In my post today I am going to write about some traits of Brigham Young’s and then some conclusions he reached that illustrate them. I finish up by noting a current problem and asking the question of whose fault the problem is.
I invite your comments and feedback.
Brigham Young is known for:
- Stating that what he had to say was as good as scripture.
- Telling people that they did not need to set up appointments with him to ask about whether or not he was wrong….
- Believing that knowledge and understanding and revelation are driven by, and limited by, context, language and understanding.
- Changing his mind over time.
I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95)
do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.
I will acknowledge that all the time,” he elaborated, “but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray.” Rather, “accord-[p.xii]ing to the best light and intelligence we are in possession of we will tell you what we think the Lord wishes of us and his policy concerning this people.”
Because the limits of revelation
…are inherent not in the Lord who gave them but in the imperfect language spoken by his weak servants, who had to decode the divine messages with various kinds of noise inhibiting them. Brigham Young did not believe, as he put it, “that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fullness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities.
This leads to Brigham Young, changing his mind and whether or not women are equal to men. It is clear that the younger Brigham Young did not believe women were equal to men. He was quite clear on the point several times. However, that changed as he grew older.
The older Brigham Young was quite clear that women made as good of shopkeepers, doctors, lawyers and legislators as men did. He also felt that women, as a whole were not equal to men, but it was a result of the opportunities, education and social treatment of them — not anything inherent.
It took old age to make him appreciate medical science, but LDS Church Prophet Brigham Young took an enlightened view of women physicians. As early as January 1868, he recommended training women in anatomy, surgery, chemistry and physiology.
But the bottom line was that women were not equal to men because men had denied them the proper training and education. To the extent that women were not full partners and equals to men, it was the fault of those men who controlled society.
- What do you think? Whose fault is it if the women in your ward are not treated as equals to the men?
- What can or should be done about that?
My management training keeps me from seeing this as a leadership issue. Even if the leaders of today didn’t create the issue, as a leader they have the responsibility to correct mistakes. I commend President Kimball for confronting himself enough to really struggle with his own racism.
Historically society was primarily to blame of the inequality. There were even some very interesting areas in Brigham’s time that women gained some respect. It adds to the complexity of him as a whole. But as time has gone on, I think the vast majority of the fault has transitioned to the leaders. While society made generally continual progress on equality of the sexes, I still hear pressure against equality. I am old enough to remember President Benson clearly stating in general conference that women generally should be housewives. I remember being teased at work about how backwards that stance was by my male coworkers. The women in the conversation were silent (not sure what to make of that). Sure there are some baby steps, but it sure seems like these come after protests are raised and pressure to move a mile and and only a few yards of progress are relinquished. Even women in the church my age are not fully accepting of the inequalities today or the church’s current proclamations and I don’t think the rising generation is going to be nearly as accepting unless substantive progress is going to be made.
That is all the happy thoughts so far today. 😉
What do I think, you asked?
Regarding Brigham Young changing his mind as he grew in age and experience. Ask yourself this question: As you gain more experience with the passage of time will you change my mind on some things? I answer this question by saying, certainly. How could it be otherwise?
Whose fault is it if the women in your ward are not treated as equals to the men?
I think this question betrays a lack of understanding about God, prophets, and scripture. By revelation, men and women have different roles. This is the reason women in my ward and your ward are treated differently. It has nothing to do with being inferior, as your question implies. I’ve met in Ward Council for years, and I never had the impression that the RS, YW, etc women leaders were treated as inferiors.
The word God needs to be brought up in this discussion. What does it mean? Who is it? The following quote says it well.
…St. Paul, “the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” In other words, there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: 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.
Erastus Snow, JD 19:270-71
I don’t have time to write a more lengthy comment but all I want to say for now is the majority of Brigham’s actions spoke louder than the majority of his words. Just ask the majority of his wives. And so it is today with most leaders in the church.
Jared, the separate roles that we are told we have, amount to “separate but equal,” and that is not, and never has been, true equality.
You said, “I’ve met in Ward Council for years, and I never had the impression that the RS, YW, etc women leaders were treated as inferiors..” Of course you didn’t. Because you are not the one considered as inferior. The “roles” women are allowed to fill are expressly permitted, or not, by men.
