Are Women More Spiritual Than Men?

August 25, 2007 | 99 comments
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A reader writes:

I heard yet another veteran Education Week BYU religion prof last week say that “women are inherently more spiritual than men.” I really dislike this concept, and don’t know where it comes from. It makes me feel guilty for being a woman who is clearly not up to the level of many church leaders and male scriptural examples when my divine nature should be more in tune ;-) And it seems to be always said by men. Anyway, I wondered if you could post something like that comment and “discuss”–just a thought.

I’ll start with a few thoughts of my own:

(1) I think this sentiment has a very understandable genesis: people (mostly male people) look around and they see (or think they see?) that women seem more “in tune” with the gospel than men. But they discount the effect of socialization–of the fact that women are (usually) culturally conditioned to be quiet, meek, submissive, selfless, etc.

(2) Sometimes this is a priesthood apologetic: the priesthood is viewed as, as it were, training wheels for those poor oafish men who would never learn to behave without it. Women don’t need the training wheels because they are inherently more spiritual. (Note: I think a reasonable if not provable argument can be made that the current priesthood restriction is due to the fact that men need to overcome their socialization.)

(3) This sentiment seems to fly in the face of something Jesus taught:

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:27-28)

In other words, this woman offers a completely culturally appropriate praise of Mary focused on her femaleness. Jesus says, in effect, no, she isn’t blessed because she is female, she (and, presumably, any other woman) is blessed or not blessed based on their choice to follow God.

(4) I don’t like to discount possibilities. I keep it within the realm of possibility that God might have divided all the baby intelligences into two piles and put the more spiritual ones into female spirit (and then earthly) bodies and the less spiritual ones into male bodies. (“It sure would explain a lot,” she snorts.) But if this is true, what is the evidence for it? If the evidence is, “but most of the women I know are more spiritual than most of the men I know,” then one must also consider socialization. If the evidence is, “but that’s why men have the priesthood and women don’t,” then one must consider other reasons (and also the Temple–which we won’t discuss here). But if there is other evidence, I’ll consider it.

(5) I think that those who are convinced that women are more spiritual than men should carefully consider the validity of the evidence that they are using to reach this conclusion and then also consider the risks of their position. Two particular dangers come to mind: that this position lets men off the hook of spiritual development and that it frustrates women by not crediting them for the hard work that they have put into their spiritual development.

99 Responses to Are Women More Spiritual Than Men?

  1. Tom on August 25, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I like that you point out that the idea that the male-exclusivity of the priesthood could be due to males’ greater need for it doesn’t rest on the assumption that men need it more because they are innately less spiritual. Whether or not men’s well-documented lesser propensity for religious observance* is innate or socialized or a combination of both, it would make sense for God to try and tailor the Church to fight against this tendency. Whether male-exclusivity of the priesthood is a good remedy and whether it benefits men to the detriment of women is, of course, debatable, but that’s a different thread.

    *At least my cursory internet browsing of some scholarly work on differences in religious observance convinces me that it’s well-documented and acceptetd that women in many cultures and times tend to be more religiously observant than men.

  2. Kevin Barney on August 25, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Good thoughts, Julie.

    I think the prevalence of this notion among Mormon men is mostly a function of (i) the perception of greater religious observance among women (as noted by Tom above) and assuming that that is a reflection of innate spirituality and not cultural and socialization factors and (ii) the priesthood apologetic that you mention.

    FWIW, I don’t know whether women are more spiritual than men (how would we measure that?), but I don’t think we can simply extapolate from such indicators as church attendance to draw that conclusion. And further, I don’t buy that particular priesthood apologetic.

  3. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Tom and Kevin, I agree.

    One thing that we might want to consider when faced with the easily observable discrepancy between male and female rates of religious observance is the myriad ways in which church is more friendly to women than to men. For example, most testimonies are (at best) a step removed from Oprah–they are about feelings, personal experiences, and relationships. They frequently involve public displays of emotion, often even weeping. No wonder that it seems that 80-90% of testimony-bearers are female. In this particular case, it would be silly to credit the inherently more spiritual nature of women instead of the fact that the medium is more conducive to stereotypical female behavior.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the church started promoting a more masculine form of discourse for testimonies (less emotive, more powerful, more based on abstract belief than relationally developed experiences)–I’d predict the percentages of testimony-bearers would quickly invert.

  4. Emily M. on August 25, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I hate this idea, that women are innately more spiritual. It makes me feel uncomfortable and inadequate. I don’t feel more inherently spiritual than anyone else. I completely agree with Julie’s idea that it “frustrates women by not crediting them for the hard work that they have put into their spiritual development.” I’m not inherently filled with charity just because of my gender. I’m aspiring to be filled with charity, and it takes effort.

    To me the most frustrating consequence of this idea is the doctrinally-dumbed-down talks that women get sometimes, along the lines of–”oh sisters, you’re so wonderful. Wonderful sisters, keep being wonderful and doing all the wonderful things you are doing. When you get discouraged, remember how spiritual you are and how much God loves you for the things you’re already doing.” I listen to those talks, and there’s some truth to them. Our natures are indeed divine (and so are mens.’) I know many people just need to feel God’s approval for their current efforts.

    But listening to them leaves me thinking, what about repentance? Don’t I need to repent too, or am I exempt because I’m female? Doesn’t that natural man scripture apply to me too? Doesn’t my heart need to be changed? Don’t I need to pray with all the energy of my heart for charity? I feel most strengthened as a woman when I hear talks that are founded in the scriptures, that show me how to be a better person, not that tell me how wonderful I already am. I feel the love of the Lord in my life when I see what I need to change and repent of it and do better, not when I give myself daily affirmations.

  5. queuno on August 25, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Church started promoting a more masculine form of discourse for testimonies (less emotive, more powerful, more based on abstract belief than relationally developed experiences)–I’d predict the percentages of testimony-bearers would quickly invert.

    At least in my ward, there has been a tangible shift to such a form of testimony-bearing. Maybe it occurred when an EQ president called out the EQ for never standing and bearing testimony. I think his words were something like, “who cares if your testimonies don’t sound like the RS?! Say what you want to say!”

  6. LRC on August 25, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    If women are innately more spiritual than men, it would stand to reason that this applies evenly across cultures, times and countries — not just to LDS-types. Furthermore, it might be expected that people other than male Mormon leaders would have also made this observation and shared those observations with others.

    So, esteemed, T&S readers, have any of you come across this kind of statement (about women being innately more spiritual than men) in non-LDS spaces? What do Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Lutherans, Southern Baptists, Zoroastrians, Seventh-day Adventists, Pagans, Quakers, Greek philosophers, etc., have to say on the subject, if anything?

  7. Matt W. on August 25, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I think alot of this comes from men like me, who see our wives, see all that they do, see how amazing their relationship with God is, and how willing they are to serve, and we say to ourselves, I want to be like my wife. My wife is more likely to pray (and in surveys, women are more likely to pray than men in General.) My wife is more likely to volunteer help. I’m, on the other hand, more likely to say something crude.

    But I’m gushing now.

    Anyway, I guess men and women are spiritually different more than spiritually better or worse. I guess I don’t know what the word “spiritual” is being loaded with. Also, what’s the word “inherently” loaded with? Do we mean that the eternal spirit of woman has always had a greater capacity?

    Last thought, if the priesthood is some sort of training wheels to bring man up to the level of woman, what is it that woman naturally do that men need the addition to get their. Is it that women are endowed with instincts to nurture and help relationally, and oureternal happiness depends on relationships, and men need the priesthood to develop ourselves into those relationships?

    I have no idea.

  8. Bob on August 25, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    It is hard to counter-post without saying “Julie, you’re wrong”. But I think Julie stacks the deck by making female traits into her spiritual traits. Do we says BY was not spiritual when raining his hell down from his pulpit? Are we saying females may rule in the hereafter because they are more spiritual than males? Are we saying, there are a hundred women in the Church more spiritual that the GAs? Why didn’t God send a Daughter down to “show us the Way”? I’ve seen men put their lives on the line for others..I call that ‘spiritual’. But, I am also man enough to say, one on one, Julie is likely more spiritual than me.

