Elsewhere in Patriarchy (Part 2) . . . Political Oppression

June 21, 2011

Liberte, egalite, fraternite, right?  Last week I examined what other patriarchal societies are up to.  This week, let’s talk about what some contemporary patriarchal societies are doing politically – especially in light of the Arab Spring.

Is patriarchy really a term we want to be touting?  Do we qualify as patriarchal when compared to such self-proclaimed giants of patriarchy as Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan?  I’m reminded of the line of Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride:  

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Here’s what some of our fellow patriarchs are up to.

Virginity Tests

As female political protestors took to Tahrir Square in Egypt, they were subject to so-called Virginity Tests, which make the TSA testing look like a polite handshake.  What does a Virginity Test entail?  Pretty much what you might guess.  Members of the military round up female protestors and put them in a room where either a male doctor or a female “specialist” digitally probes their hoo-hahs to verify the presence of a hymen.  In the meantime, male soldiers take pictures of them from the hallway through the windows of the “examination room.”

Initially, the military claimed this was to protect themselves from charges of rape (because nothing proves you didn’t rape a woman quite like sexually violating her).  According to one military official:  “We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place. None of them were (virgins).”  Women who were found not to be virgins were charged with prostitution and jailed. One claimed she was beaten and subjected to electric shocks.  This is apparently not surprising news to Amnesty International.  A 2008 study reported that in Egypt, 60% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women were sexually harrassed on a daily basis.  Strike Cairo from my vacation list!

The real reason for Egypt’s Virginity Tests was pretty transparent:  to silence female protestor’s voices.  To quote the Egyptian military leaders:  these women “were not like my daughter or yours,” implying that the presence of a hymen is direct evidence of the validity of one’s arguments.  In addition to being groped and harrassed by soldiers, female protestors were told to “go home and feed your babies.”

Other countries that favor Virginity Tests:  Zimbabwe (to curb AIDS by making young girls afraid of boys because girls are “more easy to deter” than boys), India (to determine if a woman had been a virgin prior to being raped – what a great deterrent to reporting rape!), Iran (hymenoplasty is popular so that women can avoid being shamed or divorced for failing a virginity test – one enlightened cleric issued a fatwa allowing hymenoplasty to give women more freedom), and Afghanistan where it is required before marriage (failing the Virginity Test can mean the death penalty through “honour killings” to ease the family’s shame and humiliation; this includes rape victims or even more heinously, victims of incest – one girl had her throat slit by her brother when he saw her being raped by her other brother).

Other countries that have banned the practice:  Turkey (in 1998 because young women were commiting suicide to avoid the test), and UK (apparently done to qualify for fiancee Visas until 1979).

No Voice

In Saudi Arabia, although some reforms have taken place, a promise that women would be able to participate in politics in 2011 was broken as it was determined that “Saudi Arabia is not yet ready for women to participate in the upcoming municipal elections on 23 April.” 

Hallmarks of Patriarchy

What are some of the common themes that emerge in these patriarchal societies?  Here are some of these patriarchal gems, and how they compare to Mormonism:

  • Virginity tests.  The only Mormon equivalent I can think of is that youth interviews are always done by a male leader, even for young women.  This practice could easily be curbed by having female leaders do all female youth interviews.
  • Honour killings.  No Mormon equivalent for this; nothing even in the ballpark has ever been permitted or condoned that I know of that targeted women.  Even blood atonement was indiscriminate of one’s sex.
  • Narrow interpreting of religious texts to bolster female oppression.  Perhaps some in the past, but contemporarily, not much, and again, nothing in comparison to these societies.
  • Disparate divorce rules.  In Islam, a man can legally have up to 4 wives and can divorce them by saying “I divorce you” three times, whereas a woman has to jump through major hoops to obtain a divorce, and they often lose custody of their children.  In Mormonism, a man does not have to obtain a temple divorce to remarry in the temple, but a woman does.  However, there is no prohibition on secular divorce and remarriage, and one of the fundamental tenets of LDS polygamy was a woman’s right to divorce her husband if she didn’t like it.
  • Tradition is used to justify against reforms.  That’s certainly true in all societies, including Mormonism.
  • Male-female separation in the workplace.  There is some of this – CES not hiring women, some wards not extending callings based on sex (e.g. primary to men – although this is not mandated by the church), and generally no mixed gender Sunday School presidencies; however, women & men are more integrated than before in ward councils, and I have co-served in callings with men in scouting, nursery, and on all sorts of committees.
  • Keeping women out of decision-making roles.  This is getting better at the ward level, but of course, with no female priesthood, all doctrines are set without female decision-making input (I’m not sure they even consult heavenly mother).
  • Restricting women’s personal freedom:  prohibitions on driving, ability to financially support themselves or their families.  I’m going to call Mormonism mixed on this.  There are no restrictions that are anywhere near as bad as these societies, and women are encouraged to obtain higher education.  However, women are also encouraged (at least culturally, and in the young women’s curriculum) to marry young, have children young, and be financially reliant on their husbands (stay in the home).
  • Curriculum that focuses on the privileged role of the male and the subservient role of the female.  Again, nowhere near as oppressive as these cultures, but arguably priesthood is male privilege, and in some wards more fuss is made of male achievement than female.  Scouting budgets are often much higher than YW budgets.  When priesthood is restricted to its functions, it is used to bless members of whatever sex.  Priesthood leadership, however, is a privilege with some amount of status and power (as well as requiring service to others).
  • Literature that has few or no female heroes or voices; teachings that downplay female contribution.  Obviously we’ve got thousands of years of sexism at play in the Bible, so not much you can do about that.  However, female voices are clearly downplayed in a couple of major ways in General Conference:  1) fewer female speakers (and why not since there are fewer female leaders and they do not have decision making power), and 2) women who do speak often speak to children or in a babytalk voice (or both).  While this is improving, there are also plenty of patronizing talks aimed at mollifying women.

