A F-email Problem

Recently a friend of mine sent me an email containing the following. It had been given to his wife at a church function. Somehow she managed to not immediately crumple it up and burn it, instead she passed it on to her husband so he could read it incredulously, too.

God’s Message to Women

“When I created the heavens and the earth, I spoke them into being. When I created man, I formed him and breathed life into his nostrils. But you, woman, I fashioned after I breathed the breath of life into man because your nostrils are too delicate. I allowed a deep sleep to come over him so I could patiently and perfectly fashion you.

Man was put to sleep so that he could not interfere with the creativity. From one bone I fashioned you. I chose the bone that protects man’s life. I chose the rib, which protects his heart and lungs and supports him, as you are meant to do. Around this one bone I shaped you. I modeled you. I created you perfectly and beautifully.

Your characteristics are as the rib, strong yet delicate and fragile. You provide protection for the most delicate organ in man, his heart. His heart is the centre of his being; his lungs hold the breath of life.

The rib cage will allow itself to be broken before it will allow damage to the heart. Support man as the rib cage supports the body. You were not taken from his feet, to be under him, nor were you taken from his head, to be above him. You were taken from his side, to stand beside him and be held close to his side.

You are my perfect angel, my beautiful little girl. You have grown to be a splendid woman of excellence, and my eyes fill when I see the virtues in your heart. Your eyes are beautiful. Your lips, how lovely when they part in prayer. Your nose, so perfect in form, your hands so gentle to touch. I’ve caressed your face in your deepest sleep; I’ve held your heart close to mine. Of all that lives and breathes, you are the most like me.

Adam walked with me in the cool of the day and yet he was lonely. He could not See me or touch me. He could only feel me. So everything I wanted Adam to share and experience with me, I fashioned in you: my holiness, my strength, my purity, my love, my protection and support. You are special because you are the extension of me. Man represents my image – Woman, my emotions. Together, you represent the totality of God. So man, treat woman well. Love her; respect her, for she is fragile. In hurting her, you hurt me. What you do to her, you do to me. In hurting her, you only damage your own heart, the heart of your Father, and the heart of her Father. Woman, support man. In humility, show him the power of emotion I have given you. In gentle quietness show your strength. In love, show him that you are the rib that protects his inner self.” Did you know that WOMAN was so special in God’s eyes?”

Due to the digital diligence of other friends, it was revealed that this particular message abounds on the internet and that it does not have an LDS origin (as if the blatant contradictions with LDS doctrine within it did not already establish this). However, there has been some discussion about whether or not it would be understood as essentially true by LDS members, particularly women. This led one member of the exchange, who, for reasons of anonymity, I will refer to as Verenity Salley, to ask the following very interesting questions:
What need is being met with this essay?

1. Is it a need that, in an ideal world, should be met?
2. If so, how else could the need be met?
3. This essay bothers me not only because I disagree with its view of gender, but because I feel it’s pandering to its audience. (Well, and it’s poorly thought out, unless the author intended to portray God as someone who really likes to tinker with human innards). Is my perception correct, or am I being unfairly prejudiced against that audience in percieving this as pandering, because of my own internalized sexism or perhaps particularly nuanced classism?

As I always try to do when I encounter interesting questions, I today ask you, the blog reader, to comment and answer these questions so that I don’t have to. Well, what do you think?

Comments

  1. Barf.

  2. Ditto comment #1.

  3. I don’t know if the essay meets a need. I guess it intends to meet a perceived need of some women to feel special, but I can’t see it engendering any reaction other than the one I expressed in my comment #1.

  4. Ditto comment #1.

    This letter continues the subjugation of women. They are only good for the protection of man’s “most vital organ,” and the author (supposedly God, but that is quite inaccurate) loves the beauty of the woman, but doesn’t talk about the other aspects of woman that make her the equal that she supposedly is to her man. Where is the intelligence? Where is the brain? Where is the intellect? Where is the wisdom? Where is the free agency? I mean, how condescending does this author have to be than to call woman “my beautiful little girl.” The rest of that section gets a little sensual for a Supreme Being, “your hands so gentle to touch. I’ve caressed your face in your deepest sleep; I’ve held your heart close to mine.” Would this author say the same of God’s love for a man?

    So what need does this serve?

    Probably the need to regain control over women.

  5. I’m wondering if this is a parody. Honestly, I thought of Eric Cartman’s Fath+1 songs as I read it.

    JDC, is this really real? Do we have evidence that it has been earnestly well-received by anyone?

  6. I guess it intends to meet a perceived need of some women to feel special

    While at the same time — as with every attempt by man to make women higher — it degrades men.

  7. It’s creepy.

  8. Sadly, it closely resembles the kind of stuff a whole generation of Mormon girls were raised on. Is my family the only one in which all the women regularly get together to read aloud from, deride, and gasp in disbelief at “Fascinating Womanhood,” that horrible book (by LDS author Helen Andelin) that graced so many Mormon bookshelves in the 60s and 70s?

    (Longtime bloggernackers may recall my wife posting a few choice excerpts to my blog, back when I maintained one.)

  9. Tom,
    Yes.

  10. I’m as bugged by this as anyone here, but at the same time, I think we have to acknowledge that there are plenty of people out there whose aesthetics are such that they would find this inspiring. I don’t think it’s a parody at all. I think there are folks (both male and female) who find this delightful in a very un-ironic way.

    Put it this way: A week ago, on spring break, I drove past the Precious Moments museum, a roadside attraction in Southwest Missouri. I wouldn’t even think about stopping. Yet my brother’s family wouldn’t miss it. Should I assume that the museum is some sort of post-modern satire on religious belief and domestic homilies?

    Analyzing this email too closely is missing the point for the sort of people who enjoy this sort of thing.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Haven’t we essentially been through this conversation before, regarding the Meridian article on cookery? I’m just waiting for someone to make an ill-fitting claim that we’re suggesting censorship (gasp!).

