Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Search for a Mother

I understand the desire to know a Heavenly Mother. When I was exploring religious options I became very close to the concepts in Wiccanism. There are many varieties of Wiccanism (including the gothic dancing in the park variety, though that wasn't the one that resonated with me.) All varieties, however, worship a Lady to some extent. As a self-hating girl, this was one of the things that appealed to me the most. Perhaps through the worship of the Lady, I could come to know, understand and love myself better. As time passed and I prayed to know the truth, I received confirmation that God led the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and not Wiccanism. This doesn't mean that I understand all things about the Church and its doctrines. I have seen many conversations in the Bloggernacle, especially on the more pro-feminist sites, that discuss the Church's doctrine of a Mother in Heaven. Most of the time, they express dissatisfaction in the Church's dealing with and practical acceptance of this doctrine. "Why can't we pray to Mother?" seems to be the greatest of these complaints. Most of those who address this have varying reasons for (or accusations against) this doctrine.

As we grow as children, we go through phases where we are closer to our mothers and phases where we are closer to our fathers as we learn who we are in this world. A theory that once occurred to me ("cute" though it may be) is that in the pre-existance, we had our Mother-time, and now we have our Father-time. Thus, we now pray to our Father where we once communed more with our Mother. As mortals, we only see the here and now and often forget that our existence stretches beyond our memories. We see this small moment in our beings as unfair because our Mother isn't here. With a truly eternal perspective, I suspect that we will understand the greater picture of our Heavenly Parents.

One of the more interesting arguments as to why the active worship of a Mother in Heaven is allowable under the true, original gospel is to put forth Asherah of Old Testament infamy as Heavenly Mother. If this is the case—not only that the worship Asherah was pagan, but that it originated in revelation from God—than it illustrates poignantly why that worship is not currently allowed. The worship of Asherah was shockingly lewd. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that it was a wild brand of fertility worship probably dating back to the worship of the Mother Goddess of prehistory. This sort of worship violently opposed chastity, modesty, family and propriety. It spawned (or was closely associated with) Molech sacrifice. It encouraged idolatry and dichotomized worship of the God of Abraham. Many of the more obscure tenets of Moses' law were framed to outlaw Israelite worship of the Mother goddess as inherited from their Egyptian masters.

Naturally, many who argue for the reinstitution of Mother worship also disregard the importance of chastity, modesty, family and propriety as outdated, patriarchial concepts. In this sense, as for me and my house, I prefer the Lord of Israel's way.

In addition, a greater Church encouragement of knowledge of and prayers to our Heavenly Mother would lead to a division of worship. Truthfully, Mother and Father in Heaven are inseparable. They are One, unified. As mortals, we find it nearly impossible to understand this concept, especially in this Age of Individuality. We worship the Self, we venerate independence. Obvious worship of a Mother in Heaven in our weak understanding would most likely lead to a division in the Church. Some would lean towards Mother, others towards Father. In our ignorance, we would create "sides" and then believe that there was something vital to be gained from one side or the other. It already happens, even without Church-sanctioned prayer to Heavenly Mother, as evidenced by the number of people who (mostly anonymously) admit to praying to their Mother. Most of them see themselves as more spiritually progressed than their siblings who do not pray to Her. The concept serves to divide, not unite. It does nothing to help us prove our obedience and dedication to the Lord. I suspect that any further knowledge of Mother is suspended until we are ready to worship both Her and Father properly.

Furthermore, we pray to the Father, not to Christ. I reiterate that we, as mortals, have almost no ability to truly understand equality. We continually conflate it with sameness or wander into superiority of one kind or another. (Use the feminist movement as an example. Very few, if any, feminists truly believe in equality. Most believe either in sameness—that there are no differences—or in swinging the pendulum to the side of female superiority. We seem unable to truly understand different-but-equal in any practical sense.) Therefore, in our mortal doctrine, Christ is spectacularly subservient to the Father. The hierarchy of Heaven is made obvious to us, so our mortal minds might understand what is necessary to return to God (namely, the sacrifice of His Son and all the doctrine associated with it.) If we included a more active role of Mother, how would the Church present this heirarchy? Either Mother would in some way seem subservient to the Father, or the Father would in some way seem subservient to Her. Neither eventuality contributes to the purpose of our mortal lives. At present, all we can do is speculate on how our Parents could be of one mind, and pray and wait patiently until we know the truth.

In the end, the only real answer is one most people will hate: we don't pray to Her because we have been commanded not to. We don't know the reason, but we will, given time. Patience is a virtue that is becoming rarer as this world winds into the final Act, but it is vital in the search for humility and exaltation.


  1. What a breath of fresh air to read your thoughts on Heavenly Mother, SilverRain! I appreciated the insights on some reasons why we are told not to pray to her.

