Is Gender Really Eternal?

By: Mormon Heretic
November 26, 2012

The Proclamation on the Family states that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”  We know that gender is related to genitalia, but sometimes that can be a bit confusing. I talked previously about Intersex individuals, and TLC has a show (also available on Netflix) called Strange Sex.  The show features what you would expect: swingers, a polyamorous family (2 wives and 2 husbands living in a committed relationship), but also features some unusual medical conditions.

I think we would all agree that a man involved in a farm accident is still a man.  Tommy was involved in a farm accident and had to have his penis removed.  Episide 6 of Season 2 describes another man with diabetes that got gangrene in his scrotum.  Of course we would consider such atrocious injuries as not affecting gender, but what happens when someone is born that way?

Episode 3 Season 2 discusses the case of a woman born with 2 vaginas.  One vagina was so small (about the size of a #2 pencil) that she didn’t notice until it was pointed out by a doctor.  She has 2 uteruses, and 2 sets of ovaries.  The larger uterus isn’t as large as a normal sized uterus, so she had a concern about miscarriages.  However, she has been lucky enough to give birth to two children.

Another woman in episode 2 from season 2 was born without a vagina.  She still had ovaries and a uterus, but they were basically useless.  She has never had a period, and has had 2 operations in order to fashion a vagina.  But it is unlikely she will ever have kids since she can’t ever have a period.

Jeanne and her husband Bob

And then strangest of all is the case of Jeanne.  As she turned into a teenager, she did not develop breasts like other girls, and didn’t have a period.  Concerned, she visited a doctor at age 17 to see what was wrong.  The doctor hospitalized her, collected her urine for a week, and then didn’t exactly tell her what was wrong.  He told her that she would need to take hormone injections for the rest of her life, and that her ovaries failed to develop and needed to be removed because they would become cancerous.  At age 25, she decided to get a copy of her medical records to find out more about her condition, and was startled to learn that she had XY chromosomes, (making her genetically a man), but had been born with female genitalia.  The condition is called Swyer syndrome.  How is that even possible?

Doctor Victoria Gomez-Lobo, a pediatric gynecologist explained that ”A patient with Swyer Syndrome has 46 XY, so normal male chromosomes but because the testes never developed, they never develop into a male.”  It is estimated that Swyer Syndrome occurs in 1 of 30,000 people. Jeanne became angry that her doctor did not tell her about her condition.  She has married a man, and they have a normal husband/wife sex life, though she will obviously never have children.

So, given intersex individuals and the strange case of Jeanne how does the proclamation about gender apply to these situations?

Do you believe gender is an eternal characteristic?

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44 Responses to Is Gender Really Eternal?

  1. Hawkgrrrl on November 26, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    I think the philosophical question is whether all people, regardless of their sexual functions, are individually whole people or if they have to have a complementary partner who “completes” them. I believe we are each whole people. I also am not convinced gender chracteristics are universal. They appear to be a function of social conditioning rather than inherently consistent across all cultures.

    The PoF works best as an admonishment of joint parental responsibilities. It is a huge problem when it spouts social mores that many will find foreign, stifling and outdated. We’ve come too far for the contradictory notions of equal and preside. And frankly I don’t know that gay parents aren’t likely to succeed as well as straight ones. It may be a social experiment, but we know encouraging gay people to marry heterosexuals is a failed social experiment.

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  2. Gillian on November 26, 2012 at 5:17 AM

    I consider everything the prophets say as though it were Opposite aday. When the proclamation said “Gender is eternal” I came to believe that gender is not eternal. His blog post and other readings have verified it.

    I think the prophets bluster about things they not, and pontificate about consevative/racist/homophobic/sexist mores they would like to uphold. It has nothing to do with truth.

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  3. Last Lemming on November 26, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    Your question implies that gender is the same as biological sex. It is not.

    http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/

    Now I have always suspected that the brethren were just using gender as a euphemism for sex, but having done so, they open their assertion of eternal gender to a variety of alternative definitions. My alternative definition is in contravention of Hawkgrrrl’s belief that we are whole people. I maintain that at least as far as parenting goes (again, beyond the mechanics of reproduction), we are not whole people–our children are meant to have two parents who fill different roles. The nature of those roles is flexible. But all roles are not meant to be assumed by a single person.