  12. BTD Greg, I tend to agree. There is a huge population who delight in this type of thing. I also find echoes of things like that EFY story where the Celestial throngs bow before the folks that lived in our age (which was ultimately repudiated by FP letter).

  13. I hate sentimental crap like this.

  14. Does anybody have some crackers?!

  15. Okay, seriously, ignore the essay’s problems of form and writing. What problem is this addressing for the people who read it, find it moving, and pass it on? And what ethical issues does our current discussion of it entail?

  16. I don’t think that the fact that people react positively to this and pass it on necessarily means that it addresses a need for them. What does the fact that some people like it say about those people? It can say a lot of things. Maybe that they don’t think things through very thoroughly or that they have an interesting aesthetic sensibility or that they don’t like men or that they need to feel more special than men, and on and on.

  17. Sadly, I am certain it is NOT a parody. Somebody really wrote this, and probably felt they were inspired as they did it.
    Re J. Stapley’s comment:: When I taught Institute, my supervisor presented the story Stapley refers to in #12. He then explained that if we were to use this story or anything like it, the Spirit would not be present, because the story was not true. When one of those EFY-ish stories is 1) not true and 2) sentimental (IMITATING spiritual feelings with easily churned emotion), it actually harms us.
    It’s very interesting that so many responses have been visceral. Barf. Request for crackers. My initial response was “Gag.”
    The story PRETENDS to glorify women but is actually patronizing and condescending. (“my special little girl.”)
    As a mother, I listened to at least one of my daughters complain loudly about this kind of crap getting tossed around in Seminary.
    Dang, I want to say more, and I’m afraid if I keep going the post will be so long that nobody will read. Nonetheless–I’m doing it.
    My daughter (from my first marriage) got all sorts of anti-Mormon messages from her father. He even read her the pre-change Endowment ceremony with frequent, mocking comments. This daughter finally went to her seminary teacher and said, “I really don’t know if I can believe the church.” She told him what she had heard (and Kevin Barney, if you’ve read this far, the Book of Abraham was a MAJOR thing in all of this, so someday, I’d really like to talk to you about that) and how deeply troubled she was. The teacher–wise man–challenged her to bear her testimony at the next seminary testimony meeting. She wasn’t going to comply, but she did. As she stood before the class, she felt immediately embraced by the love of God and began weeping. This marked the beginning of her choosing to commit herself to the Church and to find a way to live with the ambiguities. And she is a remarkable woman, raising a faithful family. Had that seminary teacher given her this story to “inspire” her, she would have had the “barf” reaction. She needed the REAL thing.

  18. I’m also positive that this isn’t a parody either for many of the reasons put above. However, I’m sorely tempted to send this to friends of mine as an e-mail forward. And I hate forwards.

    This is seriously delightful in its cheesiness and earnestness. But when you get past the fact it isn’t a parody, its so degrading in its view of gender and gender roles and then there’s the fact that it makes my eyes automatically roll, my skin crawl automatically and my brain getting images of gingham drapes, precious moment dolls and cute cross-stitch wall hangings framed in lace….So in other words, it failed my is there merit to this forward document test.

  19. What Taryn said. I am told that this was well-received in the sender’s corner of the church (although not by the sender).

    Why would this appeal to some LDS women?

    Also, regarding how this has spread, I present this link. Google has 157 hits for the “rib” sentence.

    Finally, I don’t think this is the same issue as the cooking article, because that article was ultimately about recipes, not women.

  20. Hmm… I’m gonna try to look at the positive in this, for Taryn’s sake.

    It uses symbolism to say a husband and wife should be equal, with neither being in front of or behind. That’s pretty sound advice. And can be scripturally supported.

    It says Women are the most like God of all his creations. (And I didn’t find the cheek caressing sap too loathesome. I have a three year old little girl and the greatest joy in my life is her carress, her smile, her anything. I can appreciate the daddy-daughter sentiment, albeit through a country music lyrics kind of window…)
    I’m less certain of the theological implications here. I guess I could believe my wife has more divinity in her than I have divinity in me, but I dunno if I could hold this out to all women in actuality. Perhaps it is possible in potential, but I dunno.

    It tells a man that when he hurts his wife he only hurts himself.. (I am assuming here this was written “to husbands” and not sons, neghbors, or brothers or fathers.) I’d say that’s pretty solid advice.

    And it says Men and Women only achieve the divinity within them together. I’d say that’s pretty LDS too, albeit there are plenty of caveats.

    So what needs do these positive things meet?

    I guess it meets the needs of women who feel unequal or treated unequal by the opposite sex. It meets the needs of women who feel unlike God but want to be like God. It meets the needs of women who fell like their husband is hurting them. It meets the needs of women who feel like their husband is leaving them behind.

    I guess it meets the needs of men who think a woman ought to be treated equally. It meets the needs of men who feel like it is good to put women up on a pedestal. It meets the needs of men who get that their family is ultimately a part of them. It meets the needs of men who want their wives to be part of their lives.

    I dunno about it’s theological importance, and I don’t read junk mail ever, but I don’t think this is that dreadful, even if it is sort of dreadful in that country song kind of way.

  21. Margaret, as for needs being met, your comment met a need of mine. Thank you.

  22. It’s just someone’s attempt at bad poetry that happened to get forwarded by a few people with bad taste.

    These little samplings tend to have more meaning when you personally know the author. Aunt Marge spends some thoughtful time and effort and wants to share it with her family. That’s fine, we’re grateful for her efforts to experience life, God, and he desire to share with loved ones.

    But then some uncle or cousin gets the bright idea to start forwarding the email to others, and before you know it, sweet, well-meaning aunt Marge is being ridiculed by Mormon bloggers from Washington DC to Seattle.

    Poor Aunt Marge.

  23. Taryn, excellent questions.

    I read this particular genre of fluff as a direct response to the structural inequalities women face in the Church. Women aren’t particularly prominent or important in our scriptures, our lesson manuals, our official discourse and–needless to say–women aren’t particularly well represented among church leadership. For the average North American member (and I’m guessing for many other memebers throughout the world, but I don’t want to presume), raised in a world in which women regularly occuy positions of authority in government, law, business, medicine, etc., this provokes anxiety. Church would seem to send the ineviable message that in God’s eyes, women are less important and less capable than men are.