    It is natural for us to speculate and seek to explain things we don't understand. But it is probably prudent for the Brethren not to try to give reasons unless they come as revelations, because our limited mortal viewpoint and reasoning power can lead us to incorrect conclusions (as it did in the case of some reasons people came up with for Priesthood restrictions prior to 1978).

    Best for us to do as you suggested--cheerfully obey, and wait patiently for full clarification which will eventually come--and which will probably seem totally wise, and even obvious, when we have an eternal perspective.

  2. Interesting thoughts, some of which I've never considered.

    I did want to point out that praying to Jesus has a precedent in 3 Nephi 19:17-18 which always struck me as odd.

    Also, discounting Asherah as the divine feminine because of the manner of her worship puts you on shaky ground. Saying that Asherah wasn't legitimate also calls into question the historical worship of Yahweh, El, or any of the other Elohim because their worship was all intertwined. What you seem to say is the true form of worship of Yahweh (the form you're comfortable accepting as consonant with Mormon worship) only arose much later. So by avoiding identifying Heavenly Mother with Asherah, to be intellectually balanced, you should also avoid identifying Heavenly Father with any of the male deities from the Canaanite pantheon. This would sever the supposed historical roots of Mormon thought.

    I don't know that openly worshiping both Heavenly Parents would cause division. The source of the division isn't the duality of the parents, but the suppression of what for some is a heartfelt desire to commune directly with Heavenly Mother. I could see no problem with both beings being worshiped any more than there is a problem because of the three separate members of the male Godhead.

  3. Roann - thank you. I always enjoy reading your thoughts on my posts. If only you'd post more often in your blog!

    Jonathan - you come up with some intriguing counterarguments. There are a few things I would add.

    First, the scripture you cite that indicates previous prayers to Jesus. In verse 22, Jesus explains why they are praying to him. The chapter in its entirety seems more to indicate to me that God accepts sincere worship in any form, even if it isn't correct, rather than justifying prayer to Jesus or, by extension, to Mother. (Part of "sincere" would be trying to do all that God has revealed to that person.) Therefore, one who has never heard the words of the prophet who prays to the Mother is accepted of the Father, where one who sustains the prophet as the mouthpiece of the Lord (or who has felt that confirmation, but has denied it) and prays to the Mother would not be. That is, I suspect, why Cain's sacrifice was not accepted of the Lord - because he did it at Satan's direction, and not the Lord's.

    Secondly, the worship of Asherah is what I criticize. To clarify, let us say that at one time and one place, the concept of Heavenly Mother was revealed to God's children. That concept was then bastardized into Asheric worship. Because of that desecration, authorized worship of Heavenly Mother was taken from the earth. The Lord has not yet seen fit to restore that worship, for whatever reason - some theories for that reason are discussed in this blog post. The worship of Heavenly Father through His Son, however, has been restored, and is therefore legitimate.

    And I don't know that the worship of both Parents would cause division, it is just a theory that occurred to me based on watching the contention on the subject. As far as contention about God/Jesus - there is plenty of that. Most Christian churches have lost the concept of Jesus separate from God altogether. Mother's gender adds one more reason for those who believe they know better than the prophet to fasten upon Her worship and use it to divide the Church.

    I suspect that one reason the Lord has seen fit to postpone the restoration of further Light and Knowledge of the Mother is because we are not ready. That could be that (as has been suggested) we are not ready for that knowledge because we haven't accepted and learned to live the knowledge we have. It could be that there is no real need for that knowledge now. It could be a test of the faithfulness of God's chosen (much as the priesthood issue was and is a test for God's chosen, both black and white.) It could be because it would currently cause division of effort and worship (as I have hypothesized.) Whatever the reason, and I suspect God has many, the final reason we shouldn't pray to our Mother is because God's prophet has told us not to.

    Once, and if, that changes, then there will be no reason to resist praying to Her. Until then, I know that I have had confirmation that the leadership of the Church leads according to the will of God, whether it is 100% accurate or not. I believe God can allow inaccuracy at times to fulfill His purposes. Until things change, I am content to wait.

  4. I take issue with your comment that most feminists are actually seeking female superiority. I think you'll find that those women who argue that women are superior to men are almost without exception defending the status quo, and would never consider themselves feminists.

    But as I've commented on before, when a feminist says, "Men and women are equal," all too often other people hear, "Women are superior to men." I had that enlightening experience teaching a YW lesson on "Eve and the Choice Made in Eden," in which I read verbatim her passage about women and men being equal, and a YM sitting in on the class took offense and asked me why I was saying that women were superior to men - which I'd never said.

    So, what is it about male-female equality that bothers some people so much and makes them hear/read "Women are superior to men" when all that is said/written is, "Women and men are equal?" Is it that, in asking for equality, we women are raising ourselves so far above our current status that it's frightening for those who like and want to defend the status quo? And why is it that women who defend the status quo can quite smugly say, "Women are superior to men," and nobody condemns them for it; but when a feminist pushes for equality, she is condemned?

  5. Quimby, I'm not trying to say that all feminists push for female superiority, or that it is solely a feminist trait. I believe that most LDS feminists are different from the majority of the feminist movement in that they are usually much more level-headed and balanced in their outlooks. When I used this example, it was to describe most of the feminist movement, as I see it being defended in the world, as an example of the difficulty we mortals have in understanding a lack of hierarchy. I do believe that some LDS feminists succumb to this, unfortunately, but not all.

    You have completely valid points - many people do see any feminist bid for equality as a comment on female superiority. Although I don't think that every bid for equality is a reflection of a belief in superiority, it is my experience that many of those who label themselves feminists push too violently the other way. Many others don't push too violently, but avow that there is no practical difference between men and women. I disagree with both of these extr3.emist viewpoints. That, however, is not the gist of my post.

  6. Again, interesting perspectives.

    The contention that I've seen on this issue isn't between those who say we should pray to a Heavenly Mother and those who say we should never do so. It is instead between those who would like the freedom to explore that possibility and those who say that we have not been told that we can so therefore we shouldn't. The idea of praying to Heavenly Mother isn't inherently contentious. The contention surrounds a different issue: the belief that we should follow the prophet without asking questions versus the belief that personal revelation trumps public revelation and that questions often lead to revelation.

    There seems to be a stark contrast between the voracious curiosity of Joseph Smith and friends and the content incuriosity of the current membership. Mormonism arose out of the willingness to push boundaries and to ask questions that good Christians didn't ask.

  7. Jonathan - VERY good point. I think that is definitely a deeper problem behind the Mother contention. I hadn't thought of that.

    I personally believe that there is a balance between asking questions and walking by faith. One can certainly cling too tightly to the rod or follow the wrong Liahona. I think it takes both appeal to scripture (living and dead) and guidance of the Spirit to most fully engage in the search for the Tree of Life.

    I think my biggest challenge in accepting the arguments against "blind obedience" is that so many think that personal revelation trumps prophetic revelation on a global (or at least Church-wide) scale. Personal revelation should be personal - even in Joseph's time, he continuously had to correct those who believed they had gained better knowledge than he. I think there are multitudinous reasons why the prophet does not lead by the voice of the people, but by common consent. There is a subtle difference here. The voice of the people is chaotic and can pull in many directions. Common consent is a "yea" or "nay." The voice of the people encourages all to grab the reins of the Church, common consent leaves it to the individual to find out for themselves without the need to lobby their fellows. Maybe I should write a bit more on that, once my thoughts form more fully.

    Part of the trouble is that now we don't have those we have sustained as "prophets, seers and revelators" in our daily lives. They are distant and are not there to correct us before incorrect notions catch fire. I think that is reason to be far more careful when seeking than those of Joseph's day were. Then, they could pop over to Joe Smith's place to ask him about their inspirations. Now, it is rare luck if we hear our questions answered biannually over the pulpit.

    We have bishops and stake presidents, it is true, but by the very need for many bishops and stake presidents, and by nature of the need for paying jobs in addition to the duties of Church leadership, the chances that they are in tune are slimmer. For me, I have noticed that they don't have the time or inclination to answer questions of doctrine anyways. It is a lack that I miss sorely. I've often hungered for someone wise with stewardship over me with whom to discuss these things. It places much more burden on me to carefully examine where I think the Spirit is leading me.

  8. SilverRain,
    I appreciate your thoughts. I had never thought of the possibility of division, although I'm almost to the point of not wanting to speculate why we don't know more, but just accept that and enjoy what we DO know, which we are told is sufficient for us to get to where we need to be!!

    The disciples prayed to Jesus because He was with them. He made that clear.

    Your second comment makes me squirm a bit, because on the other hand, prophetic guidance can exist as a sort of protection from deception. Personal revelation is important, yes, but we need to be careful about giving too much weight to that over prophetic revelation and guidance lest we be deceived. I'm not saying that we can only know what they have taught specifically, but I just have this gut feeling that the closer our personal revelation comes to prophetic revelation in substance, the more likely we are to be on solid ground. Prophetic words (in scripture and modern sources) can provide the springboard for further revelation. We can't use JS as an example because he pushed boundaries to overcome the apostasy. He did that for us, so our pushing will by definition be different. It won't be pushing against the truth we are taught, but seeking within that tent of truth to find out more about it. That is my thought on that, anyway.

    Given what I have read, I agree with SilverRain that many feminists want superiority and control, not just equality. I'm not saying YOU do, or even that many LDS feminists in the 'nacle do, but that trend IS out there. (Ah, I see SilverRain already got to that point.)

  9. M&M, that's exactly the timidity that I'm talking about. I get the distinct impression from what I've read about Joseph's life that he wanted partners in revelation, not followers. He wanted others to be able to experience exactly what he had seen, to walk alongside him as his friends.

    Instead, he got people who wanted to hide behind his apron. I still see it today. Mormons want to be safe and consequently stagnant. They abdicate their God-given responsibility to think for themselves in favor of the letting the church leadership do the thinking for them. If the Mormon's thinking contradicts the leadership's opinions, they beat a hasty retreat to the safety of conformity. Blech!

    I really don't imagine this is what Joseph hoped for.

  10. Actually, Jonathon, if you think I'm advocating stagnation, you are really, really misunderstanding me. You can't just go at revelation willy-nilly, or else we will get back to the apostasy. There is a foundation of prophets and apostles, through scriptures and through modern-day revelation, and that creates the foundation of truth from which we can then learn more. We receive what God has given us, and then we can receive more. I don't believe that we have to stagnate by so doing; in fact my experience is that the more we study and ponder and live the basics of our faith, the more light and knowledge, insight and power and revelation we receive. There's an order to it all, and it begins with prophets. That's all I'm saying.

  11. All I'm saying :) is when was the last time an LDS prophet made a real doctrinal revelation? (Aside from the 1978 revelation which didn't reveal much of anything new.) Not in my lifetime. Not in my parent's lifetime. Not in my grandparent's lifetime.

    Some will say that it's because we haven't lived up to what we've received. That's one explanation which conveniently takes the burden off the leadership. It doesn't hold water to me because the unfaithfulness of his followers never seemed to silence Joseph Smith's oracle.

    I think one possible reason (from a believer's perspective) is that we're not following Joseph's example and asking enough questions. We've been cowed into avoiding any question which hasn't been answered already so that we don't show that our prophetic emperors have no clothes. Take that opinion with a grain of salt because I obviously already see the LDS church in a state of apostasy from the vital religion Joseph started.

  12. Jonathan - I have to agree with M&M here. I also want to add that personal revelation is beautiful and wonderful and good, but it has to stay personal. When we try to apply that personal revelation to the church as a whole, we are not righteously using our powers of revelation. The problem is that seekers of truth can be extremely open to "inspiration" from the wrong sources - I have been dangerously exposed to that myself, and on my mission nonetheless. Therefore, Michelle is right in saying that we must rely on what is revealed through the prophets and build on that, rather than starting our own building on our own brand of revelation. That was true in Joseph's time as well.

    On the other hand, I fully agree with you that LDS members as a whole do not explore spiritual gifts as we should. I think it reflects a tragic lack of faith. I don't see a good way of changing this, however.

    You've given me an idea to ponder on, and perhaps post on later.

  13. Actually, Jonathon, I think we are receiving doctrinal revelation all of the time, clarifications and expansions on doctrines that have the most potential to change our individual lives and teach us truth. A revelation doesn't have to be "big" to be real. Prophets aren't just there for the biggies, but to give us clues as to how to find more doctrinal truth. I have experienced this personally and specifically, where prophetic words gave me the keys to find truths that can't be taught over the pulpit. Don't underestimate what they ARE teaching and assume that something is amiss. Maybe we have all the tools from our prophets to get answers to the questions. I believe the key is to really have ears to hear what they already ARE saying, rather than waiting for them to come with more "biggies." :)

  14. erg, Jonathan, sorry I keep misspelling your name! :)

  15. On the other hand, I fully agree with you that LDS members as a whole do not explore spiritual gifts as we should. I think it reflects a tragic lack of faith.

    I think I agree with this, too. Definitely something to ponder on....

  16. Don't worry about the misspelling. I'm used to it. :) But I do want to point out that my spelling has the backing of the Bible. ;)

    The constraints on revelation came somewhere in the middle of the history of Joseph's leadership of the church when he began to realize how divisive personal revelation could be. Until that time, he was quite willing to share the spotlight, so to speak. So the restraint on revelation helps preserve the institution of the church. While that may be a worthwhile goal, it also carries the assumption that the church leadership will always be the source of unadulterated truth.

    When I finally took the responsibility to find the truth into my own hands, when I finally really followed Moroni's admonition, I came to different conclusions than the church. I had previously let the church do my thinking for me. I'm not saying that everyone does this, but I think it's pretty commonplace.

    I can't fault those who really search out the truth for themselves and would follow it wherever it leads. Those who put loyalty to the institution of the church above loyalty to the truth aren't really following the gospel message, in my probably not humble enough opinion.

    I find the following question very useful to help examine my beliefs: what could change my mind on this issue? If the answer is effectively "nothing" then I know that I've become too dogmatic and my loyalty no longer lies with the truth.

  17. If the answer is effectively "nothing" then I know that I've become too dogmatic and my loyalty no longer lies with the truth.

    Sounds like a kind of dogmatic statement to me. ;) I'm not sure I agree with that phrase hook, line and sinker, because sometimes I think we need to be able to take a firm stand on something. Untruth can actually sometimes masquerade as truth.

  18. Let me put it more directly. What would it take for you to leave the church? Is there anything in heaven above or earth below that would induce you to do so? If you felt like God told you to leave the church, would you do it?

    If the answer is no, then your loyalty lies with the institution and culture of the church, not with the truth. Then you can't fulfill the real intent requirement of Moroni's promise. If you really intend to follow the answer you receive when you take Moroni's admonition, then you must be prepared for either answer.

  19. Jonathan - You have an excellent point about being open to any answer when you pray. However, one thing I have noticed (even on the blog post that prompted this post here) is that people often get their answer, and then continue asking. How many times do I have to "weary the Lord" with my inquiries before I accept His answer? Once I have prayed and sought and received an answer, am I under any obligation to continue asking and praying over the same question in order to avoid being labeled a "blind sheep?"

    For something like praying to Mother, once I have asked and prayed and received an answer that Gordon B. Hinckley and the other apostles are called of God to lead His church, need I ask over every sentence they speak? It may be important to ask for a reconfirmation of a leader's divine calling if I am having particular trouble with a point of doctrine, but if not, I don't think I need to ask about everything in order to follow with my eyes open.

    I also find it interesting that most agnostics assume that because they have not found a sure answer that no one can. That is a serious hypocrisy of thinking when paired with the admonition that my answer cannot be your answer. In other words, you are right, my answer cannot be yours. My lamp oil cannot be shared. However, neither can your lack of answer translate to my lack of answer. You cannot assume that I am deluded simply because you have not received the answer I have.

  20. I guess this is going in a very different direction: Mormon epistemology. I can't really answer your (very good) questions without addressing how Mormons justify their beliefs.

    Many people need to have their faith reconfirmed. Faith is more like a plant which needs constant nourishment than a monument which stands for all time once it is erected. When someone encounters evidence which they feel calls their faith into question, they will probably feel the need to have their faith reconfirmed. “Are you really still there?”

    Many of the experiences that Mormons interpret as communications of the Spirit are hard to discern from our own thoughts and emotions. Over time, this often leads to doubts as the memory of those emotions fades. “Was that really the Spirit, or was it just me?”

    Even more spectacular experiences of transcendent peace and love can be reinterpreted later. Perhaps you see this as a weakness of faith. I have other reasons to think that it is not that simple.

    In defense of my own flavor of agnosticism, I can boil down my position to this sentence: I can't be certain and neither can you. Our minds are finite and can never really grasp anything with epistemic certitude. If someone asserts that they can be certain about something, this amounts to a claim of infallibility, a very arrogant and unsupportable claim in my opinion. Lacking doubt is not the same thing as being absolutely correct.

  21. Let me put it more directly. What would it take for you to leave the church? Is there anything in heaven above or earth below that would induce you to do so? If you felt like God told you to leave the church, would you do it?

    Jonathan, just cuz you say so don't make it so. You may think that my "loyalty to the Church" is to the Church as an institution that you may see as fallible. My loyalty is to God and the answers I have received and continue to receive about what is True. Those two things are not separatable in my mind. I also don't believe it's arrogant to have assurances about aspects of truth. No matter what anyone says, I know God is real. I know the Savior is the Savior of the world and the key to salvation. I know that He has a pattern of revealing truth and it includes His mouthpieces. Until He comes again, that will be the pattern and I am confident of that. If you think that is arrogant, I'm sorry, but I don't. I see such confidence in answers from God as part of faith.

  22. Confidence is one thing, but are you saying that your confidence is perfect? You are absolutely certain that you may have made no mistake on this subject? You are positive that God will never tell you anything different? The absolute certainty that you seem to be professing would have kept someone from joining the Mormon church if roles were reversed.

    Human beings are fallible. Time and again our minds have been shown to play tricks on us. Our memories are far from perfect. The list of our cognitive biases makes me wonder how we get anything right. Optical illusions call into question the evidence of our senses. Spiritual experiences are reproducible in the lab. There are just too many ways for the human mind to fail. When someone claims to know the truth with absolute, infallible, perfect certainty, it seems like wishful thinking and a woeful lack of self-knowledge.

    One of the big problems with Mormon culture from what I can see is that it doesn't deal effectively with doubt. Doubt is a normal, human thing and every religion should acknowledge it and deal with it in a healthy way, but Mormons can't even express it to each other. How many times have you heard someone say in fast and testimony meeting “I wish I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but sometimes I'm just not sure.”? Such an expression of doubt is seen as a sign of weakness, so Mormons just avoid saying things like that to each other.

    I am not without hope that the culture will change in a more healthy direction. I was gratified by some of Elder Marlin K. Jensen's recent remarks.

  23. m&m/Silverrain - Sorry, I just don't see it. I would really love for you to give me direct examples of feminists who want superiority, not equality. I've read lots and lots of feminist theory, from the mainstream to the extreme, and I can't remember ever reading a feminist who wants superiority.

    On the other hand, I have read/met (time and time again) women who are defending the status quo and actively arguing against feminism who say, "But women are already superior to men, why would we want equality, it would just lessen our status!" Frankly, someone's sold them a load of bull**** and they've bought it.

    If you can give me real, concrete, verifiable examples, I'll have to cede your point. But I don't know that they're out there. Like I said, I've read widely - du Beauvoir, Freidan, Woolf, and more radical feminists - and it's not something I've come across in any feminist literature.

  24. Quimby - It's a threadjack, but I'll try to answer your questions. First, I will say that I have not read any real, hard-core feminist literature. Secondly, I'm not going to give direct quotes for a few reasons - firstly, quotations are a weak point of mine. I don't find them easily (I'll leave that up to M&M, she's much better at it than I.) Secondly, I don't want to turn this into an attack on specific people and since the quotes that it would be easiest and most poignant for me to find would be those from LDS blogs, I don't want to open that can of worms. Thirdly, I was speaking more to attitudes than to words, and it could easily be argued that most quotes are not what I feel they are, so it's a bit pointless to bandy around verbiage.

    What I will do is give you concrete examples of prevaling attitudes I've seen portrayed that lend me to the conclusions I have made. First, the entire symbolic holding-the-door set of arguments. Rather than choosing to see such things as courtesy, many feminists get quite offended about it. They turn door-opening into a frightening ordeal for anyone within a 20-foot range of the woman. Rather than graciously accepting the gesture or even politely mentioning to someone that they'd rather get the door themselves, they turn it into an opportunity to embarrass the unfortunate soul who had the audacity to show the courtesy his mother taught him. I perceive this as an attempt to gain superiority through humiliation rather than an attempt to stand on equal footing with men.

    Another good example is the proliferation of sexual references in what feminist literature I have read. (Note: I'm not saying there should be no sexual references, since I understand the purpose of them, just that there are far too many.) Take the handy recent example of BUST magazine. Almost every page had some sexual reference or other. Every feminist site I've gone to had a preponderance of sexual literature. This can serve only two purposes that I can see. First, it lowers women to the level of men's baser social qualities, rather than keeping what is beautiful about being a woman but seeking equal footing. Secondly, I think this is an attempt, whether deliberate or not, to shove men's behavior in their faces and to point out everything in men that is base. Again, I feel this is an attempt to lower men rather than elevate women.

    My third and final example is that I find many feminists feel a need to put down women who don't agree. Rather than pushing for the elevation of women with a clear and persuasive tone, many feminists degrade the position of home and family. They use words such as "not enough," "baby machine," "caged," and "trapped" and then treat those who feel like it is enough and who feel freedom in following more traditional roles as if they are simply too brainwashed and deluded to see the truth. They set themselves up as the "open-minded," "clear-thinking" "superior" half of the female population. They feel a need to not only degrade men, but to degrade women who don't agree with them in their bid for superiority. To tell you honestly, I distance myself from the "feminist" label for this very reason - I don't feel that the majority of those who brandish the feminist label are mature, considerate or level-headed. (There are exceptions, of course, but they usually aren't the loud ones.)

    There are a few other examples, but these are the clearest ones I could come up with on the spur of the moment. I hope it didn't feel like an attack, because that was not my intent. I wanted to show you some of the more prevalent modes of behavior that have given me the impression of feminists cited in the main post. It's really too bad that the feminist movement has taken such a crass turn, because there are many good things that I would like to put my weight behind. However, I will never feel free to do so as long as the majority of the feminist movement revels in the mud-slinging.

  25. Jonathan - I'll try to address your comments. First, I will say that the distinction between "perfect confidence" and "infallibility" is a very fuzzy one. I can completely see your point about the failings in LDS culture in dealing with doubt. I think this is a chicken-or-the-egg question in that a deficiency in seeking truth leads to a fear of being wrong which leads people to not wish to seek the truth. I don't feel that the LDS church has a monopoly on this attitude, however. Even agnostics and atheists fall into this behavior. ;)

    There is however a difference between infallibility and a confidence of faith. I'll try to illustrate with an analogy. Imagine you are trying to navigate a pitch-black room filled with rubble and chasms. You have a light of varying brightness. Sometimes you can see the pitfalls, sometimes you cannot. But you have a voice calling to you as a guide, one who knows the way. You also have a stone in your hand that gets warmer if you are on the right path. What you are speaking of as "certainty" or as knowing you "have made no mistake" would be akin to claiming that you can see in the dark, and thence know every pitfall along the way. What I mean by "knowing" that something is true is that I have followed the voice, and paid attention to my stone and know that they have lead me correctly thus far. I am expressing an affirmation that the voice truly knows the way, and that the rock truly functions to let me know I'm headed the right direction. That does not mean that I have a map of the room and know where every pitfall is. That does not mean that I believe I am perfect in following the voice. It means that I proceed in confidence, knowing that the voice and stone are directing me correctly.

    Sometimes, in navigating the room, I will have to face right. Sometimes I'll have to face left. Sometimes, I may seem to go backwards, but the voice is always there, trying to lead me correctly. The stone is always in my hand, letting me know if I am doing well or not.

    Does the analogy help the communication somewhat?

  26. SilverRain,

    That is a reasonable strategy. I don't think that's what people mean when they say things like "I know with every fiber of my being that…", but what you describe is reasonable. I have some reservations mainly centering on how one could determine where that voice is coming from and how we measure that it is leading us on the right path, but otherwise as long as a person remains open to and aware of the possibility that they're wrong, we're on a good path. Personal infallibility is fodder for fanaticism.

  27. No, I think those who say "I know with every fibre of my being" say that because they want to at least seem like they believe. Fortunately, I'm not responsible for their journey. (Mine is becoming more than I can handle.)

    Insofar as "measuring the voice" goes, that is one of the things that each person has to work out individually. All we can do is the best we can. I believe that if we are genuinely seeking the truth, that God will find a way to correct us. It may not be soon, but it will be done. Our trick is to remain humble enough to accept that correction when it comes, however it comes.

  28. I think it's quite outlandish that you think a feminist, by wanting to open a door for herself (and thus assert her equality with a man), is actually saying she is better than a man.

    I think it's quite outlandish that you think a feminist, in embracing and rejoicing in her sexuality (after centuries of having it suppressed by the patriarchy - and it's still happening today, what do you think FGM is about?), is actually saying she is better than a man.

    But I imagine the fact that I've used the word "outlandish" to describe your claims will make you think I've set myself up as superior to you.

    Read some contemporary feminist literature. Start with Friedan's "The Feminist Mystique" because there's no way you could possibly be offened by it, and it will set the stage for the tougher stuff. And then come back and tell me the feminist movement is about putting women above men.

  29. You said: "It lowers women to the level of men's baser social qualities"

    This is a perfect example of what I am talking about - YOU (a non-feminist who supports the status quo) are claiming a superiority to men. Feminists don't do this. People like you do this.

  30. Quimby - two things. I said "Most believe either in sameness—that there are no differences—or in swinging the pendulum to the side of female superiority." That is quite far from saying that "the feminist movement is about superiority."

    Also, I said that profuse sexual innuendos embodies feminist embracing of men's baser qualities. That is quite far from saying men are base or inferior.

    Quite frankly, I have seen little of value in the results of reading feminist books. Though I'm not opposed to reading your suggested material, I admit that it is therefore not on my priority list.

    Though there are things you believe that I do not agree with, I have generally attempted to understand what you are saying and have attempted to avoid slinging insults. I have also attempted in good faith to explain where I am coming from. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return. I find it intriguing that in your response, you effectively exhibited the main quality I discussed as turning me off to feminism. (Namely, the need to insult and degrade women who disagree.) In two short posts, you have labeled me ignorant ("if only you read more, you'd agree with me,") and (I can only assume deliberately, since I worded myself as clearly as I could) misinterpreted my words to paint me in the worst possible light.

    It's too bad, but I don't see any way of us coming to a respectful understanding or in you converting me to feminism (whether or not that is your purpose) as long as these are the words you insist on using.

  31. You know, SilverRain, I'm not the least bit surprised by your response: You insult me and then pretend that I insulted you.

    I did not insult or degrade you. I did not call you ignorant. I questioned your examples. (Have you actually ever seen an angry womyn go on a tirade about an open door, or are you merely repeating an urban legend?) I called them outlandish.

    You'll note I predicted that you'd use the fact that I called them "outlandish" to support your claim that feminists are mean and degrading.

    You admitted your own ignorance on the subject of feminism when you said you'd never read feminist literature. Your saying you know about feminism when you haven't read literature and don't care to do so is like me saying I know about Star Wars when I've only seen half the films, hated them, and have no desire to see more.

    Your statements about feminism have no basis in truth. That's not me being insulting or degrading; that's me calling you on them and you not being able to back them up.

  32. Let's break down your three examples shall we:

    First, the apocrophyl "angry feminist goes off at man who holds the door open for her." I have yet to meet a single person who has actually witnessed such an act. It's like the bra-burning feminist - it's a myth, it doesn't happen.

    Here is a real-life example to counter your myth: Once - and only once - I refused to walk through a door that was held open for me. I refused to walk through the door because the man holding it open gave off a bad vibe, and I wanted to avoid him. So, very quietly and without even acknowledging him - because I didn't want to set him off - I pretended I didn't see the door he held open, and I walked to another set of double doors, opened them, and walked through.

    And do you know who caused the scene? It wasn't me, the feminist. It was him. He slammed the door shut, raced through the door I'd entered, and yelled after me, calling me every name in the book.

    Let's take your second example, sex talk. For centuries, women have been taught to hate sex, to think of it is as duty, etc. So now we are coming out. We are saying, "Sex is great! Sex is terrific! This is what feels good to me! This is what I like!" How is that degrading to anyone?

    Sex is a natural part of the human experience. Feeling pleasure through sex is not always something that comes easily to women, because of the way our bodies are, and because we have been conditioned to think sex is for men. So what's wrong with reclaiming some of our own sexuality? What's wrong with saying, "This is my body and this is what feels good"?

    What's the alternative? A world in which we teach our daughters that sex is dirty and bad and something they shouldn't appreciate? You have a baby girl the same age as my baby girl. When she's all grown up, do you want her to be emabarassed or ashamed of her body - including her genitalia - or do you want her to have an understanding and appreciation of what it is and how it works?

    Your third example - name calling, insults, and degrading. This goes both ways, girlfriend. You and women like you are quite insulting to those women who want something other than babies and homes. In fact I see a lot more mud-slinging coming from your direction. Don't I have the right to say, "That's not the life I want"? Don't I have the right to say, "Your examples are flawed and outlandish"? No? That's being insulting? But it's not insulting when you make blanket statements about feminism that you can't back up?

  33. You said:

    "It lowers women to the level of men's baser social qualities"

    That is a direct quote.

    It LOWERS women. Hence, women are HIGHER.

    MEN's baser social qualities. Hence women don't have these social qualities. They are the domain of men.

    How can you possibly argue that you are NOT saying women are superior to men?

  34. Quimby - For what it's worth, I have seen several women go on angry tirades and go to ridiculous lengths to not walk through a door, and most of the time it was not a "creep" factor (since the men in question were usually the women's dates.) There was a rash of such behavior when I was in college.

    My quote compared the profuse sexual behavior of feminist publications to the baser social behaviors of men. I could just have easily said that when men backbite, they are exhibiting the baser social qualities of women. I don't feel that the style of sex talk that typical feminists indulge in is beneficial or respectful, though you will note that I see the purpose of some of that talk.

    I explained which behaviors in feminists caused me to feel the way I do about the movement in general in an attempt to connect with you on some level. Rather than take the opportunity to explain respectfully, you come here, choose to get angry and to ream me up and down simply because I don't agree with you. At least I was discussing trends and modes and not attacking anyone directly. It never seems to have crossed your mind that I might not come to the same conclusions you do, whatever books I may read.

    I actually do not defend the status quo, I just choose to go about trying to change it in a more respectful fashion. I haven't once name-called anyone who chooses work over family. I may have criticized the behavior as something I don't agree with, but that is entirely different.

    I have discussed impressions of the general feminist movement that have struck me, without calling anyone names or judging individual people. You, on the other hand, have this idea in your head of how "women like me" are, and you judge me based on those assumptions. You know very little of me, mostly because you choose to not look past your prejudices. But I'm sure you'll continue to read my attempts to communicate and to understand however you like. For my part, I see no purpose in continuing this discussion with you.

  35. I called you a non-feminist. That's about as neutral as it gets.

    You called feminists: crass, degrading, insulting, immature, inconsiderate, and not "level-headed."

    Who's slinging mud?

    You make offensive, blanket statements about a movement you haven't even made an attempt to study or understand, and then you pretend I've insulted you? Get off your high horse.

  36. Quimby,
    I think if you take a step back, you would see that SilverRain and tried to make plenty of exception for many people and their feminism and wasn't making broad, sweeping generalizations about all feminists. Reading the literature won't necessarily get to what she is talking about, nor about some of my issues with feminism. It's not necessarily all of the ideology (although some of it I take issue with), but it's about how it sometimes looks in practice. You know as well as I do that all good principles are going to be misapplied by some people, and your experience may not be with such misapplication, but please respect and try to understand that for some people, the experiences (either with ideology or practice) haven't all been rosey and wonderful. And rather than just say that she's wrong, maybe you could just accept it as her experience with these things in some situations. Our experiences can differ, right?

  37. M&M, let's be honest: SilverRain made several grossly offensive statements. If I had made similar statements about SAHMs, she (and you) would quite rightly jump down my throat. She could not back these statements up, but rather than admit it, she decided to play the victim. She was entirely unjust in her statments and in her treatment of me, but still managed to pretend she was taking the high road. I have lost every shred of respect I used to have for her.

  38. Quimby, I feel badly that I have offended you; that was not my intent. I'm sorry the way I worded my observations caused you to lose respect for me. I hope we can continue to exchange ideas in the future and leave this behind us.


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