Real People sin

I was reminded recently that there is a folk belief amongst us Saints that I find particularly pernicious. It isn’t something that comes up all that frequently in Sunday School, but I’ve encountered it in more than one Mormon forum, usually whispered to emphasize the sacred and deep-doctrine status of said belief. I’m also hesitant to bring it up here, because it relies on temple language for its authority. But it occurred to me that people might want to use it to comfort or counsel people who are upset with the gender imbalance in the church. I’m convinced that it will only make things worse if used for this purpose.

The belief is this: Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree. Sometimes people will add qualifiers, perhaps unconsciously recognizing the inherent lunacy of this belief. They may say that women must be endowed or be mothers to automatically qualify. They may say that they have to be sealed (that one, at least, has a foundation in scripture, although it has been explicitly denounced by at least one modern Apostle and, if true, it would apply equally to everyone being sealed). As I am not a believer in this abomination, I can’t say exactly why people believe this, but I have some ideas.

First, it is a way of explaining away gender inequities in priesthood application and administration. Sure, men have more power, but they also might not make it to the celestial kingdom. They have to use their power wisely and righteously, otherwise they will be terrestrial (or telestial) material. Secondly, the act of childbirth is the closest any person comes, spiritually or physically, to the act of the atonement in mortality. Because women can give life with their bodies, by means of shedding their own blood, this associated sacrifice is sufficient for them to earn entry into the celestial kingdom. Thirdly, women are just different from men, and by different, we mean better in practically every way, by which we mean they don’t have a male libido. Except when they have too much of one (the bed of a harlot being the path to hell and all that).

“But, John,“ you may say, “what is wrong with this doctrine? If God wants to give women (or certain women) a free pass to heaven, what is wrong with that?” Good question! Stop a moment and consider to whom else we tend to believe that God offers these free passes? Children. Animals (wild and tame). Missionaries. None of these are real people.

A real person is a person we believe culpable for their own mistakes. We respect them when they succeed, because we understand what it is to be tempted by sin and how hard it is to overcome temptation. We pity and comfort them when they fail, because we have also caved in to temptation. Real people understand us and we understand them. Real people are subjects in their own life, capable of choosing right and wrong and, therefore, valuable for their own sake. The choices of real people matter.

The choices of children and animals don’t matter in the same manner. We don’t really blame the child for stealing a bit of candy; we are more likely to blame the parent (the real person). We may kill a dog that bites, but we will charge the owner for the execution. Children and animals should be treated with compassion, love, respect, and dignity, children because of the potential that they represent and the animals because of the potential that we represent, but we don’t treat any of them as real people.

Missionaries are, obviously, a special case. Many missionaries have sacrificed greatly to serve missions and I’ve no desire to minimize their efforts. But missionaries aren’t real people because of how they have devoted themselves to Christ. We don’t treat them like regular people. We give them way more authority than we’d give regular 20-year-olds; we also trust them far more than we’d trust regular 20-year-olds. Obviously, missionaries are capable of sinning, but, for all but the greatest breaches of trust, we seem prepared to offer them a branch of forgiveness longer than what we extend to our fellow saints. They are like monks and nuns, separate from the world of real people, engaged in their own parallel lives.

If our choices don’t matter, if they aren’t capable of demonstrating a decision between eternal life and the second death, then, at most, we are actors in someone else’s play. To say that men can sin and that women can’t is to say that women are pretty much decoration in the lives of the men around them. Important decoration (the species must go on), but not full human beings capable of screwing themselves up. It renders the real spiritual striving and struggling of women into a pantomime, entertaining for some, but not adding up to anything. Women are, in this understanding, some sort of pet that men use to find a little comfort whilst on their sinful way.

