PBS Interviews with Church Leaders Posted

Church Public Affairs has worked with the producers of the recent PBS documentary, The Mormons, to publish extended transcripts of the Elder Oaks and Elder Packer interviews (thanks to Justin for the heads-up). Major kudos to the Church for making these available. Some important excerpts from the Oaks interview:

HW: I’m often told that there has been caution exercised regarding certain “dangers” to the Church. Particularly, some 10 years ago, there was a specific caution as to three dangers.

DHO: There are different dangers, but the leaders of the Church are always responsible to try to identify things that pose a danger to the faith and the will and the spiritual well-being of members. And at different times in the Church different dangers have been identified. I’ve identified a few myself.

I thought that public misunderstandings and possibly public persecution as a result of the ban on the priesthood were a major problem. I used to worry about it, but I wasn’t a leader of the Church at that time. I remember worrying about it, but obviously we don’t worry about that anymore. Feminism is clearly a point of danger to the Church because it draws the daughters of God away from a perception — or it distorts perceptions — about things that are very important eternally — marriage and family and responsibilities to posterity and so on. It has some very favorable effects in encouraging people to maximize their service to mankind [and] to develop a talent. All of this I’ve had with my own daughters, of whom I have four, and I’ve felt the benefits of feminism. But also it has some troublesome aspects. If a person grows up saying, “Well I don’t want a family, I want a career,” that goes against eternal values — so I think there’s a danger there.

Now intellectualism is also perceived as a danger. I suppose it has been for at least a century. I read some history of some of the early confrontations with science — creation of the earth and so forth. In fact at Brigham Young University in some of its earliest years, [there] was [such a] manifestation. There’ll be other manifestations at different times. The life of the mind, which is a great, defining object of universities in our day, of which I’ve been the beneficiary in my own life, can be seen or practiced to be in flat-out opposition to the spiritual characteristics of one’s faith. Revelation stands in opposition to science in some aspects according to some understandings. So I think in any day the watchmen on the tower are going to say intellectualism is a danger to the Church. And it is at extreme points, and if people leave their faith behind and follow strictly where science leads them, that can be a pretty crooked path. ([The] science of today is different than the science of yesterday.) We encourage the life of the mind. We establish and support universities that encourage education. But we say to our young people: “Keep your faith. Do the things necessary to hear the promptings of the Spirit. If you’re getting too far off the line in the latest scientific theory or whatever, you will get a spiritual warning.” And I believe that.

HW: You used an interesting phrase, “Not everything that’s true is useful.” Could you develop that as someone who’s a scholar and trying to encourage deep searching?

DHO: The talk where I gave that was a talk on “Reading Church History” — that was the title of the talk. And in the course of the talk I said many things about being skeptical in your reading and looking for bias and looking for context and a lot of things that were in that perspective. But I said two things in it and the newspapers and anybody who ever referred to the talk only referred to [those] two things: one is the one you cite, “Not everything that’s true is useful,” and that [meant] “was useful to say or to publish.” And you tell newspapers any time (media people) [that] they can’t publish something, they’ll strap on their armor and come out to slay you! [Laughs.]

I also said something else that has excited people: that it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true, because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. One can work to correct them by some other means, but don’t go about saying that they misbehaved when they were a youngster or whatever. Well, of course, that sounds like religious censorship also.

But not everything that’s true is useful. I am a lawyer, and I hear something from a client. It’s true, but I’ll be disciplined professionally if I share it because it’s part of the attorney-client privilege. There’s a husband-wife privilege, there’s a priest-penitent privilege, and so on. That’s an illustration of the fact that not everything that’s true is useful to be shared.

In relation to history, I was speaking in that talk for the benefit of those that write history. In the course of writing history, I said that people ought to be careful in what they publish because not everything that’s true is useful. See a person in context; don’t depreciate their effectiveness in one area because they have some misbehavior in another area — especially from their youth. I think that’s the spirit of that. I think I’m not talking necessarily just about writing Mormon history; I’m talking about George Washington or any other case. If he had an affair with a girl when he was a teenager, I don’t need to read that when I’m trying to read a biography of the Founding Father of our nation.