What do the women in these patriarchal societies want?  Food, medicine, peace, a way to support and protect their families, and of course, not to be raped and killed.  Those are certainly basic needs that the church does not hinder and actually helps all women obtain.

Again, I’m forced to wonder why we want to ascribe a term like patriarchy to our church when it almost always denotes hatred and oppression of women, things the church clearly doesn’t seek.  I can think of some possible reasons we still cling to this term when all other rational societies are running in the other direction:

  • It’s a matter of degrees.  If so, that seems like a slippery slope we would be wise to avoid. So we don’t hate women, we just like men more?  We just don’t want to listen to what women have to say?  We love women, so long as we (men) have more entitlement than them and they (women) serve our needs?
  • We think there’s a “good” version and a “bad” version.  This is the old Mormon adage about Satan taking what is good and twisting it into an evil version.  The problem with this theory is that the supposedly “good” version of patriarchy still makes women subordinate by definition which contradicts the idea that women will also become Godesses, Queens and Priestesses.  It simply doesn’t match our theology.  It even contradicts the PoF (in that the PoF contradicts itself).
  • We are sucking up to the sexists.  I get the fact that change takes time, and there are old codgers out their who like to sit on their porch and shake their canes at progress.  However, we are also a missionary church.  To whom would we like to appeal?  By throwing around a loaded word like “patriarchy” we are appealing to the worst in people, people like those I’ve described above.  Google it – that’s what the term means.  Our own in-house definition may differ, but that doesn’t mean investigators will understand that.  Nobody advertises Hitler brand fruit snacks.  It’s kind of a bait & switch.  Maybe we need a slogan:  “Come for the patriarchy; stay for the equality!”  Fortunately, our actions probably speak louder than our words on this one because our actions are simply not very patriarchal by world standards.
  • Patriarchy in our culture is dying slowly.  In a gerontocracy, change comes slowly.  That’s one way we stay adaptive (too much change too quickly can create a brittle organization subject to schism), but of course the criticism is that we look like we are following society rather than setting trends based on our infallible fixed moral compass.

Why do you think the church doesn’t drop this term?  Do you feel the church should drop it?  It seems a little unrealistic for an underdog church to reclaim and redeem a term that has a pejorative meaning.  Discuss.

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78 Responses to Elsewhere in Patriarchy (Part 2) . . . Political Oppression

  1. Chino Blanco on June 21, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    Why doesn’t the church drop this term? Because the leadership doesn’t have a problem with it.

    Do you feel the church should drop it? Absent a mechanism for the membership to step in and retire over-the-hill or out-of-touch General Authorities, it wouldn’t matter if I did.

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  2. Jeff Spector on June 21, 2011 at 6:14 AM

    I like the post and the obvious contrast between what the term means and how it is used.

    However, what you are describing, at least in the examples you give in the Islamic world is not patriarchy in its benevolent sense, but most cruel, inhuman, oppressive and sexist way possible.

    There is no comparison. In fact, if you search the Church website, you will not find the word used in any official Church materials. The closest you get is “Patriarchal” and only as it applies to blessings.

    I have a few other nits to pick but I think it is safe to say the term, “Patriarchy” as it applies to the Church is used by those who try to label it in a certain way and not within the Church itself.

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  3. Will on June 21, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
    12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.
    13 And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 7

  4. jacobhalford on June 21, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    I don’t think Patriarchy is a term that is actually taught by the church leaders, but more one that is used by the membership with sexist biases to give a pseudo-scriptural justification for male hegemony. I think that it should be dropped as it doesn’t seem to fit in with the idea of equal partnership that the Family Proclamation seems to advocate, and seems to suggest a male-dominated culture, even if it is not as extreme as the examples you give of other patriarchal societies.

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  5. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Will notes beautifully that according to a male prophet, the “bad” of the world is a “woman.”

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 6

  6. Matthew Chapman on June 21, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    Jeff Spector (2): “There is no comparison. In fact, if you search the Church website, you will not find the word used in any official Church materials. The closest you get is “Patriarchal” and only as it applies to blessings.”

    The only hit I can find on the LDS.org is a paper by Hugh Nibley dating from 1980 called “Patriarchy and Matriarchy”—but he defines both terms as purely wordly in nature, and wholly inapplicable to the members of the Church.

    A few quotes:

    “There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father—and who decides that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her. It is, if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of government under the Constitution—and just as dependent on each other.”

    “matriarchy and patriarchy must always be mortal enemies. Why? Because of the last part of the word, the -archy.”

    “According to the oldest mythologies, all the troubles of the race are but a perennial feud between the matriarchy and patriarchy; between men and women seeking power and gain at each other’s expense.”

    “So one must choose between patriarchy and matriarchy until the Zion of God is truly established upon the earth. It is that old Devil’s dilemma, in which we are asked to take sides with Gog or Magog as his means of decoying us away from our true dedication to that celestial order established in the beginning.”

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  7. Will on June 21, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    Love beads cut of circulation to brain

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 7

  8. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    good thing I don’t own love beads.