    So we anxiously blanket women in a discourse that insists, over and over, “You are special! You are special! are BETTER than men! God loves you just as much as men, and maybe even MORE!”

    To answer Taryn’s first question, I think that insofar as these statements respond to the blatant inequalities of women’s position in the church, that’s an absolutely legitimate need that, in an ideal world, would be met not by this kind of fluffy, insulting rhetoric but by…actual equality! (What a concept). But, sadly, such statements generate, among some women, a kind of addiction to spiritual sugar. Because we’re really not equal in the church and we all know it, we have to get more and more of this kind of soothing discourse which will never really satisfy to compenaste for our invisibility and absence in the church. So there are women who can’t get enough of being told, over and over, “You are SPECIAL. You are SPECIAL.” In my view, that kind of need to be praised and petted isn’t legitimate (especially in a Christian context, where we got to church to consider our human weaknesses and repent), and shouldn’t be met.

    I think greater integration of women into positions of authority, greater emphasis on women’s experience, would obviate this kind of discourse.

    Your second and third questions are excellent ones. They’re questions that trouble me too. I don’t have any good answers to them.

  24. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend the other night. When she was a young woman one day she asked her mom, “Are men and boys bad?” because of silly things like this and other rhetoric she had heard over and over again at church. She was dead serious when she asked. I think that is what this email is saying–they are lesser creatures in so many ways.

  25. Margaret, I completely agree with your analysis and thank God for the seminary teacher’s wisdom!

  26. Matt, Margaret, and Eve, thanks for the thoughtful responses.

    Matt said:

    Hmm… I’m gonna try to look at the positive in this, for Taryn’s sake.

    Matt, is it awful that I never thought to look for any positive messages? I’ve been too busy scratching my head. Good thinking, anyway. And good points.

    I think Eve’s points about the moral flaw in replacing equality with this sort of discourse are valid. First, it doesn’t address the problem. Second, the “spiritual sugar” she mentions is something which can interfere with our relationship to God – both for the reason Margaret discusses and for the reason Eve discusses. It makes religion look like cheap stuff, and the ideas in the essay damage their proponents’ ability to see themselves as in need of repentance.

    I have wondered since I first read this whether it was written by a woman, or by a man. Was the author speaking from within our church’s female subculture, or from outside it? It does seem to be an attempt to redress inequality. Whose attempt, though?

  27. SV,
    This clearly did not originate within our church. If the sentimentality fits, the assumptions about God’s being definitely do not. Since when do we teach that Adam could not touch or see God in the Garden of Eden?

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Margaret, feel free to e-mail me anytime with questions about the BoA at klbarney at yahoo dot com. I loved the story about your daughter’s seminary experience.

  29. HP/JDC,

    Ah, yeah, you’re right. Someone pointed that out to me yesterday, but I forgot. I’m afraid I’ve been more interested in overall tone than points of doctrine, so far as this is concerned.

    My question stands, though. Was this written by a woman, or by a man who was trying to help women?

  30. And LDS aren’t big fans of the whole rib analogy anyway…

    I’ve been thinking about this and Taryn’s Questions.

    1. This is a piece of propaganda. It is here to help justify and bolster up the beliefs it espouses, which I attempted to enumerate in my prior comment. It is, a need, that should be met, in that it is a need to express one’s beliefs and a need to have shared beliefs within a community.

    2. I personally believe it can be better met with strait forward discussion of these actual beliefs and the reasons for them.

    3. All marketing “panders” to it’s audience, even religious grass-roots marketing. We even believe that God typically speaks to us at the level we are prepared to receive and teaches us “line upon line” etc.

  31. TNS (29): In tone it reas like it was written by a parent trying to help their daughter… I won’t pretend to determine gender though.

  32. Mami,
    Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails ring any bells. It’s our larger culture as well. I agree that stereotypes are usually more harmful than good whatever their context.

    SV,
    It is a worthwhile question to ask why so many women feel unlike God or unwanted by God as to need this kind of message. Somebody, somewhere is giving the wrong message. Something is off in our culture if that is indeed where this is coming from. I don’t want my daughters buying into this crap and it disturbs me a lot. In an ideal world this need would not exist.

    That said, I believe so much of what we associate with status in our society is off the mark. I have in the past been accused of diminishing the priesthood by reducing it to christian service. “It’s God’s power, they say, it symbolizes your importance in his plan.” I don’t buy it. Christ taught a gospel of radical humility. He that is greatest among you shall be your servant(or slave, ask Ronan). Christ’s deferred his will to God in the most radical of ways. The most perfect of mortals was perfect in self-denial.

    I believe any effective leader, top down or bottom up will only be effective when acting in this manner. Moses 1:39 actually ascribes this motive of love to God. So, are men and boys bad. Well yes, if they buy into what the natural man tells them about their position in Church and society. He that is exalted shall be abased and vice-versa.

    For this reason, I have difficulty blaming this attitude on institutional structure. I see serious problems with anyone believing that position means diddly squat about your standing with God. He doesn’t judge as man does, he looks at the heart. At the end of the day, many leaders and Joe and Jill Schmoe members may be found lacking in this area and revealed for the whited sepulchres they are.

    I am kind of torn to call this a complete spiritual twinkie. It doesn’t feel right to feel so smug about those poor, unenlightened creatures who would take comfort in it. Somehow we have to be able to see our worth and maintain our humility at the same time. I see this as somebody’s effort to do so. I can’t respond as viscerally to it. Something within each of us makes us divine, and I know it’s not position or status. What is it exactly? It’s got to be something.

  33. Eve,

    To extend your sugar analogy a little: There’s nothing wrong with sugar, per se. In fact, if you don’t ever eat any sugar, and just eat broccoli and peas all the time, you’ll be healthy but boring. Most of us like to have some sugar in our diet. On the other hand, a person can’t survive (very well) on sugar alone. And the ratio that Mormon women receive just doesn’t seem too healthy.