HW: From the time of the Manifesto to a hundred years later, it’s not something that’s known very much.

DHO: It’s an extraordinary moment. There are other such moments in the nation, [such as] the persecution of Catholics to having a Catholic president. But probably the Mormon experience of opposition to being prototypical Americans is a unique experience. The three elements that I think trigger that, or bring it about, are the abandonment of Mormon communal economy, the abandonment of separate Mormon political parties, and the abandonment of polygamy. All those came about because of, or triggered by, the Manifesto. They all became effective during the administration of President Joseph F. Smith, at the turn of the century. Those are the big ones. There are a lot of others that become part of it, but I think they’re all triggered by or are a result of those three. And it’s a “Mormon compromise,” as Kathleen Flake says in her book. It’s a result of a Mormon compromise — and the Mormons retained their religious freedom. They won the right to propagate without persecution. They preserved their unique doctrines and so on. Those [remain] with us today, but other things that were essential to and a cause of earlier persecution were abandoned in that compromise as we entered the 20th century.

HW: Extraordinary moment.

DHO: The best thing ever written on it was by Kathleen Flake. I have to say I’ve been a lifetime student and writer of Mormon legal history, at least. I learned many, many things in her book that I didn’t know. She captured it very, very well, and was able to stress also what remained unimpaired by the compromise.

HW: Yes, but I would imagine that that challenge at that moment for Joseph F. Smith was, “How will I reach out to the flock and tell them that I might have been up on the stand saying things I didn’t quite believe in, or that I’ve abandoned the law of the land, or that I’m not really a revelator and I’m abandoning a central principle …” and tell them that the real stuff still is there. You know, how do I reassure?

DHO: Oh, yes. She wrote about that so movingly, and I’d never thought of it. That was something that was new to me, but it rang true.

HW: And the “it” being just that dilemma that the Church faced, about reassuring the Saints that abandoning polygamy would not adversely affect the doctrine.

DHO: That’s right. And I’m sure my ancestors would have wanted to be reassured.


  1. Steve Evans says:


    Double Yowzer!!

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    Good stuff.

  3. Mark IV says:

    Elder Oaks’ praise for Kathleen Flake is appropriate and well-deserved.

    This is terrific, J. Thank you.

  4. John Williams says:

    I’m talking about George Washington or any other case. If he had an affair with a girl when he was a teenager, I don’t need to read that when I’m trying to read a biography of the Founding Father of our nation.

    I like DHO a lot… but if I’m reading a book about George Washington, I want to know about everything, teenage romances included.

  5. Thanks, J. This is great stuff – and a perfect illustration of the need to understand isolated quotes in their full context.

  6. Kristine says:

    Yes, the “don’t criticize leaders even if it’s true” thing looks very different in the context he gives it here. He’s clearly not saying don’t question their ideas or disagree with something they’ve said–he’s talking about critiques of their person or behavior. That’s something I can get on board with, whereas out of context, several people interpreted it to mean that one should never offer criticism of talks, or books, or policies promulgated by GAs. Elder Oaks might still mean that, but it’s not what he says here.

    The feminism thing still sounds an awful lot like a critique of a sort of feminism that hasn’t existed for decades (if it ever existed at all).

  7. Kristine, there was a very common perception among MANY Christian groups during the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment that it was a feminism-couched attempt by the NOW to pass not a purely feminist agenda but rather a lesbian-focused agenda. I think many of those of Elder Oaks’ generation (as well as mine) saw feminism then in the light he described – NOT as an attempt to procure equal rights for ALL women, but rather to eradicate the entire “traditional Christian SAHM structure” while simultaneously pushing gay rights. He didn’t mention that specifically, but I believe there is a degree of truth to that perception, since I heard the overall discussion numerous times – from both sides – during and after that battle.

  8. John Williams – I only want to know of George Washington’s teenage romances if he still had his teeth. Otherwise, that’s just disgusting.

