NOTE: THIS ESSAY IS EASILY PERCEIVABLE AS ANTI-MORMON, IT
IS NOT MEANT TO BE. INSTEAD IT IS MEANT TO BE AGAINST RELIGION-BASED POLYGAMY AND PATRIARCHY
(I frankly care less who sleeps with whom in society at large, but I care
about a mythology/theology that paints women as creatures made by God
expressly to serve and obey men, men created to be rulers like Him, now
and forever. I have daughters and know they are fully human, fully Divine.)
---------An Essay in Four Parts-----Prepared by Abraham Van Luik--------
PART ONE: Godhood, Polygyny, and Emancipation
A modern Apostle of Mormonism, the late Bruce R. McConkie, wrote:
which the saints of all ages have so devoutly
sought is godhood itself. Godhood is to have the character, possess
the attributes, and enjoy the perfections which the Father has.
Elsewhere, the same author explained:
Just as men
who pursue a steadfast course toward exaltation
become the sons of God while in this life, so women who walk
hand-in-hand in obedience with them become the daughters of God. 
The temple ordinances,
including celestial marriage, precede
attainment of that membership in the household of God which makes
one a daughter. Those who are adopted as daughters in this life
will, if they continue faithful, gain exaltation in the world to
Exaltation is, thus, open to both men and women, through participation
the temple's rituals and the receipt of its ordinances, according to this
in the temples for time and eternity, ...
are called celestial marriages ... . Celestial marriage is the
gate to exaltation, and exaltation consists in the continuation of
the family unit in eternity. 
are so married and thereafter live up] ... to all
the terms and conditions of this order ... continue on as husband
and wife in the celestial kingdom of God ... . They are joint heirs
with Christ to all that the Father hath, and they receive the
fulness of the glory of the Father, becoming gods in their own
They have eternal
increase ...; that is, they have spirit
children in the resurrection, in relation to which offspring they
stand in the same position that God our Father stands to us. 
They are gods. 
There in a nutshell is the epitome of all
of Mormon doctrine from one
of the church's modern Apostles, writing as an individual, however,
assuming "full and sole responsibility"  for his work.
McConkie also deals with the eternal consequences of this doctrine:
plurality of gods:
... there is an
infinite number of holy personages, drawn from
worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are
thus gods. 
That women are among these gods is obvious
from the foregoing, but
made explicit by McConkie when he says:
Mortal persons who
... gain an ultimate exaltation will live
eternally in the family unit and have spirit children, thus becoming
Eternal Fathers and Eternal Mothers. 
Our Father in Heaven, in fact,
... could not be
a Father unless a Woman of like glory,
perfection, and holiness was associated with him as a Mother. 
In support of this egalitarian doctrine McConkie quotes an
statement by Joseph F. Smith, a former president and prophet of the church,
and his two counselors in the presidency, which says:
... all men and
women are in the similitude of the universal
Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of
McConkie has also observed that although Jesus Christ is "the
or standard of salvation" , salvation being the process of becoming as
Christ is,  Adam and Eve also serve as prototypes for the human race.
Before the world was, Adam and Eve were both spirit children of Deity:
Adam, a male spirit,
then called Michael, stood next in power,
might, and dominion to the Lord Jehovah. Eve, a female spirit,
whose premortal name has not been revealed, was of like stature,
capacity, and intelligence. 
Referring to Eve: "She was placed on earth in the same
manner as was
Adam, the Mosaic account of the Lord creating her from Adam's rib being
merely figurative."  And referring to Adam and Eve in Eden: "The two
of them there performed for all men the inestimably great service called
the fall of man." 
After the fall,
Eve continued to receive revelation, to see
visions, and to walk in the spirit. As Adam became the pattern for
all his sons, so did Eve for all her daughters. And as they twain
have gone on to exaltation and sit upon their thrones in glorious
immortality, so may all, both male and female, who walk as they
Judging by the work of McConkie, Mormonism offers a truly egalitarian
model for life and its purpose. Humankind is the offspring of Deity, an
Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother. An earlier Mormon theologian, B. H.
Roberts, similarly summed up the model of life in these terms:
... there are four estates in which intelligences
exist ... ;
namely; self existent, uncreated and unbegotten intelligences,
co-eternal with God; second, intelligences begotten of God spirits;
third, spirits begotten men and women, still sons and daughters of
God; fourth, resurrected beings, immortal spirits inhabiting
imperishable bodies, still sons and daughters of God, and in the
line of eternal progression, up to the attainment of divine
attributes and powers. 
From uncreated intelligence to Godhood, therefore, Roberts observed
"there are three estates or changes through which intelligences pass in the
course of their development or evolution into divine beings." 
In Mormon theology, godhood is open to men and women.
Indeed, a man can
not become a god without a woman, and vice versa, suggesting both an
interdependence and equality of men and women. The late Spencer W.
Kimball, recognized as prophet and president of the Church, said in 1979:
We had full equality
as his spirit children. We have equality
as recipients of God's perfected love for each of us. The late
Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote: "The place of woman in the Church is to
walk beside the man, not in front of him or behind him. In the
Church there is full equality between man and woman ... .
Within those great
assurances, however, our roles and
assignments differ. These are eternal differences, with women being
given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood
and the men the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the
priesthood -- but the man is not without the woman nor the woman
without the man in the Lord. 
Perhaps that is why McConkie described Michael, or Adam, in
"power, might, and dominion," and Eve in terms of "stature, capacity, and
intelligence."  They were equals, but qualitatively different. The
man and the woman have the same superlative characteristics, but only the
man exercises authority. The egalitarian model of male-female unity in
this life and mutual deification in the next is probably the one that is
believed to be the doctrine and teaching of the Church according to most
Mormons, at least as I'm acquainted with the feelings and beliefs of my
peers. But there is more to the qualitative difference alluded to here by
Kimball than meets the eye.
A Kind and Degree of Equality
Adam and Eve may well "have gone on to exaltation and sit upon
thrones in glorious immortality," as "may all, both male and female, who
walk as they walked."  But that there is a basic difference between
this god and goddess is suggested by Kimball's "our roles and assignments
differ," eternally. 
McConkie, whose egalitarian words on the
exaltation of men and women
have just been presented, gives the following commentary on l Corinthians
ll:l-l5, which sheds some light on the nature of this qualitative
difference between exalted men and women, both of whom are gods. Speaking
of the New Testament Apostle Paul:
With apostolic insight,
our inspired writer here proclaims
certain basic and eternal principles pertaining to men and women and
their relationship to each other ... . Paul, thus, names four great
gospel principles in this order:
l. As God is the head of Christ, and Christ is the head of man, so
man is the head of woman. Such is the Lord's eternal order of
government and control.
2. As man is the image and glory of God, so woman is the glory of
man. Such specifies the relative position of the sexes.
3. As the woman, Eve, was created for the man, Adam, and not the
reverse, so women are subordinate to men and are subject to
their control. Such is the practical rule that does and must
exist between the sexes by virtue of the simple fact that there
cannot be two equal heads.
4. As eternal life grows out of the continuation of the family
unit in eternity, and as a family unit consists of a husband
and a wife, so--"in the Lord"--it takes a man and a woman
together to gain the glorious state of exaltation. Such is the
whole object and the end of the Gospel, and as such it forms a
kind and degree of equality between the sexes, still, however,
leaving the man to preside over the woman as God presides over
the man. 
Equality has thus become "a kind and degree of equality," with
presiding over woman as God presides over man, or that God is to man as man
is to woman, which suggests that man is woman's God. Paul is cited as
being right about his views on the relationship of men to women, even
though his supporting exegesis of Genesis, where woman is created by being
fashioned from the side of man, is all wrong, according to McConkie: "She
was placed on earth in the same manner as was Adam," ... . And: "After
the fall, the Lord said to her: ... 'he shall rule over thee.'" 
This order of man ruling over woman, or patriarchy, was instituted
the fall. This is important since this means that patriarchy has precious
little to do with the "new and everlasting covenant of marriage" which,
according to McConkie, predates the fall:
Before the fall Eve was sealed to Adam in
the new and everlasting
covenant of marriage, a ceremony performed by the Lord before death
entered the world and therefore destined to last forever. 
If this view is held, then the great "restoration of all things"
pre-fall condition would have no necessity of explicitly providing for man
ruling woman. As McConkie explains regarding the nature of this great
... the great restoration of all things
is the return of the earth,
and all that pertains to it, including every form of life, back to
the primeval and perfect state which prevailed when all things first
rolled from their Creator's hands and were pronounced "Very good."
The important point appears to be that the dominion of man
over woman was
not a part of the celestial marriage ceremony as performed before the fall.
It is an artifact of the fall and should, therefore, be overcome
as part of
the restoration of all things to their state of primordial perfection.
Thus, one may conclude that the "restoration of all things"
the restoration of Eve to her rightful "power, might, and dominion," which
she lost as a consequence of the fall. This seemed to be obvious to at
least some Latter-day Saint women of the nineteenth century. For example,
Helen Mar Whitney revelled in her newfound independence and claimed
equality for women when she wrote in 1886:
... no one but myself is responsible for
my actions. Whatever has
appeared over my signature, has been written independent of any
other person. Liberty is necessary to make life endurable, and if I
have ever been deprived of that boon under the laws and government
of God's kingdom, I have remained in blissful ignorance to this day,
and can say, as God is my witness, it is this Gospel that has made
The women of Israel
are aspirants after all that is grand and
glorious within their reach. They are laboring for the highest
glory of womanhood, which can only be attained through the untiring,
energetic, pure and holy efforts of those who are willing to fight
the good fight, and make the sacrifice of self and the ease and
pleasures of the moment. It was among the grand designs of the Gods
that woman should be equal with man. At the beginning it was her
destiny to be first to partake of the tree of knowledge, and through
it brought the fall that was a blessing in disguise. Adam and Eve
sinned that 'man might be.' The privilege is now offered to His
daughters to throw off the shackles and free themselves from the
curse which was placed upon them for a wise purpose. The debt was
paid, and it is the plan of the Almighty to make of His noble
daughters queens instead of serfs, that woman may reign in the
sphere for which she was created. 
Whitney's sentiments echo those of her contemporary, the "Presidentess"
of all the women of the church, Eliza R. Snow, who similarly stressed the
sacrifices necessary to obtaining that greater sphere:
Inasmuch as we continue to be faithful,
we shall be those that will
be crowned in the presence of God and the Lamb. You, my sisters, if
you are faithful, will become Queens of Queens, and Priestesses unto
the Most High God. These are your callings. We have only to
discharge our duties. 
What we experience here, is but a school
wherein the ruled will be
prepared to rule. And thru' obedience, Woman will obtain the power
of reigning, and the right to reign. 
The emphasis on obedience, suffering, faithfulness, and sacrifice
reflects the great purifying trial entailed in being a Utah Mormon in the
nineteenth century. Ms. Snow:
The Lord has placed
the means in our hands, in the Gospel,
whereby we can regain our lost position. But how? Can it be done
by rising, as women are doing in the world, to clamor for our
rights? No. It was through disobedience that woman came into her
present position, and it is only by obedience, honoring God in all
the institutions he has revealed to us, that we can come out from
under that curse, regain the position originally occupied by Eve,
and attain to a fulness of exaltation in the presence of God. 