    So what is eternal about gender as I have described it? I would say that the incomplete portion of your potential parenthood is what is eternal. Your job is to find a spouse whose eternal gender is such that he or she fills your gap and you fill his or hers.

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  4. SilverRain on November 26, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Hawkgrrl: doctrine would suggest that not only are people NOT able to reach their full potential “alone” but that they need everyone else, not just a partner. Those who remain alone, separately and singly, mnister to those who bind themselves into the family of God, and are thus able to become gods themselves. (D&C 132:17, 128:15, Heb 11:40, etc.) We can be saved, but not exalted alone.

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  5. Douglas on November 26, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    I would agree entirely (#4) – not only are we supposed to live eternally with our respective spouses, and enjoy our nuclear families, we are all part of the Great extended family of our Heavenly Father and Mother. So truly no man can be his own island and be exalted.
    It reminds me of the joke: St. Peter is leading a group of newbie’s to suddenly be quiet. “We’re passing by the Mormons…they think they’re the only ones here, and we don’t want to disappoint them.”

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  6. FireTag on November 26, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I think gender is eternal, but its nature is even more complex than the extreme physical examples MH gives in the post.

    I believe the most current understanding of gender reflects the notion that sex/gender exist on a spectrum with clear male and female heterosexual archetypes only a good, but not perfect, approximation to the human condition. We nevertheless manage to reproduce ourselves and evolve generation after generation.

    Since my own theology says that our spirits are constructs of the experiences of astronomical numbers of copies and variants of our lives that we’ve lived in the past, are living today, and will live in the future, I must assume that all of us have at least a few “abnormal” gender identities our spirits have had to cope with.

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  7. MH on November 26, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    Last Lemming, I appreciate your link to the World Health Organization, but I have a hard time agreeing with the definition that gender is a “social construct.” To me, separating gender from sex is a bit of splitting hairs. We do, after all, refer to “sexism”, not “genderism”. To say that women earn less than men is an example of sexism, but WHO would have us believe it is merely “genderism.” Whatever. To continue the example, women may earn less than men because of discrimination against their breasts and genetalia. It shouldn’t be so, but it is. If Jeanne has XY chromosomes and a vagina, and feels that she is a woman, well, by golly, she’s a woman and will suffer the same fate of discrimination as other XX chromosome women. To separate gender from sex is really splitting hairs, IMO. They are linked. (I get what WHO is saying, but the 2 concepts are so related that few people recognize any difference.)

    Douglas, I find your comment that we should “enjoy our nuclear families” highly ironic, coming from a Mormon. Brigham Young thought polygamaous families were what we would enjoy in heaven. Is the Proclamation on the Family a disavowal of the principle of plural marriage?

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  8. GBSmith on November 26, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    I suppose you could say gender is eternal since we as individuals are supposed to be eternal. But in a general sense of our being either one or the other, I don’t think so.

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  9. Will on November 26, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Gender is eternal and genetic anamolies are just that, genetic anamolies. We clearly don’t understand everything and need to rely on faith; and need to rely on a sacred document signed by all 15 Apostles and Prophets. I can see a flippant comment made by an Apostle that needs correction, but I can’t see a thought out document signed unanimously by both presiding quorums as being wrong. If you do not accept this unanimous document as doctrine, then you are not LDS.

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  10. GBSmith on November 26, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Will

    “If you do not accept this unanimous document as doctrine, then you are not LDS.”

    Well, I guess that settles that. Next topic please.

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  11. Will on November 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    GB,

    Not quite sure how to take your comment and I wasn’t trying to be offensive or exclusive, but the PoF is an addenda of our articles of faith and defines us as a faith with no dominion or compulsion to believe. Those who accept the doctrine believe the faith and those who don’t accept the doctrine don’t believe in the faith. To me, it is pretty black and white.

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  12. Mike S on November 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Will:

    I think we can accept the document as doctrine, but we can differ on our interpretation of words IN IT, like gender.

    Throughout our Church’s history, even apostles have disagreed on things like evolution, pre-Adamic man, etc. Prophets and apostles today reject prior prophets’ and apostles’ interpretations of the scriptures when it comes to things like race restrictions, women praying in sacrament meeting, polygamy, etc.

    So just because someone doesn’t agree with “Will’s” interpretation of the PoF, it does NOT mean they are “not LDS”. Even prophets and apostles disagree with each other – and they are about as LDS as you can get.

