Call to Reaction to Boyd K. Packer

There has been a great deal of talk about Boyd K. Packer’s recent talk at the worldwide leadership conference. Many, myself included, were angered and hurt by what he said about women, especially his statement about the worthiest thing women can do is be a wife of a priesthood holder and have children.

I was irate after reading this talk. But I realized that most of my anger was at my inability to state that I disagreed to anyone who might be able to do something. I have no way of getting in touch with Bro. Packer nor any other church leader. I felt voiceless and powerless and that makes me more angry then what he said does. I am tired of feeling powerless, especially in the church. So I reached out to the Exponent community and Deborah gave me an idea I really liked. She suggested that instead of just writing to Bro. Packer, who likely won’t read it anyway, to get in touch with local leadership. Ask the female and male ward and stake leaders how what he said will affect policy or opinions within the ward and stake, and express concern about what was said. This way they can make decisions about how to use what he said with full knowledge of how it effected some women in their stewardships.

So here is the plan: I have written to my bishop, relief society president, stake president and stake relief society president. I found all their addresses in my ward directory on LDS.org. I also composed a slightly different letter to send to Bro. Packer, as he was the one who gave the talk. Below is the letter I wrote.

What are your thoughts on this plan? Would you feel comfortable doing something similar? What do you think the outcome will be?

To the leadership of the ___Ward and ___ Stake:

I’m writing to you regarding Brother Packer’s recent talk at the worldwide leadership meeting. I was not in attendance, but have the text of the talk published by the church in front of me. I would like to make you aware of the pain that this talk caused many Mormon women, myself included. I would also like to know to what extent his words represent the opinions of local leadership and how much they will affect decisions made by that leadership.

Let me start by saying that I do not believe that Brother Packer intended to hurt anyone with his words. I believe he cares about the members of the church and wished to express that in his talk. But some of what he said was profoundly painful to me and to other women.

The part I found the most painful was his statement “I have been very careful, and am very careful, to treat my wife with that respect and reverence that is due to her in performing that thing that is of most worth for a woman in this life to live the gospel. To be the wife and the mother of the children of a worthy holder of the priesthood.” I’m glad that Brother Packer loves and respects his wife. But his belief that the most worthy things a woman can do in this life is to marry a priesthood holder and have children is heart-wrenching to me. That means that everything I have done in my life, my education, my work, my relationship with God, my attempts to become like Christ do not qualify as the most worthy thing. I will only be successful if I have children. My life to this point feels as though it has been dismissed. This is incredibly depressing to consider, that twenty-five years of my life are less worthy because I don’t have children.

Where does Bother Packer’s statement leave women incapable of having children, single women or women married to non or inactive members? It leaves them in a place where, no matter what they accomplish they will never achieve the most worthy goal in this life, often through no fault of their own. No matter the good they do, the relationship they have with God, they will never be as worthy a married woman with children. The pain of being told by a church leader, a man who speaks for God, that their lives will never be as worthy as others’ is intense. If this man who speaks for God says that their lives will never be as worthy, is that what God thinks of them? Does God think that they are less worthy because their bodies are incapable of bearing their husband’s children, because they did not find a spouse, or because they found love with a non-member, or a man who for whatever reason does not hold the priesthood?

I am aware that some will not read Brother Packer’s statement as I have. But I read it that way, and I am not the only one. The day the talk was given I heard about it from four different source, all of which were hurt and upset by what he had said. Reading his talk makes me feel as though my life has been rejected by the church I grew up in. Am I to believe that God will not consider me worthy until after I have children? What if I never have children? Will I never be good enough for God or the church? If Brother Packer is a prophet, seer and revelator, as he is called by the church, then I must believe that his words as an apostle in a leadership meeting come from God. And his words tell me that my life is not as worthy, and may never be as worthy, as other womens’. His words tell me that my worthiness rests not on my relationship with God or my attempts to become a good, compassionate, Christ-like person but on my ability to bear children. This makes me want to weep for the things I want to do, for the person I am, because I am not good enough for God.

I see major repercussions to statements like this, especially if it is widely taught. First, many women who do not fit this definition will always feel like second class citizens. They will feel that nothing they do is good enough. This seems like a horrible position to put LDS women in. As evidenced by mine and others reactions’ this is a very real possibility. Second, women may make life decisions based on this statement rather then their own relationship with God. Brother Packer, speaking for God, said that being a wife and mother is the most worthy thing. They may take this to heart and marry the wrong person just to be married, have children before they are ready just to have children. This could lead to divorce, unhappy marriages and unhappy families. The church is so invested in strong families, statements like this may unintentionally counter the work the church does for family.

I would like to suggest an alternative statement of worthiness. Marriage and motherhood are good things, but not every women will have the opportunity to marry and have children. But every women has the chance to have a relationship with God and can become like Christ. This seems like the most worthy thing a woman can do. And I believe that the New Testament, where Christ states the two great commandments supports this concept of worthiness. We are commanded to love God and those around us above anything else. What could be more important then finding God and becoming like Christ? That is something women can be successful at, can progress in. I ask that this be taught as the most worthy goal rather than marriage or motherhood. I ask that women not be left out of their religion because of things out of their control.

I believe it is important that you are aware of the effect Brother Packer’s talk has had on many women in the church. I would also like to request that as a ward and stake we focus on a relationship with God and becoming like Christ as most worthy goals rather than marriage and motherhood, so as not to exclude women within their religions.

DefyGravity

I'm a graduate from BYU in theatre education and history teaching, currently living in Utah and working at a library company. I've been married since 2009. I love to read essentially anything. I'm an earring fanatic, Anglophile and Shakespeare lover.

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125 Responses

  1. Deborah says:

    I think we have a tendency in the church to sometimes “hear but not hear.” Communing with the saints often means tuning out some of the crazy stuff you hear in testimony meeting and giving a well-meaning RS teacher a generous rope as she offers questionable doctrine. We all do it. And sometimes we do it with GA addresses, too — we hear the same tone, the familiar cadence of speech, we settle in.

    But then sometimes we hear a talk, or lesson, or GA address and it shakes us, and something says, “That doesn’t feel right. That hurts.” Elder Packer’s suggestion that the women are honored by priesthood holders because they help men to reach heaven . . . ouch. Really, ouch. On so many levels. But I’m guessing many of the people listening either didn’t hear it this way . . . or simply didn’t HEAR it, because we are so used to half listening.

    That’s why I suggested channeling your energy to sharing with the local leadership your concerns — because the local leadership can make ALL the difference in one’s experience with the church. I remember the feeling of spiritual electricity when I had a bishop who stood up to exhort the congregation to open the metaphorical boundaries of the ward, to move out of our comfort zone, to make our ward a safe place for people at every point of the journey. I have known what it’s like to have a bishop who is afraid of anything that’s not by the book and who struggles to include women in decision-making. I’ve seen people leave and return based on the attitude “on the ground.”

    So I figure part of being a Zion community is to add my voice and perspective, honestly and compassionately — especially since I know many many women who feel at odds but who feel uncomfortable using their voices.

    • amelia says:

      “Elder Packer’s suggestion that the women are honored by priesthood holders because they help men to reach heaven . . . ouch. Really, ouch. On so many levels. ”

      This is the line that upset me the most. I really disliked the notion that women’s most valuable contribution is in marrying a “righteous” priesthood holder and giving him babies, too, but the notion that we are loved and honored for the utility we provide–as a tool for his exaltation–that is just so absolutely demeaning and I don’t know how anyone could say such a thing without recognizing it as such. Plus, it’s completely not in keeping with gospel doctrine.

  2. valeriejean says:

    I agree that Body k. Packer did not intend to hurt anyone with his statement, and he is not the first person to express this idea as church doctrine. I think that the current political drama over the defense of Marriage act, Prop 8, and gay marriage in so many states has influenced the LDS culture to perhaps entrench itself in what it believes are traditional values. This includes, among other things, narrowly defining the role of women and a sort of spiritual discrimination. Women get no priesthood, no leadership roles, and now, no spiritual perfection w/o a man and a baby (or 8). I expect there to be more statements from the church that reinforce traditional gender roles using the gospel to essentially justify discrimination.
    Your reaction is very proactive and will probably get the local leadership to at least think about their actions.

  3. Brian D. says:

    As a man I have to throw my support with you. I’m sorry this message is given in the church to women. It’s offensive to me, my wife, my mother, my sister, my future daughter-in-laws (alas I only have sons), and my sons. For a church with a dubious history of sexual discrimination, comments like these flame the fires. Thank you for bringing this up. I probably would have been on my phone playing angry birds and totally missed this. So speak out! Keep it up! Please report back on how it is received. I’m trying to adapt your letter from a man’s perspective. But this is a great idea, to voice these concerns to the local leaders in this manner. Thanks for that!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Brian D., thank you. I’ve been going through all of the Exponent’s archives and although you may never see this response, I just wanted to express to you how much your comment comforted me! Alas, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking all Mormon men are to some degree benevolent sexists, or that they simply don’t notice these issues. Obviously, I am wrong. My wonderful fiancé would also prove otherwise. Best wishes to you and your family, albeit five years later.