    (I’m sure you would have thought of that extension yourself, except that the delicateness of your nostrils prevented it.)

    (And by the way, isn’t the delicate-nostrils line just such an excellent homage to a woman? Really, we should be amending the Bard. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thy nostrils are more lovely and more delicate . . . “)

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Matt W., you’re right that LDS aren’t real big on the rib thing. I think that was an example of what BY used to refer to as biblical “baby stories.”

    Of course, Genesis doesn’t actually say that woman was created from a rib; rather, she was created from the man’ side.

    In Gen. 2:18 (NET), we read “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him [lit. "according to the opposite of him"].”

    The basic picture being presented in Genesis 2 is reflected in this formula:

    ish + ishshah = adam

    which is to say,

    man + woman = human

    The man and the woman are like two pieces from a jigsaw puzzle. They were originally one, and to be complete they must come together and become one again, so as to form a complete human being. Neither the man without the woman nor the woman without the man is whole according to this perspective.

  35. Thomas Parkin says:

    Someone left out the part about your beasts are as two young roes that are twins that feed among the lilies.

    ~

  36. Ignoring the non LDS source of this for a minute….

    Is’nt the reaction to this poem more a function of taste and personal outlook then anything else?

    So if you are a left leaning academic you have a strong negative reaction. You think of feminism, patriarchy the whole bit. The poem has just offended your worldview. You also dislike scrapbooking as well.

    If you are a SAHM in Provo with 5 kids, voted for Bush and like Meridian magazine and you like to scrapbook I bet you like the poem better then the left leaning academic.

    I am kind of reminded of the scrapbooking post that was here on BCC a while back.

    As for me its to sappy and I would drive right on past that precious moment store.

  37. Thomas Parkin says:

    “beasts” s/b “breasts”

    paging Dr Freud!

    ~

  38. Ah, but there are different types of suger. High Fructose Corn Syrup is not good for anyone. Give us a little real Grade A Maple, then we’re talking.

  39. Bbell–I’m afraid I fit your profile of the person most likely to dislike this sentimental vision of women. But my left-leaning body (complete with two beasts) and my particular worldview are not so much offended as alerted. I genuinely find this kind of “message” dangerous–as well as blasphemous.
    I’m really curious about what scrapbooking has to do with this. True, I do not scrapbook, but my daughters do. How about we put your suggestion to the test? My oldest daughter is a SAHM. She has only two kids, but they are very energetic. She did indeed vote for Bush, and I don’t know what she’ll do when I put a “Barak Obama” sign on her front lawn. Her mother (that would be me) periodically publishes in _Meridian_. (Surprise!)
    Let’s see how she responds. I’ll cut and paste it, phone her ASAP and tell her to get back to me immediately. Anyone care to place a bet on how she’ll respond?

  40. Kaimi, LOL.

    I thought the nostrils part was hilarious. Really, I have to give the story credit for digging up a textual justification to avoid a story with both women and nostrils in it. Nostrils are just too blatantly unfeminine for the overall tone of the thing.

    Personally, I love sugar in both my literal and metaphorical diets, preferably dark chocolate. And that is the tricky part, which I think Taryn’s third question speaks to, and I think bbell’s observations do as well: to what extent is this stuff a matter of serious distortion of saving doctrine, and to what extent is it a matter of personal preference? To what extent is it a matter of snobbery (left-leaning scrapbook-dissing feminist snobbery, lions and tigers and bears oh my!) to dislike this kind of stuff? I do dislike it, and I do think its doctrinal implications are problematic, but I’m not satisfied that I’m not partly just a snob about it.

    (But not enough of a snob to avoid double negatives, obviously. I’m such a closet plebe.)

  41. Okay, I read the “poem” to my daughter over the phone. Upon the line “But you, woman, I fashioned after I breathed the breath of life into man because your nostrils are too delicate” she broke into a nice guffaw.
    Her other responses:
    “I know it’s trying to uplift women, but it’s not.
    So, we’re basically there to protect men because they’re, like, the heart of the universe?
    I don’t like being charactized as being delicate and fragile. I can hold my own with men. [My husband] and I are on equal ground. If he saw me as the rib and he was the heart, we would have issues.”
    I win that bet. Those of you who expected that my scrapbooking, SAHM of a daughter would love “God’s Message to Women” all owe me fifty bucks.

  42. I have no idea how she will react. She is just one person. My wife would dislike it even though she is a large family SAHM conservative

    We are talking in generalities here right? There is a market for this type of sappy sentimentality. I am theorizing that its to be found amongst Eagle Forum types. I think there is a link to Scrapbooking. Those that like to scrapbook tend to be more sentimental then those that do not. So I envision those who would like this poem and I come up wth large family SAHM conservatives who like to scrapbook.

  43. My wife is the most hardcore scrapbooker I have ever met in my life and she HATES prescious moments and willow tree and all that stuff.

    And I have to admit I missed the nostrisl bit on the first pass. In my mind I am trying to fashion a country song lyric to go with “nostrils are too delicate” but the only rhymes I can think of are “celibate” and “helluvit”…

  44. I dislike this thing (obviously) and I’m not one who is very sympathetic to feminist criticism of the Church. I don’t think the fact that it has reportedly been well-received by some members necessarily means that it is fulfilling a specific need, nor do I think it means anything significant about women in the Church in general. Generalizing and psychoanalyzing based on that information is overreaching by a mile. But it offends this somewhat conservative, scrapbooking-sympathizer’s aesthetic and religious sensibilities in many ways.

  45. Margaret thank you for your insights! I agree with the barf sentiment so many have expressed, and I think you are so right that this sort of imitation stuff is harmful because people mistake it for the real thing.

  46. Hm. This reminds me of a poem quoted by a woman in her 20s, in a sacrament meeting about 20 years ago. The poem was so astounding I have remembered it word for word ever since:

    Women are door mats, and have been,
    The years these mats applaud;
    They keep their men from going in
    With dirty feet to God.