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  13. GBSmith on November 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    “Those who accept the doctrine believe the faith and those who don’t accept the doctrine don’t believe in the faith. To me, it is pretty black and white.”

    Just an aside, not a thread jack but do I have to believe it all or not believe any of it? Anyway, to me the mention of gender wasn’t thought through carefully and likely was put in to draw the line on homosexuality and transgendered persons. There are enough exceptions as have been mentioned above that precludes an all or nothing statement.

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  14. ji on November 26, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    The notion of gender being eternal is new doctrine, promulgated by the Proclamation on the Family. It does not exist in scripture. The Prophet Joseph Smith didn’t teach it. Maybe it is true; maybe not. But it was put into the Proclamation for reasons that aren’t at all related to teaching us about pre-mortal conditions.

    I don’t want to look to the Proclamation for doctrine on the domestic arrangements in the pre-mortal life. As Hawkgrrrl wrote (no. 1), it “works best as an admoishment of joint parental responsibilities.

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  15. Douglas on November 26, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    #9 – Amen. This is why we need to be firm AND yet compassionate to those that suffer from gender confusion. They’re missing out on knowing themselves.
    It matters not what naysayers and those that profer the putrid bilge of “alternative lifestyles” think. Proclaim the Gospel and stand ready to help those that sincerely seek the truth. To those that want to believe lies, stand firm. Be kind always, but firm.

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  16. Will on November 26, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    “It does not exist in scripture”

    The Family: A Proclamation to the World IS scripture. It is the definition of Scripture – the word of God given through his Prophet. To me this is purest form of scripture as the Bible, Book of Mormon and D&C largely represent complied writings from individual Prophets (or Apostles) by ONE prophet such as Mormon, Moroni or John; or revelations by a Prophet as the complied in the D&C.

    In this case, it was ratified by all members of both quorums. It represents a consensus. Yes, Mike Prophets do disagree with speculation or conjecture of previous Prophets. A good example would be when Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer Kimball challenged Brigham Young’s Adam God THEORY. I can’t think of an example where a Prophet has challenged canonized scripture.

    With this said, I do agree different interpretations can be derived from Scripture, including the form; although it is pretty descript, especially the statement regarding gender.

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  17. MH on November 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Will and Douglas, you are spouting platitudes that have nothing to do with Jeanne’s situation. Does she suffer gender confusion? Is it all in her mind? It’s fine to say “I don’t know how the PoF applies to her”, but you seem to prefer to change the subject because it is uncomfortable.

    I think there are some real theological issues related to gender here. If Jeanne is XY (male) and is married to a man, will she be resurrected as a man? If so, what are we to make of the marriage? Surely some Mormon will come along 50 years from now, have no idea what’s the story and have them sealed in a temple. In that case, would God honor the sealing? After all, Jeanne lived as a woman, and even had female genitalia.

    If Jeanne is resurrected as female (because of her genitalia), then that seems to be less theologically problematic. But then the question goes back to intersex people (that I discussed in a previous post.) Does God let them decide which gender they prefer? (Currently that is what man does–let the person decide.) Are Intersex people gender confused? Is it in their head?

    If we make allowances for Intersex to choose the gender they are most comfortable with, then why not let others? Certainly with test tube babies, we have the ability to manipulate gender to whatever the parents want. When we manipulate gender, are we playing God? Is it even ethical to manipulate gender in test tube babies? And if we can manipulate in the test tube, why can’t we manipulate afterward? So, is gender really eternal if it can be manipulated, or if nature can’t seem to get it right all the time?

    As for the PoF, it very likely is inspired, but it is not scripture until it is canonized as section 139 in the D&C. Certainly Orson Pratt and Brigham Young differed on what was Mormon Doctrine, as well as the nature of intelligences, so I think it is certainly fair game for us to debate any topic in order to come to a greater understanding. Let’s not forget that Lectures on Faith was canonized as Mormon Scripture, until is was decanonized and removed.

    I think the PoF was a political tool to show support for the traditional family and gender roles, but these inspired men had no idea of people such as Jeanne, or Christiane Voelling (the intersex person). These 2 people don’t fit neatly into the PoF box. So how does the PoF apply to them?