  4. Jessica says:

    My husband said that it is just his last ditch effort to get his opinions recored in as many places before he dies. Like the seminary commemoration a few months ago. Its was not appropriate to talk about same sex attraction/marriage. Its seminary for goodness sakes.

    I agree its absurd and I cannot stand how we focus on this and that and really forget to worship Christ and to draw closer to God.

  5. EM says:

    I totally share your pain DefyGravity! So if I by marrying a worthy priesthood holder and had children counts me as doing the most worthy thing, what does it now make me that the “priesthood holder” is no longer worthy? I have to wonder if these men have speech writers and the first time they present the speech/talk is at the pulpit. That kind of attitude of words strikes me as being pompous and all it does for some women is raise their/my hackles. UGH!

  6. Jake says:

    This is a wonderful idea. I know of many young women who feel like they have failed in life because by the age of 26 they are not married and having kids. To think that is just wrong in my opinion, no one should feel that they are less of a person because they don’t have kids or are not married especially at the age of 26 (and often younger).

    Not to be a nay sayer, but this attitude is far more pervasive and there is little that local leadership can really do to combat it as it comes from a cultural ideal along with apostolic authority. If a local leader says ‘women should find value in whatever they do’ and Boyd says ‘get married and have kids is what you have to do’ then Packer’s view is always going to trump the local leaders in the eyes of many. However, I think that progress happens by degrees and the more people raise the concerns you highlight the faster progress is going to be. Sometimes you have to chip away at things that you can influence which for most of us is our friends, family and local leaders.

    I for one buoyed by your example will do more to make people aware of the problems you raise.

  7. JT says:

    Wasn’t President Packer basically paraphrasing Harod B. Lee’s famous line? “The most important…work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.”

    His actual words from the WWLT:

    “That gives me a lot of comfort at my young age when we have been married for 65 years, and I think that could come to an end. Then I realize that the gospel is true, and it will never come to an end. I have been very careful, and am very careful, to treat my wife with that respect and reverence that is due her in performing that thing that is of most worth for a woman in this life to live the gospel, to be the wife and the mother of the children of a worthy holder of the priesthood.”

    Earlier in the talk, he reversed the stereotypical “a wife can’t make it to heaven without her husband”:

    “[I]t is well understood that whether or not we are exalted depends upon the sister who is at our side—the wife, the mother of our children—and no holder of the priesthood would in any way depreciate or mitigate the value and power of his wife. When I hear those comments that the sisters are less than the brethren, I wish that they could see inside the heart of every worthy holder of the priesthood and understand how he feels about his wife, the mother of his children—a reverence, not quite worship but a kind of worship, a respect for the companion in life that causes it to be that he can be exalted ultimately.”

    • X2 Dora says:

      If Packer’s intent was to paraphrase President Lee, Packer is missing half of the message. The beauty of that particular quote from President Lee is that it seems to be directed to both men and women.

  8. Rachel says:

    I once heard a single’s ward bishop in Salt Lake say something very similar, but only about a woman’s marriage day. He called it “the pinnacle of her life to be kneeling worthy before a young man at an altar,” but spoke nothing of it being the pinnacle of the man’s life (and indeed attributed that to a combination of Eagle Scout award winning and mission serving). I was upset and I was hurt. My mind was exploding with thoughts: Eagle Scout awards are not that big of a deal! Women can also serve missions! What about the man’s worthiness before the woman? What about when they become parents or grandparents or do other notable things individually, together, and in their community? That negates that women can do anything else great in their entire life! And so on. I thought about it for a long time. And after those long thoughts, I came to the conclusion that you started with, that what really matters is our individual relationship to God. People are going to say things in the church that we disagree with, and that we don’t think are doctrine, and that sometimes aren’t doctrine. Sometimes those people will be at the local level, like the Bishop in Salt Lake. Sometimes it will be President Packer. But the nice thing is, is that we know in our heart of hearts that God thinks we have worth if we never get married, or if we get married and divorced, or if we don’t have children, etc. God still loves us in all of those cases. In fact, we are told in Romans that nothing can take away the love of God. Not principalities. Not powers. And not even bad talks.

    I think you are doing the right thing though, to honestly address your concerns in a way that can make a difference for your practical life, and the lives of women you care about. Kudos, sister.

  9. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    JT,
    In one sense of trying to fix a problem, that’s a nice quote but I’d rather not elevate women at the expense or men just as I’d rather not elevate men at the expense of women.

    Far more disturbing to me is that he says that he hears comments “that the sisters are less than the brethren” from others. Either he’s hearing those comments from “scary” feminists or he’s hearing them from other men. And if it’s the first, then he’s misunderstanding horribly what is impelling such statements (I doubt that there’s many Mormon feminists who don’t understand the hearts of their husbands FAR better than BKP does), and if it’s the second then I’m amazed that some men would be willing to make such comments around an apostle of the church.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Love the interpretation of Packer’s other comment. I felt very misunderstood as a Mormon feminist, because if he’s getting his info from us, he’s missing the point completely. And if men are saying that, that’s an even scarier thought. I’ve seen it happen, but most men who do believe that way likely wouldn’t admit it to authority. If they are, we’ve got bigger problems then we thought.

  10. Maryly says:

    I was more bothered by the comment about valuing a wife because she will get you to heaven. I feel sort of like a thing right now. Please value me as myself, for myself; please love me as I love you, not as just a “worthy priesthood holder”, but as yourself – a fine, intelligent, quirky man; a man who loves and serves God and who loves his family – and his wife -unconditionally.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I was also very disturbed by that and said so in my letter to Packer. But I wanted to keep this letter shorter and simpler. If I get any response I plan on bringing this up.

  11. Erin says:

    I am so impressed that you are being proactive with your feelings! I really hope someone listens, because I am weary of being voiceless, too. I second the request to provide a follow-up to your letters. I look forward to hearing more from you and anyone else who follows your example.

  12. LRC says:

    Good for you for speaking up. Reading through the comments tonight, it occurs to me that, when combined with the ritual of temple sealings, women are much more commoditized (is that a word?) than is reflected by Pres. Packer’s words alone. He talks about men adoring their wives because, at least in part, the women are the reason the men are getting into heaven. The women are objects or means for exaltation (and the men are the means for exaltation in the same way – they have to do it together), but in the temple, the giving and receiving of self is a one-way presentation.

    Anyway, it’s late, and that’s about as clear as I can make this stream-of-consciousness thought, and now I can settle my mind for sleep.

  13. allquieton says:

    Your gripe is with Packer, I would say leave your local leaders out of it.

    Also when Packer speaks of “being a wife and mother,” it sounds like you think he means getting married quickly and just producing children are what’s important. But that’s not what he said. It sounds to me like many diverse activities, goals, sacrifices, and attempts to be Christlike are included in that.

    And of course Packer didn’t mean women who can’t have kids are less worthy. I wonder why you are trying to pin this view on him when he didn’t say it, and clearly doesn’t believe it.

    I think you are reading it wrong. You keep mentioning a womans personal worthiness. But Packer never said anything about that. He was talking about what is of worth (or valuable) to a woman trying to live the gospel.

    And he never said he was speaking for God.

    • Erin says:

      I’m quite sure that in the general Mormon and non-Mormon population, when a church leader speaks officially, it is interpreted as speaking for the church. In the general Mormon population, a person who is considered a prophet, when speaking officially, is considered to be speaking for God.

    • DefyGravity says:

      You raise an interesting question: when is an apostle speaking for the Lord? If he doesn’t explicitly say that he is, can his words be ignored? I haven’t run into too many people who would agree with that statement. People tend to believe that if an apostle is speaking over a pulpit he is speaking for God, which would fit this talk. What is your interpretation of when an apostle speaks for God?

      I said in my letter that not everyone will interpret the talk as I did. You clearly didn’t, which is fine. I can see where you are coming from. I am expressing how the talk made me and others feel. You may not have felt that way, but that does not make my feelings wrong. It just means we feel differently about the talk. I don’t think either of us are reading it wrong, we are just reading it differently. He may not have said everything explicitly, but that is how it made me and others feel.

      • allquieton says:

        Well, if a person doesn’t explicitly say they are speaking for God, then I think you ought to assume they’re not. Just common sense.

        Plus, in the scriptures, prophets are always very clear about when they are speaking for God. So that’s what I go with.

      • Danielle says:

        Amongst apostles there are different flavors of conservative, 1950s, values and I think some are probably more progressive than others.

        I’m okay kinda smiling, rolling my eyes and thinking “It’s a Packer thing. . .”

      • Mishwaa says:

        @allquieton Ezra Taft Benson said in his 14 fundamentals to following the prophet #6 “The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.” It seems that your assumption doesn’t meet this test.

    • wendyl says:

      Just a thought here. What I have seen happen before (and I don’t know if it is standard practice, I am speaking anecdotally of the few situations I am aware of), when a letter of concern is sent to Salt Lake, often it is forwarded to the local leaders to address on a local level with a Stake President or Bishop. So, I think Defy’s idea to begin at the local level is actually much more productive.

  14. Nate Curtis says:

    I will use your letter as a template. Being male, I will need to make just a few alterations. I would like to propose that all of the good husbands of these Exponent women also take a stand on this issue.

