Your Friday Firestorm #8

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

(Matthew 19:12)

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Yeah, self-mutilation for the Lord. Sign me up!

  2. Yeah – dump Windows, buy UNIX!

  3. Last Lemming says:

    Queno wins. End of firestorm.

  4. How lame is it to describe a newspaper cartoon? I don’t care, I’m going to do it anyway.

    From Dilbert –

    First panel, clueless boss(with horns) to Dilbert: “I heard that the future will belong to eunuchs. We need to get more eunuchs around here.”

    Second panel, Dilbert to boss: Uh, don’t you mean Unix? It’s a computer operating system.

    Third panel, boss to Dilbert: Oh, OK. In that case you can cancel the appointment I made for you at the company’s HMO.

  5. I got to explain the concept of eunuchs to my teenage SS class Sunday (Acts 6-9; there’s a eunuch there who’s converted). I talked about the premodern power a eunuch could hold, etc., but one of the poor kids just didn’t get it, so my wife said, “Snip, snip” while making scissors moves with her fingers. Poor kids.

  6. Did Origen receive it?

    See CELIBACY. In a passage of uncertain accuracy and meaning, our Lord said: “There are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” (Matt. 19:12.) Apparently those who made themselves eunuchs were men who in false pagan worship had deliberately mutilated themselves with the expectancy that such would further their salvation. It is clear that such was not a true gospel requirement of any sort. There is no such thing in the gospel as willful emasculation; such a notion violates true principles of procreation and celestial marriage.

    Eunuchs who are righteous and keep the commandments are heirs of the fullness of the Father’s kingdom. (Isa. 56:1-8.) One of the most dramatic conversions and baptisms recorded in the scripture is that of the eunuch by Philip. (Acts 8:26-39.)

    (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 241)

    Elder McConkie on Matt. 19:12:

    It is difficult for us…to envision fully the illustration here used about eunuchs. The record must be incomplete, for these words cannot, as is sometimes assumed, have reference to a celibate ministry. Perhaps they simply mean that even as special provision must be made for those who for physical reasons cannot marry, so the Lord makes special provision in his marriage discipline, so that all things required will meet the needs and circumstances of people in whatever society and culture they live.

    (Bruce R. McConkie, Mortal Messiah, 296)

  7. Sam B.,

    This week I get to teach the 17 year olds about the part of Acts where the apostles decide that circumcision isn’t necessary for new converts.

  8. Mark IV,
    I can’t wait for that lesson. Maybe I’ll have my wife come back with her visual representation again.

  9. Doesn’t this refer to same sex attraction and living the gospel?

  10. I thought the eunuchs snipped themselves so their voices wouldn’t change and they could sing like angels to honor the Father…

  11. It’s someone who decides to be celibate in light of the imminent apocalyptic end of the world.

  12. This is one of the places where Paul (1 Cor 7) and Matthew agree. Both argue that marriage is okay, but that celibacy is the highest form of devotion to God. They also agree on the reason for doing so, namely, to be more devoted to building up the kingdom.

  13. It’s just one of those unfortunate sayings of Jesus that we’ve arbitrarily decided to disbelieve — as in Justin’s helpful quote from McConkie. It’s probably inevitable that there are some such.

  14. Tracy M: That’s Castrati.

  15. My daughter really likes Uniqua on Backyardigans. Perhaps this is a prophecy referenceing her?

  16. Regarding Justin’s link…I often amuse/irritate my wife by pondering how certain people are handling the afterlife if the LDS view is correct. Origen is a perfect example – I imagine he would have some stern words for the Father. “You couldn’t maybe restore the Gospel *before* I castrated myself? Perhaps you could have cleared up that one passage a little?” (Ah, nevermind, she’s trained me well. I can hear her response in my head: “Everything is restored whole in the afterlife, so you don’t have to worry about poor Origen.”)

  17. Nick Literski says:

    #9: “Doesn’t this refer to same sex attraction and living the gospel?”

    You’re actually serious, aren’t you?

    I can just see the next press release:
    “After much fasting and prayer, seeking the will of our Heavenly Father, the First Presidency withdraws its support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Instead, the First Presidency urges all members of the church to contact their elected officials in support of the newly-sponsored ‘Homosexual Emasculation Act.’ Valiant support of this urgent legislation will bring great blessings to our Father’s children.”