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  18. LDS Anarchist on November 27, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    #14 ji wrote,

    The notion of gender being eternal is new doctrine, promulgated by the Proclamation on the Family. It does not exist in scripture. The Prophet Joseph Smith didn’t teach it. Maybe it is true; maybe not. But it was put into the Proclamation for reasons that aren’t at all related to teaching us about pre-mortal conditions.

    That’s my understanding, as well.

    #16 Will,

    The proclamation on the family IS NOT scripture. It is akin to D&C 134, except that it wasn’t voted on by the entire church, nor was it canonized. It does not claim to contain the word of God (a revelation), nor to have been written under the inspiration of the Spirit. It was written and proclaimed in the name of 15 men, only. The name of Deity is never authoritatively invoked in its proclamation. In other words, it is merely a statement of beliefs which these 15 men had at that time, to which they put their names, showing that they unanimously believed this. It does not represent the views of the church, only the views of those 15 men. The church may have other views on these issues.

    Scripture is anything that is spoken or written by the power of the Holy Ghost, and it represents the views and will of God, not of men. There is canonized scripture, which is binding upon us, and non-canonized scripture, which is not binding. This proclamation doesn’t count as scripture in either category.

    It doesn’t matter that the 15 men were ordained apostles. These are titles only. Do not get hung up on titles, which are “the honors of men.” Judas Iscariot was an apostle. So was Thomas B. Marsh. It is possible for God to take 15 title-less men from anywhere in the world and cause them to write holy scripture. It is also possible for Him to have 15 ordained apostles who write un-inspired words. The title of these men is pointless and meaningless. What is important is where the words came from. Did they come from the Holy Ghost? Or are these merely the beliefs of men?

    Since the proclamation does not proclaim itself as having been given by God or the Holy Ghost, but only proclaims itself as being the unanimous understandings and teachings of 15 men, we are not justified in viewing it in any other light. You may believe it, if you wish. That is your right. Or, you may disbelieve it. That is also your right. Neither stance diminished your Mormon-ness. Whatever principles found therein which accord with the revealed word of God (the scriptures) can be safely accepted. Anything that goes beyond the scriptures may, or may not, be true.

    Only the canonized word of God contains the binding doctrine of the saints of God. For example, D&C 134 is canonized, but is not the word of God. It is “a statement of belief” only. But since it IS canonized, it carries more weight than a non-canonized statement of belief, such as the proclamation on the family.

    In many respects, D&C 134 is better worded and more honest, since nearly every sentence begins with, “We believe…” The proclamation on the family comes across as authoritative, despite no authority being given, other than the titles of the men whose names are attached.

    Also, it is doubtful whether the proclamation on the family could ever be unanimously accepted and canonized by the church by vote. Too many LDS would likely raise their hands in opposition, if ever a vote was called, so I doubt that it would ever be presented to the church for canonization.

    For these reasons, we can set aside the proclamation on the family, as the saints have done with the previous four proclamations, and just focus our attention on the word of God, as given in the canonized scriptures.

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  19. LDS Anarchist on November 27, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    #17 MH wrote,

    Let’s not forget that Lectures on Faith was canonized as Mormon Scripture, until is was decanonized and removed.

    Sorry for the off=topic rant, but so many bring up the Lectures on Faith as if they are scripture. Yes, they were canonized. But no, they were not ever scripture. They were not written by the power of the Holy Ghost and so they do not contain the word of God. Just because something is canonized, doesn’t make it scripture. This is why the LoF were de-canonized. They had served their useful purpose, according to the law of expediency, and when it was no longer expedient, they were removed from the canon. I supposed D&C 134 will one day (when it is no longer expedient) also be removed from the canon, along with anything else in the canon that is not written by the power of the Holy Ghost.

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  20. Hedgehog on November 27, 2012 at 2:19 AM

    SilverRain #4, Douglas #5
    I’m puzzled as to how you think Hawkgrrrl’s statement (#1) contradicts your own views. I didn’t read it that way. How does the view that we are each ‘whole people’ detract from our needing everybody else in the ‘one big eternal family’ sense? Taking your stance to its logical conclusion, then actually not everyone does need to marry because they’ll be linked to the rest of us by virtue of being someone’s child. Yes none of us are alone – it doesn’t mean we aren’t also ‘whole’ individuals.