    I do not believe Elder Packer meant to hurt, but his comments once again reveal the undercurrent, the tradition that is so ingrained in Mormon culture that it is difficult to identify. When given opportunities to specifically identify , by example, the problem of gender preference in the church we, as believers in equality and followers of Christ, are obligated to take action.

    Male or female, I encourage all of you to share your feelings with your local leaders via email, letter, or in person. DG has provided an excellent template, but now it is up to us to follow through.

    For those Exponent women who are married or involved, show this post to your partners, invite them to stand with you in your efforts.

  15. The link to Packer’s talk is not working. Did the Church take it down?

  16. Nate Curtis says:

    http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-leadership-training/2012/01/priesthood-power-in-the-home?lang=eng

    The paragraph in question is about halfway through and starts, “That gives me alot of comfort…”

  17. Nate Curtis says:

    It took me a while to find the offending paragraph. I was starting to think that they had edited out that one paragraph, but no such luck.

    Imagine, correlation actually working for intellectual Mormons instead of against them. Oh if we could be so lucky.

  18. I’d also send your letter to the 2nd counsellor in the RS General Presidency (Sis. Thompson is single and would likely share the hurt of the thought that she isnt the best she can be when not married and childless).

    It probably shouldn’t, but the comments about making changes “as a man” irk me a bit. I think the letter is a good expression of feeling – as a person. It shouldn’t matter what gender we are.

  19. Jack says:

    There was a time when children were considered jewels in a woman’s crown. Now it seems like there’s a host of lesser things that adorn the queenly getup — at the exclusion of children.

    What’s more valuable than a child?

    If there is nothing more valuable than a child then there is nothing more valuable to adults than being good parents — and that means doing it right.

    • Emmaline says:

      Elder Packer didn’t say anything about being good parents because of the importance of children – he didn’t say anything about fatherhood. He said that women are valuable as:
      1) a ticket to heaven for a priesthood holder
      2) entities capable of producing children

      When we view any person as valuable only in a utilitarian sense, we’re missing the whole point of our (and their) time here on earth – building relationships, gaining experience. I find it particularly disturbing when this mindset comes from church leaders and their teaching that women are only TRULY valuable because they have children – the other things are just extra perks.

      And how is this statement from Elder Packer going to help childless women to feel that God accepts their attempts to become like Christ? It won’t. It will only make them feel like they’re not good enough.

      • amelia says:

        I’d add:

        2) entities capable of producing children for a priesthood holder

        since Packer certainly suggests (and rather explicitly) that the value exists in relationship to whether then man is a priesthood holder.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I agree with Emmaline. No one is saying that children are unimportant, but I don’t have kids. I may never have kids. So your statement may be true, but has no meaning for me or women without kids. I can’t apply it to my life, I can’t use it to feel good about myself or to change my behavior. I can just use it to see that I don’t measure up. That’s the problem, is that in speaking to a wide audience he was addressing only a subgroup of women and leaving the rest out. Being a parent is a great thing, but when you set it up as the epitome of achievement and success, then you leave a lot of women out and suggest that their lives and achievements don’t matter as much.

    • Maggie says:

      Jack asks, “What’s more valuable than a child?”

      Nothing and yet, what makes producing offspring more important than any other of the billions of children of God that populate this earth. There are countless ways to care for our fellow children of God that will bring us closer to our Father in Heaven and help us to become more like our Savior.

      • DefyGravity says:

        Awesome point! Seriously, that’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard. Why is physically having children or caring for small children more worthy or important then caring for other children of God?

  20. Sherry Johns says:

    It’s talks like this that heap guilt upon an LDS women who needs to leave a bad marriage. Anyone remember Ezra Taft Benson’s talk and subsequent pamphlet “To the Mothers in Israel”? That ruffled a lot of feminist feathers, mine included. But It was spoken by a PROPHET so I believed and obeyed. My now X, kept me in that horrid box for 29 years, thru nine kids, until I finally was strong enough to leave the marriage and reevaluate how the church treats women. I’m now married to a most respectful non-mormon, who treats me 100 times better than X was capable of. Sad,sad, sad that we keep hearing words such as these from men who profess to be spoksmen for God. I wonder what Goddess would say about all this?

  21. Left Field says:

    A few decades ago, I wrote Elder Packer a letter telling him I disagreed with something he said in general conference. I got a very nice letter back.

  22. TaylorBerlin says:

    Good job DefyGravity–wonderfully put.

    I’m very, very tired of the generalities and the purported notion of ideal “paths” in life. It’s sort of like going to a shoe store and finding that the only size they carry is 5, but the salesperson keeps trying to reassure you that they’ll fit–that you really have size 5 feet and you just aren’t trying hard enough to fit into them–that these are only shoes for you and you won’t be able to find better shoes any where else.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I had a professor say once that asking all women to be wives and mothers in the same way is like asking all men to have the same career and be good at it and happy with it. It rang true for me. And I love your analogy too!

    • wendyl says:

      That is a very good analogy, TaylorBerlin. It can apply to many different scenarios too. Thanks for sharing that.

  23. John W. Redelfs says:

    So what activity or accomplishment do you feel is more worthy than marrying a priesthood holder and being a mother of children, and why do you feel it is more worthy? Did President Packer say that other things are not worthy?

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you are inappropriately personalizing what President Packer said when he was trying to teach a fundamental principle. Obviously, a general statement is not going to apply to all women, nor did he say so. It is also obvious that President Pack may have assumed that his audience was bright enough to know he was not applying this principle to women who have no opportunity to marry or have children. It is impossible for a general authority to speak to a large audience and say things that will apply to “all” present. Rather he is speaking to those for whom it is reasonable counsel. Some women cannot marry. Some women who marry cannot have children. This is so obvious it doesn’t need to be said. If he did not make this clear in his talk, it is probably because he knew his listeners were smart enough to know he was not saying what any reasonable person would know is understood. Why include a mountain of qualifiers when everyone knows what is meant?

    You wrote, “Marriage and motherhood are good things, but not every women will have the opportunity to marry and have children.” President Packer knows that. Do you actually think he was referring to such women when he said this?

    I do not see why you took umbrage with what he said. He was obviously speaking to those women for which this was valuable counsel and not to women who are obviously legitimate exceptions.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Again, you and I are interpreting his words differently. Both interpretations are valid. You can certainly not find a problem with it, and I can find a problem with it, and both of us can be right.

      I believe that having a relationship with God and becoming like Christ is the most worthy thing any human being can do. I believe that the two great commandments Christ gives int eh New Testament, to love God and to love your neighbor, supports that belief.

      I am married, and love being married. But I do not see my marriage as my highest calling. My husband is important to me, he is the most important person in my life. But I do not see my marriage as the most worthy thing I will ever do. So even though I fit part of Packer’s statement, and fall into one of the categories of women he is speaking to, I still disagree with what he said, because my marriage does not define me, nor is it the most worthy thing I will do in the eyes of God. So I am one of the women that Packer was referring to when he talked about married women and I still take issue with what he said.

      He knows that not all women fit his description. But this talk, in my mind, follows a trend that ignores women who don’t fit the model the church has set up. Talks to women are 99% about marriage and motherhood. So if women who don’t fit the model ignore those messages as not for them, what are they left with? No other path is offered to them.

      So I have a problem as a married women being told that my marriage is the most worthy thing I will do. And I have a problem with the fact that there are no talks for the women who don’t fit the model except those that tell them that after they day they will fit the model, so don’t worry.

      • Nate Curtis says:

        To add – a marriage is only as important as what you do with it. For many, myself included, marriage is a tool that allows both my spouse and me to be better people, better parents, and accomplish great and important work. But that is because we work at our marriage, we know what we want it to be, and it is not an easy path.

        For others, marriage is a sickness, a burden, and something causes more harm than good.

        By making marriage the end-goal, the highest achievement, then Packer has, in one moment, set expectations either too high, or too low for everyone.

    • “It is also obvious that President Pack may have assumed that his audience was bright enough to know he was not applying this principle to women who have no opportunity to marry or have children.”

      I don’t think you are not bright if you are hurt by Packer’s words or by relentless rhetoric women receive that places one path to righteous and happiness above all others. Let’s consider for a moment, a faithful, LDS woman. This woman cannot have children and/or is not married to a worthy priesthood holder. How might she feel when she told ad nauseum since she was a little girl that her divine calling, the most valuable thing she can do in this life is “to be the wife and the mother of the children of a worthy holder of the priesthood.” This sort of thinking also suggests, by the way, that a woman’s place in this world (not to mention the eternities) is entirely dependent on her relationship with men and the bearing of children.

      So, how might this hypothetical woman feel? Where does this leave her? Despite the little excuses and pleasantries that are slipped into talks reassuring women who don’t fit the ideal mold that they still have value, the admonitions are is still the same. More value is placed on being a wife and a mother—this is still discussed as a women’s highest calling—the most worthwhile thing she can ever, ever do.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that being married or having children isn’t worthwhile. I love being married (although it has nothing to do with the fact that my husband holds the priesthood). While I cannot speak to having children, I imagine it is a very fulfilling pursuit, divine even. But I do disagree that there are many other ways of leading a worthwhile existence that are equal to the proscribed, traditional role LDS women are given.

