Can Women Sin?

A persistent idea in Mormon thought is the proposition that women are inherently, on average, more spiritual than men. This idea can be found in many texts and discourses of Mormondom; a recent example arises in a discussion thread drawing on an excellent post by Kiskilili at Zelophehad’s Daughters. I have no doubt that an idea of this sort has a huge range of sources. This post sketches just one, with the purpose of showing that ideas about the superior spirituality of women can often arise from beliefs about women that are really quite malign.

B. Carmon Hardy’s recent documentary history of Mormon polygamy, Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy, Its Origins, Practice, and Demise, contains a fascinating short collection of primary sources regarding 19th-century Mormon leaders’ attitudes toward female spirituality. (See pages 125-29. I will be writing a full review of this volume for BCC in the next few weeks.) Mormon leaders at the time typically regarded women as inherently inferior to men. Consider, for example, Charles W. Penrose’s views on the relative status of men and women as published in his essay, “Family Government” in the May 16, 1868 edition of the church’s Millennial Star (issue 30: 20, available online here):

Much as it has been disputed by agitators for “woman’s rights,” man, as a sex, by reason of greater physical and mental strength, is placed by nature above woman in the scale of being…. Woman was made for man.

This view of women as inherently inferior to, and indeed designed expressly to meet the needs of, men serves as a basis for one version of the view that women are usually in a better spiritual state than men. Brigham Young explains the perspective in question in his usual pithy style:

Women… will be more easily saved than men. They have not sense enough to go far wrong. Men have more knowledge and more power; therefore they can go more quickly and more certainly to hell (quoted in Hardy, 125).

This quotation was recorded by an outsider historian, William Hepworth Dixon, whose writings on Mormonism were much contested at the time they were published. So, it is worthwhile to cross-validate this quotation with an October 8, 1861, Brigham Young sermon recorded by faithful insider G. D. Watt.

A few remarks on woman. She is the glory of man, but she is not at the head in all the creations of God. Pertaining to his children on this earth she is not accountable for the sins that are in the world. God requires obedience from man, he is Lord of creation, and at his hands the sin of the world will be required. Could the female portion of the human family fully understand this, they would see that they are the objects of tender mercy, and greatly blessed. This no doubt on a causal view appears to my sisters a glorious doctrine for them and some might be tempted in their ignorance to take unwarrantable liberties, corrupt themselves with sin, and then take shelter under the doctrine that man alone is culpable for the sin they commit. There are, however, restrictions placed upon woman. I will quote a passage of scripture to illustrate this. “And the man that commiteth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commiteth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” When the crime was thus atoned for then was she free, and prepared to receive in full the blessings she otherwise would have received had she not committed sin. Woman must atone for sins committed by the volition of her own choice… but she will never become an angel to the devil, and sin so far as to place herself beyond the reach of mercy. She will suffer all that she has strength to suffer according to the venality of her sins. (quoted in Hardy, pg. 126, spelling regularized and strikeouts and corrections omitted)

So we see that, in Brigham Young’s view as explained in this sermon, women are less accountable for sin than are men. Indeed, it would appear that women are not included in either the atonement of Jesus Christ or in the final judgment. The atonement doesn’t fully apply because women are required to suffer and atone for their own sins; this is only applicable to men who do not repent. Final judgment does not apply to women because, according to Young, they will all receive the same final blessings whether they sin or not; if none are judged unworthy, then there is no judgment.

But the driving force behind all of this seems to be Young’s view that women are not, fundamentally, accountable for sin — the doctrine driving Young’s reasoning about why women will all eventually reach exaltation. In Mormon thought, accountability is the necessary partner of moral competence. Young children are held not to be accountable because they are not morally capable of sin. They do not possess the intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, or other forms of development necessary to be held liable for their own actions. Is there any other basis on which Young’s view of women as not accountable for sin could stand, other than on a similar account of women as inherently lacking the basic moral capacity to be responsible for their own decisions?

