What about the children?

One of the most distressing things about being a parent is the realization that you cannot control your children’s world forever. Inevitably, the institutions in which you allow or encourage them to participate will introduce ideas with which you do not agree, and which, in some instances, are contrary to the gospel of Christ. This is especially unnerving when the institution in question is the Church.

On the way home from school this afternoon, my daughter was talking about her plans for when she grows up. She said she wants to work with animals or own a store. Her older brother slapped her down with “well, you can’t own a store, because store managers are men.” I managed not to drive off the road, despite the simultaneous raising of every last hackle. As calmly as I could, I named all the store managers and owners we know who are female, and threw in the examples of our pediatrician, the headmistress of the children’s school, and my husband’s boss, just for good measure.

Peter, uncowed, replied that men are better at being in charge. “Like at church. That’s why men have the priesthood.” Good little American meritocrat that he has, he has drawn the nearly inevitable conclusion from what he sees.

What should I have said? My children are too young for my nuanced arguments about church history, about cultural baggage, about the uncertainty of what God intends. What they see every week at church is teaching them something perniciously false. And what they see is more powerful than anything I can say to them.

How can I bear this? How can I let my children be damaged in this way? By the time they are old enough to examine this issue intellectually, the emotional and spiritual damage will be done. If it were any other institution, I would withdraw immediately. Tell me, please, why I shouldn’t take them down the street to the beautiful Episcopal church with the great choir and with male and female priests–wouldn’t it be better to let them grow up with a healthy sense that “in Christ there is neither bond nor free…neither male nor female” and then add true and delicious Mormon doctrine when they are old enough to discern its subtleties without being hurt by the appalling sexism of current Mormon practice?

143 comments for “What about the children?

  1. Your daughter will be stronger than you think. Acorns fall near the tree.

    Opposition from her brother will increase her resilience. Eventually she will take care of him.

    When they constantly put women down, many will lie down. But he strong will stand taller and stronger. Just keep your cool and let your kids know what you think and remember that they watch what their parents DO more than anything else.

    My (then) 13 year old daughter told our Bishop that he was doing a lousy job and that there is not a woman in the entire word that couldn’t do a better job running it than he was doing.

    Perhaps insincerely , the Bishop wisely AGREED with her.

  2. I don’t think I would have nearly the difficulty presenting the arguments for why his inference is wrong, because my arguments would not be nuanced arguments about cultural baggage, but more straightforward ones about how men and women are equal in the Church and in the eyes of God, albeit with different responsibilities.

    If you agree that it is more important to raise a child than to run a stake, then the hard work would be convincing the child that men are as important as women. And so I think I would spend my time on the rather straightforward and doctrinally and rhetorically well-supported argument that raising children matters most in the kingdom. Of course, it is still something that has to be worked at contra the whole world’s view. But fighting the world puts us on familiar ground. I guess if you don’t like that argument then it becomes trickier.

    Also, I think this is an example of something easier for a father to pull off than a mother. Purely in terms of rhetoric, it is less convincing when someone is standing up for their tribe (or gender) compared to the opposite.

  3. In my opinion, one thing we should be teaching our children is to be levelheaded and not take offense so easily.

    Intellectually, I get that there are people in the Church that have a BIG problem with men being leaders, holding the priesthood, etc. Emotionally, however, I don’t get it. And yes, I am a man, so I probably wouldn’t get it if I tried.

    I guess when we don’t have to pull handcarts across the frozen plains and bury family members along the way our challenges seem awfully big. But they’re not.

    Your daughter (and your son, perhaps just as importantly) will figure things out if you let them.

  4. Frank, he’s little. Perhaps you were born with the capacity for appreciating rhetoric and argument, but most kids aren’t. By the time the reasoning you suggest can have any effect, he will have absorbed a level of unconscious sexism I find intolerable.

    And while I’m utterly convinced that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, I could never argue that men and women are equal in the church. It simply isn’t true.

  5. Kristine,

    What did your parents do? If you want your kids to think like you, perhaps doing what your parents did is the answer…

  6. My wife and I went through this with our son and daughter recently. My wife used an argument to Frank’s, and that seemed to suffice.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that there are many suggestions here, if you’re already of the opinion that men and women aren’t equal. There’s no credible argument you can present to your children if you don’t believe it yourself.

  7. How old is Peter? He’s displaying a level of argument where he backs his assertions with what he feels to be proof, so I don’t know that one needs more than that sophistication to make the point I am trying to make. My 3 year old would not get it, but my 6 year old could. But my 3 year old is quite sure that males are completely second class, so the problem has not come up yet for her.

    And as for equal in the Church. If you mean that there are people in the church who don’t view them as equal, I agree that that is true in our church and many other places. I was not thinking of the imperfect people so much as the Church as the doctrine of the Kingdom of God on Earth, where women are every bit if not more important than men.

  8. “Perhaps you were born with the capacity for appreciating rhetoric and argument, but most kids aren’t.”

    This is almost true. I wasn’t born. I was formed in a lab by evil biochemists.

  9. Kristine: By the time they are old enough to examine this issue intellectually, the emotional and spiritual damage will be done.

    Like the others who’ve replied so far, I don’t accept this premise. Are there those in the Church who have a warped view of men and women? Of course. Do any of them have a parent like you? I doubt it.

    I think that Frank’s point is merely that it is possible to teach our children, even boys, about the equality of men and women. Perhaps I am wrong. We are seldom good judges of ourselves. But I think that Janice and I raised our girls and boys to understand themselves as equals.

  10. “By the time the reasoning you suggest can have any effect, he will have absorbed a level of unconscious sexism I find intolerable.”

    I am afraid you are right, Kristine. Coming from a different background, I am appalled to see how much condescending sexism there is to be found among men (young and old) I meet in my Utah environment. It’s been instilled from childhood on and often they are not even able to realize it.

    OK, now I am going into hiding.

  11. Perhaps this is why there is so much emphasis on the family at church. If we put too much emphasis on attending church, on being a member of the church, and doing what the church tells us to, then the limitations of the church challenge true doctrine just as described.
    Very few people would challenge the idea that women are very important to a family. Though the father technically presides, women end up making most of the substatial day to day decisions. Perhaps teaching children to see the family as the most important unit will teach them that the social structure we create in the home is the best, and the holiest. I don’t know, my only kid is a six month old so I don’t have much room to be advising anyone about how to raise their kids.

    And Geoff, I think many people think like they do despite what their parents did. I know that my parents are racist (they still believe in the fence sitting ideas), and sexist (my dad fully expects to have a bevy of virgins awaiting him in the Celestial Kingdom) though they swear they aren’t. They’re slowly growing out of it, but if they knew some of the beliefs I held they would nearly disown me.

  12. Kristine:

    I wish I had an answer! I have an amazing spouse who is not LDS. He enthusiastically supports my Mormon identity, and he is willing to raise our children Mormon (albeit with a healthy dose of other faith traditions). However he has one deep concern — which you and I share: He doesn’t like the message the church sends about women and authority . When I discuss the sufferagists and the original Exponent women and female blessings and Eliza R. Snow as “prophetess” . . . . he asks, “Why are all these stories from the 19th century?”

    Starting at about six, I’ve spent years alternating between peace and wrangling. However, I like who’ve I become as a result — it is the wrestling that keeps me awake and (I hope) compassionate. The weeks I’ve visited the Unitarians or Episcopals have been easy. But then I wonder — do I want it to be easy? . . . or do I choose to stay and make my voice heard in a heritage I claim as my own? I selfishly want your voice and your daughters’ voices because they help me find my own.

  13. I *don’t* want my kids to think like I do. For the obvious reason that I’m not a particularly good thinker, but also because such thinking is painful and generally unproductive. I want my daughter to grow up thinking that *of course* she will be able to contribute in the Church, that her skills will be valued and put to good use, that the men she works with in the Church will listen to her and consider her opinions on their merits. I never, ever want her to pause for a moment before speaking to make sure she is being sufficiently deferential, to raise her voice at the end of a sentence even when she knows she is right, to deliberately wear a frillier dress than she likes so that she can be less threatening when she gives a forthright talk.

    Oh, and by the way, my parents would claim that they didn’t do anything–I just came this way :)

  14. Wilfried (in an attempt to lure you out),

    You are saying that you see what you perceive as condescending sexism by men young and old, but Kristine’s argument is not just that some people grow up sexist, but that this cannot be countered by the parents through discussion. I don’t see how your point speaks to hers since you are claiming sexism in _both_ generations.

  15. I’m still in hiding, but your question is neutral, Frank. I simply meant to confirm what is, in my opinion, Kristine’s standpoint: boys grow up with sexist attitudes and, subsequently, often keep those for the rest of their lives. I did not mean “two” generations, but the continuum.

  16. Kristine, I hear you, but I think the main issue here has nothing to do with the church. Your son is a boy, and boys want to be better than girls. Ergo, they will find any evidence for this they can find, regardless of whether it is good evidence, and cite it. Same as he did with the store manager example.

    When I was a kid, I strained all the powers of reason and sophistry to try to prove that my family’s TRS-80 computer was better than my friend’s Apple. It wasn’t. Same problem. When someone asked what country was the biggest in the world, I tried very hard to find evidence that it was the U.S. (Mercatur projections didn’t help), even though the USSR, Canada, and China are all much bigger, right?

    Plus, my mom almost named me Peter, so I know what I’m talking about ; )

    Are you planning to stop going to stores with male managers? There are plenty of sexist men outside the church. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to read some of Christ’s teachings about what a true leader is like.

  17. I mean, read them with your son, and help him see some of the depth.

    I don’t think this is a point that has to be understood intellectually first. When Christ washed his disciples’ feet, he wasn’t making an intellectual argument.

    (And, well, Kris, one reason for you not to go down the street to the Episcopal church is, we Mormons need you here!)

  18. I used to say things like that when I was growing up too –for the sole purpose of antagonizing my predominantly female primary teachers and classmates, even though I knew it wasn’t correct. Kids do/say dumb things. Even if he is serious (which I doubt), now is an ideal time to set him straight.

    Real priesthood is service, not leadership.

  19. Frank, it’s not that sexism *can’t* be countered by discussion, only that this is relatively ineffective with young children who learn more by example than precept.

    You know me–do you think there’s a chance that my children have not been subjected to as much discussion as humanly possible on this subject? (!) My point is that I can discuss till I’m blue in the face, expose my children to more egalitarian models whenever possible, but as long as they (correctly) perceive that the Church is the most important institution in the life of our family, the behavioral models they observe there will carry substantial weight.

    And I believe that those behavioral models are flawed, not just because the people involved are flawed, but because the institution itself is not living up to Christ’s call to equality and justice.

  20. Chanelling my inner juvenile boy (irrational, convinced that girls have cooties and that “boys rule!”), it seems likely your son was thinking two things when you responded to him: (a) mom’s a girl, of course she’s going to say that!; and (b) the intensity of mom’s response proves that I’m onto something! (i.e., the lady doth protest too much).

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree that sexism is bad, that sexist church members exist, and that sexist inferences can be drawn (altough not correct inferences in my opinion) from church instutional structures. I also agree with prior respondants that children can be taught, even juvenile boys, that women and men are equal.

    But fretting too much and responding too harshly may be counter-productive. I liked the idea of teaching the principle by reading about the Savior.

  21. “I never, ever want her to pause for a moment before speaking to make sure she is being sufficiently deferential, to raise her voice at the end of a sentence even when she knows she is right, to deliberately wear a frillier dress than she likes so that she can be less threatening when she gives a forthright talk.”

    These strike me much more as female expectations of other LDS women, rather than male expections of LDS women. At least, in my experience.

    I see these reflected in the satirical “articles” from The Onion- Relief Society Sister makes Declarative Statement and Relief Society Attendees Display Apathy to Ignorant Claims. Both are under the bylines of “Amy Chamberlin” but I have no idea if that’s intended to be accurate. I assume not.

  22. My eight year old son bore his testimony on Sunday (we have a stake conference this coming week) about his understanding that “we are all equal and it’s not like I could say ‘I’m better than you’ hee hee”

    If someone is telling your son that because men are ordained to priesthood offices because they are “better at being in charge” then I say you set them both (all?) straight.

    I think children hear, see and understand more than we give them credit for–make sure yours is a voice of reason for them.

