Brad Wilcox and Institutional Problems, Part 2

Monday night, I saw a clip on Twitter of Young Men general presidency member Brad Wilcox making a tremendously racist statement in a youth fireside. I posted about it yesterday and, in the comments, people told me it wasn’t just racism. There was misogyny and religious bigotry mixed in too.

So last night I looked at a little more of his address and, well, it too is not good. So today I’m going to add a little. I’ll note that I still haven’t watched the whole thing and today’s post will be a lot shorter, in large part because I have to do actual work that I get paid for; thus, I’m going to pull out one or two parts.

Today’s post won’t be overshadowed by questions of the sincerity of the apology though because, unlike his statements on race and the priesthood, there has been no apology.

And with that, here we go:

Between his statement on the priesthood and temple restriction and his statement on women and the priesthood, it looks to me like Wilcox has a favorite rhetorical device: take an issue where a marginalized group faces marginalization and claim that no, it’s not them, it’s actually the dominant group that faces marginalization. With race, it was the idea the white people didn’t have the priesthood for 1,829 years. With women, it’s this:

What else don’t women have? Priesthood ordination. They’re not ordained to the priesthood. “Well, how come they’re not ordained to the priesthood?” Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking, “Why don’t they need to be” … So what is it that sisters are bringing with them from a premortal life that men are trying to learn through ordination? Maybe that’s the question that ought to be keeping us up at night.

Let me be frank: what men can learn from priesthood ordination that women already know is absolutely not the question that ought to be keeping us up at night. It’s along the lines of looking at the fact that only 41 Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO and, instead of asking, “What systemic, legal, social, economic, etc. impediments do women face in the workplace,” asking, “Why is it that men need to be CEOs to learn something women already know?” It’s pedestaling, it’s a weird kind of gender essentialism, and it’s deeply, deeply beside the point.

Women don’t get ordained because the church has a doctrine/policy[fn1] against it. Why? I can think of a lot of possible reasons, but women are inherently more righteous than men and don’t need it is absolutely not one of those reasons. We believe that to each of us is given different gifts of the Spirit; we don’t believe that those gifts are the same across gender lines. I am entirely sure that there are women who are better people and more spiritual than I am. I’m also entirely sure that there are women who are worse people and less spiritual than I am.

In fact, this idea resonates with other offensive group stereotypes. A friend of mine of Chinese descent, not Mormon but very familiar with Mormonism, read that. His immediate reaction was, “This sounds like the gender-equivalent of ‘Asians are good at math.'”

Let’s not “Asians are good at math” women.

Moreover, Wilcox doubles down on the idea the women already have access to the priesthood:

Girls, listen closely, because I don’t know that you’ll ever have somebody explain it quite this point blank again. You have access to every priesthood blessing. There is not one priesthood blessing that you are denied. And you serve with priesthood authority. When you are set apart in a class presidency or you’re set apart as a missionary or in any calling in the church, you serve with priesthood authority. You will go to temples where you will be endowed with priesthood power, and you will dress in priesthood robes.

That has always been a weak justification for not giving women the priesthood. What it amounts to is an assertion that priesthood doesn’t matter, that ordination doesn’t matter, because, well, reasons.

But after two years of a pandemic, it’s self-evidently and obviously wrong. Women expressly do not have access to every priesthood blessing. When the churches were shut, most, if not all, stakes authorized families to administer the sacrament at home. But that only happened in homes with priesthood holders. Single women, women married to non-members, and others without a priesthood holder in the house did not have access to the sacrament unless some ordained priesthood-holding man brought it to their home.[fn2]

The thing is, Wilcox recognizes that women not holding the priesthood is a problem. But his proposed solution—putting women on a pedestal and claiming that it’s men who are in the worse position anyway—is misogynistic.

And again, this is an individual problem but it’s also a systemic one. At our last stake conference, the visiting Area Authority spoke. At some point during his talk, he offered the obligatory praise of our stake president. And he said something to the effect of: “When we choose a stake president, we look for the most spiritual, organized person in the stake. And then we call her husband.”[fn3]

It was meant to be funny. But the thing is, it’s not funny. And it’s not funny in an in-your-face way. It highlights that, no matter how qualified a woman is, there’s a ceiling to what she can do in the church. Because if the point of calling a stake president is to find the most spiritual, organized, or otherwise qualified leader, then the church should call that person, not their spouse.

And if, for whatever reason, that’s not possible—if church leaders have sincerely inquired and cannot extend priesthood to women—they need to own that. Own it in a way that acknowledges the hurt and pain and unfairness. Because telling women they have priesthood when they self-evidently don’t, telling them they’re better so they’re second-class citizens, isn’t the balm some leaders think it is. This is another place where the church needs to repent and figure out a way to move forward.

And honestly, Wilcox needs to expand his apology.

(There was also some troubling discussion about how leaving the church will cause a person to lose everything. And that’s frankly entirely wrong and flies in the face of the sentiment behind Pres. Hinckely’s near-constant refrain of: “Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.” Inherent to Hinckley’s statement is the idea that there is, in fact, abundant good outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I’ve spent more time on this post than I really have to spend on it, so I’ll leave off highlighting the problem without expanding on it.)

[fn1] To be clear, “doctrine” means “teaching”; it doesn’t implicate eternal or unchanging and, frankly, in my mind its interchangeable with “policy.”

[fn2] I’m a middle-aged guy who loves to torture his kids by misusing teen slang, so take this with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty sure that’s what people these days call gaslighting.

[fn3] To be clear, I don’t remember precisely what superlatives he used. But it was superlatives along the line of what I wrote.


  1. Thanks, Sam. The Brad Wilcox ruckus has brought to light for me that these things are being said, even today, in many places. I’ve heard them before but, naively, I thought they were gone. Calling them out is an important job and I guess we have to keep at it.

  2. “The thing is, Wilcox recognizes that women not holding the priesthood is a problem.” No, he does NOT recognize this as a problem. That’s the point. He’s telling those in the audience who are concerned about this that women’s lack of ordination is a feature, not a bug, in God’s plan.

