Who is a woman’s Lord?

“The woman is the glory of the man; what is the glory of the woman? It is her virginity until she gives it into the hands of the man that will be her Lord and master to all eternity.”

from “The Roles of Men and Women” President Brigham Young, 8 October 1861

“Well, go on: let the good work continue. This is my prayer all the time. Are all the families of Israel and every woman striving herself to play well her part and reverence her husband as her lord ; for he is her lord. Will she ever have another ? No, never; and if she ever expects to have another, she has not learned ” Mormonism” aright. She may tear herself loose from him and attach another, but she may have a worse one: she ought to have a worse one. If she cannot learn to honour him, the next one she gets, if she is permitted to have another, ought to be a worse one. How shall women honour their husbands ? Just as we honour brother Brigham in his place, and the authorities of the Wards in their places; because upon him is laid the responsibility of that family, and he cannot get rid of it. He is in duty bound to purge them of their follies, and they are in duty bound to listen to his reproofs and honour him and pray for him, that he may be led aright.
Do the women, when they pray, remember their husbands ? Do you pray for brother Brigham ? Yes, you should always pray for him. But when you pray for him, do you pray also for your own husband, that he may have the inspiration of the Almighty to lead and govern his family as the lord ? Do you uphold your husband before God as your lord? “What! —my husband to be my lord?” I ask, Can you get into the celestial kingdom without him ? Have any of you been there ? You will remember that you never got into the celestial kingdom without the aid of your husband. If you did, it was because your husband was away, and some one had to act proxy for him. No woman will get into the celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy to have a husband ; and if not, somebody will receive her as a servant.”

From “Journal of Discourses Remarks by Elder Erastus Snow,” delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, October i, 1851

Are these quotes still accurate?


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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28 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    I think the ideas still exist in some forms especially in the temple. It is so clear that it is not from God and needs to be removed. I am always flabbergasted that tue equality seems to be do difficult for human beings to comprehend.
    But I think God wants us to become equal in the kingdom of Heaven.

    • Amen, Jessica. This is precisely the message I received in the endowment ceremony and why I have not returned since.

      I’ve heard all the apologetic responses, none are satisfying to me. This issue brings me so much pain–because this type of thinking *still* exists. Sure, we soften the language, we attempt to redefine “preside,” we perform mental gymnastics to make ourselves more comfortable–but doesn’t this suggest that there is a problem about how we speak out and treat women in the church? A problem that needs to be addressed?

      I must concede that we have come along way from the quotes above. However, the vestiges still exist and exist most prominently in the temple–the place that I was told I was suppose to receive pure light and knowledge. These vestiges were so blatant, I didn’t even need to look for them.

      I apologize if my words offend. These are simply my feelings based on my experiences. And these experiences have made me feel worthless. I cannot believe God would sanction that type of thinking that puts his daughters so below his sons.

      • Jessica says:

        I share you opinion, the issues need to be addressed and removed, in the Temple and in the Church as a whole.

      • DefyGravity says:

        I agree with you. The wording had changed, but the mentality still exists, though maybe not this blatantly, especially in the temple, where the path, wife-husband-God is set up.

      • @DefyGravity,

        And I would also submit that the meaning behind the wording (if we’re talking about a certain covenant) has not been changed dramatically, only softened. The vestiges certainly remain, as it were. Especially when substituted language connotes or is often connected to the word obedience. Also, I did find that hierarchy you mentioned to to be pretty explicit. At least in my mind.

  2. Stephanie says:

    It sounds to me like opinion based on the culture of the day, and definitely not doctrine.

  3. EmmaNadine says:

    To ask if they are still accurate would necessitate that they were accurate in the first place.

  4. Makes me wonder what the men (and women) of the past have had to re-learn now that they have passed beyond this mortality. I wonder how many times they have and will suffer through people coming to them as if what they had spoken so long ago was only spoken yesterday.

    I certainly don’t want this to sound like an excuse for what they said (and did). It was just a random thought. We just seem to sometimes place people on pedestals and in deep holes as if their opinions and attitudes were and always will be static.

    In some ways, these quotes are still representative of some attitudes, and (as had been pointed out) in some of the Temple work. It would be interesting to contrast these with the more recent statements (or at least sentiments) that the man cannot enter the Celestial glory without the woman.

    • I think the statement about a man not being about to enter Celestial glory without a woman is a bit better and demonstrates that some are more seriously considering the rhetoric we use–which is great on one hand. But when I think about good people who never marry (whether they desired marriage or not) or good people who are homosexual or good people married to non-members–statements like the one you mentioned trouble me. The issue is so complex that I’m having difficulty discussing it–I know we are told that if we can’t “achieve” the “ideal” in this life, it is somehow rectified in the next or ordinances for the dead can be done . . . but the doctrine gets a bit fuzzy here for me. I worry about single men and women, those who have non-member spouses and those who have a different sexual preference. I feel the current doctrine can be alienating to people in these situations . I just want to believe God wouldn’t bar good people from the highest glory because they weren’t able to follow the proscribed path (i.e., a heterosexual sealing) and I just want to believe God wouldn’t tear people who love each apart in the after life.