  23. I agree that one conclusion that someone, especially a child, could draw from observing that the church is is pretty much exclusively administered by men who hold the priesthood that “men are better at being in charge.”

    Another conclusion one could draw, and one that I think is of overwhelming worth to teach one’s children, is that in the kingdom of God we serve where and how we are asked. This is a kicker when, as you say, you believe that the “institution itself is not living up to Christ’s call to equality and justice” and the kingdom is roughly equivalent to that institution. However, it is a lesson children, and adults for that matter, won’t learn *anywhere* else, and one that seems emphasized throughout the scriptures and our modern church history. Anyway, for whatever reason, right now men who hold the priesthood are called to administer, and women are called to other service, so that is where we serve. To conclude that it means men are better at one thing and women at another is not necessary.

    But having two sons myself, I understand the concern that it is the easy conclusion for children to draw, and at very impressionable ages.

  24. I don’t think you have to worry about the rising inflection at the end of declarative sentences. The forces of darkness have won that battle, and I fear there’s no return. (Are missionaries taught it at the MTC?) If it ever was a sex-linked characteristic, those links are broken, and the whole rising generation, who know not a declarative sentence, are doing it.

    I agree with two of the previous commenters–this is a lesson that your husband is in a better position to teach (it’s like the “declaration against interest” exception to the hearsay rule–we are more willing to believe statements that are contrary to the speaker’s interest, since we don’t think he’s favoring himself) and it’s a lesson best taught by example.

  25. Usually the best way to deal with juvenile comments is, I think, to laugh at them. Rather than, for instance, than taking them seriuously and writing a long discussion of it. Or you could watch a few ‘family’ sitcoms, where the men tend to be nearly incapable of functioning, while the women are always virtuous, hard-working, and keeping their child-husbands from getting too much into trouble.

    Or, you could introduce them to people who, in the real world, manage to be wonderful and also effective people; I remember well the marathon-running lawyer who spent some time as RS president in my mom’s ward, as a much more formative example than any number of silly arguments among kids. Of course, her lived life was the example, no one ever needed to point her out to me.

    And I’d note that children, as with anyone, are apt to glob onto any extent division of a group and argue that their side is better…this was shown in, for instance, Tajfel’s classic experiements, which demonstrated that realistic conflict is not necessary is not necessary for this sort of in-group favoratism. Children, because they have less in their minds, are probably more likely to do this (idleness being the devil’s workshop). So, such things should not be taken quite so seriously, I think. If you were among only boys, or only girls, they would find some other meaningless marker of social division to argue over…

    By the way, why is no one nearly so unhappy about girls or women claiming to be better than men than the other way around? Hypocricy masquerading as resistance, I’d say. What would have been thought if, using the ‘replacement’ test, a 13 year old boy told the RSP that ‘any man could do a better job’? Somehow, I doubt neither the person told this nor anyone who smiled at the bishop remark would have dealt with it magnanimously.

  26. Kristine:

    As the parent of two daughters and a son, I share your concerns. But, I think the church has more to worry about on this front than you do.

    Your kids are more likely to follow you than the church. So, no matter what you say they will pick up on your true feelings and this will become one area where they will not be comfortable with what the church is teaching. There will surely be others.

    But it’s not bad for them to begin to understand that whatever institution they are a part of (Mormon church or Episcopal Church, BYU or Harvard, Federalist Society or Sierra Club, WalMart or JP Morgan) there will be some aspects of the institution they won’t be comfortable with. Not just the people in the institution or their opinions, but some of the important policies and aspects of the culture of the institutions. Soemtimes we may find an institution that seems like the perfect fit. But, then we learn more about the institution, or the institution changes, or we change, and we just don’t sync up perfectly any more.

    Unfortunately, as relatively powerless individuals, we have to take the institutions pretty much as they are. You can try to change the institution, but often you can’t make any real change.

    And sometimes, to continue to be part of an institution means not trying to change some of the things that bug you. I’m sure there are things that President Hinkely doesn’t like about the church, but he feels that he just can’t or shouldn’t change them.

    So sometimes your only real choice is to stay with the institution as it is or leave.

    So you kind of have to take institutions as a whole and say: Is this issue a “deal killer” for me? Is this something that is likely to change? Does the good outweigh the bad in this institution? Is there another similar institiution that, overall, is a better fit for me?

    On balance, is the Episcopal church a better fit for you and your family? Probably not, but if it is, you should change soon. It will only become harder on your kids to make a change like that as they get older. (Of course, I also hope you don’t leave.)

  27. This reminds me of the “Presiding in the Home” posting last July.

    I offer my comment in that thread as my answer here; roles are different and neither is complete without the other.

    Elder Erastus Snow brought this concept closer to the core:

    If we study physiology or anatomy, we are led to exclaim with the Psalmist of old, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and see a beautiful harmony in all the parts, and a most exquisite design. This is proven by an examination of the various parts of the human form. And every organ adapted to its special use, and for its special purpose, and combining a whole, a grand union—a little kingdom composed of many kingdoms, united and constituting the grand whole, the being we call man, but which in the language of these Scriptures was called Adam—male and female created he them, and called their name Adam, which in the original, in which these Scriptures were written by Moses, signifies “the first man.” There was no effort at distinguishing between the one half and the other, and calling one man and the other woman. This was an after distinction, but the explanation of it is—one man, one being, and he called their name Adam. But he created them male and female, for they were one, and he says not unto the woman multiply, and to the man multiply, but he says unto them, multiply and reproduce your species, and replenish the earth. He speaks unto them as belonging together, as constituting one being, and as organized in his image and after his likeness. […]

    “What,” says one, “do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman?” Most certainly I do. If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself, and anything pertaining to the creation and organization of man upon the earth, I must believe that Deity consists of man and woman. Now this is simplifying it down to our understanding, and the great Christian world will be ready to open their mouths and cry, “Blasphemy! Sacrilege!” Open wide their eyes and wide their mouths in the utmost astonishment. What! God a man and woman? The Shakers say he was, and Ann Lee says, “Christ came in the form of a man in the first place, and now comes in the form of a woman,” and she was that form.

    Then these Christians—they say he has no form, neither body, parts nor passions. One party says he is a man, and the other says he is a woman. I say he is both. How do you know? I only repeat what he says of himself; that he created man in the image of God, male and female created he them, and he called their name Adam, which signifies in Hebrew, the first man. So that the beings we call Adam and Eve were the first man placed here on this earth, and their name was Adam, and they were the express image of God. Now, if anybody is disposed to say that the woman is in the likeness of God and that the man was not, and if vice versa, I say you are both wrong, or else God has not told us the truth.

    I sometimes illustrate this matter by taking up a pair of shears, if I have one, but then you all know they are composed of two halves, but they are necessarily parts, one of another, and to perform their work for each other, as designed, they belong together, and neither one of them is fitted for the accomplishment of their works alone. And for this reason says St. Paul, “the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” In other words, there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female. (Journal of Discourses, 19:269-271)

    It appears that from Deity’s perspective, our earthly squabbles are among components that need each other to reach our destiny — and in becoming one, each component can become part of Deity. Are our differences part of another test/lesson, this one for us to learn to combine rather than to separate?

    As Christ said while paying for our at-one-ment, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us […] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect [complete] in one (John 17:20-23)

  28. Being a first generation Mormon and trying my best to honor my priesthood and wife I failed miserably in my first marriage. The results of which I still suffer in my children.

    For me it was too much to change religions, culture and try to adapt to a changing Mormon culture by
    following the examples of great priesthood holders of the past.

    Like you I now look to the future for the answers we all long for. My present wife enjoys the benefit of my past failings and is sensitive to my own struggles to be a good husband, father and priesthood holder. We are both active in the church.

    However, my former wife and many of my children(6) from both marriages are not. Recently at Zelophehad’s Daughters I carried on a conversation with my only daughter Emily on “The Role of Women in Heaven� . Her feelings and insights on these issues between men and women reveal the wound that needs healing.

    My cure was to look to the future by quoting my Patriarchal Blessing,

    “where it refers to a day in the future when I shall live with my wife in heaven as a priest and a priestess; a god and a goddess.�

    Emily’s wrote,

    “the ultimate destiny of mankind would be to recognize the greatness of women … then the world will be a celestial place … So I guess we can try to focus on this life and what women can do here so as to progress the world to a higher level.�

    This tells much about the differences between men and women, generations and a father and a daughter.

  29. M.J. Pritchett,

    I think your analysis is exactly right.

    There are many things about the Church that have bugged me over the years. Interestingly, a lot of those things have changed–e.g., the advent of two piece garments, the consolidated meeting schedule, equalization of missionary costs, the abolition of ward budgets and building funds, the end of the policy barring women married to nonendowed men from receiving their endowments, the dissolution of stake 70s quorums, the requirement that previously sealed, but divorced, men receive a First Presidency clearance before they can be sealed a second time, women speaking in General Conference, the softening of extremist language about homosexuality in Strength of the Youth and Deseret Book’s publishing of In Quiet Desperation, the ending of the practice of withholding priesthood and temple blessings from black Africans, the end of annoucements of church discipline and a reduction in the harshness of some church discipline, the permitting of people administratively to resign from the church rather than be “excommunicated”, the advent of the humanitarian fund and perpetual education fund, increased availability of temples, gradual increase in acceptance in divergent views on evolution, in political party membership, and church history and doctrine (e.g., an absence or a reduction in the incidence of severe discipline for divergent or dissenting views–it has been over a decade since the September six), the change in the church position on birth control–leaving it to the couple and God and exhorting us not to judge each other on the number of children, the softening or deemphasis on strident opposition to women in careers outside of the home, the increase in working with other churches and humanitarian organizations, the emphasis on leaders relying on councils with men and women on them.

    On the whole, the Church is a much more comfortable place for me now than it was even just 25 years ago. I expect similar significant changes and improvements in the remainder of my life and in the lives of my children and grandchildren. Those changes will in many cases be slow, but I believe they are sure to come. I believe that those changes and improvements will come both (1) because I believe this is a human organization, responding to needs expressed by its members, and (2) because I believe this is a divine organization with revelation received by its members and its leaders. Along with a conviction that this is the ecclesiastical organization in which the Lord would have me participate, those are among the reasons I remain in and embrace the Church, warts and all.

  30. “These strike me much more as female expectations of other LDS women, rather than male expections of LDS women. At least, in my experience.”

    Ben, how exactly do you have experience with what is expected of LDS women? Is there something you haven’t told us ;)

  31. That was an impressive enumeration, DavidH (30). We’re indeed a living Church, so more things can be expected.

  32. DavidH: “On the whole, the Church is a much more comfortable place for me now than it was even just 25 years ago. I expect similar significant changes and improvements in the remainder of my life…”

    Maybe we shouldn’t expect to feel completely culturally comfortable in the church until we reach the age of those who are running it.

  33. I heart Kristine! Thank you so much for this post. I think this exact same thing all the time. I’m so afraid I’m damaging my children. But then i think . . . hey I turned out okay. But then I think, did I?

    Wish I had a better answer, but . . . it’s midnight and I gotta go to sleep.

  34. Kristine, has it been a long time since we heard from you, or am I out to lunch?

    #1, I agree. My daughter is a liberated woman and she didn’t get that from her dad.

    #2 I disagree. I think people pretty much see the leaders as big cheeses, not hard workers.

    #10, Wilfried, I was amazed to see your name on that post. And heartened. It’s true, condescending is the best word, that’s how I get treated. And it so doesn’t wash.

    #13, Kristine, you don’t honestly believe you’re not a good thinker. do you?

    #21, funny. Also accurate. You should be a fly on the wall.

    #29 Old Charley, I wish you could talk to my husband. He loves me, but he’s so conflicted by what he thinks he should be and I should be and the reality.

    Kaimi, are you the snarker? I think I’m picking up a vibe. And I’m not going to sleep, I’m going to stay up all night and laugh at general authorities and watch an R-rated movie. While Bill’s asleep, thinking I’m asleep.

    #14 It can only be countered if the parents don’t embrace the idea of sexism, which many do. In my family, my husband would like to be the last authority. I simply won’t accept that. What do we get? Contention. Which has not been good for our kids, but I could never sit still and keep my mouth shut. Contention is better than resignation.