    My wife and I did our best not to laugh out loud. And we have treasured that poem ever since as a classic of folk wisdom. This particular e-mail is, of course, a bit more sophisticated in its style. But I would guess that the audience is similar and the message is about the same — if it weren’t for women, men would be a miserable lot.

  47. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Because we’re really not equal in the church and we all know it

    That’s a pretty sweeping statement. I’d have to disagree with you: In no way do I feel unequal at church. I’m American. I’ve been a church member all my life. I’m living in Canada now. My biggest beef with how things are run at church was Boy Scouts was always so much cooler than Young Women’s but that was more an effect of my YW leaders. So no, we don’t “all know” we’re not equal.

  48. PDoE,

    I’m always glad when I read the statements you make to this effect – that you feel quite equal to others at church. It’s good that I have sisters who don’t struggle with this.

    I have to admit, though, that the vast majority of Mormon women I know – including women who have no interest in changing our church’s institutional gender roles – have expressed to me either their perceptions that we are treated unequally and unfairly by our churchor their feelings of (even their belief in) their own low worth in comparison with our brothers. For what it’s worth, in my experience, you are an exception. An exception which makes me very happy, of course.

  49. When I was in YW, my mom (the YW President) often talked about how the YM had a much larger budget than the YW because of the Scouting program. In my ward anyway, we couldn’t be as cool because we didn’t have the budget they had.

  50. TNS- For what it’s worth, most women that I know are more like PDOE than they are like you. Maybe it’s because I’m a man though, and most LDS women I know and talk about this sort of thing with are related to my wife.

    Maybe the Church IS truer in Texas afterall…

  51. Sherpa: My Wife is YW president right now and the budgets are based on the number of active youth in the program. Our YW have more active Youth, so their budget is more than the YM. It’s been this way since the church centralized it’s monies and went to the allowance system. I do know both groups got a raise around 2000 or so, when President Hinckley called for an extra $50 per active youth.

    From what I understand, the YM have been perceived in the past(pre-allowance) as having a bigger budget because they were able to do more fund raising, under the banner of “scouting”. I am not sure as to the accuracy of that though…

  52. I think this is just religious kitsch. Walter Benjamin was a big fan of kitsch, existing for its own sake and not for art’s sake necessarily. I’m true to my demographic (educated, white, middle class) and I don’t like kitsch. I think the approximation/imitation of spiritual feelings is lame and useless. Especially if the stories are made up but presented to be true (I’m thinking Chicken Soup for the Soul here). Lots of people love kitsch because it makes them feel better about the cruel world that we live in and unless it really hurts other people, it seems kitsch is fine.
    I don’t think people really think about the kitsch. That’s not the point right? To think about it? It’s to feel it. So I would say this Relief Society presidency and/or members who passes this around weren’t thinking about it, just thought it was nice and passed it around.

  53. The fourth paragraph reminds me of Matthew Henry’s comment on Genesis 2:21-22. The author of “God’s Message” seems to have taken the idea and run off the cliff with it.

    “That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved” (Matthew Henry).

    “You were not taken from his feet, to be under him, nor were you taken from his head, to be above him. You were taken from his side, to stand beside him and be held close to his side” (“God’s Message”).

    President Monson likes Henry’s thought. He quoted part of it at the October 1990 and April 1992 General Conferences (he noticeably omitted the part about the head). He included a closer quotation in his book Favorite Quotations from the Collection of Thomas S. Monson (also omitting the part about the head). He also quoted part of it in a BYU Women’s Conference address:

    “To strengthen your home and family, you need to know how vital you are to this process. The words frequently quoted by President David O. McKay give a perspective of your importance. I love them. ‘Woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.’ Honor his priesthood and he will honor your womanhood” (“Closing Remarks,” BYU Women’s Conference, 2001).

  54. Having finished today’s work (transcriptions), I was about to head home, but wanted to add one final thought.
    Way back in Comment #17, I talked about my daughter and her experience in Seminary. Then I had the gall to use her as an example of a SAHM as a “test” of BBell’s theory (#36). Absolutely unfair of me. Sorry BBell. Of course I knew how my daughter would respond. SHE IS MY DAUGHTER. Which is the point. I am my daughter’s main teacher and example of LDS womanhood. No silly sentimental “message” in Relief Society or elsewhere will unteach what I have taught her for years, and more importantly, what God has taught her.
    To finish one aspect of the story–my daughter asked me about the temple several times in her adolescence, since she had heard the whole endowment ceremony. I simply said that I longed for the day I would feel comfortable talking about it, but that the day would not come until we were both in the temple. But she saw me go to the temple, and she knew I loved it.
    The day came when she was preparing to be married, and she was endowed. I had some very sweet moments of finally talking to her about what the endowment means to me, why I love participating in temple rituals, and why the Anti stuff never got me. At that point, she was already well-set on her path, so I don’t know how important my words to her were. (Actually, I have a strong sense that they mattered deeply.)
    My daughter knows that I live with hard issues every day. And she knows that I meet them with faith. She knows my flaws, too (all of my children could provide long lists), but at the core of me is a thriving faith that looks far, far beyond temporary misconceptions we all hear–or read.

  55. Matt- I was actually directly referencing Proud Daughter of Eve’s answer since she’s probably more or less around my age and was probably in the program before budget changes. My post really had nothing to do with the current situation of the church. All I was doing was talking about how it was then.

    I’m aware of the change when the Wards went to a centralized budget system. If you’re active in the church, at some point you have a calling that has to do with the budget. Or you have family members (like you) who has a calling that requires familiarity with the Church Budget.

    Our YM and YW programs didn’t have different sized programs. In fact, there were more quite a few more active young women than young men and yet the budget was substantially smaller for the young women (ie miniscule). Yeah, I knew that men were given more in the name of scout fundraising. My mom talked about that often also.