You don’t notice your own privilege because you are steeped in it.
I’m not talking about being treated differently, but more that in some places there does seem to be an issue of respect and the respect not being equal.
Good clarification Stephen. As I was reading Jared’s response I was thinking, “OK – if not EQUAL then what about feeling RESPECT?” But it wasn’t too many years ago that I was in a meeting with men and women and a women was in the middle of explaining something and the person presiding in the meeting said, “Ooops. Time is up and we can’t go over. Brother Xyz please say the prayer.” That isn’t respect.
I will absolutely admit there has been some improvement and intentional steps to improve women feeling respected. I might even say that most men are trying. The real measure would be if women feel as respected at church as men. I honestly don’t know how to even survey that as it is my opinion that the social norms within the church for women to be content would make many that do have some feelings on this topic might drastically skew the responses.
But enough back and forth on what it is. Stephens final question of, “What can or should be done about that?” is probably the better question to brainstorm on.
I know one thing that I did while in leadership is always address the RS/Primary/YW presidents as “President” when bringing up ward business with them. My intent was to show respect for them and their position. I mentioned this in a facebook group and was surprised to find that many of the women really didn’t care for that. So I don’t know if that is one way NOT to try and address the issue.
In any discussion about respect, we should recognize that there is a distinction between treating someone with respect and actually respecting someone. We can treat someone we don’t respect with respect. For instance, I may not respect the President of the United States, but if I happened to meet him, it would be possible for me to treat him with respect. I think most men in the church would feel that they treat women with great respect—for instance, they would never assault women or call them vulgar names. Even so, whether or not they actually respect women is another matter.
Similarly, there is a difference between feeling respected and actually being respected. Back to my example above, the president may feel greatly respected after our imaginary encounter, but he wouldn’t actually be respected (at least not by me). Pedestalizing women may make some women feel respected, but that doesn’t mean they actually are respected.
I think when we truly respect people, we naturally speak and act in ways that sincerely convey that respect. Gentlemen, think about a man you truly respect. Do you have to think about how to “treat” him with respect? Do you have to wonder how to act so that he “feels” respected? Or is your behavior a natural extension of your respect?
“we should recognize that there is a distinction between treating someone with respect and actually respecting someone.”
I would say that there is a difference between being somewhat polite and being respectful. Nibley, when talking about zeal without knowledge, also talked about people who were polite (i.e. used good manners) but who were not nice.
There is also a gap, sometimes, between respecting someone and communicating that respect. I see that with kids and with those on the autism spectrum. Learning proper action is sometimes an additional step.
” The real measure would be if women feel as respected at church as men.”
That is significant.
I came from a family of all boys; with me being the oldest – and therefore the one who would receive the “birthright”. Also, this was a home which was governed in a very Patriarchal fashion; with my Mother being much loved – but clearly not seen as an equal to my Dad. I only mention this because my view on this matter has since moved 180 degrees! What has caused this “mighty change of heart”? I am the Father of 3 beautiful daughters; who each in their own way are incredibly smart, strong, independant, educated and driven. Once they came into my home, I found that I simply could not abide any suggestion that they were second to ANYONE – and that my heart and soul demands that they be treated as equals by their husbands, by their community AND by their church.
“we should recognize that there is a distinction between treating someone with respect and actually respecting someone.”
When I was a missionary, there was a big push both in the MTC and in my mission encouraging the Elders to respect the Sisters. This push mostly included things like having the Elders always stand up when the Sisters entered the room, keeping their language and topics of conversation “cleaner” when we were around, encouraging the Elders to always tell the Sisters that they were better at loving and caring for investigators. And the Elders, for the most part, followed all of these rules and were very proud of themselves for developing so much respect for the Sisters. The Mission President and other powers that be were also quite proud of the Elders. The thing was, some of those Elders truly respected us, but most of them didn’t. They were kind and polite both to and about us. They constantly praised our abilities with investigators, but they didn’t see us as real missionaries. They didn’t see us as their friends or their equals. They saw us as an annoyance because when we showed up anywhere it meant they had to stand. They saw us as temptations to be avoided at all costs so that our existence didn’t cause them to fall from grace and return without honor. They saw us as future wives and mothers, but not to them of course because nearly every single one of them was disgusted by the idea of marrying a returned missionary. This is not respect, but I bet if you asked any of those Elders they would tell you that they respect women and that all the Sisters in their mission felt respected. And some of them did, but many of us didn’t.