  35. I understand, if not completely, the frustration with the little one’s comments. What I don’t understand is the inability to rationally, persuasively, explain gender equality even within established church institutions as they currently exist. Maybe rather than focusing on young Peter’s remarks, the focus should be on the dear daughter’s forward looking comments which portrude a bold self-confidence, self-awareness, and uninhibited ambition–a self-confidence, self-awareness and uninhibited ambition exhibited by oh so many gospel sisters, well into their adulthood, that I have the pleasure to call friends.

    It may be perspective, rather than institutions, that stubbornly refuses to change.

  36. Kristine,

    How can I bear this? How can I let my children be damaged in this way? By the time they are old enough to examine this issue intellectually, the emotional and spiritual damage will be done. If it were any other institution, I would withdraw immediately. Tell me, please, why I shouldn’t take them down the street to the beautiful Episcopal church with the great choir and with male and female priests–wouldn’t it be better to let them grow up with a healthy sense that “in Christ there is neither bond nor free…neither male nor female� and then add true and delicious Mormon doctrine when they are old enough to discern its subtleties without being hurt by the appalling sexism of current Mormon practice?

    I’ll offer a different view: Maybe you actually should take them to that beautiful Episcopal Church.

    That’s what my wife and I decided to do with our children (though the church we have started attending is United Church of Christ, not Episcopal) after I revealed to her several months ago that I am gay and we started to work through the implications of that. Among them was the realization that not only did we disagree with the gender roles the LDS Church promotes, but we also rejected what the Church teaches about homosexuality. That led us to the conclusion that we couldn’t continue to let them learn about what it means to be a man, a woman, or a homosexual from the LDS Church and it effectively ended our church attendance. We’ll still teach them those true and delicious nuggets from Mormonism and when they are old enough, they can decide for themselves what they want to do with their Mormon heritage.

  37. David H:


    At least the middle-aged men are on the same page. I don’t know if we helped Kristine, but I feel better.


  38. Kristine, I had a similar, albeit much less intense, experience last night with my daughter. We were on a date, and she brought a book that we had just received from Amazon to read to me in the car. It was Pickle Chiffon Pie. I had never heard the story before. It involves a competition between three princes to bring “the most unusual, the most marvelous, the MOST WONDERFUL THING” back to the king in order to win his daughter’s hand in marriage. It’s a cute story, with a nice message at the end.

    However, I found myself worrying about the messages that my daughter was taking from the book. Does the princess have no say in the matter? I thought about having a discussion with her about the problems in the depiction of the institution of marriage in the book. I even briefly entertained the idea of quietly returning the book. Then I realized, this is a good book, that teaches a good lesson about the importance of kindness, and one that has stood the test of time. I’d rather have my kids read good books that they are engaged by, even if they reflect certain values that I don’t hold myself, than force them to read bland, uninspired pap that manages to be “correct”.

    I guess I need to have that talk with her, though.

  39. Bryce–

    May I suggest that your next Amazon order include _A Weave of Words_ by Souci? Here’s the blurb:

    “This Armenian story features a weaver’s daughter who requires the idle prince who courts her to become both literate and skilled at a craft. He does, weaving a unique carpet to prove his achievement. She herself learns to ride and wield a sword, so they are prepared to reign, but also ready for changes in fortunes. When Vachagan is imprisoned by a greedy demon, his skill at the loom saves his life, and also enables him to send a coded message to his queen-wife. Anait reads the pattern and rides at the head of an army to rescue her king-husband.”

    I think you did the right thing by letting her keep the book. I think it is far better to discuss the message than to kill the messenger, and the book is a fairly nonthreatening way to approach these issues, instead of taking on the last sacrament meeting speaker.

  40. M.J., you are not allowed to call yourself “middle-aged” until I begin to call myself “old.” Since the latter has yet to occur, neither can the former.

  41. Bryce, I have the same feelings when I read Berenstain Bears books with my kids. The bumbling, juvenile father is essentially the third child in a family presided over by a wise mother who is never wrong and always in control.

    I wonder why this sexism is rarely the subject of anguished bloggernacle diatribes railing against prejudice and blatantly obvious stereotyping?

  42. Bryce, I read Pickle Chiffon Pie many, many times as a child, and I don’t think it ruined me, nor is it warping my own children. Opinions may vary on that point though. In fact, it’s one of the two princess stories I have ever liked. The Ordinary Princess is the other. I never really felt that the princess in PCP had no say in whom she married- she married the one she chose.

    KLC, you’ll find many, many people who can’t stand Berenstain Bears. There are too many things in it that bother me to list here.

    My biggest problem is that my children are tired of me talking to them about all these issues. It is easy for me to overdo it. I’m beginning to think that the better way to teach my children about equality of all types is to simply practice what I have been preaching to them and keeping my mouth shut.

  43. I don’t know. Kids just say stuff like this. Young boys are combative, in-your-face, and looking for any excuse to brag, show off, tease their sisters, and inflate their own sense of self-importance.

    Overwrought reactions from their sisters or moms just play into this.

    Teach correct principles and quit worrying about it. Engaged parents are going to have a bigger impact than Church anyway.

    I’m having a hard time getting worked up over this one. Sorry.

  44. I think it’s important to consider what our children are exposed to, and what we select for our permanent libraries, but like your approaches Bryce and Julie. We’ve been introducing fairy tales from around the world to our two children (3 and 6) in homeschool for the past few months. I think having exposure to the ideas, stereotypes, and cultural attitudes is an essential part of being educated, but also an opportunity to begin to discuss our concerns with some of the attitudes and behaviors. Isn’t it the same with the scriptures? We certainly encounter the gamut of human character and behaviors there.

  45. “If it were any other institution, I would withdraw immediately.”

    Really and truly? This seems kind of a knee-jerk reaction, especially based on one comment of a very young child. If your son said that “boys were better than girls at soccer” would you “immediately” cut off any and all contact with the soccer league? If your girl said “girls are better at swimming than boys” would you cut off swimming lessons?

    Christ saw no difference in the holiness, worthiness, and greatness of individuals, male or female. We shouldn’t either.

    I do believe every person has a different work, and each work is incredibly valuable to the kingdom. It is us, with our frail, mortal minds, that assign random “relative worth” to service. For example, when I taught the 11 yr old girls in Primary, people would just kind of smile and nod when I told them my calling. Now I teach GD, and people say “wow, you must be really smart, that’s a big responsibility.”

    I personally think I did more good in my capacity as a Primary teacher, and don’t even get me started on why the nursery leaders need to be the strongest people in the church! But that’s just us assigning “relative worth” to each calling, as if it’s somehow more important to teach adults who already know most of what I’m going to say, or to give children an early love of the gospel But the Lord knows what he’s doing when he puts me places, and each sphere of responsibility is incredibly important.

    Men and women have different spheres of responsibility, and each are equally important. It’s when we (not Christ) look on one responsibility as more important than another, that we get into trouble.

  46. Kristine, just this week my 9 yo daughter decided to design a family crest. Her two-phrase descriptions of each family member were so enlightening. My husband’s said “head of the family” and “father.” Mine said “(small business I work from home for about 10 hours a week) worker” and “mother.” I asked her in a dispassionate manner what it meant that daddy was the ‘head of the family.” “Well, he’s the oldest and the biggest and the only boy, so he is in charge” was her reply. Arghhhhhhh!

    It was interesting that she put oldest on the list, though. Kids do see things in really simple terms like that.

  47. Wiz, I disagree absolutely. Perhaps it’s equally important to the spiritual well being of each Saint to serve faithfully in his or her calling, whatever its nature, but to say that all callings are indistinguishable in importance to the organization is ridiculous. [Edit: That was a little harsh, Wiz—I certainly don’t think you’re ridiculous! Sorry to have overspoken my disagreement here.] Clearly some work is more important and more essential to carrying out the mission of the church than other work. Any missionary who has heard his or her mission president plead for more adult male converts—and who realizes why this plea is not a sexist rant but a legitimate reflection of the needs of the organization—understands this: it’s not that men are more important to God than women are, it’s that male priesthood holders are more important to the essential functions of the institutional church—providing saving ordinances—than are women and children.

  48. “I wonder why this sexism is rarely the subject of anguished bloggernacle diatribes railing against prejudice and blatantly obvious stereotyping?”

    I’ve talked to my kids about the portrayal of the father in these books. I’ve also explained why we don’t let strangers in the house, even when they are the cat in the hat :).

    But, Rosalynde, don’t you think that if the gender ratio of converts were reversed, those very same mission pres would be pleading for more female converts because, while the wards might be fully staffed, so many needs would be going unmet in a ward without enough adult women?

  49. Whoa, Frank, where did the “women in the home” meme come from? I could swear a few months ago you were arguing that priesthood and parenthood are inseparable; now you’re arguing that they’re incompatible? I’d think the most pernicious false idea would be that serving in priesthood callings will diminish one’s ability to raise one’s children.

    Kris, I’d be dismayed to hear those words from my son’s mouth, too; the notion than men are better leaders than women offends my most basic intuition about the genders. Of course, my most basic intuition about gender has been every bit as shaped by ideas and institutions as Peter’s has—though, it seems, it’s been shaped by very *different* ideas and institutions! It’s interesting to me that in fifty comments, every commenter seems to have taken as a given the flat incorrectness of what seemed to Peter an utterly natural conclusion; I’d be surprised if there weren’t some readers who silently agree with him. I fervently hope that Peter is wrong about men and women and leadership—and I think I have some evidence that he may be—but I have to admit that my objection to his position is primarily an *intuitive* one, not an analytical one. (Young men’s contempt for adult women in positions of authority—a phenomenon that, incidentally, is common wherever you find young men, not just in the church—has always puzzled me a bit, since most of the immediate authority figures those boys encounter are female. Could it be something to do with impending puberty and a shift in the way boys relate to femaleness?)

    If you really want Louisa to prove Peter wrong, though, the last thing you should do is flee to the Episcopalians (except for evensong with a really fabulous choir): we need to prove to the Church that our loyalty can be trusted before we can expect it to trust us with the wheel.

  50. Maybe, Julie, but it’s hard for me to imagine what needs a branch of men would have that only women could provide. The only callings in the church that men can’t fill are those that minister exclusively to women and children.

  51. “my most basic intuition”

    Did you do that on purpose, Rosalynde? :)

    As for #53–if you are looking at a big chart of callings, then you are right. If you are looking at the actual needs of a ward as they play out, then you are wrong. Ask any RS president.

  52. I do not believe any child is too young to tell anything to. I have always addressed any subject with tact and honesty to my children. Often, I bring it up. I often have asked my kids, when they were little, four and five, what they thought about many things. I remember addressing the same topic that you are talking about. My son decided that men were in charge because they must need more practice than women. He was six at the time. We have since discussed the ramifications of priesthood responsibility verses child-birthing and he and my daughter both agree having a baby is alot more work than conducting a meeting, yet they both see the dificulting in being responsible for a ward. I think if one explains the various options and responsibilities and importance of all types of postitions and ways of leading and not controlling a different thought process occurs. My kids are 10 and 11 now, and hopefully we can continue our honest and thoughtful conversations for a long time. #53/54 P.S.My husband is the primary pianist, which is typically filled by a female. He’s threaten to go inactive if he is released! :)

  53. Kristine, I sympathize with your concerns. I wish I knew what to tell you. I have nothing to add to some of the constructive thoughts already presented. Even though I am an elder, recommend holding, three-callings-active member of my ward and stake, I find that in my old age it is becoming harder and harder for me to take priesthood seriously. To me the leadership and administration imbalance is so obviously culturally conditioned–in a bad way–that I find it increasingly difficult to respect priesthood as an institution.

    I’m not the stand-on-a-soapbox, rabble rouser type, so I just sort of muddle along with the program. I don’t make waves. (My silent form of protest of late is simply to skip priesthood, but if I were honest with myself I might have to admit that I skip it also because it is so incredibly boring.) But that is the way I feel. If it were up to me, we would just go ahead and give women the priesthood, and if there were a schism, then there would be a schism.

  54. Rosalynde: “we need to prove to the Church that our loyalty can be trusted before we can expect it to trust us with the wheel.”

    Really, do you think that women are somehow not “trusted with the wheel” of the church? Which wheel? If the “wheel” is that of bishop, stake president, apostle, or presiding high priest, what benefit, above and beyond that which they currently enjoy, will come to women if the church at some point decides to give women the “wheel”?

