Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Horrifying Historical Parallels

I just had a revelation.

As of late, I've been reading a lot about LDS patriarchy in the bloggernacle (here, here and here).  The typical line in church is that God ordained men to be patriarchs and preside over the family.  "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."  As I was pondering this stance (and my own personal aversion to it), I realized that it sounds oddly familiar . . .

And then it hit me.

"Divine design" . . . Divine right!  Does the common wording that prescribes the "role of men" not hearken of that which poor leaders of the past used to justify their power?  I am floored.  How did I not see this before?  Historically, kings have rationalized their unrighteous dominion and assured their political legitimacy by asserting that God put them in that place of power, so they are obviously the best possible leaders.  This doctrine is known as the divine right of kings, which we all know went well for everyone (sarcasm).  Men in the LDS church (and others) use the same logic to justify the gender-defined lines of power and inequality.  Thus, my new mantra when it comes to the "divine design" of patriarchy shall be:

Divine Right=A Silly Idea

Patriarchy=Divine Right

Patriarchy=A Silly Idea

Therefore, by the mathematical law of transitive relation (if a=b, and b=c, then a=c), it is proved.  Amen.



Kevin Dolan said...

I think it's interesting that you would quote the Family Proclamation as "The typical line in church."

I mean, it's one thing to question the assumptions of the rank-and-file, which I totally dig; it's another to take the words of prophets and just say, "Well, that's stupid."

First, I don't think that line means what you're insinuating that it means; and second, they're either prophets or they aren't.

If they aren't, then stop worrying about what they have to say and go live your life the way you want to. If they are, then try to read their words from the starting assumption that they -might- know some things we don't.

Mhana said...

The problem word is, as always, preside. What the heck does preside mean? On one hand there is all this language in the church about how women and men are equal, how husbands and wives should make decisions together etc. etc. But there can be no equality if one partner is really the boss all the time, and that seems to be what presiding means. I don't think it is rejecting the prophets to question that wording. Rather it is acknowledging that there is an apparent contradiction between what we hear in General Conference about the importance of women and their equality with men in the home and in the sight of God and what the word preside suggests.

Don't let feminism ruin your testimony. It doesn't need to and it doesn't seem like it is. God loves feminists. Shame on you Kevin for suggesting that leaving the church is a good option when you have concerns. It is absolutely wrong to say that the only people who belong in the church are those who never question and never doubt. It is better to not have a testimony of the prophets and still serve in the Kingdom than to lose your testimony and reject everything else about the church as well. These are tough issues and it is perfectly okay to ask the tough questions or even say " I can't believe this part right now." We're all on a journey and it is okay to not have a testimony of absolutely everything all the time. As long as we're all still working toward understanding and closeness with God then we're on the track. I may be thousands of miles away, but I'm with you Jenna.

On another note I have a really hard time reading your blog because in places the contrast between the background and the print isn't all that high. Perhaps a different color?

Kevin Dolan said...

Questioning and doubting are fine; I just don't see any question or doubt here.

I'm not suggesting that you leave the church, or that God doesn't love feminists (give me a break)--I'm just saying that the testimony of prophets really is the linchpin of everything we stand for. We're asked to do and believe some weird stuff, and it all hinges on the notion that these men really do know what they're talking about, because they really are prophets of God. Without that principle, "...where is our religion? We have none"

Mhana said...

I understand your defensiveness, because my reply portrayed you as intolerant. However, what you said was "If they aren't, then stop worrying about what they have to say and go live your life the way you want to. If they are, then try to read their words from the starting assumption that they -might- know some things we don't." The first sentence suggests that those who question the prophet’s word do not belong in the fold. You may not have meant it that way, but it is what you said. The second sentence presents a Gospel truth – that prophets know more than we do about the mind of God – in a patronizing way that is more likely to alienate than enlighten a reader.

You say that you do not see question or doubt. Perhaps you define those words differently, or you feel that only certain kinds of questions or doubts that are okay. Indeed, you suggest that it is fine to question the practices of lay members, but not to quibble with church doctrine or leaders. There are doubtless many church members who agree with you. I, however, see a legitimate question in Jenna’s post. The way I read it, she was questioning whether a loving God truly intended one gender to be forever subordinated to the other for no clear reason at all.

To me, this is a legitimate question. The proclamation states that fathers preside over their families in love and righteousness, and that mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. Then in the next sentence it says that fathers and mothers are equal partners. How can men and women be equal partners, if one party always presides? It seems contradictory, yet both statements are from the mouths of the prophets.

I do have a testimony of the prophets and of continuing revelation, yet I don’t know how to reconcile those two statements, and I know that there are many people who feel the same way that I do. I also have a testimony that my Heavenly Parents love me every bit as much as they love my husband, or my bishop, or the prophet. I do not believe that God intends me to be a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe that right now that is the situation for a variety of reasons, many of which I do not know and perhaps could not understand if I did. I can tolerate inequality on earth primarily because I know that in the eternities there will be no such imbalance in word or in reality.

While Jenna’s post might be read as abrasive to some, her point is valid and her question is legitimate.

Jenna said...