      I think it would be very helpful if all contributions women make to society outside of being a wife and a mother were also praised with that same enthusiasm.

    • Miri says:

      “Why include a mountain of qualifiers when everyone knows what is meant?”

      How about because those “qualifiers” refer to the lives of thousands of people who are never included in church rhetoric and are therefore left feeling, often for decades, that they are not legitimate or accepted members of the church to which they have devoted their lives (because of attitudes exactly like yours, which assume that they don’t need to be mentioned explicitly, they should just figure it out on their own, always aware that they are the “exceptions”)? Because it would be a fascinating experiement to try acknowledging that everyone in the church doesn’t fit the exact same tiny mold, and that even the ones who don’t are still God’s children and members of the church and people who deserve to receive attention from their leaders? Is this a gospel that only cares about the majority? How does that fit with Christ’s admonition to always go after the one?

  24. DefyGravity says:

    Thanks for all the comments and support. This tells me that there were a lot of people just as angered and hurt as I was, which adds to the cause. 😉 I also really appreciate those who choose to write to their leaders. I’ll keep people updated if anything happens.

    There have been a lot of comments about the bit where he said that women have value because they get their husbands into heaven. That part made me really angry, and I discussed in my letter to Bro. Packer. But I wanted my letter to my leadership to be shorter and simpler and including that comment and an analysis of it made the letter really long. If anything comes of this letter, I will address that comment in person, because I found that idea horrific and utterly dismissive of women, turning them to tools for male salvation.

    • Téa says:

      Discussing this with my husband, he suggested turning it around gender wise to see if it made sense.

      “I have been very careful, and am very careful, to treat my [husband] with that respect and reverence that is due to [him] in performing that thing that is of most worth for a [man] in this life to live the gospel. To be the [husband] and the [father] of the children of [an LDS woman].”

      He thinks “that’s a pretty damn low standard”.

      • @DefyGravity Thanks!

        @Téa It’s so funny what emerges when you flip statements around.

      • Ryan says:

        The irony here is that living the Gospel as a husband and father of the children of an LDS woman IS the thing that is of most worth for a man in this life. I think by attacking PRESIDENT Packer’s talk in this way you’ve proved its value and truth.

        President Packer: 1

        Angry Feminists: 0

      • amelia says:

        You know what I don’t understand, Ryan? Why you continue reading this blog if you see it as so worthless (which you make clear every time you comment here).

        Consider yourself warned that it’s not appropriate, according to our comment policy, to make comments that willfully mischaracterize the people you (rather inexplicably given your patently obvious disdain for feminists) want as interlocutors. If you’d like to take issue with what’s been said, you’ll need to (as always) do so without resorting to insult.

      • Ryan says:

        Amelia,

        I do not think this blog is worthless. I think it is much, much worse. I think it is an explicit invitation to attack and denigrate the Church.

        Take the title of this post: “Invitation to Reaction to Boyd K. Packer.” The author falsely disparages President Packer by deliberately misrepresenting his talk. What’s worse, she then invites others to support her in her disparagement of Church leaders, and to disparage leaders along with her.

        If I thought this site was worthless, I wouldn’t bother reading or commenting. As it is, I only comment when I happen to see some type of false misrepresentation of the Church or attack on Church leaders that strikes me as particularly egregious.

        Of course you can delete my comments – but if you do I think it only proves my point that you are not interested in sincere dialogue. You are interested in finding support for your attack on the Church and its leaders.

        If you’d care to address the merit of my comments rather than threaten to delete them, I’d be very interested in what you, or others, have to say.

      • Ru says:

        Ryan –

        Why is disagreeing with President Packer’s statement automatically “disparaging”? The author wrote about her perception of the talk – clearly many people on these boards agree. You do not, and that’s fine, but I think that you’re the one distorting other people’s words by declaring that the author can have only a disparaging intent when she’s clearly stated otherwise.

        As far as addressing your comments goes, your statement, “irony here is that living the Gospel as a husband and father of the children of an LDS woman IS the thing that is of most worth for a man in this life,” is true, but I’d add there’s another ironic level to all this: People rarely bother making the statement you said.

        Women hear about marriage and family 90% of the time. Men hear it far, far less — not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s culturally acknowledged in the church that men do more than that. If you break down topic addressed in General Conference and Relief Society, I think you’ll find that talks directed to women only are about marriage/children, but talks directed to the entire church and/or men only are about a wide-range of topics. And that, along with the fact that there are far more single and/or childless women in this church than leadership knows what to do with, is why the statement that the worthiest thing a woman will do is marry a priesthood holder and bear HIS children is troublesome to many people.

        I wouldn’t be so quick to say that anyone who disagrees with you is trying to tear down the church. For example, I’ve found your comments far more contentious than the author’s, but I understand that one person’s personal opinion does not equate to fact.

      • Ru says:

        (this may be a duplicate – it wouldn’t post the first time)

        Ryan –

        Why is disagreeing with President Packer’s statement automatically “disparaging”? The author wrote about her perception of the talk – clearly many people on these boards agree. You do not, and that’s fine, but I think that you’re the one distorting other people’s words by declaring that the author can have only a disparaging intent when she’s clearly stated otherwise.

        As far as addressing your comments goes, your statement, “irony here is that living the Gospel as a husband and father of the children of an LDS woman IS the thing that is of most worth for a man in this life,” is true, but I’d add there’s another ironic level to all this: People rarely bother making the statement you said.

        Women hear about marriage and family 90% of the time. Men hear it far, far less — not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s culturally acknowledged in the church that men do more than that. If you break down topic addressed in General Conference and Relief Society, I think you’ll find that talks directed to women only are about marriage/children, but talks directed to the entire church and/or men only are about a wide-range of topics. And that, along with the fact that there are far more single and/or childless women in this church than leadership knows what to do with, is why the statement that the worthiest thing a woman will do is marry a priesthood holder and bear HIS children is troublesome to many people.

        I wouldn’t be so quick to say that anyone who disagrees with you is trying to tear down the church. For example, I’ve found your comments far more contentious than the author’s, but I understand that one person’s personal opinion does not equate to fact.

      • kmillecam says:

        “Women hear about marriage and family 90% of the time. Men hear it far, far less — not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s culturally acknowledged in the church that men do more than that.”

        Another amen.

  25. Kris says:

    I agree we should show respect to President Packer by using his correct title. I am off put by the repeated usage of the word pain by LDS feminists. It becomes trite. As I read of people writing critical letters to President Packer, I felt some oh HIS pain. Cut this man some slack, folks. That is being Christlike. The most important relationship in all eternity is the spousal relationship. We need each other, that is the bottom line message.

    • Amelia says:

      Kris, a basic rule of participating here is respecting others’ experience. Dismissing that experience and the expression of it as “trite” is unacceptable. If you’d like to engage with the ideas expressed, please do. If you’d like to make the case that marriage relationships are the single most important thing in anyone’s life, feel free. But it is inappropriate in this forum to do little more than criticize how others feel and their mode of expression. If it’s really so offensive that we refer to the leaders of the church by their last name, as is common practice when writing about public figures, or if you find it so very tedious that we speak often of the pain we have felt as a result of sexism, then take yourself elsewhere. No one is making you read.

    • Miri says:

      I have to say, it seems a little bit callous to be calling other people’s pain “trite”. Why on earth would you seek out a conversation in which people are expressing pain just to tell them that you’re tired of hearing about people expressing pain? What message do you hope to get across here? I would really like to know, because telling people you’re “put off” by their pain just seems like you’re trying to get yourself attacked.

      Boyd Packer is a human being just like us and we do not insult him by using his name. You know what is kind of trite, though? The argument that because we don’t show the proper amount of adoration for someone, we are disrespecting him, and therefore our points are invalid and we can be written off as “angry feminists” (as though that in itself invalidates us). Both anger and pain are valid human feelings, Kris. Expressing them is a necessary part of human experience, and respecting them is a necessary part of human interaction.

      • Ru says:

        Miri – I’ve actually been thinking about Kris’ comment since yesterday. While I agree with everything you’ve written, I do think she has a point in that oftentimes people resorting to the “feeling” argument unnecessarily. While I think there definite is value in discussing these things, I also think that there is a danger in potentially abandoning an argument based in logic for the unassailable “this is how I feel and you can’t argue with how I feel” position.

        In this case, I think discussing how President Packer’s talk made you feel is legitimate, but I think there is also a strong argument is found by simply parsing his rhetoric and addressing the flaws found there. Assuming his motives were entirely pure (and I think they were), the language he used to express himself has negative implications. First, the idea that the “worthiest” thing anyone could do in this life is find a spouse and procreate is doctrinally debatable. It’s an easy thing to say, a harder one to explain. Second, the wisdom of stating that position in terms that make it seem like it applies mostly (if not entirely) to women emphasizes the institutional power-imbalance in the church. Third, it does come across as tone-deaf, because as much as we say that there is always a footnote at the end of every conference talk that says, “Sorry for all you single, divorced, interfaith-marriage and/or childless people, you’ll be rewarded in the end according to your faithfulness,” the fact is that there are far more people in that category than ever before and the category keeps growing.