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  21. AndrewJDavis on November 27, 2012 at 3:38 AM

    @LDSAnarchist — how do you know they were not written by the power of the Holy Ghost? Does a statement have to claim it to be true? While I agree with the general idea that ‘scripture’ ought to be written/spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost, I’m not sure it has to make that claim of itself. I always thought I was the one who decides.

    @Will — don’t forget what Joseph Smith said multiple times: we don’t have creeds that we MUST believe in to be LDS. Go back to the baptismal interview questions — they are simple and straightforward. There are very few things on that list, and the more vague ones are purposely vague to allow many people to join with us in worshiping God how, where, and what they may.

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  22. Hawkgrrrl on November 27, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    Will, The proclamation wasn’t dictated by God through revelation then ratified by committee as you believe. It was written by committee, and it has never been presented as scripture in any official capacity.

    When I say I believe people are whole as individuals, I don’t mean that in a living in isolation way. This is a very old philosophical debate. An ancient myth says men and women were actually one being that was split in half and thereafter roamed in search of their missing half. This myth is supposed to explain two genders and our inability to be complete without a partner. Jung would say each person has both male and female characteristics within. People say things like “I’m getting in touch with my feminine (or masculine) side.” I tend to agree with Jung. I think the church (even in the Proclamation) is less black and white than it seems. It ascribes certain characteristics to a specific sex, but it also indicates that both parents bear equal responsibility. So if the wife isn’t nurturing, the father should step up. If the husband can’t provide, the mother better step up. And if either is inclined differently, they are still both responsible for all parental duties.

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  23. Will on November 27, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    “and it has never been presented as scripture in any official capacity” and Anarchrist…

    I don’t think all fifteen members would sign their name to a document titled ‘PROCLAMATION’ if they didn’t intend for it to be the word of the Lord. After all, a proclamation is just that, a decree, edict or declaration. The question then is from whom, a decree from them, or from God. They made such declaration under their callings as Apostles and Prophets. If we believe they were called as Moses, Peter, James, John, Alma and Nephi, then we accept such edicts made under this mantel as the word of the Lord. Unless, of course, we don’t accept them as Prophets and Apostles then it is just words on a page from a group of men. It is an issue of faith, not knowledge.

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  24. ji on November 27, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Will,

    Please bear in mind that in the entire history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, EVERY addition to our canon of scripture has ALWAYS been accepted by the whole church assembled in general conference. That hasn’t happened for the Proclamation on the Family.

    Even the two official declarations, which aren’t presented as scripture but as administrative action, were offered to and accepted by the church’s sustaining vote.

    And please also bear in mind that in our history, unanimous priesthood quorums have from time to time issued similar proclamations, none of which have been added to our canon of scripture.

    One latter-day Saint sees the most recent proclamation as scripture, direct from the courts of heaven. Another sees it as good counsel from honest and honorable men who are diligently magnifying their callings to teach and warn. Surely there is no need for the first of these brothers to think uncharitably of the second? Surely they can both be good Latter-day Saints?

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  25. Nick Literski on November 27, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Will, have you already forgotten the controversy over Boyd K. Packer referring to the Proclamation as “scripture” in general conference a few years ago? According to the PR statements, he personally changed it after the fact. Why do you insist that the Proclamation is “scripture” on the basis of it being signed by LDS apostles, yet refuse to accept that an LDS apostle specifically made sure that the published version of his words did not describe it as such?

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  26. CL on November 27, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Re: 25

    Actually, Packer originally stated that the Proclamation qualified as “revelation,” not “scripture.” “Revelation” was removed from the printed version of the talk.

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  27. LDS Anarchist on November 27, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    #21 AndrewJDAvis,

    @LDSAnarchist — how do you know they were not written by the power of the Holy Ghost? Does a statement have to claim it to be true? While I agree with the general idea that ‘scripture’ ought to be written/spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost, I’m not sure it has to make that claim of itself. I always thought I was the one who decides.

    Andrew, yes, you are the one who decides whether something is written by the power of the Holy Ghost. And so am I. And so is every latter-day saint. And no, it doesn’t have to make a claim as being the word of God for it to be the word of God. (And I assume you are speaking of the Lectures on Faith.)