I get it. When I used to listen to My Turn on Earth as a child, I always used to get Satan’s plan and Christ’s plan confused, too. The plan that meant we couldn’t sin so we could all be saved did sound better. But we were in fact sent to this earth to see how we’d keep the Lord’s commandments, with the knowledge that all of us but one would fail. How we fail, why we fail, and what we do about it: those are the things that make us real people. To rob women of that reality, so that one can feel a little better about one’s own participation in systemic inequality, is an act of solemn mockery before God. If I feel like the church doesn’t do enough to acknowledge women as people, independent of some man’s spiritual journey and spiritually significant in their own right, telling me that it is okay, because women will be saved and only men are given the opportunity to overcome in this life (or, according to this approach, ever), does not help because it means that women are basically children forever. This will not convince me that (a) sexism in the church is a-okay because my (assuming-I’m-female) bacon is out of the fire and (b) God isn’t a sexist jerk with no respect for 50% of the human race.

We came to this earth, male and female, to be tried and, when we fail, as we will, again and again, to apply the atoning blood of the Savior to make us a better person. Ideally, this means that we evolve into better, more moral people over time, becoming more and more like our Heavenly Parents. There is no part of that which requires or is made better by the extension of some sort of gender-based “Get out of Hell Free” card. If you are uncomfortable with the church’s gender inequities, good. You probably should be. Don’t go making up things to explain it; start doing something to change it instead.

Comments

  1. I would be interested to hear from other commenters whether they have encountered this folk belief and with what frequency. I have heard it but only rarely and it never appeared to me that anyone believed it. Its corollary that women are innately more spiritual than men, however, is still widespread I think.

  2. Also, I want to testify that women can sin. Specifically my sister Rachel who even as a child happily inflicted pain on me, her younger brother, until I grew stronger than her. I am now 6’2″ to her 5’2″ and her adult self is generous, kind and loving. Is this a coincidence? There is no way to know. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she, and by extension all women, are not only capable of sin but in relishing it.

  3. I grew up in Utah County and live here now. I am 54 and I have been around a long time, but I’ve never heard of this idea that women will be automatically saved by divine decree. Wish I had!

  4. I personally haven’t heard anyone espouse such beliefs. I’m sort of incredulous that people would cop to them, actually (though I believe you that you have observed them). I’m also sort of a fan of perseverance in relation to the temple liturgy…but that is complex and beyond the scope of your post.

  5. I’ve lived in CA, WA, and UT. I’ve never heard this one.

  6. Hmmm… I had 4 c-sections…very little blood loss…I’m gonna burn…

  7. (BTW– I love this paragraph bc it perfectly describes my first thought about this “teaching”–and also sadly describes the paternalistic attitude I see sometimes…)
    “If our choices don’t matter, if they aren’t capable of demonstrating a decision between eternal life and the second death, then, at most, we are actors in someone else’s play. To say that men can sin and that women can’t is to say that women are pretty much decoration in the lives of the men around them. Important decoration (the species must go on), but not full human beings capable of screwing themselves up. It renders the real spiritual striving and struggling of women into a pantomime, entertaining for some, but not adding up to anything. Women are, in this understanding, some sort of pet that men use to find a little comfort whilst on their sinful way.”

  8. I heard the ‘women are auto saved’ dribble during my mission (2001) while chatting in the temple with an elder from the south (not sure that is anyway causal). It made no sense to me then and thankfully I never heard it sense, until this post. But it was definitely spoken to me in full sincerety and a friendly hush like ‘someone I really respect taught me this and now I’m sharing it with you.’

  9. Excellent reasoning, John. Thanks for putting in such clear terms.

    I haven’t heard that exact concept in church, but I certainly have heard the idea that women are naturally more spiritual than men. Anyone who believes women are saved automatically probably started out with an assumption of their greater inherent spirituality.

    There is a Christian sect in Japan that teaches everyone in heaven will be women, because Jesus is the bridegroom of all who are saved – so there are stranger things out there.

  10. I’ve been a member for…lessee…46 years. I’ve lived in California (Southern and Northern), Utah, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, plus served my mission in four countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama). I’ve been an Elders Quorum President, been in a High Priests Group leadership, have served twice in a bishopric, and have taught a lot of Sunday School (though not as much as I’d like to).

    I’ve never heard anything even approaching this. It’s pretty bizarre. ..bruce..

  11. I think I’ve heard/read this a good dozen times int he last year alone. I wonder what the difference is? If I had to guess I would hazard that I engage conversation (and probably more pointedly) about gender inequality so it raises the response? I don’t know. It is surprising to hear so many people say they’ve never heard it. I sure have.