  3. Not a Cougar says:

    Mary Ann, I’d say Wilcox recognizes that other people think it’s a problem and that he feels the status quo needs defending.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    What Mary Ann said.

    And I’ll say again what I said yesterday: the racism, the misogyny, the homophobia and the aspersions at other religions are all inseparable in an overarching narrative, one that is both personal to Wilcox and firmly grounded in the institution. You can identify each issue, but they are not happening randomly or piecemeal.

  5. Brad Wilcox has been giving this “performance” at various firesides for a few years now. Some have said it’s nearly identical to what he said in their area in 2019 and 2020. Also, as a BYU religion professor, he most likely teaches these same ideas in his classes. BYU needs to do a serious investigation into this, and specifically talk to past students and review his class handouts.

  6. Again, Steve, I’m going to have to disagree with you (and Mary Ann), for two reasons. One is what Not a Cougar raises: if he weren’t aware that it’s a problem, he wouldn’t talk about it and try to come up with excuses.

    And second, I tend to have an optimistic view on people. People know right from wrong; I also believe that the Holy Ghost and the light of Christ amplify that awareness of right and wrong.

    Now, I totally agree with you that he doesn’t understand the scope or legitimacy of the problem. That’s clear. But let’s not give him the excuse that he doesn’t know it’s a problem. Of course he knows it’s a problem.

  7. Good thoughts. A few more on the gender piece & one on the threats:

    (1) This line in his talk is so condescending:

    “Girls, listen closely, because I don’t know that you’ll ever have somebody explain it quite this point blank again.”

    Umm, Brad, I’ve heard that explanation, many times, including from other women like Julie Beck *years* ago (maybe you could have quoted her?) and from Dallin Oaks who has taught it pretty clearly. Ok? You aren’t the smartest guy in the room or the bestest at explaining things. You aren’t the knight in shining armor who is going to resolve all of our concerns (especially since you don’t actually understand them). Ok? Gross. Just gross. I don’t like to use the term “mansplaining” because I think it tends to shut down conversation and is generally rude, but, sorry, that was the biggest display of mansplaining I’ve ever seen.

    (2) This isn’t addressed in the post, but he tells a few stories about “angry women” who “don’t understand what the priesthood is.” That trope is so harmful. First, Brad, a lot of women are angry because they DO understand what the priesthood is, they DO understand the institutional power and influence and decisionmaking that comes with it, and being angry is an appropriate response to exclusion and injustice. What are *you* so angry about?

    And in any event, that’s just a stereotype. Of course he can’t lead with an actual thoughtful conversation about women and the priesthood and the real ways they are excluded. He has to set up a straw-(wo)man fake angry woman. Gross.

    (3) He claims that women have every bit as much influence in the Church as men. That is a lie. (As big a lie as the sacrament issue pointed out in the post.). Honestly, I don’t have anything more to say on that. It’s laughable except it’s not funny.

    (4) His condescending joke about worrying about his girls “passing the sacrament” while playing Church shows he has literally ZERO empathy or concept of how people really hurt over this. Maybe he thinks that hurt is unjustified because the only people who are hurt over this are angry women who don’t understand the priesthood because they aren’t as smart as him. OK, well, even if that were true (it’s not) the reality is, it hurts. I have seen my daughter and my nieces one by one come to the realization that – oh – no – they *aren’t* going to be passing the sacrament or getting the priesthood like their brothers? And shed real tears over it. It’s not a funny realization. It’s a painful realization for them. It means something to them. I’m sorry for his daughters that their dad thought their naive belief in their equality with their brothers was funny.


    I mentioned this on W&T but it bears repeating. People should be aware that this area of Utah has major suicide issues. They had a big epidemic a few years back and I am not sure if it has gotten better, but I personally know of a couple of suicides in the wards of friends & families in the last few months. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, but Highland/Alpine is an uber-competitive area where kids face a lot of pressure to be perfect, *and* a very homophobic area (so I imagine some of the suicides are queer kids).

    So, telling kids that if they leave the Church they lose everything? Suggesting that any non-temple marriage (such as a gay marriage) is a sham? Brad, would you rather people leave the Church and stay a live, or stay and die? That’s a real question. Because the way you spoke to the youth in that stake suggests that you don’t have a clue about the problems they face or the impact your words might have on them. That you are supposedly a steward over their well-being is shocking. There is zero chance I’m sending my kids to FSY or and CES-sponsored event if this is how our youth will be treated.

  8. Thanks, Elisa.

  9. “And if, for whatever reason, that’s not possible—if church leaders have sincerely inquired and cannot extend priesthood to women—they need to own that. Own it in a way that acknowledges the hurt and pain and unfairness.”

    A million times this. I can accept unfairness–there is lots of it in the world, despite our best efforts. And I can accept that this particular kind of unfairness is not the most important one to address now. But don’t tell me that it’s what God affirmatively wants for the eternities, because we don’t know that, and don’t tell me that it doesn’t deprive women of significant opportunities, because we DO know that it does.

  10. According to BYU’s public announcement following the controversy made by Wilcox’s speech, the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging will be reviewing the facts and making recommendations according to their guidelines and procedures. They have an OPEN online form wherein anyone can share opinions/thought/ related to their work.

    Additionally, on that website you can find the names of all the committee members- in case you want to also send letters.

  11. I watched the full video as well. As bad as the twisted and fallacious explanations of racism, priesthood, etc. are, what made the talk even worse (for me) was the flippancy and condescension, the hubris, the excruciating dismissal of the perspectives of other children of God, the purposeful ignorance of historical facts which are readily available to teens… it sets kids up for failure.

  12. Among other things, a major issue with this framing of women’s exclusion from Priesthood is that it is the _exact opposite_ of one of the major historical reasons for racial exclusions; and that inconsistency casts serious doubts on the sincerity of all of these claims.

    Historically, one major reason for Black members being excluded from Priesthood is that they had been insufficiently righteous during the pre-existence. (The whole “fence-sitters” argument.) Because this group was Insufficiently Righteous, the argument goes, they must be prohibited from the Priesthood.

    At the same time, the idea has long been in circulation (Wilcox isn’t the first by any means) that women are so inherently righteous that they don’t _need_ the Priesthood, That is, women are banned because they are Too Righteous.

    If we combine the two claims, we end up with a bizarre theory of Priesthood where it can apparently only exist in some kind of arbitrary Goldilocks zone — neither Too Righteous nor Insufficiently Righteous — whose boundaries just happen to coincide perfectly with the dominant social group, white men. Funny how that works.

    Who can know the inscrutable mind of God, right?

    [Note: please don’t click on the link in Kaimi’s name. He emailed me to tell me that the domain was taken over by a spammer and it turns out WordPress won’t let me get in to take the URL out. Thanks! -sb]

  13. DoubtingTom says:

    Brilliant comment, Kaimi. Well said.

    Reminds me of a quote I heard once that I can’t remember the source of, but I’ll paraphrase: “Isn’t it convenient that God arranged things so that whatever the local religion is where you are born just so happens to be the correct one?”

    Or whatever dominant social group and gender just so happens to be the one that God favors above others.

  14. Can we talk about Brad Wilcox’s project, and other apologists like him, being fundamentally flawed? So long as the premise is the Church is and always has been right, or God directs all things, or everything has a manifest destiny sort of purpose, he/they will continue to make bad arguments that in my opinion will almost always be both false and offensive. Unless and until we can talk about a history full of human failing, political expediency, systemic racism, sexism, and heterosexism–until we get real–the rhetorical problems will persist. There are more politically correct ways to say things than Brad Wilcox did the other day, but without a fundamental change in the nature of the project, more politically correct still comes out coded for the same tired propositions.

  15. Still Shivering says:

    No access to the priesthood? You don’t need their permission.

    Over 20 years ago our ward experienced a change in 8 year old child baptism practices. Previously the families, including the mothers and sisters, organized the services and they were among the best in the ward. It seemed to me they were embarrassing the ward leaders who couldn’t consistently pull off a decent sacrament meeting. The stake or higher instructed us that all children were to be baptized the last Saturday of the month with the priesthood leaders, not the families, firmly in charge. When questioned why, the answer was to save water in Utah? Generally we averaged around 4-8 such baptisms a year, seldom the same month. But a bumper crop of a dozen then 7 year old girls were next in the pipeline.

    I cannot remember exactly the parade of disasters that resulted as the peers of my daughter were the vanguard of this new practice. The first family notified of this change only a few days before, had relatives flying in and were now not at the newly scheduled time, costing hundreds of dollars in cancelation fees. He walked out of the foyer saying to me, it will be cold day in hell before you see us back in this ward! I think another family showed up once but not the leadership and also the opposite. A member of the bishopric forgot about his own daughter’s baptism and they had to wait another month. One baptism was inadvertently held during a Halloween party. Candy was not given from the font but children dressed as white ghosts wanted to go swimming.

    My December birthday daughter was at the end of this parade. My mother’s memory from dementia was deteriorating and it was the only grandchild baptism she would witness. But more importantly, I wanted to create tribal ties with Mormonism and our large extended families residing in Utah with frequent visits and gatherings of family. The bishop informed me he would not give permission for a Utah baptism of my daughter.

    Plan A: The baptism of my daughter would be held at a favorite frozen lake in the Uintah mountains. Relatives with snowmobiles would help transport those few without them. We would have a large bonfire and a barbecue. My wife could help chop the ice and get in the water with me and help hold her under. Maybe even say the prayer together and she could embellish it. My daughter would tell her friends that her baptism was just as valid as theirs and a lot more unforgettable. Who would the children believe? Their friend or the mean bishop.

    Plan B: My brother (in the bishopric in his ward) said they would override my local bishop and let us do the baptism at their church building. Oddly, all the other kids in his stake had to go to the stake center at the same time for a mass baptism that was more like waiting to take your driver’s license test to crappy music, than a religious service. But being from out-of-state, an exception was made for us. He prevailed upon my wife to follow plan B and submit to authority. Without her support the first plan would not work. My wife planned and conducted it. My brother was the one who did snow removal at the church and put himself in charge of filling the font. Somehow, the water heater was not working that day and that water was ice cold. I’m not insinuating he bought bags of ice at church expense and put them in the font. Or, more likely, shoveled snow into garbage cans and dumped them in the font. But I refuse to concede he didn’t. And he thought it was mighty funny.

    Another time an overweight, asthmatic scout almost died on a hiking trip. The other leader was so deconditioned I worried about him getting his own carcass out and I have a bad back. We did not have any official oil. I used “coconut oil” sunscreen and gave him a blessing. The other leader was so freaked out he couldn’t help. The words came into my mind almost immediately: “Get this kid the hell out of here.” (Does the spirit speak to a person like that?)

    My lanky, then 14 year old son (120 lbs) hoisted the asthmatic kid (160 lbs) on his back. He covered 4 miles and 1000 ft elevation gain in a little over an hour. His hands were bloody from gripping the kid’s levis to hold him on his back. We got him to a small hospital and they put him on the helicopter. I was reprimanded by a member of the stake presidency for my unauthorized and disrespectful actions in relation to the blessing. Were any changes in our practice of ignoring medical clearance procedures for scouts considered?

    I give you my permission, ladies, if you want to bless the sacrament in your own home, that is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of a loving and understand God. Even a forgiving God to whom you might spew out in anguish bitter words, why, why, why, this plague of a pandemic. And any other similar action that you can make happen. Do not be afraid of following J Golden Kimball’s advice, “it is easier to repent than get permission.”

    If you want to lead, well they won’t let me lead either (mostly for better reasons) and you will have to find another church. Many of them desperately need leadership and God loves them just as much as he loves us.

    DC 121:36-37

  16. I saw this on twitter and wish someone would ask Brad Wilcox, John Bytheway, and anyone else who thinks similarly.

    On the one hand he is saying women don’t need any priesthood to enter the temple.
    If this is the case, then why did Black women have to wait until 1978 to enter the temple?

  17. Holly Miller says:

    Thanks for taking the time to publish this post, Sam. Some excellent comments, too.

  18. Both his comments and the unfolding ruckus behind them, prove how far the Saints are from ‘rapture’.

    It’s probably a good thing the Priesthood ban happened. Given how racist Utah was to the Pacific Islanders (dark skin + priesthood) back then, it’s clear they couldn’t handle the concept of full integration. It’s likely that such ordinations would have caused more problems than solved. With temples, nobody is going to ‘hell’ because of someone else’s questionable interpretation of already questionable documents (scriptures ‘describing’ fence sitters, etc.).

    On average, women cause a disproportionate amount of drama and work in the church, aside from just asking for blessings and the sacrament. Female priesthood ordinations would be a welcome partial solution to millennia of societal conditioning. For both genders. Don’t hold breath for it though. It may never happen. We can all thank technology for really cracking this nut wide open. Communication capabilities and the wide-scale reduction in physical exertion required for work, has radically changed our perspectives…and over a relatively and stunning short period of time. There will be a time lag as the old guard dies off or is able to self-correct.

    Wilcox is trying to keep people in the Church. Their reasons for leaving are just as short sighted as some of his explanations. Raise voices, yes, but anger and high blood pressure isn’t helping anyone.

  19. DoubtingTom says:

    Whoah, az43, “it’s probably a good thing the priesthood ban happened?” Because the other white members at the time wouldn’t have been able to handle it? I’m sorry, but no. Was it a good thing that slavery happened because the powerful white plantation owners wouldn’t have been able to handle not having it?

    I can’t let your comment go. It is egregious.

  20. scott abbott says:

    at the core, his problem is arrogance. that makes it our problem because of his authority. a wise man once characterized (not my brother) Wilcox as follows:

    We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    … there follow words like gentleness and meekness and kindness

    …instead we saw insult and arrogance and disrespect

  21. Every single “rescue” Church leaders have done has the same formula: minimize the issues and deliver an ultimatum. Whatever problems people *think* they have with the Church will go away once they get the proper perspective. THEY are the problem, not the Church.

    Wilcox recognizes that *other* people see a problem with women and the priesthood. *He* does not see a problem.

  22. (Response to az43 and Wilcox, both) The priesthood ban was a choice made by Brigham Young announced in 1852. Removing keys and the opportunity to give blessings and lead an organization from women was choices made during the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century. The other path was available. Half the country at least was ready and waiting. For example, there’s good history for Joseph Smith heading in a more inclusive direction. (“JS later bestowed keys on the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo “that they may be able to detect every thing false” and that “knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.” from the JSP project.) Rationalizations that we weren’t ready for it, that history determined it, that it had always been that way, simply don’t fly. This was all the work of 19th century men, perpetuated by 20th century men.

  23. Alma Frances Pellett says:

    az43 – “It’s probably a good thing the Priesthood ban happened.”
    I hope we can all work to uproot this kind of thinking about any historical occurrence, but more especially the Church. If we truly believe the “no unhallowed hand” and “only Church with authority”, then anything the Church could have done would mean that it would still succeed.
    (And I’m very aware that not everyone believes the Church claims)
    The Church could have fought hard against slavery and still survived. The Church could have waited til well after 1978 and still survived. The right thing could have been done many, many times in the History of the Church but it was not wanted. The calls for change, even those high in the Church hierarchy, are drowned out by those fighting to maintain policies that solidified decades ago.
    There are no number of good anecdotes of people who found blessings of being excluded to offset the great amount of suffering caused.

  24. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I don’t have much to add to this discussion – with the exception of one wildly obtuse comment, I’m just nodding along with what people are saying. However, I just wanted to thank Kaimi for his comment. Have missed your voice for a while.

  25. “On average, women cause a disproportionate amount of drama and work in the church”

    What a disgusting, misogynist thing to say, az43.

  26. Elisa’s comment reminded me of a time when my daughter (about 7 or so at the time) came home from Sunday School cheerfully singling “I Hope They Call Me on Mission,” and talked about how wonderful it would be to baptize those members she had converted. When a family member gently mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to baptize anyone, that only men could do that, she said the equiivalent of “Oh, well—-then forget all that” –and of course as she learned even more about what she would never be able to do as a female member she dropped out before her teens. She’s happily attending Unitarian services in another state now

  27. “On average, women cause a disproportionate amount of drama and work in the church”

    The words “on average” imply that there’s been some sort of statistical analysis done here. I’m anxious to see your sources!

  28. az43, unfortunately you commented while I was teaching a class because that reflects a remarkable amount of hubris. I don’t think I’ll take it down (just because so many people have replied), but it reflects the same kind of harmful attitudes toward and stereotypes of women that Wilcox’s talk did. Let’s not compound the problems of the talk in the comments section.

  29. I accepted Elisa’s challenge in the previous post’s comments, to listen to the whole thing too, which I did last night. It was surreal, and not just because I increased the playback speed. I had a reply sort of written, but in the morning light it seems rather futile for me to address the Wilcox thang anymore. He is a trope I remember from my time as a BYU student: the RM who’s really invested in being cool, but in a way that doesn’t compromise being a righteous son in Israel, which includes a bunch of unspoken entitlements that women (and others) don’t have, and little pressing need for the work of scholarship, logic, or critical thinking. CES is a magnet for these guys.

    In my cobbled together reply, I also complimented (sincerely! I swear!) Sam for his masterfully legalistic response to my comment, and pointed out that it’s a privilege to tease apart for analysis differing problems resulting from the same origin, and that’s it’s ok to write according to your choice of focus. But it makes addressing them hazardous. There’s an innate hierarchy to which amends are attended to first, (or disingenuously) and which ones have to wait longer— perhaps 180 years longer, and it’s so common for bigoted and/or sexist reasons that are willfully hidden in plain sight. I’ve seen enough intersectionality meltdowns to be a bit more aware of how common this is.

    But this post improves the previous one, enough that the issues are moot to me, and we’re left with the flaming mess of Wilcox’s effort at “rescue,” which, in my experience, strengthens my impulse to remove from such harm, more than ever. Not gonna be enticed to gaslight myself ever again, and I am not alone.

    And the “apology” is so transparent that it’s invisible and already forgotten. As was intended.

  30. Christina T-K says:

    There’s already a lot of chatter here and elsewhere, so I’ll just add that the most inflammatory aspect of ALL of Wilcox’s comments is his hubris and condescension to every person who is a non-white male, especially those who dare to think for themselves and inquire diligently of what is true and good. I listened to minute after minute absolutely aghast at the things coming out of his mouth. It’s almost as if he was quoting Talleyrand from the 1700s: “[I]t will never be in women’s interest to change the assignment they have received. It seems to us incontestable that our common happiness, above all that of women, requires that they never aspire to the exercise of political rights and functions. Here we must seek their interests in the wishes of nature. Is it not apparent, that their delicate constitutions, their peaceful inclinations, and the many duties of motherhood, set them apart from strenuous habits and onerous duties, and summon them to gentle occupations and the cares of the home?”

  31. Thanks, MDearest!

  32. One other thing: How in the world does a person with a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wyoming wind up employed as a “professor of ancient scripture” at BYU? Does not the “ancient” part of the job title suggest formal training in ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic) and considerable academic experience dealing with difficult theological and historical issues? The PhD Wilcox holds does qualify a person for working in a public school district or in a college’s education department at a college. It does NOT qualify one as a professor to research and deal with the difficult issues within that discipline.

    I understand the strengths and weakness of the concept of lay clergy as practiced within the LDS Church. But unqualified professors at a major university is a whole different problem. We will face greater struggles with historical, scriptural and theological issues if BYU can’t employ trained academicians in their department of religion able to deal with the issues we currently face or will face in the future.

  33. az43, President McKay said in the 1950s that Pacific Islanders were not under the ban and could be and were ordained to the priesthood and attended the temple, Just one more thing you are clearly wrong about.

  34. Old Man: I’ve been beating that drum in futility for many years. The CES hiring practices are deliberately risable, and the Church appears to be doubling down on elevating the least qualified based on purely non-academic and subjective criteria. I discovered a couple years ago that the admissions process for students has likewise become increasingly subjective, and it is no longer the case that academic performance is the differentiator. BYU sees this as desirable, or at least its board does.

    Those who mistake mean-spiritedness and pulpit-pounding bigotry for charisma are pulling these levers, else how would Bro. Wilcox be called to the YM General Presidency? He bring the “bully” to the bully puplit. His story about the supposedly angry woman demanding the priesthood who mysteriously didn’t know what it was (and he had to explain it to her in his smug, arrogant condescending tones) is laughable and completely absurd as well as insulting. Brigham Young isn’t the only jerk.

  35. Paul Brown says:

    BYU has recently announced that its Religious Instruction hires will come from the CES pipeline, i.e., seminary and institute instructors. No scholars in ancient scripture need apply. No need for that pesky Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic fluency.

  36. Malaria = Priesthood. Gotta love it. One thing that seems to be getting little attention is the “you will lose everything if you leave the Church” idea. Now, that’s not even LDS doctrine. He’s just making stuff up at that point. We believe even the very wickedest people will be resurrected into a perfect body, never taste of death or suffering again, and will inherent a kingdom of glory. Check your D&C. And those are the hard core beliefs. I myself believe that everyone will eventually progress to the tippy top of the Celestial Kingdom, but that’s a blog for another day.

  37. Allan Garber says:

    The fact is, men in white shirts run the church. END OF STORY!

  38. Has anyone else found it interesting to watch the individuals sitting behind Bro. Wilcox on the stand (three brothers and a sister)? As I watched the video I was drawn to their reactions as much as Bro. Wilcox’s tone. Their reactions include nervous chuckling, checking watches to see how much longer, lots of blank staring, and some face palms and head scratching. I didn’t see any heads nodding in agreement or feverish note-taking. Perhaps I am reading too much into things – especially when full facial expressions are clouded by masks – but I didn’t get the sense that any of them were comfortable with the remarks. For me it was a small silver lining.

  39. Thanks Sam, Parts 1 & 2 are an excellent start to finding a way forward, I’m looking for 3 & 4 when you get to them.

    Part 3
    – The belittling of other faith traditions and people who are a part of them, ‘playing church’. I think there is something to be said for converts like my parents ( and millions of others – JS included) whose spiritual foundations were nurtured in another faith; and what we know of the Spirit of Christ, its influence is upon all people.
    My mind went to that recent GC breath of fresh air from President Ballard: “Today I expand my call for prayer to all people from every country around the world. No matter how you pray or to whom you pray, please exercise your faith—whatever your faith may be—and pray for your country and for your national leaders … This is not about politics or policy. This is about peace and the healing.”
    And I wished his sentiments had filtered down.

    – I thought of the 11th Article of Faith I had learned in Primary, and I wondered where was that, are they still teaching it?

    – with respect to paying money to be able to hear the words ‘sealed for time and eternity’ in your marriage vows, one wonders how Bro Wilcox got to the temple without making financial contributions.

    Part 4
    – The performance, the hubris, the histrionics, the gaslighting: I’ve never seen or heard a GA behave in that manner, I was put to shame, I thought of wonderful non-member friends who lead thoughtful spiritual lives, who at my invitation have accepted missionaries into their homes, how could I hold my head up. I had to look up Alpine UT, and there it was, in the heartland and I thought how does the rest of the international Church community view this, if this is acceptable at the centre.
    Our social media feed lit up two days ago, far from the source, on the other side of the world, the hurt was felt.

    So when you get a chance, thanks again.

  40. I believe in being charitable and forgiving, but his apology rang weak for me when it came to light that this was not the first time he has made these remarks. Not the same type of remarks, the exact same remarks.

    There is an LDS speaking circuit, and Bro Wilcox has been delivering this exact same message to audiences for years to who knows how many youths in attendance. Why does such a circuit exist? Because General Conference/Stake Conference/Sacrament meetings are boring (for the most part). The travelling speakers on the circuit are new and different. Unrestrained. The messages delivered are as close as the church gets to evangelical style rhetorical delivery that many find refreshing compared to the dreary oratory they normally hear. Here they get tell it to you straight, no bones about it, pure doctrine with flair. Delivered with a nod and a wink to those in the know, cool youth pastor style. Old time religion. It doesn’t matter that the content is the philosophies of men covered in bunk. It seems to sound, taste and smell better than the regular meals they are spiritually fed.

    Yes, this is a problem with one (privileged) individual. But it is an institutional problem that such an individual felt he was free from consequences and able to say what he said with no expected repercussions. In all his travels, to various locations and in front of multiple audiences, it does not appear that anyone reigned him in or challenged the content of his speech. That is inexcusable as an organization and as a people.

  41. Angela C,
    Thank you for the background on BYU hiring practices. I’m truly saddened.

    Maybe one major reason we are losing young intellectual Latter-day Saints is because of, well… CES?

  42. This is why the congregation should demand access to all talks being given. The policy of asking the congregation to refrain from recording the nonsense being communicated from the pulpit is a liability. Officially. The institution has been selling this rhetoric in closed settings for years, and we wonder why more than 1/2 of our youth have been leaving the church. Brothers and Sisters, record everything, share everything. Don’t let the authoritarian regime that has infiltrated the institution, compartmentalize and manipulate the congregation.

    The fact that Brad has been publicly saying similar things for years is evidence that the institution, until a day or so ago, approved his words. So let’s NOT allow the institution to make Brad a scapegoat.

    At the same time, consider that the institution has punished Latter-Day Saints for saying much less, and excommunicated Latter-Day Saints for doing far less damage to “the good name of the church.” Firing, disfellowship, excommunication–these are the ways the LDS institution handles unwanted speech. If a BYU Professor made the same comments, would he retain his job? Will there be a double-standard for GAs? Will the institution make a scapegoat of Brad? Does policy retain him as a GA and fire him from the CES, or remove him as a GA and retain him as a CES employee? Disfellowship? Or do we collectively forgive and take responsibility for LDS dogma and belief systems that have come to overshadow and obscure truth and doctrine?

    Hypocrisy abound–the LDS Establishment, Utah-centric culture, and the authoritarianism of the institution that puts itself between the congregation and the Lord’s ordinances–are unanimously exposed: when “keys” equivocated as “power” arbitrarily identify “office and authority,” instead of “wisdom and knowledge,” it is any wonder that leadership babbles like a drunk, or stumbles like a blind man?

    The same degree of intolerance the institution has exercised over speech among those belonging to the Restored Church, is now being poured out in judgment upon the institution itself.

  43. I honestly couldn’t believe it when I heard the whole thing. To be clear I’ve heard every single one of those arguments before growing up. It took me less than a week at college outside the Mormon bubble for people to stand up and say (generically not even knowing I was Mormon) that those talking points are racist. I just can’t even fathom how he has never been told…he clearly has.

    That is what strikes me most about nearly all the anecdotes he offers. Never once does he actually *listen* to what the other person has to say in his stories, He immediately dismisses them as unfaithful, ignorant, belligerent. No wonder people are angry – their real experiences are just displaced in favor of his. Until we actually listen to others and stop blaming our own bad behavior on “God’s will” it won’t change.

    I am having such a hard time holding on. There is so much to love about the Church, but honestly at this point my kids get a better education in moral reasoning, love, caring, listening, serving at their school. We haven’t been back since COVID and although my husband wants to, I really am not sure I’m ready or want my kids still at home to go.

    As an aside – my kids didn’t believe me about what awful things I was taught related to race and sex, until they sat in on a “discussion” between me and their very conservative TBM uncle. They were shocked. That wasn’t the version of Mormonism they grew up with. But we’ve moved and the systemic issues seem to be choking and chasing out the good.

  44. My wife–a non-traditional student who enrolled at BYU 25 years after starting college at another institution–took two classes from Brad Wilcox. She loved them and thought that he was one of the nicest and most genuine professors she encountered there. In perusing the syllabi from the courses, I saw nothing obviously problematic in the materials he used–although I have no idea what he said in lecture. Her response to this situation was unambiguous: “That is disgusting. I will never take a course from him again…and he should be released as a GA.”

    In response to Still Shivering’s comment regarding the use of coconut oil above, I am reminded of a line from the film “Kingdom of Heaven,” when Orlando Bloom’s character is talking about burning the bodies of the dead to prevent disease: “God will understand…if he does not, then he is not God.” I followed that logic during the early part of the pandemic. My elderly mother-in-law did not have access to the sacrament, so I had her put bread and water out and then blessed it with our sacrament via Zoom. I am fully confident that doing so would have horrified many in our stake leadership, but I am also fully confident that God understood the situation and blessed her sacrament along with ours.

    The hiring policy for religion faculty is ridiculous, but fealty to CES ideas trumps expertise. The recent change regarding temple recommends for all BYU hires strikes me as trying to move the rest of the faculty/staff in the direction as well.

    One other note: as egregious, repetitive, and tone deaf (among other things) as Wilcox’s comments were, we should not be averse to forgiving him personally if we accept the sincerity of his apology (an open question for some, to be sure). One of the major problems we have in the contemporary world is the inability or unwillingness to extend forgiveness or understanding for mistakes people make in the public sphere. To me, that denies the reality of the Atonement.

  45. @dave k, yes, I watched again today and noticed the body language. What I really wish is that someone had stood up and walked out, or visibly shook their head no. I’d have done so.


    On the point of forgiveness – I want to be clear that I harbor no ill will towards Wilcox. I know my comments have been strident. But I am attacking a system and an institution that made him. Not him.

    Am I willing to call him a “victim”? No, he’s got plenty of power in the system, although not as much as the prophets he grovels to. But he is in the sense that Lindsay Hansen Park really beautifully expressed, and he is in the sense that all he’s actually doing is reciting the party line and taking the fall for it. Yes, he and his wife could and should educate themselves better. But they are doing what they’ve been taught to do – protecting an institution that they’ve been taught is proxy to defending Jesus Christ and God. They think that helps people but they haven’t bothered to listen people.

    So yes, I think we ought to treat him personally with generosity and charity. And I would imagine most commenters here are really speaking more about the institution and system that created him than they are about him.

    Hard on systems, soft on people.

  46. Elisa: Exactly. Forgiveness for the institution cannot happen without an actual apology (not likely forthcoming, based on the position of DHO), remorse, and some sort of restitution.

  47. I always love that line about how as a woman, I have access to the exact same blessings a man does. I suppose if I were asking the right questions, the list below wouldn’t read like blessings, but like necessary burdens men have to bear in order to learn how to rule their universes as future Gods.

    1. I can’t exercise my gift of the spirit to heal because I am barred from even giving healing blessings of faith, let alone invoking the priesthood.
    2. I can’t bless my own baby or baptize my own child.
    3. I can’t exercise any priesthood authority in the temple to perform ordinances for children or men.
    4. I can’t become a queen and a priestess to God.
    5. I can’t preside over my husband and children in this life or the next.
    6. I didn’t covenant with God during my endowment. I promised to hearken to my husband while he made no promise to me. I gave myself to him and he never have himself to me.
    7. I will never bless or pass the sacrament. I will never experience what it is like to represent Christ in that way.
    8. I will never see someone who looks like me in the all male Godhead.
    9. I will never become truly like God. I will never be in a Godhead or use priesthood power to create (for those who would say but Heavenly Mother! If She is God just as much as the Father, then we would all face condemnation for not remembering Her always, for not seeking Her in prayer, and for not worshipping Her).
    10. I will never be able to consecrate a grave of a loved one.
    11. I can’t consecrate my own home.
    12. I can’t ask faithful women for blessings about private female medical issues. I have to speak vaguely with male priesthood holders and hope their blessing isn’t just as vague.
    13. I have limited opportunities to learn leadership and speaking skills through church service because I’m barred from most leadership callings.
    14. Despite my professional experience or other credentials, I can’t use them at church in roles like being a clerk, a technology specialist, a mission leader, etc.
    15. I would not have a full partner in the eternities if I were to die early and my husband remarry. I would forever remain faithful to him while his loyalties and faithfulness would always be divided.

    I could go on. But maybe these are the wrong things to focus on. Maybe trying to understand my divine nature and potential through a male God who supposedly created these policies to bless His daughters is futile. I should take Brother Wilcox’s advice and focus on what men can’t do. Maybe another question I should be asking is what other necessary ordinances don’t I need? Men require priesthood ordination, but I don’t because of my inherent righteousness. So why did I have to get baptized and confirmed? Why do I have to be endowed and sealed? Is it because like Christ, I too must condescend to fulfill all righteousness?

    My post is obviously sarcastic. I don’t mean to offend by comparing myself to Christ. But if the church is supportive of Wilcox’s rhetoric, then they have to follow its logical ends. Of course there are no logical ends with their racist and sexist policies. I could write an entire post on all the contradictions.

  48. I just feel he should be released. He can repent, be forgiven, be a good guy, give good talks (apparently only in general conference), and that’s all fine. But this stuff matters and if the church leadership wants to put its money where its mouth is in terms of its recent counsel regarding racism, then they should release him. It’s all the more concerning to me that he is in a position of leadership of the young men.

  49. Concerned says:

    Since this is a systemic problem perhaps it’s time to take action by withholding our tithing money until real changes happen. My fear is that in a month this will all be forgotten and we will be in this constant cycle where nothing ever gets solved and we’re stuck in an embarrassing religion that has no resemblance of Christ. Leaving seems to be the only way to have integrity.

  50. I understand the anger people feel. I feel the anger. It’s visceral. I don’t understand the shock, even though I feel it too. It’s like Elisa and others have said: he’s taking the fall for the party line he’s heard all his life and until just the other day was rewarded for expressing. I’ve heard family members, ward members, etc. express these views many times. As I grew older, I pushed back however I felt I could.

    But I am still trying to wrap my head around why this feels so shocking to me and I think to others, too. It’s not as though the fact he and many, many other LDS people hold these views and don’t even begin to grasp how revolting they are is a surprise to me.

    I’m unsettled, frankly. What other inequities am I ignoring or choosing not to feel or acknowledge until it’s this in-your-face?

  51. Sam, thanks for posting about this a second time and discussing the other offensive statements. It’s important to see the full spectrum of Wilcox’s hurtful remarks not just in the comments but in a dedicated post.

  52. Kaimi gestured toward this, but I’m reminded of how Blair Hodges has noted our tendency to “theological outsourcing”: if we can’t explain apparently unjust or troubling situations on Earth, it must be because of something in the premortal life.

    Of course, this was used to excuse the priesthood and temple ban. It’s used to explain intellectual disability (they were so righteous that getting a body was just a formality, and leaving them more capable would have made them targets for Satan). I listened to Rep. Chris Stewart explain that LDS Church members born in the US must have done something worthy in premortality to earn that blessing (he didn’t hypothesize, for instance, that LDS Americans might have gained that status through personal moral lack!). And now Pres. Wilcox, again shoving difficult questions off onto the premortal life: “Have you considered just making something up about this previous period we know listen about to dismiss your questions today?”

    It’s lazy, self-exculpatory theology. And it’s everywhere.

  53. I am serving a mission with my husband in the DR-Congo and do not comment on the things I see reported from the USA. But I will say that Deseret Book has the master of “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.” This might be a good time to re-issue it.
    Love and peace to all of you!

  54. Thanks Margaret! I was lucky enough to see the documentary once; it would definitely be worth expanding its reach!

  55. Clueless in Seattle says:

    I don’t know…

    If there is a legitimate reason to not ordain women to the priesthood it might be this…

    That the Priest, especially in the ancient cultic practice, stood as an intermediary to God or He is somehow a symbolic representation or type of God. Because all our access to God comes either via God the Father, or His Son all representation of God related to Priesthood are male.

    I don’t know how to reconcile this with the fact that we have Heavenly Parents.
    This makes less sense when you consider many types of God are female. For example, a hen gathering her chickens under her wings….

    This makes even less sense when one considers race and priesthood… because God is likely not white. Descriptions of His glory describe the brightness of His glory. But it is very likely that Jesus’ earthly skin tone was somewhere between olive and brown. And that is okay.

  56. Clueless in Seattle,

    I think that is a very good reason…for Catholics. Latter-day Saints do not believe that access to God is mediated by priests.

  57. Clueless in Seattle says:


    You got me thinking and challenging some of my assumptions…
    Moses may have thought this way. Was Moses wrong?
    I suppose you could say the Law of Moses has been fulfilled, end of story.

    Do Latter-Day believe that priests mediate access to God? Certainly not as explicitly as Catholics do.

    Jesus is the Great High Priest and He is essential for our salvation.
    Can you be saved without ordinances?
    Jesus indicated that at least baptism is essential.
    When you need a saving ordinance where do you go?
    If you need an ordinance, you go to the priest. In this way, priests do play a role in our access to God. Now God might save you just because you are a nice person, but that is His prerogative not mine.

    It is interesting that in Latter-Day Saint do use the term “priestess” in their religious practice. It is not hidden. It exists in full view of the initiated. What is the origin of this term? If the term “priestess” exists in Latter-Day Saint religious practice then you would expect that it points to some reality?

    Perhaps in modern temples we see the reality of woman claiming their role as “priestess”?
    Perhaps a Relief Society President acts as a “priestess” in her sacred responsibilities?
    Perhaps a mother is acting as a “priestess” in her sacred role?
    Perhaps all women in the church are acting as “priestesses” in unique and individual ways?
    I don’t know…

    In this life, or the next, it would be nice to understand this term in its fulness.
    My last thought is this… Jesus lived in a religious world where women did not have the priesthood. And I don’t know why that was so.

    In spite of this, there is much evidence in the Gospels that He treated women as equals, and not some kind of second class citizen. It would be nice if we could all do the same.

  58. Kristine A says:

    dropping in to say I agree with Mary Ann with everything always :)

    Wilcox recognizes that *other* people see a problem with women and the priesthood. *He* does not see a problem

  59. purple_flurp says:

    just a point about the whole ‘only 41/500 CEO’s are women’ thing

    this is the underlying reasoning of a lot neoliberal thought today about fixing systemic problems, as issues of representation above all else. It’s kind of the underlying philosophy of the “woke” Disney remakes, wherein the implicit message is something like “we need more women CEOs/presidents/leaders” etc. The idea is that things would be fixed if only there were more women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ people in charge.

    And while I do think things in the world and the church would be much better if that were the case, it doesn’t actually approach the real problem, that is, the structures that create systemic oppression. Having more women CEOs is good, but even better would be no CEO’s period and have a more collective and democratic allocation of power and capital.

    This is relevant to these issues about race and gender regarding the priesthood, because the structure of the priesthood itself is very hierarchical. We have to have people hold more power than other people for some reason.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that in the very early days of the church there was a more egalitarian streak of doing things, at least until it was decided that only Joseph Smith’s revelations were acceptable and those receiving other revelations through other seer stones and such were invalid. Hierarchy is baked pretty deep into the church’s DNA (and in Christianity in general) and I doubt it’ll ever be different, at least not in our lifetime but I can’t help but wonder what a more egalitarian order of the priesthood would look like and if it would even be possible and still be in line with our gospel principles. But I’d like to think that it would.

  60. Clueless in Seattle, I think this is a very presentist way to read scripture, and it leads us into odd contradictions. Moses believed in priests, but also very clearly that Miriam was a prophet, as were Deborah and Huldah later on. Jesus didn’t go to a priest for baptism. Jesus lived in a religious world where women didn’t have priesthood, but neither did he. The first apostles–witnesses of the resurrection–were women.Paul refers clearly to women (Priscilla and Junia) with roles in the primitive church that we in the restored church reserve to men. Some ordinances are performed by women now, and more were in the 19th century church. Ordaining young men is a very recent practice, barely 100 years old in our church and we’ve just changed it again to ordain even younger men. There is simply no coherent way to map our current practice onto scripture or even the history of our own church. I don’t think there needs to be, as long as we don’t insist that some unchanging principle about God or men or women is at work in our current, really quite arbitrary rules.

  61. Maggie Hong says:

    I had fond memories of how Brad Wilcox had us rolling with laughter as a speaker our multi-stake conference flew in from UT. We called those youth conferences “leadership,” which is probably the Canadian equivalent of EFY back in the 90s. He spoke on “grace,” and spoke/entertained the youth with funny anecdotes and exaggerated expressions and livelt voice so unlike our typical church/spiritual talks. So when our Hawaii stake said Brad Wilcox was going to speak to our youth last year via zoom (pandemic year), I was excited for my son and thought he would appreciate Brad’s use of humor. Wilcox’s remarks turned out to be so offensive and audacious, my son was in disbelief. He kept asking me, “who is this guy?” Wilcox seemed to speak in casual language to relate to the youth, but he used a lot of fear based rhetoric to make the point that everyone is better off with religion and church attendance and worse off without. I cannot remember exactly but the takeaway was his arrogance in which he argued those who go to church or are religious and not just spiritual are better people than those who don’t. Do not leave the boat or else it diminishes your worth/goodness. My son was so turned off as we have family who no longer practice and he totally saw that as a false statement because those same people are still good people and can still lead happy lives.
    His cavalier persona did not help. I was embarrassed and disappointed and my husband and I told my son to turn off the TV and explained to him these are the kind of people and teachings we try to steer him away from. I thought about writing him to explain how distasteful his talk was, but did not. I am glad more videos are surfacing so we can put a stop or cause Wilcox to examine his style and content. Good riddance. His talk to our Hawaii youth was not uplifting either.


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