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  9. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Wow Matthew — this:

    “There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father—and who decides that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her. It is, if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of government under the Constitution—and just as dependent on each other.”

    sounds a lot like this:

    The priesthood cannot organize itself along egalitarian, tribal lines unless partriarchy/androcracy is both recognized and established.

    In the Church, we have neither patriarchy nor androcracy. What we have is an androcratic oligarchy [or androcratic gerontocracy as Chino #1 noted]. That is – we have rulership by a few men, i.e. the old men with the “keys.”

    These few men rule over both other men and over women. Patriarchy assumes that all men rule, and acknowledges the father-right. So, true patriarchy does not exist in the Church.

    As long as women hold the view that the husband is not a wife’s priesthood or church leader, then power will continue to be centered in the men with “the keys” at the top of the hierarchy and tribal authority will remain inactive. The brethren of the Church know this and so do everything possible to keep that power centered on them and the tribal authorities dormant.

    So, we are taught that patriarchy actually exists in the Church [which it doesn’t], causing the women look at the androcratic oligarchy that we have and call it “patriarchy” [which it isn’t]. They rightly don’t like the “patriarchy” that they see [because it is an androcratic oligarchy] and cannot conceive of a solution that involves forming a true patriarchy – allowing all the men to share the male power and authority b/c they see this as being worse than just having a few men with centralized power.

    However, for true equality, matriarchy must exist along with patriarchy – and gynocracy must exist along with androcracy. There must be a balance of power, and power must be shared – never concentrated in the hands of a few.

    Matriarchy and gynocracy are tribal functions, and typically don’t exist outside of one. Therefore, the tribe must be established. But what has power to establish the tribe? Patriarchy does, but it doesn’t currently exist among the members.

    Mormon women have the means [in their husbands] to the end they seek [equality] – but to get there they must acknowledge the patriarchy and work to establish the tribe along its matriarchal and patriarchal lines.

    If they seek any other way, then it is simply a switching of hats [meaning they seek for a gynocratic oligarchy] – and it will not be true reform.

    I like it.

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  10. Matthew Chapman on June 21, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, there are entries for Patriarch (Priesthood Office), Patriarchal Blessings, and Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood, but not Patriarchy in particular.

    In the first two instances, if the word Patriarch were universally offensive, the word Evangelist and Evangelical might be substituted. In the second case… well, to repeat Inigo, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Here is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article:

    “The patriarchal order is, in the words of James E. Talmage, a condition were “woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood,” where husband and wife minister, “seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kindom” (Young Women’s Journal 25 [Oct. 1914]:602-603). A man cannot hold this priesthood without a wife, and a woman cannot share the blessings of this priesthood without a husband, sealed in the TEMPLE.”

    So we are talking “equal partners” ‘way back in 1914.

    Now you have me interested in more research.

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  11. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    a whore isn’t a whore until a man defiles her.

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  12. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    hawkgrrrl,

    Have you seen this?

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  13. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Dan,

    Will notes beautifully that according to a male prophet, the “bad” of the world is a “woman.”

    Are you saying that if women had written the Bible, then it would have been referred to as the gigolo of all the earth?

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  14. Will on June 21, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    Justin,

    LOL

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  15. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Justin,

    I am saying that if a woman had written it, it would not have been a sexual analogy, particularly one that is quite demeaning to women.

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  16. Jeff Spector on June 21, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Matthew,

    “The only hit I can find on the LDS.org is a paper by Hugh Nibley dating from 1980 called “Patriarchy and Matriarchy”—but he defines both terms as purely wordly in nature, and wholly inapplicable to the members of the Church.”

    Exactly my point. Those who use patriarchy use the term when they often mean “unrighteous dominion.”

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  17. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Dan — what would you say is the better analogy?

    I’m not saying I disagree with you, I’m just wondering where you think the scriptural language could be improved.

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  18. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Trust me, Justin, I’m not trying to improve scriptural language. How we have it is how it sadly is. I’m just saying that scripture was written by men, most of whom did not think women were equal to men. Thus they employed analogies they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

    But in any case, if you wish to see whether or not “the whore of the earth” is a good analogy…as I said a “whore” isn’t a whore until a man defiles her. She may be out there trying to sell herself, or something, but until a man chooses of his own free will to take her, she’s not a whore. Thus, “the whore of all the earth” is an entity that man defiled willingly. Isn’t it odd that the person who wrote that analogy doesn’t say something bad about the man who defiled that “whore?”

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  19. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Thus, “the whore of all the earth” is an entity that man defiled willingly. Isn’t it odd that the person who wrote that analogy doesn’t say something bad about the man who defiled that “whore?”

    Could that dynamic be a part of the intended analogy? The evils of the world are what men have made of it?

    Considering the Holy Ghost [as a female personage] as the author of the scriptures — might that have been what She was trying to say when She used those chauvinistic male writers to write down Her ideas?

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  20. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Justin,

    that’s quite a mighty stretch….sorry, I’m stuck on John 14:26:

    26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    among many others. And of course, our own theology indicates the Holy Ghost is male. Plus, as you note on your blog, that sure would cause a lot of confusion vis a vis the priesthood…

    And I think that if the Holy Ghost was female and she wanted to criticize the men who would defile something, she would not employ the word “whore” as the defiled object being the evil of the world. It would be the heart of the men who defiled the creature, not the defiled creature itself.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 3

  21. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    And of course, our own theology indicates the Holy Ghost is male.

