The Times They Are A-Changin'


by mraynes

I’ll be honest, sometimes I come home from church half-way resolved to never go back.  (I say half-way because who am I kidding, I will stubbornly continue to go week after week, dragging my family behind me.)

A couple of Sundays ago was one of those Sundays.  I woke up late, only to find that mr. mraynes had gone to do a last minute rehearsal with the special musical number.  That left me with two babies to get ready for church by myself.  When we got to church (late), we had to sit on the metal folding chairs in the cultural hall which, was bad news because Baby Monster thinks that the sole purpose of a metal folding chair is to bang on it as loud as he possibly can.  When told to stop his admittedly impressive percussive performance, Baby Monster threw a series of fits, necessitating three time-outs.  As I was dealing with Monster Madness, mr. mraynes desperately passed off Baby Valkyrie to some random man on his way to play the piano for the aforementioned musical number.  After the music, mr. mraynes and I switched babies and I headed off to the Mother’s Lounge to feed the famished Valkyrie.  After feeding Baby Valkyrie for five minutes, she decided that she really wasn’t hungry after all and spit up all over her pretty red dress.  I made it back to our folding chairs in time to take Baby Monster to nursery which, thankfully, he was happy to go to.

As I sank into a seat next to mr. mraynes in Sunday School and breathed a sigh of relief, the Stake President got up and announced that our lesson would be “how to teach our children to appreciate traditional marriage.”

My reaction can be summed up like this:


Most of you can probably guess what was said so I’m not going to rehash it here.  Suffice it to say, as I was sitting there shaking my head in amazement that those words could be spoken in public almost a decade into the 21st century, I had an epiphany.

They are scared!

This is something I had never considered before.  I had always been caught up in their claim to authority and the execution of that power.  It had never crossed my mind that the leaders of our church have a vested interest in maintaining their power and there is a very real fear that they are loosing grip on their way of life.

I’m sure I am not the only one who has noticed a stronger focus on traditional lifestyles recently.  Many Mormons, whether liberal or conservative, have questioned why things like “Mother’s Who Know” or our involvement in Prop 8/Prop 102 was necessary.  What have we gained from them?  Many of us have seen these forays into social morality hypocritical at worst, useless at best.  I think that even the General Authorities would admit that these have been Pyrrhic victories.  In the end, the sacrifices of time, money, reputation will be useless; women will continue to leave the domestic sphere and gays will eventually get the right to marry.  The slow march of progress is unstoppable.

So the question remains, why?  And the answer is…because they are scared.

The neo-traditional mindset of the correlated church is slowly dying.  With every passing of a member of the Greatest Generation, the strangle-hold of “Father Knows Best” patriarchy loosens.  And so it should surprise no one that we are seeing one last push for patriarchy.

The General Authorities are right, we are on the cusp of great social changes and those changes do have implications for the morality of our people.  I can understand why our leaders fear these changes; it is always disconcerting to see an old way of life disappear.  But if we are to have faith in God then we have to believe that God will provide a way for us to be moral when the social landscape around us changes.

And there are plenty of examples where God has done this.  Somehow we have managed to stay strong in our faith without destroying every man, woman and child who disagrees with us.  As far as I know, we don’t make animal sacrifices outside our temples.  The fact that Joseph Smith re-imagined the God of the Nicene Creed to that of an anthropomorphic being hasn’t deterred any Mormon I know.  The priesthood didn’t cease to exist in 1978 when the ban on black members was lifted.

My point in citing these examples is that it is hubris to believe that God is fully represented by our present morality.  Truth is always larger than our partial vision of the present.  We don’t kill people who disagree with us because we now believe that murder and genocide are wrong and that human life is sacred.  We don’t withhold the gifts of God from black members of the church because we now believe that God is no respecter of persons.  God “changed” because we changed.  We are now in a time of transition and our view of God’s plan will change again.  The time is coming when that change, too, will have to be embraced.

“Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.  If your time to you is worth savin, then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone …For the times they are a-changin.”


Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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  1. Douglas Hunter says:

    “They are scared!”

    Yep. For the reasons you mention and others. But if there was doubt concerning fear prior to Prop 8, that event brought the fear forward in a public and suprisingly straight forward way.

