Dialogue has played an important role in Mormon women’s history, including marking the birthplace of modern Mormon feminism in 1971, and continuing to be a hub for groundbreaking work on women’s history, feminist theology, and cultural analysis of gender in the LDS tradition. There are at least eight issues dedicated to this topic from 1971 to 2019, in addition to many standalone articles. Find these below.
Dialogue Topic Podcasts: Feminism
Dialogue co-founder and co-editor Eugene England was based at Stanford in California, but he visited Cambridge, MA, in 1970. Claudia Bushman remembers walking with England and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on the Harvard campus one evening and pausing near the Widener Library: “I just blurted out that there should be a women’s issue of Dialogue and that we had a group who could put it together.” According to Bushman, England liked the idea: “I expected more of a hard sell,” she recalled, “but he just immediately agreed and said to go ahead with it.” The result was the now famous “Pink Issue” of Dialogue. It was edited, illustrated, and written by that group of women in Boston. It marks the official beginnings of modern Mormon feminism. Devery Anderson has written: “The pink issue was the first public sign that a feminist movement within modern Mormonism had been born.” The editors of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, Joanna Brooks, Rachel Steenblick, Hannah Wheelwright, wrote, “The ‘Pink Issue’ of Dialogue, as it would later be known, struck a warm, frank, and bold note to mark the beginning of a new era in Mormon women’s history”
The Winter 1981 Issue is the ten-year anniversary of “Pink Issue”. Sometimes called the “Red Issue,” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Claudia Bushman return. In the intervening ten years, both finished PhDs with six children and became professors. Feminism continued to transform society and rip at the church over the last decade. In the Red Issue, there is an attempt to reset after the tumultuous decade by declaring what a Mormon feminist is: “A feminist is a person who believes in equality between the sexes, who recognizes discrimination against women and who is willing to work to overcome it. A Mormon feminist believes that these principles are compatible not only with the gospel of Jesus Christ but with the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “ This Winter 1981 Issue was more than just a nice retrospective. It also set out a bold new agenda after ten years of feminist thought. The next generation wanted to talk about even more substantive issues. And right here in Dialogue, forty years ago, Mormon feminists broke another taboo—raising the question of women and the priesthood for the first time in print.
Summer 1994 brough another special issue on women’s topics. In it, Janice Allread published her foundational piece on Heavenly Mother, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother.” History still needed (and still needs) to be expanded in Martha Sonntag Bradley’s “Seizing Sacred Space,” Women’s Engagement in Early Mormonism and David Hall’s “Anxiously Engaged: Amy Brown Lyman and Relief Society Charity Work, 1917-45”, which informed his later full-length biography of Lyman, an indispensable work of what women’s authority in the church was like before correlation.
In the Fall 2003 Issue we get another full issue on women’s issues. It was exactly a decade after the September Six, as well as after more excommunications, like Janice Allred’s later that decade. This issue hints at the continuation of old questions, as well as starting to take the question in new directions. There are contributions from more than twenty scholars on three topics: Women and the Priesthood; Women and Missions; and Sexuality and the Women’s Movement in Mormonism. Some of my good friends have articles in this issue, which came out just as I was finishing my masters degree. There are also essays from others assessing what had happened to the movement, including a discussion of Lavina Fielding Anderson’s excommunication. Claudia Bushman also offers a key essay on the origins of Exponent II and the early days of Mormon feminism in Boston. The turn to sexuality I think marks an especially interesting development. Melissa Proctor’s “Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control” is still one of the most important articles on this topic. In it, Proctor studies the messages sent to women, officially and unofficially, by the Church and how those messages were received. For those interested in the women in the priesthood question, this issue provides important milestones for that conversation. In the panel, Dialogue published Todd Compton’s “‘Kingdom of Priests’: Priesthood, Temple, and Women in the Old Testament and in the Restoration,” William D. Russell’s “Ordaining Women and the Transformation from Sect to Denomination,” and Barbara Higdon’s “Present at the Beginning: One Woman’s Journey.” Looking at the history and contemporary conceptions of priesthood, the panel gave new looks at women and the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bushman’s 2003 essay on the history of Exponent II set the stage for really telling the history of modern Mormon feminism. Forty years after that conversation in Harvard Yard, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published “Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism.” This article is really crucial because it retells LDS feminist history that had often seen LDS women as reacting to feminist thought, or being influenced by it, but Ulrich shows that Mormon women were co-creating feminist approaches to religion. She writes, “Mormon women weren’t passive recipients of the new feminism. We helped to create it. Constructing a timeline of key events reinforced the point. In 1972, the year Rosemary Radford Ruether introduced feminist theology at the Harvard Divinity School, Mormon feminists were teaching women’s history at the LDS Institute of Religion in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” It also offers a fuller and more contextualized history of early Mormon feminist groups, and some reflection on early Mormon feminist interaction with Dialogue. Mormon women were passive actors, but leaders and co-creators of religious feminism.
Winter 2014: For an excellent roundtable discussion, check out “Three Meditations on Women and the Priesthood” (Winter 2014): C.J. Kendrick, Rosalynde Welch, Ashmae Hoiland. And a year before her and co-editors put out Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, Joanna Brooks published “Mormon Feminism: The Next Forty Years” (Winter 2014). Brooks talks about the period from 1970s Mormon feminism in Boston to the present and imagines what needs to be part of the future. She identifies five areas for Mormon feminism: theology, institutions, racial inclusion, financial independence, and spiritual independence.
The Spring 2019 Issue carefully considers the temple as women discuss recent changes in beautiful and profound ways. Includes Kathryn Knight Sonntag discussing “The Mother Tree: Understanding the Spiritual Root” and Jody England Hansen considering “Women and the Temple.” It also presents a special interview with Maxine Hanks. This issue also includes nine poets such as Rachel Steenblik, Mette Harrison, Linda Kimball, and Teresa Wellborn.
Spring 2020: In this issue, guest-edited by Exponent II, we asked women to write about claiming power. We hoped that writers would think creatively about the idea of power, including traditional forms of authority in an organizational hierarchy but also going beyond this sometimes-limiting definition. We wanted women to examine their engagement of power within their families, wards, workplaces, and selves. We were interested in the way Mormon women are using their power to empower other marginalized groups. Includes pieces by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Claudia Bushman, Amanda Hendrix-Komoto and many more.
She Simply Wanted More: Mormon Women and Excommunication
Dialogue 56.3 (Fall 2023): 109–123
As an adult, I learned that 1993 represented a kind of death for members of the Mormon studies community. Since the 1970s, Latter-day Saint women had been challenging the limited role the Church provided for female spirituality.
In September 1993, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated several scholars who had challenged the Church’s positions on gender, sexuality, and the family. In her 1992 book Women and Authority, for example, Maxine Hanks had argued that the refusal to grant authority to Mormon women created a church that denied female spiritual power and expected women to find meaning in a male god with a “male body.” She believed that women would experience the recognition of female spiritual power not as “something new” but as “a loosening of bonds” that would allow them “to use something they had always had.” It would be “a spiritual liberation.” D. Michael Quinn, another excommunicated member, had written an article demonstrating that the practice of polygamy within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had not ended with the Second Manifesto. Lavina Fielding Anderson had spent hundreds of hours compiling examples of Latter-day Saint leaders using their ecclesiastical power to intimidate intellectuals into silence.
Like many scholars of my generation, I had no idea that these excommunications happened or how important they would become. My mother had just decided that I was old enough to stay home alone, and I reveled in my freedom. I spent much of my time after school watching Murphy Brown and Ghostwriter. I was obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Rufio from Hook. My life, of course, was not perfect. The year 1993 was also a time of mourning for my family. My uncle Christopher died in November of that year at the age of seventeen. My great-grandfather died less than a week later. Although he was ninety-four, his death hurt just as much as Christopher’s. My great-grandfather was one of the few people who seemed to understand me. He complimented my drawing skills, told me that I had a beautiful singing voice, and encouraged my love of reading.
As an adult, I learned that 1993 represented a kind of death for members of the Mormon studies community. Since the 1970s, Latter-day Saint women had been challenging the limited role the Church provided for female spirituality. The excommunication of Sonia Johnson, an outspoken ERA supporter, was the Church’s response to the challenges the feminist movement offered the Church in the 1970s and 1980s. According to poet and former Dialogue editor Mary Bradford, Johnson became “a folk figure of sorts”—“a litmus test of loyalty on the one hand and a symbol of revolution on the other.” She claimed that Johnson was “almost as ubiquitous as the Three Nephites.” In 1995, the Church responded to the expansive theology of feminists like Maxine Hanks and Margaret Toscano with “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It reiterated the Church’s fundamental belief that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and that gender roles are eternal.
As time passed, the September Six became a symbol of the numerous ways in which the Church disciplines Latter-day Saint intellectuals. Kristine Haglund has written that “the ugliness of the 1990s” meant it was “never again . . . possible for an earnest Mormon with academic ambitions and liberal political inclinations to believe that her religion, her scholarship, and her activism belong integrally to Mormonism.” Although Haglund was writing specifically about the literary scholar Eugene England, many people regarded the September Six with a similar sense of loss. Their disciplining caused an entire generation of Latter-day Saint scholars to pause before writing. Although I was only a child when they occurred, the disciplinary hearings shaped my own experience as a Mormon historian. This essay is my attempt to reckon with the legacy of the Church’s decision—both in my own life and for the field of Mormon studies as a whole.
As with many scholars of Mormonism, for me, Mormon history is family history. I was born into an interfaith family. My father was a seventh-generation Latter-day Saint whose ancestors had converted in upstate New York before moving with the Saints to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and finally, Utah and Idaho. My mother’s family, on the other hand, combined Catholicism with folk belief in the fae. Her grandmother held meetings of the Portneuf Community Club in her home. Members read tea leaves and performed “spiritual work.”
According to my mother, my father left the Church long before it instigated disciplinary measures against the September Six. He had served as president of his high school seminary in the late 1970s but lost his faith after the death of his newborn child in 1981. Family members describe him flitting between atheism, a kind of reconstructed Mormonism, and general Protestantism for much of their marriage. By the time I was born in 1983, he no longer felt the need to bless his children in an LDS ceremony or raise them within the Church. He and my mother divorced four years after I was born. My mother’s family distrusted the Church after experiencing years of discrimination as one of the very few non-Mormon families in the area. My father was largely absent. As a result, I learned about the Church as a child through the writings of people like Sandra and Jerald Tanner. The Christian bookstore in the heavily LDS town of Pocatello, Idaho, had an entire section devoted to anti-Mormon pamphlets. As teenagers, my friends and I giddily perused its shelves. It felt like a transgressive act against a Church that controlled our lives even though none of us were members or believed its truth claims.
It wasn’t until graduate school that I became interested in a more nuanced version of Mormon history. I first started attending the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association (MHA) in 2009. The consequences of the Church’s decision to discipline the September Six shaped my perception of Mormon studies. The University of Michigan immersed its graduate students in a culture that valued women’s studies. At the Mormon History Association, however, I discovered that the aftermath of the September Six had decimated the study of Mormon women’s history. Although there were important women scholars present, including Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, and Sarah Barringer Gordon, men far outnumbered women at the meeting.
By the 1970s, Latter-day Saint women had begun to question the Church’s privileging of male careers and spiritual power. Claudia Bushman has described the trepidation and excitement with which Latter-day Saint women greeted the wider feminist movement. She gathered with a group of educated women in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1970s. In her introduction to the 1971 “pink issue” of Dialogue, Bushman wrote that they had “no officers, no rules and no set meeting time.” They rejected many of the claims of the nascent feminist movement but “read their literature with interest.” The women who produced the pink issue of Dialogue insisted that they were not radicals and claimed to be “shocked by [the] antics” of their more “militant” sisters. Their rejection of extreme “antics” distanced them from controversial figures like Sonia Johnson. Over time, however, the discussions the group had about women’s lives radicalized some of the participants. Bushman described the excitement of being part of a group of women who were “working together, engaged in frontline enterprises, researching, thinking, and writing for ourselves.” She wrote just a sentence or two later that they “felt invincible.”
While Latter-day Saint women were meeting in Boston, a similar group coalesced in Utah County. Feminists from Orem, Provo, and the surrounding areas met at Brigham Young University before being banished to the public meetings spaces in Provo in 1979 for their support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Like their Boston sisters, the women did not see themselves as “radicals.” According to historian Amy L. Bentley, the women “identified strongly with the LDS Church and concerned themselves with ‘family’ issues.” Their meetings covered a wide range of topics—“sex discrimination, depression among Mormon women, political lobbying, the rhetoric of polygamy, female bonding and networking, a history of sexual equality in Utah, growing up black in Utah, suicide, rape, planned parenthood, historian Juanita Brooks, the legitimacy of responsible dissent, the John Birch Society, and the pamphlet ‘Another Mormon View of the ERA.’” Together, the women who met in Boston and Provo created a definition of faithful Mormon feminism. Faithful feminists argued for change and sought to improve women’s lives. They did not, however, challenge the legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its emphasis on traditional family values.
The growth of feminist consciousness among Latter-day Saints led to a flowering of women’s history. A coterie of Latter-day Saint scholars combed the archives of the Woman’s Exponent to understand the place of Mormon women within the first wave of feminism. In 1982, Kenneth Godfrey, Audrey Godfrey, and Jill Mulvay Derr published Women’s Voices, a collection of excerpts from women’s diaries that allowed Latter-day Saints to see the contributions that their grandmothers and great-grandmothers had made to the Church. In time, the flowering of Mormon women’s history provided evidence that Latter-day Saint women had once spoken in tongues, healed each other’s bodies, and even prophesied. Inherent in many of these women’s scholarly writings in the 1980s was an acceptance of Church hierarchy—they weren’t “radicals,” they insisted. Although these Mormon feminists believed that Church had previously minimized women’s experiences in its history, they reaffirmed the authority of male leaders. Individual Mormon feminists could publish about their own lives and research early Mormon women’s history. They did not, however, explicitly challenge the Church’s authority.
In the 1990s, some feminists began to pull on the more radical threads of Mormon feminism. In 1992, for example, Margaret Toscano called for the “transformation of the entire Mormon priesthood” so that it recognized both male and female spiritual power. She believed that the resulting Church would be a better reflection of the kingdom of God, a place she believed was populated with “priestesses and priests, with equal right to know and speak in the name of the Godhead.” Although she was not excommunicated until 2000, she too faced a disciplinary council in 1993. The Church’s distrust of feminists extended to some of the women who had been involved in the groups formed in Boston and Provo in previous decades. The same year that the Church excommunicated the September Six, Brigham Young University denied a proposal to have the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich present at its Women’s Conference. Ulrich had been a prominent part of the Mormon feminist movement in Boston and received a PhD from the University of New Hampshire. Her work on colonial New England marked her as an important scholar of early American material culture and women’s lives.
In choosing to discipline feminists like Margaret Toscano and Maxine Hanks, Church authorities demarcated the boundaries of acceptable Mormon thought. They suggested that scholars could not directly challenge the Church hierarchy or its emphasis on the traditional heterosexual family. Sara Patterson has written that excommunication allowed Mormon scholars to reject the association of adulthood with heterosexual timelines marked by marriage and reproduction. The non-Mormon scholar Sara Jaffe has argued that the milestones white Americans associate with adulthood are “based on outdated assumptions about class and gender.” Both authors use the term “queer time,” theorized by Jack Halberstam in the early 2000s, to represent a future in which heterosexual timelines no longer define individual lives. Toscano and others called for a radical reimagining of the Church that undid hierarchies so that men and women could flourish. They imagined a future in which marriage and family would not be the only meaningful demarcations of people’s lives. In September 1993, however, the Church reasserted the importance of the family and submission to the Church hierarchy. The publication of the family proclamation two years later underscored this point.
The lack of women scholars that I saw at MHA in the 2010s seems to me directly related to these excommunications. Mormon studies already offered few rewards to women. Although there were women faculty at BYU and within the Church History Department, hiring committees often preferred to give positions to men, whom they assumed were primary breadwinners and thus needed income to support their families. Women also faced limited opportunities for advancement within BYU and the Church History Department. The threat of excommunication made Mormon history even less attractive as an area of study. By the 2000s, it was apparent that there was a second “lost generation” within Mormon studies. This time it was made up not of novelists from the period following World War II but of the scholars who might have been if the Church had not excommunicated the September Six.
The arrested development of Mormon feminism has been deeply painful for Mormon women. In preparation for this reflection, I spent several days reading the memoirs and blogs of Mormon feminists. So many of their stories are about the difficulty of fitting their lives into the narratives that the Church has written for them. In East Winds, for example, Rachel Rueckert describes the painful disjuncture that she felt between her desires for her life—which included traveling to India, walking the Camino de Santiago, and ultimately becoming a writer—and the expectation that she marry young. In some ways, Rueckert’s writing is a plea that she be allowed to play in “queer time”—to develop herself even if it comes at the expense of a traditional Mormon life. Likewise, a blogger at Feminist Mormon Housewives lamented in an essay on being a stay-at-home mother that she had never been encouraged to “[consider] anything else.” She found that the Church’s insistence that being a stay-at-home mother was the “best thing” for her children was a hollow promise. Although she wanted to fulfill the expectations others had for her, she found the thought that being a mother to small children was the “best thing” that would ever happen to her “depressing.” She simply wanted more.
In addition to reading published narratives, I also asked Mormon women on Twitter what they felt was the biggest tension between their faith and their feminism. The people who answered expressed frustration with the limited vision that the Church offered them—a vision that they did not believe was in accordance with Mormon theology or scripture. One woman wrote that the Church’s theology offered women an opportunity to be “co-creators and co-equal gods” but was unable to fulfill the grandeur of those promises in everyday life. Instead of honoring the creative nature of female spirituality, the Church often “siloed” women and limited their power. Another woman saw the “logical conclusion” of Mormon doctrine as “full partnership and equality” for men and women. Instead of being offered a breathtaking vision of female potential, however, she found herself mired in a “sexist, patriarchal structure that defies both [Mormon] doctrines and the teachings of Christ.” I came to see these women as petitioners asking the Church to allow them to experience the fullness of the gospel. Latter-day Saint feminists have found themselves in an awkward position. Although they believe that the LDS gospel offers an expansive view of the eternities in which women have equal power to men, they find the current reality of the Church restrictive.
As an outsider to Mormonism, I hope that feminist scholarship continues to flourish—for personal as well as academic reasons. Because I cannot be excommunicated, I often comment on women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ issues in the LDS Church. But insiders need to be able to do this work as well. Of course, the excommunication of the September Six did not fully arrest the development of Mormon feminism or the study of Mormon women’s history. The current generation of Mormon scholars has built upon their work. Scholars like Christine Talbot, Andrea Radke-Moss, and Rachel Cope have continued to write interesting books about Mormon history, even though they are some of just a few women doing so. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females has shown scholars outside of Mormon studies what a close, careful analysis of polygamous family structures can tell us about nineteenth-century America. Hannah Jung has examined how the federal government disciplined Mormon families using birth certificates, gossip, and formal legal structures. Blaire Ostler and Taylor Petrey have applied queer theory to the study of Mormonism. Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Kristine Wright write beautifully about feminist theology and ritual practice. Recently, the work of Elise Boxer, Farina King, Sujey Vega, and Janan Graham-Russell has challenged Mormon scholars to take a more intersectional approach to their studies and recognize the inflection of race in Mormon women’s experiences. Joanna Brooks, whose 2012 memoir The Book of Mormon Girl made her the face of Mormon feminism, has published extensively on the Church’s role in promoting white supremacy and settler colonialism. Kate Holbrook’s work integrates material culture and food into the history of Mormon women, while others like Amy Hoyt and Melissa Inouye have expanded their studies beyond the United States.
When I first began studying Mormon history in the late 2000s, it seemed as though the Church was opening up its history. Other scholars frequently asked how the Church had responded to my scholarship. They assumed that the Church hierarchy would try to deny me access to the archives and limit my ability to ask important questions about race and sexuality. I told anyone who asked that I found the Church to be open and welcoming. Recently, however, I feel like the Church hierarchy is retrenching. Discussions of scholars being asked to make their research conform with LDS doctrine and calls for “musket fire” make me pause when I answer that question now. In the past, I felt as though the Church was completely open to discussing difficult questions, and the specter of the 1993 excommunications was receding. I’m not so sure anymore. It’s possible the September Six represent both the past and future of Mormon studies.
This saddens me. I want my Mormon sisters to have access to a fulfilling theology. While I was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my own church congregation called a divorced single mother as our pastor. Because I had grown up in conservative southeastern Idaho, I had few examples of female spirituality or leadership as a child. As a child of divorced parents, I believed my family was broken. In my new pastor’s sermons, she spoke about the pain of her husband’s rejection and the peace that she found in a gospel that promised she was loved in her imperfection. She talked about the challenges of being a single mother and the difficulty she had in seeing herself as beautiful. She saw me in my uncertainty and assured me that I was loved as I was. Her words were gospel for me in a way that no man’s could have been.
Mormon theology offers a similarly empowering vision to its women members. For some women, Rachel Hunt Steenblik’s poetry has captured their experience of hungering after God. She describes women as searching for God “the way a baby roots for her mother’s breast.” This vision is somewhat limited. It does not necessarily capture the experiences of childless, queer, or trans women, or even women who find breastfeeding to be an awkward, cumbersome experience. For many women, however, reading Steenblik’s poetry is an experience in being “seen.” The threat of Church discipline, however, is always present. As I read the memoirs, poetry, and tweets of Mormon feminists, what I want most for them is a church that recognizes their prayers and their activism as a fundamental part of the kingdom of God rather than a challenge to the Church hierarchy and potential disciplinary council.
Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of this article as a courtesy. There may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and bibliographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.
 Maxine Hanks, “Introduction,” in Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, edited by Maxine Hanks (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), xxvii–xxviii.
 D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890–1904,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18, no. 1 (Spring 1985): 9–105.
 Lavina Fielding Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology (1992),” in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 189–92.
 Mary L. Bradford, “The Odyssey of Sonia Johnson,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14, no. 2 (Summer 1981): 23.
 Kristine L. Haglund, Eugene England: A Mormon Liberal (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2021), 23.
 For their works, see Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812 (New York: Vintage Books, 1991); Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001); Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835–1870 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017); Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Leigh E. Schmidt, and Mark Valeri, eds., Practicing Protestants: Histories of Christian Life in America, 1630–1965 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid L. Neilson, eds., Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2008); Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, ed., American Scriptures: An Anthology of Sacred Writings (New York: Penguin Books, 2010); Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); and Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010).
 Claudia Bushman, “Women in Dialogue: An Introduction,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 6, no. 2 (Summer 1971): 5. I have a copy of the pink Dialogue and have reflected on this quotation before. I was reminded of it, however, while preparing for this essay by reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 49.
 Bushman, “Women in Dialogue,” 5.
 Claudia Bushman, “My Short Happy Life with Exponent II,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 36, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 186, quoted in Ulrich, “Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism,” 52.
 Amy L. Bentley, “Comforting the Motherless Children: The Alice Louise Reynolds Women’s Forum,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 23, no. 3 (Fall 1990): 47.
 Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, and Jill Mulvay Derr, eds., Women’s Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992).
 Margaret Toscano, “‘Put on Your Strength, O Daughters of Zion’: Claiming Priesthood and Knowing the Mother (1992),” in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 188.
 “Brigham Young Rejects Pulitzer Prize Winner as Speaker,” Chronicle of Higher Education Feb. 24, 1993.
 Sara M. Patterson, “The Straightjacket of Times: Narrating D. Michael Quinn,” in DNA Mormon: Perspectives on the Legacy of Historian D. Michael Quinn, edited by Benjamin E. Park (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2022), 40.
 J. Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: NYU Press, 2005).
 For an article on the original “lost generation,” see Edward A. Geary, “Mormondom’s Lost Generation: The Novelists of the 1940s,” BYU Studies Quarterly 18, no. 1 (Jan. 1978): 89–98.
 Rachel Rueckert, East Winds: A Global Quest to Reckon with Marriage (Newburgh, Ind.: By Common Consent Press, 2022).
 Christine Talbot, A Foreign Kingdom: Mormons and Polygamy in American Political Culture, 1852–1890 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013); Andrea Radke-Moss, “We Also Marched: The Women and Children of Zion’s Camp, 1834,” BYU Studies Quarterly 39, no. 1 (Jan. 2000): 147–65; Andrea Radke-Moss, “Silent Memories of Missouri: Mormon Women and Men and Sexual Assault in Group Memory and Religious Identity,” in Mormon Women’s History: Beyond Biography, edited by Rachel Cope, Amy Easton-Flake, Keith A. Erekson, and Lisa Olsen Tait (Lanham, Md.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017), 49–82; Rachel Cope and Zachary McLeod Hutchins, eds., The Writings of Elizabeth Webb: A Quaker Missionary in America, 1697–1726 (State College: Penn State University Press, 2019).
 Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835–1870 (New York: Vintage Books, 2017).
 Hannah Jung is currently a PhD candidate at Brandeis University, where she is finishing a dissertation on secrecy within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
 Blaire Ostler, Queer Mormon Theology: An Introduction (Newburgh, Ind.: By Common Consent Press, 2021); Taylor G. Petrey, Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020).
 Rachel Hunt Steenblik, Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother (Newburgh, Ind.: By Common Consent Press, 2017); Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Ashley Mae Hoiland, I Gave Her a Name (Newburgh, Ind.: By Common Consent Press, 2019); Jonathan A. Stapley and Kristine Wright, “Female Ritual Healing in Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 1–85.
 Elise Boxer, “‘The Lamanites Shall Blossom as the Rose’: The Indian Student Placement Program, Mormon Whiteness, and Indigenous Identity,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 4 (Fall 2015): 132–76; Farina King, “Diné Doctor: A Latter-day Saint Story of Healing,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 54, no. 2 (Summer 2021): 81–85; Sujey Vega, “Intersectional Hermanas: LDS Latinas Navigate Faith, Leadership, and Sisterhood,” Latino Studies 17, no. 1 (Mar. 2019): 27–47, and Janan Graham-Russell, “Roundtable: A Balm in Gilead: Reconciling Black Bodies within a Mormon Imagination,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 51, no. 3 (2018): 185–92.
 Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of An American Faith (New York: Free Press, 2012); Joanna Brooks, Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Gina Colvin and Joanna Brooks, eds., Decolonizing Mormonism: Approaching a Postcolonial Zion (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2018).
 Kate Holbrook, “Radical Food: Nation of Islam and Latter-day Saint Culinary Ideals” (PhD diss., Boston University, 2014); Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Kate Holbrook, eds., Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart (Provo: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2023); Caroline Kline, Mormon Women at the Crossroads: Global Narratives and the Power of Connectedness (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2022); Amy Hoyt, “Maternal Practices as Religious Piety: The Pedagogical Practices of American Mormon Women” in Women and Christianity, edited by Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan and Karen Jo Torjesen (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2009).
 Tamarra Kemsley, “BYU Faculty Members Urged to Align Their Teaching, Research Better with LDS Tenets,” Salt Lake City Tribune, Jan. 29, 2023; Haley Swenson, “Crushingly Cruel,” Slate, Sept. 3, 2021.
 Steenblik, Mother’s Milk, 148.[post_title] => She Simply Wanted More: Mormon Women and Excommunication [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 56.3 (Fall 2023): 109–123
As an adult, I learned that 1993 represented a kind of death for members of the Mormon studies community. Since the 1970s, Latter-day Saint women had been challenging the limited role the Church provided for female spirituality. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => she-simply-wanted-more-mormon-women-and-excommunication [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-11-14 02:38:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-11-14 02:38:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=34921 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Quoted at the Pulpit: Male Rhetoric and Female Authority in Fifty Years of General Conference
Dialogue 55.4 (Winter 2021): 1–50
While much has changed for women in the Church over the last half-century, much remains the same. Women consistently make up less than 3 percent of quotations in general conference. They are still described in terms of their appearance and relationship status; sermons about how they should live are the domain of male authority; their own representatives in the Church spend much of their time at the pulpit repeating male leaders’ words.
Listen to the Out Loud Interview about this article here.
In her 2020 address to the worldwide membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Primary general president Joy Jones declared, “President Russell M. Nelson taught, ‘It would be impossible to measure the influence that . . . women have, not only on families but also on the Lord’s Church, as wives, mothers, and grandmothers; as sisters and aunts; as teachers and leaders; and especially as exemplars and devout defenders of the faith.’”
Though it certainly may be impossible to measure women’s influence on families, it is to some extent possible to measure the influence that leaders like Jones and Nelson believe women have on the Church. Jones’s speech, delivered at the Church’s semiannual general conference, exemplifies a long tradition of Latter-day Saint rhetoric, particularly in her use of quotation. In her eleven minutes at the pulpit, Jones quoted current Church president Russell Nelson four times, previous Church presidents three times, scripture six times, and a previous apostle once. Additionally, in the middle of her speech, a video played of Nelson speaking to a group of children. In all, though almost one third of Jones’s address about women’s roles was focused on other people’s voices, women were not among her selected sources.
This article argues such quotation choices reflect Church leaders’ views on authority. When the most powerful leaders in the Church use their limited time in the spotlight to highlight someone else’s words, they send a signal about how that source should be perceived. The quotation patterns in fifty years of general conference addresses reveal that, despite increasingly vocal commitments from Church leaders to the equal though separate status of women and men, those leaders continue to treat female voices as less authoritative than male ones. Church leaders quote men more than sixteen times for every one time they quote a woman. Even taking into account the expected effects of the Church’s overwhelmingly male scripture and all-male priesthood hierarchy, women are quoted less, cited less, and acknowledged less than one might expect from an organization whose president recently told women, “We need your voice teaching the doctrine of Christ.” This article contends that their treatment of these voices is indicative of women’s status in the Church more broadly.
Background and Research Methods
General conference plays an important role in the Church and in its members’ lives. It is frequently the site of development and affirmation of Church doctrine, policy, and culture. At conference, leaders deliver what are understood to be divinely inspired messages on how members should act and think about their relationship to God. Members are frequently instructed in Sunday meetings in the weeks preceding conference to pray to receive answers to personal questions during conference, with the idea that God will speak to them individually through their highest leaders. Afterwards, the sermons are published in Church magazines and used as the lesson material in local meetings for the next six months, ensuring that what is said in general conference makes its way through the entire Church.
As such, studying conference talks is critical to understanding Latter-day Saint theological and practical beliefs. It is also significant when considering women’s place in the Church. While Mormon feminists have worked tirelessly to amplify women’s voices, the voices that define the Church and its interests to members continue to be the primarily male speakers in general conference. The status and experiences of women in the Church cannot be fully understood without examining the Church’s most powerful men and their messages as delivered in its most influential forum.
In particular, such a study requires paying attention not just to the content of general conference talks, but to how that content is packaged. As sociologists Gary and Gordon Shepherd note in their groundbreaking studies of general conference, meaning is found not just in the content and themes of any given talk but in the “rhetorical modes in which themes are expressed.” Women’s place in the Church can be understood not just through what leaders say to and about women—and they say a lot!—but in how they frame and support what they have to say.
My research explores these questions by analyzing quotation practices in general conference between 1971 and 2020. I read every April session talk given by a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during those decades. I also read every talk by a female leader given in the April general session during that time period (thus, between 1984 and 2020). In order to understand how quotation dynamics vary by leadership position, gender, and audience in the modern Church, I also read every talk given by any leader in any session between April 2016 and April 2020. For each address, I documented every quotation, including what was cited, the number of words in each quotation, and the way the speaker verbally introduced each quotation. This totaled more than 12,700 quotations over 1,100 talks.
The rhetorical practices of general conference, like its format and structure, have changed over time. Nineteenth and early twentieth–century leaders would extemporize for hours; modern translation and global broadcasting have necessitated timed, prewritten addresses. This is the backdrop to my choice to focus on the period between 1971 and 2020. Many substantial technological changes happened in the 1960s: conference was first translated simultaneously in 1962, first broadcast to Europe in 1965, and first televised in color in 1967. Though speakers were still adjusting to these changes in the 1970s, the era of spontaneity was over, and leaders were aware of themselves as speaking to a much larger audience than those sitting before them. Additionally, transcripts and video recordings of general conference are available for that entire period on the Church’s website, providing definitive sources for those addresses. The quotations used in these carefully crafted speeches for a global audience provide a window into Church leaders’ views on gender and authority.
Understanding Quotation: Audience and Authority
Quotation is a common rhetorical practice that serves many different functions: spicing up a narrative, providing exact wording, or lending legitimacy to one’s own argument. As every student of high school English literature intuitively knows, this last function is particularly important. Anthropologist Ruth Finnegan writes that quotation “enables a writer to stand in alliance with revered words and voices from the past and . . . endow oneself with something of their authority.” Speakers in general conference constantly use quotation in precisely this way, positioning their ideas as (for example) the continuation of teachings from other Church leaders. In general conference, the rhetorical force of a quotation relies on the source of a quotation just as much, if not more, as the content of that quotation.
Scholars have sometimes used quotation in general conference as evidence for which sources general authorities were personally reading. Conference quotation patterns cannot be understood only in these terms, however. This is the case first because of quotation’s rhetorical function. With limited time and such a significant audience, conference speakers must be understood as carefully selecting their quotations for both content and source. Indeed, a look at the footnotes reveals that speakers in general conference frequently use sources specifically designed to achieve that purpose. Many draw upon references like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, which collects acknowledged sources of wisdom like historical leaders or the anonymous proverb. This is one indication that conference speakers look for quotations to include in their talks as quotations, rather than, say, encountering those writers during research on some topic. The sources that appear in general conference are deliberately chosen with the spiritual and institutional goals of the Church’s highest leaders in mind.
The second reason to understand speakers’ quotations as deliberately selected for their audience is that the changes in quotation in general conference over time (see table 1 below) cannot be explained merely by changes in individuals’ reading habits. Because apostles and prophets occupy those roles until their deaths, the composition of leaders speaking in conference changes slowly. Even as the membership of this group remains largely the same, their quotation patterns change significantly. Not only do the same leaders collectively quote different sources over time, but they also frame their quotations of those sources differently for their audience. Though whom leaders quote is indeed an indication of whom they privately take to be authoritative or interesting, it is also a public decision.
Consider the fifteen most frequent sources of quotation from the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency in the 1970s and how that list changed in the 2010s (table 1). Both are clearly a reflection of the sources that matter most to the Church and its members: scriptures and prophets handily top each list. But the changes in these sources’ popularity is striking. Quotation of current prophets and apostles, for example, has increased dramatically, while presidents of the United States have gone from the top ten to zero. These changes in sources can be understood at least in part as a reflection of a change in audience. While general conference’s availability in the 1970s was limited beyond the United States, it is now internationally broadcast to communities without much besides their Church membership in common. Church leaders and their quotation practices are responsive to their audience.
Table 1: Change in Most Frequent General Session Citations from Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 1971–1980 and 2011–2020a
|1971–1980||2011–2020||Net change |
|Doctrine and Covenants||16.1%||16.4%||+0.3%||+1.9%|
|Book of Mormon||12.6%||21.5%||+9.0%||+71.3%|
|Pearl of Great Price||4.8%||4.4%||-0.5%||-9.6%|
|The First Presidencyb||0.6%||0.4%||-0.2%||-39.4%|
|Members of the Church||0.5%||1.5%||+1.0%||+211.8%|
a. Total citations for 1971–1980; 1,904; for 2011–2020: 1,832.
b. Speakers will sometimes quote statements put out by the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) as a unit. This is distinct from citations of any one of those members.
While there is much to explore in these trends beyond their application to gender, this article focuses on quotation as a reflection of authority in order to explore women’s status in the Church. Quotation is a rhetorical practice in which speakers reveal beliefs about their audience. When choosing to quote from certain sources, speakers indicate two things: first, that they believe their audience will accept that source as authoritative, and second, that they themselves support that source’s authority.
Broadly, a source is more authoritative to an audience the more that members of that audience would believe a claim or obey an instruction (or seriously consider doing so) because it came from that source, regardless of their prior views about the content of the claim or instruction. Sources can be authoritative in many different ways. Conference speakers must navigate secular and ecclesiastical authority as well as many varieties of spiritual authority. What broad-scale conference quotation patterns demonstrate is how weighty these different sources of authority are in their context.
Rhetorically effective quotation requires choosing sources with one’s audience in mind. The sources that general conference speakers choose, then, reveal features of the Latter-day Saint community, at least as those leaders understand it. A previous United States president might be an authoritative source to Americans, but citing one would not help one’s persuasiveness overseas. How often various choices are made reflects the expected effectiveness of those appeals for members. This indicates that the sources cited more are, on the whole, considered more authoritative in the Latter-day Saint context, while the sources cited less are less so. For this reason, the term “authority” functions broadly in this article to refer to the weight of a certain source’s status, not the reason for that weight.
Effective quotation must also be balanced by the speaker’s own views about the source. If someone crafting a speech knew that her audience put great trust in, say, mainstream media sources, but she herself did not think that trust was merited, she would not quote that source to bolster her argument even if it would be persuasive. Conference quotation patterns thus reveal both leaders’ beliefs and their hopes about their community. The sources cited most frequently are not only the sources audiences trust but also the sources leaders want their audience to trust. In the mouths of the Church’s most powerful leaders, such support through quotation can even increase a source’s authority.
Because leaders’ use of sources reflects their beliefs about their audience, studying how Church leaders quote women sheds light on how those leaders perceive women’s authority in the Latter-day Saint community. Because speakers affirm authority through quotation, whether and how speakers quote women in general conference is indicative of those leaders’ commitment to women’s authority and equality. In this way, leaders’ treatment of women in their general conference addresses provides a meaningful window into the status of women in the Church more generally.
Why Quote Women?
Examining what conference quotation says about women in the Church is significant for two reasons. First, it is relevant for broader feminist projects involving concepts like equal representation of and respect for women. Second, it reflects on the Church’s realization of its own values.
This article takes feminist commitments on board, arguing that women’s underrepresentation in general conference is a problem to be fixed. Because Church leaders support a different model of womanhood than many feminist and secular sources propose, however, some might worry that it is misguided to evaluate the Church’s discursive practices by such standards. But the ways leaders engage with female voices in general conference can also be examined in light of their own stated commitments. Church leaders throughout the years have preached that women and men are equal, though separate. Church president Spencer Kimball told men in 1979, “The women of this Church have work to do which, though different, is equally as important as the work that we do. Their work is, in fact, the same basic work that we are asked to do—even though our roles and assignments differ . . . Our sisters do not wish to be indulged or to be treated condescendingly; they desire to be respected and revered as our sisters and our equals.” Other speakers throughout the years have mirrored that language and those sentiments, down to Relief Society president Jean Bingham’s 2020 declaration of “the eternal truth that men’s and women’s innate differences are God given and equally valued.”
Quotation as a rhetorical device sends messages, and those messages can reinforce or undermine the actual content of the talks in which they appear. This article will argue that, even if it is not their intention, leaders’ quotations of women in general conference marginalize women in the Latter-day Saint community rather than portray them as worthy of respect and value. Insofar as this study shows that conference quotation practices fail to live up to an equal standard with respect to gender—and especially insofar as inequality is not the aim of Church leaders—it provides both an internal and external critique of those practices. If the Church is to live up to its creed, leaders must reexamine which voices they choose to emphasize and how they do so.
It is crucial to note that claims about women’s and men’s equal value do not translate easily into claims about equal authority, especially in an ecclesiastical setting. Women’s ecclesiastical authority in the Church is, of course, limited because they are not ordained to priesthood office. While leaders have recently asserted that women have both “priesthood power” and “priesthood authority,” this distinction is contentious, and women’s authority is instead most often spoken about (as in the Nelson quotation that began this article) in terms of “righteous influence.” The source of this influence is attributed to women’s caring nature and “unique moral compass.” Discussions of these kind emphasize women’s spiritual rather than ecclesiastical authority.
Conference quotation, however, is not limited to sources with ecclesiastical authority. If quotation were just about appealing to authorities in some sense higher than one’s self, one might expect prophets to quote mostly other prophets and scripture, but prophets also quote current and past apostles, as well as secular poets and historical figures. Poet William Wordsworth, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and New York Times columnist David Brooks have all been quoted multiple times by prophets and apostles. Additionally, because conference addresses focus on how members should live their lives and understand their relationship with God, leaders might have reason to reference other acknowledged sources of spiritual authority, like women. As Bruce McConkie wrote in 1979, “Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness—in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.”
These types of assertions should lead to some degree of gender balance in quotations whose sources are not selected for their ecclesiastical authority. Indeed, given frequent conference claims about women’s superior moral sensitivity, one might expect leaders who profess such views to draw on women more frequently than men in some contexts. In a sermon about how to understand one’s relationship with God and live a moral life, the sources of insight McConkie listed ought to be just as open to women as to men, regardless of their ecclesiastical status. Despite this, a righteous woman’s influence is rarely the kind of authority conference speakers are interested in drawing upon.
Men Quoting Women
When looking at gender in general conference, the big picture numbers are striking. In April general sessions between 1971 and 2020, members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (hereafter referred to inclusively as “apostles”) quoted specifically male sources 3,264 times. This does not include the male-gendered deities, Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, who were quoted 1,968 times. In that same period, female sources were quoted 197 times.
This imbalance is huge, but not surprising—the perhaps natural consequences of an all-male priesthood and hierarchical structure that places over one hundred men at a time in positions more powerful than the most powerful female leader. Latter-day Saint scripture is also almost entirely male: the Book of Mormon has almost 250 named individuals, but only six of those are female, and only two women actually speak in the text. Given the Church’s broader position in a patriarchal society, it is also not surprising that the poets, historical figures, and non-Latter-day Saint leaders they quote would also be overwhelmingly male.
Though it may not be surprising, the lack of female representation is troubling, especially once the trends are broken down further (table 2). Altogether, female voices comprise 2.1 percent of general conference quotations in this sample. Looking only at 2011–2020, this number increases slightly: to 2.7 percent. By the same measure, explicitly male voices other than Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ account for 35.5 percent of conference quotations, going down to 31.7 percent between 2011 and 2020. This decrease is entirely due to leaders verbally attributing fewer quotes from scripture to male voices—if scriptures are excluded, quotation of men goes up from 14.8 percent over fifty years to 18.1 percent of all quotations in the final decade of my sample. Examining only quotations from specific people, removing quotes from scripture and not clearly gendered sources, reveals that more than nine out of ten of the individuals quoted in general conference are men.
Table 2: Gendered Citations in April General Session Address by Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency, April 1971–2020a
|Scripture (Not Gendered)||36.1%|
|Other Male Sourcesd||5.8%|
|Other Female Sources||1.7%|
|Female Church Leadersh||0.2%|
|Male Church Leadersi||0.2%|
a. Total citations: 9,200.
b. Here and throughout, Male totals do not include citations of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ.
c. A quotation is counted as Male or Female Scripture if the verbal citation attributes the quotation to a man or a woman. “1 Nephi 3:7 reads” would be labeled Scripture, but “Nephi wrote” would be labeled Male Scripture. Scriptural quotations that were not verbally cited are not categorized as Male or Female. The Male and Female Scripture categories do not, however, count the numerous quotations that are verbally attributed to Christ through or to a gendered individual (except for one section in the D&C addressed to Emma Smith, all of those are male); those are categorized as citations of Jesus Christ.
d. Other Male Sources and Other Female Sources include all quotations whose gender can be determined from footnotes or verbal citations that do not fit into other categories. All secular gendered sources are included here, as well as quotations from church members outside of the highest levels of church leadership.
e. The category of Church Publication includes documents like The Living Christ, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the Handbooks, etc. (mostly written by men). It also includes all songs from the Hymnal and the Primary Children’s Songbook except when the verbal citation references a gendered author.
f. Non-Gendered Sources are all the sources whose gender could not be determined from the footnote or the verbal citation that do not fit into another category. Examples of non-gendered sources include quotes from newspapers and magazines that did not include authors, anonymous sayings, the dictionary, musicals, individuals without names or gender identification, etc.
g. Quotations verbally attributed to Jesus Christ or the Lord were categorized as citations of Jesus Christ, while other citations verbally attributed to divinity, including references that were ambiguous between God the Father and Christ, were categorized as citations of God.
h. Female Church Leaders includes all quotations from women occupying the general presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Womens, and Primary.
i. Male Church Leaders includes all quotations from men who are general authorities or members of the Sunday School and Young Mens presidencies but are not apostles.
Women’s absence becomes even more visible in quotations from sources with high-level Latter-day Saint ecclesiastical authority. Of those, female leaders of the Church make up 1.9 percent of quotations. Ninety-eight percent of the leaders that apostles quote in general conference are men. This amounts to a mere twenty-one citations of female Church leaders by its highest authorities; ten are from Eliza Snow, and six of those are her hymns. In this sample of five decades of talks, a current female leader of the Church was only quoted to an audience that included men once, when apostle Dallin Oaks quoted Relief Society president Linda Burton in the 2014 priesthood session. In fifty years, an apostle never quoted a current female leader in an April general session. Current male leaders, meanwhile, were quoted 257 times in that same period. It is worth noting, however, that male leaders who are not apostles (such as members of the Seventy) have been quoted even less frequently than female leaders (thirteen times as opposed to twenty-one). Apostles’ quotational emphasis on the authority of the institutional Church is entirely on its highest level—the level they themselves occupy. Because women are entirely excluded from that level, they are also excluded from consideration as ecclesiastical authorities.
It may seem that the gender imbalance in general conference is thus a result of women’s limited ecclesiastical authority. However, as discussed above, there are many other kinds of authority on which conference speakers draw, and leaders frequently make claims about women’s moral and spiritual authority. Though women are excluded from the most important leadership roles, Church leaders have encouraged them to be “contributing and full partner[s]” with men rather than “silent . . . or limited partners.” Outside of leadership roles, then, one might hope for gender parity.
However, this is not the case. Even when apostles quote sources who do not have ecclesiastical authority, they consistently prioritize male voices over female ones. Of the individuals quoted in conference who are neither scriptural nor high-level Church leaders, fully 77 percent of them are male. This number is changing over time, but not always equitably: between 2010 and 2015, 58.6 percent of quoted individuals without scriptural or high-level ecclesiastical authority were male; between 2016 and 2020, 69 percent were male. Representation of women, at least on this measure, has significantly increased since the 1970s, but this is happening neither quickly nor consistently.
There are two important caveats about these patterns. First, these statistics are the product of hundreds of talks by almost forty different apostles over fifty years. They are not the product of any one person’s conscious decision, and certainly no speaker selects his quotations with these broad patterns in mind. The average apostle quotes eleven times in a single talk, not nearly enough to cover all the categories of sources presented here. These patterns are also the structural default, the rhetorical norm for conference addresses, and individual speakers are unlikely to choose to deviate widely from them. This, however, makes it even more necessary to examine and bring them to light.
Second, the consistent overrepresentation of male quotations in general conference can be explained in part by the overrepresentation of men in the worlds of ecclesiastical, scriptural, and cultural authority that conference speakers inhabit. The Church’s all-male priesthood, male-focused scriptural canon, and patriarchal cultural context all play a role in muting women. The non-ecclesiastical sources cited by speakers include a greater number of well-known male writers and historical figures than female ones because many more men have historically been given the opportunity to become famous. There are also fewer conference talks and books on Church doctrine written by women. When thinking about the available sources leaders have to draw upon, women are consistently underrepresented, though not so dramatically as they are in quotation practices. In any case, this is only an explanation for these patterns, not a justification of them. The Church consistently emphasizes members’ responsibility to choose the right even when “the world” and those around them push in opposing directions. Leaning on excuses about cultural norms is unfair to leaders by refusing them the ability to choose differently.
The persistent failure of apostles to quote women is a persistent failure to acknowledge women as authorities. This tells us something about the way they see their audience: when leaders do not feature women’s voices, they indicate a belief that the community they are addressing would not view those voices as authoritative. They also affirm that belief. If the Church truly values women’s voices, its leaders must take responsibility to do so themselves. Rather than being contributing and full partners, women are silent in general conference, limited by prophets and apostles. Not only do women speak less frequently in conference because of the restricted leadership roles available to them, but they are heard less frequently because other speakers choose to amplify male voices instead of female ones in their quotation practices. Women’s silence here indicates a broader inability to be heard within the Church.
Women Above the Footnotes
Analyzing not just which sources leaders select but how and where they present those sources is key to understanding quotation’s rhetorical role. Even when conference speakers choose to quote women, they engage in rhetorical techniques that further reflect women’s lack of authority in the Church. Male leaders minimize women’s presence and influence by frequently mentioning their appearance and relationship status and infrequently giving their names.
Conference talks are written to be spoken. Understanding this is essential to understanding conference quotation because listeners, unlike readers, depend on authors to include information about when and who they cite in the body of the text rather than leaving it to parentheticals and footnotes (many readers may not scour the footnotes either). Embedded quotes go unrecognized by conference listeners unless speakers make a deliberate effort to frame them by changing their tone of voice or giving a verbal citation that provides an introduction to the quote. “1 Nephi 1:1,” “a young woman,” “it is said,” and “our beloved prophet, Russell M. Nelson” all function as verbal citations when spoken during an address. These citations can serve not just to indicate the source but to add to or explain its credentials: the common “our beloved prophet” preface does precisely that, as do additions like “prominent writer,” “one of my eminent business associates,” or “faithful wife and mother.” Verbal citations provide the information a speaker thinks the audience needs to understand and respect the source of a quotation.