    I guess, to use your own words, I’d reply, “Dan notes beautifully that according to male LDS theologians, the Holy Ghost is a “male.”” Ditto for the John 14:26 hang-up.

    Plus, as you note on your blog, that sure would cause a lot of confusion vis a vis the priesthood

    It throws a wrench in the current LDS-approved POV on the priesthood.

    However, were it to no longer be understood as the hierarchical structure of androcratic oligarchy, but rather as the language of God given to any who have received the key-words of the priesthood so they may act as the voluntary slaves of all — it would suddenly be less confusing [at least to me].

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  22. Will on June 21, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    “Could that dynamic be a part of the intended analogy? The evils of the world are what men have made of it?”

    Amen. Great Point and the purpose of my quoting Nephi.

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  23. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Justin,

    I agree with you re: the priesthood and women. I just don’t think the Holy Ghost is female. Or that the Holy Ghost had a hand in writing the “whore of all the earth” comment.

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  24. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    besides which, if the evils of the world are what men have made of it, why quote the evil in a feminine form? Would it not make sense to lay the guilt upon man, rather than a woman?

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  25. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    oh right….it was the woman that partook of the fruit first…

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  26. Will on June 21, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Dan,

    As usual, you missed Nephi’s point entirely. Justin pegged it perfectly. It is mankind, and the philosophies of mankind that offer the corruption noted in the O.P.

    Nephi hit it dead on.

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  27. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    so man is the whore…

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  28. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    yet…let’s look at Nephi…

    11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.

    yep…definitely man.

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  29. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Dan — the whore is neither a male or a female. It is what man has defiled — as such, it is considered as a woman [There is a difference between a person's gender and aspects of character -- the latter is what is considered as either male or female]

    As you said, “until a man chooses of his own free will to take her, she’s not a whore. Thus, “the whore of all the earth” is an entity that man defiled willingly.

    Excellent exposition.

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  30. Will on June 21, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Dan,

    Nephi is using an expression, kinda like mother-earth, and it is applicable. The word of God is something we should treat with care and with respect and with tenderness — something we should hold dear. Like we should treat our wives. Instead, some have defiled and demeaned and treated God’s word as if it were a whore; thus, the analogy.

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  31. Justin on June 21, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Lol — Dan, you can’t tell me that you think this is a woman:

    and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.

    given what you’ve written about women holding no power in the church specifically, and society in general.

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  32. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    It is what man has defiled

    So the defiled creature becomes “the whore of the earth” to be destroyed by God. The defiler, man, is not even present in this picture. Don’t you see? According to Nephi, it isn’t the man that defiled the entity we call ‘the whore’ in this case that is at fault for the dominion of all men. It is the creature man has defiled which we call ‘the whore.’ That poor creature…gets defiled by man, and then gets blamed for it being defiled. Man that defiled the creature doesn’t get blamed. I guess the analogy does fit. A woman, raped by a man is then accused by the man of causing him to rape her…the woman is sentenced, and the man is free.

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  33. hawkgrrrl on June 21, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I am really encouraged by the absence of lds.org usage of “patriarchy”. The fact that the word “preside” is used in the PoF is still patriarchal, but as I say, it’s a bait and switch. We are leading with our back foot, though.

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  34. Jeff Spector on June 21, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Hawk,

    How do you perceive the way your husband “presides” in your home? Is it better or worse than you how you preceive it to be in the general church world?

    The fact that some men do it wrong does not necessarily make the concept wrong, only the application.

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  35. Will on June 21, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    “The fact that some men do it wrong does not necessarily make the concept wrong, only the application.”

    Excellent comment

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  36. MoHoHawaii on June 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    What are some of the common themes that emerge in these patriarchal societies?

    Don’t forget: persecution of homosexuals.

    Iran and Saudia Arabia prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality. Other patriarchal societies criminalize it. In Mormonism, homosexuality is the sin next to murder. [Kimball, et al]

    Homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, is a repudiation of the patriarchal order’s insistence on strict sexual roles. Gender roles, as Elder Bruce Porter recently put it, are “woven into the fabric of the universe” for patriarchal cultures. They are the one nonnegotiable item.

    The Church’s most strongly worded statement of patriarchal gender roles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, was issued in response to increasing civil tolerance for homosexuals. This isn’t a coincidence.

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  37. Will on June 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Dan,

    No, you are wrong again. The whore is not the man or woman, but the churches or organizations they create to justify their actions (e.g Islam, catholic church or any church that is not the church of God). Nephi goes on:

    17 And when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel.

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  38. Irony on June 21, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Dan:

    I used to think the Holy Ghost was a male entity until I stumbled upon this elucidation:

    The Holy Ghost is a Woman

    [Scroll down until you find this text: "The Personality of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)", then read on.]

    Personally, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the strictly english translations we see in our Bible, given that they are translations of translations of translations of translations. So, while I put value in the overall morals, I don’t get hung up, for instance, on the use of “He” in John 14:26 when confronted with new information.

    Hawkgrrl:

    “I am really encouraged by the absence of lds.org usage of “patriarchy”. The fact that the word “preside” is used in the PoF is still patriarchal, but as I say, it’s a bait and switch. We are leading with our back foot, though.”

    I wouldn’t get too caught up in the absence of one “term” on lds.org. LDS use screwy words all the time and I’m not shocked to find that “patriarchy” isn’t widely used. Perhaps a synonym or companion phrase would work better, such as Will and others put it, “the woman should stay in the home where she belongs,” or something to that effect.