  12. I’ve heard different elements of this with differing frequencies, but I’ve definitely heard 1) that women are less capable of sin because they do not hold the priesthood and therefore cannot sin against as great a light, and 2) that childbirth is such a Christ-like experience that women (read: mothers) are intrinsically more righteous and less culpable for transgressions because of it.

  13. Thomas Parkin says:

    I don’t mean this is anything other than a fact. Anyone who thinks that women don’t sin haven’t known the same women I’ve known.

  14. Thomas Parkin says:

    Enjoyed the post, John.

  15. I’ve never heard this, but it doesn’t surprise me all that much.

  16. I wonder if the origins of this belief come from the gender difference in the initiatory regarding forgiveness of sins. Someone pointed me toward that difference (women being granted full forgiveness versus whatever happens to the men that isn’t full forgiveness) as a way to balance out the separate covenants I find hard. The reasoning didn’t make any sense to me then and still doesn’t.

  17. mediumharris says:

    I’ve definitely heard many times that men need to get sealed in the temple in this life or they won’t make it to the highest order of heaven. Women, on the other hand, are said to have no say in the matter since they have to sit around and wait for proposals. They can find a man after this life to get sealed to and everything will be fine. And guess what that also implies. Hint: all the men in heaven are already taken but there are still single women looking to get hitched/saved…

  18. Never heard this one, but I think it is related to:
    -polygamy is because much more women than men will be exalted
    -scriptures talk about Sons of Perdition, because there are no Daughters of Perdition
    -women are so wonderful and so much naturally spiritual than any man ever etc.

  19. I’ve definitely heard variations on this theme – that women are holier than men by nature. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me every time I hear it because (1) it lowers the bar for our men and boys in their own minds AND in the minds of the women they marry, (2) it puts women and girls on a pedestal from which they can only fall and contributes to the pervasive problem of perfectionism and poor self-esteem with which Mormon women already struggle, (3) it creates distance in relationships because we all pretend to be better than we are and effectively keep healing from the Lord and each other at arm’s length.

  20. Missionaries? Another joke, I presume. When I was a boy, I used to think that if I had to die young, the right time to die would be when I was a missionary, because surely all missionaries (like all dogs) would go to heaven.

    Then I became a missionary, and realized that was total nonsense.

    If there are people who really believe that women are all saved by divine decree, then it’s true after all that ZCMI stands for Zion’s Collection of Mormon Idiots.

  21. uh, no.

    next

  22. I’ve never heard that all women will be saved. But I, like others, have heard variations on that theme: a.) Women are more righteous than men so they don’t need the priesthood; b.) Women can be single in the celestial kingdom if they never had an opportunity to marry, but men can’t (presumably because they are the ones who choose to create, or not create, the opportunities); c.) Women are naturally more spiritual than men, which is why they get to give birth (in similitude of the atonement).

    I find anything along these lines to be pretty patronizing as it seems they are mostly meant to convince me I should be okay with having less say and opportunity in the church. (I should note that I’m not a wife or mother, so sadly, I can’t even be consoled by having the priesthood through a husband or being closer to Christ through the pain of childbirth.)

    I just wish we’d stop saying stuff like this. All it does is make me feel worse — like we recognize the inequality, but rather than do something about it, we’ll just rationalize it away with inane cliches that have no real foundation and that make no logical sense (and that I wouldn’t want to be true anyway). I imagine my feelings about this are similar to how many people feel about the rationalizations regarding blacks and the priesthood. They don’t help.

  23. I live in the gulf south. Been a member almost 34 years and have never heard of this theory.

  24. I shoiuld qualify. I have certainly heard people talk generally about how righteous woman are (citing many of the arguments in previous comments) but I’ve never heard that women don’t sin or that they are automatically going to the Celestial Kingdom.