Attributions of spiritual status along gender lines need not rely explicitly on this horrendously sexist logic. Indeed, current advocates of the proposition that women are on average more spiritual than men rarely say that the reason for this is that women lack the full capacity to sin. Yet such implications are not always easy to escape when making such an argument. Are women less sinful because they are less accountable? Then, as we have seen, the implication is that they cannot really understand what they are doing — a sexist and morally repulsive thought. Are women less sinful because they are tempted less? Yet Paul teaches us that God allows us to be exposed to temptation that is somehow in proportion to our capacity:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So, if women are tempted less, then we might have to conclude that they, perhaps, are on average spiritually weaker — once again, a sexist and morally unacceptable idea. Or are women given a greater portion of the light of Christ? Yet God is no respecter of persons, and “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). So the argument does not go through.

Brigham Young’s idea that men are solely accountable for sin is perhaps the most extreme Mormon version of the broader proposition that women are more spiritual than men. It may be possible to construct an argument for this broader proposition that does not, either explicitly or by implication, regard women as infantile or inferior. Yet the task is a difficult one, since such implications very often slip in unnoticed. Perhaps it would be better for us to lay the task aside and affirm with Paul that:

…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I wonder whether this might not be a case of nature abhoring a (doctrinal) vacuum, so we mortal fools rush in where angels fear to tread and attempt to fill in the causation.

    What I’m thinking of is that it is easy to see some sort of apparently gender-based differentiation in relative spirituality. Think for instance of Wilfried’s stories about his little branch in Belgium; it is always populated with little old ladies, not with little old men.

    So someone observing this phenomenon feels the pressing need to try to explain it. And that is where we can easily get into trouble, as Brother Brigham did with his (to our modern eyes) preposterous speculations on the subject.

  2. Kevin, my understanding is that most churches have demographically disproportionately female attendance. It’s actually not clear to me that we can infer from the observation that more females than males attend church that women are more spiritual than men. Obviously, that’s one possible interpretation. Another, of course, would be that men and women on average express their (equal levels of) spirituality in different ways. Since spirituality isn’t an empirically observable quantity, it would seem to be in principle impossible to distinguish between these two interpretations, right?

  3. Starfoxy says:

    Thank you for this great post! I wonder how much and in what way this was related to polygamy in Brigham Youngs mind. If you need a large amount of available women to practice polygamy then guaranteed salvation for women provides that. Conversely if you have guaranteed salvation for women then you end up with a surplus and have to resort to polygamy to marry them all off.

    In regards to the disproportionate amounts of women in church, I think even if spirituality can be measured in other ways, people also attend (or don’t attend) church for reasons beyond spirituality alone. It’s obvious to me that women stand to gain much more and lose much less from regular church attendance than men do. Sunday sports alone create a significant cultural disincentive for men to go to church.

  4. This isn’t an area were I have researched much. Is there any precedent for this type of thinking in the broader Christian world? While reading about the history of magic, there are many accounts during the inquisition, where the Church treated women suspected of witchcraft basically as animals. (not as if this would mitigate Brigham’s responsibility here).

    I am not so sure that modern conceptions of female rectitude can all be traced to Brigham’s horrible ideas outlined in your post. Christ was obviously not inferior, yet he was without sin. I think (without much evidence) that modern ideas that of female spirituality stem more from associating women with Christ.

  5. I reread Young’s longer statement twice, and still don’t see the conclusion JNS finds in it. Young does differentiate between men and women, which is always risky ground, though not always shaky ground. He does not say, however, that women are not accountable for their own sins. He gives an explicit example to the contrary with the couple taken in adultery.

    Rather, Young seems to me to be describing a type of accountability for sin in general, “the sins that are in the world,” which falls on those who, in his view, preside over creation. It is true that with responsibility comes accountability. When men (males) exercise control, they assume that responsibility.

    As for the notion that a woman is not accountable for her own conduct, Young calls that a temptation born of ignorance. I don’t see that he is teaching the very principle he warns against.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    I of course agee, J, that simply attending church and spirituality are not necessarily the same thing. But we shouldn’t be surprised that, in the absence of a compelling explanation for the demographics people can see with their own eyes, some people are going to try to explain it in some fashion.

    Would anyone care to venture an alternate explanation for the demographics? Or is it simply inexplicable?

  7. Mark IV says:

    JNS,

    I hesitate to comment here for fear of becoming a tiresome crank, but then I realized that I already am one.

    I think you have sketched out pretty well the difficulties we encounter when we make righteousness a characteristic of gender, for for men or women. If we accept that notion, most of our doctrines concerning agency and accountability have to go overboard.

