by Kelly Ann
Yesterday, I attended a very awkward Sunday school in a conservative southern state. The teacher followed the LDS.org lesson outline for chapters 1-6 which focused the discussion on contention and disunity, relying on the wisdom of the world, and immorality. The comments on contention focused on how the church and families are or should be unified in their decisions. People talked about how the quorum of the twelve counsels together but then stands behind the prophet. There was no room left for any type of questioning and the potential difference between differences of opinion and dissention was not made. The analogy to following the prophet was then drawn about how a family should counsel together but then stand behind the final decision – giving final power to the husband who was presiding … The teacher’s exact response to several comments regarding it can be complicated because we are flawed humans was that the good thing was that it would get easier in the eternities as her husband would “be perfect” and she would “be perfectly submissive.”
Following an awkward laugh, the conversation quickly moved away to the other topics. While the point was made in discussing the wisdom of the world and differentiating between the milk and meat of the gospel, that there are some things that we don’t understand, nobody really seemed phased by the submission discussion. Most of the comments were drawing black and white lines about obeying the gospel and keeping the commandments. And then it became an even more awkward discussion about immorality and the evils of homosexuality.
I would have normally spoken up but I was so speechless (and slightly distracted holding my new niece whom I’m visiting) that I had no idea what to say. My gut response was if I am expected to be “perfectly submissive” in eternity, then I’ll gladly go to a lower kingdom. I’d like to believe that the instructor was joking but I really got the impression that it followed her understanding of patriarchy – something that I simply can not look at the same way after reading so many posts on the Exponent and elsewhere. There are plenty of scriptures in 1st Corinthians to go along with her line of thought as well.
I recognize that in LDS Sunday school lessons, people continually try to draw direct applicability from the scriptures. However, I think that the text and context of 1st Corinthians was totally lost. Very little scripture was even read. Although honestly, 1st Corinthians has a number of problematic texts and interpretations. One of the most debated sections will be next week in Chapter 11:1-16.
Therefore, I am wondering how the women reading this blog approach the texts of First Corinthians and subsequent discussions. How did your own discussions of Chapters 1-6 go this week? And how do you plan on approaching the rest of First Corinthians next week? If you happen to be a gospel doctrine teacher, would you be willing to share your outlines, as the problem I find online is that the LDS lesson outlines skip the feminist issues entirely (even though they are definitely far better than the lesson I just had and I would recommend them as resources).
Also, even in other lessons when problematic issues arise, how do you respond on the spot? I’d be interested in how people introduce the idea that questioning is ok, that the prophet is not always right, how to look at things from a feminist perspective, or whatever else may go against the standard points being made.
LDS Resources for Lesson 33 (in no particular order):
LDS Resources for Lesson 34 (in no particular order)
General Feminist Interpretations of 1st Corinthians:
- http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/jspui/bitstream/10413/3043/1/Mwaniki_Lydia_Muthoni_2011.pdf (God’s Image or Man’s Glory?: A Kenyan Postcolonial Feminst Reading of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16)