Argument Against…

Posted by on February 17, 2012 in feminism, Gender roles, history, humor, leadership, Mormon women, priesthood, women | 15 comments

In 1911, the state of California was in heated debate about granting suffrage for women. I recently came across one of the arguments against granting women suffrage, written by Sentator J. B. Sanford of the Democratic Caucus. Reading through it, I thought it would be fun to change some of the words. Below, I’ve included the full text of the 1911 argument on the left and an edited version about the ordination of women in the Church on the right. I’ve blocked the paragraphs together for easy comparison. The language is a little awkward and archaic, but so is the argument. Enjoy.

Argument Against Women’s Suffrage Argument Against Women’s Ordination
Suffrage is not a right. It is a privilege that may or may not be granted. Politics is no place for a women consequently the privilege should not be granted to her. Priesthood is not a right. It is a privilege that may or may not be granted, even to men: you have to be worthy. Church leadership is no place for a woman, consequently the privilege should not be granted to her.
The mother’s influence is needed in the home. She can do little good by gadding the streets and neglecting her children. Let her teach her daughters that modesty, patience, and gentleness are the charms of a women. Let her teach her sons that an honest conscience is every man’s first political law; that no splendor can rob him nor no force justify the surrender of the simplest right of a free and independent citizen. The mothers of this country can shape the destinies of the nation by keeping in their places and attending to those duties that God Almighty intended for them. The kindly, gentle influence of the mother in the home and the dignified influence of the teacher in the school will far outweigh all the influence of all the mannish female politicians on earth. The mother’s influence is needed in the home. She can do little good by going to priesthood meetings and councils and neglecting her children. Let her teach her daughters that modesty, patience, and gentleness are the charms of women. Let her teach her sons that an honest conscience is every man’s first priesthood duty; that no splendor can rob him nor no force justify the surrender of the simplest right of a priesthood holder. Women can shape the destinies of the children of God by keeping in their places and attending to those duties that God Almighty intended for them. The kindly, gentle influence of the mother in the home and the dignified influence of the teacher in Primary and Young Women’s will far outweigh all the influence of all the feminist Mormons on earth.
The courageous, chivalrous, and manly men and the womanly women, the real mothers and home builders of the country, are opposed to this innovation in American political life. There was a bill (the Sanford bill) before the last legislature which proposed to leave the equal suffrage question to women to decide first before the men should vote on it. This bill was defeated by the suffragettes because they knew that the women would vote down the amendment by a vote of ten to one. The courageous, chivalrous, and manly elders and the womanly women, the real mothers and home builders of Zion, are opposed to this change in Church policy. When asked by David Ransom, “At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church…Is it possible that the rules could change in the future..?” President Hinckley replied, “He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.” Women don’t want the priesthood.
The men are able to run the government and take care of the women. Do women have to vote in order to receive the protection of man? Why, men have gone to war, endured every privation and death itself in defense of woman. To man, woman is the dearest creature on earth, and there is no extreme to which he would not go for his mother or sister. By keeping woman in her exalted position man can be induced to do more for her than he could by having her mix up in affairs that will cause him to lose respect and regard for her. Woman does not have to vote to secure her rights. Man will go to any extreme to protect and elevate her now. As long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more protection and more consideration than man gets. When she abdicates her throne she throws down the scepter of her power and loses her influence. The men are able to run the Church and take care of the women. Do women have to give blessings to receive the blessings from men? Why, men have blessed and healed women and children, and spent countless hours officiating for ordinances that are essential to exaltation in order to preserve their families. To man, woman is the dearest creature on earth, and there is no extreme to which he would not go for his mother or sister. By keeping woman in her exalted position man can be induced to do more for her than he could by having her called to positions that take her out of the home and cause her husband and family to lose respect for her. Woman does not have to have the priesthood to secure her place in the eternities. Man will go to any extreme to protect and elevate her now. As long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more protection and more consideration than man gets. When she abdicates her throne she throws down the scepter of her power and loses her influence.
Woman suffrage has been proven a failure in states that have tried it. It is wrong. California should profit by the mistakes of other states. Not one reform has equal suffrage effected. On the contrary, statistics go to show that in most equal suffrage states, Colorado particularly, that divorces have greatly increased since the adoption of the equal suffrage amendment, showing that it has been a home destroyer. Crime has also increased due to lack of the mothers in the home. Ordaining women has been proven a failure in churches that have tried it. It is wrong. The Church should learn from the mistakes of other churches. Not one church has benefited from female ordination. On the contrary, statistics go to show that in most churches where women are ordained, the Episcopalians particularly, membership and attendance in the pews has decreased steadily, showing that it destroys unity in congregations. The number of youth leaving the Church has also increased due to lack of the mothers in the home.
Woman is woman. She can not unsex herself or change her sphere. Let her be content with her lot and perform those high duties intended for her by the Great Creator, and she will accomplish far more in governmental affairs that she can ever accomplish by mixing up in the dirty pool of politics. Keep the home pure and all will be well with the Republic. Let not the sanctity of the home be invaded by every little politician that may be running up and down the highway for office. Let the manly men and the womanly women defeat this amendment and keep woman where she belongs in order that she may retain the respect of all mankind. Woman is woman. She can not unsex herself or change her sphere. Let her be content with her lot and perform those high duties intended for her by the Great Creator, and she will accomplish far more in church affairs that she can ever accomplish by taking on the burdens of the priesthood. Keep the home pure and all will be well with Zion. Let not the sanctity of the home be invaded by every little ward matter that may be running up and down the councils . Let the manly elders and the womanly sisters work together as equal partners and keep woman where she belongs in order that she may retain the respect of all mankind.