  9. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    “I’ve seen men put their lives on the line for others..I call that ’spiritual’. ”

    Bob, I think you make a very good point with this observation–there are stereotypically masculine behaviors that line up better with spirituality (a nebulous term, to be sure) than some stereotypically female behaviors (being gossipy, backbiting, manipulative, etc.). But I think in day-to-day life, there are far more opportunities to make casseroles than there are to put your life on the line, and that’s why women are often perceived to be more spiritual.

  10. Bob on August 25, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    #6: I think you had it until ” Greek philosophers”. They seemed to like women as the Spiritual Oracles ( See Pythia, Oracle of Delphi).

  11. Bob on August 25, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    #9: I don’t know Julie. It seems in my house, I put my life on the line more often than my wife makes me a casserole.

  12. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Well in our house, people have to put their lives on the line just to eat my casseroles.

  13. Naismith on August 25, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    “Sometimes this is a priesthood apologetic: the priesthood is viewed as, as it were, training wheels for those poor oafish men who would never learn to behave without it. Women don’t need the training wheels because they are inherently more spiritual.”

    I don’t know if this is true for all men. I know it is true for my husband. I wouldn’t call him “oafish,” ever, but somewhat insenstive, yeah.

    If it is not true, my life has been a horrific waste, and I made stupid, stupid choices about how to spend/waste my time and energy. For the last 25 or so years (it was in the early ’80s when I had that insight, which I was stupid enough to believe came as divine ispiration), I have dedicated much of my energy to supporting my husband in his callings because I was foolish enough to think that he needed to learn in that way.

    I was dumb enough to think it was worth it, because he had grown so much. When he was serving in the Elder’s Quorum presidency, he would be kind and patient on the telephone with people that would normally drive him crazy. I thought I finally came to know what “the mantle of the priesthood” looked like: it was the glow on his countenance when he was on the phone. When he served on the High Council, he cried unashamedly, and learned to love the quirks of the people in his assigned congregation. When he was bishop, he would come home and ask me if there was anything he could do to help.

    I have wrangled kids at church alone, gone to various meetings alone, spent most every weeknight alone, and made sure he had four clean white shirts every week. Our deal is basically that whoever doesn’t cook does the dishes, except that when he has to jump up right after dinner, or leave without being able to finish eating, in order to attend a meeting or rush off to the hospital for a blessing, I get stuck with the dishes.

    So thank you, Julie, for pointing out that what a stupid idiot I was, and for making it clear that I have wasted more than half my adult life.

  14. russelfish on August 25, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    The scriptures are filled with very different descriptions of spiritual experiences…everything from wrestling with God to the quiet, still small voice. I’ve always thought spirituality in men and women is very different as well. Men seem to value the duty, knowledge, obedience part of the church… things we understand. The personal, intimate aspects of spirituality are things men don’t like to express in public. I would feel very uncomfortable giving an emotional, weepy talk as Julie describes. Even listening to one makes me a little uncomfortable.

  15. Kathryn Lynard Soper on August 25, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    #13, Nobody’s saying that men don’t need to develop and change. But can you say that he needs to change more than you do, in order to be like God?

  16. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Wow, Naismith, I’m really overwhelmed at your response. I read pretty much everything you write in the bloggernacle and it isn’t like you to resort to such over-the-top rhetoric. In any case, I’m sorry you had this reaction to my post. I wonder if you noticed this sentence that I wrote, (Note: I think a reasonable if not provable argument can be made that the current priesthood restriction is due to the fact that men need to overcome their socialization.).

    To put it plainly: I think your comments about watching your husband grow and develop by magnifying his priesthood are wonderful and true and I’m glad you shared them (although I could have done without the sarcasm directed at me), but I don’t think they have anything to say about whether the growth he needed to get out of his insensitivity (to use your word) was because of things culturally determined or “inherent.” And I can’t imagine why you would feel that you were an idiot for supporting your husband in using the priesthood to overcome his socialization as opposed to supporting your husband in using the priesthood to overcome his inherent nature. What difference would it make what the source of his weakness was?

    russelfish, I find your comment interesting because both the wrestling (Jacob) and the still, small voice (Elijah) were the spiritual experiences of men. In other words, the variety of spiritual experiences recorded in the scriptures seem to be determined by factors other than gender. I share your discomfort with the emotional, weepy talks even tho’ I am a girl.

  17. Bob on August 25, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    “training wheels for those poor oafish men who would never learn to behave” …..Sister Julie…I don’t need training wheels….just a horn.

  18. Ugly Mahana on August 25, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Then, of course, there is the argument that both women and men need to change and repent, but that the two groups will respond to different stimuli in different ways. Thus the division of responsibility pointed out by Naismith.

  19. Naismith on August 25, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    “Wow, Naismith, I’m really overwhelmed at your response.”

    I’m “overwhelmed” at your bringing this topic up yet again, at least the third time in the past few months in the bloggernacle.

    And every time it comes up, we all have to pretend that it can be discussed effectively in this venue. When it fact, our arguments are like shadow puppets. We can’t get to some of the real meat, because discussion here cannot be informed by the temple ordinances, which really do shed a lot of light on the issue of gender differences.

    “I can’t imagine why you would feel that you were an idiot for supporting your husband in using the priesthood to overcome his socialization as opposed to supporting your husband in using the priesthood to overcome his inherent nature.”

    Because of it was mere socialization, he could likely have overcome it by playing with our children, caring for sick children, teaching children to cook, and doing all kinds of nurturing things that would allow him to stay home.

    Only if the lack was something that required him to use the priesthood would he need to be gone, and our family have to make the sacrifices.

    So the point I was making is that one of the positive results of the kind of philosophy the Ed Week instructor espoused was to elicit support from women like me. I’m sure a lot of middle-aged bishop’s wives in the audience lapped it up.

    And since I have invested so much in that system, sacrificing so much of my own desires and comfort in order to allow my husband to serve, I do get a bit defensive when someone says it was unnecessary because it isn’t true that men need the priesthood in order to grow.

    I totally understand how polygamous wives came to be the staunchest defenders of that system. Initial belief is bolstered by years of investment at a high cost.

  20. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Naismith, I never suggested that men don’t need the priesthood in order to grow. (I am happy to assume that God put men into that role to give them growth opportunities.)

    I am simply arguing that the (apparent? real?) differences between men and women’s spirituality (whatever that means) may not be due to something inherent but rather cultural conditioning. I find your assertion that “mere” cultural conditioning could be overcome by playing with children but “inherent” spiritual differences require the priesthood to overcome to be completely lacking in evidence.

    I do agree with you that we’d have a much better conversation in the temple than on a blog, but I’ll take what I can get.

  21. Thomas Parkin on August 25, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    It seems to me pretty obvious that no woman is every woman, and no man is every man.

    And that while there may or may not be general tendencies, two things:

    1. No given woman is necessarily more spiritual than any given man.
    2. The necessity of overcoming one’s nature through grace is universal.

    ~

  22. Ron on August 25, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I wonder if much that is said (like the Education week professor) tells more about one’s own specific experiences and not so much about what general pronouncements can be made. 1) It would be useful to better define “spiritual.” Is it multi-dimensional–is there more than one way to exhibit spirituality? 2) What traits are magnified as one is moved by the spirit, and is it always the same? How do you differentiate between traits that are spiritual and those that are not? 3) In what ways are women and men fundamentally (statistically speaking?) different–do each have different traits that would be spiritually magnified? For example, neurologist/researcher Simon Baron-Cohen contends that the “female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.” (Simon Baron-Cohen, The Essential Difference the Truth About the Male and Female Brain, 2003) If it were true, how would such a thing play out spiritually?

  23. Bob on August 25, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    I like #21: it’s open, simple, and I don’t feel I am in a box. I don’t like #22: It is too closed, I can’t get my head around it, and I dislike ‘hard-wired’, and boys Vs. girls.
    ” It would be useful to better define “spiritual.” With this, I fully agree! There is a heat here I don’t fully understand. I am glad it is being aired out on Julie’s blog.