      Sorry–this is a bit of a tangent.

  5. Alisa says:

    Yes, through the temple and religion classes at BYU, I believed in my early 20’s that a husband was meant to be the woman’s lord in the Church. This is in keeping with general Christian tradition, so it’s not a uniquely Mormon idea, just one that springs from an earlier time.

    As for current LDS teachings, I think there are multiple places in the temple that this is taught or implied through physical actions (the description of what women were annoited to at the beginning of the endowment, the hearken covenant, the ritual at the veil for live couples who are going to be married, and the unreciprocal “giving” of the woman to the man at the sealing). As a person who really grooves on my relationship to Jesus, this has always disturbed me. I actually do want Jesus to be my Lord, my advocate with God, and if I can’t belong to myself, I’d rather belong to Jesus. I always told myself that if it had to be an earthy man, at least it is *my* husband (the best man I know), but that still doesn’t make it right for him to be a substitute for either my relationship with Jesus or with God. And the point is that it’s not at all reciprocal for men and their wives. Men get that relationship with Christ and God.

    In addition, this goes beyond marriage in the Church. A few women I know have been told by their Church leaders (bishops or stake presidents) that they represent God to them, and that the women need to submit to their commands, decisions, and counsel as they would to God’s. ‘Whether by my voice or the voice of my servent, it is the same.’ I think that comes from this idea that a woman doesn’t get to be Christ’s or God’s (an idea that seems to directly contradict the baptismal covenant, but I guess the temple covenants top that).

    • Jessica says:

      I share you feelings. I see huge problems with the reality that these things are perpetuated. It is just so damaging to not teach that Jesus Christ is our Lord. We don’t teach and preach of Christ in our meetings enough, and we don’t teach our children to look to Christ for their salvation. And I know that has to change, and the inequality has to be removed. For me the purpose of the church (any religion for that matter) is to facilitate the individual to know how to receive revelation and to have a personal relationship with the divine and to act on that positive relationship. And it could be done, we as a religion could lead out but we seem to doing just the opposite.

  6. Erin says:

    I’m going to go with the whole “Brigham was teaching an opinion popular in his generation thing,” and not doctrine. I’m also going to go with “the church is still functioning with this mentality because no one has thought to question this ‘doctrine'” thing. Both of those interpretations keep me focusing on the doctrine of the church and not the silly crap that covers it up. Otherwise, I’d be outta here.

  7. Kristen Says No says:

    When I was first endowed, I was able to ignore the obvious and believe that the woman-under-man situation was merely an organizational strategy (bishop under stake president under area authority, ect.), but that I still had a direct line up to God. The more I understand about the history and origins of the temple ceremony/statements by previous prophets, the less I am able to pretend that anymore. At this point, I feel horribly, depressingly disconnected from God. I feel like I have no orthodox authority to cut through the middle men and reach Him.

    Before I was endowed, my bishop counseled a couple getting married and myself (single, no mission or husband in sight), that we would be ordained priests and priestesses unto God. My heart thrilled at a new step with which to mature in my ability to serve God. Too bad he was wrong. Being a priestess unto your husband is very, very different. I am not okay with cutting God and Jesus out of my eternal picture, but that is sure what it looks like. It’s extremely demotivating.

    “…but she may have a worse one: she ought to have a worse one. If she cannot learn to honour him, the next one she gets, if she is permitted to have another, ought to be a worse one. ” I bet Brother Brigham loved the part in the D&C about destroying women. They had it coming, of course.

    Are these quotes still accurate? Absolutely. No matter how we try to pretty it up, read our new interpretations into it, or pay lip service to equality outside of the temple, this is EXACTLY what the temple still means whether we like it or not.

    Our temple beliefs feel very much like Jewish culture at Christ’s time — women aren’t really invited to participate, they are just supposed to obey their male relatives and keep popping out new males. The book, Sisters At the Well gives me hope. If Christ defied the culture of his time regarding women in so many ways, maybe He will set the church and temple straight when He comes again.

    • My feelings exactly.

    • christer1979 says:

      I really empathize with your comment that “At this point, I feel horribly, depressingly disconnected from God. I feel like I have no orthodox authority to cut through the middle men and reach Him.” I’ve felt those ramifications in ordinances and particularly depressing lessons on priesthood authority and sustaining leaders. And what if I feel so horribly about it, if it cuts against our fundamental sense of equality and right and wrong? Do we have to accept it then? I too long for the day when leaders will realize it’s not just a few women who feel alienated and even betrayed by temple ceremonies; SO MANY women of my generation (I’m 25) are shocked and reeling after. And I hope and I pray that these vestiges will finally be removed. But if we innately sense that they are indeed vestiges of a patriarchy and not directly from God, do we have to accept them? I feel almost ridiculous suggesting this, because I am a pretty TBM Mormon who wants to stay active the rest of my life. But I’m starting to realize that in order to do that with any integrity, there are a few things I no longer can verbally or mentally support (like the horrible rationalizations for the priesthood ban, or even the ban itself). I know that the idea of cafeteria Mormonism gets many orthodox folks clucking and shaking their fingers, and I’m thankful for the previous posts on the Exponent about that attitude. I’m afraid rejecting the few doctrines that strike me as wholly wrong is the only way I can survive here. And I so very much want to stay.

      • Jessica says:

        You don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true. That is my motto

      • Jessica says:

        I think the idea of authority is interesting to me. I went to a PH preview last Sunday as part of the Primary Presidency. And we really restrict the idea of authority. But Why?

  8. April says:

    So, Erastus Snow thought my husband should be my Lord because I could not get into the celestial kingdom without the aid of my husband.

    Much more recently, Pres. Packer has told us that “…whether or not we [men] are exalted depends upon the sister who is at our side–the wife, the mother of our children…”

    Does that mean I now get to be Lord over my husband?

    • DefyGravity says:

      I was thinking about that talk too. Interesting how the talk about the Celestial kingdom gets switched around, but women seem to stay in the same place in relation to their husbands. First, we need men to get us into heaven so they lord over us, then we get them into heaven which is why they have the priesthood and preside over women. Weird…

  9. Rixa says:

    Honestly, as awful as that quote is, it doesn’t bother me too much–not because I adhere to any of the ideas in it, but because it’s so clearly one person’s opinion and so clearly a product of a particular time and culture. I see it the same way I see a lot of Paul’s writings about women. In other words, I don’t give it any credence.

  10. Maryly says:

    I would hope not, but I am afraid many men and women think they are accurate. The whole thing makes me feel cheap, just an interchangeable cog in someone else’s exaltation.

  11. spunky says:

    I am with all of you, the whole quote is just… well, delusional, and I think worldly for the era. I mean really— Sheri Dew, Barbara Thompson, etc. because they are unmarried will be a sevant for eternity? What about unmarried men? Um, eternal slavery does not sound like heaven to me…. for the unmarried or the married who are supposed to treat their husbands as lords (what are we, in Shakespeare’s day or something? That is all I can think of when I read this– Taming of the Shrew!)

  12. YvonneS says:

    “I mean really— Sheri Dew, Barbara Thompson, etc. because they are unmarried will be a sevant for eternity?”

    They might be ministering angels but they won’t have a husband to be subjected too They will be directly subject only to themselves and to Deity. If one doesn’t like the prospect of being subordinate to a man being single might be a good thing. After all the two women you mention have fared very well on their own in this life.

    • amelia says:

      Seems a rather ugly sophie’s choice:

      1. Choose yourself and autonomy that is only subject to actual deity rather than a man by choosing to remain single for your entire life; give up the intimacy and companionship that can be found in a marriage partnership.

      2. Choose a marriage partnership with its intimacy and companionship, but in the process subject yourself eternally to a man and rob yourself of autonomy and equality.

      No thanks. I realize that there are people for whom a single life is an actual choice, not simply an accident of circumstances in spite of a desire to find a life partner. But most of the people I know who remain single for much of their adulthood actually do want the intimacy, refuge, and strength that can be found in a partnership. I know I do. But I don’t think one should have to choose between one’s own autonomy and value on the one hand, and one’s opportunity for intimacy and partnership on the other.

      More importantly, I think any conception of God and truth that would require women to make such a choice–retain her own individual identity and value as an equal but only by giving up all opportunity for partnership, or choose partnership but give up her own individual identity–is a false one.

      Also, this is an argument that has been made for centuries. Mary Astell made a similar argument 300 years ago. That when a woman chooses marriage she necessarily chooses submission, so the only alternative that would preserve her autonomy would be to consciously choose lifelong singlehood in a community of religiously devoted women. It’s kind of sad that in the 21st century we find ourselves making the same kinds of arguments that were made at a point in our history when women were so much more clearly less than men. Rather telling.

  13. ambivalentmo says:

    Thank you for this post. Finally someone actually gives a straight answer, a prophet of our church, no less. And THIS is why, among many other reasons,{Joseph Smiths predatory sexual habits and obvious narcissism, etc), that I am resigning from the lds church after 40 years. The heavenly father and jesus christ I worship loves all of his children equally, PERIOD.

  14. Annie B. says:

    I honestly subscribed to this idea at the time that I first went through the temple and married in the temple. At that time, when I expressed to my husband that I was glad that he was now my steward (so to speak) instead of my dad being in charge of me, he was like “what?”. So obviously he didn’t subscribe to the idea even though he seemed fine with the temple ceremonies.

  15. Janna says:

    The part that upsets me the most is, “…if she is worthy to have a husband.”

    Oh, the heartache that still abides in me because of this language that is still spoken in the Mormon church.


    Never married and 40 years old

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