  56. Kevin Barney says:

    The nostrils thing reminded me the Hebrew word for “anger” literally refers to the nostrils. So from now on, when a woman gets angry, we should refer to that anger as “fury of nostrils.” I’ll paste in my comments from my JBMS 4/2 (1995) catalog of BoM word pairs:

    1. anger//fierce anger

    Book of Mormon

    A I will visit them
    B in my anger,
    B yea, in my fierce anger
    A will I visit them. (Mosiah 12:1)

    except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger;
    yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away. (Alma 8:29)

    A yea, he will visit you
    B in his anger,
    B and in his fierce anger
    A he will not turn away. (Alma 9:12)

    Hebrew (’aph//charon [’aph])

    Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the
    fierceness of his great wrath (charon ’aph),
    wherewith his anger (’aph) was kindled against Judah
    (2 Kings 23:26)

    Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath (’aph),
    and vex them in his sore displeasure (charon).
    (Psalm 2:5)

    before the fierce anger (charon ’aph) of the Lord
    come upon you,
    before the day of the Lord’s anger (’aph) come
    upon you. (Zephaniah 2:2)

    Comment

    This is an illustration of an “augmented” word pair (symbolically, A//AB), which differs from same-word repetition by the addition of a modifier to the repeated element.41 Other illustrations would be desert//holy desert [KJV: wilderness//wilderness of Kadesh](Psalm 29:8), sea//reed sea [KJV: sea//Red sea](Exodus 15:4), and cedars//cedars of Lebanon (Psalm 29:5). The Hebrew ’aph literally refers to the nose, but usually is used to denote anger (which shows itself in the flaring of nostrils and hard breathing).42 The noun charon most literally means “burning,” but by extension “anger” or “wrath.” The construct expression charon ’aph translated “fierce anger” in Zephaniah 2:2 literally means something like “fury of nostrils” or “fierceness of anger,” and is always used of God’s anger, as is the case in the Book of Mormon passages.43

    41. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 132.

    42. All lexical comments, unless otherwise noted, are derived from either Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1906; reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1979), or William Gesenius, Lexicon Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum in Veteris Testamenti Libros, trans. Samuel P. Tregelles as Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949).

    43. Avishur, “Pairs of Synonymous Words,” 43, and Avishur, Stylistic Studies, 167, 204, 321, 347, 714.

  57. Sherpa, I certainly didn’t mean to step on toes. sorry.

    Justin: and here I thought Jo Dee Messina was the inspiration here…

  58. cj douglass says:

    Women forward this email around because they have nothing else. As sad as the attempt may be, atleast its something. Many of you seem to have been taught the great value of womanhood and don’t need cheesy emils to remind you of that. Consider yourself a minority in the world.

  59. Actually, the author was influenced by Henry, Messina, and Chaucer.

    “Now comes the question, How should a man conduct himself toward his wife? and specifically in two things, that is to say, in tolerance and reverence, as Christ showed when He first made woman. For He made her not of the head of Adam, because she should not claim to exercise great lordship. For wherever the woman has the mastery she causes too much disorder; there are needed no instances of this. The experience of every day ought to suffice. Also, certainly, God did not make woman of the foot of Adam, because she should not be held in too great contempt; for she cannot patiently endure: but God made woman of the rib of Adam, because woman should be a companion to man” (“The Parson’s Tale,” Canterbury Tales).

  60. blockquote>Because we’re really not equal in the church and we all know it

    That’s a pretty sweeping statement. I’d have to disagree with you: In no way do I feel unequal at church. I’m American. I’ve been a church member all my life. I’m living in Canada now.

    PDOE, as Taryn already said, I am really glad that you feel equal at church. But my comments above don’t refer to people’s various wildly contradictory personal church experiences, interesting and valuable as those are; I was referring instead to the structural inequalities in church organization and in our foundational texts that tend, for the most part, to leave women out. I wasn’t even meaning, necessarily, to pass judgment on those inequalities in this context. Certainly many arguments have been advanced that those structural inequalities are necessary given the extraordinary responsibilities many women have as mothers, for example.

    But I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere in understanding women, men, and church discourse until we admit where we are. And where we are is in a state of institutional inequality. I think that state is related in important ways to the ongoing production and circulation of the kind of rhetoric Taryn’s analyzing.

    Tom said,

    I don’t think the fact that it has reportedly been well-received by some members necessarily means that it is fulfilling a specific need, nor do I think it means anything significant about women in the Church in general. Generalizing and psychoanalyzing based on that information is overreaching by a mile.

    But if it’s not fulfilling some kind of need, why do we keep producing, circulating, and recycling it? It’s not necessarily a matter of psychoanalyzing to critically consider the types of discourse a community produces. We must be creating and disseminating this stuff for some reason, in response to some issues, questions, concerns, pressures. People don’t just write random words to no evident end.

  61. re: #10 (this a little late)

    I went to the Precious Moments Museum as a little kid with my Southern Baptist aunt. I remember it being nice and mostly just a showcase of the original art. Don’t knock it too much… what to you is “some post-modern satire on religious belief” was one of many times I felt the Spirit with that Aunt who taught me about God– a Spirit I recognized as a teenager when I took the discussions.

    So yah, the essay may be cheesy crap that keeps women down (I won’t argue against that), but that works for some people. Don’t condemn them for it.

  62. Eve #60,
    I guess it depends on how you define needs. Taryn used two similar phrases in asking the question: “What need is being met with this essay?” and “What problem is this addressing for the people who read it, find it moving, and pass it on?” Because of this I am understanding the quesion of meeting needs as implying that there is a problem that needs to be addressed or something lacking. I object to the assumption that everything that is written, enjoyed, and passed on is done so because something is wrong. Some things are written, enjoyed, and passed on for fun. I suppose you could say that that would be meeting a need: the need to have fun or pass time or whatever. But it’s not necessarily addressing a problem.

    In this specific instance there are a number of possible reasons that some people might enjoy the piece and pass it on. From the information given—that some women reportedly reacted favorably to the piece—the conclusion that this is motivated by the putative psychological effects of the differences in how men and women are treated in the Church is a stretch.

