On the Sexist Nature of Benevolent Patriarchy

Last Friday Modern Mormon Men featured two alternative viewpoints on patriarchy: “modern patriarchy” and “reluctant patriarchy.” I was wary of reading the piece on “modern patriarchy” based on a couple of quotes I’d already seen from it, but I read it anyway.  Because I like Modern Mormon Men.  Because I have been saying for a very long time that gender equity will not be a reality in a meaningful way until we seriously examine the gender roles we impose on men, as well as those we impose on women.  And I respect that the MMM bloggers are engaging in that project—the project of asking what it means to be a Modern, Mormon, Man.

Well I read that post, and I tried to do so with an open mind.  And I hit this gem on the nature of “righteous dominion”:

It is children heeding, submitting to, and honoring the counsel of their parents as their parents act within righteous patriarchy. It is wives hearkening to, submitting to, and honoring the counsel of their husbands as their husbands act within righteous patriarchy. And, it is husbands leading, persuading, and gently guiding their wives and children as they follow, honor and submit to the counsel of God.

I felt physically ill.  I kept reading.  And I found an even bigger doozy:

There must be order in all things and there must be one person to be the head of the family. God has chosen men and, for better or for worse, it is this order that we can utilize to edify our families or to crush ourselves against. I know that it is when there is a break in this chain of honor and counsel — the chain that leads from children to wives to husbands and to God — that there is tension, trauma and tragedy in the home.

And the feeling ill turned into feeling violated—emotionally and spiritually, but in such an intense fashion that it manifest in physical reaction.  As if I had been kicked in the chest and could not breathe.

These are not new ideas to me.  I’ve been hearing about men presiding and benevolent (i.e., chicken) patriarchy for my whole life.  And I’m usually one of the women who, disgusted by what they hear, engages with it in an intellectual fashion.  I don’t usually respond in this kind of viscerally physical fashion to ideas that I know are false—coercive power wearing a pretty mask.  I point this out not because I think my typical response is better or more appropriate; I point it out to illustrate how unexpected and searing the soul-deep sorrow, and its accompanying physical distress, I felt was.

But now I’ve had the time to think about it a bit.  I’m no longer reacting in a purely physical and emotional fashion.  And I find myself disgusted by the piece’s lack of integrity and honest self-awareness.  So a response.

First, let me acknowledge the good I see here.  I appreciate that Saint Mark apparently witnessed men abusing their power as “patriarchs” during his childhood and sincerely strives not to commit those same sins.  I appreciate that he is attempting to emphasize love and concern, not power.  I appreciate that he feels enough disgust at the denotation of the word “patriarch” that, were he not able to perform the mental gymnastics the church requires concerning the idea of patriarchy, he would summarily reject the concept.

But.  (And a big but at that.)

No matter how well-intentioned, no matter how thoughtful and concerned with righteousness and love Saint Mark and his exposition of “patriarchy” are, the fact remains that the piece fails to engage adequately with the unavoidable underpinning of patriarchy: power and subjection. And in so doing, it robs itself of honest self-awareness.  In spite of his best efforts to establish parity between husband and wife while maintaining the patriarchal order in which men are always above women in the chain of command, Saint Mark’s own prose betrays the extent to which patriarchy is necessarily about power and subjection, the extent to which it requires inequality between husband and wife. For example, take a look at the beauty of this parallelism:

is children                                                             It is wives

heeding,                                                                 hearkening to,

submitting to,                                                       submitting to,

and honoring the counsel                                   and honoring the counsel

of their parents                                                    of their husbands

as their parents                                                    as their husbands

act within righteous patriarchy.                        act within righteous patriarchy.

The former Freshman composition instructor in me would have squealed with glee to get a student paper with such a gorgeous parallelism.  Too bad for Saint Mark that this elegant parallelism makes a point quite contrary to his larger argument (and does so with crystal clarity): women are to men as children are to their parents (or, fortunately for an unmarried woman like me, wives are to husbands; maybe I should stay unmarried or, at the very least, plan on marrying a non-Mormon man).  In other words, patriarchy makes women and men inherently and always unequal.  And then Saint Mark follows it up with another perfectly gorgeous rhetorical move that begins with antithesis establishing the difference between children’s/wives’ role and husbands’:

It is wives                                                             And it is husbands

hearkening to,                                                      leading,

submitting to,                                                      persuading,

and honoring the counsel                                  and gently guiding

of their husbands                                                their wives and children

as their husbands                                                as they

act within righteous patriarchy.                       follow, honor, and submit to

.                                                                              the counsel of God

And that last phrase about husbands presents another parallelism (although slightly less perfectly rendered), this time between wives’ (and children’s) role and husband’s role:

It is wives                                                              as they [husbands]

hearkening to,                                                      follow,

submitting to,                                                       honor,

and honoring the counsel                                   and submit to the counsel

of their husbands…                                              of God.

The point is clear: women are to men as men are to God.  As illustrated by these beautifully executed parallel structures, men exist between women and God.  Women relate to men in the same fashion in which men relate to God.  Women (at least married women) do not ever relate directly to God.  This is, according to Saint Mark, God’s ordained order.  No matter how nice his “modern patriarchy” allegedly is (and I’d argue that its very niceness makes it all the more sinister and pernicious), in it women are and always will be subjugated to men, men do and always will possess the only direct chain of communication to God and therefore are and always will be the only ones with any real power to act.  In other words, perhaps Saint Mark’s “modern patriarchy” superficially distances itself from the overt abuses of “ancient patriarchy,” but at their heart they are the same thing: a system in which men rule by divine fiat. And given the ambiguous nature of inspiration, that essentially boils down to men having unquestionable power—after all people claim to have been inspired to do terrible things all the time.  So long as any form of patriarchy, whether modern or ancient, is the model for relationships between men and women, the power structure is one in which men can and do and always will subjugate women.  Modernity and niceness cannot rob patriarchy of its definitional inequality.

I don’t doubt Saint Mark would be a bit horrified that this is the conclusion I’ve reached based on his argumentation.  According to his piece, the notion that “patriarchy” means “the supremacy of the father . . . , the legal dependence of wives and children, . . . broadly: control by men of a disproportionately large share of power” is so repugnant that he would summarily reject it if it were not for the softening effect of church rhetoric about fathers presiding and patriarchy.  He implies that good Mormons, like him, should be horrified by the notion that “patriarchy” means “men rule” and that therefore Mormon patriarchy is benevolent and good, not a form of power and male domination.  Sound familiar?

It did to me.  Just a few short months ago, Michael Otterson made an almost identical rhetorical move to start off his exposition of “what Mormon equality looks like.” So, as I did with Otterson, I’d like to take on Saint Mark’s assertions, one at a time.

Claim the first: Feminists “reverse-subjugate masculinity and patriarchy in the name of retribution for the past centuries of women being subjugated.”  Patriarchy is not “misogynistic” (thus saith the square quotes).  This leaves men not knowing how to be (because they can’t be a patriarch, i.e., masculine).

This is an old argument.  That feminists want to subjugate men, control them, dominate them, deprive them of all that they hold dear in order to get compensation for all we’ve suffered.  We demand men make a type of blood atonement to pay for their forefathers’ sins against us.  This argument fails to recognize that the feminist project is not one of inversion to gain retribution and control, but of leveling.  Do men appear to lose in this project?  Sure.  Because in that leveling project two things happen: 1. women are brought up out of the pit of non-existence, in which they not only have few opportunities but are literally the property of father or husband; and 2. men are brought down from the structures of improper power that perpetuated traditional gender roles by prescriptive dictate and kept men in charge.  Both moves not only appear to but actually do remove power from men as a group.

My question is, why is that a bad thing?  Men have lost forms of power and prestige that were premised upon the false conception of women as deformed aberrations of the real human form: male. Under that premise, women are inherently less—less intelligent, less capable, less rational, less deserving of autonomy, less trustworthy, less human.  Men physically and materially controlling women’s existence supported that lost power: physically by laying claim to her body at will (spousal rape was impossible, women passed as a possession from father to husband); and materially by controlling the resources necessary to life (with few exceptions, women couldn’t own land or wealth, men controlled their wives’ incomes, most professional avenues were closed to women and lost prestige and earning potential once they opened to women).

So why is it that stripping this kind of abusive power from men constitutes “reverse-subjugating” them?  It doesn’t. What it does do is acknowledge that women are men’s equals, equals deserving of the same opportunities and rights to the material necessities of life, to autonomous control over their own bodies and lives, and to self-realization.  This acknowledgement liberates both women and men by establishing that no one should be denied the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness based upon their sex.  Rather than navel gazing about how they no longer know how to be “masculine” or “patriarchs,” I’d suggest that men get down to the business of living good lives and stop thinking about fitting a prescription.  Just as I suggest the same thing for women.  Make those rights–life, liberty, happiness–realities.

Claim the second: “Modern patriarchy” (aka righteous Mormon patriarchy) means to protect, provide for, and preside over one’s wife and children, but does not constitute inequality between husbands and wives.

Saint Mark clarifies that he’s got the “protect” and “provide” down pat with relative ease, since it means “lock the doors” and “earn some money.”  The word that throws a wrench in the works for him is “preside,” which keeps him up at night writing blog posts.  He never actually resolves the problem of that word.  Instead he just reproduces the church’s chicken patriarchal doublespeak in which men simultaneously occupy a position of power above women (preside) while sharing power with them (equality).  This argument has been rebutted at length elsewhere and I’ll say little about it other than that one cannot negate the denotation of a word by simply saying it’s other than it is. If one class of people always presides and the other class never has the opportunity to do so, there is an inherent and undeniable inequality in that system.

What I’d like to tease out is the ideas of “providing” and “protecting,” which Saint Mark does not examine.  Men providing means more than just relegating women to the private sphere and foreclosing educational and professional opportunities for them.  It perpetuates the historical sexist power structure in which men control the material necessities of life and their family’s physical being, and, by so doing, subjugate women.  Consider, for instance, the case of a 26-year-old mother of 6.5 children (encountered over at Mormon Missionary Position) trapped in her marriage because of her faith in the church’s prescription for gender roles (which led to a very young marriage and utter dependence upon her husband as provider).  Her husband controls her access to the material necessities of life to such an extent that were she to leave him, it’s entirely possible she would struggle to provide for herself and lose her children.  Consider the situation of a mid-30s mother of four (a friend of mine) with no work experience, a life-threatening health condition, and a troubled marriage.  Her husband controls both access to daily necessities and access to life-saving medical care. These men may be great guys.  They may practice the kind of benevolent “modern patriarchy” Saint Mark endorses.  Certainly his version of patriarchy does not allow for “unrighteous dominion,” for men willfully controlling their wives and children as an end in and of itself.  But none of that negates the fact that these women, and so many others in similar situations, are completely in the control of their husbands by virtue of the fact that they took seriously the church’s dictate that men provide/protect, and women nurture. If a man feels inspired to dictate behavior and access to resources in order to provide for or protect their wives and children, there is no check on their power because the system is set up to deny women any real power.

The only way to get away from men possessing all of the power in marriage relationships, to truly foster the kind of equal partnership the church allegedly endorses, is to jettison all discussion of patriarchy and of roles universally delineated along the lines of sex.  We cannot prescribe as universally applicable men’s role as provider/protector and women’s role as nurturer if we genuinely want to foster equality between men and women inside of marriage; when we do, we lead to a situation in which men preside by default because they ultimately control the resources.  It might certainly be the case that some couples decide that the male/provide while female/nurture breakdown is what works best for them and I have no problem with that.  But as soon as we turn this into a universal ideal, we create a power imbalance where men by definition control and women by definition accommodate their men.  In such a power structure, men rule.  The philosophical underpinnings of such a power structure matter, no matter how nice the realization of it may be in some particular circumstances.

Claim the third: But “patriarch” really just means “father.”

Then lets stop using the word “patriarch” and start using the word “father.”  I absolutely agree that fathers can be wonderful.  I adore my own father.  He’s smart and funny as hell and loving and kind.  He taught me through example that there is no such thing as “women’s work” that men don’t do.  When I expressed the desire to do the kinds of activities he took my brothers on, he took me, too.  He has always told me not to change who I am—my intelligent, outspoken, opinionated passion for conversation and my refusal to conform to stereotypical femininity—in order to catch a man.  I adore my father.  I celebrate him as someone who has made sacrifices for his family and loved them and cared for them.  He is not without his problems, but he is wonderful.  I just don’t see why I need to use the word “patriarch” to describe who and what he is.  Father does quite nicely, thank you very much.  And if what we really mean by “patriarch” has nothing to do with men ruling and taking precedence over women and children, then we should shun using a word which not only has that denotation but also an undeniable and very, very strong connotation of inequality between the sexes.

Claim the fourth: Priesthood, man, and patriarch are interchangeable; therefore all scriptural admonitions about how to exercise priesthood power can be used to redefine “patriarchy.”

No.  Actually, they’re not.  These are three very different things.  The fact that all current priesthood holders are men does not mean that priesthood = men; the category “man” is much larger than the category “priesthood holder” (not to mention the fact that priesthood is a power or office, not a person or group of people).  And, of course, there are biblical passages and modern precedents and practices that support the idea that women will hold the priesthood.  The priesthood is an office, the power to act in the name of God; it is not a group of people of the right sex, no matter how much we use the word in that way.

Nor does “priesthood” mean “patriarchy.”  There are two overlaps between these two terms: man and authority.  I’ve already addressed the overlap of “man” (not all men hold the priesthood, nor do all patriarchs; the simple fact that both patriarchs and priesthood holders are men does not mean that they are therefore identical categories anymore than the fact that all ripe strawberries and all stop signs are red means they are identical categories).  So let’s address the overlap of “authority.” Priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name only when called to serve others in certain capacities.  As such, not every priesthood holder will occupy a position in which they use priesthood as a mechanism for exercising authority over others.  In some circumstances in which a man exercises his priesthood, he actually exercises authority over others (think bishop or stake president); in others, his exercise of authority is not about exercising authority over others at all but instead about serving them (think blessing to heal the sick).  In other words, the exercise of the priesthood does not necessarily mean the priesthood holder in question is acting with authority over other people.  And patriarchy is, by definition, about exercising authority over other people.  Its etymology specifically contains the idea of “ruling.”  The conflation of priesthood and patriarchy in order to adopt the guidelines for appropriate exercise of priesthood as a redefinition of patriarchy simply does not work because priesthood and patriarchy are two different things.

Claim the fifth: women relate to men as children relate to parents; men relate to women as God relates to men; this is so because it’s impossible for a family unit to work without one person being in charge and God has said that person will be the man.

No.  Just no.  I am not a child.  I do not need a man to mediate my relationship with God.  I do not need a man to be a final arbiter of what is right for me or us to do.  No matter how kind and thoughtful and considerate that man is.  What I need is a partner.  I do not need that partner to use his penis as a trump card.  As soon as he does, there is automatic imbalance and I become a second-class citizen.  True, my benevolent, kind, considerate ruler may take my view under advisement, but his word is the final word.  He has the power.  I do not.  And that is not right.  Discrimination is wrong, no matter how nicely it is dressed up in scripture and rationalization.

Claim the sixth: Men exercising modern/righteous patriarchy (the terms have become interchangeable at this point; funny thing, though–I’m sure ancient patriarchs would have considered their version of patriarchy as “righteous,” too) makes family life strong and healthy and good.

In response, let me re-phrase Saint Mark’s conclusion: When it comes down to it, I believe the best way to foster the health of a marriage and family is to be a spiritual source of love, service and compassion to family members. I know that as we strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ and hearken to His teachings—teachings that require both men and women to love unconditionally, but which say nothing about men “presiding”—we’ll be great partners to our spouses and parents to our children.  No need to muddy the waters with talk of patriarchy and presiding.

In the face of the Inquisition and the requirement to recant on his scientific conclusions, Galileo said:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.

I have to go with Galileo on this one.  My sense, my reason, my intellect tell me that patriarchy is unqualifiedly wrong; they tell me that equality is right; they tell me that the appropriate and Godly relationship between husband and wife is one of partnership and consensus.  I will hold to that no matter what scripture gets trotted out and twisted to tell me I’m wrong.  And should I die and discover that God actually does want men to preside and to exercise any form of patriarchy, I’ll very happily tell God to go to hell and deal with the consequences.  Because frankly any imaginable alternative eternity is better than an eternity defined by inequality and sexism.

Also, I have never been more glad I am not married or more sure that I do not want to marry a Mormon man unless he is as unconventional in his belief as I.

Amelia

Amelia has recently relocated to Salt Lake City for her new job selling college textbooks (a job she loves). She's a 9th generation Mormon redefining her relationship with the church (the church she both loves and hates). She's passionate about books, travel, beauty, and all things cheese.

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240 Responses

  1. Emmaline says:

    I’m going to have to devote more time to digesting your post….I can really get behind the way you’ve dissected this. But for now, I just have to say that I love your basic premise: That no matter the brush you paint patriarchy with to try to make it pretty, you just can’t do it.

    And on your “Also, I have never been more glad I am not married or more sure that I do not want to marry a Mormon man unless he is as unconventional in his belief as I.” Amen a hundred times. And those unconventional ones do exist, rare though they may be.

    • Amelia says:

      That no matter the brush you paint patriarchy with to try to make it pretty, you just can’t do it.

      Precisely. When you honestly acknowledge what patriarchy is by definition, there is no way to make it palatable.

  2. lanwenyi says:

    When I was a YSA, I could never figure out what it was abt the Mormon “men” in my ward that just rubbed me the wrong way. I ended up marrying outside the church and have an incredibly happy marriage as a result. I am still an active, if unconventional, member.

    Since discovering Mormon feminism, I now have figured out what it was. Even the ones who claimed that they believed in equality and “would never exercise unrighteous dominion”, still clung to ideas like the ones you responded to in this post. Benevolent patriarchy is anything but.

    I’m afraid of reading the source b/c it’ll make me too angry. I do not need anyone as my intermediary w/ God or to make final decisions for our family. My husband and I are equal partners and I know that neither of us could be happy in a situation where either of us was less than equal to the other. Until there is true equality, we’ll all continue to be hurt by patriarchy, men and women both.

    • Amelia says:

      Even the ones who claimed that they believed in equality and “would never exercise unrighteous dominion”, still clung to ideas like the ones you responded to in this post. Benevolent patriarchy is anything but.

      Precisely. The poison is in the well just by virtue of the belief itself. No matter how benevolent the actual real life practice, the underlying belief necessarily does damage when it’s taken out and examined in the light of day.

  3. Beatrice says:

    I remember as a missionary reading the part of the missionary manual that describes the role of the senior and junior companion. I had a realization that under the patriarchal system I would have the role of junior companion to my husband for eternity. I felt the sick feeling in my stomach that you describe. For me, becoming an adult is about taking on the full responsibilities of adulthood. So being just as responsible for the decisions and the consequences of those decisions as my husband is very important to me.

    I remember a man in a single’s ward class commenting that because men preside, they are ultimately responsible for the consequences of the decisions that the family makes. I wish I spoke up at the time, but my thought was that you don’t do anyone any favors by taking responsibility away from them. One of the young woman values is choice and accountability, after all, and I think it is very important for the development of every human being.

    • Amelia says:

      The idea that a man is more responsible for his wife’s and children’s choices by virtue of his being male is anathema to the gospel as I understand it. The core principle of the gospel, even more core than the atonement, is the agency of each individual. And no account I have ever seen of the war in heaven in the pre-existence which established the centrality of that principle establishes that it’s only men’s agency that matters.

      • Beatrice says:

        Completely. It is weird to me that people don’t see patriarchy (even the modern or benevolent kind) as undermining the principles of responsibility and agency.

  4. Macha says:

    This is what really gets me about it:

    There must be order in all things and there must be one person to be the head of the family. God has chosen men and, for better or for worse, it is this order that we can utilize to edify our families or to crush ourselves against.

    Patriarchy has no rational basis in an system of ethics that emphasizes the absolute inviolability of free agency and equality, as you’ve demonstrated. And the only response anyone who supports it can provide is, “because God said so” or “God’s ways are not man’s ways,” or some other vague appeal to obedience for the sake of obedience. Their support highlights the arbitrary nature of the system, but they still expect people to just accept it. The quote from Galileo is one of my favorites, and it fits perfectly here.