    Verbiage matching that would be much easier to find than the more intellectual term of “patriarchy”.

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  39. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    so the whore is not a man or a woman, but a denigrative word that is applied to women is used to describe the evil of all evils….riiiiight…

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  40. Irony on June 21, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Ah, forgot to hyperlink it: The Holy Ghost is a Woman.

    I believe LDSA has also copied that info to his site, but that’s the original source for it. Speaking of: if, by chance, anyone stumbles upon a copy of Sophia in the Biblical Tradition (Harper and Row; 1986) by Susan Cady, Marian Ronan and Hal Taussig) I’d love to find it. I’ve googled it several times and always come up with companion sources, but no actual text/copies to read or buy.

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  41. Irony on June 21, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Justin + Will:

    “Lol — Dan, you can’t tell me that you think this is a woman:

    and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.”

    I’ll have to agree with Dan on this one. The use of the feminine in describing the “whore” may not be a female per se, but it’s definitely a descriptive term that relates to the feminine and degrades the feminine.

    I’m inclined to believe that Dan is right in that it’s largely due to the presence of men writing the scriptures in cultures where women were often valued as mere property or chattel, and not co-equals. Sort of how we have men these days telling women what their most “noble” and “worthy” callings/duties are.

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  42. Dan on June 21, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Irony,

    sorry man, I just can’t believe our understanding of the nature of the Holy Ghost’s gender is left to a misunderstanding of the usage of gender between different languages, both ancient and modern.

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  43. Will on June 21, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Irony,

    “The Holy Ghost is a Woman”

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I agree 100 percent with Dan on this issue. Wow, didni just say that.

    Yea, 100’s of references by Apostles and Prophets both ancient and modern.

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  44. Will on June 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    “The Church’s most strongly worded statement of patriarchal gender roles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, was issued in response to increasing civil tolerance for homosexuals. This isn’t a coincidence.”

    Perfect timing, I would add

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  45. SteveS on June 21, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Even if the Holy Spirit is gendered, and is feminine, the same theological restraint that prevents traditional Mormons from praying to a Heavenly Mother prevents us from having a communional relationship with the Holy Ghost. For all the effort Mormons make to invite the Spirit into every aspect of our daily lives, the petitions we make are directed to a male deity, who in turn commands the Spirit to interact with us in our meetings, in our studies, in our work and play. So if the Spirit is feminine, it takes its marching orders from a masculine entity. Patriarchy is indeed built into the most fundamental concepts of Mormon theology.

    I’m personally disinclined to try to portray the Spirit as having any gender. I don’t know who or what the Spirit is, but all the words used to describe it in the Bible, at least, seem to me rhetorical personifications used to illustrate how the Spirit interacts with us, much like that of a human friend (it comforts, guides, leads, tells, shows, warns, enlightens, etc.). John 14-16, of course, is the sole exception, and in it the author of John has Jesus referring to a masculine Advocate (Helper) and Spirit that will be sent by the Father after Jesus’ departure. I’m not sure what to make of this exception, but I’m confident in saying that we don’t know all of the environmental, social, and political issues that were on the minds of the community that produced John at the end of the 1st century A.D., and we don’t know this was a conscious effort on the part of the author to engender the Spirit, or whether it was a blind assumption that the Spirit is male due to cultural norms and attitudes of the time period.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that reimaginging one of the Mormon godhead to have feminine gender doesn’t ease the problem of patriarchy, it heightens it vis-a-vis the ways in which that member interacts with the other members in the Godhead. If God truly doesn’t prefer one gender over another, then conceiving of deity as having gender (or making gender an eternal component of individual identity) is always going to cause power imbalances. Giving theological space for a unknown, silent female counterpart to a Heavenly Father, or trying to declare the Holy Spirit a woman (a very obedient, subservient woman) only serves to exacerbate the problem of gender imbalance in our theology.

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  46. Irony on June 21, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Dan:

    “I just can’t believe our understanding of the nature of the Holy Ghost’s gender is left to a misunderstanding of the usage of gender between different languages, both ancient and modern.”

    Perhaps, but if our understandings of something is based on a scripture that is/was a translation of a translation of a translation, and somewhere along the lines the translation is screwed up, it only reveals how weak some of our beliefs are. That’s not to say the lessons we learn from teachings is entirely repudiated, but rather explicit meanings we gather can be skewed.

    For example, in the original Hebrew the two trees we see portrayed in the endowment ceremony (Tree of Life + Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) are but one tree. The scriptures we have in front of us, though, clearly portray those two trees as being separate. The knowledge based on that meaning thereby goes back 100s of years to the KJV translation, and even WAY beyond that. Likewise, the endowment ceremony – though the early years of the ceremony have precious few source documents – is based on the scriptures available at the time (and today).

    Just because the translations keep reading them as two trees, though, does not take away from the original Hebrew and what it specifically states.

    Same goes for our understanding of the word “prophet”, “adultery”, “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and others. If you look at the original Hebrew, the actual statements are strikingly different than what we understand them to mean today.

    Take the Hebrew word for “Prophet” as one example:

    NB means…to prophesy
    The Y (this is by sounds) means…to manifest or have occur
    The A means…to activate, or to begin.

    So the word you have is (remember western English states backwards to Eastern sentence structure)

    -to begin to manifest to prophesy or a prophecy which comes true. To fulfill a prophecy

    It is translated in our bible as prophet, but this is a description of an action, not a noun. So you can be known as one who prophesies, but not a prophet. This word should not be translated as prophet even though it is over 300 times in our current Bible. None of the placements of the world “prophet” should have had the word prophet.