  25. I haven’t heard the “automatically saved in heaven” bit, but I have heard the “unclear reference to obscure bits of the temple ceremony: therefore women are holier than men and don’t need the priesthood” part of it, (about five months ago from an institute teacher, for anyone who cares.) I thought it was complete malarky at the time and still do. First, since the scriptures are pretty clear about who does and does not need to repent, etc., and what changing that amounts to (moroni 8, anyone?) Second, since if God was a big fan of the “let’s put idiots in charge of everything so they get more experience” we’d all be following Satan’s plan, so that he could learn what a bad idea it was. And nazis, I’m sure there’s a comparison that can be made with them as well.

  26. The temple initiatory says one thing to men and another to women. I didn’t know that until relatively recently, but then why would I?

    A curious relic.

  27. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Das crazy.

  28. marginalizedmormon says:

    I’ve never heard of this folk belief, and I was raised with all of the typical LDS cultural ‘stuff’–

    but not all women can bear children, even if they want to, so this sounds very spiritually darwinistic to me–or socially darwinistic–

  29. Last Lemming says:

    In the thread that Brad linked to, there were several references to differences between the male and female initiatory ordinances–the most important being that the man’s cleanliness is contingent upon his faithfulness and the woman’s is not. I agree with Sarah Braudaway-Clark that this is likely the source of the belief. However, I also think that reflects a misunderstanding of the initiatory ordinances.

    The permas back in 2007 (when that other thread occurred) seemed pretty determined not to have a full airing of the issue, and OP, after claiming that the belief “relies on temple language for its authority” made no further mention of the temple. So I will not attempt a full airing here either. But it’s a difference that many many people are completely unaware of, and even those who are aware of it are confused about its meaning and significance. It deserves further scrutiny.

  30. Last Lemming,
    You are correct. It deserves further scrutiny. A blog post, or even its comments, is not the place to delve into it, though.

  31. Maybe it’s an adaptation of the excuse people gave for not giving blacks the Priesthood. The whole, “we don’t give the car keys to a child” thing.

  32. Like a lot of people I’ve never encountered this specific belief but I hope this post stands as a handy reference for future Googlers who might otherwise be led astray. I’m really interested in the idea of people holding and propagating obscure teachings in perceived-sacred settings or among close friends or family, though. I can think of one prophetic/predictive belief I’ve heard among my extended family of some future events that’ll supposedly happen to the family before the Millennium, and while that’s a bit different than the secret doctrine of the OP I wonder how many things like that are floating around the Mormon darknet, “known” to be true by only a few small groups. Beyond its correlated facade Mormonism can still be a strangely and awesomely idiosyncratic faith…

  33. If I hear another person compare the bearing of children with a priesthood ordinance, I’m going to break something.
    Not really, but seriously, equating a man’s exercise of spiritual power w/a woman’s exercise of her reproductive organs is a huge insult.

  34. I’ve never heard it claimed that women automatically go to heaven, but I have heard it claimed that women married to men worthy of heaven automatically go to heaven. One of my roommates at BYU was being pursued by a guy that she wasn’t interested in. When she rejected him he appealed for a second chance by saying that if she married him he would ensure that she and all their children made it to the celestial kingdom. It wasn’t until I went to the temple that I started to have an idea of where he might have picked up the idea that it was possible for him to promise that. Like you say, it’s an insult of women’s personhood.

  35. That’s not to say that I think the temple ceremonies are claiming what that guy at BYU thought they were claiming, though there have been prophetic statements that suggest that sealing between people enables one to lift the other in certain ways not possible outside a sealing (that is, they don’t just rely solely on their individual inclinations toward righteousness to ensure they end up in the same realm of glory….”tentacles of divine providence” and all that….), but I would hope that if that is true, it is a reciprocal force–that any party of a sealing can lift the others. Husband can lift wife, wife can lift husband, child can lift parent….acts of demi-grace by demi-saviors?

  36. “I don’t mean this is anything other than a fact. Anyone who thinks that women don’t sin haven’t known the same women I’ve known.”

    Amen.

    I think Thomas’ comment is profound for a number of reasons, the most relevant being that many people raised in a Mormon bubble area amid women who generally appear to be or actually are avoiding obvious Mormon sins (including Word of Wisdom issues) and egregious universal sins can reach the conclusion that women don’t sin like men do. Of course, that is a result of a distorted view and our inability to allow others to see us as sinners, but I think it does contribute to the issue being discussed.