1. Acknowledging and Anonymizing Women
If the source of a quotation plays a significant part in its selection, speakers are likely to verbally cite as fully as possible the sources that they take to be most authoritative. To see how women are acknowledged beyond the footnotes, each gendered non-scriptural quotation can be sorted into one of three categories based on the way a source was verbally cited: complete, incomplete, or none (table 3). A complete verbal citation indicates a specific individual. Both partial and full names were counted as completely verbally cited: “President Spencer W. Kimball,” “Bishop Williams,” and “Liz” are all complete. An incomplete verbal citation indicates only that the speaker is quoting someone. All quotations that were verbally cited but had no name attached counted as incomplete. “The poet,” “a dear sister,” and “a business executive” are incomplete verbal citations. The nones are quotations that were not verbally indicated at all by the speaker.
The data on how different sources are verbally cited aligns with expectations in terms of the Church’s most authoritative sources. The current prophet is completely verbally cited 94 percent of the time, and past prophets are verbally cited nine out of ten times. Similarly, apostles are completely verbally cited almost eight out of ten times, and non-apostle leaders are completely verbally cited six out of ten times. Female leaders of the Church, though rarely quoted, are completely verbally cited 95 percent of the time: when speakers cite female leaders, it seems that they do so deliberately and want their audience to know. This suggests, interestingly, that female Church authority does have weight in this context despite its infrequent representation.
Table 3: Completeness of Gendered Verbal Citations of Different Sources in General Session Talks by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 1971–2020
However, the opposite is true with women outside of Church leadership positions. Whereas non-leader men are completely verbally cited 62 percent of the time, non-leader women are only completely verbally cited 51 percent of the time, the lowest of any of those categories. They are also by far the highest, at 42 percent, of any group for incomplete citations. Between 2016 and 2020, women were quoted as named sources outside of narrative contexts only six times in front of men. In contrast, forty men who held no position of high-level leadership in the Church were quoted and named in non-narrative contexts in that time period, thirty in the general session. Non-leader men are significantly more likely to be completely verbally cited than non-leader women. These numbers demonstrate how men and women with the same level of ecclesiastical authority—local or none—are treated differently in terms of their authoritativeness for Church members. Not only do leaders quote women much less frequently than men, they often minimize their presence even when they do quote them.
Again, part of this is due to the fact that more of these non-leader men than women are famous historical figures. However, speakers are more likely to name men than women even when those men are not well known. When quoting family members, regular church members, or writers who are not household names, speakers frequently name their male sources while leaving out the name of their female sources. These trends occur side-by-side, often in the same talks. In his 2015 address, apostle Quentin Cook quoted a woman, Carla Carlisle, and described her as “one of my favorite writers” without naming her or revealing her gender through pronouns in the talk itself—while naming and quoting several men in the same talk. Even though Cook seems to personally admire Carlisle, his reluctance to reveal her name or gender compared with his willingness to name and gender male sources suggests that her gender might decrease her legitimacy as a source.
2. Quoting Beautiful Wives and Mothers
The content of incomplete citations also reveals a great deal about women’s authority. Incomplete verbal citations have to do all the work in describing the credentials of a source. All the audience knows about the source comes from that verbal citation—they can’t bring in any background knowledge about the individual involved. It is telling, then, that speakers treat men differently than women in this sphere as well, tying women’s authority to their relationship status or their physical appearance.
Table 4 shows the incomplete verbal citations from apostles in the general session in 2017–2020. These years are a microcosm of a pattern that is consistent through the last fifty. Women are most frequently cited in their capacities as relations, with more than one out of three of all incomplete verbal citations referring to a woman’s relationship or family status. Men’s relationship status, meanwhile, is only mentioned in 8 percent of incomplete verbal citations, all in their capacity as fathers. Their calling in the Church is mentioned with about the same frequency (7.6 percent), while their employment status is used as a credential 41.7 percent of the time. Verbal citations recognize women’s careers only 6.2 percent of the time—not a surprise for an organization that was still frequently preaching against women’s employment into the 2000s—and their Church calling only 1.5 percent of the time. These numbers are particularly striking given that these sources are already anonymous. Evidence has already been presented that conference speakers are more likely to name men than women: the actual number of men who are cited in their capacities as local Church leaders, for example, is even higher.
Table 4: Incomplete Verbal Citations from Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, April 2017–2020
|A faithful wife and mother||One observer|
|Two LDS women||One writer|
|A dear sister||A fourteen-year-old boy|
|A single sister in her mid-40s||One friend of nearly 20 years, whom I admire greatly|
|A beautiful, vibrant young wife and mother||A temple president|
|A beautiful young returned sister missionary||One frustrated writer|
|Their precious mother||One historian|
In these incomplete verbal citations, and elsewhere in conference talks, women are also far more likely to be the subject of adjectives such as “dear,” “precious,” and “beautiful,” as seen above, as well as “lovely,” “wonderful,” and “sweet.” In verbally citing the women they quote as beautiful and lovely, speakers connect to a tradition of conceptualizing female spirituality through the lens of female attractiveness, implicitly—and explicitly, in the form of the speaker—evaluated by men. Just like a Hollywood movie where the main character is gorgeous and the villain is inevitably scarred or ugly, in conference talks, righteous women are beautiful women. None of those adjectives (or correlates like “handsome”) are regularly applied to men, who are instead more likely to be described as “wise” or go without evaluative adjectives entirely in favor of authoritative credentials in the form of careers or Church callings: consider Gary Stevenson’s story about “a beautiful, vibrant young wife and mother [who] was a scrappy Division 1 soccer player when she met and married her dental student husband.” Women are specifically described as “young” fully three times as often as men, further depriving them of authority by minimizing their life experience. If anything, these trends have increased over time, particularly the use of “beautiful” to describe anonymous women. These verbal citations further undermine women’s ability to stand as equals in their community. By contrast, men occupy a variety of positions in and outside of the Church and have a range of authoritative credentials available.
Conference quotation practices serve to diminish female authority. Not only are women quoted significantly less frequently than men, but the ways in which women are quoted serve to further mute their voices. Women are anonymized and described with diminutives rather than with authoritative credentials. They are included as the wives of husbands while men are the leaders of organizations in and outside of the Church, despite the fact that conference speakers frequently encourage men to be good family members and women to step up as community leaders. These quotation patterns play into tropes that undermine leaders’ professions of gender equality.
Gendered Audiences and Gendered Topics
The data presented thus far have only been from members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the general session. The general session is open to everyone, but leaders also historically spoke at gender-segregated priesthood and women’s sessions each year. When investigating how quotation patterns from the Church’s top leaders shift in different sessions, it becomes apparent that these leaders are very aware of gender. Their awareness leads them, however, to continue privileging male voices. What is more, when these leaders are speaking on the topic of gender, they assert male authority more strongly than ever.
In the last twenty years, First Presidency members have used quotation differently when speaking to different audiences (table 5). Looking at quotations across the general, priesthood, and women’s sessions, several interesting trends become visible. First, past prophets are a more popular source in the priesthood session than in either of the other two, but the current prophet is cited far more in the women’s session (a statistically significant difference). Men are quoted more in priesthood (40.6 percent) compared to the general (36.8 percent) and women’s (36.6 percent) sessions. However, non-leader men experience a drop of almost six percentage points when speakers are addressing only women. Similarly, women are quoted less in the priesthood session (1 percent) than in the general session (2.6 percent), and the most in the women’s session (3.7 percent).
Table 5: Gender Distrubtions by Session of Citations in Talks by Members of the First Presidency, April 2001–2020a
|General Session||Priesthood Session||Women's Session|
|Other Male Source||8.7%||8.0%||2.6%|
|Other Female Source||2.5%||0.8%||2.6%|
a. Total General Session citations: 726; Priesthood: 524; Womens: 191
These numbers are an acknowledgment that the gender of a source matters. If leaders were not aware of the gender of their sources, there would not be this kind of variation between sessions. These numbers are also, then, an acknowledgment of audience. When Church leaders speak to women, they seem to find their audience less willing to take men’s voices seriously without high-level Church authority; hence the drop in quotations of non-leader men. However, when the Church’s highest leaders speak in the general session, they appear to think those male voices will be almost as respected as with an all-male audience. This indicates that men are still in some ways the perceived audience, or perhaps the more important one, in a mixed-gender group. And, as a group, men are perceived to grant female voices significantly less authority than male ones.
The notable increase in citation of the current prophet in women’s session by men is almost certainly due to the fact that quotation practices are responsive to topic as well. When discussing the origins of the Church, speakers are more likely to quote Joseph Smith; when discussing the sins of the world, secular news sources are used more frequently. In the women’s session, speakers are more likely to discuss being a woman—but they are most likely to quote men, not women, to make their case.
The Church has become increasingly concerned with gender and sexuality as society has become more permissive toward same-sex relationships and less “traditional” models of the nuclear family, both of which (history of polygamy aside) the Church rejects. Speakers often use their time in general conference to address these issues, with growing frequency and urgency. Talks entirely devoted to discussing gender, from speakers of any rank, have increased dramatically in the twenty-first century. Between 1970 and 1989, which included the contentious period of the Church’s fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, ten talks were given solely on gender. In the 1990s, there were eight. In the 2000s, there were twenty-three; in the 2010s, there were twenty-five. The pattern appears to be set to continue. Though some leaders are more focused on these issues than others, the high rate of talks about gender is not due to just a few. Every prophet since Gordon Hinckley (who became president of the Church in 1995) has delivered multiple addresses on gender, as have fourteen different apostles.
Every decade, just over half of the talks about gender are given in the general sessions. The rest are usually addressed to women: eight in the 2000s, and ten in the 2010s. Attendees of the priesthood session have been the recipient of talks specifically focused on gender only twice a decade in that fifty-year period. Though “gender roles” sounds gender inclusive, these conference addresses generally are not. While discussions of sexuality are disproportionately aimed at gay men, gender is a women’s issue. True manhood will sometimes make an appearance, but good womanhood is the primary focus of these addresses, even when delivered to men. One might assume, then, that this difference between the men’s and women’s sessions would be due to female leaders’ focus on gender roles, but this is not the case. Only four of the eighteen talks about gender in the women’s session between 2001 and 2020 were given by women. The rest were given by the First Presidency. This is not to say that women do not speak often about gender roles; women gave eleven of the twenty-six talks about gender in the general session in that time period. But the prophet and apostles speak on these topics far more often than any other group, and it is notable that they do so far more to women than to men. Male conference speakers who are not apostles almost never devote their talks to the subject.
In the context of authority in the Church, such patterns make sense. Because gender is the subject of developing Church doctrine, only the most powerful leaders have the appropriate ecclesiastical authority to make claims about these issues. When all such leaders are male, this means that discourses on gender are a male domain, regardless of how egalitarian their arguments may be. Quotations in these talks, though small in number (101 in this subset), provide further evidence of this. In talks by the First Presidency about gender between 2001 and 2020 (table 6), quotes from current leaders are much higher than in the First Presidency’s total average (shown in table 5). Members of the First Presidency quote the current prophet nearly six times more frequently when they are talking about gender (14.9 percent) than they do on average (2.5 percent). The six total citations from female sources represent a higher percentage (6.0 percent) than elsewhere from these speakers, but female leaders of the Church are not among those quoted. Specifically male voices, in comparison, still make up nearly 40 percent of the total.
Table 6: Gender Distribution of Citations in Talks about Gender and Sexuality from Members of the First Presidency, April 2001–2020a
|Scripture (Not Gendered)||25.7%|
|Other Female Source||4.0%|
|Other Male Source||1.0%|
a. Total citations: 101
It is perhaps surprising that leaders choose to rely so much more heavily on men’s voices when talking to women about how to be good women. This can be seen as both an appeal to established authority and an attempt to establish it. Gender and sexuality are two issues on which church members find themselves most at odds with mainstream Western culture, so leaders must increasingly support their arguments with the weightiest religious authorities. On the other hand, many church members are also at odds with Church leadership about these issues, with increasing numbers of young people leaving the Church over its position. In continually emphasizing the current prophet’s authority by citing him, these speakers are working in part to maintain the Church’s jurisdiction over these topics. Quotation is one tool to enforce male hierarchical church authority when addressing the issues that most threaten it.
This reliance is stronger than ever in the Nelson era. Oaks’s 2019 address at the women’s session quoted Nelson eight times out of twelve, along with the First Presidency and past Church president Kimball. Eyring also used Nelson as three of his five total quotes (the other two from scripture) in his 2019 talk on gender, telling women to “remember President Nelson’s perfect description of a woman’s divine mission—including her mission of mothering.” Neither speaker drew on women’s voices to describe women’s divine mission or anything else.
When looking at gender-segregated sessions, it becomes apparent that the gender of both audience and source inform leaders’ quotation practices. It also becomes clear that leaders consistently prioritize men. Though conference speakers seem to believe that women see men without ecclesiastical authority as less authoritative than men do, that belief does not impact their quotation practices when men as well as women are in the audience. In this way, they treat their male listeners as more important than their female ones. Though apostles tend to quote women more often when talking to women, they also quote male leaders more often when talking about women. Women’s voicelessness elsewhere in the Church culminates in apostles’ choices to exclude female voices and prioritize male leaders when talking about womanhood.
Women Quoting Men
In the previous sections, this article has examined quotation patterns only from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency. Women have been quoted less, acknowledged less, and, by implication, seen as less authoritative than men. The highest authorities of the Church have indirectly used their voices in general conference not to elevate women but to emphasize male power, especially in the spaces that impact women most. These patterns also have an impact on how female leaders perceive themselves and their audience. The same analysis of quotation patterns from female leaders’ conference talks reveals that women also treat female voices as less authoritative than male ones—including their own.
On average, female leaders spend the greatest percentage of their talks quoting, more than any other group of conference speakers. Between 2016 and 2020, members of the First Presidency spent 15.5 percent of their talks on quotation, while members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spent 18.6 percent of their time quoting. Male leaders in other positions spent 16.9 percent of their time quoting, and female leaders spent 21.4 percent. These differences are both statistically significant and revealing. When the leaders who spend the most time using their own words are the most powerful, it is telling that the leaders who spend the least time doing so are female.
Not only do women spend more of their time than male leaders repeating others’ words, they also spend even more time quoting male sources than male leaders do. Like the First Presidency, women’s talks about gender include a heavy emphasis on quotations from the current prophet and other leaders. The women’s talks in the April 2020 session were perhaps the starkest possible example of this pattern: two of the three female leaders spoke on gender roles, and video footage of church president Nelson speaking was also inserted in the middle of their addresses. (Neither of the talks about gender roles given by male leaders had video segments.)
This pattern of female speakers focusing on male voices is not limited by topic, however. Since female leaders began speaking regularly in the general sessions (1988–2020), 5.7 percent of female leaders’ quotations in the general sessions were from female sources, while 42.0 percent of them were from male sources (table 7). Between 2011 and 2020, female leaders quoted men 46.6 percent of the time—fully fifteen percentage points higher than the frequency with which apostles quoted men in the general session during that same time period (31.7 percent). Even when they are quoting women, female leaders treat them as less authoritative than similarly positioned male sources: female leaders completely verbally cite 68.4 percent of their male sources with no ecclesiastical authority, but only 47.8 percent of their non-leader female sources. This is a greater disparity than in apostles’ talks (shown in table 3). In the women’s session, where female leaders quote women the most (13.2 percent of the time), they still quote men more than twice as frequently as they quote women (30.9 percent). Between 2016 and 2020, almost eight out of ten gendered quotations from female leaders have been male. By comparison, male conference speakers in other leadership positions in those years quoted men 40.7 percent of the time in the general session and 32.2 percent in the priesthood session, while quoting women 1.9 percent of the time to their mixed-gender audience and not once to their all-male one.
Table 7: Breakdown of Gendered Quotations in April General Session Talks Given by Female Leaders, 1988–2020a
|Other Female Source||3.9%|
|Other Male Source||3.2%|
a. Total citations: 559
If quotation in general conference is about drawing upon the authority of quoted sources, it might be surprising to see female leaders quoting male sources so often instead of even more authoritative sources like God or the scriptures. Indeed, female leaders tend to quote Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ less frequently (12.3 percent of the time) than apostles do (19.7 percent between 1988 and 2020). Women are not just quoting any male source, however: they are overwhelmingly quoting male Church leaders in an appeal to institutional authority. This is increasing over time: between 1988 and 2010, 19.8 percent of female leaders’ quotations came from male leaders, but between 2011 and 2020, that number went up to 37.5 percent—twenty-two times the percentage of their quotations that comes from female leaders. Of these citations, women are quoting current leaders sitting on the stand behind them fully two out of three times. In this way, at least, women’s access to authority is mediated by male priesthood holders rather than coming directly from God.
Comparing this to quotation patterns from male leaders who are not apostles indicates that female leaders’ emphasis on apostles’ authority is not just due to women’s lower leadership positions. Between 2016 and 2020, non-apostle leaders quoted current and past apostles 19.4 percent of the time. This is more frequent than apostles’ own quotations of fellow apostles in this time period (16.5 percent), but far less frequent than female leaders’ quotations of apostles (28.2 percent). Of the leaders they quoted, non-apostle men also quoted living apostles less frequently than women did (57.8 percent as opposed to 61 percent). Just because these male leaders are not quoting apostles as often as women are does not mean that they are less comfortable with male authority, however: 95 percent of their gendered citations in the general session are from men, as are 100 percent of their gendered citations in the priesthood session. Where non-apostle men have not quoted a woman once in the April priesthood sessions over those five years, 11.9 percent of their quotations in that session are from men without any ecclesiastical authority. Male leaders consistently treat male voices as authoritative, but they do not draw upon male ecclesiastical authority to the same extent that female leaders do. It appears that even the most powerful female leaders in the Church need to appeal more frequently to ecclesiastical authority because they do not themselves have the same access to it as men.
Female leaders’ quotation of apostles and prophets might be seen as their own active affirmation of male authority, deliberately directed at a potentially skeptical female audience. However, it is difficult to imagine that female leaders are even more invested in the maintenance of the prophets’ and apostles’ authority than those men are themselves—that is, the fact that female leaders quote male leaders more than any other group of speakers (and female leaders only 2 percent of the time) looks more like an attempt to draw on male authority to bolster their own credibility. Instead, female leaders’ quotation patterns indicate an investment in promoting female authority: when speaking to an all-female audience, they quote both regular women and female leaders far more frequently than men do when addressing only women. The drop in quotations of women when men enter the audience, however, suggests that female speakers may not believe they have the power to follow through on that investment in a broader Church setting. These quotation patterns indicate that the highest-ranking female leaders of the Church continue to rely upon male priesthood authority in order to be taken seriously, by women and by men. Male leaders’ quotation patterns reveal that women lack authority compared to men in the Church; female leaders’ quotation patterns are a direct result.
Those concerned with the role of women in the Church can cite a litany of statements from Church leaders over the last fifty years that claim that the Church both empowers women and relies upon empowered women. In 2015, for example, then-apostle Russell Nelson quoted Boyd Packer’s 1978 encouragement to women, saying, “We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out.” As prophet in 2019, Nelson reaffirmed, “As a righteous, endowed Latter-day Saint woman, you speak and teach with power and authority from God. Whether by exhortation or conversation, we need your voice teaching the doctrine of Christ. We need your input in family, ward, and stake councils. Your participation is essential and never ornamental!”
Intentionally or not, these same leaders consistently engage in rhetorical practices that undermine these stated commitments. The overwhelming imbalance in quoting men and women reveals conference speakers’ belief, conscious or otherwise, that their audience respects male voices more than female ones. While much has changed for women in the Church over the last half-century, much remains the same. Women consistently make up less than 3 percent of quotations in general conference. They are still described in terms of their appearance and relationship status; sermons about how they should live are the domain of male authority; their own representatives in the Church spend much of their time at the pulpit repeating male leaders’ words. Despite leaders’ claims that women speak and teach with power and authority, their quotation practices diminish that authority and frequently deny women the opportunity to speak at all. Quoting women more is one opportunity for leaders to practice what they preach and affirm female authority to the worldwide Church. Quotation in general conference matters because general conference matters: it is the most important event on the institutional Church calendar, with millions of members viewing the talks live and many more engaging with them repeatedly in Church magazines and Sunday curricula over several years. Short of small and large changes to the leadership structure of the Church, general conference is one key avenue through which leaders could demonstrate that women’s participation in the Church really is essential. Right now, their quotations show, it is not even ornamental.
Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of this article as a courtesy. There may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and bibliographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.
This research was made possible by a Chappell Lougee Scholarship in summer 2017 and a Major Grant in summer 2018 from Stanford University. I would like to thank Lee Yearley, Kathryn Gin Lum, and Robert Daines for supporting those grants, Tom Bryan for help with the statistics, and Peter Bryan, Anita Wells, Rosalynde Welch, Gordon Blake, Tyler Johnson, members of the Cambridge First Ward Relief Society, and Dialogue reviewers for thoughtful comments on various drafts.
1. Joy Jones, “An Especially Noble Calling,” April 2020.
. A young girl spoke briefly in the filmed meeting with Nelson.
 Though terms referring to sex (female/male) and terms referring to gender (women/men) are not equivalent, they are used interchangeably in this article.
 Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd, “Modes of Leader Rhetoric in the Institutional Development of Mormonism,” Sociological Analysis 47 no. 2 (1986): 127, original emphasis. Statistical analysis of general conference rhetoric is becoming more popular: others who have recently engaged on this front include Quentin Spencer and blogger Ziff at Zelophehad’s Daughters.
 Though general conference happens twice a year, because of time constraints I chose to only study one session per year. Because the April conference often falls on Easter or the anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the New Testament and Joseph Smith may be overrepresented in my data. However, my analysis of trends and changes over time should not be impacted, because those events happen every April.
 In 1984, the recently released Relief Society and Young Women’s presidencies were invited to give short farewell talks. This marked the first time women had spoken in the general session in more than fifty years, but women did not become regular speakers until 1988.
 I only counted direct quotation: ideas that were paraphrased or attributed to a source without actual words from that source were not documented. I also did not count dialogue within narratives, though I did count quotations by characters that explained the “moral of the story,” as well as stories that were told entirely in someone else’s voice.
 The actual process of writing and editing conference talks is opaque. Many people other than the speaker might contribute to any one address. Spencer Kimball’s biography, for example, includes a story about Emma Lou Thayne reviewing a draft of his address to the first women’s session, where he apparently adopted many of her suggestions. Edward Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 167. Even potentially ghostwritten conference talks, however, should be seen as written from the position of the speaker’s authority.
 Richard Armstrong, “Researching Mormonism: General Conference as an Artifactual Gold Mine,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 30, no. 3 (1997): 164.
 Sheri Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 380.
 Armstrong, “Researching Mormonism,” 164.
 The audio of the original delivery and the transcript later published in Church magazines will sometimes differ in small and large ways. I chose to rely on the published transcripts, which Church spokespeople have claimed represent the “speaker’s intent.” See for example “LDS Church Addresses Changes Made to Pres. Packer’s Talk,” Ksl.com, October 8, 2010.
 Ruth Finnegan, Why Do We Quote? (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2018), 284.
 For one persuasive example of this technique, see Taylor Petrey, Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020).
 This practice is much less common now than it used to be, likely in part because of the way the internet has changed source availability. For uses throughout the years, see for example Marvin Ashton, “Roadblocks to Progress,” April 1979; Thomas Monson, “Building Your Eternal Home,” April 1984; James Faust, “The Power of Self-Mastery,” April 2000; Joseph Wirthlin, “The Abundant Life,” April 2006; and Thomas Monson, “Preparation Brings Blessings,” April 2010.
 One particularly interesting feature of Bartlett’s is that it is organized by the person who said the quotation rather than topic, so speakers who cited it would have to be looking for the source. However, it is possible that speakers use these collections for citations only, rather than finding quotations within them.
 For example, of the fifty general conferences in my sample, Thomas Monson spoke at forty-seven of them.
 Changes involving a population over time can happen for many reasons. For example, the population might change as it ages, or because the composition of the population changes, or because various events impact all members of the population. I argue that many changes in conference quotation can be attributed to this last source. Again, shifts in conference quotation happen more quickly than cohort changes in Church leaders, and though these leaders are all aging, the age range between the group is often as high as thirty years in the decades covered here. These broad-scale changes in general conference are unlikely to be due solely to changes in private attitudes among speakers.
 While percentage changes can look particularly dramatic when they are changes in small values, these particular changes are worth noting. For context, between 1971 and 1980, the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency quoted current apostles nine times and the current prophet fifteen times; between 2011 and 2020, they quoted current apostles twenty times and the current prophet fifty-two times.
 Armstrong, “Researching Mormonism,” 164.
 Latter-day Saint thinkers have long acknowledged the different roles played by scripture, prophetic pronouncements, and personal revelation in Church doctrine and practice. See, for example, David Holland, “Revelation and the Open Canon in Mormonism,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism, edited by Terryl Givens and Philip Barlow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Other scholars make additional distinctions. Holbrook and Reeder’s At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017) notes that women draw on authority from their Church positions, their expertise, their experiences and conviction, and their access to the Holy Spirit. Writing about the early Church, Jonathan Stapley distinguishes between “ecclesiastical authority, derived from Church office; liturgical authority, derived from membership in the Church to participate in general rituals of worship; and priestly authority, derived from participation in the Nauvoo Temple liturgy or cosmological priesthood.” Jonathan Stapley, The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 85.
 Finnegan, Why Do We Quote?, 57.
 Though conference speakers sometimes quote sources in order to disagree with them, this is quite rare.
 Bingham, “United in Accomplishing God’s Work.”
 “Influence” frames a woman’s power as something that manifests in others’ words and actions rather than in her own words and actions.
 Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures.”
 C. S. Lewis was only quoted seven times in my sample, less than other figures like Alexander Pope, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
 I did not set out to collect data on race, but it is notable and unsurprising that people of color (setting aside questions about race in the scriptures) are referenced in general conference far less than even women. In my sample, of the eighty-one named individuals not in Church leadership who were quoted more than once in the April general session by apostles, only one was not White: Abie Turay, who was quoted in Henry Eyring, “Is Not This the Fast that I Have Chosen,” April 2015.
 I counted male sources as those that were either gendered male by a speaker’s verbal citation or footnoted citations from men.
 In what follows, quotations attributed to Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ are never included in the male/female ratios. However, divinity in the Church is not outside of gender. See, for example, D. Todd Christofferson, “Let Us Be Men,” October 2006. Readers are encouraged to consider the impact of an embodied male divinity on these quotation patterns and on the Church. No potentially quotable texts are attributed to Heavenly Mother or to the male-gendered Holy Ghost.
 Even with gender-neutral verbal citations, the scriptures quoted continue to have been almost entirely written by men.
 This includes God, Jesus, Male Scriptures, Female Scriptures, Not Gendered Scriptures.
 This includes Non-Gendered, Church Publication, and Couple.
 Women make up 9.73 percent of 1,801 total citations.
 This includes Past Prophets, Current Prophets, Apostles, Male Church Leaders, and Female Church Leaders.
 In that same talk, Oaks also quoted three past Church presidents, three apostles (two living), The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the D&C, and Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. See Dallin Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” April 2014.
 Current non-apostle male leaders have, however, been quoted in the general session three times.
 Out of seventy and sixty-five total citations, respectively.
 Women are cited significantly more frequently in 2010–2020 than overall (using a one-sided t-test, p=0.004). However, women are not cited significantly more frequently in 2016–2020 than overall (p=0.254).
 Some quote far more often than others: Neal Maxwell averaged twenty-four quotations per talk (almost all scripture), while Richard Scott averaged 4.5.
 While women make up less than 2 percent of quotations of Church leaders, for example, they make up closer to 5 percent of conference talks.
 One initial difficulty with using verbal citation to assert women’s authority is the lack of authority titles for women in the Church. Though there has been a recent push to refer to female presidents as presidents, women were not referred to as “President X” in my sample.
 One additional way to determine the authority of a source is to look at the average length of quotations from that source. In a quotation from an authoritative source, what matters most is the presence of the source, rather than what is said. This is borne out by the data, as the current prophet has the lowest average word count of all non-scriptural sources. (In part because of a frequent conference pattern of weaving short phrases from scripture into one’s talk, scriptural sources had the lowest average word count of all sources.) Non-leader women have the highest average word count of all groups. This indicates that when women are quoted, they are quoted for content—meaning, again, that they are not quoted for source. The average length of quotes from women is also in part because of the frequency of narrative quotes from women.
 Using a two-sided t-test, p<0.0001, t=4.902.
 It is worth noting that leaders have become more reticent about using career status as a credential over time.
 These patterns are present in many elements of conference talks besides quotation: leaders often tell stories that consistently mention women’s appearance, feature them only in their familial roles while men are discussed in a variety of settings, anonymize women even when they are the main characters of the story, and so forth. One memorable example was Cook’s 2011 talk, “LDS Women are Incredible!” (taking its title from a Wallace Stegner quote), which told the story of Young Women’s leaders digging through a young woman’s purse and finding items inside that demonstrate her spirituality, attention to personal hygiene, craft-making creativity, and ability to be “a HOMEMAKER!” Quentin Cook, “LDS Women are Incredible!,” April 2011 (original emphasis). Such a story would never be told about a man.
 See, for example, Dallin Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,” April 1992; D. Todd Christofferson, “The Moral Force of Women,” October 2013; Russell Nelson, “Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel,” October 2018; and Henry Eyring, “Covenant Women in Partnership with God,” October 2019.
 Using a one-sided t-test, p=0.00001.
 Note that women’s session data is only from the First Presidency; members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles more frequently quote the current prophet, but they do not speak in women’s session and so are not represented here. It might be that citations of the current prophet are lower in the priesthood and general sessions because the prophet usually speaks in those sessions, while he has only spoken at every women’s session more recently. This might be part of the story; however, as shall be shown below, there is also a difference in content in the talks given at the women’s and priesthood sessions that accounts for a greater number of citations of the current prophet. In the last few years, the current prophet has been frequently cited in the women’s session even when he is present.
 This difference is statistically significant: p=.02 using a one-sided t-test.
 I use gender to cover talks dealing with both male and female gender roles and sexual orientation. Speakers usually tie sexuality closely to gender roles: heterosexual marriage is a key element of required masculinity and femininity.
 Gender and sexuality were mentioned in more than ten talks: homosexuality and women working outside the home, in particular, made their way onto several litanies of modern-day evils. However, gender was the primary topic of only a few of those addresses.
 I did not count addresses about being good priesthood holders as talks about gender unless the speaker also mentioned maleness. Where leaders have repeatedly insisted that all women are mothers, whether or not they actually have children (see for example Nelson, “Sisters’ Participation”) men’s relationship with the priesthood is not discussed in the same terms.
 See Petrey, Tabernacles of Clay, for a more extensive discussion of this issue.
 This difference is statistically significant: p<0.0001 using a one-sided t-test.
 Jana Riess, The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
 Citations of Nelson make up 7.7 percent of apostles’ quotations in general sessions since his calling as prophet, while the current prophet made up only 2.0 percent of quotations in previous years. Monson, the prophet preceding Nelson, was quoted 2.2 percent of the time. Nelson is quoted significantly more than other prophets (p<0.0001, t=11.8 using a two-sided t-test) and significantly more than Monson (p<0.0001, t=8.32 using a two-sided t-test).
 Eyring, “Covenant Women.”
 This is measured by dividing the total word count of the address with the total word count of quotations within the address. It may not map exactly to speaking time.
 Women spend a significantly greater portion of their talks in quotation than other groups of leaders (p=0.002, t=11.9 using a two-sided t-test) and the First Presidency spends significantly less than other groups (p=0.04, t=2.7 using a two-sided t-test).
 It may be surprising that apostles quote more than other male leaders, but this can be attributed to other rhetorical differences. For example, male leaders who are not apostles tend to spend a larger percentage of their talks telling stories rather than discoursing authoritatively, which reduces the number of quotations in their addresses.
 The only other video appearance that conference was in Nelson’s address, which was not about gender. He showed a video of himself in the Sacred Grove.
 Members of the Presiding Bishopric, Presidency of the Seventy, Quorum of the Seventy, or presidencies of the Young Mens and Sunday School.
 This ratio has remained relatively stable over time.
 Apostles are the only group of leaders that consistently quote each other. Non-apostle men quote each other only 0.2 percent of the time.
 Excepting, of course, the First Presidency members on the stand.
 Alternatively, this drop might indicate that female leaders do not believe that female voices should be treated authoritatively by men. This seems unlikely given their presence in general conference and on mixed-gender leadership panels, however limited that presence may be.
 Whether leaders’ views of female empowerment are indeed empowering is another question.
 Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures.”
 Dorice Elliot, “Let Women No Longer Keep Silent,” in Women and Authority: Re-Emerging Mormon Feminism, edited by Maxine Hanks (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 209–11.[post_title] => Quoted at the Pulpit: Male Rhetoric and Female Authority in Fifty Years of General Conference [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 55.4 (Winter 2021): 1–50
While much has changed for women in the Church over the last half-century, much remains the same. Women consistently make up less than 3 percent of quotations in general conference. They are still described in terms of their appearance and relationship status; sermons about how they should live are the domain of male authority; their own representatives in the Church spend much of their time at the pulpit repeating male leaders’ words. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => quoted-at-the-pulpit-male-rhetoric-and-female-authority-in-fifty-years-of-general-conference [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-11-14 23:46:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-11-14 23:46:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=31423 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Dialogue 54.1 (Spring 2021): 53–57
Some feel that “smashing the patriarchy” is the ultimate goal of what they define as “feminism.” That is not my opinion. Each of us—female and male—have power given us to serve and lead, speak out and nurture, preach doctrine, and clean the bathrooms in the ward building.
I am the youngest of three sisters, reared as a Protestant in the Illinois suburbs of Chicago. My mother was a nurse who returned to working when I was in my late elementary school years. Her mother was a nurse, too, a Swedish immigrant who arrived in Rockford, Illinois, at the age of ten in 1890.
My mother was creative, generous, and hospitable. Throughout my school years, we hosted guests through various international programs from Germany, Argentina, Japan, and Iran. When I was twelve, my sisters, mother, and I traveled to see my mother’s relatives who still lived in Sweden and then went on a whirlwind tour of Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, France, and England.
Mom had the loudest voice and strongest opinions in the household. She was determined and committed to her sometimes eccentric opinions. She had a unique approach to allergies, believing that any ailment—from car sickness to cancer—could be attributed to something ingested or inhaled from the environment. For example, she was convinced that my unsettled tummy after car rides to my grandparents’ house in Chicago (which I attribute to being squashed between my parents in the front seat and driving forty-five minutes on bumpy roads) was a reaction to my grandmother’s gas stove and gas heating, to which I was surely too sensitive.
Armed with her strong beliefs, Mom petitioned the school board in our town to allow me to go to high school a year early because the middle school being built would have gas heating, which she insisted would have a deleterious effect on my health. I went to high school a year early. After earning straight As my first term, the school board decided I was officially a freshman and didn’t have to do any catch-up work.
Because there were no boys in our family, I just assumed that girls could do whatever they wanted to if they put their minds and hearts into it. My dad was as good a chef as my mother, and Sunday dinners were always his delicious domain. They both had honorable jobs making the world better. Gender didn’t count for much other than which bathroom I used at school. And as far as racial distinctions went, and as far as Christ was concerned, that had surely been settled long ago. I brought home 1960s civil rights songs from junior Bible camp and sang them joyfully: “And before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free!”
I read the scriptures as my pastors and my own questions led me—seeking truth from the Good Book (and balking at some of Paul’s wilder sexist remarks just as I balked at some of my mother’s odd conclusions). The words to John Oxenham’s hymn “In Christ There Is No East or West” led me along my path:
In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.
Join hands, disciples of the faith,
whate’er your race may be.
All children of the living God
are surely kin to me.
I was a faithful Christian girl who had, as the Protestant parlance pronounced, a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” (I have been Jesus’ girl for as long as I have conscious memories. I still am.) I was very involved in our church’s youth group and served as its president. Despite it still being the 1960s, I seriously considered becoming a pastor “when I grew up”—at that time a rare and radical profession for women.
During my senior year in high school, I became close friends with an LDS girl in my class whose family had recently moved to our town from Utah. She and I found we had a lot of common ground in matters of faith. She invited me to her house for dinner and to meet the missionaries. When they asked me if I wanted to learn even more about Jesus Christ, I said, “Of course!”
Ten months later, as a freshman at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, I felt I would never get a satisfying answer to the dilemma in front of me: did God want me to become Mormon? I was happy and fulfilled in my Protestant faith. The concept the Mormons (as they were then called) taught that the gospel contains all truth was exciting and compelling. It was not a question of “by their fruits ye shall know them” because in terms of quality of character, I recognized there were spiritual giants in each place. There were also the kooky kind of “fruits” on full display in both traditions, too.
During an October visit from two missionaries at my freshman college dorm I had a pivotal experience that gave me a jolt of grace and love beyond anything I had previously experienced. It granted clarity that assured me God wanted me to become a Mormon.
At first, I interpreted the transcendence of that encounter as “Yes, it’s true!” Over the course of the intervening decades, I have come to realize that I didn’t (and still don’t) understand what the “it” in that exclamation refers to and what the adjective “true” fully means. Regardless of my constant wrestling with words and their meanings, I still consider that experience in my dorm room as among the “true-est” experiences I have ever had. It changed my life if not my blood type and continues to shape my journey of faith.
After I waited for two years (attending Cambridge’s university wards and even holding callings), my parents were persuaded that this was not just an adolescent whim and allowed me to be baptized, three days shy of my nineteenth birthday.
The LDS women I first encountered in New England were dynamic, eager, outspoken, questing, accomplished women. These included, among others, Claudia Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Judy Dushku, Grethe Peterson, Nancy Dredge, Jill Mulvay, Carrel Sheldon, Cheryl DiVito, Judy Gilliland, and Mimmu Sloan. A half-generation older than I, they were the embodiment of what I thought all Mormon women (and men, for that matter) would be—articulate, advocates of equal rights for all, and full of faith in Christ.
As part of an institute class these women researched the lives of the nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint foremothers, compiled their results, and published a book called Mormon Sisters in 1976. They also launched a new iteration of the nineteenth-century periodical Woman’s Exponent for LDS sisters and christened it Exponent II—basing it on the “twin pedestals of Mormonism and Feminism” as they had seen exemplified in the lives of Eliza R. Snow, Emma Hale Smith, Patty Bartlett Sessions, Martha Hughes Cannon, Emmeline B. Wells, and others.
I remember walking past an institute class in Cambridge. I heard Judy Dushku saying that when her colleagues at the college where she taught asked her, “How can you be a Mormon and a feminist?” she replied, “Of course I’m a feminist! It’s because I’m Mormon!” To me that sounded just right. Shouldn’t everyone—male and female—be a feminist if it means allowing each individual to achieve “the measure of their creation”?
Soon I was illustrating for Exponent II, then writing articles and eventually a column, and attending or presenting at Exponent retreats in lovely New England settings.
In September 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball gave an address called “The Role of Righteous Women.” In it he said:
Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.
I wanted to be “righteous” and “articulate.” The way I understood it, LDS women I knew weren’t “claiming” power from anyone else’s domain. They were examples of owning the power inherent in them as daughters and heirs of God.
When, as a new mother, I moved with my husband Chris to Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side, I met more examples of women (and men) who understood the amazing potential God has invested in each of us. Throughout the decades I discovered soulmates among more LDS women. My sister-friend Cathy Stokes, an African American convert to the Church, was straight-talking, outspoken, committed to the gospel (and Gospel music)—and was not-to-be-messed-with. Others continued to lead, guide, and walk beside me as examples of Christlike women-in-action.
Cathy Stokes is the one who introduced me to a hymn from her previous Baptist tradition. I often hum and sing its refrain. It’s called “Plenty Good Room”:
Plenty good room, plenty good room,
plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom,
Plenty good room, plenty good room,
Just choose your seat and sit down.
Over the course of many decades of Church membership I have, of course, discovered that sisters in the Church vary in their attitudes and confidence in recognizing, owning, and asserting their God-given powers. Not all women were nurtured on the laps of confident, committed women. Not all of them grew up under the influence of strong-minded mothers in a house full of females and a non-hierarchical father. There are aspects of our LDS culture that subtly—or directly from the pulpit—have been tainted by “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” There remains a lot of long-standing toxic rhetoric that women are somehow “less than,” subservient, or in need of covenantal “safety hatches.”
Some feel that “smashing the patriarchy” is the ultimate goal of what they define as “feminism.” That is not my opinion. Each of us—female and male—have power given us to serve and lead, speak out and nurture, preach doctrine, and clean the bathrooms in the ward building. I’m sure there are others who feel that distinct rules and roles must be enumerated and enforced. I generally diffuse the discontent that stirs in me by reminding myself that each of us approaches life from our own quadrant of the Myers–Briggs personality scale. Some like rules. Some function better with hazier boundaries. (That doesn’t resolve all the hurdles I come across in my life as a committed misfit among the Latter-day Saints, but it provides enough buffer of charity to keep me moving forward.) As I have assumed from my earliest years, Christ is our example. Can we hear him calling us as he did in 3 Nephi 10:4: “How oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you?” I am persuaded that part of my (and, I believe, our Church’s) current task is to ensure that there is, in fact, “plenty good room” in God’s kingdom. Let us acknowledge our power from our divine heritage. Then let’s choose our seat and sit down.
Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of this article as a courtesy. There may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and bibliographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.
 Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 16.
 Claudia Bushman, ed., Mormon Sisters (Cambridge, Mass.: Emmeline Press Limited, 1976).
Some feel that “smashing the patriarchy” is the ultimate goal of what they define as “feminism.” That is not my opinion. Each of us—female and male—have power given us to serve and lead, speak out and nurture, preach doctrine, and clean the bathrooms in the ward building. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => assuming-power [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 01:44:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 01:44:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=27874 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Women in Workplace Power
Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 143–157
Women’s work has always been multifaceted and applied across all aspects of human experience. Women have filled many roles: queen, mother, inventor, artist, healer, politician, caretaker, prophet. Women’s voices have been loud and quiet, sometimes invisible but always present, on the vanguard or on the margins, leading, pushing, making change.
Women’s work has always been multifaceted and applied across all aspects of human experience. Women have filled many roles: queen, mother, inventor, artist, healer, politician, caretaker, prophet. Women’s voices have been loud and quiet, sometimes invisible but always present, on the vanguard or on the margins, leading, pushing, making change. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => women-in-workplace-power [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 01:48:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 01:48:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=25890 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Women in the Ministry
Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 129–142
Interview with Brittany Mangelson who is a full-time minister for Community of Christ. She has a master of arts in religion from Graceland University and works as a social media seeker ministry specialist.
Interview with Brittany Mangelson who is a full-time minister for Community of Christ. She has a master of arts in religion from Graceland University and works as a social media seeker ministry specialist.[post_title] => Mormon Women in the Ministry [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 129–142
Interview with Brittany Mangelson who is a full-time minister for Community of Christ. She has a master of arts in religion from Graceland University and works as a social media seeker ministry specialist. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-women-in-the-ministry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 01:49:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 01:49:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=25888 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Other Crime: Abortion and Contraception in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Utah
Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 33–47
In this essay, I discuss this history, present evidence that Latter-day Saint men sold abortion pills in the late nineteenth century, and argue that it is likely some Latter-day Saint women took them in an attempt to restore menstrual cycles that anemia, pregnancy, or illness had temporarily “stopped.” Women living in the twenty-first century are unable to access these earlier understandings of pregnancy because the way we understand pregnancy has changed as a result of debates over the criminalization of abortion and the development of ultrasound technology.
In this essay, I discuss this history, present evidence that Latter-day Saint men sold abortion pills in the late nineteenth century, and argue that it is likely some Latter-day Saint women took them in an attempt to restore menstrual cycles that anemia, pregnancy, or illness had temporarily “stopped.”[post_title] => The Other Crime: Abortion and Contraception in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Utah [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 33–47
In this essay, I discuss this history, present evidence that Latter-day Saint men sold abortion pills in the late nineteenth century, and argue that it is likely some Latter-day Saint women took them in an attempt to restore menstrual cycles that anemia, pregnancy, or illness had temporarily “stopped.” Women living in the twenty-first century are unable to access these earlier understandings of pregnancy because the way we understand pregnancy has changed as a result of debates over the criminalization of abortion and the development of ultrasound technology. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-other-crime-abortion-and-contraception-in-nineteenth-and-twentieth-century-utah [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-11 22:02:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-11 22:02:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=25875 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Multiculturalism as Resistance: Latina Migrants Navigate U.S. Mormon Spaces
Dialogue 53.1 (Spring 2020): 5–32
I cannot help but smile when she calls me hermana, her “sister.” Her reference to me signifies a dual meaning: I am not only like a family member to her, but additionally, the term hermana is used among Spanish-speaking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) to signify solidarity and integration with one another.
I cannot help but smile when she calls me hermana, her “sister.” Her reference to me signifies a dual meaning: I am not only like a family member to her, but additionally, the term hermana is used among Spanish-speaking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) to signify solidarity and integration with one another. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => multiculturalism-as-resistance-latina-migrants-navigate-u-s-mormon-spaces [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:37:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:37:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=25872 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Mother Tree: Understanding the Spiritual Root of Our Ecological Crisis
Dialogue 52.1 (Spring 2019): 17–32
But the experience of women as women, their wilderness crescent, is unshared with men—utterly other—and therefore to men, unnatural.
But the experience of women as women, their wilderness crescent, is unshared with men—utterly other—and therefore to men, unnatural. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-mother-tree-understanding-the-spiritual-root-of-our-ecological-crisis [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:37:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:37:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=23344 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Condemn Me Not
Dialogue 52.1 (Spring 2019): 17–32
I do not lend the weight of truth to the language of ritual. Such language is symbolic. But even in the context of symbolism, language that is so preferential toward men and dismissive of women—especially when such language more aptly demonstrates the bias of the writers than the purpose of the ritual—needs to be removed.
I do not lend the weight of truth to the language of ritual. Such language is symbolic. But even in the context of symbolism, language that is so preferential toward men and dismissive of women—especially when such language more aptly demonstrates the bias of the writers than the purpose of the ritual—needs to be removed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => condemn-me-not [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:39:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:39:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=23343 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
LDS Women’s Authority and the Temple: A Feminist FHE Discussion with Maxine Hanks
Dialogue 52.1 (Spring 2019): 45–76
A Feminist Family Home Evening discussion with Maxine Hanks regarding women in the church as seen through temple theology.
Editor’s note: The following is taken from a Q&A discussion that followed a presentation on “LDS Women and the Temple in Historical Context.” The text of the presentation will appear on the Dialogue website.
Provo, Utah, February 25, 2019 (excerpted and edited for length and clarity)
Dialogue: It’s a rare pleasure to get together with Maxine Hanks for a private discussion about the place of women in the LDS Church. She has done research and writing in Mormon studies for a long time, and she’s been standing on the front lines of Mormon feminism for more than three decades. I know you all—as Mormon feminists— have questions for her about feminist issues in the Church, and her thoughts about the temple. I also asked her to share some of her personal journey with us.
Maxine: Thanks, I’m happy to answer any questions or discuss what- ever topics you have in mind. First, to give some background, in 1992 I published a book about the history of Mormon feminism and women’s relationship to priesthood and theology. I found feminist voices from the beginnings of the Church to the present; women like Emma Hale Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and Emmeline B. Wells were talking about their own authority independent of men’s, and their own relationship to priesthood. I used women’s writings from the Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes, the Woman’s Exponent, Exponent II, Relief Society Magazine, Mormons for ERA, Algie Ballif Forum, Mormon Women’s Forum, Voice club at BYU, and other sources. I republished a few feminist articles and asked feminist scholars to write new articles about LDS women’s history and theology for the book. I also interviewed women and men to collect their experiences with the divine feminine.
So, it was a lot of new and bold feminist research in one book at a time when most Mormons didn’t even use the word “feminist” in public. The result was that five of my writers and myself faced Church discipline; four of us were in the September Six. We lost our Church membership, but we knew that was the risk and the price for publishing feminist work that questioned traditional or institutional views at that time.
Today all that information is mainstream on the internet, often used or cited by LDS historians, scholars, and members. So, nineteen years later, I came back to the Church in 2012. I felt compelled to do that for my own healing, as a feminist historian and theologian in the Church. I wanted to foster belonging for myself and others who’ve been silenced or disciplined for feminism or scholarly work.
I didn’t recant anything I’d said or written in the past or change my feminist views or work. I simply wanted to restore my membership, as I am. Obviously, I had help from supportive Church leaders. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This week is the seventh anniversary of my rebaptism. It’s been extremely healing and allowed me to explore a new territory of faith and ministry.
In the 1990s, we were navigating new territory by publishing Mormon feminist history and theology. We were talking about women’s relationship to priesthood in public; yet we couldn’t do that without danger of Church discipline then. Today it’s commonplace to talk about women’s priesthood and theology in public; everyone is doing it. I’m not saying it’s entirely safe, and some feminists still encounter leaders who try to silence or discipline them. Yet Mormon feminism is now understood as inherent in our history and culture. It’s normal, mainstream.
Now, I find myself sharing women’s history and theology in Church as a temple-going member because we realize that women’s theology has been there the whole time, embedded in Mormon origins. You can read it in the original Relief Society Minutes and other historic feminist writings on the Church web site. Today, members want more information about women’s history and theology. My ward asked me to share research about women’s relationship to priesthood. I see tremendous positive change and hunger for women’s theology. I anticipate more feminist work and healing in the Church to come. I’ve seen major changes in my lifetime. I know that policy can shift dramatically.
For example, when I was young, I wanted to be a missionary, but women were told not to apply, so I had to push and wait for approval to submit my application in June 1978. A few days later, the Church announced a revelation extending priesthood to black members. It was so sudden, so huge, it blew our minds and changed the Church overnight. I remember wondering if women might someday get the priesthood too. I entered the missionary home in Salt Lake just before October General Conference in 1978, where I voted with thousands of members to accept priesthood ordination for black men and extend all priesthood and temple blessings to black women.
That same week I first received my endowment in the Salt Lake temple, before leaving to serve a mission in the South where I worked in black neighborhoods. So the Church voted to lift the priesthood ban against blacks one week before I went to teach in black homes. My first experience on arrival in the mission was the baptism of a black woman. The meaning of that event was enormous, knowing she could have all the blessings, rites, and ordinances of the Church.
Fast forward to October 2013, a year after my rebaptism in the Church. I returned to the Salt Lake temple for the first time since October conference of 1978, a span of thirty-five years. Coincidentally, it was October General Conference weekend again, in 2013. It was also the same weekend that Ordain Women held their first action on Temple Square. Many of my close friends were involved in that event. I was supportive of them in many ways, yet my place was in the temple that weekend rather than on Temple Square.
When I went through the endowment that day in October 2013, a black man filled the role of Jehovah, and he also took me through the veil. So, for me that day, God was black. It was extraordinary, realizing that in 1978 there were no black people in the temple, but in 2013, God was black. Afterward, I called Darius Gray to tell him about it, and we both cried. For me, the shift in my temple experience between October 1978 and October 2013 signified a major healing in the Church. And, I thought that day, if God can be black in the temple, surely God can be female there, as well.
Being in the temple that day coincided with an historic call for women’s ordination outside. It was a watershed moment, a shift in Church consciousness about priesthood, like the change in 1978. Feminists on Temple Square were seeking priesthood and reclaiming the word “ordain”—because historically LDS women had possessed both. Women had received five or six kinds of ordinations from 1830–50—in ministry, the Relief Society, and the temple. Yet yet in LDS tradition those were female priesthood offices, women’s own line of authority. That weekend, I felt my place was inside the temple recovering my ordinations. It was an example of how we each have our own unique role or place to be. I found empowerment privately in the temple by seeking my endowment, while my friends on Temple Square found empowerment publicly by seeking entrance to priesthood meeting.
So that’s enough background. I’d like to hear from you all—about your own path, where you’re at, and how you feel about the temple or the Church.
FHE: I’m impressed that you find the temple empowering as a feminist. Can you elaborate more on how you find it empowering, personally?
Maxine: Sure, when I first entered the temple in 1978, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t about marriage. All the men were sitting on one side, and all the women were sitting on the other side, rather than in couples. So, I didn’t feel awkward being single. That was a big deal in the 1970s, given the intense pressures to be married and have kids. I was trying to find out who I was, independent of marriage. The temple ceremony was about our individual relationship with God, not about couples. It was about my own path to God, not marriage. It was my own initiation into sacred rites. I was thrilled by all of that. I never saw the temple ceremonies through the lens of marriage or being dependent on a husband. I received the initiatory and endowment feeling empowered and consecrated to God, not inadequate or incomplete in any way. I didn’t pay attention to the one or two brief references about a husband because they didn’t apply to me nor to the ceremony. The initiatory and endowment are inductions into priesthood and your own ascent to God. That’s empowering.
I had a spiritual experience about priesthood in the temple, my first time in 1978. When I was “set apart” as a missionary, I felt something tangible conferred on me, a spiritual authority or mantle that stayed with me throughout my mission experience. However, when I went through the initiatory and endowment in the temple, I felt a bigger spiritual mantle descend on me, of the priesthood. I had no idea what type of priesthood it was, but I knew spiritually that I had just received priesthood in some form. I had no historical knowledge of that idea in 1978, it was only a spiritual sense, yet I knew it was real. And that sense of priesthood stayed with me all through my mission, and beyond. It gave me confidence and ability to minister, with power. In fact, my experience in the temple that day in 1978 drove me to research women’s priesthood and theology in the 1980s.
Today, I love the symbolism of the ritual, the spiritual and esoteric meanings. The endowment is a rite of redemption, a sacred pattern of salvation—about the soul’s descent from the realm of God, its awakening within the fallen world, and its ascent back to heaven. This is the archetypal journey of the soul, to discover its true self or nature, the “hero’s journey” through departure, testing, and return. It feels ancient, like entering a mystery rite in a temple from another time. I love the initiation rites and white vestments of temple priesthood. I see them as ordination rites into “highest and holiest priesthood,” and the fullness or “pleroma” of the Gods.
I see the endowment as an inspired midrash of Genesis that finishes or completes the theological story of Adam and Eve. It redeems them from the Fall via gnosis or spiritual knowledge of their divine identity, which returns them to God’s presence. It also redeems us, the human family, along with Adam and Eve, via knowledge of our true identity as divine beings, co-eternal with God, which brings us into communion with God. I see Adam and Eve as theological beings. They emerge from an androgynous being of clay, “Adamah” whom God divides into male and female humans, Adam (man) and Havah (life) before they fall into mortality. They are archetypal figures representing duality—male and female, masculine and feminine, physical and spiritual, mortal and eternal aspects of human being. The temple rites unite men and women in rituals that integrate the masculine and feminine and resolve duality into unity. On a literal level it joins couples in sacred marriage. On a theological level it returns the fallen human to heaven, marries the genders, mends duality, unites the mortal and eternal, reunites our souls with God. On a psychological level it symbolizes the integration of parts of Self into wholeness, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious the alchemical marriage of self, or “individuation.”
FHE: You talked about how you’re in the Church, you left for a long period then came back and there was something different. Where I’m at right now, I have historical background and knowledge, and personal experience through feminism, that I know is true, but I know that the Church is not there. Every time I go to church, it’s just like this pain—it hurts, that tension I always feel. It’s not like I want to leave the Church, but it’s so hard to be there and see where we could be yet where we are. Could you speak to what was different exactly that second time, of being back in the Church, and how you deal with those tensions?
Maxine: Yes, I wrestled with that dilemma for years before I returned. Could I really go back or not? I had a whole list of things I didn’t agree with or didn’t support. Then, I had a spiritual sense of reassurance that it would all work out okay because it was simple—“you need them, and they need you.”
It’s been better than I imagined. It works because I find a spiritual connection or resonance with members seeking God in our lives. Sure, we sometimes have different views on theology or doctrine or history, but that’s true at a scholarly conference or a family reunion. I don’t expect anyone to hold my view. I don’t go to church for shared ideology, I go for the shared spiritual experience of a group of souls gathered to pray and seek God’s love, light, inspiration. That works.
Also, returning works because enough had changed to create a new relationship. I didn’t go back to something I left behind, I went forward to something new. In twenty years’ time, I evolved and so did the Church: everything had changed. The Church is now publishing topics and materials that caused my exit—women’s feminist history and theology are online and in new books. Compared to 1993, this is Camelot. BYU offers feminist classes with theories and topics that Cecelia K. Farr and Gail Houston were fired for teaching, even a minor in women’s studies. BYU professors and LDS leaders share views that were once feminist and talk about women’s priesthood in public. There are still points of disagreement between my views and Church curriculum or policies, but those our opportunities to work on our relationship. However, today I find a higher degree of compatibility with the Church than before, which is encouraging.
I feel empathy for your dilemma—feeling pained or alien at church. There are days when I can’t avoid the distance between my view and theirs. So I focus on our bond as human beings, our shared spiritual struggles. That dissolves the social gaps. We’re all God’s children seeking our true home. Belonging can be situational depending on your ward and leaders. Yet I think one key to belonging is your own empowerment, within. That’s not something anybody can give you or take away. It’s your connection to God. Every person who tries to shut you down is an opportunity to strengthen your connection to God.
It’s also an opportunity to practice ministry, by addressing others’ fears. One day, I was quoting from the “Doctrine of Inclusion” in Relief Society and a sister objected to my sharing something secular. I explained that it was Elder Ballard’s talk in the 2001 Ensign, and she was truly grateful to know about it. Another time, I was teaching the Young Women about Miriam, Moses, and Aaron as the three prophets who led Israel together. The bishop looked doubtful and worried, so I read Exodus 15:20–21, Micah 6:4, and Numbers 12:1–8, which consoled him. The young women loved it, they were saying, “Miriam was a prophet? That’s so cool!” It empowered them.
FHE: In the Doctrine and Covenants, it seems like Joseph Smith in certain places asserted his ultimate authority to quell attempts at receiving revelation from people who weren’t the prophet. You seem to view him as someone who wanted his authority checked or balanced by other leaders. Do you think that’s a more accurate view of him than this authoritarian version of him in scriptures?
Maxine: I see both sides of Joseph—the authoritarian and egalitarian; they both show up in his relationships and leadership, and his dictation of scriptures. Everything is filtered through his personality, his lens. Some passages in the D&C speak in ominous patriarchal authoritarian voice and other passages speak with a sublime spiritual quality of wisdom. Section 132 reflects the best and worst of Joseph’s prophetic voice—it asserts his authority over Emma and threatens her with destruction if she doesn’t practice polygamy, yet it envisions a true equality of Gods, the equal exaltation of men and women in heaven. Joseph radically empowered women in ministry and priesthood, yet disempowered or harmed women in polygamy. I see both as real. Regarding who gets to receive revelations—in D&C 28, Joseph appeals to that story in Numbers 12 that I was teaching the Young Women—about God appearing to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. They’re all prophets, but Moses has a different relationship: “With him I speak face to face clearly.” This definition of prophetic role is invoked in D&C 28:2–3, and D&C 8 to answer the question of who gets to receive revelation. Joseph’s revelations are saying that we all have visionary or prophetic potential but we each have different callings, offices, and abilities.
Anyway, I recognize both sides of Joseph, positive and negative, the inspired and tragically flawed. It’s not realistic to choose one extreme, saying Joseph was only an abuser, or always pious. There’s evidence for both, but neither is the sum total of him. Joseph had higher visions of life and people that lifted them to new heights; yet he also harmed people. We need to see both sides, I think.
FHE: We got a new stake president and they invited him and his wife to speak. They didn’t allot specific time to either. His wife took two minutes and he took twenty. I had this thought “Why are you sitting down? Take your time.” It was her decision. There’s no doubt there’s this patriarchal system, but we’re half the problem I think, if we’re not rising or claiming our own power.
Maxine: I agree
FHE: I ask myself all the time—how do I feed into this patriarchal system? I think this has been indoctrinated in me since I was two. How do I, as a woman, claim my power, even if that system wasn’t there? I don’t know if I would rise to claim it.
Maxine: That relates to empowerment, which I see as inner validity or authority. I call it the “inner ordination” from God, who loves you and gave you existence. Your validity comes from your own eternal spirit. We peel back layers of social conditioning to discover we are divine beings of light—and how precious we are, how deserving to be ourselves and express our unique existence in this world. You have a divine right and responsibility to find your own voice and place. Validity is truly inner. Others can certify us with status, office or degrees, but where it happens is inside.
This is the lesson I learned outside of the Church. I took a path of ministry seeking ecclesiastical ordination, yet I found it in the solitary journey of self, alone with God. I experienced the inner spiritual ordination. Once you find that spiritual anointing or chrism or grace, you’ve got it and nobody can extinguish that, unless you let them. That’s what enabled me to come back to Church and find my authentic space neither shut down nor driven out.
You don’t have to leave the Church like I did, to find inner ordination—it’s a private process, between you and God. It doesn’t matter where you’re located. Once you experience the inner chrism, you’re empowered, regardless of what others do. The Gospel of Philip describes this beautifully—“when it is revealed, then the perfect light will flow out on every one. And all those who are in it will receive the chrism… And none shall be able to torment a person like this, even while he dwells in the world... The world has become the Aeon (eternal realm) . . . fullness for him . . . it is revealed to him alone.
This passage is talking about the mystery of the “bridal chamber” within us, where our soul discovers its oneness with God’s divinity. That’s what Joseph Smith was talking about in his King Follett sermon, and in the temple endowment—that when we discover God’s spirit is like ours, we “ascend” to God. He said that was the whole purpose of temple rites—our ascent. I think this unity of our spirit with God’s, or “bridal chamber,” is a higher meaning of the temple rites. The “celestial marriage” necessary for exaltation with God may be our own soul’s relationship or oneness with God. On a literal physical level, a sealing rite between two human beings at the altar is incredibly beautiful and real, sanctifying a relationship of soul mates. Yet it also has symbolic meaning about recovering your spiritual union with God, which is eternal and core to your being. You and God are made of the same uncreated light—“intelligence or the light of truth was not created or made” (D&C 93:29). So at the innermost level, you are married to God.
FHE: That really helps a lot, thank you. Ok, then how do you handle it when someone objects to the views you share or your way of participating?
Maxine: I validate both sides, theirs and mine. There’s no fight when both sides are valid. We’re both children of God, I honor that, which allows us to be different. If someone has a problem with me, I talk with them to figure it out together. If that doesn’t work, I go home and pray for more insight, to see what I’m not seeing. Sometimes I’m prompted to hold my position, other times to concede. Conflict can relax when your refuge is found in God, not in approval from the other person. I try to find higher wisdom and listen, hear it.
FHE: I’m appalled that you were even excommunicated. I know it was a different time, but something I’ve been talking about with my roommates is that it still happens. Like that former bishop [Sam Young] who was excommunicated for publicizing the problem of sexual abuse. I find myself a little bit in fear of excommunication because my stake president has taught and made homophobic comments. So, in my own stake, in my own ward, I don’t feel safe to express myself. I feel like there’s so much inconsistency, depending on who your local leaders are, you can be excommunicated for anything. I don’t want to keep reinforcing this patriarchal mess.
Maxine: That’s an awful place to be in, that fear of discipline; it’s not fair or healthy. You don’t want to feed into that dynamic of fear. How do we break out of that? We change the dynamic from fear to compassion. We stop seeing each other as the enemy; in reality we’re spiritual siblings, and we need each other. That was the shift I made between 1993 and 2012. I changed my view of male leaders, which in 1993 was polarized. I lacked compassion for them, I thought they were the enemy. Seven years later, when working together on the Olympics, I realized they weren’t the enemy—they were my brothers. That radically changed our relationship to a far more realistic and positive one. This came up recently with Gina Colvin in New Zealand. She and her bishop got into a polarized tension that felt unsolvable, and excommunication seemed unavoidable. Then it completely reversed at the last minute. She did deep soul searching and praying, while hundreds of friends wrote letters to her stake president and bishop. Their perspective of Gina shifted to realizing she wasn’t the enemy—she needed their support. They told her, “We should be building a bridge with you, not a wall.” The discipline dissolved.
It’s a whole different narrative to find an unexpected bridge between feminists and male leaders. It reminds me of that scene from Indiana Jones, where he has to step into an abyss, relying only on faith that he won’t fall—then suddenly an unseen bridge appears. There’s an invisible bridge hiding between us and the opposite side. It’s Christ, the true mediator. If we pray for His help, an invisible bridge may appear. A bridge doesn’t mean you give in, go along with the other side. You have to find your own position first, you can’t find a middle ground or a bridge without both sides holding their own ground. Then, in that tension between two different places, a bridge can appear—if you’re both seeking a vision beyond your own positions. When I returned to the Church, my leaders and I were in unknown territory, wondering how do we do this? We both turned it over to Christ and the invisible bridge appeared. That’s the best answer I have for the fear between feminists and leaders.
FHE: What do you think is the best way to communicate frustrations to the Quorum of Twelve or the First Presidency—the decision makers—in a way that won’t turn them off or invalidate your own voice, but that actually inspires changes? We have these conversations only in small, very safe groups, with people who think like us. I am pained by not seeing Heavenly Mother in the temple and I’ve talked to many people who have that same pain.
Maxine: I feel that pain too, every time I’m in the temple.
FHE: What do you think is the most effective way to communicate that there is a large sector of the church population that has that frustration? Are the decisions makers aware of how widespread our frustration is on that, or other issues?
Maxine: Leaders in Relief Society, the Quorum of Apostles, and Public Affairs are all listening to women, including feminists, they’re hyper-aware of women’s concerns and complaints, and using that info for positive changes, which will continue. Public voices are noticed, read, considered. They also pay attention to private letters; they read their mail and often respond. I didn’t learn that until 2012.
How can you be heard without taking it so far you are alienating? Since they are paying attention, you don’t have to overstate or hammer your point. Just be honest and thoughtful, pray about it, and share information they can use. You can simply record a podcast, write a blog, or an article—like our discussion tonight for Dialogue.
For example, when Lester Bush wrote an article in Dialogue about the exclusion of black members from priesthood, it was 1973, not a progressive time. Yet President Kimball read and studied that article; his copy of Dialogue was covered with red marks. That article prompted him to pray about the topic, and he received a revelation, changing the Church policy about black members.
FHE: In my previous ward I was put on a do not ask to speak or teach list, which I didn’t know until my current bishop told me about it. He called me to be a teacher for the Saints book, which I was so excited about. Anyway, this bishop shared with me experiences that he’s had with Heavenly Mother in the temple.
Maxine: What a great bishop.
FHE: He really is. Yet, there are many who abuse their power or are stuck in their white male privilege and have no idea what’s happening in our lives.
Maxine: That’s a vestige of women’s lost authority which male leaders subverted, starting with Brigham Young in 1845, then priesthood correlation in 1908–1970. Eliza R. Snow held onto female authority until her death in 1887. One of her last statements asserted “The Relief Society is designed to be a self-governing organization . . . to deal with its members . . . instead of troubling the Bishop.” From Emma to Eliza to Emmeline, women were organized to work through the R.S., not through male leaders. It was a female line of authority from the ward to the top of the Church, where the Relief Society President and LDS President conferred. So, I don’t see a solution, other than restoring the Relief Society’s full authority.
FHE: I’ve been really trying to navigate this. I was open with my ministering brothers about all my struggles then I went to my bishop and I feel this fear, at the core—is God sexist? I know that in my communion with Him, He’s not, and She’s not, and They are not. I want to thank you for bringing in so much history and the spirit of our male and female Gods to show there is no sexism in the true plan of it all.
Maxine: I really believe our history reveals a theology of gender equality, on all levels of the Church, from missionaries to ward and stake leaders, to the temple rites, to male apostles and female disciples. That blueprint of equality keeps me going.
FHE: Learning more about that gives me the strength to try to find my place. If you could share more of your experience of how to negotiate that equality—it seems like you have the inner ordination that you talked about. You gave me words for what I’m trying to find and trying to understand. I want to be a change maker in every part of my life, but I can’t do that in the same way in the Church. Or, at least I don’t know how to. Some of us live our lives at this higher level of equality so we’re trying to bring the Church there. But how do I or how do you do that? What do you choose to say or not to say? Can you expound on that?
Maxine: First, I remember that we’re all learning and growing together. So, I pray for help and it comes. The best advice I can give is turn to God. Also, you’re a lay minister, every member is confirmed or“ordained” to the ministry, according to D&C 25. We’re all co-ministering the ward and stake, so what we do affects many others. Too often we focus on what we lack, not seeing the power of our voice or participation. Being aware of your effect on others enables you to be a better minister. Also, learning ministry skills is crucial, for every member and leader. I studied ministry and chaplaincy, to learn what it means to minister. It’s not about trying to convert anyone, or provide any answers. Ministry is giving others support to find their own answers. It’s listening to them and learning what they need in this moment. When you do that, you’re ministering.
A minister is a facilitator for others to work through their struggles. You hold a safe space for them to dig deep, face fears, hard issues, private trials. If they aren’t safe to deal with whatever comes up, that’s not ministry—which is unconditional support to face life’s hardest moments and not be alone. We all need someone to hold that space for us. You never know when you might be the only one who can do that for another person.
When you need ministering, choose someone you trust who will listen to your struggle and honor where you’re at, not judge you or impose their views on you, but allow you to find your own breakthrough. Ministry is knowing the difference, between our needs and others’ needs, so we don’t impose or transfer our views onto another, and we don’t allow them to impose their views onto us.
FHE: One of the things I love about the changes in the temple was that it took things that I was not able to reconcile in my relationship with God and adjusted most of them. It’s kind of confirming the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father. But it’s also given me pause to wonder about the other side of that. I don’t want to think that my relationship with God is what is right for the Church—or, that every thought I have is from the spirit or is doctrinal.
Maxine: Yes, it’s healthy to know the difference between your own personal path and the collective path of the Church, and not impose them on each other.
FHE: I know the answer to this is building a relationship with God and the spirit and learning how it’s talking to you. Is there a time, an experience you could share when you went too far, or realized that there was a boundary?
Maxine: Yes, my excommunication. On one hand, I definitely felt divine guidance to compile the book, I felt aided by higher wisdom. On the other hand, I could have navigated the book’s relationship to the Church more sensitively. I was out of sync with the Church, ignoring the chasm between my position and the Church status. It’s important to recognize where the group as a whole is located, relative to where you are as an individual—and to deal with both, not just your own.
The freedom to follow your own path is a gift from God. It’s crucial to listen to your soul and follow its call—don’t shut it down. Yet that’s different from the group journey. The individual and the group each have their own developmental journey. Both deserve respect.
I was at odds with the Church in my twenties, thirties, and forties, but now I’m more in sync with it than I’ve ever been, which amazes me. Still, there are differences between my perspective and the Church’s, which I honor. My interpretation of women’s history and priesthood overlap a great deal with Church materials, yet they may never fully align. I honor my own work and inspiration by writing and publishing, and I honor the work of the Church by supporting its efforts to empower women.
FHE: Your work in the past, your research and writing received some backlash. I recently did some historical research on a difficult aspect of Church history and I started to get backlash from people at BYU about it and it made me a little afraid to continue with it. I was wondering how you continued with your work in face of external pressure and backlash against it?
Maxine: I’m so sorry to hear that. Is it the department that’s having a hard time, your professors?
FHE: No, it’s peers.
Maxine: It’s often peers who put pressure on us, since they want us to be where they are. Are they more conservative than you are?
Maxine: That’s hard. Peers can be intolerant sometimes. Backlash is often shadow projection and scapegoating, which can be destructive, harmful. It’s wise to protect yourself; don’t own projections. You’re the expert on you. Stay close to God, find others who support you, and stand firm in the truth of who you. Then just keep being you and doing your own work.
I try to heal the conflict via common ground. I look for areas where we agree, to build bridges, while allowing our differences. But if others’ efforts are harmful or unethical it’s time to stand firm, not compromise. I get backlash from critics about my return to Church membership.
Critics focus on the problems, harms, what’s wrong with the Church. Seeing the Church’s shadow is necessary, but it can go too far, consume you. I grew tired of talking about the problems long ago. I focus on the inspiring and empowering aspects of LDS theology and practice because that’s where I prefer to work these days, that’s where the life is.
FHE: You mentioned not depending on authorization from others. I’ve been thinking about that in the context of the temple changes and the role of revelation in the temple changes, or at least in the way the temple changes were released. What do you think of that intersection and how that plays into progression?
Maxine: So, the intersection of revelation and change?
FHE: Yeah, with revelation, when it actually happens, or how a lot of women already have been living or believing these things prior to the “revelation” of these changes.
Maxine: So, how do we view a new revelation, when it changes or reverses past policy that negatively shaped our lives, or didn’t shape our lives because we didn’t believe it?
Maxine: Should we base our beliefs and decisions on current teachings that may change? That’s a crucial question in a Church that gives great authority to current revelation, teachings, and policies. The simple answer is—if a new revelation or teaching or policy is healthy and positive, it’s worth supporting. Obviously, it’s wise to choose teachings that resonate God’s love, feed our souls and improve our lives, over teachings that harm lives or shut down souls. The burden of safety is on us, to discern true or good teachings from erroneous ones.
This returns to the question of who can receive revelation. Leaders receive inspiration for their Church callings. Members receive inspiration for their own lives. The responsibility for our decisions is ours and ours alone. Leaders have authority over Church functioning but not over members’ lives. From an early age, I took my questions and decisions to God, rather than to my parents or to the Church. A few times, my parents or the Church were right, and I was wrong, but I made my own decisions. When I followed my own conscience, things went well, but when I followed others’ advice against my intuition, I regretted it, majorly. When we give our decisions over to someone else, we lose our divine guidance.
FHE: As a follow-up comment, I approach things in a similar way. I study religious history, specifically the Reformation and I somewhat identify as a Reformation spiritualist—the institution isn’t what is going to shape me, it’s going to be my relationship with God and my understanding of theology.
Maxine: Well, they both shape us, profoundly, but it’s our decision how much we let the Church or God shape us. That means taking responsibility for our spiritual progression, as Joseph Smith envisioned and the endowment implies. LDS faith relies on revelation, both personal and institutional, in tension with each other. This tension is always presenting itself. Church revelation leads one direction and your inspiration may lead another direction, until you’re out of sync with the Church, and you have to decide how far you’re willing to go. I was willing to follow my own spiritual path outside the Church— that was my decision. Excommunication was a revelatory “shattering of the vessels” opening a doorway to new knowledge and realms I had never known, with overwhelming positive results. Likewise, my spiritual path back home to the Church was equally revelatory and transforming. I don’t regret either path, at all. So, our relationship with God may take us out of sync with the Church, or back into sync with it—depending on where we feel God is calling us. I value both equally—my relationship with God and with the Church.
FHE: I have two very separate questions. My first question is, kind of touching on what was discussed before. I feel like I’ve sensed for a long time a kind of a benevolent sexism. How do you address that one, when your sex has kind of put you on a pedestal? And the perfectionism that goes with it, you know, is this weird thing.
Maxine: Gender in the LDS Church is complex. The dual tendencies of sexism and feminism are in tension with each other in Church history and ministry. This requires separating the sexism from the feminism in our tradition.
Women’s status in the Church reflects both tendencies of feminism and sexism. We have a gendered ministry, which can be experienced as feminist or sexist—depending on who’s managing it. Female ministry that is defined and managed by women themselves is “difference feminism” (a focus on women’s different needs as a gender). Yet when female ministry is defined and managed by men, that’s sexism, patriarchy. If men uphold gendered spheres, then manage both male and female spheres, that’s sexism, patriarchy. Female identity is defined by women themselves.
LDS tradition has an empowering theological blueprint that combines both gendered and ungendered authority, both separate and inclusive ministry, which evoke both difference feminism and equality feminism (a focus on women’s equality with men), in balance with male authority. This original blueprint placed women in parallel partnership with men, from the ward level to the top of the Church. Yet this theological gender balance has been obscured by organizational sexism accrued over time. Our blueprint of gender balance is skewed by male privilege, which diminishes the gender equality embedded in our theology.
Yet, the theological blueprint for equality envisioned by Joseph and Emma is still visible in the Church today. We have an ungendered lay ministry of men and women preaching, teaching, leading, and managing the congregation together. We have a gendered ministry of women and men working in separate spaces and authority for gendered mirroring and mentoring. We have an inclusive temple ministry that brings men’s and women’s gendered authority together in an inclusive priesthood order.
Women’s gendered authority was established in 1830–44, via a series of “ordinations.” In 1830, Emma Smith was “ordained” to lay ministry and high Church office of Elect Lady. [D & C 25] In 1842, the Relief Society presidency were “ordained” to “preside over the Society . . . just as the Presidency, preside over the church.” In 1843, women were “ordained” as a “Priestess to the Most high God” in the temple, and also “ordained” to the “fullness” or “highest & holiest order of the priesthood” in the temple. Additionally, in 1850, Louisa B. Pratt was “ordained” a full-time missionary, which was an ungendered office. Today, women leaders in the ward, the Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, and in the temple still have their own offices, authority, keys, revelation, and “setting apart” or ordination to lead the gendered ministry of the Church. These are ways women are ordained.
If women were ordained by men giving them Aaronic and Melchizedek orders and offices, women’s authority would come from men rather than from women’s connection to God. Our LDS tradition of female seers, visionaries, societies, ladies, presidents, counselors, boards, prophetesses, priestesses, and mother god arose from women’s own spirituality, inspiration, and innovations, as feminist theology. There is a hidden narrative within the dominant history of men’s authority, where women’s own relationship with God gave rise to their authority. Women shaped Mormon origins and development via their own spirituality and agency. Lucy Mack, Emma Smith, Mary Whitmer, Eliza Snow, Sarah Kimball, Zina Young, Bathsheba Smith, Emmeline Wells all envisioned, organized, and led women’s ministry. Joseph Smith didn’t give them spiritual power—they had it themselves.
FHE: I do think it’s a pretty consistent observation that benevolent patriarchy intrudes on us. Just all the pedestaling of women and overgeneralizations—like “my wife can do no wrong” or “women do everything better.” I feel like there are weird dynamics that feed into this, there’s anxiety, and lack of recognition of women’s reality.
Maxine: Yes, the need to pedestalize and generalize women erases their individual voice, agency. Gender differences can’t be generalized, and that’s not the purpose of separate gendered space, which is to explore that gendered identity. Benevolent sexism claims to value female gender then co-opts it. Some feminists toss out gendered spheres altogether saying, ‘Men and women should have all the same options, just treat us all the same.’ Yet research shows that women and men need gendered space, as well as inclusive space, for growth. LDS Church ministry wisely uses both gendered and inclusive spaces, which provide balance. On one level we have inclusive ministry and authority. Men and women both are confirmed to the lay ministry, then set apart or ordained to whatever callings, roles, or offices they receive. We have inclusive worship spaces—sacrament meeting, Sunday school, youth activities, stake and general conference, and the temple endowment where men and women receive the same vestments and rites, culminating in the celestial room, which brings everyone together.
On another level, we have gendered ministry and authority that focus on the needs of women or men as a group. Research on female development and education shows that women learn and perform better in female settings. Relief Society and the Young Women program provide gendered space for women to process female identity and ministry. The women’s session of general conference does the same.
Also, the temple initiatory rites are sacred female space for consecrating women’s personal relationship to God, which includes the Mother. The Church provides both gendered and inclusive spaces for women’s and men’s spiritual development. However, some of our women’s ministry and female spaces are under the direction of men—which erodes the purpose of gendered space. This is due largely to changes made by Brigham Young in 1845, when he asserted men’s authority over women in the Relief Society and the temple—and we’ve been stuck there ever since.
FHE: Thanks for that explanation. My second question has to do with the positive outlook. We talked about President Kimball, his healing of the Church. I resonate with President Nelson bringing back some of the same kind of beautiful, prophetic, hopeful statements. How do you think changes in the temple, now and future, will potentially function with how women in the Church can have a more influential role in the growth and movement of the Church?
Maxine: That’s a big question and topic, because women’s status in the temple is connected theologically and historically to women’s status in the Church. Temple priesthood and Church ministry affect each other because the temple priesthood was the culmination of ministry and priesthood in the Church. Women’s ministry began in 1830 and grew through stages in Kirtland 1833–36 and Nauvoo 1842–44, building upon itself until it culminated in temple priesthood 1843–44. We need a full recovery of women’s 1830–44 ordinations and authority in the Church, along with a full recovery of women’s ordination rites in the temple prior to 1845. Only that will complete the picture of women’s original authority and its blueprint for equality and fullness.
Originally, in 1843–44, women were “anointed and ordained” to priesthood in the temple. For example, in 1843 Joseph and Emma were “anointed & ord[ained] to the highest & holiest order of the priesthood (& Companion) D[itt]o).” In 1844, Heber and Vilate Kimball were both anointed and ordained as “Preast and Preastest unto our God.” Likewise Eliza R. Snow reported that women were made “priestesses unto the most high God.”
However, in January 1846, this ordination rite was drastically changed by Brigham Young and re-administered to couples who had received the original rites under Joseph Smith. Brigham Young re- anointed Heber C. Kimball, “a king and a priest unto the most high God” but re-anointed Heber’s wife Vilate “a queen and priestess unto her husband” with all blessings “in common with her husband.” Likewise Brigham Young was re-anointed “a king and a priest unto the most high God” while his wife Mary Ann was re-anointed “a queen and priestess unto thine husband” and “inasmuch as thou dost obey his counsel” would receive ”exaltation in his exaltation.”
This catastrophic change removed women’s direct personal relationship with God, and subordinated women’s priesthood under her husband’s. Women were no longer a priestess to God, but a priestess to their husband, exalted through him, not through God. Women’s own authority as “priestesses to the most high God” was erased. Also gone was women’s direct unmediated relationship with God.
This temple change in 1846 was only part of a larger diminishment and erasure of women’s authority and priesthood that occurred immediately after Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. Brigham Young erased women’s independent authority and priesthood in both the Relief Society in 1845 and the temple in 1846, subverting both under men’s authority and priesthood.
Women had been “ordained” not only in the temple, but also ordained in the Relief Society. The Relief Society president was a prophetess with keys to receive revelation for the women and their organizations. This included revelation about the Divine Mother, as Eliza R. Snow received in October 1845. Joseph Smith didn’t articulate much about female orders or offices or theology of the Mother, because he left those tasks to the women themselves. Joseph turned the key of revelation over to female leaders to receive their own direction from God to define women’s priesthood order and offices.
It might be the ultimate patriarchal act if men claimed revelation from the Mother to define female theology. I think it shows great wisdom that male leaders haven’t done that. In 1991, President Hinckley admitted that regarding the Mother in Heaven, he could find no precedent for prayers to “her of whom we have no revealed knowledge.” I remember thinking what an honest confession that was from a leader of a worldwide religion—no knowledge of our divine Mother? I saw his admission as an opening for female leaders to receive revelation from Her.
Today in 2019, new changes to the temple ceremony are beginning to address and reverse the historical loss of women’s direct connection to God. We have been waiting for this needed correction since 1845–46. Today in the temple, instead of men and women making different covenants (men to “God” and women to “husband”) they make the same covenants and they both make their covenants directly with God. No longer are women queens and priestesses their husbands; now they are queens and priestesses in the new and everlasting covenant, which refers to the fullness of priesthood and gospel—not to marriage.
This change recovers women’s parallel status with men from their subordination under male authority, and it restores women’s direct unmediated relationship with God. This is a momentous and welcome change. It corrects women’s loss of authority—to a degree. However, it doesn’t restore their full ordination as a “priestess to God” nor the full individuality of their priesthood. We have yet to recover women’s original and independent authority in both the temple and the Relief Society, and to yet discover the fullness of both.
However, this change is an enormous move in the right direction. The restoral of women’s original rites and ordination to priesthood in the temple could reverberate onto women’s preparatory ministry in the Church—the Relief Society, and Young Women—encouraging a full restoration and articulation of our historic female ministry and ordination. The keys, ordinations, orders, and offices of Relief Society and Young Women could return from the pages of our history, along with women’s sacred rites and ordinances, including blessings and healings. Perhaps we could also recover the presence of our Mother in the temple, the female Elohim. We have an extraordinary women’s ministry of theological equality that has survived and is still functioning—even though perhaps not fully self-aware, named, or articulated, and not fully enacted or empowered, yet.
FHE: Amen. Can I say thank you for fighting for us, for paving the way? Thank you for coming back. I feel inspired by your example and your spirit. I’m interested in your faith transition and progression. It doesn’t seem like you ever lost faith in God or in Christianity or the restoration, even. How was that in your twenty years away? And do you think there’s a spot in Mormonism for just cultural Mormonism?
Maxine: Yes, there are countless people who are inactive LDS yet still identify as part of the “Mormon” tradition culturally or ethnically. I think there’s space in Mormon culture to be whoever or wherever you are in the Mormon journey.
Actually, I went through a journey of extremes, beginning on my mission in the 1970s, then going inactive from Church in the 1980s, then publishing my book and leaving the Church in the 1990s, then finding oneness with God in the 2000s, then returning LDS in the 2010s. Each decade held a new paradigm. I went through many stages including atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism, and mysticism, which taught me to find my own light in the face of emptiness and darkness. It was gnostic Christianity where I found my inner spiritual core; and in the Christian liturgical year, I found my spiritual formation path. I found oneness with God, exactly as Joseph Smith described it in the King Follett sermon. Then I felt spiritually called to come back to the LDS Church and bring everything I’d learned, to see if I could integrate it all, somehow. I thought, “thanks a lot God, that’s a big job,” but I’m back, and trying to integrate it.
Long story short, I honor everyone’s journey of the soul. Nobody can tell you how it’s supposed to go; the map is within you. All you can do is try to listen to your highest most reliable guidance and see where it takes you. My path gave me what I was looking for, everything I wanted and needed. It transformed me. I would not have been able to come back and do what I’m doing now if I hadn’t taken that journey. And it’s not over, the inner path is still moving me forward into new knowledge and larger vistas, every year.
Dialogue: Thank you everyone for this great conversation. Before our closing prayer, I have a couple of final questions. One is, if you could go back and talk to the young feminist Maxine—trying to navigate and come to terms with her religious community and spiritual self—what would you tell her? The other is, what other changes do you see happening that you’re inspired by or excited about in the Church?
Maxine: I would tell her, don’t doubt yourself, have confidence in your work, you’re on the right path, go for it. You deserve the best things in life, college degrees, a career, a great husband. Do not diminish yourself.
What am I excited about? All the new women’s history coming from the Church, resources and books from Kate Holbrook, Jenny Reeder, Lisa Tait and other Church historians, and the Joseph Smith Papers.
I’m excited about the new ministering emphasis in the Church, which evokes the 1830 lay ministry in D&C Section 25, where the promises given to Emma are ours. Every member is a lay minister, and we’re beginning to grasp the power of that and learning how to minister. I’m excited to see women’s ministerial authority coming back and I hope we recover the “fullness” of 1842–44. I can’t imagine a more exciting time in the Church and Mormon studies, as we’re recovering our women’s history and our empowerment.
I’m excited for you young women and men because of where you’re at right now—the knowledge and sophistication you have is far beyond anything I had at BYU in the early 1980s. The courage and verve of your generation, where you’re starting from is so powerful, you can do anything.
Today, you have freedom we did not have, freedom to find your- selves, to be what you want to be, to express yourselves. You have tremendous opportunity. I hope you seize it and dare to be yourself fully, share with the world what only you can bring to it.
Thanks for letting me share some of myself with you tonight.
 Feminist FHE (Family Home Evening), first organized in Provo, Utah in 2012, by Hannah Wheelwright, and restarted in 2017 by Tinesha Zandamela, is a group of young Mormon Feminists that meets and talks about the intersections between Mormonism and Feminism. Since its founding, the group has spread to other locations. Current Feminist FHE (Provo) organizers include Laurie Batschi, Halli Bowman, Sydney Bright, Mallory Matheson, Jenna Rakuita, Rebecca Russavage, Charlotte Schultz, and Olivia Whiteley.
 Contributors to the book who were excommunicated: Maxine Hanks, Michael Quinn, Lavina F. Anderson in 1993; Janice M. Allred in 1995 and Margaret M. Toscano in 2000; Lynne K. Whitesides was disfellowshipped in 1993. The September Six were six scholars and feminists all disciplined in 1993.
 Rebecca England related this story to me on Nov. 13, 2018. “Jordan [Kimball, grandson of Spencer] and I found the marked-up Lester Bush article in SWK’s copy of Dialogue when we were sorting through their house on Laird Dr. after Camilla’s death. When he studied an article, SWK would underline in red pen or pencil—red underlining, meant he studied the article carefully. None of the other Dialogues or articles were marked up like that. We looked through all the Dialogues to see if any others were marked up similarly and none were except Lester Bush’s article. So, it made a strong impression on both of us. This would have been about 1989. We mentioned this in a conversation in 2009 and Greg Prince followed up with questions. One of Jordan’s cousins inherited the Dialogue.”
 Eliza R. Snow, “To the Branches of the Relief Society,” Sept. 12, 1884, Woman’s Exponent 13, no. 8 (Sept. 15, 1884): 61.
 Phinehas Richards diary, Jan. 22, 1846, LDS archives, and “Meetings of anointed Quorum [—] Journalizings,” Sept. 28, 1843, both cited in D. Michael Quinn, “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843,” in Hanks, Women and Authority, 368, fn. 20, fn. 25.
 Maxine Hanks, “‘A Beautiful Order’—Revisiting Relief Society Origins,” LDS Church History Symposium, Mar. 3, 2016, session 3A; also Maxine Hanks, “Visionary Sisters and Seer Stones,” Sunstone Symposium, Kirtland, Ohio, 2015; also Ian Barber, “Mormon Women as Natural Seers: An Enduring Legacy” in Hanks, Women and Authority, 167–84. Also see Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835–1870 (New York: Knopf, 2017).
 Joseph Smith, Diary, Sept. 28, 1843, LDS Church Archives; Meetings of the Anointed Quorum, Sept. 28, 1843, both cited in Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera, eds., Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed 1842–1845: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2005), 25–26.
 Anderson and Bergera, eds., Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 54.
 Eliza R. Snow, “An Address,” Woman’s Exponent, 2 (Sept. 15, 1873): 62.
 First entry in the “Book of Anointings,” Jan. 8, 1846, quoted in David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship (San Francisco, Calif.: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 87–88.
 “Book of Anointings,” Jan. 11, 1846, quoted in Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness, 88–90.
 “He spoke of delivering the keys to this Society . . . I now turn the key to you in the name of God . . . and intelligence shall flow down from this time” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, Apr. 28, 1842, 36–37, The Joseph Smith Papers).
“Those ordain’d to lead the Society, are authoriz’d to appoint to different offices as the circumstances shall require” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 8, 38, 40, The Joseph Smith Papers).
 “I have looked in vain for any instance [of] a prayer to ‘our Mother in Heaven . . . I may add that none of us can add to or diminish the glory of her of whom we have no revealed knowledge” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Gordon B. Hinckley address, Oct. 1991, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1991/10/daughters-of-god?lang=eng).
 “‘The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations. . . . Marriage is not the new and everlasting covenant’ . . . This covenant includes all ordinances of the gospel” (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 158; Packer is here citing Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1 [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954], 156).[post_title] => LDS Women’s Authority and the Temple: A Feminist FHE Discussion with Maxine Hanks [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 52.1 (Spring 2019): 45–76
A Feminist Family Home Evening discussion with Maxine Hanks regarding women in the church as seen through temple theology. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lds-womens-authority-and-the-temple-a-feminist-fhe-discussion-with-maxine-hanks [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-08-13 20:54:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-08-13 20:54:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=23348 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Roundtable: When Feminists Excommunicate
Dialogue 50.1 (Spring 2017): 183–192
I am concerned about the ways in which I see patriarchy swallow up the demands of feminism and use them against women. Each time we gain som
I am concerned about the ways in which I see patriarchy swallow up the demands of feminism and use them against women. Each time we gain som [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => roundtable-when-feminists-excommunicate [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:43:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:43:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=18976 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Roundtable: Shifting Boundaries of Feminist Theology: What Have We Learned?
Dialogue 50.1 (Spring 2017): 167–180
This tendency to rewrite Relief Society history continued from the 1850s into the 1990s.
This tendency to rewrite Relief Society history continued from the 1850s into the 1990s. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => roundtable-shifting-boundaries-of-feminist-theology-what-have-we-learned [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:44:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:44:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=18977 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
“The Perfect Union of Man and Woman”: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making
Dialogue 49.1 (Spring 2016): 1–26
Central to Joseph’s creative energies was a profound commitment to an ideal of cosmic as well as human collaboration. His personal mode of leadership increasingly shifted from autocratic to collaborative—and that mode infused both his most radical theologizing and his hopes for Church comity itself.
Any church that is more than a generation old is going to suffer the same challenges that confronted early Christianity: how to preach and teach its gospel to myriad peoples, nationalities, ethnic groups, and societies, without accumulating the cultural trappings of its initial geographical locus. As Joseph Milner has pointed out, the rescue of the “precious ore” of the original theological deposit is made particularly onerous, threatened as it is by rapidly growing mounds of accumulating cultural and “ecclesiastical rubbish.” This includes social accretions, shifting sensibilities and priorities, and the inevitable hand of human intermediaries.
For Joseph Smith, Jr., the task of restoration was the reclamation of the kerygma of Christ’s original Gospel, but not just a return to the early Christian kerygma. Rather, he was attempting to restore the Ur-Evangelium itself—the gospel preached to and by the couple, Adam and Eve (Moses 6:9). In the present paper, I wish to recapitulate a common thread in Joseph’s early vision, one that may already be too obscure and in need of excavation and celebration. Central to Joseph’s creative energies was a profound commitment to an ideal of cosmic as well as human collaboration. His personal mode of leadership increasingly shifted from autocratic to collaborative—and that mode infused both his most radical theologizing and his hopes for Church comity itself. His manner of producing scripture, his reconceived doctrine of the Trinity, and his hopes for the Nauvoo Women’s Relief Society all attest to Joseph’s proclivity for collaborative scriptural, theological, and ecclesiastical restoration.
Though Smith was without parallel in his revelatory capacities (by one count he experienced seventy-six documented visions), he increasingly insisted on democratizing that gift. As one scholar remarked, “Joseph Smith was the Henry Ford of revelation. He wanted every home to have one, and the revelation he had in mind was the revelation he’d had, which was seeing God.” Richard Bushman has noted how “Smith did not attempt to monopolize the prophetic office. It was as if he intended to reduce his own role and infuse the church bureaucracy with his charismatic powers.” This he principally effected through the formation of councils and quorums equal in authority—and revelatory responsibility—to that which he and his presidency possessed. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, was Smith’s readiness to turn what revelations he did receive and record into cooperative editing projects. With his full sanction and participation, the “Revelation Books” wherein his divine dictations were recorded bear the evidence of half a dozen editors’ handwriting—including his own—engaged in the revision of his pronouncements.
It was in that work of scriptural production that Joseph recognized that theological reclamation necessarily entailed fracturing the Christian canon to allow for excision, emendation, and addition. Arguably, the most important work of reclamation and re-conceptualization is Joseph’s understanding of the nature and attributes of the three members of the Godhead whose own collaborative work and glory are “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Smith believed that the true nature and attributes of the Trinity, the truly “plain and precious things,” were either buried, revised, camouflaged, or expunged from the biblical text (1 Nephi 13). Part of his reclamation entailed a restoration of the Divine Feminine together with a revision of contemporary conceptions of priesthood power and authority in conjunction with “keys” Joseph believed had been lost following the advent of Christianity. Joseph saw himself as midwife in the restoration of the priesthood of the Ur-Evangelium. Within this framework, he envisioned collaborative roles for women and men within the ecclesiastical structure and ministry of the nascent LDS Church, evidenced in partial form in the initiatory, endowment, and sealing rites of the LDS temple.
Reclamation of Divine Collaboration
In answer to William Dever’s question “Did God have a Wife?” the LDS faith responds with a resounding affirmative. Relatively recent excavation of the symbols and modes of worship attributed to the Divine Feminine both within and outside the ancient Hebrew tradition, together with salient clues within the biblical text, are helping to support Joseph’s reclamation of God, the Mother, from the textual absence to which she has been consigned. As Joseph’s theology never emerged ex nihilo, neither is it reasonable to infer his re-introduction of the doctrine of Heavenly Mother to be without canonical and, given Joseph’s penchant for rupturing boundaries, extra-canonical precedent. Joseph showed himself to be quite happy trolling every possible resource in order to reclaim what he considered was most plain and precious (D&C 91:1).
Joseph’s theology was Trinitarian, but in a radically re-conceptualized way. A conventional trinity, in its thrice-reiterated maleness, could never have produced the collaborative vision of priesthood that Joseph developed. It is, therefore, crucial, for both historical context and theological rationale, to recognize that Joseph reconstitutes the Godhead of Christendom as a Heavenly Father who co-presides with a Heavenly Mother. In 1878, Apostle Erastus Snow stated: “‘What,’ says one, ‘do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman? Most certainly I do. If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself . . . I must believe that deity consists of man and woman. . . . There can be no God except he is composed of man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way, . . . except they be made of these two component parts: a man and a woman; the male and the female” (emphasis mine). In his 1876 general conference address, Brigham Young suggested a strik-ing equality within that Godhead, when he talked of “eternal mothers” and “eternal daughters . . . prepared to frame earth’s like unto ours.”