    This is the EXACT description from the Hebrew you sent. There is no other translation that can be pulled from it.

    Unfortunately it is not man’s power of observation that is his great weakness, but his ineptness at conclusion.

    There are many other instances (I’d guess) where we’ve screwed up meanings upon which our belief structure is based (like what a “Church” is and what it requires), but that doesn’t take away from what we can do or belief. It just means that we correct these things as we become aware of them, go to the direct sources and stop looking at the references that are a hundred miles downstream.

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  47. Will on June 21, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    “Perhaps, but if our understandings of something is based on a scripture that is/was a translation of a translation of a translation, and somewhere along the lines the translation is screwed up…..”

    Which is why God has Prophets.

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  48. MoHoHawaii on June 21, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    What are some of the common themes that emerge in these patriarchal societies?

    Here are a few more:

    Male preoccupation with female modesty. Patriarchal societies in the Arab world enforce restrictive clothing standards for women, up to and including full veil. In LDS culture, female modesty is a frequent sermon topic. (“Male modesty” doesn’t exist. The shirts and skins basketball game in the Cultural Hall is still around. Male modesty can only jokingly be referred to in LDS circles, usually in relation to homosexuality. Like a lot things in LDS culture, “modesty” involves gender.)

    Denial of female sexuality.Patriarchal cultures do not generally do not admit the possibility of women as people with legitimate sexual needs of their own. Instead, women are viewed by their “roles” as wives (providers of sexual release to men) and mothers (asexual nurturers of children). In Mormon culture, you often see women put on the pedestal of motherhood in a way that neglects the existence of sexual desire and their need for sexual fulfillment. The sexually empowered woman is not an LDS archetype.

    Polygamy.Patriarchal societies, such as Islam, often practice polygyny (and never polyandry). Mormon culture has polygamist roots, and elements of polygamist teachings (D&C 132, along with asymmetrical rules for the sealing ordinance, for example) are still on the books.

    Placement of responsibility for male sexual behavior upon women.Most patriarchal cultures view male sexual desire for women as a consequence of female seduction. In these cultures, women who are raped are punished for inflaming male desire. In LDS culture, there have been recent sermons that tell young women that they are responsible for the moral purity of young men.

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  49. Will on June 21, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    SteveS,

    “I’m personally disinclined to try to portray the Spirit as having any gender.”

    Except The family: A proclaimation to the world states gender is an eternal element. The spirit would be no different. HE is eternal and HE is a God.

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  50. SteveS on June 21, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    Good job, Will. You probably caught my explicit reference to that document in paragraph 3. Perhaps you also can figure out how inspired I think that document is?

    How about we try to stay on topic rather than get bogged down on the family proclamation again?

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  51. SteveS on June 21, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Also, Will, you may be becoming increasingly aware that this blog isn’t really a debate forum that uses orthodox LDS statements as a de facto corpus of commonly-accepted principles. I’m not a permablogger here, but as a web denizen of this space for a number of years now, as I see it we all bring our own perspectives to the table, not one of which is inherently more authoritative or correct than the other due to our position in or out of the LDS Church. I think we’re all willing to give consideration to any and all perspectives, but they rise or fall on their own merits, and not by relying on the authority of someone else.

    We understand that your perspectives appear to rely heavily on the validity of the prophetic authority of the leaders of the LDS Church, and we’re fine with that. There is place for you here. But you should not assume that everyone here has that same point of reference, or is stating their perspective from that same base of belief. Perhaps with this in mind, you’ll be less inclined to try to enforce your view as the only appropriate perspective upon others, and enter the conversation as a respectful participant who is eager to learn alongside us rather than shout down from on high.

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  52. Will on June 21, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    SteveS,

    And you need to know I have been with this Blog since it started and have contributed posts in addition to commentary. I realize the crowd is the faithful; inactive, anti and apostate. I mean, when I quote a scripture without any commentary and it gets as many thumbs down as up, it is pretty telling on the crowd.

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  53. Jacob M on June 21, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Actually, you all got it wrong regarding the whore analogy. It is meant as the corruption of the covenant between God and man, with God being the man and the church being His wife. The wife becomes the whore when she turns away from her husband. Much the same way man has turned from God. Yes, the comparison is somewhat sexist, but no one has explained it properly her.

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  54. Alice (alliegator) on June 21, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Will- perhaps the thumbs down are not an indicator of appreciation (or lack of) for your scripture, but the context in which you are using it?

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  55. Alice (alliegator) on June 21, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    I think the church either needs to drop the term entirely, or clearly define it. As it is, everyone has their own idea of what exactly it means in the context of the church.

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  56. Will on June 21, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Jacob M,

    Absolutely right on, it is similar to the parable of the bridegroom. However, as it relates to the OP, the unprepared are the corrupt groups cited by Hawk in the post. When the bridgegroom returns he sees the corruption and it signifies the end, as Nephi continues:

    18 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
    19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.
    20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
    21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
    22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.

    He sees the corruption John saw near the end.

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  57. Jeff Spector on June 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Alice,

    “I think the church either needs to drop the term entirely, or clearly define it. As it is, everyone has their own idea of what exactly it means in the context of the church.”

    The church does not use the term. It is used by those who seek to make a point about gender roles in the Church.

    And typically that point is negative.

