Neckties: Priesthood Attire or Lucifer’s Lust Pointer?

mens-fashion-ties-002 Neckties are arrows that point to the male genitalia. Why are they considered “priesthood attire” in the LDS community? In some congregations otherwise worthy men are not allowed to participate in priesthood ordinances unless wearing a white shirt and necktie. The male missionary uniform is a white shirt and conservative necktie, symbols of orthodoxy in the LDS Church. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby recently noted,

Neckties are so important to Mormons that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them airbrushed onto young men in church publications.

Oh, the horror! Before such a perilous day dawns, I must sound a warning. Neckties are leading women far from the iron rod of righteousness into the shadowy mists of lust. The influence of the necktie is subtle and pernicious and has infiltrated every level of Church leadership. legends-of-the-summer-justin-timberlake-jay-z-1.492.325.c The white shirt and necktie are ubiquitous symbols for male professional conformity and power, but some Christians contend that a man in a suit is too much temptation for the modern Christian sister.

Justin Timberlake and Jay Z acknowledge the power of the well dressed man in the song Suit and Tie. Brother Timberlake croons in the chorus,

And as long as I got my suit and tie, Ima leave it all on the floor tonight.

You are mistaken in hoping Brother Timberlake took off his suit and tie to put on his pajamas,

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Total Game Control

Guest Post by Emily Holsinger Butler

the playahs

A Catholic friend of mine once offered the idea that world religions exist for one single purpose: to control women. “A bit reductive, no?” was my response. But this guy was wicked smart—never flippant, never glib. And his assertion has stayed with me like a compass point. I refer to it whenever “things happen” in our Mormon universe. Who is trying to control whom, I ask.

I’ve been controlled, sure. In fact, I’ve often given courtesy control to people out of sheer politeness—like all those times on my mission when I submitted to a young district leader’s efforts to foist a personal priesthood interview on me. That was how the game was played. If there was a priesthood leader present, a sister would hop out of the driver’s seat and let him commandeer the wheel. “Take ‘er for a spin, Elder! Don’t scratch the paint!”* Results varied. It was usually fine, and sometimes funny.

Controlling women—have I been complicit? Heck yeah. I’ve collaborated. I’m not proud of myself. Holy cow, I’ve been Vichy France with a temple recommend.** Like that Saturday in 1994, at some church basketball tournament. As a very lovely break from law school exertions, I played on our ward’s women’s basketball team, coached to great effect by our Stake President. It was super fun. We made it to some sort of regional event, and drove down to a building in southern Virginia on the appointed day. Men were playing in a separate but equal tournament on the full-sized court. We were playing on a smaller one, and I wasn’t about to look that gift horse in the mouth, believe you me. As the female players gathered together, we were addressed by a priesthood leader who may or may not have also been the referee (I don’t recall). He outlined a few basics of the tourney, and then, in all seriousness, admonished us to dress modestly on court.

Incredulous, I looked at my teammates. We were for the most part women of a certain age, some of a more certain age than others. Our power forward was a professional nurse of repute. Our best shooter, the only one who could almost dunk, was the Stake President’s wife (and mother of many). Then there was me—I was a terrible player, but was equipped with two sports bras (worn simultaneously) and shorts that covered my thighs very adequately. I honestly don’t remember the other women’s names, but do remember their tolerant, almost vacant expressions as the brother went on about the necessity of sleeves and such. Nobody batted an eye. We regarded him with distant benevolence. We permitted him to tell us how to dress.

And so it was that we were unprepared for the vision that was unleashed upon us a few moments after the good brother concluded his remarks. It was then that the men’s teams emerged from their changing area. Unlike us, they had actual uniforms with actual numbers. On the other hand, it was clear that said uniforms had been handed down through generations of Mormon men, languishing in a Stake Center closet between basketball tournaments that began sometime in 1972. Sleeves they had none. Manufactured from some sort of skin-tight polyester fabric, the shorts stopped mere centimeters south of the groin area, which (how to put this) was exceptionally pronounced, if not practically articulated—so clingy they might have been codpieces for all intents and purposes. The men’s teams were composed primarily of middle-aged priesthood holders who (like us) were in it for a good time, and who (like us) could stand to lose a good twenty or thirty or forty pounds. It would have been a tender mercy for me to offer my second sports bra to any number of those players. Yeah. Their costumes left very little to the imagination.