    And where we are is in a state of institutional inequality.

    Yes, men aren’t really equal in the Church and we all know it. :-)

  63. Kristine says:

    “People don’t just write random words to no evident end.”

    An astonishing assertion, in this venue.

    ;)

  64. Thomas Parkin says:

    There is always something missing from these discussions about women. I don’t know what it is – but I sense the lack whether the comment is modern, or not so.

    I personally think the bit was something a little worse than kitsch. I found it all a bit creepy – especially the fifth paragraph. (My orginal aside was meant to augment that creepiness I experienced reading – best advice I ever got about online discussion was to always wait five minutes between the time you write something and the time you hit send.) I don’t mind an inadequate expression emotional depth – not everyone is a poet – but it is unfortunate when a lack in language traps conversation at a ‘shallow’ level. I suppose I feel there is somethig missing in the langague we use to talk about women, and about women and men together, that is somehow vital and absent. I mind this, too, when the conversation is politisized, and charged with political sensibilities. I always feel that something is being missed in talk of equality or lack of it. Not that the points made in such conversations are invalid in context – but that they exclude something neccesary – that is not found in more traditional expressions, etiher.

    Maybe I’ll get a better idea about this at some point.

    ~

  65. Thomas Parkin says:

    #63 & #64

    Synchronicity!

    ~

  66. It seems as if this sort of “kitsch” as the term was used above is just that. Even if we have a distaste for it we can recognize it for what it is. Is it damaging? I will not judge. But “kitsch” goes with “tchake” and I’m not a big fan of other. It detracts from my clean minimalist sense of being. I think it is just clutter, but then others really like it.

  67. I have nothing to say about the original post. Do I have to read it to comment? But I enjoyed the country music comparison, and it reminded me of the One True Country Song:

    I was drunk the day my ma got out of prison
    And I went to pick her up in the rain
    But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
    She got runned over by a damned old train…

    Ah, memories…

  68. Julie M. Smith says:

    What bothers me most about this isn’t the gender stuff (although that’s pretty bad) but I think it should be absolutely forbidden to write something as if it were God speaking. It always gives me the heebiejeebies. Don’t put words in God’s mouth. Ick.

  69. Yeah, Julie, stuff like that bothers me as well. But I don’t like movies or books that interpret the Bible or Book of Mormon. I don’t think anybody can accurately interpret what the Lord might say or how He might say it.

    I read it wondering what was the incredulous part. For me, it was the incestuous tone.

  70. My mother in law actually forwarded this piece of crap to my wife (and a million other people on her list) with the comment that it made her cry.

    My wife tends to ignore all forwarded email from her mom on general principle, but this time she happened to read it and it gave us both a great laugh. We made fun of it for a good twenty minutes. To see it here again accompanied by such serious analysis is hilarious.

    There is a TON of this emotionally overwrought garbage circulating on the net. The need it serves is to stir the emotions of the unsophisticated and make them think they just had a profound moment. It carries little danger because the only ones who read it with any seriousness are too unsophisticated to think about it with any depth.
    Now forward this email to your entire address book or you will have seven years bad luck!!!

  71. MCQ,
    I hate to take it to an “us vs. them” level. I think that approaching it from an understanding of what we share is ultimately much more helpful (like Matt W. did above, for example).

  72. HP:

    I intended that to be funny, sorry if it came off otherwise.

  73. Well, the message of this bothers me, but more than that, I think this kind of thing is pathetic because it’s got some kind of pseudo-depth going on. It’s the kind of thing that panders to those that find sentiment in the mundane – the types that find Nicolas Sparks novels to be great literary works. I don’t see how people can defend finding spirituality in something so trite. To me, this carries the message of “you aren’t smart enough or developed enough to understand a true spiritual message, so we’ll throw you this overly sentimental, poorly written message that works on your level.” It’s a bit embarrassing, really. Stories like these are the sad attempts of bad writers to be inspiring and they fall miles short of the mark.
    Blech.

  74. I am surprised that no one has made reference to the “third” alternate telling of the creation of woman.

    One day God is speaking with Adam in the Garden of Eden. God says, ” Adam I have noticed that you have been lonely. I have decided to create a companion for you. She will be a wonderful wife, sweet, kind, loving, a wonderful mother, supportive, etc…” Adam replies, “I think this sounds wonderful what will it cost?” God replies, “An arm and a leg.” Adam, “That is pretty steep, what can I get for a rib?”

    I want to state I told this twice to different MTC Instructors (both female) one found it hilarious, the other, not quite as hilarious.

    Don’t tell my wife I posted this.

  75. Loyal Lurker says:

    These are lyrics from the “Bad Jokes Song” sung by Woody Harrelson and John Reilly in the film A Prairie Home Companion. You have to read it aloud with a Southern drawl, and be creative with the irregular meter…

    When God created woman
    He gave her not two breasts but three
    When the middle one got in the way
    God performed surgery
    Woman stood before God
    With the middle breast in hand
    Said, “What do we do
    With the useless boob?”
    And God created man

  76. Jonathan Green says:

    Julie, I agree there’s a good possibility of things turning out badly, but you do remember the two hymns in our hymnbook, rather good ones at that, written in whole or part from the perspective of Christ, right?

  77. Last night, I opened the comics pages and saw this one:

    Other ribs

  78. Katie P. says:

    Growing up in the church, my biggest problem with the trope that “all men marry above themselves” was the necessary, unspoken corollary: “All women marry beneath themselves.” I hated the idea that I was destined to marry someone morally deficient who was inherently beneath me.

    One boyfriend told me the following joke:
    God and Adam are talking after the fall.
    “God, why did you make women so pretty?”
    “Well, so you’d like them.”
    “Why did you make them so soft?”
    “So you would like them.”
    “Why did you make them so dumb?”
    “So they’d like you.”