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  58. SteveS on June 21, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    I can think of at least one instance in the temple where the term is used. Apparently, you can’t get into heaven without patriarchy.

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  59. Alice (alliegator) on June 21, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    I can’t think of any instance where I’ve heard the church use the term, so I agree with you Jeff- however, people in the church are using it, with varying definitions. So maybe we need to stop using the term, or the church needs to set a definition so we know what we’re talking about. :)

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  60. Chino Blanco on June 21, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    If “patriarchy” is problematic b/c too many LDS are unfamiliar with the term, why not just revert to using the better-known Mormon word for male privilege, i.e., “priesthood”?

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  61. hawkgrrrl on June 21, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    Jeff asked: “How do you perceive the way your husband “presides” in your home? Is it better or worse than you how you preceive it to be in the general church world? The fact that some men do it wrong does not necessarily make the concept wrong, only the application.”

    No one presides in our home, not by any recognizable definition, and I do think that’s generally the norm in LDS homes. We are best friends and equal partners. We make all big decisions together, and trust each others’ judgment on small ones. I can’t think of an example of how an LDS man “presides” in the home without unrighteous dominion figuring in. Both spouses should counsel with one another. Both should have the other’s best interests at heart. Both should discuss and consider the welfare of their children. That’s equality and love.

    Can someone provide an example of a marriage in which “preside” is superior to “equality”? We say preside but then we describe equality when we talk about ideals. These words don’t mean what we claim they do.

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  62. Jeff Spector on June 21, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    Hawk,

    “I can’t think of an example of how an LDS man “presides” in the home without unrighteous dominion figuring in.”

    Who would like to say prayer tonight?
    Who is leading the song tonight at FHE?
    Mom will be giving the lesson tonight.

    Johnny, would you like a blessing before the start of school tomorrow?

    Jane, please do as your Mother asked.

    Those would be some examples. I think you and Ken have it right. I think that is what the Church teaches.

    I think the grousing about Patriarchy is that some women want more control and authority and some men want too much.

    We’re not talking about an Overlord are we?

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  63. hawkgrrrl on June 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    Jeff, the roles you describe are not really presiding (exercising guidance, direction or control), and they are pretty easy for anyone to do. We all (as a family) may ask “whose turn is it to pray?” and any of us might mention back-to-school blessings. We both back up each others’ decisions with kids. So I guess I would say that’s not unique to either sex. We also both nurture and care for the kids, and we both provide for our family. We don’t need role distinction because if one isn’t covering something, the other has to. We are both 100% responsible and accountable. Neither of us gets a pass if any of the family’s needs aren’t met.

    So, yes, I think this is how most families run in the church. The examples you give aren’t “presiding” by the dictionary definition, but another example of a word the church uses that has a dictionary definition that differs from how we mean it.

    I keep wondering why we use these words that don’t mean what we say they mean. I think it’s because the church used to be patriarchal, sexist and domineering in relation to women, and we’ve simply outgrown it. Instead of heading in the direction of these patriarchal cultures in the OP, we reversed course.

    “I think the grousing about Patriarchy is that some women want more control and authority and some men want too much.” I disagree that’s the primary motive, at least for myself. I don’t like being portrayed as voluntarily belonging to a group that is oppressive to women and dismissive of them. It hurts our reputation. It attracts the wrong sorts of people. I also don’t like encouraging men who are oppressive by implying that it’s their God-given right. It’s hard for people of my parents’ generation to say these things right because they did grow up in an oppressive and unequal culture.

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  64. Aaron R. on June 22, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    Regarding this rhetorical question on what preside means I wonder whether we can accept the Church’s intent here (which is seemingly to move away from previous definitions of preside and to redefine that word) as legitimate and progressive within the already existing framework or do we require them to change their language.

    If we can accept that words will change their meaning can we also accept an intentional effort to do so?

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  65. MoHoHawaii on June 22, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Re #64, I recall that the term to preside was defined some time ago as meaning “to fall asleep on the stand between talks.” The current definition is “to ask somebody to give a prayer,” as in “Honey, can you ask someone to bless the food before it gets cold?” (There is no established term for asking someone to preside.)

    We can intentionally redefine the meaning of to preside, stretching it beyond all imaginable standard usage, but of course there can be no redefinition of marriage.

    Oy vay.

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  66. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Do we allow for well-intentioned redefinition of words we use? I guess as a linguist type person I have to ask what is the purpose of language? To communicate or to obfuscate? I’m in agreement that “preside” has been redefined in a positive direction (to be innocuous), but in a missionary church, we’re going to attract people who think it still means what the dictionary says it means. And since Mormons are still only about 1.5% of the population, we are going to be constantly misunderstood. Why would we choose to do that? I think it’s for 2 reasons, neither one fully intentional: 1) because in a gerontocracy, we are throwing a bone to the previous sexist generations, and 2) because church leadership is concentrated in a place where 50% of the population are members and the other 50% know all about the church. You can redefine words when you are in a well understood majority, not when you are in a frequently misunderstood minority. The church should clearly see we are the latter, not the former.

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  67. Jeff Spector on June 22, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Hawk,

    “but in a missionary church, we’re going to attract people who think it still means what the dictionary says it means.’

    Is this really the issue? Seems to me we have a larger issue with the legacy interpretation among existing members, especially lifers.

    I’ll continue to maintain this is an issue to those who see poor local practice rather than institutional policy.