I hear what you’re saying, Stephen R. Marsh, about a gap between respect and communicating respect, for people on the spectrum and children learning appropriate social behavior (and others, I’m sure. We’ve all had foot-in-mouth moments). I also think it’s important to listen to people to hear what works and doesn’t work for them. Who knows? Maybe there are “respect languages” similar to “love languages.” Still, I urge readers to participate in some introspection: why doesn’t “treating” women with respect or trying to make women “feel” respected always have the desired effect? Is there legitimate respect behind your words and actions?
Thinking about Happy Hubby’s story about some women on social media being put off by his use of the title President, I wonder about that negative reaction. I would hope that if his use of President rolled off his tongue as a natural result of the respect he has for the RSP (which, based on his comments, I would imagine it did), the respect behind it would be sensed by the woman he was addressing, regardless of her personal feelings about how she should be addressed. Real-life context can make a world of difference.
Also, I would slightly change that quote: “The real measure would be if women ARE as respected at church as men.” Not told that they are valued, or loved, or admired in their own special way, but actually, demonstrably respected.
All are alike unto God black and whit,male and female, gay and straight. When the church treats women equally, as God does, they will be respected. Both the women and the church.
In most society it is no longer acceptable to say that black men are inferior to whites, or should be treated differently, and it is no longer acceptable to speak of women as Jared does in most first world countries except the US.
If your next President were a woman, and she did a better job than the incumbent, it would change things.
There is no reason a woman can’t be president of the church or perform any priesthood calling, except they are prevented by men and culture.
As long as women are systematically excluded from any position of actual authority at any level in the church, the very concept of “respect” is going to be pretty empty. I mean, you can *like* someone, or be polite to her, or even admire her… But if she is considered totally unable to ever holds any position of authority over you (but you will naturally always have a pairing of authority over her) then any feeling of respect or attempt to show respect is just meaningless.
Remember that “respect” can mean “treat like an authority” or “treat like a human being.” In the church, women are expected to always treat men as authority figures, while men feel like they’re doing a really good thing by attempting to treat women as human beings. It’s ridiculous to believe that that kind of respect has anything to do with equality.
Blame millions of years of human evolution when division of labor by gender made sense. More mobile men hunting and waging war. Less mobile women nourishing almost immobile children. Strong women who fight with the men got killed with them. Somewhat smaller submissive women were captured to become slaves but their off spring survived. The industrial revolution is only a couple of centuries old, when it began to make sense to treat women as equals. In primitive conditions, rape was probably a more common reproductive strategy than love and women were left with the responsibilities of child rearing or they left no genes in the next generation.
Organizations like churches that don’t rely on enlightened rationality and favor emotional feelings and traditions in preserving the status quo are going to be a few or many steps behind. Why would this surprise anyone? Survival has driven our history more than respectfulness of anyone..
This no excuse for not making progress in modern times. But if society breaks down and it always has in the past for a time, then we return towards barbarism and brutality. We should cherish the progress already achieved as we strive to “make hay while the sun shines.”
I want to say that I agree with the thoughts and points brought up by Anon above. And I also want to take it one step further. First the definition of Repect, I just used the Google one just for ease.
a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
So respect is an admiration for someone’s Abilities, Qualities or Achievements. I believe that for most people, respect is earned. I can treat anyone with respect (with kindness, politeness or deference). But, to have respect for someone, they generally have to have done something to earn it. And it does not have anything to do with position of power. I can have respect for someone working under me, a peer working at the same level or a superior or supervisor. At the same time I can have no respect for different people at those same levels. Plus respect can be gained and lost over time.
One cannot demand Respect; one must earn it through their Abilities, Qualities and/or Achievement. If a person does not feel that they have the respect of others, one should look at oneself first to see if the reason lies with them.
As a side note, jealousy and envy can make people not want to respect others or act like they don’t respect others. This is generally a personal weakness and is not a fault of the other person.