    They have not sense enough to go far wrong

    That would actually be kind of funny if there weren’t people who still believe it. And now, incredibly, we have made the situation even worse by denigrating males. If we accept the idea that women are too good to sin, we must also accept the corollary: Men are too bad to sin. They’re not responsible for the bad things they do since, due to their base and corrupt nature, they cannot be held completely accountable.

    In my opinion, the Church is in a hole here, and it needs to stop digging.

  8. FWIW, In almost every ward where I have lived (US only), new converts are disproportionately women. So here goes the step into areas where angels fear to tread:

    Perhaps this is more cultural than inherently spiritual. Which gender over the years in America has tended to be home more than the other – hence able to answer the door when missionaries knock? Which gender over the years in America has tended to work less outside the home in pursuit of their own gratification and, instead, inside the home in the “service” of others? Which gender, in a sense, has tended over the years to live in such a way that they were less corrupted by “the world” – for lack of a better way to say it? What is the conversion rate of women whose occupational situation now approximates the same as the “average” man? Maybe it’s less one’s gender and more the influence of one’s lifestyle that is the biggest collective indicator.

    The first questions offer a possible reason for the divergent conversion rates. The last one might be a way to test that possibility.

  9. The same was true in Japan when I served my mission there years ago.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for very good comments.

    Starfoxy, I agree that the logic of this idea fits very well indeed with polygamy. I think it’s always unwise to read any statement from the Brigham Young period without thinking about how it relates to polygamy, and I think you’ve got the probable connections just right.

    Clair, I understand your concerns. I think it’s important to look at this idea as a whole; that’s why I offered both Brigham Young quotes, which reinforce each other. I’d also encourage you to reread the example about the couple in adultery. The details are decisive here. The woman has to die, but she doesn’t suffer any eternal consequences for sin. She receives exactly the same blessings she would have received if she hadn’t sinned. All she has to do is suffer — which she can’t avoid. There isn’t even mention of repentance.

    Kevin and Ray, I agree that people are certainly and inevitably going to try to explain the demographics. I think Starfoxy’s ideas about that are probably helpful. Especially for women who don’t work outside the home or who are retired (i.e., exactly the group of women who are more likely to attend church than others), churches have been especially important centers of social life. Jobs, sports clubs, bars, and other facilities have offered culturally-male-coded alternative social hubs for men in a lot of societies. So I’d think that the demographic difference can probably be explained by reference to social networks without recourse to spirituality.

    J. Stapley, obviously lots of people in Western history have argued that women are inferior to men, comparable to children, property, etc. Likewise, the idea of women as spiritually superior to men was widespread during the 19th century — as an argument in favor of protecting women from such corrupting influences as having the right to vote, own property, keep care of their own children in the case of divorce, or even the legal privilege to refuse to have sex with their own husbands. None of these ideas are distinctively Mormon.

    Likewise, I think it’s impossible to say how much Young’s ideas about this influenced current thinking on the issue. It would be rather shocking if there was no influence whatsoever, but there are many other factors at work. My point here wasn’t to make a causal argument that people today believe women are more spiritual than men because Young believed that. Instead, it was to use Young’s ideas to point out how the seemingly benign notion that women are more spiritual than men can often rely on a substructure of ideas about women that are quite horrible.

    Are women more associated with Christ than men? I find it hard to draw conclusions on that point. If they are, what is the justification for that association? Answering that question drags us, I’m afraid, into just the theological quagmire of sexism I pointed to in the post.

  11. Kristine says:

    It’s worth noting (though painful to do so), that our rhetoric often assigns some sort of “natural” spirituality to others we consider inferior in terms of intelligence or leadership capacity–you don’t have to wait long in any discussion of indigenous peoples, Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, or Latinos, especially if they are also living in poverty, to hear about how “humble” and “spiritual” they are. It’s the “nice” way to talk about people who are regarded as less rational than Western, white males.

  12. AHLDuke says:

    Great post. I am wondering if there is some aspect of a chicken-and-egg problem at work here. Was Brigham dealing with an observed reality (more women at church is probably a too modern example, but polygamy might work) and then trying to explain it (in, I would agree with Kevin B, a preposterous way)? Or was he simply proceeding with an assumption that arose from his own thinking or musing on the scriptures?

