Rethinking Gender Hierarchy

By: Nate
April 9, 2014

2640698_GMy extremely unpopular post of last week caused me to do a little soul searching.  I recently took the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, a test which rates just how sexist you are, and whether you are a hostile or benevolent sexist.  I came out as a strongly benevolent sexist, and I think there is some truth to that.  (I’d love to see if any of our other readers also score as benevolently sexist)  RAH had asked me:

“how do you practically put that in practice in your own house?  Do you and your wife interpret this to mean that when it comes down to it you have the divine right (after listening in love and compassion, discussing, praying together etc) to make the final decision for all temporal and spiritual matters if in the end you feel strongly about something? Or does it mean something else for you?”

In my last post, I did not mean to suggest that the man should make final decisions by divine right.  Let me try and clarify what I believe the hierarchy means from a practical point of view.

The Hierarchy is a Formality (not a relationship of power and subservience)

The endowment was changed in the 80s to say that a wife hearkens to her husband only if he is hearkening to God.  For all intents and purposes, this means the woman follows God, if it so happens that His will is made manifest through her husband.  Otherwise the hierarchy exists only as a formality, one that defines a certain order.  The church has softened Biblical language relating to hierarchy because it recognizes that it has been used unrighteously.

This formal hierarchy is not an excuse for the man to demand obedience from his wife, even if he feels he is acting in the name of the Lord.   He must take her as she is.  Whether or not she hearkens to him is a matter between her and the Lord.  The man has no say in it.  “The unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse”.   In the end, both the husband and the wife are beholden to the God, and to God only for the discharge of His will.

The Man Must Also “Hearken to His Wife”

?????????????????????????????????????????????Like the wife, the husband is also often commanded by God to accept her will as his own.  This is a clear pattern in the scriptures.  In the endowment, Eve has the foresight to partake of the fruit, and convinces the passive and reluctant Adam to partake of it, which is part of God’s subversive will.  This pattern is repeated in the lives of each of the three patriarchs of Genesis.

Abraham: Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be thrown out of the house, and that Isaac become the birthright son, against Abraham’s objections.  However, God tells Abraham, “Hearken unto the voice of thy wife, for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

Isaac: Isaac prefers to give the birthright to Esau against Rebecca’s wishes.   She contrives to fool the blind Isaac, who mistakenly gives Jacob the birthright blessing.  Isaac, instead of correcting his mistake, decides to simply follow the will of his wife, and allow Jacob to keep the birthright.

Jacob: Jacob desires to marry Rachel, but her father Laban conspires with his older daughter Leah, to trick Jacob into marrying Leah.  Leah’s child Judah becomes the birthright son, not Rachel’s son Joseph, even though Jacob preferred both Rachel and Joseph to Leah and her sons.

If the early patriarchs had had their way, Ishmael, Esau, and Joseph would have been the birthright children.  However, their first wives felt differently, and in each case, the Lord honored the desire of the wives over the objections of the patriarchs.  This sets a pattern that I see frequently in my family and many others I know.  The wife often gets her way, and the Lord often honors the will of the wife.

The Woman Active, the Man Passive

Fig-17-The-Visitor-who-Converts-the-Parlor-into-a-SmokingIn the domestic and spiritual realms, we can see that women are often the true power brokers.  Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah were active, taking matters into their own hands according to their wisdom, passion, and righteousness.  Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were passive, waiting upon the Lord, and hearkening to their wives as the Lord commanded.

While men are active in the world, in work and in warfare, they naturally take a back seat in the home.  They want to come home after a hard day’s work, smoke a pipe by the fire without being bothered by domestic troubles.  I’m not talking about men who are abusive and domineering in the home.  Dominant men are not more active “domestically,” rather, they like to exercise unrighteous dominion in their little kingdom.  As far as the running of the house and the raising of the children, they are not particularly committed to it, even if they are highly critical.

The woman’s biologically mandated domestic activism often goes unheeded by the man, and the woman must patiently repeat herself over and over (derogatorily reffered to as nagging.)   In this activism, the Lord is often on the side of the woman.  Since the woman is usually right, a typical marriage has its share of strife, as the man tries to nurse his pride, and the woman tries to get what she feels is the right thing done.

However, the Lord gently commands the woman to “hearken” to the man, and respect his “official” status as head of the house, thus encouraging her to soothe the man’s tender ego, while at the same time empowering him as a partner in the home and giving him responsibilities to make decisions and suffer their consequences.  This does not mean that the woman stops encouraging the man to do the right thing, nor does it mean that she can’t take her own path when she feels strongly that it is right.  Ultimately, this hierarchy is only there to help mitigate the battle of the sexes and brings the man and the woman together.

Abandoning Gender Roles Altogether

imagesI think the battle of the sexes can be overcome, and these gender roles can become obsolete.  A truly mature man and woman are completely equal in all things.  They council together and make decisions jointly.  I believe the gospel points us in this direction.

I would venture to say that many of those who object to my stereotypes are highly educated, upper-middle class, somewhat liberal Americans.  They are in high functioning marriages that are quite equalized.  But in other cultures outside the US particularly, traditional gender roles are extremely entrenched.   When the church supports gender hierarchy, it works within the traditional gender framework, while challenging the man to overcome unrighteous dominion.

And even in the high functioning marriages of my blog readers, I’m sure there are echoes of the primal gender differences.  You cannot take the woman out of the woman, nor can you take the man out of the man.  We must allow ourselves to be true to our nature, even as we seek to bridle and tame it.