  24. Matt W. on August 25, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    THe more I read of this, the more bizarre the arguement seems, where one side is arguing that women are “inherently” more spiritual than men, the other arguing that women, if they are more spiritual, are more spiritual due to socialization or culture. The problem though, is that for something to be inherent to women, it need only be in her nature, or implicit within her, or even built into her. But Built by what? Implied how? In her nature from where? Could not socialization bring about this inherent quality? Need it be pre-mortally inherent?

  25. Mark IV on August 25, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Ron, I think you are getting to the heart of it. There are differences between men’s brains and women’s brains, generally speaking. But those differences can only be described as tendencies, and often rather weak ones at that. Since the differences within each group are greater than the difference is between the two groups, we run into all kinds of problems when we try to assign characteristics, good or bad, to people based only on their sex.

    Julie, if I may add another risk to your # 5 – I’ve attended a few sealings of ward members and relatives in the past two years where the sealer, quite belligerently in my opinion, tells the groom to never forget that his wife is superior to him in every way. It isn’t clear to me how the officiators know that, since they know nothing about the two individuals, including how to pronounce their names correctly. Nor am I sure the bride and groom take the unsolicited homespun advice very seriously. But speaking in general terms, a marriage works best when it is perceived by the man and woman as a partnership. A marriage that begins with the idea that one of the parties is simply better than the other is likely to be a bad marriage for both of them.

  26. Julie M. Smith on August 25, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    “I’ve attended a few sealings of ward members and relatives in the past two years where the sealer, quite belligerently in my opinion, tells the groom to never forget that his wife is superior to him in every way.”

    Ouch.

  27. Matt W. on August 25, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    For those that argue that women being more spiritual than men is an LDS only thing:

    here are some general facts

    here is a Barna research study

    A Catholic Perspective

    A UCLA study

    A hindu assessment

  28. Eric Russell on August 25, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    What an interesting topic. It’s amazing this has never been brought up before!

    Here’s something I don’t think I’ve said before – maybe church members say it because G.A.’s occasionally suggest it. And maybe G.A.s have occasionally suggested it because, for them, it’s actually true. As most G.A.s are chosen, I think, for their administrative skills more than for their spiritual prowess, I think it highly plausible that their wives actually are more spiritual than they. They say it, and then everyone starts saying it.

  29. Matt W. on August 25, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Plus the Jewish Rabbinical Literature includes:

    Women have greater faith than men (Sifri #133)
    Women have greater powers of discernment (Niddah 45b)
    Women are especially tenderhearted (Megillah 14b).

  30. Matt Evans on August 25, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    “women are inherently more spiritual than men.”

    It’s hard to argue that women’s superior spirituality, or anything else, is “inherent.” Teasing out the causes of human behavior and temperament is notoriously difficult. As Julie noted, women could be more righteous because of cultural conditioning, though I admit I know of no culture where the men are more righteous than the women (the world over, women do more praying, men do more murdering). The more accurate statement is, “because sociological and anthropological data confirms that women are more religious and empathetic, and men more violent and self-regarding, in all studied cultures, we must recognize that women’s greater spirituality may not be culturally caused, and may stem from biological factors.” It is also important to remind people that even though the average woman is more righteous than the average man, not all women are more righteous than all men. (It never ceases to amaze me how many people confuse those completely different points.)

  31. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Pehaps, as James E. Faust defined it, the answer is actually thay women are really inherently more “feminine” than men.

    Elder Faust said:

    I wonder if you sisters fully understand the greatness of your gifts and talents and how all of you can achieve the “highest place of honor” in the Church and in the world. One of your unique, precious, and sublime gifts is your femininity, with its natural grace, goodness, and divinity. Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each of you possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty. One of your particular gifts is your feminine intuition. Do not limit yourselves. As you seek to know the will of our Heavenly Father in your life and become more spiritual, you will be far more attractive, even irresistible. You can use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy. Femininity is part of the God-given divinity within each of you. It is your incomparable power and influence to do good. You can, through your supernal gifts, bless the lives of children, women, and men. Be proud of your womanhood. Enhance it. Use it to serve others.

    April 2000 GC

  32. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Matt W., you had better duck. Fast. {grin}

    I’m actually one who is inclined to think that maybe the negative reactions to this concept might be a bit overblown. I like what Matt Evans has said. I’d also wonder if it’s possible (just considering it as a possibility) that the prophets talk about women’s inherent characteristics because there might actually be something to that. What if (just what if) they as prophets know something we don’t, that perhaps there is something special inherent in our womanhood? Pres. Faust calls it God-given divinity. It’s certainly not that men don’t have God-given traits and abilities, either, but I guess I won’t ever fully understand why the possibility of something inherently spiritual in womanhood (speaking generally and not exclusively, see Matt Evans again) seems to elicit such vehement responses wanting to counter that possibility. I think we all recognize there are limitations to whatever gifts or talents or characteristics that might come as part of our divine nature. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Why is it so offensive to consider that perhaps women are given a special piece of divinity to perform their work as primary nurturers and helpmeets?

    s blessed or not blessed based on their choice to follow God.

    Can’t this be true even if we have inherent traits or gifts as well? Would we deny that we each are given gifts from God, inherent in us, but whether they are developed or meaningful or helpful to the work depends on if we choose to follow God? I guess I don’t see the critical element of following God as precluding the possibility that women have something special given to them, if only in seed form dependent on the decision to follow God.

    Now excuse me while *I* go duck!

  33. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 12:27 am

    Matt Evans:

    It isn’t clear to me, though, that even when we allow for biological factors, those factors are part of our eternal nature. Couldn’t biological factor be simply part of mortality?

    Matt W.:

    If I complimented my wife for her delicacy, charm, and radiance, she would deck me.

  34. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 12:35 am

    m & m: not sure why I should duck. All I’ve said is that there is an obvious difference between masculinity and femininity, that “inherent” means anything “built in” whether it be built in by nature or nurture or both, and that the idea that only LDS people consider women more spiritual is false. Many people in many religions have made this claim.

    Mark IV: If your wife decked you for calling her charming and radiant, or for treating her as if she were as sumptious as a delicacy, then I would consider that her mode of foreplay.

  35. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 12:45 am

    For anyone who thinks this “women more spiritual idea” is just late 20th century apologia in Mormonism:


    “Surely the secret citadel of women’s inner strength is their spirituality. In this they equal and even surpass men, as they do in faith, morality, and commitment when truly converted to the gospel. They have ‘more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word.’ This inner spiritual sense seems to give them a certain resilience to cope with sorrow, trouble and uncertainty.”

    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:120

  36. queuno on August 26, 2007 at 12:47 am

    I don’t have enough background to analyze Simon Baron-Cohen’s work, but frankly, I’d rather hear from his cousin, Sasha.

  37. Greg B. on August 26, 2007 at 12:47 am

    By definition, women are more feminine than men. The characteristics of femininity, however, are socially constructed. For example, masculinity, too, with its “natural grace, goodness, and divinity” can find expression in a greater capacity for love, spirituality, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. Women have intuition, men trust their gut. I teach my sons and my daughter to “use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy.”

    I’m surprised that Elder Faust said that lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes are part of femininity.

  38. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 12:49 am

    m&m,

    I try to keep my responses non-vehement. Can you (or anybody else) explain what is righteous or spiritual about being delicate or radiant or creative or having intuition? Those seem like neutral things, like having red hair or being left-handed. Is a non-radiant person who lacks intuition in big trouble at the final judgement?

    What if (just what if) they as prophets know something we don’t

    Good question. But then the next question is: why don’t they tell us what they know? I think Pres. Faust attempted to lay out how he thought women are spiritually superior, and he enumerated some qualities. But his statement just raises even more questions. And if those characteristics are essentially female, how then can they differ from one woman to another, as he says?

    And by the way, I think you’re trying to steal a base. In fact, I think you’re trying to go first to third. There may well be different characteristics that suit us to be mothers and fathers. I accept the possibility that those differences may exist. But when you say this:

    perhaps women are given a special piece of divinity

    are you trying to claim that, because of their femaleness, women have more divinity than men?