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    You missed the best paragraph:

    “One element is that we’re emerging from a period of history writing within the Church [of] adoring history that doesn’t deal with anything that’s unfavorable, and we’re coming into a period of “warts and all” kind of history. Perhaps our writing of history is lagging behind the times, but I believe that there is purpose in all these things — there may have been a time when Church members could not have been as well prepared for that kind of historical writing as they may be now. “

  10. Thanks, Julie. That is an amazing quote. Reminds me of the tree pruning description of Jacob 5 – and to have Elder Oaks address it so openly is great, especially since it doesn’t seem to be prompted by a direct question about our “history writing” in the Church.

  11. Think man says:

    Where did my post go?

    You aren’t censoring here are you? Too afraid of the truth too?

  12. Kristine says:

    Ray, I’m also quite familiar with the battle over the ERA and the IWY in Utah. (Probably you don’t want to get in a pissing match with me over who is better informed). I am not speaking from ignorance when I say that the feminism Elder Oaks decries may never have existed, except in the worst fears of its opponents.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Think man, have you never visited this site before? Of course we’re censoring you — you’re a troll.

    Ray, a word to the wise — there are some domains where you are doubtlessly an expert. This is not one of them. Kneel before Kristine.

  14. Don’t do it, Ray. Next, they’ll want to wear pants!

  15. Kristine, perhaps that’s true, although proponents of the ERA certainly weren’t able to quell worries in terms of the language of the amendment beyond comments like, “that would never happen.” Which, as legal history shows isn’t exactly the best defense…

    I’d add that the movement wasn’t helped by proponents who were themselves guilty of saying outrageous things. Of course that’s part and parcel, unfortunately, of political discourse. (I can think of quite a few conservatives I wish would shut up, for instance) However the movement tended to get painted by these individuals whether deserved or not.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    bye, Think man. Thanks for debunking my “troll” accusation.

  17. Kristine, I never said I was an expert in this area. I don’t make that claim and never will. There are multiple disclaimers in my actual comment. I just related what I heard from BOTH sides during a time that probably shaped Elder Oaks’ perception of the feminist movement. You said it never existed in that form; I simply said it appeared to in what was said by a lot of people on each side.

    As CG says, the debate tended to get publicized by the extremes, so I can understand Church leaders having to consider those extremes.

  18. Kristine says:

    Ray, considering the extremes is wise. Mistaking them for the entire movement, and then allowing your perceptions to ossify, is not.

  19. Anybody see Oaks’s comments on the Bible? He says that Moses ‘brought forth’ the Pentateuch and sets it alongside the New Testament as works for which “we know their provenance,” for “we know” who wrote Luke and John and the epistles. But simultaneously he cuts Job ‘quite a bit of slack’ on the literalism question, and acknowledges that “we see some things as metaphorical.”

    I don’t want to assume he’s never heard of the DH – he could have simply chosen to reject it – but his assumptions make it seem that he hasn’t. Interesting to put that alongside his obvious pursuit other religious topics – it’s clear he’s been reading up on Mormon legal history – aside from the Flake reference, I’m pretty sure from the transcript that he’s read Sally Gordon.

    This is mostly just idle speculation about whether there’s a GA reading list or not, or whether they try to keep up on relevant religious scholarship in general. I’d guess not, given these sorts of idiosyncrasies.

  20. Julie M. Smith says:

    Kristine wrote, “The feminism thing still sounds an awful lot like a critique of a sort of feminism that hasn’t existed for decades (if it ever existed at all).”

    Elder Oaks said, “Feminism is clearly a point of danger to the Church because it draws the daughters of God away from a perception — or it distorts perceptions — about things that are very important eternally — marriage and family and responsibilities to posterity and so on.”

    I don’t think that’s non-existent. Even just in the Bloggernacle, I’ve seen many comments to the effect of “I don’t want to have children.”

  21. Kristine, I agree with that, but I just don’t read that into the quote that was provided. Do I think it describes WAY too many people who decry feminism? Yes; 100%.

  22. I hit “submit” inadvertently. I was going to add something else, but now . . .

    What Julie’s last paragraph said.