My Own Marriage

Just to respond to RAH’s question specifically, my wife and I make decisions jointly.  The priesthood sometimes comes into play when my wife asks me for direction and advice, and I give blessings or turn to the Lord for guidence on a particular issue.  But I also go to my wife for wisdom and direction in these matters as well.  When there is a conflict, sometimes I bend to her, and sometimes she bends to me.  But I don’t believe I have the authority to make any demands or any decisions contrary to her will.  I find the dynamics in our marriage often reflect those I have described in this blog.  I have often hearkened to my wife, sometimes grudgingly, but found, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that it was the best way in the end.  She also often hearkens to me, trusting me when I feel my judgements are inspired.  Her trust and support have been a great blessing in my life.   But an even greater blessing has been her willingness to speak up when she feels I am in the wrong.

40 Responses to Rethinking Gender Hierarchy

  1. Frank Pellett on April 9, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    Huh, less than 1 on both, with hostile being even smaller. Questions need a bit of work, though. e.g. #18 – “There are actually very few women who get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available and then refusing male advances.” Does disagreement mean there are no women who do this, or that all women do this? There are a few questions like this. Probably a better subject would be to try to find out how much people are aware of sexism around them, and their reactions to it.

    Which was the unpopular post?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  2. Jeff G on April 9, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    I think that this post backs away from and in doing so misconstrues the very purpose of priesthood authority. The idea that God ever intended religion to be solely between each individual and God runs counter to everything we are ever taught about priesthood organization.

    Any feminist will agree that a wife hearkening to her husband inasmuch as he hearkens to God is not at all the same as saying that the woman ought to follow God. (It is for this reason that feminists are upset that temple says the former rather than the latter.) The temple makes is clear that a woman’s behavior is, in some way, constrained by both God and her husband. For the same reason, how righteous I am is not solely a matter between myself and God, for my bishop as well as other priesthood leaders are also involved in the matter.

    “Like the wife, the husband is also often commanded by God to accept her will as his own.”

    This is not the same thing at all. The wife has a standing order to hearken to the husband inasmuch as he follows God. The husband, on the other hand, has a standing order to hearken to God who may occasionally agree with the wife. These two scenarios are very different.

    I think most feminists would disagree with your post because it obfuscates various gender inequalities which ought to be remedied. I, on the other hand, disagree with your post because it obfuscates the true nature of priesthood authority which we have no business trying to restructure or redefine.

    I actually just put up a post about this very issue, if you care for any clarification from me:

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  3. Howard on April 9, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    When a 1/2 person marries a 1/2 person it becomes a symbiotic relationship, each dependent on what the other provides to feel whole. In this arrangement someone usually emerges as the (on-going default) person in charge. But when a whole person marries a whole person power can be balanced many different creative ways via consultation and mutual respect.

    The church encourages early marriage long before people have a chance to become whole individuals, the brain isn’t even finished growing until 25 and you need some life experience to add to that. Early marriage inhibits personal growth because the slower growth partner given the symbiotic need of the other becomes threatened by the faster growth of their spouse and reigns them in or sabotages the growth attempt and the growing partner often gives in for the sake of the marriage or family. So many married young LDS couples who stay married or plan to have little chance to become whole individuals during the marriage unless their marriage is unusually elastic. Defined gender roles and hierarchy probably add useful structure to these marriages.

    Biblical marriage examples are of little help here due to the growth of humankind since. Take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as we progress beyond the basic needs of life we begin to blossom in other ways. It’s a mistake to assume no personal growth since Adam or Moses or even Joseph, a mistake often made in LDS lessons and conversations.

    So we are moving into a split caused by more mature couplings and I suspect this is recognized in the Family Proc by the softening of “rule” to “preside” and the seemingly in congruent “obligated to help one another as equal partners” allowing some wiggle room for egalitarian relationships.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  4. Hedgehog on April 10, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    Well, Jeff G seems to be right about my personal take on this Nate. I’d also agree with his analysis that the way things are currently structured ties the men in the family to the institution of the church (leastways, that’s how I read it on your post Jeff), but would disagree that this is a good thing, because I feel that the current structure divides by families by creating a split between genders, and that when the church states that the family is the basic unit it would be nice to see it show confidence in that statement by giving families more priesthood autonomy, and creating a looser, or less rigid bond between family and institution, giving the different parties in the family more flexibility in the way they organise themselves. At the moment it feels like there is all to much top down control and imposition, not only in the church, but right into the families themselves.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  5. Nate on April 10, 2014 at 3:06 AM

    Frank Pellett, thanks for taking the test, and it doesn’t surprise me that you came out without any sexism. I agree that the questions aren’t always clear, but I do think that it shows some interesting things.

    Jeff G, this post is not specifically about priesthood authority, but gender roles within families are obviously closely related. I agree that the reason only men have the priesthood probably has something to do with their role as “head of the home.” So there are extremely relevant consequences to what I am calling “a formality.” My previous post on the subject was more black and white on the subject, but failed to acknowledge the church’s efforts to describe and treat the hierarchy in a more nuanced, sensitive way. This is the reality of church language and policy. The previous endowment put the woman under the man even without the caveat “as he hearkens to God.” So the church has been somewhat progressive on this issue. They do not use the language of Paul, like other Evangelical churches do: “Wives submit yourselves to your husbands.” They don’t say “rule” but rather “preside,” as Howard noted. “Helping one another as equal partners.” They describe the relationship between man and woman and God as a triangle, not a line, even though the endowment and priesthood are both linear. So I’m trying to avoid drawing lines in the sand, because it doesn’t accurately reflect the position of the church.