"All the institutions" that God "has revealed to us" includes
principle of plurality of wives," as Ms. Snow elsewhere makes clear:
Here in Utah, through
his servants and handmaidens [God] is
establishing a nucleus of domestic and social purity, confidence and
happiness, which will, so far as its influence extends, eradicate
and prevent, in future, all those blighting evils ... .
God loves purity, and he has introduced the principle of plurality
of wives to restore and preserve the chastity of women ... . It is
truly woman's cause--a cause which deeply involves, not only her
present but her eternal interests. 
Whitney also gave plurality of wives, which was also known
"the principle", "celestial marriage", or "Patriarchal marriage" in
nineteenth century Utah, as the key to the equalization of women. She
continues her speech:
The celestial order of marriage was introduced
for this purpose, and
God commanded His servants to enter into that holy order preparatory
to the day, which is at our doors, when noble and virtuous women,
now blinded by prejudice and priestcraft, will be glad to unite
themselves to men equally noble and pure--such are now willing to
suffer imprisonment and endure whatever punishment their tormentors
may inflict, rather than forsake the wives that God has given them,
and dishonor their offspring, which they know would deprive them of
their crown. 
That the emancipation of woman was one of the great designs
of God in
restoring the church to earth, and that polygamy was the revealed key to
that emancipation, was a relatively popular theme among nineteenth century
Utah Mormons. A few examples are illustrative. George Q. Cannon, an early
Apostle of Mormondom, felt that the principle would
... elevate the
entire sex, and give all the privilege of being
honored matrons and respected wives. There are no refuse among us
-- no class to be cast out, scorned and condemned; but every woman
who chooses can be an honored wife and move in society in the
enjoyment of every right which woman should enjoy to make her the
equal of man as far as she can be his equal... .
I know, however, that there are those who shrink from this, who
feel their hearts rebel against the principle, because of the
equality which it bestows on the sex. They would like to be the
honored few -- the aristocrats of society, as it were, while their
sisters might perish on every hand around them. They would not, if
they could, extend their hands to save their sisters from a life of
... I know this is a principle which, if practiced in purity
and virtue, as it should be, will result in the exalttion and
benefit of the human family; and that it will exalt woman until she
is redeemed from the effects of the Fall, and from that curse
pronounced upon her in the beginning. I believe the correct
practice of this principle will redeem woman from the effects of
that curse -- namely, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he
shall rule over thee." All the evils connected with jealousy have
their origin in this. It is natural for woman to cleave to man; it
was pronounced upon her in the beginning, seemingly as a punishment.
I believe the time will come when, by the practice of the virtuous
principles which God has revealed, woman will be emancipated from
that punishment and that feeling. Will she cease to love man? No,
it is not necessary for her to cease to love. 
Helen Mar Whitney published a book in 1884
defending polygamy in which
she closely follows these arguments by George Q. Cannon:
Thousands of delicate
women are united to men who show them not
the least consideration--she being his "property" he can take
license and she thereby becomes the most wretched of slaves. But
through this patriarchal order (deride it as they may) is to come
the emancipation of womankind, which has been decreed, ... . 
Helen's son, Apostle Orson F. Whitney, wrote a poem, "To My
which Helen published in her book. The poem celebrates the return of
plural marriage to the earth by revelation, and in one place sees the
woman's movement as the work of heaven just as surely as the establishment
of Zion is the work of heaven:
Ye women of America! give ear!
Maternity, the voice of Nature hear!
Obedient, listen to the call of Love,
Descending, with glad tidings, from above!
Too long hath iron tyranny coerced
The gentle hearts, forbidden e'en to burst;
Too long hath naughty man's preclusive pride
The meed of woman's worthiness denied;
'Tis finished, Hark! The thrilling battle cry
Of "Woman's Rights" now rends the echoing sky,
As speed, on lightning wings, from clime to clime,
The phantom heralds of a dying Time.
Her sun, ascending like an orison,
Beams brightly on the glowing horizon,
Dispelling clouds that linger in its way,
Like mountain mists before the god of day.
Its course is marked, its radiance fair and true,
Its origin, though earth's, to heaven due,
Emblem of peace, of happiness and home,
Its aim's the zenith of creation's dome.
'Tis Zion, as the nation's pioneer,
Summons the legions of the main and rear,
Ye women of the world! Eve's daughters all!
Awake! Arise! Respond your leader's call.
Hear not the poisoned tongues of Zion's foes,
Whose specious fabrications would impose
A barrier to the union and redress
Of wrongs, the ripened harvest of duress.
Nor hear of doctrine's wide divergent ways,
Nor resurrect the scenes of buried days,
Let mutual friendship bridge the chasm o'er,
And peace and union reign forevermore. 
The paradox is now full blown: God revealed Mormonism
to redeem mankind.
Women are, in particular, to be redeemed from the effects of the fall and
become as independent as Eve in the Garden. The key to a woman's
achievement of this restoration to Edenic liberty, however, is apparently
to sacrifice her independence in this life and become a plural wife to a
man. Yet, these plural unions are eternal, and thus the man is the head of
these women forever: "Such is the Lord's eternal order of government and
There is contradiction here. An attempt at understanding
contradiction requires a more detailed look at exaltation, godhood, and
"the principle." The following Part explores the nature of the eternal
plural marriage relationship as envisioned by Mormon leaders.
PART TWO: Polygyny, Woman's Liberator?
In the previous Part, excerpts were used from Helen Mar Whitney's
book on why Mormons practice polygamy, including portions of a poem by her
son, the Apostle Orson F. Whitney, which she approvingly quoted. In this
poem, dedicated to his mother, Orson celebrated the restoration of the
principle of polygamy to the earth with the following exuberant words:
1 'Twas thus Celestial Marriage was revealed,
2 The Patriarchal Order, long concealed,
3 Through mystic Babel's guile and ignorance
4 Subverting Israel's ancient ordinance.
5 The Abrahamic Covenant, restored,
6 To raise a chosen seed unto the Lord
7 On Joseph's fruitful bough, whose branches fall
8 Athwart old Ocean's wild and billowy wall,
9 Deep nourished by an ever-flowing well
10 Of blessings from his father Israel.
11 The law divine, in olden days revered,
12 The sky wherein Messiah's star appeared;
13 Condition sole of blest maternity,
14 Within the mansions of Eternity,
15 Where love-united souls perpetuate
16 The joys that death could not invalidate,
17 And, bound by links forged in terrestrial years,
18 Are chained the endless systems of the spheres. 
This section of the poem is remarkable because it gives the
the theology of Mormon polygyny in few words but in great depth. The first
two lines show that the principle of polygyny was also known as "Celestial
Marriage" and the "Patriarchal Order." This is the equivalent of saying
that polygyny is eternal and that God is irrevocably commited to a divine
order of male dominance in the eternities. The second couple of lines
reflect Mormonism's view of itself as being both the Restoration of true
Christianity and the means of restoring all that was "lost" through
ignorance, sin and spiritual darkness in antiquity. The key role of
Abraham in setting the example for all humanity is acknowledged in the
fifth line, and the reason for polygyny in the sixth line: "to raise a
chosen seed unto the Lord."
The seventh through tenth lines are a uniquely Mormon interpretation
Jacob's blessing on Joseph in Genesis 49:22-26. Individual Mormons are
either the literal or adopted seed of the "fruitful" Joseph, whose
"branches run over the wall" of the oceans. Proof of this interpretation
lies in the presence of the ever-flowing well of revelation in the midst of
the Latter-day Saints, who are established by God in Utah, "the utmost
bound of the everlasting hills." (Gen. 49:26).
Line ll re-emphasizes what has gone before: polygyny is divine
the greatest antiquity. Line ll serves as a propellant into line l2, the
heart and climax, the ultimate and most sacred proof of the Divine Nature
of "the principle": the Savior of mankind is its product! What follows in
lines l3 through 18 is a complex celebration of this fact in terms at once
reverent and yet strongly and vibrantly romantic: The gods are polygynous
and propagate their kind through joyful unions, within celestial marriages
created when they were mere mortals on past worlds. Love does make the
world go 'round. In the eternities it is the matured joyous love of divine
man and woman that creates and controls the fabric of the universe.
That the Savior is the product of a polygynous relationship
is one of the
reasons for Mormonism's commitment to polygyny as a divine principle even
though its practice is presently strictly forbidden. Witness McConkie:
All who pretend or assume to engage in plural
marriage in this day,
when the one holding the keys has withdrawn the power by which they
are performed, are guilty of gross wickedness. 
Yet on the previous page:
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- among others
-- conformed to this
ennobling and exalted principle; ... . 
And among the Mormons:
... plural marriage was openly taught and
practiced until the year
1890. At that time conditions were such that the Lord by revelation
withdrew the command to continue the practice, ... . Obviously the
holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son
of Man and the ushering in of the millenium. 
McConkie does not discuss the polygynous nature of the union
the Christ into the world, but he writes what Mormons believe when he
God the Father is
a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal
Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of
this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal
sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is
nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived
and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the
Son of God, and that designation means what it says. 
Just as unequivocably, a former prophet of Mormondom, Joseph
observed, as quoted by McConkie:
Sexual union is
lawful in wedlock ... . But without the bonds
of marriage, sexual indulgence is a debasing sin, abominable in the
sight of Deity. 
For God to have fathered Jesus Christ, therefore, He must have been
to Mary, who, according to McConkie:
... like Christ, was chosen and foreordained
in pre-existence for
the part she was destined to play in the great plan of salvation...
. Certainly she was one of the noblest and greatest of all the
spirit offspring of the Father. 
Mary is identified as being a spirit child of the Eternal Father,
therefore a spirit child of his wife, the Eternal Mother.  The
conclusion is that the Eternal Father is a polygamist, being married to
both the Mother of his spirit children and Mary, his spirit daughter and
the mother of his "Only Begotten Son" in the flesh.
This is the essence of the argument as the author is familiar
and has heard it from a number of fellow Latter-day Saints. As a matter of
great sacredness, however, this is not to be a subject for public
discussion and hence, is not a topic to be found in the Mormon apologetic
literature, but only in an obscure poem such as Whitney's and in the oral
Lest anyone get the idea that because of these "truths", Mary
well be an exalted personage by the side of the Eternal Father, an Eternal
Mother, a deified woman worthy of reverent address as in another Christian
tradition, the nineteenth and early twentieth century Apostle and church
president's counselor, George Q. Cannon, warns:
The tendency to
attribute God-like powers to members of the
female sex is exhibited nowadays in the adoration which is paid to
the mother of the Savior, the Virgin Mary ... .
That great care must be exercised among the Latter-day Saints
upon this point there can scarcely be a question ... . There is too
much of this inclination to deify "our mother in heaven" ... . As
Latter-day Saints we cannot be too careful concerning the use of
language that may lead to wrong impressions, especially regarding
the Being whom we worship ... .
The worship of the true God has been revealed to us. He has
revealed Himself in our day. Mortal men have beheld the Eternal
Father and the Redeemer, Jesus. And we know that they live. We
know also that our Father in heaven should be the object of our
worship. He will not have any divided worship. We are commanded to
worship Him, and Him only.