  23. Kristine says:


    Many? If you could produce 40, I’d be surprised. The vast majority of women, even feminists who think they don’t want children when they’re 25, end up wanting (and having) children eventually. I just don’t see hordes of Mormon women (or liberal feminist women, for that matter) deciding to remain childless. Nor do I think that feminism of any era, and especially not any feminism of the last two decades, and even more especially not Mormon feminism, posits childlessness as an ideal.

  24. Julie: Wile that sentiment has certainly been expressed, I agree with Kristine that that is a caricature of feminism that has little to do with its main emphasis, which in my mind was (and is) about the freedom of women to make their own choices rather than having those choices made for them. The idea that feminism is by definition anti-family should die a natural death after five minutes of reading over at FMH.

  25. Eric Russell says:

    It’s good to see interviews like this. As truth is always more complicated than we want to allow it, it seems like the more church leaders talk outside the formalized language of talks, the better for all.


    Perhaps not childlessness per se, but definitely having and rearing children as secondary to other life objectives.

  26. Ha! I run with a pretty rough (non-LDS) feminist crowd here in NYC (critical feminist theorists, women’s studies grad students, etc.), and not a single one of these women has ever said that they don’t want to have children. In fact, most of them openly express a desire to have children someday (given the opportunity, resources, appropriate partner, etc.).

  27. Julie M. Smith says:

    Kristin and MCQ,

    The issue was never numbers; it was whether Kristine’s “non-existent” was accurate.

    MCQ, your idea that the “choice” to have children is part of the “freedom of women” that feminism should be known for is exactly what Elder Oaks was criticizing–he did sign off on the statement “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”

  28. Mark IV says:

    It is a shame that the Church and feminism got off on the wrong foot 40 years ago, and I think they both deserve some blame.

    Linda Sillitoe does a thorough wrap-up of the excommunication of Sonia Johnson in the January, 1980 issue of Sunstone. She lays out the frustration that many felt with the Church’s behind-the-scenes politicking which it often publicly denied. She also describes how sister Johnson’s public pronouncements and hyperbolic manner of speaking contributed to the alienation of members who otherwise might have been sympathetic. It is all so sad.

  29. While we can’t take the extremes as representing the whole they can end up contaminating the whole. (Something I think both the conservative movement and the anti-war movement need to deal with) I don’t think the ERA was ultimately about feminism but certainly it became a lightening rod for it. Something that I think feminists brought about probably as much as conservatives.

    But frankly I still think the language was bad and that it would have a ton of unintended consequences.

    As to the meaning of a movement, the problem is that the folks who shout the most end up getting to define terms. For instance I once didn’t mind being called a postmodernist while now I shun the term simply because how it’s been defined by both supporters and opponents. It bears little resemblance to what I believe. I think this has happened with feminism.

    Whether it is what you mean by it I think you have to realize it is what most see by it. And when they criticize it is this public meaning that they are addressing.

    Trying to get back on topic, I think this means that comments by Elder Oaks, Elder Packer and others are all quite appropriate even if they don’t necessarily address all the ways some people use the term.

  30. Regarding feminism and families. I think what the brethren criticize isn’t just having kids. Rather it is the environment they are raised in. Someone home with them teaching them. Two role models of both genders in a stable relationship. The ideal can’t always be reached but I think it is completely appropriate for the brethren to hold back those who attempt to undermine the ideal as something worthy of emulating.

  31. I’ve always thought of Brother Oaks as a wonderfully thoughtful and humane person of faith who believes both warmly and kindly. I still remember as an undergraduate writing him a letter about his paper on the Expositor and receiving a thoughtful and encouraging letter in reply. Thanks for posting this exchange.

  32. Kristine says:

    Sam, I agree. While I occasionally (ok, fairly often) disagree with Elder Oaks, I think he is wonderfully thoughtful and always interesting on a very broad range of topics. I also think that even his conference talks are quite revealing of his thought process, and it’s neat to see a great big brain at work like that. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes his thinking seem transparent in his rhetoric (maybe legal training, although I thought lawyers were supposed to obfuscate!), but I feel like I learn from the way he thinks as much as from what he says. It’s even more fun in this less scripted format.

