How Redefining Beauty Campaigns Reinforce Our Notions of Women and Beauty (Part II)

In Part I  I highlighted the fact that Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other US city. I noted that this could be an indicator that either:

  1.  Utah/Mormon culture makes girls and women more susceptible to media messages, or
  2.  Mormon girls and women are receiving messages about what it means to be beautiful from influences besides media, or
  3.  A combination of media influence and Mormon religious culture compound to make a bigger impact on girls and women about how to be beautiful and desirable.
  4. Or, as has been noted, it could mean nothing more than SLC has lots of plastic surgeons.

First, media influences play on the natural desires of women to want to be beautiful and attract male attention. Contrary to the idea put forth that advertisers are trying to get women to want to look a certain way, marketing techniques simply take advantage of women’s own existing vanity.

 It is normal for a person to want to attract a mate. We can say that this is to want to be desired. I do not believe the only thing men want or notice is a beautiful woman. However, in her response to Kathryn Soper’s article Why Standards Night is Substandard, Elizabeth P. of Scholaristas explained, “[Her] experience did not resonate with mine at all…,because after all, how many of us are turning all the heads in the room” She further writes of her own despair, “that all men really want or notice is a sexy woman. Or that they are more interested in the physical than the intellectual qualities of their partner.”

The idea that a beautiful woman is all men want is ingrained in our culture. Since we aren’t all physically stunning, we try to give girls and women other options and ways to be beautiful and desirable using a gospel perspective.

Inside this spiritual cosmetic bag we often find happiness, integrity, virtue, the glow of the spirit, and other spiritual tools.

The problem is, girls and women (and everyone else) don’t need to keep the commandments in order to “[develop] beauty of person, form and features,” or have light shine in their faces so that they will, “be far more attractive, even irresistible.” We need these things, the law of chastity, integrity, and to choose the right because they are good for us; because keeping the commandments ultimately helps daughters (and sons) of God grow closer to Him and become like Him.

When metaphors of beauty and desirability are mixed with righteous living, we are still telling girls that their goal, along with living a virtuous life full of integrity, is to be desired and beautiful. Not strong, not determined, not righteous for righteousness’ sake; not serving others, but self-serving: using a spiritual cosmetic kit as a means to an end to draw attention to themselves.  Instead of the intended consequence of focusing on Christ, we are focused on the end physical result. This level of teaching appeals only to the lowest of our human instincts. It takes the finer parts of us, our inner strengths, talents, goals, and even our faith—and turns them into tools of manipulation, as a way to draw people to us.

In our efforts to help girls and women feel good about themselves, and even keep the commandments, the question being asked is, “How do we help them feel beautiful?”

In her 2005  talk The Sanctity of the Body,  President Susan N. Tanner tells the story of how self conscious she was about her terrible acne as a teen. Her parents suggested she quit thinking about herself and her acne, and go out into the world thinking about others. She says, “Happiness comes from accepting the bodies we have been given as divine gifts and enhancing our natural attributes, not from remaking our bodies after the image of the world.” Being content with ourselves comes from accepting that we aren’t as beautiful as women in media, and accepting that that’s ok. A woman’s self worth comes from developing God-given talents and using them to benefit herself and others. Only when we quit defining all female attributes using beauty as the pivotal descriptor will we have stronger women in the Church. We cannot afford to blame solely media influences. The question we should be asking is, “How do we help girls develop into strong individuals?”  

Women don’t necessarily feel good or bad about themselves because of physical traits. Women who are content with themselves, are content because they have something else to offer. They have goals, aspirations, hopes, desires, dreams, talents and other attributes that make them contributing members of society. They don’t define themselves by their appearance. Beauty is defined in how others perceive us. Value or worth is defined in our relationship to God. One we can never fully win, the other we can never fully lose. One is temporal and fleeting, the other inherent and eternal.

Maybe the one important difference is this: all of us have qualities that are intrinsically valuable, while only some of us have qualities that are intrinsically beautiful. Beauty is largely a matter of luck, but every daughter of God has worth and value. So we can have legitimate self-confidence in our good qualities, once we recognize them, while unwarranted self-confidence in our physical appearance is delusional and hollow. 

Comments

  1. People value what they value.

  2. Ergh, that wasn’t clear enough. I think people find beautiful what they value. I’ve been in groups where people were valued, and seen as beautiful, for traits that were not related to physical appearance. But there needs to be a culture, if only a micro culture, for that to happen.

  3. I think it’s the seeking to be valued by others, or at least define our value by how we believe others perceive us, that is the problem.

  4. Sunny,
    That’s why I try to make it absolutely clear in all of my interactions with the children of men that I don’t value them, and never will. After that, it’s all cream cheese.

  5. I’m torn on this one. I have friends that are young women in my neighborhood. Some of them are very critical of their outward appearance even sometimes despairing. I think they are beautiful people of which their outward appearance is certainly apart. How do I say “I think you are beautiful, I want you to feel that you are beautiful, but beauty isn’t that important.” It is tricky to say the least.

  6. Right, Scott. Glad to see you didn’t misread me at all.

  7. Dovie,
    I don’t think it’s a problem to call things beautiful–even the inner person. I think it’s a problem when we equate that inner beauty with being attractive to others.

  8. At the same time, how are you supposed to gain an understanding of your value if those around you see none?

  9. mmiles, is it important for a person to feel both inwardly and outwardly beautiful? Especially these young women? There seems to be a lot of sadness when they have a I’m unattactive view of themselves. Is it better to do our best to help them see and believe in their outward beauty or to try and convince them that it doesn’t matter whether they are outwardly beautiful or not it’s inner beauty that counts.

  10. SilverRain,

    The problem is doing things so that others _will_ see value in me.

  11. Sunny, I agree.

    But what other way is there? What measuring stick are you supposed to use?

    The easy answer is the Spirit, but that is difficult to follow when your mind is already clouded with the knowledge that you have no value.

  12. But what if that inner beauty *is* attractive to others, mmiles? Aren’t you attracted to some people because of their kindness or compassion or goodness or whatever other qualities are part of “inner beauty”? Aren’t you drawn to the company of those people with a pleasure every bit as strong as the pleasure that comes from noticing physical beauty?

    I admit I’m still struggling mightily to understand your objection to the statements by Presidents Faust and Dalton.

  13. This is an impossible topic to even begin to talk about (for me). The ideas of beauty, inner or outer, are so finely woven with others’ perceptions, cultural perceptions and expectations, and our very self-worth (whether we like it or not), that how can we say, oh, we can have legitimate self-confidence in our good qualities, once we recognize them, while unwarranted self-confidence in our physical appearance is delusional and hollow. Of course, you are RIGHT, and we can acknowledge that intellectually, but emotionally I think that’s almost an impossible option.

    Now, let’s add to the mix that some of us are perfectionists and goal-setters. In my own anecdotal, non-scientific experience, when we mix a tendency towards perfectionism and being LDS, this can be pretty dangerous for self-image. Sometimes young women take away the feeling they have to be perfect; that we’ve been commanded to be perfect, and this implies that we need to be perfect in our bodies and faces and inner beauty and outer beauty. Look at the post the other day on BCC that linked to the modesty chart in the Friend magazine. The list noted that before a KID goes out of the house (the Friend, is for the elementary school set), they need to make sure their hair is neatly brushed and combed and they look presentable. Always have to look perfect — BE perfect!

    Once in a YW activity when I was growing up, we had a dinner where the theme was centered on how to be an attractive young lady. Various priesthood holders spoke about their pet peeves and how we could be more attractive. The bishop made a point of telling us that there was nothing more unattractive than a girl with a smudge on her glasses, so MAKE SURE your glasses are always clean! (I was the only YW who wore glasses, btw).

    Anyway, I agree with you that the focus should be on developing self worth and values and righteousness as daughters (and sons) of Heavenly Father, but it just won’t ever happen, because it just wont.

    I’m blathering. Sorry. I have no idea what I’m saying. And now I’m going to add a smiley face, because smiling is beautiful. :-)

  14. Okay, maybe I’m beginning to understand your objection to those statements, connecting Sunny’s #10 with a few lines in this post. Do you object to those statements by Presidents Faust and Dalton because you think they encourage girls to be virtuous, etc. solely so they will be somehow attractive? Because if that’s the case, I think you’re misreading them. It’s like you’re objecting to teachers suggesting the blessings that come from tithing or observing the Word of Wisdom, because you fear people will obey those commandments only to reap the rewards, not because they ought to keep those commandments for the sake of keeping the commandments.

    I really don’t think these quoted leaders are telling girls to be virtuous just so they will be attractive; I think they’re telling girls that one of the consequences of being virtuous is the resulting attraction felt by good people who respond well to the company of other virtuous people. That kind of inner beauty *is* often visible outwardly, in a kind of glow that we probably all recognize.

  15. Robert Palmer says:

    I totally get that about President Beck – she’s simply irresistible.

  16. And m, I wouldn’t be struggling so hard to understand if I didn’t think you had a real and meaningful point. I’m not saying you don’t … except about the faulty measure of Salt Lake’s vanity, I mean. : )

  17. Moniker Challenged says:

    #12- It’s time to play definition tag! Where we all use words that are fickle and malleable and then run away before we all agree on what they mean!

    Really, though, I think “attractive” is a toughie. Because what if I tell impressionable young people that being kind, and unselfish and agreeable is attractive–meaning it makes people happy to be in your company, and wins you friends. But what if what the young persons hear is that being sweet and kind will make people physically desire you. That might not work.

  18. It seems to me that the confusion over these two posts comes from people’s inability even to conceive of women’s basic worth *not* being called some species of beauty, be it inner, outer, or whatever. It’s as though saying a girl is smart, funny, creative, brilliant, clever, kind, energetic, capable, resourceful, or any other compliment might almost be an insult because that means she’s not beautiful, or not beautiful enough to remark upon. My guy friends used to say “she has a great personality” as sarcastic code for “she’s ugly”. The universal compliment to baby girls, toddlers, and young women is “she’s so cute/beautiful/pretty”. About boy children people say he’s tough or smart or big or something but almost never “he’s handsome”. Certainly not “he’s beautiful” which would imply he was girly somehow.

    There’s a deep cultural current that says the only important thing about a female is her beauty. So saying “you’re beautiful because you’re x” is the same as saying beauty is still the main thing that matters, the only thing that’s admirable, the only goal worth pursuing. Instead if we said “do these things for your own sake, because of who you are and who you can become” it might actually serve to take our focus off beauty as *the* only trait that’s worth aspiring to.

    This is just a clumsy way of restating the original idea. I think the confusion is just that much more evidence that the OP is true, that people equate beauty with worth in females.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    What Tatiana said. For men the question of beauty/looks doesn’t come into play in the same way at all. I have a hard time really understanding these issues at all without trying to translate this into some sort of guy equivalent — which is telling.