Ouch, Kevin. It's one thing to take abuse from a random stranger, quite another from a respected friend. I'm sorry if my post offended you. It was meant a bit humorously, while still illustrating a serious inconsistency with which I've been struggling lately. I cannot reconcile the two contradictory statements Mhana cited from the family proclamation (and other sources); the consequential cognitive dissonance is driving me insane. I just can't believe in a person-respecting god. You may not read it that way, but I do. Having friends tell me I don't belong in the church doesn't help.

Mhana, you said everything I was thinking. Thanks for sticking up for me, kind bloggernacle friend! May I one day be as fine a writer as you. Also, that's two complaints about the contrast on my blog in 24 hours, so I suppose I ought to get on that. I worked on that a lot when I set up my blog, but then got discouraged and gave up. Perhaps I ought to find a different Georgia O'keefe painting.

Kevin Dolan said...

Again, I'm not suggesting you leave the Church. It was Socratic debate--an attempt to illustrate the natural conclusion of your argument so as to demonstrate the extreme danger in it. I may have misunderstood your words, though, and I obviously didn't convey in mine the love and respect that I feel, so I am very sorry.

If you are genuinely trying to reconcile the apparent cognitive dissonance, that is fantastic. That's the course we're all on, and it's a safe one. It just didn't sound like there was any realistic doubt in your mind that the prophet was wrong; and I have to reiterate, that is such a spiritually vulnerable position.

If it helps, I see the reconciliation of the contradiction in terms in Christ's definition of leadership. Those who are chosen to lead in secular settings (as in your "divine right of kings" comparison) really are favored above others; but there is no such implication in the Kingdom.

Position and power matter a great deal to us, but Christ has made it clear that they do not matter to Him. If anyone, male or female, views the Priesthood as elevating one person above another, they are seriously missing the point.

I might make the same argument in a different way--in all likelihood, I am never going to be called as a prophet of God, and certainly not a Christ--obviously those are exalted callings in the Priesthood that I have permanently missed the boat on. Am I to be eternally second-class, along with probably everybody else I've ever met? Of course not. Position is irrelevant. How we each acquit ourselves in our stewardship is all that matters, and everybody gets a penny. (Matt. 20:10-16)

Kevin Dolan said...

But whatever else I say, I want to say that I'm ashamed of myself for hurting your feelings that way. I'm very sorry.

Mhana said...

I just want to say that I am impressed at your articulate response and I agree with most of what you said. Maybe not all, but that was the whole point of our discussion, wasn't it? I also gather that I hurt your wife, and I have endeavored to apologize to her. Please do convey that I did not mean my criticism personally and I would not want this wound to fester, particularly as no personal offense was intended. If anything this has been a better argued blog exchange than most I've seen, particularly toward the end there. Not knowing anything about you personally, I judged you solely by your posts which clearly did not (at least at first) represent your true position. My response, while perhaps a little strongly worded, was justified based on the information I saw. I'm glad you elaborated further.

Joanna said...

Jenna, facebook showed me your blog, and I just thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Regarding why men have the priesthood and power positions in the Church today, I honestly have no idea. I don't think that we've been given any satisfactory reasons as to why men have the priesthood and women don't (people try to speculate, but the reasons they think of seem nice but usually don't ACTUALLY explain why things aren't equal, a topic for another day). All I know about that is that that's the way God wants it for now, I don't know why, but I really think that I will come to an understanding of why at some point in this life or the next.

As for the inequalities in the home that seem to be prescribed by the Proclamation, I think that's just bad or confusing wording. My fiance and I were talking about this before we got engaged, and we found that that line about "presiding" didn't seem to fit in with the description of how to use the priesthood responsibly found in D&C 121:41-42. I'm sure you've looked at it, but it basically says that if you can't convince someone of something using logic, love, and kindness, then you sure as heck aren't allowed to pull the priesthood card to get your way. And if both he and I have equal access to the qualities of logic, love, and kindness, then neither of us has any extra power in an argument, and neither of us holds a divinely-appointed trump card. I agree, sometimes the phrasing of that part of the Proclamation rubs me the wrong way too, and I think people start to fall into trouble when they take that one word "preside" as what they're supposed to do, instead of looking at Conference talks and scriptures about equality in marriage etc.

So...yeah, I don't have any good answers for you, but I think the "presiding in the home" language is the mismatched piece that doesn't fit with the rest of the guidance we've been given, not the other way around. It's pretty clear to me too that God couldn't be a fan of men using the priesthood as an automatic power trump, so it must be that people who use it that way are doin' it wrong. As for the big-picture institutionalized patriarchy in the Church...dang, I really just don't know but I hope to understand it someday.

Jdawg said...

I see it as such:

George Washington presided over the constitutional convention. It didn't mean he was the highest authority in the room, nor did it mean he was right no matter what; basically, all he did was make sure everyone got a fair chance and made sure there was order maintained. It's the same was with the first presidency and 12- President Monson presides, but he doesn't' get to say "well I'm the Prophet and what I say goes." Basically, util it is a 15-0 vote, they don't say anything about it publicly. President Monson makes sure order is maintained and he acts as the spokesman for the group. I would guess that is the point they are trying to get across in the proclamation. Their system was divinely set up, and they want to convey that system to all families.

Remember, we have been told in general conference as well as in D&C to find things out for our selves, and to ask questions. Seems like you're on the right path.

-A total Stranger.