    Jeff G. you also say: “The temple makes is clear that a woman’s behavior is, in some way, constrained by both God and her husband. For the same reason, how righteous I am is not solely a matter between myself and God, for my bishop as well as other priesthood leaders are also involved in the matter.”

    I disagree with this statement. I believe that a man’s divine responsibility as head of the home does not constrain the woman, but rather brings him into the circle of the family by giving him responsibility. I argue that men are not naturally inclined to domestic life, but rather they need to be given responsibilities in order to embrace it. This is also somewhat true in the priesthood. The priesthood is for service, not for ordering people around. Whether people obey the priesthood is between the people and God, not the people and the priesthood. The priesthood can warn people that they should repent, but ultimately, the consequences for our actions lie between us and God. When the priesthood does exercise dominion, it must do it “through persuasion, longsuffering, gentleness and meekness.” It must be careful not to usurp the true relationship the individual has with God.

    Hedgehog states this problem (of unrighteous dominion) by saying: “I feel that the current structure divides by families by creating a split between genders, and that when the church states that the family is the basic unit it would be nice to see it show confidence in that statement by giving families more priesthood autonomy, and creating a looser, or less rigid bond between family and institution, giving the different parties in the family more flexibility in the way they organise themselves. At the moment it feels like there is all to much top down control and imposition, not only in the church, but right into the families themselves.” This is a good point.

    Howard: good points about the evolution of humankind on this issue. Humanism has had an undeniably positive effect upon gender relationships, and the church is somewhat embracing the new culture. I would argue that there is a limit to how much it can be expected that a person can become a “whole” rather than a “half.” Sometimes this gets clouded in culture, and women feel like they can’t be women, and men feel like they can’t be men. From the male perspective, I do think the modern society has somewhat emasculated the man in ways that are not positive, and there have been negative consequences.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  6. Hedgehog on April 10, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    To be clear Nate – I wasn’t referring to unrighteous dominion, though that would of course be a problem regardless, but with or without unrighteous dominion I think the current structures are a problem for families.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  7. WI_Member on April 10, 2014 at 5:14 AM

    The ‘as’ in ‘woman hearkens to husband as husband hearkens to God” is not used as a conditional word. It is a simile. Look at the second half of the statement. Are men free to decide whether or not what God tells them seems right? Look at the structure of other relationships in the temple.Men are/will be kings and priests unto God. Women will be queens and priestesses to their husbands, not God.Women give themselves to their husbands in the sealing ceremony, but men do not give themselves to their wives. Can you see how this is a painful thing to bow your head and say yes to?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  8. rah on April 10, 2014 at 6:33 AM


    Wow. Thanks for taking my comment to heart. I have taken the inventory as well, prompted by my investigation of the academic articles referred to by Jessica Rey regarding bikini’s and objectification. I scored fairly low on benevolent sexism but not the lowest. I will say that it doesn’t surprise me at all reading your recent posts that you scored highly on benevolent sexism index. That is very consistent with the vast majority of Mormon men I know. In fact, I am wracking my head to think of a Mormon guy i know who would score highly on the hostile sexism index and can’t come up with one. Benevolent sexism however is basically what we are taught over the pulpit and I hear all the time among members in church classes. I think it is fair to classify Mormon theology as “Benevolent Patriarchy”.

    So I think the question the becomes what are the consequences of benevolent sexism? Is it really that bad and doesn’t it have some benefits. Here are two papers I think you would enjoy reading to think more deeply about that for yourself. One is a pretty well done experiment that demonstrates the impact of benevolent sexism on women’s ability to perform cognitive tasks:

    The other is an article which argue benevolent sexism actually can increase life satisfaction for men and women at the individual level, but then be associated with decidedly bad outcomes at the societal level: (I can get the full article for you when I am connected to my university)

    Now I am not saying “these articles PROVE that benevolent sexism is bad, so ha!” I am offering them to you because I think they are good articles to “think with” in exploring your own thoughts and feelings about benevolent sexism.

    Finally, let me also add a little to what Jeff G. and Hedgehog were saying. One of the issues with benevolent sexism is that because it has such a “woman friendly” spin to it, is that it can make it much harder to recognize its impacts on the women around us. It literally feels good (see article above), but the defaults are important in the relationship are important. In my lived reality, God’s will and inspiration come along relatively rarely. I believe our Heavenly Parents will for us is to use our agency in a fairly broad (and imperfect) range. Because God’s will is often unknown, opaque or whatever that means when the default is set up for the woman to defer to their husband or that all it takes is a convenient claim (well-intentioned or not) from the man that he “feels” this is the way to go that means lots of male driven preferences. Women become quite good at subverting their needs, wants and opinions to those placed over them. For example, you interact in a meeting entirely differently when you know you have no ultimate decision rights. It influences which suggestions you make because you take off the table right away anything you know the ultimate decision maker is going to say “no” to or even push back on.