    • Bobman says:

      It is true that God’s ways are not our ways. But here I think it applies better to think of how God might live equally with His wife than to imagine that because we don’t understand a patriarchy, it must just be because it is. I have never really liked (blind) obedience for the sake of obedience.

      I believe that patriarchy in the ancient times was partially out of necessity (survival – someone has to do this job and someone has to do that job and kids have to be brought up to do one or the other so gender roles make sense there) but was then taken beyond the mark to subjugate women. In a modern world where survival isn’t an issue, we should throw that idea away utterly. In every meaningful way, women are just as good and competent as men.

    • Amelia says:

      What I don’t understand is why we would elevate something so clearly imbalanced and in violation of core gospel principles to a godly way. We live in a fallen world. It is in this fallen world that patriarchy has been practiced. Why on earth would we make the leap that such a clearly destructive system would be an exalted one?

      • Bobman says:

        Lack of understanding. People see it was “always done this way” and assume that it should be done that way. We know that parents should care for their children and assume that means one should stay home to do so while the other works. We still live in a society where men generally get paid more (another evil, though this one is changing) so the obvious choice is usually the wife/mother, especially since she’s the one who gives birth and nurses.

        Add to that the fact that less-than-righteous men can often enforce their will upon their families by being big, strong, and scary and you get the patriarchy we know. Sprinkle in the idea that “God’s ways are not man’s ways” and some people wrongly extrapolate that this means men must somehow guide and control their wives, even if they must be benevolent in doing so.

        But many who have said so are right. This is harmful to men (causes many righteous men to exert an unrighteous dominion, even if “reluctantly”) as well as women (who are seen as less human, less worthy, powerless or something).

        Since reading these posts, I’ve wondered what Gospel truth this practice may be based upon (for surely we don’t want to throw out the truth with the bad practice) and have come up only with the idea that God is above human kind in hierarchy, and parents are above kids in hierarchy. God teaches us and we teach our children. Unless I’m missing something, we’ve taken that, added the men-only priesthood (though it wasn’t always all men, this seems to “justify” it to some) and men’s natural tendency to dominate and we get this poor practice.

        How can one righteously dominate other? That seems antithetical to gospel teaching. Instead of unrighteous dominion, we’re taught to have love and persuasion and all that good stuff. But does that mean one righteously dominates when exercising these? No. If you assume you’re always right because you’re the man/woman/parent, then that is already unrighteous. So no matter what mechanism you use, you’re still wrong.

        Am I right? I’m still trying to understand patriarchy and where it comes from.

      • Amelia says:

        Bobman, I completely agree with you that “righteously dominating” (which is what “righteous dominion” is in practice) is antithetical to the gospel. Also, I think it’s important to tease out the actual nature of the hierarchical relationship between God and humans. If we really believe what we say we believe (eternal progression; that each of us will become as God is) then that hierarchical relationship is precisely the same as the mortal human parent-child relationship. In other words, I was certainly below my parents on the hierarchy as a child. But as an adult I no longer am. I am their equal in every way. I owe them my respect and love insofar as they sacrificed and loved me and made my life possible. But I am no longer lower than them on any hierarchy.

        that is the relationship between God and humankind. It is not the relationship which is idealized in Mormon benevolent/chicken patriarchy. In the schema Saint Mark laid out, women will never become men’s equals. And that schema fails to recognize that as adults, women are always already men’s equals. This, I think, is directly due to the silencing and hiding of our goddess. If we had a visibly active, involved, omnipotent Mother Goddess as well as our visibly active, involved omnipotent Father God, then I do not think that we could preach the kind of patriarchy we continue to preach. But so long as the only deity that we’re allowed to see is male (and much more male than in most Christian traditions, since we give him an actual sexed body), we will have a hard time completely getting away from patriarchy and gender inequity because our Mother Goddess’s absence supports the notion that men are always at the top, always in charge, always the ones in communication laying down the laws. Nothing could be further from the truth of the core of Mormon doctrine when we remember things like the radical equality of human beings and God and the reality (the reality, meaning existence, involvement, activity, voice, influence; not just the theory) of our Mother Goddess.

      • Bobman says:

        Amelia, think I understand what you’re saying. But when you say you’re no longer in a hierarchy with your parents, it makes me wonder if we mean quite the same thing there. As an adult, I still feel a hierarchical connection to my parents, even though I know they’re not perfect and they no longer have spiritual stewardship or any earthly power over me. You say yourself that you feel love and respect for your parents. This to me is a hierarchy, even if not one of power.

        You’re right though that we need to tease out the nature of our relationship to God as that will help us better realize our relationships with our own parents and children, and perhaps to our spouses. I certainly don’t believe that our Heavenly Father exercises “dominion” righteous or otherwise over our Heavenly Mother. I do wonder though about Their relationship and ours to Them.

      • Amelia says:

        Bobman, I love and respect my nieces and nephews, too. I love and respect friends, some colleagues I’ve had, and former professors. I do not feel a hierarchical element in any of those relationships (except in the case of my young nieces and nephews, those who are still children; I would expect that since they are children and I am an adult they would obey me when I’m in a situation in which I am asking them to do something). I don’t see my relationship with my parents any differently. I recognize their greater experience, their love for me, their sacrifices for me, and because I do I will try to listen to their advice and input and take it when it’s appropriate. But I do not feel the obligation implicit in a hierarchical relationship.

  5. Galdralag says:

    Amen and amen – a thousand times amen! 🙂

    “Also, I have never been more glad I am not married or more sure that I do not want to marry a Mormon man unless he is as unconventional in his belief as I.” This bit (which – surprisingly to me – has already been quoted on this thread) was something in myself that I could only come to terms with very slowly. I believe so strongly that patriarchy, even of the “soft” variety, damages men as well as women, and that it is inherently destabilizing in marital relationships.

    Bravo, Amelia!

  6. Galdralag says:

    sorry – apparently I don’t understand how to italicize properly. I meant to emphasize the words “so strongly”

  7. Alisa says:

    St. Mark also said that when men don’t rule their wives and children as God rules the planet, “tragedy” occurs. As a member of an egalitarian marriage where my husband and I both sport graduate degrees and both spend at least four days of the week at home to nurture our child, I have researched a ton about the benefits and any drawbacks of equal marriages and parenting. Overwhelmingly, couples who have equal education and wage earning potential stay together longer. Couples who share household and childrearing duties have lower divorce rates and know each other better in the biblical sense. This is what modern, equal marriages are showing us ( sorry, I am on an iPad, but I can provide links later). The research is pointing out what common sense would reveal. And children get to spend more time with their fathers, making the father identity more solid and secure, for men who are looking for how to define themselves in a more modern family (referencing the beginning of this post).

    I recently asked my father-in-law, who is a former bishop and current temple worker, why he sees the patriarchal standard as equal. He says that absolutely men are motets accountable before God for the welfare of the family spiritually, but that women have equal responsibility. I asked what women’s responsibility is, he said it was responsibility for her one spiritual welfare. I asked if tht made men less responsible for their own welfare, and women less responsible for their family, and that is when he said he wasn’t sure. When you really start laying out the individual duties under patriarchy, it really starts falling apart. Why not give the decision over to the couple to decide what works best for their family and situation? why not hold the couple responsible for themselves and the family equally?

    I had more to say, but my toddler is helping me type too much , so that is all for now.

    • Bobman says:

      I agree with you. When a marriage falls apart we don’t think “well it was the man’s fault,” even in the church. We wonder what went wrong but our minds explore the possibilities of man, woman, both or neither spouse at fault. When a child goes “bad” we wonder whether it is just that child’s nature or whether the mother or father failed that child in some way. We don’t just assume the man failed in these cases. That tells me that we implicitly consider the two parties (men and women) equal in marriage even if we try to perform mental gymnastics in applying a “patriarchy” definition to our families.

      • Amelia says:

        exactly. I really think, Alisa, that the point about accountability is an important one. It would be bizarre and totally prejudicial to always lay the blame for a problem in a marriage solely at the feet of the man. Yet that’s what would be required by a patriarchal system in which he is more responsible because he has the ultimate authority.

  8. Alisa says:

    Sorry for the typos. toddler and autocorrect helping is a dangerous combo.

  9. Bradley says:

    One of the guys in my ward was once musing about how an economy like the United Order would work. He said he felt uncomfortable with the idea of handing his paycheck over to some central authority and receiving “whatever” back at their discretion.

    I told him “That’s pretty much how it works at my house”.

    Chickens? At my house, my wife rules the roost. That may be the Church’s dirty little secret, that more often than you realize patriarchy is a paper tiger. Having said that, most LDS women are surprised when my wife tells them I “let her do” (her words) whatever she wants.

    To me, the patriarchal notion of “Letting her do” something is as nonsensical as Mormon drinking songs.

    • Amelia says:

      I agree that often Mormon patriarchy is a paper tiger. That said, the rhetoric of patriarchy still does damage to the women and daughters of the church. And if it ultimately means nothing, why do we still engage in the rhetoric? It’s an empty attempt to preserve tradition for the sake of tradition. Which is pretty much always a bad idea.

      • ShellSea5 says:

        Yes! Yes! and Yes! Why do we engage in the rhetoric if it ultimately means nothing? It IS damaging and it does need to stop.

        Thank you for a fantastic post!

      • Bradley says:

        This reminds me a lot of the subject of another blog, where the Church found itself on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement. I think the consensus here is that you are on the right side of history. Society is at the point where you don’t need muscle to get things done. The fact is, people treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated. It’s okay to be assertive without being nasty, and let men know “I will not be treated that way”. Many guys respect that and if not, it’s better to find out early.

        My guess is that you’ll find that you can’t change traditions, you can only find a way to live with them.

    • BethSmash says:

      When I took Utah History oh so long ago at the U, we talked about Orderville. Everything was working great in Orderville until they decided that women got less than men – before profits and such were all handed out equally to men and women (particularly if you decided to move – so you could ‘sell out’ ) It was only after this change that things started to fall apart.

      • Amelia says:

        That’s fascinating, BethSmash. Did you have a text specifically about Orderville? Or an article or two? I’d love to read about it.

      • BethSmash says:

        “In 1877 they replaced the earlier loose dependence upon willingness to contribute with an accounting system that placed uniform values on labor and commodities (the wages varying by age and sex, but not type of work).”

        The above quote is from the Utah history Encyclopedia – emphasis mine – by Dean L. Maye who’s pretty much lionized in the history department at the U for local studies. He LITERALLY wrote the text book. 😀
        http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/u/UNITEDORDER.html
        and there’s the link. The sentence is in a paragraph 7 paragraphs from the bottom. And after those changes problems started occurring. BEFORE then in Orderville if you worked hard for the benefit of the community you were ‘paid’ a full amount FROM the community. And it’s not so much they would actually PAY you, BUT if you decided to leave (since it was on a volunteer basis) when you would leave you would “sale out” and they’d give you the money from your amount of land and the profit it had brought. Previously the system tripled the worth of everyone’s land. But after they made that small change – they ended up with more problems.

        Was that the ONLY change that brought around the end of Orderville? No. I mean, some people still say it’s because of JEANS! (Young people wanting to look “cool” and not wanting to wear clothes that their mom made and stuff). Here’s a lovely example of that in THIS BYU speech 7 paragraphs from the TOP:
        http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6126

        And then of course, there were floods and things – but I just remember being in that class thinking two things. 1) I wonder what would have happened if they had kept up their previous non-gender biased way of accounting. and 2) All those conservative people who say “socialist” like it’s a bad thing better watch out, because we’ll have to live like that again – which is also something mentioned in the second link.

        ANYWHO… basically it made an impression on me, and no, I didn’t have Dr. Maye, I had Paul Reeve – in case anyone was curious.

  10. MJK says:

    Now I want to write a Mormon drinking son.

  11. Bobman says:

    I think most in the church are egalitarian in practice (at least the younger generation, I can’t speak for the older). I feel most mormon men want to be equal partners with their wifes in marriage and family. I think even St Mark can be seen in his post to be wringing his hands and trying to reconcile the concepts of a righteous and equal marriage partnership with the general understanding of patriarchy which can be seen in scripture, mormon culture, and even the temple. I don’t think he or most other mormon men understand patriarchy the way you laid it out in your response.

    Now, having said all of that, I can’t excuse it. The language and ideas are so thoroughly ingrained in our culture (though I would argue NOT our doctrine) that men feel they have to do those mental gymnastics to reconcile equality with patriarchy. But as you showed here, it falls apart. The truth is, we shouldn’t be trying to reconcile the two. But men don’t often pick up on the things you pointed out on their own so can easily say them without any malice. Yet I know even the best of intentions can still result in harm so I don’t excuse that either.

    • Amelia says:

      I don’t think he or most other mormon men understand patriarchy the way you laid it out in your response.

      I agree. Which is why I made my initial comments on Saint Mark’s post. I wanted to express the anguish this causes for women, hoping that doing so would get him and other readers to take a moment to examine what they’re saying. I just don’t think most people take the time to try to imaginatively occupy others’ mental and emotional space. I think that’s especially true of men when it comes to imagining women’s mental and emotional space. Just by virtue of our culture and language, women often must occupy men’s mental and emotional space. The reverse is not often true. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that if men are going to subscribe to a system of power in which they hold all the power and women hold none of it (at least in theory), they take the time to imagine what it would feel like from a female perspective, to understand the actual ramifications for women of such a system.

      • Whitney says:

        You said this *perfectly*. This is what it all comes down to, I think. People with privilege (white privilege, male privilege, “straight” privilege, etc) need to put in the effort to try to understand the experiences of others.

      • anna says:

        amelia, well said. and that is precisely the problem. men CANNOT understand women’s experiences fully, and most do not try (whether from beligerence or disinterest). women can never be fully represented or accounted for in a system that excludes them because no one can accurately speak for us. we will always, always be outside and otherized, however benevolent the patriarchy, until we are allowed to speak for ourselves (and others are expected to listen – this is key).

      • nat kelly says:

        This is true in all systems of oppression. The oppressed must learn how to operate in the world of the oppressor, and the oppressor never need know that another world exists.

        The domestic servant has to know the ins and the outs of the master’s world.
        People of color have to know how to operate in the white world.
        Women have to understand the workings of the man’s world.
        Queer people have to know how to function and pass in a heteronormative world.

        In none of these is the situation reciprocal.

      • I’m sorry, anna and nat, but if you deny that any man can even remotely feel the oppressed feelings of women, then you’re using the same rationale used for men oppressing women. One of the reasons for keeping women out of politics has been because women “can’t” understand how the mans world works.

        I should think you would want to welcome and help those who are trying to empathize and understand, rather than shutting them out.

        Experiences for every person varies incredibly widely in both men and women, from those who stolidly push for strict matriarchy to those who push for strict patriarchy. Womens rights, just like the rights for any people, are a matter of bringing things into balance. This cannot be done if only one group is allowed to move.

      • nat kelly says:

        Oh Frank, I don’t disagree with you. It is not only possible, but essential, that there be some “class traitors” among the “oppressor” group. William Lloyd Garrison certainly sympathized with the plight of the slaves. Many men have been active participants in the struggle for women’s rights. Absolutely, absolutely. I am married to a man who is very sympathetic to women’s experience, and really keenly feels sympathy for me.

        What I argued is that the oppressor never HAS to understand the other world. A black kid who grows up in a ghetto has to be “bilingual” in a sense – has to know the ways of “the street”, but has to function in the world of power at least enough to survive.

        As a woman, I have to know the rules of the men’s world, what is and is not allowed to me, how I am expected to behave. I am also of course acquainted with my own experiential world as a woman. I have to know and operate in both worlds.

        A man does not have to know my world. He does not have to know how to get by in a kitchen. He does not have to know our social mores or customs. As someone from a privilged, higher caste, he can assume that his world goes with him anywhere he goes – his being there transforms the space into a “man’s world.”

        Thankfully, after decades of militant feminism, this is shifting. Perhaps not quite so much in other arenas of oppression (like sexual orientation, where gay people are still very much expected to live heteronormatively).

      • Thanks nat. You’re quite right, I misread what you were trying to say.

        It had hit on one of my pet peeves. It rubs me raw whenever someone uses language to place a group, any group, in a box. e.g. “That’s just like a man”, etc.

        Thanks for being patient with me, maybe I’m just being hormonal. 😉

    • BethSmash says:

      As much as I would like to agree with you on this Bobman, I have had some interesting conversations with some of the ‘younger generation’ at my YSA ward – which have moved those men right off my list of people I’d be interested in going on a date with, because of their viewpoint on patriarchy. Of course, I’m sure I was also moved off their people I might go on a date with list too, because of my feminist and egalitarian beliefs.

      Also… in thinking back, I’m pretty sure that the worst group were the recently returned missionaries. Must be all that jr. companion, sr. companion stuff.

      But even still, in my mid 20s talking to men in their mid/late 20s – you do get the same type of benevolent patriarchy $&*%. Maybe it’s because I’m in Utah.

      • Amelia says:

        Me, too, BethSmash. Unfortunately there are a lot of young men who cling to these ideas as tightly as the older generation. In fact, there are some young men who cling more tightly. They look at their world and they see women wielding as much power and influence as men and that makes them hold even tighter to what they think is god-ordained truth. Which is just another good reason for the church to make the necessary changes to its teachings and rhetoric in order to dispel the harmful belief in god-ordained subjection of women.

      • Bobman says:

        I don’t mean to say they don’t hold to “patriarchy” as they understand it. And true, a lot of men are “manly” in the sense that they’re complete self-centered jerks. BTW: Are RM’s old enough to be called men now?

        What I mean though is in practice (day-to-day activities) men tend more toward the egalitarian perspective these days, even if they hold to patriarchy when challenged or “teaching” in church. Of course, I don’t live in Utah and I do remember what twerps a lot of missionaries were when I served, so maybe my perspective is skewed.

      • BethSmash says:

        Bobman,
        Regarding RMs. I have NO idea? I think it would depend on the specific RM. I have met returned RMs who were definitely men and some that were still definitely boys. And the older I get, the more they seem like boys to me. lol.

        Re: patriarchy and day to day activities. I don’t know. It could just be that I live in a conservative area – or perhaps I’m not talking to the right people, but it seems to me that MANY of the guys I was talking to are into Patriarchy to a level beyond, just for argument sake or just at church. They usually talk about their parents after this too, about how everything worked out for their mom having a strong priesthood leader presiding in their home, etc.

      • Amelia says:

        Bobman, I agree that the distinction between theory and practice is an important one. I certainly know many Mormon men who, when pushed, would probably espouse patriarchy as a God-ordained system but whose day-to-day practices are more egalitarian than one would expect based on that belief. That said, for women like me (and based on the comments here, many other women), even the belief in patriarchy as a divine institution is anathema, regardless of how egalitarian the practices.

        I’m okay with lots and lots of differences between my and the men I date, including differences of philosophy and belief. There are, however, a few philosophical differences I will not ever tolerate and this is one of them.

      • Bobman says:

        To me, the distinction between the theory and the practice represents a cognitive dissonance that we need to resolve. These discussions can serve to help resolve it, but if not recognized this dissonance can stay benign resulting in egalitarian living, or turn malignant and serve as a “justification” for unrighteous dominion in the name of church doctrine. I agree that it’s an important make-or-break philosophical concept too.

        Just because doing the wrong thing for the right reasons or right thing for the wrong reasons may have worked out for someone or their parents doesn’t mean it will work out for me or you or anyone else. And here we need to take care to identify what it was that worked: patriarchy, traditional family roles for men and women, good honest living with a focus on the Spirit and Truth? I sincerely doubt if it worked out that it had more to do with the first two options than it did the last one.

  12. Doe says:

    I simply loved your analysis! I’m not sure, though, whether to go to sleep (to try to forget the issue until tomorrow) or have a heart attack (to be done with it altogether). There isn’t enough bandwidth available for me to commiserate about the evils of patriarchy and the harm it’s done….

    • Amelia says:

      I know, Doe. That’s exactly how I felt Friday night after reading the “modern patriarchy” post. I literally sat in my chair and cried or an hour while trying to reach out to some of my wonderful Mormon feminist friends for support. I finally gave up and slept so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.