  37. “many people raised in a Mormon bubble area amid women who generally appear to be or actually are avoiding obvious Mormon sins (including Word of Wisdom issues) and egregious universal sins can reach the conclusion that women don’t sin like men do.”

    That probably means that our view of sin needs some updating. Anybody who has gone through jr. high school with girls knows that females sin aplenty, and cruelly, even if unkindness doesn’t stink like tobacco.

  38. I’ve heard of this belief before or more commonly, its derivatives/corollaries (as Mat mentioned in the first comment above, 8:56 pm). Often belief in this folklore or its corollaries coincides with belief in the “clone theory” of the celestial kingdom or seems to be held by people who also happen to believe in the “fence-sitters in the war on heaven” theory of the pre-existence. In other words, I have found that where one strong strand of folklore has been incorporated into someone’s belief system, it is accompanied by several others because there is a mindset of the “hidden church,” i.e. the Truth that lurks beneath what they believe are euphemistic descriptions and explanation of Gospel teachings and revelations. The Unpublished Revelations crowd, that kind of thing.

    In one instance, in 1996 in a far-flung branch of the Church, a particular individual in a ward leadership position also held to the “mud-blood theory” explained by Boyd Crowder in Season 1 of Justified. To be fair, that is the only Latter-day Saint I had met who believed that (and that black skin survived the flood of Noah because Cain was a stowaway on the Ark or on the outside of it), though this man did openly teach it so one would have to assume it had influenced at least some people in his circles.

  39. “Anybody who has gone through jr. high school with girls knows that females sin aplenty, and cruelly, even if unkindness doesn’t stink like tobacco.”

    Such a good observation, Kristine. But often at least in Mormon country those same mean girls actually have zero libido or have learned to portray themselves that way so our culture views them as without sin — regardless of their horrible treatment of peers. Remember that what counts is sexual sin or the appearance of it.

  40. it's a series of tubes says:

    In all my years in the Church, I had never heard this one before. And I thought I had a pretty good sampling of the wacky! Thanks for this post.

  41. “Anybody who has gone through jr. high school with girls knows that females sin aplenty, and cruelly, even if unkindness doesn’t stink like tobacco.”

    Amen, Kristine. Much of that unkindness is far, far worse than smoking, as much as I appreciate our prohibition on smoking.

    “That probably means that our view of sin needs some updating.”

    Not updating, I’d say, since I’d rather minimize the list than build more hedges – but recognition, perspective and discussion, certainly. At the very least, we need to embrace more openly the principle that all of us sin and come short of the glory of God.

  42. Well, now I am disappointed that I have been wasting all my time studying out scriptures in my mind, and seeking God in prayer. If I would’ve known all I had to do was assure the keeper of the gate that I am female that would have been much easier.

    Like Susan it also annoys me to no end when the exercise of Priesthood power is compared to the act of giving birth. Possibly not for the same reasons though. I am a convert, but I was a decently young convert (15) but I could never/will never understand this belief that sex is sacred and child birth is Christ-like. I have seen enough animals have sex and give birth that while miraculous on some level I can hardly bring myself to attach such holy significance to it. Truth be told, I can’t even understand how Mormons approach sex with this weird holy halo hanging around it–it gives me the heebie jeebies more than anything.

  43. Kristine’s comment makes me think of Carrie. Poor Sissy Spacek and all that blood.

  44. I’ve heard this many times.
    Clearly nonsense, given the hypergamous nature of women. Read the Old Testament–it is about restraining female desire in order to form a righteous society.

  45. “Truth be told, I can’t even understand how Mormons approach sex with this weird holy halo hanging around it–it gives me the heebie jeebies more than anything.”

    Amen brother–sister, sorry.

    Having grown up with four sisters I see the idea that women can’t sin as extremely perplexing. I was often the victim of serious sins that remain un-repented of to this day!

  46. “Read the Old Testament–it is about restraining female desire in order to form a righteous society.”

    or not

  47. I actually have heard this a few times before, though it never made sense to me, so I just disregarded it as a couple nutcases. More frequently, I’ve heard the related idea that women can’t become Sons of Perdition.