In the revelation of God the Eternal Father to the Prophet
Joseph Smith, there was no revelation of the feminine element as
part of the Godhead, and no idea was conveyed that any such element
"was equal in power and glory with the masculine." [Quote from
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "The Woman's Bible"] Therefore, we are
warranted in pronouncing all tendencies to glorify the feminine
element and to exalt it as part of the Godhead as wrong and untrue,
not only because of the revelation of the Lord in our day but
because it has no warrant in scripture, and any attempt to put such
a construction on the word of God is false and erroneous. 
Note that Cannon does not say that women are not goddesses
eternities, only that they are not part of any ruling Godhead of Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost. This quotation from George Q. Cannon sheds some light
on the previously quoted words of McConkie regarding an exalted couple's
standing in relation to their spirit offspring in the eternities ..."in the
same position that God our Father stands to us,"  and "They are gods."
 The man will be God to his children as they enter mortality, while
the woman will be a god, a being that will not directly interact with, be
known by, or be acknowledged by her mortal offspring because she is not to
be part of the ruling Godhead.
Cannon fully recognized, as other Mormons, the reality
of the Divine
The Mormon's believe that all men were born
in the spirit world of
the union of the sexes, having a literal father and a literal mother
before coming to this world, ... that God is a married Being, has a wife
at least, as Jeremiah said the angels were offering incense to the queen
of heaven. The Latter-day Saints believe that God is an exalted Man, and
that we are the offspring of Him and His wife.  ... we think it ...
consistent and reasonable to believe that He has a partner or partners
... . 
I believe that when we see our Father in
heaven we shall know Him;
... . We will know our Mother, also. 
Belief in the divine and eternal nature of plural marriage
forces one to
believe as George Q. Cannon does. To believe that the Father shares his
Godly power and authority equally with his wife is not a possibility in the
construction of the eternal, exalted man-wife pair as envisioned by
... women are subordinate to men ... .
Such is the practical rule
that does and must exist between the sexes by virtue of the simple
fact that there cannot be two equal heads. 
Supposing that the man and the woman are equal suggests that a somewhat
arbitrary decision was made by God to base authority on sex and appoint man
in the ascendancy, forming, according to McConkie ... "a kind and degree of
equality between the sexes, still, however, leaving the man to preside over
the woman" ... . 
Increase the number of wives, however, and this semi-egalitarian
longer holds. Perhaps it "takes a man and a woman together to gain the
glorious state of exaltation,"  but many women can be exalted by
identification, through eternal marriage, with one man. The use of phrases
such as a "kind and degree of equality" and "there can not be two equal
heads" seems disingenuous in the context of a polygamous reality.
Early Mormon leaders made no pretentions toward an egalitarian
construction of the eternal, deified man-wife relationship, clearly stating
that the interdependence of the sexes was largely a dependence of the
female on the male. Nineteenth century Apostle Orson Hyde, for example,
said that though little is said about the mother in heaven, glorifying the
Father also brings glory to her through Him. This remark was an aside in
the larger context of mankind's duty to glorify the Father:
And if there is not much said about the
mother, if they [i.e., the
children of mankind] honor the Father, the mother will borrow her
glory from the father, it will come to her through that channel, and
it is a legitimate one. 
The practical result of this doctrine, according to Hyde, is
relationship between a man and wife in this life, a hierarchial
relationship with man at the head, reflects the relationship between the
heavenly Father and Mother:
The order of heaven places man in the front
rank; ... . Woman
follows under the protection of his counsels, and the superior
strength of his arm. Her desire should be unto her husband, and he
should rule over her. I will here venture the assertation, that no
man can be exalted to a celestial glory in the kingdom of God whose
wife rules over him; and as the man is not without the woman, nor
the woman without the man in the Lord, it follows as a matter of
course, that the woman who rules over her husband, thereby deprives
herself of a celestial glory. 
Similarly, from Heber C. Kimball, counselor to President Brigham Young:
When you go into heaven, into the celestial
world, you will see the
Church organized just as it is here, and you will find all the
officers down to the Deacon. Our Church organization is a
manifestation of things as they are in heaven, and you are all the
time praying that the Church here may be brought into union and set
in order as it is in heaven. 
After this prelude, in which the Deacon, the lowest order of the
priesthood, is given authority in heaven, Kimball launches into the
man-wife relationship which is the real subject at hand:
Do you think a wife is contending against
her husband with a good
spirit, when she is commanded to be subject to her husband, even as
we are to Christ? 
It appears that the model that Kimball presupposes here is that man
render obedience to Christ and woman is to render obedience to man, with
the caveat or condition that the man does actually live in obedience to
Christ. This is Kimball's model:
Does it give a woman a right to sin against
me, because she is my
wife? No, but it is her duty to do my will, as I do the will of my
Father and my God. 
Kimball took this relationship so seriously that he felt he
rightfully keep his wives from partaking of the sacrament, the Mormon
communion ... "until they make full and proper restitution to me, if they
have offended me."  The reason for this is also given:
Why is this? Because I am their head,
I am their governor, their
dictator, their revelator, their prophet, and their priest, and if
they rebel against me they at once raise a mutiny in my family. 
Returning to the order of heaven theme, and showing the connection
this theme with polygamy, Kimball continues:
... I want to know what good a wife is to
me, unless she will let me
lead and guide, and let me govern her by the word of God. When a
wife is obedient to her husband there is union, there is heaven,
that is there is one heaven, though it is a little one; and a
righteous union is what will make a heaven. ... There are many
kinds of sin, among which is the sin of confusion; and I tell you
there is plenty of confusion in a family where each wants to be
heads ... . It is the duty of a woman to be obedient to her
husband, and unless she is, I would not give a damn for all her
queenly right and authority; nor for her either, if she will
quarrel, and lie about the work of God and the principle of
The queenly right and authority mentioned by Kimball is a reference
the status of a woman in the celestial world. In the words of Brigham
Young, in the context of women and "the doctrine of plurality of wives" or
"the order of heaven":
And those that enter into it and are faithful,
I will promise them
that they shall be queens in heaven, and rulers to all eternity.
Now we have come full circle: obedience to polygyny will
exalt a woman
and lift the burdens of the fall's curses from her to all eternity. But
obedience entails, in practical terms, that she voluntarily extend these
same curses to all eternity! Brigham Young:
The female portion of the human family have
blessings promised to
them if they are faithful. I do not know what the Lord could have
put upon women worse than he did upon Mother Eve, where he told her:
"Thy desire shall be to thy husband." Continually wanting the
husband. "If you go to work my eyes follow you; if you go away in
the carriage, my eyes follow you, and I desire you should have
nobody else." I do not know that the Lord could have put upon women
anything worse than this, I do not blame them for having these
feelings. I would be glad if it were otherwise. Says a woman of
faith and knowledge, "I will make the best of it; it is a law that
man shall rule over me; his word is my law, and I must obey him; he
must rule over me; this is upon me and I will submit to it," and by
so doing she has promises that others do not have. 
Among those promises, as previously noted, George Q. Cannon names:
...this is a principle which, if practiced
in purity and virtue, as
it should be, ... will exalt woman until she is redeemed from the
effects of the Fall, and from that curse pronounced upon her in the
beginning ... . namely, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he
shall rule over thee." 
But numerous words were spoken that indicate that celestial
continues the "order of heaven" instituted here on earth. One example, by
Heber C. Kimball, uses the sacred symbolism of the temple ceremony, wherein
persons symbolically enter through a veil into the celestial kingdom,
Do you uphold your husband before God as
your lord? "What! - my
husband to be my lord?" I ask, Can you get into the celestial
kingdom without him? Have any of you been there? You will remember
that you never got into the celestial kingdom without the aid of
your husband. If you did, it was because your husband was away, and
some one had to act proxy for him. No woman will get into the
celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy
to have a husband; and if not, somebody will receive her as a
It may be noted that the temple endowment ceremony alluded
to here is a
most sacred experience in Mormon piety. It was used here to remind women
of their present and eternal positions relative to men.
It must be concluded that it is not at all
clear how the emancipation
of woman was to be accomplished through the plurality of wives principle.
If anything, its teaching as an eternal reality necessitates a strong
emphasis on man's being the head of woman, not only in the man-wife
relationship, but also in the church: since woman is not a part of the
Godhead, the ruling council of the universe, the church being constructed
according to the same "order of heaven" cannot give her authority over a
man. Other women and children are her everlasting domain. All of this is
reinforced by the reality of eternaly polygyny: With a man in the
eternities possibly "having" more than one woman, the idea that patriarchy
"is the practical rule that does and must exist between the sexes by virtue
of the simple fact that there cannot be two equal heads"  seems less
Why Polygamy's Popularity?
A late twentieth-century, pro-feminist perspective
can easily blind
one to the strongly romantic, egalitarian, and optimistic outlook of the
men and women who believed in the divine nature of "the principle" with
every fiber of their being. I do not share their enthusiasm for this
principle, but in order for me to be able to see these persons as they saw
themselves, I must come to at least understand their point of view.
When John Taylor, Mormon prophet and President, was in hiding
federal authorities in 1886 at a friend's farm in Kaysville, Utah, the
friend's daughter became his nurse. Taylor was weak,and was to die within
seven months of the time he proposed to her, a girl fifty-one years his
In his proposal he promised her "a seat among the Gods," and
In robes of bright seraphic light; and
With thy God, eternal -- onward goest, a
Priestess and a queen -- reigning and ruling in
The realm of light. ...
Josephine, the cup's within thy reach; drink then
The vital balm and live.
She did, her father performing the ceremony, and sixty years
Josephine crossed over into the next life to claim her promises. 
John Taylor's theological appeal got this young woman to essentially
become a servant here in exchange for promises in the next life. One must
for a moment believe as Josephine believed in order to understand
Josephine. Only then can one begin to sense the appeal that this
particular doctrine had for both men and women, especially in view of the
contempory religions that taught identical things concerning the
subordinate place of woman, and promised a sexless eternal existence whose
sole objective and duty was to behold the face of God and sing his praises
to all eternity. The Mormon heaven was to be a joyful place with sexual
intercourse as the hallmark of Godhood. By contrast, sexual intercourse
was the hallmark of man's fallen state in much contemporary theology.
THREE: Woman's Place in the Household of Faith
A Mormon general authority, James M. Paramore, wrote a letter
daughter, on the eve of her marriage, to explain to her "some fundamental,
timeless principles" related to family life. This letter was published in
1979 under the title "Woman's Relationship to the Priesthood." In this
letter, the philosophies of the world are denigrated, especially the
philosophies "of the so-called liberated." 
The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs, verses l0 through 3l,
recommended as "one of the most beautiful descriptions of a wife and
mother's influence and work ... some priceless thoughts of a prophet." 
What follows in the way of fatherly counsel seems to have little
relationship to the picture of the self-sufficient and successful
agricultural and manufacturing entrepeneur and mother who supports her
husband and children by buying and planting fields, who makes clothing for
the household and sells the surplus for a profit, etc.