  39. Matt Evans on August 26, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Mark (#32), I understood the Education Week instructor to be saying that women are inherently more spiritual here on earth, i.e., in their biological mortal form. I agree with your implicit argument that we can’t make inferences about our eternal nature from our biological characteristics.

  40. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 1:04 am

    MArk IV, I find it interesting that you are accusing M&M when you are the one cherry picking Elder Faust’s quote to avoid half the characteristics he enumerates. So why don’t you want to talk about women being more sensitive, or quitly strong, or grascios, or having a greater capacity to love? And if a woman’s “intuition” is connected to her ability to discern spiritual things, isn’t it important in the grand scheme of things? Not very neutral then, is it?

    You really don’t know what’s spiritual about creativity? And what does radiance to you? I know women who radiate christlike love.

    Finally, If divinity is an interdependent relationship between men and women, I’d think women could have different but equally important “divine” components than men. If there were not different but equally important components, diviinity would not require interdependent relationships, but only independence.

  41. z on August 26, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Aww, Naismith, it’s sad to see you so troubled by this. If your husband experienced personal growth, he did so regardless of whether men as a group are more or less spiritual than women, right? Can’t it have been worth the effort just because growth is good? Would you really have not supported him as much if you thought men were as spiritual as women?

  42. Ray on August 26, 2007 at 1:09 am

    I also like how Matt Evans phrased it in #29. Some stereotypes are patently false, but many are based on nearly universal observation. In this case, the idea has been expressed plainly in widely divergent cultures and ages – so it is reasonable to assume some degree of legitimacy. One question left unanswered is the definition involved in how we perceive the statement – and if our definition is different than what the other cultures and ages asserted. If our definitions of “spirituality” differ, but we are using our modern definition to argue against a different historical definition, then we are setting ourselves up for irreconcilable conflict and misunderstanding. In essence, that is like saying, “That might have been an accurate way to say it back when you defined spirituality differently than we do now, but now that we define spirituality differently than you did then it no longer is accurate.” Talk about circuitous.

    Short answer, I think we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing before we try to decide whether women are more “spiritual” than men.

    How’s this for controversial: IF women really are more spiritual than men, and IF that is due to cultural conditioning more than an inherent, divine gift, THEN . . . should we encourage women to return to the more traditional role that apparently led to increased spirituality – or encourage men to assume the traditional role of women for a generation or so to allow cultural conditioning to make them more spiritual – or not do so in order to avoid lessening the spirituality of women as they assume the traditional male role – or any number of other “solutions” that social scientists might concoct. How about if we accept “primary roles” and encourage couples to help each other in these roles as equal partners – essentially tackling both traditional roles together as one?

    Wait; someone suggested that last option already.

  43. Geoff J on August 26, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Interesting discussion Julie. It inspired me to put up a spin-off post seeking to define the word “spiritual”.

  44. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Matt W. # 39,

    Sorry, didn’t mean to cherry pick. I just tossed out the ones that don’t make sense to me, that’ s all. I think Greg B. in # 36 has already taken care of the the rest of your argument in a pretty thorough manner.

    I’d think women could have different but equally important “divine” components than men.
    .
    Absolutely, Matt. But isn’t that exactly the point? Men and women have more or less equal measures of divine characteristics, even though their roles in mortality may be different. I just don’t see how the notion of eternal female superiority can be can be reconciled to Mormonism.

  45. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 1:31 am

    That’s fair Mark, but I simply don’t know how you can read “eternal female superiority” into “women are inherently more spiritual than men.”

    This is like saying Danny was born into a situation where, by either nature or nurture, he is inherently more naturally talented at basketetball, but Johnny practices everyday and Danny never does. Thus Johnny can beat Danny at basketball.

  46. Ron on August 26, 2007 at 2:48 am

    This will probably sound “out there,” but here is a place someone might listen to this idea that has occurred to me:
    Many systems of thought, whether religious, scientific, etc., are set in duality–there are opposite poles–and ideas are generated and defined in relation to these poles. Is femaleness / maleness a fundamental duality, or is it something more arbitrary that occurs closer to the surface of things? The idea of superiority of female or male (spiritual or whatever) might not be meaningful if we are dealing with a “fabric of reality” type of issue.

  47. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 2:56 am

    Matt, # 44

    I simply don’t know how you can read “eternal female superiority” into “women are inherently more spiritual than men.”

    Hmmm. I guess I don’t see any other to read it. I understand inherent to mean something that came with us from the premortal life, and is therefore an essential part of our nature. The analogy to basketball isn’t helpful to me, because I hear female superiority invoked precisely as the reason women don’t have to practice – they’re already better.

  48. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 3:18 am

    Thanks, Matt W and Ray, I agree with your thoughts. (I love this one: “Finally, If divinity is an interdependent relationship between men and women, I’d think women could have different but equally important “divine” components than men. If there were not different but equally important components, diviinity would not require interdependent relationships, but only independence.”)

    I’m also glad Geoff put up a post on defining spirituality, too, because I agree that it might be easier to talk about it if we actually knew what we mean when we determine what it means to be ‘more spiritual.’

    This one I want to respond to:

    I hear female superiority invoked precisely as the reason women don’t have to practice

    Interesting. Nowhere (at least nowhere official) have I heard it said that women get a pass on faith, repentance, ordinances and enduring to the end. Nor on the whole do all you can do everyday kind of practice. Good grief, if my roles as wife and mother and sister and friend and daughter and neighbor and VTer and whatever-my-calling-is-right-now-er and stranger don’t demand that I practice my faith, what’s the purpose of it all? If my daily scriptures and prayer aren’t practice, why haven’t I gotten a pass on that? In short, if I don’t have to practice, why on earth do I bust my backside every day to try to be good and do good? {grin}

    I wonder if you may have heard this “women are more spiritual than men” thing as a “reason” why women don’t have the priesthood (which is sometimes explained as practice, maybe?), but I think any woman would tell you that there are PLENTY of ways to ‘practice’ and grow spiritually in our lives that don’t involve priesthood duties. And I just don’t see any of our leaders suggesting that women get a pass on their Christian and covenant responsibilities.

    And just so that it’s clear, I’m not shutting off the possibilities of what Julie and others think about this topic. But I think we ought to not shut off the possibility that perhaps there is something more to it, perhaps even more than biological. So when Mark asked “are you trying to claim that, because of their femaleness, women have more divinity than men?” my response is that I am not at the point of wanting to claim anything. I just want to explore possibilities rather than jump to the assumption that we can argue away this statement that does show up more than once in our teachings. Like Matt W. said, it’s not just a 20-21st century thing, either. I’m just not so quick to want to dismiss it all just because it may not make sense, or may seem offensive on the surface, or perhaps because of our cultural training or perspectives.

  49. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 3:24 am

    p.s. I also don’t think this ought to be thought about in terms of who is better, because spirituality is not supposed to be a competition. Perhaps it’s about recognizing whatever potential we might have, just as patriarchal blessings might let us know what piece of divinity we might have and need to develop by turning to Christ, practicing, and all of that. Our gifts, whatever they may be, are not supposed to be for our own profit anyway, but for the glory of God and the service of others.

    Hence,
    The analogy to basketball isn’t helpful to me, because I hear female superiority invoked precisely as the reason women don’t have to practice – they’re already better.

    seems to me to sort of miss what spirituality is supposed to be about. I don’t see it as about wanting to ‘be better,’ than someone else, but about about doing God’s work and becoming more like Him.

  50. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 3:46 am

    I also don’t think this ought to be thought about in terms of who is better, because spirituality is not supposed to be a competition.

    Well, then we agree with each other. So, m&m, what do you say to the BYU religion professor who says that women are more spiritual?

  51. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 3:54 am

    I think we’d need to go back first to figure out what ‘inherently more spiritual’ means. I guess I would want to ask that professor that question. (I’d frankly be interested to know who said it, cuz I’m the type who would consider just calling him up and asking!)

    Shall we all take a meander over to Geoff’s post? {grin}

  52. comet on August 26, 2007 at 4:30 am

    I think Julie did a good job at the outset listing some of the ways we think men, women
    and spirituality.

    But I think #42 got it right that “spirituality” needs some definition controls here.

    I’d be interested to know if a woman, upon hearing these kinds of statements, has ever had a clear confirmation from the spirit that yes indeed she is spiritually superior to a man by virtue of her being a woman? Any takers?

  53. Matt W. on August 26, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Mark #47, I have already talked about the way I view ‘inherent’ in #24, but assuming it is some sort of pre-mortal disposition to be more spiritual, and not something which comes from genetics or memetics (which I guess you could argue that those things are divinely predestined anyway, which is just as unknown), we would still need a proper definition of ‘spiritual’ to get this done. If we set up ‘spiritual’ to mean ‘not needing to be a member of the pristhood hierarchy as it is set forth outside of the temple’ then not only are women more spiritual, but women are spiritual and men are not at all, in the LDS mainstream view. Obvioously, such a definition doesn’t really make sense.

  54. Mark D. on August 26, 2007 at 10:43 am

    I do not see how you can get a clear answer with such a nebulous term. One might do better to start with questions on individual attributes, such as:

    Are women typically more [temperate, patient, kind, charitable, humble, trustworthy, honest, loyal, diligent, sympathetic, friendly, helpful, steadfast, ...] than men are?

    I would, however, agree with the proposition that “Women are more spiritual than men” implies “women are more righteous than men” for any proper definition of the term “spiritual”. Any definition of increased spirituality that does not correspond with actual behavior seems either impossible to measure or largely irrelevant.

  55. Bob on August 26, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Inherently..Basketball: I remember a coach asked if he would rather have fast players or tall ones? “I’ll take tall. Because at the end of the game, the tall are still tall, but the fast are no longer fast”. #47: If females start off “taller’, and even if men practice as hard, in the end the female still has the edge.

    If everyone is so ‘open minded’ on this, why has no one posted males are more spiritual than females? Or, has the vote already been taken?

  56. Julie M. Smith on August 26, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Re #27–interesting observation, Eric Russell.

    Re #29–Matt your point about averages is interesting to me. I think I could sign on to statements about inherent spirituality a lot more easily if there was some acknowledgment that many individuals are landing in weird places on the bell curve, but then the problem becomes: why are we making statements that aren’t true for many people?

    In #33 m & m asks, “Why is it so offensive to consider that perhaps women are given a special piece of divinity to perform their work as primary nurturers and helpmeets?”

    First, I don’t think anyone here is offended. (But I do think use of the word ‘offended’ is often Mormon code, but that’s a topic for another post.) To get to the issue, I don’t have a problem with what you stated, but I don’t think “a special piece of divinity to perform their work” is synonymous with “inherently more spiritual than men.” To me, “special piece” implies difference while “more spiritual” implies “better.” Women are not better than men, although they are different for a variety of reasons.

    In #41, Ray writes, “In this case, the idea has been expressed plainly in widely divergent cultures and ages – so it is reasonable to assume some degree of legitimacy.”

    Do you really want to argue that ideas that have a toehold in many cultures must be accurate?

    In #43, Mark IV quotes Matt and then responds:

    “I’d think women could have different but equally important “divine” components than men.
    .
    Absolutely, Matt. But isn’t that exactly the point? Men and women have more or less equal measures of divine characteristics, even though their roles in mortality may be different. I just don’t see how the notion of eternal female superiority can be can be reconciled to Mormonism.”

    Bingo. I have no problem with the idea that (most) women come to earth with a different set of strengths/weaknesses than (most) men, in order that traditional roles (motherhood, priesthood) will be able to utilize their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. (Although truth be told, both my husband and I are hanging out in the teeny ends of our gender bell curves, but we like each other, so good enough.) But to suggest that women have “more” or “better” than men does not follow. Can we settle for “different”?

    In #47, m & m writes, ‘Nowhere (at least nowhere official) have I heard it said that women get a pass on faith, repentance, ordinances and enduring to the end.”

    No, you don’t hear it stated, but if you analyzed General Priesthood versus General RS talks, you would easily find that men are usually _commanded_ to CHANGE and women are usually _praised_ for what they ARE.

    m & m also writes, “Good grief, if my roles as wife and mother and sister and friend and daughter and neighbor and VTer and whatever-my-calling-is-right-now-er and stranger don’t demand that I practice my faith, what’s the purpose of it all? If my daily scriptures and prayer aren’t practice, why haven’t I gotten a pass on that? In short, if I don’t have to practice, why on earth do I bust my backside every day to try to be good and do good? {grin}”

    Can’t you see–at least a little bit–how what you state here is incompatible with the idea that women are spiritually superior to men? If they really were, shouldn’t you be working LESS hard than your husband to reach the same level of spirituality? (Or are you working so hard so you can lap him? grin)

  57. Julie M. Smith on August 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Two more thoughts:

    (1) Several of you have complained that this topic is overdone. Two responses:
    (a) My title wasn’t exactly opaque. If you aren’t interested, don’t read it and by all means, don’t comment.
    (b) I find it ironic that we have people who complain about elitism in the bloggernacle while others (or the same people?) then complain when I take on a topic that a reader requested. It is true that I probably wouldn’t have posted on this if left to my own devices because we have had this conversation before, but I did it out of deference to the wishes of someone who was interested in talking about it.

    (2) I’m wondering what those of you who do believe that women are inherently more spiritual than men think is the purpose or function of mentioning it. We don’t have the Ed. Week talk, so I don’t know what the context was, but I’m trying to imagine situations where it would be useful to teach this idea.
    –It isn’t useful if you are trying to praise women, because you don’t feel praised for something you had no control over.
    –Similarly, it isn’t useful if you are trying to motivate women, because, again, of the control issue.
    –Again, not useful for motivating men–likely to discourage them. (Ask me to make a freethrow, remind me that I’m 5-1, and see how I do.)
    –Naismith mentioned that the idea helped her to feel good about the sacrificed she had made for her husband. But I, and others, pointed out that we should be willing to sacrifice to help our spouses grow regardless of the origin of their weakness.

    The point is that I may be more amenable to this idea if I could see any good fruit coming from its tree. But what I see is that it is used to let men off the hook and to deny women credit for hard work. Given what has been said about the law of averages (What percentage of women do you think are “more inherently spiritual” than Jesus?), I just don’t see where it would ever be useful to teach this idea, given the variability of the audience and the unlikelihood that anyone will be spurred to better behavior by knowing/thinking this.

  58. Tom on August 26, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    When all is said and done the origins of and reasons for differences between men and women don’t matter as much as how we deal with those differences. Given that there are, in fact, clear differences between men and women as groups here on this earth (men are less likely than women to be religiously observant in ways that are measurable; men are much more likely than women to commit the most serious sins like murder and other violent sins) it makes sense for God to treat men and women differently here on this earth in order to help them in the ways that they need help, whether the reason they need different things is that they came to this earth with different abilities and tendencies or that human societies have created these differences. Either way, God’s prescription would be the same, wouldn’t it?

  59. Ugly Mahana on August 26, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    So often I see this conversation go towards whitewashing the differences between men and women. I am glad to see that here the focus has been not so much on differences themselves, but rather a debate about whether the differences make a group superior. I agree that to hold that one set of divine attributes is superior to another does not make much sense, and probably does not motivate repentance and rightousness. On the other hand, denying that differences exist leads to a one-size-fits-all discussion that fails in other respects. I like the question implicit in #56, why do leaders and speakers so often praise women for being innately spiritual. I would ask it constructively, however. What positive purpose is there in either recognizing or praising female spirituality in the Church?

  60. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    True enough Tom, but the key phrase you are using is “on this earth”. When we talk about divine nature and characteristics, though, don’t we usually mean something that came with us from the pre-mortal life and which will, presumably, go with into the afterlife? Our doctrine of gendered spirits probably requires us to think beyond mortality.

  61. Kathryn Lynard Soper on August 26, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    What positive purpose is there in either recognizing or praising female spirituality in the Church?

    It hasn’t yet been mentioned that perhaps women’s spirituality is praised over the pulpit so often because the GAs are aware that many, many women are excessively guilt ridden. Whether it’s biologically based or culturally conditioned, women seem to have what my friend’s husband refers to as a “guilt gland.”

    All of us need both affirmation and exhortation. Those of us who are good at only one of these have a greater need for someone else to provide the other. Perhaps women, as a group, tend to be long on self-exhortation and short on self-affirmation.

    So I don’t think the prophets necessarily emphasize women’s gifts because women are more gifted. I think women simply need more reminders from authority figures that they are worthwhile. This is especially true within the church, where many of us rely heavily on authorities to tell us what time it is.

  62. Aluwid on August 26, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    To paraphrase the possibility that you mentioned in thought #4: women are women because they were more spiritual. To me it makes more sense to say that women are more spiritual because they are women. Or in other words, the differences between women and men cause women to tend to be more spiritual.

    What differences? Well we really can only talk about physical since we don’t really know anything about the spiritual differences. So the two physical factors that seem to me to contribute would be pregnancy and lower physical strength. Both of these two factors will cause women to turn more to others for physical protection and security (than a man would). This physical dependency will tend to result in some degree of submission to those that provide the protection. Now submission, when referring to women, is a bad word in modern society, but remember that Christ has taught us all that we must become as a little child. To me that means that Christ wants us to be submissive – towards God. It seems reasonable that someone that is more submissive in general will find it easier to manifest that same characteristic towards God, resulting in a higher level of default spirituality.

    To turn it on it’s head, when you think of the typical “Alpha Male” do you think such a person has the necessary characteristics that Christ is describing when he says to be like a little child? Or instead is he the perfect candidate to be humbled as the Nephites repeatedly experienced in their pride cycle? And after the humility and submission comes the repentence and righteousness.

  63. Ray on August 26, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Julie (#55), I do want to recognize that there is “some degree” of legitimacy in some stereotypes, because admitting that base is what allows us to look for ways (like examining definitions) to understand what is legitimate and what is not – and, therefore, to look for ways to overcome the stereotype and raise the “spirituality” of those who historically have been judged to be less spiritual. I think denying “some degree” of legitimacy leads to knee-jerk rejection of thoughtful consideration, and thoughtful consideration often is the catalyst for deeper, fuller understanding and the ability to change and grow.

    Kathryn, I agree completely with #60. If I were asked to describe a stereotypical couple with whom I have counseled over the years, it would be the following:

    Husband is perhaps a little too self-uncritical; wife is much too self-critical. He really doesn’t need to be praised much, since he really doesn’t care much what others think. She needs recognition of her efforts, since she is more likely to dismiss them as inconsequential and unworthy without recognition. Much of this, I’m sure, is culturally conditioned, but I also am convinced that much of it is biological.

    When you add the natural tendency in the world to equate title and “position of authority” with worth, I think it is perfectly understandable that many women (the “average” woman?) need to feel like their spirituality is appreciated by the men in their lives (including their Church leaders) – even if it means we end up discussing the validity of what might be a bit hyperbolic. I know I would rather talk with my wife about why she actually might not be as spiritual as everyone thinks than have to talk with her about someone saying men are more spiritual than women. That would be a nightmare. :-)

  64. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Can’t you see–at least a little bit–how what you state here is incompatible with the idea that women are spiritually superior to men?

    Maybe, maybe not. I think it all goes back to how we define what it means to be ‘more spiritual.’

    And, Julie, sorry for the use of the word ‘offended.’ I actually think some people are (given other conversations about this topic), but perhaps I’ve read too much into it.

    The point is that I may be more amenable to this idea if I could see any good fruit coming from its tree. But what I see is that it is used to let men off the hook and to deny women credit for hard work.

    Can you expound a little more on this? I actually don’t understand how this concept could let men off the hook. If they were “less spiritual” wouldn’t they have to work harder? And just because we have gifts (any of us) does that deny the need for hard work?

    Also, should we be seeking credit for hard work? Aren’t all our abilities from God anyway? Again, I’m still working through my thoughts on the concept itself, but some of these arguments against the possibility don’t really click with me.

    Possible good fruits (playing with the assumption for a minute that it might be true): Could it help some men consider that women in their lives have something to offer them in their priesthood roles (particularly in the family, but also in the Church)? I think there are still some men out there who think that because they have the priesthood, their viewpoints and feelings and thoughts trump. So if it brings some levelness to the playing field, it might not be all bad. (It should be true if it’s said, so I realize that is the point of this discussion, but I’m trying to get at potential good that could come from this tree.)

    I think Kathryn has hit on another potential positive…helping women not beat themselves up. I see it less as praise and more as encouragement. I’ve never felt insulted or that my hard work was not recognized when comments like this are made.

    I also think that some women equate priesthood with more righteousness, so there is that potential counterbalance there (which I know is unpopular, but this IS a reason some women want or need reinforcement from the pulpit.) They see men doing their priesthood stuff, and being told that having the power and authority of God is a big deal, and some wonder, “What about me?”

    I’m going back and trying to find instances of this concept, and so far, what I’m seeing is not a women vs. men setup, but just a reinforcement of the fact that women do have divine gifts inherent in their womanhood. Could it be possible that those ideas have been morphed into a competitive concept that maybe wasn’t meant to be?

  65. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    An example:

    Of this you may be certain: The Lord…loves righteous women—women who are not only faithful but filled with faith, women who are optimistic and cheerful because they know who they are and where they are going, women who are striving to live and serve as women of God.

    There are those who suggest that males are favored of the Lord because they are ordained to hold the priesthood. Anyone who believes this does not understand the great plan of happiness. The premortal and mortal natures of men and women were specified by God Himself, and it is simply not within His character to diminish the roles and responsibilities of any of His children.
    (M. Russell Ballard, “Women of Righteousness,” Liahona, Dec 2002, 34)

    Elder Ballard also talks about some of the nature that might be more ‘inherent’ in women (virtue, valor, sacrifice, love, “spiritual strength and tenacity”). Given what he said before, I would assume that he wasn’t making women better, just reinforcing the fact that we play an essential role in God’s work. He also talks about what the Lord expects from women. Hard work is expected from all of us.

  66. Geoff J on August 26, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    m&m: Hard work is expected from all of us.

    And therefore…

    a) Women are not more spiritual than men?
    b) Women are more spiritual than men?

    Seems like a) wold be the natural choice but you seem to be very resistant to accepting a) so I am confused by your position in this thread.

  67. m&m on August 26, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Geoff, that may be because I am in the mode of sorting through this concept and trying to figure out 1) what it might mean 2) if it has validity 3) if so, why? and 4) if not, why not? In other words, I don’t think I have a position, other than not being convinced that Julie’s position is correct (or at least not being convinced by her reasoning). Not that I can’t be. {grin}

    That said, I don’t think that gifts we might have, or spiritual inclinations we might be given, either as a consequence of our gender or simply because we are each endowed with different gifts, would or do preclude any of us from hard work. So I don’t see a “therefore” leading right to a) as you seem to.

  68. Julie M. Smith on August 26, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Re #60–very well stated, thank you.

    Re #63: I think the excuse works something like this: “Well, of course the HT numbers are in the toilet–what can you expect from the EQ?” (I agree with you that it _should_ work to motivate men to try harder, but I think the ‘off the hook’ danger exists as well.)

    I think you make a very good point that if it led men to regard women’s thoughts more highly, that would be a good thing. I wish I saw some evidence that this is actually what happens, though. (Again, it would be nice to have a text of the talk that started all this.)

    m & m writes, “:Could it be possible that those ideas have been morphed into a competitive concept that maybe wasn’t meant to be?”

    Good point. You are the best quote-looker-upper I know, and I’m curious about what you find. I hear Pres. Faust and Elder Holland talking about women’s divine gifts, but I don’t hear the competitiveness or general across the board “women are better overall than men” from general leaders (the BY quote is an exception, but there you go.) I think that is a twist that comes out of the trenches.