    Outside of the outrageous sexism of joking that women are dumb, there was the even less attractive sentiment that unless they are dumb, all women must settle. Why on earth are these things repeated?

  79. My wife continually says that I don’t deserve her. I prefer to believe the other meaning, of course.

    :)

  80. Space Chick says:

    Matt,

    try using “halibut” for your poem.

  81. Here’s an inmate using the piece to woo potential female correspondants. He even claims to have written it, giving only the first part and telling his future pen pals they have to “earn the rest”. How’s that for fulfilling needs?

  82. Jonathan Green–Those two hymns bother me for exactly the reasons Julie pointed out.

  83. “I have to admit, though, that the vast majority of Mormon women I know – including women who have no interest in changing our church’s institutional gender roles – have expressed to me either their perceptions that we are treated unequally and unfairly by our churchor ”

    Taryn, I have to say that it is because your experiences with this sort of thing resonante so stongly with my personal experiences, that I find value in this forum/blog site. I sadly report that as I have been involved in what is going on, it appears the gulf dividing how differently men and women are treated in the church is growing.
    Did anyone hear in Conference on 4/2, a GA state that a wife is a husbands “possession”?

    I am seriously interested in knowing others response to this kind of statement. Is it easily passed off b/c it is common, written off as an oops or is it the tip of the iceberg or somewhere in between?

    Kara

  84. I heard counsel to hubands to “treasure” their wives. Is that what you’re referring to? If so, it’s a stretch and a half.

  85. Costanza says:

    I think that Elder Holland said that men should remember that their wives had “voluntarily given themselves” to their husbands, and so should be honored, etc. Maybe that is what Kara is referring to.

  86. Okay, I just went back and listened to the audiop archive. Here is the exact quote from the prophet, in his parting remarks on Sunday, 4/1:

    “Husbands, love and treasure your wives, they are your most precious possession. Wives, encourage and pray for your husbands, they need all the help they can get.”

    Are you offended by that? I don’t think it’s intended to be advocating the view that wives are “possessions” per se. I think the intent is:
    a husband’s relationship with his wife is his most precious possession.

    The wording is somewhat unfortunate, I suppose, but I’m certain it is not intended the way you are suggesting.

  87. I am interested to hear if others are offended by that wording. Maybe I’m just clueless, but I’m not seeing as a sexist comment.

  88. Kristine says:

    MCQ, that’s more than “somewhat unfortunate,”–it’s a gross gaffe to say such a thing in 2007. If he meant the relationship is a precious possession, he could have said so. It’s the kind of slip that betrays a deeply ingrained, unconscious sexism. I’m sure it’s not malevolent, but it is unarguably sexist. It is also a way of speaking about wives that was common several decades ago–President Hinckley, hip as he is for a 97-year-old, is also a product of his time.

  89. Jessawhy says:

    This is such a sensitive issue to me right now. I do think the poem is designed for women who are struggling (consiously or unconsciously) with equality in the church.
    I had some kind of feminist awakening a few months ago when I realized (at the ripe age of 26) the extent of patriarchy in our church, and the lack of feminine influence/understanding. Even general conference is difficult for me, men speak about men, we worship male Godhead, and we pay tribute, in a passing way (sometimes condescendingly) to women. What is more difficult is thinking that this is the way things have almost always been, for millenia. I don’t know what God wants for me here, I am really confused and discouraged about women’s roles in the church.
    About the poem, am I the only one who felt sexual overtones in this passage?

    I’ve caressed your face in your deepest sleep; I’ve held your heart close to mine.

    It really grosses me out.
    But, I do think there is a growing concern, especially among younger women in the church, to discuss some of the issues related to women in the church. I am also disturbed by men on this thread who ignore or belittle a woman’s struggle with equality in the church. It’s very easy for men to dismiss these claims because we’re all told that women are better, more spiritual, etc. But I think that is part of the problem. We do all need to repent and grow and setting up a false standard doesn’t help anybody.
    I agree with Eve, the inequality of the church organization isn’t really up for question, especially when you look at the stand during General Conference, or realize that you missed the best musical performance of the entire conference because you don’t have a Y chromosome. (and hence, the Priesthood)
    It’s all the little things that add up. And, it’s the big things, women have been possessions for thousands of years. Are we kiddng ourselves that somehouw a few decades of political correctness is going to change that? Maybe that’s how God wants it, isn’t that what the poem says?

  90. I had an instant, visceral reaction to the “most precious possession” comment. I was surprised that no one else seemed to notice it. It’s kind of difficult to say that you are uncomfortable with something the prophet has just said, but honestly, I was. I KNOW he didn’t mean it the way it came out, but the fact is, that it came out that way, and it stung a little bit. Wives are no more the possession of their husband than husbands are the possessions of their wives, but if we heard “Wives, treat your husbands well because they are your most precious possessions,” I think people would notice.
    And maybe the husbands should pray for their wives, too? Women need just as much help as men do.

  91. MCQ, Kristine and Jessawhy, thanks for your comments.

    For me the principle of respect and equality for women and men is a timeless principle, not just political but has mulitple other dimensions such as spiritual. I am grateful to find throughout history examples of great world leaders who have in their teachings and relations with others have exemplified this, it would have gone against their very nature to treat one gender justly and the other unjustly.

    As far as the church goes . . experience has shown me, that for women in this day and age honoring the principles of equality and fairness is not a capability under the current system of decision making. It is said by authorities that common consent is actually used in the decision making process but my experience is that ‘common consent decisions’ mean ‘men only.’ (These decisions were required locally and at headquarters) Unfortunately, when women are excluded, it seems injustices occur much more frequently. (Weren’t there several university studies lately-ie Harvard-showing that levels of dishonesty and lack of ethics always decreased when women were included in business executive committee decisions?)

    The question I keep coming back to is: If we are treated unequally and hurting now, what will things be like for our daughters and grand daughters, if nothing changes?
    Will the little things become bigger and bigger until we wonder how we got into such a mess?

    (Just to be clear I am not advocating that women hold the Priesthood)

    Kara

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