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  68. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Jeff – if that’s how you see it, so be it. I’m not going to convince you otherwise. I too have heard some blood-curdling descriptions of male behavior. But in all honesty, I really don’t encounter it much. If and when I do, it’s rare and easily laughed off. What I do encounter is misconception about what the church actually does and believes, and those misconceptions are more in line with those outliers and poor local practice than with what I actually see. Sometimes I also hear descriptions from top leaders at GC that reinforce those outdated norms. And it doesn’t do us any favors to sound less equal than we really are.

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  69. Jeff Spector on June 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Just to balance things out, we’ve had women auxiliary leaders who can be just as domineering as any male. As just one example, I recall a RSP who forced her counselors and secretary to wear stockings on Sundays, even during the Summer! Unrighteous dominion knows no gender boundary.

    “And it doesn’t do us any favors to sound less equal than we really are.”

    Could not agree more!

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  70. Patriarchy, redux | Main Street Plaza on June 22, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    [...] recent post on a Mormon-themed group blog asked the question What are some of the common themes that emerge in patriarchal societies? It then [...]

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  71. Aaron R. on June 23, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    Thanks for responding Hawk. Let me state upfront that I would prefer that we stop using the word preside simply because I do think that it is the wrong and is open for mis-interpretation (more than other similar words). With that said, I suspect that the motivations for the shift are slightly different. Kristine Haglund recently gave a presentation which discussed how the words used in ritual come to serve as an a kind of ontological anchor in a relativistic world. In this sense the legacy of certainty which contemporary Mormonism inherits is tied to specific words, like ‘preside’. In this view I suspect that playing fast and loose with key theological concepts (as they perceived) will lead to uncertainty which does not seem to be desirable among the Brethren. Thus shifting the meaning rather than the word is one way of circumventing this problem.

    Further, I also suspect that there is more pragmatic reason for this shift. I imagine that many of these men (who are bright and driven) also married similarly capable wives. I suspect that in the practicalities of their lives they have had to learn what ‘preside’ means and it has become increasingly clear that it does not mean what the traditional interpretation provided. Hence, the praxis of presiding for this group is in actuality about increasing shared partnership. It is how they have made it work and they probably just care less about words than we do and care way more about the lived experienced.

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  72. hawkgrrrl on June 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Aaron – I think the idea of an ontological anchor is interesting. I have a tendency to be more relativistic and prone to change, so I often overlook the value of stability.

    While I agree that words may not matter that much to the Q12 since life experience trumps the words, that’s still got a blind spot in a missionary church. We can be constantly explaining ourselves (and we do) or we can just use the right words in the first place. It seems odd to me that with our PR focus we wouldn’t pay more attention to these things, although I realize the PR department is really just a clean up crew.

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  73. Jeff Spector on June 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    I think there is too much over analysis of the word and concept of presiding. There is so much historical baggage applied that it is clouding both the true meaning as it applies to the Church and the more contemporary usage of the word.

    Some folks do not want to be presided over no matter what the word means and no matter how it is conceptualized in the Church or in any other setting, for that matter.

    And others just do not feel the crushing weight of being presided over as some seem to.

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  74. hawkgrrrl on June 24, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Jeff – you keep ignoring my point about the impact to missionary work and the image of the church. That’s got little to do with actual experience. You wouldn’t go on a blind date with a scary looking person. You might date someone scary looking that you’ve gotten to know and realize is as gentle as a giant. That’s the difference. Why portray ourselves as something we’re not? We will disproportionately attract scary people.

    Preside is probably not the most important word in the LDS lexicon (“patriarchy” is fairly scary, though, as pointed out in the OP). My real concern is that our reputation is that we are oppressive to women, holding them back. The reality may differ, but that’s the reputation I encounter when people hear I’m a Mormon.

    Tough to overcome without effort.

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  75. Jeff Spector on June 24, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    I guess the reason as I have stated previous is that it has little to no effect on missionary work. People do not join the Church based on the organizational structure out side of our claim that we mirror the initial design by Jesus. they join the church based on faith and testimony of the Gospel.

    What supposedly scares people is our doctrine, our differences with traditional Christianity, our history of polygamy and their view that we are weird.

    It is not patriarchy, or anything like unto it.

    “My real concern is that our reputation is that we are oppressive to women, holding them back.”

    IMO, That is a view held and promoted by some in the Church and projected to the outside, not the other way around.

    What would we holding them back from? Exaltation? Living the Gospel? Holding leadership positions?

    Oh yeah, not holding the Priesthood….

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  76. Heber13 on June 24, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    #75: “What supposedly scares people is our doctrine, our differences with traditional Christianity, our history of polygamy and their view that we are weird.

    It is not patriarchy, or anything like unto it.”

    That hasn’t been my experience with people I meet. Part of the view “that we are weird” is MORE about how we treat women in modern days than how we practiced polygamy in years past. In fact, most people I talk to relate the two…and suggest we no longer practice polygamy as we did in the past, but we continue to stress the patriarchal order and priesthood authority, and the interpretation or perception is that women are therefore not elevated to equal levels. And that does hurt the missionary efforts.

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  77. hawkgrrrl on June 24, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    The people I encounter who feel Mormons oppress women don’t have an opinion on priesthood because they don’t know we have a lay clergy so it’s irrelevant. They know about polygamous past and that most Mormon women don’t work and have more than average children and they draw their conclusions.

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  78. [...] was surprised when Hawkgrrrl’s post about Patriarchy and Political Oppression turned to a discussion on the gender of the Holy Ghost.  I don’t have anything definitive to add to the gender issue, but I would like to open a [...]

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