    I may be wrong (as His ways are not mine) but I think God cares much less about who is at the wheel than he does what we do with the wheel we are given. If we are always so dissatisfied that there are others with more “authority” or “greater/better” callings, I think we are looking way beyond the mark. I know that I have felt personally rebuked from on high at times for feeling like I would fill a certain role better than another in the Church. It is at those times that I am dramatically reminded that, well, I have bigger fish to fry.

  55. Julie, I am an RS president, and I think Rosalynde is on to something. Although I make it my business to present my opinions at every opportunity (ward council, meetings with Bishop, etc). and I feel that they are (almost) always met with respect and often implemented, the direct service performed through RS is only to women or to men via a traditional female activity (i.e. providing food while the EQ work on a service project of re-roofing a widow’s home). I have had to make a point of asking for announcements like “Sisters, please bring a dish for the linger longer” to be rephrased since there are MANY men in my ward. They can bring a dish too, darn it. Some of them are WAY better cooks than me, including my husband.

    And sisters can help re-roof a house.

  56. Rosalynde #52 – I was nodding along agreeing with your comment until I got to the end and read this:

    “we need to prove to the Church that our loyalty can be trusted before we can expect it to trust us with the wheel”

    My initial reaction to this statement was that women should not need to prove their loyalty (to what? whom?) as a precursor being “trusted” in leadership positions in the Church. Maybe this isn’t what you meant, but I’m puzzled by this statement.

  57. Kevin #56, RD, Kristine, and others; What I wonder is if women held real leadership positions in the Church, what would be different? Do we just want ‘in’ on what the men are doing, or would we do it our own way? I was thinking of the reenactment of the first RS meeting that was shown at the General RS meeting last fall- I highly doubt all those sisters were sitting in neat little rows. My personal feeling is that (many) women wouldn’t run meetings the way they are run currently in the church, with someone ‘presiding’ in the front of the room, and everyone sitting in rows facing forward. It doesn’t seem to be very conducive to the goals of the Relief Society at least. I could grant that more formality is needed in Sacrament Meeting, and that some women really buy into the patriarchal authority thing.

    Speaking of ‘real’ leadership positions, I mean ones in which all our decisions don’t have to be vetted by priesthood holders, and ones in which we ‘serve’/make decisions for/counsel with men as well as women and children.

  58. RD, sorry to have offended you with an inelegant metaphor! I simply meant that if Kris would like to see her daughter ordained to priesthood office (and, by the way, I’m not advocating this myself, however sympathetic I am to Kris’s dismay), it seems to me that she needs to demonstrate to the next generation’s Quorum of the Twelve (who are currently in young local leadership, probably) that women with that desire will be as loyal to the organization as men have been.

    Elisabeth, I didn’t put it very well. But it seems to me that if I were in charge of the church (heaven forbid!), and there were a certain group that wanted me to share authority with them—-and if I knew that such a sharing would certainly require major institutional investment of time and resources in the restructuring, and would require a significant social and spiritual price from many of its members—I’d be foolish to undertake such a big change without being certain that the group in question would use the authority for the benefit of the organization. Prominent, strong women in the church peeling off to go with the Episcopalians or the New Agers isn’t likely to produce that certainty, I’m guessing. That’s only one of many, many reasons why I hope strong women stay.

  59. Rosalynde,

    You lost me. I don’t see any conflict at all in saying that the work in the home is the most important (and so mothers are very important) and saying that fatherhood and priesthood are tied together in important ways. To put it another way, I am saying that a bishop’s job as a bishop (a priesthood responsibility) is less important than his job as a father (a priesthood responsibility).

  60. Rosalynde, no offense taken. You’ve much more elegance to offer than I.

    I guess my response would be that men in church leadership positions are likely very trusting of women in leadership positions, but that the revealed structure of the church just doesn’t allow for that right now. If the prophet were to come out and say that women would now be afforded the opportunity to hold the priesthood and minister within the priesthood institution currently established for men, it wouldn’t offend me. I would be okay with it. More than okay. But that’s not the way it is, so we move on. And I know many women currently who lead, if without formal office, very, very well.

    But the sense I get is that you think women not “holding the priesthood”, at least through conferrals and ordinations, is a human fallacy that can/should be corrected through “enlightened” leadership and not necessarily brought on through revelation. That’s fine, but I question whether prophets and apostles, most of whom I consider to be very conscious of all, have not at least considered the role of women in the church and resolved it at its current station.

    (I know there is likely a complex middle ground between enlightenment and revelation–see blacks and the priesthood–but I wonder if you think that the current revelations allow for women holding ecclesiastical office if the men would merely lighten up and be more trusting of women–with that I think I would disagree).

  61. #56: “. . .he and my daughter both agree having a baby is alot more work than conducting a meeting,. . .”

    Having a baby must be extremely difficult, painful, etc. I’m sure not much compares, and I wouldn’t try to argue that anything a man does is more difficult. That being said, if the only thing a bishop or his counselors had to do in their callings was to conduct meetings, what an easy calling that would be. I’m sure this was not an attempt to set up a straw argument, but it certainly makes the contrast more stark, doesn’t it?

  62. I see, Frank. When you wrote, “If you agree that it is more important to raise a child than to run a stake, then the hard work would be convincing the child that men are as important as women,” I took you to be assigning raising children to women and running stakes to men, and simply reversing Peter’s assertion on that basis (indeed, that still seems to me the meaning of this sentence). But I appreciate the clarification!

    RD: I think we agree on a lot. I don’t in fact believe that current revelation allows for women to be ordained to priesthood office—see a recent thread on BCC for my thoughts. I do think it would require more than a mere policy change implemented by an “enlightened” prophet to accomplish such a change (again, not that I’m advocating it!): I think it would require a specific revelation from God, as well as a whole heap of administrative work to make it happen. But my understanding of the process of prophetic revelation, like yours, suggests that a prophet is unlikely to petition the Lord on the matter until he’s convinced that it’s a desirable and plausible step. And, frankly, I think the responsibility rests with women as well as with men to get us there—if indeed that is where we ought to go. (Cue my constant refrain: I’m not advocating it!)

  63. Rosalynde – I think the reason why I’m taken aback by your statements about women needing to prove their loyalty before being trusted to serve in leadership positions is that Heavenly Father should decide whether or not women can be “trusted” to run His Church – the men currently in the leadership positions should not be judging the women to see whether or not the women can be trusted to share power with them.

    Regardless of whether an extensive institutional change were necessary to share power with women, I feel uncomfortable with the thought that women should be required to prove their loyalty, while there is no reciprocal requirement for men.

  64. In # 60, claire said:

    What I wonder is if women held real leadership positions in the Church, what would be different?

    Exactly. I suspect there might be some differences around the edges, but most of the challenges we face are due to our being human, and are difficult to solve. One problem (of many. Sorry, Kristine! :-)) with the feminist critique of LDS doctrine and practice is that it tends to lump all complaints into one big, undifferentiated mass and then attribute it all to the patriarchy. If men and women in the church switched roles tomorrow, I believe many of the really tough issues would persist. Ironically, probably the best way to help women see that would be to include them more in decision making and leadership.

    My story about What Kids Say goes the other way. We were leaving the parking lot of a ward where one of the sisters considered herself to be God’s Mouthpiece. She was free with unslolicited advice about how many children you should have, when you should have them, and how they should dress and behave. My deacon son had loosened his tie in the foyer on his way out the door, and she admonished him for it. When we were out of earshot, he said “Geez, no wonder they don’t let women have the priesthood. Can you imagine what SHE would be like on the high council?”

  65. Elisabeth, of course men have to prove their loyalty. A man who threatens to go inactive unless the bishop implements this or that program a certain way will simply not be called to any position of leadership. It is just the nature of organizations.

  66. RW: “I took you to be assigning raising children to women and running stakes to men, and simply reversing Peter’s assertion on that basis”

    Yes, that would be very much not what I think. Glad you asked for the clarification. :)

  67. Mark IV #70: Sure! That’s my point (sort of). Women and men should be on the same footing in being required to demonstrate their loyalty to the institution before serving in leadership positions. As it is now, women are not called to certain leadership positions, no matter how loyal and trustworthy they may be.

  68. Jim (# 43):

    Since I’m turning 50 this year, when I wrote my post I actually wondered whether I still even qualified as middle-aged, and when I would need to start to refer to myself as an old man.

    However, if it is any comfort to you, in my mind, you are still frozen in time in 1975: a “young turk”, sitting on the table at the front of the class with your shoes off and claiming that you couldn’t really discuss Plato properly with your shoes on.


  69. “I simply meant that if Kris would like to see her daughter ordained to priesthood office (and, by the way, I’m not advocating this myself, however sympathetic I am to Kris’s dismay)”

    A small quibble (I’ll have to get to the big ones later!): I also have nowhere advocated ordaining women to office. I believe that most of the necessary cultural changes could be made without ordaining women, and that many of the cultural problems would remain even if we ordained women (if that ordination were the only change we made).

  70. Rosalynde,

    I’m just fascinated by what you’ve said here so I have to jump in quickly.

    Your comments could be construed to mean that you assume that we, the female church membership, are in some sort of “proving” period necessary before various institutional changes could reasonably be made. You seem to be saying that you believe that the reason LDS women don’t have more authority is because church leaders doubt their loyalty. Do you really believe that?

    You write that you think it would be ” foolish to undertake such a big change without being certain that the group in question would use the authority for the benefit of the organization.” Do you really think that there’s some doubt about whether or not LDS women as a group would “use the authority for the benefit of the organization”? For what else (realistically) would they use increased authority in an organization other than to benefit that organization and its members? Why would active and faithful LDS women not be trusted? If there is “doubt” or “question” regarding such women what is the source? Presumably not the women themselves. If the loyalty of women who have always been loyal is under suspicion, what could they possibly do better or differently to prove their devotion than what they already have always done? If valiant members of the church don’t merit church leaders’ trust, who does?

    I’m confused by and curious about what I take you to be saying. Please clarify or correct me if I’ve misunderstood.

    I’m also, of course, intrigued by the need you feel to continually reassert the fact that you aren’t advocating any institutional change. Why is this such a concern to you?

  71. OK, I can’t resist–Rosalynde, it’s seems outrageous (and more than a little insulting) to me to suggest that women are not trusted with leadership roles because they have not yet proven their loyalty. I’ve never yet been in any ward where the visiting teachers weren’t more faithful than the home teachers, the women weren’t the most reliable staffers of all the organizations, the women weren’t the most knowledgable about the individual members of the ward, etc., etc., etc.

    Also, I don’t think the decision to withhold leadership opportunities from women is nearly as conscious as it would have to be for someone to be thinking, “well, let’s make sure those uppity women prove their commitment before we let them ________ (administer the Relief Society budget, be present in all decision-making councils at the ward level, sit on the stand during Sacrament Meeting, have an RS President’s office in the church building, receive a “living allowance” when they serve full-time at the general church level, speak more at General Conference, etc.)” I think there’s much more simple inertia involved.

  72. #74 Whereas I believe ordination of young women and women would be a very positive message, even if roles and responsibilities remained pretty much the same! I believe it would do much to raise the real esteem we have for the work women already do, and give them more tacit approval to call upon the powers of heaven in the fulfillment of these divinely ordained responsibilities.

  73. To stick up for part of Rosalynde’s idea (after I’ve trashed it!), I’d like to say that we all as members of the Church have to be ready to receive (and ask for!) revelation before it can be implemented.

    It’s not about proving loyalty as such, but women and men *do* need to learn to work together and share leadership responsibilities before any major institutional changes can be made, whether based on a change in policy, doctrine, or revelation. But this is an obligation of both women AND men – it’s not that women need to prove themselves worthy of sharing leadership responsibilities (as Kristine points out in #77).

  74. Erica —

    Jaymie was reading Pickle Chiffon Pie to me in the car so I didn’t have my full attention on the story. After a conversation with my wife about the book, I get the impression that my misgivings were not based on the text itself, but on the generic conventions upon which it relies. In other words, there’s nothing there to really worry about.

    I guess I should actually read the book. I’ll do that tonight. In the meantime, my kids have fallen in love with the book, and have heard it several times today.