    For me in my marriage it has often played out where I assumed equality between my wife and I only to discovered through really talking to her that that wasn’t how she was experiencing it at all. To give a real example, (one my wife and I are slated to write a post in our She said/He said series at FMH, so I will keep it really short here), is that as the family breadwinner I really honesty believed (and I really believe acted) on the idea that it was “our” money not “my” money. I didn’t control the finances. In fact, my wife did. I made, she spent. It took years for me to realize that emotionally though she saw it as money I had earned and therefor would feel “guilty” for spending it on herself or the way she wanted. She would be thinking, “would Ryan spend the money this way. Will he be upset etc.” It completely impacted her emotional connection with money. And the thing was I HAD NO IDEA. Didn’t pick up on the signs. Had no clue. Nadda. It was an inequality I just didn’t see in our marriage and because I didn’t see it we couldn’t address it. That is just one example pf how inequality can sneak its way into a marriage.

    One final thought, and this is a point I have made before on your other posts. One of the big, real problems with the man’s role is in the world and the women’s at home is that we just have to admit that the economic dependence that is created in this particular division of labor creates an economic dependency within the marriage that is just a lightening rod for inequality in other realms. This is particularly exacerbated when the ability of women who are at home to reenter the market (just in case) and make a family sustaining wage completely erodes (as it often does). I live in a marriage like this so I am not throwing spit balls at people here. I experience this as lived reality. We work hard to be truly equal partners with this division of labor and it simple isn’t easy because it impacts our emotional, spiritual, intellectual and temporal equality in so many ways. Do I think it is possible for us to work toward and come near an ideal of equal partnership under these terms? Maybe. We are certainly trying. However, it would be much, much harder if I had a high benevolent sexism score. This i know because growing up Mormon I had a high one in the past. What worries me the most about this on a church level is that people just don’t want to even admit that this type of division of labor creates conditions that can be incredibly challenging to an equal partnership. And if you don’t recognize it you can’t work on it very effectively. Equal partnership in mine is an ideal to strive for. A difficult one. A lifelong pursuit. For so many Mormons, especially Mormon men, it just seemed to be assumed. “Oh yeah we have that in our marriage”. I would propose that is a lot of benevolent sexism talking. I know it has been in my marriage. The natural man I would propose is at its most dangerous when we fail to acknowledge his persuasive sway over us :)

    Thanks again for engaging and being so thoughtful and introspective. I am sure it will lead to lots of interesting discussion within your family. It has in mine.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  9. Howard on April 10, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Jeff G wrote:The idea that God ever intended religion to be solely between each individual and God runs counter to everything we are ever taught about priesthood organization.

    Well if you remove the word “solely” it certainly doesn’t run counter to what Moses taught:

    And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were aprophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

    Or what BRM taught:

    what I desire to point attention to is the fact that revelation is not restricted to the prophet of God on earth. The visions of eternity are not reserved for Apostles—they are not reserved for the General Authorities. Revelation is something that should be received by every individual….God is no respecter of persons, and every soul, in the ultimate sense, is just as precious in his sight as the souls of those who are called to positions of leadership…any individual who abides the law that entitles him to get revelation can know exactly and precisely what President Kimball knows, can entertain angels just as well as Joseph Smith entertained them, and can be in tune in full measure with all of the things of the Spirit…I think our concern is to get personal revelation, to know for ourselves, independent of any other individual or set of individuals, what the mind and the will of the Lord is as pertaining to us in our individual concerns and to receive confirmation of his mind and will as pertaining to his church…Now I say that we are entitled to revelation. I say that every member of the Church, independent and irrespective of any position that he may hold, is entitled to get revelation from the Holy Ghost; he is entitled to entertain angels; he is entitled to view the visions of eternity; and if we would like to go the full measure, he is entitled to see God the same way that any prophet in literal and actual reality has seen the face of Deity. the fact is that every person should be a prophet for himself and in his own concerns and in his own affairs. It was Moses who said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” It was Paul who said, “Covet to prophesy”

    Elder Oaks teaches:

    As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions.

    So in the end we are to become our own prophets and use revelation to test the advice of GAs to determine if we fall under the rule or under an exception and to guide our lives and our families with it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  10. The Other Clark on April 10, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Huh. I scored 3.5 on both benevolent and hostile sexism. Not what I would have expected.

    Also, I appreciate the insights into the power dynamics of the OT patriarchs. Hadn’t thought of that before.

    One item missing in most of these discussions (and both of Nate’s posts) is how the love and support of a woman can help a man be more successful than he otherwise could be. The reverse is also true, but I wonder if the “hearken” covenant isn’t intended to remind women to love and support their husband so he can find success.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  11. IDIAT on April 10, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    WI #7 – If you are a queen and priestess to your husband in the celestial kingdom are you not a queen and priestess to a God? Are sisters really concerned whether they are a queen and priestess to Father God opposed to their Husband God? Maybe ministering angels in the celestial kingdom are considered ministering angels unto God the Father. Certainly you wouldn’t be a “queen” to Heavenly Father — I assume he’s already got one. As for the give and receive wording in the sealing, the language used is different, but I think it dates back to when women were “given” away by their father. In an older wedding ceremony (and still done today), the question is asked “who is giving he bride away?” The modern response is “Her mother and I” or some other socially accepted answer. This question is the ultimate in equality. It’s asking the woman — and not anyone else — if she’s willing to give herself in marriage a husband. No permission is being sought from her father or mother or other family members. At any rate, it seems like the question posed to the husband also implies that he is, in fact, giving himself to his wife.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  12. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    IDIAT: I think the temple inequity is a direct reflection that the original ceremony was for polygamous wives, not monogamous / equal ones. That’s why in a sealing, I covenanted to my husband, and he did not covenant to me – at all. It is a horrible inequity, a slap in the face to every woman, even though most of us just do our best to ignore it or assume it’s a relic of the past. Women are not promised exaltation in the female endowment, just to be a queen and priestess to her husband who will be a god. That’s not what I was taught growing up. That’s not even close to equivalent. I don’t want that on any level. Every feeling revolts. I am not subhuman. Either daughters of God are daughters of God or they are just appendages to sons of God. You can’t have it both ways. Temple theology doesn’t match what we even teach now. It needs to be resolved. Yet men simply do not hear what women hear in the temple. And most women simply ignore it and focus on the Adam narrative.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 12