        Do things like this anger, upset me or cause me pain? Sometimes. But at this point in my life, they mostly make me tired, because it seems so obvious that they’re logically indefensible.

        Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble. My point is, I appreciate Kris’ comment that she is put-off by the pain comment. While we shouldn’t diminish the feelings of others, it’s also good to think about how others receive an argument, and some like Kris obviously respond better to a position that isn’t based in emotion.

      • DefyGravity says:

        Another thing to consider is the audience something is directed at. Some people feel less threatened if someone speaks of being hurt by what was said than if someone parses out the logic in a statement. I’ve found that in I say that something a leaders says doesn’t make sense, people are threatened and stop listening. So I focused on how I feel in the church because I’ve gotten further with that in the past. I can parse out the arguments, but I didn’t think it would get me as far. People write to their audience, and may choose their words and what they choose to emphasize with their audience in mind.

      • Ru says:

        DefyGravity – good point. And I do think your letter also addressed logical inconsistencies of Pres Packer’s statement, my comment was more about the general trend of talking about feelings. But I can definitely see how emotional arguments probably appeal more to most members of the church.

      • Miri says:

        With these kinds of questions, though, it’s often been my experience that an appeal to logic doesn’t have much influence with people, because they’ll just respond by saying that “there’s a lot we don’t understand”. If you are talking about the way something makes you feel—especially with how much emphasis we put on things like personal revelation, listening to promptings of the spirit, etc.—you can sometimes get people to listen to you when they wouldn’t have listened to a point-by-point argument.

        I can see what you’re saying, Ru. Yes, I agree that emotion is not a good enough argument on its own and should be coupled with intelligent and logical discussion. But I still can’t really come to a place in which I think it’s really appropriate to be “put off” by someone’s comment because they expressed pain. Feminism involves a lot of pain. For many of us, it is newly-discovered pain. I’m sorry if you’ve been around for a while and you get tired of hearing about it. But (1) there are always going to be new women joining the conversation (meaning the larger conversation of feminism vs. patriarchy) and those women have the right to express their pain and shouldn’t be dismissed because others before them have expressed it and now the audience is tired of hearing about it. And (2) for each woman, the pain can take years to work through. If you’re going to be part of this discussion, you need to be able to deal with that.

  26. @Ryan When the Church produces more materials that places the same emphasis on training and admonishing men to be husbands and fathers as they do training and admonishing women to be wives and mothers, I might find your argument to have more credence.

    Also, no one is saying that being mother/father or wife/husband isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

  27. Christopher Taylor says:

    @Ryan
    I’m not sure what church you’ve been attending, but as a PRIESTHOOD holder it’s been my experience that any worth I have as a husband and father is overshadowed by my PRIESTHOOD. Notice President Packer does not say it is a good thing for a woman to be the wife and mother of a righteous father, but a PRIESTHOOD holder. This comment may be more masculist than feminist, but as a MAN in the Church I have always felt that my worth is entirely wrapped up in my PRIESTHOOD, which is only a small part of my role in my family and this world. This rhetoric is as demeaning to me as it is to women, and you seem to have entirely missed that point. You say,

    ” living the Gospel as a husband and father of the children of an
    LDS woman IS the thing that is of most worth for a man in this life,”

    but this is not the message I have received at all. If you think it’s easy to poke at the feminists because they’re just caught up in an oversensitive, vaginal-centric culture, well here’s a PRIESTHOOD HOLDER telling you that this rhetoric makes you half a man just as much as it makes them half a woman. Nobody benefits from this kind of sexism, and if you think this is okay then you’re supporting your own oppression as well as theirs.

    P.S. To all the women here, I don’t mean to demean your feelings at all, or suggest you can’t handle jerks like this on your own. I just thought it might be nice if he knew that men feel the same things too.

    • spunky says:

      Thank you, and God bless you, Christoper Taylor. Sexism hurts men as much as it hurts women, I cannot understand for the life of me why so many people cannot understand this very simple, clear fact. You worded it very well.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Love what you’re saying. And I don’t think you’re being dismissive; you are expressing your own experience with statements like this. Sexism damages both women and men, as you’ve pointed out.

    • Miri says:

      As far as I’ve ever noticed, men are simply not talked about in the church in any kind of capacity that’s separate from the priesthood. Talks about being good fathers invariably center on being good priesthood holders (like Elaine Dalton’s talk in October of last year).

  28. Jules says:

    Is it not a requirement in order to gain the highest exaltation that a man and a woman be sealed together in the temple in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage? Our husbands cannot enter without us, and we canot enter without them. I believe in this talk Pres. Packer, since he was specifically addressing the priesthood, was emphasizing the fact that they (the men) could not enter into the Celestial kingdom without us worthy morman women by their side, sealed tor time and eternity. Yes, there are unique circumstances for each individual in the world and we do have a merciful God. Those women (or men) who do not meet these circumstances due to no fault of their own will be met with that love of our merciful Heavenly Father.

    Secondly, one of the first commandments given by Heavenly Father to Adam and Eve was to go forth to multiply and repenish the earth. All His children that followed Jesus Christ’s plan in the premortal life have the opprotunity to come to this earth and go through the trials to grant them eternal life living with our Lord. They cannot acheive that unless women bear children. It is a VERY important part of our Heavaenly Fathers plan and the only way we are afforded the opprotunity to come to earth and therefore inherit the Celestial Kingdom. Again, there are unique circumstances, those who cannot bear children or those who do not have the opprotunity to marry in this life. The Lord will love those indivuduals just as much and make things right eventually, weather in this life or the next.

    I am reminded of a phrase on the title page of the Book of Mormon written by Joseph Smith: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.” Maybe Pres. Packer could have elaborated his words to convey a more detailed meaning or just not said those words, but there is at least some truth on those statements that falls back on one of our main purposes of being sent to this earth.

    Elder Bednar also gave a Conference talk on being offended in October 2005 (I think…), it would be a good read for those who were offended by his message. The point is, the church is true, and once you have a firm belief and strong testimony in that when things comes up that make you question certain doctrine or statements by church leaders ( as we all do sometimes) we have the blessing of communicating with our Father in Heaven to ease our worries or clarify those things that cause us grief.

    Please, I do not mean to offend, or discredit your feeling. Just offering another view and insight, I know that oftend times the views of others have helped me along the way. Thank you for your post.

    • Amelia says:

      Just a point of clarification: this was not a priesthood meeting. It was a leadership training meeting. Women were in attendance, too.

      And as one of those “unique” people who has not had a chance to marry or have children, I’d like to say a couple of things:

      1. We aren’t actually all that unique. There are an awful lot of us out there who don’t get to marry or have children.

      2. And it would be pretty nice if instead of being told over and over to suck it up and put up with rhetoric which is clearly imbalanced because someday you’ll die and then God will love you and give you everything, we could worship with our brothers and sisters as equals. That would be lovely. But we can’t. Instead we’re asked to operate as second class citizens in God’s kingdom. And I for one do not think that is what God would want.

      Also, Elder Bednar’s talk on taking offense is terrible. The whole talk is premised on the notion that there is no such thing as something that is offensive in itself, there is only people who willfully choose to be offended. I’m very sorry, but there are things that are in themselves offensive and if thoughtful people do not feel some offense in response to them, I find myself wondering why the hell not. I find sexism to be one such thing.

      • Jules says:

        @Amelia strong words here “we could worship with our brothers and sisters as equals. That would be lovely. But we can’t. Instead we’re asked to operate as second class citizens in God’s kingdom.” I am pretty sure that you have not only taken Prs Packers words FAR out of context, but mine as well.

        It is true, people do chose to be offended, we have the power of choice to control our emotions, some are however, more difficult to control than others but the power of chosie is still there none the less.

      • Amelia says:

        they may be strong words, but they are an accurate representation of how I and many other members feel–like second class citizens asked to sit at the back (figuratively) until we’re dead so we can have it all and finally participate in a fully meaningful way. You might not like that that’s how some of us feel, but it is. And it’s not about misrepresenting anyone’s words–it’s about stating clearly and publicly how the cumulation of church rhetoric has made me and others feel.

    • Christopher Taylor says:

      Jules,
      You make lots of good points here. Yes, exaltation requires the efforts of both men and women. Yes, it is important to multiply and replenish the earth. Yes, the Church is made up of people who make mistakes, and we shouldn’t judge the things of God because of the mistakes of men and women. And yes, as you say when we hear things that make us doubt, we can appeal to Heavenly Father to ease our discomfort and grief.
      But, the problem with this address is it is a narrow view of the roles men and women play in the path to exaltation. Parenthood is just one way in which men and women can help others draw closer to Christ and God.
      Also, multiply and replenish the earth is only one commandment. Another reads as follows, ” It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2). Some people stretch themselves so thin as parents that they can’t help but fail to give their children the love and nurture they deserve.
      The statement from the Book of Mormon reads, “condemn not the things of God.” As far as I have read the people on this blog have not been condemning God. They do not feel that President Packer’s views line up exactly with God’s. This is entirely possible, even probable, because he is a man and not a God.
      Finally, appeals to God are wonderful and cannot be overvalued, but while they provide comfort they do not solve problems. If we see problems in God’s church, and there are problems, it is our duty as Latter-day Saints and Christians to address those problems so that all may benefit, and we may progress as a Church.
      Like you I do not mean to offend or belittle you. I appreciate the tone of your comment, which I believe is truly loving. I simply wish to share my view on the matter.