    So, I’m curious now about this difference between wording in the initiatory for men vs women- Obviously, I’ve only heard the wording of one version of the initiatory, and I didn’t realize it was different for the two since ldsendowment.org only has the one version. I understand if bloggers/commenters/mods don’t feel this is an appropriate place for said discussion- is there somewhere I can go to find out what exactly the difference is?

  48. JohnF–as long as mean girls keep their shoulders covered, it’s all good :)

  49. I would have liked the post better if instead of fighting against the idea that “Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree” it rather argued against ideas that “Women are inherently more righteous/holy than men”. The first must be an extreme minority view that is so out there, confused, and unfounded that I think it would almost be better to pity than to attack. However, the second seems like more of a wide-spread issue that I think would be interesting to see addressed in a similar way.

    @john f. I don’t want to derail to much, but what is this “clone theory”? Haven’t heard of it, guess I’m not among those elect secret gnosis groups of mormons you refer to :)

    @EOR & MCQ. Seeing sex as holy and/or sacred is far from uniquely Mormon, or Christian for that matter.

  50. Not Quite Human says:

    Just came from an institute class where the instructor hinted heavily at the difference between male and female initiatory wording. I’m not endowed, but will the things about the temple that imply that I am barely human never cease to reveal themselves? I’m being completely serious when I say that over the last year I have developed a lurking fear that as a woman I am not even the same kind of being as a man–that, like an animal, I have a spirit and am capable of fulfilling the measure of my creation (all the rhetoric points to childbirth), but not of actual exaltation or progression. Yes, I realize how messed up that sounds, but I can’t shake it.

  51. it's a series of tubes says:

    NQH – Sarah’s Sept 17, 12:29 AM post has the gist of the idea; clean vs may become clean.

  52. Steve, I grew up Catholic and nothing in the world is dirtier than sex. It is an unpleasant must to propagate the species and is not to be enjoyed, or worshiped in any form. I will take you at your word that it is not uniquely Mormon (since I have no idea who else might espouse such beliefs) and redact my portions about “Mormons” being that way, but I still leave everything else to stand. I can’t get behind it being something holy if pigs in the mud do it with just as much accuracy, and a lot less drama.

  53. Haha, that made me laugh, I see where your coming from. I don’t claim to be an expert on worldwide belief systems, but a few things that came to mind were common ancient (or less common modern) fertility cults, evangelical Christian preaching/views on sex, and also tantric sex out of India that seems have place in both Hinduism and Buddhism to my knowledge (but seems to be quite popular in the western spiritualism as well). And while science might not go quite to “sacred”, our whole biology/evolution worldview seems to be centered around reproduction and death, or in large measure – sex. So while I get what you’re saying, I can definitely understand that for anyone who sees life or the body or both as holy or sacred, it’s not a very big step to include sex (a major part of both) as part of that sacredness.

  54. “or not”

    Well, intstead of studying American Culuture 101, look at Genesis 39 anf get back to me!

  55. I like when people on internet forums use the word “hypergamous” because it’s a useful shorthand for communicating that nothing they’re saying is worth considering–although frankly, you’d more effectively communicate your purposes if you say what you mean more directly, “threatening uppity wimminfolk who make me feel inadequate.”

  56. “Well, intstead of studying American Culuture 101, look at Genesis 39 anf get back to me!”

    or not

  57. I am sure there are differences between male and female humans. It is my observation that the differences all seem to amount to about a one sigma variation. The average woman is about as tall as the man who is one sigma shorter than the mean for men. The average woman is about as strong as the man who is about one sigma weaker than the mean for men.

    I would say that, for argument’s sake, that the average woman is as cooperative as a man who is one sigma better than the mean. She is more emotionally sensitive than that man by the same amount. She may be more self-sacrificing than that man by the same amount, and more loving, possibly.

    By this argument it is possible that the average woman is about as likely to get into heaven as a man who is about one sigma more perfected than the mean. (Or God forgives men at a much greater rate.) This observation does not preclude women from sinning, only that they sin at a substantially lower rate then men. As a demonstration, it seems reasonable that the average woman is as likely to go to prison for crimes as the man one sigma reduced from the male mean for doing crimes. Or that her crimes are not as worthy of going to prison as the average man.