    So, to answer your question of how do I know that the LoF isn’t scripture? I suppose it must be by the power of the Holy Ghost working in me, through the manifestations of the gift of the discernment of spirits, which I have had from time to time, for I never prayed about it to discover if they were the word of the Lord, but when I read them, I could clearly see that they weren’t scripture. Do they contain truths? Sure, they do. Do they contain errors? Very likely, for all things done by man are done imperfectly. And I could see all that by the same Spirit. But there are many truths in the world which are not given by the Holy Ghost, through faith, but through study.

    The LoF was a sort of church manual, even a priesthood study manual, added to the canon as a help for the infant church. It was convenient and expedient to publish them with the scriptures for a time during the infancy of the church, but just as our church manuals change from time to time, and we discard them and do not consider them scripture or the word of God, the LoF had also run its course and it was time to remove them from the canon.

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  28. LDS Anarchist on November 27, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    #23 Will,

    They made such declaration under their callings as Apostles and Prophets. If we believe they were called as Moses, Peter, James, John, Alma and Nephi, then we accept such edicts made under this mantel as the word of the Lord. Unless, of course, we don’t accept them as Prophets and Apostles then it is just words on a page from a group of men. It is an issue of faith, not knowledge.

    No, it is not a issue of faith, but of compliance with scriptural protocol. You are still stuck on their titles. And titles are the honors of men. This is the principle:

    No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

    So, scriptural protocol is that we must remove all the titles from every man who speaks, and consider only their words and actions alone. Priesthood titles have nothing, whatsoever, to do with the question of whether something is written or spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost. Again, the principle is:

    But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

    Any communication we receive, whether from inside or outside of the church, whether from a church leader, even the prophet, or even from the combined quorums of the FP and 12, comes from one of three sources: God, man or the devil. The proclamation of the family may contain truths, for there are truths found everywhere, not just in the gospel, but that doesn’t mean it comes from God. It could very well be just commandments of men leaning on their titles. You are assuming their words come from God because of the priesthood titles they hold. You are breaking scriptural protocol. We are to look at the words alone and compare them to the scriptures, which are, indeed, the revealed words of God. If they match, that’s one thing. If they do not match, or go beyond, that’s another thing entirely. But even if they match, or align with the scriptures, that still doesn’t make them the word of God. It may just be a paraphrasing of scriptural principles, done by the power of man, and not the Holy Ghost, so that it becomes nothing more than a commandment of men.

    This stuff requires discernment. This is why the Lord states in D&C 46 that those who do not take the Spirit for their guide and obtain the gifts for themselves will be deceived. It is not so easy as simply saying, well, this comes from the first presidency and/or the twolve apostles, therefore, it is safe, true, and the word of God. No, it doesn’t work that way, for commandments of men and even doctrines of devils may still proceed from such quarters. The Lord has already given us a heads up on all this, when He stated:

    Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations. For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion. And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.

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  29. alice on November 27, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    What does it say that intelligent, sincere Mormons can’t even establish clearly what is and is not doctrine? We could all go ask our bishops but how many of them would come up with a consistent definitive answer? And I assume we’ve all humbly asked the Spirit and still come up with different interpretations. Is doctrine meant to be different for each of us in our separate lives? Is that why the Spirit draws us to diverse conclusions?

    I guess there’s nothing left to do but write to a GA for clarification. Oh, right, not supposed to go there…

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  30. Nick Literski on November 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Ahhh….good point, CL. I’m not sure it changes the point, but you’re correct on the detail.

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  31. KD on November 27, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    LDS Anarchist

    Apostle and Prophet are not titles of men, for they are not given by men. They are given by God and the men that bare them are chosen by God to be His representatives on the earth. That is His decision.

    Much is being made of the fact that the PoF has not gone through complete scriptural protocol. Something is being forgotten, when a vote is called upon to adopt cannon it is done by the same procedure as a calling in the church. We sustain it as doctrine and we only do so if a Prophet tells us that it is. There is no consideration of our personal opinion of if it is true or not but if we as individuals will follow it or not.

    While we have not had such a vote, the principle is that we as individuals don’t decide what is doctrine, inspired, or not. We can choose to accept it, but not what it actually is.

    Secondly, genetic anomalies are not grounds for throwing away eternal principles. If we believe in God we accept His word and know He can fix problems. We see through a glass darkly, not everything is clear or can be grasped fully. Thats why this is an issue of faith not one of knowledge.