Check in later today when I post a similar comparison in an argument that is for women’s suffrage.

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15 Comments

  1. It is amazing how well they parallel. I love when men tell women what they should want and what is best for them and then somehow think that they can also throw God into the argument. I think that Elder Uchtdorf said it well in the leadership training meeting last week;

    “Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers from the scriptures or the handbooks because we think we know the answers already.
    Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?”

    I think that human beings have a hard time with “separate but equal” it is in my opinion just not really possible and not necessary, but that culture gets stuck in ideas that they try to justify for too long and at a huge cost.

  2. This gave me chills (in a good way). Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Wonderful post. It stands to reason that Church leaders born shortly after that piece was written are still stuck in that kind of reasoning.

    • An excellent insight, CC!

      This is really cool, TopHat. Where did you find it?

      • In my curiosity one day I decided to google “arguments against suffrage” and found it! I linked to the original in the post. :)

    • Course Correction: But they were also born right after the Argument For Suffrage was written… And that argument eventually won out as California granted women suffrage in November 1911, so you’d think (at least in California) that the majority of people being born at that time and after that would be more in the “pro” side of things. Hmm…

  4. I’m actually uncomfortable with this sort of comparison. I think it is because it is the same sort of treatment used when people compare views they don’t like with groups no one should like. For example, people who want government to provide welfare being called communists, or people who are want to force contraceptives on everyone being aligned with the Nazis. I realize the conflation is intentional, it just strikes me as “dirty pool”. Speaking to how absurd/idiotic/evil a group or view you disagree with just doesn’t sit well with me.

    However, I do appreciate much more the second posting (argument for), as it works more on the positive side of things. “That was good and sensible, so this similar thing should be good and sensible”

    • That’s interesting. Is it just that this one is a negative argument and the other a positive? Is it that now, 100 years later, our society considers the limiting of the vote to only men absurd, so it’s obviously conflated and extreme, but our other culture (Mormonism) doesn’t feel similarly about the priesthood? If, granted ordination, would this feel absurd 100 years later? Am I totally off-base in these questions in general? This sure does cause a lot of thoughts to come to the surface for me.

      • Hmm. Possibly, probably, absolutely, not at all.

        It is quite likely that, if the policy on Priesthood were to change tomorrow, in 100 years the arguments against would feel absurd. Actually, even now, the comparison is that since one is absurd, the other must also be absurd.

        I think it may just be a matter of focus. A better argument against would not be focusing on how things would be worse if the change happened, but in how they are better with no change. I’ve no idea how anyone would frame such an argument, but the pair of posts aren’t so much arguments “for” and “against” as they are “for is good and sensible” and “against is bad and insensible”.