      • Christopher Taylor says:

        I should clarify, the address I refer to in the second paragraph of my response is the address delivered by President Packer, not Jules’ comment.

    • spunky says:

      That is an interesting, and common interperatation of “multiply and replenish the earth”, Jules. But is it correct? I think of it as … you know… multiplying good fruits and trees and flowers… and replenishing the earth of what I take from it, i.e. plant fruits and veggies and keep it clean and so forth. Is there a reason why your view is so narrowly focused only on sex?

      As for your comments on the “unique”… I think my life is “right”. I can’t have children and I am okay with that. I do not see the point in holding God accountable for something that does not appear to be in God’s plan for me. To suggest my life is not “right” is to suggest that God is imperfect or that my temple marriage has no worth. I do not believe that you intend to accuse God of imperfection, any more than you might choose to pray for teens to break the law of chasity that will result in adoptable children which will also make my life…. “right” by YOUR terms.

      My life is “right” now. Not perfect, but I am content and at peace with my relationship with God. For you, or President Packer to tell me that I should be unhappy with God’s plan for me is incomprehensible, because God cannot be wrong.

      • @spunky I really like your interpretation of “multiply and replenish the earth”. I think it makes a lot more sense when it’s not exclusively speaking about procreation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but usually in the Church we teach that this commandment is still in effect, right? In my mind, I think it would be strange for God to instigate a commandment that cannot physically be obeyed by many–men and women. Anyhow, I like that idea. It sounds right to me.

      • Miri says:

        Spunky, your comment is fantastic! I had never thought of “multiply and replenish” that way, and I really like it; I think it’s much more likely that it has to do with the whole earth and not just sex. It’s funny how much of Mormon thought focuses on sex, considering that we’re a relatively prudish people. 🙂

        Really, though, I think your last two paragraphs there are brilliant. I’m probably going to memorize them for future similar conversations; I’ve had many in the past in which I would have loved to be able to express that kind of sentiment as well as you just did.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Jules, I do have a testimony of God and feel that what I am doing is sanctioned by God. So I’m not sure what your comment “once you have a firm belief and strong testimony in that when things comes up that make you question certain doctrine or statements by church leaders ( as we all do sometimes) we have the blessing of communicating with our Father in Heaven to ease our worries or clarify those things that cause us grief,” means. God does not just make everything okay, or make us feel better. God also tells us when and how to act to improve the world and to help their children. So your comment confuses me… do you think expressing dissent means that those expressing do not have a testimony of or relationship with God?

  29. Kris says:

    I believe I said usage of the word pain becomes trite, not the experience of feeling the pain. I read these posts for my own education and understanding. Perhaps you could skip over my posts, if they are offensive to you.

    • Amelia says:

      We’re happy to have anyone read, Kris. And as I said above, we’re happy to have anyone make a substantive contribution to the conversation. But complaints and criticisms are not a substantive contribution to the conversation. So by all means, do read. Do comment. But in the future, if the permas (of which I’m one) see comments from you that are little more than criticism and which inherently dismiss what others are saying, they might be deleted.

  30. Kris says:

    Wow, Amelia. I wish I understood this better. Don’t we all feel get our feelings hurt by injustice? I am married and have children and have HUGE problems. I feel injustice and unfairness in many aspects of my life because of various things. I guess my reaction is to kind of live by the serenity prayer. One of the lessons I try to learn by injustice is compassion. Right now I am feeling compassion for you women who are so hurt and also for Elder Packer.

    • Amelia says:

      I guess I’m not being clear enough, and I’m sorry for that. I’m not trying to threaten or intimidate. We really do want any and all readers to feel free to comment here and to participate in the discussion. But we also want to make sure we keep an atmosphere that is as free of unneeded criticism as possible. I realize after your subsequent comments that your first one was not meant as a simple dismissal of other women’s experience, but it felt that way to me when I read it. I certainly understood the point you made about the value of marriage relationships, but the rest of the comment seemed like it was more about criticizing the nature of the discussion than contributing to it. I’m simply asking that when you comment you keep your comments to the substance of the discussion (for instance, the part of your comment about the centrality of marriage relationship or, in this last comment, sharing your own approach in the form of the serenity prayer, which I think is a wonderful approach and one that’s not easy to make a reality) and try to refrain from criticizing the mode in which others express themselves (using simply “Packer” instead of “President Packer” or using the word “pain” too frequently in your opinion). Does that make sense?

      Again, I’m sorry you felt threatened. That’s not at all the intent and I feel badly if I implied that. My intent (and the intent of the permas here) is to create an environment in which it’s safe for anyone to comment and to disagree without unnecessary criticism.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Your first comment sounded very much as though you did not feel compassion for those of us who were hurt by Bro. Packer’s words. Apparently that’s not what you meant, but that’s how it read to me and Amelia. So, what word would you prefer?

      Might I point out he will not be seeing this letter? And the one I send him will likely be read by a secretary and bounced back. He probably won’t hear what I have to say at all.

  31. Kris says:

    And, of course, having power to delete and threatening it seems a little ironic in this discussion.

  32. X2 Dora says:

    Hmmm … sometimes I think it’s a good idea to let ridiculous comments stand. Some times they make the point better than the staight ones. It’s almost as if some visitors unconsciously take on a Colbert-esque mantle.

    • DefyGravity says:

      Ha! Nice thought! If people wish to be rude, then let it stand for people to see. I like it. Although I also think this should be a place where people feel safe, so it’s a fine line.

      • And–correct me if I’m wrong–but I got the sense from DefyGravity’s letter and the response of many others here is that the issue is not solely based on President Packer’s talk. Far from it. At least, I feel this way. His words represent a larger, systemic problem–that the Church teaches there is only one ideal way to live a righteous life; that this line of thinking excludes any notion of individual needs, desires, circumstances or personal revelation. I think the bigger issue here, what many of us seem to be trying to get at, is the Church’s exclusive language alienates those who are truly trying their best to live the Gospel, but do not or cannot fit the proscribed ideal.

      • I think I might not be clear in my reply. Ultimately, the point I was making is that some commentators seem to perceive other commentators’ views as an attack on President Packer’s talk, and/or a oversensitive reaction to one man’s words. I’m trying to make the point, that this issue extends well beyond Pres. Packer’s talk. Sorry…I just wanted to make sure I was being clear.:)

      • DefyGravity says:

        Exactly. If this were an isolated incident it could be chaulked up to personality, nostalgia or age. But Bro. Packer has said things like this in the past, as have numerous other leaders. It’s a concern I’ve had for years, and this gave me an opportunity to express my concern.

  33. DefyGravity says:

    @Ryan. This talk made me and others feel a certain way. I am choosing to express those feelings, and inviting those to feel as I do to voice their feelings. You may disagree with how the talk made me feel, but that does not mean I am intentionally misinterpreting what he said. It just means we have different interpretations. The fact that you don’t like mine doesn’t make it invalid.

    I said in the letter that I do not believe Bro. Packer intended to do harm. I am not attacking him personally, I am expressing how his words made me feel to my local leaders. Where is the harm in that? As my leaders I would assume they want to know about the feelings of those in their stewardship. Am I wrong to think my leaders might care about me? I don’t see anyone attacking Bro. Packer, I see people discussing what he said and how it made them feel. You can express how this talk made you feel, but your feelings aren’t the only right ones. If you insist that you have the only right interpretation, then you are not adding to any kind of dialogue, nor are you giving anyone here a reason to listen to you. If you ‘re going to accuse me and others on this thread of all kinds of nasty things, why should we listen to you?

    • Bertolt Brecht was a 19th century, German playwright who fiercely believed in the cause of Socialism (I promise I have a point to go along with this). He even pioneered a new type of theatre in order to best promote his beliefs and educate people. Despite his efforts to convert others to the cause of Socialism, the majority of the people who viewed his plays were also Socialists or people who had Socialist sympathies.

      I have found so much comfort in reading and commenting on sites like The Exponent that promote frank discussions of taboo topics in order to increase awareness and hopefully change of the landscape of a church I am sure many of us deeply care for.

      But when I read comments made by certain people (on this site and others), I get depressed and wonder, what’s the point? Besides making us with feminists tendencies feel a little better about ourselves, I mean? Validation is wonderful, but even online people denigrate the sincere expression of emotions and ideas. Despite the best efforts and intentions, differing views are still mocked and thrown aside.

      I wonder, are we–like Brecht–just preaching to the choir? Will we ever be able to help people at least understand our views, even if they disagree? (I say “our” views, but I don’t want to suggest we all think the same–just that we seem to all want our perspectives to be treated seriously and respected.)

      I try to understand the perspective of others. I can see how some might feel threatened, confused, or even angry at the dialogue that is currently taking place in the Bloggernacle. But I can’t see how we can ever make significant headway with others if they don’t already harbor sympathies towards our argument.