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  32. CLD on November 27, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    I agree, Nick, that it doesn’t change your point, but in fact amplifies it. When one of the Apostles who helped construct the PoF describes it as a “revelation” in a talk, and then changes it to a “GUIDE” in the written version, I believe that is a huge indication that even those who wrote it are not willing to claim it is from the mouth of God.

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  33. Will on November 27, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Call it what you want. The reality is that it is quoted, referenced and cited more than the vast majority of the ‘canonized’ scriptures. Indeed, it is heavily quoted in General, Stake and Ward conferences; in manuals and by gospel doctrine teachers the world over. It is assigned by priesthood (I myself have done this) and relief society leaders as a topic of discussion non-scheduled lessons. It referenced as much as the articles of faith in various setting and discussions. It hangs in chapels, leaders offices and homes the world over as encouraged by the brethren. It is a vital and integral part of the LDS faith and our belief system.

    By all standards, and in my firm opinion, it is scripture. It is just as vital and important in every way. It is more than just another document or declaration. Along these lines, I challenge you Ji (or any of you for that matter) to find another declaration that is more oft quoted. This heavy emphasis makes it an integral part of the LDS belief system; and, as it states we will be accountable before the almighty in our obedience to it’s persuasion

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  34. hawkgrrrl on November 27, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    “By all standards, and in my firm opinion” Seems like you are equating the former with the latter here. Just because you have a firm opinion doesn’t mean it adds up to the facts. The change to Pres. Packer’s statements indicate that it is not revelation. If it’s not revelation, how does it qualify as scripture. Don’t bother to answer. I already know. Because it’s your “firm opinion.” Got it.

    “Gender” is not the correct word even. The statement is clearly referring to biological sex, not gender. Gender by very definition cannot be eternal because it is cultural. And I’ve said before, if their statements are correct, they merely describe the human condition. If they are not correct, saying differently won’t change it. So the meaningful part is the admonishment to parents of their responsibilities. It’s the only actionable component.

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  35. ji on November 27, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Will (no. 33) — The number of quotations cannot be used as evidence of truth, so I cannot accept your challenge.

    I take it that you would answer “no” to my last question in my comment no. 24. I am saddened at the thought. But perhaps, hopefully, I have misunderstood.

    In this matter, I take some comfort in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith from the Sermon in the Grove, as recorded by William CLayton–

    I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter-day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammelled. It don’t prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine.

    I will affirm “yes” as the correct answer to the last question in my comment no. 24.

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  36. jmb275 on November 27, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    A lot of good points made here. One thing I think must be part of the equation, and which wasn’t really brought up is how gender coincides with the notion of a soul, or spirit. If you believe we each have a spirit/soul, it seems easy to believe that gender is eternal even if the body doesn’t quite match it in the easily recognizable ways. I assume that’s the view of most LDS if they really thought about it. Validates the PoF and still gives a nod to the issues MH is raising.

    I have a bit of an issue with this line of reasoning as I am much less certain of the reality of a soul/spirit, and as a result, at least intellectually, conclude that gender is primarily a social convention for those within 3-sigma of the bell curve of “normalness.” Obviously science has something to say about this line of reasoning and we can see that gender is really a grey, ill-defined identifier represented by an infinite number of mixes of neurochemicals, DNA, environment, genetics, and personality.

    From a religious standpoint I see the PoF as primarily a church-wide declaration on parental responsibility and homosexuality which will likely be gently swept under some rugs in a few decades.

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  37. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    jmb275′s point about the soul actually makes me think that maybe the PoF is really talking about sexual identity (not gender) being eternal and essential. Conversely, maybe they are saying that God lives in and perpetuates a “culture” which differs from the cultural norms of various human communities and individual characteristics.

    The definition of gender: “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)”

    Freud essentially preached that anatomy is destiny. Because female sexual organs are inward and receptive, it’s “feminine” to be passive, to receive, to submit to a man, to be tied to home and hearth. Because male sexual organs are external and intrusive, it’s “masculine” to be active, to make your mark in the world, to dominate women, to go out and contribute to society. Obviously it’s ridiculous to think that the shape of one’s sex organs restricts their contribution in either the home or society. This is a very stifling and outdated viewpoint, but it was prevalent in the decades following the 1940s when Freud and the laughable “penis envy” theory was all the rage.

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  38. jmb275 on November 28, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    jmb275′s point about the soul actually makes me think that maybe the PoF is really talking about sexual identity (not gender) being eternal and essential.

    Perhaps, but I actually think it’s talking more about the roles themselves being eternal. In Mormonism we take foreordination, duty, callings, and roles pretty seriously – often associating callings etc. with God’s eternal wishlist that is our obligation to fulfill. The PoF strikes me as being primarily about the eternal nature of two parenting roles that are associated with eternal identity. A part of that is sexual identity as you say (only women can bear children), but I feel like it’s the roles that are really the emphasis here (as you said in your first comment).

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  39. Hedgehog on November 28, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    All this trying to work out what does gender mean, and what did those who wrote the PoF think it meant, has my head going round in circles… Does there really have to be a binary split? Patently there isn’t in our messy, biological world.
    I believe we’ll be the same people in the eternities that we are now, hopefully having learnt something about ourselves and others from our mortal experiences. I’m just hoping that however eternal gender may or may not be, it won’t actually be relevant to what we get to do, or what roles we get to perform.

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  40. Douglas on November 29, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    #39 (and previous). I had to revisit HawkChick’s post to figure it out, and she got the ‘thumbs up’. BOTH the wholeness of the individual and the need for both our respective eternal families, in light of I Corinithians 11:11, are “correct”, and not necessarily at the expense of others. This has comes especially true for myself, as I’ve concluded that I have a “problem” in that I tend to “rescue” women (see a related post about ‘rescuers’) and this has left me prey to both maladjusted and unscrupulous women. One in particular I’m undergoing the painful process of extricating myself from, and another I’m avoiding further involvement with. As was written in Genesis, MALE and FEMALE did HE create THEM, yet I see no implication that either are in effect worthless without their respective spouses. Rather, does each bring their portion to the table? I would hope so!
    Now, we can always quote the glaring exceptions, and none seem sadder than Intersexual individuals. Frankly, I wonder HOW it was even possbile that such a malady could even exist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex

    Yet it does, and I’d avoid being dogmatic about these far-flung cases, save that in the end the Lord will do what is right. Again, firmness but yet compassion is needed. For these difficult cases, though, I’d prefer not to weigh in with my two cents worth, because I’m not qualified to help. I leave that to the professionals and the respective spiritual leaders that have the Priesthood calling to serve them. Sometimes the best service is to shut up and simply be a friend.

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  41. [...] biggest discussion category this week was gender, starting with that eternal conundrum — can gender really be eternal? And an even more interesting one: The CoJCoL-dS measures the health of a ward or branch according [...]

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  42. Neal on December 2, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Let me stir the pot…

    I’d just like to point out that ALL fetuses start out with female genitalia. Only later in the development of the baby do sexual organs differentiate, and this is brought about exclusively through hormones. When a male fetus starts to produce testosterone, male genitals develop. If this does not happen properly, you wind up with a genetically male baby with female genitalia (so just remember guys, you all started out with a vagina).

    Also, males have breasts which serve no function. These also depend on hormones for development, and any man can be made to grow (fully functioning) female breasts by giving them female hormones.

    Lastly, both males and females produce male and female hormones – just in different ratios. Females produce a small amount of testosterone in the adrenal glands, which is essential for their sex drive (testosterone controls sex drive in both sexes). In males, some testosterone is converted to estrogen over time.

    In nature, there are also many examples of organisms with no sex, both sexes, or which can change their sex. There are several fish species where a female can change into a male if there are too few males present in that school of fish.

    So how clear cut is all of this, really? As spirits, were we doused with Celetestial Testosterone to turn some of us into male spirits? Did all spirits start out female, as all human fetuses do? Do genitals determine sex, or genetics, or both? To my mind, there are more questions here than answers…

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  43. Hedgehog on December 2, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    #42 Great points.

    Yesterday I stumbled across the earlier posts at fMh (24 Jan 2012) and the Exponent blog (26 Jan 1012) on this topic, and have to say I’d be quite amused if the proclamation turned out to be correct, but not in the way it may have been intended, as suggested by a few commenters -
    that yes our gender maybe eternal – the one we’re born with, somewhere on the continuum between extreme male and extreme female (but for most of us, no binary split to the extremes).

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  44. 2012 Brodies: Vote Here!! » Main Street Plaza on January 20, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    [...] Is Gender Really Eternal? [...]

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