What follows is a long quotation from an early Mormon apostle,
which may well be scorned by the world":
I say to the sisters,
seek to have confidence in your husbands,
and believe they are capable of leading you; and when you seek
instruction, believe them capable of giving it to you; and be
faithful, humble, and obedient to them. Their feelings should not
be concentrated in you, but your feelings should be in them, and
theirs should be in those who lead them in the Priesthood. Their
feelings are concentrated in the Lord their God and what is ahead,
and there is where they should be. You should be glad to see them
step forward and walk onward in the path of their duty, and not
require them to devote themselves to you to the exclusion of things
and duties of life which lie before them. As they progress and lead
on, you will feel to travel in the same road. This is the order,
and if order is maintained in this thing, you will see the beauty of
it; and it will be a satisfaction to you and them to believe that
your husband, who is at your head, is progressing in the things of
This quote is followed by the story of a
"very capable priesthood
leader" whose wife, when he attempted to depart from the home to perform
his Church duties:
... forced him to make a decision between
the Church or staying home
with her. There were no unusual health problems or special
conditions that required him to be at home every minute -- only a
possessiveness on her part. 
This selfishness was "very frustrating" to the husband who had "very
responsibilities" in the Church, and he had to be let out of these
responsibilities. The earthly and heavenly family unit finally broke up in
divorce. Apparently this woman ignored:
... the counsel of the Lord, who, through
the apostle Paul, said:
"For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither
was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." 
Some other "advice" in this letter includes:
The man is in God
by the power of the priesthood; so even is
the woman in the man. One -- the man, by virtue and power of the
priesthood -- is to have power over those things delegated to him.
... The man is to ... deliberately live worthy and know the will of
God ... . 
Apparently, woman is one of the "things" delegated to man, and he
prophet, her intermediary with God. Following some quotations from Mormon
leaders, the letter observes:
Man would be crowned
with the priesthood -- the power to bless
his family and others; while woman would be for the man, a helpmeet
to accomplish the purposes of God for all his children ... . These
are concepts lost to the world by disobedience and pride. But they
are not lost to God, who has enunciated them in all dispensations of
time to his prophets. They have stood the test of time, for they
are eternal and essential to the ultimate patriarchal order of
families where righteous men, under the power of the priesthood of
God, will bind their wives and children together for eternity. 
Concerning the purpose of the priesthood and how its functioning
is to be
reflected in the home:
Its ultimate purpose
is to provide every family with the
patriarchal sealing ordinances performed in the temple of God, that
every son and daughter of God will take his or her rightful place in
this patriarchal order... . ... the home is a sort of a quorum--the
patriarchal quorum of the home. The father is the quorum president;
unlike other presiding officers in the Church, no one can release or
remove him from office. 
Next, Paul's advice for wives to submit to their husbands is
Ephesians 5:22-25, and the interpretation given is that "as Christ is to
his church, so the man is to his wife." The following is then given as
This means that: And also that:
Christ loves the Church
The husband loves his wife as
an extension of himself.
Christ sacrificed himself in
The husband desires to
behalf of the Church that it sanctify his wife and is
might be sanctified. willing to sacrifice in her
The Church is obedient to the
The wife is submissive to the
commands of Christ. righteous guidance of her
After reiterating that man is today confusing "our thinking
in favor of
equal roles," this father seeks to inspire his daughter with:
Your great opportunity
will be to strengthen your husband and
children in everything. You will be a source of infinite comfort,
encouragement, wisdom, love, and kindliness to rebuild them as they
experience the normal challenges of everyday living. They will feel
in you strength and glory and steadfastness, for these are virtues
vested in you by a loving Heavenly Father for his explicit purposes.
The closing pages of this letter contain a report of a young
testimony that is instructive:
She expressed to
the group assembled her great gratitude to the
Lord for the wonderful, faithful, priesthood-bearing husband she had
been privileged to have for ten years. She told how beautiful and
wonderful it was for her and her children to have lived under his
authority and direction those years and how privileged she was to
have been selected to give up her husband for a greater call of the
Lord. What an honor it was for her to be sealed to that great man,
and her joy was complete in knowing she was sealed to him for
The letter ends with saying that the priesthood
... can, if properly exercised by the husband
and father, bless the
wife, the mother, and the children. Remember to love, sustain,
obey, be a helpmeet, counsel, guide, and nurture. 
Rarely does a piece of writing come along that so completely
general Mormon beliefs and attitudes regarding the family and woman's place
within it. Note, however, the totality of its male-centeredness,
underscored by quotes from Paul, and reaching its full height in the
amazing gratitude of the widow for her husband's "greater calling": the
well organized spirit-world ministry needs this one man more than do his
wife and children in this life! Apparently, service in the Church, here or
in the hereafter, is a greater call than service in the home for the
priesthood-bearing man. A woman should not hold him back, even though it
means being alone in this life. Indeed, she should rejoice if God sees fit
to call him, even if the call is for service out of the world.
The comparison of Christ and the church to the husband and
particularly interesting: Christ established the church to carry out his
will and serve his purposes for the benefit of mankind. The church is his
tool for acting on and in the world. Does this part of the analogy also
apply to husbands and wives? There is nothing in this letter to suggest
otherwise. In fact, it seems to be the express agenda or message of the
whole letter: your purpose is to do the will of your man just as the
church's purpose is to do the will of Christ. Just as a tool is an
extention of an arm or an eye that multiplies its ability, so is a woman an
extention of a man, a man's tool in carrying out his assignment from his
Society is going astray, and "the home is the place to save
you, dear, are at the center of that sacred, eternal, and patriarchal
institution."  This sentiment, attributed in part to Spencer W.
Kimball, the late Mormon prophet, seems to suggest that a wife's obedience
to a husband, within a small minority group, will somehow save greater
society. This may be perceived as placing the burden for saving society on
the Latter-day Saint woman, not on those who believe they have God's
authority bestowed on them "to bless and build the kingdom of God on
The sentiment that a woman's role includes "rebuilding" her
children "as they experience the normal challenges of everyday living" is
particularly illustrative of Paramore's man-centered view. The woman is a
filling station for the empty tanks that cruise home after a day's travels
and travails. This type of sentiment is held to be inspired. "Man would
be crowned with the priesthood ... ; while woman would be for the man," ...
. This subject of priesthood and womanhood is a recurring one, of central
importance to understanding the assignment of eternal separate spheres to
women in Mormonism.
Woman and the Mormon Priesthood
The late Mormon apostle, Bruce R. McConkie,
gave a two-part definition
As pertaining to eternity, priesthood is
the eternal power and
authority of Deity by which all things exist; by which they are
created, governed, and controlled; by which the universe and worlds
without number have come rolling into existence; by which the great
plan of creation, redemption, and exaltation operates throughout
immensity. It is the power of God. 
In the eternities, women will share this power.
Those women who go on to their exaltation,
ruling and reigning with
husbands who are kings and priests, will themselves be queens and
priestesses. They will hold positions of power, authority, and
preferment in the eternity. 
For this life,
As pertaining to man's existence on this
earth, priesthood is the
power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all
things for the salvation of men. It is the power by which the
gospel is preached; by which the ordinances of salvation are
performed so that they will be binding on earth and in heaven, by
which men are sealed up into eternal life, being assured of the
Father's kingdom hereafter; ... . 
And the place of woman?
Women do not have the priesthood conferred
upon them and are not
ordained to offices therein, but they are entitled to all priesthood
The analogy to the status of blacks with regard to the priesthood
to 1978 is suggestive. In 1966, McConkie wrote:
Negroes in this
life are denied the priesthood; under no
circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the
Almighty. ... President Brigham Young and others have taught that
in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the
priesthood. ... 
In 198l, however, McConkie wrote
Forget everything that I have said, or what
President Brigham Young
or George Q. Cannon or whosoever has said in days past that is
contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited
understanding and without the light and knowledge that has now come
into the world. ... We get our truth and our light line upon line
and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of
intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all
the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past.
They don't matter anymore. ... It doesn't make a particle of
difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the
first day of June, 1978. 
June of 1978 was "when the Lord revealed to President Spencer
that the time had come, in His eternal providences, to offer the fulness of
the gospel and the blessings of the holy priesthood to all men." 
McConkie concludes his discussion by exclaiming: "All are alike unto God,
black and white, bond and free, male and female,"  affirming that God
is no respector of race, social rank, or gender.
Yet, God still discriminates on the basis of gender where the
is concerned. In the same volume in which McConkie records the events of
the 1978 revelation on priesthood, which gave that priesthood to all men,
Robert L. Backman, a Mormon general authority, reiterates all the old
sentiments concerning women and the priesthood: Man may hold the
priesthood, women may become mothers. This is the divine, eternal order.
Adam and Eve set the example for the roles of men and women in this life.
Woman shares the blessings of the priesthood, especially in the temple.
She is to become a queen and a priestess in the hereafter. Etc., etc. 
Yet within this doctrinal territory, which has become familiar
reader of these pages, there are some new twists and turns, and one
outright surprise. For example, the Church's insistence on using the King
James Version comes under some indirect criticism as Backman quotes a
Mormon scholar, Hugh Nibley, to give a more accurate translation of the
curses on Adam and Eve to show they were, in effect, quite similar. 
That same scholar is quoted to show there are very tight limits
controls on patriarchal authority: ..."the least hint of unkindness acts as
a circuit-breaker, 'Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man.'" 
Backman gives emphasis to the dual responsibility of man and woman
patriarchal order: "The wife is to obey the law of her husband only as he
obeys the law of God." 
The late prophet Spencer W. Kimball's wife, Camilla Kimball,
is quoted by
Backman as saying, "Marriage is an equal partnership between husband and
wife."  She then discusses the separate roles that belong to the
husband and wife in this equal partnership, in traditional terms.
Backman also writes: "There is no limit to a woman's
development, for it
is her destiny to become a queen and a priestess, and to inherit the
fulness of the glory of God."  Also, "When man and woman are in
perfect balance in their relationship, each is the glory of the other.
Woman is not inferior to man."  These two statements are surprising
since a capital G is used to describe woman's eternal glory to be as God's,
and also since the Pauline declaration of man being God's glory and woman
being man's glory seems to be directly confronted and rejected.
At the end of his article, however, Backman quotes John Taylor,
mentioning the original context of this material as an invitation to
polygamy, to explain what it means when a woman obtains "the glory of God"
as a reward for her faithfulness:
Now crowns, thrones, exaltations and dominions
are in reserve for
thee in the eternal worlds, and the way is opened for thee to return
back into the presence of thy Heavenly Father, if thou wilt only
abide by and walk in a celestial law, fulfil the designs of thy
creation, and hold out to the end. That when mortality is laid in
the tomb, you may go down to your grave in peace, arise in glory,
and receive your everlasting reward in the resurrection of the just,
along with thy Head and husband. Thou wilt be permitted to pass by
the Gods and angels who guard the gates, and onward, upward to thy
exaltation in a celestial world among the Gods. To be a priestess
queen unto thy Heavenly Father, and a glory to thy husband and
offspring, to bear the souls of men, to people other worlds, (as
thou didst bear their tabernacles in mortality,) while eternity goes
and eternity comes; and if you will receive it, lady, this is
eternal life. And herein is the saying of the apostle Paul
fulfilled, 'that the man is not without the woman, neither the woman
without the man, in the Lord.' (l Cor. ll:ll.) 'That man is the
head of the woman, and the glory of man is the woman.' (l Cor.
ll:7.) Hence, thine origin, the object of thy creation, and thy
ultimate destiny, if faithful. Lady, the cup is within thy reach;
drink then the heavenly draught, and live. 