  75. Kris, your quibble (#74) states beautifully what I understand your position to be—my apologies for seeming to suggest otherwise!

    Melissa, I may really have gotten myself into trouble this time! I have a tendency to let myself be argued into a position I don’t actually hold (usually my own fault for over-asserting in the first place). So let me try to clarify: it’s not my position that women aren’t currently ordained because they’re not deemed loyal (by the leadership or the Lord). I wish I did know exactly why they’re not ordained, but I suspect it has a lot to do with scripture and history, both of which refract as well as reflect the will of the Lord. It is my position that a necessary (but not sufficient) precursor to women’s ordination would be the leadership’s conviction that women will be capable of and trustworthy in ordained office, and that women’s loyalty to the church would be a factor in generating that conviction.

    Taken as a whole, I think the female membership of the church has proved itself abundantly loyal to the church over time (as, I hasten to add, has Kris herself, time and time again: I’m in no way calling into question Kris’s personal loyalty—on the contrary, she’s an inspiration to me in this regard!). But I’m not so sure about the subset of the female membership that has raised questions about women’s status with regard to the priesthood during the last thirty years: many of the most prominent have left the church, or left activity in the church, or have in other ways framed their challenges so oppositionally that—rightly or wrongly—they’re perceived to be disloyal. (Some of these women, of course, have been excommunicated against their will: I don’t know nearly enough about any of these cases to judge the merits, but these women do seem to be in a different category.) Whether or not these prominent women are an accurate representation of the loyalties of the entire subset, I’m not sure: but regardless of the accuracy, their visibility makes them seem so. On the other hand, the majority of “active and faithful LDS women” that local leaders encounter appear *not* to anticipate women’s ordination. That’s why I think the leadership, local and general, would need to encounter more prominent women who will explore women’s status in the church while making their depth of their commitment perfectly clear before it would be ready to petition the Lord on the matter. There are many, many reasons why walking this line is exhausting and harrowing—and, frankly, I don’t blame those who lack the fortitude.

    As for my constant refrain: on a topic as charged as this, it’s easy all too easy to polarize the debate into two opposing camps. This is usually counterproductive and inaccurate, but it happens anyway, and I guess I just want to make sure that I’m flying the flag I intend to fly.

  76. Kris, I’ve got to run, but I just saw your #77: I want to apologize publicly if I seemed to impugn your own trustworthiness—and I can see how it seemed like I did! Again, in my mind your loyalty is beyond question, as is your graciousness and goodness.

  77. I understood Rosalynde to be speaking ONLY about changing current practice.

    I did NOT understand her to mean that the reason women don’t share more in the leadership of the church is because they can’t be trusted. Agreed, there is probably a lot of institutional inertia, but, if a change is what is wanted, it is obviously counterproductive to be threatening to leave if change isn’t forthcoming.

  78. Mark (and anyone else whom I may have misled): I’m not threatening to leave, and I would certainly have no illusions about the efficacy of such a course. It’s pretty clear that those who “vote with their feet” have no impact on policy or practice (unless it is to make people even more suspicious of anything that smacks even slightly of feminism). My point in this post was really only to express my anguish at what my commitment to the Church inflicts on my children, and my deep sense that we ought to change our practices so that both our daughters and sons can grow up whole, and with confidence of their great worth to the Lord and in his Kingdom.

    (As annegb points out, it has been a *long* time since I’ve posted anything, and if this is the first post of mine you’ve ever read, it’s easy to see why you’d conclude that I’m a sadly misguided person with little enough understanding of the church to think that someone would take my concern more seriously if I were really contemplating jumping ship.)

  79. “My point in this post was really only to express my anguish at what my commitment to the Church inflicts on my children, and my deep sense that we ought to change our practices so that both our daughters and sons can grow up whole”

    Again, I don’t think the church or its practices inhibit anyone from “growing up whole” and am saddened to think that others do. Again I ask, is this an institutional problem? or a problem of perception? I think it is the latter, if only because so_many_women are growing up “whole”, finding satisfaction, and absolutely flourishing within the current gospel institutions that I feel very confident that my daughters will be (or at least can be) just fine. And when our children make ambitious comments, like they want to be store owners or animal caretakers, it only affirms my thought that women, and girls, are ready and able to be “whole” in the kingdom. Quite possibly moreso than in any other institution this world has to offer. A child’s innocent, if mistaken, comment about gender-specific priesthood roles does nothing to change this reality. That’s why, I think, the scriptures encourage us remove those rose-colored glasses of our childhood and see things as they really are. And they are, as far as I can tell, just fine.

  80. Rosalynde,

    You write, “it is my position that a necessary (but not sufficient) precursor to women’s ordination is the leadership’s conviction that women will be capable of and trustworthy in ordained office, and that women’s loyalty to the church will be a factor in generating that conviction.”

    My simple point is that there is no reason why the leadership should lack conviction as to women’s capability and trustworthiness in ordained office. The entirety of church history is full of women’s loyalty to the church. If the conviction of loyalty is what is necessary and is yet lacking, I don’t see that changing.

    You write, “the subset of the female membership that has raised questions about women’s status with regard to the priesthood during the last thirty years: many of the most prominent have left the church, or left activity in the church, or have in other ways framed their challenges so oppositionally that—rightly or wrongly—they’re perceived to be disloyal.”

    You’re right. They have been perceived as disloyal. But, why do you think they’ve been perceived that way? They have been perceived as disloyal for raising the question and not for other reasons. I think it a nearly impossible feat to try to raise questions about women’s status with regard to authority and not be perceived as disloyal or dangerous no matter how active you are and no matter how you frame the issue.

    You write, ” the majority of active and faithful LDS womenâ€? that local leaders encounter appear *not* to anticipate women’s ordination.

    Given what I said above, the risk for active and faithful LDS women to appear otherwise is too high.

    “That’s why I think the leadership, local and general, would need to encounter more prominent women who will explore women’s status in the church while making their depth of their commitment perfectly clear before it would be ready to petition the Lord on the matter.”

    But, Rosalynde this statement assumes that prominent women who have explored women’s status in the past didn’t in fact do everything in their power to clarify the depth of their commitment and this just isn’t the case.

    You call for “prominent” women to make this exploration of women’s status in the church. But, it is precisely because of their prominence that so many of these women become such “visible” casualties later. Their prominence is the very thing that gets them in trouble. If you have influence, position, voice, or forum you’re more of a threat. But, your comment seems to suggest that if you aren’t “prominent” then you can’t risk saying anything at all since your loyalty might be in question.

    I think part of the confusion stems from the fact that you use “prominent” to describe such a wide variety of different people. Could you say a little bit more about just what (or whom) you mean by “prominent.”

    And, If it really be necessary (which necessity is incredibly sad and revealing in itself) let the record show that I’m not advocating women’s ordination.

  81. Kristine, I have no doubts at all about the rock solid nature of your commitment.

    It’s pretty clear that those who “vote with their feet� have no impact on policy or practice (unless it is to make people even more suspicious of anything that smacks even slightly of feminism).

    That was what I understood RW’s original point to be. I was surprised that you, Elisabeth and Melissa understood it differently, but that’s the nature of blogging, I guess.

  82. Ah, hang it all. Don’t you guys ever tire of these rants?

    As I’ve gotten older, I can hardly bear the burden of “priesthood responsibility.” Let someone else have it who really wants it– is they way I feel about it. Unfortunately, there are some things I can’t get out of if I want to remain faithful.

  83. “Ah, hang it all. Don’t you guys ever tire of these rants?”

    I know I do. I’ve found there’s a certain pattern in discussion that each discussion follows as well. Truly, there is “nothing new under the sun.” Argument and counter-argument. And at the end of the day, those who don’t like the Church still don’t like it, and those who do like the Church, still think it’s pretty neat.

    So how about I propose a simple solution?

    We guys are (typically) bigger, stronger and more violent than you women.

    If we had a fight. We win.

    So we win.

    No Priesthood for you!

  84. Seth, the trouble is that I *do* think the church is pretty neat. If I didn’t, I would have headed for the churches with good organs and good choirs a long time ago.

    I would like nothing more than for such rants to become obsolete–if you are sick of hearing them, you can only imagine how sick I am of trying to function in the situations that elicit them (not to mention being told how _boring_ I am when I mention that things haven’t improved).

    And, finally, can I point out that one possibly new feature of this “rant” is that it is*explicitly* NOT about women being ordained, so that your “No Priesthood for you” line is both not especially funny, and not especially relevant.

  85. RD–I hope you are right. However, the fact that the Church is veritably hemorrhaging young women suggests to me that there are serious needs that are not being met, and our young women are looking elsewhere for healthy environments.

    And, last I checked, the scriptures suggest that we all see “through a glass, darkly” even after we remove our rose-colored glasses. (And, may I just say that I think you are the first person *ever* to accuse me of having a too-rosy view of anything. Thanks!)

  86. “the fact that the Church is veritably hemorrhaging young women”

    Is there solid evidence for this? I’ll admit that it is my impression given the semi-annual “How To Get YW to Go to RS” articles in the Ensign, but I don’t have any hard data.

  87. All I heard was that YWs were leaving at the same rate as YMs and that didn’t used to be the case.

  88. Re: prominent women.

    I think prominent women do have opportunities to help expand the scope of leadership/influence, but what is meant by “prominent,” a scholar or a minister? I think the woman who is prominent in her ability to minister will be of much greater effect in causing a bishop to look to her for guidance than a woman who writes a prominent article in a scholarly magazine. This is not to say that ministry and scholarship are mutually exclusive. A woman who knows the scriptures well can use them in counseling and ministering to others. I’m not sure, however, that we are equipping enough women to take such roles/responsibilities. I think much more could be done to train our young men and women for the ministering roles we expect them to assume, either as missionaries, or as adults in the church with ministering callings as home teachers and visiting teachers. When we fail to train youth in this vein we shortchange a generation of missionaries and leaders.

    An anecdote from a recent conversation with a friend bears out the need for better training, and at a young age. Shortly after marrying, at age 22, she was called as RS president in an inner city ward. She was suddenly confronted with huge problems amongst the sisters she was now responsible for, including murder, rape, incest, etc. These were not easy problems to deal with, or counsel her sisters about. Her YW years had not prepared her for having to offer such counseling. Why not? Shouldn’t our youth be being trained in how to spiritually counsel others? Shouldn’t they be experts on the healing power of the Atonement? How are they going to teach others how to use it, either as missionaries, or in other adult callings, if we don’t prepare them for those teaching and counseling opportunities that will inevitably confront them as adults (if not sooner).

    A woman that has this skillset will be a welcome force for good in any ward, and in counseling with Priesthood leaders.

  89. “And they are, as far as I can tell, just fine” (85)

    Hm. I sort of agree, in the sense that it our being sinners does not exactly keep the church from functioning; God has known all along that there will be sinners in the church for a long time yet.

    But Christ said, “it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt 18:7). Unfortunately, people in leadership positions in the church do misuse their position, misrepresent the nature of their authority, or simply fail to live up to their calling to act as Christ would, often enough. This has consequences because members, especially children, look to them as leaders. So far as this pushes members to rely directly on God and the Spirit, there is a sort of silver lining. And we do have other resources to draw on when a leader, including priesthood leaders, goes wrong. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be grieved at it, like Kristine is.

  90. Seth, I think it’s funny. I laughed out loud. No offense, Kristine. But it was funny. It’s a line I use in various interpretations pretty regularly.

  91. It was funny–I’m just doing my humorless feminist imitation!

    Also, he was trying to trick me into laughing so I wouldn’t disagree with him ;)

  92. Kristine,

    I think you need to ask yourself, “if I replaced ‘daughter’ with ‘son’ in this post, how would it read?”

    (I am going to roll out Rosalynde’s silly test at every opportunity now, you know. For example, I had a ham sandwich on bread for lunch. And if I switched the subject and object of that sentence, how would it read? I had a bread sandwich on ham. Perfectly ridiculous; yet it sounds surprisingly tasty. You know, I think I may just try that for lunch tomorrow, and see how it works. . . )

  93. Thanks annegb. Thanks to you, the evening is complete.

    Kristine, if it’s any consolation, I was quite cowed by your “humorless feminist imitation.”

    P.S. Between me and my wife, I wouldn’t place any wagers on which of us is the stronger physically (she’s one of those types who probably could push a handcart from Iowa to Utah in November all over again).

  94. “Kristine, if it’s any consolation, I was quite cowed by your “humorless feminist imitation.â€?”


  95. Melissa, #86,

    You’re right. They have been perceived as disloyal. But, why do you think they’ve been perceived that way? They have been perceived as disloyal for raising the question and not for other reasons. I think it a nearly impossible feat to try to raise questions about women’s status with regard to authority and not be perceived as disloyal or dangerous no matter how active you are and no matter how you frame the issue.

    Melissa, you are addressing Rosalynde in your comment, and she certainly doesn’t need any help from me explaining what she means. But I think she made a clear distinction between those who raise the issue and remain faithful and those who raise the issue and then leave, slamming the door behind them on their way out.

    You are correct, though, to this extent: sometimes now matter what you do, somebody is going to call your motives into question. I appreciate you and others around here who exemplify faithful service, even though it may sometimes be difficult for you.

  96. I nominate Kristine for General Relief Society president so we can have cow jokes and belly laughs in the general conference.

  97. Melissa, re #86: You make a fine point about the difficulties of visibility for women in the church (and you’re also right that I’ve been using ‘prominent’—and any number of other words—pretty sloppily; thanks for helping me refine what started out as an extraordinarily crude formulation!). You are far better versed in LDS feminism than I, and I’ll defer to your knowledge of the individual loyalty of particular feminists. I don’t think this changes much, though: we both agree that it’s the leadership’s perception of the group that’s in play here (“here” referring to the institutional matter of women’s status, not the moral matter of individual women’s behavior). Yes, feminists need discerning, thoughtful male partners in patriarchy to change entrenched cultural patterns—and I call for those as well! But if feminists are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs—what seems (in some quarters) to be a collusive dynamic of mistrust and recrimination—they can either lapse into resignation and try to avoid bitterness, or they can keep on trying to walk that line. I hope they keep on trying—and I think you and Kris and others like you are doing so admirably.

  98. “it’s the leadership’s perception of the group that’s in play here”

    Unless ‘leadership’ is a euphemism for God, I’m not OK with the implication (if I read you correctly–if not, set me straight!) that the reason women don’t hold the priesthood is because a handful of old white men in Salt Lake hold (or don’t hold) a certain perception.

  99. Julie, I’ve already been over this point a number of times: see, for example, #81, #67, and #61. I trust that any prophet (and any local leader), in line with scriptural injunctions, would approach the Lord only with petitions that he deems to be reasonable, workable, righteous, and desirable—-and his perception will play a part in coming to that point.

    Your appraisal of my dismissive attitude toward “old white men in Salt Lake” is not implied even remotely in any of my comments here—or, I daresay, in any other past discussion. Give me a little credit, please!

  100. Rosalynde, if revelation only came when the prophet asked a question, your position would make perfect sense. If, however, God might override a prophet’s interests and perceptions (as apparently happened with Pres. McKay asking to lift the priesthood ban), then the perceptions of the prophet are much less important. I find it hard to believe that God is chomping at the bit to give women the priesthood but hasn’t because the prophet hasn’t asked. The prophet’s limitations do not limit God.

    The “old white men in Salt Lakeâ€? line was not meant to be a reflection of your position but I see how you could have read it that way so I’ll apologize for being sloppy.

  101. #52 If you really want Louisa to prove Peter wrong, though, the last thing you should do is flee to the Episcopalians (except for evensong with a really fabulous choir): we need to prove to the Church that our loyalty can be trusted before we can expect it to trust us with the wheel.

    Rosalynde, you’ve said this twice now. The only way to “prove your loyalty” is to never mention the subject. The minute the words “women and the priesthood” leave your mouth, your loyalty is suspect. So women are left silently waiting for men to graciously bestow upon them something that is simply not theirs to give, to prove their loyalty.

    Why is it incumbent upon women to “prove” they are worthy of something that is given to any 12 year old with a baptism and a penis?

    That’s some catch, that catch-22.

    Kristine, the question is moot unless you don’t believe. If you believe the church is what it claims, then problems like institutional sexism are just the trials for this generation to overcome, like your parents had to overcome institutional racism.

    Only if you don’t believe the church is what it claims is there a reason to perform a cost-benefit analysis.

  102. “Opportunity” “Visibility” “Equality”

    Who cares. Let me play piano in the primary for the rest of my life!

    I can’t understand it–who in his right mind would want the burden of priesthood leadership? It’s enough that my conscience pours over me like a barrel of bricks every time someone asks me for a blessing.

  103. #110, I mention this only because the faithful LDS women can’t say for sure how they would act if they were given the opportunity for official, public, authoritative religious leadership; that opportunity has never been available to them. I, on the other hand, left the LDS church and joined a church where women can hold leadership positions. Oddly enough, I haven’t had the slightest desire to hold a leadership position myself in this new church, even though the opportunity is perfectly open to me. In fact, I am quite content to be the equivalent of a Primary teacher. It surprises even me, given how miserable I was as an LDS Primary teacher. What in the world could explain my current lack of ambition toward spiritual leadership? Could it be that when I sought “opportunity” or “visibility” or “equality” for women, that I actually wasn’t seeking to glorify myself or accrue power? Might I have been in my right mind?

  104. Ann, you quoted my first, very graceless pass at this idea on this thread, and I take your points. I’ve tried to reformulate in subsequent comments.

    It hasn’t been my experience that the mere mention of the subject puts a woman’s loyalty in question—I certainly have said my piece on it, for example, and perhaps I’m kidding myself but I think my loyalty is clear—but it certainly is true that constructive communication on this issue requires great care and skill of all parties, things I frequently and egregiously lack!

  105. How can you believe that the mere mention of the subject doesn’t put a woman’s loyalty into question, Rosalynde?

    Maybe I misread you, but it seems like you’ve been saying that strong, prominent, feminist LDS women have a special burden to prove their loyalty. Why them? Why not the timid, anonymous, submissive LDS women, too? Seems to me that it’s because only the feminists’ loyalty is in question; after having publicly put “women and the priesthood” in the same sentence, they can only rebut the presumption of disloyalty by sticking around and being super-faithful.

    Also, what would be the danger if you were misunderstood to be advocating women’s ordination; why the need to make that clarification into a constant refrain? Couldn’t part of it be that you don’t want your own loyalty to be questioned?

  106. I’m getting to the point in the discussion where I’m repeating myself a lot, so I think I will soon be through, but I’m glad to respond to you, Beijing—especially since the issue has special relevance to (what I understand to be) your experiences.

    The “proof of loyalty” was a poor way of framing the issue, conceptually and discursively, when I began, because it can be so easily misconstrued to suggest that women don’t currently hold the priesthood because they’re disloyal, that they should be subject to some special test that men are not, that individual feminists’ loyalties are questionable, or that some women have a greater moral duty to the Church than do others—-all propositions I reject, and which are particularly distasteful since it seems to place the entire responsibility for change on the shoulders of the group that lacks the authority to enact it! I’ve since tried to revise the idea from a normative proposition about women’s duties vis-a-vis the priesthood to a descriptive proposition about the relationships that might obtain between priesthood leadership and women as a necessary (but not sufficient) precursor to such changes. Namely, priesthood leadership and women will have to achieve a mutual trust in one another’s commitment to the organization and commitment to one another as fellow members of the body of Christ before they will be able (and/or allowed by the Lord) to share authority. The responsibility for fostering those relationships lies with both parties, absolutely, and I have hope that women’s personal stake in the issue and the priesthood leadership’s personal stake in the spiritual welfare of the female membership will motivate both parties to achieve that sort of relationship.

    My thoughts about “prominent” women were messy, as Melissa was right to point out. Let me make it clear that I feel every member has an equal moral obligation to demonstrate his or her commitment to the institutional church—although that obligation will have to be combined with the other (family, personal, conscientious) obligations negotiated by each individual member, so the outcomes may look rather different in different cases. But to the extent that some members—women and men—are more eager to share institutional authority than others, one might expect that group to be even more motivated to achieve the relationship I describe above than those who don’t anticipate any change. Rejecting any special moral burden and considering solely practical and political circumstances, prominent members of that group, both women and men, recognizing their visibility, may wish to take extra care and effort to achieve the desired result: constructive communication, mutual trust and respect, shared commitment.

    As for your final question, I’ve already explained why I am not advocate for structural change: I don’t have the temperament for activism, for one thing, and, no, I don’t want my loyalty to be suspect—to the Lord or to my leaders or to my fellow Saints. There may be individual women who are gifted spiritually and commissioned by the Spirit to do this kind of work—but I’m not one of them. Meanwhile, there are a lot of ways in which the issues of women’s experience in the church can be explored and improved without outright advocacy.

  107. I think some are being a little obstinate in their opposition to Rosalynde’s simple yet profound observation.

    Remove the gender filter and look at the idea. It has been my experience that members, male or female, who espouse liberal gospel ideas frequently show their doctrinal displeasure by removing themselves from full activity in the church. And by so doing their more orthodox brothers and sisters are given more ammunition to dismiss their ideas as dangerous precursors to apostasy.

    As a member with relatively liberal doctrinal ideas I’ve found that signing up for welfare, temple, chapel cleaning and moving assignments rather than just showing up on Sunday go a long way towards getting my views heard and at least considered.

  108. Rosalynde, I did read your later comments and did understand (mostly) how you backed off from what you seemed to be saying at first about women and men. But I wasn’t comparing women to men; I was comparing women who mention “women and the priesthood” (even if their comments fall far short of advocacy) to women who never mention such things.

    I totally agree with KLC in 115. If one shows up regularly on Sunday, loyalty is assumed. If one mentions only orthodox ideas, one can continue merely showing up on Sunday and one’s loyalty will go on being unquestioned. But as soon as one mentions liberal doctrinal ideas (“women and the priesthood” being one such idea), one’s loyalty is immediately put into question in a whole lot of members’ minds. A strong showing in terms of extra-mile types of activities or in terms of “pay close attention to how I do not advocate anything” may be able to rebut the presumption of disloyalty, but that doesn’t change the fact that the first mention of the liberal idea *did* put loyalty into question.

  109. Beijing, I don’t agree. That’s not been my experience. By establishing my willingness to do what people expect, I’ve been able to get away with having “left-wing” (from a right-wing perspective, that is) ideas for a long time. However, I also recognize that these things vary from place to place and that women’s experience may be different than mine.

  110. Jim,

    You just do what I tell ya, and you can be as “left wing” as you like. Now, listen carefully. This is what I’d like you to do–

    First off, vote straight ticket republican. Second…

  111. Of course, Beijing, adult members of the church, in nearly all units, are asked to do much more than show up on Sunday. No matter what (s)he says or doesn’t say, no matter how often or powerfully (s)he bears testimony in words, an adult who doesn’t carry a share of the burdens of running a ward in terms of callings, miscellaneous volunteer service, home/visiting teaching, setting up tables and chairs for activities or whatever shows weak loyalty. Jim has more trust than some might in his ward not because he shows up consistently at meetings, but because he actively serves the ward. But maybe that went without saying.

  112. I know everyone is having a great time working Rosalynde over, but I have a question about the origional post: Kristine, are you upset because you feel your son incorrectly interpreted a correct church practice, or that he correctly interpreted an incorrect church practice?

    When kids are developing their logical abilities they often make mistakes as they are trying to piece together why things are the way they are. Even if the world was perfect, your son would misinterpret things. So if you think the church’s current practice is correct, then when your son misunderstands it, it doesn’t require going into a lengthy discussion of history and culture to say, “Honey, the Lord has never said he gave the priesthood to men because they were better at anything; the only thing we can safely say is that he seems to think they need it. And you’ll want to look around at the fabulous leadership we see from sisters X and Y in Relief Society and Primary before you start making statements about whether or not women can lead.”

    However, if you are worried that the church’s practices are wrong on this matter, and you think your son came to the conclusion that is really behind the church’s policy, then I could see why this would bother you so badly. So where are you here? You’ve been saying that you aren’t advocating women holding the priesthood, but I think you think something is wrong and should be changed.

    Beijing,agreeing with the church’s position on women and the priesthood does not make you “timid, anonymous, submissive”, anymore than being a feminist makes you a flaming, outspoken man-hater. Watch the pejoratives.