  13. IDIAT on April 10, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Hawk – Without getting too much into the language of a temple sealing, can you tell me when you Covenanted solely to your husband? And aren’t those blessings a
    sealed upon the couple jointly, not exclusive to the husband? Chapter 47 in Gospel Principles says: Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation. If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, to live with our Heavenly Father in eternal families. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children (see D&C 14:7).
    That sounds to me like we believe “we” (men and women) can be exalted and the endowment prepares men and women for exaltation. No one said you would be an appendage. Perhaps we differ in what the phrase “unto” means. You hear “unto” and it conjures up a subservient image. I hear “unto” and it is simply an extension of the concept of men presiding.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  14. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    IDIAT: As to the sealing language, I haven’t done sealings in years, but that is the language in the sealing ceremony when I was married in 1991. I was very surprised and shocked at the time. The man does not address the wife and is not under covenant to her, only to God.

    How is men presiding not designed subservience? I mean it is in practical terms a completely useless term meaning “to ask people to say prayers” which in our family isn’t done exclusively by my husband anyway. So why do we insist on using a term that is not accurate in any sort of equal marriage anyway, and only makes women feel like crap or men feel justified in “pulling rank”? If it puffs men up (as Nate indicates) or causes them to feel more invested is that really necessary? I simply don’t understand the psychology of that in this day and age. It sounds utterly moronic to me. I would hope most men would be offended by the idea that they need that sort of placebo praise to feel like a man.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  15. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    OK, I did some quick internet searching. It’s the language around me giving myself and him receiving me that I am interpreting as purely one-sided and based on polygamy. He did not give himself to me, and I did not receive him, but I had to give myself to him. It’s the same language as used in D&C 132 which outlines polygamy. That is what I found unequal and objectionable.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  16. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Sorry for the 3 comments in a row, but I did want to say IDIAT that I appreciate your conciliatory tone. This is tough stuff for many women, myself included, so I appreciate how respectful your comment was.

    I’d love to believe that Gospel Principles is right. It is what we teach. But in the temple, women are not given the same promises as their husbands are, and that needs to be corrected. If the temple is right and our teachings are really just written for men, then I have a huge problem with that. If our temple language is inaccurate or misleading and our curriculum is correct, we need to get that aligned better. To women going through the temple, it feels like a bait & switch. That difference only going to get more noticeable the more equal society and the church becomes. How do I tell my daughter that she’s equal and a valid daughter of God with equal divine potential when the temple absolutely says otherwise?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  17. Nate on April 10, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, you have a point, since the church has changed their curricular rhetoric, why haven’t they changed the temple, since the endowment seems to have changed a lot in the past century? It’s obviously not seen as a historical reinactment of exact language given to Adam and Eve. Rather it is presented as an alegory to explain our life and doctrine. But if it explains outdated forms, then it could easily be changed.

    How are your objections to the inequalities in the temple different from your objections to the innequality of priesthood ordination for men only? Or do you object strongly to both?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  18. Nate on April 10, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Rah, thanks for your reply, and all the info on benevolent sexism, which I will have to study more about. My impression from your comment is that I must be surrounded by a lot of vocal, powerful women in my life, and I have had lots of communication, so I’m not aware of any inequalities or misunderstandings that hierarchy has created. But of course I could be blind to them. I see this in church, where women’s needs are often overlooked by the priesthood, but not in family. I’ll have to ask my wife if she sees this.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  19. ji on April 10, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    I think the analogy in Ephesians ch. 5 is wonderful and powerful. A husband loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. There’s no oppression there. Husbands and wives love each other, build up each other, support and sustain each other. It’s a beautiful teaching and a powerful encouragement. It’s the ideal we want to strive for.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  20. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    Nate: “How are your objections to the inequalities in the temple different from your objections to the inequality of priesthood ordination for men only? Or do you object strongly to both?” I object much more strenuously to the idea that women are not eligible for exaltation, maxing out at worshiping their superior husbands for eternity or else set up as a baby farm forever, than I do to the idea of ordination equality. In fact, I am not married to female ordination at all, although OW has clearly revealed several inequalities by proposing it; IMO it’s even more problematic that all men and boys 12+ are ordained than it is that all women are excluded. So long as all decisions are made by male leaders who only get female input if they are magnanimous enough to request it, female priorities will not be addressed and female experience will be overlooked; when we hear a high ranking 70 openly use rape culture language in the church’s key publication, we clearly have an issue of tone-deafness. It’s made worse by the fact that many women are also steeped in benevolent sexism which benefits them in superficial ways. Because most religions are sexist, the church hasn’t had huge attrition due to this, but now many leave religion altogether, and there is far less tolerance for sexism than there was even 20 years ago.