  20. I agree. I don’t think the gospel or the church teach us to concentrate on our outward beauty, but sometimes the desire for physical beauty (especially for women) is so ingrained in our American culture it comes out in lessons or talks in ways that it shouldn’t.
    I do not object to children being told to brush their hair or wear appropriate clothing or shower. I need some support in this area and school doesn’t help. Personal hygeine is like good manners and we should all help children learn.

  21. I’m fascinated by this book http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Self-Listening-Homeschooled-Adolescent/dp/0867094052

    The author has a very small sample size (55), but these homeschool girls have a higher sense esteem, a greater sense of self and a more positive self image.

    My own two daughters, who are very normal and going throu the junior high look have both expressed to me they don’t understand why other girls don’t think they look good.

    The author of the book theorizes that the public school system-with it’s strong authoritarian form, encourages a people pleaser mentality. Girls seem espeically prone to this idea. Public school also tends to support conformity and a certain kind of success.

    Now I homeschool, so I eat that all up…but I’m wondering…don’t many churches and organizations have a similar form? authoritarian, a certain kind of success, conformity…perhaps those things disconnect from her sense of self.

    just my thoughts…

    I’m not at all discounting the media

  22. I was browsing one of my other frequent hangouts, and saw this relevant piece.

    http://gizmodo.com/#!5762410/models-real-faces-before-the-photoshop-magic

  23. When metaphors of beauty and desirability are mixed with righteous living, we are still telling girls that their goal, along with living a virtuous life full of integrity, is to be desired and beautiful. Not, not determined, not righteous for righteousness’ sake; not serving others, but self-serving: using a spiritual cosmetic kit as a means to an end to draw attention to themselves.

    mmiles, it’s interesting because I don’t think that the Kites or other LDS people who are talking about redefining beauty would disagree with you, but I don’t see what they are doing as having the end purpose of drawing attention in selfish ways.

    But I am still not sure it’s quite as simple as you present it here. Can we really fully divorce how we appear to others from righteousness? For example, Christ says to let our light shine so that *others can see it.* Why? To glorify God. To do His work. The scriptures also talk of how light cleaves to light, and about how Christ’s light becomes part of our countenance (or the opposite can be true with evil , e.g., “the show of their countenance doth witness against them.”)

    I agree that the end goal of righteousness should not be to get approval from others, to use it as just another something we ‘show’ to gain approval or even control. But I don’t think we can deny the fruits of righteousness can sometimes be seen, discerned, noticed in a physical way. And again, I think God can reach us as He speaks our language, and I think the language of ‘beauty’ might reach some people as a starting place to help them be able to give place for the bigger picture of things you discuss here.

    Again, I really think we’re all more in agreement than not.

  24. Ardis, I am confident M. doesn’t think that Faust and Dalton’s talks were given for the sole purpose of manipulating the yearning for allure for righteousness’ sake. The comparison between talks about tithing, etc. is a good one, with one problem. For me, these talks are like lessons that have been given regarding chastity: Be chaste so that boys will want you. No one wants previously chewed gum/rose with petals torn off/[unfortunate other examples]. When it comes to the virtue, beauty, and worth of girls and women who are vulnerable both in self-esteem and in positions of power in relationships with men, we should tread ever so carefully. We should not tie righteousness in with being desirable, for so many reasons, only one of which being: What if a girl feels unwanted and undesirable? Will she doubt her own righteousness? Or, now that Faust and Dalton have associated virtue with attractiveness to the opposite sex, will she give up on her virtue and righteousness, since it’s not working as that beacon she hoped it would be? When we emphasise blessings as reasons for keeping commandments, we run the risk of spiritually immature people giving up on the commandments when they don’t see the blessings bearing out.

  25. I think sexual images and women’s roles in the church are linked. I just recently read that pornography is a tool the State uses to keep women believing in the patriarchy. Perhaps it’s the images all around us women remind us of our proper place in the world. At church we are reminded of our proper place in the gospel. Both are grounded in patriarchy, both encourage a certain image and role for women to behave. Though one is sexual, I wonder if there is any connection there. Perhaps that is why Mormon women are so willing to subjugate themselves into a sexual object when the church actually discourages the sexualisation of women. Or does it??? Perhaps that is why it is so easy for Mormon men that view women as fulfilling a role to the venture over to pornography.

  26. Tatiana FTW!

    The fact that every other value turns into a building block toward beauty, and not an attractive feature in-and-of-itself (and I do not mean solely physically attractive), is the issue. A man can be brilliant, smart, winning, intelligent, strong, etc. etc., but when speaking of women we usually phrase it so that those attributes make up her beauty.

    That is definitely something to consider.

  27. meems
    “Various priesthood holders spoke about their pet peeves and how we could be more attractive.”
    Please tell me that tool place like 40 years ago!!!!!! Do the women get to this to the young boys?

  28. Contrary to the idea put forth that advertisers are trying to get women to want to look a certain way, marketing techniques simply take advantage of women’s own existing vanity.

    This seems similar to Steve’s comment in the prior thread suggesting that it’s purely the consumers to blame. However while advertisers don’t want people to look a certain way the companies they are creating ads for sometimes do. (i.e. fashion and makeup companies) Likewise magazines like Vogue or Elle have views about what styles are “in.” While they don’t purely create that arbitrarily it seems wrong to say they are just reflecting what their consumers want. Rather they (as with any creative artistic industry) have views on what people ought want. As such it really is more akin to a political advocacy magazine. Yes they are targeting a demographic but it’d be silly to say they aren’t pushing certain views.

    Only when we quit defining all female attributes using beauty as the pivotal descriptor will we have stronger women in the Church. We cannot afford to blame solely media influences. The question we should be asking is, “How do we help girls develop into strong individuals?”

    This I largely agree with. I’ve been consciously trying to not just tell my daughter she’s cute or other descriptions that deal with beauty. Because that’s distorting. Now she is cute and I do tell her that. But I try and talk about how hard she is trying, the things she’s made and so forth and emphasize those. I don’t want her to internalize that the only value is beauty because it’s not.

    What we ought to do is value women in all sorts of ways. Because especially young men and boys tend to get clobbered over the head with the beauty thing (not to mention the effect of the hormones!) and then don’t pay enough attention to all the other important things women do. If we can get them to think about all those other things and value them then we’d achieve a lot. The big problem is that both girls and boys don’t see valued the women scientists, businesswomen and so forth. Instead what is held up as the highest value is a kind of extreme form of High School where popularity and beauty are all that matter. However as you noted in the other thread, often attempts to deal with beauty still focus on beauty and are ultimately self-defeating.

  29. Paging Ziff: can you do a check of how many times the male speakers at the General YW Meeting greet them with a variant of “you’re beautiful” compared with how many times the young men are told they’re “handsome” or whatever in the Priesthood session of conference?

  30. To add to that last comment of mine (27) I don’t think this is purely a problem of beauty or women’s self-worth. Rather I think it is a broader problem that the things society shows it values are money and beauty. We really ought have people doing other things such as scientific discovery or so forth more highly valued. Instead we get people famous for being famous (Paris Hilton), a push in the media of a kind of vicarious high school experience (the whole fame issue focused on by TMZ, People, InStyle and so forth), and a focus on athletes, musicians, and actors. Why not more focus on people actually creating things and adding value to society? It’d change the incentives for kids so they’d not fantasize purely about being a rapper or basketball star and maybe we’d get more things made for society not to mention get better rounded people.

  31. clark,
    “Rather they (as with any creative artistic industry) have views on what people ought want.”
    I agree, I think that is what pornography does to women but also what the church does to women via a role to fulfill. Im sorry but my daughter doesn’t naturally want PINK. We just don’t realize that we start to mimic what we see around us in attempt to understand who we are.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    “Steve’s comment in the prior thread suggesting that it’s purely the consumers to blame.”

    well that’s not exactly my point, now is it? My more interested in personal accountability in this context. People are agents and are very capable of making intelligent choices. Advertisers will shape their messages in ways they think will most influence buying decisions. We create and enable the messages we’re receiving.

    PS if your #29 is saying “society is full of bad choices and poor priorities” well, sure. Is that a new complaint?

  33. can you do a check of how many times the male speakers at the General YW Meeting greet them with a variant of “you’re beautiful” compared with how many times the young men are told they’re “handsome” or whatever in the Priesthood session of conference?

    Looking at the LDS.org search there were only 26 hits for the word in YW session. Most of the uses of beauty were towards abstractions. “There is nothing in all this world as magnificent as virtue. It glows without tarnish. It is precious and beautiful.” However there were a few that fit. Pres. Uchtdorf said his daughters were beautiful. Pres. Hinkley had one talk that called them beautiful. (March 2004) Pres. Faust quoted Heber J. Grant saying, ‘a beautiful and chaste woman is the perfect workmanship of God.’ (March 2000) That was it.

    There was one by Sis. Nadauld talked about her son thinking his prom date was beautiful. It probably fits the topic best since she’s arguing the date was beautiful because of her confidence and “not worried about how she looked.” (Which is then undermined by the discussion of the preparation for how she looked) So that’s an example of what MMiles was getting at.

    However I was surprised at how few comments along those lines there were.

    On the other hand Pres. Hinkley had a talk about a guy who wasn’t handsome that a woman married as a way of emphasizing not to focus on beauty. (March 2001) No other mentions of handsome at YWC other than a talk by Sis Dalton about someone dating a handsome man who convinced him to go on a mission.

    At Priesthood session most use of beauty or beautiful were abstract. (i.e. beautiful words, poetry etc.) There were a few relating a story where someone was married to a beautiful bride. Elder Scott did say (Oct 2008) that there was no creation more beautiful than a virtuous woman.

    There was just one reference to handsome. One by Elder Edgley (Oct 1999) (I’m skipping the reference to David being handsome just as I am scriptural references to beautiful women)

  34. mmiles, I am really glad you are discussing this topic.

    Although I may have thought this, I didn’t say it in my post: “because after all, how many of us are turning all the heads in the room.”

    And, I don’t think your quotation of me is an entirely correct characterization of what I said. I think my position is one of discovering that beauty and physical appearance and attractiveness actually do matter in the dating world, which is a perspective that I gained after thinking that a person’s inner attractiveness–wit, passion, devotion, intelligence–were truly the things that mattered. That is not to say, however, that I don’t think I have been tainted by the beauty is everything school of thought. Why would my fallback position be one of criticizing men, in my view, for desiring women who are physically attractive as opposed to other things? It’s no doubt culturally conditioned but not the entire view that I subscribe to.

  35. Clark, it’s likely that they’re the intro. off the cuff comments, now that I think about it.

  36. clark…society also values grown men who can bounce a ball or throw it well…bonus points if their name rhymes with simmer.

  37. Aren’t off the cuff comments to the crowd ( ie. you are such a beautiful sight) frequently edited out before publishing?

  38. #9 Dovie ,
    Girls and women will always want to be beautiful. But telling them they are beautiful in some intangible way won’t fool them. They won’t feel any better about their appearance.

    Ardis,
    Yes, naturally we find other traits attractive, like compassion and the others you mentioned. But when it’s a means to an end we have trouble. When I watch a shampoo commercial it promises beautiful hair, when I keep a habit of reading my scriptures, does it promise people will like me? The promise to attract others is not any more true than the promise I’ll have beautiful hair.