  113. Jack, obviously I wasn’t including voting in “what people expect.” I was referring to the kinds of things that Ben lists and, though I didn’t say it, not insisting on my views always being heard or on feeling left out when they are overlooked. By living with the ward the way I live with my family, I’ve been able to get along just fine.

  114. MDS #95 I LOVE this comment!!!!!! (Who hates exclamation points? I can’t remember.) This is really what we ought to be trying to do in church–prepare the lay ministry (all members) to be capable of truly ministering. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

  115. Kristy (#121), that’s a really insightful set of questions. You’ve put your finger on the reason this interaction was so painful for me–I am deeply (truly, madly, deeply!) ambivalent about this. While I don’t believe that Peter’s formulation is what anyone would say is the reason for the current division of labor, I do think that there are many people in the church who believe (if only in an unconsidered, nearly subconscious way) that women don’t hold the Priesthood because they are somehow less worthy than men. Current practice allows, and even sometimes encourages the persistence of such mistaken notions.

    However, most of what I think is wrong is not inherent to patriarchy, and wouldn’t necessarily be solved by ordaining women. I don’t think there is sufficient scriptural warrant or historical precedent for ordaining women, so there would have to be new revelation. I am not holding my breath.

    That said, I think ordaining women has the generally salutary effect of making gender roles and relations the subject of careful and conscious discussion and thought in the congregations where it is implemented. In my limited experience, I observe that many churches that have ordained women have much, much healthier working relationships between men and women than our church does. It’s hard to say whether ordaining women encourages a less sexist culture or whether the creation of such a culture makes the ordination of women seem like a possibility.

    You also came remarkably close to my exact words to Peter. For good measure, we also read the story of Deborah for our scripture study that night–nothing like military honors to impress a 9-year-old boy! I thought about adding in Jael, but decided that would be going too far :)

  116. I’ve never done this before but I just have to comment on “the Church is hemorraging (I can’t spell) young women” as I don’t see that happening. If it is, I suggest that it is partly due to the same thing the mission presidents lament “we need more male converts”. My husband and I are currently serving as Humanitarian Services missionaries in Russia and the Branch we meet with has NO young men. The Institute program has maybe 3 young men and 20 or so young women (several branches, obviously). Now how are these beautiful young women going to marry in the Temple and raise righteous families in the Church unless we get some more young male converts? Are they worried about whether or not they can hold the priesthood? No, they are worried about where they are going to find a worthy priesthood holder so that they can obey the Lord’s admonition to marry and to marry in the Temple. Of course, if the number ratio were reversed (too many men, not enough women) the problem would be the same. Many young women are marrying outside of the Church partly because many young men are not marrying at all. In the mission field often there are no young men for them to marry. At my advanced age (I am a “senior” missionary) I have to say that my feelings are if the Lord wants women to have the Priesthood he will give it to them. The fact that women do not hold the Priesthood does not, to me, indicate that the Lord feels they are inferior in any way. Now, of course, some individual members (of both sexes) see it differently and sometimes say and do things that cause hurt feelings in others but I see that as an imperfection in some members and not an imperfection in the Gospel. On a lighter note, if the Episcopalians are the ones with a “really good choir” where does that put The Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

  117. Dianna, you *really* wouldn’t like hearing my opinion of the MoTab.

    It’s clear that the church also struggles to convert and retain young men. Unfortunately, there are very few available statistics, and so one has to go by anecdotal reports. “Hemorrhaging YW” is a quote from a visiting GA at a regional training meeting some years ago–I suspect he was largely talking about North America. But it’s almost impossible to know. Thanks for giving us at least some anecdotal data from where you are. And thanks for the good work you are doing!!

  118. I read Frank McIntyre’s comment #2 and skipped the rest of the discussion so I could reply to his statement: “If you agree that it is more important to raise a child than to run a stake, then the hard work would be convincing the child that men are as important as women.”

    I hate this stupid stupid argument. Do you not see the huge discrepancy in how much God trusts a mother versus how much he trusts a stake president? Any woman whose biology works right can have a baby. To be a stake president, you have to be righteous, dependable and called of God. Go ahead, tell a righteous woman struggling with infertility (or being single), that God trusts her with a divine calling just as much as he trusts a drug addict who just gave birth to a crack baby.

    I hate it when people compare motherhood to priesthood because priesthood is all based on righteousness and responsibility and other things men can control while motherhood is based on the biology working properly. There is *no* righteousness prerequisite to being a mother, so claiming that women get motherhood while men get priesthood leaves a lot of righteous childless women wondering why God doesn’t give them children, but he’ll send children by the dozen to some irresponsible female who won’t even care for them.

    Irresponsible men don’t get to be stake presidents. Irresponsible women can have a dozen kids. So the argument that women are just as worthy and hardworking and faithful as men because they’re mothers fails. God doesn’t “call” mothers based on the same criteria he “calls” priesthood leaders so you can’t compare the two “callings.”

    And yes, a mother who does a good job is a wonderful thing. But you don’t get to be a mother just because you’ll do a good job.

  119. Melinda–

    Frank clarified his comment in 62. He’s not comparing men’s and women’s roles, he’s contrasting priesthood and fatherhood.

  120. JimF wrote: “By establishing my willingness to do what people expect, I’ve been able to get away with having “left-wingâ€? (from a right-wing perspective, that is) ideas for a long time.”

    JimF, I don’t understand why you think this statement constitutes disagreement with me. I agree 100% with that statement. You do have both “left-wing” ideas and solid, well-recognized loyalty (I recognize that), but it’s only because you have consistently gone the second mile to establish your willingness to meet and exceed expectations. Someone with “right-wing” ideas would have their loyalty as unquestioned as yours is, while possibly doing much less of what people expect.

    Kristy, I did not intend the assertion you attribute to me. I was trying to describe the polar opposite of outspoken, prominent, and priesthood-seeking; I chose the words “timid, anonymous, submissive.” I did not say those were the only possible positions; it’s just that someone had already pointed out one extreme position, and I needed to point out the other extreme to make my point. I meant nothing pejorative toward anyone. I’ll watch the pejoratives while you watch the assumptions and accusations.

  121. Dianna–if young women were ordained, that would give them all the more incentive to marry an equal partner in all things.

  122. Kristine, thanks for the post, I’ve enjoyed it and the discussion it’s provoked. I think I understand you now; it’s a poor comparison, but I suppose it’s like how my husband feels about the habit we have of telling pioneer stories. General Authorities do it all the time, and they have good reasons for doing so, but still, when our Gospel Doctrine teacher asked for a raise of hands of those who had ancestors in the Martin and Willie handcart companies, it sent my husband’s blood pressure through the roof, because he was sure that half of those who raised their hands were feeling they are “specialâ€?. (I know it’s a limited analogy, no one needs to tell me handcart stories aren’t similar to holding the priesthood!) Anyway, he wishes we didn’t do it, because for whatever good it does, it also promotes pride in some.

    Beijing, I’m glad you weren’t labeling all women who are silent on this issue as timid or submissive. However, I think that’s how your post read, and the thought of writing something like, “I think you might have unintentionally implied that all women who don’t speak out about this are timid, and well, you just might want to consider the possibility that, you know, that isn’t the caseâ€? seemed a bit ironic to me. ;) Besides I was just SO inspired by that sister who made a declarative statement. (Thanks Ben S, that was fabulous.)

  123. “Someone with “right-wingâ€? ideas would have their loyalty as unquestioned as yours is, while possibly doing much less of what people expect.”

    I tend to agree with this. It’s not right that certain people should be held to a higher standard to be accepted as loyal, because of groundless assumptions about what kinds of views put you outside the doctrinal and ecclesiastical mainstream. We probably shouldn’t be routinely passing judgment on the loyalty of others at any rate.

    Still, faithful members of the church have every right to ask what kind of discussion they are being asked to engage in. Are we being asked why we should be committed (or remain committed) to the church in the face of significant wrongs or are we being asked how a member who is already fully dedicated to the kingdom should respond to significant wrongs? There’s a big difference. It isn’t at all clear which question Kristine was asking. I’m not saying the former question is off limits (I’m sure it’s not, since if we’re faithfully minstering to our brothers and sisters we’ll probably have to deal with it very carefully at one time or another). But if members of the church, especially leaders, are going to say come let us reason together about things we can do better, it makes a big difference if the reasoning is coming from people fully dedicated above all else to the kingdom of God, or people completely outside the church who would just like to see us act differently, or people who are somewhat on the fence and might not remain members if a certain policy doesn’t change in a certain way. I know almost no one involved in this discussion personally and would never publicly question anyone’s committment even if I did, and that’s not what I’m doing now. But the matter is posed in an ambiguous way when it is posed as a question why shouldn’t we be Episcopalians.

  124. That’s a fair criticism, Jeremiah. And, frankly, I’m not quite sure myself which question I was asking. I have always considered myself fully committed, and have never seriously thought about joining another church (never even un-seriously thought about it, actually). But things change when you have kids. I used to be sort of glib about how willing I would have been to cross the plains, and I think I really would have. But if you asked me to pack up my babies and risk their deaths, well, that’s a whole different kind of faith, and I’m not sure I’ve got it. I can live with the cultural sexism I see in the Church, and even with most of the doctrinal questions around women’s place in the church and in the eternities for myself. But to see my daughter’s face crumple and her shoulders slump because her brother snottily tells her males are more important in the kingdom, to think of her struggling through the kinds of questions that have plagued me, to think of my son absorbing attitudes that I loathe–that’s a little like asking me to put my babies in a handcart in the winter. I’m trying to be that faithful, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. So I don’t know what discussion I’m asking you to have, and I appreciate you not (quite) deciding that I’m wicked for being unsure.

  125. Thanks for that further elaboration and your other comments. I suspect that there are many many things that still need to be said in the kingdom of God, which none of us have yet learned how to say. Perhaps even less have we been willing to hear them.

  126. I don’t really have great answers for Kristine’s questions, but I deeply admire her honesty about her faith, an honesty that comes from careful self-reflection and that doesn’t end in cynicism or refusal (#134 is an excellent example of her honesty). I hope I will have the faith to cross whatever plains the Lord may call on me to cross, but like Kristine, when I really reflect on what that can mean by thinking about what it meant to the pioneers, I am not only amazed by their faith, I’m skeptical of my own.

  127. I think that we’re going to be stuck with some level of imperfection in the Church so long as it’s adminstered by imperfect people, as it will be for the forseeable future. What’s so wrong with saying “that’s about as silly as saying that dogs are better at eating than cats because we spend $2.99 a pound on dog food but $2.39 a pound on cat food!” to comments like “men are obviously better at leadership, after all they’re in charge at church” statements? It’s either so complex they haven’t noticed it, or it’s simple enough that you can engage them intellectually on the issue.

    I don’t think I’ll be kept up late worrying about this if I ever get married and have kids; I don’t worry that the kids in my Primary class think women can’t be in charge (they certainly know that I’m stricter than the men who teach in our Primary, and our current Primary President is a veteran, so… yeah.) My dad’s church (Unitarian Universalist) worried about this stuff all the time — we talked endlessly about male and female roles in society and why we shouldn’t stereotype and Sally Ride and so forth. But most of us didn’t really care that much one way or another. Children anymore are completely surrounded by female leadership and role models, and every example of female power is pointed out in very large, blinking letters. If anything, I’d be more worried about the sexualization of women in our current media culture messing with their heads, than who’s doing what job in church.

    Also, to whichever person mentioned hemorrhaging YW — not in my stake, and not in any of the stakes I’ve been in, either. I’ve been to a total of 1 YSA meeting where men outnumbered women, and the difference evaporated if you took the senior adult leadership out of the equation (since both mens’ wives didn’t show up, we had exactly one more male than female in the room.) I’ve never lived in Utah, and I don’t know what it’s like there, but female YSAs have always outnumbered males in my meetings; usually by quite a lot. My home teachers in the YSA ward I lived in for the longest period had 6 girls to visit. And when I taught the YSA FHE two weeks ago, and asked how many people had actually gone to church (I wanted to sing the same hymn we’d sung in Sacrament meeting the day before,) the only people who had were the female YSAs (4 out of 8 females, 8 females and 4 males present) and the senior adult leadership. Oh, and one of the guys was leaving for his mission in a few days (we’d almost be even numerically if our semi-active girls stopped coming, and all of our missionaries came home, along with all of our BYU-bound returned missionaries — but we’d get out of balance again if all the girls who went to BYU came back too, to say nothing of the University of Utah girls.)