      Commentators like Jules give me a little hope, however. To me, her tone is respectful even though it appears she disagrees with many of us. Thank you, Jules. I appreciate it. I wish more people were more like Jules. I don’t care if people have wildly differing opinions, I just wish more people had the mindset of, “well I think you’re crazy, but I can see why, based on your experiences you might feel that way–and that’s okay.”

      So I’m wondering what you think about this–if it’s alright if I pose the question. Are we making headway? Can we made headway? Can we have productive conversations without both sides feeling attacked?

      • Caroline says:

        Those are great questions, Taylor. Permabloggers at The Exponent have asked that question several times among ourselves using different words. Should we be a bridge (between feminists and more orthodox believers) or a haven (for feminists)?

        Personally I ultimately favor the bridge image. While I love having a supportive community of like-minded feminists to brainstorm with and share stories with, I also love the idea of creating a space where more understanding can be fostered between Mofems and orthodox Mormons. I think it is possible to have those productive conversations, where both sides speak compassionately from personal experience and give one another the benefit of doubt. So I too appreciate commenters who are extending themselves into an unfamiliar world, stating their different perspective, and trying to do so without hurting the other party.

      • @Caroline Amen. Thanks for the reply. I think compassion has to be at the heart of all discussions concerning more “touchy” subjects.

        Also, Brecht was a 20th Century playwright–I misspoke (or mistyped, I guess).

      • DefyGravity says:

        Question for the ages. I ask that a lot; how can we come to a place of mutual respect and realize we don’t have to agree to try to understand each other. My hope is that every time I say something, I force someone to think about what I’m saying, even if it’s only for a second. I know that when someone says something that I haven’t thought of, at some point I end up thinking through it. I may not agree, but I have to work my way through it to understand my own world view. I can’t shove everything aside and ignore what I don’t understand or agree with forever. That may be just my inability to compartmentalize, but I figure if we keep talking at some point people will have to deal with what we say. So even if people are dismissive and insulting, at some point they well have to sort through what we’re saying. I guess that’s why I”m doing this. My leaders, if they care about me as someone in their stewardship, will have to deal with my concerns. They may not agree, but if they care they will have to deal with it on some level.

        The theatre person in me loves that you used Brecht. Not my favorite playwright, but I like the concepts of many of his plays and his strong style. 🙂

  34. Anabelle says:

    Thank you for this post. I attended the Worldwide Leadership Training meeting. When I listened to Bro. Packer’s talk I felt hurt and frustrated. I wondered how progress can be made when authoritative talks like this are given. A couple got up and left the meeting during his talk. I had to wonder what that was about. I wanted to leave, but I felt compelled to stay and listen to his remaining words, but I sat with my eyes cast down, and felt like he had (perhaps unintentionally) cast my concerns away when he said:

    “When I hear those comments that the sisters are less than the brethren, I wish that they could see inside the heart of every worthy holder of the priesthood and understand how he feels about his wife…”

    I realize that some may interpret these words as sweet and reassuring, but I did not. I feel that “I wish that they could see inside the heart of every worthy holder of the priesthood” is a tactic used to distract attention from specific concerns. Many women feel undervalued and unheard in the church, whether or not they have a husband or can “see inside his heart”. Many of our concerns are can be attributed to traditions and policies that are structural within the church. Some of these traditions are relics a nineteenth-century view of women. I can see into hearts pretty well. There are many good-hearted priesthood holders in the church. It is harmful to proclaim that if there are “good-hearted priesthood holders” in the church then women are obviously treated with equality and fairness (especially when many of these concerns are structural and not attributed to how a man feels about his wife). Bro. Packer’s remarks imply that if anyone thinks that “the sisters are less than the brethren” they are just flat-out wrong, and therefore their concerns are (almost officially) dismissed. The whole thing seems circular in its logic to me.

    • Ru says:

      “When I hear those comments that the sisters are less than the brethren, I wish that they could see inside the heart of every worthy holder of the priesthood and understand how he feels about his wife…”

      I realize that some may interpret these words as sweet and reassuring, but I did not.

      I totally agree. I think President Packer did intend that statement to be reassuring and silence critics, but it certainly has the opposite effect on me, mostly because I find it confusing.

      1. Since when does a man loving and respecting his spouse equate to institutional equality in an organization to which they both belong? How is that much different than the argument used to oppose suffrage? I’m sure husbands who love and respect their wives is not a modern phenomenon.

      2. (Speaking as the child of bitterly divorced parents …) If I looked into my worthy priesthood-holding father’s heart to find out how he felt about my mother, I would come up with less-than-positive results. Does that mean he is not, in fact, worthy? Or that a lack of respect and love for one woman equates to a lack of respect and love for ALL women? Of course not. So why would the opposite be true?

      3. The “worthy” priesthood holder argument is completely circular. Fine, great, if a husband doesn’t respect his wife or treat her well, if he exercises unrighteous dominion over her, he becomes an unworthy priesthood holder. The “unworthy” designation does absolutely nothing to help her situation or encourage him to meaningfully change his behavior. If you extrapolate beyond a marriage to an entire ward … or an entire stake … or a region … Putting the “worthy” disclaimer in front of something doesn’t change the fact that a priesthood holder has the option of abusing his priesthood and if he does, there isn’t really anything women can do to stop him. (IE, when explaining that a problem occurred in your ward because of an over-reaching bishop, the concern is usually dismissed with, “Well, that bishop acted inappropriately.” Right, my point exactly. A bishop has the discretion to act inappropriately, and the entire ward’s only recourse is to go up the chain of command and hope someone cares, put up with it for the rest of his tenure, or move. The fact that is WAS factually inappropriate and you have now labeled it so does nothing.)

      The fact is, you can’t dismiss a concern with a sweet statement any more than you can end an argument over finances with flowers or a home cooked meal.

      • DefyGravity says:

        I totally agree. What does the fact that my husband loves me have to do with the priesthood? Men who don’t hold the priesthood love their wives and men who do hold the priesthood disrespect and abuse their wives. There is not connection between priesthood and how husband’s feel about their wives. So how is that supposed to explain women’s lack of priesthood? The two ideas don’t connect at all.

        So if men can abuse their priesthood and mistreat people with it, then what purpose does unrighteous dominion serve? It doesn’t stop anyone from misusing the priesthood and doesn’t help those being abused. In fact, it seems to make abuse okay, because people can say “Oh, that’s unrighteous dominion,” and then not do anything about it. They can leave the problem alone because they’ve labeled it as wrong without having to fix anything. It’s pretty terrible.

      • Miri says:

        Love this comment, Ru, especially number three. In fact I have copied and pasted it so I can remember it for future conversations about this. You explained very well. 🙂

  35. Hillary says:

    I have to say, reading Bro. Packer’s talk left me both broken-hearted, from an emotional standpoint, and confused from an intellectual standpoint. As a married woman, albeit married to a priesthood-holding but inactive man, I am offended. As a woman suffering with her husband through the trial of infertility, I am offended.

    My patriarchal blessing makes so many specific remarks about my potential and my spiritual gifts. In those particular sections, children are not mentioned, nor is marriage (to a worthy priesthood holder or otherwise). So why, why, why, would a leader of my church take it upon himself to tell me that the accomplishments of greatest worth to my Heavenly Father are a marriage to a worthy priesthood holder and bearing his children? Because, if you follow the logic, then God was wrong in my patriarchal blessing. Doesn’t that seem crazy?

    I am so very sick and tired of being a footnote to church leaders. I might have children, and I might not. My husband might come back to church, and he might not. None of those things are within my control. But you know what is? My personal righteousness. My relationship with God. My willingness to be charitable and serve God’s children in roles other than mother. But according to Pres. Packer, none of those things that are within my control are as important or are as worthy as a different marriage from the one I have, and a different body from the one I was given.

  36. DefyGravity says:

    Amen and amen. 🙂

    You’ve hit on something important; he’s holding up something as most worthy that is out of women’s control. We can’t control fertility, or our spouses’ decisions, so it is ridiculous to hold those things up as most worthy because we can’t do anything about them. Why not put more weight on things that we can control. like our relationship with God.

  37. Diane says:

    defy

    You articulated your point very clearly.

    However, instead of just writing a letter to your Bishop and Stake Presidency. I would have also forwarded a letter to Boyd K. Packer in Salt Lake as well. I know you don’t have his home address, but, you could call church headquaters to see if he has an office there that you could forward the letter to
    I know when I was upset with things that were happening to me at my ward letter that is exactly what I did. I got a form letter back, but, at any rate when I decided to have my name removed at least, I know that I did everything in my power to have the situation rectified. At any rate, maybe sending a letter to him might make you feel better.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I actually did send a letter to Bro. Packer, as well as Bro. Uchtdorf, because he also spoke at the meeting. I agree that trying to handle it on multiple levels is a good idea.

  38. Mhana says:

    I think this is damaging not just to women who don’t have children or aren’t married (though I do not in fact have children). It is saying that, once a woman has borne children, she has peaked, spiritually. When her children leave the home and become independent adults, she is no longer making a significant contribution and cannot, in fact do so. While men age and play ever greater roles in priesthood leadership, making more and more contributions to the church, women after a certain point spend less and less time actively mothering. So basically a woman has worth some time between the ages of 20 and 50ish. Sigh.

  39. Diane says:

    I am really bothered by one of the comments from above. Its’ really frustrating for me and others to hear that because we voice a concern we are talking badly about someone. There is talking badly, (i.e) I just called someone the rhyming witch word and then there is talking and asking for clarification Edward R. Morrow stated and I quote,” Dissent is not disloyality” I would like to refute that person above. Other than being a General Authourity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, why does Boyd K Packer get to make such disparaging remarks about women and no one bats an eyebrow?

    Male members of the Church are continuously told from birth how great they are from the time they are conceived. There accomplishments are glorified and we(expecially women) are told that we are nothing more than birthers(It really doesn’t matter how nicely what was said). It bothers me that my worth is tied to the fact that I can bear children. Yet, the men in church are not told what to do.

    As an end note, if no one spoke up the democracy movement in Syria wouldn’t have started. Speaking up and out is what separated America from Great Brittan back in the day. So please the next time someone says don’t talk badly, make sure you know what your talking about.

    I shouldn’t have to leave church in tears to make your Sunday a more pleasant experience.

    • DefyGravity says:

      “I shouldn’t have to leave church in tears to make your Sunday a more pleasant experience.” Amen. Why can’t we make a place where everyone feels valued, instead of mistreating those who all ready feel out of place?

  40. Jed Grant says:

    This popped up on google when I was searching for something related, and frankly the tone is surprising. So I read his talk trying to be objective and look how it might be insulting. I think the answer to the concerns expressed in this article has already been presented in the talk Elder Uchtdorf gave in the same meeting in which he said…

    “We human beings have a strange tendency to complicate simple things. We set up rules, laws, bylaws, processes, and subprocesses. Eventually, we pile up load after load until we end up under a huge weight of expectations that are so complicated it is difficult to keep track of them, let alone meet them.

    This is one of the reasons Paul said, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

    Too often, we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations. However, when we focus on the “why” of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away. Why are we here? Why are we asked to obey the commandments? Why is the Atonement of Jesus Christ of such value to us?”

    As LDS people we believe that the purpose of life is to become like our father in heaven. As a core element that includes family. I don’t think that because he said, in effect, wife of a priesthood holder, that that it is a requirement. I don’t think he’s implying that women who do not have children or do not marry are less than those that do, though past church leaders have indicates that men or women who willfully avoid both and not doing what God would like them to do.

    I think we aught to be carefully how literally or explicitly we take the words of the prophet and apostles unless they clearly indicate their words should be taken explicitly.

    A verse in Ether 12:23 says “And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them.”

    I think Ether’s words epitomizes not only mankind, but apostles and prophets too. Words are weak things. When we hear these words from the prophets or apostles we should ask the spirit to teach us what the Lord would have us know.

    In Nephi 2:16 Nephi says “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”

    I love that example, because I admire Nephi for his humility and righteousness, and yet he had to have his heart softened. I think that we can often hear things that may at first not make sense, or be hard to understand, or hurt, but I think Nephi sets the example by inquiring of the Lord so he can understand what he should do. He lets the spirit teach him.

    • valeriejean says:

      Sometimes inquiring of the Lord results in being inspired to speak out against things that are wrong. — This talk is really a symptom of system-wide sexism in the Church. The inequalities will only change if they are pointed out to the all-male leadership that created and supports them. Men are not affected by anti-woman sexism, so they either do not see it or fail to realize that it is important. Remember President Hinckley said that Women do not receive the priesthood because there is no ‘agitating for it’. Perhaps there would be different inspiration if the Brethren heard from some agitators. http://agitatingfaithfully.org/home

      • Jed Grant says:

        Tomorrow if the revelation came that women were to have the priesthood that would simply be what it is and everything prior to that would no longer apply. We believe in modern day revelation. No amount of protesting or speaking out will affect a change unless its the Lord’s will that the change occur. It’s his church.

        As for system wide sexism. I completely disagree. I am not in a leadership calling so I can’t speak from that perspective, but I can say, emphatically, that I harbor nothing but respect and gratitude for my wife and all the incredible strong friends/women she associates with. There may be sexist individuals, as no one is perfect in or out of the church. That’s not a problem with the “system” or the doctrine, that’s a problem with people.

        In “inequalities” most likely deal with individuals, unless you’re referring to men having the priesthood as an inequality? In effect that becomes an attempt to try and change the mind of God. If it’s part of his plan it with certainly happen and in his time. If its not it wont.

  41. Daneece Hernandez says:

    To all that were offended by Elder Packard’s words I ask that before approaching local leaders, look for understanding in prayer and the temple. Often we take things out of context or our anger stems from self deception.

    • Annie B. says:

      Your comment assumes that the people you address have not already sought understanding through their own connection with God, and dismisses their pain as trivial, and/or their fault. I can’t say I really blame you. If you don’t feel hurt by the same words, it’s so easy to assume that someone is upset because of their own shortcomings, rather than listen and consider. I have children, and am married to a priesthood holder, but I also found B.K.P.’s words to be untrue, and therefore hurtful. To say that a woman is of full value only as an accessory to a priesthood holder is demeaning.

  42. Carrie says:

    Hi DefyGravity,
    Beautiful letter. Your testimony of Christ comes blazing through and I am seriously in awe. Thank you.
    I don’t have time to read all the comments right now but a few people over at the fMh fb group have talked about picking a date when we all write an honest heart felt letter to the presidency and apostles. They may be able to ignore one letter but what if they got a whole box full from us on one day or something? Have other people discussed this or is a similar plan already in affect?
    Sometimes I think that the church leaders speak in generalities because they can’t cater to all the exceptions (this is pretty well put in comments section with reference to Elder Oaks talk on this post http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=6721)
    But if the leaders of the church knew that the once considered exceptions are becoming the general members of the church, they might search for more inspiration that meets our needs? That is my hope anyway.
    If a plan to join forces is already happening let me know. If not, I would be more than happy to head something up over at the fMh fb group. I have a few grievances of my own and would like to add my voice and testimony to yours. Email is carriekimmel@gmail.com or you can find me on the fMh fb group.

  43. Annie B. says:

    I had a conversation with a cousin about gay marriage rights that inevitably led to a conversation about our eternal natures and why she agrees with current LDS church teachings that marriage and pro-creation are as necessary to our salvation as baptism, and why I believe statements about gender roles in the proclamation on the family are highly questionable, or not quite right, as is the belief that marriage and pro-creation are a requirement of celestial glory or salvation. I ended up reasoning the following: The Godhead, our prime examples, authorities, and teachers of how to achieve salvation are God, Jesus Christ our Savior, and The Holy Ghost; Not simply a celestially married couple (some people believe that the celestial married couple is implied whenever “God” is mentioned, but it seems like a pretty big piece of the puzzle to leave out in both the Old and New Testaments, and even in current LDS Church doctrine only mentions the existence of a Heavenly Mother and does not show any example of who this personage is or what role she plays besides producing our existence as spirit children) which makes the currently taught LDS principle of eternal marriage as the crowning covenant of our celestial glory seem unlikely to me. The other thing I reasoned was that Christ, the center of the LDS religion taught us how to attain salvation and joy in this life as well as the next, but as far as we know didn’t designate marriage or childbearing as a requirement and didn’t as far as we know, demonstrate them as part of his life’s purpose to provide an example of perfection for us to follow. That seems like a really important detail to omit if it is in fact a requirement as necessary to our salvation as baptism. Temple Covenants, as well as The Proclamation on the Family, give women some directives and responsibilities that differ from the directives and responsibilities it gives to men, that closely follow societal gender norms. Christ, a male, actually personifies and fulfills many of the attributes of Christianity that societal norms (and the LDS church, in the proclamation on the family) relate to female-ness (traditionally male attributes being strength, justice, protection, punishment, ect.—traditionally female attributes being mercy, charity, comfort, forgiveness, ect.) Additionally, The Godhead includes a celestial being who does not possess a body, and therefore by LDS terms cannot pro-create. I concluded that I have tried but haven’t seen enough reason to believe that homosexuality, (or lack of ability to create children in this life or the next with the companion of our choosing) or even a lack of desire to marry or create children at all, is truly harmful or counter to our happiness and eternal nature. I have seen plenty of evidence that suggests that the elite-isation (made up a word there because I couldn’t think of one that fit) of heterosexual marriage and procreation to the exclusion of any other alternative life path as necessary to our salvation as baptism is harmful. Adoption is recognized on earth and in heaven (sealing) as acceptable, would it not also be acceptable in the case of a heterosexual couple? or, as demonstrated by The Godhead and a lack of representation of a Heavenly Mother, is it possible that spiritual pro-creation does not require two separate male and female beings? I don’t know if I should even post this here, but I can’t stop thinking about it and didn’t know where else to put it.

  1. February 25, 2012

    […] at The Exponent shared her eloquent, passionate response to this talk that she will be sending to Brother Packer, and to her ward and stake leaders. […]

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