    I absolutely do not think any talks are ever given to tell girls they should keep the law of chastity solely to be attractive, not at all.

    Michelle,

    . “But I don’t think we can deny the fruits of righteousness can sometimes be seen, discerned, noticed in a physical way.”
    I believe in the glow of the spirit. I also believe I know many, many women who have that glow who men don’t find attractive. No power of discernment gets you a date.

    Natasha,
    “We should not tie righteousness in with being desirable, for so many reasons, only one of which being: What if a girl feels unwanted and undesirable? Will she doubt her own righteousness?”Exactly. This is doubly hard for single sisters not sure of their place in the Church. They grew up being promised being spiritual would seal the deal.

    Cz-
    .” I just recently read that pornography is a tool the State uses to keep women believing in the patriarchy”Nonsense.

    Steve-
    I actually do think within Church talks there is kind of a parallel. Inner strength. The difference is boys won’t be told girls will see their inner strength and find them irresistible.

    Also, what Tatiana said.

  39. ep,
    I really hope I didn’t mischaracterize your comments. I did not take them as meaning you thought men were all about that. You made a really important point in that post. I hope people will read it.
    Part of the reason it’s so great is that it points out you focused on other aspects of yourself growing up. I wish we all did that.

  40. Clark,
    I dare you find a talk where young women are told they glow or will glow with the spirit and then not told it will make them beautiful, appealing or attractive. I couldn’t find one.

  41. No worries, mmiles. I wasn’t sure since that was the piece you picked out. Thank you for clarifying. I’m sure your post will give the blog more traffic, which will be nice.

  42. Thanks for the response, mmiles.

  43. ep,
    I think KLS’s piece brought out how some girls are empowered by feeling physically attractive. Part of what I got out of your post was that you never felt empowered in that way, but do feel empowered in other ways. I meant to merely point out, not all women feel empowered by thier own physical prowess–and that we all know the cultural message, as you pointed out, is that is what will give us an edge with men.

  44. Kristine (#28), sorry to be slow. Clark, thanks for stepping in to fill the number crunching gap!

  45. re: #28
    So, I went back and looked at the opening remarks of the priesthood speaker for the last decade or so of YW conferences. I’ve sat through most of these as a YW leader, but was surprised to see how few of them mention the ‘beautiful young women’ (and I compared the transcripts with the video for those that were available – pretty quick job since I was only interested in the first paragraph – it matched up every time in my limited sample).
    I then went and looked at the opening remarks of the last two speakers at every priesthood session of the last 5 or so years (I ran out of energy after that).
    The remarks seem similar in tone – lots of mention of what a remarkable/inspiring sight the brethren are and a glorious/magnificent/wonderful sight the YW are. Different adjectives, but although both sets are about the visual, they both seem to be focused on the sight of the sheer number of people in attendance in the conference center and around the world, not on the physical attractiveness of those people. The exception is that Pres. Hinkley does mention beautiful YW in 2004 and 1996.
    I guess now the argument can begin as to whether there are symbolic differences between a crowd of people being an inspiring sight or a glorious sight, but I’ll step out for that one.

    Opening remarks that mention anything about what the speaker sees before him:

    YW Conferences

    Pres. Monson, YW conference 2009 “My dear young sisters, what a glorious sight you are.”

    Pres. Hinckley, YW conference 2007, “My dear young women, what a wonderful sight you are in this great hall.”

    Pres. Faust, YW conference 2006 “I see the light shining in your faces. That light comes from the Lord, and as you radiate that light, it will bless you and many others.”

    Pres. Hinckley, YW conference 2004 “My dear young friends, you beautiful young women, “

    Pres. Hinckley YW conference 2001 “What a wonderful sight you are in this great hall. “

    Pres. Monson, YW conference 1997 “What a glorious sight you are.”

    Pres. Hinkley, YW conference 1996, “This has been a very touching, humbling, and overwhelming experience. Thank you for your kindness and your love.
    What a magnificent sight this is. This great Tabernacle is filled with bright and beautiful young women. “

    Priesthood sessions

    Pres. Monson, Priesthood session April 2010, “Brethren, you who are here in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City are an inspiring sight to behold.”

    Pres. Monson, October 2007, “Brethren, as I gaze from one end to the other of this majestic building, I can only say, you are an inspiring sight to behold.”

    Pres. Hinkley, April 2007, “My dear brethren of the priesthood, what an inspiration it is to look into the faces of the 21,000 here in the Conference Center”

    Pres. Hinkley, October 2006, “Brethren, you look like a shirtsleeve priesthood. You look all dressed in white, ready to go to work. And the time has come to go to work.
    What a remarkable sight this is.”

    Pres. Monson, April 2004, “Brethren, you are an inspiring sight to behold.”

  46. I believe in the glow of the spirit. I also believe I know many, many women who have that glow who men don’t find attractive. No power of discernment gets you a date.

    But does it make them more attractive than they were before? (Personally I think for many people of either sex this does make a person of the opposite sex more attractive – just not more beautiful. Just as being charismatic and confident does.)

    I dare you find a talk where young women are told they glow or will glow with the spirit and then not told it will make them beautiful, appealing or attractive. I couldn’t find one.

    I’ll look later. For the record though, as I noted above, I think it makes people more attractive or appealing just not more beautiful. As I said in the prior thread I think the problem is more confusing beauty and attraction which can really confuse young women. I also think there’s a confusion between becoming more attractive and being very attractive. The way the rhetoric goes usually the example is someone very attractive made so by doing something right. I think that to a spiritual person (and often to non-spiritual people) that character is very attractive. However it’s not going to make someone look like Marilyn Monroe or George Clooney. I suspect there are some people who think, “hey I did this and women aren’t noticing me any better than before.” (Just to take the sexism of this just being about women out) And yes, it does apply to men also. I knew lots of guys who felt they were doing the things they were supposed to religiously who weren’t well liked by women. The problem of course was that being religious didn’t magically provide a charismatic personality, make them well groomed and well dressed nor make them better looking. I suspect it was the same for many women.

  47. MMiles, here’s one where someone glows but isn’t described as beautiful. You might make the connection to the previous story but the speaker never makes that connection. (The previous story was the afore mentioned beautiful prom date) Here’s an other one. They don’t seem much different than the similar rhetoric I hear towards men.

  48. mormon mother says:

    For me it is as simple as this: The worth of anyone–young, old, male or female derives from the fact that they uniqely exist as a child of God. We all need to feel this worth which comes at its deepest level from the relationship we have with the Savior. Helping a young women or a young man feel this worth is not based or built on “beauty” or “inner beauty,” on talents, or even on accomplishments, but helping them gain a personal relationship with the Savior. It is nothing more, nothing less. With that strong relationship, what the world thinks matters little. Yes, I believe it is really that simple.

  49. “Steve’s comment in the prior thread suggesting that it’s purely the consumers to blame.”

    well that’s not exactly my point, now is it? My more interested in personal accountability in this context. People are agents and are very capable of making intelligent choices. Advertisers will shape their messages in ways they think will most influence buying decisions. We create and enable the messages we’re receiving.

    I think it’s a necessary corollary to your point. The fact is that fashion and styles aren’t really up to the free choice of us individual agents. Certainly I can dare to be a rebel and dress in ways very incommensurate with the fashion and style of the time. But especially with teenagers and to a somewhat lesser extent young adults being in connection with the styles is important. Women have it worse here because the styles change more quickly than with men but also can cause more problems than with men. Now as adults we all know that it’s not as significant to be completely in style. But for younger people? It puts a lot of pressure on them and that pressure is ultimately coming from these purveyors of style.

    So yes, a young woman can personally choose not to focus on being thin and fashionable. But it’s a very difficult choice and much of that difficulty arises because of the people making the choices in the media.

  50. Clark,
    Thanks. I really liked that talk by Elaine Dalton.

  51. The language attached to the notion of beauty and attractiveness is obviously a field of land mines. It is difficult to explain to (young, but this applies to all) women that they posses great individual worth without falling into descriptive words such as beauty. Still, it does seem counter productive to use such words when the point of the message should be that individual worth is not based on physical beauty.

    This is further complicated by the fact that we have elevated the notion of the “divine nature” of fairly specific gender traits and roles in the church. As an example, see the greater context of Faust’s “even irresistible” comments:

    I wonder if you sisters fully understand the greatness of your gifts and talents and how all of you can achieve the “highest place of honor” in the Church and in the world. One of your unique, precious, and sublime gifts is your femininity, with its natural grace, goodness, and divinity. Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each of you possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty.

    One of your particular gifts is your feminine intuition. Do not limit yourselves. As you seek to know the will of our Heavenly Father in your life and become more spiritual, you will be far more attractive, even irresistible. You can use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy. Femininity is part of the God-given divinity within each of you. It is your incomparable power and influence to do good. You can, through your supernal gifts, bless the lives of children, women, and men. Be proud of your womanhood. Enhance it. Use it to serve others.

    One of the issues I have (and indeed, I think might be the point of these posts) with the language (but not altogether the message of… so don’t jump down my throat) of Faust’s talk is that he doesn’t eschew beauty = hair, makeup, (and by extension) boob jobs. Rather, Faust seemingly claims that femininity IS hair, etc PLUS all these other morally/spiritually desirable characteristics. I think this happens all the time in this attempts to redefine the parameters of attractiveness to be more holistic if you would.

    So, it isn’t that I (or mmiles) disagree with Faust in theory. But when you combine that usage of language with the fact that the number one gender role associated with being LDS female is to mate and raise kids (and all the factual sexual things that such a role requires), this becomes really problematic. It becomes too easy to interpret “be feminine” in terms of vanity.

    So this is at least one reason why attempts to redefine individual worth using language of ‘beauty’ and ‘irresistible’ and to a lesser extent ‘attractiveness’ is just asking for trouble. It may end up just, as mmiles is suggesting, reinforcing a vain notion of beauty.

  52. Aww, dang it. My html block quotes didn’t work. Can some fix that for the 2 paragraphs of the Faust quote? [done]

  53. I also wonder how much our doctrine surrounding s*x complicates this notion as well.

    Who doesn’t want to be phyiscally attractive in terms of physical beauty to our (future or current… take your pick) spouse? We want to be desirable. And unlike Catholicism holding onto s*x as a means to an end, it has become increasingly acceptable within LDS doctrine and culture to view sex and carnal attraction as fine – even great – as long as it is in marriage. By doing so, we might be putting even additional pressure to be physically desirable in order to fulfill our divine roles associated with marriage.

  54. Nicole,
    Thank you. Very well said.

  55. Nicole, fwiw, I am pretty sure when Pres. Faust used “just” in that sentence, he wasn’t trying to claim that “true” beauty includes those things. I think his message translates better by applying the “just” to what he’s describing as the “worldly” standard, for lack of a better term, and the “Gospel” standard, if you will.