  18. Nick,
    Come on. I mean, give our elected officials some credit: I’m sure they’d come up with a happier, more obfuscating name for the act, probably with a nifty acronym to boot. Or at least, that’s what they always do with tax legislation. ;)

  19. Nick Literski says:

    Okay, Sam, I confess. I tried for a while to come up with a nifty acronym-producing title. It was going to start with “Emasculation of All Them…,” but I couldn’t figure out any applicable description to follow “EAT__” in the resulting acronym. ;-)

  20. Same-Sex Personal Hygiene Reform Act. Acronym: Saphre Act, pronounced “safer”.

  21. I think the point of this post got cut off too.

  22. Nick,
    I confess that I threw the ball at your court because I couldn’t come up with anything, either. But, although a slight stretch, I like RT’s idea.

  23. #7, Mark IV, we must have the same calling. I’m two weeks behind you in lessons, tho’. I doubt my students will be surprised to hear me discuss circumcision, since I used the words “micropenis” and “enlarged clitoris” a couple of months ago. (We were discussing, as 17-year-olds love to do, ambiguities in the moral law; the more erudite among them wanted to know about those with intersex characteristics and abnormal XY chromosomal patterns, and I had to explain what they were talking about to the less informed.)

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    If it is helpful to anyone, here is what I wrote about this passage in Footnotes:

    eunouchoi, lit. castrated male persons. Such persons in ancient times in the orient could be keepers of the harem and often rose to high positions of authority. The word is used in three senses in this v.: first, it refers to one who, without a physical operation, is incapable of begetting children; IE an impotent male. Second, the basic meaning of a castrated male person. And third, a metaphorical use of one who abstains from marriage without necessarily being impotent; a celibate male.

  25. Spud, better you than me. And I can just imagine the conversation around the Sunday dinner table when the parents ask their kids to “tell us what you learned in church today.”

    I learned about the abnormal XY chromosomal patterns as a freshman at BYU from Duane Jeffery. He used a projector and a large screen to show us detailed pictures of the parts in question. I assume you didn’t use visual aids?

  26. Nick: Celibacy (the figurative “eunuch for God” ) is a valid option for people whose sexual needs can’t be satisfied within the bounds of their faith. No need to take umbrage… choosing to be celibate is still a choice, and no one needs the Feds to cut anything. Besides, everyone knows the only things the Feds ever manage to diminish are expectations.

    Sam B, Mark IV, Idahospud… I’ve been posting this week at my blog on a way of describing a more-nuanced socio-sexual condition. D’love your feedback.

  27. I can see it now the BYU Castrato Choir presents!

  28. Nick Literski says:

    #26:
    It was a sarcastic remark, Silus, aimed at the assumption that the original statement in scripture was made in reference to homosexuality. I have, unfortunately, already seen at least one LDS writer attempt to promote this entirely unfounded interpretation.

    #22:
    George W. Bush would call it “Operation Testicular Freedom.”

  29. 1. Someone needs to dig up the pro-eunuch quote from Brigham Young on this subject.
    2. Castration is a way for polygamy to be sustainable.
    3. At least one person was forcibly castrated because he wanted to marry someone that was to become someone else’s plural wife.

  30. #29 – I don’t want to ask for an explanation. In fact, I want to ask for no explanation.

    For a truly off-the-wall interpretation, here’s one I heard in Japan from a “fringe” Christian sect – NOT a polygamous breakaway group – using this idea and the marriage to the bridegroom as justification:

    We are intended to become brides of Christ in the afterlife. Saved women will do so naturally; saved men will be changed to women and marry Christ in that new form.

    Come to think of it, maybe #29 was referring to this sect. (Yes, I really do want to ask for NO explanation.)

  31. I’m mostly glad this has never been a requirment for church service, at least, not the physical act, anyway.

    And stop quoting BR Doctrine! We already know some of the trouble that has gotten us into. :)

  32. BTW, as much as I like The Saphre Act (#20), Nick’s OTF (#28) is my favorite so far.

    I would propose the SINFUL Act. (Sex Isn’t Necessary For Ultimate Lordship).