    Speaking to the issue of church attendance, my personal feeling is that disproportionate female attendance derives from a couple of things, in particular culture and maybe some gender characteristics. In Mexico (my mission), wards were always female-heavy. Women were the ones the missionaries could find at home during the day and the men were most likely home at hours when the missionaries were not proseltyzing or were too busy watching futbol on Sat. and Sun. to listen. I don’t know if you can say they were more spiritual. Also, perhaps many women (I hesitate to call this an inherent gender characteristic) prefer more social expressions of spirituality while men would be content to study the scriptures alone in their home. Fortunately for both, we have a faith that calls us to come together to partake of particular and unique corporate aspects of the practice of our religion.

    In all I would give the Church today a mixed grade on this. I think that we have done a good job getting rid of a lot of the talk like the BY example given above which makes explicit a distinction between the genders regarding righteousness. On the other hand, there is a lot of talk that differentiates women and men. Women get told how good they are. Men get most of the talks regarding sin. If you look at the big sins the Church is focusing on now, most of them are not traditionally associated with females (i.e. pornography). I understand that some of this goes on in response to a self-esteem crisis in the Church that is more pronounced among women. But it seems to coddle women a little too much, in a way that assumes the inferiority (emotionally, physically, etc.) that Brigham refers to.

    Oh yeah, and then there is that difference in the men’s/women’s initiatory. I won’t say any more about it here, but it speaks directly to the question that prompted this post. Ask your wife/husband/trusted opposite-gender companion in the temple.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    As a minor footnote to this discussion, on the ancient medical science to the effect that women were understood to be imperfect or lesser men, see my For Long Hair is Given to Her instead of a Testicle.

  14. Kristine, indeed. Note that we often describe such groups as “childlike.” A term we intend as praise, but it also has derogatory content when applied to an entire demographic.

    AHLDuke, thanks for your comment. I think I agree entirely with most of what you have to say. I am, however, perplexed about the initiatory remark. I was unaware of any gender differences in that ordinance.

    Kevin, an all-time classic post. I highly recommend it to all readers!

  15. AHLDuke says:

    JNS,
    My wife and I were once talking about how much we enjoyed the initiatory ordinance and a comment she made struck me as something entirely outside of my experience of the ordinance. We discussed it further and realized that there is a particular part of what is said to men that is omitted in the women’s version. As I said in my earlier post, it speaks directly to this question about the sins of the world being required at men’s hands. I am loathe to say more, not wanting to offend either covenants that I have made or other’s sensibilities about the temple ordinances. But if you ask a female who has been through the ordinance about the exact language that is used, you should discover it pretty readily.

  16. I’m frustrated because I used to know what that initiatory difference is, and I have since forgotten!

  17. Thomas Parkin says:

    A general challenge to the bloggernacle:

    Write posts centered on Brigham Young quotes that you like as least as often as around those that offend your sensibilities.

    I personally have no idea about this Brigham quote,- I think he is on about something somewhat other than what JNS thinks he is on about – and I think that JNS’ conclusions take the beast way further than it needs to be taken.

    He clearly thinks there is a difference between the nature of men and women and the relation of those natures to sin. I don’t see that he says anything about women and sin that isn’t also true about men and sin except that women won’t be held responsible for “the sins that are in the world” and that she will never (presumably no woman will ever) become an angel to the devil. To the former: since it doesn’t say that all men are responsible for “sins that are in the world,” we can imagine that he is talking about men who actually are reponsible for said sins (perhaps better said the mechanisms of sin in the world) – something at least broadly true historically and even broadly true now. To the latter: well, very few men are going to end as angels to the devil, either – so, it is perhaps not such a gulf in capacity for evil to say that no woman will. So, the question of difference in nature is more than one of degree than of kind, and that perhaps not so great a degree as modern ears hear.

    I more and more think Brigham Young speaks in a language that we no longer understand. We are probably not capable of getting past our own prejudcies to read him well. His langugage is not only of his time but is idiosyncratic to himself.

    Finally, it isn’t clear to me, at all, taht we understand the world of men and women any better than they did in the 19th century. There are some mistakes we don’t make, some clarity we’ve earned, bitterly. But, when I hear modern talk on the subject, I really never think I’m hearing anything at the heart of the matter. There is something there – some mystery – that we haven’t quite found the humility nor language to touch. And so, I respectfully keep my mouth shut as much as I can.

    ~

  18. I have heard it argued, based on statements in the endowment, that women will not be held morally culpable in the judgment. I suspect that these arguments rely on differences in wording in the initiatory, too. I suspect that too much is being made of these differences.

  19. Gender differences in church attendance are definitely cultural because in West Africa more men than women join Mormonism and come to the meetings.

  20. Clair #5, the second in the longer BY quote reads:
    “Pertaining to his children on this earth she is not accountable for the sins that are in the world.”
    How do you read that?
    BY proceeds:
    “God requires obedience from man, he is Lord of creation, and at his hands the sin of the world will be required. Could the female portion of the human family fully understand this, they would see that they are the objects of tender mercy, and greatly blessed.”
    Clearly, BY means that God does not require obedience from women as from men. Women are too stupid.
    However, Young is eager to point out the exception that women must be strictly chaste. That seems to be fully consistent with a radically patriarchal view of the world.

  21. His langugage is not only of his time but is idiosyncratic to himself.

    If that is correct then one would have to conclude that Brigham Young is not using language at all but gibberish. After all, language is essentially about shared meanings.

    It seems to me that your claim about Young’s inability to communicate is even less respectful than JNS’s.

    Regardless, the notion that Brigham Young was unable to communicate intelligibly not only with us but with his contemporary neighbors and co-religionists is a rather strong hypothesis. Is there any evidence to that effect?

  22. “Clearly, BY means that God does not require obedience from women as from men. Women are too stupid.”

    That conclusion isn’t clear at all.

    I doubt the answers are in those short paragraphs. I’ll read some more of BY to flesh out his views, and with Thomas’ caveat in mind.

  23. Scheherazade says:

    The gender differences on this point in the temple are not limited to the initiatory ordinance. The point is reiterated in the Endowment ceremony when women are pronounced clean and men are told that they can become clean of the blood and sins of their generation but only through their faithfulness.

    Regarding BY, the quote isn’t talking about limitations on the reach of the Atonement for women or female accountability for sin in general. Theologically speaking, the only angels of the devil who place themselves beyond the Atonement are those who have certain knowledge of Christ and then afterward deny him. We know this rebel band as the Sons of Perdition. One possible reading is that B.Y. understood that group as literally composed only of men forever excluding women. What this may reveal is not that B.Y. believed women incapable of terrible wickedness for which they were accountable, but rather that he thought no woman would ever attain that kind of certain knowledge of Christ and thus never have the opportunity to sin in that particular way. This reading is still troubling and sexist, no doubt, but provides a more supportable reading theologically.

  24. Scheherzade,
    That is the difference that I was alluding to. Please refrain from specific references to temple wording in the future though; it may offend. I think that this is a mountain out of a molehill though; the conditional language applies to both men and women later in the endowment.

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    #21 Hellmut,

    I can’t understand a word of Vietnamese. It isn’t an insult to the Vietnamese when I say so. Of course, I can ferret out some meaning in reading quotes like the above – and my post was an attempt to do so. I don’t conclude, however, that I’ve neccesarily understood him well just because we both speak English.

    “that Brigham Young was unable to communicate intelligibly not only with us but with his contemporary neighbors and co-religionists is a rather strong hypothesis. Is there any evidence to that effect?”

    If I’d made that hypothesis I might, hypothetically, find a need to find evidence for it. If I felt a need for evidence, I might present much of the discussion on the Bloggernacle around Pres. Young as Exhibit 1. Brigham Young is certainly not the only person to have used idiosyncratic language that makes him tough to read, especially at this distance. I often get the feeling reading him that he is simultaneously trying to reveal and obscure: a Christ-like characteristic, by the way, and elitist, and one that usually inclines me to laugh rather than throw stones.

    ~

  26. Thomas, I’ve read a lot of Brigham Young, and I have to say, he rarely seems difficult to understand. Not never, but rarely. He saw himself as very plainspoken, and for the most part that’s how I’ve found him to be, as well. I can certainly offer a wide collection of Brigham Young quotes that I like. I haven’t written many posts about Young quotes I don’t like, so a link to this one post about a quote I do like would probably suffice to meet your positive/negative injunction.