    Iow, I think he was saying that there is one standard – but that it isn’t “just” the only standard or the right standard. Knowing what I know of Pres. Faust as a person and his focus as an apostle, I can’t imagine he meant it the way you described it.

  56. Sorry, that last paragraph should have read:

    “Iow, I think he was saying that there is a standard in the world – but that it isn’t “just” the only standard or the right standard. Knowing what I know of Pres. Faust as a person and his focus as an apostle, I can’t imagine he meant it the way you described it.”

    Bad wording originally.

  57. Ray – I see your point, but the fact that it can be interpreted both ways is the point of these posts.

    Pres Faust fails to clearly eschew the notion that hair and lipstick is tied up with femininity. Why does he include it at all? It doesn’t have to be. Those are cultural phenomenons (that likely do have some basis in biological instincts).

  58. wow, Markie–thanks for doing that research. I would also like a pony–could you work on that? Thanks :)

  59. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, there’s a pony in here somewhere. Look in my old posts.

  60. mmiles, great post. I think the ideas really came together here, and you make some really good points.

    It’s like you’re objecting to teachers suggesting the blessings that come from tithing or observing the Word of Wisdom, because you fear people will obey those commandments only to reap the rewards, not because they ought to keep those commandments for the sake of keeping the commandments.

    I know that you were using this example and stating that you didn’t think that Elder Faust had done this, and went on to explain why. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to use your example and explain why, inadvertently, he probably did.

    This is actually a really good parallel in my opinion. I don’t necessarily think people should obey the commandments “for the sake of keeping the commandments” vs. for the blessings. But I think we ought to be careful when we explain commandments to not undermine the change that God wishes to effect in us. The commandments exist to make us good people, but if we’re mostly focused on the reward, in some cases we lose 80% of the benefit.

    Or in other words, taking the tithing example: I believe that we have been commanded to pay tithing because God wants to make givers out of us. He knows it is a sacrifice to give up 10% of our earnings, but he knows that through this sacrifice we will disassociate ourselves from materialism and become a more god-like (giving) people. However, if instead we get it in our minds that the windows of heaven will be opened to us – in a materialistic way (and this gets preached, in less crass terms, almost every time someone teaches the law of tithing) then the reward-based enticement to obey the law of tithing undermines the very purpose that God set out to accomplish by implementing the law.

    I think the same thing can be said of this beauty discussion. God wants our women to be virtuous, intelligent, strong, faithful, good (god-like) people. But if we tell our young women that being virtuous, intelligent, strong, faithful, and good will make them physically beautiful it can have the effect of turning their attention to the superficial attributes. It can reinforce vacuous ideals and undermine the very outcomes that God has in mind for our young women.

  61. B.Russ–
    I like your comment, but who are you quoting? It wasn’t me.

  62. mmiles,

    I think B. Russ is talking to Ardis.

  63. This has been a great series, thanks.

    A couple thoughts: I was at a ward activity a few years back, when a mother of a sixth grader was asking an eye doctor about corrective surgery. She observed that her daughter would be “so much prettier if she got rid of the glasses.” And her daughter was right there. Ugh! What a message.

    Also, my children have done a summer session at BYU because they have no real interest in going there, and that gives them a taste. When one daughter went out, I was alarmed because she required no money for food. She was living in a foreign language house which included supper, and she took leftovers home. I had bought her some staples at the start of the summer. But still, I couldn’t figure out how she was surviving.

    One of my friends visited her, and reported that her living room was filled with flower bouquets. A roommate explained that they were all for my daughter, and that none of the roomies could figure out what made my daughter such a man-magnet. My friend was amused, since she did not have that effect on guys where we live.

    But because she was raised far from Utah and didn’t have the usual speech patterns or clothing style, she stood out as being different, even exotic.

    Because she has healthy friendships with guys, she made them feel comfortable.

    Because she had no interest in getting married, she was focussed on having a good time at that moment, not sizing him up as a potential eternal mate.

    She ended up going on 1.5 dates per day, and many of those involved buying her food. It was not intentional on her part, but just kind of happened that way.

  64. Kristine,
    I’ll get on that pony idea ASAP

  65. 61 – Yeah, Sunny is right. Should have made it two comments – but the first paragraph was directed to you, the rest to Ardis.

  66. John Mansfield says:

    How should good-looking people take attempts to reduce the relative value of their type of beauty? Like the people the who do very well on scholastic exams and get told over and over that book smarts don’t count for much? Sure having perfect teeth and skin or SAT scores only counts for so much, but do those with those strengths as their unique features have to endure hearing over and over how unimportant those things are?

  67. John,
    On a social scale they’re very important. But do we need to emphasize that?
    I do see plenty of problems with people deciding attractive people are “worldly, materialistic, overly concerned about their looks,” which is usually not true, and how who gets to decide that anyhow? I’m not saying downplay it.

  68. #60 – B.Russ, great comment about why we do what we do and the effect of the motivation on us.

    I think there is a really important, deep principle in the idea that “they have their reward” that gets overlooked completely in many cases. Jesus never said it’s bad to do good things for the wrong reasons – and that, in and of itself, gets butchered too often in church talks. What he actually said simply is that those who do things for inferior reasons “have their reward”.

    If they want praise and public recognition for their financial sharing, they donate money in a way that will give it to them. “They have their reward.” If they want financial blessings for paying tithing, they (sometimes) get it – one way or another. “They have their reward.” If they pay tithing to hold a temple recommend so they can serve in a particular calling and be seen as righteous by others, they get it. “They have their reward.”

    They just don’t have God’s reward – or, at least, not His ultimate reward – if they haven’t been changed in the process to BE that reward.

  69. Sorry, I meant to tie that directly to efforts to be beautiful in some way. Same concept, I believe.

  70. Great discussion. Wanted to add a strange perspective:

    For single men, female beauty is a highly important aspect of the selection of an eternal companion. A sexually inexperienced LDS man will value beauty over all other traits, because he can only make this decision once, and doesn’t understand that the highest levels of sexual attractiveness do not always equate to the highest levels of sexual fulfillment. Many other factors are necessary for the latter.

    Milan Kundera said: “Many famous women lovers did not distinguish themselves at all by their physical perfection. Aesthetic racism is almost always a sign of inexperience. Those who have not made their way far enough into the world of amorous delights judge women only by what can be seen. But those who really know women understand that the eye reveals only a minute fraction of what a woman can offer us. When God commanded mankind be fruitful and multiply, he was thinking of the ugly as well as the beautiful. I am convinced I might add, that the aesthetic criterion does not come from God, but from the devil. In paradise no distinction was made between ugliness and beauty.”

    Don Juan is vilified in our society, but in this context, Don Juan is an ideal. He sleeps with, and gets immense pleasure out of all women: fat, thin, old, young, ugly, beautiful. His motivations are not selfish, but divine: to fully appreciate and come to know the multifaceted delights of all of God’s daughters. He does not chase after some elusive, media-influenced ideal of female beauty, but loves and embraces women as they are, and each one is valued as highly as the next.

    Although our church currently accepts only monogamy, I believe that LDS men should seek to look to the example of Brigham Young and other great polygamists, who married a variety of women: old, young, beautiful and ugly, and who fully embraced the amorous delights of them all.

    LDS men should recognize within each woman, regardless of her sexual attractiveness, her sexual possibilities, and practice discerning deeper aspects of her sexuality. I’m not suggesting that men should lust after them. But they should fully appreciate a woman for who she is: a woman.

    They should actively fight against the media’s portrayal of sexually idealized women, and pornography’s obsession with unattainable parameters of female eroticism.

    On my mission in Europe, I was shocked by the number of fellow Elders who were nauseated by the sight of armpit hair on otherwise beautiful women. Are Mormon men so chained to their cultural notions of beauty, that they puke at the sight of armpit hair? This is a terrible sin, and a terrible disservice to the women in our church, who will marry them.

  71. In a private email exchange Kathryn Soper shared her thoughts with me, which I think apropos to share. So with her permission I do so.

    I believe spiritual beauty is real, and I think it’s okay and even good for church leaders to affirm YW’s desire to be beautiful (because YW will _always_ want to be beautiful) and point out ways to develop their beauty in a spiritual sense. But it’s essential that they point out that this kind of beauty doesn’t have the same kind of attractive power as the other kinds of beauty. It’s a mistake to tell YW that if they’re chaste, that hot guy they’re crushing on will notice them and want them (indeed, want to have sex with them–which, if they then acquiesce to, makes them lose that glow!). The men they will attract will be YM who recognize and value spiritual beauty AND aren’t attractive enough themselves to get a physically beautiful girlfriend who’s also spiritually beautiful. The gorgeous virtuous YW will trump the average virtuous YW every time. And because YM are immature, and because men are, even in their mature state, very susceptible to physical beauty, the non-glowing gorgeous woman may very well trump the glowing non-gorgeous woman. I know that darkness has a way of making people ugly to those who are spiritually sensitive. That’s very real. But I think it would take some overt signs of distasteful qualities to cancel out the power of physical beauty.

    So, yeah, I think it’s fine to talk about inner beauty. It’s fine to want to be beautiful. But it’s a mistake to encourage YW to put all their eggs in the beauty basket–and that’s true whether we’re talking about physical beauty or spiritual beauty.

  72. Steve Evans says:

    “Wanted to add a strange perspective”

    Mission accomplished!

  73. 70 -

    First: What Steve said.

    Second: So you’re saying that physical attractiveness is an immature measure of a person’s worth, but a more mature Don Juan or Brigham Young type will recognize a woman’s true worth – her sexual prowess.

    Yeah, I think you totally get the point of the post. Way to raise the bar.

  74. re: 70
    WOW. Make FarAway a permablogger, Steve.
    Actually, he makes an interesting point. There is a certain irony to the fact that the spiritual descendants of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young evolved into, well, however you want to describe yourselves today.

  75. Sexual elitists?

  76. Steve Evans says:

    Sexual Tyrannosauruses?

  77. Since were going along with the threadjack:

    “LDS men should recognize within each woman, regardless of her sexual attractiveness, her sexual possibilities, and practice discerning deeper aspects of her sexuality.”

    1) Why?
    2) How?
    2a) Without confirmation, how does one know the sexy discernment is properly calibrated?
    3) Why?

  78. Steve Evans says:

    Kyle I believe a sexy e-meter is required for sexy discernment calibration tasks.

  79. And I’m just supposed to trust that the e-meter is correct? And who calibrates the e-meter??

  80. 70, Trying to get past the insulting and sexual objectification wrapped in a paper thin layer of appreciation for actual woman… processing… processing…

  81. Kyle 77 (2) – There is always gst’s approach

    79 – Lord Xenu, of course.

  82. by all means lets villify redefining beauty and instead follow Brigham young’s fine treatment of women and call all women wonderfully sexual beings. true bloggernacle success has been achieved.

  83. On Sexual Discernment and Objectification:

    Yes, I believe that women are sexual objects, in addition to being many other things, just as men are. I believe in practicing sexual discernment with men as well. I believe in perceiving, understanding, and reacting appropriately to the sexual signals we can discern in men and women.