    In short, I worry about female ordination because I worry about missionary work, retention, and the strictly male viewpoint we are given at church. But I worry about the vision for women in the temple because if that’s what women get, why am I wasting any time and money in this church that doesn’t value me and in which my ultimate potential is acolyte to my husband? I’ll end up in the terrestrial kingdom anyway, where I will be much happier, but I could do without the 3 hours of butt-numbing at church each week if that’s the case.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  21. Kristine A on April 11, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    I appreciate your post, Nate. I’ve actually been thinking about my own comments on it lately . . . and my interpretation of the word ‘hearken’ I use to help me get through the session.

    I was reading some Valerie Hudson Cassler (Two Trees, et al) and I appreciate her thoughtfulness on a lot of topics – but I figured out what really rubs me wrong about her essays. She takes her own interpretations and assumptions and teaches them as if they are doctrine, proven true . . . and I realized I need to watch myself there, too. If I can’t back it up doctrinally – it’s just my own interpretation. And the temple does teach us to ponder and interpret, but I don’t think I can project my interpretation as truth for everyone.

    I think if we both sat down to visit we are closer in opinion than it appears online – because I believe in gender differences. I just object so strongly to presenting them as two separate spheres – whereas they are actually an overlapping Venn diagram. I do believe we have a difference of opinion as to the purposes of those differences in this life.

    The last time I attended the temple was the first time it was ever hard for me, and my husband was flabbergasted by my reaction in the celestial room. He was not happy with where I was at. But after talking it out (we talk a lot in the celestial room these days) at the very end I just asked if he could give me space to mourn that what we have now is not what I think could be; I know there is more – and I just need a chance to experience that.

    p.s. I’m with hawkgrrrl — female ordination? meh. I think it addresses issues of inequities that go both ways regarding gender in our church, that could also be addressed without ordination. BUT this theological issue is so much more important for me that my heart yearns to have the answers for. How can I become one with my husband and co-equal partner when I am submitted to him in this life and the eternities? Can’t I worship our God and creator at the same place my husband is placed without an intermediary? Is he to become my god? There’s a theological hole that needs filled or clarified – my only hope is that what we have in the temple has some remnants of polygamist attitudes and adam/God theory that will be changed.

    I still think the suffering of women worldwide won’t be alleviated until men care more about the issue :)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  22. Kristine A on April 11, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Here are my scores:
    Hostile Sexism Score: 0.82
    Benevolent Sexism Score: 1.82

    I was surprised how high I scored in benevolent sexism. I guess that comes from our theology that we are not complete without each other, and that being together helps us become better. Interesting.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  23. rah on April 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM


    I think we always have to be asking what we are blind to. For me this is how knowledge and agency are deeply interconnected. As we come to greater knowledge about the influences that surround us and impinge on us we can consciously respond to them. Those influences we do not perceive as ubiquitous and powerful as they may be can not be acted on through agency. As a sociologist I tend to see such social influences as powerful, complex and permeating everything we do. By learning about say benevolent sexism our potential for agency increases and we become more like God. That in my view is progression.

    Keep in mind that women who also buy into benevolent sexism can be blind to the same inequalities. My wife is also strong, opinionated and well educated. I spend my time with smart, strong women too. The church has many of these women, all over. But as you noted this hasn’t stopped systematic, pervasive inaction on important women’s issues. That really makes the point. It isn’t because we have doormat women that things like the temple ceremony is so slow to change in ways that align with modern understanding in ways that stop spiritually wounding women. It isn’t because we have doormat women that it has taken until 2013 to see some basic symbolic gender equalities appear. Even in the face of our strong, resourceful, committed loving women we have these things. This is precisely why *structural inequality MATTERS*. It bolsters and underpins cultural inequality.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  24. Kristine A on April 11, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    rah, this reminds me of the comments I saw on the “Mormon Women Stand” facebook page – you know the passive aggressive fa page to counter OW? There was a post with the picture of our female leaders sitting right in the middle of the GAs with a comment, “see, we are important!!”

    Most of the comments that followed were women saying that it made them uncomfortable to see women there, like those women were doing it for recognition and they didn’t need to be recognized and they’d be so much more comfortable if women’s service and contributions were silent and not visible.

    But the women sitting there – it was so, so symbolic. We are finally starting to realize they are not just women with stewardship over their small plots of the garden — they are spiritual leaders of the whole church, everyone. It is so needed!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  25. Hedgehog on April 11, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    So I took the test too:
    HS 0.73
    BS 1.45
    Scores for both are apparently slightly lower for England than the US though, so perhaps that explains why my scores are lower than Kristine’s..

    That’s really interesting about the prior attitudes to seating Kristine.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  26. rah on April 11, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    So I went to take the ambivalent sexism survey again. I tried really hard to be honest and maybe even overcompensated for trying not to put what I know I want to be. For Hostile Sexism 0 for Benevolent 2.1. That might be a bit of overcompensation and I might be lower. Interesting.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  27. hawkgrrrl on April 11, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    I got 0.73 for both hostile and benevolent, and in both cases I still didn’t really agree with it because I simply don’t see all or the majority of women acting the same way nor do I see all or the majority of men acting one way.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  28. Howard on April 11, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    HS – 2.64
    BS – 2.45
    My scores are close to an average male.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  29. Joseph M on April 11, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    I was paying attention to this the last time we did sealing and observed that the language was Give ,and Receive for Women but only Receive for men. Now I’ve got a particular take on this because of my job as one of the things i do at work is write proposals for Government Contracts, which are mainly about spelling out what is and is not required of the various parties in fullfillng a contract and what risks are assumed by each party. One of the characteristics of these documents is referencing other documents and agreements that spell out certain details not spelled out in a particular contract document. but that are still binding. for that contract.