    • Janna says:

      I am so impressed with this analysis, however, like Doe, it makes me emotionally wrecked and tired. It also makes me want to quietly slip out the back door.

  13. April says:

    I think it can be tempting to shoot the messenger here. With a few exceptions, I believe St. Mark accurately described the current LDS doctrine on patriarchy and I can’t fault him for that. I also recognize that he is trying to find a way to abide by this offensive doctrine in the least offensive way possible, and I commend him for thinking about the potential problems with “patriarchy,” “presiding” and “dominion,” even though I don’t agree with his conclusions that cloaking these harmful practices in gospel love and righteousness can somehow make them okay. I know many men who do not even worry about these issues, so I appreciate those, like Saint Mark, who do.

    While I can’t fault St. Mark, I do fault my own beloved church for continuing to teach such a doctrine. It is painful for me to find fault in a church I love. I too, have experienced the physical reaction that Amelia describes in her post when I have been taught the doctrine that because I am a woman, I have finite potential.

    • Amelia says:

      I agree that Saint Mark accurately describes the church’s position and its recent double speak re: the coexistence of patriarchy and equality. The reason I responded had less to do with shooting the messenger and more to do with laying bare the underlying contradictions and impossibilities of what the church teaches. It really bugs me when the church attempts to sugar coat its less attractive traits, whether we’re talking about whitewashed history (which abounds in church publications and meetings) or this kind of speaking out of both sides of its mouth about gender roles.

  14. Kiskilili says:

    THANK YOU for taking this claptrap apart! If we’re going to embrace righteous dominion, let’s at least be honest about what it is. Let’s not pretend the system doesn’t subjugate women, or isn’t inherently demeaning.

    Even when benevolent patriarchy “works” because men are nice to their wives and “let” them do things, it fails. In a fundamental way, women are construed as soulless, as less than full agents, and as unworthy of God’s direct attention.

    If this is God’s attitude toward me, I want nothing more to do with him, ever. And I’m still not being as rude to him as he is to me.

    • Amelia says:

      Even when benevolent patriarchy “works” because men are nice to their wives and “let” them do things, it fails.

      Exactly. The very notion that I, as a woman, would be “let” to do things by my husband is just repugnant.

  15. alex w. says:

    I’m so glad to have posts like this from The Exponent to follow up Relief Society lessons like I had today (Family roles or something to the most traditional, soft patriarchy encouraging degree possible, it feels like. And I was hoping my new east of the Mississippi ward would be less conservatively traditional than the one back in Utah…)

  16. fMhlisa says:

    Preach it Sister!

  17. I had to go read the other blog, because I wasnt sure if you were talking about a person with the user name Saint Mark, or if you were talking about St Mark of the Bible (its the former, if anyone was wondering). I didn’t think Mark in the Bible had that much to say about patriarchy, but I’ve been wrong on Biblical matters before. 🙂

    And, as was mentioned in a response to the MMM posting, I also think that the use of “father” rather than “husband” or even “man” in describing roles in the Proclimation on the Family is very interesting. Quoting the username “Shelley”:

    Anon 11:06: “I would appreciate hearing how you interpret the Proclamation on the Family when it states, ‘By divine design, fathers
    are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.'”

    I’m not Amelia, but I’ll tell you how I interpret that statement. I see it as defining the responsibility a man has to his children. I do not believe that it means husbands have any sort of dominion over their wives.

    There are a couple of reasons I interpret it this way. First, it specifically says “*fathers* are to provide” — not “husbands”. Men are not fathers to their wives (hopefully), so I honestly don’t see why people read wives into this statement.

    The second reason is that this reading is consistent with the two sentences that follow. To put them in context: (1) Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness …. (2) Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. (3) In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. In context, the three sentences collectively address (1) the father-child relationship, (2) the mother-child relationship, and (3) the husband-wife relationship. Note that with respect to this last relationship, they are to be equal partners.

    So, to me, the sentence you quoted has little relevance to a discussion on the relationship between a husband and his wife, just as the second sentence has little relevance to a discussion on the relationship between a wife and her husband. The only relevance I do see is in relation to the third sentence. (3) tells us spouses are to be equal partners and are to help one another; (1) and (2) tell spouses *what* they are supposed to be helping one another do.

    I think the usage of “father” in the Proclamation is appropriate to mean only the relationship between father and children, and not between father and all of the family (in addition to Shelley’s reasons) because of the families that are only husband and wife, with no children involved. Yes, we focus on family, because we are all children and will at some point in our existance have children, but ultimately the focus is marriage, because that is the relationship between two people who will be completely together throughout eternity.

    Maybe its just my own cognitive dissonance, but I do think it is compatible with Church teachings to have a father preside over his children but not have that be the relationship between husband and wife.

    • April says:

      Frank (and Shelley),
      I have honestly never heard that interpretation of the “preside” clause. I do not think it is usually being taught that way, at least, not in the wards I have attended, but I can see how it could easily be read that way now that you have pointed it out to me. And this interpretation is certainly more palatable than the one I usually hear. I will chew on this idea a bit.

    • Caroline says:

      Yes, I had never heard of that either. Very interesting, and certainly an improvement over the idea that fathers preside over wives and kids. But I can’t help but feel that the text of the proc doesn’t strongly support that more positive reading over the more traditional one. “Fathers preside over their families” seems to me to inescapably include all other people in the nuclear family, including the wife, of course. But I do hand it to the author of that comment for coming up with a more palatable interpretation. I’d be thrilled to see more Mormons adopt it.

    • StarieNite says:

      The ideas that fathers preside only over their children thus avoiding the preside/equality doublespeak fails.

      It said that fathers preside over their families. I read it as in the family unit, father is the one who presides. It doesn’t mention only children in that sentence it mentions families, the whole family unit.

  18. Whoa-man says:

    I loved this. Thank you Amelia. I agree with everything you said. Your post made me go back and read through the MMM posts and I’m left wondering what you thought of the second post: Reluctant Patriarchy. That also caused a lot of strong reactions in me but for other reasons that I can’t parse out right now and clearly parsing apart arguments is your strong suit! I guess I always struggle with the idea that people are punished (in reputation, social capital, or marital relationships) for following their own spiritual journey. I relate to and agree with much of what he is saying, but then at the same time I hate the idea that I think of his wife poorly and as someone unwilling to actually read about, discuss, or study out any of these ideas in her mind or heard because I want to be a supporter of women. I want to acknowledge her role in the home as equally as important as his academic pursuits but then I can visibly see in this post why his intellectual journey has allowed him to ask things that she is unwilling. I guess what I am struggling with in a nutshell is how can we reconcile the fact that women support patriarchy?

    • Amelia says:

      I guess what I am struggling with in a nutshell is how can we reconcile the fact that women support patriarchy?

      Such an important question, Whoa-man. Maybe I’ll try to tackle it at some point. I did find the other patriarchy post interesting, but had such a viscerally strong reaction to the “modern patriarchy” post that I spent my time this weekend mulling it over and writing this response. I’ll revisit the other post and perhaps respond next weekend for my regular slot.

  19. Whoa-man says:

    *heart

  20. Caroline says:

    Oh, wow. Thank you, Amelia, for taking apart this argument and showing us step by step how it breaks down and inescapably demeans women.

  21. Seattle Jon says:

    I was hoping when I put up the posts on Friday that the topic would cause some strong reactions out of the mormon feminist camp, because only through discussions like this will we move the ball forward … with the main goal being Modern Mormon Men on the blogroll of The Exponent. 🙂

    Seriously, though, we appreciate the cross-dialogue. You are pushing our non-feminist readers to think about and question deeply held beliefs. To me, whether or not those beliefs change isn’t as important as figuring out how we can all worship together under the same roof.

    • Amelia says:

      Agreed, Jon, that the goal of finding the openness that would allow big tent Mormonism is an important goal. And I agree that getting people to think through the ramifications of their beliefs is a very important project. It’s part of what I appreciate about your blog.

      Also, I’ll drop a message to our blog administrators asking them to get y’all on the blog roll. I personally think you belong there.

    • Kmillecam says:

      So glad to see your response here Seattle Jon, and I’m glad that the cross-dialogue can be such a positive force for us both. I’m also in the “big tent” camp when it comes to Mormonism, so I share your hope for worshipping under the same roof.

    • amelia says:

      and Modern Mormon Men is now on the Exponent blogroll. Ask and it shall be granted… 🙂

  22. R. John Williams says:

    Great post, Amy. Reminded me of the good ol’ days. Carry on!

    • Amelia says:

      Thanks, R. John! I miss you guys and the good ol’ days. And next time I’m in NYC, I definitely need to see you (or when you head to UT).

  23. Noah says:

    I am anti-patriarchy. You’re right, no matter how you look at it, benevolent or not, in a patriarchy, wifey is just one of the kids, or worse, like cattle to be herded around. However, I think in the Genesis/PoGP account precisely what we’re seeing is God establishing a patriarchy. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” So either we throw the scriptures in the trash can, or we need a new way to interpret this. I think curses are made to be broken. Patriarchy is not modeled after the order of heaven but a consequence of the Fall. Shouldn’t that much be obvious? If we are working, as a species, with Christ, to mitigate and eventually reverse the effects of the fall, doesn’t it stand to reason that in the Millenium we will return to matrifocal society/religion, which is equality respectful to women, men, and the Earth? The Church does a fine job of transforming aggressive patriarchs into benevolent patriarchs, but it needs to drop patriarch, as it pertains to a husband, father, and priesthood holder from its vocabulary altogether. It needs to further seek to mitigate gender inequality that exists in the world rather than reinforce it. In short, it has a long way to go, but it should no make the mistake of thinking that the little plan, i.e., the ‘Telestial plan’, is also the big plan, i.e., the Plan of Salvation.

    • Petra says:

      My dad thinks that line in Genesis (and, actually, the whole “Eve ate the apple thing”) is about women having orgasms, not God establishing patriarchy. Maybe (probably) that’s wishful thinking, but at least other ways of interpreting the story exist.

      • Amelia says:

        well, I don’t mind thinking about the “desire” line having to do with sexual desire. That said, I’m not a big fan of the way in which the church uses its rhetoric about family as a heteronormative attempt to dismiss homosexuality. And this interpretation does that insofar as the line in question would require heterosexuality once it’s applied universally (rather than being seen as exclusively about Adam and Eve in their particular circumstances).

    • Alisa says:

      Noah, I agree. Patriarchy is a result of a sinful state of being. Christ came to overturn the fall of humankind and its consequences of sin, pain, death, and one person putting himself above another.

    • Amelia says:

      Patriarchy is not modeled after the order of heaven but a consequence of the Fall. Shouldn’t that much be obvious? If we are working, as a species, with Christ, to mitigate and eventually reverse the effects of the fall, doesn’t it stand to reason that in the Millenium we will return to matrifocal society/religion, which is equality respectful to women, men, and the Earth?

      I absolutely agree that patriarchy is a fallen system and should be seen as something that has been done away with by the atonement. That said, I do not believe that a matrifocal society/religion is the desired outcome. That would simply be replacing one inherently flawed, unequal system (patriarchy) with another inherently flawed, unequal system (matriarchy). I believe the goal is creating a zion state in which men and women are equal, in which the involved parties make decisions through reason and rationality and negotiation until there is consensus. Neither patriarchy nor matriarchy is such a system.

  24. ccb says:

    Amelia-have you been to the temple?
    I think it will be impossible to ever do away with the concept of patriarchy without changing the very first law we as women are placed under in the temple. Did this Law come from God? Was this law in the original endowment given to Joseph Smith or an add-on by Brigham Young? I hesitate advocating it’s change if it truly came from God. Actually, now that I think about it, this law has already been revised once in a our favor. I wonder if it will evolve as we as a species evolve. I, for one, think it’s well past time!!
    I believe this law is the underpinning of St. Mark’s comments–his sentences follow the exact same pattern. Much as I love the temple, I find it difficult to truly discuss this issue without at least acknowledging the real source.

    • Amelia says:

      ccb, I have been to the temple. And I agree that the initial covenant women enter in the endowment is the underpinning of much of the patriarchal thinking in the church. I don’t have your compunctions in calling for its change. It’s wrong. If that makes me a heretic, so be it. I’m saying that based on my understanding of principles more core to the gospel than the necessity of ordinances. I personally have no doubt it will change.

      I’d also point out that this covenant is made in a fallen state, not in the presumably perfect state prior to the fall. As has been pointed out above, I think it’s an enormous mistake to assume that since we enact the covenant that must mean the nature of the relationship it establishes must be an eternal or celestial ideal.

  25. SilverRain says:

    I don’t know . . . I think both the posts over there are off the mark to what the model of a divine eternal marriage unit should be. I think they create an artificial dichotomy which makes it possible to completely dismiss the term “patriarchy” which is being used to try to explain what that eternal family unit should look like.

    I personally believe that the terms “patriarchy” and “preside” are unfortunate in many ways, but I can understand why they are used. I have developed a sense of what eternal, Priesthood-based marriage should be, and I have a hard time finding good words to describe it that don’t carry similarly inaccurate connotations. But what I have come to see and understand as a Priesthood-based marriage is something that I, a woman who has been on the wrong end of the authority stick, can completely endorse.

    • Amelia says:

      I can endorse a priesthood-based marriage, too. Of course, I have no doubt that women will fully hold the priesthood at some point, and already hold it in a prospective/promisory sense. So the notion of a priesthood-based marriage in my mind means only that both partners will have the authority to act in the name of God and will have the responsibility to behave with concern and love and peaceful intent while serving each other and their children.

  26. Davis says:

    I guess I am not quite sure what this post is about. Why waste all this time and energy tearing apart a clearly flawed post from some other blog?

    • Melyngoch says:

      Davis, if St. Mark’s attempt to make patriarchy palatable were wholly original, a bizarre feat of intellectual gymnastics that we’d ever seen any one else attempt, much less defend, then yeah, it would easy enough to dismiss it, maybe write a two-paragraph post about it, laugh it off and move on.

      But this model of patriarchy is all. over. the. place. Variations on this are what I hear constantly, as men (and women!) try to defend an outdated and damaging structure. The type of patriarchy that owns itself as a system of control and domination is totally out; the patriarchy of the day is the “modern” kind described in the MMM post. Amelia’s putting her time and energy, not just into taking apart one post, but into responding to a whole, pernicious slew of popular rhetoric about how “modern” patriarchy is somehow acceptable if it’s not overtly abusive.

    • Amelia says:

      What Melnygoch said.

      Also I happen to have a couple dozen nieces and nephews being raised in the church. I’d like for them not to have to deal with the pain I’ve dealt with as a result of the church’s inherent sexism. If my spending some time to take apart the arguments advanced in justification of “righteous patriarchy” can help raise awareness, it’s time well spent. because nothing changes with consciousness raising.

    • April says:

      Davis, I think Amelia’s wise response to my own comment applies to yours as well, so I am copying it here:
      The reason I responded had less to do with shooting the messenger and more to do with laying bare the underlying contradictions and impossibilities of what the church teaches.

  27. BethSmash says:

    Amelia!
    LOVE YOUR POST!!! Especially Claim the Fifth – which is SO TRUE. And exactly how I feel. Thank you for putting in the time to write this article.

    • BethSmash says:

      Ooh, back from a little side trip to the article and it’s comments in it’s entirety. DUDE!!! Some of the commenters over there were… *deep breath* let me just say this. (And I’m saying it here, because I follow to many blogs already – and I don’t want to have to keep checking that one)

      I am a Mormon, I am a Feminist, I am a Daughter, and Aunt, a Sister, a Cousin, a student, a future librarian, a PERSON.

      And you (random commenter from other website) can’t tell me how I feel or tell me the labels I’ve MOSTLY chosen for myself aren’t how I describe myself.

      That is so frustrating. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

      • April says:

        I read the comment over there about “so-called Mormon feminists” too. Thank you, Ryan at MMM, for putting a bunch of words into our Mormon, feminist mouths, and then announcing that we can’t be real Mormons because we don’t love oppression. To me, oppression is not the fundamental principle of our religion, and I can easily imagine our people overcoming it and eventually becoming a more Zion-like community where equality is enjoyed by all.

      • Ryan says:

        Exactly how I feel when I hear a feminist tell me what I believe just because I support the LDS Church. I get to hear feminists tell me that I believe in a system of oppression and subjugation towards women, and my own contrary protestations are apparently futile because it is feminists, not individuals, who know what Mormons really believe. How ironic that a commenter like April would complain about someone purportedly putting words in her mouth and then try to do the same thing by telling men (and yes, women!) that their belief in the patriarchal structure of the Church means they believe lies propounded by a false Prophet that has led the Church astray.

        That’s what I mean when I say that I don’t see how amelia and I can believe in the same Church – or the same God for that matter. Her God apparently oppresses and subjugates women and sets up a prophet who creates “throw-away” documents (her words to describe the Proclamation) to lead church members to believe doctrines she knows to be false (again, all from her own comments). That is not the God, or the Church, to which I belong.

      • Amelia says:

        I’m not telling you what you believe, Ryan. Nor am I putting words in your mouth. I am asking you to own the words you put in your mouth. I am asking Saint Mark to own the words he published. I am asking the church to be honest about the system it espouses. There is nothing honest about proclaiming patriarchy/men presiding as God’s ordained way and simultaneously saying that men and women are equal. The simple idea of patriarchy precludes equality between men and women, as I’ve demonstrated here (and as Saint Mark amply demonstrates in his piece).

        Nor did I say we have a false prophet (thanks for putting words in my mouth). I said that for me the proclamation is a throw-away document. I say that because it was committee authored, the first presidency at the time didn’t bother to consult the general RS presidency to get their input (had they done so, I think the document would look differently than it now does), and it’s not scripture. For me, it is a throw away document. It’s certainly nothing I’m bound to accept as Word of God in order to identify as Mormon.

        The fact of the matter is that God ordaining patriarchy does not mean that patriarchy is therefore a system of equality. God ordaining patriarchy does not negate the fact that patriarchy is by definition a system of inequality in which men necessarily subjugate women. That’s what it means. You can’t change that fact. God establishing it as the right system cannot change that fact. It doesn’t work that way.

        And I for one do not believe God does ordain patriarchy as anything like an ideal or eternal system of order. Logic, sense, reason tells me that he cannot simultaneously be just and merciful (which scripture tells us he must be, or else he would cease to be God) and uphold a system in which men always, by definition, rule over women, in which men and women are by definition not equal. And if I have to choose between believing God is just and merciful (which he must necessarily be) and believing that God ordains patriarchy as an eternal system, I will choose to believe the former and reject the latter.

        I could sit in my roasting hot apartment and say “It’s nice and cool, it’s nice and cool, it’s nice and cool” and that won’t make my apartment nice and cool. You can say that patriarchy is a system which allows for equality between men and women all you want (and “you” means you Ryan but also anyone else who makes the claim up to and including the prophet) and it will not make it so.

      • April says:

        Hi Ryan,
        I can tell I made you mad with that comment about oppression. For me, a patriarchal system, where 1/2 of God’s children’s cannot ever achieve the potential of the other half due to their gender, is oppressive. I am happy to clarify that those are my words, not yours. However, I did not and would not ever say all of those nasty things about supporters of the LDS church that you attribute to me and my feminist colleagues. I am a supporter of the LDS church, too.

      • Ryan says:

        Amelia,

        You said:

        “You can say that patriarchy is a system which allows for equality between men and women all you want (and “you” means you Ryan but also anyone else who makes the claim up to and including the prophet) and it will not make it so.” I think this is the main point of the argument. You obviously believe that patriarchy and equality are inconsistent. I disagree. I think it comes down to how you define “equality.” But either way, you state that the patriarchal structure set forth in the Church is inequitable and subjugates women. I don’t believe in a God who subjugates or treats women unequally. So, we have different beliefs about God.

        April,

        No, not mad, but your attempt to straddle both fences doesn’t work. Those statements I made are the logical conclusion of the position that you have taken. You believe patriarchy necessarily oppresses women. You also say you support the LDS Church. So, you must believe that God supports the oppression of women. You could argue that it’s just the current Prophet that supports such oppression. But that doesn’t work because God could remove him anytime He wanted to and hasn’t done so. So, if you believe that patriarchy oppresses women, and support the LDS Church, you can’t escape the conclusion that you believe God supports the oppression of women.

      • Amelia says:

        I don’t believe in a God who subjugates women, either. Which is why I do not believe God ordains patriarchy as an eternal ideal. And my point is that you can want patriarchy not to be inherently sexist and premised on inequality. But wanting that to be so does not make it so. I cannot say it more clearly than this: patriarchy is by definition sexist and premised on inequality between men and women. Saying otherwise is like saying that the earth is at the center of the solar system; it is dishonest and irresponsible. If you want to espouse patriarchy, you have to accept responsibility for the realities of what that means.

      • Ryan says:

        Amelia,

        You said: “I cannot say it more clearly than this: patriarch is by definition sexist and premised on inequality between men and women. ”

        My response is: No. It is neither sexist nor premised on inequality between men and women. I will agree it is premised on differences between men and women, but not inequality. I think that is where your argument fails, by confusing “equality” and “sameness.” Patriarchy does not treat men and women as though they were the same, because they are not; however, it does treat them equally. Men and women both, together, can become joint-heirs with Christ, inheriting all that God has. Both are equally loved by God. But not treated the same because they are not the same.

        Your position necessarily entails the conclusion that God has decreed the subjugation of women. Or the Prophet has led us all astray. Either way, it presupposes either a mistake, or misogyny, on God’s part. Neither are true. But, as Janna’s comment points out (below), the only people who seem unable to concede that Mormonism and feminism are incompatible are so-called Mormon feminists.

      • Ru says:

        (Moderators – I fear my comment will be dangerously close to thread-jacking. Feel free to delete if you think it goes too far.)

        Ryan – you seem to take the position that patriarchy is an essential LDS doctrine, and if one disagrees with patriarchy, one disagrees with the LDS Church. (Becoming a “so-called Mormon,” if you will.)

        But to illustrate the point that I think many are making here (that one can disagree with something like patriarchy precisely BECAUSE one does not believe it is a core doctrine, but rather a mistake, a cultural holdover, etc), I’d like to change the subject slightly.

        Black men were once forbidden from being ordained to the priesthood. Joseph Smith was anti-slavery and ordained black men, but Brigham Young did not, an in fact allowed slavery to take place in the Utah territory. Over time, teachings that I would call “racist” sprang up to justify the position that God wanted only non-black men to have the priesthood.

        Now, if we were to time-travel back to the pre-1978 days, I think there’s a good argument to be made that those in favor of ordaining blacks were not “so-called Mormons,” but rather people who read the words, “Men shall be punished for their own sins” as refuting concepts of original sin AS WELL AS racist teachings about the mark of Cain. You can dance around the issue all you want, but either God is fickle (wanting blacks to have the priesthood under Joseph Smith, but then not again until the 70s), or God is loving and just, and people are flawed (and racist). I prefer to believe that God is just and humans made mistakes.

        That is all we are saying here. I look at patriarchy as something that is antithetical to so many other church teachings, and therefore it must not be right. They cannot all exist together. So if I believe that God wants men and women to be equal, I cannot believe that He also wants men to act as intermediaries for their wives. He cannot want men to “preside” over women, because that invites abuse of power in so many ways. (And just because some men do not abuse their power does not make it right. It just makes their wives luckier than others.)

        This position does not make me or anyone else a so-called Mormon.

      • Amelia says:

        Ryan, I have never and will never say that equality means same. I have never and will never say that men and women are the same. Because turns out that I’m intelligent enough to grasp basic denotations of words. Including the denotation of patriarchy: that men rule over women. Such a system is inherently unequal.

        And yeah. My stance does mean I think there was a mistake made. It does not mean I ascribe that mistake to God. Because I do not believe that anything a prophet has said comes from God. I do believe that prophets often espouse positions which are mistaken. As do their followers. That doesn’t mean I’m not Mormon. It doesn’t mean I think God is mistaken. It just means I’m enough of a realist to recognize that all human beings are flawed, even prophets.

      • Corktree says:

        “Both are equally loved by God. But not treated the same because they are not the same.”

        Ryan, how can you really believe that God treats human beings differently based on such temporal attributes as chromosomes and genitals? This is what is so hurtful in this line of thinking, that the fact that as women we are told we do not have direct access to God (as the temple exemplifies) and that we are not expected to want the same opportunity to grow and progress as men are expressly given because of our gender and nothing else – not our worthiness, our intention, our hard work at seeking out truth and service toward others or anything else – just the body parts and genetic make-up that we have no control over. To claim that a supreme being set up the world in such a ridiculous way that benefits one side of the species for no other reason than physical attributes in what we are told is just ONE of our states of existence, and then act as though this is how it will always be so that you don’t have to feel guilty is not logical or sound reasoning, and I happen to believe God is not so unreasonable.

      • Ryan says:

        corktree,

        Chromosoms and genitals are not temporal attributes. “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Can you, like Amelia, honestly claim to believe that the Proclamation, created by the First Pres and Quorum of 12, is a throw-away document? If not, you have to believe that gender is not just a temporal attribute. And how can you say that you don’t have direct access to God? The temple does not teach that. It never, ever, ever says that God does not listen to every single word that one of His daughters says to Him. I feel bad to think that any woman could misinterpret the temple so dramatically to somehow believe that God loves them less than men simply because of the patriarchal structure. Nothing could be further from the truth. In response to the other point you raised, where do you get the idea that women will not have the same opportunities to grow and progress as men? If we are all joint heirs with Christ do you really think Christ is going to spring a big surprise on all the women at the last minute and say, “Just kidding, No girls allowed!” I would never go anywhere without my wife because how could it be exaltation for me without her? And the Lord would never do that. My wife may not have the same role or responsibilities as me, but hers will be equally important and equally necessary. And whatever happens we will be progressing together. How can that be unequal?

      • Starfoxy says:

        It never, ever, ever says that God does not listen to every single word that one of His daughters says to Him.

        How many times in the Temple ceremony does God address Eve directly and individually? Zero. Even when He is giving instructions to her on making that first covenant He addresses Adam.

      • amelia says:

        How many times does Adam even bother to use a first person plural pronoun to indicate that Eve is part of the instruction he receives from God? that she is an equal partner in their marriage?

        Never. It’s always “I” and “me.” Never “we” or “us.”

        Eve’s a non-entity cipher standing in the background looking pretty according to late 80s/early 90s stereotypes of “pretty.” How much more clear could they make the message that Eve does not get to communicate with God, even via intermediaries? That she has no right to divine instruction?

        Yeah. I get it. It’s counterintuitive. Which is precisely the point I’ve been making all along. It makes no sense that God would treat his daughters this way. Which is why an institution like patriarchy can only be a flawed–fatally flawed–mortal construct that we, as a church body that is allegedly meant to be building zion, should jettison.

      • amelia says:

        Also the fact that apologists use the argument “but it never says [insert bad gender problem here]” is not only deeply annoying, but ignorant and infuriating. Something does not have to be spelled out in words explicitly in order to be communicated. The temple sends sexist signals loudly and clearly without ever coming right out and putting them into so many words. Just as so many other aspects of Mormon culture and teachings do. The fact that apologist men don’t seem to see those messages is just further evidence to me that they don’t often bother to attempt to imaginatively occupy a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and mental space. Certainly not while setting aside their preconceived notions about what God must mean (which is what it takes to see the temple as having no problematic content for women–lots of preconceived notions about how patriarchy is really equality in the same fashion in which red is really green).

      • Ryan says:

        Starfoxy,

        That is incorrect. Obviously it is not a subject to really discuss in any detail, but your statement is factually incorrect.

        Amelia,

        You’re doing some serious mental gymnastics to extrapolate offense where none is intended. Eve may not have the same lines as Adam but that doesn’t mean her character is any less important. Nothing supports the conclusions you’re reaching. Not enough pronouns of the kind you’d like? It honestly seem like you’re desperately trying to find something at which to take offense. The Temple makes clear that God does, and men should, hold women in the highest respect. How can you think otherwise when it is clear that anywhere Adam is he is always with Eve, and nothing without her? He could not do anything without her. Neither one could ever progress beyond a state of complete ignorance without the other. She is every bit his equal, absolutely crucial to fulfillment of the plan, and never treated with anything other than the utmost respect.

      • Bobman says:

        Ryan,

        With the one exception of a chastisement for partaking of the fruit, where is Eve directly addressed? I can think of lines clearly indicating her, but the words are “Eve” and “she,” not “Eve” and “you.” Perhaps you’re the one wrong on that issue. We’re only under covenant not to reveal certain names, signs and tokens, which even Brigham Young said we receive in his famous quote about passing angels that stand as sentinels, so if you can think of an example where Eve is directly addressed, please share in at least some vague form.

        And it’s not a matter of intended offense, so much as it is a matter of doctrinal dissonance. Amelia and others are trying to point out how having one person in a position of power over another is inherently unequal, no matter how equal they are in every other way. Assuming power that causes this inequality isn’t just a temporal practice of some/most men but an eternal one and not only instituted by God but necessary for God makes a lot of men and women uneasy as we can’t reconcile that concept with the idea of God not being a respecter of persons and of every person being equal in the sight of God. How is that possible if men are inherently placed in positions of power over women regardless of any factor of ability or righteousness, rather based only on gender?

        And an appeal to women experiencing pregnancy/childbirth won’t balance this inequality because we’re talking about power, not privilege. For equality and patriarchy to both be true, there’d have to be some equalizing power women have that men don’t have of equal degree, even if of different type. If you claim this, what is that power?

        Please understand that no one is inventing “offense” in this discussion. We’re just saying 2+2 does not equal 5, or 3 or anything other than 4. Patriarchy is anathema to equality. If you disagree, please argue how patriarchy and equality coexist rather than inflaming the discussion.

      • BethSmash says:

        Nothing supports the conclusions you’re reaching. Not enough pronouns of the kind you’d like? It honestly seem like you’re desperately trying to find something at which to take offense.

        Ryan,
        Everyone is allowed to have their own experiences. And their own feelings about certain things. Just because people don’t feel the exact same way as you about something doesn’t mean that their feelings are wrong or obsolete or can be dismissed. Look around the Bloggernacle. There are many women out there who have shared their experience of feeling betrayed, hurt, and saddened by the temple ceremony. Many others (some even in my own family) were silent on the subject, until I asked them how they felt about it. They were a little surprised at first that I was asking questions about how they felt, and even more surprised to find there were people who felt the same way they did. There are also many women out there who have no problem with the ceremony (including some in my own family [heck, including someone I THOUGHT would have a problem with the ceremony, but she didn’t]). Just because people have different responses to things does not mean
        [they are] doing some serious mental gymnastics to extrapolate offense where none is intended.
        They were upset and it’s not just an offense to some of these women who feel this way. (‘They’ here is just general, for those whose personal stories I have read online – I am not speaking for either Starfoxy or Amelia, they can most certainly speak for themselves) 😉 They have actual reasons for being upset. It hurts them to their very soul when they go to the temple, a place that is preached it is the highest and most holiest place in our religion. And they feel cast aside, they do not feel the peace you do there (at least not in the endowment session – and I am assuming you feel peace there… apologies if my assumption is incorrect). They went there for the same reason as you, to receive endowments before going on a mission, or getting married, or to continue their progression through the church. They went to the temple to be closer to HF and JC and to be lifted up. They did not go assuming they would be offended or hurt or anything like that. They went to be closer to HF. It’s not just that ‘they don’t understand’ or ‘they must not be in tune with the spirit’ or whatever other platitude people might come up with. Some of the most wonderful, Christlike, TBM (a term I am not using as derogatory in any way [although I realize it is sometimes used as such] but there really is no other way to describe them,) have felt this way in the temple. Even some MEN feel this way in the temple. There’s a lovely story out there where a husband and wife (in their hearts and in their souls) make the same promises to each other when they go to the temple. So he promises to hearken to her as well, and she also promises to hearken to God – even though their words are those of the ceremony. Because HE has a problem with it. Their experience is not any less valid then yours. And it frustrates me that you cannot see it as such. And would push off their feelings and experiences of the temple as insignificant. Obviously the temple ceremony can change. It changed before, it will probably change again. That’s one of the great things in this church is that it CAN change. It’s why my favorite article of faith is the ninth one. Please consider, in the future, that other people will have a different experience then you, and instead of saying something that comes across as being dismissive – try to understand their viewpoint. I realize that you don’t have or see any problems with the temple. YAY! I am happy that your experience there is a happy one. A good one, and I hope you go often. But try to remember that that’s NOT the ONLY valid experience one can have there.

      • BethSmash says:

        Bobman,
        What a lovely response!

      • Kiskilili says:

        And how can you say that you don’t have direct access to God? The temple does not teach that. It never, ever, ever says that God does not listen to every single word that one of His daughters says to Him. I feel bad to think that any woman could misinterpret the temple so dramatically to somehow believe that God loves them less than men simply because of the patriarchal structure. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        Let’s imagine a family. Dad is a carpenter. (Mom is so depressed she hasn’t left her bedroom in years, and no one is allowed to interact with her but Dad because it would put too much of a strain on her.) This couple has twins: Jack and Jill. Dad is teaching Jack the trade of carpentry so he can one day take his father’s place; the two of them spend hours together every day in the workshop. Jill is occasionally allowed to whittle in the corner.

        Dad is efficient, so he has a chain of command in place where he addresses Jack (in Jill’s presence or out of it), and then Jack addresses Jill. So Dad announces what chores need to be done and then Jack conveys that to Jill. Because they’re children, Jack doesn’t always understand what Dad is saying, and the information is often garbled when Jill gets it. Jack follows Dad around and the two of them have lengthy conversations on topics of deep significance while Jill stands in the background. Dad has never spoken directly to his daughter—except once, to rebuke her for sneaking cherries from the pie stash, and even then he announced her punishment to Jack with the understanding that Jack can tell Jill. Even though Jill is standing right there.

        Do you think for a minute that Dad loves Jill any less than Jack? That he doesn’t listen attentively to every word Jill says, simply because he’s decreed that all his interaction should be with Jack? Of course not! This father loves his two children equally—the one whom he’s grooming to inherit everything he has, and the one with whom he has virtually no contact. It’s just that his children are different. He can’t give them the same amount of attention or opportunities, because that would be treating them as if they were the same.

        In response to the other point you raised, where do you get the idea that women will not have the same opportunities to grow and progress as men? If we are all joint heirs with Christ do you really think Christ is going to spring a big surprise on all the women at the last minute and say, “Just kidding, No girls allowed!”

        Are we really all joint heirs with Christ, though? Men become Gods and create their own worlds. Women become . . . phantoms living in the closet? Incubators? No one knows what.

      • amelia says:

        Silly Kiskilili!

        It’s not only impossible that this father loves/respects/communicates with his daughter less than his son, it’s impossible even to perceive his behavior in that fashion! No right thinking individual would even think such a thing without having to do 100 mental jumping jacks and 250 mental backflips to reach that conclusion.

      • Corktree says:

        ” If we are all joint heirs with Christ do you really think Christ is going to spring a big surprise on all the women at the last minute and say, “Just kidding, No girls allowed!””

        I don’t believe that in the least, and I don’t subscribe to the view of God that you assume I do. In fact, it’s my belief in a God that loves AND treats me equally that makes me want to reject patriarchy and help the church to do so as well.

        And I still don’t believe that God treats anyone differently based on temporal (defined as “pertaining to or concerned with the present life or this world”) attributes. No, we are not the same and our experiences with mortality will never be the same, but that does not justify being treated as an afterthought or as someone who can’t do the same things with my MIND, which is in no way structurally different from yours. How exactly do you, Ryan, justify accepting privileges and power (even if you don’t use it negatively, it’s still power) based on having an extra appendage?

        And yes, I, like Amelia, do not hold up the PotF as scripture, so quoting from it doesn’t do much for me.

      • Jeremy says:

        Not that it matters, but the argument that Eve isn’t addressed directly doesn’t really hold up.

        After Eve is created, Adam and Eve are addressed directly by God as a couple (once using both names) twice.

        Eve is addressed directly once.

        Adam is addressed directly three times.

        Not really that big of a difference in my mind.

      • Alisa says:

        Jeremy, it’s fine if it doesn’t matter to you, but I think your privilege is showing. I think you missed a LOT of instances. I can think of at least 7 times God or Jehovah address Adam directly in the creation part of the temple ceremony alone, before Eve even arrives on the scene. [Edited: I see you said after Eve’s creation. God’s direct communication takes a steep decline after that, but the messengers he sends don’t ever directly address Eve.]

      • wonderings says:

        Regarding the temple conversation. You can easily find the 1990 changes to find that the sexist language in the temple ceremony has been vastly altered. You can see multiple times where “and Eve” has been added, when talking about “Adam” and multiple times where “he” and “him” were changed to “they” and “them.” So it did use to be much worse. Plus that’s not even taking into account the direct injunction that “Eve” was keep the law of her husband instead of the law of the Lord. (And the husband had no obligation at that point to keep the law of the Lord, it just left it at the law of the husband). So I find it funny that the most egregious, obvious sexist temple parts have been removed. I think we’ll be seeing more changes soon.

        And I find many parts of the current temple ceremony sad, but regarding the one time that Eve is directly addressed, it is to ask if she did something wrong. Once she replies, everything is directed toward Adam and she is only discussed in the 3rd person, if at all.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Well, I think it does matter. I think it matters that Eve walks around behind the men like a dog. I think it matters that God calls Adam “you” and Eve “she,” which doesn’t count as a direct address. I think it matters that Eve never talks again after she covenants to hearken.

        If God wants to interact with Eve directly, why would he put a chain of command in place putting Adam between himself and Eve? Does his right hand really not know what his left hand is doing?

        And why not include God’s direct addresses to Adam/Michael before Eve’s creation? The fact of Eve’s creation itself is fairly puzzling. Adam has a preexistence, during which time he communed with God. It’s not clear that Eve does.

      • Jeremy says:

        Alisa,

        God only talks to Adam 4 times before the creation of Eve. Jehovah never addresses either of them at all.

      • Alisa says:

        Jehovah and Adam have a direct conversation about how glorious and beautiful the earth that they created is. God directs Adam at every single point of creation. (And you should know that Michael and Adam are the sam man, which is made plainly clear).

      • Jeremy says:

        In all of my posts I have talked specifically about Adam and Eve once they were inhabitants in the Garden.

        In my mind, any reference to God or Jehovah speaking to Michael should be taken completely symbolically.

        While Michael was significant in the creation, in that section of dialog, ‘Michael’ is referred to as a symbolic representation of all the individuals/spirits/souls involved in the creation. Just as in many cases in scripture when ‘Adam’ is used to refer to all of Humankind. Michael and Jehovah were not the only individuals involved with the creation.

        I agree that these symbolic uses seem somewhat sexist – ie mankind vs humankind – but cultural uses of language is not what this discussion is about.

      • Kiskilili says:

        While Michael was significant in the creation, in that section of dialog, ‘Michael’ is referred to as a symbolic representation of all the individuals/spirits/souls involved in the creation.

        Where is Michael “referred to” that way? Certainly not internally to the text. I don’t even buy that argument for Adam, but at least Adam means “human” in Hebrew. Michael doesn’t even have that going for him.

      • Amelia says:

        I think it’s problematic only to look at when God himself speaks directly to Adam and Eve. It’s certainly true that there is less direct communication from God to Eve than to Adam, but as several have pointed out there’s not a lot of moments in which God directly addresses Adam (though in my opinion you certainly have to count Michael as Adam, at least according to Mormon understandings of who Michael is) so that difference isn’t enormous. The thing that strikes me the most powerfully is that God sends intermediaries to instruct Adam. Always just Adam. They never speak to Eve. They never teach her. They never give her a sign or a token. And every time Adam responds to them, he uses the first person singular pronouns I and me. Never we or us. That’s a pretty stark demonstration the extent to which patriarchy just rubs out women’s existence as important agents in and of their own right.

        In sum, we have a presentation in which God rarely directly addresses Eve (significantly fewer times than Adam); in which God regularly addresses Adam in Eve’s presence and talks about her in the third person rather than speaking directly to Eve; in which God requires Eve to hearken to her husband by telling Adam that, not by speaking directly to Eve; in which God’s messengers never once directly address Eve; in which Adam never once uses the first person plural pronouns “we” or “us” in order to respond to God’s messengers (which would at least indicate that Eve is a full participant in the instruction God wants Adam to receive); in which Eve is, in fact, never addressed directly after God rebukes her for eating the fruit, but is just spoken about in the third person.

        So yeah. I’m going to go with the temple’s general representation of Eve being just a wee bit sexist and one which supports the subjugation of women in a patriarch system in which women have no power, no voice, no autonomy.

      • BethSmash says:

        Amelia, quick question since I haven’t been to the temple. (And if I’m touching on something that’s sacred/secret [which annoys me to no end, btw] please let me know). So… is it just Eve who is rebuked for eating the fruit? And doesn’t this fly into the face of all those lessons about how Eve is awesome because she’s following a higher law? And (consequently) that all those people who were all “original sin = women bad” were wrong? I mean obviously there are consequences, but those things were needed for us to progress, right?

      • Amelia says:

        BethSmash, God’s words to Adam after they partake are almost exactly the same as what you find in the account of the fall in Genesis, with a few small changes (like in the KJV Genesis account Adam says “the woman thou gavest to be with me”; in the temple he says, “the woman thou gavest me”; a not insignificant difference in my mind). It is God’s words to Eve that change. This is in some ways good and others not so good. It doesn’t include the phrase that a husband “shall rule over thee” or the whole bit about pain in childbirth, so technically there isn’t the same rebuke that traditional Christianity refers to when discussing Eve. The rebuke is indirectly given–and this is one thing I find problematic–through Adam. Once Eve has admitted to be beguiled by the serpent she’s never again directly addressed.

    • Melyngoch says:

      >>their belief in the patriarchal structure of the Church means they believe lies propounded by a false Prophet that has led the Church astray.

      I think this actually a pretty good example of putting words in people’s mouths.

      Ryan, I can imagine that it must be frustrating to feel like feminism imputes certain sexist beliefs and motives to you, just as I find it frustrating to feel like overtly antifemenisit sentiments imputes certain sexist beliefs and motives to me. I don’t believe that St. Mark is an evil misogynist trying to do bad things to women, any more than I’m a man-hating militant trying to put men in caves. I do, nonetheless, disagree with him, and feel that the gender-power structures he subscribes to are damaging. And I do that while having a strong testimony of the gospel.

      When you write about what “feminists” do, it comes off as both aggressive and dismissive toward those of us who call ourselves feminists. There are a wide range of viewpoints, beliefs, and most of all, individuals who identify as feminists. Making broad statements about what all feminists do or don’t do will only put your audience on the defensive; it doesn’t help us understand each other any better. And as a side effect, it wholly undermines your credibility — you don’t seem particularly educated as to what feminism is, much less interested in understanding it. (I’m not saying you are or aren’t educated or interested, but you seem to be neither.)

      Instead of hacking away at whole swaths of people, or even whole schools of thought, try just finding one claim that you object to, and responding to that claim. You’ll get a much better conversation out of it, assuming that’s what you’re interested in.

    • Beatrice says:

      Amelia, You do a good job of explaining the inequalities of the temple ceremony in your August 23, 4:15 pm comment. Many of these aspects of the temple ceremony have troubled me from my first visit onward. One explanation I came to for these discrepancies was that the temple ceremony is about Adam’s story told from Adam’s perspective and not Eve’s. I conceptualize it as a personal history and growing up story told from Adam’s perspective. This would be comparable to, I was born in X place, this is what life with my parents was like, I moved out, I met a wonderful person to marry, I continued to learn and maintain a relationship with my parents even though they were far away, etc. For me this explains why Eve is not shown to have a premortal existence (romantic partners don’t show up in these stories until we are older) and plays a very minimal role throughout. Our society is chalk full of books, movies, etc told from the male perspective. I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking at things from this perspective, but for me, it is so refreshing to read books that are told from a female perspective. I think we need more of them because they help both sexes understand each other better. By looking at things this way, I can better understand why I have a hard time relating to what is going on in the temple and that I struggle trying to fit myself into and find my place in the story. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they had a version of the temple ceremony that was told from a female perspective?

  28. Howard says:

    I think patriarchy will change I favor female ordination and female male co-presidencies including the First Presidency alternately I support a female President of the church but it cannot be ruled out that patriarchy is of God and if it is of God we cannot with assurance know of His reasons for it. Amelia I understand having an emotional and visceral response to these issues but I am concerned for you given the intensity you report.

    • Amelia says:

      I wouldn’t be concerned for me. I’d be concerned for anyone who does not have such a response, anyone who can recognize the distastefulness of a patriarch system but still accepts it or apologizes for it.

  29. Melyngoch says:

    Amelia, thanks for writing this. I want to use it as a Sunday School lesson and make everyone I know read it. I’ve never seen the woman:husband::husband:God parallels so beautifully teased out.

  30. Diane says:

    I don’t know if its because of the bad mood I’m in, but, the words Benevolent Patriarchy seems like an oxymoron to me at this point

    • Janna says:

      …in the same way that non-members have said to me that “Mormon Feminist” is also an oxymoron. I’m starting to agree with them.

      • Amelia says:

        Janna, I certainly know the feeling. And I would agree that “Mormon feminist” is an oxymoron if we grant the premise of members like Ryan and Saint Mark that to be Mormon one must accept every single idea presented as God’s will regardless of how contradictory and offensive they are. I personally don’t think that’s required to be Mormon. I’m Mormon by virtue of my family history and heritage, by virtue of my having been raised immersed in Mormon culture and ritual, by virtue of having been baptized and endowed, by virtue of espousing what I consider the most central tenets of the Mormon faith. But I flatly reject the notion that I must accept every word proclaimed by any prophet in order to be Mormon, or that I must make my own transparently abusive or unjust teachings simply because they have been historically identified as God’s will, in order to claim Mormon identity. Given my view on what it means to be Mormon, I don’t think it’s actually an oxymoron to call myself a Mormon feminist. The fact is that I am both Mormon and feminist, therefore I am a Mormon feminist.

        That said, I do sympathize. It’s a draining thing to be in many ways.

      • Janna Taylor says:

        I am going to memorize parts of your response and start using them in conversation!

      • Corktree says:

        Janna Taylor, I feel the same way – my mind goes blank when I’m actually talking with someone about these subjects and I need to have good strong points to remember to back myself up with. Amelia is great at providing this type of support for future confrontations. 😉

  31. JacobHalford says:

    I loved this article so much thank you for writing it. I have only just discovered this blog and it is so refreshing to read things like this it reaffirms my faith in the gospel. I have always struggled with patriarchy as I think it is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. I hate the double speak surrounding patriarchy, as I think it essentially legitimises contempt. You have written it so clearly how it is demeaning.

    Something I struggle with is that not only to men try and preserve it with poor arguments, but when ever I have raised this issue at institute it has often been females who have defended it as well. I was once home teaching with a high counsellor and we were talking about equality and how patriarchy is wrong and that women would get the priesthood eventually. We even mentioned that we prayed that we would live to see that day, and the young lady we were teaching replied ‘well I don’t ever want the priesthood’ and it really took me back that she would be resistant to it.

    • BethSmash says:

      Jacob,
      When you were explaining your story it took me right back to one of my history classes, when we were learning about the suffragette movement and how some women DIDN”T want the right to vote. (Crazy shocking, right? right.) Anywho… while we were discussing this issue many of us (modern, voting women) wondered why anyone would ever work AGAINST (or not campaign FOR) the right to vote. And our professor at the time had us talk about it – it was just a class discussion and it was YEARS ago – so I don’t have notes. But what we came up with, as a class, was that it was probably because women had been taught so long that they didn’t need to vote, that their ideas weren’t important, that they couldn’t have the same mental capacities as a man to make a smart decision, that they BELIEVED those things. With their WHOLE hearts. Which is something we today find shocking. Now, I’m sure my teacher discussed it in a more formal matter with actual notes and things, but I only really remember the class discussion part when we were theorizing.

      Anyway, back on subject… did you ask her why she didn’t want the Priesthood? Maybe she just didn’t feel she was ready for the responsibility. Or maybe she doesn’t think that she’ll get it in this lifetime and it makes her sad so she’s decided that she just doesn’t want it. Maybe she secretly DOES want it, but didn’t want to discuss it with you. Maybe she really doesn’t want it, but wouldn’t be opposed to other women having it. Maybe she thinks she’s not supposed to have it and thinks it’s blasphemous to talk about having it? I would be interested to know if she explained why, and how she did so, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

      • JacobHalford says:

        I did ask her further as to why she didn’t want it. One was that she felt that it was too much responsibility, and two was that she thought that fundamentally only men can hold the priesthood. When I told her that women can and do perform priesthood ordinances in the temple she was quite shocked. Since then I have asked more YSA girls and overwhelmingly there seems to be many that think along the same lines that some how the priesthood is a dramatically greater amount of responsibility which they don’t want.

        I tend to agree with you, that we have been taught so long the trite maxim that women have motherhood men have the priesthood that many simply don’t and can’t even think of anything outside of this paradigm. Tragically it seems that they can’t comprehend the idea of women being equal in all aspects to men in the church.

      • BethSmash says:

        How very interesting. I think what she said about responsibility is very important. To her the Priesthood is a big deal. (It is, after all, the ability to use God’s power on Earth – and that power created a universe and a world). I think that’s what we teach the women in the church. What do they teach the men? Before you turn 12, and are given the Aaronic priesthood, do the emphasize that it’s a big deal? Or is it just normal and you don’t see it the same way that she did? Do YOU think having the Priesthood is a big responsibility?

      • JacobHalford says:

        Before you are 12 they don’t really make it into much of a big deal, they do kind of mention that it is a big responsibility but they tend to downplay it. Its as much a rite of passage then a bestowal of great authority and responsibility.

        I personally don’t think it is that big a deal and it is made into a far bigger deal then it really is. In the end the ability to draw upon the power of God has little to do with priesthood power, but comes down to the faith of the individual. After all it is by faith that mountains are moved not by priesthood power. I think the idea that priesthood gives one greater access to the power of God is flawed and wrong. I think certain offices in the priesthood do carry great responsibility such as being a bishop etc. But that is the office not the priesthood.

      • Whoa-man says:

        From my experience, it’s also about women who have had to justify the inequality for so long that their sacrifices, mental gymnastics, testimonies, etc. all rely on this justification and so it is super threatening for people to have different opinions that make their justifications seem for naught. It can feel like a betrayal. For example, it was hard for some people after the priesthood ban was lifted because they had been justifying it to themselves and others for so long (i.e. Mormon Doctrine). The only thing that made it acceptable was that the prophet said it. We don’t have anything like that for women and patriarchy or even for women and equality. I think it will happen someday, but we might have to wait for someone of our generation to get in that position?

  32. miles says:

    That was fantastic. Thank you Amelia.
    I too was disgusted by what I read over at MMM.

  33. Bones says:

    This is just about the greatest post–and ensuing dialogue–of all time. Thank you Exponent!!!

  34. Saint Mark says:

    It’s interesting that there is such “priesthood envy” going on. We can be saved without having the priesthood so why does it matter so much? The priesthood is an instrument for service, not for personal validation. Do women feel that if they don’t have the priesthood they won’t be saved? Because being saved and gaining exaltation are the only true issues of equality that I’m concerned about. If we focus on inequalities, then we’ll never be grateful for what we have. Inequalities or non-sameness abounds: women are able to bear children and have a special maternal bond with their children that men cannot gain; Mothers are always referenced when athletes get a few minutes to say hello to anyone in the world; people are born with handicaps; good people die and bad people live, etc. Further, we are only allowed to have a relationship with Heavenly Father and not Heavenly Mother. Are you “physically ill” that you can only have communication with Heavenly Father and not Heavenly Mother? Do you feel Heavenly Father is subjugating you and damaging your soul because you don’t have a relationship with Heavenly Mother as you may have had in premortal life? I’m not insensitive to the inequalities of life and priesthood but we miss the mark completely if we think we can have a great relationship with Christ and God only if we hold the priesthood.

    There seems to be struggles with understanding the term “preside.” Yes, I’m sure there are denotations in some dictionaries that state that “to preside” means to dominate or control but I don’t think “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” intends that type of meaning and neither do I. “To preside” means, to me and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “to exercise guidance.”

    Some have asked how someone can preside and be equal to anyone. Unfortunately, the world’s view is that it is oxymoronic, incompatible, impossible for someone to preside and be equal to anyone. They look at CEOs, the President of the United States, hegemonic races, classes, and gender abuses of the subjugated and marginalized as examples reaffirming their discontent and paradigm of a presiding authority and (in)equality.

    However, the Lord’s ways are not the ways of the world, right? So, neither is the way the Lord wants patriarchs to preside over their families. To preside means to have a point person to guide family scripture study, family home evenings, family prayer, couple prayer, couple scripture study, family attendance at church, family service projects, and other important family activities. Can a wife be an instigator of these activities? Of course! I’m grateful when my wife helps “herd the cats” or start, teaches and closes a family home evening lesson. There is nothing in our family that says that “I must be the one and only one who instigates spiritual activities or family activities for our family.” That’s just nonsense to me and missing the point if someone thinks that being a patriarch means recapitulating subjugation and abuse (ie sexism, mysogny, and not patriarchy)

    Unfortunately, I believe that just as men can abuse their authority, men can also be lazy, idle, or reactive and not step-up to their role as “head” or presiding authority of these very significant family activities. In my home when I was a child, my mother was the head, the neck, the heart and every other appendage of the body of our family. And she felt compelled to do this because my father spent most of his time at work or lying in bed worshipping the TV.

    How much better it would have been for my father to have embraced his God-defined patriarchy and guided our family in edifying activities. What a great role model he would have been to my brother and me if he had shouldered the burdens of home and family life with my mother and washed the dishes, done the laundry, vaccuumed the house, made the beds, and done everything else in partnership with my mother. How much of the burden that my mother bore would have been eased if he had gathered and guided the family through family/couple prayers, scripture study, and church attendance.

    Unfortunately, this did not happen and my brother has followed in my father’s languid shoes while I have strived to be a transitional character and embrace my patriarchy, not to subjugate or add burdens to my wife or family (which again is sexism, abuse, and domination, not patriarchy) but to ease their burdens and to assist my wife and family on our joint and separate journeys back to the presence of God (ie true patriarchy or modern patriachy or righteous dominion or righteous guidance and service, for “the greatest among you shall be your servant.”)

    Concerning a patriarch being a spiritual blockade to a wife receiving personal revelation, that is just not (modern)patriarchy in my mind. I believe that women can and should receive personal revelation and revelation for their families and even inspiration for their husbands. My wife has been inspired many times to tell me to apply for certain jobs which I eventually was hired for and was able to provide for our family through. Again, as I stated earlier, sometimes men and women can make inspired decisions unilaterally without the input of their spouse. But, for important issues, husbands and wives should and must counsel with one another until there is unanimity and spiritual confirmation.

    Now, I also believe that men as patriarchs of their families can receive revelation for their families which is inspired of God. However, I am certain that the Holy Ghost would witness to their wife that it was inspiration from God and not a personal whim.

    For example, look at Lehi and Sariah in The Book of Mormon. In chapter five of First Nephi, there is an account of how Sariah complained against Lehi because he was a “visionary man,” saying “Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” (verse 2). Now, even though Sariah complained and obviously thought it was Lehi and not God who had led them out of Jerusalem, I believe she could have received a confirmation that Lehi was led by God and not by his personal desire for wildnerness adventures. Moreover, Lehi’s response to his complaining help-meet is a testament to (modern) patriarchy and how it operates. In verses 4-6, Lehi responds and comforts his wife as such: And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying:

    “4 I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.

    “5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.

    “6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.”

    And although Sariah did not (seemingly) pray for confirmation of Lehi’s decision to take his family into the wilderness, she does receive a confirmation:

    “7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.

    “8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath acommanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.”

    Lehi’s example is an appropriate one about the exceptional situations regarding patriarchy. I can only think of a few times where I felt moved by the Holy Ghost regarding a decision that affected my entire family but I did not act unilaterally but counseled with my wife before I acted and she agreed with the decision and course we should take.

    As a side note, Amelia, my wife is a child. A child of God. I am a child as well. A child of God. The Lord often uses the sign of a child to teach us how we must be to enter His kingdom. I guess I could be up in arms that I have to be subject to God and His guidance but there is nothing constructive that comes from that “kicking against the pricks” type of exercise. I find the line from children to parents and wife to husband to God an eyeopening metaphor. Yes, my wife receives revelation for our family. Yes, my children sometimes give great insights about what we should do as a family. And sometimes I am the first to make the inspired suggestion of a course our family should take. But, we are a family and work together. No one is greater than the other. In our family, we all have roles and duties we are striving to magnify in love and gentleness and persuasion.

    Finally, I think it’s important to realize that patriarchy is not an either/or issue. It’s not either i) men subjugating their wives OR ii) families having no “head” or guide or worse women subjugating their husbands. There is a middle ground that should be explored and which I am trying to articulate. Men can embrace their divine roles as the head of the family but can do it the way the Lord has expressed: through counsel and love and equality. And women can embrace their divine roles as heart of the family but can do it the way the Lord has expressed: through counsel and love and equality.

    • Amelia says:

      Mark,

      I appreciate your willingness to engage. That said, the length of this comment oversteps appropriate bounds for a comment on a blog post. It’s the length of an actual post; comments of that length too often foreclose conversation rather than encouraging it. I’d appreciate more concise responses to specific points, rather than trying to respond in such a general fashion. For instance, my post is not about female ordination (though it references it in passing); as such extended reflection on “priesthood envy” (your words, not mine or any other feminist’s I’ve ever known) are inappropriate. In the future, I’d appreciate a bit more brevity in comments simply because it facilitates conversation.

      That said I’ll respond to a few issues you raise.

      Are you “physically ill” that you can only have communication with Heavenly Father and not Heavenly Mother?

      I’m not precluded from communicating with my Heavenly Mother. I do it quite regularly. And yes, the teachings about not communing with Heavenly Mother, about how we have to keep her secret to protect her, do make me sick.

      Do you feel Heavenly Father is subjugating you and damaging your soul because you don’t have a relationship with Heavenly Mother as you may have had in premortal life?

      No, I don’t. I think male church leaders (and some female church leaders) are subjugating me and damaging my soul, and your soul, and the souls of all the other members by promoting sexist teachings which I do not personally believe are sanctioned by God.

      And no, the issue is not misunderstanding the term “preside.” I understand it just fine. It means “to occupy the place of authority or control; . . . to exercise management or control.” And your post wasn’t limited to the term “preside”; it more directly engaged with the term “patriarchy,” which I’ve already defined many times and will not define again in this comment.

      And I do not deny that there are men who don’t step up and fulfill their responsibilities as husbands and fathers. However, I resoundingly reject the notion that they have to be “patriarchs” or “preside” (both words imply that these men possess the power in the relationship, regardless of what the practice actually is) in order to step up and be responsible. Every man I know and admire in egalitarian relationships is a responsible husband, father, companion, son. None of them thinks of himself as “presiding” as a “patriarch.” You’re again conflating terms and ideas that do not need to be conflated. I would suggest that rather than embracing “patriarchy” (which again by definition means embracing all the power in the relationship; any power your wife has in a patriarchal relationship derives from you, since patriarchy necessarily grants the man at the head the power), men should embrace responsibility, embrace equality, embrace love, and compassion. I’m not saying that by embracing “patriarchy,” you’re rejecting these other things. I can tell you’re a thoughtful person. But by embracing “patriarchy” you are undeniably embracing a sexist, imbalanced institution.

      There is a middle ground that should be explored

      Indeed, there is. And it’s egalitarian. It’s husband and wife as equals always working together. Any scenario in which husband is above wife in a hierarchy, in which he solely heads the household, by definition is sexist and patriarchal. Just as any scenario in which the wife is above the husband in a hierarchy, in which she solely heads the household, by definition is sexist and matriarchal. The middle ground is for husband and wife to become one and head the family together.

      As for the head/heart thing–sorry but I find that to be just more sexist rhetoric. I have a head as well as a heart and when I marry, I’ll employ both. Any man I marry will have both head and heart and will employ both. Together we’ll both shape and inform both head and heart of our family.

      • BethSmash says:

        Amen!

      • Kmillecam says:

        @Saint Mark: Wow, that comment was waaaaay TL;DR (I just learned that one). I do definitely appreciate that we have a dialogue going, but I truly cannot believe that you really buy this line of reasoning where you just get to redefine what “patriarch” means and then say that feminist arguments don’t hold any water. This is where I would say that a red flag should be going up for you that if something is too good to be true, then it is truly too good to be true. You don’t just get to redefine what patriarchy means. That the feminist argument doesn’t let you get away with this doesn’t mean that we are suffering from “priesthood envy”.

        @Amelia: Big time amen from me, too. I read that head/heart thing (an apt description) and literally said “BARF!” out loud to my equally-yoked husband. Really? My husband uses his head and I use my heart, huh? Please. I am perfectly capable of using both and not being defined and confined to being heart-based (and seeing my husband as head-based). More sexist rhetoric, check!

    • Kiskilili says:

      I guess I could be up in arms that I have to be subject to God and His guidance but there is nothing constructive that comes from that “kicking against the pricks” type of exercise.

      If I’m reading right, you’re implying nothing constructive can come of women “kicking against the pricks” and getting “up in arms” that they have to be subject to men and their guidance, any more than it’s constructive for men to complain they have to be subject to God.

      But why will nothing constructive come of it? I can imagine one possible constructive outcome: an end to patriarchy—if not systematically, immediately, then at least in the relationships of individual couples.

      • Amelia says:

        Also, I just love the way this particular comment highlights that men are on par with God, while women are on par with children. When we as women have a problem with being subjected to men it’s like having a problem with being subjected to God. Sorry guys. You’re not actually God, not even to us poor lowly women.

        yuck. Just yuck.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Yeah, there’s a colossal difference between being subject to a perfect deity and being subject to an imperfect human. Unless, of course, you think men are as superior in ability and righteousness to women as God is to men. All the rationales for patriarchy that make any sense are blatantly offensive.

        Which brings me back to my earlier point. We’ve started repeating palliative rationales that make no sense whatever specifically because the Church has made concessions to feminism, as a result of people “kicking against the pricks.” The sort of things it was acceptable to say even when I was a child have become abhorrent to us. It hasn’t altered the deep structure, but I also wouldn’t say it hasn’t been “constructive.”

      • Kmillecam says:

        Kiskilili, I love how you phrased this. It hit me particularly hard when you said it that way.

    • Janna Taylor says:

      The problem with every point you make is that each one is based on the premise that a person is given power over another – even if it is benevolent, seeking equality (oxymoron alert!), and kind – because of person has a penis and an XY chromosome. That concept is about as preposterous to me as the fact that in the 1950s in Mississippi people with more melanin in their skin couldn’t drink from the same water fountain as those with less melanin in their skin. No matter how you slice it, the practices in the Mormon church that keep women from holding the priesthood, should they desire it, are discriminatory.

      Some my disagree my viewpoint with, “But, but…but, women have the XX chromosome and can have children!” I’ve responded recently to this argument on Exp II and won’t repeat it in full again, but in short, the church structure does nothing to guarantee women can enjoy this “privilege.” The Mormon church has a comprehensive program that practically ensures that, with”righteousness,” you are gettin’ the Priesthood, buddy ’cause you got a penis!

    • April says:

      Mark!

      I defended you in an earlier comment: http://www.the-exponent.com/2011/08/21/8645/comment-page-1/#comment-68427 and now I regret it.

      Maybe you should spend more time reading Mormon feminist blogs and less time typing multi-screen comments on them. If you did that, you would know that your rhetorical question, Are you “physically ill” that you can only have communication with Heavenly Father and not Heavenly Mother? is not really a rhetorical question at all to many women, but a source of real, legitimate pain. You would also be aware of the legitimate horror a woman might feel when she goes to the temple, prepared to make sacred covenants with God, and instead finds herself covenanting to hearken to a flawed mortal man, and you would realize how callous it is to compare this legitimate pain to a man being “up in arms that [he has] to be subject to God and His guidance.”

    • James says:

      I really liked how Amelia called Saint Mark out on having a REALLY long comment with a REALLY long comment of her own. Kinda funny.

      That (minor snark) aside, I appreciate the mostly thoughtful dialogue, and especially want thank Saint Mark, who seems to be entirely well-meaning and showing a lot of courage to dive into this discussion (perhaps somewhat unwittingly…did you expect you’d ever kick up so much discussion?) All in all, thanks for a lot of good, thought-provoking stuff from everyone.

      • amelia says:

        Yeah, I recognize the problem. 🙂

        That said, I had three options: 1. just ask for shorter comments and not respond, which would have been petty; 2. just respond w/o pointing out that slightly shorter comments better facilitate conversation and end up with more pages long comments; or 3. a combo. I figured i’d go for the combo.

        And I absolutely agree with you that Saint Mark is well-meaning and I respect his willingness to put himself out there and engage. If I had thought he was mean-spirited or thoughtless or etc., I probably wouldn’t have responded at such length here. And I also really appreciate that this conversation has generally been a respectful one.

      • Alisa says:

        Mark’s “comment”: 1,675 words
        Amelia’s reply: 654 words

        Furthermore, Amelia has stayed on topic by addressing Mark’s MMM post and his long comment directly. Mark has not shown the same etiquette by 1) addressing Amelia’s main points, 2) keeping his comment an appropriate length and 3) linking to scripture rather than quoting it at length.

        I could go on with the lacking response from our St. Mark in his comment, but others have addressed that here.

      • James says:

        Ok, Alisa. You win.

  35. Saint Mark says:

    This is in conjunction with my post and comments on http://www.modernmormonmen.com .

    Even though we may not agree, I am grateful for the open dialogue. We cannot grow if we do not learn and understand.

  36. Mara says:

    I have a personal relationship with God. I DON’T consider myself less than man. I believe that marriage is an equal institution. I also believe that change doesn’t happen from words. If change is what we are asking for, it comes from action. We need to recognize the power and worth that is in our souls. How do we have an equal relationship with men and women? Its by being as christlike as we possible can. He showed us the best possible version of being human, not a man or woman, but human. We NEED to be the best possible version of human. That is the only way change can happen. I’m just a regular girl who struggles with life and the hardships that come with that. But I’m also aware of my divinity. Please, Men and Women, recognize your divinity before we make worse this awful division between us and allow hatered and pain to enter and posion our hearts.

    • DefyGravity says:

      This is beautiful. And completely on target. Maybe if we dropped the insistence on good men and women in favor of good human beings, inequal power relationships would no longer be a problem. We would definently have more freedom to find happiness, fulfillment and purpose if we could step away from those imposed on us by society’s interpretation of our gender. Love yor comment!

  37. N. Curtis says:

    Amelia – Very nice work. I love to debate any position, just for the sake of the debate, but I wouldn’t touch your argument with a 10-foot pole. beautifully crafted and sound. I wouldn’t tackle that one unless someone was paying the bill.

    Mark. Change your handle, it is presumptuous and slightly offensive. That being said, your argument is also well done. However, you adopt an apologist position. While my heart goes out to the struggling apologists in the church, I laugh when I read their arguments because they have conceded the argument before they even start to write. That is like trying to play basketball with both hands tied behind your back.

    Patriarchy in any relationship, as a concept, is either good or bad. Men can make great efforts to minimize the negative influence that a patriarchy has on a relationship, but as long as we cling to the concept of patriarchy, we will inevitably do some unessessary damage.

    This is a complex topic with very few universals to discuss. I would also be comfortable arguing that some married couples do not want, and should not have an equal relationship. Some people dislike responsibility and prefer that their partner have the benefits and responsibility of presiding. However, I do not see any indication that such relationships have a gender preference for the roles. In such situations, an unequal relationship will do less harm than forcing the couple into equality. However, this should be treated as the exception and not the norm.
    I don’t understand that position, but I have witnessed that it does, in fact, work for many people.

    For some people, the responsibility of leading is not worth the benefits. In all honesty, I meet alot of men who willingly defer all presiding to their wives because they don’t want the responsibility. I don’t believe that the desire for leading or equality in a relationship is gender-specific.

    • Amelia says:

      Absolutely agreed, N. Curtis, that the desire to lead or the desire to cede leadership is not a gender-specific thing. And like you I fully recognize that there are people for whom a relationship with a power imbalance not only works but is desirable. My objection is with requiring such a relationship universally in the name of God and doing so without acknowledging the inherent inequality in it. I do think that when trying to determine which option–an egalitarian relationship vs. a patriarchal/matriarchal relationship–should be presented as an ideal, it is pretty obvious that egalitarian should be the ideal. When everyone is taught that both partners have an equal voice, then any couple who wants more of an imbalance of responsibility can make that decision together. Because they each have the right to voice their desires and reach a consensus. The reverse is not the case. When members of a church that preaches patriarchy as a universally applicable ideal build egalitarian relationships, they do so in spite of the patriarchy not because the patriarchy allows them to do so. In a church which preached egalitarian relationships as a universal ideal, that ideal would allow particular couples to choose a more patriarchal or matriarchal approach because it acknowledges that these two adults have the right to determine the nature of their relationship for themselves.

      • Von says:

        “My objection is with requiring such a relationship universally in the name of God and doing so without acknowledging the inherent inequality in it.”

        YESSSS!!!!

  38. mfranti says:

    “It’s interesting that there is such “priesthood envy” going on.”

    If you want to be heard and taken seriously, starting a comment with the above is not the way to do it.

    just say’n

  39. Nymrod says:

    Wow – it took a while to read through Amy’s excellent post, digest it, then get through all the comments. I was kind of surprised that nobody seemed to pick up on St. Mark’s “chain” imagery, which further supports Amy’s exposition of the inherently unequal and inferior footing on which even “benevolent” patriarchy places women:

    I know that it is when there is a break in this chain of honor and counsel — the chain that leads from children to wives to husbands and to God — that there is tension, trauma and tragedy in the home.

    I think St. Mark’s use of this “chain” imagery is quite illustrative – even “benevolent” patriarchy “chains” women into the place in which the Church (i.e., the old men in Church leadership) thinks they should be, not where they can be. It is truly a “chain” on the wife which the husband, and in turn, God, holds under this view.

    Now, I have another concern, but it is kind of in reverse from the concerns so aptly expressed here by Amy and others. My concern is that there are LDS women (like, for example, my wife) who are so wedded to this idea of benevolent patriarchy that I as a man feel almost powerless to break free from the patriarchal “chains” myself. My wife insists that I “lead” out in everything. I often try not to, but that only causes a lot of trouble. If I am not “leading out,” according to her, I am not fulfilling my responsibilities and I get nagged about it every time. Sometimes, I get reported to the Bishop (well, more like my wife complains to him in confidence that I am not doing my “duties”) and then I get hauled in to see him. And when I try to explain this stuff about patriarchy her eyes glaze over and if I don’t stop, she gets angry and “hurt” because I must not have a testimony. How do you help a woman who apparently WANTS to be subjugated as described by Amy’s view of “benevolent” patriarchy to see it as subjugation instead of “righteous living?” Any suggestions? Of course, if this is too much of a sidetrack, maybe it deserves its own post somewhere…

    • Caroline says:

      Nymrod,
      Those are important questions. And tough ones. I don’t know if I have any good advice, but I want to let you know that I so appreciate your desire to form a more egalitarian marriage.

      Ok, here’s my (lame?) attempt at advice: Would it be possible to sit down together and come up with a list of what she wants you to lead out on? And then come to the understanding together that any successful marriage necessarily involves compromise on both people’s parts, and that therefore you will agree to lead out on some of these things and suggest she pick others to lead out on, or be willing to take turns on? You’ve probably had these conversations already, but it’s all I can think of. Best of luck in navigating these difficult waters.

    • Corktree says:

      Great point Nymrod. I do think that patriarchy creates a good deal of bondage for both sexes, and last I remember learning in Church, bondage isn’t what we’re supposed to be moving toward.

    • Von says:

      I really like what you’ve said. Growing up in a VERY strong LDS family and watching my 5 sisters get married and fall into their roles, I feel that I have been a firsthand witness to a form of brainwashing. Think about the guilt that you felt as a 10 year old (you were trained to feel!) . . . swearing, sneaking a cookie . . . Or the guilt you felt for going a little too far with your college girlfriend . . . We’ve all felt it. My point is that it sounds like your wife is the product of centuries of culturing women to believe in a specific glorified subservience (no fault of her own); and it is to a degree that she probably feels guilt if things don’t fall into the “proper” place.
      This guilt cycle is hard to break free from; my suggestion would be baby steps. In whatever way you can, try to pass on MINOR decision making to her OR point out the decision making that she already engages in (meals, groceries, disciplining children, etc). As you both find joy and success in this, and she doesn’t feel guilt, you’ll be able to continue. Good luck!

  40. Bradley says:

    Not to wear out my welcome, but my wife invokes the priesthood as much as (maybe more than) I do. She’ll say things like “by the power of the Melchizedek priesthood which my husband holds…”. And I think she’s allowed to do that. So I think the priesthood hot button may be more idealogical than practical.

    I will reiterate the words of my feminist wife: “People treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated”. You can and should inform people (male people in particular) that you won’t be patronized, disrespected, condescended, treated as an inferior, or whatever. Matter-of-factly and respectfully, not like you’re scrapping for a fight.

  41. SimplySophia says:

    Regarding claim the second: it always makes me sad to hear women talk about what excellent providers their husbands are. Granted, I’m single, and much of my recent feminist discovery was initiated by my desire to no longer feel guilty about building an incredible life and having an awesome career. But I am so grateful to know that I CAN do this on my own. I’ve had several opportunities to start over and build a life from scratch, and each time I come out better than I was before because I’m smart and I know how to work. And that makes life awesome. And that’s something your traditional LDS female is not supposed to learn. Should I ever choose to get married, it will be as an equal partner to someone who has made similar life decisions. Anything less simply wouldn’t be worth it.

    • Whoa-man says:

      Love Love this! I completely agree. I got in big trouble a couple months ago in Relief Society because I bore my testimony in a lesson on “Work and family responsibility” about how I never knew that providing financially for my family could bring me such satisfaction. It just makes me feel so competent and capable that I could take care of my family and as a very traditional born Mormon it never crossed my mind that that was possible for me and that that action could bring joy. I then talked about how much happiness it also brought me to work for my family as a mother and spoke of this glorifyingly. Nevertheless, many women were super upset by what I had said and a lot of negative feelings, calls into the bishop, and calls for my “lack of the spirit.” I guess I just think that so much of my personality and talents have been activated by my involvement in my career and equal marriage/parenting. Stepping away from what I thought I was “supposed” to be is really really hard but so wonderful.

      • BethSmash says:

        It just makes me feel so competent and capable that I could take care of my family and as a very traditional born Mormon it never crossed my mind that that was possible for me and that that action could bring joy. I then talked about how much happiness it also brought me to work for my family as a mother and spoke of this glorifyingly.

        Can I say the above is wonderful, and that I can’t believe people would call the Bishop and yell at you for that, that’s horrible.

  42. Lincoln says:

    Excellent post, Amelia. And as the commentators have demonstrated, there are a few of us Mormon men who don’t subscribe to the idea of patriarchy. Personally, I’ve always found it nonsensical. A marriage where the man has the final say isn’t equal; it’s a dictatorship.

    • Bobman says:

      Hear, hear!

    • Kmillecam says:

      Thank you for this comment. Solidarity from our brothers!

    • JacobHalford says:

      I agree. I struggle with patriarchy and find it abhorrent, and I know many other men who also find it repulsive. I think it is used to often used to legitimise and justify contempt for women and their views. Anything that creates a hierarchy is bound to breed contempt for those lower in the system. When I hear people try and say that patriarchy can still have equality I always think of animal farm where it says that all animals are equal but some are more equal then others.

      • Bobman says:

        Not only contempt for those lower in the system, but also contempt or else worship of those higher in the system.

  43. Von says:

    I loved reading this article! I was raised LDS, but left the church 5 years ago. This is a subject that my fiance and I have discussed at length and what you’ve done is written a fabulous explanation of what I’ve felt for a long time. I’m excited to delve into this subject even more so that we can begin our lives together with an understanding of equality. Thank you!

  44. Struwelpeter says:

    It seems to me that the Hugh Nibley quote Julie Smith discusses here is pretty important to resolution of these issues: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2006/01/authority-on-her-head/

    My wife only has to listen to me when/if I am listening to God. I don’t stand between her and God. She stands next to me and lets me know when I need to clean my ears out or turn up the spiritual receptors because I have missed, misheard, or misinterpreted something. No loving God is going to provide different revelation to the two members of a partnership he has established to endure for eternity. So, if we are on different pages, we need to continue seeking God’s will until we are on the same page. Period.

    I wholeheartedly endorse Shelley’s and Frank’s reading of the Proclamation. Every word in that document was carefully vetted and chosen, and we would do well to interpret it in a way that gives every word and word choice meaning.

    • Amelia says:

      I agree that this understanding of the hearken covenant does important work in mitigating the negative consequences of that covenant. It certainly at the very least establishes that Eve/woman does have a direct relationship with God if she needs to assess her husband’s guidance to determine whether it matches her own understanding of God’s will.

      That said, it does not address all of the problems and introduces problems of its own. First, the fact that the covenant is not reciprocated with husband promising to hearken to wife insofar as she hearkens to God establishes an imbalance; even if Eve has to communicate with God to determine if she should hearken to Adam, she’s still required to hearken to him and he is not formally required to even give her input any attention. Second, this interpretation gets dangerously close to the idea that women are the gatekeepers of men’s righteousness. That they have the ultimate say in whether their husbands are being “good” or “in tune” or whatever. And that’s no more right then men being the ultimate authority determining women’s actions.

      It’s not just that Eve is required to give heed to what Adam says (and I won’t go into the ramifications of the language; they did that very nicely at Zelophehad’s Daughters this spring) that causes the problem. It’s that this is not reciprocal. Without both parties being required to give heed to each other and assess each other’s input when measured against their own understanding of God’s will based on their personal relationship with him, then there’s still an imbalance that creates a sexist system of inequality.

      • Struwelpeter says:

        With respect to your first issue, I think the reciprocity is inherent, although not explicit. The reading Nibley/Julie Smith propose fixes the imbalance of man standing between God and woman, and puts man and woman side by side as equal partners who both look to God. Qualifying Eve’s hearken obligation (and it has clearly been qualified and made conditional by the additional language) by stating that she is to hearken to Adam only insofar as he hearkens to God necessarily means she is under obligation to hearken to God herself. In turn, Adam is put on notice that Eve will only be hearkening to him when and if he hearkens to the Father. No, he doesn’t expressly promise to listen to her, but it is clear that he would be foolish not to where she is required to look to the Father for guidance herself.

        Re: your second issue, I don’t see the Nibley/Smith reading as establishing Eve as the ultimate arbiter of Adam’s righteousness, so much as setting up a balance of powers/checks and balances type system. When Adam deviates from the will of God (or becomes unrighteous), D&C 121:37 teaches us that it is “Amen” to his priesthood, and by extension, to his right to preside, and to Eve’s obligation to hearken. Eve is not the judge of this, it is a natural result of his disobendience/unrighteous dominion, etc., but Eve does serve as the canary in the coalmine to let him know he’s gotten off track.

      • Kiskilili says:

        No, he doesn’t expressly promise to listen to her, but it is clear that he would be foolish not to where she is required to look to the Father for guidance herself.

        I don’t think it’s clear at all. You yourself admit that’s not what it says expressly. Why would Adam need to hearken to Eve? Eve’s relationship to God is about Adam; there’s no indication God will be giving Eve any independent counsel.

        Best case scenario: God expects equality between Adam and Eve, so he creates a structural hierarchy that can be decoded into an equal partnership. Then he makes Adam a priest to himself but Eve a priestess to Adam because . . . he temporarily lost the memo on the equal-partnership update? Then he interacts (personally and through his messengers) almost exclusively with Adam because . . . his relationship to Eve is secret? What is God so embarrassed about? If he wants reciprocity, why can’t he make it explicit? If his relationship with Eve is equal to his relationship with Adam, why won’t he own up to it in public?

        All of the signs point to hierarchy. There’s no avoiding it.

      • Struwelpeter says:

        Why would Adam need to listen to Eve? Because when he doesn’t he loses priesthood, presiding, etc., and because one of the commandments he has been given was to become one with her. It is tough to become one with someone you don’t listen to.

      • Kiskilili says:

        If he presides, it’s not equality.

      • Amelia says:

        Forgive me if I find this:

        Why would Adam need to listen to Eve? Because when he doesn’t he loses priesthood, presiding, etc., and because one of the commandments he has been given was to become one with her. It is tough to become one with someone you don’t listen to.

        Cold comfort and hardly a reassurance. I don’t want to be listened to because if I’m not then my husband will be spanked like a bad little boy. Or because he’s been told to by someone with more authority than him. I expect my husband to listen to me and for the two of us to work together because we are of equal value and because he respects me and I respect him and together we figure things out.

        Furthermore, these reasons also demonstrate an absence of equality between men and women. If men and women were truly equal then men wouldn’t need to be told that they’ll lose their privileges if they don’t listen to their spouses. The only reason we would need such a situation is if the larger context is one in which men have been led to believe they can disregard their wives’ input with impunity because ultimately they have the final say. Oddly enough, that’s just about precisely what the notion of patriarchy teaches. Again there is such discord between the ideas you’re advancing, which depend on doing slightly less than intuitive interpretive work, and the larger context in which all of these issues function.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Men are only allowed to preside as long as they refrain from presiding.

        It’s sort of like giving kids a dessert and telling them they’re only allowed to eat it if they refrain from eating it.

        (1) It doesn’t make sense. (2) It’s not what the temple teaches.

      • Struwelpeter says:

        People keep talking about a larger context in which this all operates, one that I am presumably not familiar with. I beg to differ. I am aware of the issues in play here. I love the Church, and I love my sisters who are among its members. It pains me that so many are struggling with these issues. It pains me especially that some have left the church over it. I do not pretend their concerns have no substance, nor do I dismiss them. I hope that I have not made anyone physically ill by my comments. I have had occasion to share the Nibley interpretation with quite a few who have found it meaningful and helpful. I am glad of that. It is useful to hear from those of you who have not found it as satisfying, and to learn of your reasoning. I am sorry that I have not had the time today to respond to as many of the comments as I would have liked, and that some of my responses were hurried. This is not a topic that is going away, and I hope to be allowed to continue to sound in on it where appropriate.

      • Amelia says:

        Of course you’re welcome to continue contributing here, Struwelpeter. As I said earlier I do appreciate you’re raising alternative interpretations and pointing out nuances; this certainly is not a simple issue. And I appreciate the fact that there are individual women (maybe even a lot of them) who find some peace in the argument you’re advancing. I just think that it’s important that we don’t allow the fact that there is this possible interpretation to obscure the fact that it doesn’t actually eliminate all of the problems. You may not have intended this effect at all, but often when members raise these kinds of apologetic explanations they mean them to reassure and dismiss concerns–like it’s impossible for someone to have ongoing issues with the temple and gender issues if only they’ll understand things properly. I’ve certainly inadvertently implied that conclusion in the past. It’s important to me that we not do that here. I can see based on your most recent comment that you’re very sympathetic and I appreciate that.

        And no physical illness here. 🙂

      • Kmillecam says:

        @Struwelpeter, I just want to thank you for the tone that you used when you left your last comment. So often I hear people get defensive, or lash out at the women bringing up the problems with patriarchy, sexism, etc. I can tell that you actually care about how the commenters and bloggers feel here, and that is huge. It doesn’t usually go that way, in my experience reading feminist blogs. So thank you!

    • Petra says:

      I’ve also seen this attempt to justify the hearken covenant multiple times, and what bothers me about it (besides what Amelia posted above) is that it’s not the way I interpret the word “as.” “As” (in the wording in the temple, at least) can either be “as long as” or “in the manner of.” The Hugh Nibley interpretation is obviously “as long as,” and while it’s a nice one, the rest of the temple ceremony (and, frankly, the rest of patriarchy in the Church) makes me suspect that “in the manner of” interpretation was intended–ie, Eve is to obey her husband in the same way that Adam obeys God.

      • Kiskilili says:

        I agree with both Amelia and Petra. I don’t think that interpretation solves the problems—Eve’s relationship with God is centered around what God is telling Adam? If Eve were really just expected to follow God, Adam would be superfluous. Why no acknowledgment God talks to Eve about any topic besides whether or not Adam is inspired? And I don’t think it’s plausible—“as” in parallel constructions means “in the manner that.”

      • Struwelpeter says:

        As can mean a lot of different things here. It could be temporal, as in “when or whenever Adam hearkens” or qualitative, as in “to the same extent that” or the one you propose “in the manner that”. Any reading we give it, however, needs to take into account that Eve’s covenant was made conditional, was qualified. There is no absolute. Thus, even if we take the “in the manner that” reading you propose, we are in a paradigm where Adam’s failure to hearken to God eliminates any obligation of Eve’s, and Adam’s success at hearkening to God, coupled with Eve’s recognition of this and corresponding hearkening places them both in harmony with the mind and will of God.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Then Adam’s relationship to God focuses on what God would have Adam do. And Eve’s relationship to God focuses on what God would have Adam do. Adam has a qualitatively superior relationship to God.

      • Struwelpeter says:

        For an acknowledgment that God talks to Eve, I like Moses 5:4.

      • Struwelpeter says:

        Adam’s relationship to God focuses on what God would have Adam and Eve do. Eve’s relationship with God focuses on what God would have Adam and Eve do. Adam cannot be exalted without Eve or vice versa. Let’s not insist on divorcing the equal partnership God has established to become one.

      • Alisa says:

        Because two people are required for an event to take place does *not ever* make them inherently equal. In this case, we’re talking about whether or not it is equal for Adam to (righteously) dominate Eve. Just because both Adam and Eve are required for this (righteous) dominion to happen, it does not make them equal. In order for Eve to be made a priestess unto Adam, both Adam and Eve must exist, but it does not make them equal. In order for Adam to be made a priest to the Most High God, both must exist, but it does not make them equal.

        I am a parent to my son. Both of us are required in this relationship. That does not mean that we are given equal power. Our worth may even be equal in God’s eyes, but our relationship as parent and son is not one of equality.

        Mark’s post makes it clear that men are to dominate over women as parents dominate over children, even righteously. Mark can claim this is a righteous order and that is his opinion, but it is not and will never be equal.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Adam’s relationship to God focuses on what God would have Adam and Eve do. Eve’s relationship with God focuses on what God would have Adam and Eve do.

        I have no problem if you think that’s ultimate reality. I’m just pointing out that even in Nibley’s strained, overingeniuos reinterpretation of the temple, that’s not what the temple teaches.

      • Amelia says:

        Struwelpeter, I appreciate that you’re pointing out that this issue is complex and there are nuances in the text. I am always happy to identify nuances that allow more power to a subordinate class and encourage people to take advantage of that nuance. That said, we have to deal with the actual text we are given in all of its complexities and your reading doesn’t adequately do so. Yes, it is possible to read the “as” to mean “insofar as” or “while”–Eve only hearkens to Adam when he hearkens to God when (temporally) he hearkens to God; Even only hearkens to God insofar as (so long as) he hearkens to God. But that third interpretation is just as viable–Even hearkens to Adam in the same fashion in which he hearkens to God.

        Does that remove obligation on Eve to continue to hearken to Adam? Sure. Do the first two interpretations indicate some connection between Eve and God? Sure. However, this doesn’t eliminate the problem of inequality established in this covenant. The fact remains that Eve’s obligation to hearken to Adam is made explicit. No such obligation on Adam’s behalf is made explicit. And then there’s the context. We can’t pull this phrase out and look at it in an isolated fashion. It lives inside a larger text. And that larger text and performance thereof makes it abundantly clear that Adam communicates with God (albeit via intermediaries) on a regular basis. Eve not only never communicates with God (even via intermediaries), she’s made to stand in the background mute and unparticipating while she watches Adam receive instruction from God’s representatives. That context speaks pretty loudly and what it says to me is that Adam has more access to God than Eve; that Adam has no obligation to consult with Eve; that if Eve is going to get any direct instruction in which she participates in the same fashion in which Adam participates, it’s going to happen off screen and come through Adam.

        I appreciate the effort to make this more palatable. I appreciate the desire to argue for an interpretation that emphasizes at least some equity. But it just doesn’t hold up when you look at the ceremony taken as a whole.

      • April says:

        Struwelpeter’s interpretation of the hearken covenant (hearken as he hearkens to God=hearken only when he hearkens to God) is the same interpretation I was taught and I choose to continue to interpret it this way, not because I am fully confident that was the way it was intended but because that is the only way I could honestly agree to such a convenant.

        I love my husband dearly, but I could never honestly say that I hearken to him in the same manner in which he hearkens to God. I don’t see my husband as a god, I see him as a flawed mortal, and so I hearken to him with a healthy skepticism that neither I nor my husband would ever employ with God.

        I think interpreting the text this way is an appropriate coping strategy for dealing with this un-woman-friendly ceremony for now. However, I would love to see the day when the text is clarified to explicitly say what I hope it means–“hearken only when.” (But if they go through the bother of changing the ceremony that much, I hope they would also get husbands to explicitly promise to hearken to their wives as well. Alternatively,they could have both men and women just promise to hearken to God.)

      • Amelia says:

        April, this explanation (as = insofar as) was the one I always used for myself. Of course, I had the added benefit of no actual husband so this was in some ways very theoretical for me and I just didn’t give it much attention for almost a decade. I not only don’t mind but think it can be productive for individual women to use this explanation in order to make this covenant palatable. I personally found a lot of interesting insights in the temple and had this particular covenant been so troubling for me that I couldn’t deal with it, I may not have gotten those insights (which very much inform my world-view). So I’m glad I, as an individual woman participant, was able to use this explanation to make temple worship an ongoing possibility.

        The problem I have is when people advance this argument as a definitive justification of the covenant and a dismissal of problems others have with it. As I’ve pointed out above, there’s a lot of context in which this covenant functions and it’s entirely understandable that it causes serious problems for some women. It troubles me when apologists attempt to use their more positive explanations as a mechanism for silencing those of us who see the temple as deeply problematic for women (definitely not saying that you, April, are such a person; speaking more generally here).

        Like you, I hope that the church will again revise the temple ceremony in order to eradicate the sexist content or to revise it so as to emphasize Eve’s equal worth and participation.

  45. My problem with Mark’s post is the disconnect between the doctrine he postulates in the original post and the exercise of it that he outline in his ensuing responses. In his original post he sets aside men as especial in presiding–which he defines as wives HEARKENING TO, and SUBMITTING TO the counsel of their husbands. You don’t say that men should hearken and submit to the counsel of their wives, so men are unique in this theology as presiding.

    However, in his numerous follow-up posts, he re-defines presiding as being less especial to men. Decisions – “we DO need to have unanimity”. Guidance – “Can a wife be an instigator of these activities? Of course!”. If men’s role as presiding is unique, then why are all of his examples of actions that constitute presiding also appropriately in the domain of women? I’ve challenged Mark to give a single example of how a man can righteously preside and have their wives submit to the counsel of their husbands in a way that would be inappropriate for women to do so were the roles reversed? If not, then how can the term preside be considered especial to men?

  46. Naismith says:

    I’m a non-feminist but I was also offended at the MMM post, for many of the reasons that Amelia stated. And yes, I also felt physically ill when I read those paragraphs.

    The “Counselor” subheading was particularly offensive. The lumping together of women and children was incredibly insulting. And the implication that the wife is a mere counselor instead of an equal partner?

    In general, I tend to disagree with Amelia’s view that patriarchy = power. I think that a husband should lead, but through a servant-leadership model in which he performs priesthood functions for the family and serves as a conduit through which priesthood power flows into the family. NOT through “guiding his wife”!!!! Not expecting her to “heed” in an asymmetrical fashion, but through consensus.

    (If Saint Mark lived in my house, he’s be sleeping on the couch.)

  47. DefyGravity says:

    St. Mark (why that name choice, by the way)’ after reading your comment here and on the Exponent, it sounds like what you describe as patriarchy and presiding are simply taking responsibility in your family. You say that your wife and kids do the same things you do, like housework, decision making and receiving inspiration. So why is it patriarchy and presiding when you do it, but not when your wife does it? If you are working together and both making decisions, why is what you do set apart as something different from what your wife does?

    I posted this on the comment thread of the article, and can’t get an answer to this question from Mark. (similar to whatknowingbeforehand said.) so I thought I’d bring it over here. Aside from the piles of issues already listed, I don’t think his claim that he is a patriarch holds up at all. He goes out of his way to say he and his wife have the same responsibilities and do the same things (which is great), but then insists he is presiding. So we’re back to the question of what is presiding if your wife does the same things you do and just doesn’t call it presiding. And if all it is is asking someone to pray, why in the world is the church clinging to it as though a women asking someone to pray or someone volunteering is the end of the world?

  48. L Holt says:

    Dear Amelia, What happened to Matriarchy? No one has mentioned it. It’s as if this group considers it irrelevant. Have none of you seen the Regal, Strong, Educated, Well Spoken, Out Spoken and loving women who are such wonderful role models for all of us? I’m not just talking about leaders. I know a lot of seemingly ordinary women who have lived with incredibly difficult trials and they make me look like a “a childish little brat”. Not withstanding that the ideal lies in the top of a very tall tree, your efforts to hack the tree to bits seems bordering on vicious. At the very least Don Quiotic. Neither God, nor His Church, nor the Priesthood or Patriarchy are your “Enemy”. Human weakness and distorted thinking are your enemies….rather, challenges. Ideal Matriarchy and Patriarchy are equivalent treasures, corruption of either brings equal horrors. (See Nibley)…Think of “preside” as a baton passed between equally qualified leaders rather than as a scepter. Think of motherhood as wonderful and powerful. Think of Matriarchs as loving and smart, … and stop chaffing at “Head and Heart”. (Each needs both as perfectly balanced as possible because that’s how Heavenly Father and Mother are) Still, one is a lock and the other is a key. Each is different as well as dependent on the other. My husband earned the money and I tried not to spend it. If we decided that I was better suited to earning the living, it would mean a lot if he respected and appreciated my efforts by not blowing it on frivolities. So it goes with every aspect of marriage, parenting and God’s order of things.

    • Emmaline says:

      I don’t think anyone will “tear you to bits.” But they might mention that your pairing of “patriarchy” and “matriarchy” as you’re discussing them in your comment don’t get at the problem Amelia and St Mark are discussing.

      When Amelia (and others) talk about patriarchy, they’re referencing the location of power within a male figure that leads to an imbalance in the way said male treats women (or a specific woman). They’re not referring to patriarchy as fatherhood and matriarchy as motherhood. They’re talking about patriarchy as inherently unequal, which is what (as has been said in other posts and comments) is the problem in constructions of family where a husband treats the wife in the ways he would treat his children – “guiding” or “shaping” or “controlling.”

      • L Holt says:

        I think Mark did a good job of sorting between Man’s idea of Patriarchy and God’s type of Patriarchy. God’s Patriarchy is based on the same idea as the Godhead- 3 individuals ….. one purpose. It is man and woman on the same page with one another and with God….a triangle with man and woman at the base and God @ the top. With God’s version, Patriarchy and Matriarchy are very compatible and harmonius because they are not vying for power over each other. They share it and work as a team. Man’s Patriarchy is the kind that has man with power….bossing and directing ( I guess he is at the top and wife and kids are at the base) He has a difficult challenge to keep the power from going to his head. This is the Patriarchy that is repulsive/scary to Mark and everyone else. (This is what I was referring to when I said, …man’s weakness). I think that the thing about “presiding” is that it’s a simply a point of order…a temporary and transferable assignment and not a club to hold over inferiors’ heads.

      • Amelia says:

        Given the Mormon definition of marriage as a covenant relationship not only between husband and wife, but also God, I like seeing it as similar to the Godhead–three individuals, each with necessary and important contributions, one in purpose. The thing is, I just don’t see this notion in what Saint Mark spelled out in his piece on “modern” patriarchy. As I illustrated in my OP, he does a pretty stellar job of making it crystal clear that the construction of patriarchy (even of his more benevolent, modern version of patriarchy) is not a triangle with husband and wife on an equal plane and God above them, but a hierarchical chain with God at top, then man below God, then woman below man. He even uses the word “chain” and the parallel structure of the roles he lays out makes it pretty clear that he’s putting men between God and their wives. Which is really problematic. I get that Saint Mark is, like you, rejecting practicing patriarchy in such a way that the man lets the power go to his head. But he still embraces a structure that inherently puts women lower on the chain of command and subordinate to men.

        I still have a problem with using the terms “patriarchy” and “matriarchy” to spell out the system you’re proposing, since these words have actual meanings that preclude their coexistence. But I’m much happier with your theory of how the marriage relationship should work–man and woman as equal in their relationship with each other and both owing honor and obedience to God, both with their own communion with God that informs and shapes their relationship with each other.

    • Amelia says:

      Let’s start with a definition of matriarchy:

      1. a family, society, community, or state governed by women.
      2. a form of social organization in which the mother is head of the family, and in which descent is reckoned in the female line, the children belonging to the mother’s clan

      Just as with patriarchy, matriarchy is a system of governing or ruling. It means that the woman in a marriage has the power to have the final say. It means that the female line defines identity. To conflate “matriarchy” with “motherhood,” as you do, is as bad as to conflate “patriarchy” with “fatherhood,” as Saint Mark does. They are not the same thing (and yet I am the one who gets accused of thinking two things clearly not the same are same). If what you mean is motherhood, then use the word motherhood.

      At the very least Don Quiotic. Neither God, nor His Church, nor the Priesthood or Patriarchy are your “Enemy”.

      Did I say that these things are my enemy? No. I did not. I certainly never said God is my enemy. I did say I would tell an unjust god who upholds an unjust system of governance in which men hold all the power and women have none (patriarchy) to go to hell. Which I would. Because such a god would not be God for me. But that is not the same thing as considering God my enemy. Nor do I consider the priesthood to be my enemy, since it’s difficult to conceive of an office or an abstract authority to act in the name of God as an enemy. The church–well I wouldn’t call it my enemy either; I’d just call it a flawed institution which perpetuates sexist notions that hurt me and many, many others.

      Also, if you want to engage in conversation with someone, I suggest not telling them that their actions or arguments are “Don Quixotic” since that’s code for “you’re batshit crazy.”

      Human weakness and distorted thinking are your enemies….rather, challenges.

      Gee, thanks for helping me understand that my problem is that I’m weak and my thinking distorted. And helping me see that these are just challenges to overcome as I reach your conclusion…. Again, I’m going to suggest that if you want to engage in conversation, you do so. Insulting your interlocutor is unlikely to help.

      Ideal Matriarchy and Patriarchy are equivalent treasures, corruption of either brings equal horrors. (See Nibley)

      They may be equivalent treasures and equally horrible when corrupt, but they would have to be so in alternate realities since they cannot coexist. Not based on what these words actually mean. One cannot live in a society which is both matriarchal and patriarchal; if it is matriarchal, women rule; if patriarchal, men rule. No amount of saying otherwise or vague directives to “See Nibley” will make that otherwise.

      Think of motherhood as wonderful and powerful. Think of Matriarchs as loving and smart,

      Did I say motherhood is not wonderful or powerful? Did I imply that women are not loving and smart? Of course I did not. It is precisely because I do think that women are powerful, intelligent, loving individuals with a great deal to offer that I summarily reject patriarchy as an ideal, since such an ideal could never allow women the latitude in which to express themselves and use their abilities and talents to benefit their families, society, church, world. And take what I’ve just said, apply it to men, and understand why I reject matriarchy as wholly as I reject patriarchy. Both systems by definition preclude an entire sex from being able to make contributions based on their individual merits.

      And again–don’t tell people what to think. It’s condescending and insulting, especially when you’re using it as a mechanism for insulting them for their failure to get “how things really are” according to you.

      and stop chaffing at “Head and Heart”. (Each needs both as perfectly balanced as possible

      Did I chafe at “head and heart”? No. I didn’t. Here’s what I said: “I have a head as well as a heart and when I marry, I’ll employ both. Any man I marry will have both head and heart and will employ both. Together we’ll both shape and inform both head and heart of our family.” So yeah. No chafing, not when we’re talking about women and men both using both head and heart in order to contribute to their families and society. What I do chafe against is the sexist notion that men are head and women are heart.

      I get the basic point underlying all your noise: motherhood is an important companion to fatherhood. I have never suggested otherwise. I’ve only pointed out that in a patriarchal system, mothers get relegated to the role of senior children, wives are subjugated to their husbands, and women are denied equal access to God and opportunities to become exalted. No amount of proposing the co-existence of patriarchy and matriarchy will change that, since they are antithetical systems of ruling.

  49. L Holt says:

    I was blind but now I see that, I am about to be torn to bits!!! Perhaps for my sentiments but more likely for my upside down argument. I see that Matriarchy was not the topic per se but feel that it is as helpful in the discussion (as it is to real life) to keep them together as much as possible.

    • Amelia says:

      Dear L. Holt,

      If you’d like not to be “torn to bits,” might I suggest you employ a tone that is less condescending and insulting? That would be a nice start. I would also suggest you engage with the topic actually at hand, rather than making the same mistake Saint Mark made in his original post and which I so clearly addressed here: redefining a word or idea to mean something other than it does. If you think there is a different slant on the topic that might be “helpful in the discussion (as it is to real life),” might I suggest that rather than insulting me and everyone else who has commented along lines similar to my own you actually explain that slant and illustrate how it pertains to the conversation? Because that approach might foster conversation, while the approach you took is just inappropriate and annoying.

      Now I’m going to go “tear you to bits” (as you put it) in regard to your comment.

      • L Holt says:

        I am sorry for the bad attitude.

      • Amelia says:

        Thanks for taking a more engaging tone with your comment this morning. I’m always interested in sharing ideas and at the Exponent we welcome all viewpoints, so I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thoughts on the issue more fully.

  50. Beatrice says:

    Amelia, You do a good job of explaining the inequalities of the temple ceremony in your August 23, 4:15 pm comment. Many of these aspects of the temple ceremony have troubled me from my first visit onward. One explanation I came to for these discrepancies was that the temple ceremony is about Adam’s story told from Adam’s perspective and not Eve’s. I conceptualize it as a personal history and growing up story told from Adam’s perspective. This would be comparable to, I was born in X place, this is what life with my parents was like, I moved out, I met a wonderful person to marry, I continued to learn and maintain a relationship with my parents even though they were far away, etc. For me this explains why Eve is not shown to have a premortal existence (romantic partners don’t show up in these stories until the protagonist is older) and plays a very minimal role throughout. Our society is chalk full of books, movies, etc told from the male perspective. I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking at things from this perspective, but for me, it is so refreshing to read books that are told from a female perspective. I think we need more of them because they help both sexes understand each other better. By looking at things this way, I can better understand why I have a hard time relating to what is going on in the temple and that I struggle trying to fit myself into and find my place in the story. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they had a version of the temple ceremony that was told from a female perspective?

    • MomX6 says:

      Beatrice and All, I highly recommend the book “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden” by Beverly Campbell. It can help to clear up a lot of your criticisms of the temple and many other topics discussed here. For example, she points out that “Adam and Eve taken together are named Adam and the fall of Adam is the fall of them both, for they are one.” and…. “I believe that women and men will be better able to articulate their roles, understand their lives, accept their responsibilities, and complete their missions in mortality when they have a clearer understanding of the priesthood and powers of Father Adam[the individual], a more exalted view of Mother Eve, and a greater appreciation for the beauty of the partnership of our first parents. ” pg 10 The book also gives a reference to Elder McConkie who refers to Eve as “one of the noble and great ones” who was involved in the creation. This is a book clearly written from a female perspective.

  51. Kent says:

    After Eve and then Adam partook of the fruit and discovered they were naked, God came to visit with them and they hid from Him. The all knowing God already knew what had occurred and that Eve had been the first to partake, yet He first directs His comments to Adam. Why didn’t He go directly to Eve? Additionally we tend to refer to the fall as “Adam’s transgressions”. It seems that he is being held responsible for both their actions. I have heard men defend patriarchy by stating that they are going to be held ultimately responsible for the success or failure of their family so they should be the one to preside. I am not trying to defend that position or make any particular point, just sort of thinking out loud.

    • April says:

      This discussion, which was not originally about Adam and Eve, but has drifted that way, has led me to think about them as well. I am wondering, why would we base modern male-female relations on a one-time incident (or fable, depending on how literally you interpret the Old Testament) that occurred at least thousands of years ago between two people that none of us have ever met? Attempting to do so doesn’t seem to work very well….

  52. Diane says:

    Okay, interesting article in Deseret Newspaper, about how a School Board Administrator, and a local Bishop failed to report a sexual assault. I dare say that is one good example of Priesthood ad Privilege as well as Benevolent Patriarchy at work

  53. sar says:

    Is there an Amelia fan club I can join?

  54. Amber says:

    Yeah, I second Sar’s inquiry. : )

  55. L Holt says:

    Some things in life are like a family picture; everyone is there at the same time. Other things are like walking through a doorway where one person goes through at a time, and someone goes 1st. I think it would help to look at “presiding” as we have seen it modeled in the Church. You know…… Bishoprics and RS presidencies and the 1st Presidency etc. They take turns presiding and, as near as I can tell, they seem to feel that it is an assignment or responsibility rather than some sort of “Golden Snitch”. As for how presiding applies to Patriarchy in the home, it’s really the same as with the Church. Although there is an order to the list, (God said, “husbands 1st”) it isn’t denigrating to the others down the line. Wives, Grandparents, babysitters, even older children may step into that role in a predetermined order. (Ideally, there would be no significant difference in how the household functioned) Whoever presides should do it lovingly and righteously. Designating the husband 1st does not imply an inferiority of women any more than it does to specify the Grandparents after the wife. It’s probably comparable to designating that: when you both arrived at a 4-way stop at the same time, the car to your right may go first. It’s a point of order/organization. Actually, since presiding is a responsibility requiring accountability, it would seem more of a liability, than a desirability.

    • Maureen says:

      You are going to have to explain what you mean by “they take turns presiding”, because I can’t say I’ve ever experienced that. Unless by preside you mean conduct meetings, which is not the same thing. I have been instructed quite the opposite actually. The bishop always presides over the ward (even if he has assigned one of his counselors to conduct sacrament meeting) unless the stake president, the area authority, a general authority, apostle, or the prophet is present. And if several of those are there, the one furthest along in the list presides. If the bishop isn’t there (or any others in that list) then his first counselor presides. If not him then the second counselor. If not him then the EQ president or high priest group leader (not sure of the order). But ultimately if you run out of priesthood holders then you cannot have a sacrament meeting (even without the sacrament) because there is no one to preside.

      The only way I could conceive of the RS president presiding was in RS class proper. So I went to the online church handbook to see if I could find out if that actually happens. The only place where specifically I found that the RS president presides is during during RS presidency meetings. But even assuming that the RS president presides at RS, and it just wasn’t explicitly stated (and only when a priesthood holder isn’t present), I have a hard time conceiving of that as taking turns.

      Consider if you had a young boy and girl. You let the boy play with toy robots and the girl with toy ponies. Then you make is so that the girl has to let the boy have a turn playing with the ponies. But you never make the boy let the girl have a turn with the robots (in fact it is implicitly forbidden). I guess you could say, “Hey taking turns is happening with the ponies.” But that hardly seems like a fair or good teaching experience to me.

      As far as the door analogy, I really get the point of order argument/position. If it were more flushed out it might go somewhere. But why designate an absolute order to always follow (especially such a narrow one)? I mean obviously in circumstances where the doorway is too narrow for more than one to go through at the same time, a hierarchal order is necessary. But why is the husband to ALWAYS go first? Isn’t it considered chivalrous to hold the door for the women (not because he is willingly abdicating power she does not have, but he is recognizing their inherit equality and deferring to her out of respect of that)?

      Plus I know the four-way stop thing is in the books, but that has not been my experience either. Typically it is whoever gets there first, leaves first. And on the rare occasion that a couple get there at the EXACT same moment, one usually either politely defers or takes the initiative. Doing it this way has never impaired my travel.

      • BethSmash says:

        I wish there was a “like” button for this response! I really enjoyed the examples you used. And you’re completely correct about the 4 way stop thing.

    • Emmaline says:

      “Actually, since presiding is a responsibility requiring accountability, it would seem more of a liability, than a desirability.”

      This is another instance of that whole “women just aren’t as strong as men, let’s not set them up to fail like that” mentality. Choosing to be baptized or receive the endowment is a choice to accept additional responsibility. Which, by your logic, means a liability and something undesirable. So should we avoid those things, too?

      Our mortal experience is designed to teach us to accept responsibility, we continually learn so that we can do so. Stating that a desire to avoid responsibility should make us happy to be free of the priesthood sets up some pretty dangerous parallels/precedents.

  56. L Holt says:

    Maureen you are right. I did mix up conduct and preside

  57. Danielle says:

    This post is wonderful. Thank you for writing it.

    I am currently feeling swells of gratitude to God for my unconventional, feminist, mormon husband. Because like you, I’d forgo marriage if the alternative looked anything like the “partnership” described by this “righteous” patriarchy.

  58. Lala says:

    The whole idea of benevolent patriarchy makes me think of 2 Nephi 28: 20-21:

    “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

    Isn’t benevolent patriarchy nothing more than evil under the guise of good? (Inequality with sugar on top.) Isn’t that exactly what the church teaches us to watch out for?

  59. cchrissyy says:

    Huge thanks for this fabulous post. So logical and well-written. I’m reading it too late to reply in the comments but at least wanted to say this much.

  60. So, I know I’m really late to the conversation but this post is INCREDIBLE! Thank you. My husband and I read this together and both agreed with every bit of it. I am grateful my husband doesn’t subscribe to the proscription of patriarchy. I am so grateful “preside” is a dirty word in our home.

  61. Melody says:

    Thank you for reposting this incredible peice of writing. Well done, Amelia. Benevolent patriarchy is an oxymoron.

    I love this from the post: “So long as any form of patriarchy, whether modern or ancient, is the model for relationships between men and women, the power structure is one in which men can and do and always will subjugate women. Modernity and niceness cannot rob patriarchy of its definitional inequality.”

    I love this from The Book of Mormon: “And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this, my people. . .” (Mosiah 29:32)

  62. Em says:

    Thank you for this. I love it.

    I have a habit of trying to reword hymns to be more gender inclusive. There is one that I both love and loathe: “Know this that every soul is free.” One verse in particular “Freedom and reason make us men, take that away what are we then, mere animals.” I hate it for the obvious reason that the language says if you’re not a man, you’re an animal. On the other hand, I love that it glorifies reason, that it is fundamental and inherent to being a human. If it doesn’t make any sense at all, how can it be of God? If it absolutely screams nonsense and inequality, how can it be of God? I loved the final conclusion. If ever I am asked to give a talk on the Family Proclamation (though I think my ward knows better…) I will use your part about Galileo.

  63. Leslee says:

    Thanks for reposting this! As I was reading it I couldn’t help but think of my own in-laws. My husband joined the church as an adult and his non-religious family were (understandably) worried and distressed. Luckily for our family, my husband’s righteous upbringing has been a bigger influence in his attitudes toward marriage and fatherhood than the traditional mores of his adopted culture.
    My mother-in-law was the primary earner in their family while my father-in-law was a stay-at-home dad. That decision was entirely natural and practical–she had a career that was going places, he didn’t. They’ve had a stable and contented marriage for some forty years. My husband’s sisters are incredibly intelligent and capable women who never had to question how being female would play into pursuing their goals or education. Gender (and orientation) was simply a non-issue in their home.
    There’s this idea in Mormon culture that there’s only one way to create a happy, functioning home and it is by following that line of patriarchal authority. It’s simply not true and it prevents us from recognizing that families of ALL stripes can be in harmony with what really is glorious about the gospel: the atonement of Christ and our own eternal progress.

  64. X2 Dora says:

    I should be working on a project, but have spent the past hour rereading this marvelous and insightful post. And all the comments on the wayback archive! I won’t reiterate all the things I identify with emotionally and rationally; there are just too many. However, Nymrod’s questions about how to incorporate more equality with his wife in their marriage brought to mind Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability. Brown discussed how the inability to be vulnerable affected men just as heavily as it did women. She quoted one man as saying that his wife would rather that he died up on his horse, rather than being vulnerable with the rest of his family (my paraphrase). This was very powerful to me, since it highlighted how damaging it can be to restrict people to roles, instead of thoughtfully considering an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In the same way, expecting people to lead or follow based on gender, harms us all by restricting development of strengths, and growth out of weakness.

  65. Ziff says:

    Thank you for bringing back this classic! What a great post!

  66. Jack says:

    Quit your whining and be content with inheriting the universe.

    • Amelia says:

      Jack, the sheer eloquence of your comment has persuaded me that I should stop working to build Zion now and instead sit around ignoring injustice because God will still give me everything when I die. Cause you know, He didn’t actually mean it when he told us to build Zion and improve the world. He really meant for us to shut our eyes, sing ‘lalalalala’ with our fingers stuffed in our ears and wait to die….

  67. Naismith says:

    This was a brilliant analysis at the time it originally ran. I don’t understand the need to repeat it again. Hasn’t Saint Mark suffered enough for his sins?

    One thing, I do give the guy credit for thinking about/questioning the issues, and seeing his role as one of service to the family. I disagreed with some of his answers, I don’t think they represent church teachings, but I do appreciate him trying to find a new path than what he was raised with.

    I do agree with the OP and disagree with SM when it comes to partnership. Absolutely, the only model that I accept is equality and partnership.

    But I disagree with the OP on what that means.

    I don’t think consensus is always necessary for equality in a partnership. The proclamation on the family gives us areas of stewardship, with the woman being the one who is primarily responsible for the nurture of children. Although my marriage operates by consensus 99.9% of the time, there have been times when there was a time crunch, I felt strongly about something, my husband disagreed, but he deferred to me because it was my area of stewardship. And it turned out that my impression proved to be the best choice.

    I feel that the different areas of stewardship contribute to equality because each area is equally important–without being the same per se.

    Thus a man providing for his pregnant or lactating wife can be a way of honoring and respecting that those tasks are equal to traditionally male contributions. I personally couldn’t have children without a husband who was willing to serve me in that way. It is not making me subservient; rather, it is recognizing the reality of biology, that I cannot hold down a paid job and be pregnant. Blame the dumb-ass god who made my body this way. Why can’t male and female bodies be the same, then equality would be much simpler.

    • Amelia says:

      Naismith, reposting was not about making Saint Mark suffer further. It was to address the fact that we had an archiving issue that made the post unavailable and we’ve had multiple requests over the last year to make the essay available to people looking for it. So we’ve made it available again. That’s it.

      As for the consensus point you make, I really don’t think you and I think differently on that as much as you think we do. I believe consensus is only achievable when each individual involved understands what their own areas of responsibility and interest are and doesn’t try to micromanage others’ areas of responsibility.

      In other words, if I’m on a committee overseeing the building of a school and I’ve been asked to oversee the landscaping, then I’m not going to make a big issue over some component of the interior design. I may ask questions and make suggestions; I may even stick to my guns on an issue if it seems important to me; but at the end of the day, I will trust the team member who has been given stewardship (to use your term) over interior design. I believe consensus in a marriage happens the same way. One partner takes the initiative on some things, while the other handles others; maybe there are some that both are equally vested in. In my own marriage, I basically make the decisions about cooking/kitchen. Because I like to cook and P doesn’t. And because I’m bothered more than he is by an accumulation of dirty dishes, organization of kitchen tools (or lack thereof), etc. So P has some opinions about food, cooking, kitchen organization, but he basically goes with what I want unless he feels very strongly about something. And I basically do what I want unless he feels very strongly about something. When he does feel strongly, we talk it out and reach an agreement. I imagine if we couldn’t reach an agreement, I’d likely do what I want because in the larger view, that realm of our life matters more to me and I do more of the work there.

      What I won’t go along with is the church’s right to dictate to me which parts of my marriage should be my stewardship vs. which parts should be my husband’s stewardship. I don’t even think they should be in the business of making recommendations about such things. Those stewardships should be settled on by the two people involved based on their own individual strengths and interests, rather than prescribed gender roles. For many people, they’ll likely fall along the lines the church recommends. Because we’re products of our culture. But when the church actively prescribes such things, they set up a situation that justifies the kind of thinking Saint Mark used in writing his OP, and much worse.

  68. Grey Ghost says:

    Your analysis is excellent and uncovers a lot of weakness in the common LDS case for apologetic, benevolent, “chicken” patriarchy. (I love that term.) Where it falls short, regrettably, is in Claim the Fifth. I say “regrettably” because I would prefer things to be as you wish them to be, but if there’s an scriptural or exegetical explanation that makes the chain of responsibility not run as you’ve laid it out there, I haven’t seen it, and you haven’t provided it.

    You’ve resorted, instead, to “this isn’t true because it shouldn’t be and I don’t want to believe it,” which, while passionate, isn’t up to the standard you achieve in Claims 1-4 and 6. It pains me to point this out because I would much rather we were able to come up with some specific textual or revelatory grounds to support your position, but I think we’d have seen it, and you’d have included it, did it exist.

    Which leaves us and so many others wondering: what do we do if this:

    Claim the fifth: women relate to men as children relate to parents; men relate to women as God relates to men; this is so because it’s impossible for a family unit to work without one person being in charge and God has said that person will be the man.

    . . . really is Heavenly Father’s position?

  69. Geoff - Aus says:

    Grey Ghost,

    I assume you are getting this from the endowment. My wife and I deal with this one by assuming that Joseph presented a pure endowment, Brigham made some additions, and it was not correlated until some time later.

    When you listen to the endowment, the sexist bits you refer to feel like they have been added after. The fact that something in the endowment is added to suit someone’s culture should not be surprising. Temple endowments were denied some members because of racism (culture ) for ever 100 years.

    Since I was endowed, the penalties have been removed. I was disappointed that when they went to the trouble of making a new film they didn’t remove those bits, maybe next time.

    I ageree completely with the original post. Thankyou.

  70. Sarah says:

    YES! No matter how one explains it, justifies it, massages it, or gaslights it, patriarchy is at its core about control and power. There is no way around it. Even if the man is kind, means well, and has his wife’s best interests at heart, patriarchy is still about maintaining control and “order” (as defined by religion), and it means the woman is not considered a true equal…the man is the spiritual leader and that inherently misaligns any equality or balance of power within a relationship. It simply cannot be argued any other way…you are not an equal if your partner is considered the head of the household, your link to God, the final decision maker in spiritual matters, provider and protector, or whatever. Words such as persuading, submitting, honoring, etc. in relation to a marriage have at their heart the belief that men are at the head of the marriage and women are their charges…much like children. And yes, we may love our children and act as their protectors and leaders out of this love, but grown women are not children. That said, patriarchy works for many marriages and people can be happy with this arrangement; every couple differs. But justifying patriarch as a religious necessity is clearly a means of keeping men in control of the religion and their wives and families. I don’t care that there are good, loving men who see this as a godly responsibility, it is still a means of control in a global sense. I, for one, would rather stay single for life than be in a marriage with a man who truly believe patriarchy is the order of the universe, and wanted to base a marriage on that principle. I want a partner, not another father figure! For God’s sake, I’m a grown woman with a brain, education, a spiritual link to God, a great mother, an executive at work, and help run a nonprofit….I certainly won’t be submitting to anyone simply because he happens to have a penis and I don’t. If men could turn this whole thing around and view themselves in a matriarchy and imagine how it would feel, they would hopefully begin to understand the core component of control and power that fuels patriarchy…even if it is couched as God’s will. Thank you for this fantastic blog!

  1. August 25, 2011

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