    This doesn’t mean we lust after them. It only means we understand them on a deeper, more complete level. However, in our society, we are taught to avoid discerning people’s sexuality, unless it is overt and obvious, as in media portrayals. It’s a taboo.

    The result is that we have a very immature understanding and appreciation of human sexuality, and barf when we see women with armpit hair.

    When I see the 50 year old teacher of my gospel doctrine class as a woman, a sexual woman, with needs, desires, longing, parts and passions, experience, kissable, huggable, guarded, tense, guilt-ridden, fearful, then I stop being critical of her mediocre lessons, and begin to love her in a Christ-like way, with compassion, curiosity, desire to help, concern, sensitivity, complete respect, and adoration.

    I believe this is how Christ saw women, in a complete way that included everything about their sexuality, and I believe men should aspire seeing women in a complete way as well. As a people who seek after all things that are true, we should cultivate a more complete understanding of women, as exemplified by Walt Whitman:

    “Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the man that comes from woman,
    The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
    The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud, Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
    Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
    The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
    The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
    The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
    The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out,
    The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
    The thin red jellies within you, or within me—the bones, and the marrow in the bones,
    The exquisite realization of health;
    O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul,
    O I say now these are the Soul!”

  84. re: 75-76
    I tried to come up with a description of the current LDS ideal, but everything I could think of seemed a little disrespectful and that was not my intent. It’s probably fair to say that your sexual/marital/family model is defined very, very narrowly. How could this not lead LDS women to seek a specific type of physical beauty? Eternity depends on snagging the right husband and building a certain kind of family! Consider the images put out by Mormon media. They’re (potentially) just as psychologically problematic as anything Hollywood dishes out.

  85. re: 83
    Dang, that is one hot Gospel Doctrine class.

  86. I have to take a second to acknowledge FarAway’s ability to completely ignore mocking. Wow.

  87. Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing after all to have been released from teaching Gospel Doctrine. Not sure I could have stood there this Sunday, wondering which “saints” in the room were picturing my needs, desires, parts and passions, and speculating on my experience and kissibility. “Yes, you, the guy drooling over there, would you please read to us Matthew chapter 5, verse …”

  88. That Gospel Doctrine Instructor–she’s so hot right now!

  89. Mocking nothing! I was mocking, now I’m in awe, and possibly in love. Please keep going FarAway, I admire you, and want to run away with you. I may not be a woman, but I’m confident in your ability to recognize my male needs, desires, parts and passions.

  90. I nominate FarAway for a Niblet for most indecent comment evah!! Or maybe for armpit hair love.

  91. FarAway,
    I can’t take you seriously. But perhaps you meant sexual beings and not sexual objects.
    It is true that the overt sexualization of beautiful women has made average women viewed as almost asexual. All women are sexual beings, but they still don’t really want to be objectified, especially not in gospel doctrine class. That’s icky.

  92. Well, the language is pretty awkward, and “object” was a poor word choice, but his comments and reactions to it do seem to be enacting some of the key points of disfunctionality of our sexual discourse. He’s trying, it seems to me at least, to acknowledge female sexuality in all its varieties with all component parts without turning women into the sexual objects of a lustful male gaze, but because his comments are descriptively frank and involve a lot of pg-13 imagery, we’re treating him like Larry Flint. Is it possible to affirmatively and positively describe women as sexual beings without turning them in the process into sexual objects?

  93. Mommie Dearest says:

    Where did I get the notion that FarAway is a woman…she’s a guy? I can be so clueless.

  94. StillConfused says:

    Here is an interesting little tidbit. My daughter was going to go on a mission. Started doing the paperwork etc. She went in for the interviews and stuff (sorry if I am not using the right lingo — I don’t have first hand experience on the process). Anyway, she was told that she was way too pretty to serve a mission. Seriously, she was told that she would definitely not be sent overseas. I guess the statements make sense from a liability reduction perspective but they were really quite tacky and politically incorrect.

    It definitely seems that too much emphasis is being made on beauty in this religion. When you continue to focus on something, it just keeps it in the forefront.

  95. I’m learning all sorts of things about the gift of discernment. I didn’t know it was almost entirely sexual. huh. that sure does change things.

    hey troll..wanna cookie

  96. I have to admit, I had to read FarAway’s comments multiple times to see any degree of . . . anything good . . . in them, but I think Brad might be right – trying my hardest to be charitable and look for something to learn from those comments.

    I have to wash my brain out with soap now, but I think Brad’s last question in #92 is a good one – and I think it relates directly to conversations about beauty.

  97. Brad,
    There is a difference between acknowledging women as sexual beings, and listenting to them teach GD class while thinking about their sexual desires.

  98. 92: No, Brad, not in situations that have no legitimate sexual context, like Sunday School teacher. It would be out of place to affirmatively and positively describe women (or men) as skilled at preventing forest fires, or as consumers of natural fiber fabrics, or as the best volleyball player on the planet while they’re trying to contact a spiritually successful Sunday School class. Those otherwise positive factors are not only irrelevant in the context, but bringing them to mind — much less speaking or acting on them — entirely disrupts the legitimate purpose of the setting.

  99. and I do agree 100% that SS is NOT the palce for any discussion like that, just to make that point very clear.

  100. I don’t disagree that it’s inappropriate to the context and awkward or that he should have chosen an example that didn’t make it sound like he fixates on his teachers’ sexual desires during class, but there’s also something to be said for invoking an example from a non-sexualized setting. It’s not like he talked about appreciating the sexual complexity of a Ms. America contestant or of some gorgeous young woman fresh off her Temple Square mission. Regardless, treating the comments as a symptom of an obsessive sexual pathology is, in its own way, a nice performance of our shared pathologies, I think.

  101. 92: No, Brad, not in situations that have no legitimate sexual context, like Sunday School teacher.

    I bet his lesson on Song of Solomon was a wonder to behold.

    (BTW – I thought he was a she at first too)

  102. Thinking that the Sunday School teacher is sexy is perfectly alright in the single’s ward.

    Just sayin’.

  103. Thomas Parkin says:

    I remember Cecil, from Room With a View, about whom Emerson says ‘he is the type of man who cannot know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn’t know what a woman is. He thinks she is something to be put on display, like a picture, or a vase.’ An apt description of many men; men who have no desire to do any better, either, thank you. (And women. Women know neither themselves nor their husbands.) Sexuality plays a big part in that. Adam knew Eve. The marriage relationship allows for that comprehensive knowledge because of its sexual possibilities. At least FarAway seems to know something about this. Everyone wants to be known intimately and to be loved for being known. To not know this about another person is to not know them – since Jesus knows and love us all the way through, invoking Him was the right thing to say.

    A prophecy: Somewhere down the line the woman says ‘you don’t love me, you have no idea who or what I am.’ And she will be right, and the husband will go hide away in some church meeting or other.

  104. #70 was a bit uncomfortable to read, but, frankly, refreshing in this setting where usually only two points of view are given… repeatedly. It was weird, but I think he meant well and just might not be articulate enough. I think he was just trying to say that good sex is not a result of good looks. All sorts of good looking people are bad in bed and all sorts of unattractive people are having great sex, and that if men could see that sexuality is made up of the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual far more than the physical, and learn to spot what would make someone a passionate and open lover, they could end up being very happy. I think you can tell a lot about someone’s sexuality by knowing them on a non-physical level.

    Although, the polygamy comment made me ill, I gotta say. Unless the only point of it was to give kudos to men who were able to love all kinds of women.

  105. Thomas: Your prophecy: Yup. Lived it.

  106. My biggest problem with Far Away’s comment is that our GD teacher is a bald, 6’4″ 320+ lb male truck driver. I REALLY need to wash my brain out with soap.

  107. Eric Russell says:

    He’s a sexual being, CS Eric! Don’t you dare deny him his sexuality.

  108. “that all men really want or notice is a sexy woman. Or that they are more interested in the physical than the intellectual qualities of their partner.”

    Although I understand what this line implies and I understand how applicable this is given today’s distorted images created by media outles and marketing; I am a bit perplexed at the insistance of separating physical qualities from intellectual qualities.

    As if, people with intellectual qualities cannot have desirable physical qualities and viceversa. As if we lived in a world divided by two groups: dumb and pretty vs smart and ugly. Huh?

    To be completely honest, I think intelligence and knowing how to apply a well balanced approach to healthy living is what will most likely result in physical beauty and is what others (men and women) recognize as attractive or sexually desirable.

    I believe that for the most part, intelligence, or the ability to apply knowledge in a positive way towards making one’s life healthy and balanced, and beauty go hand in hand.

    In my personal experience, I have found that “intellectuals” that don’t like to exercise and keep fit, or don’t care to groom, or that don’t have proper hygene, or that refuse to make an effort to choose forms and colors that will suit them better when choosing clothing, hairstyles, etc. are the type of intellectuals that typically complain the opposite sex is not interested in people with “intellectual qualities.”

    If “intellectual qualities” are the only things to offer (and this intellect does not translate in a healthy and put together persona), then there is a lack of a healthy balance, and I cannot blame anyone for wanting a better balanced person.

    I think both men and women aspire for the whole package, men and women who are good people, who have good moral standards, who are intelligent, who have their act put together, who are healthy, and who are physically/sexually desirable. While people who require individuals to get ten points out of ten for all aspects is unrealistic and disfunctional, I am at the same time perplexed at the negative criticism against people to aspire to these things for themselves and for a partner/spouce/mate (when in reality probably everyone aspires to these things).

    Additionally, the correlation of beauty and righteousness is meshed in LDS teachings left and right. The most notorious and orthodox examples that come to mind are probably the descriptions and correlations Nephi makes regarding the appearance of people and their spiritual/moral status. And while I loath implications that the outward appearance of individuals is a reflection of their spiritual character, I do understand that better balanced people tend to look better because they put an effort into it.

    I believe the trully intellectual, the trully intelligent and the trully healthiliy balanced individuals tend to make an effort to be physically healthy and beautiful, and more often than not, they succeed.

  109. Manuel, not only do I not think that this:

    “that all men really want or notice is a sexy woman. Or that they are more interested in the physical than the intellectual qualities of their partner.”

    implies what you said it implies, I think you ended up accomplishing the implication yourself, to a degree.

    I don’t think that attention to health and looks has any correlation with how intellectual a person is, in that, the more intelligent they are, the more they will see the merits of taking good care of themselves. I think there’s often a correlation with how much money and time a person has to spend on that pursuit and that intelligent people just happen to have more money (better jobs). It doesn’t take a brainiac to see the benefits of being healthy or smokin’ hot.

    I do sometimes see/know intellectuals who talk about beauty as if any pursuit of it is vanity that discredits their seriousness over scholarship. It’s not all unfounded paranoia: Pretty people are often perceived as being stupider. But really, I think those intellectuals just wish they were prettier.

  110. MikeInWeHo says:

    “….better balanced people tend to look better because they put an effort into it.”