Again I looked at my teammates. Bless them, their faces were frozen in alarm, not at what they were seeing, but at what was about to happen. We removed ourselves at once to a secluded area behind the bleachers, and fell to the floor where we rolled around unleashing howls of laughter. Personally, I laughed so hard I pulled a muscle in my abdomen, which didn’t help my game at all. We laughed until the tears ran. Someone almost choked. It wasn’t pretty.

What did I learn that day? Can’t say, really. But it does occur to me that we have a ways to go in our church before we can say that we love each other more than we love controlling each other.

Play on, sisters.

*It was, in fact, literally the case that sisters did not drive cars in my mission. That privilege was reserved for the missionaries who worked in the mission office. Who, incidentally, were all elders.

**I’m paraphrasing the wonderful Caitlin Moran, here. Email me if you want the original quote, which is pretty salty.

Emily Holsinger Butler is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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Guest Post: Thoughts on Equality in the Church

by Tom P

My wife follows the Exponent and from time to time shares articles with me that raise many fascinating and legitimate points, particularly when it comes to gender inequality in the church. Without downplaying in any measure the concerns expressed in this blog, I have lamented the gender inequality in the church for many years but from a different perspective.

Having served primarily with the youth for about 30 years I have often wished that the men called to work with the youth were as faithful in their callings as the women in equivalent callings in the Young Women or Primary organizations. I cannot count the number of times I have been let down by male leaders on Sundays, activity nights, camping trips, or other events. On the other hand my wife, who has served in the Primary for as long as I have with the youth, probably could count the number of times she has been let down by a sister in the ward and not exceed her fingers and toes.

Based solely on my experience, there is a huge gender gap in the church when it comes to faithfully fulfilling our calling; and the men come out on the bottom by a considerable margin.

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Baby blessings

My great-grandparents holding my grandfather on his blessing day

My great-grandparents holding my grandfather on his blessing day

About a month ago, my father decided to clear out his collection of family memorabilia and give it to me, the de facto family historian.  I was thrilled.  In my free time I have been perusing the journals, albums and family records.  I came across my Grandpa’s baby book, a more thorough record than most of its kind.  It goes all the way through his high school graduation and includes a map of the Pacific Ocean with the route his ship took during World War II carefully inked in.  Evidently my great-grandmother was a diligent scrapbooker.

The book contains a page for “baby’s first prayer” in which my great-grandma transcribed the words of my grandpa’s baby blessing.  They were not Mormons.  My great-grandfather was a minister of a protestant denomination, and my grandfather later followed in his footsteps.  The fact that this was a father’s blessing therefore had more to do with the family profession than the biological relationship.

 

 

July 5, 1917

Our Father in heaven – thou who has given us this child to make glad our home – we give him back to Thee today.  Use him we pray in Thy great purpose for the world, and through him bring in some small way the Kingdom of God.  Teach him that the only failure is selfishness and the only success service; and when his life is ended, grant that the world will be more Christ-like for his years in it.

We pray too for ourselves.  Help us to live such lives that this boy will find it easy to believe in God, and help us to build such a home that in it he will naturally discover Jesus Christ.  As he works with us, may he see in our lives the spirit of Thy Son; and as we play together may we never do anything that will drive God from his life.  Take us and take him, we pray, and use us in Thy work on Earth.  Through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

I really love this prayer.  Every time I read it I get goosebumps and I think “that is what I want for my family.  That is the blessing I would want said for my children.”  I also feel that it was a blessing that was fulfilled.  My grandpa did devote his life to service.  He eventually left the ministry in order to work full time in fundraising and philanthropy.  Even in retirement he constantly volunteered.  I do think the world was more Christ-like for his years in it.

In our church we would teach that my great grandfather had no priesthood authority, though I am certain as a graduate of Harvard Divinity he would have disagreed.  Yet when I read this blessing I can’t help but think that this is the baby blessing par excellence.  I wonder what difference having the priesthood could possibly make in blessing a baby.  It isn’t a covenant, it isn’t necessary for salvation by our doctrine.  Why then do we need a priesthood holder to perform this blessing? I myself was blessed by our home teacher as a baby because my father is not a member and probably wouldn’t have been interested anyway.

 

What role do you think the priesthood plays in offering a baby blessing? Is it different from a father who does not hold the priesthood offering a prayer on behalf of his baby? What about a mother blessing her baby?

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Relief Society Lesson 17: Priesthood—“for the Salvation of the Human Family”

Unlike many lessons with “priesthood” emphasis, this lesson includes the key element of the “human family.” I like this; as a result, the lesson can take some non-traditional directions such as a focus on family history or a focus on humanitarian services of the church or even an emphasis on baptism as rebirth. Because of the “human family” element, this lesson has better applicability than average priesthood lessons.

However, I also suffer from a personal history of disengagement from any lesson with priesthood focus. As a Young Woman, I was taught that I could “help the priesthood” by dressing modestly. As a Young Single Adult, I was taught that the best thing I could do was marry someone with the priesthood so I could finally “have” priesthood in my life. As a married woman, and recognising that these previous teachings were improper, I still often feel disengaged from priesthood lessons because outside of the temple, I am unable to render any priesthood service. This, mixed with varying levels of sometimes well-intended, other times satirical, yet often misogynistic lesson plans usually results in me finding some reason to sit in the church foyer commisserating with a dozen other women for the term of the lesson. I think the best way to direct away from this line of thinking is to write “Salvation of the Human Family” on the board. This is not intended to erase priesthood, but rather to direct the lesson in a manner relevant to women, thereby engaging them, rather than writing “priesthood”, which by experience, can automatically disengage women

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How It Feels – thoughts for Father’s Day

As a Mormon feminist, I often here comments like, “The church loves women and we think they are equal.  Why do you feel different or unequal?”

To answer this question, I submit my own short Father’s Day talk.  (And it is June and time to celebrate Fathers.)

A note: I love my earthly father; I honor him. I love many fathers I know, including the father of my ward, my bishop; I celebrate them. I love my Heavenly Father.  My short talk is not meant to be disrespectful, but just a little look into “how it feels”.

Fathers and all men, I start my talk by reminding you how special you are to our Heavenly Parents.  You are so important.  The work you do with the Priesthood is so important.  You are sons of God – and God loves His sons just as much as His daughters.

Fatherhood is essential part of the plan; it is NOT what is left over after the woman’s role or motherhood. We honor your work and the part you play in the overall building of Zion.  We women learn so much from you and your experiences.  We stand in awe of your service to your families and to the ward.

Men, you are the head of the home, which is just as important as the heart of the home; in fact, you’re probably more important. We would benefit if we listened to your counsel more often. I know that my mother got the better deal when she married my father, who is always such a strong head in our home.  He is her better half. We all (his children) benefit so much from his wisdom and love. And I think my mother has learned so much over the years from his example.

The influence of a righteous man goes beyond the home.  It is felt in the community and in the work place.  I hope each of you men realize the power you have on others when you live in righteous ways and stand up for family, for God, and for the Gospel of Christ.  You should be proud to be a man.

As I conclude, I remind all of you men that God is mindful of you.  He knows the challenges your face in juggling your work, church, and priesthood responsibilities.  He loves you and will hear and answer your prayers.  And, we, the mothers (and women) in your life, are always here to support you too.  You are never alone. Never doubt your divine potential; it is great.  We love you.  And today, on Father’s Day, we honor you and your contributions.  We celebrate the important role you play.

 

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