    Entering into Celestial marriage requires the endowment, which entails covenants relating to the D&C which includes at D&C 83:2 this particular statement
    “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance,”

    Reading both of these together my interpretation is that as a Man the reason I am not asked if I am willing to accept the responsibility of giving myself is that my risk entering a marriage is low in mortality and I have already assumed the responsibility of sustaining my wife in her needs, temporal and spiritual. with, ‘gentleness meekness and love unfeigned’ . Giving myself is required and non-negotiable.

    Women by the nature of mortality assume more risk entering into a marriage and must be given the explicit opportunity to determine if they feel safe taking on that risk.

    I do not argue that thing should not be made more clear or that these assumptions are not in need of modification.

    I do observe that we have a couple in our ward whose daughter and son-in-law are living with them and the son-in-law seems content to play video games while his wife, who has some health problems, works. I suggest pondering one’s visceral reaction to that case study as a useful data point in this discussion.

    As a aside I’ve been reading Meg Stout’s examination of Polygamy in Nauvoo and protecting women in vulnerable situations seems to have been a significant factor.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  30. Nate on April 11, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, I was sort of taken aback by just how abhorent the gender heirarchy in the temple is to you. But then I remembered my mother said she was also was troubled with it, and she is the most conservative, orthodox member you can imagine. She actually said she thought it should change which was a big suprise to me, as I know she takes the endowment extremely literally, as an actual event that took place with Adam and Eve.

    My mother, in her mind, is always right. She is not a creature of doubt. This caused a lot of fights between her and my father, because my father was always right too. Every morning my father gave us a passionate scripture study, and my mother usually took issue with his presentation, and it would often devolve into an argument. But recently, my mother has been wondering a bit about all of this, and her reappraisal was prompted by the endowment, and this idea that you should “hearken to your husband.” When I asked my mom for clarification, she wrote:

    “I just have felt for so many years that I was right, (a lot of us have this problem)- not that I HAD to be right- but that I WAS right—- I mean, if I realized I was wrong it was no big deal to change and adapt—anyway , this notion of being right, that even though we (Dad and I) have always shared and talked deeply with one another, I can now see that there were times when I could have “hearkened ” or listened more with a more generous heart and intent to see another point of view. Hearken does not mean obey. So I was not implying that I was obeying. Or that I somehow was exempt from going directly to God. That was never the intent of course of the temple. We all stand on our own feet before God, and each couple tries to figure out what unity means. It is a journey and different for everyone.”

    I think this is true for a lot of women, (or maybe just for a certain kind of woman like my mom). They just go with their gut, and they KNOW they are right, instinctively. Maybe this was how Eve felt taking the fruit. But even though Eve knew she was right, she had to step back and hearken to Adam, not obey, not replace her instinctual knowledge. But simply acknowledge and make space for a different opinion, an alternative course.

    That probably is no help at all, but I just thought I’d share that for my mother, this whole issue has recently born a certain kind of positive fruit.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. hawkgrrrl on April 11, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Every person believes they are right all the time. As soon as you realize you were wrong, you are now right again. That’s just a human condition. Having said that, I believe very much that I should hearken to my husband. AND equally that he should hearken to me. As a leader in a corporate job, I hearkened to my employees. I also hearken to my children. There is nothing wrong with hearkening. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and we are all wrong at times. We also can only know so much. I know more about literature than my husband does. He knows more about basketball. So, it’s not hearkening that’s the problem; it’s that only women covenant to hearken to men, not the other way around.

    I once had a disagreement with my dad. In frustration, he said “It’s my job to teach you. It’s not your job to teach me.” I lost a lot of respect for him when he said that, not because I was right (I may have been, I really don’t remember what it was about anymore), but because he felt authority was more important than understanding and learning. I found it disappointing because he is a very smart guy, but apparently not smart enough to figure that out.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  32. Kristine A on April 11, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    My aunt related to me a temple sealer’s interpretation is that a wife does have that extra step to give, because in the next life she’ll have the opportunity to refuse the binding of the covenant if she desires, but he won’t. That was out of left field for me, but okay.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  33. rah on April 12, 2014 at 11:12 AM