  33. The Everlasting Unfilled Needs, Unassming Christian Helpmeet Act.

    EUNUCH Act.

  34. TT (#12), I think the example of the early Methodist itinerants is a great example of this in contrast to Mormons. The Methodists encouraged celibacy when the itinerancy required tons of travel and was poorly funded. As soon as things calmed down, they got married. Mormons, on the other hand, simply left their families in the hands of the Saints (to various degrees of success (or lack there of)). In both cases (and for a century in Mormonism) the sentiment of Matt and Paul were quite alive, i.e., that the ministry was primate, even over family.

  35. Nick Literski says:

    You could take it even further, J. Stapley, since young LDS men are certainly discouraged from marrying prior to going on a mission.

  36. g. wesley says:

    re #30, the valentinians (second century) purportedly believed that (after being divested of their bodies and souls, leaving just the intelectual spirit) all saved males and females become ‘brides’ to christ’s (the incorporeal divine figure who possessed jesus at baptism) angelic bodygard, just as achamoth (fallen wisdom) is christ’s ‘bride.’

  37. #28 And sarcasm translates so well over the intarweb, Nick.

    ( See… I used sarcasm to mock sarcasm… I’m a scream! )

    : )

  38. California Condor says:

    Some of the commenters on this thread should consider raising the level of their dialogue. Would you make these comments from the pulpit in a Fast & Testimony meeting?

  39. CC: Never mind.

  40. CC – would you quote this scripture over the pulpit in a Fast & Testimony meeting?

  41. California Condor says:

    Ray,

    Let’s hear what you have to say. I’m all ears.

    Jacob,

    I’m with Joseph Smith, Jr. in thinking that not all scripture (Song of Solomon anyone?) is inspired.

  42. I’m not talking about the scripture, I’m poking fun at your request to raise the level of dialogue to “church meeting” standards. With those standards, the whole blogging world would all suck.

  43. California Condor says:

    Jacob,

    You might want to take a gander at the Priesthood lesson for this week, lesson #15 in the Spencer W. Kimball manual.

  44. I’ll look into it. For once I might actually read the priesthood lesson ahead of time.

    But you still haven’t answered my question.

    And – Joseph Smith, Jr. did quote Song of Solomon in the Doctrine & Covenants. Don’t remember the exact verse, but it has to do with banners.

  45. California Condor says:

    For once I might actually read the priesthood lesson ahead of time.

    What a concept. Actually the only reason I’m current on this lesson is because I’m teaching it.

    From the Bible Dictionary:

    The JST manuscript contains the note that “the Song of Solomon is not inspired scripture.”

    So I guess my answer is “no.”

  46. D&C 5:14
    D&C 105:31
    D&C 109:73

    All of which quote the Song of Solomon.

  47. California Condor says:

    Maybe that “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners” phrase was inspired.

    I learned on my mission that a Bible bash doesn’t do either party any good.

  48. I’m not Bible bashing – I’m using the D&C. :) Besides, I’m just havin’ fun. It’s not like I’m taking this argument seriously.

  49. Nick Literski says:

    CC:
    I learned that those who begin their opinions with “I learned on my mission that…” usually haven’t been home for long. ;-)

  50. California Condor says:

    Nick,

    Is 43 years long in your book?

  51. More like an eternity in my book. :)

  52. California Condor says:

    Jacob, yeah 43 years is a long time. But I actually got back from my mission in 1999.

    Speaking of 1999, it’s not 1999 anymore. So you can stop using smiley faces.

  53. :(

  54. CC: I said, Never mind,” because I started to tell you my opinion of the tone of your comments – at least 90% of them, anyway. However, I stopped myself, because I promised myself I would only say things like I started to say if I just couldn’t shake the feeling that they needed to be said. I was able to shake the feeling when I started to respond, as I am able to do so now.

    I can use the word “sanctimonious” instead, but I don’t feel the need to elaborate. Therefore, I simply will repeat:

    Never mind.