    Scheherazade, I agree that your reading is more compatible with current LDS theology — probably not fully compatible, but more so. I don’t think it accounts for all of the textual evidence from this passage, though. In particular, consider the phrases, “When the crime was thus atoned for then was she free, and prepared to receive in full the blessings she otherwise would have received had she not committed sin.” If sinful women, after suffering but without repentance, fully qualify for all the blessings they would have received if they had not sinned, then something more than the avoidance of angel-of-the-devil status is at work here.

  27. Just to address the exact quotes Hellmut provided – and just to show that his interpretation is not “clearly” the only option:

    1) “Pertaining to his children on this earth she is not accountable for the sins that are in the world.”

    “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.” Women and Eve aren’t mentioned in this statement. Why might that be? It could be generic sexism, but there is another reasonable explanation.

    JS wrote the Articles of Faith largely as a counter to the Christian creeds of the day. The Christian world overwhelmingly lays the fault for sin in this world at the feet of Eve, since she is the one who was beguiled by the serpent and partook of the forbidden fruit. Men generally are given a free pass in regard to Original Sin, since Adam as seen as the one who chose to “save” the woman from expulsion alone. I think a MUCH more clear interpretation of the statement is that BY is repeating the 2nd Article of Faith, but focusing on Eve and her daughters in order to correct a horribly apostate and sexist doctrine.

    2) “God requires obedience from man, he is Lord of creation, and at his hands the sin of the world will be required. Could the female portion of the human family fully understand this, they would see that they are the objects of tender mercy, and greatly blessed.”

    According to our scriptures and our temple ceremony, men are commanded to obey God, while women are commanded to act with their husbands as they obey God. In each of these instances, the primary responsibility for obedience to God is given to the men. Women are allowed explicitly to NOT act with their husbands, but the command they are given directly relative to God is different than that which is given to men.

    There is no explanation of exactly why that is so. I could speculate, but I won’t. All I will say is that, while I have MAJOR issues with much of what BY said about many concepts, these specific comments are not among those with which I have a problem – given what I know of what just about every other Christian was saying at the time.

    It would be just as easy to say that, if a woman sins by mistakenly following the man who she mistakenly thinks is obeying God, the sin is not hers but rather that of the man who influenced her. As to her own sins, BY said, “Woman must atone for sins committed by the volition of her own choice…” That seems pretty clear to me.

    Again, I read this MUCH more as a repudiation of what was taught commonly in the Christian world at the time (and still is) than as a sexist rant.

  28. PS. There definitely is a sexist extrapolation in the first, short quote. I have a problem with that one, just not the longer one.

  29. PPS. JNS, the KJV of the Corinthians verse you quoted, which BY would have used, says “man” not “everyone”. I’d say that is directly relevant to this discussion – no matter what you think of his statements.

    “As far as it is translated correctly” has no inherent connection just to the past. In general, the whitewashing of gender-specific language in many translations might have profound doctrinal implications beyond what is obvious – and at least makes it difficult to criticize BY based on wording he didn’t have at his disposal, even if that wording is more accurate – which we cannot know fully.

  30. Thomas Parkin (#17) I love this comment.
    And I took your challenge!

  31. i think thomas parkin said it best in 17.

    and i also think post #23 ought to be deleted. no offense to the author but i think too much was said before that comment was made let alone with that comment.

  32. Joshua A. says:

    Fun fact: According to the general handbook (at least the last time I read it), single women/widows can go on missions pretty much anytime they want to. If I remember correctly, the 40th birthday was the dividing line between a “young” sister missionary and an older sister missionary. Men, on the other hand, have no such option. If a widower wants to spend his twilight years in the mission field, he’s out of luck. Older men are not allowed missionary service except as half of a married couple. Anyone have any insight into this strange phenomenon? Also, is anyone aware of any exceptions (like being a plumber “missionary” or something)?

  33. Older men are needed in the wards?

  34. Thomas Parkin says:

    Hey JNS,

    I hope it doesn’t seem that I’m trying to have it both ways. I agree with plainspoken, but I’d mean that in the sense of _blunt_ rather than _simple and clear._

    And I enjoyed your post of LDSLF, and love the quotes.

    BiV,

    Thanks for your effort. I agree about “hyperbole.” This is close to why I love BY. There is an over-the-topness to him. When I was trying to think of another person who had this strategy of obliqueness through apparent simplicity, I thought of Nietzsche … of all people. Obviously not in what he thought, – laying aside some quotes about women,- but in that ‘I’m going to lay it all out and make you think you know what I’m talking about.’ I often feel like BY is playing a game with us. This might not be the best strategy for a 19th century prophet who knew he’d be quoted in an earnest 21st – but I find it endearing. (N is, I think, misread in some similar ways, and is also much more the ‘gentle soul’ than he could ever come across.)

    Oh, yeah, I guess you have a pass … not that you needed one, obviously.

    ~

  35. Fascinating post, JNS.

    The issue that intrigues me here is the particular form of spirituality that we construct in opposition to intellectual capacity and even to moral agency–the humble, pure, childlike spirituality attributed only to women or the poor or various dark-skinned indigenous peoples, as Kristine mentioned above. Tellingly, the spirituality attributed to General Authorities is never a spirituality of childlike simplicity, but rather a rock-star spirituality of charisma, power, even infallibility.

    What does it mean that we’ve imagined up unto ourselves a spirituality which is, essentially, a euphemism for “simple”–and when we use religious terminology to “honor” the disenfranchised for their alleged unfitness for enfranchisement?

  36. Peter LLC says:

    From Robert Kirby’s “13 Particles of Faith” in a summer 2003 Dialogue article:

    2. I believe that men will be punished for their own transgressions, including stuff we did completely by accident or because of testosterone. Women will probably just get probation.

  37. Not Ophelia says:

    According to our scriptures and our temple ceremony, men are commanded to obey God, while women are commanded to act with their husbands as they obey God.

    Except this wasn’t the version of the temple ceremony that BY was referencing. Some of us still remember the old language, i.e. women covenanted to obey the law of their husbands; there was no mention [for the sisters] of the “law of the Lord.”

  38. 27 Ray, “Again, I read this MUCH more as a repudiation of what was taught commonly in the Christian world at the time (and still is) than as a sexist rant.”

    And still is taught, even by some non-Christians:

    Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
    Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

    As Good As It Gets, 1997

  39. Clair, a certain commenter (now banned) taught the same principle.

  40. cew-smoke says:

    I, of course, think that women and men being held to a different accountability is absurd at best. However, I do have strong feelings againts the idea that the statement that many church holders have that women are more spiritual than men is somehow demeaning or meant to impune their mental faculties.

    I think that’s (pardon the rudeness), but a little silly. What do you really think is more likely? That people think women are more spiritual because they feel they are inferior somehow, or that time and time and time and time and time again women prove themselves on a daily basis to be more in tune with spiritual things? I also find it laughable that when the “establishment” says something like women are more spiritual that it means something sinister. However, when you see that numerous respected feminist authors discuss the importance of spirituality and the feminine aspect it is hailed as patent truth. Although I have no census list or scientific study sitting in front of me I can bet my life on the outcome of the following study. Take 1000 men and 1000 women and ask each of them how important spirituality is and how much it affects who they are, that the numbers would be firmly and overwhelmingly in favor of more women giving positive and responsive answers to those two questions. Now change it up and ask those same people how many of them are “religious” and how many are “spiritual” once again I think you would find more men willing to chalk themselves into the first category and women more comfortable placing their numbers into the second.

    In short I agree with the whole of the ideas, but to take offense over the concept that women might indeed be more spiritual (on the whole) seems a bit hypocritical from the feminist perspective.

  41. If sinful women, after suffering but without repentance, fully qualify for all the blessings they would have received if they had not sinned . . .

    Just because BY doesn’t mention repentance in this particular instance doesn’t mean it isn’t a condition of salvation. Matthew 12:31 and D&C 132:26 don’t mention repentance, either.

  42. Can women sin?

    Yes

    Do they need the atonement?

    Yes.

    That was easy.

  43. http://feastuponthewordblog.org/questions/joseph-going-to-hell-for-emma/

    How does Joseph SMith’s statement that he would “go to hell” to get Emma play into this disscussion?

  44. In my experience, women definitely have the accountability thing down. They hold the man accountable for everything he’s ever done, all the time!

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