    Elder Nelson says, ‘The premortal and mortal natures of men and women were specified by God Himself, and it is simply not within His character to diminish the roles and responsibilities of any of His children.”

    I think believing women are inherently more spiritual than men is a direct contradiction of this.

  69. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Comet’s suggestion in # 51 reminds me of the polls I’ve heard about regarding public schools. Almost everyone decries the sorry state of affairs in public schools generally, but almost everyone is also happy with their own neighborhood school.

    It is easy for us to talk about men and women in general and to conclude that men are reprobates. But how many women are there who are willing to step up and say that they are better than their husbands?

  70. Julie M. Smith on August 26, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Mark IV, that won’t work since women are more humble than men. :)

  71. Mark IV on August 26, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Julie, good one.

    “I don’t hear the competitiveness or general across the board “women are better overall than men” from general leaders”

    The talk from Pres. Faust that Matt W. quoted from April 2000 conference is entitled “Womanhood, the Highest Place of Honor”. It isn’t very much of a stretch to get from there to the religion prof at Ed week.

  72. Ray on August 26, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Julie, I’m speechless. (Laughing too hard to speak.)

  73. Bob on August 26, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    I think what throws all of the above off is the ‘sample’ is too small. The question should have been limited to: Are active Mormon women living within a Mormon Priesthood relationship more Spiritual than their active Mormon men who hold that Priesthood.?” This is less than 1% of the males/females that have lived on the earth.
    A billion Muslims or a billion Chinese (also part of God Plans), have a different male/female dynamic in their lives, unrelated to a Mormon’s way of life.

  74. J Hill on August 26, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    I\’m curious to know if \”a reader\” who suggested the topic feels better about the subject after this discussion.

  75. christopher johnson on August 26, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    My roommate comments that this is a myth, similar to the myth that men have a naturally more difficult time following the law of chastity. Even though the supreme court ruled that separate is not equal, it’s more logical to imagine that the spiritual challenges for the genders has been pretty well set and equalized by a higher court.

  76. Ardis Parshall on August 26, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    #73: I appreciate your wanting to reduce the number of variables in the question, Bob, but your model doesn’t work either, even within the narrow framework of temple worthy Mormons..

    Apparently, more single women raised in the church remain temple worthy (or however you’re measuring spirituality, within the context of “a Mormon’s way of life”) than do single men raised in the church. You could dismiss that imbalance by saying that “there are more spiritual women” rather than that “women are more spiritual” — but what if women remain temple worthy without the assistance of a worthy mate *because* they are more spiritual?

    I’m not saying women *are* more spiritual — I don’t know that; I’m only saying that your sample is too restrictive, too.

  77. Bob on August 26, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    #75: I agree. My too quick Model left undefined the variable ‘Spiritual’. I guess the phrase “Womanhood, the Highest Place of Honor”, brought out the lefty in me when I thought of the billions of women in the would today who live below that standard. I dare say, if we were in China, comparing Monks with ladies working in the city, I think the above posts on who is the more ‘spiritual’, would read another way.
    But I would like to ask you an unanswerable question (Because you would be the one to have a feel for it). I was thinking during this post: Do you think ‘Women’ crossed the Plains and brought their husbands, or the other way around? In doing Family History, I just see more ‘risk taking’ women that men, so many young women coming from Europe..alone.

  78. Julie M. Smith on August 26, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Ooo, Bob, that’s an interesting question. Ardis?

  79. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 12:09 am

    I think another variable to look at would be convert baptisms. I seem to recall that we had a lot more success with women than with men, and I wonder if other missionaries found the same thing?? If we were to find out the ratio of men to women who joined the Church in the past decade, would we find a disproportionate amount of women? If we did, would that mean something?

    It was actually Elder Ballard, but that is part of why I included the quote…because it seems likely to me that the message is that there isn’t a competition per se on the table when we hear about women’s divine traits. I do seem to recall Pres. Faust bringing this “more” thing in once, but that is something I want to look up because I don’t want to rely on vague memory.

    Julie, out of curiosity, how are you defining spirituality here? I still think that it’s hard to figure out if someone being ‘more’ spiritual is even a problem if we don’t know what that means.

    As to the title, “Womanhood, the Highest Place of Honor” and Bob’s comment about millions of women who live below that standard (and to Mark’s comment as well) if you were to look at Pres. Faust’s talk, you would see that he emphasizes not some sit-back-and-enjoy-your-status kind of mindset, but specifically talks about the responsibility on women’s shoulders to merit respect as nurturers and mothers of mankind.

    But I also think it’s important not to take concepts like this in a vacuum (looking at one comment or one talk or one title in isolation) but to look at the messages we get overall. I suspect that more often than not, we would find that there wouldn’t be a competition, but recognition that men and women are different in some ways (perhaps even along spiritual lines? that is what I am in the mode of searching out), very similar in many others, and that the gifts God has for us are available through the gift of the Holy Ghost to all. Even if one or the other was more of something, that would imply to me that the other would likely be more of something else, and we would balance each other out. But I’m getting ahead of myself…want to see more what really has been said.

  80. Ray on August 27, 2007 at 1:26 am

    I look at the Beatitudes, and I see characteristics that society tends to associate with women more than men. Rather than argue about whether that is due to genetics or cultural conditioning, I would rather focus individually on trying to acquire and exercise those characteristics – in a sense, to overcome the individual “natural (wo)man” (biological or cultural) and acquire characteristics generally “unnatural” to your own gender and “natural” to the other. Repentance, remember, simply means change at its root – which implies positive acquisition as well as negative elimination. I think we focus so much on the negative elimination that we forget about the positive acquisition being an integral part of repentance – and end up with an incomplete (imperfect) understanding of that process.

    In that light, I look at the footnote to Matt. 5:48 and see perfection defined as being whole or complete. I think that changes the discussion radically, since it says, essentially, that each and every person should strive to cultivate and internalize all “blessed” attributes – regardless of the possibility that some might be more “natural” for women or men. It also could apply, IMO, to the unity and perfection possible within marriage, but I still think it needs to be pursued individually as the foundation.

  81. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 2:17 am

    eek, just saw that my italics went wonky. Sorry.

    Ray, good thoughts.

  82. Julie M. Smith on August 27, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Ray, I think you make a really good point. There’s an interesting case to be made that Jesus uniquely integrated the “good” of stereotypical masculine and feminine traits–the same person who gathers little children chases moneychangers out of the temple with a whip.

  83. Ardis Parshall on August 27, 2007 at 9:24 am

    #77: Interesting, and as you say, not really answerable — there isn’t any way to know with much certainty the dynamics in enough given couples to know whether it was the husband or wife who was the prime mover in the decision to trek to Zion, or whether, perhaps, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund or other charitable assistance was extended more to single women than single men (I don’t know that it was) because, perhaps, there might have been a feeling that a single man was more able to work and generate his own emigration funds.

    Take the case of Hannah Tapfield King, who is fairly well known to history because of her diary and letters and the extensive poetry she published. Her husband didn’t join the church until long after they moved to Utah, and Hannah was always contemptuous of him, even in public — he wasn’t good enough for her, she wanted to be sealed to Brigham Young, and she practically ran from her husband’s funeral to Brigham’s house to ask if he would marry her now, please. Is this because she was more spiritual than her husband, actively seeking exaltation? Or was her poor husband really the more spiritual one — a man who gave up a considerable social position and estate in England to bring his wife to a miserable American desert and live among strangers whose religion he did not share, simply because he loved her, didn’t want her to leave him, and was willing to serve her in this extreme and selfless way? Had she come alone, we would no doubt heap crowns of glory on her for giving up everything to follow the gospel — but under the circumstances, I can’t help but think Thomas King deserves a crown.