  33. #26,

    Your comment tells alot about the mindset of the feminist. They think “someday” I “might” like to have children “if” I find the right guy, “if” have the resources “if” it is convenient. Make it a priority!
    Melissa Bell

  34. Kristine: Lawyers may be supposed to obfuscate (although most would argue with that statement) Judges are not.

  35. Kristine says:

    although most would argue with that statement

    Yes, I hear they’ll argue with anything!

    (Actually, I know they will–I have one brother with a J.D., another starting law school, and a ten-year-old son who has been practicing for moot court since he was two)

  36. Chuck McKinnon says:

    Kristine #23: You may not personally know many women choosing not to have children, but the demographics are stark: women in developed nations are remaining childless at alarming rates. In Germany, where the phenomenon is most pronounced, a third of women are not having children. Among college-educated women that number rises to 40 percent.

    You’re right that the majority continue to have children, but that majority isn’t vast; it’s shrinking with every census and those who do have kids have fewer of them, and later in life.

    It’s not fair to lay that burden entirely at the feet of feminism; government policy (especially taxation and financial incentives) has a significant role to play. But I know plenty of people, within and without the Church, who delay childbearing for “lifestyle reasons” — vacations and travel, mostly — and who bristle at the thought that religious leaders dare question or caution against such decisions. (If I’m being completely honest, were I not Mormon I probably would have been one of them.)

  37. “I’m talking about George Washington or any other case. If he had an affair with a girl when he was a teenager, I don’t need to read that when I’m trying to read a biography of the Founding Father of our nation.”

    If those types of details are directly relevant to GW’s political philosophy, military philosophy, have direct implications on his view of God, or otherwise provide context to who GW was as a person, I do.

  38. Kristine says:


    I realize that those demographics are a concern. And, as you rightly point out, it makes sense to look to many causes. In France, for instance, which has had very progressive and pro-feminist policies for many years, the birthrate is stable or rising, depending on how you count. Likewise in Sweden. There appears to be a positive correlation between female employment and childbearing, at least in the OECD, and especially in countries with strong parental leave and subsidized childcare policies.

    Oddly, the Proclamation on the Family’s rallying cry for governments to promote policies that strengthen families is never interpreted to support such policies.

  39. Kristine says:

    J., sorry for the threadjack–I promise I’m all done!

    My favorite part by far was BKP talking about “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” I would love to have been in the room for that!!

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    It is very heartening to see a GA reading with appreciation Kathleen Flake and Sally Gordon.

    Matt B. #19 is right that he either hasn’t read or has rejected my DH article, but his focus has obviously been more in the realm of his historic interest in legal history. (He’s probably read some of Nate’s stuff along the way as well, I’d wager.)

  41. J.
    One Quote from BKP was exciting to me:
    “our spirits existed forever”
    This brings to my mind past discussions with you.

  42. Huzzah!

  43. I liked this line from Elder Packer about the afterlife:

    “If you’re happy here, you’re going to be happy there.”

  44. Sorry, but who is Sally Gordon? Same as Sarah Barringer Gordon?

  45. Oops. Yes, obviously that’s her.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes. Her formal name is Sarah, but informally she goes by Sally.

  47. What a wonderful compliment for Elder Oaks to have mentioned Kathleen Flake by name. I like hearing about leaders giving scholars specific positive reinforcement. The alternative is that scholars only hear from leaders when their publications might get them in trouble…like the child who only gets attention when he or she appears to be misbehaving. I know our leaders are super busy doing good things, and can’t comment on everything they find inspiring. At the same time, a good leader like a good parent, should consider saying 10 nice things for every one critical thing! But maybe that’s already happening and I just don’t know it because I’m not a scholar… And I suppose they have to be careful about appearing to endorse a theory or point of view.

  48. Why do so many comments here seem to suggest that having or not having children is somehow within the control of feminist-oriented women? Most married feminists that I know want to have more children but their spouses aren’t interested. But somehow the sexist roleplaying continues–babies are the woman’s concern, while men concern themselves with, well, whatever they want. Childbearing is a dual-gender issue, and if the culture of the church weren’t still desperately clinging to the 1950’s, everyone here would probably see that. And that’s the bitter fruit of the anti-ERA sentiments.