  55. OH, I forgot to add the following:

    :-)

  56. California Condor says:

    Well sorry Ray, but I call ‘em as I see ‘em. I shoot from the hip, if you will, and I’m not afraid to put people in line if they start to get a little carried away.

  57. Follow up to #29

    1. “The subjects of Eunuchs came up… Brigham Said the day would Come when thousands would be made Eunochs in order for them to be saved in the kingdom of God.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Diary, June 2, 1857, Vol. 5, pages 54-55)

    3. Bishop Warren S. Snow forcibly castrated twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis, whose “crime” was wanting to marry a young woman that was desired by an older man as a plural wife. Brigham Young wrote in a letter his approval after the fact in 1857. See Quinn Mormon Heirarchy.

    I found some other quotes, but I don’t think they are safe for sacrament meeting, so I will just keep them to myself.

    :-)

  58. If anyone would like some food for thought on the quoted verse, I recommend #73ff here.

  59. re #57:

    Ho-ly crap.

    Thanks for sharing that, KeithB. I think that makes you Bizarro Justin.

  60. In my humble opinion, KeithB has over-simplified and sensationalized the Warren Snow-Thomas Lewis castration incident. In fairness to KeithB, that may be due to Quinn’s coverage. The incident is, of course, ugly enough without the extra folklore.

    Here is how Warren Snow’s biographer explains the incident.

    1) It happened during the Mormon Reformation, when inflammatory rhetoric called for harsh punishment for sin and crime. For Brigham the time for such was not yet and just hyperbole. Some listeners like Snow got confused and took things literally.

    2) I disbelieve the rumors that Lewis was being punished for competing against an older polygamist. Kathryn Daynes gave another example where Brigham Young advised a young woman to marry a single, young man against her parents wishes that she marry a older polygamist.

    3) Even if there is an element of truth in (2) Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary for a sexual crime.

    4) While being transported at night, Snow and his gang secretly intercepted Lewis and carried out the castration.

    5) Joseph Young of the Presidents of the Seventy later learned about the incident and was incensed and “entirely disapproved” of it.

    6) When Brigham Young heard about Lewis sex crime and the punishment, he reiterated his stance that the time for such measures was still in the future.

    7) Brigham did not think Warren Snow did what was right, but felt Warren was “trying to do right” and that he should be sustained in his calling as Bishop.

    8) Warren wanted Brigham to write a letter to members in Sanpete county to explain Warren’s action. Brigham declined to do, indicating that that would make matters worse. “Just let the matter drop, and say no more about it and it will soon die away amongst the people.”

    See: John Alton Peterson’s Thesis at BYU p. 112-115 available online from http://www.lib.byu.edu/dlib/spc/masters/authors/p-q.html

  61. I wrote a long diplomatic comment about the Warren Snow castration incident that appears to have gotten lost. Please forgive me for being blunt this time. Mods, if both these comments are in a moderation queue, feel free to post the first one and ignore this one. Thanks.

    I would dispute the claims of that Lewis was castrated to get him out of the way so a young woman would marry a polygamist and that Brigham Young approved of the action. If anyone is interested see John A. Peterson Warren Stone Snow available at http://www.lib.byu.edu/dlib/spc/masters/authors/p-q.html

  62. In recent years as I’ve read more scriptures and writings from Hindu and yogic teachers, I’ve become more and more convinced that either Jesus or more than one of the gospel writers, or some post-gospel-writing scribe was more than passingly familiar with eastern spiritual practices. This scripture seems all of a piece with that pattern of thought.

    At some point, I suppose, I should try to write something up. I’d prefer, though, if someone else would do so, so I can benefit from the idea without putting out the effort myself. ;-)

  63. Steve Evans says:

    What is the meaning of this scripture?

    It seems to me to be at first quite obvious: Jesus has just finished explaining to the disciples His law of marriage and how “putting away your wife” is something that should only be done in cases of adultery. His disciples then state that this seems so lofty a standard that none should marry.

    So this scripture is talking about receiving a divine commandment about marriage.

  64. Steve:

    So is the eunuch thing just an example? I don’t get how eunuchs have anything to do with a divine commandment about marriage. Can you explain?

  65. CC (38),
    That’s a dumb question, frankly. I don’t know that I’d talk about castration over the pulpit at F&T meeting, but we talked about it (and eunuchs) in Sunday School. Today we talked about circumcision.

    When it comes down to it, I doubt I’d talk about the tax law over the pulpit, either, but I have to at work. Your purported standard is pointless; appropriate discussion is context-specific, and the context of F&T meeting fills about 45 minutes once a month.

    And, fwiw, I taught the PH lesson on reverence, too.

  66. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, I like what Matthew Henry has to say on these verses.

  67. third, a metaphorical use of one who abstains from marriage without necessarily being impotent; a celibate male.

    Kevin, on what basis is this definition made? I confess ignorance on this question, but my impression is that this is a monastic understanding, not an early Christian one. Do you have some references to back this up?

  68. Bishop Warren S. Snow forcibly castrated twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis, whose “crime” was wanting to marry a young woman that was desired by an older man as a plural wife. Brigham Young wrote in a letter his approval after the fact in 1857. See Quinn Mormon Heirarchy.

    Actually, citing John A. Peterson’s master’s thesis on Warren Snow, Quinn states that Snow castrated Lewis in 1857 for an undisclosed sex crime (Peterson writes that Lewis “was being taken by night to the penitentiary in Salt Lake to serve a sentence for what appears to have been a sexual crime”).

    Quinn’s footnote adds: “Some reminiscent accounts confused this 1857 incident involving a Welshman with an 1859 incident in which a diary referred to an unnamed bishop who had just castrated a young Danish man so that the bishop could marry his girlfriend….Some reminiscent accounts claim the bishop in this 1859 castration was Warren Snow. This indicates either that Bishop Snow committed a second castration (not inconceivable in view of Brigham Young’s approval of the 1857 castration) or that later accounts mistakenly blamed him for a castration performed by someone else two years later” (Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, 250-51, 535).

  69. Steve Evans says:

    See, NOW this is getting interesting.

  70. According to Peterson, Snow was joined by the Manti bishopric and a couple of others in ambushing Lewis.

    Joseph Young was furious when he heard about the attack.

    Fifteen years later, while traveling from Springville to Manti, Snow was confronted by four armed men, apparently seeking revenge. Snow identified two of them as “Lewis” and “Tom.” The four men convinced Snow to go for a walk. “Lewis” hit Snow with the butt of his shotgun. Snow reacted by throwing one of the men to the ground. Snow then either pulled his own gun or wrestled one away from his captors and shot two of them.

  71. I love you, Justin.

  72. Keller,

    Thank you for the clarifications in #60. I confused two incidents by relying on memory rather than going back and checking original sources. Since this is a “firestorm” one of my intentions was to sensationalize.
    I am not sure about your point #2 though. I think there is some evidence that men with higher “status” in the church could get the wife they wanted at the expense of others feelings. For example Henry Jacobs loved his wife.

  73. I have heard criticism in my ward for voicing my position, but I have long felt that any bishopric which carries out a nighttime castration by ambush on a ward member should not be sustained.

  74. Castration puts excommunication in a different light, doesn’t it?

  75. PS.
    Re #s 60, 68, 70. Do any of you know what the “sexual crimes” this Lewis was accused of? What was he convicted of? It is not hard to imagine that frontier justice for pedophilia or something like that included castration.

    Of course, even with that being said, these days it is hard to justify the idea of a bishop heading up the posse.

  76. On the issue of castration and Mormons, the current movie September Dawn, shows a castration scene, where a mans scrotum and testicles are cut off and pinned to the side of the house, no medical treatments to stop the bleeding, or anything like that, so he man may have bleed to death. Did Mormons just cut the whole package off for sexual crimes or for being apostates to the Church?

    When I left the mormon Church in SLC, Utah I had three men from the priesthood ward level come knocking on my door. I was married and endowed in the temple. I thought they were coming to do something to me..in Modern Day..I had heard castration was often practiced against members who left the church. I know the Endowment sessions and washing/anoitings have changed, you do no go nude totally for the washings/anoitings anymore. You don’t have to get in a tub of water anymore. Gee what are these Mormons thinking?

    The Mormon Church has Blood on their Hands…they are not the true church if they have Blood on their hands???

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