    And then there are the women who ran away with Col. Steptoe’s men at the end of their 1854-55 bivouac at Salt Lake City. If any men were so disillusioned that they left at that time, I’m not aware of it — but there were scores (perhaps as many as 200) women — “skittywits” in Heber C. Kimball’s colorful term — who abandoned not only their supposed faith but also, in many if not most cases, all pretense of the usual Christian standard of womanly purity. At least one of those women who come to mind crossed the plains as a single woman a year ahead of her father’s family — great devotion, great apparent spirituality? … and very soon after, what, “no better than she should be”?

    I know enough individual stories to know that I can’t draw broad conclusions of relative spirituality based on the pioneer experience.

  84. Bob on August 27, 2007 at 10:52 am

    #83: Again, I agree. Funny, how (sometimes) the best/right answer ends in a question mark? I liked that you gave Thomas part of his due. But you open another Post: Love Vs. Spiritual. I thought Julie’s next Post was going to be: Are SAHM really tithe payers?

  85. Kathryn Lynard Soper on August 27, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Are SAHM really tithe payers?

    good one, Bob.

    Let’s just say we pay in kind.

  86. Bob on August 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    #85: Just trying to make Julie’s day. ” We all have work…let no one sherk…..”

  87. KLC on August 27, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Whenever this topic arises almost all comments seem to accept as given that formal religious observance and spirituality are the same thing. I would agree that there is a lot of evidence showing women to be more religiously observant than men but that is hardly the same thing as spirituality.

    Many women seem to find the institutional church to be compatible with their temprament and inclinations. Church is a friendly place for them so why shouldn’t their participation in its programs and rituals be higher than it is among others who find them less compelling? I think the old saw about disparities between HT and VT statistics speaks directly to this difference in inclination, a difference I was personally reminded of last night.

    I mentioned to my wife that a single woman I home teach had been reassigned to someone else. She immediately said, “maybe that’s because you never visited her.” After taking a breath to squash any hot tempered rebuttals I reminded her that over the last two years I had rototilled her back yard and installed a sprinkler system and a lawn so she could have a nice place for a family reunion; I had spent many evenings at her house during a remodel installing curtain rods, moving furniture, fixing faucets and locksets and doing many other odd jobs that her flaky contractor either did not do or didn’t do right; I had worked on her front yard, making it presentable so she could put the house on the market; I had organized and lead a moving party when she sold the house, and a few months later when she finally found an apartment I organized another moving party to get her possessions out of two large storage units and into her new residence. And every Sunday I actively sought her out, talking with her, asking about how she was doing and if there were any other things that she needed help with.

    In my wife’s mind, because I did not make formal visits I was not doing my home teaching. Her vision of home teaching coincides with her experience of visiting teaching where each month’s visit is an event that is carefully planned and coordinated, where everyone’s birthday is remembered with a card and a gift and where, as far as I can tell, nothing else of any real value is ever accomplished.

    Of course my male view of the world is encapsulated in that last comment. My wife and many other women see real value in networking with their assigned sisters, in talking and in sharing small gifts to commemorate important events. I, and many other men, see little value in that kind of activity. I’ve never given a birthday card to anyone I home teach and I’ve never expected a birthday card from any home teacher I’ve ever had. To me being a home teacher is being a resource, a person you can call on to get help doing something that you can’t accomplish on your own.

    I think both approaches are valid but strictly speaking I have not been doing my home teaching and that gets reflected in the official record.

  88. Adam Greenwood on August 27, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Yes and no.

  89. Julie M. Smith on August 27, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    KLC, fabulous comment. (Even if it reminds of how not-stereotypically-female I am.)

  90. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    nothing else of any real value is ever accomplished.

    Wow and ow. Such a condemning generalization. I don’t know about anyone else, but this is the way I view VT as well: “being a resource, a person you can call on to get help doing something that you can’t accomplish on your own.” Along with the visits that allow us to talk about the gospel and feel the Spirit, which is also important, IMO.

    But FWIW, I doubt that the ‘women are more spiritual than men’ comment that some might make has much to do with VT or HT at all. I really would be interested to know what that BYU prof was thinking about, however.

  91. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    BTW, I am not in disagreement that simply remembering bdays and giving little trinkets doesn’t get at the heart of VTing, but to suggest that women don’t actually tangibly serve each other in valuable ways seems a bit far-fetched to me.

  92. KLC on August 27, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    m&m, of course it’s a condemning generalization. I said it that way to highlight the equally condemning generalization directed at me that I don’t do my home teaching because I rarely do formal monthly visits. This in spite of everything else I HAVE done as a home teacher, things that to my spiritually stunted male mind seem much more useful than showing up once a month for a spiritual chat, carrying a birthday card and a potted plant.

  93. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    KLC, I do like the spiritual message we get, but the services you have provided leave me nearly drooling with envy. {grin}

  94. Jim on August 27, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    This is my first comment here at Times & Seasons. I have not yet read through all the comments on this post and apologize if these thoughts have been expressed already.

    First, to answer the question, I think we would need to agree on the definition of \”spiritual.\” In general though, I think generalizing is dangerous (is that contradictory?). There are always exceptions. I find it hard to believe that Heavenly Father would, as a blanket rule, make one gender more \”spiritual\” than another.

    Based on my limited experience, I think women are often more sensitive, more caring, and more generous than are men, and perhaps some construe this or other traits as spirituality. More dangerous generalizations….

    Regarding KLC\’s home teaching comments, I would say that the disparity in VT/HT results is at least partly to what each organization considers as a visit. At least in our ward, a VT visit is counted even if contact is made by phone, whereas a HT visit is generally counted only when a visit is made to the home.

    KLC obviously performed much service for the family he was assigned to, and in my opinion, he should consider his home teaching as being completed. The church needs more home teachers that are willing and able to take care of such needs.

    A wise stake president once counseled us that home teaching (same would be true of VT, I suppose) is never really \”complete.\” The criteria for \”counting\” home teaching was \”have you strengthened your family and invited them to come unto Christ?\” This could be done by babysitting the kids so that the couple could attend the temple or through various kinds of service and not necessarily a sit-down visit as we usually do.

  95. m&m on August 27, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    OK, I’m coming back to report some of what I found. Most of what I have seen so far is description of women’s divine traits, their femininity and even their unique nature. Only twice have I seen a concept of women having “more” of something, in comparison to men. This first one was the one I had in my memory:

    As daughters of God, you cannot imagine the divine potential within each of you. Surely the secret citadel of women’s inner strength is spirituality. In this you equal and even surpass men, as you do in faith, morality, and commitment when truly converted to the gospel. You have “more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word.” This inner spiritual sense seems to give you a certain resilience to cope with sorrow, trouble, and uncertainty.
    (James E. Faust, “What It Means to Be a Daughter of God,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 100)

    I also found this one:
    Elder Matthew Cowley: “[M]en have to have something given to them [in mortality] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” (Matthew Cowley Speaks (1954), 109.)

  96. Bob on August 27, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    #96: Good job m&m, at least, we now know where this is coming from. But I still stand solidly behind my…maybe.

  97. Matt W. on August 27, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    m&m: odd, your Faust Quote is almost identical to my BY quote above. I got my quote from a handout on BYU.edu and not directly from the JD. Can anyone check the JD and see if it is even there?

  98. Mark IV on August 27, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Matt W.,

    It doesn’t look like it is, at least not in those words. Here is the closest I could find in 14:120:

    The men are the lords of the earth, and they are more inclined to reject the Gospel than the women. The women are a great deal more inclined to believe the truth than the men; they comprehend it more quickly, and they are submissive and easy to teach, and if we cannot save the men, let us save the women for God’s sake, and do not find fault with us.

    You can look around here, if you want to check it out some more.

    But we also ought to remember that Brigham Young was all over the place on this issue. We could easily find citations where he appears to express the opposite opinion.

  99. Julie M. Smith on August 27, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    T & S has a sporadically enforced policy of closing comments at 100 or so, so I’m closing them.

    I’m thinking of putting up a new post in a few days focused on a different but related question: Do women come to earth with a Certain Unnamed Something that differs from men and that is in some respects analogous to the priesthood? The Elder Cowley quote above suggests it; other sources suggest it. Think about it and we’ll discuss soon.

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