Prescient but not surprising, therefore, is the merging of Smith’s reconstituted Godhead with the traditional Trinity. Elder Charles W. Penrose drew an unexpected inference from Joseph’s new theology when he suggested an identification of the Holy Spirit with Heavenly Mother. He responded to a Mr. Kinsman’s assertion that “the members of the Trinity are . . . men” by stating that the third member of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit—was the feminine member of the Trinity: “If the divine image, to be complete, had to reflect a female as well as a male element, it is self-evident that both must be contained in the Deity. And they are. For the divine Spirit that in the morning of creation ‘moved upon the face of the waters,’ bringing forth life and order, is . . . the feminine gender, whatever modern theology may think of it.” Penrose may have been relying upon Joseph’s re-working of the creation narrative in the book of Abraham, where “movement” is replaced with “brooding”—a striking image of a mother bird during the incubation period of her offspring. (One remembers in this context Gerard Manley Hopkins’s lovely allusion to the Holy Spirit who, “over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”)
Even though recorded third-hand, the following account suggests that the prophet, Joseph, while not expressing the same identification as Penrose, was projecting the same reconstituted heavenly family:
One day the Prophet, Joseph, asked [Zebedee Coltrin] and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him into the Woods to pray. When they had reached a secluded spot Joseph laid down on his back and stretched out his arms. He told the brethren to lie one on each arm, and then shut their eyes. After they had prayed he told them to open their eyes. They did so and saw a brilliant light surrounding a pedestal which seemed to rest on the earth. They closed their eyes and again prayed. They then saw, on opening them, the Father seated upon a throne; they prayed again and on looking saw the Mother also; after praying and looking the fourth time they saw the Savior added to the group.
V. H. Cassler has written, “What we have taken as absence was presence all along, but we did not have the eyes to see it.” Even within our tradition, glimpses of Smith’s radical innovation have neither been sufficiently recognized nor appreciated. One such unrecognized symbol resides on the threshold of the celestial room in the Salt Lake Temple. Just above the veil on the west wall stands a remarkable, six-foot statue of a woman, holding what looks very much like a palm frond. She is flanked by two easily discernible cherubs to whom she is linked by gar-lands of colorful, open flowers. While chubby cherubs are ubiquitous in Renaissance art and could, therefore, be mistaken as merely decorative, the number and placement of the cherubs in the celestial room of the temple draw one back to the majestic, fearful Cherubim—guardians of the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies of the First Temple. The Lady of the Temple is positioned at the portal of the veil—the representation of the torn body of the Lord, Jesus Christ—through which all kindred, nations, tongues, and people shall pass into the celestial kingdom (Hebrews 10:20, Matthew 27:50–51). The original statue was purchased by Joseph Don Carlos Young, who was called by the Church Presidency to succeed Truman O. Angell as decorator of the temple interior. Young purchased the winged statue named “The Angel of Peace” and two cherubs on a visit to New York in 1877. However, during a dream vision one night Young recorded: “I felt impelled to remove the wings. Now I saw a smile and expression that I never saw before and I can now allow this . . . to be placed there.” The enigmatic lady’s station at the veil of the temple, replete with crucifixion imagery, makes it unlikely that she represents Eve. Mary, the mortal mother of the Lord, is a possibility, given her maternal relationship to the Messiah. However, the Lady’s presence at the entrance to the celestial room, representing the celestial kingdom, suggests someone else. There are several key clues as to her possible identity.
Of note is the palm frond the Lady is holding. Anciently, trees were a potent symbol of Asherah, God the Mother. In fact, the Menorah—the seven-branched lamp—that is reputed to have given light in the original Holy of Holies is fashioned after an almond tree, covered in gold—representing the Tree of Life spoken of at the beginning and end of the biblical text. Not only are flowers fashioned into the Menorah: open flowers are one of the temple’s primary decorative motifs. Palm trees also were closely associated with the First Temple with which the interior was liberally decorated together with cherubim: “And it was made with cherubims and palm trees, so that a palm tree was between a cherub and a cherub; and every cherub had two faces” (Ezekiel 41:18). Palm fronds also play a conspicuous role in Jesus’ Passion—in particular his dramatic entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the day that begins the week ending in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior. The thronging crowds, waving and throwing palm fronds beneath the hooves of the donkey carrying the Messiah, “chant a Hoshi’ahnna’ (Hebrew “Save Us”)—a clear indication that many, if not all, the Jews present recognized that the man astride the donkey was the promised Messiah. The palm fronds together with the chant suggest a recognition on the part of the thronging masses of the presence of the goddess Asherah—the Mother of the Lord—whose primary symbol is a tree.
Asherah, or the Divine Feminine, is referred to in Proverbs 3:18 as the “Tree of Life.” Her “fruit is better than gold, even fine gold” (Proverbs 8:19). Those who hold her fast are called happy (a word play on the Hebrew ashr). It can be assumed, therefore, that Asherah and Wisdom (Sophia in the Greek) are different names for the same deity. According to the book of Proverbs, Wisdom/Asherah is the name of the deity with whom “the Lord founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19–20). Before the world was, She was. “Long life is in her right hand; /in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life” (Proverbs 3:16–18). Latter-day Saints are enjoined to search for her in the opening chapters of the Doctrine and Covenants because Wisdom holds the keys not only to the mysteries of God but to eternal life (D&C 6:7, 11:7).
Interestingly, the biblical association of Sophia with the Tree of Life finds powerful echo in the Book of Mormon narrative. Nephi begins the account of his vision by expressing an ardent desire to “see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him [God]” (1 Nephi 10:17, 19). Nephi’s narrative starts in the company of the Spirit, who immediately draws his attention to the Tree of Life—“the whiteness [of which] did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow . . . the tree which is precious above all.” Mary, the mortal mother of the Messiah, whom Nephi sees following the vision of the tree (the Asherah), is similarly described as “exceedingly fair and white” (1 Nephi 11:13, 15, 18). After Mary is “carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time,” she is seen bearing the Christ child (1 Nephi 11:19–20). This association of Christ’s birth with the Tree of Life, with its echoes of a Divine Feminine, is not unique to the Book of Mormon. The oldest known visual representation of the Madonna and Child effects the same conjunction. In the Roman catacombs of St. Priscilla, a fresco dated to the second century depicts the mother and child, with a magnificent Tree of Life overarching both. Immediately following Nephi’s vision of Mary and the Christ child, he watches “the heavens open, and the Holy [Spirit] come down out of heaven and abide upon [Christ] in the form of a dove” (1 Nephi 11:25–27). It does not appear to be coincidental that both “Spirit” and “dove” are gendered female in Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic.
Augustine also finds his theological heart strings pulled by the pro-vocative power and logic of the Holy Spirit as in some sense the Wife of the Father and Mother of the Son: “For I omit such a thing as to regard the Holy Spirit as the Mother of the Son and the Spouse of the Father; [because] it will perhaps be answered that these things offend us in carnal matters by arousing thoughts of corporeal conception and birth.” At about the same time, the early Church Father, Jerome, interpreting Isaiah 11:9 in light of the Gospel of the Hebrews, noted that Jesus spoke of “My mother the holy spirit.” Even though Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity were essentially monotheistic, there are suggestions that their belief in a deity that comprised the Father (El), the Mother (Asherah), and the Son (Yahweh) from the First Temple tradition and before persisted. For example, in 1449 Toledo some “conversos” (Jewish converts to Christianity) were alarming their ecclesiastical leaders by refusing to relinquish certain tenets of their previous faith: “In as much as it has been shown that a large portion of the city’s conversos descend-ing from the Jewish line are persons very suspect in the holy Catholic faith; that they hold and believe great errors against the articles of the holy Catholic faith; that they keep the rites and ceremonies of the old law; that they say and affirm that our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ was [a] man of their lineage who was killed and whom the Christians worship as God; that they say that there is both a god and a goddess in heaven.” As Margaret Barker has stated: “It has become customary to translate and read the Hebrew Scriptures as an account of one male deity, and the feminine presence is not made clear. Had it been the custom to read of a female Spirit or to find Wisdom capitalized, it would have been easier to make the link between the older faith . . . and later developments outside the stream represented by the canonical texts.”
Reclamation of Ecclesiastical Collaboration
The reciprocal synergy of the Godhead was a catalyst—or at least precursor—to Joseph’s quest for a universal collaboration of male and female. On March 17, 1842, he took another momentous step in that direction. At that time both male and female members of the Church were actively engaged in the construction of the Nauvoo temple. Women collaborated in the enterprise primarily by contributing financially and by providing the masons with clothing. In addition, they saw to the needs of impoverished members arriving daily seeking refuge. As the number of women engaged in support of temple construction and relief efforts grew, a group of them, at the instigation of Sarah Kimball, formed the Ladies’ Society of Nauvoo. Eliza R. Snow drafted the constitution and by-laws and then took them to Joseph, who, while applauding the enterprise, suggested the ladies might prefer something other than a benevolent or sewing society. He invited the sisters to “meet me and a few of the brethren in the Masonic Hall over my store next Thursday afternoon, and I will organize the sisters under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” In other words, just as the male society had been organized after the pattern of the priesthood, the women of the church would form a female society, with Joseph’s sanction and blessing, after the same pattern.
Like the men before them, the women were to be organized under the umbrella of the priesthood “without beginning of days or end of years” (Moses 1:3). Joseph further stipulated: “the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them [the sisters], that they may be able to detect every thing false—as well as to the Elders.” While it has been argued that the expression “keys of the kingdom” in regard to women refers solely to their initiation into the ordinances of the “greater [or] Holy Priesthood” in the temple, Joseph seemed to attribute to women a priestly standing. In other words, he acted on the assumption that in order to access the priesthood that “holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” together with the temple ordinances in which “the power of godliness is manifest,” one would already need to be a priest (D&C 84:19–22). At least, there is evidence that this is how Joseph understood access to priesthood power and authority.
On March 31, 1842, Joseph announced to the inchoate Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, first, his recognition that collaboration between men and women was key to spiritual and ecclesiastical progress—“All must act in concert or nothing can be done,” he said. Second, “the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” as delineated in Doctrine and Covenants 84 (given in Kirtland on September 22 and 23, 1832). And, third, in order to accomplish the above, “the Society was to become a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day.” Eliza R. Snow understood that the women’s Society or priesthood would enable women to become “Queens of Queens, and Priestesses unto the Most High God.”
Joseph’s conception of female authority may have been tied to his understanding of the New Testament. That women as well as men held Church offices in “Paul’s day” has become apparent with the recent, more accurate translations of the Greek New Testament and research into early Christian ecclesiology. In Ephesians chapter four, Paul enumerates the gifts of the Spirit imparted by the Lord before His ascension: “some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to maturity” (Ephesians 4:11–13). Women as well as men were to be found in possession of each of these “gifts.” Peter Brown demonstrates that, unlike pagans and Jews, “They [Christians] welcomed women as patrons and . . . offered women roles in which they could act as collaborators.”
In his letter to the Romans, Paul sends greetings to Andronicus and Junia (perhaps Julia), commending them for their faith and stating that “they are prominent among the apostles.” Later writers would masculinize the name, but Chrysostom in the late fourth century had no problem praising “the devotion of this woman” who was “worthy to be called an apostle.” In the second book of Acts, Luke records the following: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17–18). The apostle Paul considered the gift of prophecy one of the greatest spiritual gifts: “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts,” he said, “and especially that you may prophecy [for] those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:1, 3). Indeed, Orson Pratt stated in 1876 that “there never was a genuine Christian Church unless it had Prophets and Prophetesses.” It is, therefore, not surprising to find them mentioned in the New Testament. In Acts 21, we learn that the four unmarried daughters of Philip the evangelist possessed “the gift of prophesy” (Acts 21:8–9).
The primary role of evangelists was to teach the death and resur-rection of Jesus Christ. Raymond Brown has noted that in the Gospel of John, the Samaritan woman serves “a real missionary function,” while the women at Christ’s tomb are given “a quasi-apostolic role.” As Kevin Giles puts it, “the Synoptic authors agree that it was women who first found the empty tomb. And Matthew and John record that Jesus first appeared to women. The encounter between the risen Christ and the women is drawn as a commissioning scene. The Lord says, ‘Go and tell my brethren’ (Matthew 28:10, cf. John 20:17). The women are chosen and commissioned by the risen Christ to be the first to proclaim, ‘He is risen.’”
Deacons are also listed among the offices in the nascent Christian Church, and women are also included. In his letter to the Romans, Paul commends Phoebe, “a deacon or minister of the church at Cenchreae” (Romans 16:1). The terms “pastors” and “teachers” are joined grammatically in Ephesians 4:11. It appears that the term “pastor” in the New Testament was the universal term referring to spiritual leadership. Among the female pastor-teachers, Priscilla is singled out for her theological acumen, instructing (together with—possibly her husband—Aquila) the erudite and eloquent Apollos of Alexandria “more accurately . . . in the way of God” (Acts 18:18, 24–26). Significantly, of the six times this couple is mentioned, Priscilla precedes Aquila in four of them—according her prominence over Aquila either in ministry or social status—or both. Rodney Stark stated in his book The Rise of Christianity that “It is well known that the early Church attracted an unusual number of high status women . . . . Some of [whom] lived in relatively spacious homes,” to which they welcomed parishioners. Priscilla is not the only woman mentioned in connection with church leadership. In addition to Priscilla we learn of Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12), Lydia from Philippi (Acts 16:14–15, 40), and Nympha in Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:15). The apostle John addresses a letter to the Elect or Chosen Lady and her children (congregation) in 2 John 1:1. All apparently function as leaders of the Church.
The title translated as “Lady” in the New Testament is the equivalent to the title “Lord,” generally denoting social standing but possibly, in an ecclesiastical sense, denoting someone in a position of church leadership. According to Stanley Grenz, the nascent Christian Church “radically altered the position of women, elevating them to a partnership with men unparalleled in first-century society.” It appears that Joseph was engaged in the same endeavor in mid-nineteenth-century America. During the inaugural meeting of the Relief Society, after reading 2 John 1:1 Joseph stated that “this is why she [Emma] was called an Elect Lady is because [she was] elected to preside.” While it can be argued that the aforementioned are all gifts of the Spirit that do not necessarily involve priesthood, there is evidence that Joseph saw the Spirit as directing the implementation of these gifts into specific priesthood offices.
I mention these historical precedents because it is clear that Joseph Smith was aware of them and that they influenced his directive to Emma that “If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers &c. are among us.” On April 28, 1842, after reading 1 Corinthians 12 to the Society, he gave “instructions respecting the different offices, and the necessity of every individual acting in the sphere allotted him or her; and filling the several offices to which they were appointed.”
And so we find that the striking degree of collaboration between men and women in the early Christian Church is replicated in the founding of the LDS Church. In this regard, Bishop Newel K. Whitney’s words are significant: “It takes all to restore the Priesthood . . . without the female all things cannot be restor’d to the earth.” This implies a much broader role for women in the Church structure than temple service alone. In Joseph’s journal account following the Female Relief Society meeting of Thursday, April 28, 1842, he writes: “Gave a lecture on the pries[t] hood shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the priviliges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood—&c that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c.” Commenting on Doctrine and Covenants 25, which Joseph read at the inaugural meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, he stated that Emma “was ordain’d at the time, the Revelation was given”—that is, Emma was ordained not by man but by God to the position of Elect Lady (“and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called [or chosen]” [D&C 25:3]) as Joseph was ordained/chosen by God to the position of First Elder. It is clear from Emma’s remarks two years later at the Female Relief Society meeting of March 16, 1844, that she recognized that her ordination to the position of Elect Lady with its attendant power, privileges, and authority were divinely bestowed: “if thier ever was any authourity on the Earth [I] had it—and had [it] yet.”
The second Relief Society president, Eliza R. Snow, who gained and retained possession of the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes, also recognized that Emma’s authority to preside over the Female Relief Society gave the women’s organization independence: “The Relief Society is designed to be a self-governing organization: to relieve the Bishops as well as to relieve the poor, to deal with its members, correct abuses, etc. If difficulties arise between members of a branch which they cannot settle between the members themselves, aided by the teachers, instead of troubling the Bishop, the matter should be referred to their president and her counselors.” Reynolds Cahoon, a close affiliate of Joseph, understood “that the inclusion of women within the [ecclesiastical] structure of the church organization reflected the divine pattern of the perfect union of man and woman.” Indeed, Cahoon continued, “the Order of the Priesthood . . . which encompasses powers, keys, ordinances, offices, duties, organizations, and attitudes . . . is not complete without it [the Relief Society]”).
The source of women’s ordination, Joseph suggested, was the Holy Spirit. He understood the women to belong to an order comparable to or pertaining to the priesthood, based on the ordinance of confirmation and receipt of the Holy Spirit. To the Nauvoo women, he suggested that the gift of the Holy Spirit enabled them to “administer in that author-ity which is conferr’d on them.” The idea that priesthood power and authority were bestowed through the medium of the Holy Spirit was commonly accepted among both Protestants and Catholics at that time. The nineteenth-century Quaker, William Gibbons, articulated the broadly accepted view that “There is but one source from which ministerial power and authority, ever was, is, or can be derived, and that is the Holy Spirit.” For, “it was by and through this holy unction, that all the prophets spake from Moses to Malachi.” The Reformed Presbyterian Magazine cites this “holy unction” as “not only the fact but the origin of our priesthood” claiming to be made “priests by the Great High Priest Himself . . . transmitted through the consecration and seal of the Holy Spirit.”
Such a link between the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Spirit is traced back to the early Christian Church, based on two New Testament passages. In John 20, the resurrected Christ commissions His disciples to go into the world proclaiming the Gospel, working miracles, and remit-ting sins in the same manner He was sent by His Father—through the bestowal of the Holy Spirit: “As my Father has sent me, so send I you. When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21–23). Peter preached that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). And so to the Relief Society sisters Joseph “ask’d . . . if they could not see by this sweeping stroke, that wherein they are ordained, it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority which is confer’d on them . . . and let every thing roll on.” He called this authority “the power of the Holy Priesthood & the Holy Ghost,” in a unified expression. Elsewhere he stated that “There is a prist-Hood with the Holy Ghost and a key.” Indeed, Joseph presses the point even further. In a Times and Seasons article, he wrote that the gift of the Holy Ghost “was necessary both to ‘make’ and ‘to organize the priesthood.’” It was under the direction of the Holy Spirit that Joseph was helping to organize—or, more accurately, re-organize—women in the priesthood.
For Joseph, the organization of the Female Relief Society was fundamental to the successful collaboration of the male and female quorums: “I have desired to organize the Sisters in the order of the Priesthood. I now have the key by which I can do it. The organization of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organized.” It was this key Joseph “turned” to the Elect Lady, Emma, with which the gates to the priesthood powers and privileges promised to the Female Relief Society could now be opened. The injunction given to recipients of priesthood privileges in Doctrine and Covenants 27 could, therefore, also apply equally to the nascent Female Relief Society to whom the keys of the kingdom were also promised.
The fact that the Female Relief Society was inaugurated during the same period and setting as the founding of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge is helpful in understanding its intended purpose. Joseph had been raised to the Third Degree of Freemasonry (Master Mason) the day before this auspicious meeting. And a plausible argument has been made that the prophet considered the principal tenets of Masonry—Truth, Friendship (or Brotherly Love), and Relief—to be in complete harmony with the reclamation of the Ur-Evangelium. It can, therefore, be argued that Friendship, “the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism,” formed the sacred bond between the male and female priesthood quorums in their efforts to proclaim truth, bless the afflicted, and alleviate suffering by providing relief as they worked side by side on their united goal to build the Nauvoo temple, assist those in need, preach the Gospel, excavate truth, and establish Zion.
The organization of the female society also finds instructive parallels with the creation story in the books of Genesis and Abraham. Abraham states that “the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion. . . . So the Gods went down to organize man[kind] in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them” (Abraham 4:26–27). In the second biblical creation narrative, Eve is created after Adam when it was decided by the Gods that “it was not good for man to be [act] alone” (Genesis 2:18). After Adam and Eve were organized they were given the family name of Adam. He “called their name Adam” (Genesis 5:2; Moses 6:9). Adam is the family name, the couple’s surname. (One can note here the precedent set by “God” as a family name evidenced in the appellation: God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit). Erastus Snow’s remark bears repeating here: “Deity consists of man and woman. . . . There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female.”
The divinely decreed identity of the couple, Adam, is one of complementarity, two beings separated by a creative act and then reconstituted as one by divine sacrament. Only later does the name Adam come to denote the individual male rather than the couple. It is, perhaps, in this context of Adam as the family name that the following scripture from the book of Moses should be read: “And thus [they were] baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon [them], and . . . [they were] born of the Spirit, and became quickened. . . . And they heard a voice out of heaven, saying: [ye are] baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever; And [ye are] after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. Behold, [ye are] one in me, [children] of God; and thus may all become my children” (Moses 6:65–68).
In Moses, we learn that Eve labored with Adam. They worship together. They pray together. They grieve the loss of Cain together. Together they preach the gospel to their children (Moses 5:12). The right to preside over the human family was given jointly to Eve and Adam, as were the sacred rights of the temple: “And thus all things were confirmed unto [the couple] Adam, by an holy ordinance” (Moses 5:59). The sacerdotal nature of “ordinance” implies that Adam and Eve were also to collaborate in the powers inherent in priesthood. They were both clothed in holy garments representing the male and female images of the Creator Gods. Adam and Eve, therefore, represent the divine union of the God, El, and His Wife, variously known as Asherah (The Tree of Life), El Shaddai (God Almighty), Shekhina (The Holy Spirit), and Sophia (Wisdom). As Heber C. Kimball said, “‘What a strange doctrine,’ says one ‘that we should be taught to be one!’ I tell you there is no way for us to prosper and prevail in the last day only to learn to act in Union.”
It is this union that Joseph appears to be attempting to restore with the organization of the Female Relief Society. The Nauvoo Relief Society minutes indicate that Joseph considered himself to be authorizing the women of the Church to form an institution fully commensurate with the male institutions he had organized earlier. The name the founding mothers chose for their organization was the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, possibly suggesting their recognition that what was being organized was the full and equal counterpart to the already operating male priesthood quorums. John Taylor’s suggestion to name the female quorum “The Nauvoo Female Benevolent Society” in lieu of the Relief Society presidency’s proposal “The Nauvoo Female Relief Society” was rejected outright by the female presidency. “The popularity of the word benevolent is one great objection,” adding that we “do not wish to have it call’d after other Societies in the world” for “we design to act in the name of the Lord—to relieve the wants of the distressed, and do all the good we can.”
It appears likely that the second president of the Female Relief Society recognized exactly that. As Eliza R. Snow told a gathering of Relief Society sisters on March 17, 1842, the Relief Society “was no trifling thing, but an organization after the order of Heaven.” Indeed, Eliza later stated:
Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet, that the same organization existed in the church anciently, allusions to which are made in some of the epistles recorded in the New Testament, making use of the title, “elect lady”. . . . This is an organization that cannot exist without the priesthood, from the fact that it derives all its authority and influence from that source. When the Priesthood was taken from the earth, this institution as well as every other appendage to the true order of the church of Jesus Christ on the earth, became extinct, and had never been restored until now.
In her poem, “The Female Relief Society: What is it?” Eliza expresses her understanding that the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo is the legitimate counterpart to the male organization by emphasizing the word “order” in the sixth and last stanza. She does so by enlarging the word in such a way that it immediately draws attention to itself, implying that she understands the “Relief Society” to be an order of the priesthood. The “Chosen Lady”: Emma is so called “because [she was] elected to preside” as Joseph, the First Elder, was also elected to preside. In the words of President John Taylor, “this Institution was organiz’d according to the law of Heaven—according to a revelation previously given to Mrs. E. Smith, appointing her to this important calling—[with] . . . all things moving forward in . . . a glorious manner.”
The female counterpart of the priesthood would be linked to that of the male order in the appropriated grand fundamental of Masonry: friendship. One could construe that the name for the women’s organization, “The Female Relief Society, was chosen with the Masonic fundamentals of “truth,” “friendship,” and “relief” in mind—therefore empowering the female and male organizations to work together in mutual support, encouraging each other and meeting together in council—patterned after the Divine Council presided over by El, El Shaddai/ Asherah, and Yehovah. If that collaborative vision did not yet come to fruition, it did not go unnoticed by those who constituted the second generation of Relief Society sisters who were very familiar with the founding events of their organization; Susa Young Gates wrote that “the privileges and powers outlined by the Prophet in those first meetings [of the Relief Society] have never been granted to women in full even yet.”
In turning “the key” to Emma as president of the Female Relief Society, Joseph encouraged Emma to “be a pattern of virtue; and possess all the qualifications necessary for her to stand and preside and dignify her Office.” In her article for the Young Woman’s Journal, Susa Young Gates, in her recapitulation of Doctrine and Covenants 25, reminds her young, female readership that Emma was not only called to be a scribe but a “counselor” to the prophet and that she was “ordained to expound the scriptures. Not only set apart but ordained!” With Emma in possession of the keys to preside over the Female Relief Society, it was now possible to create a “kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day.” As in the ancient church of Adam and Eve envisioned by Joseph and, as in the early Christian Church, women would share the burdens of administering the affairs of the kingdom together with ministering to their congregations, the sick, the poor and the needy, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, Relief Society sisters performed a vital role in their min-istrations to the poor and the sick—including the pronouncement of blessings of healing. For example, Helen Mar Kimball Whitney records being blessed at the hands of Sister Persis Young, Brigham’s niece, who “had been impressed by the Spirit to come and administer to me . . . She rebuked my weakness . . . and commanded me to be made whole, pronouncing health and many other blessings upon me. . . . From that morning I went to work as though nothing had been the matter.” At the Nauvoo Relief Society meeting of April 28, 1842 Joseph Smith had promised that “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.” Women and men would also be endowed to perform the saving ordinances performed initially in the Masonic Lodge and then in the newly constructed Nauvoo Temple in order to redeem “all nations, kindreds, tongues and people” culminating in the sealing of the human family to each other and to the Divine Family, thereby fulfilling their collaborative roles as “Saviours on Mount Zion.”
As Susa Young Gates noted, “there were mighty things wrought in those long-ago days in this Church. Every great and gracious principle of the Gospel—every truth and force for good—all these were conceived and born in the mighty brain and great heart of that master-mind of the nineteenth century, Joseph Smith, the development and expansion of these truths he left to others” (emphasis mine). Susa then added that Joseph “was never jealous or grudging in his attitude to woman. . . . He brought from the Heavenly store-house that bread of life which should feed her soul, if she would eat and lift her from the low estate of centuries of servitude and ignominy into equal partnership and equal liberty with man.”
 Joseph Milner, The History of the Church of Christ, vol. 2 (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1812), v.; Joseph Milner, The History of the Church of Christ, vol. 3 (Boston: Farrand, Mallory, and Co., 1809), 221.
 They are treated in Alexander L. Baugh, “Parting the Veil: Joseph Smith’s Seventy-Six Documented Visionary Experiences,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820–1844, edited by John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2005), 265–326.
 Interview Kathleen Flake, “The Mormons,” PBS Frontline/American Experience (Apr. 30, 2007), retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/flake.html.
 Richard Bushman, “Joseph Smith and His Visions,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism, edited by Terryl L. Givens and Philip L. Barlow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 118.
 This practice is most clearly evident in his revelation on priesthood, D&C 107.
 See The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Manuscript and Revelation Books, Facsimile Edition, edited by Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, and Steven C. Harper (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009).
 William Dever, Did God Have a Wife? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2005).
 Among Joseph’s reading material is Willam Hone, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament (London: Hone, 1821). For Smith’s library, see Kenneth W. Godfrey, “A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute,” Brigham Young University Studies 14 (Spring 1974): 386–89.
 Erastus Snow, Mar. 3, 1878, Journal of Discourses, 19:269–70.
 Richard S. Van Wagoner, ed., Complete Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Smith-Petit Foundation, 2009), 5:3092.
 Women in Heaven,” Millennial Star 64 (Jun. 26, 1902): 410, retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/millennialstar6426eng#page/408/mode/2up. Penrose, who was editor at the time this editorial was written, is likely the author.
 Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” Poems (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), 70.
 Abraham H. Cannon, Journal, Aug. 25, 1880, LDS archives, quoted in Linda P. Wilcox, “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven,” in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson, eds., Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 66; see also Maxine Hanks, Woman and Authority (Salt Lake: Signature, 1992).
 V. H. Cassler, “Plato’s Son, Augustine’s Heir: ‘A Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology’?” Square Two 5, no. 2 (Summer 2012), retrieved from http://squaretwo. org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPlatosSon.html.
 Joseph Don Carlos Young, Private Notebook (no date; no pagination), currently in the possession of Richard Wright Young, grandson of Joseph Don Carlos Young, quoted in Alonzo L. Gaskill and Seth G. Soha, “The Woman at the Veil,” in An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, edited by Kenneth L. Alford and Richard. E. Bennett (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2015), 91–111.
 Daniel Peterson, “Nephi and his Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8–23,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 16–25, 80–81.
 See Exodus 25:31–37, 37:17–22; Zechariah 4:1–3; Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2. See also Margaret Barker, King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John’s Gospel (London: SPCK, 2014), 34–38. Biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.
 See 1 Kings 6:18, 29, 33.
 See also Ezekiel 40:16, 31.
 See John 12:12–13. The Hebrew for “Hosanna” is “Hoshi’ahnna” meaning “Save us” as noted in Margaret Barker, The Gate of Heaven (Sheffield: SPCK, 2008), 84.
 William Dever, Did God Have a Wife?, 101.
 E.g., Proverbs 1:20.
 See photographs of the fresco at Catacombs of Priscilla, http://www.cata-combepriscilla.com/visita_catacomba_en.html.
 Augustine, The Trinity, Book VII, ch 5. My gratitude to Rachael Givens Johnson for alerting me to this passage.
 Margaret Barker, The Mother of the Lord, vol. 1: The Lady in the Temple (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 104.
 Kenneth B. Wolf, “Sentencia-Estatuto de Toledo, 1449.” Medieval Texts in Translation (2008), retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/canilup/toledo1449. My gratitude to Rachael Givens Johnson for sharing this quotation with me.
 Barker, Mother of the Lord, 331.
 Sarah M. Kimball, “Auto-Biography,” Woman’s Exponent 12, no. 7 (Sep. 1, 1883): 51, retrieved from http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WomansExp/id/10872/rec/17.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 38, retrieved from http://josephsmith-papers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book.
 Eliza R. Snow, “An Address,” Woman’s Exponent 2, no. 8 (Sep. 15, 1873): 63, retrieved from http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WomansExp/id/15710/rec/31.
 Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 145.
 Romans 16:7.
 John Chrysostom, “Homilies on Romans 31,” in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, VI: Romans, edited by Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 358.
 Orson Pratt, Mar. 26, 1876, Journal of Discourses 18:171.
 Raymond Brown, “Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel,” Theological Studies 36 (1975): 691–92.
 Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry among the First Christians (Victoria: Collins Dove, 1989), 167.
 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1997), 107.
 For example, 2 John 1:1, 4, 13; 3 John 1:4.
 Stanley R. Grenz and Denise Muir Kjebo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 78.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 9.
 Ibid., 8.
 Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Company, 1991), 115.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 58.
 Joseph Smith, Journal, Apr. 28, 1842, in Andrew H. Hedges, et al., eds., Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843, edited by Dean C. Jessee, et al. (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011), 52 (hereafter JSP, J2).
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 126.
 E. R. Snow Smith, “To Branches of the Relief Society (republished by request, and permission of President Lorenzo Snow),” The Woman’s Exponent 27, no. 23 (Sep. 15, 1884): 140, retrieved from http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WomansExp/id/33963/rec/1.
 Quoted in Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), 39, 50.
 Ehat and Cook, Words, 115. As Ehat and Cook point out, there seems little alternative to reading the “confirmation” in his expression as a reference to the gift of the Holy Ghost (141).
 William Gibbons, Truth Advocated in Letters Addressed to the Presbyterians (Philadelphia: Joseph Rakenstraw, 1822), 107. Quoted in Benjamin Keogh, “The Holy Priesthood, The Holy Ghost, and the Holy Community,” Mormon Scholars Foundation Summer Seminar paper, Brigham Young University, Jul. 23, 2015, n.p.
 Gibbons, Truth, 85.
 “Hours With Holy Scripture,” The Reformed Presbyterian Magazine (Edin-burgh: Johnstone, Hunter & Co, 1866), 45. Quoted in Keogh, “The Holy Priesthood, The Holy Ghost and the Holy Community.”
 On April 28 Joseph again visited the Relief Society meeting and discoursed on the topic of “different offices, and the necessity of every individual acting in the sphere allotted to him or her.” Given what follows it is evident that Joseph is addressing the different spiritual gifts allotted to each member of the community. For, he continues that “the disposition of man [is] to look with jealous eyes upon the standing of others” and “the reason these remarks were being made, was that some little thing was circulating in the Society,” com-plaints that “ some [women] were not going right in laying hands on the sick &c,” instead of rejoicing that “the sick could be heal’d” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 35–36).
 Ehat and Cook, Words, 7.
 Ibid., 64 (emphasis mine).
 Joseph Smith, “Gift of the Holy Ghost,” Times and Seasons, Jun. 15, 1842. Quoted in “The Holy Priesthood, The Holy Ghost and the Holy Community,” Keogh.
 Sarah Kimball, “Reminiscence, March 17, 1882,” in The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History, edited by Jill Mulvay Derr, et al. (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 495; emphasis mine.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 40; D&C 27:13–18.
 Cheryl L. Bruno, “Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842–44,” Journal of Mormon History 39, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 159.
 Don Bradley has illuminated these connections in “The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism: Joseph Smith’s Unfinished Reformation,” Sunstone (Apr. 2006): 32–41.
 Ehat and Cook, Words, 234.
 Snow, Journal of Discourses 19:266.
 For example, Exodus 6:3. For a discussion of Shaddai/Shadday as a female name, see Harriet Lutzky, “Shadday as a Goddess Epithet” in Vetus Testamentum 48, Fasc. 1 (Jan. 1998): 15–16.
 Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, 3rd ed. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990), 105–06.
 Heber C. Kimball, Nov. 29, 1857, Journal of Discourses, 6:102.
 Considering the male priesthood to be the “Male Relief Society” is no stretch. The profound influence of Masonry on Smith, his choice of the Masonic Lodge for organizational purposes, the association of Masonic thought with “Relief,” and the women’s choice to employ that term explicitly in their organization’s name, all suggest that the male organization was effectively in Smith’s conception a “male Relief Society.”
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 11–12.
 Eighth Ward, Liberty Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1867–1969, vol. 1, May 12, 1868. In First Fifty Years, 270.
 Eliza R. Snow, “Female Relief Society,” Apr. 18 and 20, 1868, in First Fifty Years, 271 (emphasis mine).
 Eliza R. Snow, “Female Relief Society of Nauvoo: What is it?” in First Fifty Years, 135.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 9.
 Ibid., 14.
 Susa Young Gates, “The Open Door for Women,” Young Woman’s Journal 16 (Mar. 3, 1905): 117; retrieved http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/YWJ/id/14738/rec/16.
 Gates, “Open Door,” 116.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 22.
 Ehat and Cook, Words, 110.
 Helen Mar Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents at Winter Quarters,” Woman’s Exponent 14, no. 14 (Dec. 15, 1885), 106, retrieved from http://contentdm. lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WomansExp/id/12881/rec/69.
 Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 36.
 Gates, “Open Door,” 116.
2016: Fiona Givens, “‘The Perfect Union of Man and Woman’: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 49 No. 1 (2016): 1–26.
Givens argues that one of the things that Joseph Smith was trying to restore was teachings taught to Adam and Eve, in particular men and women working together. Givens also highlighted the existence of Heavenly Mother.[post_title] => “The Perfect Union of Man and Woman”: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 49.1 (Spring 2016): 1–26
Central to Joseph’s creative energies was a profound commitment to an ideal of cosmic as well as human collaboration. His personal mode of leadership increasingly shifted from autocratic to collaborative—and that mode infused both his most radical theologizing and his hopes for Church comity itself. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-perfect-union-of-man-and-womanreclamation-and-collaboration-in-joseph-smiths-theology-making [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-06-04 23:47:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-06-04 23:47:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=18872 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Authority and Priesthood in the LDS Church, Part 1: Definitions and Development
Dialogue 51.1 (Spring 2018): 167–180
The issue of authority in Mormonism became painfully public with the rise of the Ordain Women movement.
The issue of authority in Mormonism became painfully public with the rise of the Ordain Women movement. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => authority-and-priesthood-in-the-lds-church-part-1-definitions-and-development [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:51:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:51:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=19081 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Authority and Priesthood in the LDS Church, Part 2: Ordinances, Quorums, Nonpriesthood Authority, Presiding, Priestesses, and Priesthood Bans
Dialogue 51.1 (Spring 2018): 167–180
In the prequel to this article, I discussed in general contours the dual nature of authority—individual and institutional—and how the modern LDS concept of priesthood differs significantly from the ancient version in that it has become an abstract form of authority that can be “held” (or withheld, as the case might be).
In the prequel to this article, I discussed in general contours the dual nature of authority—individual and institutional—and how the modern LDS concept of priesthood differs significantly from the ancient version in that it has become an abstract form of authority that can be “held” (or withheld, as the case might be). [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => authority-and-priesthood-in-the-lds-church-part-2-ordinances-quorums-nonpriesthood-authority-presiding-priestesses-and-priesthood-bans [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:52:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:52:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=19114 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Tradition
Dialogue 48.2 (Summer 2015): 1–57
Although race and gender are connected in 2 Nephi 26:33, the historical origins of the gender ban have not yet been addressed with the same degree of attention in Church discourse.
Although race and gender are connected in 2 Nephi 26:33, the historical origins of the gender ban have not yet been addressed with the same degree of attention in Church discourse. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-struggle-for-female-authority-in-biblical-and-mormon-tradition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:01:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:01:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9321 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Feminism: The Next Forty Years
Dialogue 47.4 (Winter 2014): 167–180
Brooks talks about the period from 1970s Mormon feminism in Boston to the present and imagines what needs to be part of the future. She identifies five areas for Mormon feminism: theology, institutions, racial inclusion, financial independence, and spiritual independence.
Brooks talks about the period from 1970s Mormon feminism in Boston to the present and imagines what needs to be part of the future. She identifies five areas for Mormon feminism: theology, institutions, racial inclusion, financial independence, and spiritual independence. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-feminism-the-next-forty-years [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 21:53:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 21:53:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9360 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Feminist Perspectives on the Mormon Digital Awakening: A Study of Identity and Personal Narratives
Dialogue 47.4 (Winter 2014): 47–83
This study examines online Mormon feminists’ identities and beliefs and their responses to the Mormon Digital Awakening. This is the first published survey of online Mormon feminists, which gathered quantitative and qualitative data from 1,862 selfidentified Mormon feminists.
This study examines online Mormon feminists’ identities and beliefs and their responses to the Mormon Digital Awakening. This is the first published survey of online Mormon feminists, which gathered quantitative and qualitative data from 1,862 selfidentified Mormon feminists. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-feminist-perspectives-on-the-mormon-digital-awakening-a-study-of-identity-and-personal-narratives [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:12:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:12:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9362 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
A Letter to My Mormon Daughter
Dialogue 47.4 (Winter 2014): 79–84 One day you’ll probably hear the name Kate Kelly. And you’ll probably ask me my thoughts about her and her work with Ordain Women and her subsequent excommunication.
Dialogue 47.4 (Winter 2014): 89–94
The day the missionaries came to our house in 1988, a rainbow fell across the sky in our neighborhood on the hill. I stood on the ledge of the bathtub and curled my fingers on the windowsill to pull my scrawny body up to see.
The day the missionaries came to our house in 1988, a rainbow fell across the sky in our neighborhood on the hill. I stood on the ledge of the bathtub and curled my fingers on the windowsill to pull my scrawny body up to see. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => in-light [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:07:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:07:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9365 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Priesthood Against the Meritocracy
Dialogue 47.4 (Winter 2014): 85–90 Defenses of the male-only LDS priesthood generally pursue a combination of three approaches: ground the practice in ancient scripture, secure it in Restoration history and tradition, or justify it through its sociological effects on gender culture and family formation in the present day.
Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research Conference: To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation within Church Organizational Structure
Dialogue 45.3 (Fall 2012): 70–83
I will be talking today about how women fit into the functional structure of LDS church governance; but, unlike many of the others speaking today, I do not have advanced degrees in my subject, nor do I consider myself an academic
I will be talking today about how women fit into the functional structure of LDS church governance; but, unlike many of the others speaking today, I do not have advanced degrees in my subject, nor do I consider myself an academic [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => foundation-for-apologetic-information-and-research-conference-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm-for-examining-gendered-participation-within-church-organizational-structure [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:09:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:09:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9561 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated)
Dialogue 41.4 (Winter 2008): 121–147
In this essay, I shall begin by describing what we can learn about our Mother in Heaven from the scriptures. I then will draw from those descriptions some (very modest) suggestions for how we might actually worship, or at least honor, Her in ways that should not be considered offensive or heterodox by traditionalists. This essay is therefore a little exercise in religion-making. It is my hope that I will be able to express my mediating thoughts in a way that will not be deemed offensive by those of either school of thought on the subject.
In the first place I wish to go back to the beginning of creation. There is the starting point in order to know and be fully acquainted with the mind, purposes, decrees, and ordinations of the great Elohim that sits in the heavens. For us to take up beginning at the creation it is necessary for us to understand something of God Himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is very easy for us to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it is a hard matter to get right.Faithful LDS scholars have a strong motivation to take the recent non-LDS scholarship regarding Asherah as the Hebrew Goddess very seriously. If they have any interest in propping up the contemporary Mormon image of Elohim as a father deity and Jehovah as a separate son deity (and they do), then they must recognize that Asherah is an integral part of that scholarship. And given that the existence of such a Mother in Heaven figure was apparently taught by the Prophet Joseph, it is certainly in the interest of apologetically oriented LDS scholars like me to take this scholar-ship and Asherah herself with the utmost seriousness. At this point I would like to briefly survey what the scriptures teach those with eyes to see and ears to hear about our Mother in Heaven. As I have already suggested, She is not nameless, but She had (and has) a name: Asherah. The word ’asherah appears forty times in the Old Testament (see Appendix A), sometimes referring to the Goddess directly, but more often referring to Her cult object—apparently a wooden pole that represents a sa-cred tree (like the Tree of Life) which acts as an allusion to the Goddess her-self. In the King James Version (KJV), the Hebrew word ’asherah is always represented by the English word “grove,” following the mistranslations of the Greek Septuagint (alsos) and Latin Vulgate (lucus, nemus). Although when referring to a cult object ’asherah may have occasionally been used to refer to a single living tree (but not necessarily a grove of trees), the word is sometimes modified in some way by such verbs as “make” (’asa), “build” (bana) and“erect”(natsab), indicating that it was a manmade object representing or symbolizing a tree, and not an actual living tree. The difference between the KJV and the modern New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), may be illustrated by 2 Kings 23:4:
|KJVAnd the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove [’asherah], and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.||
NRSVThe king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah [’asherah], and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.
KJVBut thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves [’asherim], and burn their graven images with fire.
NRSVBut this is how you must deal with them: break down their al-tars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles [’asherim], and burn their idols with fire.
- Genesis 1:26–27.
And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over [the animals]. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.The parallelism of the passage suggests that the image (tselem) of God was both male and female. The introductory formula with its plural forms appears to reflect a pantheon, and although the Priestly author who wrote the first chapter of Genesis would not have intended it, being profoundly monotheistic himself, he appears to have made use here of older material reflecting the original plural Hebrew conception of God. The implication of this passage is that men and women were created male and female in the image of God, which is also male and female.
- Genesis 21:33. The KJV reads: “And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” A more literal rendering might be: “And Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh El Olam.” Note the combination of the divine names “Yahweh” and “El,” together with Olam “Eternal [lit. (of) Eternity],” an epithet of El. The final form of the text as it has been preserved has no direct mention of Asherah, but it seems likely that this planting of a sacred tree by the patriarch Abraham was an act to venerate Her.
- Genesis 30:13. The KJV reads: “And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.” It has been suggested that what she really said was not “happy am I” [be’oshri, lit. “by (or with) my happiness”], but “by Asherah” or “with Asherah’s help” [be’asherah], Asherah being a fertility goddess. The traditional way of taking this, “by/with my happiness,” is very awkward. The name of the Goddess, Asherah, is very similar to the word for “happiness,” so it would have been a simple matter for scribes to remove Asherah’s name from the narrative by replacing it with the noun for “happiness.” Invoking the name of a deity in childbirth was common, and the normal form of such an invocation is with the b- prefix (meaning “by”) Leah uses here. Leah had similarly exclaimed “by Gad” or “with Gad’s help” upon the birth of her son (through her handmaid Zilpah), whom she duly named “Gad.” Gad was the god of luck worshipped in Phoenicia and Canaan. In this theory, the name of Leah’s son Asher would simply be the masculine form (without the feminine –ah ending) of the Goddess’s name.
- Genesis 49:25. Jacob’s blessings to his sons includes an invocation to Yahweh (v. 18), followed by an invocation to El (v. 25) including the common El epithet Shaddai (“almighty”) used in parallel with “El.” This verse also bestows the blessings of Breasts-and-Womb, which was known as an epithet of Asherah.
- Proverbs 3:13–18. One form into which Asherah worship was transformed was as Lady Wisdom (Hebrew chokmah) in Proverbs 1–9. It has therefore been suggested that there is an intentional word play on the name of the Goddess in an inclusio we find in Proverbs 3:13–18. An inclusio is a type of distant parallelism between material at the beginning of a section of text and that at the end of the section, thus framing or bracketing the material in the middle. These six verses form a discrete block of text. In verse 13 is “happy” (a word that is very similar to “Asherah” in Hebrew) and “Wisdom” (the designation of the Goddess as She was transformed). Five verses later in verse 18 is the expression “a tree of life,” a characteristic of Asherah paralleling the word “Wisdom” (v. 13) and a repetition of “happy” (v. 13). As the parallel elements are given in inverted order, this particular inclusio is chiastic in nature:
A. happy [v. 13; ‘ashre] B. Wisdom [v. 13; chokmah] [Framed material in verses 14 through 17] B. a tree of life [v. 18; ‘ets chayyim] A. happy [v. 18; me’ushshar (same root as ‘ashre)]That “Wisdom” appears in parallel with “a tree of life,” long associated with Asherah as a sacred tree, tends to suggest the association of Wisdom with Asherah. The word play on the name Asherah in the Hebrew word “happy” tends to confirm that association.
- Proverbs 8:22–31. Another illustration of the recasting of Asherah as personified Lady Wisdom is in this passage, quoted below from the NRSV:
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
- Isaiah 6:13. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) of this passage reads: “And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains standing when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.” The reference to “a tenth” appears to be an allusion to Judah, the tribe which was not taken as part of the Assyrian conquest. This tenth would not entirely escape but would be punished also in the Babylonian captivity. Yet even then a righteous remnant would re-main, from which Israel could once again grow and flower. Thus, the end of the verse reflects the concept, common in Isaiah prophecies, of a re-turning remnant. For example, Isaiah 7:3 states that Isaiah had a son symbolically named Shear-jashub (“A Remnant Shall Return”).
- Hosea 14:8 [Hebrew 14:9]. This verse in the RSV reads: “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.” The line rendered “It is I who answer and look after you” is a translation of the Hebrew ani ’aniti wa’ashurennu (the “you” of the RSV is literally “him” in the Hebrew, referring to Ephraim). The meaning of the line as it stands is obscure. Some scholars suggest here a conjectural emendation to ’ani ’anato wa’asherato, meaning “I [Yahweh] am his Anat [another Canaanite goddess] and his Asherah,” which would then restore the parallelism of the first two half-lines in the verse. Even if one does not follow these scholars in emending the text, at the very least there seems to be a word play on the names “Anat” (possibly understood during the Israelite period as another name for Asherah) and “Asherah” in the Hebrew text as it exists. That there is such an allusion to Asherah here can be seen particularly in how Isaiah 27:9, which is based on this passage, makes explicit reference to ’asherim “Asherah poles.” True, the prophet here is arguing against Asherah worship as part of the reform movement. But he does so gently, by having Yahweh assume Her attributes. Yahweh tells Ephraim that He (Yahweh) will fulfill the historic role of Anat/Asherah in the future for Israel. Yahweh is like a sacred tree (as is Asherah); the source of fertility is not Asherah, Goddess of fertility, but Yahweh Himself. While perhaps not a positive allusion to Asherah, this passage does illustrate how Yahweh co-opted Her functions during the reform period.
- Ezekiel 8:3. This passage reads: “and the spirit . . . brought me to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy [sml hqn’h hmqnh].” (See also v. 5.) This “image” is generally assumed to be a statue of Asherah present at one time in the temple. The expression “image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy” makes little sense. It has been suggested that the real designation of this figure was sml hqnh, “the image of the creatress,” consort to Yahweh, who is called “creator [qnh] of heaven and earth” in Genesis 14:19. If this suggestion is correct, then “image of jealousy,” sml hqn’h, is a word play used to avoid mentioning the (at that time) forbidden “image of the creatress.”
- 1 Nephi 11:8–23. In this passage the Spirit shows to Nephi the tree which his father had seen, beautiful and white beyond description. Nephi tells the Spirit: “I behold thou has shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.” The Spirit asks Nephi what he desires, and he responds that he wishes to know the interpretation of this tree that had been shown to his father and which he now beheld himself. Instead of straightforwardly answering his question, the angel shows Nephi a vision of a virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins, whom the angel identifies as the mother of the Son of God. And then Nephi sees the virgin with a child in her arms, whom the angel identifies as “the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” At this point, the Spirit asks Nephi the same question Nephi had previously asked him: “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” To the modern reader, the tree seems irrelevant to the vision of Mary, but Nephi replies that he now knows the meaning of the tree: “Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; where-fore, it is the most desirable above all things,” to which the angel responds “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”
- Name and titles. I personally regard it as very significant that we actually know the name of our Mother in Heaven: Asherah. In the ancient world, knowing the name or etymon of a god was very important, and just having this small bit of information helps us to personalize Her rather than leaving Her in the realm of unknown and distant abstraction.
- Creation. In Proverbs 8:30 quoted above, Lady Wisdom reports that She was present during the creation and assisted with it. In the NRSV, this passage reads: “then I was beside him, like a master worker.” The KJV mistranslates this verse as: “then I was by him, as one brought up with him” (meaning “like a child”). The key term in the Hebrew is ’amon, meaning a master craftsman, artificer, or architect. Thus, this passage portrays Wisdom as a skilled craftsman working beside Yahweh in creating the world. This concept fits readily into Mormon thought, since we understand the creation not as the work of a single deity, but rather as the collaborative effort of a small pantheon working together.
- Sacred trees. Asherah was most profoundly represented in the scriptures with various forms of tree symbolism, beginning in the Garden of Eden. Prominent in the garden is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Mormon theology, the Fall is actually necessary for human moral development. As is often expressed, the Fall and the Atonement were not Plan B, a band-aid to remedy a great mistake, but rather Plan A, intended all along. The Fall had both positive and negative effects. The Atonement remedies the negative effects, while the positive effects remain intact. Therefore, in Mormon thought, Eve is not the great scapegoat of all humanity, ruining our one chance at true happiness, but rather the moral heroine of the story, who by a flash of insight or intuition saw the necessity of partaking of the fruit. The fruit of this tree made human beings “wise” and, thus, was the source of wisdom. The story also mentions an-other sacred tree, the tree of life, from which Adam and Eve were separated after the Fall.
- Artistic representations. Although the Hebrew Bible itself has only hints about the worship of Asherah in ancient Israel, the archaeological record is much richer and is not burdened by the polemical perspective of the Josian and other reformers. William Dever’s remarkable recent book, Did God Have a Wife?, is an excellent source of archaeological evidence for ordinary Israelites’ common worship of Asherah. In antiquity there was a rich tradition of iconic representation of Asherah.
- Fertility, childbirth, and lactation. It should come as no surprise that Asherah was originally a fertility goddess. Fertility, childbirth, and lactation were among the very gravest concerns of ancient women—liter-ally matters of life, death, and familial survival. These issues remain crucial even in our own day, when infertile couples routinely spend thousands of dollars attempting to successfully have children of their own.
- Healing. Popular culture routinely portrays the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (and, by extension, the tree of life) in the Garden of Eden as an apple tree. But in Jewish tradition, the tree of life was most commonly an olive tree, which makes sense given that tree’s important role in Middle Eastern culture. I have long thought it significant that we give healing blessings using consecrated olive oil, which is the fruit of the tree of life, therefore most appropriate to the task, and at least in part a symbol of our Mother’s nurturing concern for our health and well-being.
- Happiness. Even though “happiness” was not the true etymology of the name “Asherah,” Israelites doubtless understood the name to have that meaning. Therefore, there was a tendency to create word plays using “happiness” in situations associated with the Goddess. Sometimes “happiness” was substituted for her name to avoid mentioning Her at all. Therefore, passages in the Old Testament that refer to happiness should be read closely with these possibilities in mind, and, as Peterson rightly notes, the same sensitivity in reading happiness passages should also be extended to our reading of the Book of Mormon text. There may well be nuggets of information about the Goddess hidden in such passages awaiting discovery by a diligent reader.
- Wisdom. Since Asherah was recharacterized as personified Wisdom, we should read passages referring to wisdom with an eye attuned to possible nuanced allusions to the Goddess. In particular, we should read with care the whole of the Wisdom Literature (in the Old Testament, this would include Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes).
- Temple service. I see the crowning way to worship our Mother in Heaven as engaging in temple service, whether as workers or as patrons. The connection between our Mother and the temple was and is pro-found. Consider, for instance, the following points:
- “Asherah” means “sanctuary,” “holy place,” and is thus, essentially, a synonym for temple.
- During times favorable to Asherah worship in ancient Israel, there was a statue or other image of Her prominently displayed in the temple.(This image was removed during times unfavorable to Her worship.)
- The menorah was a stylized almond tree and probably a symbol of the Goddess. It burned olive oil, which also was Her symbol.
- The two cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies were identified as Asherah and Yahweh.
- Our modern temple ritual revolves around a creation drama, in which Asherah participated as a master craftsman.
- The Garden of Eden narrative prominently features two sacred trees (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life), both of which represent Her.
- One of the most prominent ways that ancient Israelite women worshipped Asherah was by weaving textiles that were then used in the temple. It is not entirely clear what these weavings were—perhaps wall hangings or veils.
See PDF version of this article for Appendix A: The 40 Specific Occurrences of "Asherah" in the Old Testament and Appendix B: Bibliography of Non-LDS Literature.  Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, November 1991, 100. The 1909 statement reads: “. . . even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.” The 1995 statement reads: “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents . . .” For the history of the idea in its Mormon context, see Linda R. Wilcox, “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven,” in Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective, edited by Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 64–77.  George D. Smith, “‘Is There Any Way to Escape These Difficulties?’: The Book of Mormon Studies of B. H. Roberts,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17, no. 2 (Summer 1984): 94–111.  My survey of scholarship on the ancient Hebrew pantheon is to some extent personal and subjective, as virtually all of the propositions I shall make can be and have been debated by scholars. The picture I will paint simply reflects my sense of the situation based on my reading of the literature.  Boyd Kirkland, “Elohim and Jehovah in Mormonism and the Bible,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 77–93; and his “Jehovah as Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine,” Sunstone 9 (Autumn 1984): 36–44.  See in particular Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992). For an appreciation of Barker’s work from an LDS perspective, see Kevin Christensen, “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies.” Occasional Papers, No. 2, edited by William Hamblin (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001). I acknowledge that Barker’s scholarship is controversial and that not all LDS scholars are enamored with it. See, for example, Terrence L. Szink, “Jerusalem in Lehi’s Day,” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 149–59. While Barker happened to be my point of entree to scholarship on the ancient Hebrew pantheon, recent scholarship on this subject is both extensive and broadly based. See Appendix B, “Bibliography of Non-LDS Literature.”  The Israelites and the Canaanites lived contemporaneously at the same place with approximately the same culture. The Canaanites also ante-dated the Israelites; scholars refer to Canaanites during the Iron Age as Phoenicians. Many scholars take the position that the Israelites did not conquer the Canaanites but rather simply arose from among them indigenously. The Hebrew language originated as a Canaanite dialect.  In general, see Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990).  John Day, “Asherah,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:483–87. This article is a summary of Day’s longer study, “Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Literature,” Journal of Biblical Literature 105, no. 3 (1986): 385–408. There are a couple of similar Syro-Palestinian inscriptions of the same pattern referring to “Yahweh and His Asherah.” It is unclear whether the reference to “Asherah” in these inscriptions is meant to refer directly to the Goddess or to Her cult object, a wooden pole representing a sacred tree, since proper names in Biblical Hebrew normally do not take a pronominal suffix (the “his” of the English translations). If the reference were to Her cult object, the allusion to Her would be indirect but nonetheless present.  On the further transformations of Asherah, see in particular Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, 3rd ed. (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1990).  Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” BYU Studies 18, no. 2 (1978): 199, as quoted in Kevin L. Barney, “Six Key Concepts in Joseph Smith’s Understanding of Genesis 1:1,” BYU Studies 39 no. 3 (2000): 124.  This material is adapted from my unpublished internet essay, “Do We Have a Mother in Heaven?” http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/MotherInHeaven.pdf (accessed July 11, 2007) [Editor’s Note: Link in original PDF no longer works; updated link provided in hyperlink].  W. L. Reed, “Asherah,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by George Butterick, 5 vols. (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1982), 1:251; Patai, Hebrew Goddess, 296–97 note 15.  Smith, Early History of God, 16.  Ibid., 95.  Day, “Asherah.”  Barker, The Great Angel, 54.  Daniel C. Peterson, “Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8–23,” in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 191–243. His shorter, popularized version appeared as “Nephi and His Asherah,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 16–25. The title is a word play on a series of Syro-Palestinian inscriptions that refer to “Yahweh and His Asherah.”  “However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.” Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” 100.  Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (1907; rpt., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1979), 81.  See the discussion in Tilde Binger, Asherah: Goddesses in Ugarit, Israel and the Old Testament (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 142–46.  So for example “an awesome wind sweeping over the water” in E. A. Speiser, Genesis: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol. 1 of THE ANCHOR BIBLE (New York: Doubleday, 1962), 3.  Given that Asherah’s particular role was as procreator and given this particular maternal metaphor of brooding over the waters, one might be tempted to suggest that Her particular role in the creation had to do with the biological creation of life, which indeed originated in the deep. But this would, of course, simply be a speculation.  It is possible, as some scholars have speculated, that the two trees were originally one and the same and were separated only for the dramatic needs of the story.  See Kevin L. Barney, “Happy Tu Bishvat,” By Common Consent, February 3, 2007 (accessed July 22, 2007). When I first learned of this holiday from an article in my local paper, one of the congregations celebrating the holiday was Congregation Ets Chayyim, Hebrew for “Tree of Life.”  William G. Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005). For reviews of the book from an LDS perspective, see Paul Hoskisson in BYU Studies 45, no. 2 (2006): 186–89, and Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, “Does God Have a Wife?” FARMS Review 19, no. 1 (2007): 81–118.  I purchased this particular five-inch replica for $22 plus shipping from http://www.sacredsource.com over the internet.  Although I was not present, Andrew C. Skinner gave a presentation on the olive tree’s position as the preeminent tree of life in Jewish tradition, concluding that many impressive connections help establish the core idea that the tree of life is the most desirable of all things. This presentation was given at a symposium on the tree of life on September 28–29, 2006, sponsored by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU. See the report in “Symposium Explores Widespread Tree of Life Motif,” Insights: An Ancient Window 26, no. 5 (2006): 1, 3–4.  For some interesting introductory commentary on historic Mormon practices of using olive oil in healing, see Jonathan Stapley, “The Evolution of Anointing the Sick,” June 8, 2005, http://www.splendidsun.com/wp /annointing/ [“annointing” is as per original] (accessed July 22, 2007) [Editor’s Note: This link no longer works], and Jonathan Stapley, “Consecrated Oil as Medical Therapy,” both on By Common Consent, April 17, 2007 (accessed July 22, 2007).  Jacob Neusner, The Glory of God Is Intelligence: Four Lectures on the Role of Intellect in Judaism (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1979).  See, e.g., Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, 67–95.  See 2 Kings 23:7, which reads in part in the KJV: “by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove” [lit. “where the women wove houses (bottim) for Asherah”], where the meaning of bottim is uncertain.  Some Mormon women are offended by having to veil their faces in the temple. I have argued elsewhere that the veil can be understood as a symbol of resurrection. Kevin L. Barney, “The LORD Will Swallow Up Death Forever,” By Common Consent, September 7, 2006 (accessed July 22, 2007). Another possibility relevant here might be to understand the veil in terms of the weavings women made in honor of Asherah in the ancient temple. The woman’s veil can be seen as a microcosm or model version of the larger veil of the temple.  There remain two significant issues concerning the nature of our Mother in Heaven that the information I have been able to tease out of the text is not really sufficient to answer. Here I will give my opinion (for whatever it may be worth) on these issues, with the understanding that it is simply speculation on my part. First, is our Mother an embodied being or a spirit? I realize some Mormon feminists like to equate Her with the Holy Ghost, thus making a trinity of Father, Mother, and Son. That arrangement has a certain appeal. And, as I have argued, one of the ways Asherah was reconceptualized was indeed as God’s Spirit. But I think it is oversimplistic to equate Asherah with the Holy Ghost. Although I do see an echo of Her in the Holy Ghost, I believe that in actuality She is an embodied being in exactly the same sense that the Father is an embodied being. Indeed, the “logic” that President Hinckley mentioned would seem to require embodiment. Furthermore, embodiment fits both the anthropomorphism of the ancient Israelite pantheon (and its Canaanite precedents) and our modern view of God the Father possessing a tangible, physical body of “flesh and bone” (D&C 130:3). In my view, God the Mother is similarly embodied. Second, is God the Mother one or many? One could make an argument for a plurality of Mothers. In the Canaanite pantheon, El had multiple consorts; and in nineteenth-century Mormonism when polygamy was actively practiced and defended, having plural wives may have seemed like the more natural arrangement. In my conception, however, there is only one Mother in Heaven to match our Father in Heaven. Such uniqueness is consistent with the Israelite evidence, which worships only Asherah in contradistinction to the multiple consorts of the Canaanite pantheon. Further, in my view a single Mother in Heaven is more consonant with contemporary Mormon thought. [post_title] => How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated) [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 41.4 (Winter 2008): 121–147
In this essay, I shall begin by describing what we can learn about our Mother in Heaven from the scriptures. I then will draw from those descriptions some (very modest) suggestions for how we might actually worship, or at least honor, Her in ways that should not be considered offensive or heterodox by traditionalists. This essay is therefore a little exercise in religion-making. It is my hope that I will be able to express my mediating thoughts in a way that will not be deemed offensive by those of either school of thought on the subject. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-worship-our-mother-in-heaven-without-getting-excommunicated [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-27 19:51:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-27 19:51:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10013 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism
Dialogue 43.2 (Fall 2010): 45–63
Reading these books in relation to my own life taught me something I should already have known. Mormon women weren’t passive recipients of the new feminism. We helped to create it.
Reading these books in relation to my own life taught me something I should already have known. Mormon women weren’t passive recipients of the new feminism. We helped to create it.[post_title] => Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 43.2 (Fall 2010): 45–63
Reading these books in relation to my own life taught me something I should already have known. Mormon women weren’t passive recipients of the new feminism. We helped to create it. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-women-in-the-history-of-second-wave-feminism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:33:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:33:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=9768 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
My Short Happy Life with Exponent II
Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 191–1933
Claudia Bushman and others reflect back on Exponent II.
Claudia Bushman and others reflect back on Exponent II. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => my-short-happy-life-with-exponent-ii-4 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:33:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:33:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10644 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control
Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 159–175
In this paper I will explore official and unofficial messages that theLDS church has sent to girls and women about childbearing during the twentieth century and the effect those messages have had on women’sreproductive choices.
In this paper I will explore official and unofficial messages that theLDS church has sent to girls and women about childbearing during the twentieth century and the effect those messages have had on women’sreproductive choices.[post_title] => Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 159–175
In this paper I will explore official and unofficial messages that theLDS church has sent to girls and women about childbearing during the twentieth century and the effect those messages have had on women’sreproductive choices. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => bodies-babies-and-birth-control [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-11 22:05:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-11 22:05:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10638 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
"Kingdom of Priests": Priesthood Temple and Women in the Old Testament and in the Restoration
Dialogue 36.3 (2003): 53-80
Compton considers priesthood as portrayed in Old Testament texts and how women are underrepresented in today’s discourse.
In this paper I will attempt to consider priesthood as portrayed in Old Testament texts. One of the common fallacies of historical interpretation is to base our understanding of an early phenomenon on later under standings and institutions, which generally reflect a changed, developed point of view and which may have gained wide currency for any number of reasons. The earliest documents, reflecting a somewhat unfamiliar state of things, are then treated with benign neglect, at best. In religion, an institution often achieves a successful doctrinal-historical synthesis (after years or decades or centuries of difficult work, development, and change), but then institutional historians project that synthesis back into early history. If one analyzes the early documents carefully, however, the pattern of development and change is clearly found. In my opinion, the institutional church could regard the process by which the church came to its synthesis as an inspiring story of man seeking guidance from God and getting it bit by bit, step by step, through a process of human striving (including possible mistakes) mixed with divine revelation. Looking at the earliest sources is first a matter of scholarly honesty (and of course, honesty is never antithetical to the gospel); second, it provides an au thentically faith-promoting view of men and women's struggles as they receive guidance from God, step by step, line by line.
Mormonism started out as a "restorationist" church—intending to restore the realities of the Old and New Testaments to nineteenth-century America. It arrived at a powerful, successful synthesis throughout the nineteenth century, culminating in the doctrinal teachings of Joseph F. Smith and James E. Talmage; but then, Mormons—in matters of Biblical interpretation—began projecting their twentieth-century synthesis of the gospel into the Old and New Testaments. This has prevented them from experiencing the full complexity and beauty of the scriptures so important to early Mormons, and it has led them to a less than perfect understanding of the Biblical backgrounds of many key Mormon doctrines.
In the case of priesthood, for instance, early Mormons, leaning more toward Catholicism than the Protestants who surrounded them in frontier America, developed a strong emphasis on ecclesiastical priesthood. Indeed, the concept of priesthood found in the Old Testament contains aspects of the Mormon doctrine and practice of priesthood, but not the totality. In this paper, I will attempt to look at the Old Testament view of priesthood in its own terms. Then I will discuss the implications of the Old Testament view of priesthood for Joseph Smith's restoration of temple worship in Kirtland and Nauvoo, open to both males and females, with no limitation to the male.
We will see that priesthood in the Old Testament was overwhelmingly connected with sanctuary and temple, cult and ritual. The Old Testament priest, an especially holy and pure person serving as a mediator between God and man, was virtually always connected with a temple and performed ordinances connected with it—sacrifice, purification, prayer. As priesthood was introduced for the purpose of the temple, according to Exodus, only priests entered the temple. As priests were exclusively male, no females entered the temple. This was the priesthood which Joseph Smith had as Biblical paradigm when he restored the Old Testament concept of temples. How he dealt with the issues of temple, priesthood, and women is one of the most significant, interesting, and least understood stories in Mormon history.
I. Priest and Temple Service
The question of priesthood in the Old Testament is extremely complex. I accept that different editors and strands of tradition contributed to the Pentateuch and the books of the Old Testament, and that later editors used early texts and sources, and put their own stamp on them. However, I do not accept the details of any particular scholar's interpretation as authoritative or final. One of the basic textual strands scholars have posited in the Pentateuch is a "priestly" source, P, which emphasizes matters relating to the priests, temple, and ritual. Julius Well hausen, in his classic of source criticism, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, argued that the institution of priesthood was entirely post-Exilic; however, later scholars have taken issue with this position and have concluded that pre-Exilic traditions in P have historical valid ity. Scholars have emphasized that the priesthood changed from pre monarchy, to monarchy, to post-exile. According to N. H. Snaith, "There are many passages in the Old Testament which show that the Aaronic priestly caste of later days was a development from a very different state of affairs. Once, all Levites were priests and not the sons of Aaron only. Earlier still, it was not even necessary to be a Levite in order to be a priest. Any man could be a priest, provided that he had been properly consecrated." For the purposes of this paper, it is enough to note that even in the early history of the priesthood, there was always a close connection between priest and sanctuary. See for example, a text often cited as evidence for early priesthood, Judges 17-18, the story of Micah's Levite. Micah had a shrine and had his own son serve in it, but when a Levite moved into the area, "Micah inducted the Levite, and the young man became his priest and remained in Micah's shrine" (Judg. 17:12). Here Levites, not just descendants of Aaron, serve as priests; and when a Levite is not available, non-Levites can serve. But the priest's connection with sanctuary is basic.
A place to start for gaining an understanding of priesthood in the Old Testament is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. They give accounts of the "preliminary," movable temple in the wilderness, the "Tent" (in the King James version, "Tabernacle"), the description of which is revealed by God in Exodus 25-27. Inside the Tabernacle the holy of holies, containing the ark of the covenant, is behind a curtain; on the other side of the curtain is a larger room with altar of incense, table of acacia wood, and lamp. Pillars delimited an outer court, and in this court was a bronze basin and an altar on which sacrifices could be performed. This pattern was later followed when a stationary temple was built in Jerusalem.
Then in Exodus 28:1, the Lord instructs Moses, "You shall bring for ward your brother Aaron, with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve Me as priests." After the temple pattern is revealed, priests must be consecrated to serve in it. To begin the consecration, they must be washed at the door of the tabernacle (Exod. 40:12). A long description of the special vestments of the priests follows in Exodus 29, including a "fringed [checkered, NRSV] tunic of fine linen. . .the headdress [turban, NRSV] of fine linen. . .[and] the sash of embroidered work" (Exod. 28:39) The priests are then anointed (Exod. 40:15; Lev. 8:10, 30). "This their anointing shall serve them for everlasting priesthood throughout the ages." Sacrifices are also part of the ordination of Aaron and his sons. Blood was taken from a sacrificed ram and put on the "ridges" of the priests' right ears, on the thumbs of the right hand, and on the "big toes of their right feet"; the rest of the blood was dashed "against every side of the altar round about." This rite strikingly illustrates how the priest was tied to the sanctuary (Exod. 29:19-21).
In Exodus chapters 30 and 31, some of the rites and duties priests carried out in the temple are revealed. According to the Bible dictionary included in the LDS Bible, "The priest exercised his office mainly at the altar [within the innermost temple court] by offering the sacrifices and above all the incense [at the altar within the temple building]." In blessing the priestly Levite tribe, Moses says, "They shall offer You incense to savor / And whole-offerings on your altar" (Deut. 33:10). Sacrifices were often rituals of atonement for the sins of the people. According to the book of Numbers, when non-priests (though Levites) offered incense in the temple, they were destroyed (Num. 16-17). Aaron and his sons are priests and can enter into the tabernacle proper; Levites can perform lesser duties connected with the temple, but "they must not have any contact with the furnishings of the Shrine or with the altar, lest both they and you [Aaron and his sons] die" (Num. 18:3). "You and your sons shall be careful to perform your priestly duties in everything pertaining to the altar and to what is behind the curtain. I make your priesthood a service of dedication; any outsider who encroaches shall be put to death" (Num. 18:6-7). In the later temple in Jerusalem, only the high priest went behind the curtain, the "veil," to the Holy of Holies, and he did it only once a year (Lev. 16). Entrance into the temple is strictly only for those who hold priesthood.
The Hebrew word for priest is kohen. The etymology of this word is not completely certain, but the most commonly attested Hebrew cognate is kun, which means "stand (before God)," "serve," or "lay down, set forth (a sacrifice)." Ritual service to God in the sanctuary is emphasized.
While priests in the Old Testament had functions beyond temple and ritual service (which we will touch on briefly below), temple and temple related ritual were central. Cody, author of the standard book on Old Testament priesthood, writes that "priestly duties and activities varied somewhat, but primary in the early period, and always basic, was the idea that a priest is a person attached to the service of God in a sanctuary, God's house." Dommershausen, in his article on kohen in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, lists as the priests' first function, "Guarding the sanctuary." The earliest priests "were thus charged with guardianship of the sacred precincts and what went on there. Sacrifices are offered by the worshippers themselves, but the priests are permitted to take a portion of the offerings for their sustenance." "The priestly ministry is thus primarily an altar ministry," he writes. Ringgren, de scribing the priests before Solomon's temple, writes, "In the pre-monarchic period, the priest appears as the attendant of a sanctuary and a giver of oracles."
The priest's cultic duties—largely tied up with the sacred place and structure, the temple—included animal sacrifice, burnt offerings, cereal offerings, incense offerings, "wave" offerings, firstfruit offerings, atone ment sacrifice, "replacing the bread of the presence on the Sabbath (Lev. 24:8), dressing lamps in the holy place (Ex. 30:7), maintaining all the temple appurtenances, sounding the festal trumpets (Num. 10:8, 10), and 'blessing in the name of Yahweh' (Deut. 10:8; 21:5; 1 Chron. 23:13)."
Priests alone entered the temple and its innermost court to perform ordinances. Non-priests, carefully ranked in sacrality, were allowed only into the outer courts of the temple. Josephus gives descriptions of the Jerusalem temple which show this system of increasing sacrality with only priests officiating in the sacred center. The outermost court has been designated by moderns as the "Court of the Gentiles" because both Jews and Gentiles were allowed to enter into it. Within this was the court which Gentiles were forbidden to enter on pain of death. In Jewish War 5:193, Josephus refers to this as the "second court" and the "holy place." There was one gateway to this court "through which those of us who were ritually clean used to pass with our wives" (Antiq. 15:419). In Jewish War 5:199-200, he describes a special court on the east called "the women's court." Then there was "the sacred (court) which women were forbidden to enter, and still farther within was a third court into which only priests were permitted to go. In this priests' court was the temple, and before it was an altar, on which we used to sacrifice whole burnt-offerings to God. Into none of these courts did King Herod enter since he was not a priest and therefore prevented from so doing. But with the construction of the porticos and the outer courts he did busy himself. . . the temple itself was built by the priests in a year and six months" (Antiq. 15:419-21). Only priests entered the temple building; only priests entered the court surrounding the temple building.
II. Other Functions of Priests
Cody explains that the Hebrew priest was "server or minister of God in the sanctuary," just as there was a regal minister in a palace. Growing out of this function were other duties of priests, including divination and teaching, both functions showing the priest's role as intermediary between God and the people. In a discussion of the Old Testament priest, de Vaux mentions "the priest and sanctuary," then moves on to "priests and divine oracles," "the priest as teacher," "the priest and sacrifice" (actually an aspect of temple work), and "the priest as mediator." Priestly consultation of oracles was only found in the early history of the priesthood; although this was a prophetic function, it was very limited even in early days of the priesthood, usually involving casting lots for answers with the Ephod or Urim and Thummim. When "prophetism" became dominant in Israel, prophets (usually not priests) ascertained the will of Jehovah through very different means, through visions and moral in sight. Tensions sometimes arose between the prophets and priests, and prophets could accuse priests of not teaching the law, or teaching it in sincerely for gain (Jer. 2:8, cf. Mic. 3:11). Other prophets were priests themselves (such as Ezekiel) or closely connected to priests.
Teaching by priests is attested in Deuteronomy: "They [the priestly tribe of Levi] shall teach Your laws to Jacob and Your instructions to Israel" (Deut. 33:10). In Deuteronomy 31:9, Moses instructs the priests to recite the Law every seven years at the Feast of Booths. Yet even the priest's teaching relates to his temple, cultic functions: Ezekiel (Ezek. 44:23-24) writes that priests "shall declare to My people what is sacred and what is profane, and inform them what is clean and what is unclean. . .they shall preserve My teachings and My laws regarding all My fixed occasions." Teaching the people concerning pure and impure will allow the people to bring the correct sacrifices to be offered when they need to be cleansed of sin or impurity.
III. Who Could Become a Priest?
Only a select few were allowed to become priests in ancient Israel. Many of the reasons for disqualifying a person from priesthood in the Old Testament, based on laws of ritual purity, were contradicted by Jesus's later teachings of compassion, "justice and mercy," inclusiveness, and sincere religious feeling.
First, as we have seen in Exodus, only Aaron and his descendants could hold priesthood. This reflects an understanding that Levites—descendants of the tribe of Levi—were confined to serving as lesser temple functionaries, and were ambiguously priests. The other eleven tribes could not hold priesthood of any sort. Since priests were by definition holier than other men, they were "holy" by heredity, rather than through ethical and spiritual qualities. Other passages in the Bible suggest that at one time, all Levites could be full priests. Still, even with Levites included, this is an exclusive, hereditary view of priesthood.
In addition, within the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron, ritual purity or standards of physical perfection were necessary. Disabled per sons—the blind, lame, or a man "who has a limb too short or too long," or who is "a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy, or crushed testes"—could not serve as priests: "[H]e shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect. He shall not profane these places sacred to Me, for I the Lord have sanctified them" (Lev. 21:16-23, Deut. 23:2-3). If a priest were physically imperfect, he would "profane" the sanctuary.
In the Old Testament, holiness was to a remarkable extent reckoned by laws of ritual purity. All Israelites were required to live by these laws and to seek atonement or purification through sacrifice if they participated in a ritual defilement, such as touching a dead person. Priests, who had to serve in the temple, were to live by even higher standards. They were not allowed to marry a widow or a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7, 14)—perhaps a commentary on the perceived impurity of a woman who is not a virgin, or the assumption that a divorced woman had been put away because she had been sexually sinful; however, they might marry the widow of a fellow priest by Ezekiel's time (Ezek. 44:22). If a daughter of a priest "defiles herself through harlotry," she defiles her father (and by extension, the institution of priesthood), and she is to be "put to the fire" (Lev. 21:9).
As we examine such views of ritual purity, we can see how revolutionary were Jesus's teachings rejecting reliance on such conceptions and directing the religious person to moral, ethical principles and to greater inclusivity as having central religious importance.
What is said about women and priesthood, if anything, in the Old Testament? It is striking how separated women are from priesthood in the standard Old Testament understanding of the role: "We. . .hear occasionally of female prophets" (2 Kings 22:14; Neh. 6:14) writes Dommershausen, "whereas there were never any female priests in Israel." Thus, women never entered the temple (recall Josephus's description of the Court of Women outside the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple), which is another way of saying they were not priests.
What were the reasons for such a ban of women from the temple and from priesthood? One might simply accept that Hebrew culture at the time was openly, unselfconsciously patriarchal. Important roles in the community were given to men without question or reflection. However, we have also seen how women—divorced daughters of priests—could be seen as impure because of their sexuality. A woman in childbirth was also regarded as impure for seven days if she bore a male, for two weeks if she bore a female! (Lev. 12:1-5) Some scholars have suggested that because of menstruation and childbirth, a woman would always be disqualified from acting as a priest. Milgrom writes, "The woman's ineligibility for the priesthood is based on purely practical grounds: the impurity of her menses disqualifies her from serving for one week out of every four (and as much as three months during parturition)." Vos mentions that women generally began having children soon after reaching puberty, and thus would have found it difficult "to find time for the full-time profession of the priesthood." This is a practical, rather than a theological, explanation.
Some scholars have argued that certain evidence suggests that women once had some connection with cultic (i.e., priestly) functions. For instance, women performed cultic singing and dancing (Exod. 15:20; 1 Sam. 18:6, 21:11). Nevertheless, the Old Testament overwhelmingly portrays woman as separated from serving in the temple and from priesthood.
IV. Priesthood in the New Testament
Priesthood in the New Testament is not the focus of this paper, but I will look at it briefly. First of all, priesthood during the ministry of Jesus was essentially a continuation of Old Testament priesthood: It fo cused on serving in the temple, it was hereditary (the favored family of Zadokite priests traced their lineage back to Aaron; Levites were sub servient priests), and priests sometimes served as teachers in Israel. The Sadducees were a priestly party whose name derived from Zadok. There were tensions between Jesus and the priests of his day—for instance, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are viewed in a negative way. However, while Jesus might denounce individual priests or groups of priests as unworthy of their office (which reminds us of tensions between prophets and priests in the Old Testament), he did not reject the priestly system. For instance, after he healed the leper in Mark 1:44, he instructed him to "go and show yourself to the priest" to offer Mosaic offerings for cleansing. John the Baptist was of priestly lineage and his parents were viewed sympathetically.
When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the institutions of priesthood—Sadduccees, priests, Levites—came to an end. Pharisees, teachers not priests, gradually became dominant religious leaders, and they gave rise to the system of rabbis.
What of priests and priesthood in the early New Testament church? The initial surprise for LDS readers, whose doctrine and practice includes such an overwhelming emphasis on priesthood, will be how in frequently priests and priesthood are mentioned in the context of the early Christian church. Mormons may read priesthood into early church offices: For instance, they may assume that the offices of apostle, bishop, and pastor included priesthood. However, the New Testament text does not use the word "priest" or "priesthood" in this context. Some scholars believe that the early Christian church was in a "process of separation" from "all association with the priestly and sacrificial institutions of Judaism." They emphasized the prophetic over the priestly traditions in the Old Testament.
Nevertheless, the early Christians came to re-interpret priesthood in the light of Jesus's teachings and the destruction of the Temple. The one book in the New Testament that is largely concerned with priesthood, Hebrews, emphasizes Jesus's priesthood. In other passages of the New Testament, priesthood seems to be applied to the whole church, a radical contrast to the hereditary priesthood of the Old Testament. Peter, for in stance, writes, "Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . .You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
V. Restoration: 1836–1845, Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois
The Mormon religion is restorationist. Joseph Smith—and generations of Mormons after him—felt he was restoring and revalorizing institutions and experiences from Biblical times. Another term for this kind of religion was Biblical primitivism: restoration of the "primitive" church (i.e., in the Sixth Article of Faith, we read, "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church"). Mormonism was not alone in nineteenth century America in striving to restore Biblical realities. Many Protestant groups, such as the Campbellite movement and even Methodism, were likewise striving to regain the Biblical ecclesiastical forms and purity of spirit. However, Mormonism was distinguished by its thoroughgoing and literal restorationism and by the fact that it paid attention to both Testaments rather than focusing mainly on the New Testament as did many Protestant groups.
Joseph Smith was especially influenced by the Old Testament, and many characteristic Mormon institutions have their primary pattern in the Old Testament: prophet, temple, priesthood, polygamy. In the case of Protestant restorationism, priesthood was not an emphasized institution, except in generalized, non-hierarchical form (Luther's "priesthood of all believers"). This was partially a reaction against Roman Catholicism where hierarchical and authoritarian priests were an important part of the ecclesiastical framework. As we have seen, the New Testament does not use priesthood terminology in referring to officers of the early Chris tian church. Only the book of Hebrews is largely concerned with priesthood, and then mainly with Jesus's priesthood. So this Protestant lack of interest in institutionalized priesthood is an interpretation of the New Testament that is entirely possible.
Joseph Smith, on the other hand, developed a theological under standing fairly close to that of the Roman Catholic Church, accepting authoritative priesthood as the structure of the church. This emphasis on priesthood is what one might expect from someone strongly influenced by the Old Testament. For a leader concerned with temple restoration, as was Smith, it would be logical that priesthood would have to be restored with temples. A temple would need people to enter it and carry out its rites and ordinances. As we have seen, in the Old Testament the priest is above everyone who performs ritual service at the temple.
The Kirtland temple is something of a proto-temple in Mormonism: It was referred to as the House of the Lord, not a temple, at the time of its building and early use. Nevertheless, in later Mormonism it was accepted as a temple, and certainly some of the rituals first performed in it, including a proto-endowment, later became part of Mormon temple ritual.
For our purposes, the most important aspect here was allowing women to enter the Kirtland temple; we will discuss this more thoroughly in relation to the Nauvoo endowment and temple experience. Women entered the temple and participated in the charismatic meetings inside the building. For example, Presendia Huntington Buell (later Kim ball) wrote, 'At another fast meeting I was in the temple with my sister Zina." As the congregation prayed, kneeling, they heard "from one corner of the room above our heads, a choir of angels singing most beauti fully." Buell wrote, "We were also in the Temple at the pentecost."
Another important event was the restoration of washing and anointing as a temple ordinance. These ordinances first took place on January 21, 1836, when the First Presidency and a few other church leaders received their washing outside the temple, then moved into the temple, where they anointed their heads with oil. Later, other male members of the church, including "priests, teachers, and deacons," received this same washing and anointing. That this was regarded as a restoration of events from Exodus is shown by a statement by Oliver Cowdery: "[they] were annointed [sic] with the same kind of oil and in the manner that were Moses and Aaron."
The church subsequently moved to Missouri (where plans for temples in Independence and Far West did not reach fruition), then to Nauvoo, Illinois. In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith directed the building of a major temple and began to introduce further temple ordinances. While he did not live to see the temple completed, he presided over the first performance of a number of ordinances that have since become the basis for modern Mormon temple practice.
Smith did not introduce these ordinances publicly, but—in keeping with the Mormon concept of an esoteric temple (and in keeping with the Old Testament idea of a temple where Gentiles were strictly excluded from entrance into even the inner courts of the temple, let alone the building)—he introduced them to a small, elite group of trusted followers, starting on May 4, 1842. This group was most commonly called the Holy Order or Anointed Quorum, but it had a number of other names, among them simply "Quorum" or "Priesthood." And Holy Order, in fact, was a term closely associated with priesthood. The Book of Mormon refers to "the high priesthood of the holy order of God" (Alma 4:20, cf. 2 Nephi 6:2), and in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Melchizedek priesthood is referred to as the "holy order of God" (D&C 77:11, 84:18). Likewise, D&C 84:18 mentions Aaron, so the Holy Order was again seen as a restoration of Aaron's priesthood—not, confusingly, the LDS Aaronic priesthood, but the "high priesthood" which Aaron received and which Mormons refer to as the Melchizedek priesthood. These naming references to Holy Order, "Priesthood," Quorum, and Anointed Quorum show clearly and explicitly that this quorum was a priesthood organization. Since the ordinances introduced in this group were temple ordinances, it was entirely fitting, given Old Testament practice, that this had to be a priesthood group. In the Old Testament, as we have seen, to enter the temple and perform rituals in it or just outside it, one had to be a priest.
Once again, as in the Kirtland House of the Lord, members of the Anointed Quorum received a washing and anointing just before receiving the ordinance called the endowment. In addition, during the endowment they were given ritual temple clothing associated with priesthood. A conservative historian has described the rites of the Holy Order ("Joseph Smith's private prayer circle"):
They were initiated into the [Anointed] Quorum through a "washing and anointing" that symbolized the spiritual cleanliness and progress they sought to attain. At the meetings [of the Holy Order], dressed in special priesthood robes, they went through the endowment ordinances that consisted of religious instruction, learning certain symbolic "signs and tokens," and taking upon themselves sacred covenants pertaining to their personal lives and conduct. All this was held to be a most sacred part of the restoration of the "ancient order of all things." They also participated in fervent prayer concerning the problems of the day.
It was at this point that Joseph Smith was faced with one of the most momentous and least understood decisions of his prophetic mission. The Holy Order was a pre-temple group: They met in a space that was a sort of temporary temple, like the Tabernacle, and the ordinances they were given were meant to be performed in the temple. Thus, the group was explicitly a priesthood group, a quorum, with ordinances that were regarded as restorations of the priesthood ordination ceremonies of Aaron (as high priest) and his sons (as priests): washing, anointing, investing in priestly clothing. Thus, they became priests who were qualified to enter the sanctuary.
Now, with full temple ordinances available and a major temple nearing completion, how would Joseph Smith view women in this context? As we have seen, introducing women into the temple by Old Testament definition would have made them priests, and so no women were al lowed to enter the temple anciently. Certainly, Joseph Smith had not included women in any of the offices of the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods, as they had been understood up to this point. One might have expected Smith to follow the Old Testament pattern and let only men enter the temple.
What Smith in fact did, with little fanfare, is shown by an entry in his diary that recorded an Anointed Quorum meeting: 'At 7 eve met at the Mansion's upper room front with W L[aw] W M[arks]. Beurach Ale [Joseph Smith] was by common consent and unanimous voice chosen President of the quorum and anointed [second anointing] and ordfained] to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood (and companion [Emma Smith]) Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Geo Miller, N K. Whitney, Willard Richards, John Smith, John Taylor, Amasa Lyman, Lucien Wood worth, J M. Bernhisel, Wm Law, Wm Marks. President led in prayer that his days might be prolonged, have dominion over his enemies, all the households be blessed and all the church and world." Thus, Emma Smith was introduced into the Anointed Quorum; she was also anointed and ordained "to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood."
More women were introduced into the Quorum in subsequent meetings. Heber C. Kimball, for instance, wrote on January 20, 1844, "[M]y wife Vilate and menny feemales was recieved in to the Holy Order, and was washed and inointed by Emma [Smith]." Brigham Young wrote in his diary, on October 29, 1843, that Thirza Cahoon, Lois Cutler, and Phebe Woodworth were "taken into the order of the priesthood."
Joseph Smith, thus, introduced women into temple ritiual—a revolutionary action, given the Old Testament's complete ban on women entering the temple. However, this action also has significant implications with regard to priesthood, for we have seen that entrance into the temple and service therein inescapably defines the central aspect of priesthood in the Old Testament.
For those who may have difficulty accepting that entrance into the temple has such a meaning, we should look at important aspects of the temple ordinances Joseph Smith shared in the Anointed Quorum meetings. Washing and anointings were always the beginning of the series of temple rites he introduced. We have seen that washing and anointing in Exodus was a rite of ordination to priesthood, and we have seen that the early Latter-day Saints understood these as restorations of the washings and anointings given to Aaron and his sons.
In addition, another crucial part of the rites revealed by Joseph Smith was clothing in special robes. I will not describe these in detail, but it has been accepted that these temple robes are based on the descriptions of priestly robes in the Old Testament (though not on the high priestly robes, which are more elaborate). Hugh Nibley, in his article "Leaders to Managers: the Fatal Shift," wrote: "There is another type of robe and headdress described in Exodus and Leviticus and the 3rd Book of Josephus' Antiquities, i.e. the white robe and linen cap of the Hebrew priesthood, which have close resemblance to some Egyptian vestments. They were given up entirely however, with the passing of the temple and were never even imitated after that by the Jews. Both their basic white and their peculiar design, especially as shown in the latest studies from Israel, are much like our own temple garments." In Exodus, donning those priestly clothes was a part of the rite of ordination to priesthood. "Next you [Moses] shall instruct all. . .[those skilled in making clothing], to make Aaron's vestments, for consecrating him to serve Me as a priest . . . .They shall make those sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons, for priestly service to Me" (Exod. 28:3-5). By the standards of the Old Testament, when women are clothed in such priestly clothing, they are being given a consecration to priesthood.
Furthermore, early church leaders clearly and unselfconsciously connected women with priesthood in their statements. Joseph Smith told the Relief Society that he was "going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as Enoch's day." Perhaps he was looking forward to their en trance into the temple and participation in ordinances within it. On February 1,1844, Kimball "Myself and wife Vilate was announted Preast and Preastest [Priestess] unto our God under the Hands of B. Young and by the voys [voice] of the Holy Order." Of course, in entering the Holy Order, women entered a group that was called "Priesthood" and "Quo rum" and even "the Quorum of Priesthood." It is hard to escape the logical inference that the group was a priesthood quorum. All of this makes perfect sense in the light of Joseph Smith restoring temple and priesthood, and introducing women into the temple, giving them the same consecration rites—washing, anointing, and clothing in ritual clothing, rites of ordination to priesthood in Exodus—as men.
This restoration of temple and related ordinances with women included is one of the most remarkable aspects of Smith's work of restoration in the modern dispensation. One might have expected only men to enter the temples, to receive washing, anointing, and ritual clothing, and to perform rites in the house of the Lord. With little fanfare, Smith introduced women into the temple, to equally receive washing, anointing, and ritual clothing, perform rites in the house of the Lord. Yet that intro duction had enormous implications for how a Mormon might look at the connection of women and priesthood.
In addition, the inclusion of women in temple service shows that Joseph Smith often did not restore Biblical institutions completely and precisely. Though he restored many aspects of temple and temple rites (such as washing, anointing, and clothing) modeled on Biblical patterns, introducing women into the temple is absolutely contrary to Biblical practice because women were never accepted as priests in Jewish tradition and culture.
A significant divide between LDS conservatives and liberals exists on the issue of women and priesthood, with conservatives generally affirming that women and priesthood are concepts which are absolutely and strictly separated. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to believe that women could have priesthood, have indeed had priesthood since 1843, or that priesthood could be defined in such a way as to include women.
The liberal-leaning Community of Christ (RLDS) church has openly recognized the priesthood of women and now has women at every level of priesthood, including apostle.
I believe the most important argument for the connection of women and priesthood is based on the absolute justice of God and on an ethical, non-legalistic view of priesthood (we remember that both in the Old and New Testaments, inspired writers hoped that God's people, all of them, would be a kingdom of priests). However, it is striking how much evidence there is from Mormon history to suggest that Joseph Smith and early church men and women accepted a connection of women and priesthood. Bringing women into the temple—into a priesthood quo rum, into the performance of priestly ordinances—is one of the most re markable aspects of Joseph Smith's restoration of the temple.
 I will quote from Tanakh: A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985). I also use Michael Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
 For general introductions to priests and priesthood in the Old Testament, see George Buchanan Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971, orig. 1925), 179-270; Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, trans. D. M. G. Stalker, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1962, orig. 1957), 1:241-49; Han Joachim Kraus, Worship in Israel (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966, orig. 1962), 93-100; H. Ringgren, Israelite Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, orig. 1963), 204-19, 324-30; Aelred Cody, A History of Old Testament Priesthood (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969) and "Priests and High Priest," in Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 608-11; Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, trans. John McHugh (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961, orig. 1958,1960), 345-405; Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, eds., Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel (Sheffield, U.K.: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Press, 1991); Richard A. Henshaw, Female and Male, The Cultic Personnel: The Bible and the Rest of the Ancient Near East (Allison Park, Penn.: Pickwick Publications, 1994), 24-28; Moses Buttenwieser, "Priest," in The Jewish Encyclopedia, 12 vols. (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1905- 1916), 10:192-97; Menahem Harem, "Priests and Priesthood," in Cecil Roth, ed., Encyclopedia Judaica, 16 vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1971), 13:1070-86; Merlin D. Rehm, "Levites and Priests," in David Noel Freedman, et al., eds., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 4:297-310.
 Once again, I accept this kind of textual analysis within a context of faith in God's inspiration behind the totality of scripture (and I accept that no scripture is infallible, but a combination of God's inspiration and human weakness and cultural limitation). See James Barr, "Modern Biblical Criticism," in Metzger and Coogan, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 318-24. I am interested in "canonical criticism," which is concerned with the "the final text, not in earlier stages that have led up to it," (324) but canonical criticism must still work with source, form, and redaction criticism.
 Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (Edinburgh: Black, 1885), 121-52.
 See R. Abba, "Priests and Levites," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962) 3:876-89.
 "The Priesthood and the Temple," in Thomas Walter Manson, A Companion to the Bible (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947), 418-43, 418.
 See Menahem Haran, "Priestly Vestments," in Roth, Encyclopedia Judaica, 13:1063- 69; Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), ad loc.
 Lev. 8:12, 30; Exod. 29:41, 30:30, 40:15. See E. Kutsch, Salbung als Rechtsakt (Berlin: Verlag Alfred Topelmann, 1963), 1-26; Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, Anchor Bible series (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 553-56. Milgrom feels that the royal anointing took place after the pattern of the anointing of the high priest, thus making the king a priest of sorts.
 "Priests," in The Holy Bible (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979), 753.
 See W. Dommershausen, "kohen," II, in Joannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Joseph Febry, eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 12 vols, trans. David Green (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans: 1995, orig. 1982-84), 7:60-75, 66.
 Cody, "Priests and High Priest," 608.
 Dommershausen, "kohen," 66-67. See also, de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 348: "Every priest was chosen and installed to serve in a sanctuary."
 Dommershausen, "kohen," 69.
 Ringgren, Israelite Religion, 205. See Judg. 17,1 Sam. 1-4, 7:1; Josh. 3.
 Dommershausen, "kohen," 69-70.
 See Antiq. 15:419ff.; 8:95ff.; Jewish War, 5:184ff. Trans. Thackeray. Cf. C. T .R. Hayward, The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 1996), 142-43.
 In the ancient world, the ground surrounding a temple was part of the sacred space it was associated with. Nevertheless, we can see by Josephus's description that there were degrees of sacrality: The innermost, highest sacrality was found within the building and was reserved for priests. Gentiles and women were allowed some limited contact with the temple's sacrality, but only at the outer fringes.
 Cody, "Priests and High Priest," 609.
 de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 348-58. Dommershausen lists the two other major functions of the Old Testament priest, beyond "guarding the sanctuary" and the closely related "cultic duties" (which are primarily performed at the temple), as "dispensing oracles" and "teaching."
 For a discussion of these methods of oracular consultation, see Ringgren, Israelite Religion, 205-6; Kraus, Worship in Israel, 97; de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 352; Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 507. According to Milgrom, the Urim and Thummim were only consulted in the Holy of Holies near the Ark, so this form of revelation is connected with the temple.
 See S. H. Hooke, Prophets and Priests (London: Oxford, 1938). Adam C. Welch, Prophet and Priest in Old Israel (London: SCM Press, 1936); H.L. Ellison, The Prophets of Israel (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1969), 26-28, 112; Marvin A. Sweeney, Ezekiel: Zadokite Priest and Visionary Prophet of the Exile (Claremont, CA: Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, 2001).
 For the Levitical "Holiness Code" (accepted by scholars as a separate stratum in the Pentateuch, "H"), see David P. Wright, "The Spectrum of Priestly Impurity," in Ander son and Olyan, Priesthood and Cult, 150-82.
 The NRSV grimly translates this as "she shall be burned to death." For historical examples, see Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22, Anchor Bible series (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 1811. For similar punishments, see Deuteronomy 22. If a lay woman was found not to be a virgin when she married, she was stoned at her father's home, showing the father's perceived culpability.
 Mark 7:1-23; Matt. 15:1-20. Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8, Anchor Bible series (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 454.
 Dommershausen, "kohen," 74. See also see de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 384, "no woman ever held a place among the Isrealite clergy"; Clarence J. Vos, Women in Old Testament Worship (Delft: Judels & Brinkman, 1968), 192-93. For further on female prophets in the Old Testament, see Vos, 174-97, and Grace I. Emmerson, "Women in Ancient Israel," in R. E. Clements, ed., The World of Ancient Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 371-94, 374-76. These are Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), and Isaiah's wife (Isa. 8:3); see also Ezekiel 13:17 and Joel 3:1.
 Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22,1811. See Lev. 15:19-24: Menstruation caused a woman to be unclean for seven days. De Vaux, Ancient Israel, 2:348; Vos, Women in Old Testament Wor ship, 193; Judith Romney Wegner, Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah (Ox ford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 162-65; Ruth B. Edwards, The Case for Women's Min istry, in the Biblical Foundations in Theology Series (London: SPCK, 1989), 27; Donald G. Bloesch, Is the Bible Sexist? Beyond Feminism and Patriarchalism (Westchester, 111.: Crossway Books, 1982), 41.
 Vos, Women, 207.
 See Gray, Sacrifice, 184-93; 203-4; Henshaw, Female and Male, 27, who cites especially, Vos, Women in Old Testament Worship; Ismar J. Peritz, "Women in the Early Hebrew Cult," Journal of Biblical Literature 17 (1898): 111-48; Mayer I. Gruber, "Women in the Cult ac cording to the Priestly Code," in Jacob Neusner et al., eds., Judaic Perspectives in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 35-48; Johannes Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture, 2 vols, trans. Mrs. Aslaug Muller (London: Oxford University Press, 1926-1940), III/IV:166ff.
 See M. H. Shepherd, Jr., "Priests in the NT," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 3:889; Albert Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest: According to the New Testament, trans. J. B. Orchard (Petersham, Mass.: St. Bede's Publications, 1986, orig. 1980).
 Luke 10:31-32; cf. Matt. 3:7.
 Shepherd, "Priests in the NT," 890.
 Cf. Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6; Exod. 19:6 ("a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"); Isa. 61:6. These last two scriptures show that even in the Old Testament there was a non-exclu sive view of priesthood, as extended to all members of God's community. See also Ernest Best, "Spiritual Sacrifice: General Priesthood in the New Testament," Interpretation 14 (1960): 273-99.
 Shepherd, "Priests in the NT," 890.
 See John M. Scholer, Proleptic Priests: Priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Sheffield, U.K.: JSOT Press, 1991). While Scholer sees Hebrews as referring to Jesus explicitly as a priest, he argues that the cultic language of Hebrews, applied to the book's readers, also implies that members of the church have priestly aspects.
 Cf. Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6; Exod. 19:6 ("a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"); Isa. 61:6. These last two scriptures show that even in the Old Testament there was a non-exclusive view of priesthood, as extended to all members of God's community. See also Ernest Best, "Spiritual Sacrifice: General Priesthood in the New Testament," Interpretation 14 (1960): 273-99.
 See Jan Shipps, "The Reality of the Restoration in LDS Theology and the Restoration Ideal in the Mormon Tradition," in The American Quest for the Primitive Church, ed. Richard T. Hughes (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 181-95; a version of this was reprinted in Shipps's Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 229-43.
 See Kathryn H. Shirts, "Priesthood and Salvation: Is D&C 84 a Revelation for Women Too?" Sunstone 15 (Sept. 1991): 20-27.
 Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 122, n. 24.
 Interview with Presendia Kimball, quoted in Edward Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York: Tullidge & Crandall, 1877), 207-8. The Kirtland temple was used for general church meetings and for schools, and was thus an "open" temple.
 See Donald W. Parry, "Washings and Anointings," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1992), 4:1551.
 See Dean Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith (SLC: Deseret Book, 1993), 2:155-59; Prince, Power from on High, 125-26,184.
 Oliver Cowdery, "Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland, Ohio 'Sketch Book,'" Leonard Arrington, ed., Brigham Young University Studies 12 (1972): 410-26, 419, entry for Jan. 21,1836; see also Prince, Power from on High, 184.
 For the Holy Order/Anointed Quorum, see Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera, "A Season in Prayer": Meetings of Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845 (forthcoming), which attempts to supply all the primary sources; D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake: Signature Books, 1994), 399-402, 491-519, 634-54; Andrew Ehat, "Joseph Smith's Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Succession Question," master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982.
 See discussion in Quinn, Origins of Power, 114.
 Heber C. Kimball seems to summarize the whole endowment as an ordination to priesthood. He wrote that in June [May] 1842, "I was aniciated into the ancient order was washed and annointed and Sealled and ordained a Preast. . .in company with nine others, Viz. Josph Smith, Hiram Smith [and others] . . ." On the Potter's Wheel, 55-56.
 Prince, Power from on High, 186, citing History of the Church 5:2; Brigham Young Manuscript History, May 4,1842, LDS Church Archives; L. John Nuttall diary, Feb. 7,1877, LDS Church Archives, with excerpts available on New Mormon Studies CD-ROM (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), see "Temples" section. This is quoted in David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 39.
 See Evelyn T. Marshall, "Garments," in Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:534-45, who properly refers to LDS temple clothing as "priestly robes"; Ebenezer Robinson, "Endowment Robes in Nauvoo in 1833-44," The Return 2 (Apr. 1890): 252-54, see also Quinn, Origins of Power, 350. Carlos E. Asay, "The Temple Garment: 'An Outward Expression of an Inward Covenant,’" Ensign (Aug. 1997): 19-23; Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (SLC: Deseret Book, 1980), 75-79.
 James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 127, cf. Quinn, Origins of Power, 114; Alma P. Burton, "Endowment," and Allen Claire Rozsa, "Temple Ordinances," in Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:454-56; 4:1444-45.
 Joseph Smith diary, Scott Faulring, ed., An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake: Signature, 1989), 416.1 reproduce some but not all of Faulring's annotations.
 "Strange Events," in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter's Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 56, cf. Prince, Power from on High, 204.
 Brigham Young, diary, LDS Church Archives, as quoted by D. Michael Quinn, "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843," in Maxine Hanks, ed., Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism (Salt Lake: Signature Books, 1992), 365-410, esp. 368.
 Hugh Nibley, "Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift," Dialogue 16 (Winter 1983): 12-21, 13. See also Hugh Nibley, "Sacred Vestments," in Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, ed. Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/FARMS, 1992): 91-138. For these temple robes and priesthood, see pp. 97,102.
 Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Minutes, LDS Church Archives, at March 30, 1842.1 consulted this in a microfilm copy at Lee Library, BYU; Andrew Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 110. See discussions in Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: the Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 42, 53; Quinn, "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood," 365.
 Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. James Mulholland et al., 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1902-1912; revised edition, 1956), 4:492-93. See also Derr, et al., Women of Covenant, 53, where Joseph Smith connected the "kingdom of priests" generalized concept of priesthood with the completion of the Nauvoo temple.
 "Strange Events," in Kimball, On the Potter's Wheel, 56. This is probably a reference to the "fullness of priesthood" ordinance (see Prince, Power from on High, 187-92). 56. William Clayton diary, Feb. 3, 1844, LDS Church Archives, see George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 125.
 This is probably a reference to the "fullness of priesthood" ordinance (see Prince, Power from on High, 187-92). 56. William Clayton diary, Feb. 3, 1844, LDS Church Archives, see George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 125.
 See Rodney Turner, Woman and the Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Com pany, 1972). See a review of this by historian Claudia L. Bushman, "Women: One Man's Opinion," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 7 (Winter 1972): 85-87. Bushman states that Turner writes "from a scarcity of information," then "distorts the sources he has."
 Important contributions are Anthony Hutchinson, "Women and Ordination: An Introduction to the Biblical Context,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14, no. 4 (Winter 1981): 58-74; Margaret Merrill Toscano, "The Missing Rib: The Forgotten Place of Queens and Priestesses in the Establishment of Zion," Sunstone 10 (July 1985): 16-22; Linda King Newell, "The Historical Relationship of Mormon Women and Priesthood," Dialogue 18, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 21-32; Melodie Moench Charles, "LDS Women and Priesthood," Dialogue 18, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 15-20; Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Ander son, eds., Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Linda King Newell, "Gifts of the Spirit: Women's Share," in Beecher and Anderson, Sisters in Spirit, 111-50; Paul and Margaret Toscano, Strangers in Paradox: Explorations in Mormon Theology (Salt Lake: Signature, 1990), 179-97; Margaret Toscano, "If Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843, Why Aren't They Using It?" Dialogue 27, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 219-26; Quinn, "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood"; Bushman, "Women: One Man's Opinion"; Hanks, Women and Authority: Re-Emerging Mormon Feminism, which includes important essays by Meg Wheatley, Ian Barber, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Carol Lynn Pearson, Sonja Farnsworth, Edwin Brown Firmage, Marian Yeates, and Margaret Toscano; Shirts, "Priesthood and Salvation: Is D&C 84 A Revelation for Women Too?"; Prince, Power From On High, 201-10.
 Needless to say, Joseph Smith did not restore the hereditary aspects of Old Testa ment priesthood or the ban of lame or physically imperfect persons from priesthood or temple.
 I accept Gregory Prince's cautions that many offices that Mormons connect with priesthood, such as apostle, stake president, or bishop, were not associated with women in early Mormonism. (Power From On High, 201-10.)[post_title] => "Kingdom of Priests": Priesthood Temple and Women in the Old Testament and in the Restoration [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 36.3 (2003): 53-80
Compton considers priesthood as portrayed in Old Testament texts and how women are underrepresented in today’s discourse. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => kingdom-of-priests-priesthood-temple-and-women-in-the-old-testament-and-in-the-restoration [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-11-20 20:19:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-11-20 20:19:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10620 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Ordaining Women and the Transformation from Sect to Denomination
Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 61–64
Over the past forty years the top leadership of the Community of Christ church (until recently the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ o f Latter -Day Saints) has gone through significant changes in religious thought. I have contended elsewhere that the decisive changes occurred in the 1960s.
Over the past forty years the top leadership of the Community of Christ church (until recently the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ o f Latter -Day Saints) has gone through significant changes in religious thought. I have contended elsewhere that the decisive changes occurred in the 1960s.[post_title] => Ordaining Women and the Transformation from Sect to Denomination [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 61–64
Over the past forty years the top leadership of the Community of Christ church (until recently the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ o f Latter -Day Saints) has gone through significant changes in religious thought. I have contended elsewhere that the decisive changes occurred in the 1960s. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ordaining-women-and-the-transformation-from-sect-to-denomination [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-11 21:10:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-11 21:10:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10622 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Present at the Beginning: One Woman's Journey
Dialogue 36.3 (Fall 2003): 99–193
ON NOVEMBER 17,1985, MANY RLDS (now Community of Christ) congregations witnessed the sacrament of ordination to priesthood office
ON NOVEMBER 17,1985, MANY RLDS (now Community of Christ) congregations witnessed the sacrament of ordination to priesthood office [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => present-at-the-beginning-one-womans-journey [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:42:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:42:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10623 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
An Expanded Definition of Priesthood? Some Present and Future Consequences
Dialogue 34.4 (Winter 2002): 319–325
But the fact that we must look at organizational dynamics before we can begin to understand the issues that would be raised by expanding priesthood to include women is an apt commentary on the complex and sometimes confused role that priesthood authority has come to play in the modern church.
But the fact that we must look at organizational dynamics before we can begin to understand the issues that would be raised by expanding priesthood to include women is an apt commentary on the complex and sometimes confused role that priesthood authority has come to play in the modern church. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => an-expanded-definition-of-priesthood-some-present-and-future-consequences [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:17:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:17:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=10872 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Dancing Through the Doctrine: Observations on Religion and Feminism
Dialogue 28.3 (Fall 1995): 1–12
As American feminist thinkers and organizers, we’ve walked a long road since then, a road that has led us farther and farther away from religious discourse and Christian justification. Our reasons have been good: We didn’t want to limit or exclude. We didn’t want to direct all feminists down a single philosophical path.
As American feminist thinkers and organizers, we’ve walked a long road since then, a road that has led us farther and farther away from religious discourse and Christian justification. Our reasons have been good: We didn’t want to limit or exclude. We didn’t want to direct all feminists down a single philosophical path.[post_title] => Dancing Through the Doctrine: Observations on Religion and Feminism [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 28.3 (Fall 1995): 1–12
As American feminist thinkers and organizers, we’ve walked a long road since then, a road that has led us farther and farther away from religious discourse and Christian justification. Our reasons have been good: We didn’t want to limit or exclude. We didn’t want to direct all feminists down a single philosophical path. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => dancing-through-the-doctrine-observations-on-religion-and-feminism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:44:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:44:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11498 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
If Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood since 1843, Why Aren't They Using It?
Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 231–245
In the brief essay which follows, I do not reassert the arguments supporting women's right to priesthood, but focus on certain problems raised by the assumption that women have priesthood authority.
In the brief essay which follows, I do not reassert the arguments supporting women's right to priesthood, but focus on certain problems raised by the assumption that women have priesthood authority. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => if-mormon-women-have-had-the-priesthood-since-1843-why-arent-they-using-it [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:55:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:55:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11692 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Scripture
Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 197–230
I am astonished that it took so many readings and a focus on the question of using gender-inclusive language in the simplified version to discover something that should have been obvious to me from the beginning: females scarcely figure or matter in our sacred books.
I am astonished that it took so many readings and a focus on the question of using gender-inclusive language in the simplified version to discover something that should have been obvious to me from the beginning: females scarcely figure or matter in our sacred books.[post_title] => Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Scripture [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 197–230
I am astonished that it took so many readings and a focus on the question of using gender-inclusive language in the simplified version to discover something that should have been obvious to me from the beginning: females scarcely figure or matter in our sacred books. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => toward-a-feminist-interpretation-of-latter-day-scripture [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 22:57:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 22:57:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11689 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Anxiously Engaged: Amy Brown Lyman and Relief Society Charity Work, 1917-45
Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 83–153
Believing that a more efficient approach could be used to the church's advantage, he proposed that the Relief Society organize a social service department where these new techniques could be tested and implemented.
Believing that a more efficient approach could be used to the church's advantage, he proposed that the Relief Society organize a social service department where these new techniques could be tested and implemented. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => anxiously-engaged-amy-brown-lyman-and-relief-society-charity-work-1917-45 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:02:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:02:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11672 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
"Seizing Sacred Space": Women's Engagement in Early Mormonism
Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 69–82
Zina, like many other early converts to Mormonism, was a child of the Second Great Awakening.
Zina, like many other early converts to Mormonism, was a child of the Second Great Awakening. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => seizing-sacred-space-womens-engagement-in-early-mormonism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:04:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:04:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11670 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother
Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 15–40
It would seem that Mormons who have believed for over a hundred years in the real existence of the Goddess, the Mother in Heaven, should be far ahead of other Christians in developing a theology of God the Mother. However, our belief in her as a real person puts us at a disadvantage. If the Goddess is merely a symbol of deity, as the male God is also a symbol, then certainly God can be pictured as either male or female with equal validity.
Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of article as a courtesy. Please note that there may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and biographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.“What kind of a Being is God?” inquired Joseph Smith. “I will tell you & hear it O Earth! God who sits in yonder heavens is a man like yourselves . . . It is the first principle to know that we may converse with him and that he was once a man like us, and the Father was on an earth like us.” He also said, “If men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves.” Today Mormon women say, “If I do not comprehend the character of God the Mother, I cannot comprehend myself.” They ask, “What kind of a being is she?’ From Mormon theology there is one thing we can conclude: she is a woman like us; she has a woman’s body. Without it she could not be our mother. Feminist theologians have demonstrated the need for the feminine principle in our concept of deity. They have argued that picturing God as male leads to valuing masculine attributes, values, and experience over feminine ones and contributes to the oppression of women. The symbol of the Goddess is necessary, they say, to affirm the goodness of the feminine, to enable women to claim their female power, and to acknowledge the goodness of the female body. Ironically, the vast majority of them do not believe that the Goddess possesses a real female body. It would seem that Mormons who have believed for over a hundred years in the real existence of the Goddess, the Mother in Heaven, should be far ahead of other Christians in developing a theology of God the Mother. However, our belief in her as a real person puts us at a disadvantage. If the Goddess is merely a symbol of deity, as the male God is also a symbol, then certainly God can be pictured as either male or female with equal validity. Joseph Smith, after asking what kind of a being God is, asked his congregation, “Have any of you seen or herd him or communed with him?” For Mormon theology this is a very important question. God must reveal himself or we have no knowledge of him. Must we then wait for a revelation of the Mother before we have any knowledge of her? The answer is both “Yes” and “No.” We must be aware of the possibility of idolatry, of creating her in our own image, of making her into what we conceive the perfect woman should be, of using our images of her to control or manipulate others. On the other hand, we should also recognize the importance of our own seeking after God. Comprehending ourselves is as vital to comprehending God as comprehending God is essential to comprehending ourselves. Our own experiences, our loneliness, our communion with others, our sorrows, our joys, our sins, our striving for righteousness, our demand for justice, our finding forgiveness, our reaching out to God for knowledge and comfort are all experiences with the divine. And we should not assume that there has been no revelation of the Mother or that waiting for her to reveal herself need be entirely passive. In this essay I attempt to reinterpret the Mormon concept of the Godhead. This interpretation is based on three convictions. I believe that God the Mother is equal to God the Father in divinity, power, and perfection. I believe that God, both Father and Mother, is deeply involved in our mortality and immortality. I also believe that God the Father has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Although he is male, for me he is an adequate model. He modeled many roles for us-father, mother, teacher, friend, son, lover, servant, lord—and also many attributes. If he were the only God, he would be enough. But there is another god and she has a woman’s body like mine. I want to know her, not simply as a model, but as a person. That she is God as well as woman is as important for men as it is for women as it affirms the equality of male and female and of masculine and feminine attributes and values. At the same time I must add that I am in no way whatsoever attempting an official reinterpretation of LDS doctrine; that prerogative rests solely with the leaders of the church. I am interested simply in offering a possibly new understanding and appreciation of the Mother based on my own reading and personal reflection. The doctrine of the Godhead presently taught by the Latter-day Saint church is that the Godhead consists of three distinct individuals or personages. These personages are God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Each of these individuals has. a particular mission in relation to humanity; God the Father is the father of all the spirits of mortal beings. He is the ultimate source of all power and knowledge, and the other two members of the Godhead are subordinate to him. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father; he is the first born of the spirit children of God and the only begotten of the Father in the flesh. This enabled him to become the Redeemer and Savior of humankind. Because of his death and resurrection everyone will be resurrected, and through his atonement all who repent and believe in him will be forgiven of their sins and receive eternal life. Jesus represents the Father and acts as his agent. The Holy Ghost, unlike the Father and the Son who possess bodies of flesh and bone, is a personage of spirit He is one of the spirit children of God the Father and has the mission of revealing truth and testifying of the Father and the Son. He is also called the Comforter because he gives peace, hope, and comfort. Although Mormons believe that we have a Heavenly Mother, she is not included in the Godhead. Does this mean that she is not also God? Does this mean that she has no mission to perform in relation to our mortal probation, that her role is restricted to giving birth to our spirits and nurturing us in our premortal lives? I find such conclusions unacceptable. God the Mother must be equal to God the Father; she must play an equally active role in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and woman. I believe that a serious acceptance of the existence of God the Mother requires us Mormons to re-examine and reinterpret our doctrine of the Godhead. I also believe that such a re-examination must be firmly grounded in the scriptures. I acknowledge that there is no direct information given about God the Mother in the scriptures. However, both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants teach that some revelations have been withheld. The Book of Mormon tells us of revelations given to a few which the prophets were not permitted to write or which they were commanded to seal up until a later time, and the Doctrine and Covenants speaks of knowledge “that has not been revealed since the world was until now; a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest’’ (121:26, 28). One God that has not been manifest is the Mother. Surely this is a promise that she will be revealed. Also the fact that she is not directly revealed in the scriptures does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the scriptures have nothing to say about her. Indeed, new revelations always demand a reinterpretation of scripture and permit us to see things and understand things in ways we previously could not. To re-examine our doctrine of the Godhead I examined all the references to deity in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. I then attempted to work out relationships between different names of deity without using traditional Mormon assumptions about the nature of the Godhead but simply relying on the evidence of the text. I recognize that every reader has her own prejudices and hidden assumptions as well as the ones she shares with the various groups she belongs to, and that it is not possible to approach a text completely objectively; however, perhaps something may be gained by trying. I do not hope to present a complete or final interpretation of the Godhead as given in the scriptures I reviewed. Such a result is neither possible nor desirable. However, I do hope to present an interpretation which fits the text better than the one we presently subscribe to. I did not begin my study without a hypothesis. My study of the scriptures. over many years had presented me with several passages I found difficult to harmonize with the view of the Godhead I had learned from LDS seminary and church manuals and publications. The first passages that struck me were the teachings of Abinadi. He repeatedly taught that God himself would redeem his people and make an atonement for their sins (Mosiah 13:28, 32, 33; 15:18, 19; 16:4). He explained that God was both the Father and the Son (15:2–7) and concluded his testimony by saying, “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father” (16:15). The most obvious interpretation of Abinadi’s words is that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two names for the same being. There are other scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants which plainly teach the same concept. My initial hypothesis, then, was that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one individual. Do the scriptures bear this interpretation? Are there any which present difficulties for it? The most common names for deity in the scriptures are God, the Lord, the Lord God, and Jesus Christ. Others include the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Father, the Eternal Father, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Creator, and the Almighty. I have excluded all terms referring to the Holy Spirit as these will be discussed later.
Jesus Christ, Lord and GodThe names God and the Lord are used synonymously throughout the scriptures, often being used together as the Lord God. “God” is the generic term for deity, the Supreme Being, the translation for the word El or Elohim in the Bible. The personal name for God in the Bible is YHWH which is translated as “the Lord” or “Jehovah.” The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants seem to follow this usage. “God” is more often used when general information about deity is being given, for example, “O how great the holiness of our God” (2 Ne. 9:20), and “the Lord” is used when specific acts and words of God are given, for example, “I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates” (1 Ne. 9:3). It is possible to show that the names God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah, and the Creator all refer to the same Supreme Being in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Every major prophet in the Book of Mormon taught this. Writing of his vision, Nephi said, “And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God! And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world” (1 Ne. 11:26, 27). Literally condescend means to come down with. According to the angel the condescension of God is the Redeemer. So Nephi learned exactly what Abinadi later taught, that God himself would come down among his people to redeem them. Nephi also wrote, “For if there be no Christ, there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time” (2 Ne. 11:7). Jacob declared, “He also hath shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh” (2 Ne. 6:9); and:
O how great the holiness of our God! . . . And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men . . . And he suffereth this that the resurrection may pass upon all men . . . And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God . . . . for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has spoken it (2 Ne. 9:20–24).King Benjamin, in his great sermon to his people, said:
The Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, . . . And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body . . . And he shall be called Jesus Christ ... the Creator of all things from the beginning (Mosiah 3:5, 6, 8).He concluded his teachings with these words: “I would . . . that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, . . . that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things in heaven and earth, who is God above all” (5:15). I have already mentioned that Abinadi taught that God himself would redeem his people. “And were it not for the atonement which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, . . . they must unavoidably perish” (Mosiah 13:28). Speaking of those who have part in the first resurrection, he declared, “They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ . . . being redeemed by the Lord” (15:23, 24). Alma wrote, “And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world” (Alma 42:15). The word of the Lord came to Mormon saying, “Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God” (Moro. 8:8). When he visited the Nephltes, Jesus Christ introduced himself: “I am Jesus Christ . . . I am the God of Israel and the God of the whole earth” (3 Ne. 11:10, 14). Prophesying of the remnants of the house of Israel, he said, “And they shall be brought to a knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them” (20:13). His disciples “did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God” (19:18). Moroni wrote of the vision of the brother of Jared in which he saw Jesus. “And he saw the finger of Jesus . . . he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; Wherefore having this. perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the· veil” (Ether 3:19–20). The Doctrine and Covenants is in harmony with the Book of Mormon in using. the names God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, Jehovah, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Savior all to refer to the same God. Section 1 is given by the Lord. In verse 20 he says, “But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” Section 6 begins, “Behold, I am God,” and in verse 21 the same speaker declares, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ.” In D&C 18:47 we read, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, and your Redeemer.” Other passages read: ‘‘Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer” (27:1); “Verily thus saith the Lord, your God, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ” (66:13); “For the Lord is God and beside him there is no Savior” (76:1);
. . . as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and redeem all things . . . and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work . . . the preparing of the way before the time of his coming (77:12);“We saw the Lord . . . and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah” (110:2).
Meaning of “The Father”My study of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants shows that it is consistent with the text to interpret the names God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the Creator, and Jehovah as all referring to the same being. My initial hypothesis was that all the names of God refer to the same being. The only names that posed any difficulty were those referring to the Father or the Son. Since it is easy to establish that the names referring to the Son also refer to Jesus Christ, it could be concluded that all the names of God except “the Father” refer to Jesus Christ. However, this leads to the conclusion that “God” and “the Son of God” are the same person. Indeed, for this reason most Mormons usually think of God as God the Father. But I have shown that “God” consistently refers to the same being who is Jesus Christ. A close examination of all the occurrences of the name “the Father” in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants suggests that it cannot be consistently maintained th.at the Father and the Son are simply two separate individuals. “The Father” seems to have several different meanings. In many verses the Son is called the Father, implying that the Father and the Son are the same person: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (2 Ne. 19:6); “And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (Mosiah 3:8); “He said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things” (7:27); “Teach them that repentance cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father” (16:15); “Now Zeezrom saith unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him; Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are” (Alma 11:38–39). The resurrected Jesus said to the Nephites, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in Heaven, is perfect” (3 Ne. 12:48). If Jesus were speaking of two individuals it would be more natural for him to use “and” rather than “or.” The commas enclosing “ or your Father who is in heaven” make this phrase an appositive explaining “I” rather than a compound subject. Also the verb is singular rather than plural. Finally, “And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, the Father and the Son” (Morm. 9:12); and “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son” (Ether 3:14). Sometimes the Father and the Son seem to be spoken of as two separate beings, but closer examination of the text shows them to be the same person. In section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord Jesus Christ) says, “But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father which he made unto Abraham.’’ Here Jesus seems to refer to his Father as someone separate from himself. However, there are many references that show that Jehovah was the one who covenanted with Abraham. The next two verses confirm this. “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham . . . Was Abraham therefore under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord commanded it’’ (vv. 33–35). This also shows that the Lord sometimes speaks of himself in the third person. Sometimes ‘‘Father” seems to be an alternate name for God or the Lord. This poses a problem for my interpretation only when Jesus is the one speaking. However, again he may simply be referring to himself in the third person, saying that as the Father, the premortal Christ, he did and said! certain things. This may have been the case when he visited the Nephites as the resurrected Lord. He talked to them about the covenants which the Father made with the house of Israel, with Jacob, and with Abraham, but it was the Lord God Jehovah the same being who would become Jesus Christ, who covenanted with Abraham, Jacob, and the people of Israel (3 Ne. 20:27, 1 Ne. 15:18). Jesus gave the Nephites. the same teachings which he gave the Jews in the Sermon on the Mount. In these he often referred to “your Father in heaven.” Since Jesus’ purpose in this sermon was to teach people how to live and about their relationship with their Father in Heaven rather than to reveal who he was, we cannot conclude that the Father he referred to was necessarily a different person than himself. However, there are some passages in which the most natural interpretation is that the Father and the Son are two separate beings. These passages refer to the relationship between the Father and the Son. In the Book of Mormon most of these occur in the accounts of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the Nephites. Jesus tells them that he suffered the will of the Father, that he glorified the Father, that his doctrine was given him by the Father, and that his Father commands all to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He also talks about commandments which the Father gave him, says the Father sent him, talks of going to or ascending to his Father, and prays to the Father. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord or Jesus Christ speaks of the kingdom of his Father and those whom his Father has given him, says that he has done the will of the Father, claims to be our advocate with the Father, pleads for us before the Father, and says that no one will come unto the Father but by him. How are we to understand such passages in light of our discovery that the Lord, God, and the Redeemer are one being? Should we reinterpret Lord-God-Redeemer passages in light of Father-Son passages or should we reinterpret Father-Son passages in light of Lord-God-Redeemer passages? To attempt to answer these questions I will discuss the few scriptures which attempt to explain the relationship between the Father and the Son. Only in two places in the Book of Mormon and one place in the Doctrine and Covenants is the question directly addressed. These passages all assert that they are discussing one being and explain why he is called the Father and the Son. First, let us look at Mosiah 15:2–5.
And because he dwelleth in flesh , he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son— The Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son— And they are one God, yea the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God . . .Verse two says that because God will dwell in mortal flesh he will be called the Son of God. Verse 5 interprets verses 2–4 by equating the Son to the flesh and the spirit to the Father. The Son subjects himself to the Father by subjecting the flesh to the spirit or his mortal self to his eternal self. Abinadi says nothing about the LOS church’s current belief that Jesus is called the Son because he is the literal Son of God the Father in the flesh nor does he assert that Jesus receives his power to redeem and resurrect because his mortal father is God. According to Abinadi Jesus’ power to redeem and resurrect comes from himself, his spirit being the Spirit of the Eternal Father himself. The second passage in the Book of Mormon explaining the relationship between the Father and the Son occurs in 3 Nephi 1:14. Here the Lord, the premortal Jesus, tells Nephi, the son of Nephi, that he will be born the next day. “Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh.” There is an interesting echo of Abinadi here. Abinadi said that the will of the Son would be subjected to that of the Father, but the Lord says that he comes into the world to do the will of both the Father and the Son. “Of the Father because of me,” the Lord says, which means that he is the Father, “and of the Son because of my flesh.” Here the Lord asserts that he is already a god of spirit and flesh and that the spirit and flesh are in harmony. Understanding the Lord’s words as a comment on Abinadi’s words, we conclude that “the Father” can mean “God the Eternal Father, a being of spirit and immortal glorified flesh” or it can refer only to the spiritual part of God’s eternal being, and that “the Son” can mean either “God the Eternal Father, a being of spirit and immortal glorified flesh,” putting the emphasis on the flesh to distinguish the person of God from the Spirit of God, or it can refer to God as a mortal being dwelling among people to redeem them from their sins, or it can simply refer to the body of God. Doctrine and Covenants 93 agrees with Abinadi in equating the Father with the spirit and the Son with the flesh. Verses 3–5 read:
And that I am in the Father and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one— The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men. I was in the world and received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest.Note the parallel construction of verse 3 with the words of Abinadi and the words of the Lord. All explain why the Lord is both the Father and the Son. In section 93 the Lord says that he is the Father “because he gave me of his fulness.” In verses 16 and 36 we learn that “he received a fulness of the glory of the Father” and the “glory of God is intelligence or, in other words, light and truth.’; Verses 9 and 11 call the Redeemer “the Spirit of Truth” which came and dwelt in the flesh. Thus in section 93 “the Father” seems to mean “the Spirit of God.” Verse 17 substantiates this conclusion.” And the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.” According to Joseph Smith the Father cannot dwell in a person’s heart because he has a body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:3, 22). Although the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, it also cannot dwell in a person’s heart. Our bodies can only be inhabited by our own spirits. Therefore, if the Father dwelt in the Son, “the Father” must mean the spirit body of God and the Son and the Father must constitute one eternal being. However, “the Father” seems also to sometimes nave a meaning beyond the personal spirit of God. Verse 23 of section 93 reads, “Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth.” Here the Father is called Spirit and the Spirit of truth; the Redeemer, as was pointed out, is also the Spirit of truth. “The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God” (v. 35). The terms God and the Father in such passages seem to mean a spiritual substance or power that: pervades all things. The Lord says, 11I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (v. 2). In section 88 this concept is amplified.
. . . he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ... Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space-- The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (vv. 6–7, 12–13).“The Father” or “God” or “the Spirit of God” or “the Spirit of the Lord” may mean this totality of spirit or a portion of it. “Spirit,” “intelligence,” “light,” and ‘‘glory’’ seem to be synonymous terms. A spirit or a personage of spirit is an individual being organized from spirit and given independence (D&C 93:30). Spirit is a unifying principle, but if it could not be divided up into separate spheres, there would be no existence. Understanding that “the Father” can mean either “God the Eternal Father, a personage of spirit tabernacled by immortal glorified flesh/’ or “the personal spirit of God,” or “the totality of spirit which emanates from God” illuminates some of the more difficult Father-Son passages. “I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one,” could be interpreted to mean, “I am in the totality of spirit which emanates from the Father and the individual spirit personage of the Father dwells in my body, thus I am the Eternal Father.’’ The scriptures in which Jesus speaks of those who believe in him becoming one through him seem to require a different interpretation. For example, “that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one” (D&C 35:2). This speaks of many distinct individuals, each with his or her own spirit and body, becoming one. What does this oneness mean? Jesus explains it by comparing it to the oneness he has with the Father. But I have shown that the Father and Jesus, when the Father is an individual, are the same individual. To attempt an interpretation of this passage and offer another meaning for the term “the Father11 I will examine a revelation given to Joseph Smith and several other scriptural verses. Joseph Smith received this revelation probably in 1833. It was not written down but was related by Orson Pratt in 1855. It is given in the form of questions and answers.
“What is the name of God in the pure language?” The answer says,” Ahman.” “What is the name of the Son of God?” Answer, “Son Ahman—the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Ahman.” “What is the name of men?” Sons Ahman,” is the answer . . .This revelation goes on to say that Sons Ahman are the greatest of all the parts of God except Son Ahman and Ahman. In this revelation “ Ahman” seems to be equivalent to God or the Father as the totality of spirit since Son Ahman and Sons Ahman are parts of Ahman. Son Ahman, Jesus Christ, is an individual, a personage who is embodied since “Son11 refers to the flesh. As the greatest of all the parts of Ahman, he is creator of all things, ruler of all things, the God we worship. This revelation calls men and women “Sons Ahman.” However, it may refer to exalted beings rather than mortal ones. To support this idea I offer the following reasons. In Doctrine and Covenants 76 Joseph Smith describes the celestial glory and those who will receive it.
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— And he makes them equal in power and might and dominion. And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one (vv. 56, 58, 95, 96).Those who inherit celestial glory are called gods or sons of god. Christ has made them equal and has given them all things; they are one in him. As gods or sons of god, being embodied celestial beings, they are the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Son Ahman and Ahman.
And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever; Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever (vv. 92–93).Celestial beings receive of the fullness of the Father through Jesus Christ. As many individuals partaking of one glory they may also be called the Father. With this additional meaning of “the Father” I can now offer a possible interpretation of D&C 35:2. “They may become the sons of God” means “inherit celestial glory”; “even one in me” means ‘‘become equal in power, might, and dominion, receiving all things from Jesus Christ”; “as I am one in the Father” means “as I am one among the celestial beings”; “as the Father is one in me” means “as the celestial beings have been made one by me”; and “that we may be one” means “that we may all dwell together in celestial glory.”
The Mother in the GodheadHaving reinterpreted “the Father,” we now look for the Mother. She is present in the scriptures, but she is hidden; even as we do not see light in a room but see the room and all things in it by the light which is present, so is she in the scriptures. Nephi explains why Jesus was baptized: to obey the Father in keeping his commandments and to set an example for us. “And he said unto the children of men, Follow thou me” (2 Ne. 31:10). In Doctrine and Covenants 132:6 the Lord reveals a “new and everlasting covenant . . . [which] was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law.” The new and everlasting covenant is the covenant of eternal marriage. As we have seen, those who inherit celestial glory receive a fullness of God’s glory and are called gods. According to the revelation on eternal marriage, those who do not marry by the new and everlasting covenant and are not sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods,11 but those who do marry by the new and everlasting covenant and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise #shall ... be gods, because they have all power.” If the Lord requires us to keep the law of celestial marriage to become gods, then Jesus himself must certainly keep it. The laws he institutes are to make us like him. In the celestial glory all are equal; therefore the daughters of God are equal to the sons of God and God the Mother is equal to God the Father in power, might, and dominion. If the gods are divine couples, then we can assume that God himself is also a divine couple, that God the Father, as a being of spirit and body, is eternally joined to God the Mother, also a being of spirit and body. “The Father” then must also mean “the Mother” as “sons of God” certainly includes II daughters of God.” This suggests another way of interpreting the Godhead. The Father is the divine couple, Father and Mother, each possessing a spirit and a glorified body. They must together be the source of light or spirit which permeates all things. If the name “the Father” refers to the union of the two personages who together are God, then perhaps the other two names in the Godhead refer to them separately. As we have seen, 11the Son” refers to the flesh, so the Lord or Jehovah, as the embodied God, is the Son. But the name “the Son,” as Abinadi points out, more specifically points to his mission as the Redeemer, to his taking on himself a mortal body to redeem us from sin. Perhaps, then, the Holy Ghost is the name of the Mother which refers to her work among us in mortality. One objection that has been made to the suggestion that the Holy Ghost is the Mother is that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit but the Mother must have an immortal, glorified body as the Father does. Indeed, this same objection is likely to be raised against the idea that Jesus is God the Father. If Jesus is God the Father, it will be argued, then he must have had an immortal, physical body before he took on himself a mortal body. But many Mormons will object that the scriptures teach that the resurrected body and spirit are inseparably connected, so Jesus must have been a personage of spirit before he became a mortal man and thus he could not have been God the Father. However, given the teachings of Joseph Smith about the importance of the body—that all beings with bodies have power over those who do not, that it was necessary for us to obtain bodies to become like God—it is impossible that Jesus, the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel could have been what he was and have done all he did without a body. Although a resurrected person is not subject to death in the sense that his body and spirit will separate without his will or control, it may be that he has the power to separate his body and spirit if he so desires. Is there any scriptural support for the view that the premortal Jesus had a body of flesh and bone? I have already discussed the passage in 3 Nephi where the premortal Jesus speaks of his flesh. In the New Testament Jesus says to the Jews, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself”; and “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again’’ John 5:26, 10:17–18). This could refer not only to his power to lay down a mortal body and take it again as an immortal body, but also to his power to lay down an immortal body and take on a mortal body. The best evidence that the premortal Jesus had a physical body is in Ether 3. When the brother of Jared sees Jesus Christ he sees his immortal physical body.
And the veil was taken off from the eyes· of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was like unto flesh and blood . . . And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood. And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood . . . (3:6, 8–9This is usually interpreted to mean that the brother of Jared saw the spirit body of Jesus because he said, “I will take upon me flesh and blood.” But, as Joseph Smith taught, an immortal body is a body of flesh and bone without blood, so it was necessary for the Lord to correct the brother of Jared. However, it is significant that the brother of Jared thought it was a body of flesh and blood. Many people have seen spirits and they never mistake them for bodies of flesh and blood. Jesus told the brother of Jared, “Behold, this body, which ye now behold is the body of my spirit” (Ether 3:16). A spirit body is composed of spirit. Mormons use the term spirit body to emphasize the fact that we believe spirit is a substance, but body of my spirit” implies the body is not of the same substance as the spirit, that is, it implies a physical body belonging to the spirit. Jesus continued,” And man have I created after the body of my spirit.” The creation of man and woman includes the physical creation. Moroni comments, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites” (v. 17). Usually this is interpreted to mean that this man saw the spirit of Jesus Christ. However, as Joseph Smith taught, it is necessary to be quickened by the spirit to see God in the flesh (D&C 67:11). Therefore this could simply mean that the brother of Jared was in the spirit when he saw Jesus. “Even after the manner” must mean in the same way, which included seeing and touching. “And in the likeness of the same body” is usually interpreted to mean that the physical body which the Nephites saw was in the likeness of the spirit body which the brother of Jared saw. However, this passage is also consistent with the interpretation I offer. The body which the brother of Jared saw was not identical to the body which the Nephites saw, although they were both in the likeness of Jesus’ spirit. Moroni emphasizes that “he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites.” Jesus ministered to the Nephites as their God, a being of flesh, bone, and spirit. If it was possible for the Lord to lay down his immortal body to take on mortal flesh, then surely it is also possible for the Mother to lay down her immortal body to become the Holy Ghost. The scriptures refer to the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the Comforter, and the Spirit of truth. Two possible meanings that we have ascertained for these names are the personal spirit of Jesus Christ and the substance or power that emanates from God and pervades all things in differing degrees. The scriptures do not make it clear whether the Holy Ghost is an individual being or a power. However, there are several passages which declare that the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God. How are we to interpret this? The official doctrine of the LOS church at this time is, as has been pointed out, that they are three distinct individuals. I have tried to show from the scriptures that the Son is one individual, who is also called the Lord, God, and our Redeemer, and that the name “the Father,” when it refers to one individual, refers to the same person who is Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost could also be interpreted as the power of God, since Jesus refers to himself as the Spirit of truth and the names “my Spirit,” “Spirit of the Lord,” “Spirit of God,” etc., are actually used more frequently than and often synonymously with the Holy Ghost. Thus the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Ghost” could all refer to one individual God, but I would argue that this interpretation would also require us to recognize God as Mother, Daughter, and Holy Ghost. There are, however, reasons to believe that there is an individual being, a god distinct from Jesus Christ, called the Holy Ghost who has a special mission to perform among humans. Nephi taught his people that the words of Christ are given by the power of the Holy Ghost. “I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels ... Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore they speak the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:2–3). The connection between angels and the Holy Ghost is interesting. Angels are messengers of God who are seen as well as heard; whoever is ministered to by an angel knows he has seen and heard a being distinct and different from himself. The Holy Ghost, however, speaks to the mind and heart (D&C 8:2). It is sometimes difficult to distinguish her voice from our own inner voice. The reason she is not dearly pointed out as an individual in the scriptures is because she does not often manifest herself as an individual distinct from ourselves. It is also possible that there are many spirits working with the Holy Ghost to perform her work. Jesus, during the Last Supper, spoke of two distinct comforters; one he called the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Truth, the other he also called the Spirit of truth. Joseph Smith taught that the Second Comforter was Jesus Christ himself. He also taught that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit who is also God who also has a distinct mission to perform for us even as the Son atoned for our sins.
Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first; the Creator; God the Second, the Redeemer; and God the Third, the witness or Testator.But numerous scriptures testify that the being who would become Jesus Christ created the earth. And in Moses 6:8–9 we read, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them.” If God created male and female in the image of his own body then God the Creator must be the Divine Couple, a Man with a male body and a Woman with a female body. If God the Creator is the Divine Couple and God the Redeemer is the male part of the Divine Couple, then it is reasonable to conclude that God the Witness or Testator is the female part of God the Creator. God himself came down among the children of men to redeem his people. He sacrificed his immortal body and took on himself a mortal body to become one of us and suffer the pains and sorrows of mortality. He sacrificed his mortal body so that he might conquer death and bring about the resurrection of all humanity and he suffered the pains of all our sins so that we might be redeemed. God herself came down among the children of women to succor her children. She sacrificed her immortal body to be with us; she remains a spirit so that she can always be with us to enlighten, to comfort, to strengthen, to feel what we feel, to suffer with us in all our sins, in our loneliness and pain, and to encircle us in the arms of her love. She bears witness of Christ and leads us to him, teaching us of their will so th.at we might partake of eternal life in their kingdom.
Prophecies of the Revelation of the MotherWe find the Mother in the scriptures, then, wherever they speak of the Holy Ghost, but of course they do not identify the Holy Ghost as our Mother. When will she be revealed? Do the scriptures prophesy of her revelation? Joseph Smith taught that in the last days many things would be revealed. The purpose of this is to bring about a whole and complete and perfect union. In order to do this, lost and hidden thlngs from past ages will be revealed as well as things which never have been revealed (D&C 128:18). The Lord told Joseph Smith, “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now” (121:26). The clause “that has not been revealed since the world was until now’’ is usually considered to modify “knowledge.” However, it could also modify “the Holy Ghost,” yielding “The Holy Ghost has not been revealed since the world was until now/’ that is, in the last days. However, whether this interpretation is admitted the Lord says that there is “a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many, they shall be manifest” (v. 28). So the Holy Ghost, either as one with God or one of many gods, will be revealed in the last days. Therefore we should look for prophecies of her revelation among the prophecies of the last days. We should not expect to find any plain prophecies. Prophecies of the future are usually metaphoric, allusive, and suggestive rather than plain and since the Mother herself is hidden in the scriptures, we can expect that prophecies concerning her appearance will be even more hidden. I will discuss two dusters of metaphors which I believe refer to the Mother: the arm or the hand of the Lord and the bride of the Lord. In speaking of the last days Isaiah prophesied, “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations” (Isa. 52:10). In the Book of Mormon Nephi, Abinadi, and Jesus all refer to this prophecy and it is referred to four times in the Doctrine and Covenants. What is the meaning of “arm of the Lord" or ‘hand of the Lord?” What is to be revealed in the last days? To discover this I undertook a rhetorical analysis of all occurrences of the phrase “arm of the Lord” or “hand! of the Lord” in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. There are a. number of passages which indicate that “arm of the Lord” or “hand of the lord” denotes the means by which the Lord carries out his purposes or accomplishes his work. For example, “It is the hand of the Lord which has done it” (Morm. 8:8); ‘‘being directed continually by the hand of the Lord11 (Ether 2:6); “he extended his arm in the preservation of our fathers” (Mosiah 1:14); and “my arm is stretched out in the last days to save my people Israel” (D&C 136:2). Of course, we regard such passages as metaphoric; we do not think that the hand or arm of the Lord is literally accomplishing the work. By what means, then, does the Lord carry out his purposes? To determine this I looked for parallel constructions that might explain or interpret “arm of the Lord” and found several such passages. “I call upon the weak things of the world ... to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit; and their arm shall be my arm11 (D&C 35:13–14). Since they are to accomplish their work by the power of the Lord’s Spirit, the arm of the Lord is the Spirit of the Lord. ‘‘For I the Lord have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven” (D&C 84:119). This tells us that what is done by the hand of the Lord is done by the powers of heaven. “Thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and call upon his name” (Alma 19:36). This verse equates the Lord’s pouring out his Spirit to extending his arm. “He was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord” (Alma 45:19). Again the hand of the Lord is equated to the Spirit. Having identified “Spirit of the Lord” or “power of my Spirit,” or “Spirit11 to mean “arm of the Lord” or “hand of the Lord,” I checked to see if this was a plausible interpretation for all occurrences of ‘‘arm of the Lord” or “hand of the Lord” and found it to be so except in the few cases where a literal interpretation seemed to be required. The Spirit of the Lord is not necessarily the personage of the Holy Ghost, so something more would seem to be required to show that the prophecy that the Lord will make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations is a prophecy of the revelation of the Holy Ghost or Mother in the last days. I have one more interpretation to offer to show that the prophecy that the Lord will make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations is a prophecy of the revelation of the Mother. Isaiah’s prophecy reads, “For the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (52:9–10). In his visit to the Nephites, Jesus rendered the prophecy as:
For the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one (3 Ne. 20:34–35).Joseph Smith taught that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Comforter and that when anyone obtains this last comforter he will have Jesus himself appear to him from time to time and that he will manifest the Father to him and they will together visit him. If the Lord or the Father comforts his people, he appears to them and he also reveals the Father to them. Since the Father is also the Divine couple, the manifestation of the Father could mean the revelation of the Divine Couple, and “The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations” could mean that Jesus reveals himself as the Father and his divine wife as the Mother. Doctrine and Covenants 97:19 supports this interpretation. “Zion is the city of our God, . . . for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there.” This implies that “the hand of the Lord” is indeed a person whose presence in Zion is as important as God’s. Interpreting “the Father” as “the Divine Couple” also suggests an interpretation for scriptures which assert that Jesus is on the right hand of the Father or God. These scriptures may picture the Father and Mother standing or sitting side by side and Jesus is on the right and she is on the left. Thus either the Son or the Daughter, the Father or the Mother could be called the arm or hand of the Lord. The second cluster of metaphors which I believe point to the revelation of the Mother are those of the marriage of the Lamb. Jesus called him.self the bridegroom (Matt. 5:19) and gave two parables, the Marriage of the King’s Son and the Ten Virgins, in which he compared the Second Coming to a wedding and himself to the bridegroom. In the Doctrine and Covenants he refers to himself as the bridegroom five times in connection with the Second Coming. Will there be a real wedding at the Second Coming or is the wedding merely figurative? The most detailed account of the marriage of the Lamb is in Revelation. Before Christ descends to the earth John hears a voice saying., “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come., and his wife hath made herself ready11 (19:7). The bride is usually interpreted to mean the church of God or the people of Israel. John calls the bride the new Jerusalem (21:2., 9–10). But a figurative meaning does not preclude a literal one. John also says., 11And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” Since the Fall brought about the separation of many things—God from humanity, male from female., body from spirit, individual from community, faith from reason—the Millennium will bring all things into a new unity. But the Fall also brought about the separation of God from God, Father from Mother. Isaiah declared:
Yea, for thus saith the Lord: have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord; Where is the bill of your mother; s divorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have you sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away (2 Ne. 7:1).Our Mother exiled herself voluntarily to be with us. The Mother is identified with the Child: she also took our sins on herself. In Revelation 12:1 John describes the Divine Mother. “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” A great dragon made war on her and she fled into the wilderness where the dragon continued to make war on her and her children. Joseph Smith in his translation of the Bible said that the woman was the church of God. The images of the sun, moon, and wilderness are also found in a description of the church given three times in the Doctrine and Covenants.
That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners; And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens (109:73–74).One metaphorical meaning of “wilderness” is given by the Lord. “Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him-my voice, because my voice is Spirit” (D&C 88:6). The wilderness where the Mother is exiled is the realm of the Spirit which we cannot see. The description 11fair as the moon” and “clear as the sun” and “terrible as an army with banners” reminds us of the glorious woman in heaven “clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet,” her power denoted by the crown of stars on her head. Again Mother is identified with Child. She cannot come out of the wilderness adorned as a bride to meet her bridegroom until her child is sanctified. “But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible to all nations.” The description” fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” is taken from the Song of Solomon where it describes the bride of the king. If the Song of Songs is interpreted as an allegory of the hierosgamos or marriage of the divine male and female, this further supports the view that the marriage of the Lamb is literal as well as figurative and that the Mother will be revealed “adorned as a bride for that day when God shall unveil the heavens” and be reunited with his divine spouse. As the time for the revelation of the Mother draws closer we should expect that some people will receive visions or voices or feelings which manifest her presence and her mission. I would like to share one such experience with you. My husband David and I were driving home to Provo after having been in Denver for David’s twenty-fifth high school reunion. I will give David’s account of what happened.
The time in Denver was good, along the lines of recovery as I felt, but better than I anticipated. No close friends were there but after a time I felt kinship with many I met again. I felt a great desire to celebrate the lives of these friends and comfort those who had discovered that their lives were not exactly what they had anticipated they would be. It was a ti.me of reaching out with love and understanding. The epiphanal experience came on the way home. It was about noon. Janice was driving—she had been since Denver—and I was reading to her from Margaret’s and Paul’s book [Strangers in Paradox]. I got to a part of the book that overwhelmed me suddenly: “Rather each is cast in the Image of the Mater Dolorosa, the mourning mother who imposes upon herself a voluntary exile in order to wander with, and comfort her children, mourning and grieving in the veil of tears.” At th.is point I felt tears welling up inside of me and I choked on, “She is like Rachel weeping for her children. She is De . . .” I couldn’t control my voice; I couldn’t go on. I wept for a while and then said, ur am very touched by this.” Janice said, “It’s more than that. It’s revelation.” I said, “She is here with us. She is in the back seat with us and . . .” What was I feeling? I was saying inside myself, “This is what I want—to comfort in this veil of tears, to nurture, not to advance myself. This is what I have always wanted.” Yearning towards her, I cried out in my heart, “I want to share your loneliness and sorrows. How can I? Oh, that I could comfort with you!” I realized that she was not in the back seat. She was around me and before me. With tear fogged eyes I saw her fill the horizon in front of me. I couldn’t go on reading. Tears were on my cheeks. I am not usually so overcome with feelings. I rarely cry. I stopped wondering if Janice would wonder why I was having such trouble going forward. I began wondering if I could remain on earth. I was being expanded and it was joyful—and it hurt! This was not just empathy for the Mother. This was epiphany. She is here! I felt such love and identification for her and her work and rapture at her presence. What would I tell Janice? What could I tell her? Finally I regained control and found out. “I’ve given my heart to the Mother. She was here and I wasn’t sure that I would go on living.”
Worshipping the MotherOne question which has received a great deal of attention is whether we should worship the Mother and, if s01 how? The question is important to those who sincerely believe that our Heavenly Mother is God, while those who believe that only the Father is really God tend to view the answer as self-evident (of course, we worship only God the Father) and the question as presumptuous., This is not surprising since fundamentally to worship God means to acknowledge that the being we worship is God. When Jesus first appeared to the Nephites they thought he was an angel. But after he told them that he was Jesus Christ, they fell to the earth. Jesus then invited them to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet. After they had done so, they all fell down at his feet and worshipped him. They worshipped him because they knew he was their God and the God of the whole earth, the light and life of the world who had atoned for their sins. Whether we should worship the Mother, then, depends on whether we know her and know who she is. We have not been commanded to worship her as we have God the Father. Worship demands a distance; he is the transcendent God, while she is the immanent God. She bears witness of him and leads us to him. Without her with us we could not see him as the Almighty God. However, once she has been revealed to us and we see and understand that she is also God, then we also, in the most fundamental way, worship her. There is no question whether we should worship her; no one can allow us or forbid us to worship her. We simply do. We also worship God through rituals. or ordinances. These connect us in some way to God and are the means through which we, by performing some action, receive blessings from him. All religions believe their rituals come from God. They are either transmitted from generation to generation or rediscovered or revealed by God himself. Some women look for ancient forms of Goddess worship to express their devotion to the Goddess. However, we as Latter-day Saints only need to re-examine the ordinances given us through Joseph Smith to see that she is present in all of them. We cannot worship him without her presence. Because they are one there is no ordinance through which we worship only him or only her. We are baptized to show our faith in him, but faith is a gift of the Spirit which testifies of Christ. We repent of our sins believing that he has atoned for them and we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost to sanctify us and reveal his will to us so that we may retain a remission of our sins. In partaking of the sacrament we remember him and he pours out his Spirit more abundantly on us. The temple ordinances, as Margaret and Paul Toscano have shown, symbolize both the sacrifice of Christ and her veiled presence. Jesus taught that doing the will of God is more important than formal worship; indeed, it is the truest worship because it requires our deepest commitment and expresses our truest desires, our essential being. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (3 Ne. 14:21). If we want to worship the Mother, we must do the work of the Mother, and if we do the work of the Mother, we worship her. Her work is the same as his work. They are one God. Nephi taught that the words of Christ will tell us all things that we should do and that the words of Christ are given by the power of the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 32:5). For Mormons the question of whether we should worship the Mother has focused mainly on whether we should pray to her. Those who think we should not pray to her point out that Jesus commanded us to pray to the Father in his name and conclude that the only acceptable form of prayer is to address God as Heavenly Father and end the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. I have tried to show that Jesus is the Father whom we worship. In Doctrine and Covenants 93, which clearly teaches that the Son is the Father, the Lord says, “I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name.” ‘This means that Jesus Christ is the name of the Father which we should use when we pray to him and worship him. He has other names but we should call him Jesus Christ because that is the name through which we are saved. “Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved” (D&C 18:23). H the words are changed around a little this reads, “Behold, Jesus Christ is the name of the Father which is given.” Mormons usually interpret this verse to mean that Jesus Christ is the name given by the Father, which is also a true interpretation, but it obscures the more fundamental one. Doctrine and Covenants 109 is the prayer offered by Joseph Smith at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, which he said was given to him by revelation. In this prayer he addresses God as “Lord, God of Israel,” “‘Lord,” “Holy Father in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of thy bosom,” “Holy Father,” “Jehovah,” “Mighty God of Jacob,” and “O Lord God Almighty.” All these names are names of Jesus Christ and this prayer is dearly addressed to him. It is concluded with a simple “Amen.” Nephi, in his account of his life, usually tells us that he prayed to the Lord, and we have seen that he identified the Lord as the one who would come to the earth to redeem his people. He also exhorts us to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 32:9) and tells us to worship Christ (25:29). He does not distinguish between praying to the Lord, praying to the Father in the name of Christ, and worshipping Christ. If we are to pray to Jesus, the question arises, “To whom did Jesus pray?” As a mortal man he prayed to the Father and as God among the Nephites he also prayed to the Father. But I have shown th.at the Father, the Man of Holiness, is Jesus Christ. Surely Jesus did not pray to himself. Perhaps the Father whom Jesus prayed to was the same being who on several occasions introduced Jesus as “My Beloved Son.” Who was this? The voice is described in 3 Nephi 11:3.
. . . and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear it to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them that did hear it to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.This description has several points in common with descriptions given of the voice of the Holy Ghost. It was a small voice but it pierced those who heard it to the center and it caused their hearts to bum. I believe that this being who bears witness of Jesus Christ is his Beloved, the Woman of Holiness, who is now the Holy Ghost. She calls him, "My Beloved, who is the Son.” Should we pray to the Mother? Although we are not commanded to pray to her, we are commanded to pray with her. “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God” (D&C 46:30). And when we pray, we invoke her presence (19:38). And our prayers are answered through her. Understanding this, we certainly may address her directly in our prayers. However, prayer, unlike ritual, does not require a form given by God in order to be efficacious. In its most fundamental sense prayer is a reaching out for God. The deepest longings of our hearts, our strivings for goodness, our hearts broken by our sins and failures, the pains of our humanity, our hope for love, and finally our deepest desires to know God are all prayers to him and her. Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, not to set up barriers between us and God, but to remove them. God is your Father, he taught us. You need not be afraid to approach him because he loves you. You are fathers yourselves, he reminded us; you know that you respond to your children’s pleas. “How much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7–11) She is our Mother, a Mother who knows our needs before we can express them, a Mother who is here before we call out to her. Which of you mothers, if your child cries out in the night, will not hear her cries and go to her and put your arms around her and comfort her? If you, then, being weak, know how to comfort your children, how much more does our Mother in Heaven comfort us when we stand in need of comfort? Or which of you mothers, if your child is confused or has a problem, will not give him counsel? H you, then, lacking knowledge of the future, know how to counsel your children, how much more does our Heavenly Mother guide us when we ask to know what we should do? Or which of you mothers, if your child asks you a question, will send him away? If you, then, being ignorant of many things, know how to enlighten your children, how much more does our Mother in Heaven give truth to those who seek it? Or which of you mothers does not know that your children need you to be with them? If you, then, being selfish, will sacrifice to be with your children, how much more is our Mother, not in heaven, but here with us?
 Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 344.  Ibid., 340.  Ibid., 344.  Ibid., 173.  Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool, eng.: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 2:342.  Ehat and Cook, 4–5.  Ibid., 64.  Joseph Fielding Smith, comps., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1968), 190.  Ehat and Cook, 5.  Margaret and Paul Toscano, Strangers in Paradox (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 265–91. [post_title] => Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 27.2 (Summer 1994): 15–40
It would seem that Mormons who have believed for over a hundred years in the real existence of the Goddess, the Mother in Heaven, should be far ahead of other Christians in developing a theology of God the Mother. However, our belief in her as a real person puts us at a disadvantage. If the Goddess is merely a symbol of deity, as the male God is also a symbol, then certainly God can be pictured as either male or female with equal validity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => toward-a-mormon-theology-of-god-the-mother [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-27 19:54:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-27 19:54:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11663 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology
Dialogue 26.1 (Spring 1993): 23–82
THE CLASH BETWEEN OBEDIENCE to ecclesiastical authority and the integrity of individual conscience is certainly not one upon which Mormonism has a monopoly. But the past two decades have seen accelerating tensions in the relationship between the institutional church and the two overlapping subcommunities I claim—intellectuals and feminists.
THE CLASH BETWEEN OBEDIENCE to ecclesiastical authority and the integrity of individual conscience is certainly not one upon which Mormonism has a monopoly. But the past two decades have seen accelerating tensions in the relationship between the institutional church and the two overlapping subcommunities I claim—intellectuals and feminists. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-lds-intellectual-community-and-church-leadership-a-contemporary-chronology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:08:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:08:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11844 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Women's Stories, Women's Lives
Dialogue 25.2 (Fall 1992): 75–96
The personal essay, unlike personal journals, letters, and oral histories, is not an artless form. It transforms the raw material of personal experience in the double crucible of carefully chosen language and the light of mature retrospection.
The personal essay, unlike personal journals, letters, and oral histories, is not an artless form. It transforms the raw material of personal experience in the double crucible of carefully chosen language and the light of mature retrospection. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-extraordinary-in-the-ordinary-womens-stories-womens-lives [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:16:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:16:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=11960 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
In Their Own Behalf: The Politicization of Mormon Women and the 1870 Franchise
Dialogue 24.4 (Winter 1991): 75–96
IMMEDIATELY UPON THE PASSAGE of territorial legislation enfranchising Utah's women in 1870, almost fifty years before the Nineteenth Amendment extended the vote to American women, arguments erupted between the Mormon and non-Mormon community over the reasons behind this legislation.
IMMEDIATELY UPON THE PASSAGE of territorial legislation enfranchising Utah's women in 1870, almost fifty years before the Nineteenth Amendment extended the vote to American women, arguments erupted between the Mormon and non-Mormon community over the reasons behind this legislation. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => in-their-own-behalf-the-politicization-of-mormon-women-and-the-1870-franchise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:18:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:18:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12033 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Grammar of Inequity
Dialogue 23.4 (Winter 1990): 83–96
This essay explores some of the strengths of deliberately choosing to relate to our world with gender-inclusive language in three areas
This essay explores some of the strengths of deliberately choosing to relate to our world with gender-inclusive language in three areas [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-grammar-of-inequity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:28:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:28:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12186 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Women and the Right to Wage Work
Dialogue 23.4 (Winter 1990): 47–82
In this essay, I will analyze recent Church discourse against a pattern of constricting employment options for women and will discuss the implications of that pattern.
In this essay, I will analyze recent Church discourse against a pattern of constricting employment options for women and will discuss the implications of that pattern. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-women-and-the-right-to-wage-work [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:12:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:12:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12178 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Woman as Healer in the Modern Church
Dialogue 23.3 (Fall 1990): 65–82
Evidence from Mormon women's journals, diaries, and meeting minutes tells us that from the 1840s until as recently as the 1930s, LDS women served their families, each other, and the broader community, expanding their own spiritual gifts in the process.
Evidence from Mormon women's journals, diaries, and meeting minutes tells us that from the 1840s until as recently as the 1930s, LDS women served their families, each other, and the broader community, expanding their own spiritual gifts in the process. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => woman-as-healer-in-the-modern-church [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:13:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:13:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12213 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Theological Foundations of Patriarchy
Dialogue 23.3 (Fall 1990): 79–95
MOST RESEARCH BY MORMON FEMINISTS has been historical in nature. Proponents of greater power and privilege for women cite as precedents the lives of Huldah and Deborah of the Old Testament, the treatment of women by Jesus Christ, or the activities of pioneer women in the early restored Church.
MOST RESEARCH BY MORMON FEMINISTS has been historical in nature. Proponents of greater power and privilege for women cite as precedents the lives of Huldah and Deborah of the Old Testament, the treatment of women by Jesus Christ, or the activities of pioneer women in the early restored Church. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => theological-foundations-of-patriarchy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:13:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:13:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12211 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Need for a New Mormon Heaven
Dialogue 21.3 (Fall 1988): 73–85
I used to love this description because my Mormon heaven seemed far superior to this standard Christian heaven that Twain’s Satan describes. Sexual intercourse does have a place in Mormon heaven, though not as an end in itself. Heavenly residents are busy with activities. Those righteous individuals who become gods in Mormon heaven will certainly be using their intellects as they create worlds and keep them running, and they will undoubtedly be learning continuously. Mormonism never suggested there would be continual music, nor continual church or Sabbath days in heaven.
Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of article as a courtesy. Please note that there may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and biographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.In Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, Satan, who has been banished to earth, writes letters home to Michael and Gabriel. Mortals, he writes, have imagined a heaven that contains “each and every imaginable thing that is repulsive to a man, and not a single thing he likes! . . . He has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race—and of ours—sexual intercourse!” In heaven, “prayer takes its place. . . . His heaven . . . has not a single thing in it that he actually values. It consists—utterly and entirely—of diversions which he cares next to nothing about here in the earth, yet he is quite sure he will like in heaven.” These diversions include “church that lasts forever, and a Sabbath that has no end,” continuous harp playing, and singing. There is no variety in activities and no intellectual stimulation (1938, 15–20). I used to love this description because my Mormon heaven seemed far superior to this standard Christian heaven that Twain’s Satan describes. Sexual intercourse does have a place in Mormon heaven, though not as an end in itself. Heavenly residents are busy with activities. Those righteous individuals who become gods in Mormon heaven will certainly be using their intellects as they create worlds and keep them running, and they will undoubtedly be learning continuously. Mormonism never suggested there would be continual music, nor continual church or Sabbath days in heaven. Lately though, Satan’s comments about mortals’ relationship to their heaven have hit close to home. While the appealing aspects of Mormon heaven that I have mentioned have allowed me to feel smug, there are other aspects of Mormon heaven that I, like Twain’s mortals, “care next to nothing about, here in the earth” (1938, 16). Still other aspects of Mormon heaven offend and annoy me in their earthly counterparts, and I can’t imagine that I will like them any better in heaven. Much in this heaven violates my idea of fairness and of how God operates. Much does not seem logical, does not ring true to me, and leaves me feeling apprehensive rather than motivated to earn a promised reward that seems a little like a punishment. I acknowledge that some of what I present as Mormon heaven is probably not the heaven many living Mormons anticipate, and some Mormons may not even have been exposed to some of these ideas about heaven. Yet many of the most influential nineteenth-century Church leaders, including three prophets, taught these ideas, and they have not been superseded by new teachings. Some Church members continue to promote these or similar ideas; they are still found in our temple ceremony and in our scriptures. Lowell Bennion has taught that God is reasonable, fair, impartial, and benevolent, and when he acts differently in scriptur,es or in our theology, we can assume that those portrayals are not accurate. Bennion has also taught that for a church to be a good church it must provide people with a sense of their intrinsic worth and equality (Bennion 1956, 7; 1959, 38; 1981, 34, 35, 39). When I apply the Lowell Bennion test to the current concept of heaven, I find it wanting. Parts of this Mormon heaven seem profoundly wrong because they give women and single men a diminished sense of self-worth here on earth. It is hard not to conclude from the patriarchal nature of this view of heaven that those who can be patriarchs are eternally superior to those who cannot be. Furthermore, this theology of heaven reduces many people to “things”—things that someone else will receive as a reward, things that someone else can use to help him achieve glory, and things that someone else can dominate. I believe that heavenly patriarchy, and the hierarchy and unequal rewards for comparable righteousness that it spawns, are the cultural gospel, authored by Mormon males, not the revealed gospel authored by God. The doctrine is colored by these males’ cultural milieu and their desires for power and glory. Various writers, such as Goethe, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, have turned Genesis 1:26–27 inside out to claim that man has created God in his own image. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee said it best in the play, Inherit the Wind: “God created man in His own image—and Man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment” (1963, 70). Taking “man” to mean “males” rather than “humankind/’ religious feminists have refocused this idea and said that males have created a male God and have projected the patriarchal systems of the cultures in which they lived into heaven. According to Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Most images of God in religions are modeled after the ruling class of society” (1975, 74). After the ruling patriarchy creates a God and a heaven like itself, it then “sacrilizes the existing social order as an expression of the will of God’’—that is, it gives itself a stamp of divine approval (1986, 5). I am going to describe some patriarchal, hierarchical aspects of this Mormon heaven, its marital framework, and then Mother in Heaven, the shadowy deity of Mormon heaven. Within each topic I will focus on the individual features that are unappealing, unreasonable, and destructive to the egos of mortal Mormon women and single men. Be warned that my analysis is very personal and full of my own opinions. This heaven is a highly structured, organized society. Heber C. Kimball preached that priesthood ranking will be just as it is here, “and you will find all the officers down to the deacon” (JD 4: 82). This heavenly “patriarchal priesthood” denotes a system of eternal organization and government of families. I presume that it is labeled “patriarchal’’ because it is male-centered. Descriptions of the heavenly structure focus on a man’s kingdom and a man’s male progeny. A woman’s kingdom and female progeny are almost non-issues. People in the celestial kingdom are grouped into both family units and dispensational units, and every conceivable unit in heaven is ruled over by an exalted patriarch. God rules over everyone, Christ rules below him, and Adam below him. Patriarchs who were notable during their earthly lives, such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob, though subject to God and Christ, preside as patriarchs over the people in their dispensations. As one of these Joseph Smith will preside as patriarch over the people of the current dispensation (Andrus 1970, 1973; Esplin 1978; Widtsoe 1939; Ehat and Cook 1980, 297–99). This is not an obsolete nineteenth-century doctrine. I first learned of this heavenly hierarchy in a Relief Society class in 1977. When the teacher said that Joseph Smith would be our king in eternity, I was horrified—certain that she was promoting her own misunderstanding. I was also amazed that no one else seemed alarmed. Apparently this was either old news to others in the class, or else it did not disturb them. After class when I expressed my doubts about her information, the teacher said she got it from religion classes at BYU. Showing that theology can change, the Church has rejected one layer of heavenly hierarchy accepted in the nineteenth century. For a time faithful Mormon males were sealed to important males in the Church’s hierarchy rather than to their own fathers. For example, in heaven Brigham Young would be a patriarch under God, Christ, and Joseph Smith but over those men and their families who were sealed to him. Some men who were sealed to Brigham Young, John D. Lee for example, also had men sealed to them. The strains this put on relationships between· these mortal men caused the hierarchy to rethink this practice. During Wilford Woodruff’s administration the Church abandoned these adoptive seatings and members were sealed only to their own parents (Brooks 1973, 73–74, 122–24; Irving 1974; Esplin 1978). In heaven each righteous man would be patriarch over his righteous descendants. A person born in the 1980s would be subject to God, Christ, Joseph Smith, and the thousands of righteous males who are his or her ancestors. Ail of a man’s righteous descendants will make up the kingdom over which that man will rule. Brigham Young explained, “Now if I be made the king and lawgiver to my family, and if I have many sons, I shall become the father of many fathers, for they will have sons, and their sons will have sons, and so on, from generation to generation .... In this way we can become King of kings, and Lord of lords, or Father of fathers, or Prince of princes, and this is the only course, for another man is not going to raise up a kingdom for you” (JD 3: 265–66). When Brigham Young warned that those people who depend upon other people to lead them “never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom” (JD 1: 312), his language makes it clear that administrative efficiency was not the reason for this hierarchical system. This system was organized so that males could rule, gain honor, and have power over others. Religious groups who feel persecuted have a tendency to expect that after the end of human history they will finally receive the power and status to which they are entitled by right of their superior righteousness, knowledge, and commitment (Hansen 1977). Nineteenth-century Mormon theology shows a preoccupation with attaining power and status in the millennium and in heaven. The developers of our theology took at face value the scriptural references to being rewarded in heaven with crowns, thrones, and kingdoms. Some early Kirtland elders asked rhetorically, “If the Saints are not to reign, for what purpose are they crowned?” (HC 2:5–22) Inheriting thrones and crowns had to mean inheriting kingships. and kingdoms. I believe that wanting kingdoms, they misread a promise of kingdoms into the scriptures. The New Testament’s answer to the elders’ question “If the Saints are not to reign1 for what purpose are they crowned?” is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24–25. Saints receive a symbolic crown: just as the winners of races are crowned with a garland of laurel leaves for their achievement, the Saints receive a crown of recognition for having endured righteously to the end (Interpreter’s, 1:746). The scriptures that mention crowns talk of crowns of glory, crowns of immortality, crowns of righteousness, crowns of honor, but never crowns of kingship. The thrones mentioned are almost always God’s throne. I think that Joseph Smith’s desires rather than God’s inspiration prompted the only unambiguous scriptural promises of kingdoms. Doctrine and Covenants 121:29 promises “All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers shall be . . . set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Section 132 promises those who marry “by the new and everlasting covenant” that they shall “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths . . . then shall they be above all because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them’’ (v. 19–20). Because the scriptures and those who interpreted them have given me no other reason for the existence of heavenly kingdoms, I believe that this theology has patriarchs ruling in heaven because patriarchs-to-be thought that, deprived of due recognition and power on earth, they deserved a truly grand reward in heaven. No one suggests that anyone in the celestial kingdom is in need of being ruled—instead, it is the earthly patriarchs who feel the need of the glory, honor, and power of ruling. I find this heavenly structure neither reasonable nor appealing. First, any kind of ruling hierarchy among celestial beings seems inconsistent with a God who loves us equally and who rewards us according to our faith and works, not according to our gender, marital status, rank in the Church’s hierarchy, or our progeny. Second, Brigham Young implied that people who need to be ruled won’t be given the highest eternal reward. This elaborate layering of managers seems entirely unnecessary among people who are worthy of celestial life. In addition, these rulers are chosen more for their gender, the time of their birth, and the size of reward they deserve than for their management or leadership skills. Third, I can’t imagine that people worthy of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom would aspire to or even be interested in having status and power over other people. I can’t imagine any good reason for heavenly kings beyond God and Christ. If kings exist, I think their role must be to serve their subjects as Jesus did when he washed the feet of his disciples and as King Benjamin did throughout his life by laboring with his own hands. Fourth, a hierarchy appeals only to those who believe they will be among the rulers rather than among the ruled. Because Mormon hierarchy is patriarchy, all women will automatically be among the ruled, eternally subject to an endless string of grandfathers. From a man’s point of view, there is nothing fair about being subject to one’s father for all eternity, nor about ruling over one’s son only because one man preceded and sired the other. Furthermore, there is nothing fair about being subject to exponentially more grandfathers by virtue of being born in 1980 A.D. rather than in 980 B.C. By promoting rule in the afterlife by patriarchs, this view implies that even in this life patriarchs are worth more than other people. Giving some righteous people kingdoms and power over other righteous people reduces those other people to things—things making up the kingdom awarded to the patriarch for his righteousness, and things the patriarch can dominate. I don’t believe that God would reward some righteous people by diminishing others. In order to attain the highest rank and reward in this Mormon heaven a person must be married in the temple. The unmarried and people married in any way other than a sealing ceremony are doomed to the fate outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 132:16–17: “To minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.” These verses explain that single people have not obeyed the command to get married, and therefore, by definition, are not righteous. Mormon leaders teach an exception to the harsh penalty presented in this scripture: people who had no fair chance to be married correctly get a chance to marry after mortal life. In mortality Mormonism offers single adults an awkward and isolated social status that evokes either suspicion or pity in other Mormons. It condemns them to a life of sexual frustration and encourages feelings of unrighteousness, guilt, and inadequacy. For single men it offers significantly fewer chances to serve in high management positions in the Church. This heaven offers single people an eternity even worse than the second-class existence they enjoyed in Mormon society on earth. I find it unreasonable to think that God would have structured the rules for salvation to do this to people who are single during mortality. I also think that the difference in eternal rewards for single people and married people is so great that a just God couldn’t have authored them. Why does Mormon theology do this to single people? Because of the idea that the highest glory in heaven includes becoming a god and reigning over the kingdoms which we create by procreating. Two levels of heavenly kingdoms exist in our theology. The first, as I have said, is a kingdom made up of former mortals, primarily one’s descendants. To rule over one of these one must have descendants in mortality. But the lack of earthly progeny to rule over is not what keeps single people from receiving the highest heavenly reward. Rather it is the inability to produce heavenly progeny. This second kind of kingdom is made up of the children conceived in heaven who will inhabit earths created by their parent gods. Creating includes not only making a world, but peopling it through procreating, through sexual union with one’s spouse. Parley P. Pratt rhapsodized that “the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.” From Joseph Smith he “learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring” (1938, 297–98). I am not arguing against the idea that happy marital unions should continue in heaven. I find the doctrine of eternal marriage one of the most appealing of our theology, and I hope that my marriage will continue there. But rather than viewing eternal marriage as a precondition for the eternal reward of kingdoms in heaven, I see a good marriage being its own reward in heaven just as on earth. Similarly, rather than viewing eternal singleness as a condition deserving eternal punishment, I see it as a condition with limitations (that some might see as punishments) inherent in it. Rather than being punished because, lacking a spouse, one cannot produce progeny in heaven, the inability to procreate here or in heaven is perhaps its own punishment. Surely there is more to being kings, queens, gods, and goddesses than procreating, and those who remain single in heaven need not have external limitations placed on them when singleness necessarily includes limitations. While I’ve got no interest in ruling over, nor being god to anyone, there is something intriguing and enticing about creating worlds and keeping them running; but for me, the issue is apparently moot. Instead of creating mountains, trees, or marine life, I can earn the right to fill the role of “birth-machine for spirit children” (England 1986, 28) because the other creating is done by the power of the priesthood, a power that women will have in a very limited way, if at all. Brigham Young taught that “the Priesthood ... is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue forever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions, their days, weeks, months” (Widtsoe 1939, 30). Orson Pratt elaborated that priesthood was the power for “the regulation of the materials in all their varied operations. It is that power that formed the minerals, the vegetables, and the animals in all their infinite varieties which exist upon our globe. It is that authority that reveals laws for the government of intelligent beings.’, This priesthood is so essential that God, knowing his son would be worthy of having and using the priesthood, “thousands of years beforehand” allowed him to “have the power to create worlds and govern them, the same as if he had already received the consecration” (1853, 145, 147). Our theology currently gives women no hope that their participation in priesthood will ever be great enough to allow them to create anything but children. Some women might be excited by the possibility of providing the womb through which a never-ending stream of children would be born, but I am not. I don’t look forward to producing progeny while my husband is creating reptiles and planets and inspiring mortals to fashion reasonable governments and legal systems. Gene England rightly called this limited, unequal role for women in eternity “absurd” “humiliating” and “degrading” (1986, 23). Our temple ceremony has some further limiting, unequal, and degrading implications for women’s heavenly existence. Each woman is promised that she might eventually be a queen and priestess to her husband, while her husband is promised that he might eventually be a king and a priest to God. All women, married or unmarried, are required to covenant to obey the law of their husbands as their husbands obey the law of God, while all men are required to covenant to obey the law of God. Thus males are linked directly to God, and women to God only through their husbands—even women who have no husbands. This link takes on a twist when people being married are symbolically brought into heaven by a male playing the role of God. A man is brought into heaven by an anonymous male temple worker playing that role. But a woman is brought into heaven by her husband playing the role of God to her. So not only does the temple ceremony suggest that women reach God through their husbands, but that husbands, on some level, act as god to their wives. Though both men and women need spouses to achieve the highest eternal glory, a husband helps his wife attain salvation in a way that a wife does not do for her husband. Daniel Wells taught that if treated well, women would stick to their husbands “because it is for their salvation in the kingdom of our God. It is for this they are here, and they will cleave to you for it; and it is your office, right and privilege to extend that blessing to them. . . . Wives . . . seek their salvation through [their husbands]” (JD 4:255–57). According to Lorenzo Snow, the head of a family must have the spirit of the Lord, “and he should possess that light and that intelligence, which, if carried out in the daily life and conduct of those individuals, will prove the salvation of that family, for he holds their salvation in his hands” (JD 4:243). As recently as 1978 a priesthood manual for young men taught that “a fine Latter-day Saint girl is counting on you to provide the way to exaltation for her and the spirits in heaven that will come to your home to grow in the gospel” (Inglesby 1985, 29). The Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide from 1984 included the following: “Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: ‘[Husbands] must ... love their wives, sacrifice for their well-being and salvation, and guide them in holiness until they are cleansed, sanctified, and perfected, until they are prepared for exaltation in that glorious heaven where the family unit continues. Husbands thus become in effect the saviors of their wives’ (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2 :519 )” (pp. 47–48). An essential part of this theology of marriage in heaven is polygamy. While it is unlikely that the Church will again promote polygamy in mortality, it is still a vital part of Mormon heaven. As Doctrine and Covenants 131 and 132 explain, polygamy in heaven enables celestial beings to procreate kingdoms over which a righteous man would preside as god. I say “man,” because while the woman is a participant, the focus is completely on the male and his kingdom. A man obtains the highest kingdom in heaven only by entering into this kind of marriage. If he does not, “that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (131:2–4). His wives “were given unto him” (132: 37, 39, 52, 61, 62) “for he shall be made ruler over many” (v. 44). They “belong unto him’’ and ‘‘are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth . . . and for their [presumably the women’s] exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men” (v. 63). Eugene England has argued against heavenly polygamy, suggesting that it be dropped from our theology of heaven. His chief objection was that it made fidelity impossible. With multiple partners no two spouses could experience complete trust and sharing of themselves with each other. I agree with this objection, but I will elevate his secondary objection into my primary one. Heavenly polygamy “is simply a way of saying that one good man is in some sense the equivalent of more women than one, however good. And whether what is implied is that one man can emotionally and sexually satisfy more than one woman or is capable of balancing more than one woman spiritually or intellectually or managerially or whatever . . . the implications seem to me to discredit women, to in some essential way reduce them to less than full equivalence with men” (1986, 27–28). I can see how nineteenth-century American men, trying to conceive of a heaven, could construct one in which one man was the equivalent of a number of women. Nineteenth-century American culture was sexist and patriarchal, and most people, women as well as men, believed that men were superior to women in many ways. Brigham Young reinforced this notion for Mormons by stressing that he led his wives not by force but “by a superior intelligence.” If the servants of God allow a woman to be their leader, he noted, “they have sunk beneath the standard their organization has fitted them for. . . . Let our wives be the weaker vessels, and the men be men and show the women by their superior ability that God gives husbands wisdom and ability to lead their wives into his presence” (JD 9:307). On another occasion he preached that women are weak. “It is the decree of the Almighty upon [women] to lean upon men as their superior” (JD 12:194). I can see no reason to let such a theology stand without protest. It can’t be any healthier for Mormon men to believe that they are inherently and eternally superior to all women than it is for Mormon women to believe that they are inherently and eternally inferior to righteous Mormon men. Yet as long as heavenly polygamy remains in our theology, these self-evaluations will naturally arise. As long as Doctrine and Covenants 132 remains in our scriptural canon, heavenly polygamy is a part of Mormon theology. Heavenly polygamy, more than anything else in our theology, reduces people to things. Emily Dow Partridge, a plural wife to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, complained, “even our own people seemed to think that the Lord had given men plural wives for stepping stones for them and their first wives to mount to glory on” (Hill 1977, 353) . The greater the number of wives and children a man has in heaven, the greater his power, kingdom, and eternal glory. In the worst materialistic sense rather than in the best metaphorical sense, wives and children were a man’s riches. Benjamin F. Johnson remembered that “the Prophet taught us that Dominion & power in the great Future would be Commensurate with the no[.] of ‘Wives, Children & Friends’ that we inherit here” (Van Wagoner 1986, 45) . Joseph Smith counseled his Sunday audience to “use a little Craftiness & seal all [the people to yourself that] you can” so that you can claim them in heaven (Ehat and Cook 1980, 331). Wives (and children) became objects to be given to righteous men as rewards, or taken from sinful men as punishment. Joseph Smith taught Lucy Walker that “many would awake in the morning of the resurrection sadly disappointed; for they, by transgression would have neither wives or children, for they surely would be taken from them, and given to those who should prove themselves worthy” (Hill 1977, 356). Brigham Young recast this idea in terms of Jesus’ parable of the talents. The man who would not take plural wives may get to the celestial kingdom, “but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has given up. He will come forward and say, ‘Here is that which thou gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent,’ and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single forever” (JD 16: 66). Men too become objects in a system of heavenly polygamy. Mormon marriage sealings revived and revised the Old Testament practice of Levirate marriage. When a man marries a widow who was married for eternity to her first husband, any children who result from this second marriage are credited on the eternal tally sheet to the first husband. Regardless of the role this second husband played in the lives of this wife and children in mortality, in eternity, he is the source of the seed that helped produce children for the first husband (Foster 1981, 164). Polygamous wives sometimes viewed their husbands as vehicles through which they could attain exaltation. The best example of this was the practice of “marrying up,’’ catalogued in 1986 by Richard Van Wagoner. In a general conference in 1861 Brigham Young, talking on divorce, said that “a woman could leave a man—if the woman preferred—another man higher in authority & he is willing to take her. & her husband gives her up.” Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Young was sealed to Joseph Smith while being married for time only to Henry Jacobs and eventually left Jacobs to be a plural wife of Brigham Young, for “President Young told Zina D. if she would marry him she would be in a higher glory” (p. 43 ) . Brigham Young announced to Henry Jacobs that Zina and her children were his (Brigham’s) property. Here, and in his proposal to Martha Brotherton, in which he promised that “if you will accept me, I will take you straight to the Celestial Kingdom” (p. 18), Brigham was trading on his status, selling himself to a woman by offering that she could ride his coattails to exaltation. Van Wagoner observed, “A Mormon male of hierarchical rank, with feet firmly planted in the priesthood, seemed a sure ticket to heaven” (p. 46). Rather than seeing any compelling reason to think that we must populate heavenly kingdoms into existence so that these kingdoms can be our eternal reward, I see a compelling reason not to believe that God authored this system. It again reduces people to things. Women are the means by which men populate their kingdoms. They are also symbols of their husbands’ obedience to the commandment to marry, or to marry polygamously; under polygamy, the more wives a man has, the more righteous he is. Women are also taken from men as punishment or given to them as rewards. Men are tickets to celestial glory. Each spirit child is one more being for its parents to be sovereign Lords over. The theology’s promise of an exalted future of creating worlds and procreating kingdoms supposedly follows a pattern set by God himself. Yet it is hard to match the language used by nineteenth-century Mormon men talking about their own heavenly future, with the Mormon concept of God. The emphasis on becoming a ruler over a family of subjects and wielding scepters of power is inconsistent with our description of God’s character. While we certainly accept and occasionally use such titles as “King of Kings” to describe God, he is most commonly “Heavenly Father,” an intimate deity. We are supposed to be able to go to him with our deepest thoughts and questions, our most personal concerns. He in turn takes time for each of us and is passionately concerned about our well-being. Mormonism teaches me that I am a child of God. While I may well be a subject in God’s kingdom, I am not instructed to perceive myself as another person to be dominated to add to his personal power. His glory is not greater because he procreated me. I can’t conceive of him basking in his own marvelousness, or taking pride in the vastness of his dominion. In this view of heaven exalted couples follow the pattern set by God and his eternal female companion. My Star B Primary manual produced in 1985 has a lesson on “Our Heavenly Family” (pp. 12–15). It tells me to teach the six-year-olds that in heaven, “they were a part of a heavenly family. Heavenly Father was their father, and they had a mother in heaven.” She must finally be officially accepted in Church theology. Granting that it is rare to find Mother in Heaven in lesson manuals at all, the lesson’s portrayal of her is typical of the way official Mormondom deals with her. She appears fewer than ten times, always as “mother in heaven’’ (all small case), in contrast to forty plus appearances of “Heavenly Father” (capitalized), and twenty plus appearances of Jesus. How is she described? As one of the heavenly parents who loved my children. She is like Heavenly Father, who is great and good and wise and knows everything and is perfect. My children loved her in heaven and wanted to be like their heavenly parents. In summary, she exists, has some good characteristics, and she loves. How is Heavenly Father described? Jesus was his son. Heavenly Father called a meeting; he had a plan. If my children choose to do right they can live with him forever, being “just as happy and great and wise and good as Heavenly Father is.” He planned what my children should do on earth, he knew it would not be easy, he gave them families, prophets, and Jesus. My class wanted to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus, and they wanted to choose the right like Heavenly Father and Jesus wanted. They can return to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus. In summary, Heavenly Father’s companion when he is loving his children is Heavenly Mother. His companion when he is performing any other action is Jesus. Wouldn’t the writers of the manual have been safe in saying that Jesus was the son of a heavenly mother as well as a heavenly father, that she also knew earth life would not be easy, and that she as well as Heavenly Father wanted us all to choose the right? Although she is great and good and wise and omniscient and perfect, it is not for any of these qualities that she is valued. Her value is in her fertility. She exists to procreate, not to create, to inspire, to guide, to plan, to intervene, to empower, to comfort. As Erastus Snow explained in 1886, logic dictated that she must exist: “Now, it is not said in so many words in the Scriptures, that we have a Mother in heaven as well as a Father. It is left for us to infer this from what we see and know of all living things in the earth including man. The male and female principle is united and both necessary to the accomplishment of the object of their being, and if this be not the case with our Father in heaven after whose image we are created, then it is an anomaly in nature” (JD 26:214). Heavenly Mother is necessary because procreation can’t be achieved by males alone. During the era of polygamy some suggested that she is only one of many mothers in heaven. They reasoned that procreation of spirit children could be accomplished more efficiently if Heavenly Father could impregnate many heavenly mothers, just as exalted mortals, procreation of spirit children could be accomplished more efficiently if exalted mortal males could impregnate many wives. Yet, peculiarly, even this narrow sphere of creation is denied her in all official Mormon accounts of creation. The primary account, Genesis 1, uses the singular “God” throughout except in verse 26, where without explanation God says, “let us make a man in our image.” Mormon variations of this scripture add other gods to explain this change from singular to plural, but the other gods are never explicitly female and are sometimes explicitly male. In Moses, “I, God” creates, apparently alone, until suddenly, “I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: “Let us make man in our image.” Bizarrely, these two males, God says, “created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them” (Moses 2:26–27). In Abraham 4, the grammatically plural “Elohim” becomes the numerically plural “the Gods’’ thus eliminating the singular/plural shift. This might, but does not necessarily, include women. The temple ceremony presents Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael sharing creation duties. Elohim and Jehovah transform Michael into Adam. So not only is Mother in Heaven not a participant in creating the light, the darkness, plants and animals, she gets no credit for the one kind of creating allowed her. Heavenly Mother is not an equal partner with Heavenly Father in any sense. She is second to her husband in everything, to her son in many things, and even to the Holy Ghost. Since she has no sphere of operations, she has no power. Everything that deity does is credited to God, to Christ, or to the Holy Ghost. Our First Article of Faith specifies that “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” There is no official, creedal statement which claims that we believe at all in Mother in Heaven. Authority, both temporal and eternal, is linked to priesthood, a power that our Mother in Heaven apparently is without or possesses only in a limited way, because she is female. Her husband possesses all of it there is to possess. On this score, she is second to her son, for even before Christ was either a mortal or resurrected and exalted, he had all the priesthood power he might need to create everything. As a mortal he had authority to speak for God, while she appears not to have enough authority to speak for even herself. She is certainly second in veneration to her husband, for until recently, she existed only in the hymn, “O My Father,” and was otherwise ignored. Prayers and worship are all directed to the Father alone except in rare gatherings of the unorthodox and of feminists. We must conclude that she is second in worth to her husband. I will guess that this is another case of projecting current social reality into heaven. I can see why nineteenth-century Mormon men would envision a Mother in Heaven as a bearer and nurturer of children, for these were the primary roles American society allowed women. There was little precedent for a powerful, creative woman with independent spheres of action—and any women who were this way were generally derided as being “unwomanly” rather than praised for their talents. I can see why today’s General Authorities who define womanhood as stay-at-home mothering would also envision her this way. But I can’t see any reason now to let such a degrading concept of the female deity continue to exist without protest. Mother in Heaven is a nothing at best, and at worst is a housewife. Given the status that women have had throughout the history of Mormonism and given the patriarchy that still rules in our Mormon and larger society, Mother in heaven can be nothing other than the faceless, nameless, unavailable-fortheological-purposes blank that she currently is. Our theology has allowed her no authority nor power; she gets no acknowledgment for her distinctive contributions, whatever they are. She has no self apart from her husband. Unless we can begin to see mortal Mormon women as significant in their own right, we will never see our Mother in Heaven as significant in her own right. She will only have significance because of the male she married or sired. As long as she is only the eternal housewife, producer of babies, and nurturer of children, mortal Mormon women will be expected to find those limiting roles satisfying. I am not asking that we project a 1980s-vintage female executive into heaven and call this Mother in Heaven. But I wish there were more caution from those who project onto Mother in Heaven the traditional earthly model of housewife and nurturer of children. I would prefer that we project no model of womanhood into heaven to define her. Instead, since revelation often comes when questions are asked, I am encouraging Church authorities to ask for revelation about her. Then we might learn what she really is. I can’t change the reality of what heaven .is. My wishing, hoping> and needing won’t make it what I want it to be. But neither does Brigham Young’s or Joseph Smith’s. I believe that they and other Mormon males projected their own needs and desires into heaven, and that their heaven probably does not resemble actual heaven any more than my ideal heaven does. I reject much of their vision of heaven because it is destructive. It is based upon the notion that males are the truly significant beings: their kingdoms, their posterity, their creative priesthood power, their rank, and male deities are its focus, while females, including female deities, are an afterthought—ignored, restricted, and demeaned. This erodes the self-worth of women whose selfesteem is already low and encourages pride in men who already have a disproportionate sense of their own importance. Rewards are given in this heaven because of gender, marital status, and hierarchical position as well as righteousness. Without minimizing Brigham Young’s sacrifices and faithfulness, for example, should we really believe that he deserves a grander eternal reward than do the families who bravely attempted to settle the uninhabitable areas in Southern Utah that he sent them to? Should his reward surpass the rewards of the women who supported their children and their husbands as well, while those husbands were away on missions? Would a just God give him a better reward than he gives the hiddenaway second and third wives of men who rarely visited or contributed to their families’ economic well-being? Should his reward be greater because of all his wives and children than Spencer W. Kimball’s is because he only had one wife and a handful of children? These men’s vision of heaven reduces many good people to insignificance. In 1967 Torn Stoppard rewrote Hamlet focusing on two minor characters, Rozencranz and Guildenstern. However, even as the major characters in their own play, they merely pass the time as they wait for their encounters with Hamlet. Although the focus is on them, they exist only to help action progress in Hamlet’s story; they are foils to enhance his distinctiveness; they define themselves according to their place in his life. In focusing on males, and particularly on males with hierarchical status, the Mormon vision of heaven reduces all others to minor characters in these males’ heavenly lives. Its creators fashioned fine rewards for themselves but did not consider that their rewards wiped out the identities and personal significance of other people. Almost everyone becomes a minor character in someone else’s story, and many people, especially women, children, and unmarried men, never do get to be the major character in their own story. All Mormons become minor characters in Joseph Smith’s story in heaven, as we become the subjects in the kingdom over which he rules. All children become minor characters in their parents’, particularly their fathers’ stories, as their numbers are added up to expand the vastness of their parents’ kingdoms. All polygamous wives, who “belong” to their husbands, who “are given’’ to them like presents and can be taken from them and given to other husbands, also contribute by their numbers to the vastness of their husbands’ kingdoms. Husbands become major characters in their own stories as they amass kingdoms, but wives are only the facilitators who help bring the subjects of those kingdoms into existence. Each of us deserves to be the major character in our own story in heaven, but does our current theology of heaven allow each of us that right? To make Mormon heaven into something that rings true, that could reasonably have been structured by a God who loves us equally and fairly and who wants the best for each of us, I would simply make it less specific. Rewards would be based on faith and works, and each righteous person’s reward would provide her or him with happiness. All people could continue to enjoy the company of those who were important to them on earth and could form emotional bonds with whomever else they chose. There would be meaningful, stimulating, creative activity there. Each person would be valued for her or himself, not for family ties, function, or earthly hierarchical position. I have said all this not to complain, but rather to encourage Church members and leaders to rethink our theology of heaven. The nineteenth-century Mormon men who fleshed out the theological skeleton provided by scriptures and revelation fleshed it out according to their own cultural prejudices. They structured it to compensate themselves for the deprivations they felt they suffered on earth. But their prejudices and their needs should no longer be misread as representing heavenly reality: they are time-bound) not eternal. It is time to reject those aspects of Mormon heaven that are uninspired, unreasonable, unfair, damaging, and serve no virtuous end.
For bibliography and notes, please see PDF. [post_title] => The Need for a New Mormon Heaven [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 21.3 (Fall 1988): 73–85
I used to love this description because my Mormon heaven seemed far superior to this standard Christian heaven that Twain’s Satan describes. Sexual intercourse does have a place in Mormon heaven, though not as an end in itself. Heavenly residents are busy with activities. Those righteous individuals who become gods in Mormon heaven will certainly be using their intellects as they create worlds and keep them running, and they will undoubtedly be learning continuously. Mormonism never suggested there would be continual music, nor continual church or Sabbath days in heaven. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-need-for-a-new-mormon-heaven [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-27 19:55:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-27 19:55:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=12438 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Beyond Matriarchy, Beyond Patriarchy
Dialogue 21.1 (Spring 1988): 34–59
BECAUSE MORMONS don't yet have a strong tradition of speculative theology, I want to explain some of my objectives and methods in writing this essay. My chief purpose is to make symbolic connections, to evoke families of images, and to explore theological possibilities.
BECAUSE MORMONS don't yet have a strong tradition of speculative theology, I want to explain some of my objectives and methods in writing this essay. My chief purpose is to make symbolic connections, to evoke families of images, and to explore theological possibilities. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => beyond-matriarchy-beyond-patriarchy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:14:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:14:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=15736 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
LDS Women and Priesthood: The Historical Relationship of Mormon Women and Priesthood
Dialogue 18.3 (Fall 1985): 21–32
While an examination of that history leaves unanswered the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood, the historical overview of LDS women’s relationship to priesthood suggests a more expansive view than many members now hold.