  5. Excellent juxtaposition between the secular and the eccliastical. As a christin non-mormon male, I find the position of the feminist mormon intriguing and not lacking in complexity. I would like to understand what it is that you are striving so hard for but I have a dilemma. Allow me to explain.
    During the protestant refomation, one of the biblical doctrines that was restored was the’priesthood of all beleivers’. This was due to the 1200 years of unscritural catholic priest/layman oppresion. Though protestants still deny the pastoral office to women in most denomenations , they are seeing the value of women participating in priesthood functions such as communion , baptisms , christenings , blessings and laying on of hands etc.
    This brings me to my dilemma. Jessica said in her reply that it was by young Joseph Smiths questions that the door was opened to the restoration of all things. Why did Jesus want Joseph to return to the catholic model and support creeds that were abominations of corrupt professors ? Or was Jesus just wanting Joseph to teach doctrines of men as commandments of God ?
    Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. In the meanwhile I honestly do hope that you mormon women do get your rights restored to your priesthood.

    • Gary, we’re happy to have you participating in our conversations here, but please keep your comments on topic. Your comments on this post and others have been not very subtly veiled criticisms of the LDS church in general as being out of keeping with Jesus’ teachings or mainstream Protestantism, rather than engagements with the particular topic of a specific post. If you really want to get answers to general questions about the LDS church, this isn’t the forum. At least not when those questions don’t really directly relate to the topic at hand. And general criticisms of the church aren’t all that welcome either.

      That said, if you want to speak directly to the question of women’s ordination and how it does or does not parallel suffrage, go for it.

  6. This is really intriging. Has anyone else had the experience that explanations that would be unacceptable in any other setting are considered okay in religion? This is a good example; generally people would find the arguements on the left absurd when used to suggest women shouldn’t vote. But suddenly they become acceptable when applied to women and the priesthood. The same is true of separate but equal. Most people see the flaw in separate but equal when applied to race or gender under the law. They would not support separate but equal in schools, public facilities, etc. But they use it to explain women’s place in the church. It’s a strange thing that I think is shown well here. Nice post!

  7. Okay well I am going to respond to a couple things on this post. However rude he was talking about us not being christian or following christ, he still made a good point. I think we can all answer the question he is asking, in addition to asking him to refrain from being a troll. He seems to be nicer about it then most people I have seen trolling. I believe him to be genuinely confused at our doctrine, being evangelical, but he did ask a question that I’m going to answer. Jesus Christ didn’t lead Joseph Smith to create a Catholic patriarchal setup. Joseph Smith was and wasn’t patriarchal. There are records, and I do not have the link to them but somebody else does, that state about the early church members during the time Joseph Smith was alive that actually used all the gifts of the spirit. They spoke in tongues, gave blessings (both the men and the women) and other things that as Christ promised in the New Testament would “follow his disciples”. The patriarchal nature came from interpreting the Priesthood line (being male), as the main line of power and authority, not just the line to administer the ordinances of the gospel, and help govern the church. Joseph Smith died before a lot of his ideas could be written down, and preached, and mass confusion ensued. In the end the 12 being a group of all men won out over the other group that in my opinion had a much greater claim to having authority from God to run the Church, and Brigham Young was ordained president of the Church, and subsequently things began to become more male-dominated, male-centric. It most likely happened this way in the catholic church, and even most evangelical sects. That is the best answer I can give you. However I simply do agree with the poster beneath, if you have been leaving a lot of these posts and being disrespectful in them, that isn’t right. However you should know the truth, and you came to the right forum to ask those questions. However you asked them, they need to be answered. However you should probably carefully phrase the questions as to not come off as condemning something before you even know.

    As for this article. I loved it. I don’t think that comparing the two is wrong. No, comparing it shows that these arguments are very similar. That this is the same type of argument used in almost every single conversation about having a group that was once barred from doing something, be allowed to do something by law. Church doctrine and law is fundamentally different. And thus a bit harder to change. I do like reading it, only as it shows me the line of reasoning that they use. It also shows me, human reasoning changes little. The same arguments are used over and over again with varying degrees of differences.

    I hope that I explained my opinion, and thoughts well, and that all of you understand it.

  8. Wonderful post! It always confuses me when people use the same antiquated arguments that hardly any modern person believes in anymore to justify current religious practices, even while these same people abhor such logic when applied to another venue, such as government or business.

  9. mannish female politicians = feminist Mormons.

    heh. :)

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