  49. ujlapana, I saw that too, as i giggled to myself about what the men were doing while “In Germany, where the phenomenon is most pronounced, a third of women are not having children.”

    My degree is in economic history, and I understand the reasons for recording births “per woman”- but in a church and feminism discussion, it was interesting to see the birthrate problem set at the feet of the country’s women, as if the men didn’t participate and as if family size was not a family decision.

  50. I find it fascinating that many people read into the comment about feminism either what they imagine it means or what they assume it must mean beyond the words themselves – based on their own biases and pre-conceptions. Frankly, that’s why I keep insisting on parsing over extrapolation. When I parse, my biases still play a role, I’m sure (VERY sure), but at least I’m granting the person the same courtesy I would want others to grant me – that I be judged on what I actually say, not what someone else thinks I must mean.

    I read Elder Oaks’ comment and summarize it as such: There are many good and noble results of feminism, some emphases I want my own daughters to embrace, but it can be a danger IF it encourages women to focus solely on careers at the expense of motherhood – to CHOOSE careers over motherhood.

    Am I wrong in my summary? If not, seriously, what is wrong with that statement?

  51. Mark IV says:

    Ujlapana and chrissyy,

    I respectfully disagree. Ideally, spouses would agree on questions of family size, and our religion officially encourages couples to multiply and replenish. But since the costs of pregnancy and childbirth fall disproportionately upon the woman, the church also (correctly, imo) insists that a man be considerate of the wishes of his wife, and of her physical ability to bear children. The church has effectively given the wife veto power on the issue of family size. Do you honestly object to this?

  52. Your comment tells alot about the mindset of the feminist. They think “someday” I “might” like to have children “if” I find the right guy, “if” have the resources “if” it is convenient. Make it a priority!

    Melissa, but that’s not what Maria said (and for that matter, there’s no such thing as “the” modern feminist anymore than there’s any such thing as “the” modern Mormon). Maria gave three criteria: opportunity, resources, partner. She said nothing about anyone being willing to have children only “if” it is convenient (we all know childbearing and rearing never is). Speaking from experience here, you can make it all of a personal priority you want to, but some of us simply won’t have the opportunity to have children in this life, and sometimes no amount of prayer or fasting or longing is going to change the situation either because marriage opportunities don’t materialize or because biology doesn’t cooperate. As I read her, that’s some of what Maria’s alluding to.

    At to “if” one finds the right guy–well, the Church itself is quite (and rightly, in my view) insistent that one shouldn’t have children until one has found a guy right enough to marry. Just making having children a priority is a good thing, but not nearly enough to make it happen–or to make it happen in a way of which the Church would approve.

    And as recent 500 comment threads at Mormon Mentality can attest, the question of resources, and how many one should amass before attempting to have children, is far from a settled or clear issue.

  53. Frankly, that’s why I keep insisting on parsing over extrapolation. When I parse, my biases still play a role, I’m sure (VERY sure), but at least I’m granting the person the same courtesy I would want others to grant me – that I be judged on what I actually say, not what someone else thinks I must mean.

    I’m all for the principle of charity in interpretation, Ray, but I’m not sure I get the distinction you’re making here between parsing and extrapolation. How can you be so sure you’re doing the first and not the second? (Isn’t extrapolation an inevitable part of all interpretation?)

  54. You’re right, Eve, that I can’t be sure. I know my biases play a role, even in my attempts to parse.

    Frankly, I’m not trying to address “charity in interpretation” as much as just holding someone accountable for their actual words. I have no problem telling someone I disagree with what they say; I just don’t want to tell someone I disagree with what they didn’t say but must have meant in the broader context of their society.

    I get enough of that from my non-Mormon friends. (e.g., “My minister said you believe such and such, so you must not mean what you said. There must be something in the words I’m missing.” or “I know you say you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, but you don’t mean it like I mean it because you Mormons mean something different than I do.” etc.) All I meant is that when Elder Oaks says he sees a possible result of a part of feminism as a danger, that we don’t ascribe a rejection of feminism to him – especially when he also says he wants his daughters to learn some of things feminism teaches. I think we need to try to understand what he actually said, not what we assume he must have meant by what he said.

  55. Ray, thanks for the explanation. Even if the line is difficult or impossible to draw, I would tend to agree, especially with this:

    I have no problem telling someone I disagree with what they say; I just don’t want to tell someone I disagree with what they didn’t say but must have meant in the broader context of their society.

    It takes a lot of work and careful attention to understand what someone has actually said–and I suppose we all know the frustrating experience of being attacked for things we haven’t said. So I think your point is definitely well taken.

  56. Mark IV,

    How patronizing this seems–women have veto power (a check against the presidential authority of their husbands) in matters of child-bearing! But not in matters of home-buying, education-pursuing, or employment-seeking? Are those the husband’s domain? Giving “veto power” to one gender on any issue suggests an unequal partnership in the first place.

    Your argument does not resolve my example, in which men, not women, are limiting the family. Of course women have the right to abstain from pregnancy. Likewise, men have the right to abstain from child-raising. That’s why neither gender “owns” the decision. At least not in the kind of marriage I would hold out as ideal.

  57. Ujilapana, cchrissyy,

    I didn’t mean for my post to set the blame at the feet of Germany’s women (to use that specific example again) as I also mentioned other factors like government policymaking, and people choosing not to have kids for lifestyle reasons. Rereading my original comment, had I written “couples” rather than “people” the comment would read closer to what I was thinking when I wrote it. I know lots of men who don’t want the responsibility of more kids, despite their wives’ wishes.

    Ujilapana, in Mark IV’s defense (though I’m sure he can defend himself) I don’t think he intended “veto” to be so loaded a word. Since the wife has to go through labour and delivery (and nursing, if she chooses) — all physically demanding things the husband is incapable of doing — it seems only fair that she should get a “negative veto” if the couple can’t agree on the number of children. Mark said nothing about houses or education or employment, where the circumstances will vary from couple to couple.

    Kristine, I think we’ll see more Western governments enact pro-natalist policies as France and Sweden have (though perhaps not the same ones), and I agree such policies seem a reasonable, if infrequent, interpretation of the Proclamation’s instruction to governments. I also think there’s a good discussion to be had around which members of both nations are/are not having babies, but that’s a topic for a different thread.

  58. Casual Observer says:

    I have no clue how you can look at this and consider it positive for us. It makes no sense to me.

    Oaks comes off as the most disingenuous apologist possible. It is frightening to me. His use of “so-called” in reference to science and history is horrible. Scientists and Historians are valuable pieces of our culture and lives, his dismissal of them with such a nonchalant comment is unfair and shows a serious contempt on his part.

    His responses regarding Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Expositor show a lack of information in the laws of Illinois. Also, he is revising history as he describes the role of the Council. It is interesting that he acknowledges the role of the destruction in the events leading up to the murder of the Prophet. That may be the most enlightening and progressive part of the interview. But, he still referred to it as a ‘so-called’ mob where a true explanation would have sufficed.

    Oaks is a smart person. He would do well to not split hairs with the members and the press. Access to information will ultimately undermine his revisionism.

  59. C.O., not sure why you use the word “us” in your first sentence. Your vitriol against an apostle invalidates any pretense of speaking on behalf of the Saints.

  60. Casual Observer says:

    I get it.

    The points are not relevant. Only the side where one is perceived to be perched.

    So, there is no issue regarding the Nauvoo City Council. There is no issue regarding a reference to history and science as “so-called” disciplines. There is no issue regarding the role of the destruction in the life of a Prophet.

    The only issue is not saying that Oaks was perfect in his interview? Honestly, I don’t even think Oaks would take that position.

    Where is the vitriol? Nevermind, just delete this. See ya.

  61. CO
    When Oaks is talking about “so-called” scientists and historians was a comment about how they can be so sure of themselves, and yet be so totally wrong. I’m particularly thinking of the eugenics craze of the 20’s and 30’s, where people thought it was proven that blacks and Jews were genetically inferior to white people. Yes, this is a threadjack, sorry!

  62. Casual Observer says:


    Hmmmmm. Interesting. I didn’t see those points made in the Oaks interview. I will go back to it.

    Revelation regarding race, in the period you referenced, was not exactly bright. While there was no revelation regarding the genetic superiority of whites to Jews and Blacks, there was significant revelation regarding moral inferiority and the source of darker skin. I really hope that skin color was not one of the topics where Oaks was saying revelation outshined science.

  63. Mark IV,
    what I said does not relate to who gets “veto power”, whose physical burden is heavier, or what the church says about marital decisions in general or this particular case.

    Look at the original comment-

    You may not personally know many women choosing not to have children, but the demographics are stark: women in developed nations are remaining childless at alarming rates. In Germany, where the phenomenon is most “pronounced, a third of women are not having children

    here, family size trends are spoken of as if women planned them without male input and as if a man didn’t have power to persuade or veto the decision. you ask if i agree with women getting a final say to not have a baby- sure. and I think men do as well. Nobody should be made a parent until both agree. (obviously barring accident. we’re talking about decision-making here)

    “It’s not fair to lay that burden entirely at the feet of feminism; government policy (especially taxation and financial incentives) has a significant role to play.”

    Chuck, even though you go on to credit outside forces for the trend, these reasons are given to explain *women’s* decisions, again as if only women planned families.
    I don’t see parenting or homemaking as one gender’s task in general, and that includes family planning.
    i understand you didn’t mean to phrase it that way, though. It was just amusing, or telling, the way we naturally refer to these things.

  64. Jaynee Doe says:

    Post #51, MarkIV says: “The church has effectively given the wife veto power on the issue of family size. Do you honestly object to this?”

    I know subsequent posts modified this a bit, but where has the Church “effectively given” the wife power to determine the size of the family?


  65. government policy (especially taxation and financial incentives) has a significant role to play

    I have never met a person of any gender who chose to have or not have a child because of a government program, policy, tax or financial incentive. I hope never to meet one. I think they are rarer than purple cows. And thank goodness.

  66. Mark IV says:


    I was mostly reacting not to the original comment, but to your “church and feminism” phrase. My comment was intended only to point out that both first and second wave feminism fought vigorously to place the female in charge of decisions concerning family size, and to observe that the church’s current policy more or less agrees.

    Jaynee Doe,

    Here’s an authoritative statement that encourages a husband to defer to his wife on the issue of family size:

    I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord. The official statement of the Church includes this language: “Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Married couples should exercise self-control in all of their relationships. They should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel (General Handbook of Instructions–1983–p. 77)”

    Gordon B. Hinckley, satellite broadcast, January 29, 1984

  67. oh Mark, here I am at the tail end of a dying thread and you’ve brought out dear GBH with a quote I’ve not objected to before- but look at it!

    “Husbands must be considerate of their wives,”
    it so clearly does NOT support the idea that the wife makes the decision, the idea that wives have veto power, or even the idea of an equal partnership. A husband keeping her interests in consideration… oh man. that’s quite a unilateral power distribution.

    thankfully that’s not how i believe these things work in most homes, LDS or not. but it’s an unfortunate quote.

  68. Generalization notwithstanding, there are many men who are inconsiderate of their wives in many areas of their relationship, not just child bearing and rearing. (And many wives who are inconsiderate of their husbands.)

    I do not read GBH’s quote as an endorsement of “unilateral power distribution.” In terms of the old “barefoot and pregnant” mentality (which IS “unrighteous dominion” IMO), what GBH said was: “That is a sacred matter left to the COUPLE and the Lord. … Husbands must be considerate of their wives. … Married COUPLES should exercise self-control in all of their relationships.”

    I view this as applying to both spouses. BOTH have a say in the number and spacing of kids; BOTH have responsibility for nurturing their relationship.

    Rather than labeling it an equal partnership, maybe having a BALANCED partnership is more accurate and fulfilling. I believe with that perspective there would be fewer (or no) veto power struggles, “better than you” attitudes, etc. It would simply be a COUPLE making decisions for the overall good of the family.