    That has been my observation as well, but how do you determine when someone has crossed the line from striving for health to an unhealthy obsession with some physical ideal?

  111. How about those of us who think it’s a bunch of bull s*&t that men “are more interested in the physical than the intellectual qualities of their partner”? I know plenty of men who dated/married women that I don’t think are that physically attractive. The insistance that men are they way this quote describes contributes to the problem that’s being described in the OP.

  112. That would be “insistence”.

    Bad speelers of the wurld untie!

  113. On a social scale they’re very important. But do we need to emphasize that?
    I do see plenty of problems with people deciding attractive people are “worldly, materialistic, overly concerned about their looks,” which is usually not true, and how who gets to decide that anyhow? I’m not saying downplay it.

    It’s an interesting question though since everyone seems to be looking at the problems of those who aren’t quite as high on social beauty scale. However I think these same social and biological values affect the beautiful (and in a way the smart) as well. I knew a lot of beautiful women who were pretty dang insecure simply because they never knew if someone was saying something just because they were pretty. They were valued for their beauty so much that often their other attributes became devalued. In addition other women were often pretty mean simply because they either were jealous or else because they had all this cultural training that obviously anyone who looked like that was vain and materialistic.

    I remember one guy from a ward I was in who went away to BYU and came back with an extremely attractive wife. The wife was basically treated as if she had a scarlet letter by all the other young adult women in the ward (both married and unmarried). While I can’t claim to know all that was going on, a lot of it seemed like jealousy and just outright mean unwarranted attributions of vanity.

  114. but how do you determine when someone has crossed the line from striving for health to an unhealthy obsession with some physical ideal?

    I don’t think you can easily. Which is why I’d like to see a lot less judgement about people who buy makeup, get lasik, whiten their teeth, exercise a lot, or even get plastic surgery. There’s this knee jerk reaction by some that this is obviously vanity whereas it’s anything but clear to me it typically is.

    That’s not to deny a lot of vanity around. Just that I don’t think those characteristics allow one to judge it.

  115. Thomas Parkin says:

    “how do you determine when someone has crossed the line from striving for health to an unhealthy obsession with some physical ideal?”

    When they start calling that striving ‘intelligence’?

  116. Clark,
    I’ve seen beautiful women treated terribly as well. Being beautiful=/= a sense of self worth. I do think intellingence is valued almost to the same degree as beauty, at least in some subcultures.

    I was listening to this http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201102170850/b
    today and it highlighted the way family can influence how someone’s body image–far more than media. So go ahead, tell your daughter she’s beautiful. I don’t think it will make her focus on it more, but less actually.

    JacobM,

    I’m afraid I poorly placed Elizabeth’s comments. She did not mean that. That has not been her experience, exactly. It’s just the reality that for women that thought does sometimes occur to us.

  117. MMiles, I’ve certainly been part of subcultures where any even mention of physical attractiveness was seen as horrible whereas purported intellectualism was held up as the standard of worth. What these people didn’t seem to understand was that by and large intelligence is just as much a result of the genetic lottery as was beauty. And both can be just as enhanced by effort.

    I don’t mind telling my daughter she’s cute or pretty. I just don’t want to do it too much. By the same token I don’t want to tell my kids they are smart. I try to really praise them when they do smart things but emphasize that much more their effort. There’s plenty of people with intellectual talents who never develop them because so much came easy. Whereas people who were perhaps not as naturally talented did far more academically or the like simply because they had to work at it.

    Talent without effort never accomplishes as much. While this is true of so called intellectual qualities it can be somewhat true of other things as well including being pretty.

    I really liked what someone mentioned earlier about balance. Interestingly Nate has a post up at T&S where he is praising the Aristotilean virtues which often have that sense of balance running through them.

  118. Oh good! This thread has pretty much run it’s course. Go read something else people!

  119. There are other possible explanations for the higher plastic surgeon concentration besides the Mormon message to YW.

    In no particular order:

    1) Mormon women are more likely to be married and have children than non-Mormons. And when they have children, they have more of them. They can’t hit the gym as easily as a single woman can. So they take the easier, more efficient route: surgery.

    2) Temple marriages are more enduring than non temple marriages. If a non-member divorces and remarries, or simply hits the singles scene, they get to have multiple partners over their life. A temple married Mormon is “stuck” with the same spouse. So plastic surgery may be an attempt to keep things exciting in the marriage.

    3) Mormon culture trends towards uniformity, regardless of whether that uniformity is doctrinally justified. If somehow plastic surgery takes root once, it can easily spread throughout. If a bishop’s wife becomes “enhanced”, it may be viewed as tacit approval and even encouragement to get enhanced yourself.

  120. clark, there have been studies done that show praise of something a child can control (ie hard work) helps them devleop their self esteem and is far more motivating than praise of things they can’t control (beauty, intelligence etc).

  121. omoplata, I think a person who thinks she needs plastic surgery is more likely to think she needs it after getting divorced and being “on the market” again (love that idiom) than while being married forever to someone you think is never going to leave you. And “get to have” multiple partners over their life? Oh, yes. Divorce and remarriage is a real party. I was considering plastic surgery to spice things up but instead I decided to get a divorce. Thank goodness it’s so wonderful out here as a divorcée!

  122. If viewing me as some sort of pedagogical sex object will get people out of the halls and into my Gospel Doctrine class, I’m more than happy to play that role for folks. I believe in magnifying my calling, which is why I will be teaching in my best Barry White voice — complete with background music — starting this Sunday.

  123. Natasha,
    I see what you say, but I disagree. She uses the first rule of fallacy when she states “all men really want or notice is a sexy woman.” juxtaposed with the following “…more interested in the physical than the intellectual…” creating a clear divide between what “all men really want.”
    Regarding the following statement:
    “I don’t think that attention to health and looks has any correlation with how intellectual a person is, in that, the more intelligent they are, the more they will see the merits of taking good care of themselves.”
    I can see how other may not see this. That’s is what I see in my personal experience, but I admit, I do have my own definitions of what a smart approach to living is that I have developed for myself and that have had a tremendous positive impact in my life and the lives of loved ones because they simply work for us.
    Furthermore, I do tend to surround myself (intentionally) with people who think the same way, therefore, I concede the correlation you don’t see and that I do seen may be part of the way I have consciously decided to view the world and the people around me. As I posted the comment, I was not trying to override other approaches, rather I just wanted to share the one approach I know works per my experience.
    And no, I am not accomplishing my own implication, if anything I am reversing it, perhaps with another equally biased paradigm in your eyes, but completely the opposite.
    The other problem I am noticing here are the unfortunate connotations some have created for the words “exercising and keeping fit” that correlates the terms(erroneously and in a deceptive and unhealthy way) with ” an unhealthy obsession with some physical ideal.” See comment 115 and Mr Parkin’s tongue in cheek response to my comment. I will stand firmly that this is an incorrect approach and a false, dangerous and irresponsible correlation.
    I agree, we cannot possibly dismiss the current problematic of people being obsessed with some physical ideal, even worse with unrealistic physical ideals of distorted images propagated by the media. Nevertheless, it is also dangerous and irresponsible to call any effort to be fit and healthy “an obsession.” That’s just lame and a poor excuse to stay away from the fear of actually facing what would be a challenge and conquering it. I have seen it again and again, low self esteem “intellectuals” who conquer that challenge, become fit and healthy and boom! Their lives take off like an unstoppable rocket. Their moaning and whining about the opposite sex and how unfair they judge others suddenly mellows.
    In my experience, people who have their act put together and live a well balanced life (nourishing all aspects of being alive: intellect, spirit, physique, etc) are happier and are the ones who seem to appear more desirable to the opposite sex than the rest. I speak of my own experience, but I would be surprised if my experience has been radically different than anyone else’s.

  124. waterspout says:

    Perhaps we ought to concentrate on teaching the youth (& ourselves) to not be deceived by the appearance of things.

  125. We do a pretty good job of that waterspout, IMO.

  126. If we want to hear a change in how we, and church leaders, talk about woman, and shift the focus from a woman’s appearance to her intrinsic self-worth, we’re going to have to change our thinking first.
    Sadly, women are still valued more for their appearance than their accomplishments or inner characteristics. Women are viewed not as independent beings, but always in relational terms, as a wife, as a mother, as an ornament to somebody else’s life. And for women especially, marriage, not the development of a righteous character, is seen as the ultimate marker of success.

  127. jane,
    I think men would argue that for them marriage as a marker of righteous character is far more significant than for women. Women are given freedom to develop righteous character independent of men, I’m not sure the opposite is so true for men.

  128. “Women are given freedom to develop righteous character independent of men”

    Really? I think we’re pretty ambivalent about most forms of character development for women, except for beauty and chastity, and that’s why we use the word “beauty” so much to describe what women should be like. Develop your intelligence? Yes, but don’t become an intellectual. Develop spiritual gifts? Yes, but only if they can be exercised in the narrow channels prescribed by Correlation. Develop your business acumen? Maybe, but be ready to toss your career aside the moment you get pregnant. Develop independence? Only if you’re unbeautiful enough to fail to attract a mate, in which case we will regard your character not as “righteous” so much as pitiable.

  129. It’s barely ironic that this ad shows up on my FB profile tonight: “Our goal is to help women uncover their true beauty. Come start the process of creating your most beautiful you!”

  130. Kristine,
    Maybe. But it’s seen as a much bigger spiritual failing for men to fail to marry than for women.

  131. re: 130
    Perhaps, but that’s probably because demographically it’s like a game of musical chairs (and men are the chairs!). Past a certain age, there are substantially more single women than available men. So it follows that the culture would more harshly judge unmarried men; they are without excuse.

  132. I think men would argue that for them marriage as a marker of righteous character is far more significant than for women.
    But that isn’t even what Jane (126) said. She said that Marriage is a marker of *success* for women, and that righteous character is not required for a woman to be thought of as successful.
    All we ask of women is to get married, because that is what women are for, to be adornment or accessories in the lives of men. If a woman achieves that then she has succeeded.
    We ask far more of men before calling them successful: marriage, and righteousness, and intelligence, and leadership, and on and on.

  133. Starfoxy,
    My bad. That isn’t what she said.

  134. “All we ask of women is to get married, because that is what women are for, to be adornment or accessories in the lives of men. If a woman achieves that then she has succeeded.”

    That also isn’t accurate.

  135. Eric Russell says:

    “we’re pretty ambivalent about most forms of character development for women, except for beauty and chastity”

    “All we ask of women is to get married, because that is what women are for, to be adornment or accessories in the lives of men. If a woman achieves that then she has succeeded.”

    Who is ‘we’? Is it your grandfather? Is it one guy sitting on the back row in Sunday School that made a comment one time that you’re still offended by?

    I think a review of statements from General Authorities over the last 20 years would demonstrate that both of these comments are wildly false and, if possible, a survey attitudes among church membership at large would show that’s it’s false among 99% of the population.

    Finally, I’m really confused about what such exageration and fabrication is intended to accomplish in the context of a conversation such as this.

  136. Elder Faust’s quoted talk does emphasize women getting an education, etc.

  137. needs to learn time management says:

    I always read BCC and rarely comment, but since I spent my ENTIRE kids’ nap time reading these super interesting posts and comments yesterday, I thought I’d grace the blog with my presence and share a slightly related (and fantastic) link. Definitely worth the six minutes.

    http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/flawed

  138. The pragmatics of Mormon discourse and culture effectively mean that encouragements of women toward forms of self-actualization other than wifehood/motherhood (i.e. education) are structurally exceptional. They’re meant as a stopgap for exceptional cases and they’re framed as exceptional—exceptions which prove the rule. Women are not encouraged to seek education for its own sake (much less for the sake of a professional career), but either as an insurance policy against a potentially deficient or non-existent male provider/presider, or to make them better moms. It doesn’t really matter that women are given some measure of encouragement at cultivating values other than beauty and chastity and motherliness and home economics if the other values are consistently and repeatedly subordinated to these four. To claim that they aren’t, at least as a general, predominating rule, is either head-in-the-sand self-delusion, or straight-up prevarication.

  139. Eric Russell says:

    Brad, given that the highest value for all members is one that emulates Christ in his character, the claim the such a value is subordinated by “beauty and chastity and motherliness and home economics” is patently false.

  140. Not when we teach women that they emulate Christ’s character by being all the things we encourage them to be. You’re playing word games and ignoring the factual realities of our discourse on women and femininity. Other than just calling agreed upon virtues (like kindness and niceness and patience and whatnot) Christlike and encouraging all Church members to cultivate them, what actual aspects of Christ’s ministry do we encourage women to emulate? Healing? Leadership? Speaking as one having authority? What traits do we encourage them to actively develop that aren’t meant to serve their ability to find a husband, to mother, to be appealing, supportive wives, and to be generally subservient to male leadership?

  141. Put more directly: it’s not at all patently false because we teach women that beauty and chastity and motherliness and home economics—in women—are Christlike attributes.

  142. Eric Russell says:

    Brad, you said “cultivating values other than…” Aside from developing a professional career for its own sake and the execution of priesthood responsibilites (none of which I consider a value anyways) I have no idea what values you are talking about.

  143. #137- I liked that little film. Thanks.

  144. No, I don’t much imagine you do…

  145. …because, when it comes to women cultivating values, what could I possibly have in mind besides mothering and beauty and chastity and homemaking (and stuff like Church administration, teaching and interpreting doctrine, receiving revelation which applies to others, developing non-homemaking-related talents and abilities, insuring individual self-reliance, &c, &c, which obviously doesn’t count).

  146. Brad, the recently broadcast training sessions on the CHI were quite enlightening with regard to your questions – as were some of the changes in the handbooks.

    Do we still have a long way to go? Absolutely. However, this isn’t my father’s church in many ways – and I am positive my children will be saying that in a few years directly relative to this discussion and your questions.

  147. But the arithmetic logic is really quite inescapable: OF COURSE we don’t just teach women to cultivate beauty and chastity and motherliness/homemaking. That’s patently false. We teach them to reach for their full Christ-like potential (in such realms as beauty, chastity, mothering, and homemaking, but NOT doing what the priesthood does or selfishly seeking a career for its own sake). Check and mate.

  148. Don’t worry Ray. My tactics here have clearly devolved from sweeping criticisms of what Church leaders teach women to a more focused criticism of Eric’s smug but substanceless defense of it.

  149. Brad, all I can say is that you are completely wrong.

    As we all know, the errand of angels is given to women. They are already 99% Christ-like. If you don’t belive that, you haven’t been listening to BYU Women’s Conference.

  150. #121 – I wasn’t implying that getting divorced and having multiple partners was necessarily a positive thing, but merely a cause and effect: that non-members typically have many sexual partners over their lifetime and there is “change of scenery” inherent to that. A temple marriage doesn’t have that change-of-scenery, so perhaps surgery is a way (good or bad) to inject that change.

  151. omoplata, that’s even more horrifying than some of the other reasons for plastic surgery we’ve discussed. I mean, really, it’s ok for women to risk death and have their bodies cut open for the sake of a “change of scenery” for their partners?????

  152. #151 – Good heavens, who said anything about it being OK? I was merely trying to explain a possible explanation of the phenomenon. Perhaps “change of scenery” is too flippant, but the point was that marriages need to have excitement injected into the mundane daily routine. Some mistakenly believe that surgery is that excitement. I’m simply trying to come up with a cause for the high rates of surgery in Utah. I’m certainly not advocating it.

  153. Eric Russell says:

    Brad, that’s right. Women don’t hold the priesthood and are not instructed in the performance of preisthood duties. No one disagrees with that.

    I interpreted your use of the word ‘values’ in the traditional aristotelian sense, but you are evidently using it more broadly.

    And the ad hom is unnecessary.

  154. I am saying that LDS women are encouraged by leaders to cultivate a sense of purpose and self-worth grounded in physical beauty, chastity, birthing and nurturing children, and homemaking. And nothing else. That all the values, however defined (Aristotelian or just good old fashioned YW Values), we encourage them to seek and cultivate are subordinated to these values, which, because they’re girls, we tell them are also Christ-like characteristics. This is what we do, and when you claimed that was patently false, that was, well, patently false. You can reword my claim in the form of “well, we don’t encourage women to do what should be the job of men/priesthood”, but that doesn’t alter the truth of the claim. Yes, we agree that women are not encouraged to cultivate the abilities/values/talents which Church leaders believe should be cultivated by men only. We also, apparently, agree that we believe we, in the very process, are somehow encouraging them to emulate Jesus. But it appears that only one of us finds these points of agreement to be at all troubling.

  155. And next time someone makes a claim (call it claim X), if what you really mean is “Claim X is true and it’s totally cool”, don’t say “Claim X is patently false.”

  156. Kristine, I thought most women who get “cut open” don’t do it for their partners, they do it for themselves, to feel sexier or less self-conscious. In other words, it spices things up for them.

    While I have heard of women getting cut up to try to save a failing marriage, I’ve never heard of it working. And, the few times I’ve heard guys talking about it, they’ve been complaining about having to pay for it or expressing suspicion as to why their wives suddenly want it.

  157. Eric Russell says:

    “I am saying that LDS women are encouraged by leaders to cultivate a sense of purpose and self-worth grounded in physical beauty, chastity, birthing and nurturing children, and homemaking. And nothing else.”

    Patently false, Brad. Women, like men, are encouraged to develop Christ-like characteristics grounded in a sense of being a child of god and to become more like Christ. That women receive additional instruction in topics related to motherhood is irrelevant.

    And considering that the discussion has been purely of a nature of what is rather that what ought to be, it’s a rather bizarre assumption to make about what I do or do not find troubling.

  158. If it can be done without the usual squash-a-stinkbug tone, could one of you gents, either of you, list a few specific abilities/values/talents that men are taught (outside of performance of priesthood duties and providing) that women are not taught? I think there must be some, but in my limited stinkbug view I can’t identify anything specific at the moment.

  159. Ardis, see the collected works of Lord Baden-Powell for a start.

  160. Also the 2nd half of the CHI.

  161. “Women, like men, are encouraged to develop Christ-like characteristics grounded in a sense of being a child of god and to become more like Christ.”

    You mean like being nice and stuff? Why don’t you take a glance at the Personal Progress manual. We teach women that they fill the measure of their potential to emulate Jesus precisely by being beautiful, chaste, fertile, and skilled homemakers. Everything we teach them leads them in the direction of fulfilling one of these ends. Men are encouraged, from an early age, to pursue all manner of knowledge and skills (seriously, is there anything that doesn’t fall under the rubric of priesthood duties and providing besides childbirth?), they’re taught that many of the best, most interesting, even important things they’ll do in life will be away from home, and that virtually any kind of educational/professional accomplishment which they seek and magnify will all be in fulfillment of their manly priesthood responsibilities.

  162. “(outside of performance of priesthood duties and providing)”

    Kristine, please elaborate. That isn’t exactly specific.

  163. “Providing” isn’t specific, either, and allows men a vast realm of possible experience that is foreclosed to women by the injunction that they should primarily nurture. “Performance of priesthood duties” is a likewise large and significant realm–it’s not like women are merely excluded from performing ordinances (as if that were a slight matter!!).

  164. Brad, in the Church, both male and female exaltation is tied to marriage and sealing. It’s also tied, however, to becoming Christlike. Iow, “exaltation” is much less something we “get” than something we “become”. So, the highest for which man OR woman can hope is tied to becoming – and it’s tied to becoming “with” someone else, as part of a united couple.

    That’s not much consolation for single men and women in the here and now, but it’s the exact same message in theory for all heterosexual members. (No, I’m not going to write a dissertation on that wording.)

    The issue is the purpose of becoming an exalted being **in the here and now** – and I believe, if push came to shove, the answer would be that anything that distracts from the process of becoming is not “valued” in the Church as anything that assists in that process, regradless of the sex of the person in question. Therefore, “No success can compensate for failure in the home,” and, “The greatest work . . . own home” both were said to the men in the Church to blunt the “natural man” tendency to value “educational / professional accomplishment which they seek and magnify” as more important than their home responsibilities.

    I agree with you that there is a discrepancy between the practical applications of traditional roles and how they play into feelings of self-worth – and I agree that the discrepancy is important to admit and address, but your last statement in #161 simply is, again, hyperbolic and inaccurate. It also serves to obfuscate the real issues that need to be discussed, imo.

  165. Except it’s not, Ray. Not in practice. We pay occasional lip service to the potentially valuable role that men play in the home and not neglecting that in favor of professional success, but we tell men that their duty is to provide and we reward the good providers, regardless of how many hours they spend outside the home, with positions of authority. Because providing, in our framework, is success in the home, and any priesthood leader worth his salt would tell a man who is great with the kids and teaches them and plays with them and has strong bonds with them and pulls his weight with the housework but doesn’t have a job that he’s failing in the home. So we say it’s all about the home for both sexes, but also women should feel free to educate themselves a bit if they feel like it, and cultivate whatever Christ-like attributes will make them into ideal helpmeets to their husbands and incubator-nurturers fo their husband’s righteous posterity, just as long as they don’t get it in their pretty heads to do what men are supposed to be doing, which is having equal status in the home they preside in plus enjoying success in their homes by working successful jobs, plus stuff like church administration and receiving revelation and teaching correct doctrine, etc. But we’re real, real progressive like because sometimes our leaders tell the women that it’s okay for them to get education as long as they don’t let it go to their head or lead them to desire the kinds of professional fulfillment that the poor men are forced to endure by virtue of being saddled with the priesthood.

  166. #161 – Regarding Christlike attributes that we are supposed to emulate, I have to admit, I typically don’t associate Christlike attributes to leadership and strength. I associate meekness, kindness, charity, patience, virtue…the “gentle” attributes to Christ, regardless of audience, male or female. I see Christ carrying around little lambs on his shoulders, not a bullwhip to cast out the money changers.

    So I don’t think we cherry pick the “soft” attributes of Christ to teach the YW. They’re getting the full Christ treatment. Its just that we don’t teach or emphasize much else.

    However, that lack of emphasis in Church doesn’t mean YW aren’t getting those elsewhere. Most go to public school and will receive vocational and educational emphasis there. I haven’t read or heard a single modern talk or article blasting public education for emphasis on career development for girls.

  167. You should try offering to teach a career development course to the young women in your stake. I bet your offer will be embraced enthusiastically. You definitely won’t hear that you’re risking their futures or teaching them things they won’t need. You definitely won’t be told that the time and resources would be better spent helping them learn modest dress and how to bake something or tie a quilt.

  168. #165

    I don’t know where you go to church, but it’s no ward or stake I’ve ever been in…

  169. #165 – Uh, you’re going off the deep end a bit there…there hasn’t been a single modern talk or lesson that rewards male providing in the home. Look through your EQ manual. The same one that the RS learns from. I see lessons on provident living, living within your means. There is nothing about how providing money is the start and finish of a man’s duty. In fact, I’ve heard many talks and lessons to the contrary.

    And there is certain no condemnation by leaders on working wives, which we have plenty of in my ward.

  170. Brad, the condescension and hyperbole in your response to me (“But we’re real, real progressive like because sometimes our leaders tell the women that it’s okay for them to get education as long as they don’t let it go to their head or lead them to desire the kinds of professional fulfillment that the poor men are forced to endure by virtue of being saddled with the priesthood.”) isn’t apprecaited – especially since I’ve said in this thread and lots of other places that we have a long way to go in the Church with regard to the issues we’re discussing.

    Dialing up the rhetoric and alienating those who agree with most of what you say isn’t very productive. I’m bowing out now.

  171. Looks like the stinkbug treatment from Steve and Kristine is all the help I’m gonna get. Thanks lots.

  172. Ardis If it can be done without the usual squash-a-stinkbug tone, could one of you gents, either of you, list a few specific abilities/values/talents that men are taught (outside of performance of priesthood duties and providing) that women are not taught? I think there must be some, but in my limited stinkbug view I can’t identify anything specific at the moment.

    I have to agree with you Ardis. In terms of the general characteristics taught to women it seems to me they are all taught to men too. Even childrearing has a lot of lessons in PH manuals.

    While we can debate about the relative worth of things taught in scouts versus young women’s activities (and I’d probably agree) I don’t think those are generally taken to be Christian attributes. Further there’s a lot of issues of just putting Young Women in a mandatory scout program ala the Young Men. Not the least of which being a lot of young women don’t want even rudimentary camping. I think there’s a lot to say for dealing with the range of desired activities of both young men and young women. But that’s really a different story.

    Brad I am saying that LDS women are encouraged by leaders to cultivate a sense of purpose and self-worth grounded in physical beauty, chastity, birthing and nurturing children, and homemaking. And nothing else.

    You know even a rudimentary trip to the search feature of LDS.org would falsify this claim for you Brad. Take this quote to the Young Women’s session of GC by Pres. Hinkley.

    Among other things, I must remind you that you must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable.

  173. Unless you can make the case that the quote you furnish does not fit into the stopgap, exception-proves-the-rule logic I described in #138, then it’s not exactly a falsification.

    The only thing more insulting and harmful than doing what we’re doing is pretending we aren’t.

  174. Brit clark, there have been studies done that show praise of something a child can control (ie hard work) helps them devleop their self esteem and is far more motivating than praise of things they can’t control (beauty, intelligence etc).

    Yes. It was actually because of reading those studies before I got married that led me to my current strategy. I don’t want to completely neglect praise for the other characteristics. But I definitely want to focus on the things they can control.

  175. BTW – while doing a quick LDS.org search to see how silly Brad’s comments were (and Brad I’m not going to do your homework for you – go do a LDS.org search and see the context) I came upon this quote that I think Steve and Ardis might find funny. (Might make a great future post at your blog Ardis) This is from Elder Faust in 2000.

    As we look to the future it is interesting to look to the past. In 1916 every female over age 14 was a Beehive girl until she entered Relief Society. There were no Mia Maids or Laurels. A Beehive girl had a possible 374 requirements to earn her individual award. Some of them were:

    1. “Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season [and] know their habits.” Now that would be a challenge not to get stung!
    2. “Cover 25 miles on snowshoes on any six days.” Now that would be hard to do in Florida.
    3. “During two weeks keep the house free from flies, or destroy at least 25 flies daily.”
    4. “Without help or advice care for and harness a team at least five times [and] drive 50 miles during one season.” One time as a barefoot boy I was putting a harness on a horse and he stepped on my toe.
    The last one I would mention is: “Clear sage-brush, etc., off of one-half acre of land.” 3 I have helped clear sagebrush. It can be a hot, miserable task because you have to burn the sagebrush, but the smoke smells good to me.

  176. Brad, I don’t think my daughters or the girls in their seminary classes would agree with your take. But maybe they’re all just brainwashed.

  177. 172: Really, I’m not making a case for agreement or disagreement. I’m sincerely asking for examples of what men are taught that women are not, or at least what some perceive as not being taught to women. Clark says there are none; Kristine says they are legion (the list is handbook-length). I think there must be some, but I can’t name them.

    Similarly, there must be some things taught to women that are for all women, not just for women as wives and mothers, yet I can’t list examples. I *know* there must be some, because I get something out of church somehow, despite teachings seeming to be all family all the time. I’m trying to figure out what it is I do get from church even as I seem to be excluded from everything.

  178. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, I wasn’t kidding with the Baden-Powell. Scouting and outdoorsmanship is a key area where youth get very very different teachings and experience depending on their sex.

  179. Brad is depressing the hell out of me. Because he’s merely perfectly articulating how I’ve felt for the past fourteen years. The lack of choices kinda helped to seriously mess up my life and I still feel defensive toward the church for it and wounded. I really struggle to believe we’ve got our treatment of women all square and right.

  180. If only Pres. Faust were accurate in his history, Clark! Beehive girls in 1916 and for years afterward were not Beehive girls as we think of them today. Beehive was not the church’s program for girls in default of all other things — it was a short program of primarily outdoor activities for the summer only (snowshoeing came much later), and was open to adult women (including Relief Society women) as well as to girls. It’s not as though the girls were keeping bees and clearing sagebrush as church training, any more than Boy Scouts are tying knots and pitching tents as priesthood duty. Outside of the summer season, the girls were having weekly spiritual and social and mental training, pretty much as we do it now.

  181. Sorry, Steve, I thought we were talking about religious training, in contrast to recreational or “character building” values. In that case, maybe Pres. Faust’s history (although not very accurate) is directly relevant after all.

  182. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, I wager that Pres. Monson considers Scouting a form of religious training. If you look at recent talks concerning scouting this association is made very clear.

  183. You have anything directed toward adult men and women?

  184. Once a scout, always a scout, Ardis. An adult male who can’t tie a double-half-hitch in under 8 seconds should be stripped of his Eagle.

  185. #177 “Really, I’m not making a case for agreement or disagreement. I’m sincerely asking for examples of what men are taught that women are not, or at least what some perceive as not being taught to women.”

    This is probably too obvious to mention, but for the past 10 years or so PH and RS have used the same lesson manual, which makes it kind of hard to argue that the Church is giving men and women are vastly different courses of study.

  186. #185

    Argh, spurious “are” in the final sentence.

  187. Except for those six years in the youth program.

  188. There could be another reason not specifically mentioned in the essay for the number of plastic surgeons in Utah. I am in the final year of medical school (not in Utah) and know first hand that many LDS medical students go into lucrative specialties: orthopedics, plastics, ophthalmology, radiology… Many of them end up wanting to move back to Utah when their training is done. Hence, lots of plastic surgeons in Utah. Why are there so many dentists in Utah? Because for some reason Utahns are obsessed with teeth? No, it’s because right around 8-10% of dental school students are LDS and move back to Utah. If they can break into the market, that is. It is totally saturated.

  189. Ardis,
    I got embroiled in a church lesson once where someone was insisting that only Eagle Scouts should be allowed on missions. I’m not sure that there is a clear divide between Scouting and the Church for some of our adherents.

  190. It’s not just the Youth Program. It’s Primary. Every. Single. Week.

  191. Gosh, Clark, I’d engage you in who-can-find-more-lds.org-quotes-to-back-up-their-position but I’m so lacking in confidence in my victory that I’m not even going to try. I’m sure that quotations emphasizing the importance of education for women vastly, vastly outnumber the kind of sentiment that affirms my position. And I’m certainly not going to play the I’ll-see-your-cherry-picked-outlying-piece-of-counter-evidence-and-raise-you-a-Family-Proclamation-and-a-Personal-Progress-manual card.

  192. Ouch.

  193. So is this whole thing about never having grown up? Gender problems in the church are nothing more than too many of you (not me, but YOU, since I have no contact whatever with youth programs) stuck in the “ooo, they have cooties!” stage?

  194. It’s not just the Youth Program. It’s Primary. Every. Single. Week.

    Okay, that’s a bit much. I certainly see your point, but to suggest that it’s every single week just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

  195. Natasha, that’s the squash-the-stinkbug tactic I mentioned earlier.

  196. Ardis, how about you email me an Ardis-to-English dictionary since I’m not naturally fluent and plus there’s them reading comprehension skills with which I struggle so much.

  197. #187 “Except for those six years in the youth program.”

    Good point. For fun I checked the table of contents for this years’ YM and YW lesson manuals (book 3 of the three-book series) and sorted the topics (very roughly) into categories. Here are the numbers of lessons by rough category:

    General doctrinal topics (faith, repentance, etc.)
    YM: 38 YW: 26

    Priesthood
    YM: 5 YW: 2

    Marriage
    YM: 3 YW: 3

    General well-being (health, personal development, etc.)
    YM: 1 YW: 6

    Career/life skills
    YM: 0 YW: 3

    Home/family
    YM: 0 YW: 7

    Honoring womenhood
    YM:1 YW: 0

    So, just looking at topics, it appears that the YM lessons tend to skew more to doctrine and theory, the YM lessons more to practical. The most obvious difference is the emphasis on home and family topics (7 lessons for YW versus 0 for YM).

  198. Unless you count the health and personal development–which are on things like grooming. Also, the titles don’t really tell you want is the lesson. You might be surprised what pops up under some titles.

    Folks, I think it’s time to shoot this thread.

  199. Natasha, I was simply agreeing with your “ouch!” No need to be … whatever.

  200. Ardis, it was ambiguous. I mean, is “stinkbug” really supposedto be something I understand? Could have been directed at me especially given your last reply to me in days of yore.

    While Brad’s comment was snotty and painful I confess I liked it. Don’t worry: I’m suitably ashamed since it went against everything I stand for. :-)

  201. Sorry, Natasha, I don’t remember a previous exchange. But I’m sure I was, um, brilliantly cutting and that you must have, you know, deserved it, because of course I never, ever, ever go too far. Sorry for whatever it was.

  202. This ends now.

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