    That may work if say the man covenented with his wife to hearken unto her – you know like with official covenants etc. You seem to take it as ubiquitously implied and I don’t deny that many Mormon couples treat it this way. However, it is simply not what the temple says in any way. It isn’t just a single phrase in the endowment but the entire structure and the way it deals with women at every turn. It is my wife in the innitiatory being made priestess to *me* while I am promised to be priest to *God*. It is her NEVER once during the entire endowment making a direct covenant with God. It is always God to Adam and Adam to Eve. See my wife’s essay over at FMH “The Mormon Priestess (“ as well as the follow up posts. We can all agree that this is not how we think eternity really IS or that is what the temple is supposed to MEAN, but its entire internal logic, wording and structure coherently point to a male, female hierarchy. Worse, all it takes is reading Brigham Young in the years prior to his writing down the temple ceremony to be utterly convinced that BY *absolutely* believed that women’s place was to worship their husband as their LORD and the man was to stand between the wife and God. That was the intent of its mortal author/translator. This is what he taught. Women of that era would often right of the husband as being their Lord. Now do I think some people like Eliza were trying to fight this interpretation? Yes, absolutely. But BY had the priesthood keys and it was his perogative to write the ceremony and make it binding. To me it was his last salvo in trying to defend his Adam God theory against all comers (the Pratts etc.). Ultimately it was declared a heresy which begs the question why we allow it to still pervade our most sacred ceremonies. BY had his qualities but deferring to his heresy in our temple as it consistently spiritually wounds women is just plain wrong and sad.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  34. hawkgrrrl on April 12, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Kristine A: “she’ll have the opportunity to refuse the binding of the covenant if she desires, but he won’t. That was out of left field for me, but okay.” That is consistent with D&C 132 and polygamy as well as what BY taught. Women were free to leave their husbands for any reason, but husbands were bound to their wives. It’s hard to see that as the one upside to polygamy since at its best, you are essentially part of a crowd of wives. You can either join the crowd or choose the terrestrial kingdom (although BY would have probably suggested they went someplace worse).

    rah: you are exactly right, and it is why I can’t love the temple.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  35. rah on April 13, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    hawkgrrrl -

    Really it is my wife who is right. This is her work that I watched her research and struggle through. Ultimately I found it compelling, the most compelling interpretation of what the temple’s overall current intended message is for women. Like you, neither of us feel that is what eternal reality is or even how many modern Mormon’s leader and lay alike interpret it. It is, however, the most cohesive explanation for why it says what it says and why it is so spiritually damaging for women (and men). I think we need to all stop trying to justify and just call a spade a spade. Then we can get around to modifying to be inline with more current doctrinal interpretations. I am not holding my breadth though. They forwent the opportunity last time they really touched the ceremony in 1990 and it is patently unclear to me that there is any consensus or interest in facing this issue again. Of course, decision making and discussion at the top levels is so opaque who knows.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  36. hawkgrrrl on April 14, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    rah: I love your optimism. I mean, that didn’t sound very optimistic, but from where I’m sitting I’ll take it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  37. New Iconoclast on April 15, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    0.64 on negative, 1.91 on benevolent. Try as I might, I’m a product of my culture. I suppose believing that (most straight) men and women are happier when well-paired-off bumped my score up in that regard.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  38. New Iconoclast on April 15, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Hawk says in #34: Women were free to leave their husbands for any reason, but husbands were bound to their wives. It’s hard to see that as the one upside to polygamy since at its best, you are essentially part of a crowd of wives.

    I’d add my Gospel Doctrine teacher’s two cents, which is that most of you, as senior wives, apparently get veto power over the rest of the wives – what D&C 132:34 and 64-65 seem to be saying. (I say “most of you” since most of you are probably the first wives of your husbands.) You can search the term “Law of Sarah” for a lot of elaboration, some helpful, some not so much, YMMV.

    I have no idea what that says about the subordinate priestess status of wives 2-x, assuming such wives ever exist. It makes my head hurt. RAH, I enjoyed your wife’s essay a great deal. I’m still trying to digest it but having been endowed and sealed prior to 1990, those changes have meaning. Are my spouse and I held to the covenants in the form we made them in 1987 (our endowments) or 1989 (our wedding), or do we automatically upgrade to the post-1990 “covenant-Lite”?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  39. rah on April 16, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    New Iconoclast,

    Yeah I don’t know. I think the standard leader line is that the 1990 changes were “clarifications” of the original because some people were “misinterpretting” it. Because the church did nothing to explain the changes in any real way, it is left for us to guess intent in terms of whether it changed anything. My wife, who has looked at it very closely, argues that they were extremely careful to not change the actual structure of relationships while softening down the obedience language and then taking out the morbid directly Masonic punishments section. So she thinks the leadership wasn’t try to change actual pre-1990 meaning.

    Hawkgrrrl – I really am an optimist generally, but yeah…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  40. WI_Member on April 16, 2014 at 5:15 AM

    New Iconoclast,

    The “veto power” is completely bogus. Please see the transcript of the Reed Smoot hearings for clarification.And many marriages took place without Emma’s knowledge, let alone her consent.

    Senator Pettus. Have there ever been in the past plural marriages without the consent of the first wife?
    Mr. Smith. I do not know of any, unless it may have been Joseph Smith himself.
    Senator Pettus. Is the language that you have read construed to mean that she is bound to consent?
    Mr. Smith. The condition is that if she does not consent the Lord will destroy here, but I do not know how He will do it.
    Senator Bailey. Is it not true that in the very next verse, if she refuses her consent her husband is exempt from the law which requires her consent?
    Mr. Smith. Yes; he is exempt from the law which requires her consent.
    Senator Bailey. She is commanded to consent, but if she does not, then he is exempt from the requirement?
    Mr. Smith. Then he is at liberty to proceed without her consent, under the law.
    Senator Beveridge. In other words, her consent amounts to nothing?
    Mr. Smith. It amounts to nothing but her consent.
    Senator Beveridge. So that so far as there is anything in there concerning her consent, it might as well not be there?
    [question is unanswered and the committee moves on to another topic]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting


%d bloggers like this: