Friday, March 24, 2006

The relationship between men and women in Mormonism

So, Darlamay over at Messy Cucina asked me the following question(s) yesterday:

Well since it's Q&A time with the Mormon, I have another one:

Now, granted this situation I'm about to describe can be found in almonst any culture, I'm curious about the Mormon view. But, is it true that women are kept in the dark about a lot of the things going on in the church? A Mormon girl I know said she is told things on "a need to know basis," and only knows what she knows about Jesus through her husband. I think this is a dangerous way a manipulative man could control a wife, but again, same thing could happen in my church if it were a conservative family, except my church places an emphasis on a individual relationships with Christ, and as I've been told, the Mormon church hold more of the view of a relationship through elders. . . similar but not exactly like Catholicism. . . I guess what I'm really wondering is, what is the stance of women in your church?


Where to start? Maybe at the beginning. Eve has been grossly wronged in the press for 5 millenia. God gave Adam and Eve two great commandments: 1) multiply and replenish the earth and 2) not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As they were innocent in the Garden they didn't know the difference between pleasure and pain; they would've been unable to fulfill the first commandment.

Satan was cast out of Heaven because he wanted to take away mankind's freewill and take all of the glory for the salvation of man for himself instead of giving it to Heavenly Father. He wanted mankind to be under his thumb. As his plan was accepted by a third of heaven (who became the devil and his angels) they were cast out of Heaven by Michael. Once Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden in a state of innocence, he (Satan) immediately wanted them to have the very freewill he fought against in the War in Heaven. He tempted Eve first. Eve understood that in order to follow the first commandment she would need to understand the difference between good and evil, pleasure and pain, etc. She did not sin, but transgressed the law. Sin is something that inherently wrong at all times like adultery and murder. Transgression is something that is wrong at the time like getting a ticket in 1988 on a road for doing 65 in a 55 and that same road today has a 70mph speed limit. It was a transgression at the time, but not an inherent sin. She ate of the fruit and her eyes were opened. She got Adam to eat so that mankind could be. She was not evil, but a wise person who saw what had to be. Adam too saw that it had to be and chose to eat of the fruit. For this they were cast out of the garden, but as they now knew what had to be, they were able to fulfill the first commandment given to them and had Cain, Abel, Seth, and surely hundreds of other children. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has written:

It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25). Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall (Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).

Interestingly, Satan originally sought no freewill and then wanted to make Adam and Eve use their freewill, and once they did, he began to seek to take it away from them again. He began trying to enslave them and their progeny to vice, addiction, and sin. He suceeded to the point that the Lord flooded the Earth and started over with Noah and his family.

Also, the Lord created the plan of Salvation from before the formation of the world, for we all existed previous to this life and chose to follow Jesus' plan. Jeremiah wrote of this when he said:

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:8 KJV)

As part of the plan of Salvation, and since mankind had become imperfect because of sin, he could no longer dwell in the presence of God, we needed a Savior. The Lord also provided two things to help us while outside of his presence: prophets and the priesthood. Prophets are the communication between man and God. Personal communication between God and his children is possible through prayer and the Holy Ghost, but it is the prophet that can receive revelation for more than just himself and his family. His calling is to guide the believers and warn them, admonish them, inspire them, and other duties. The priesthood is the authority given to man to act in the name of God. The priesthood permits the holder to use the power of God to BLESS others. The priesthood allows (depending on the office held) to bless the Sacrament, baptized, give the Gift of the Holy Ghost, bless the sick, preside in a meeting, etc. By divine guidance the priesthood is only held by men. Some have argued that since women are able to conceive and create life inside of them that the priesthood is a consolation prize to men. I think that the priesthood is held by men because that's how God wants it to be. I'm not saying that he couldn't change his mind and allow women to officiate at some point, but as of yet, he has not. We would be made aware of this change by his prophet. My church is led by Jesus Christ through his Holy Ghost. I believe God has chosen a man named Gordon B. Hinckley as his prophet on the earth today.

He was chosen as an Apostle by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles many years ago. As Apostles pass away and others are called, the remaining Apostles rise in seniority. When the prophet dies, the most senior Apostle becomes the prophet. The first prophet of the Restoration (when God restored his church to the earth) was Jospeh Smith. He was given the Aaronic priesthood by a resurrected John the Baptist and the Melchizedek Priesthood by a resurrected Peter, James, and John who visited him and ordained him by the laying on of hands. The Aaronic Priesthood is the lesser priesthood and holds the power to bless the Sacrament and to baptize. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the greater one and holds the power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, bless and heal the sick, etc. Each priesthood has different offices. The Aaronic is divided into Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Bishop. The Melchizedek Priesthood is divided into Elder, High Priest, Seventy, Apostle, Patriarch, and Prophet. I am an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

With a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, a man who holds the priesthood looks upon marriage as a sacred privilege and obligation. It is not good for man (Mac) to be alone. Neither man nor woman can fill the measure of their creation without the other (1 Corinthians 11:11). A man who holds the priesthood should demonstrate perfect moral fidelity to his wife. A husband should love his wife with all his heart and cleave unto her and none else. President Spencer W. Kimball explained:

“The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 250).

Those are wise words. Far too often we let outside influences take precedence over our family. A slackening of this importance can lead to wandering. Any and every intimate relationship outside of marriage is expressly forbidden. A spouse's infidelity breaks the other's heart and destroys the marriage. We are supposed to be faithful in marriage in thought, word, and deed. Pornography, flirtations, and unwholesome fantasies strike at the foundation of a happy marriage and poison the soul. If you allow your thoughts to betray your partner and thereby commit adultery in your heart, and you do not repent, you won't have the Spirit, and you put yourself in danger of denying all faith. The wicked and adulterous seek signs and want proofs of knowledge instead of relying on faith.

Just as Adam and Eve, we are still under commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. This commandment has not been removed from us, which explains why Mormons have big families. Mothers are given a sacred privilege to “bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of the Father continued, that he may be glorified” (D&C 132:63). The prophets have said: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind” (Messages of the First Presidency, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:178). Mothers do somethingthe priesthood cannot do--they create life, the only divine power, other than the priesthood, given to mankind. The prophet David O. McKay wrote: "No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home” (Conference Report, Apr 1935, 116)

The prophet Harold B. Lee said: "The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 255).

In 1994, the prophet Howard W. Hunter said:

Effective family leadership, brethren, requires both quantity and quality time. The teaching and governance of the family must not be left to your wife alone, to society, to school, or even the Church.

A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Keep yourselves above any domineering or unworthy behavior in the tender, intimate relationship between husband and wife. Because marriage is ordained of God, the intimate relationship between husbands and wives is good and honorable in the eyes of God. He has commanded that they be one flesh and that they multiply and replenish the earth (see Moses 2:28; Moses 3:24). You are to love your wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it (see Eph. 5:25–31).

Any man who abuses or demeans his wife physically or spiritually is guilty of grievous sin and in need of sincere and serious repentance. Differences should be worked out in love and kindness and with a spirit of mutual reconciliation. A man should always speak to his wife lovingly and kindly, treating her with the utmost respect. Marriage is like a tender flower, brethren, and must be nourished constantly with expressions of love and affection.

We encourage you, brethren, to remember that priesthood is a righteous authority only. (Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 49).

In the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), a collection of modern revelations given by the Lord to prophets, we have the following Scripture which completely condemns unrighteous dominion:

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson-- 36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. 37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. 38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 39 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. 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen. 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-- 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; 44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. (D&C: Section 121:34-44)

But I think the most comprehensive explanation of our beliefs in answer to your question come from the Proclamation on the Family.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah."

I think that many times people have this perception of Mormons as men with multiple wives that lord over them with a heavy hand. The Southern Baptist Convention caught some grief a few years back for trying to basically express the same notion of fathers presiding, but their wording wasn't as succint, it carried the possibility of misunderstanding and perceived support of unrighteous dominion. This decision was satirized by Eric Cartman of South Park:

Cartman: Hey, get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!"
"Hey, missy, go knit me a sweater before I slap you in the face!"

So your Mormon friend that told you she learns about Jesus on a need to know basis through her husband has some serious problems. I don't know her, but her comment speaks to me of someone who does not understand the Scriptures, someone who does not understand the Gospel, and someone who doesn't pray like they should. Our individual relationship with Heavenly Father is the most important thing we have, period. No man, save Jesus Christ, can help us return to live with Heavenly Father--no matter his righteousness, his priesthood, or his charisma. We must know God in our hearts and ask for his forgiveness. The prophets and the priesthood are there to help us on our journey, but unless we get down on our knees and pour out our hearts and establish a relationship between God and ourselves, why bother? A god that requires someone else (besides my spouse) in order for me to get back to him is boring and unfair. There is no paid clergy in my church; there is no preacher. We have elders and bishops, etc, but they are not people that must help you build a relationship with Heavenly Father; they are there to help me out if I need them. We all work together. In order to get the brass ring, I only need (in no particular order):
1) Baptism
2) The Gift of the Holy Ghost
3) Being married to Mickelle for time and all eternity
4) The Sacrament
5) Prayer
6) Scripture Study
7) Repentence
8) Love my neighbor as myself [meaning serve my fellow men]

I can't get to heaven without Mickelle, nor she without me; we are equal partners. Even though I preside, I would never make a serious decision unless we were in complete agreement. Nor would I ever pull that "I forbid it" bullcrap that other men try to do.

Men who do that are evil losers and will get their reward.


paul said...


Big mistake putting Darla's link on the FIRST LINE of the post. It aroused my cat-like curiousity. I would just like to point out to the rest of the blog-readers out there that Daryn Steeneck-Wiese is one lucky hombre.

I'll read the rest of your post later.

darlamay said...

(lol thanks paul)

Mac-- thanks for your very thourough and honest answer to my question! I'd never heard Eve's position explained like that before and it spoke to me. I had a feeling that the couple I was referring to probably had a less than healthy (and very juvenille) marriage and I'm glad to know that their church isn't encouraging it as they've led me to believe. I realized I held a little anamosity in my heart for the Mormon church because of this particular experience, but you explained a lot to knock that wall down. I'm still all for women in the priesthood, but I'm a libera Presbyterian feminist so that figures right. I'm just glad women are equal.

paul said...

You're welcome Darla.

I take a slight exception to Mac's transgression vs. sin argument; however, I'm not going to sit here and argue semantics (or the proper spelling of the word "semantics", curse that company and it's so-called anti-virus product, Symantec).

I think Christian men, throughout the centuries, have more or less taken advantage of the words in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3. As the head of the household, it is man's responsibility to bring his wife and his family into the Holy Spirit. But man is also given the responsibility for showing his wife love and fostering that love into love of the Lord.

Where it all goes wrong is with the word 'submit'. I've been involved with many churches (of many different denominations and non-denominations). Men seem to have an over-whelming majority of the leadership roles. Pastors, deacons, Bible study groups, etc. are all primarily run by men, it seems.

I believe in every church, you're going to find this to be true to some extent. Perhaps this comes off as a bit chauvinistic and overbearing. But on the other side, many women are behind the scenes doing just as much for the church to lift up the congregation and the community.

Whether it's running vacation bible school, organizing fund raisers or food drives, balancing the budget, or conducting foreign mission trips, the attention is never something that the women let be focused upon themselves.

I cannot say I've seen the females in the LDS church as oppressed or blinded. I can say that I have seen it happen elsewhere. Albeit infrequently.

If that was happening, it would lead me to believe that something was wrong within the marriage first rather than the church.

Although people might point to corporate and political America and say that major companies and campaigns have shifted their leadership duties to more and more women, while most churches have not followed suit. I'm not sure I would totally agree with that, you really have to be involved with a church in order to see who the true leaders are... and not just watching whoever gives the sermon on Sunday morning.

Mac said...


I am glad that in some small way I was able to dispel misconceptions about my faith. At any time, you or anyone else can ask me to explain, in detail, what I believe.


In Spanish the priesthood is called "el sacerdocio". We only half-joked that the women did most of the work in the church so they had the "mujerdocio". The gnostics believed that Mary Magdelene was an Apostle too. I don't deny a special closeness between Jesus and her, but I will not speculate publicly about the nature of their relationship.

You cannot call what Adam and Eve did a sin, because it is not universal for all mankind, meaning that if you or I ate some of the fruit of that tree, it wouldn't be a sin for us, because we have knowledge of good and evil. Also, seeing as how they didn't have that knowledge other than the commandment no to do so, with a warning of death (they didn't understand God meant spiritual death [exclusion from the presence of God]) then they obeyed out of fear and not faith, which would presuppose the inability to sin in the classic definition of the word.