    Last week I was asked “what are they afraid of?” by a member of the LA Mayor’s office who was asking about the church. I gave a weak attempt at a pragmatic answer, but in further reflection I am starting to see the full theological significance of that question.

    I’m less sure than you are that the neo-traditional mindset is dying. If it is, it’s still very strong and won’t go without a fight. It’s not just a matter of attrition. Here in Pasadena there are younger members of the church who are strong advocates for the neo-traditional orthodoxy. What is more its an orthodoxy that has its roots, not in the early church, but in the church of the mid 20th century. it’s a BRM strong man kind of orthodoxy, don’t you think?

    Just for some perspective, I have a friend who was a feminist in the church in the 1970’s and she describes the feminists in the church today as pretty tame in comparison. My instinct says that if the old orthodoxy is dying then we should also see examples of strong voices from different perspectives, an expanding notion of community and more dialogue rather than monologue. Perhaps my instinct is wrong in that regard, but if the other voices are out there in a culturally significant way why are they so tame (according to my friend) OR where can I find them, what am I missing?

    Of course my most honest hope is that you are spot on in your assessment.

  2. Readin'atWork says:

    This post was amazing, well thought and blew my freaking mind. I have been feeling this same way for a number of years, but could not fully grasp, or encapsulate my feelings. Immediately after reading this post I audibly said WOW.

  3. Emily says:

    That was brilliant.

    I hope you’re right that neo-traditionalism is on its way out, I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

  4. Mr. mraynes says:


    I think you are right; the old guard has managed to convince many younger folk and their views and ways will not fade without a fight. But as I considered the people my age in our ward, I realized most of them don’t really buy into this completely. Their views are highly malleable depending on who leads at any given time, and even then their fervor has limits. And as younger leaders filter into positions throughout the church, the neo-traditional messages will fade slowly out of the limelight. Sure, there will always be a McConkie or two in major positions of leadership, but we will have far more forward-thinking moderates as time passes.

    I think one of the points of this post is that yesterday’s radicalism is today’s conservatism. Maybe that is partly why today’s feminists seem more tame–perhaps they are more mainstream? I think so, relatively speaking.

  5. mraynes says:

    I am so grateful for the kind comments; I have to admit that I always have a feeling of dread in reading those first couple of comments for fear that people are going to hate what I wrote. Hopefully comments like yours wilil make my skin a little thicker.

    Emily & Readin’atWork: I echo your hope that neo-traditionalism is on its way out. Right now I am working on the optimistic theory that believing is seeing. If we believe that things will change, then eventually they will, if only because we are the force behind those changes. Of course, this will only work if there are enough people like you and me who believe…hopefully we’ll get there one day. Thanks for your kind words.

    Douglas: I appreciate so much your thoughtful comment. I absolutely agree with you that neo-traditionalism will not go down without a fight and I think the fight has only just begun. It is going to be a long and painful battle; I’m sure we can expect things to get much worse before they get better. There will be more forays into social and political issues. There will probably be more talks about traditional marriage and a returned focus on presiding/patriarchy. Those of us with a more liberal persuasion should gear ourselves up for some rough roads ahead. As for your question about Mormon feminists, you might want to check this article out(sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to link):

    Once again, thanks for all the comments.

  6. mraynes says:

    Hah, it linked for me…how ingenious!

  7. Caroline says:

    mraynes, awesome post. Loved this, “it is hubris to believe that God is fully represented by our present morality. Truth is always larger than our partial vision of the present.” So true.

    I also am very hopeful about this: “We are now in a time of transition and our view of God’s plan will change again. The time is coming when that change, too, will have to be embraced.” I think you’re right, but I do worry about how long it will take. When the people who rise to power in the church do so by being yes men and supporting the status quo, I’m afraid change will be a long time coming.

  8. Jessawhy says:

    Fabulous post, M.
    This theme dovetails nicely with my book group read for the month, Strangers in Paradox (which I love!)
    Here’s a quote from the footnotes on page 18:
    “Jacob Katz in an article about tradition and change in Jewish communnities argues that there is ‘no society that does not change.’ The difference between a traditional society and a modern society is not change, since that is inevitable; rather traditional societies do not “aspire” to change and like to think of themselves as static, whereas modern societies do aspire to change and see themselves as progressive.”

    I definitely think Mormons fall in the “traditional” society category.

  9. Jessawhy says:

    Sorry for the duplicate, but I commented before I read the comments.
    I want to echo Douglas’ comment about the younger generation stronghold on traditional values (BRM-style).
    One of my good friends in the ward actually refered to herself as an “anti-feminist.” (yes, I was too shocked to respond)
    But upon further discussion, she really holds onto the party line: women at home raising kids, men in the workplace. . . Women shouldn’t seek for power, look where it has gotten men . . .The 1950’s family model is straight from God, so “feminists get thee hence!” essentially.
    She sees pressure to change the hierarchical/patriarchal structure as an affront to God’s will. I don’t think that kind of attitude will fade quickly, especially not as I am seeing it in my peers.
    Perhaps one way of judging that this attitude is on it’s way out of or into vogue is to spend more time at more conservative LDS women’s blogs (Segullah?) and see how they are responding to the same issues we discuss here.

  10. Seabass says:

    Excellent post–loved it. And I hope that what you’re describing happens and all the optimism is well-founded. I tend to agree with Caroline though: the church will change very, very(and painfully) slowly because the present leaders select the future leaders. And they will select leaders that agree with them. Plus, as long as there are women see themselves as benefiting from the patriarchy, you will always have plenty of women of the variety Jessawhy described, ready to teach the next generation.

  11. Margaret says:

    I think the issue of church leaders being picked because they tow the party line is more of an issue in the higher levels of church hierarchy and in areas with a high concentration of Mormons. In my ward in Maryland, if you’re willing to serve, you will be called into the ward and stake leadership, almost regardless of your personal views. I wonder if the growth of a “global” church (I say that hesitantly since as yet I think we’re just pretending to be global), resulting in small wards that barely sustain themselves, encourages leaders to have an open-tent policy that forces diversity in the leadership. We’re not there yet with the highest levels of leadership but the younger generation is headed that way.

  12. sarah says:

    I have been avoiding ExII for a few months (as well as all Mormon-related stuff) but this is beautiful. Of course they’re scared. And of course they’ll do anything to preserve their sense of power. And of course there are members of the younger generation who are fighting for it, in the anticipation of their own future power. I, too, hope these times really are changing.

  13. EmilyCC says:

    Love this post! And, I echo your optimism.

    I agree the GA’s are scared as things change, and I wonder if this “last push for patriarchy” is an older generation’s misguided attempt to blame feminism, gays’ rights, etc. on problems like pornography or the lack of cohesion in communities.

  14. Kiri Close says:

    CHANGE: bring it.

  15. Dave says:

    Of course they are scared. But they aren’t scared of losing any “power”. They are scared of losing souls.

    “Power” as defined by this article is a joke. They don’t care about Power. They care about people.

  16. Douglas Hunter says:

    On another point I think that in addition to the emphasis on changes taking place in the leadership we also need to work on changes in the Laity. Now is probably a good time for progressive Mormons to have more dialogue, and to speak publicly as such. Largely this is taking place on the web with Exponent II as a excellent case in point. While this is really positive don’t these websites function as islands and less like communities? (this is f a question not an assertion.)

    While we are addressing this issue I would love for someone from Exponent II to contact me off list, to discuss this further. Various people are floating a few different ideas, if EII folks aren’t already part of a discussion I would like to loop you in.

    Also I have a friend who is a priest at All Saints here in Pasadena, which is one of the most liberal churches in the US (its also growing and thriving and a great place). When I asked her about how institutional changes occurred in the Episcopal church she tied them directly to the empowerment of the laity.

  17. mb says:

    You wrote;
    “My point in citing these examples is that it is hubris to believe that God is fully represented by our present morality.”

    I agree that it is erroneous to believe that God is fully represented in current conventional thinking. We have always, in every era, seen “through a glass darkly”. And God has been ever-patient with his children as they muddle through that challenge.

    But it is also hubris to label someone with whom you disagree as “afraid” or “scared”.

    Be careful that you do not fall into your own version of what you point out as a failing in others.

  18. Censored says:

    Since you seem to want to censor my other posts I don’t imagine saying anything will matter here but I’ll do it anyway.

    Of course they are scared. But not of losing “power”. They are afraid of losing souls. If you genuinely think Church leaders are yearning for “power” you are up in the night. There are alot of other places that men that successful could obtain much more power if that is what they were searching for.

  19. mraynes says:

    Censored, your comment got caught in our spam. I have released it.

  20. Ziff says:

    I hope you’re right, mraynes, about the direction of change. I think you (and several others) make a good point about change being very slow at the top when one generation of leaders chooses the next. Especially given that people tend to drift toward conservatism as they get older, when men are chosen for their conservatism when they’re (relatively) younger, I guess it’s no surprise that the Church tends to be a really conservative institution.

  21. G says:

    brilliant mraynes.

  22. Bree says:

    MRaynes, I loved this post. It makes me feel so hopeful.

  23. Jacob says:

    Am I to understand that you believe Joseph Smith made up the whole first vision? You are calling it a fact that he “re-imagined the God of the Nicene Creed.” Does this mean you accept the Nicene Creed as true? Even though it came about by a big fight and then a vote, almost like our congress, instead of direct revelation from God to His prophet, like He has always done things.
    If that’s how you feel then ok, just wasn’t sure.

    As for your other comments on fear. When does a member of the church call being
    prompted by the spirit an epiphany? Thats how people that spend too much time in
    liberal arts department call it. Sorry, couldn’t help it. Anyway,
    If you feel that you received revelation or inspiration, for not just your stake president,but for all the leaders of the church. This would also include the former President Hinckley. I include him because of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” document that was first presented to the relief society in 1995.

    So, if you believe you somehow have stewardship over the entire
    leadership, to be able to know why they all do what they do, you might want to reconsider that epiphany.
    Knowing what I know about President Hinckley and President Monson, I would never say they did anything
    for any other motive other than a pure love of the Savior and love for all God’s children. Especially President Monson, he has only tried to do what Heavenly Father wanted him to do. They, “seek not for power, but to pull it down.” That power that binds, the one that oh so slowly finds its way into the hearts of men.

    One more thing. Your whole premise is faulty. You make a blanket statement that can’t possibly be proven true.
    If there is one person that does not fear, how can you say they all are afraid. I know you did not receive revelation for me and the reason for my beliefs. I’m sorry, you just don’t have that authority for that.

    This is all the time I have right now. I must get back to preparing my lesson on the “Bitter Fruits of Apostasy.” I was actually trying to find out what lesson was for Sunday and I stumbled
    onto this website.

  24. lucysophia says:

    WOW – you’ve verbalized what I’ve been feeling for quite a while. I’m in my mid-50’s, lifelong member, divorced from temple marr. remarried to non member. I SO don’t fit into any of the boxes at church and question (to myself) many things I used to believe.Know what I think needs to happen? We need to know about Heavenly Mother!!! If there ever was a time women need clear and strong and diverse role models, it is NOW!!! We have zillions of male role models, but where are the women, who are intelligent, ceative and strong? I live for the day that we teach of Her, talk of Her, and know Her.

    Another subject – I was very disillusioned w/the church when it came out after the Prop. 8 elections, that the church made a statement that it was OK w/ legal civil unions, just not gay marriage. I saw that as hypocritical, especially to wait until AFTERWARDS! Why didn’t the church say so at first? So LDS people would get all worked up and do the bidding of the (scared) higher-up? I don’t know – seemed strange to me. Glad I don’t live in CA – would have been a fence sitter I suppose.

  25. Douglas Hunter says:

    Something that is interesting to me is that in response to any discussion on ExII or other websites that address change or beliefs that are not right out of the sunday school manual; there are always those who respond to suggest that there is only one way to believe, that there is only one proper structure of thought and faith in the church and the faith of those who fall outside that singularity is suspect. Is there a positive way to engage in discussion with those people, or is their constant questioning of our faith as a first step a hurdle that is too high? I wonder what those individuals are afraid of and how to present different forms of Mormon faith as non-threatening.

  26. mraynes says:

    I appreciate the continued discussion on this post. I’m glad that so many of you have enjoyed it and that many of you are on the same page I am. I share some of your concern that the church is headed in a more conservative direction and that change will be a long time coming…but I do think it is coming. Change is inevitable and I really hope that at least my children get to see it.

    To those of you who did not like the post so much, trust me, I take your concerns seriously. In writing this post, I asked myself if I was letting my pride cloud my opinion…I don’t think I am. I went back and looked at some of the talks the GA’s have given in the recent past and they themselves acknowledge that things are changing and they don’t like it. They may not explicitly say they are afraid, but fear of the changes they see are implicit in their words. Here are a few examples:,4945,538-1-3100-1,00.html,5232,23-1-947-28,00.html,4945,161-1-11-1,00.html

    If they weren’t afraid, they wouldn’t bother warning us about the changes they see.

    I in no way think that my epiphany…I mean revelation, I don’t want to get too liberal artsey on you 🙂 (bytheway, I do believe in the First Vision, “re-imagined” is just another one of those liberal arts words)…stands for the entire church. It is a realization that brought me peace, that actually made me feel more solidarity with our leaders because I know they have just as much concern for our church as I do. So I’m sorry if my words bothered you but I will not apologize for my genuine desire to see the church be the best it can be.

  27. mb says:

    I think the knee-jerk fear response can be found in the responses of people on both sides of the aisle. Neither the “right out of the Sunday school manual” nor the “different forms of faith” people, as you refer to them are, as a whole, free from this challenge. I find it on both sides. Though of course, it’s always easier to spot it on the side I’m not on. 🙂

    My experience is that, though I cannot guarantee that whenever I express an opinion or an idea it will not be seen as a threat, I can reduce the likelihood that it will be if I thoughtfully express myself with meekness, gentleness, unfeigned love, kindness, clarity and patience.

    And, also, when I get that knee jerk response, LISTEN with meekness, kindness, attention, validation of truth, and patience.

    There will always be some, on both sides, who are too plagued by anxiety or worry or anger or indignation to be touched by that. But the majority will respond with less fear to it.

    Some people dislike the notion of meekness, thinking it is a weakness that undermines feminism or egalitarianism, but Jesus said “meek” and he also said “peacemaker and “gentleness” and “patience”, and I am a follower of Jesus first. My other identities are second. And my experience is that, though it flies in the face of current, 21st century notions of what a “strong woman” does, there is tremendous power to tear down walls in when those principles are engaged.

  28. For the record says:


    Your comment about meekness is dead on…but your previous comment did not really carry the spirit you espouse as a disciple of Christ. To me, it seems like your tone was fairly superior and even condescending. “Be careful not to fall into [such and such a trap…].”

    Isn’t the main point here not to denegrate the leadership of the Church but to propose that changes are inevitable and that the Church will eventually adapt to the needs of each cultural period? It has happened before and it will happen again, despite the resistance of any leader.

  29. mb says:

    For the Record,
    I apologize if my earlier post sounded superior or condescending. It was certainly unintentional and I did not mean it to be so.

    That is one of the problems with typed comments. Tone of voice gets lost and it is easy to read what is meant as a friendly caution as, instead, a serious put-down.

    I appreciate mraynes’ thoughts and would never consciously deprecate her, even if I didn’t agree with her.

  30. Roger says:


    To you I say Thank you!

    My dispair was growing as I read the posts. This site is becoming less and less helpful to me as I turn to community to help me navigate in this troubled world and more and more just a fourm for Church bashing and hate. The leaders I have had the priviledge to know and serve with were as far from power grubbing as one could possibly imagine. And scared? No. Worthy members are the least scared folks you’ll ever meet!

    Sure folks, times are changing. Now, more than ever, is the time for a lode star in our lives. God has told us he is unchanging and that His laws are for our eternal happiness. I believe Him.

  31. Douglas Hunter says:


    I tend to disagree. But we were talking about different things. I was not necessarily talking about knee-jerk responses. I mentioned a specific response that is fairly common and comes from a particular type of person. This being the questioning of another’s faith as the first response, I think this is more of a way to try and stop a discussion before it starts or to try to discredit points of view that one finds threatening. If there is a parallel response from the other side, I’m not sure what it is.

  32. Caroline says:

    Don’t despair, Roger. Be happy that there are a multiplicity of voices within the church. We’d all be a lot poorer if everyone in the church approached religion and progress in the same exact way.

  33. mb says:


    Interesting question. From the other side perhaps it is an instant decision that the conventional thinker cannot possibly be motivated by compassion.

    So perhaps as the first accuses the second of lack of faith, the second accuses the first of lack of love.

    Certainly most people on the less conventional side of things don’t think or respond that way, just as most conventional thinkers don’t immediately respond by questioning another’s faith. I think we both understand that we’re only talking about the few that make dialogue difficult.

    Nicely said.

  34. Roger says:


    You can call it whatever you want. It is clear to me where some of these voices are coming from, and it is not the Spirit of God.

  35. Caroline says:

    That’s the beauty of the spirit, Roger. It works with all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. Ideas about progress and change can be profoundly spiritual, inspiring, and give peace to some. To others those same ideas will be frightening and leave a bad taste in their mouths. I think it’s wonderful that the spirit moves in so many different ways and finds ways to appeal differently to people’s intellects, emotions, etc. I felt the spirit when I read this post. You didn’t. That’s ok – people are different.

  36. mraynes says:

    Thank you, Caroline. That means a lot.

  37. Matt Thurston says:

    In general, wouldn’t you say that “fear” is an almost ubiquitous ingredient that exists when any group (especially conservative religious groups, maybe?) are faced with the threat of change?

    What is branded “sinful” and feared by one generation is branded “holy” by the next. Mormon History is replete with many such examples.

  38. G says:

    this is going to sound so random…. but I am so glad we have comment notification now: I have been LOVING the ability to follow the comments on this thread.

    (and again: Brilliant post Mraynes)

  39. Michelle says:

    First of all, it is really good to read comments from women who believe themselves to be Mormon feminists and yet don’t just talk about how hot President Uchtdorf is-lots or weird threads out there!
    Anyway, this has been a hard subject for me for a long time, a lot of my favorite family members are gay and I have always believed in gay rights, basically I believe in anybody’s rights. But I have to be honest, I don’t see the fear.
    I think there will be eventual repercussions-for instance, the Swedish minister who was arrested for his sermon against gay marriage, Catholic adoption agencies closing down in Massachusetts because they were forced to do so or allow homosexuals to adopt which was against there beliefs. I believe the brethren see religious beliefs being relegated and stifled through this issue.
    It was not that long ago when my Grandfather was followed home by suspicious kkk members, when a branch wasn’t allowed to purchase a piano in an unfriendly town, etc. Hatred blooms so quickly, and i can see it becoming like it was and more so.
    But the fear, I don’t think so. I think they know the laws will eventually change, but they have to follow their inspiration no matter how unpopular it may make them and-us. And I believe they are inspired, even though I wish this law was not an issue for us.
    I hope we can be respectful of each other, have unity despite not seeing things all the same way. I wish people would not boycott anyone who does not believe the same as they do-and that goes for both sides.

  40. Mr. mraynes says:

    Many comments have said (more or less) “there is no way our leaders are scared!” Okay, okay. So they are far too faithful to be fearful. But let’s not focus on semantics. Certainly all can agree the brethren are concerned–gravely so–about these issues. If that weren’t the case, we would be receiving sermons on pure doctrine (like the principles and ordinances of the Gospel) rather than “how to honor the traditional family.”

    I would certainly agree with some that this is less about power than maintaining the status quo. But some parts of the status quo are already dead, and it is only a matter of time before Mormon culture accepts it–despite their resistance!

    Mraynes resisted putting some of the specifics of the lesson in this post, but let me share a few:

    1. Women who have careers are too independent and therefore resist marriage or struggle to maintain a successful marraige.

    My response: If it isn’t a problem for a professional man, why a professional woman? We need to encourage couples to find the proper balance that will work for their situation–not try to force a single formula on everyone.

    2. Too much education is a barrier to marital interdependence.

    My response: More education normally will lead to better understanding of one’s self and others. This results in stronger relationships and better marriages.

    3. Postponing marriage leads to divorce.

    My response: The longer the courtship, the better the prospective spouses know one another and know what they are getting into.

    These ideas are on the way out. Some of us may still buy them wholesale, but I doubt a majority do.

    My last point: these issues are not central to the plan of salvation. Sure, marriage itself is absolutely critical, but the doctrine is that of the union of man and woman–not of how that couple runs their household.

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