All the former caveats including Paul's are hereby reaffirmed
Godhood is under her Head, her husband. In the poetic version of these
sentiments, that Taylor used to propose to his last wife, Josephine, in
1886, "thy Head" was actually called "thy God." In both instances this is
her husband. 
The scholar quoted by Backman, Hugh Nibley, has written that
matriarchy nor patriarchy are the Lord's way.  He focuses on a crucial
scene in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve receive their "curses," and
There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in
the Garden; the two
supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitrary power. Eve is to
heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father--and who decides
that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her. It is,
if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is
as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of
government under the Constitution and just as dependent on each
This is a wonderful assertion, but seems not altogether very
In seeming respons to this notion, the late prophet Spencer W. Kimball
acknowledges it and asks for fairness on the part of the woman:
No woman has ever been asked by the Church
authorities to follow her
husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him as he follows and
obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding this, she should
always be sure she is fair. 
Nibley expounds on this same theme:
Why is it, asks the archeologist, A. Parrot,
that we never read of
the God of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, but only the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob? The answer is given in Abraham 2:22-25 [The Book
of Abraham is a Latter-day Saint book of scripture published in a
volume called "The Pearl of Great Price"], where Abraham obeys a
direct command from God, though he is free to reject it if he will,
while Sarah receives it as the law of her husband, being likewise
under no compulsion. It is indeed the God of Sarah, Rebecca, and
Rachel to whom they pray directly, but they covenant with him
through their husbands. 
Nibley follows this assertion with a quote from a Midrash which says
When the man and wife are joined together
and are called by one
name, then the celestial favor rests upon them ... which is embraced
in the male, so that the female is also firmly established. 
It is apparent that Nibley's neither-patriarchy-nor-matriarchy
is one that rests on a revisionist reading of texts that are divorced from
their normative historical interpretations and historical results.
Nineteenth and early twentieth century Mormons would certainly not approve
of this interpretation. Nibley's assertion does nothing to modify the
Mormon doctrine and practice of patriarchy, which results in a linear
God-man-woman relationship model.
The late Bruce R. McConkie, modern apostle, refers to Adam
and Eve as
protypical proof that this linear relationship is not that which was
instituted or intended by God:
Be it noted that both the man and the woman
prayed, both heard the
voice of the Lord; and both were commanded to worship him. ... After
the fall, Eve continued to receive revelation, to see visions, to
walk in the spirit. As Adam became the pattern for all his sons, so
did Eve for all her daughters. 
Yet, the same author is adamant that "women do not hold the priesthood."
 So, even though a woman may walk in the spirit, receive revelations,
have visions, she cannot have:
... the power of God. The power by
which all things exist; by which
they are created, governed, and controlled; ... by which the great
plan of creation, redemption, and exaltation operates throughout
Neither may woman have "the power and authority of God delegated
on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men." This power is
that, according to Mc Conkie, "by which the gospel is preached, by which
the ordinances of salvation are performed so that they will be binding on
earth and in heaven;"  ... . Instead, says Mc Conkie:
In the true Patriarchal Order man holds
the priesthood and is the
head of the household of faith, but he cannot attain a fullness of
joy here or of eternal reward hereafter alone. Woman stands at his
side a joint inheritor with him in the fullness of all things.
Exaltation and eternal increase is her lot as well as his. ...
Godhood is not for men only; it is for men and women together. 
In the period since polygamy, the view of woman's relationship
to man and
to the priesthood that has been promulgated above has been held to with
remarkable consistency. For example, the sentiments of Paramore and Mc
Conkie cited in this Part are almost identical to those published for the
use of the church priesthood quorums in a 1939 manual by the late Apostle
John A. Widtsoe. Widtsoe's chapter on women and the Priesthood makes the
point that since God distinguishes on the basis of sex, so must the
smallest governmental unit of the church, the home. The continuity of this
doctrine during the twentieth century is illustrated by the following
series of quotations selected and arranged by Apostle John A. Widtsoe for a
Priesthood manual of instruction published by the Church in 1939, and in
general use well into the 1960s. The person to whom the quote is
attributed by Widtsoe is here given in parentheses:
The home is the
ultimate unit of the Church. ... (John A.
The father is the
head or president, or spokesman of the
family. This arrangement is of divine origin. It also conforms to
physical and physiological laws under which humanity live. ... The
Patriarchal order is of divine origin, and will continue throughout
time and eternity. ... In the home the presiding authority is always
vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters
there is no other authority paramount. ... (Joseph F. Smith, past
president and prophet)
Every family is
a kingdom, a nation, a government, within
itself, to a certain extent; and the head of the family is the
legislator, the judge, the governor. This is what constitutes the
Patriarchal office, and was originally the sole government for all
the inhabitants of the earth. ... (no authorship given)
order has its divine spirit and purpose, and
those who disregard it under one pretext or another are out of
harmony with the spirit of God's laws as they are ordained for
recognition in the home. It is not merely a question of who is
perhaps the best qualified. Neither is it wholly a question of who
is living the most worthy life. It is a question largely of law and
order, and its importance seen often from the fact that the
authority remains and is respected long after a man is really
unworthy to exercise it. ... (Joseph F. Smith)
In the Church no
adjustment can be made. The priesthood always
presides and must, for the sake of order. The women of a
congregation of auxiliary -- many of them -- may be wiser, far
greater in mental powers, even greater in actual power of leadership
than the men who preside over them. That signifies nothing. The
Priesthood is not bestowed on the basis of mental power but is given
to good men and they exercise it by the right of divine gift, ... .
Woman has her gift of equal magnitude, and that is bestowed on the
simple and weak as well as upon those who are great and strong. Sex
enters here and is indisputable. It is eternal, so why quarrel with
it? A wiser power than any on earth understands why a spirit in the
far off beginning was male or female. On earth there is waiting
work for each to do. (Leah D. Widtsoe, John's wife) 
The "gift of equal magnitude" to the man's divine authority is motherhood:
Why should God give
his sons a power that is denied his
daughters? Should they not be equal in His sight as to status and
opportunities to perform the labors of life? ... This division of
responsibility is for a wise and noble purpose. Our Father in
Heaven has bestowed upon His daughters a gift of equal importance
and power, which gift, if exercised in its fullness, will occupy
their entire life on earth so that they can have no possible longing
for that which they do not possess. The "gift" referred to is that
of motherhood--... . (Leah D. Widtsoe) 
The quote does go on to say that motherhood should not preclude a
developing her other special gifts. But the bottom line still is that:
The gift and responsibility
of motherhood make it desirable
that women should be freed from the obligations of active service in
the Priesthood. A fair and wise adjustment has been made by the
Lord, so that women may have the freedom from unnecessary Church
responsibility in order to magnify their great calling as mothers of
men. (Leah D. Widtsoe) 
Some women cannot be mothers, but upon them rests the responsibility
magnify their nurturing talents:
Women who through
no fault of their own cannot exercise the
gift of motherhood directly, may do so vicariously. Motherhood may
be exercised as universally and vicariously as Priesthood.
Countless neglected children are in need of motherly care. (Brigham
After explaining that a woman's being chosen to rear and nurture
Only Begotten Son proves that God honors, recognizes, and trusts women,
Leah D. Widtsoe generalizes:
Let women everywhere
pause and consider well this great truth:
Theirs is the right to bear and rear to maturity, as well as to
influence for good or ill, the precious souls of men. This power is
truly priceless, and proves that our Father is entirely fair and
does prove His love and trust of his daughters as well as His sons.
Returning to the present day, the continuity of this view can,
be illustrated by a recent, perhaps less enlightened caricature of
motherhood's purpose as published by a modern Apostle, Boyd K. Packer, in
So here is a ...
lovely mother, with a spoon and a bowl, with
an apron and a broom, with a pie tin, a mixer, a cookie cutter, and
a skillet, with a motherly gesture, with patience, with
long-suffering, with affection, with a needle and thread, with a
word of encouragement, with that bit of faith and determination to
build an ideal home. With all of these small things you ... can win
for yourselves, ... and the Lord, the strength and power of a family
knit together, sealed together for time and for all eternity; a
great army of men, some willing and worthy, some not yet worthy, ...
men who now stand by the sidelines--husbands and fathers not quite
knowing, some not quite willing, yet all to be strengthened by a
handmaiden of the Lord who really cares. 
This great vision is one of wives devoting themselves to mothering
backsliding or unwilling husbands into full fellowship in the Church and
eternal fellowship with God. The vision of the great but humble nurturer
and the "great army of men" who finally grow up (spiritually) under her
nurturance is a more male-centered variant on the theme of women being the
mothers of men. In order to achieve this great feat, the wives are
told:... "you can't ever give up -- not in this life nor in the next. You
can never give up."  Thus there is no rest in paradise for the wife of
a recalcitrant saint, or confirmed gentile. And the grand key to this
eventual conversion is:
In order to help
with a miracle like this, I would like to
share some thoughts about what a man is and make suggestions as to
how a woman might approach this challenge. ... Often, when a woman
joins the Church before her husband does or if she is a member of
the Church when they marry, she readily becomes the spiritual leader
in the family. ... Often a man will feel uncomfortable, hold back,
resist, not knowing quite how to wrest that spiritual leadership
from his wife. There are some very delicate feelings related to
this matter that involve the male ego and touch the very center of
the nature of manhood. 
So there is the grand key: appeal to the man's ego. The advice
follows the grand key begins, "Remember, dear sisters, that the home and
the family are a unit of the Church."  It ends with "... the greatest
challenge before Relief Society in our day is that of assisting our lovely
sisters to provoke their husbands to good works." 
Thus, the role of rearing to physical and spiritual maturity
fathers, sons, and husbands, is a lifelong work. And if a husband is not
progressing spiritually, perhaps it is due to a woman's unwitting failure
to follow "the spirit of God's laws as they are ordained for recognition in
the home," which are in force even if the man's ability, condition, or
willingness seriously impair his leadership abilities, it seems.
The great and grand Patriarchal principle is, therefore, only
application and reflection of Paul's classic statement in l Cor. ll:9 which
says: "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the
man" (King James Version). This is amplified and reinforced by Mormondom's
McConkie: "As the woman, Eve, was created for the man, Adam, and not the
reverse, so women are subordinate to man and are subject to their control."
This is one of the "basic and eternal principles pertaining to men
women and their relationship to each other." 
Truly, the Patriarchal Order as it is explained
here is the order
suggested by Genesis 2:18-22. Although a Mormon interpreter would not
phrase it quite this way, the purpose of the Genesis 2 account seems to be
to show that
The earthly order is intended to recapitualte
the heavenly state of
affairs: one male God who is Lord of heaven and one male
vice-regent who is lord of the created order. Eve must show
deference to Adam as she shows deference to her creator. ... She
belongs to the realm of creatures over which Adam will exercise his
The Mormon version of the above is:
With the placing of man on earth, the Lord
began by patterning
earthly government after that which is heavenly. A perfect,
theocratic, patriarchal system was set up with Adam at the head.
Only the observation that Eve is an inferior being is missing, but
phrase "As man is the image and glory of God, so woman is the glory of man"
 goes a long way toward suggesting same.
All these many words on woman's relationship to God, her husband,
priesthood reflect the teachings of Mormonism over an extended period of
time and multiple generations. Yet each "authority" collects, rearranges,
and comments on the words of previous authorities, Old Testament, New
Testament, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc., up to the
present authorities and influential personalities (a prophet's wife, a
scholar, etc.). Yet, where is the revelation upon which all this rhetoric
Could it be possible that the present-day
Mormon view of the
relationship of women to God, man and priesthood is based on
nineteenth-century Victorian and Puritan preconceived notions, assimilated
and never questioned by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc. If
so, it could be that their stature as prophets has added a sanctity to
these views that is not warranted. It could be that if, in a future time,
God speaks on this subject, a general authority of Mormondom could well be
Forget everything that I have said, or what
President Brigham Young
or President George Q. Cannon or whosoever has said in days past
that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited
understanding and without the light and knowledge that has now come
into the world. ... It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the
Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the
world on this subject: 'All are alike unto God, black and white,
bond and free, male and female!' These words have now taken on a
new meaning. We have caught a new vision of their true
significance. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had
the extensive and broad meaning that they do have. 
This intentional misuse of McConkie's words after the 1978
extending the priesthood to "all worthy male members of the Church" ...
"without regard for race or color" illustrates the obvious analogy:
What if, similarly, the will of God has
yet to be expressed to mankind
on the subject of women and the priesthood? McConkie mentioned that the
light of the 1978 revelation did away with the relevance of "any slivers of
light or any particles of darkness of the past."  Since there may be a
few slivers of light and particles of darkness in the past of the doctrinal
development of the present Mormon view on woman, and on woman and the
priesthood, it seems an examination is in order.
But it is important that as we await this reexamination of
with an eye to receiving fresh revelatory insight, it is important to
ensure that the reader of these pages not develop an unsympathetic view of
either the nineteenth century or modern Mormon women who love and defend
their church and its patriarchal doctrines and practices. Change can not
be promoted in a highly polarized setting, it is only when there is mutual
understanding and sympathy that the ideas of one viewpoint can be fairly
considered by the adherents of another. Hence, the following Part explores
the deep feelings of allegiance that modern Mormon women may have for the
very institutions and doctrines that feminists find so revulsive.
Patriarchal Order and Its Defense by Mormon Women
In the preceding discussions Mormon sources were used to show
Patriarchal Order is not the benign result of an arbitrary divine decision
to appoint one as spokesperson wherever two equals form a unit, a special
case of the principle of presidency as practiced in the auxiliaries and
quorums of the Church. Generally, except at the highest level of Church
government, according to Mc Conkie:
... it is the practice of the Church to
rotate the privilege and
responsibility of organization presidency so that many brethren and
sisters of proved worthiness and leadership may enjoy the blessings
of service in God's kingdom. 
Clearly, the home is not a place where this rotation of presidency
allowed, because of sex. The permanent nature of this sex-based hierarchy
has been made abundantly clear in the materials already cited which espouse
the Mormon view of the eternal family.
So what is it that is so appealing in this eternal state of
Mormon women are and have been generally willing to sacrifice all they are
and possess to live within this discriminatory system? It is important to
answer this question in some detail because it must be made perfectly clear
to the reader that being a Mormon wife, mother, or single woman has its
rewards in this life and its promises of reward in eternity. This essay in
no way wishes to suggest otherwise, it only wishes to explore the
possibility that the usual conditions upon which these present and future
rewards are predicated may be needlessly beclouded by and encumbered with
doctrinal baggage based on unquestioned assumptions regarding the nature of
scripture, revelation, and Victorian Era social theory.
All the promises that John Taylor made to
his future plural wife
Josephine, as part of his proposal, are promises that apply to the modern,
monogamous, temple-ceremony wedded Mormon couple. These promises, it was
disclosed after the discontinuity of earthly polygyny, really applied to
the principle of Celestial marriage, which is "the new and everlasting
covenant" of marriage that one man and one wife can enter into just as well
as one man and a plurality of wives. These promises included: "... a seat
among the gods" as well as an eternal existence as "a priestess and a queen
... in robes of bright seraphic light ... reigning and ruling in the realm
of light" ... . 
Faithful Mormon women have claimed these promises for themselves,
partly because of their vision of their future rewards have spoken out in
defense of their Church and its view and treatment of women. This was true
in the days when polygamy was openly practiced, prior to 1890, and also
after 1890. Two notable examples of women defending polygamy have been
used as reference materials in an earlier Part, the "Mormon Women's
Protest" of March 6, 1886, published by the women of the Church, and Helen
M. Whitney's "Why We Practice Plural Marriage," a book published in 1884.
In the post 1890, post-polygamy period, Susa Young Gates and
Widtsoe's "The Women of the Mormon Church," published in 1926, stands out
as a comprehensive treatise of how Mormondom is seen and experienced by its
women. The book includes, on its title page, a list of questions that are
promised to be answered which includes: "How does the modern sex conflict
affect them?" The facts are promised, and the reader is rhetorically
asked: "Will you listen to a 'Mormon" woman's recital of these facts?" 
These women apparently saw Joseph Smith's first revelation (1820)
beginning of a new and brighter day for woman: the restrictions on females
in the Jerusalem temple are contrasted with the freedom of access women
have in the temples of the Restoration:
In the temple at
Jerusalem, women were not permitted to go
beyond the Gate Beautiful; they never entered into the Court of
Sacrifice nor into the higher Holy Place. During the dark ages,
after the light of revelation had been withdrawn from the earth,
women felt keenly, but perhaps unconsciously, the heavy hand of
superstition and oppression. Men, because of superior strength and
public leadership, could force their way through the clouds of
darkness and superstition, but helpless women and little children
were sufferers, as they always are when sex ethics are of double
standard, and life is bound by great ambition and lustful desires.
So that, when the vision of the Father and the Son, given to the
Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820 came through that golden gateway, the
women with their little children were among the most blessed
recipients of the results of that vision.
Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are
admitted not only into public courts of worship and activity,
symbolically and equally in religious and civic affairs, but she
enters temples, which are the most sacred places maintained by the
Church, side by side with her father, or her husband. Indeed, to
receive his highest blessings a man must be accompanied by his wife.
They share the gifts, blessings and labors of the priesthood, within
and without the Temple. 
On the subject of women and the priesthood, these women first
whom the priesthood is and isn't given:
Priesthood is delegated
authority to act for God. All men in
this Church receive the priesthood if they are worthy. ... At l2
years of age, the Aaronic or lesser priesthood is conferred upon
them. This includes power to officiate in temporal activities. As
they increase in wisdom and understanding, greater advancement is
given them and, if faithful, the higher priesthood called
Melchizedek is conferred upon them. This priesthood gives the right
to officiate in the spiritual offices of the Church. ...
Women do not hold the priesthood, but they do share equally in
the blessings and gifts bestowed on the priesthood in temple courts,
in civic, social and domestic life. 
Next, the woman's not being allowed to hold the priesthood
rationalized in terms of the best late nineteenth/early twentieth-century
thought: the limited energy of women, to strain them endangered their
health; and the natural capacity of men and women toward activities within
the separate spheres of "marketplace" and "hearth-stone." Grave individual
and societal consequences are predicted for those who deviate from these
norms, but, enigmatically, some constructive blurring of these roles in
Mormondom is admitted, and emphasis is placed on a Mormon woman's voluntary
choosing her sphere of activity for herself:
Office and priesthood
carry heavy responsibilities requiring
constant labor and time. No woman could safely carry the triple
burden of wifehood, motherhood, and at the same time function in
priestly orders. Yet her creative home labor ranks side by side, in
earthly and heavenly importance, with her husband's priestly
responsibilities. His in the market place -- hers at the
hearth-stone. He is the leader and she follows, not because she
must, but because she will. She chooses her sphere as he chooses
his. That he would bungle and spoil home life if he sought to enter
woman's sphere is as sure as it is that she would emasculate his
affairs if, or when, she attempts to prove her equality by crowding
man out of his place. Exceptions to both rules there are and may
be. Exceptions prove nothing. Men can do women's work, women can
do men's work. What then? Does it pay? Will individuals or the
race be better off?
Whenever this order of living has been reversed in individual
or in national life, the loss to woman and to society is far more
tragic than the loss to man himself. Moreover, in the Church, men
can and do share faithfully the burdens of home life when necessary,
and women happily enter the market place of public activity whenever
or wherever she desires, or has an especial gift therefore. But
"Mormon" women generally choose home life as their major occupation,
making public activities incidental. 
The discussion of women and priesthood ends with a very emphatic
that men and women are equal. It is not priestly office, but individual
faithfulness that counts towards the objective of exaltation:
The priesthood holds
the power to officiate in the ordinances
of the gospel, but functioning in priestly office does not affect
its power or increase its resultant divine status. The humblest man
or woman who has received blessings in the Temples may and will, if
faithful, achieve the same glory and exaltation accorded to the
presiding high priest. Glory is intelligence self-controlled -- as
taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. 
From priesthood, the discussion next turns to the matter of
pre-eminent place in the family. Here too, male-female equality is
claimed, and the voluntary submission of the wife is shown to be
conditional to the husband's faithfulness and obedience to the authority
Men and women are
equal before the Father, yet men have the
duty and responsibility of presiding "in the family circle" as in
the priesthood and in Church capacity; thus it must be or chaos not
order reigns. Woman is glad to accept and abide by the counsel of
her husband in righteousness if and when her husband renders willing
obedience to those placed over him in the priesthood.
The husband has the deciding voice. The wife happily accepts
his leadership because she wills it so, not because she is coerced
into obedience. We will obey civic and divine law, hence comes
harmony. Divine leadership is unselfish service. 
The equality of women and men before God is further illustrated
absence of a double moral standard:
With this accepted
leadership of man goes the solemn obligation
upon him of rigid personal chastity, civic probity and social
integrity in motive and act. Communal standards demand more
unselfishness from men than from women. There is no double standard
of virtue tolerated in the Church. Boys are taught to guard their
virtue as sacredly as are girls. Man is the leader, because he
really leads; he is chaste, honorable; he uses no stimulants, tea,
coffee, tobacco or liquor, as his is the example which he
consistently asks his wife and family to follow. If he does not
obey these laws he cannot receive and magnify the priesthood, nor
can he enter a temple for marriage or for any of its sacred
ordinances. Where men fall from virtue they fall deeper and their
condemnation is greater. They lead only through and by virtue of
their strict moral standards. 
Note that the principle "where more is given, more is expected
is woven into this discussion: man's greater freedom in society is held to
his account if he abuses these privileges. Divine judgement is to be more
severe given greater freedom.
Moving now into the socio-political arena, the equality of
men and women,
in spite of their separate-spheres, is explained:
In all public and
private life, the duties and obligations of
the man and the woman are equally important and equally distributed.
That their paths lie parallel, touching and merging here and there,
yet coalescing only around the domestic altar carries no implication
of superiority or inferiority. What one sex lacks the other
supplements. Each is to the other the complement. With the
advantage of equality from the beginning of the Church, women
labored side by side with their husbands and fathers in making
history, building homes and towns, and accompanied them in their
mobbings and drivings... .
Perhaps no women, in the history of the world, have ever had
the freedom of will and of action accorded to the women of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This may sound
incredible to strangers but its truth is recognized by the women of
the Church and by their non-"Mormon" friends everywhere. 
Politically, Joseph Smith introduced a universal religious
men and women when he founded the Church. This religious franchise was not
a ballot vote, as for a candidate, but the principle of "common consent,"
whereby appointed officials could function only after obtaining the
suffrage or consent of the membership. This was considered a radical
innovation in its time by Gates and Widtsoe.  The Mormons naturally
extended universal suffrage to civic affairs, and led the nation in so
doing. Mormon women were active in this movement and scored some
significant political "firsts" in the nation:
conferred the territorial form of government on
the settlers of the Salt Lake valley, women held the elective
franchise in all civic as well as ecclesiastic matters in the new
territory, between the years 1847-52. Bancroft's "History of Utah,"
refers to this communal form of government practiced in our earliest
settlement, in the following language:
'During this period men and women voted by ballot in matters
relating to government. Women had already voted in religious
meetings by the uplifted hand, but this is probably the first
instance in the United States where woman suffrage was
permitted. Utah at that time, however, was not a part of the
United States, and before its admission as a territory the
privilege was withdrawn by the United States government.'
The common law rights of dower and courtesy were early
abolished and women were given equal property rights with men. They
could sue and be sued and buy and sell independently. But a wife's
signature is always necessary when husbands sell joint property.
Divorce was always possible "when parties cannot live in peace and
The general agitation for woman suffrage which began with the
Women's Rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848,
gathered volume. Equal suffrage was accepted in the West in early
history. The agitation finally brought about the granting of woman
suffrage to the women of Wyoming by their Territorial Legislature in
Dec. of 1869, and in Utah on Feb. l2, 1870. The Utah legislature
did not meet till January, 1870.
The captain of Utah's woman-host, Eliza R. Snow, was foremost
in all this labor as in all others during her period of public
activity, which began in Nauvoo in 1842 and ended only with her
death in 1887. Yet she turned over the active direction of this
suffrage movement in 1870 to that champion of equal rights, Sarah M.
Kimball. For many years Mrs. Kimball was the "Mormon" suffrage
Following her in the leadership of the suffrage forces was that
other indomitable pioneer, poetess, leader and editor, President
Emmeline B. Wells, who was assisted by that no less able patriot,
Mrs. Emily S. Richards. These two conducted suffrage affairs in
this state for many years.
The first woman to vote with full suffrage in the United States
was Miss Seraph Young, a niece of Brigham Young, who happened to be
the first woman at the polls and who voted the Salt Lake City
municipal ticket February 2l, 1870, several months prior to the
The right of suffrage, granted by the territorial governor and
legislative assembly to women of Utah in 1870, was withdrawn by
Congress in 1887. When Utah was admitted as a state in 1896, the
Constitution carried an equal suffrage clause. Utah women rejoiced
in their restored civic rights.
The first woman state senator in the United States was Dr.
Martha Hughes-Cannon, who was elected in 1896, and who served two
terms in the Utah Upper chamber. In that same legislature sat Mrs.
LeBarthe (non-Mormon) in the lower house.
The first woman mayor in the United States, Mrs. Mary Woolley
Chamberlain, was elected with a city council of four women in Kanab,
Utah, in 1910-13. 
The remainder of Gates and Widtsoe's book emphasizes the church's
accomplishments in law, medicine, sanitation and health, in the press, the
arts, etc. Also, the women's organizations are described in terms of their
international scope, their independence, their industries, their assets,
their programs, their publications, etc. All in all, a very impressive
digest of the achievements of the women of Mormondom up to 1926 is
In the 1970's, with the Women's Movement in full bloom, Mormon
again wrote books to defend their church. One particularly notable book is
"The Flight and the Nest," by Carol Lynn Pearson. This book is not so much
a defense of Mormonism as it is a modern woman's exploration of the "woman
issue" from the writings recorded in Mormon women's periodicals from 1872
to the early 1930's. The author of this book concludes that she welcomes
the challenge to the status-quo that the women's movement is bringing
about, but she is afraid that the movement also presents "many
possibilities for destructive choices." 
Her assessment of these destructive choices
is largely based on her
feelings and insight, and not on the words of the church's leaders. This
is of some interest because the book was written prior to the church's
taking an active and official stand against the ratification of the Equal
Rights Amendment (ERA), hence she was under no "obligation" to defend the
church's anti-feminist stance. As a result, her views tend to be
thought-provoking rather than polemical. She advocates a woman's striking
a balance in life between her ability and experience in the world of work
(the flight) and her domestic work and service (the nest, hence the book's
title). In her appraisal of the tug between work and home, she underlines
the importance of a woman's keeping her feminine perspective:
Because the world has always assumed that
what men have been
involved in is more important than what women have been involved in,
we accept it as a fact. And now that we have our freedom (too long
in the coming) we are sorely tempted to use it to emulate something
not worthy of emulation. 
Her other advice is also typically and innocently Mormon, and equally
Another genre of Mormon women's books, with numerous titles,
after the friction between the feminist movement and the church became
heated. Much of this apologetic literature nevertheless gives an accurate
portrayal of what many Mormon women strongly and happily believe. For
Most Mormon mothers
are secure in the understanding of their
divinely ordained roles. they know clearly from the scriptures,
from the prophets, and from their own experiences that true
happiness is found only in obedience to the commandments of the
Finite words cannot describe the soaring emotions felt by a
woman who is completely caught up in fulfilling her eternal role.
She is sweetheart, confidante, partner, friend to her husband, all
the while molding, teaching, guiding her children. ...
Men are counseled regularly by the leaders of the Church to
lead out in their homes, not as authoritarian dictators, but as
considerate spiritual leaders. ... They are further directed to
consult with their wives on all important decisions and to live in
love and harmony with them. ...
Mormons believe that they were spirit children of a Father and
Mother in heaven before being born into mortality. Little is spoken
by the prophets concerning the Mother in Heaven, but we know that
she holds many titles such as queen and priestess, and that she is a
personage of power and authority, a goddess as surely as the Father
in heaven is a god. ...
Latter-day Saints regard this earth life as both a challenge
and a new opportunity. A challenge because they must prove
themselves by obeying all of God's commandments. And an opportunity
because they, as spirits, take upon themselves a mortal body. In
doing so, they take one further step towards their ultimate goal--to
become as God is.
Because of this doctrine, members of the Church feel it is an
honor and a privilege to participate in the eternal plan of
salvation by creating bodies for the remainder of the spirits
awaiting their chance to experience mortal life. Without doubt,
their belief explains in part why children are held in high esteem
and why the eternal family is considered of such great worth to
The sincerity of these sentiments, and their being representative
belief of the preponderence of Mormondom's female population is
unquestionable. Similarly, but even more strongly apologetic and
While there are
those who cry out that this Church demeans
women, we bear witness that no church upon the face of the earth
today exalts women as does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints -- through faithfulness -- to the very realms of deity with
our husbands. 
This bold statement is followed by supporting quotations, one of
that when exalted:
Then shall woman reign by divine right,
a queen in the resplendent
realm of her glorified state. ... Mortal eye cannot see nor mind
comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of a righteous woman made
perfect in the celestial kingdom of God. 
This is followed by a statement signed by the authors:
We leave you our testimony, an opposing
view to that which some are
erroneously promulgating in the world today. We, as women in the
Church, glory in the umbrella of love and protection of the
Priesthood and the patriarchy provided by a loving Father for His
daughters on the earth today. We rejoice in our womanhood and shout
hosannas to our God for the restoration of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the direction of Apostles and a
living Prophet in order thay we may keep our "second estate" and
live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. 
When the statements of the Mormon women
quoted here are compared with
the words of their non-Mormon, Christian, and non-feminist sisters, the
strength and depth of the Mormon women's views and beliefs become more
apparent. For example, one non-Mormon Christian woman writes:
Only the fullness
of the love of Jesus can fill our weary
hearts. We simply need more of Him. He is the fullness of God, and
we are complete in Him. ...
As we progress together, I commend you to the loving care of
the Father, asking that he strengthen you, encourage you, and fill
you with the freshness of His Holy Spirit, so that the frustrations
of weariness can become a fruitful experience. ... Only He can make
every mountain low, the crooked straight, the rough plain, and every
AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHALL BE REVEALED. 
Similarly, another Christian woman writes:
I do not have to
see all the way to the end of my sojourn on
earth. God gives me enough light to see where I am, and I'm not
afraid of where I'm going. I can depend on His company for the rest
of my life. ... As one approaches the autumn and winter of
life, a very growing concern emerges. Has my life helped any other
struggling human being? Have I been concerned mostly with self? ...
Am I afraid of the future? Not on your life! "For God hath
not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a
sound mind" (2 Timothy l:7 KJV).
I shall go forth in the power of His Holy Spirit, being assured
of a sound mind through Christ Jesus.
In Jesus Christ I can become truly WOMAN!
The Mormon reader would perhaps find the
latter two attempts to give
words of encouragement to women to be rather shallow, they lack the eternal
perspective and the vision of an exciting, exalted existence as gods among
the gods that characterize the Mormon vision of the future life. And
becoming "truly WOMAN" in Jesus Christ is also not very comforting to the
Mormon who understands that normative Christianity believes in a sexless,
genderless existence in the eternities.
A publication of the curriculum department of The United Methodist
that provides a highly scriptural and enlightened doctrinal basis for
egalitarianism in Christian life, maintains that:
In a sense God is
both father and mother to his children. "As
one whom his mother conforts, so I will comfort you" (Isaiah 66:l3).
But, since pagan worship of mother goddesses as embodiments of the
sexual power in nature was common in both Old Testament and New
Testament times, the title of Mother is never applied to God in the
Bible. God is beyond both maleness and femaleness. He is the
creator of sexuality but is not sexual in his own priesthood. 
It is thus to avoid endorsing the worship of a powerful and awe-inspiring
aspect of nature that the masculine title is used, but God transcends
maleness and femaleness. In the Christian community, similarly, unity is
built upon a transcendence of sex differences just as differences in age,
talent, and mental power are transcended by the love that creates and
defines the Christian community. 
Although this theology is supportive of an egalitarian lifeview
adherents, to a Mormon it would also be seen as lacking. No eternal
perspective is evident, and the creation of a sexual world by a non-sexual
God seems an arbitrary and suspicious act to a Mormon who sincerely
believes that an Eternal Mother and Father are the divine parents of all
mankind, and that it is human destiny to become like God: male and female.
It is, therefore, not easy for a Mormon feminist to pick up
allegiance to the Mormon faith and deposit it into another Christian
religion with a more egalitarian theology and practice. There is too much
to lose, too much that inspires and edifies, too much that gladdens the
heart and nurtures the spirit. The sure knowledge of the existence of a
Mother in Heaven alone can be a balm and boon sufficient to forestall any
thought of such a switch to a denomination of normative Christianity. Yet,
that very knowledge, coupled with a sure and abiding faith in the perfect
goodness of the Father, tends to cause the Mormon feminist to look at some
of the teachings and practices of Mormonism with a troubled heart.
For the Mormon feminist, it is in the Mormon family, in the
church, and in the Mormon scriptures that practices and doctrines appear
that are in apparent violation of what is right and just. Yet the church's
attributing these problem practices and doctrinal assertions to God places
the Mormon feminist is in an uncomfortable situation: either God is the
author of some unrighteousness and injustice or the church leadership is
misrepresenting the will of God, at least in certain instances. The former
option is not tenable to a believing person.
Yet, as illustrated in this Part, it is likely that most Mormon
not feminists and are not troubled by the things that cause Mormon
feminists grief, because they sincerely believe that the institutions in
which they live, move, and have their being are the arms of God protecting
them in their special and hallowed sphere: there is safety and joy in being
a helpmeet and partner to a man destined to become as God. There is
security in knowing that in the great expanse of eternity it is not her
place to deal with the yet unknown and uncertain forces of the universe,
but his. He will protect her and provide for her there as here, and that
which she does well here under the wings of his providence she will
continue to do there.
There is no uncertainty for her, hence there is no reason for
anxiety, unless her husband is not magnifying his calling in the priesthood
(ie. is messing up). But then if she is worthy she still has no worries:
she'll be given to one that is worthy and will be happy. As long as she
does her part, God will ensure she is always protected and provided for.
This is a powerful enticement to belief, and anyone who can convincingly
attack this belief as being manmade and having no firm basis in eternal
reality unleashes anxiety, fear, and insecurity of enormous magnitude: the
very existence of a safe universe is threatened!
The material introduced in the preceding Parts showed that
contradiction between the Mormon doctrine of woman's place and the
egalitarian claims made for the Mormon view of earthly and eternal
male-female relations cited in this Part. The claim cited above, for
example, that our Mother in Heaven ..."is a goddess as surely as the Father
in Heaven is a god," (See 15) is misleading, since it is quite clear that
the vision of Mormonism is that God is to the man as the man is to the
woman, making the status of goddess lesser than that of God. This
hierarchical relationship is required by the notion of a Divine patriarchy,
which is in turn required by and supportive of the notion that God, and
hence exalted man, is or may be polygynous.
1. Mc Conkie, Bruce R., "Mormon Doctrine," (Bookcraft,
Salt Lake City,
1966), p. 321.
2. Ibid., pp. 179-180.
4. Ibid., pp. 117, 257.
5. Ibid., pp. 117-118.
6. Ibid., p. 257.
7. Ibid., p. 321.
8. Ibid., Preface.
9. Ibid., p. 577.
10. Ibid., p. 517.
11. Ibid., p. 516.
13. Ibid., p. 257.
14. Ibid., p. 258.
15. Mc Conkie, Bruce R., "Eve and the Fall," In: Spencer W. Kimball et
"Woman," (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1980), p. 58.
16. Mc Conkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 242.
17. Mc Conkie, "Eve and the Fall," Op. cit., p. 67.
18. Ibid., p. 68.
19. Roberts, Brigham H., "The Seventy's Course in Theology, Second Year,
Outline History of the Dispensations of the Gospel," (Skelton
Company, Salt Lake City, 1908), p. 12.
21. Kimball, Spencer W., "My Beloved Sisters," (Deseret Book Company, Salt
Lake City, 1979), pp. 35-37.
22. Mc Conkie, "Eve and the Fall," Op. cit., p. 58.
23. Ibid., p. 68.
24. Kimball, Op. cit.
25. Mc Conkie, Bruce R., "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Volume 2.
Acts-Philippians, (Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1970), pp. 360-361.
26. Mc Conkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 242.
27. Ibid., p. 633.
28. Whitney, Helen Mar, In: Untitled speech written for the "Mormon
Women's Protest. An Appeal for Freedom, Justice and Equal Rights," by
"Ladies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Account of Proceedings at the Great Mass Meeting, held in the Theatre,
Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday, March 6, 1886." p. 50.
29. Snow, Eliza R., "An Address by Miss Eliza R. Snow ... August 14,
1873,"Latter-day Saints' Millenial Star 36 (13 January, 1874), p. 21
as quoted by Jill C. Mulvay, "Eliza R. Snow and the Woman Question,"
Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1976, Vol. 16(2):250-264.
30. Snow, Eliza R., "Woman," In: "Poems, Religious, Historical and
Political," 2 Vols., (LDS Printing and Publishing Establishment, Salt
Lake City, 1877), as quoted in Mulvay, Ibid.
31. Snow, Eliza R., "Miss E. R. Snow's Address to the Female Relief
Societies of Weber County," Latter-day Saint's Millenial Star 33 (12
September, 1871), p. 578 as quoted in Mulvay, Ibid.
32. Snow, Eliza R., "Degradation of Women in Utah," Deseret News Weekly,
27 April, 1870, as quoted in Mulvay, Ibid.
33. Whitney, Helen Mar, Op. cit.
34. Cannon, George Q., "Celestial Marriage," In: Brigham Young et al.,
Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, (Horace S. Eldredge, Liverpool,
1871; Eighth Reprint: Stationer's Hall, Salt Lake City, 1974), pp.
204-205. (Hereinafter Journal of Discourses citations will be given as
JD volume:pages. This citation is, therefore, JD 13:204-205.)
35. Whitney, Helen Mar, "Why We Practise Plural Marriage," (The Juvenile
Instructor Office, Salt Lake City, 1884), p. 54.
36. Ibid., p. 71.
37. Mc Conkie, Bruce R., "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Volume 2,
Op. cit., p. 360.
1. Whitney, Op. cit., p. 69.
2. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 579.
3. Ibid., p. 578.
5. Ibid., p. 742.
6. Ibid., p. 708.
7. Ibid., p. 471.
8. Ibid., p. 516.
9. Newquist, Jerreld L. (Ed.), "Gospel Truth, Discourses and Writings of
President George Q. Cannon." Vol 1 (Salt Lake City: Zion's Book Store,
1957) pp. 135-136. Cannon wrote these words for the periodical "The
Juvenile Instructor," Vol. 20, pp.314-317; May 15, 1895.
10. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 257.
11. Ibid., p. 321.
12. Newquist, Op. cit., p. 129.
14. Ibid., p. 3.
15. McConkie, "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Op. cit.
18. Hyde, Orson, "Common Salvation," Sept. 24, 1853, JD 2:117.
19. Hyde, Orson, "Man the Head of Woman, Etc.," JD 4:258.
20. Kimball, Heber C., "Persons Not to be Baptized, Etc.," JD 4:82.
23. Ibid., p. 81.
25. Ibid., p. 82.
26. Young, Brigham, "The People of God Disciplined by Trials, Etc.," Sept.
21, 1856, JD 4:56-57.
27. Young, Brigham, "The Gospel Incorporates All Truth, Etc.," Aug. 31,
1873, JD 16:167.
28. Cannon, George Q., "Celestial Marriage," Op. cit.
29. Snow, Erastus, "Preparation of Heart, Etc.," Oct. 4, 1857, JD 5:291.
30. McConkie, "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Op. cit.
31. Taylor, Samuel W., "The Kingdom or Nothing," (Macmillan Publishing
Co., Inc., New York, 1976) pp. 374-375.
1. Paramore, James M., "Woman's Relationship to the Priesthood,"
Kimball, Spencer W. et al., "Woman", (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake
City, 1979) p. 47.
2. Ibid., p. 46.
3. Ibid., pp. 48-49, (citing in turn Daniel H. Wells in JD 4:256).
4. Ibid., pp. 49-50.
5. Ibid., p. 50.
6. Ibid., p. 51.
7. Ibid., p. 52.
8. Ibid., p. 53.
10. Ibid., p. 55.
11. Ibid., p. 56.
13. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 594.
17. Ibid., p. 527.
18. McConkie, Bruce R., "The New Revelation On Priesthood," In: Spencer W.
Kimball, et al., "Priesthood," (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City,
1981) p. 132.
19. Ibid., p. 126.
20. Ibid., p. 137.
21. Backman, Robert L., "Woman and the Priesthood," In: Spencer W. Kimball
et al., "Priesthood," Op. cit., pp. 147-156.
22. Ibid., p. 149.
23. Ibid., p. 151.
24. Ibid., p. 150.
25. Ibid., p. 151.
26. Ibid., p. 152.
28. Ibid., p. 156. (in turn citing: "The Mormon," August 29, 1857)
29. Taylor, Samuel W., Op. cit.
30. Nibley, Hugh, "Patriarchy and Matriarchy", In: "Blueprints for
Living: Perspectives for Latter-day Saint Women," (Brigham Young Univ.
Press, Provo, 1980) p. 61.
31. Ibid., p. 48.
32. Kimball, Spencer W., "The Blessings and Responsibilities of
Womanhood," Op. cit., p. 83.
33. Nibley, Hugh, "The Sacrifice of Sarah," The Improvement Era, April
1970, p. 92.
35. McConkie, Bruce R., "Eve and the Fall," Op. cit., pp. 65 and 68.
36. McConkie, Bruce R., "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 355.
37. Ibid., p. 594.
39. Ibid., p. 844.
40. Widtsoe, John A., "Priesthood and Church Government," (Deseret Book
Company, Inc., Salt Lake City, 1939), pp. 80-90.
41. Ibid., p. 84. (citing Leah D. Widtsoe's book "Priesthood and
42. Ibid., pp. 84-85.
43. Ibid., p. 85.
45. Packer, Boyd K., "Begin Where You Are -- At Home," In: Spencer W.
Kimball et al., "Woman" Op. cit., p. 139.
46. Ibid., p. 131.
47. Ibid., p. 133.
49. Ibid., p. 134.
50. McConkie, "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Vol. 2, Op. cit., p.
51. Phillips, John A., "Eve. The History of an Idea," (Harper & Row
Publishers, San Francisco, 1984). pp. 32-33.
52. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 559.
53. McConkie, "Doctrinal New Testament Commentary," Op. cit.
54. McConkie, Bruce R., "The New Revelation On Priesthood.", Op. cit., p.
1. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Op. cit., p. 591.
2. Taylor, Samuel W., Op. cit.
3. Gates, Susa Y. and Leah D. Widtsoe, "The Women of the Mormon Church,"
(The Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, 1926) Title page.
4. Ibid., pp. 3, 11.
5. Ibid., pp. 4-5.
6. Ibid., p. 5.
7. Ibid., p. 5.
8. Ibid., p. 6.
9. Ibid., p. 6.
10. Ibid., p. 7.
11. Ibid., pp. 6-7.
12. Ibid., pp. 8-9.
13. Pearson, Carol L., "The Flight and the Nest," (Bookcraft, Inc., Salt
Lake City, 1975) p. 104.
14. Ibid., p. 108.
15. Terry, Ann, Marilyn Slacht-Griffin, and Elizabeth Terry, "Mormons and
Women," (Butterfly Publishing Inc., Santa Barbara, 1980), pp. 5-7.
16. Ehlers, Carol J., Vicki J. Robinson, and Elisa M. Newbold, "Daughters
of God, Prophecy and Promise, (Hawkes Publishing Inc., Salt Lake City,
1981) p. 183.
18. Ibid., p. 184.
19. Tchividjian, Gigi, "A Woman's Quest for Serenity," (Fleming H. Revell
Company, Old Tappan, N.J., 1981) pp. 157, 158.
20. Rogers, Dale E., "Woman," (Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan,
N.J., 1980) pp. 126-127.
21. Hamilton, Kenneth and Alice Hamilton, "To Be A Man, To Be A Woman,"
(Graded Press, Nashville, 1972) p. 155.
22. Ibid., pp. 156-157.