings temporally denied, but we do think that. At least I do.

  44. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    We won’t know for sure until God reveals it, but parents raising children in the millennium might make sense of all this.

    I don’t know … I grew up in a Mormonism that taught me that God held back his revealing because the dimmer lights among us just couldn’t handle the truth …

    To recognize a lack of compassion in our rhetoric and practices, and then smother that recognition with apologetics, well, sorry, that smacks of profound retardation in my book. Which is, of course, the nice way of putting it, since I’m guessing all of us here know better, i.e., it’s really got nothing to do with any mental deficiencies … the lack is elsewhere.

  45. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    #33: The comment Ardis made required no disclaimer (“This is not in any way a call to change practices …”) If not, why not? She pegged it.

    #36: I’m not such a tender young thing that I’ll buy all your promises about how it’s going to be in the Millenium. Treat me nice, and we’ll get along, but don’t p*ss on me and tell me it’s raining, OK?

    #38: I’ve followed your links. Sorry, I forgot to bring mine.

  46. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    CB,
    I’ll repost, if you’re interested in having a discussion on it (though I don’t understand your comment at all, frankly). Be we probably shouldn’t threadjack this thread.

  47. Ray on July 20, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I look at this from the meta-level of the question, “What is the purpose of life, and where does gender / marriage fit in this purpose?” The underlying commandment of all (even more fundamental, IMO, than “Love God, self and neighbor.”) is, “Be ye therefore perfect,” with “perfect” being defined as “whole; complete”. In that vein:

    Chain Three: Every man and every woman is deficient in some areas that are necessary to becoming like God. As to gender, there are “primary roles” associated with societal and biological factors, but within marriage these roles and responsibilities are to be shared “as equals” in such a way that each person grows and becomes whole and complete. It is the individual responsibility of each person to overcome his/her deficiencies, and the ideal way to do so is through marital unity. If that ideal is not possible, for whatever reason, the responsibility to become perfect (whole and complete) still must be addressed as well as possible – relying on the Atonement to make up the difference, just the same as for married couples.

  48. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I’m not such a tender young thing that I’ll buy all your promises about how it’s going to be in the Millenium. Treat me nice, and we’ll get along, but don’t p*ss on me and tell me it’s raining, OK?

    Sorry, CB, but #36 really is my opinion of what will happen to profoundly sterile men and women. I’m not changing my mind to placate your sense of grievance.

  49. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Threadjack?

    Heaven forbid

    I will admit to being perhaps overly-concerned with matters of terrestrial happiness, and not giving my fair due to promises of Millennial contentment. Personally, such promises carry as much weight with me as does corporate law, insofar as neither concerns me in the least when faced with questions about our natures, roles and responsibilities in this world.

  50. Lupita on July 20, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Ardis, thanks. I appreciate your comments (and don’t think that they only make sense emotionally : )

    In my experience, I know some wonderfully spiritual women and some vacuous ding dongs. Same thing goes for men.
    I also know some profoundly nurturing men and some women who are seriously lacking in any nurturing skills.
    Anecdotal but still, I think it goes both ways. I don’t find any hard and fast rules.

    I don’t like the idea of priesthood as a compensatory measure. It just doesn’t ring true.

  51. KyleM on July 20, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    It’s not exactly fatherhood that is intertwined with the priesthood, but the patriarchal order. Childless men are still a part of the patriarchal order. Both chains are bunk.

  52. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Adam,

    It isn’t my sense of grievance.

    Got empathy? Or is that too soft a word for us folks who’re tasked with arranging the world?

  53. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    #49,

    If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable.

  54. Ardis Parshall on July 20, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    I agree with all you’ve said, Adam; I believe you’re right. I’m not looking for a justification of singleness or childlessness — I know that neither is the plan, and that both can be overcome in the eternities.

    At the risk of my one-note song becoming shrill as well as tedious, my point, though, is not about singleness or childlessness itself. It’s singleness/childlessness LINKED TO GENDER. In both chains outlined in the original post, there is a recognized role for single/childless men who hold the priesthood. There is no such role for single/childless women. Our model is incomplete.

  55. Chino Blanco on July 20, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    #53: And you wanna talk about placating me? If I agree with you, will that lessen your misery, Brother Valjean? Pardon me if I think I already know the answer to that question.

  56. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Quick admin note here. I’ve been meaning to weigh in, but haven’t had a chance yet — class prep has kept me busy, and teaching will keep me busy for much of the rest of the afternoon. I’ve appreciated many of the comments so far, particularly some of the discussion by Ardis and Adam, and I do plan on weighing in.

    In order to try to keep things from going too far afield, I’m going to temporarily close comments. I’ll reopen later today. Sorry if this causes any inconvenience.

  57. Adam Greenwood on July 20, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Ardis P.,

    I have to agree with you. I don’t think Kaimi W.’s chains are necessarily wrong but they obviously aren’t the whole picture. If priesthood is the form fatherhood takes for men who are not yet fathers, what’s the form motherhood takes for women who are not yet mothers? Even saying ‘be an agent unto yourself to do good’ would be more formalized then anything we know right now. I’m interested to see what’s revealed in coming years.

  58. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Okay, let’s reply.

    I started the thread for a probably obvious reason. On the face of it, the two chains _are_ inconsistent. They posit two different perceived natural tendencies, and from there go in two very different directions in translating those tendencies into practice.

    It would be consistent, for instance, if we said, “men are naturally spiritual, women naturally nurturing, therefore men should run the church and women the home.” It could be criticized on other grounds, but it would be consistent.

    The current two chains — and I have heard them repeated numerous times in conversation with church members — seem to go in very different directions. Why?

    (As an aside — as readers probably know, I have my problems with some of the assertions. That is, I don’t think women necessarily _are_ more spiritual or nurturing or both. However, I meant to focus not on those potential critiques, but rather on the consistency question.)

    The data, such as Dan E.’s, on the question of women’s self-sacrificing nature is interesting. I don’t know whether we can validly say that this shows that women are _naturally_ more nurturing, as opposed to being _conditioned_ to be more nurturing by social norms like the chains this post highlights. (Comments have pointed this out.)

    Adam’s theory (in #8, and in 10, and Matt in 11) seems to go toward a possible reconciliation. Men _are_ less spiritual and less nurturing. Priesthood intends to remedy both of those. And the home is just more important. Alternately, priesthood simply requires less innate spirituality, and more of something else.

    That’s an answer that may not satisfy feminist critics; but it is a logically consistent way to reconcile the two chains.

  59. Kristine on July 20, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Kaimi, I think we all should have learned something about post facto rationales for existing policy from the experience of the withholding of priesthood from Blacks. The answer is really “we don’t know,” and most attempts, including the chains of reasoning you outline, are inadequate and likely to be wrong. Possibly they will someday be as embarrassing as the folklore invented to explain the earlier ban, and we will all wish we hadn’t participated in the speculation.

  60. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    As Ardis points out in #23, these chains aren’t really doctrinal, and in some ways sound like folk doctrine to explain gender roles.

    So maybe the answer to, “do we reconcile these opposing chains?”, is “no, we don’t have to. They’re just folk doctrine anyway.”

    In particular, I liked the lines,

    [Priesthood] is absolute, available to an individual man no matter how spiritual and/or nurturing that man may or may not be, and unavailable to any individual woman no matter what incentive or compensation she might need.

    Frank’s response suggests that the real problem may be customization costs. Sometimes, it’s easier to have hard-and-fast rules than to apply customized analysis to every situation.

    (Which itself raises the question — is Priesthood one of those instances? If so, why? There already _is_ a lot of customization going on in Priesthood. We _don’t_ give the Priesthood to men who drink, men who commit adultery, men who don’t believe in God, and so on. We already do filter _a lot_. Would the added filtering costs really be that high?)

  61. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Ooh! Kristine beats me to the punch with a prophetic mother-etic anticipation of my comment!

    This is probably because she’s more naturally spiritual than I am. And nurturing. :)

  62. Kristine on July 20, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    two words, Kaimi:

    Huldah, Jael

  63. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I’d add that my sense that Ardis and Kristine are on track is bolstered by Ardis’ #54. The chains do implicitly leave out women who do not have children. (Who exactly are those women supposed to nurture?)

    However, Adam and Matt (with some assist from Frank), have, I think, done a good job of setting out a framework that allows for reconciling the two chains (and have done so while avoiding any egregiously problematic assertions, I think).

  64. Kaimi Wenger on July 20, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Kristine,

    What about Deborah? ;)

  65. Silus Grok on July 21, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Two comments, both for Kristine:

    1) Shouldn’t that be Huldah and Jael?