    Not a free pass to heaven but certainly might be a leg up. Does this count?

    I have heard that almost everyone’s best friend is a woman. Why should God be different?

  58. questioning says:

    Peter Singer would be proud of you for suggesting that little children are not ‘real persons’ but he might be dismayed that you exclude all animals for that.

    Never heard this ‘folk belief’ although I have heard explicit ideas which refute it: i.e. women are more spiritual than men and more women will be saved than men.

    real people sin and real people speculate

    but this belief is obviously false.

    I like your attempt to show that believing this actually dehumanises them.

  59. Great points, John. Thanks for refuting this. I’ve never heard it precisely stated this way, but as many other people have already said, it follows from lots of other things that are said in the Church–no daughters of perdition, women are more spiritual, etc.

  60. LOVE this post. It encapsulates exactly why I was always uncomfortable with this rhetoric and its cousin rhetoric “there will be more righteous women in heaven, so men HAVE to have multiple wives!” (so my REWARD is that I share my husband in the next life???)
    As you pointed out, it robs women of full person-hood and makes them supporting characters in a main character’s story, because main characters go on a journey and overcome trials and personal weaknesses. Women have already “arrived” and have no journey besides to continue being the good beings they apparently already are/always were, and be a good supporting character to the dude. ( I wrote a post on this at Rational Faiths http://rationalfaiths.com/narrative-norms-or-why-didnt-you-write-this-play-about-men/)
    I actually think this might be part of why women are always so depressed. Instead of being told we have a journey to make, we are already supposed to be there. However since we actually ARE imperfect, sinful beings just as men are, we feel like there must be something wrong with us since all these other “good” women we hear about or perceive are so Christ-like and charitable and ready to be translated, just waiting for their husband to catch up…..that we feel like it’s OUR fault that we’re not perfect instead of the natural state of things.

  61. I’m 63, lifetime member, never heard of this in Ut. or Calif. where I was raised or at BYU where I was a student.

  62. I think this mistaken belief and its variants point to another trend among us Latter-Day Saints: picking apart the letter of past revelation instead of trying to understand the spirit in which it was given. Reading the Book of Mormon 20 times each year and trying to understand its strange turns of phrase that you don’t notice until after the 20th time won’t get you nearly as far as prayerfully pondering the message and how it applies to your life. And if you ignore other revelation—especially constant personal revelation—how can you hope to find the information that is currently pertinent to your salvation?

  63. Jade Peverell says:

    I have never heard this, but I do believe there will be more women in the Celestial Kingdom than men because of the doctrine of polygamy. There can’t be any single men, so it makes sense that if there is going to be polygamy then there has to be more women there.

  64. “if there is going to be polygamy”

    “If” being the operative word.

  65. Jade-
    What if there’s actually more single men in the next life than women? What if polygamy was only an earthly institution because of the frailties of this life? What about all the babies who have died who were male? What if there is ONE extra person!?!?!?!?!
    I honestly think marriage as we understand it is going to be a very different affair in the next life. I think we’ll spend so much time as a unified front with everyone that the individual pairings may not be as binding as we think

  66. I generally agree with the OP, and absolutely concur that each of us needs to stand on our own two feet, accountable for ourself. And I’ve never heard this one, either.

    But I would not so easily gloss over the role of childbirth. I do think it is one way that we get a taste of the atonement, although others put their life on the line for others as well, including soldiers, firefighters, etc. And I testify that childbirth can be a profound spiritual experience.

    This does not translate into making childbirth = priesthood, by any means. I don’t see it that way. But I would like it not to be dismissed as something a pig can do, either.

    A lot of discussions around gender end up sounding male-normative, as if only the things that men have done are of any value. Having children is not the magical act described in the OP, but it is not nothing, either.

