So I’m reading Mosiah 1-3 to prepare for tomorrow’s lesson on King Benjamin’s speech. Recall from Mosiah 2:5 that it was not just men present; it was also their wives, their daughters, their granddaughters who were there.
So I’m minding my own business reading along when I come to Mosiah 2:40:
40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.
And I immediately think, “Huh? Where’s the women? They were here just a minute ago!”
Benjamin makes several references to children who are old enough to understand. So although it is anachronistic, I read this as analogous to our modern concept of accountability, our baptismal line of eight years old and older. I read “young men” as comparable to Hebrew na’arim, which are basically teenagers (under 20 or so). And I suspect “old men” should be read not as 70 year olds in the High Priests Group, but in contradistinction to the young men, and thus mature men over 20 (especially since in antiquity men generally had much shorter life spans than we enjoy today). So the set being addressed includes the mature men, the young men, and children (in this case presumably gender inclusive) of the age of understanding.
So why are women excluded from this list?
Maybe there is another reason I haven’t thought of; if so, please give us your reading in the comments. But later in the verse King Benjamin talks about “the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.”
And all of a sudden it hit me. This is the ancient version of why the men get reamed out for prOnography and all manner of various sins and failings in priesthood meeting, and the women get fawned over and told how wonderful they are in the women’s meetings. This is a little bit of pedestaling, a little bit of benevolent patriarchy. (If you’re not familiar with the concept, read this classic post by our own Karen.)
So what do you think? Am I misreading this? Is there another plausible reason why the women present are explicitly omitted from this verse? And if you think I’m reading it correctly, is it a good idea for our people to internalize the notion that women by very definition are angels who can do no wrong and men are pond scum?
Your thoughts appreciated.