    2) I’m not entirely in agreement with your comment (#59) on post-facto rationales. While post-facto rationales pose problems, I would argue that they are an invaluable part of the Mormon experience. They and other forms of private doctrine form an intricate web between accepted doctrines/notions/beliefs, and stand-in for the lack of a formal Mormon theology. In coming to our own conclusions, we flex our personal spiritual muscles and grow individually and collectively toward a better understanding of God.

    Anyway, it’s late and I hope that made sense.

  66. leftfield on July 21, 2007 at 1:38 am

    Sounds like too much unneccessary BPG (Big Priesthood Guilt), from the male bloggers and the sisters seem to be okay with the fact they can’t hold it.
    Best line in #26: “-some humans are profoundly retarded, worse than beasts…\” Thanks, Adam. I’m going to take that one into work tomorrow to help me cope with my boss.

  67. Matt Evans on July 21, 2007 at 3:41 am

    “we all should have learned something about post facto rationales for existing policy from the experience of the withholding of priesthood from Blacks”

    We’ve always known that our speculations can be wrong, but I think we’d be mistaken if we assumed that, because our reasoning may be wrong, we shouldn’t wonder or discuss why God does what he does. What is God like? Why does He need a day of rest? Why did he have Nephi kill Laban? Why does he sometimes call open Democrats as bishops?, etc. It’s only natural that people would wonder about these mysteries, even though their answers are frequently off, and I don’t see any harm so long as they acknowledge, like Bruce R. McConkie did after 1978, that their theories may be upended by revelation.

  68. Left Field on July 21, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Just for the record, “leftfield” isn’t me.

  69. Ardis Parshall on July 21, 2007 at 9:27 am

    67: Gee, Matt, just when I was becoming reconciled to my mortal fate as a childless woman (feeling that my point was truly understood goes a long way toward reconcilation, and Adam got it here: “If priesthood is the form fatherhood takes for men who are not yet fathers, what’s the form motherhood takes for women who are not yet mothers?”), you raise a specter I hadn’t thought of: “childless woman Democrat,” for which I fear there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come! I may have to invent some folk doctrine to get me past that one …

  70. Russell on July 21, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Whatever the soundness of the the chains doctrinally, we all must agree that these things have been taught RECENTLY by high levelleaders in the faith–men like Jeffrey R. HOlland, Neal A. Maxwell, and even President Hinckley. While I am never fond of post-facto rationales as a basis for theological conviction (then we dabble in the speculation that separates us but precious little from the Greek philosophers), we must nevertheless agree that these \”chains\” do not consist of post-facto rationales but legitimate lines of thelogical thought within the Mormon milieu.

  71. Ardis Parshall on July 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    we must nevertheless agree that these \”chains\” do not consist of post-facto rationales but legitimate lines of thelogical thought within the Mormon milieu.

    No, we don’t. We must acknowledge that they have been taught in some form, and by men with high office, according to their best understanding, but that doesn’t free an idea from being after-the-fact reasoning about an incompletely revealed concept.

  72. Adam Greenwood on July 21, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    These \”chains\” do not consist of post-facto rationales but legitimate lines of theological thought within the Mormon milieu.

    Both, I would think.

  73. Adam Greenwood on July 21, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    #65, 2):

    Well put.

  74. Adam Greenwood on July 21, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    The 1978 revelation on the priesthood did not explicitly preach racial equality. Our assumption that its based on racial equality is a post-facto justification that I have no intention of giving up.

  75. Kristine on July 21, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Matt (67)–you know I enjoy untethered speculation as much as anyone. I get nervous when people are too willing to use their speculations as weapons against others whose speculation they don’t agree with, as in when traditionalists claim that their speculations about women’s nature and the divine designs behind current priesthood ordination policies are “orthodox”, and feminist speculations about why women should be ordained are dismissed as, at best, heterodox (or, more often, wicked and apostate). As long as all such musings are firmly grounded in the sort of humility you suggest, that recognizes the real possibility of being wrong and being imminently overturned by new revelation, then it’s fine and dandy. Alas, my experience suggests that neither side is able to keep its own fallibility in sight very well when it comes to debating gender roles.

  76. Adam Greenwood on July 22, 2007 at 12:06 am

    KHH, there’s a real difference between looking for the rationales for church doctrine and practice (much of it supported by general authority statements) and looking for reasons to contest that doctrine and practice. The two are not on equal footing.

  77. Silus Grok on July 22, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Thank you, Adam.

  78. Mark IV on July 22, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Adam, # 76,

    I’m inclined to agree with your point here, but I’m not sure it gets us very far down the road. Let’s say that three arguments are advanced in support of Church practice X. Isn’t it still possible for some or all of them to be bad arguments? How do we evaluate them? We would need to consider each argument on its merits, separate from the work we want it to do.

    You are no doubt correct that there are people who seek to undermine current doctrine or practice. Do you think that accurately describes most of the participants in the bloggernacle who raise questions? I do not. Rather, I agree with the statement you recently made, that LDS people, whatever their differences may be, share an enormous amount of common ground. When a question is raised I think it is usually an attempt to reconcile testimony and personal experience with the institutional church. I think most people in that situation would actually welcome strong, well-reasoned arguments. The fact the some continue to struggle may be a reflection of their lack of faithfulness or righteousness. Or their struggle might be a statement on the merits of the unconvincing arguments they have heard.

    Finally, in a dynamic church that is committed to ongoing revelation, it is easy for apologists to be wrong, even “spectacularly wrong”, to use elder Oaks’ words. We may find ourselves trying to retrofit steam engines when the church has already moved on to jet propulsion. The Restoration continues forward, but people exit all the time because they are too committed to a doctrine or practice that has been de-emphasized.

  79. Kristine on July 22, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Adam (76), given the changes that have taken place in policies and practices with relation to who holds and exercises priesthood in what manner, I think they are not as different from each other as you say.

  80. Guy C on July 23, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    While doing a consulting job away from home, I met a member of the Bishopric of one of the local wards. The conversation that day was casual, but at one point it turned to the Church and beliefs. It was interesting during this conversation that he made the comment that women are naturally more spiritual than men. I didn’t disagree. That led to his next statement… “Which is why polygamy is such an important concept in the eternities.”

    I asked for clarification. He said more women will achieve exaltation than men – and all those exalted will need an eternal mate.

    Interesting. Women are more spiritual; and more will be exalted. My personal experience supports that theory.

  81. Russell on July 23, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    To Adam and Ardis:

    My experience has been that the instant someone calls a rationale ex post facto, a taint of illegitimacy falls upon the doctrine itself. It smacks of traditional warmaking PR, promulgated by wrongheaded heads of state. If some wish to ascribe such attributes to the leadership of the Church, that is their perogative. But for those who do not accept this paradigm, I would suggest, then, that we be careful in taking too seriously the idea that the apostles are merely high ranking organization men who exert tremendous social influence. Why call ourselves MOrmons if we don’t accept the concept that their words at least carry SOME weight (even if their weight is limited)? After all, as philosopher Richard Weaver argued, ideas have consequences. Granted, Neal A. Maxwell himself once wrote that true doctrines often compete with each other–and, if correct, such a model not only allows but REQUIRES elements of contradiction within our doctrinal system. So when contradictory strains in Mormon thought arise, we ought not concern ourselves; they’re likely both correct when fully fleshed out.

    Personally, I think we would do well to adopt G.K. Chesterton’s parable of the playground. There was once a playground–surrounded by walls–with all kinds of romping, playing, and hollering. Only when the walls fell down did all the children scurry to the center, paralyzed by the fear of intruders. I would submit that the doctrinal systems should air themselves out without merely being relegated post-facto rationales (with the implication white men in business suits.

  82. Adam Greenwood on July 23, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Sir,
    I agree that calling a rationale ‘post facto’ is often used as a pejorative. But I’m not using it as a pejorative. I’m simply recognizing that our practice precedes the explanations we have for it. If those explanations come from those whom God has put in authority, the explanations are authoritative whether they are post facto or not.

  83. madera verde on July 23, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Here’s a thought: Priesthood isn’t equivalent to motherhood in the sense that the priesthood is a mechanism to recieve, for lack of a better word – “fathering” (Perhpas socialization would be a better term) as well as to perform a service. The older males serve as role models because of their leadership positions, thus giving the adolescent males a concrete example of why he would want to repress his natural agressive promiscous urges.
    That explains why young males are encouraged to join the priesthood.
    If women had those leadership positions it would be an oppurtunity lost presumably because the young males would be less likely to choose a woman as a role model.

    Thinking about home/visiting teaching in that light, I would expect that Home teaching would try to pair older/younger companions whereas visiting teaching pairings would not. Does that bear out?

  84. cchrissyy on July 24, 2007 at 1:33 am

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=1263

    Guy C, you need to see this, which begins “One of the most frequently heard apologetics for polygamy is as follows: Since there are more righteous women than men on earth there will be more women in the Celestial Kingdom than men. This imbalance means that, in order for everyone to be part of a marriage, then at least some marriages must have more than one woman in it, that is to say must be polygamous.”

  85. Guy C on July 24, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for the link cchrissyy! Very interesting.

    My wife (who really struggles with the whole plural-marriage concept) and I have had many conversations concerning this issue. Not long ago she made the same comment to me that was commented upon in the last paragraph of the article in the link. That being…

    …”So here’s my question, could Heavenly Father arrange it so that there will be a perfectly even number of men and women in the Celestial Kingdom while still not denying anyone their agency? I’m not wondering whether or not He would do so, I just want to know if He could. If He can’t force anyone into Heaven, and if He can’t ultimately deny us the blessings He’s promised us, then can He still, miraculously somehow work it out so that there is just one mate for everyone?…”

    After reading through some of the responses of that forum, I decided I really liked the one made in #6. The idea that the Celestial Kingdom will not be limited by time nor space, and that ultimately the number of souls to enter CK will be infinite. Therefore, the number of men and women will be equal. ….. Interesting thought process – if you allow your mind to walk down that path.

    Thanks again for that link.

  86. Adam Greenwood on July 24, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    The idea that the Celestial Kingdom will not be limited by time nor space, and that ultimately the number of souls to enter CK will be infinite

    I only play an expert in infinities on TV, but as I understand it, the fact that there are infinite numbers of men and women does not mean that there are equal numbers of men and women. The infinite set of whole numbers is twice as large as the infinite set of even numbers.

  87. gc on July 24, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Ok, I’m certainly no expert on the Gospel / Plan of Salvation / the Eternal Kingdoms / etc (my active time in the Church has been short), so correct me if I’m wrong… But the number of those who will make the Celestial Kingdom will be forever expanding, right? Is the CK (as we know it) limited to just those souls that spent their mortal time here on this Earth? What about others? IE: Since God once was what we are now, and we can become what he is, then isn’t it likely that there are already other Heavenly Father’s to other Spirit Children on other Worlds? And if so, what CK will they go to? Their own? Or is there one that encompasses all?

    Also, on the concept of infinity, if .99999 repeated to infinity is = 1, then it seems possible that two infinite groups – while perceived as being different in number – would equal each other. I think.

    My head is starting to hurt! :-)

  88. AHLDuke on July 25, 2007 at 12:00 am

    I think there is a third chain of thought out there, heavily related to the first but distinct, which says that men are given the priesthood and given exclusive responsibility over some parts of church administration so that they won’t be their natural slacker selves. It does not have so much to do with improving their spirituality as making sure that they carry their load as far as the organization of the church goes. This does not seem to be a strong enough rationale for leaving women out in the cold on the issue and all the pain that this might have caused. But empirically, I think there are cases for and against it. It is hard to draw a comparison with other churches where women are allowed the priesthood, since the concept of a broad lay priesthood is absent. But I have not seen women take over any denominations even when they are ordained. On the other hand, having been in wards in the third world, I can tell you that women’s attendance indicates that they are much more committed to the organization than the men.

  89. cchrissyy on July 25, 2007 at 12:29 am

    guy C,
    Glad you were still here to see that link!

    I don’t know if living women, throughout all earth’s history, have been more righteous. But even if they were, the initial post reminds us that more male infants and children die than female, and more mental disabilities fall on men as well. that’s a lot of “sweet spirits” “not needing trials, just bodies” who are guarneted celestial paradise. I think there will be quite a lot of meeting and pairing off in the postmortal life! For every righteous woman you meet who is unable to find an equally good man, if you want a nutty most-mortal theory to resolve that, don’t think polygamy, think of an ancient child died young whose adult spirit longs for a match!
    sometimes religion just sounds crazy. but seriously- no polygamy.

  90. Guy C on July 25, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Chrissy… It is an interesting topic to contemplate for sure. And complex as well. I don’t know for sure how it will all work out (does anyone know for sure?).

    The Mrs and I discussed it again last night. About the possibilities that the numbers of Men and Women in the CK will be more even than we think. Afterwards she brought up another comment which really made me think. That is… “What about the men who have already been Sealed to more than one woman on this Earth?”

    Anyway, I really do think that at least a part of the 1st Chain is correct. And that is Women are naturally more Spiritual then Men. More righteous? I don’t know. More spiritual? Definitely! But whether or not that is the reason Men were given the priesthood, can be debated for a long time.

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