    Anyway, I’d feel a lot better about my chances of ever getting married to an active Latter-day Saint if we were, indeed, hemorrhaging YW. I suppose it’d be bad form to ask all the girls who are prettier than me to stop coming to church, though. ^_^

  128. #127 – You’ve missed the point. The question is not how easy/difficult it is to attain. It’s what happens when that calling comes (and if you want to talk about biology go ahead, but as the Lord is in charge of that as well, I don’t see how that helps) We’re not given callings because we deserve them (unworthiness can prevent us from being called, but that’s definitely not the same thing), and the lack of a calling, just like setbacks and trials, doesn’t mean we’re unworthy of them.

    It is more important that mothers do a good job with their children than it is that a Bishop does a good job with the ward. The criteia may not be the same but they *are* called nonetheless.

    #95 – An excellent point. I think a lot of this thread boils down to what is the actual problem? I don’t know what the people are like in Kristine’s ward (current or past) so I don’t know what she’s had to put up with.

    I don’t see what this has to do with the ordination of women though. If this was something so instituionalised, and so widespread and prevalent and yet so easily ‘silver-bulleted’ by giving women the priesthood, it would have happened long ago. I’m certain that the complaints that are blamed on the framework of the church are quite solveable within that framework. If the Lord reveals that women are to be ordained, I think His purpose will be very different to what we assume it to be.

    I certainly understand Kristine’s concern though. What we see/hear as children does affect us. For myself growing up, my mental link to the church was my mother and my sister (the males in my family having one by one departed from the faith), and at the time it was in vogue for the sisters there to put men as a whole down at every opportunity (or at least that’s how it seemed to me). I suppose men generally aren’t fazed by that, but I take things personally and amplify them and spent a lot of time wondering what I was good for. And I still find that mindset affecting me now and again.

    Nevertheless, we have to deal with whatever we have to deal with and in the end, the Lord is in charge.

  129. Damaged? My children I feel are not damaged by the church. In fact last Sunday my little boy came home and exclaimed” Mommy, I figured out how to be happy from church today, all you have to do is follow Jesus. A simple lesson learned at church that will hopefully continue to develop his testimony of our Savior. As a convert I am so grateful for the priesthood. I have seen it bless my life time and time again and am so glad that my husband holds the priesthood and I know the the priethood has been an edifying factor in my life. How can I bear this? You can recognize that the priesthood is a blessing that you take part in. What greater role can you have than as a mother raising a future priesthood holder to stand as equals one day with his future wife in the temple? Equality is not achieved within the church by merely saying women should be given the priesthood, rather equality must be attained by recognizing that man and women need one another for exaltation.

  130. I wanted to respond to and rant about the profound submission made over 100 blogs above and about 10 days ago; # 30 where Bro. David H lists an impressive array of 25 changes the church has made in his lifetime that gives us hope that more needed changes are on the horizon. But the thought process has taken my senile brain too much time. Now that all the other traffic seems to have settled down, here goes.

    For review, the list, as a list:

    1. Two piece garment
    2. Consolidated meeting schedule
    3. Equalization of missionary costs
    4. Abolition of ward budgets and building funds
    5. End of barring women married to not endowed men from getting their endowments
    6. Dissolution of stake 70’s quorums
    7. Previously sealed divorced men need 1st presidency clearance to be sealed again
    8. Women speakers in General Conference
    9. Softening of extreme language about homosexuality in Strengthening of Youth Pamphlet
    10. Deseret Books published Quiet Desperation
    11. End of withholding priesthood and temple blessings from black Africans
    12. End of announcements of church discipline
    13. Reduction in harshness of some church discipline
    14. Permitting people to resign from church rather than be excommunicated
    15. Advent of humanitarian fund and perpetual education fund
    16. Increased availability of temples
    17. Gradual increase of acceptance of divergent views on evolution
    18. Acceptance of divergence in political party membership
    19. Acceptance of divergent views on church history and doctrine
    20. Reduction in incidence of severe discipline of dissenters (mentioned the Sept six in 1993)
    21. Birth control change leaving it up to couples and God
    22. Exhorting us not to judge others on number of children
    23. Softening of strident opposition to women’s careers outside the home
    24. Increase in working with other churches and humanitarian organizations
    25. Emphasis on leaders to rely on councils containing both men and women

    Initially I was impressed. I wanted to savor all 25 of these changes and try and remember every one of them. But this caused me to look at them closer. A few of the listed changes were crucial and much appreciated and give one hope. (Although another voice in my head questions why The Only True Church was so fouled up in the first place that it was so in need of this great number of changes).

    But many of the changes are not that much when you think about it. Many of them are in a category I would like to call; too little, too late. See, for me the fact remains that the church of the era of David O, McKay and Lowell Bennion was so much better in the nostalgia of my memory (in spite of all of these problems that had not been rectified at the time) that I have to wonder: which direction is this church really going?

    Well might I extend my hand and change the course of the mighty Chattahoochee river as perform a few extra duties in my ward in order to get any of my divergent views accepted. Even when I had a leadership position. It is one thing to be listened to and tolerated, quite another to have any real influence for good. I have the ideas but not the charm and political ability to convince. What is so damning to the progress of the church today is the close-minded attitudes of those who think they have all the answers and won’t seriously consider loyal alternate views. J. Golden Kimball must have seen our day when he said “there are some in this church who are so d—-d narrow-minded that they can see through a key hole with both eyes open.â€?

    The LDS church of my youth in the 1960s as I remember it was a dynamic force whose growth and success was inevitable in spite of many seemingly small problems. Today I have to humbly disagree with President Hinckley when he reports that the church has never been stronger. I think the church is in real trouble. I think the authoritarian neo-conservative (Nazi) Mormons have ripped the heart and soul out of my religion and left us with a monstrous church on life support. I doubt that it will tumble into complete oblivion as its most strident critics hope. But I predict that we are in for a rough ride for the foreseeable future. Especially if we keep chasing out our best and brightest and most free thinkers.

    (I recently learned how to use the cut and paste function on this computer which came in handy). Here are my comments in italics(which apparently don’t copy) concerning Bro. David H’s list of 25 changes.

    Crucial wise changes; without which the church would have suffered enormously:
    End of withholding priesthood and temple blessings from black Africans
    Abolition of ward budgets and building funds (they were bleeding us to death)
    Birth control change leaving it up to couples and God (look at how much American Catholics value and respect the Pope’s advice; that is where we were headed).
    All points well taken!

    Other helpful changes, part of mainstreaming (which threatens our identity to a degree)
    Increase in working with other churches and humanitarian organizations
    Advent of humanitarian fund and
    the perpetual education fund (Hinckley’s best idea so far)

    Intellectual Divergence: Welcome progress on issues not important to most members
    Gradual increase of acceptance of divergent views on evolution
    Acceptance of divergent views on church history and doctrine (How divergent? Ask Southerton, Murphy, Palmer, Metcalfe et.al.)

    Acceptance of divergence in political party membership (What? How can you slip this one in with a straight face? The American LDS church was once evenly divided between the two major political parties, both leaders and members. That this is even listed is evidence of how far we have come away from political diversity. Look at recent election returns in Mormon strong holds.)

    Permitting people to resign from church rather than be excommunicated (forced into this policy by the threat of court action by the Mormon Alliance)
    End of announcements of church discipline
    Reduction in harshness of some church discipline
    Reduction in incidence of severe discipline of dissenters (mentioned the Sept six in 1993)
    The church really takes a media whipping now whenever it attempts to silence its loyal dissenters in the age of rapid communication. Not announcing discipline makes it slightly more difficult for the media to know. The price of not silencing the dissenters is that most of controversial aspects of our history are no longer well hidden. This sets up the typical member for a journey of discovery that leads right out the front door. No apologies have been offered and a very uneasy truce currently is in effect. One could argue that we now have the worse of both possible worlds; too many dissenters running their mouths throughout the church especially on the Internet and still quite a bit of flack for the few who got the boot.)

    Also not mentioned directly but implied is the abolition of church courts and their replacement with councils of love which function differently and do not even pretend to follow due process. This is contrary to revelations in the D&C.

    Demographics of a larger church and societal changes forced these needed changes:
    End of barring women married to not endowed men from getting their endowments
    Previously sealed divorced men need 1st presidency clearance to be sealed again

    Other Women’s issues
    Softening of strident opposition to women’s careers outside the home (Maybe belongs in my first category. Women across the church simply ignored prophetic advice in the face of economic reality. The leaders have mostly stopped talking about it and ran a few supportive articles in the church magazines.)
    Exhorting us not to judge others on number of children (extention of birth control change)
    Women speakers in General Conference (What unique voice or message do they portray? Sounds like they are effectively muzzled to me. More progress needed).

    Homosexuality; a hot contemporary topic that influences only a few (since most practicing homosexuals don’t want to be part of this peculiar fundamentalist church)
    Softening of extreme language about homosexuality in Strengthening of Youth Pamphlet
    Deseret Books published Quiet Desperation

    Two piece garment. Funny you would list this first? In hot climates nearly all of the members are not wearing them except to church and to the temple. The combination of global warming and increasing obesity isn’t helping. In the 1960’s, ten of twelve apostles voted to eliminate the wearing of the garment. But the Fielding Smith clan who owned Utah Woolen Mills that made garments were not about to give up this lucrative business. When gentile clothing makers break into this business, and they eventually will, the garment will likely go the way of water witching rods.

    Increased availability of temples. Make that “change in availability.� We now have many cancelled sessions for lack of sufficient numbers. This causes people to wait at least another hour, sometimes another two hours before starting a session. They built half a dozen McTemples in an area that previously was having difficulty keeping one temple busy and is not growing. Total temple attendance is spiraling down.
    This also eliminated that much fabled and crucial bonding experience of the ward temple trip, a faith building mutually shared ordeal (parallel to the Pioneer trek) and cheapened the outward awe and inspiration that members experience looking at the beautiful structures. Who is going to be inspired to drive a couple or three hours every month to a temple about the size of my Bishop’s house and not as nice?

    Consolidated meeting schedule You call this progress? This previously had been implemented in the areas far from the intermountain west where it was most needed. It has lead to far too many wards crammed into far too few buildings with bizarre schedules, like the 4:30 to 7:30 pm block. It has effectively killed the Primary as an auxillary and reduced Sunday school to a lame second act. I would rate this compromise as one of the dumbest moves ever. Fewer meetings, yes. But not this way.

    Dissolution of stake 70’s quorums- Who even noticed ? Who cares? It hasn’t had any effect on missionary work or church government. Just a change of titles and lines on organization charts. You could also list the change of the name of MIA to Mutual to AP/YM to YM/YW. Let’s trot out the forgotten M &M and Gleaners program or whatever it was.

    Emphasis on leaders to rely on councils containing both men and women.-Great idea except nobody in my ward is actually doing it. Councils remain top down authoritarian and suck up exercises with ever increasing reliance on policy/advice from SLC. Thinking in the smallest box wins.

    What I gather from all of this is that progress is possible in a variety of ways. But it most often comes from the bottom up! Look at how many of the changes listed are the result of people first changing their behavior and later the church going along with it. And it takes many people, not just a few. You might call it the tail wagging the dog; but if it gets the dog going in the right direction, wag on.

  131. “We now have many cancelled sessions for lack of sufficient numbers.”

    This must vary greatly in different locations. I’ve been in more sessions where they had to turn people away because there just wasn’t enough room than in sessions where the room was less than half filled. I’ve been to the Temple where they’ve had to cancel a session because there weren’t enough people there. I believe it happens, but I’ve never seen it. I’ve been in mulitple sessions where they’ve filled the aisle with folding chairs to accomodate people. It’s weird how our two experiences are so different.

  132. Kristine,

    I know, I’m the little sister, I don’t give advice, but…I seem to remember a similar incident a couple of years ago in which a precocious and fabulous three- or four-year-old Lulu proudly reminded her silly brother that “A queen is always a she, and a king is always a he, but a (Primary) president can be a she *or* a he!”

    Take comfort. Much as she often disturbs/mortifies you with her born-with-pom-poms mannerisms, Louisa’s got plenty of spine, I think.

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