While an examination of that history leaves unanswered the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood, the historical overview of LDS women’s relationship to priesthood suggests a more expansive view than many members now hold.[post_title] => LDS Women and Priesthood: The Historical Relationship of Mormon Women and Priesthood [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 18.3 (Fall 1985): 21–32
While an examination of that history leaves unanswered the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood, the historical overview of LDS women’s relationship to priesthood suggests a more expansive view than many members now hold. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lds-women-and-priesthood-the-historical-relationship-of-mormon-women-and-priesthood [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:56:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:56:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16028 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
LDS Women and Priesthood: Scriptural Precedents for Priesthood
Dialogue 18.3 (Fall 1985): 15–20
I have heard many LDS women approach the issue of women and the priesthood by protesting that they do not want to hold the priesthood because they have no interest in passing the sacrament or performing some other ecclesiastical duty. I will venture a guess that many men who have the priesthood do not particularly want to hold it either, and that some of them also have no interest in passing the sacrament. But the reluctance of some men would hardly be a good reason to prevent all men from holding the priesthood.
I have heard many LDS women approach the issue of women and the priesthood by protesting that they do not want to hold the priesthood because they have no interest in passing the sacrament or performing some other ecclesiastical duty.[post_title] => LDS Women and Priesthood: Scriptural Precedents for Priesthood [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 18.3 (Fall 1985): 15–20
I have heard many LDS women approach the issue of women and the priesthood by protesting that they do not want to hold the priesthood because they have no interest in passing the sacrament or performing some other ecclesiastical duty. I will venture a guess that many men who have the priesthood do not particularly want to hold it either, and that some of them also have no interest in passing the sacrament. But the reluctance of some men would hardly be a good reason to prevent all men from holding the priesthood. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lds-women-and-priesthood-scriptural-precedents-for-priesthood [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:57:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:57:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16026 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Crying Change in a Permanent World: Contemporary Mormon Women on Motherhood
Dialogue 18.2 (Summer 1985): 116–127
Women in the Mormon Church are encouraged toward traditional roles and attitudes that discourage personal, familial, and societal change. The ideal female role is that of a non-wage-earning wife and mother in a nuclear family where the husband is the provider and the woman’s energies are directed toward her family, the Church, and perhaps community service.
Women in the Mormon Church are encouraged toward traditional roles and attitudes that discourage personal, familial, and societal change. The ideal female role is that of a non-wage-earning wife and mother in a nuclear family where the husband is the provider and the woman’s energies are directed toward her family, the Church, and perhaps community service.[post_title] => Crying Change in a Permanent World: Contemporary Mormon Women on Motherhood [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 18.2 (Summer 1985): 116–127
Women in the Mormon Church are encouraged toward traditional roles and attitudes that discourage personal, familial, and societal change. The ideal female role is that of a non-wage-earning wife and mother in a nuclear family where the husband is the provider and the woman’s energies are directed toward her family, the Church, and perhaps community service. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => crying-change-in-a-permanent-world-contemporary-mormon-women-on-motherhood [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:58:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:58:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16059 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society
Dialogue 16.3 (Autumn 1983): 68–69
I would like to discuss teh social experience of historical Latter-day Saint single women in the context of five questions: (1) Does she have an acceptable reason for being single? (2) Can she provide for her own economic security? (3) What place does she occupy in her family of origin? (4) Can she contribute to her community in a way that she will be rewarded for? (5) What was the emotinoal life of a single women in past generations?
I would like to discuss teh social experience of historical Latter-day Saint single women in the context of five questions: (1) Does she have an acceptable reason for being single?[post_title] => Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 16.3 (Autumn 1983): 68–69
I would like to discuss teh social experience of historical Latter-day Saint single women in the context of five questions: (1) Does she have an acceptable reason for being single? (2) Can she provide for her own economic security? (3) What place does she occupy in her family of origin? (4) Can she contribute to her community in a way that she will be rewarded for? (5) What was the emotinoal life of a single women in past generations? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ministering-angels-single-women-in-mormon-society [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-19 23:59:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-19 23:59:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16248 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Women and Ordination: Introduction to the Biblical Context
Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 60–69
THE QUESTION of whether worthy women could be or ought to be ordained to the LDS priesthood has not, until recently, been considered seriously in the LDS community.
THE QUESTION of whether worthy women could be or ought to be ordained to the LDS priesthood has not, until recently, been considered seriously in the LDS community. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => women-and-ordination-introduction-to-the-biblical-context [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:01:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:01:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16395 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Women and Priesthood
Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 48–59
I smiled wryly at the cartoon on the stationery. The picture showed a woman standing before an all-male ecclesiastical board and asking, “Are you trying to tell me that God is not an equal opportunity employer?” I thought to myself, “Yes, that is precisely what women have been told for centuries.”
I smiled wryly at the cartoon on the stationery. The picture showed a woman standing before an all-male ecclesiastical board and asking, “Are you trying to tell me that God is not an equal opportunity employer?” I thought to myself, “Yes, that is precisely what women have been told for centuries.”[post_title] => Women and Priesthood [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 48–59
I smiled wryly at the cartoon on the stationery. The picture showed a woman standing before an all-male ecclesiastical board and asking, “Are you trying to tell me that God is not an equal opportunity employer?” I thought to myself, “Yes, that is precisely what women have been told for centuries.” [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => women-and-priesthood [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:03:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:03:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16394 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Mormon Women and the Struggle for Definition
Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 40–47
I am sensitive to that steadying hand as I attempt to identify and define what for an earlier generation of women identified and defined them as women—their relationship to the Church.
I am sensitive to that steadying hand as I attempt to identify and define what for an earlier generation of women identified and defined them as women—their relationship to the Church.[post_title] => Mormon Women and the Struggle for Definition [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 40–47
I am sensitive to that steadying hand as I attempt to identify and define what for an earlier generation of women identified and defined them as women—their relationship to the Church. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mormon-women-and-the-struggle-for-definition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:07:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:07:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16392 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
The Pink Dialogue and Beyond
Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 28–39
Some time in June 1970,I invited a few friends to my house to chat about the then emerging women’s movement. If I had known we were about to make history, I would have taken minutes or at least passed a roll around, but of course I didn’t.
Some time in June 1970,I invited a few friends to my house to chat about the then emerging women’s movement. If I had known we were about to make history, I would have taken minutes or at least passed a roll around, but of course I didn’t.[post_title] => The Pink Dialogue and Beyond [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 14.4 (Winter 1981): 28–39
Some time in June 1970,I invited a few friends to my house to chat about the then emerging women’s movement. If I had known we were about to make history, I would have taken minutes or at least passed a roll around, but of course I didn’t. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-pink-dialogue-and-beyond [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:03:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:03:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16391 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
Church and Politics at the IWY Conference
Dialogue 11.1 (Spring 1978): 58–76
During the spring of 1977, Utah’s two major newspapers began their coverage of what was to become one of the hottest political controversies of the year: the Utah Women’s Conference authorized by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year and scheduled for June 24-25
During the spring of 1977, Utah’s two major newspapers began their coverage of what was to become one of the hottest political controversies of the year: the Utah Women’s Conference authorized by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year and scheduled for June 24-25[post_title] => Church and Politics at the IWY Conference [post_excerpt] => Dialogue 11.1 (Spring 1978): 58–76
During the spring of 1977, Utah’s two major newspapers began their coverage of what was to become one of the hottest political controversies of the year: the Utah Women’s Conference authorized by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year and scheduled for June 24-25 [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => church-and-politics-at-the-iwy-conference [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-10-20 00:05:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-10-20 00:05:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.dialoguejournal.com/?post_type=dj_articles&p=16893 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => dj_articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) 1
And Woe Unto Them That Are With Child In Those Days
Dialogue 6.2 (Summer 1972): 40–47
It isn't easy these days to be a Momon mother of four. In the university town where I live, fertility is tolerated but not encouraged. Every time I drive to the grocery store, bumper stickers remind me that Overpopulation Begins At Home, and I am admonished to Make Love, Not Babies. At church I have the opposite problem. My youngest is almost two and if I hurry off to Primary without a girdle, somebody's sure to look suspiciously at my flabby stomach and start imagining things. Everybody else is pregnant, why not I?
Dialogue Topics: Women’s History and Feminism
This month is March and that means it is Women’s History Month. With that in mind, I [Taylor Petrey] wanted to take some time to talk about the role that Dialogue has played in Mormon women’s history, including marking the birthplace of modern Mormon feminism in 1971, and continuing to be a hub for groundbreaking work on women’s history, feminist theology, and cultural analysis of gender in the LDS tradition. Did you know that there are at least eight issues dedicated to this topic from 1971 to 2019, in addition to many standalone articles? In fact, there are so many that this podcast episode is really just scratching the surface of the thousands and thousands of pages of published material. Throughout the article, we have hyperlinked the various articles, and we encourage you to go to the source material to see what these people were saying about their religion and their gender.
Now, I should note that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Mormon feminism. I’ve written a bit about it in my own book on twentieth-century gender, and my articles on Mormon feminism and Heavenly Mother, and I’ve co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender. I consider Claudia Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Judy Dushku friends and mentors. I thought I knew a lot about this topic, but researching for this podcast I still uncovered new gems and started to see the role that Dialogue has played in this history in a new light.
In the podcast episode and this article, I am going to walk through this history in four major phases. First, I want to talk about the role Dialogue played in the foundation of modern Mormon feminism. This introduces us to some of the key figures over the last fifty years. Then, I want to talk about the conflict that feminists faced between their values and their loyalty to the church during the years that the church was opposing the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as some of the fall out. In the 1980s and 1990s, feminists and church leaders came into even more open conflict once again. Finally, I want to review the scholarship on this issue over the past few decades, looking at Mormon feminism in the new millennium as it appears in the pages of Dialogue.
Act I: Mormon Feminism Reborn
When we talk about the founding of modern Mormon feminism, there are two contexts that I want to mention here. In our last podcast episode, we noted how Dialogue was born in the context of the civil rights movement. But 1966 is also right in the middle of the rebirth of feminism. This is the first major context. By the 1960s, we can begin to chart what is generally referred to as second-wave feminism. If the first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries around white women’s voting rights, the second wave dominated the 1960s and 1970s, when women were calling for equal treatment in the workplace, at home, and in their religious traditions. No doubt Mormon women all over the country were being influenced by these broader cultural shifts. However, the Mormon women in Boston were particularly moved and began to organize. In 1970, they came together to discuss these issues.
The second major context that has to be understood is that church leaders in this period are emphasizing what they called “the patriarchal order.” This isn’t just a hold over of old values, but actually a newly re-assertive patriarchy that was dismantling the Relief Society’s independence and putting into place all sorts of new policies and programs that would ensure male leadership. Women are actually losing power in the church in the post-war period. It was in this context that that Boston women’s group first began to act, creating an independent funding stream for the local Relief Society in their area.
Dialogue co-founder and co-editor Eugene England was based at Stanford in California, but he visited Cambridge, MA, in 1970. Claudia Bushman remembers walking with England and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on the Harvard campus one evening and pausing near the Widener Library: “I just blurted out that there should be a women’s issue of Dialogue and that we had a group who could put it together.” According to Bushman, England liked the idea: “I expected more of a hard sell,” she recalled, “but he just immediately agreed and said to go ahead with it.”
The result was the now famous “Pink Issue” of Dialogue. It was edited, illustrated, and written by that group of women in Boston. It marks the official beginnings of modern Mormon feminism. Devery Anderson has written: “The pink issue was the first public sign that a feminist movement within modern Mormonism had been born.” The editors of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, Joanna Brooks, Rachel Steenblick, Hannah Wheelwright, wrote, “The ‘Pink Issue’ of Dialogue, as it would later be known, struck a warm, frank, and bold note to mark the beginning of a new era in Mormon women’s history” (35).
It is fascinating looking back on the now-fifty-years-old issue. It was controversial, but it wasn’t confrontational. This wasn’t the Udall letter on race and the priesthood, but rather an attempt to start a conversation and to emphasize compatibility. Claudia Bushman wrote that they were committed to the compatibility of the gospel and feminism. The issue covers everything from housework to education to respect in church.
“The issue seems pretty innocuous now, but the whole project was still pretty threatening,” insisted Ulrich thirty years later. “Some women didn’t want to be associated with something that might make them seem critical of the church. Others thought we were not being bold enough. I think we were trying hard to be ourselves.” It was a lot of these women just telling their stories.
Ulrich was right about how it was received, despite the fact that this issue is now legendary. Responses assailed the idea of a “middle ground”: some said it wasn’t faithful enough to the role of woman as mother, while others said that it wasn’t radical enough by praising singlehood and childlessness.
One response from a single twenty-five-year-old male in the letters to the editor in the next issue was a classic case of mansplaining: “The penchant for autobiography in this issue led to a lack of systematic analysis on the problem of women in Mormonism in general.” Richard Sherlock, in that letter, critiques Claudia Bushman for being pro-marriage and pro-family in her feminism. More responses came in for the Summer 1972 Issue: “The women’s issue followed the church line. Ho hum!”; “Mr. Sherlock was not the only person who had great hopes for the issue on women and came away disappointed. At least it was a beginning….Raising children is a challenge, mopping the floor is a bore. Talking about it, or writing about it is a deadly bore. Please, just because we are women does not mean that we are interested in hearing more about housework, or cooking, or diapering. It is bad enough to have to do it.”
These disagreements continued for years. By 1974 the women in Boston organized by starting their own publication. Not a scholarly journal like Dialogue, but a magazine that featured the arts, poetry, personal voices, and more, they named it Exponent II, named after The Women’s Exponent, the nineteenth-century Mormon feminist publication that these women had discovered in the stacks at Harvard’s Widener Library and had been astonished to discover their feminist foremothers.
Bob Rees, then-editor of Dialogue, reflected on the Pink Issue and the first issue of Exponent II: “Frankly, I am still somewhat disappointed that the [pink] issue was not bolder and more far reaching in its attempts to speak to the serious problems of sexism within Mormonism. Your approach and tone may have been more practical and realistic, but personally I would have liked a little more boldness. That is, by the way, the same objection I have to the first issue of Exponent II—it seems to be trying so hard not to offend that it comes off as pretty bland.”
Dialogue’s letter to the editor section became a place to talk about the new venture of Exponent II, the second independent Mormon publication after Dialogue. Some examples of the complaints extended to Exponent II after the inaugural issue in 1974: “What a contrast [to Exponent the original]! Exponent II is timid and tentative where its namesake is forthright and assertive. The difference is due to the fact that nineteenth century Mormon women didn’t question either their rights or their independence (both of which were hard earned) and contemporary Mormon women seem uncertain of both. The history that spans these two publications has to be among the most intriguing in the annals of women’s studies.”
I want to point out that the birth of Mormon feminism had a rocky start, but it foreshadowed the very struggles that it would often find itself in. Too radical and too conservative.
But the existence of Exponent II didn’t mean that Mormon feminism disappeared from Dialogue. Dialogue continued to be a place in these early years to discuss the major issues of Mormon feminism. In the 1960s and 1970s, you’ll recall that race and the priesthood was heating up as a hot topic. The question of women and the priesthood wasn’t far behind.
In Summer 1974, Ulrich wrote an essay about why she doesn’t want the priesthood, stating simply, “If the priesthood were a profession, I’d feel differently. . . . Precisely because it is blatantly and intransigently sexist, the priesthood gives me no pain. One need not be kind, wise, intelligent, published, or professionally committed to receive it—just over twelve and male. Thus it presumes difference, without superiority. I think of it as a secondary sex characteristic, like whiskers, something I can admire without struggling to attain.”
A reader, surprised by Ulrich’s stance on the priesthood, wrote to the editor in a letter from Fall 1974: “I was shocked to read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s short piece in the most recent issue of Dialogue. She states that the priesthood is ‘blatantly and intransigently sexist’ and that therefore the priesthood gives her no pain. She says she feels no urge to struggle to attain it. But the entire tone of her note suggests she is yearning to have the power which the priesthood represents and resents the fact that she cannot get it in spite of being perhaps better qualified in terms of ‘spiritual gifts’ than many males who have it. While I do not question Sister Ulrich’s spiritual gifts, she seems to have missed a point fundamental to the order of the Kingdom. The male has the right by blood to preside over the female in righteous dominion. It is the female’s and uphold the male who presides in righteousness. The sooner Sister Ulrich and other sisters in the Church come to accept this fundamental principle, the happier they will be. “
In these formative years, LDS feminists were finding their voice in a number of ways. First, they were reclaiming their past. Women’s history becomes an important part of this movement. It isn’t an accident that both Ulrich and Bushman go on to be leading historians of America and Mormonism, at Harvard and Columbia respectively, with women’s stories at the heart of much of what they do. Second, they are telling their own stories, and being authentic to who they are as Mormons and as feminists. Third, they understand the power of organizing. They not only produce a founding document in the “pink issue,” but put forward a number of other publications including Exponent II and some groundbreaking historical articles in an edited book. I am proud that Dialogue was the venue that helped launch modern Mormon feminism, and continues to be a home for these critical issues for over fifty years.
Act 2: The Equal Rights Amendment
The feminists in Boston weren’t the only Mormon feminists. There were LDS women all over the country who were being influenced by the broader feminist movement, and no issue became more important than the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In the early 1970s, most Mormons supported the ERA, but in the beginning of 1975, the Church came out against the ERA and launched a national political effort to defeat its ratification. Mormon feminists found themselves in a tough spot, having to choose between supporing the church or supporting the most important feminist cause since women’s suffrage. This was the chief goal of the second-wave feminist movement. An innocuous statement in and of itself, the ERA would have had huge symbolic and real world consequences. But it proved to be hugely divisive for Mormon feminists.
Dialogue had moved to Washington, D.C., in the second half of the 1970s under Mary Bradford’s editorship. Mary, the first female editor of Dialogue, was already showing the leadership that women were taking in this arena. But it is notable that from 1975 to 1980, there is little written on Mormon feminism or women’s issues—including a profound silence on the ERA.
But that didn’t mean that Mormon women were silent on the issue. The chief group that you need to know about during this period is Mormons for the ERA, and its most important leader, Sonia Johnson. Johnson and Mormons for the ERA were a feminist movement that directly challenged church authority. They held events that garnered huge media attention, including flying a banner over General Conference that said “Heavenly Mother loves the ERA.” Johnson sparred with Senator Orrin Hatch in a senate hearing. She grew increasingly frustrated, moving away from compatibility between feminism and Mormonism and eventually called the church “the last unmitigated Western patriarchy” in a caustic speech. It is important to realize that the church in the 1970s was pretty strict: for example, women couldn’t give prayers in mixed-sex meetings for much of this decade. The end of the racial restrictions on the priesthood actually correlates with tighter patriarchal authority. In any case, Sonia Johnson was excommunicated for that speech in December 1979.
Dialogue’s silence was a source of concern. The first issue of the decade is filled with Letters to the Editor on the ERA. A letter to the editor in Spring 1980: “Please do something on the naughty women’s movement. We need more discussion of issues rather than warmed-over historical Ph.D dissertations.”
This was the issue. The ERA had been going on for eight years, with five years of the church opposing it. Feminism was transforming business, relationships, and the church. And Dialogue had been ducking it. Though Dialogue had sat out of these issues up until then, the floodgates broke in 1981 with three of the four issues dedicated to the topic.
The Spring 1981 Issue had an interview with Beverly Campbell, the anti-ERA spokeswoman for the LDS Church. She was the LDS version of Phyllis Schlafly, a Catholic anti-ERA spokeswoman who led the STOP ERA campaign. Campbell was the anti-Sonia Johnson. They’d both been invited to speak on the Today Show, but Johnson refused to appear with Campbell. Dialogue’s interview is really an excellent interview, a great resource for getting at what is happening for conservative women during this time.
In the Summer 1981 Issue, Mary Bradford writes “The Odyssey of Sonia Johnson,” which is a chronological biography based around major milestones of Johnson’s efforts. In it, Bradford provides lots of details about Johnson’s battle for the ERA, conflicts with Orrin Hatch, and so on. That year, Johnson had also published her book From Housewife to Heretic. There was still huge controversy about her excommunication almost two years later. It was the most notorious excommunication until the September Six.
Bradford’s biography was then followed by an interview with Johnson in the same issue. Mary Bradford did the interview, and it is notable that Beverly Campbell, Sonia Johson, and Mary Bradford were all from Virginia, making the D.C. area a hub of Mormon women’s activity. Johnson’s interview is a little challenging. There is a lot in there about her divorce and excommunication. It has a lot of the emotions, about betrayals from local friends and leaders, and some great stories about her daughter asking to be able to pass the microphone during testimony meeting or to pass out programs and her bishop saying, “No, that is a priesthood function.” During this time, President Spencer W. Kimball had reversed a policy that had been in place for a number of years that women couldn’t pray in sacrament meeting, giving people hope that other activities in the Church might be opened to anyone instead of restricted to the male members. It is important to recognize the context of how patriarchal the church was at this time.
After these two issues about the ERA, the Winter 1981 Issue is the ten-year anniversary of “Pink Issue”. Sometimes called the “Red Issue,” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Claudia Bushman return. In the intervening ten years, both finished PhDs with six children and became professors. Feminism continued to transform society and rip at the church over the last decade.
Ulrich writes a retrospective in this issue. One of the things that surprised me was how much she describes the fights that these early Boston women were having. As stated earlier, the Pink Issue received mixed reviews, often being seen as too timid. But she was also writing in the wake of the rise of the religious right, the defeat of the ERA, and the excommunication of Sonia Johnson. “How did Bob Rees expect us to write about polygamy or the priesthood when we couldn’t even write about housework without risking a schism? . . . So it was that my first feelings of feminist outrage were directed not at ‘the Brethren’ but at the kindly gentlemen at Dialogue. Who did they think they were, presuming to tell us what Mormon women should want?” Ulrich continues, “The pink Dialogue proclaimed the value of women’s voices, yet in 1971 few Mormon women were really prepared to speak. Before we could write with any depth about tough issues, we had to do a little more experimenting with our own lives.”
“That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simultaneously enlarges and diminishes women should hardly be surprising since it was born and has grown to maturity in a larger society which does the same.”
In the Red Issue, there is an attempt to reset after the tumultuous decade by declaring what a Mormon feminist is: “A feminist is a person who believes in equality between the sexes, who recognizes discrimination against women and who is willing to work to overcome it. A Mormon feminist believes that these principles are compatible not only with the gospel of Jesus Christ but with the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “
This Winter 1981 Issue was more than just a nice retrospective. It also set out a bold new agenda after ten years of feminist thought. The next generation wanted to talk about even more substantive issues. And right here in Dialogue, forty years ago, Mormon feminists broke another taboo—raising the question of women and the priesthood for the first time in print.
In 1978, the Church had received a revelation ending the restrictions on Black men from being ordained to the priesthood and Black men and women from attending the temple. Naturally, people increasingly started to ask the question about women’s ordination as well. This was a topic in numerous Chrisitan denominations, and many were opening up during the 1970s. In 1981, the RLDS church (now Community of Christ) received a revelation to ordain women.
And thus we get Nadine Hansen’s “Women and the Priesthood.” Her biography in that issue says she was a mother of four and a senior at San Jose State University studying religion and economics. The first real treatise on the subject, this article was the kind of thing the more liberal Mormon feminists had been hoping for over the past decade, but what more conservative Mormon feminists and women were dreading. It is a close and sophisticated reading of scripture and a more rigorous and intellectual engagement with the historical record. It self-consciously builds on the 1978 revelation on the priesthood: “Before June 1978, we all readily understood that the denial of priesthood to black men was a serious deprivation. Singling out one race of men for priesthood exclusion was easily recognized as injustice, and most of us were deeply gratified to see that injustice removed by revelation. But somehow it is much more difficult for many people to see denial of priesthood to women as a similar injustice.” She really tackles the hierarchical arguments about the priesthood, and questions whether the nascent egalitarianism, separate but equal, is possible.
Anthony Hutchinson also writes on this topic in the Winter 1981 Issue. In “Women and Ordination: Introduction to the Biblical Context,” he wrote some of the most important articles on Mormonism and scriptural scholarship during this period. Four years later, in the Fall 1985 Issue, a treatment of women and the priesthood was given with essays from Melodie Moench Charles, Linda King Newell, Meg Wheatley-Pesci. Questions around priesthood ordination were a big issue in the 1980s, but it was mostly in scholarly circles that it was discussed. We didn’t see any activism on this issue.
During this time, there are also other new venues that are popping up. Sunstone Magazine was founded in the late 1970s and began hosting forums. These topics were being discussed at Sunstone and Dialogue, along with the Mormon Women’s Forum and other organizations. Meanwhile, women’s history is moving forward with important, mature historians during this decade who were displaced after 1982 but regrouped and continued their work.
We also see a maturation of feminist theology really begin to take off in the 1980s. For example, in the Spring 1988 Issue, Margaret Merrill Toscano published “Beyond Matriarchy, Beyond Patriarchy,” a work of speculative feminist theology. In Fall 1988, Melodie Moench Charles offered an early critical appraisal of Heavenly Mother as imagined by many Mormon feminists in “The Need for a New Mormon Heaven.”
So, in the two decades following the founding of modern Mormon feminism, there were some rough years as they struck to find a balance between their faith and feminism, but the conflicts really rose to the surface over the ERA. However, Mormon feminists didn’t leave en masse; rather, they regrouped and remained committed, producing new, groundbreaking scholarship, pushing boundaries in history and theology, and raising enduring questions around femininity and gender, authority and membership, and role and future.
Act 3: Open Conflict
A dark period for Mormon feminists’ relationship with the Church began in the 1990s. In this period, a number of open conflicts between the Church and feminist result in chastisement and excommunication. There is a sense of restlessness in the articles they were writing. There is hope for their goals: things are moving forward and there is great new scholarship. But it seems that the church isn’t really changing. By this time, Sonia Johnson’s work is a decade old by now, but it and her excommunication loom in the background.
Yet, there was also a sense, almost twenty years after the Pink Issue, that these issues were somehow passe. Consider the opening to the Fall and Winter 1990 Issues, which were dedicated to women’s history and feminist theology: “A women’s issue in 1990? Doesn’t that smack of tokenism, of division rather than unity, of sexism rather than sexual equality? Perhaps it would if women’s voices hadn’t been integral and almost proportionate in Dialogue for more than twenty years now. Perhaps it would if the landmark ‘pink’ issue of 1971 and the ‘red’ one in 1981 hadn’t mattered so much to both men and women.“
The Fall 1990 Issue contained Alison Walker’s “Theological Foundations of Patriarchy,” which uses scriptural and theological analysis to argue for patriarchal roots, and Betina Lindsey’s “Woman as Healer,” which looks at the history of women and gifts of the spirit. Additionally, in “The Good Woman Syndrome; Or, When Is Enough, Enough?” Helen Candland Stark takes a look at domestic abuse in Mormonism as she expands on her Exponent II essay on the same topic.
These years, the readership of Dialogue is seeing more and more women as writers, and excellent writers at that. In the Winter 1990 Issue, Vella Niel Evans looks at Mormon women in the labor industry in “Mormon Women and the Right to Work.” Lavina Fielding Anderson, in “The Grammar of Inequity,” takes on gender-inclusive language within the Church and the gospel: “The scriptures are profoundly exclusionary. It is an agonizing paradox; but to the degree we love and use the language of the scriptures, we also love and use the language of exclusion. . . . I feel that women must be fully included in the gospel of Jesus Christ, not because the scriptural texts fully include them nor because our theology perfectly includes them but because any other pattern does violence to the fabric of the universe, distorting and misshaping the image of God that I strive, however imperfectly, to see and reach toward. When language becomes a veil, masking and disguising God, then it is imperative, as a matter of spiritual health, that language change. I think that the process, though arduous, will be accompanied by joy. “
It’s interesting to me to see the negative reactions to these issues and these articles. For example, a letter in Summer 1991 states, “Equity between the sexes is unquestionably an issue of importance, but one might reasonably ask if it is the only issue. The Fall 1990 Issue of Dialogue was devoted almost entirely to this issue, as was a major part of the Winter Issue.
“Perhaps instead you could have devoted some space to addressing the completely one-sided treatment of this topic in Dialogue. Surely the word ‘dialogue’ does not mean that those holding one point of view should spend their time and energy reinforcing one another’s prejudices.
“Is Dialogue going to treat a wide range of issues in an intellectually honest manner, or become merely a propaganda machine under the control of persons with only one point of view?”
And a letter in Fall 1991: “I have only recently finished a cover- to-cover reading of the Fall 1990 Women’s Issue, and I must send my thanks and sense of awe-struck appreciation for an issue of such power and magnitude. I have pondered for some weeks now just what I can possibly say to express my sense of indebtedness to each and every contributor, and unfortunately I have come up empty-handed. Still, I must somehow try. “
Despite the detractors and the letter writers, women continued to publish, writing their own history with their own voices. In the Winter 1991 Issue, Lola Van Wagonen published “In Their Own Behalf: The Politicization of Mormon Women and the 1870 Franchise,” which is relevant to current celebrations since 2020 is the anniversary of the national enfranchisement of women. And in the Summer 1992 Issue, Julie Nichols told the life stories of various Mormons in “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Women’s Stories, Women’s Lives.”
That takes us to up to 1993. And this is a big one. The whole Spring 1993 Issue is powerful, and one of the most controversial ever published in Dialogue. The essay that I want to focus on here is related to feminism, but not exclusively about feminism. For a little more than a decade before this, since the early 1980s, tension between church leaders and scholars was heating up. Historians were publishing a lot of material that was embarrassing church leaders. You’ve got the Hofmann forgeries, which hurt them twice, first when he publicized the content and then when they turned out to be fakes. And church leaders were playing ping pong with Mormon scholars—some going after them behind the scenes and some protecting them. Tensions were high.
Enter Lavina Fielding Anderson. “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology” is a sixty-page article on what she calls “ecclesaiastical abuse.” It represents the early work of the Mormon Alliance that Paul Toscano had started that was seeking organized pushback against the Church’s patriarchal control. A sample from the article helps to set the tone of it: “The clash between obedience to ecclesiastical authority and the integrity of individual conscience is certainly not one upon which Mormonism has a monopoly. But the past two decades have seen accelerating tensions in the relationship between the institutional church and the two overlapping subcommunities I claim—intellectuals and feminists. “ The article was really about historians and feminists, and acknowledges that scientists and others might also have their stories. But the issues with the New Mormon History movement and various feminists during the ERA and beyond needed airing. Lavina belonged to both communities—historians and feminists—and argued at the intersection of them.
The article then discusses conflicts from 1972 to 1992. It takes people through the beginning and end of Leonard Arrington’s stint as Church Historian and his exile afterward. It documents many episodes of intimidation of historians, quotes letters from General Authorities attacking in general and specifically certain historians for airing unflattering history of church leaders, and goes over the church’s efforts to disrupt the International Women’s Year conferences. It also discusses Sonia Johnson’s excommunication. Anderson shows that the Committee to Strengthen the Members, a.k.a. Strengthening the Church Members Committee, is behind it a lot of the supervision. In 1992, the committee, headed by James E. Faust and Russell M. Nelson, was publicly exposed. The article reveals that several of those being investigated have “files” on them and that people working at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT, seemed to be calling local stake presidents and bishops. Some of the main characters in this story are Paul Toscano, D. Michael Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Linda King Newell, and Maxine Hanks. Brent Metcalfe, David Knowlton, John Sillito, and other big Sunstone names are also getting blowback for Sunstone. In addition to this article, from 1991 to 1993, this anti-intellectual movement within the Church top brass is receiving tons of media coverage. LDS intellectuals are speaking out, comparing the Church and community’s treatment of them to McCarthyism. Eugene England’s essay compares it to the Salem Witch Trials.
Because of this article, Lavina Fielding Anderson is excommunicated as part of the September Six, when six members were excommunicated for articles published. Included in those six targets were other prominent feminists Maxine Hanks and Margaret Toscano. Many others were caught up at BYU and elsewhere as a silencing moratorium spread across the field of Mormon studies.
However, Dialogue continued to wade into these murky waters. Summer 1994 brough another special issue on women’s topics. In it, Janice Allread published her foundational piece on Heavenly Mother, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother.” History still needed (and still needs) to be expanded in Martha Sonntag Bradley’s “Seizing Sacred Space,” Women’s Engagement in Early Mormonism and David Hall’s “Anxiously Engaged: Amy Brown Lyman and Relief Society Charity Work, 1917-45”, which informed his later full-length biography of Lyman, an indispensable work of what women’s authority in the church was like before correlation.
Additionally, this period saw authors like Lynn Matthews Anderson engaging with broader conversations occurring in the study of religion and the study of scripture. For example, “Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Scripture,” brought together feminist biblical studies and feminist literary studies toward Latter-day Saint conceptions of scripture. And, Margaret Toscano, one of the September Six, continued to publish on Mormon history with “If Mormon Women Have had the Priesthood Since 1843, Why Aren’t They Using it?”
Although this was a tough period, I want to end with Cecilia Konchar Farr’s “Dancing Through the Doctrine: Observations on Religion and Feminism.” Farr ran into troubles at BYU as part of the 1993 crackdown, but she published this article anyway. In it, she wants to desecularize feminism and find space for feminist critique of religion from inside positions of faith.
“Religious feminists and certainly Mormon feminists might lay some of the blame for the loss of religious discourse in feminism not only on our reluctance to use it, but also on a wresting away of this language by the conservative groups who have set up feminists—along with witches and lesbians—as the enemies of God.
“Perhaps I am also writing in response to the question that I hear often from many of my (as we say in Mormonism) gentile friends, ‘Why do you stay in such a male-dominated religion?’ I am often tempted to ask them, admittedly begging the question, which institutions they associate with are not dominated by men—their banks, their government, their schools or factories or hospitals? I stay because Mormonism means something to me at the deepest levels of my being. So I find myself, in my own religious odyssey, sitting in a structure I have deconstructed, but that I admire still. I stare at the clouds through the open beams where the ceil- ing once was and admire the beams without wishing for the ceiling. And currently I have no plans for a desert escape. It’s a tough position to take in this particular historical moment as an intellectual and a feminist, I love my church and am proud to be Mormon.”
Act 4: Mormon Feminism in the New Millennium
By the 1990s, Dialogue had moved past commemorating the 1971 Pink Issue and was tackling new projects with new dedicated issues. As stated above, in 1990 and then with two issues in 1994, they devoted space to various topics that intersected with feminism and gender. However, for nine years, Dialogue did not publish an issue focusing solely on these topics. It wasn’t completely silent in the intervening years; there were other articles here and there that you can search for in our Archive. For this history and for brevity’s sake, we skip forward to the Fall 2003 Issue when we get another full issue on women’s issues. It was exactly a decade after the September Six, as well as after more excommunications, like Janice Allred’s later that decade.
This issue hints at the continuation of old questions, as well as starting to take the question in new directions. There are contributions from more than twenty scholars on three topics: Women and the Priesthood; Women and Missions; and Sexuality and the Women’s Movement in Mormonism. Some of my good friends have articles in this issue, which came out just as I was finishing my masters degree. There are also essays from others assessing what had happened to the movement, including a discussion of Lavina Fielding Anderson’s excommunication. Claudia Bushman also offers a key essay on the origins of Exponent II and the early days of Mormon feminism in Boston.
The turn to sexuality I think marks an especially interesting development. Melissa Proctor’s “Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control” is still one of the most important articles on this topic. In it, Proctor studies the messages sent to women, officially and unofficially, by the Church and how those messages were received.
For those interested in the women in the priesthood question, this issue provides important milestones for that conversation. In the panel, Dialogue published Todd Compton’s “‘Kingdom of Priests’: Priesthood, Temple, and Women in the Old Testament and in the Restoration,” William D. Russell’s “Ordaining Women and the Transformation from Sect to Denomination,” and Barbara Higdon’s “Present at the Beginning: One Woman’s Journey.” Looking at the history and contemporary conceptions of priesthood, the panel gave new looks at women and the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bushman’s 2003 essay on the history of Exponent II set the stage for really telling the history of modern Mormon feminism. Forty years after that conversation in Harvard Yard, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published “Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism.” This article is really crucial because it retells LDS feminist history that had often seen LDS women as reacting to feminist thought, or being influenced by it, but Ulrich shows that Mormon women were co-creating feminist approaches to religion. She writes, “Mormon women weren’t passive recipients of the new feminism. We helped to create it. Constructing a timeline of key events reinforced the point. In 1972, the year Rosemary Radford Ruether introduced feminist theology at the Harvard Divinity School, Mormon feminists were teaching women’s history at the LDS Institute of Religion in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” It also offers a fuller and more contextualized history of early Mormon feminist groups, and some reflection on early Mormon feminist interaction with Dialogue. Mormon women were passive actors, but leaders and co-creators of religious feminism.
One other important essay, this one in the Winter 2008 Issue, is Kevin Barney, “How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated).” Barney’s article builds on Dan Peterson, “Nephi and His Asherah,” and teases out places in the scriptures that discuss Heavenly Mother.
During the 2000s and early 2010s, it is important to note that social media and blogging were breathing new life into Mormon feminism, spreading it far beyond scholars and becoming a mass movement that was mobilizing women all over the place, not just in metropolitan areas or college towns. Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan tell this story in “Mormon Feminist Perspectives on the Mormon Digital Awakening: A Study of Identity and Personal Narratives.” But I want to consider how this digital awakening led to a renewed clash with feminists and the church.
Women’s leadership and roles in the church were really heating up in these decades. Neylan McBaine’s “To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation within Church Organizational Structure” appears in Fall 2012. This article was originally given at a FAIR conference and must be read in the context of a renewed feminist movement in the LDS church, with radical and more conserative wings. Ordain Women, Neylan McBaine, and Valerie Hudson were “must read” material, in addition to Feminist Mormon Housewives, Wave, and other organizations.
Notably, in Spring 2013, Kate Kelly and others, including many veteran LDS feminists, launched Ordain Women. They led mass actions at Temple Square and gained global media attention. Just over a year later, Kelly was excommunicated. This was huge news and once again struck many as an irreconcilable conflict between feminism and LDS church practices. Kelly’s actions not only divided feminists from the church, but feminists from feminists, with many sympathetic but who believed she’d gone too far. Others felt she did what was necessary. However one feels, Kelly became a household name in the church and broke a taboo on public discussion—not just on blogs or in the pages of Dialogue—a public discussion on women’s leadership in the church.
While the public discussions begun by Kelly and others occurred, Dialogue continued its own engagement with the topic. For an excellent roundtable discussion, check out “Three Meditations on Women and the Priesthood” (Winter 2014): C.J. Kendrick, Rosalynde Welch, Ashmae Hoiland. And, in Summer 2015, Cory Crawford wrote “The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Theology,” which engaged the question of precedent for women’s ordination: “The historical origins of the gender ban have not yet been addressed with the same degree of attention in Church discourse. The recent statements made by the Church on the racial priesthood ban strongly emphasize the impact nineteenth-century US racial politics had on the development of the priesthood ban for members of African descent, but no such discussion of culture and gender politics has yet been addressed in Church publications on gender and priesthood.” He looks at both the cultural contexts of ancient Israelite priesthood and modern LDS priesthood to identify a genealogy of the gender ban. In my view, the definitive article on this topic, and I highly recommend it. I would also commend, in tandem with these articles, Roger Terry’s two-part series, “Authority and Priesthood in the LDS Church” (Spring/Summer 2018).
A year before her and co-editors put out Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, Joanna Brooks published “Mormon Feminism: The Next Forty Years” (Winter 2014). Brooks talks about the period from 1970s Mormon feminism in Boston to the present and imagines what needs to be part of the future. She identifies five areas for Mormon feminism: theology, institutions, racial inclusion, financial independence, and spiritual independence.
Mormon feminist theology has fortunately made a comeback and Dialogue has been an important home for that since Brooks wrote seven years ago. For example, Spring 2016 brought us Fiona Givens’s “‘The Perfect Union of Man and Woman’: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making” and Spring 2017 gave us a Feminist Roundtable: Maxine Hanks, “Shifiting Boundaries of Feminist Theology: What Have we Learned?” Mette Ivie Harrison, “When Feminists Excommunicate,” and Neylan McBaine, “Mormon Women and the Anatomy of Belonging.” Hanks, who was excommunicated in the September Six episode in 1993, returned to the church in 2012 and reflected on the shifting ground of feminist historical and theolgoical thought in the intervening two decades. Hanks’s comeback also includes an interview in Spring 2019, “LDS Women’s Authority and the Temple: A Feminist FHE Discussion with Maxine Hanks.”
Spring 2019 also has an article by Jodi England Hansen on the temple, “Condemn Me Not.” In it, she reflects on the changes that occurred to the temple ceremony: “I am grateful for what was removed, which consisted of much of the sexist language and action. There are still words that distinguish gender roles, and there are still differences in some of the ordinances between men and women. I see the changes as a step toward more equitable language, but not as achieving true gender equality at the linguistic level. I am concerned about some of the added phrases.“ Also in that issue, Kathryn Knight Sonntag has an ecofeminist article, “The Mother Tree.”
So, I want to end somewhat with where we began. The Spring 2020 issue was guest edited by Exponent II, as the editorship transitioned away from Boyd Peterson to myself. I guess we can say this was Exponent II and Dialogue’s Jubilee Year, forty-nine years after the Pink Issue. And it is remarkable to note how far Mormon feminism has come. Margaret Olson Hemming put together an amazing issue that really put forward the new kinds of feminist scholarship out there: Brittany Romanello, “Multiculturalism as Resistance: Latina Migrants Navigate US Mormon Spaces,” which brought much-needed intersectionality to the scholarship, while Amanda Hendrix-Komoto’s “The Other Crimes: Abortion and Contraception in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Utah” is I think the first history of abortion in Mormon studies and benefits from the new histories that show that abortion was increibly common in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, including in Utah. Tons of other great content in this issue too, including some fascinating interviews, one with Emily Clyde Curtis, a former classmate of mine, “Mormon Women in the Ministry” that talks about her work as a chaplain, and Barbara Christiansen, another old friend of mine, in “Women in Workplace Power.”
Conclusions and Continuations
The Mormon feminist content of Dialogue is an embarrassment of riches. I am proud that it has stood as a leader in this work for over 50 years now and I am in awe with all the contributions of such brilliant feminists. From the brave beginnings of the Boston group, to maturation and divisions among feminists, to conflicts with church leaders, to renewed efforts to carve our space and a future, Dialogue has been there. We haven’t been the only place, as our friends at Exponent II and later organizations and publications, including blogs and social media, grew and flourished throughout the years, but we have been a continual resource for fantastic scholarship.
There is still more to say, and Dialogue will continue to curate and distribute conversations around these topics. In fact, in 2022, Dialogue will have its first issue completely dedicated to Heavenly Mother and discussing topics pertaining to Her.
Thank you for taking this journey with us, for trusting some of your time to Dialogue, and for all your support. If you want to subscribe or donate to Dialogue, you can do so at dialoguejournal.com/subscribe.
The podcast episode of this post was written by our editor, Taylor Petrey, with sound editing and music by Daniel Foster Smith; this post was edited for cohesion and brevity by Adam McLain and Emily Jensen. Our content manager is Emily Jensen. Our social media managers are Adam McLain and Calvin Burke. The Dialogue Journal Podcast is produced by The Dialogue Foundation, with support from Merry Thieves.
The podcast episode is part of the Dialogue Podcast Network, a collective of independent, interesting podcasts who promote thoughtful, respectful, and engaging inquiry and discussion of all aspects of the LDS tradition, thought, and arts and culture.
Continuing the Dialogue Topics Podcast, Dialogue Editor Taylor Petrey walks us through the history of feminism in the pages of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. From the Pink Issue in Summer 1971 to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment to open conflict between feminists and patriarchs in the Church to Mormon feminism finding its foundation in the new millennium, the pages of Dialogue have been host to numerous and various thoughts on the matter of gender and women.
Act 1: Mormon Feminism Reborn
- The Pink Issue, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1971
- Summer 1972, Letters to the Editor responses to the Pink Issue
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Counseling the Brethren,” Summer 1974
Act 2: The Equal Rights Amendment
- Letters to the Editor, Spring 1980.
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “The PInk Dialogue and Beyond,” Winter 1981.
- Interview with Beverly Campbell, Spring 1981.
- Mary L. Bradford, “The Odyssey of Sonia Johnson,” Summer 1981.
- An Interview with Sonia Johnson, Summer 1981.
- The Red Issue, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 1981
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “The Pink Dialogue and Beyond,” Winter 1981.
- Nadine Hansen, “Women and Priesthood,” Winter 1981.
- Anthony Hutchinson, “Women and Ordination: Introduction to the Biblical Context,” Winter 1981.
- Melodie Moench Charles, “LDS Women and Priesthood: Scriptural Precedents for Priesthood,” Fall 1985.
- Linda King Newell, “LDS Women and Priesthood: The Historical Relationship of Mormon Women and Priesthood,” Fall 1985.
- Meg Wheatley-Pesci, “LDS Women and Priesthood: An Expanded Definition of Priesthood: Some Present and Future Consequences,” Fall 1985.
- Margaret Merrill Toscano, “Beyond Matriarchy, Beyond Patriarchy,” Spring 1988.
- Melodie Moench Charles, “The Need for a New Mormon Heaven,” Fall 1988.
Act 3: Open Conflict
- Alison Walker, “Theological Foundations of Patriarchy,” Fall 1990.
- Betina Lindsey, “Woman as Healer in the Modern Church,” Fall 1990.
- Helen Candland Stark, “The Good Woman Syndrome,” Fall 1990.
- Vella Neil Evans, “Mormon Women and the Right to Wage Work,” Winter 1990.
- Lavina Fielding Anderson, “The Grammar of Inequality,” Winter 1990.
- Letters to the Editor, Summer 1991, Spring 1991, and Fall 1991.
- Lola Van Wagonen, “In Their Own Behalf: The Politicization of Mormon Women and the 1870 Franchise,” Winter 1991.
- Julie J. Nichols, “The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Women’s Stories, Women’s Lives,” Summer 1992.
- Lavina Fielding Anderson, “The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology,” Spring 1993.
- Janice Allred, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother,” Summer 1994.
- Martha Sonntag Bradley, “‘Seizing Sacred Space’: Women’s Engagement in Early Mormonism,” Summer 1994.
- David Hall, “Anxiously Engaged: Amy Brown Lyman and Relief Society Charity Work, 1917–45,” Summer 1994.
- Lynn Matthews Anderson, “Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Scripture,” Summer 1994.
- Margaret Merrill Toscano, “If Mormon Women Had the Priesthood Since 1843, Why Aren’t They Using It?” Summer 1994.
- Cecilia Konchar Farr, “Dancing through the Doctrine: Observations on Religion and Feminism,” Fall 1995.
Act 4: Mormon Feminism in the New Millennium
- Fall 2003 Issue
- Claudia Bushman, “My Short Happy Life with Exponent II,” Fall 2003.
- Melissa Proctor, “Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control,” Fall 2003.
- Kevin L. Barney, “How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated),” Winter 2008.
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Mormon Women in the History of Second-Wave Feminism,” Summer 2010.
- Neylan McBaine, “To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure,” Fall 2012.
- Joanna Brooks, “Mormon Feminism: The Next Forty Years,” Winter 2014.
- Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan, “Mormon Feminist Perspectives on the Mormon Digital Awakening: A Study of Identity and Personal Narratives,” Winter 2014.
- Courtney J. Kendrick, “A Letter to My Mormon Daughter,” Winter 2014.
- Rosalynde Welch, “Mormon Priesthood Against the Meritocracy,” Winter 2014.
- Ashmae Hoiland, “In Light,” Winter 2014.
- Cory Crawford, “The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Tradition,” Summer 2015.
- Fiona Givens, “‘The Perfect Union of Man and Woman’: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making,” Spring 2016.
- Maxine Hanks, “Shifting Boundaries of Feminist Theology: What Have We Learned?” Spring 2017.
- Mette Ivie Harrison, “When Feminists Excommunicate,” Spring 2017.
- Neylan McBaine, “Mormon Women and the Anatomy of Belonging,” Spring 2017.
- Maxine Hanks, “LDS Women’s Authority and the Temple: A Feminist FHE Discussion with Maxine Hanks,” Spring 2019.
- Jody England Hansen, “Condemn Me Not,” Spring 2019.
- Kathryn Knight Sonntag, “The Mother Tree: Understanding the Spiritual Root of Our Ecological Crisis,” Spring 2019.
- Spring 2020 Issue, guest edited by Exponent II.
- Brittany Romanello, “Multiculturalism as Resistance: Latina Migrants Navigate U.S. Mormon Spaces,” Spring 2020.
- Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, “The Other Crime: Abortion and Contraception in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Utah,” Spring 2020.
- Emily Clyde Curtis, “Mormon Women in the Ministry,” Spring 2020.
- Barbara Christiansen, “Women in Workplace Power,” Spring 2020.
Other books and resources
- Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblick, and Hannah Wheelwright, eds., Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings.
- Dan Peterson, “Nephi and His Asherah,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.
- Ordain Women
- Sunstone Magazine
- Roger Terry, “Authority and Priesthood in the LDS Church, Part 1: Definitions and Development,” Spring 2018.
- Roger Terry, “Authority and Priesthood in the LDS Church, Part 2: Ordinances, QUorums, Nonpriesthood Authority, Presiding, Priestesses, and Priesthood Bans,” Summer 2018.
- Maxine Hanks, ed. Women and Authority.
- Taylor G. Petrey and Amy Hoyt, The Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender.