Today’s guest post is by Cody Hatch.
Angela C. wrote a thought-provoking essay at By Common Consent titled, “If Gender is Essential, Why Are We Pushing It?” The essay brought up something that I have long struggled to wrap my mind around. Part of the
argument I hear is that there are just some things fundamentally different between the two genders and, since gender is eternal, there must be some reason for a man and a woman to be married eternally (and thus gay marriage is bad). However, isn’t this argument problematic when viewed through the lens of the traditional teachings regarding Jesus’ atonement? I was taught that Jesus suffered and experienced all things in order to fully understand how to judge and comfort us. The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus took upon himself the infirmities and struggles of all people:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that
the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his
people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy,
according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people
according to their infirmities. [Emphasis mine]
If we take that teaching seriously, it seems to me that, in order for Jesus to adequately judge and succor all people, he must perfectly understand their experiences, ailments, struggles, etc. In order to succor women he needs to precisely understand all that it means to be a woman. The same is true for men, black people, white people, Americans, Indonesians, gay people, straight people, Catholics, Mormons – you get the idea. In order for Jesus to adequately succor all people he must perfectly understand what it means to be that person. In short, all labels are swallowed up in Jesus.
This idea seems to be a problem for the gender essentialism arguments I hear bandied about. Or is there some other way to understand those verses? I’ve been taught my entire life that Jesus experienced all things as part of his atonement, but no doubt there are those who view his experiences as somehow limited. He couldn’t possibly have known what it would be like to be an iPhone toting teenager in 2017’s America, right? That argument brings up several questions for me:
- Is there some limitation to Jesus’ experience? If so, what is that limitation?
- If he did not actually experience all things, how does Jesus properly comfort and succor us? Is
it just through working at empathy? Doesn’t that severely limit him?
- Do we believe that same limitation extends to God?
- Is Jesus godlike? How far does that extend?
It seems that there are two, incompatible positions:
- Jesus experienced all things and he is fully able to understand and empathize with all
experiences, including all that being both genders entails. If so, gender seems to be
unimportant to exaltation (unless, of course, the Church no longer holds the idea that
exalted beings are like God).
- There is some limitation to Jesus’ ability to understand our experiences, so he only
understands what it is like to be a marginal, male, Jew in 1st century Palestine, thus having
both genders represented in the afterlife is critical to obtaining godhood. A male exalted
being requires a female exalted being in order to, together, be like God. But if we’re limiting
things at gender, don’t we also require someone in that relationship who has experienced
every possible permutation of experience in order to overcome our limitations? Is that what
polygamy is for? [Just kidding!]
So, it seems to me that our understanding of eternal gender has implications for our understanding
of God, and the two seem to be at odds with one another in the current theology generally accepted
within the Church.
As for me, I subscribe to the idea that Jesus, either at Gethsemane or via the Holy Spirit, understands
all things and is fully capable of succoring/understanding all people, which, to me, implies that
gender is not essential to eternity. I would love to hear your thoughts on this conundrum and why, if
you so believe, I am wrong.
- How does Jesus (or God even) adequately succor all people?
- What are the limits, if any, for Jesus (or God) to be able to do so?
- Is there some limitation upon Jesus that is not imposed upon God? What are the implications of such
- How does this affect the concept of eternal gender and why is it (or isn’t it) necessary?
- What are the implications for eternal marriage?