  67. God gives women a “free pass?” Different responsibilites and opportunities at times perhaps, but “free pass?” No! This idea is obviously taught by so few that it shouldn’t even count as folklore. I have worked and lived along the Wasatch Front for most of my life, but this whopper never came up. While there are differences in the sacred initiatory language, the initiatory experience could be viewed as men being specifically assigned to help resolve the world’s ills by proclaiming the Gospel. Historically and culturally-speaking, men have been more available to take on this role on to a greater degree than women. (Although current trends reveal a great passion among the young women to assist in this effort!) Scripture and church teachings attest that both men and women must walk life’s path in such a way, walking within God’s grace, that the initiatory/endowment blessings are eventually confirmed by spiritual experience/priesthood ordinance. Otherwise, the earlier ordinances are a waste of time. I perceive no free pass!

    And the idea that women are somehow more “spiritual” than men is complete and utter nonsense. We are all spirits. Anything more than that for a Latter-day Saint would imply spiritual gifts. Most gifts are offered to the entire population of believers, without gender or class distinctions. We only have to lay claim to those gifts that are offered to us.

  68. Matt, I’ve never heard this, and I thought I’d heard them all.

  69. I’ve never heard this particular iteration of this folk doctrine, but I’ve heard most of the related folk doctrines mentioned by other commenters. It’s absurd. Us females are just as capable of sin as men, but we often choose different sins than men, perhaps making them less noticeable to the default-male Mormon society.

    And the whole concept of childbearing/childbirth as being a spiritual act or something akin to the atonement or priesthood makes me roll my eyes. Good grief – any mammal can have sex and bear young. There’s nothing spiritual or holy about it. It’s called biology. It’s a science. Look it up.

    Nothing in my life has ever made me feel more mortal, mammalian, and animal than bearing and birthing my children. Seeing them blossom into self-awareness and intelligence, on the other hand, has been a profoundly spiritual experience.

  70. Sharee Hughes says:

    I have never heard this. Neither have I heard that single women can go to the celestial kingdom, but single men can’t. The HIGHEST degree of the celestial kingdom requires marriage (and I think that’s for either sex), but I always thought single people of either sex could be administering angels, but maybe that’s a folk doctrine, too. We single women are told often at GC that none of the blessings of heaven will be denied us for being single, but I always thought that meant we’d have a chance to get an eternal companion in the next life (which means some single men will get matched up too, I assume). We’ll find out one day. I’m not going to worry about it.

  71. Never heard this doctrine in Australia (and we do get some weird ones here). Probably something from the Fundamentalists – sounds like doctrine to back up their life style.

  72. My mother and her mother used to claim that they take not have the priesthood as a blessing since it also disqualifies them from being inheritors of outer darkness. They used the logic: only priesthood holders can sin against the Holy Ghost; only men can hold the priesthood; therefore only men can truly deny the Holy Ghost, hence the male-centric title “‘Sons’ of Perdition.”

  73. I have heard this one over the years, though always as speculation, and never hard doctrine. However, there is accepted doctrine that would translate to the idea of female exaltation being a given, and I do an internal eye roll every time I hear it, which is often, since I sit squarely in the middle of the “yes, this applies to you!” zone. I’ve never born children, though I wanted to, and now I’m far too old. I’ve been told countless times that I shouldn’t worry about it though (???) because I’ll spend my eternity having babies. This is always presented as immutable fact, and is supposed to comfort and gladden my heart. No one seems to notice that it presupposes my exaltation, thereby denying my agency. Here is what the glorious doctrine tells me: 1) I will be pregnant for eternity. 2) My eternal reason for being is to produce babies. 3) My purpose for being on Earth was to be pregnant and have babies, and though I was a slacker here, I will be given another chance, and this time, for sure, I will measure up, because 4) There is practically zero likelihood that I could do anything that would prevent me from spending eternity in the CK being pregnant and having babies. So no, I’ve never heard guaranteed CK for women being preached from the pulpit, in those exact words. But it’s taught regularly in others.

  74. I heard this as a recent convert in a YSA ward. There were several Brothers who always stated that women were naturally already endowed with their ‘hood’ as in motherhood as men were in Priesthood. So they naturally were less capable of sinning and were saved by Heavenly Father as more righteous than men. I thought it very odd. My peers didn’t think this way; it seemed to be the older generation. I wonder where it came from?

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