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A Response to “Ruby Slippers on Her Feet: Reflections on the OrdainWomen Website” by V. H. Cassler

Recently I was pointed to an article by V. H. Cassler (who I presume is Valerie Hudson Cassler) titled “Ruby Slippers on Her Feet: Reflections on the OrdainWomen Website.” Soon thereafter a few people asked me to comment. Well, it’s one thing to respond to a typical blog post or speech and quite another to respond to 20 pages of single spaced type. But, hey, I aim to please!

Ruby Slippers On Her Feet - Cassler

Sincerely, though, dredging through all this is going to be painful. I can feel it. And I just want you to pity me right from the start. Sometimes when I’m asked to analyze something, it’s worse than expected, but other times it turns out not to be as problematic as the rumbling seems to indicate. But this time, it’s just starting out wrong, so I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.

Here goes nothing. 

The Ruby Slippers Analogy

Cassler starts out with this bit of lovely:

Oh, will you help me?  Can you help me?

You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power…

I have?

Then why didn’t you tell her before?

Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

For the love of Peter, Paul, and Mary. Can we at least ease into the patronizing?

Whether they are right or wrong, the members of Ordain Women are asking for female ordination into the Aaronic and/or Melchizedek Priesthoods. Women do not have this ordination. Period. It’s not a matter of having it but being unaware of having it.  If they did have it, I guess there wouldn’t be a problem with them attending the priesthood session for the priesthood they already have.

The problem here is equivocation. Cassler knows that those in OW want something specific and she knows they don’t have it. But she’s pretending that this analogy works by pretending the thing they want is something different. Something they have, but don’t know they have. But it’s not.

They want the priesthood.

The members of Ordain Women want to be able to use the “power of God on earth” to serve. They want to baptize and confirm and bless. They want women to be as involved in the decision making processes in the church as men. I’m pretty sure Cassler knows this because Ordain Women could not be clearer in their purpose. They are not pussy-footing around and beating about the bush. They’ve put it up in big, bold letters at the top of their website and in pretty much every presentation and statement they’ve made.

I don’t mind if Cassler disagrees, but to start out immediately by dismissing what these women are asking for by presenting it as if they already have it is intellectually dishonest. (Maybe I’ll change that statement when I read further. If you see it here, you know I stand by it.)

It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering spaghetti, and being served pancakes. When you point out you didn’t get the meal you ordered the waitress says, “What are you talking about? Look right there on your plate. Are you blind? You already have pancakes right there in front of you. Silly girl!”

Now if you want to claim you don’t serve spaghetti — or you don’t serve spaghetti to girls — go ahead and make your case. But let’s not pretend that pancakes are spaghetti just because you don’t want to address the real issue.

[When I quote Cassler, I’m removing all the double spaces. Because they are wrong and they make me crazy! Other than that, the quotes are intact and you can see the entire context at the link provided above.]

Laughing, Crying, and Equivocating

As a feminist, the idea that men would ever have the right or ability to give women divine power strikes me as deeply anti-feminist. Are we saying that only with the permission of men and by the hand of men can women partake of divine power? And that since male permission has not been forthcoming to this point, women in fact possess no divine power at present?  That we women are reduced to pleading with men to give us our power?

This point is an interesting and surprisingly fresh perspective. But it’s not doctrinal.

Cassler engages in further equivocation and we’re only in paragraph three. She carries this equivocation through the majority of the post. While the concepts are noteworthy on their own, this renders much of her essay irrelevant to the actual discussion about Ordain Women and their desire to receive the priesthood.

She changes the subject from “priesthood power” to “divine power” in order to try to prove a point. “Divine power” (whatever that is) isn’t what OW is asking for. So maybe she can quell the laughter she says is welling up inside for just a second and have a logical conversation.

Let’s change this quote back to the actual topic and discuss the real issue, “priesthood power.” Here is what the corrected paragraph would look like:

As a feminist, the idea that men would ever have the right or ability to give women priesthood power strikes me as deeply anti-feminist. Are we saying that only with the permission of men and by the hand of men can women partake of priesthood power? And that since male permission has not been forthcoming to this point, women in fact possess no priesthood power at present?  That we women are reduced to pleading with men to give us priesthood power?

Our church (and I know I’m not providing groundbreaking insight to Cassler here) believes in lines of authority that come straight from Christ. That is our very profound claim. It means that we have to show a direct path from someone who had the authority to ordain, through other people, all of whom had the authority to ordain. It almost means we can’t ordain ourselves.

In other words, I am saying that “only with the permission” of someone in authority can both men and women exercise priesthood power. And given that the only people on earth who have priesthood power are men, that’s the only avenue for OW women to pursue.

As George Q. Cannon (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, 224) said:

I believe the time will come when it will be necessary for every man to trace the line in which he has received the Priesthood that he exercises. It is therefore of great importance in our Church that records should be kept and that every man should know whence he derives his authority—from what source, through what channel he has received the Holy Priesthood and by what right he exercises that authority and administers the ordinances thereof. I believe this is of extreme importance and that where there are doubts as to a man’s legitimately exercising that authority, that doubt should be removed.

Women can’t just declare that they have the priesthood any more than men can. In fact, I think it’s rather a testament to their testimonies that the members of OW understand and recognize this. They want the priesthood because they see it as the actual, authorized power of God, not just a title. But they know it comes from God through lines of authority so the only opportunity for access is through those approved lines. Otherwise they could just confer themselves with, say, the Deborahic Priestesshood and be done with it.

I am suggesting they already possess divine power and authority, and not by the hand of men and not by the “permission” of men

Cassler reduces the requests of OW to some kind of subservient begging exercise. To an extent this is true, but she seems not to realize that the ultimate “begging” is with God (through our declared male line of authority) who, as far as 99.9% of our church discussions is concerned, is a man.

Since women can’t ordain themselves, is Cassler suggesting that OW begin “begging,” say, Heavenly Mother? Wouldn’t that constitute praying to Heavenly Mother? (That’s rather verboten in this neck of Christianity, if you haven’t noticed.)

She also fails to acknowledge that men are no less at God’s mercy than women in this regard. They must also depend on him to allow them to use his power. It’s simple a delegation issue. (Do we think it beneath men to defer to priesthood authority in determining when and where they are ordained?) And OW is asking — through the male line of authority — to be allowed this privilege to be delegated to them.

Cassler then gives a really great quote by A. Don Sorensen…

Why should women feel they are truly equal in God’s eyes and his plan, when current practice and language can be interpreted by some as suggesting that they are not?

…only to beg the question by assuming the answer.

I. “Women’s Divine Power” Isn’t the Topic

Cassler’s entire section 1 goes down the rabbit hole of replacing “priesthood power” (something all Mormons know women don’t have) with “divine power” (something most would agree all humans share, depending on her unstated definition). In the context of the discussion about Ordain Women, this is completely nonsensical.

Apart from that, the ideas on their own — outside of the context of OW — are interesting. So I’ll address her thoughts in that context.

Cassler speaks of the trouble of “sexual differentiation.” While I’ve never seen it as something of an “enduring anxiety” outside the context of the church and other biases, I come to the same conclusions she did, that God put us in “two-ness” for the sake of love and companionship.

But then she takes this idea to an unnecessary extreme.

Though God calls us to be of one heart and one mind, we can only call satanic the will to have all beings be the same as we are–a state rightly called misery.

In the context of her arguments against Ordain Women, I’m hard pressed to see the point. All LDS men can have the priesthood, but that doesn’t force all LDS men to be the same. So why would giving women the priesthood cause this so-called satanic sameness? And if it does force them all to be the same, aren’t LDS men currently satanically similar?

I sincerely don’t understand the implication that if women have the priesthood, marriage will become exploitative and hierarchical while abounding in ugliness. It just makes no sense to me. I’ve been married to my dear husband for nearly 29 years and our relationship has always been very egalitarian. Frankly, we have one of the best marriages I’ve ever seen. On the contrary, I’ve seen lots of marriages where the men asserted their “priesthood authority” that ended disastrously. Your milage may vary.

Cassler goes on to make vague statements about doctrine and culture, never specifying exactly what constitutes those parts. It’s a rather convenient omission because it avoids scrutiny. She can claim culture where she pleases, without having to deal with the ramifications of actual authoritative statements to the contrary. (Much as has happened in discussion about blacks and the priesthood by those who never heard or “forgot” the generations of statements enforcing the black priesthood ban.)

If one were to try and restore the Gospel in such a culture, it would not be surprising to see cultural misconceptions color interpretations of the Gospel in such a way that men are highlighted and women overlooked, that men are viewed as powerful and women as powerless, that men are seen as important and women as auxiliary, and that this is all considered part of “God’s good plan.”

If I’m not misreading, Cassler seems to acknowledge here that the church was restored in a sexist society and that, of course, that sexism (even by good men and women) carried over into the church structure and policy. If so, I agree with her. It seems patently obvious from history that this is the way things work.

The only rational path for woman in such a context would be to aspire and strive to become like man.  All progress for her would be defined and measured in terms of whether she “looks” more like men “look” over time, and in terms of what men will “allow” her to have.  The appeal to men to ordain women seems to me an example of this perspective.  This is all very sad, but all very understandable as well.

Cassler doesn’t specify exactly why she thinks this is sad. Sad to want to share in God’s power (something we promote as awesome sauce and motivation to the boys)? Sad to want more autonomy? Sad to have more input? Sad that we want to think and struggle and work?

I agree that it’s sad if we can only see men as the standard for godhood, but I’d hardly say that’s because women are spiritually out of touch or rebellious. Rather, I’d say it’s because that is the model the church has set for us.

  • Men are official “authorities.” Women are not.
  • The vast majority of scriptures are about men and few women are even mentioned by name.
  • Men are quoted far more than women in manuals, conferences, magazines, etc.
  • Men “outspeak” women in General Conference at a rate of about 27:2 (per October 2013).
  • Men speak at general women’s meetings (always “keynoting”); women never speak at priesthood meetings.
  • Women defer to men in every position. [It’s true that in the ultimate sense, men defer to other men as well. But wards are very autonomous in many respects. Relief Society, Young Women, Primary (headed by women) all must have everything approved through the bishop and for all intents and purposes, he is the final decision maker in every event and in every calling extended in those auxiliaries.]
  • Mother in Heaven is only rarely mentioned — even to the point that the fable about her being “too sacred to talk about” was invented.
  • Priestesses are referenced with almost nothing informative to address.
  • We have doctrinal references to godhood and even attaining godhood, but nothing I know of about goddesshood; the assumption that there is a female counterpart is (as far as I can tell) just assumption.
  • Temple ordinances for men and women are very different with regard to their relationship to God.
  • Christ was not a woman. When we are told our ultimate goal is to become like Christ, the model is a man!

Doctrine to Remake Culture

Cassler makes a valid statement:

But rather than allow our culture to remake our doctrine, might we rather allow our doctrine to remake our culture?

But then she stretches the boundaries of what might be considered doctrine.

The LDS Church preaches that there is a Mother in Heaven, co-equal with our Father in Heaven, and that godhood cannot exist without an equal partnership between men and women. It preaches that Eve did not sin in the Garden of Eden, but was foreordained to partake first of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and rewarded for so doing.

This is true in a general sense and one of the most remarkable things about the LDS church. But she pushes the limits of credulity when she says the Church “preaches” about Mother in Heaven being co-equal — or even “being” at all. Yes, there’s that one hymn (written by Eliza R. Snow) that mentions it. And occassionally we have an offhand remark or two about her. But for the most part, there isn’t any preaching about her, about her role, about her presence at all. It’s kind of a big blank mystery. And many who have tried to further tayt dialogue have been officially sanctioned and disciplined.

In all sincerity, if these doctrines were to be fleshed out a bit, it would help a great deal. But when women bring that up, we are told we are out of place and that “the brethren” are inspired and don’t need us getting up in their business.

The LDS Church preaches that women are to have equal counsel (“voice”) and equal consent (“vote”) with men in councils from the family to the nation and beyond, for men and women were meant to rule “with” each other according to our doctrine.

Cassler gives no source for this, so I’m not sure what she’s referencing. Does she mean that when we sustain someone, women…well…get to sustain someone? Women simply aren’t in most counsels (particularly not “to the nation and beyond”) and they simply don’t “rule,” so I’m hard pressed to figure out what this means.

The LDS Church preaches that the government of heaven is family governance, ruled by a Mother and a Father in equal partnership, and that we should emulate that pattern in our own families here on earth.

Kind of. Sort of.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.

Preside: be in the position of authority in a meeting or gathering.

The equality rhetoric aside, presiding isn’t equal partnership in any sense of the word. She gives no reference for her idea that heavenly governance is co-equal with women ruling. I’d like to see that from an authoritative source.

The LDS Church preaches that in addition to all the overlapping roles that men and women share, that they also play distinctive, sequenced roles in the Great Plan of Happiness, with the mutual dependence thereby created undergirding the possibilities of love and life in this world and in the world to come. 

This is true, but I’m not sure which roles are doctrinal and which are cultural — and Cassler, again, provides no clues. For example, in my childhood home, my father always called on people to say the prayer — because he had the priesthood. Because of that, I insisted that my husband do the same when he was there — even though it made him a bit uncomfortable to be required to do so. I only did it if he wasn’t there and, in fact, would sit awkwardly waiting until he remembered it was “his priesthood duty.”

At some point (fairly recently, I admit…like last year), I realized that I have never heard an authoritative source claiming that mothers can’t assign prayers. So, I started doing it. Not all the time and not as some sort of edict. I just stopped feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d say I probably make the assignments/requests now about as often as he does. And you know what? Our family hasn’t collapsed out of a lack of “interdependence.”

In other words, I’m not sure how allowing women to participate in ordinances, would be an “overlap” that would be destructive in some way. Maybe it would, but let’s be clear that these distinctions and overlaps have morphed a lot over time. I’m unsure that we have a definitive doctrinal understanding of what these roles should/must entail.

The Two Trees in the Garden of Eden symbolize two doorways, one whose ordinances are presided over by the daughters of God and one whose ordinances are presided over by the sons of God, and that men and women are to hearken to each other as we pass through the doorways in sequence. The divine power of women is no less than the divine power of men. This is the most radical vision of equality and peace between men and women preached by any religion in the world, in my opinion. This doctrine, restored in these latter days, has the power to neutralize the toxicity of our culture—if we let it. 

This is nice, but let’s be clear about a couple of things:

  1. This “doctrine” isn’t preached. It’s not in manuals or talks or videos the church produces. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but the only place I can find it referenced is by the author herself. So if women, indeed, preside over ordinances at some doorway and men, indeed,  “hearken” to women as they pass through (whatever that would entail), that isn’t something we spend much time talking about — and it doesn’t address what OW is talking about in any real sense.
  2. How this “doctrine” is a radical vision of something that neutralizes some unspecified toxicity is unclear.

Cassler then makes an interesting parallel:

 One important thing we are taught by our doctrine is that the sons of God are apprentices to Heavenly Father, and that the final destiny of a son of God–the pinnacle of all he can hope to attain–is the Fatherhood. (Mosiah 14:10) What we call the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods are simply the path of apprenticeship to become a Heavenly Father.  After all, God the Father does not call himself after one of the offices of the apprenticeship—of all the titles he could possibly claim, God the Father takes unto himself the title of Father. We need to understand this more fully than we have to date.  Biological fatherhood here on earth is not the template for Fatherhood; rather, Fatherhood is the template for biological fatherhood here on earth. What we call priesthood, then, is Fatherhood-training, qualifying a son of God more fully to become a Heavenly Father than biological fatherhood alone, expanding and deepening our concept of what it means to be a father in mortality. Indeed, one can aspire to Fatherhood and progress in one’s apprenticeship to become a Father without ever having sired a child in this mortal life and, in turn, biological fatherhood can be profoundly magnified when a man has apprenticed himself to the Father in the glorious work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind in the Great Plan of Happiness.

And so it is for the daughters of God. The daughters of God are apprentices to Heavenly Mother, and the final destiny of a daughter of God–the pinnacle of all she can hope to attain–is the Motherhood.  Biological motherhood here on earth is not the template for Motherhood; rather, Motherhood is the template for biological motherhood here on earth.  The apprenticeship to be a Mother has, at various times in the Church, been called priestesshood; at other times it has been referred to as being a Mother in Israel or a Mother in Zion.  This apprenticeship is Motherhood-training, qualifying one more fully to become a Heavenly Mother than biological motherhood alone, expanding and deepening our concept of what it means to be a mother in mortality.  Indeed, one can aspire to Motherhood and progress in one’s apprenticeship without ever having given birth to a child in this mortal life and, in turn, biological motherhood can be profoundly magnified when a woman has apprenticed herself to the Mother in the magnificent work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind in the Great Plan of Happiness.

I like this parallel very much and think it carries a lot of substance. Intuitively it works for the most part.

Her comparison breaks down when she seems to equate our current earthly role as being the same thing as a “priestess,” only with a different name. As if “priestesshood” is really just another name for “being a female church member.” I know of nothing that confirms that notion and, at the very least, it seems odd to have priesthood and priestesshood be such markedly different things.

Given these interlocking stewardships in the Plan, it is evident that at some point men were asked to hearken unto the daughters of God in their apprenticeship to Heavenly Mother. It is my opinion that this covenant was undertaken by the sons of God before approaching the doorway of the First Tree, over which the daughters of God preside.  Later, once past the First Tree, women are asked to hearken unto the sons of God in their apprenticeship to Heavenly Father.  We know this covenant is undertaken by the daughters of God before approaching the doorway of the Second Tree over which the sons of God preside.

I don’t understand her first sentence at all. It is “evident” that men were asked to “hearken” to women because of “interlocking stewardship”? And from there she acknowledges it’s all conjecture. Our feelings notwithstanding, there is nothing in church doctrine to indicate any “hearkening” by men to women or reciprocal covenants. The temple covenants certainly don’t introduce that idea. (Although they have changed for the better in my temple-going lifetime, they are still remarkably unequal.)

When we step back, what we see is a beautiful Plan in which men and women hold equal power and hearken unto each other in order to bring to pass the eternal life of mankind.  From this vantage point stepping back, what would it mean for women to ask men to ordain them to divine power in the apprenticeship that prepares one to become a Father?  That’s a head-scratcher for sure.

I’m sincerely baffled at this statement. Again Cassler rather dismisses her sisters in Ordain Women and casts them as rather dopey and thoughtless. At the same time, she is demanding that we take a “step back” into her fantasyland where her opinion is authoritative. To be clear, on the surface, I like the ideas, but there isn’t authoritative backup for them that I know of. And she does not — indeed, cannot — provide it.

II Onward Down the Yellow Brick Road

In this section Cassler presents us with an unusual definition:

The Church = the organized means by which the sons of God offer the fruit of the Second Tree by the ordinances thereof to those among the children of God worthy to receive it.

This is an interesting idea, but has one gaping hole. If the church is the organized means bey which the sons of God offer the fruit of the Second Tree, what is the organized means by which the daughters of God offer the fruit of the First Tree?

If you’re dealing with equality or parity, it’s too convenient to say:

  1. Everything you see is the man’s part
  2. Everything you imagine is the woman’s part

So what is the First Tree? Cassler goes on (emphasis added):

…in this highest organization of the family, we have been told repeatedly that men and women are to be absolutely equal and sincerely loving partners.  The man does not preside over the marriage.   Both the husband and the wife are in charge of the marriage; they are co-presidents of the family, moving forward only by unanimous consent.

Again, this idea isn’t notated and seems to contradict actual policy. See:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Joseph F. Smith (quoted by Boyd K. Packer in the April 2010 conference) emphasis added:

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…It is not proper under these circumstances for the father to stand back and expect the elders to direct the administration of this important ordinance. The father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside. He should select the one who is to administer the oil, and the one who is to be mouth in prayer, and he should not feel that because there are present presiding authorities in the Church that he is therefore divested of his rights to direct the administration of that blessing of the gospel in his home. (If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.) The father presides at the table, at prayer, and gives general directions relating to his family life whoever may be present.

[OK, so I have usurped my husband’s authority by calling on kids to pray. And let it be known, if the father is absent and there is someone else there with the priesthood, he trumps her, even though he’s not a member of the family.]

There are myriad such references on the church website that confirm this position. If Cassler is correct and men do not preside over women both in church and at home, that’s a drastic change from repeatedly, authoritative statements. And someone better notify the authorities!

Cassler then (finally) moves to somewhat specific — if speculative — ideas about women. She claims that

Women have their own gift that they give to the family, and their own set of ordinances over which they preside, and they may ask for, or call apart, particular sons of God to help them in this work.

I suppose she carefully coined the phrase “call apart” as something of the non-priesthood version of “set apart,” but it just starts getting weird when you have to make up words in order to prove that women have there own, undocumented, celestial parallel. Here is her list of priestesshood gifts given to women who are “special authorities” (as opposed to, you know, general authorities (and opposed to, you know, the authorities who we think are worth quoting, emulated, and listening to…)):

  1. understand most fully the hearts of particular beloved individuals
  2. weave together temporal and spiritual life in all its infinite variety of personalized detail for individuals
  3. touch and guide the spirit of the beloved through a powerful resonance

In English please? How about this:

  1. Understand her children
  2. Help children understand the gospel
  3. I have no idea what “touch and guide the spirit of the beloved through a powerful resonance” means (is this some new age, metaphysical idea that has reached its glowing tentacles into Mormonism?)
  4. Plus applies to others you love, particularly when you don’t have children

Is this (the family or family function) what Cassler thinks the First Tree is? How is the family the First Tree if the man presides over it?

Cassler makes some statements with which I entirely agree. Such as this:

…women and men should have equal voice in all the councils of humanity.  Men should not hold a privileged position in shaping the world in which women and their children and loved ones must live. This principle of equal voice must extend beyond the family: women should be equally represented in the leadership of towns, cities, nations, and the world. The world will never find sustainable solutions to its problems without the input of women, who weave the threads of life.

But the fact is, in the church, men do have a “privileged position” and the “equal voice” of women only extends as far as the men (in that privileged position) allow. And, as you see with OW, when some women speak up boldly and clearly, they are absolutely vilified for it.

Another statement I agree with:

In the Church, priesthood holders must also ensure that women are given equal voice. The Church will never reach its full potential without the perspective and participation of women.  New programs and policies should not be undertaken without input from women, who will see consequences unforeseen by men.  Indeed, many things benefit from women’s insights–for example, buildings should not be designed without input from women who have somewhat differing perspectives on physical accommodation. Women should have a standing invitation to make recommendations to ecclesiastical leadership at both local and general levels for new programs and initiatives and adjustments to those already in place. The Church cannot serve its members as well as it should without understanding those members through the eyes of the Specific Authorities as well as through the eyes of the General Authorities; the eyes of the Mothers as well as the eyes of the Fathers.  From recent news articles, it appears this is in fact happening at the highest levels of Church leadership; we hope it is also happening at the local level, as well.

I agree with this wholeheartedly (although the elevation of women to “Specific Authorities” isn’t a real church policy). I do think we are making tiny, incremental progress. But unless/until this is actually the church’s position, it’s going to be a long time coming, if ever. And, to be frank, it’s not ever going to happen unless the leaders know it matters to women.

As Chieko N. Okazaki noted, The Family: A Proclamation to the World was drafted without any input from women at any level. The general Relief Society presidency didn’t even know it was being drafted. From an interview:

Greg Prince:
You didn’t even know it was in the works?
Chieko Okazaki:
No. They just asked us which meeting to present it in, and we said, “Whatever President Hinckley decides is fine with us.” He decided to do it at the Relief Society meeting. The apostle who was our liaison said, “Isn’t it wonderful that he made the choice to present it at the Relief Society meeting?” Well, that was fine, but as I read it I thought that we could have made a few changes in it. Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there.


Again, I agree with Cassler when she says, “when unanimity is the rule , the entire notion of authority changes.” But I’m hard pressed to see unanimity become the rule when such lopsided authority exists. And, again, she makes unsubstantiated parallels to keys that men hold (that we know about) to keys women hold (that we don’t know about).

If she means that I (and all females on earth) have been “ordained” (in the not-actually-ordained kind of way) to understand my children, then we’re kind of back to square one. My husband alone can bless our children. Both of us can understand our children. The point being that — in spite of her claims about exclusive keys on both sides — if there is not actual ordination, their is likely no exclusivity. So the exclusivity is largely one sided.

To be clear, I don’t particularly value exclusivity, but it’s a claim Cassler is making in her gendered parallel universe.

Cassler quotes President Eyring. It’s a quote I love and wish would be applied to the Ordain Women discussion:

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ…We can be open. We can be direct. We can talk about differences in a way that you can’t anywhere else, because we are all just looking for the truth.

Noxious Weeds

Cassler then lists some cultural “weeds” that have been removed from the church “garden.” I feel a sister bonding moment coming on. She addresses the following:

  1. [Kindred spirit moment on hold for a minute.] Cassler points out the change in the youth manual to define priesthood as “the eternal power and authority of our Heavenly Father” instead of “…of God.” I agree, this is good, but she jumps the shark with “…that means the daughters of God can understand that they wield that power and authority.” In truth, it merely leaves open the possibility that they might wield it the “power and authority of our Heavenly Mother.” We have no indication that such power and authority exists or that it comes without ordination.
  2. Mission Leadership Counsels – yes a step in the right direction. Certainly not parity but a voice.
  3. Women praying in General Conference – amazing, after spending years just hoping we could pray in Sacrament Meeting without prejudice, we are really making strides.
  4. Women represented at Worldwide Leadership session – yes, a good move, although I think it misrepresents the typical, everyday workings of the church, it is progress.
  5. [Bonding moment breakdown.] Scads of “unequivocal talks by General Authorities about the equal partnership of men and women” while the same General Conference talks are overwhelmingly given by men. And sincerely, when Cassler’s desire to quell the cognitive dissonance compels her to make completely unsubstantiated statements like, “The co-presidency of men and women in the human family, reflecting the co-presidency of our Heavenly Parents, is becoming better recognized, and there is strong encouragement and even exhortation to apply that recognition in our own lives at every level,” I’m left wondering what General Conference she was attending. I sure don’t remember any talk about co-presidencies or co-heavenly parents. Did I sleep through that session? Someone tell me!

Hoped for Changes in the Church

Beginning with section II, under the header “Temple Ceremony,” Cassler heads off into complete conjecture about what the church can look like. I like almost all of it. In fact, I love it. But it’s still just wishful thinking. Hopefully someday it will be reality. Here are some of her ideas:

  1. Endowment ceremony where Eve doesn’t become a “potted plant.” Amen, sister. (I’ve always thought of Stepford Wives, but same idea.) And, to be fair, the 1980s movies were a billion times better than the previous set and the newest movies are a billion times better than the 1980s. Let’s keep that progress going.
  2. Greater indication that Eve didn’t sin in partaking of the fruit (this is the first time I see a direct statement about what the First Tree is supposed to be, but I still don’t understand what she means). I’m actually already pretty good with the Eve thing. I think this idea has been established solidly in the church for some time.
  3. Greater indication that Adam followed Even in the garden by covenant. Here she finally clarifies that her opinion about the “hearkening” and she hopes the GAs will pick up here meme. I’ve never heard it anywhere else, so I’m not so sure she’ll get her way on that. If she does, it will be interesting.
  4. Resolution of the (absolutely nutty, nonsensical) sealing gender disparity thing. I cannot say yes enough times to this. I’ve seen how this painful practice impacts real people — and it makes no sense at all.
  5. General Conference talk about Heavenly Mother. This is probably my all time #1 hope. More than anything on earth (or heaven). I don’t know about her addendum that wives of GAs should start speaking. I’d rather hear from women who are actually called to positions than spouses of those who are, but it’s interesting.
  6. Women strongly encouraged to pursue education and finish degrees and men encouraged to facilitate that. I like this, but also think it’s something that can easily be done by individuals and families. I had multiple guys let me know they expected to marry me, which would be followed by me dropping out of school to support him in his education. I simply stated, “That’s stupid. You don’t have a woman supporting you right now. Whey would have need one to support you if we got married?” This was typically followed by my unavailability the next time he called.
  7. Retired working mother of grown children called to general Relief Society presidency to support working mothers as being just as righteous. I think it will probably happen. But, honestly, I’m in no hurry to prove the point that kids don’t need there moms at home. What I’d prefer is that the church take the position that children are the priority, and they can be cared for by either parent as long as they are cared for. (And, no, I don’t think nannies are the same thing.) If that were the case, then whether or not the woman worked wouldn’t be an issue of righteousness. Rather, caring for the children would be. (But I’m hard pressed to see how this is congruent with the idea that women’s keys are all about those most “beloved.”)
  8. Church and BYU leading as “family friendly” employers. Hmmm. Not so much. I think women should absolutely be able to teach full time seminary, whether they are married or have children or not. (Another totally nonsensical policy.) But usually “family friendly” means things like in house daycare and, bluntly, I don’t think daycare does justice to our precious children. Mostly I think the logistics should be up to families, but would support things like: job sharing, flexible schedules, and the like.
  9. Men called to “high positions” only if they haven’t “abandoned families” to pursue career success. I’m kind of on board with this idea, but let’s note that the church itself often demands that men “abandon families” to serve in the church. This happens to bishops, high counselors, and absolutely to general authorities. Just read some of those biographies. It doesn’t look attractive (from a family standpoint) at all.
  10. Personal Progress modified to include real-world skills. This had me laughing right out loud. Perhaps Cassler doesn’t know it, but that’s how Personal Progress started out! Back in my day (you know, when they “refined” the program every year and a half) we had all sorts of interesting things. For example, our goals were in the following areas:
    • spiritual awareness
    • service and compassion
    • recreation and the world of nature
    • cultural arts and education
    • personal and social refinement

    For some reason that I don’t understand, between the time I completed my award (1982) and when I first served as a Young Women leader (1991), the Young Women program had taken on an almost completely spiritual goal focus. Given that this is a church program, I don’t think that’s bad. But, once again, given that the boys have a much more well-rounded program, the disparity is hard to understand. If you know me, you know that my true hope is that the church officially ditches scouts, focuses on Duty to God Award. Boys could still participate in scouts if it meets their needs.

  11. Lessons that teach Young Women to seek guidance in their chosen paths, rather than the singular stay-at-home-mom path. Personally, I think one parent should stay at home with the kids. I don’t care if it’s the mom or the dad or some combination, but I don’t think surrogates are sufficient substitutes. I would like the church to ease up on the gender specific roles, but not on the importance of parents being “at the crossroads.”
  12. Small changes that “cascade outward” mostly in regard to working women. I’ve already stated my piece on that. If a woman is ever appointed president of one of the church universities (I agree, that would be cool), the seminary thing would probably come far sooner. So I’ll watch that barometer.
  13. Modesty no longer taught as the means for powerless men to control themselves. Sister, we are united! I cannot possibly agree more!
  14. Women will be assumed to be part of counsels. Yes. Yes. Yes.
  15. Questions about authority will fade as we incorporate unanimity and recognize the power and authority of women. As said above, I think this will only occur if the church makes clear what that power and authority is. I don’t think either the church or Cassler has accomplished that.
  16. Adult male quorums will start sharing responsibility for “caring labor.” Cassler doesn’t clarify what she means. Meals for the sick? Care for the children of those in need? I’m all for it, but this sounds like it removes the “special authority” ideas she presented with regard to caring for others (particularly for those without children).
  17. Sensitivity training for bishops in counseling with young women. I get back to my old song. If men and women are so incredibly different that they are required to be in different spheres, why not just have women counsel other women?

I think it’s important to note that Cassler’s hopes for the future are every bit as much a departure from current church practice as those or Ordain Women. She could be just as wrong as they are. She’s not wrong for thinking and even hoping (or praying) for these changes that would make the church more like the ideal one she envisions. But then maybe other LDS women can be allowed the same privilege of hope.

III Women Must Rule the World

No, Cassler didn’t use the same title. She said: “It’s Not Up to the Men; It’s Up to Us.” And it’s one of the catch 22s that bugs the heck out of me. I must defer to authority while I solve the problem of having no authority.

That puts Cassler squarely back in framing the women of Ordain Women as fictional simpletons.

 In the end, if our paradigm is that we women are so powerless that we feel we can only gain divine power through the permission of men, we’re not ready for power.

I call Cassler out for begging the question or worse! Women don’t deserve authority because if they did they wouldn’t have to get permission for authority from the authorities!

As Glinda, a Heavenly Mother archetype, put it, we women only have the power if we truly believe we do.

Holy freaking cow. When I read this I literally flailed my arms around my body and screeched. (Yes, I’m mature like that. Probably more proof that I’m not ready for power.)

Glinda — as in the doofy airheaded twinkle toes in The Wizard of Oz — is the archetype for Heavenly Mother?!!!!! So that is what we have to look forward to? (Do I also have to do the quaky voice thing? Or can I at least be like Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked?) And while men need to be ordained by someone in authority, we women can just wish really, really hard (and, presumably, click our heels together three times) to get us there?

Well, why didn’t someone just tell me this?!!!

Not only LDS cultural traditions, but also worldly cultures scream at us that women are not powerful at all.

Now that my eternal kinship with Cassler had been irreparably scarred with the Dorothy references, I will try to be circumspect.

I agree that this statement is true, but I think Cassler misses another truth. It’s not just LDS culture. Sometimes it’s LDS doctrine that screams at us. And Cassler isn’t the one with the authority to make the distinctions. She seems to feel that if she doesn’t like something, she can simply relegate it to the “culture” pile, while keeping the things she likes (or has resolved — sometimes with extreme stretches of the imagination) in the “doctrine” pile. But she can’t.

I need to add that I saw just as much “misogyny” outside of Utah or the mountain west as I have inside.

What would you as a woman do if you truly and deeply felt you wielded the divine power and authority of your Mother as her apprentice?  Would you not first reach inside and seek to learn what this power and authority is and how to wield it?  Would you not then begin to reach out, even if tentatively at first, to use that power for the good of those you love?

This is a nice idea, but one for which we have no model. Cassler seems to imply that we don’t need a model, we just need to wing it on our own. But, frankly, that flies in the face of what the church teaches. Not only do we generally believe that God gives general guidance in these areas, but many of us have seen when women who were trying to explore this “power and authority” who were singled out, vilified, and sometimes disciplined by the church. The members or Ordain Women are no exception.

The next example kind of comes out of the blue (at least to me). Cassler gives an example of finding female “power and authority.” She suggests having what I’ll call a Period Party. When a girl starts menstruating, invite a bunch of older women friends and have red velvet cake. So, yea, the author was more mystical in her description (although I did not make up the red velvet cake part!), but she seems to think it’s a big step toward equality by having a party without asking your husband’s (or any man’s!) permission.

Honestly, I just don’t get it.

First, if I was either planning to go somewhere or have a party at my house, I’d clear it with Sam just as he would with me. Just out of courtesy. I don’t see that as point of liberation.

Second, I really have no interest in celebrating periods. I’m not that much of a spiritual trailblazer. But really, I mostly see menstruation as a necessary evil. They hurt (for some of us, they hurt a lot). They are annoying. They are messy. They are part of life if you ever want to try to have children, but they aren’t timed very appropriately for that end.

Third, I can think of a lot more interesting things to party about.

Fourth, I honestly think it makes about as much sense to have a party when a girl has physiological signs that she can bear children as it does to have a party when a boy has physiological signs that he can sire children. Wow, can you imagine that party?

Could we also teach our young women that God might want their voice heard in government?  Or in academia?  Or in business?

I agree this would be good. Hopefully worldwide culture can get to that point without slogging through more insults about women’s hair and weight. And without seeing people like Hillary Clinton and Sandra Fluke as viable options.

Cassler hopes Young Women will memorize Gordon B. Hinckley:

The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. I am grateful that women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. You are as entitled as are men to the Spirit of Christ, which enlightens every man and woman who comes into the world…You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.

There is not anything that you cannot do…except hold the priesthood, bless your children, baptize converts, preside in the home or in the ward. You know, anything but that. And that is the one thing OW is asking for.

Feminist Scriptural Interpretations

I am having a love/hate relationship with how Cassler wants us to reinterpret scripture from a feminine point of view. She clearly points out that having male scholars interpret colors the outcome. But she seems to ignore the very plausible idea that the practices themselves may simply have been misogynistic in nature. (Not to mention that the translations were prone to being misogynistic, given the misogynistic cultures in which they arose.)

For example, she addresses Levitical law that declare women “unclean” for seven days after giving birth to a boy and 14 days after giving birth to a girl. The typical reasoning being that double the females means double the yuckiness. Cassler wants to reinterpret that to mean seven days of being unclean and seven more for “a period of consecration for a newly arrived apprentice of our Mother.”

I suppose this is a possible interpretation, but is it likely? Is it supported? Is it plausible? I’m not Biblical scholar, so perhaps someone who is can chime in. Ultimately, I don’t see the point of stretching reason to make scripture seem pro-woman. Particularly when the cultures in which they were written and translated was decidedly not pro-woman. It seems far more likely to me that, yea, men just thought all the girly stuff was icky and wanted nothing to do with it.

She follows that with this statement:

That’s another interpretation worth considering, given its better harmonization with the principles and doctrines of the Restored Gospel.

Cassler is, again, begging the question. She always works from the assumption that her unsubstantiated and nonauthoritative ideas are doctrinal. And they aren’t. Her viewpoint may make a good mental exercise — thinking outside the box often does — but I don’t see how that view is more in harmony with the restored gospel, given that the restored gospel has rejected Levitical law outright and her positions are speculative.

She does point out something almost startling to me. And disconcerting. She believe that lactation is one of “the ordinances of the First Tree.” Lactation is an ordinance? And ovulating, too, maybe? The more she reveals about the female side, the weirder it gets, and the more new age mystical it sounds.

The point being that if you take particular, ordained, church-sanctioned privilege given to men with the priesthood and try to show balance or parity by making a long list of uniquely female bodily functions, it just seems like gobbledegook. (I actually spelled that right on the first try!). I mean, why can’t excessive growth of facial hair and ejaculation be male ordinances? (Now that’s equality!)

Fake Blessings

This is the kind of thing that just makes me bonkers. Bonkers, I say.  When Cassler’s son went into the MTC, her husband gave the new missionary a father’s blessing. Cool, but then she did this:

I felt it right and proper to place my hands on my son’s shoulders and offer a heartfelt prayer to God in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ asking for blessings upon my son and to offer that prayer in the knowledge of the power and authority held by the Mothers in Zion. Such a prayer is experienced as a vastly different thing when contrasted with a prayer we would speak as a power-less, authority-less non-male, as our culture–not our doctrine–might tell us to think of ourselves.

She doesn’t have the priesthood, so she couldn’t put her hands on his head to bless him — presumably because that would be too priesthoody and a mockery. Instead, she placed her hands on him somewhere else and gave — not a “blessing” — but a prayer.

The idea that making up your own girly version of the male blessing and tweaking it just enough that you feel it’s “legal” doesn’t make it a God-sanctioned blessing and doesn’t give it divine power.

The entire point of the priesthood blessing — and the reason the women in OW want it — is that God has prescribed and sanctioned it. Of course we can all make up rituals and chant phrases. But that’s never been the point. (Now where are my incense and eagle feathers so I can do a smudging before Family Home Evening?)

We take nothing away from our brethren to exercise our own divinely bestowed power and authority alongside theirs in partnership; indeed, we only increase the store of blessings available to the children of God as we women begin to consider ourselves as beings with divine power.

So someone explain to me how putting our hands on shoulders and saying a prayer does not take anything away from our “brethren,” but putting our hands on the heads along with our “brethren” and pronouncing a blessing would. Please.

We Don’t Know Because We Don’t Know


Cassler speaks about what she perceives about the volume of knowledge on Heavenly Mother:

Some have asked why we know so little about our Mother.  I think there are many reasons, but one of them must surely be that we as women know so little about ourselves and think so little of ourselves—in large part because we have been actively discouraged by the global culture of misogyny from knowing anything about ourselves or our power and authority.  As we allow our doctrine to help us shake off this fog of misogyny, we will see more, much more, than we now know.

What? We don’t know much about her because haven’t done enough navel gazing and we’ve been discouraged by misogyny? But our doctrines (I assume she means her fabricated “doctrines” again?) will free us from misogyny?

That’s weird, because last I checked, there were a bunch of women who were excommunicated for getting too sassy about getting to know Mother in Heaven (by the brothers  she says “will be our most heartfelt cheerleaders” in this endeavor). We have been told explicitly not to pray to Mother in Heaven (by those same authoritative “cheerleaders”). We have received almost zero information from those (males, again) who hold the only authoritative positions to disseminate it.

If it’s really all about misogyny, in the case of LDS doctrine on Mother in Heaven, where is it coming from? I know she tries to place the blame deftly on “the global culture of misogyny.” But if LDS women are discouraged from learning about Mother in Heaven, it’s because LDS men have absorbed some of that misogyny. To be clear, I don’t think that is the (main) reason, but logic requires those ideas to go hand in hand and Cassler seems to be trying to play the “faithful little LDS women” and the “strong LDS feminist” even when the two clearly collide.

That said, we know more about Mother in Heaven than most Mormons think. BYU Studies has published a 28-page essay detailing the historical teachings about Mother in Heaven titled A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven. It’s free in PDF form and only $1.99 for the ebook.

I appreciate this publication so much  and I’m grateful for the work the authors did. Sadly I suspect it would have been much more difficult for women to have been listed on the byline. Based on historical precedence, it would likely have been deemed a recalcitrant feminist statement, but coming from men it was more palatable to the powers that be. Still, it’s published and I hope you read it.  (I know, it’s only 28-pages, but I bet you didn’t know we had even 28 pages of information about the stuff that’s “too sacred to talk about,” right?)

Christ as “Cheerleader”

In the last paragraph of section III, Cassler discusses Chris’t support of and suffering for women. Certainly all this is true and undeniable, but it doesn’t address Ordain Women’s petition nor does it seem to relate to this topic section. As is generally historical precedence, Christ isn’t poofing modern women’s liberation on the general authorities, he’s not forcing the church to update it’s policies, and he’s not propelling women forward.

Rather, as is generally historical precedence, he has taught us righteous principles and lets us govern ourselves. And right now, the governors are all men, who have chosen to keep the status quo mostly intact, and tend to only see needs of women when the women themselves step out of line and wave their hands around.


Breathe. I signed up for far more slogging than I anticipated. Sincerely, this is not fun. I keep thinking I’m done and then I’m not even close. Are you still with me? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t!

Cassler calls herself a feminist. At times she conjectures to the point of ridiculous nuttiness. But she’s entrenched in the idea that only her particular brand of kook is worthy of consideration. The attitude is so thick it’s hard to breathe. Ordain Women is sounding unquestioningly mainstream amid all this.

V. Doubt Your Doubts Before You Doubt Your Faith

[Note: The author skips from section III to section V. I don’t know if this was just a mistake or a section was omitted.]

This section is mostly confusing to me. She start out with a great quote by A. Don Sorensen, describing an egalitarian view of Zion.

Because women typically are subordinate to men and treated as inferior to them in the carnal world, women have much to gain from the coming forth of Zion as measured by the standard of equality alone, not to mention that degree of fullness of life which comes from being filled with God’s love and being alive to good.  Whereas in the carnal world women generally are unequal to men in wealth, in Zion they have all things common with men.  Whereas in the world women typically are unequal to men in power, they share with them all power as equals in Zion.  And inasmuch as women enjoy less value or less respect and esteem than men do in the carnal world, women and men esteem and respect each other as equals in Zion.

But in the context of the actual OW discussion, she begs the question yet again. Here’s how it goes:

Cassler: We have much to look forward to, because women in Zion are equal to men!

OW: But women don’t have the priesthood.

Cassler: Women don’t  need the priesthood to be equal.

OW: Why not?

Cassler: Because women in Zion are equal.

Cassler continues:

We can look forward in confidence that Zion ensures the equality of men and women

What authoritative evidence do we have that the church will ever evolve into Cassler’s ideal where women have power and authority equal to men? I don’t see it in practice and I only see it in appeasement rhetoric that rarely seems to take on practical application. Even in the instances when the rhetoric is applied in a meaningful way (finally lowering female missionary age to 19) there is often a countermove to perpetuate inequality (lowering male missionary age to 18).

Like Cassler, I like this idea. But unless/until we see something that substantively shows this will happen, it’s wishful thinking. Until our leaders — the only authoritative voices in the church — themselves realize and share the goal of equality, it will not come to pass.

I share with Cassler, the plea: “Sister, stay with us!” I do have a testimony of the gospel. But I also believe the historical pattern holds true. Leaders are human. Unless/until they hear the voices of women — like many in Ordain Women — who are willing to step outside the still enforced, expected, “faithful” subordinate female role and express their desires and pain, then male leaders of the church will believe the status quo (of inequality) is working perfectly well.

Addendum: Lynnette of Zelophehad’s Daughters wrote an excellent critique of Valerie Hudson’s The Two Trees in 2011. She had many moments similar to mine where Hudson’s conclusions were held aloft by unsubstantiated assumptions and non-existent doctrine. As Lynnette notes:

Again, this is highly speculative, and not at all supported by the texts we have. This isn’t to say that I think there is no place for speculative theology, but the fact that she comes up with these sorts of interpretations without support makes her arguments much less persuasive.

Given all the trouble Ordain Women has had for making assertions contrary to current policy, it’s interesting to me that Hudson seems to have been given no flack for hers. Perhaps it’s because her fabricated doctrinal ideas move toward support of the status quo, but they seem far further off course than anything I’ve heard from OW or other feminist groups.

{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Lisa Raven April 8, 2014, 12:26 pm

    This was a lot to wade through. (I know you get that.) But it was worth it. I had actually seen Cassler’s article before when some friends who are very anti-ordination were linking to it. (I’m actually mostly anti-ordination but pro more female autonomy and voice.) They thought this post supported them in being anti-ordination.

    I really am grateful to have your thoughts on this because I found Cassler’s article very hard to follow. It was kind of all over the place and seemed very contradictory.

    The most valuable thing I take away from analyzing this is that you are completely right: being content with the church status quo in Cassler’s world requires us to embrace a whole bunch of completely non-doctrinal, fantastical ideas that she made up herself.

    I guess we all do that to some extent, but she went so far that I felt some discomfort with her firm declarations about the truth of things she conjured up. It was as if she set herself up as a prophetess — which is almost plausible in her own created gospel universe.

    If we are really following a gospel/authority model, we can’t just create stuff out of thin air in order to feel better. Well, I guess we can, but we shouldn’t expect other people to get on board.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 8, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Lisa Raven, it was very gratifying to see your comment pop up. I am working on tomorrow’s Videos of Jesus Christ post, and it was very nice to read the supportive comment. It was a slog getting through her article for sure. (I don’t meant that to be disparaging. It was just a lot of information, all over the map, that required a lot of response.)

    My biggest concern is that in order to make this post entirely cohesive, you need to have read her article or at least refer to part of it. I just didn’t have the desire to explain each part thoroughly.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. And welcome to Mormon Momma!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Simple FHE Ideas: General Conference RoundupMy Profile

  • CP April 8, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Thanks Allison. I really appreciate your taking the time to engage with these ideas. This is a great response and brings up the points that have driven me crazy about Dr. Hudson’s theology. Any progress is good and I’m very grateful for all she’s done and continues to do for women in the church and in the world, but I feel like her treatment of OW is patronizing.

  • Valerie April 8, 2014, 1:42 pm

    This issue (along with same sex marriage), seems to be popping up everywhere right now. Thank you for reviewing this, you must have amazing staying power. V.H. Cassler does seem to be on and off topic a bit here. I am a (1 year) convert to the church and I am finding some of the arguments difficult to digest, not the issues but the actual arguments between members or groups. I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion (even if I don’t agree with what that opinion is). A well laid out written or spoken piece is really what helps us understand each other better. I am afraid I don’t think Cassler’s piece did that.
    Best Wishes From Scotland
    Valerie recently posted…▲ Family Home Evening ▲My Profile

  • Janie April 8, 2014, 2:34 pm

    “And let it be know [sic], if the father is absent and there is someone else there with the priesthood, he trumps her, even though he’s not a member of the family.]” I didn’t read Cassler’s article, and stopped reading your post here because you know (I hope) this statement isn’t true. Elder Oaks and other church leaders have made it clear that in the absence of a husband/father, the wife/mother presides. Even if the husband/father is a non-member with no priesthood, he presides. (Remember, the Proclamation was issued to all the world, not to just to Latter-day Saints.) Your local stake president does not preside in your home — only you or your husband, not even an AP son if the father is not around for some reason. Your post no doubt contains some interesting counter points to Cassler, but when you make sarcastic remarks (with the aura of authenticity) it makes the rest of your argument suspect.

  • Angie Gardner April 8, 2014, 3:19 pm

    Bowing down at you for taking this on!

  • Ashley A April 8, 2014, 3:25 pm


    I keep trying to post a comment on my computer but your system is telling me that I am “potentially malicious” and will not allow it. Any ideas what is going on? I am attempting this from my phone. Hopefully it’ll work!

  • Alison Moore Smith April 8, 2014, 4:03 pm

    CP, thanks. I also found her treatment of OW to be patronizing. She made a point of mocking their position, while utterly fabricating hers out of whole cloth. I found that rather bizarre.

    Valarie! Welcome from Scotland! (I’m mostly Irish, but I’m sure there’s some Scotish in there. Plus, I did play Fiona in Brigadoon, so that’s got to count for something!) Thanks for your comment.

    Janie, thanks for pointing out the typo. I’m sure there are more. I could only proof this so much, writing it just about took me out of commission.

    I’m sorry you stopped reading at that point. (Hey, you pooped out WAY too soon.) I was only QUOTING BOYD K. PACKER dearie. Don’t shoot the messenger. It was only four years ago (in April 2010 General Conference) that he quoted Joseph F. Smith thusly:

    If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.

    He didn’t rephrase or modify the quote. So if you’ve got a problem with that, talk to the man.

    Yes, I can be sarcastic. Deal. (Or don’t!)

    Angie, thank you!

    Ashley A, so I see you are potentially malicious, eh? What have you been up to?!! (Seriously, I can’t easily find a reference to that, so no sure where it’s coming from. ???)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Amazing Life Hacks: 5 Thinking-Outside-the-Box Goal Setting IdeasMy Profile

  • Tiffany W April 8, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Just a couple of nitpicky things about Cassler’s article.

    1) I think. Cassler makes up a bunch of things that she calls doctrine about the role of women in the gospel and in the temple. Her version of doctrine seems pretty hard to square with what is actually portrayed and taught. I know her words mean a lot to some LDSwomen, but doesn’t it say something when you have to make up doctrine to feel equal in the church?

    2) Sister Okazaki was a retired working mother who served in the General Relief Society Presidency. She frequently referenced her career in her talks over the years. While women are strongly encouraged to stay at joke to raise their children, working doesn’t put your standing as a member of the church at risk.

    3) I liked many of her suggestions.

  • Tiffany W. April 8, 2014, 7:48 pm

    I need to proofread my comments before pushing post! I meant stay at home not stay at joke.

  • Amber April 8, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I didn’t read the original article and I couldn’t make it to the end of this one, but the first part made me laugh, the spaghetti analogy, the equivocation is astounding, how dumb do they think we are? It is so refreshing to read clear direct ideas instead of a bunch of convoluted made up stuff, thank you!

  • Amber April 8, 2014, 9:39 pm

    Btw– just my own thoughts on OW is that I think the movement comes from feeling powerless to make decisions that affect them individually at church, they think getting the priesthood will ease that, but I don’t think it will. I think the problem is authoritarianism more than sexism, because men who are not in leadership positions can also be treated badly. I think so much depends on if you have good leaders or not, leader roulette. I would be interested in your opinion on that idea. Thanks!

  • Cynthia L. April 8, 2014, 10:59 pm

    Awesome job, Alison. Thanks.
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 8, 2014, 10:30 pm

    Tiffany W., agreed.

    Amber, that’s a very good point and I think you are correct, at least to some extent. Absolutely most wards/stakes have male pecking orders to some extent with those who are seen as “leadership quality” and those who aren’t. Sometimes there is a surprise call, but not too often in my experience.

    The same thing exists among females, but it’s compounding by sexism, because women never have “major” leadership callings. (They do with regard to the amount of WORK they do, but not with regard to the amount of AUTHORITY.)
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  • jennycherie April 9, 2014, 5:36 am

    You know, I am glad for Dr. Hudson’s post, if only because it is thought-provoking and promotes discussion. Some of her stuff seems a little nutty to me (Alison – you didn’t even mention the red velvet cake!), but she is clearly sincere in her beliefs. I am thinking that some of the things that don’t mesh may just be things she is still working through those issues. Or, even more likely, her response was so long, she didn’t realize it didn’t all make sense because it was too long to properly edit without hiring a fresh pair of eyes to do the editing! Overall, I just don’t think much of what she says has anything to do with doctrine or the priesthood.

    Amber – completely agree! I think the problem often lies in authoritarianism more than anything. Our current bishop is very forward thinking and his own marriage seems to really model an equal partnership and this carries over into how he leads the ward. That really affects how I feel about my place in the church. I can’t say that I have ever had a “bad” bishop, but there have certainly been times where I felt as I had no voice and no influence because I am not a man. That feeling is at an all time low right now! To be fair, I know my husband has had the same feeling (of having no influence or being ignored) at times, which is why I agree that it is more about authoritarianism. It reminds me of this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. :
    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
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  • jennycherie April 9, 2014, 5:41 am

    wait! wrong quote! It wasn’t even Martin Luther King, Jr, it was Abraham Lincoln: Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
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  • Leslie April 9, 2014, 11:03 am

    Thank You. Simply, Thank you. You have given me one of the few places that I do not feel like an outsider.

  • jennycherie April 9, 2014, 11:35 am

    HOLY COW! You are right – I missed HUGE chunk. I blame my phone – the screen was too small for such a lengthy treatise.
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  • jennycherie April 9, 2014, 11:36 am

    “Fourth, I honestly think it makes about as much sense to have a party when a girl has physiological signs that she can bear children as it does to have a party when a boy has physiological signs that he can sire children. Wow, can you imagine that party?”

    AMEN. I think the period party sounds pretty weird but its counterpart would be worse!
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 9, 2014, 10:48 am

    Thank you, Cynthia L.

    jennycherie, I totally mentioned the red velvet cake — at length. Come on, it was one of the best moments! 🙂

    Overall, I just don’t think much of what she says has anything to do with doctrine or the priesthood.

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  • Alison Moore Smith April 9, 2014, 11:26 am

    Leslie, thank you for the kind words. You are always welcome here. Various viewpoints welcome (but sometimes hotly debated!). 🙂
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 9, 2014, 12:21 pm

    I toyed with including alternative names for the male version of the “period party” but in the end, surprisingly, decorum won out. In my mind, however, that bit was incredibly clever.
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  • HeatherB April 9, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Cassler bothers me to no end. She fully embraces fertility, conception, and birth, and all that entails as female PH. That is the first tree. Not every women gets that, and trotting out this women are more divine junk is just that…junk.

  • Angie Gardner April 9, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Aha…I was one of the women who didn’t really get that, HeatherB. I was asking myself what is this first tree of which she speaks, and where is it doctrinal. What you said makes sense. And that just makes me like this less, because one of my big pet peeves is when motherhood is equated with priesthood. It’s not. The counterpoint of motherhood is fatherhood. Many women never become mothers. No 12-year-old girl I know is a mother and yet her 12-year-old male counterparts have the priesthood. Women spend only a relatively small portion of their lives in active motherhood (meaning the day-to-day raising of children), while men hold the priesthood nearly their entire lives, from age 12 until death.

  • Angie Gardner April 9, 2014, 6:00 pm

    And actually, I should say, priesthood is eternal. So is motherhood, I suppose, but then again so is fatherhood.

  • rj April 9, 2014, 7:11 pm

    Thank you Allison. That must have taken many hours. Great job sorting out a very confusing and rambling article. I read you post twice and have a number of observations. I will begin with this one because it might be controversial enough to help everyone keep reading.

    Cassler makes the excellent point that the story as a metaphor is much more important that it being an actual event. It’s a good effort with the “out of the box” two tree idea. However, that misses the big picture which is necessary to fully understand the process.

    The big picture is that this story represents our journey through this mortal life. The garden is the beginning and represents our time in the womb. Everything is provided. It’s very comfy. No effort on our part is required. Even our waste is removed.

    Then comes our expulsion from the Garden. What a painful process. We are suddenly squeezed out into a cold, intensely bright space. We then spend the rest of our live trying to get back to that perfect state of, let’s call it, grace. The story is a complex as our life’s journey but let me make one very controversial point.

    How was Adam placed in the womb? According to “doctrine”, Heavenly Father and Mother are having some sort of pro-creative activity. We are given the power to experience this. We are taught this is the most sacred of all acts. And, while it should be quite enjoyable, it must also, at times, be a very spiritual experience. A true joining will include a tremendous palpable energy (Holy Ghost) wherein two experience becoming one with God, Christ and each other. In this, we comprehend the fullness of the creative power.

    That is why a woman has the right to decide with whom she will join and why being forced – even by a husband – is considered rape. Thus there is a permission required. The man must prove himself worthy before he can present himself at the veil (her protection). If he is worthy, she says “Let him enter”. This may sound sacrilegious but it is the most powerful message of our mortal existence. That is why the calling of “Mother” has the most authority. Even the Priesthood must defer to this choice.

    A few other points:
    – TOTALLY agree on the scout termination thing. Or, at least, girl scouts should get equal acknowledgement. My daughter received her GS Gold Award (equivalent to Eagle). Her project was much more comprehensive. They don’t let you put a box in the foyer to collect shoes and send them to Africa – and call that demonstration leadership. She built a meditation garden at a drug/alcohol recovery home. Brought in an architect, contractor and finish carpenter. Got all the materials donated. Recruited helpers, etc.

    YET, she didn’t get so much as a mention in the ward. Ridiculous! The Bishop got a letter from me on that one.
    – Women are slowly being given more authority. For example, sisters are now “district leaders” in the mission field.
    – Spouses do speak with their husbands at important meetings. For example, when mission presidents are invited to speak at Stake Conference, their wives have always also spoken (that’s my experience at least here in California).
    – My wife and I decided that who makes the meal decides who will give the blessing. To do otherwise seems an exercise of unrighteous dominion.
    – There is precedence in church history for women to be part of the circle in a blessing of the sick. My wife has done that at certain times with our children.

    Lastly, your article spawned a one hour discussion with my 20 yr. old daughter who has been uncomfortable about this disparity since her teenage years in Young Women. She has a lot more clarity (and hope) thanks to your effort.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 9, 2014, 7:43 pm


    I will begin with this one because it might be controversial enough to help everyone keep reading.

    heh — I feel the pain!

    I appreciated your ideas about Cassler’s post. Not really sure I understand about the meaning behind women deciding with whom they procreate or how that gives motherhood more authority. Men decide with whom they will procreate as well and if woman forces a man, it’s also rape.

    My wife and I decided that who makes the meal decides who will give the blessing. To do otherwise seems an exercise of unrighteous dominion.

    LOL love it.

    There is precedence in church history for women to be part of the circle in a blessing of the sick. My wife has done that at certain times with our children.

    Is there recent precedence? I know there is historical precedence, but somehow that has been kind of brushed under the rug and I don’t think it’s currently sanctioned. :/

    Lastly, your article spawned a one hour discussion with my 20 yr. old daughter who has been uncomfortable about this disparity since her teenage years in Young Women. She has a lot more clarity (and hope) thanks to your effort.

    Thank you so much for sharing that. That means a great deal to me.
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  • rj April 9, 2014, 10:25 pm


    – I’m sure the church disapproves of women in a healing circle. We never asked permission. This was not a public situation. This was private and only because of her co-authority over the person (her child) receiving the blessing. Knowing the historical fact, we were open to such inspiration. I believe the Spirit was directing the situation and I know our daughter received a valuable lesson as well as an answer to prayer.

    RE: Procreation issue. I apologize for another long post.

    There are always violations of God’s law. And they have their associated consequences. If a woman gives away her selection power to someone not entitled (metaphorically someone who does not know her new name), the consequence is described in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132 (If she has not been sealed, that’s a “terrestrial” thing and outside the scope of this discussion).

    ” 26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.

    The key is being “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise”. This is the palpable energy I mentioned in my first comment. It’s the physical manifestation of the Holy Ghost that both partners feel at the moment of entry through the parted veil. It’s not climax which is the “deception” that has us believe we have been “sealed”.

    There is no sin against the covenant other than murder that can keep a sealed couple from entering into their exaltation. However, the destruction of the flesh and buffetings of Satan are unbearably extreme. Read D&C 19:7-20.

    D&C 132: 26 is critical to understanding the temple ordinances. It’s a deep doctrine and needs considerable investigation. Joseph Smith said”

    “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity — thou must commune with God.” (TPJS p. 137)

    (Of course, “O man” also means women. More of that cultural misogyny).

    The authority of a Queen/Priestess is beyond the scope here. Bottom line, a righteous woman controls the physical birth (see D&C 132: 22-24) and Cassler was correct that Eve, not Adam, decided when God’s spirit children would receive their physical bodies. It’s still a fact today. All physical births come through women. She maintains the “garden” and it’s through her we are brought into this “lone and dreary” world.

    The authority of the Patriarchal Priesthood is the celestial structure. Thus Abraham left his birth fathers and joined with “the fathers” which is the Priesthood line of authority (Please read Abraham 1:1-5).

    So, as we are taught in the temple, it takes both the King and Queen, Priest and Priestess working together to achieve the merger of the resurrected physical body and the spirit body by which God’s purpose – the immortality and eternal life of man – is fulfilled.

    Finally, if women control physical birth, then men must direct the physical labors in order to maintain balance (opposition in all things required for existence). The same balance is maintained in the celestial kingdom.

    So who has the better deal? Remember, it’s the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, they will IMMEDIATELY begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D&C 121:39). Women should feel sorry for men – required to direct the show yet almost guaranteed to screw it up. I envy you.

    As to the future of women’s roles in the church, I think we will continue to see improvements especially as the younger generation (like my daughter) take on leadership roles in the ward and stake level. They are more assertive than their mother’s generation. They will challenge cultural norms and the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. They will ask (not demand) to be included rather than waiting for it to be given to them. Women don’t need the priesthood to make contributions and effect change. Ask and it (influence not priesthood) shall be given unto you.

  • Angie Gardner April 10, 2014, 10:23 am

    “That is why a woman has the right to decide with whom she will join and why being forced – even by a husband – is considered rape. Thus there is a permission required. The man must prove himself worthy before he can present himself at the veil (her protection). If he is worthy, she says “Let him enter”. This may sound sacrilegious but it is the most powerful message of our mortal existence. That is why the calling of “Mother” has the most authority. Even the Priesthood must defer to this choice.”

    While it’s an interesting thought, I’m not sure I agree. It seems to me that both partners give their permission. I think this line of thinking could lead itself to the premise that women can use their bodies to control men. This is where a lot of our convoluted thinking comes from, in my opinion. When women control with their bodies, does that mean if we dress a certain way, they just can’t help where their minds or bodies might go? If a wife withholds intimacy from her husband as a way of control, is it okay if he then withholds his priesthood from her as a way of control? And what about men who withhold it? I know of many who do/have.

    “Women are slowly being given more authority. For example, sisters are now “district leaders” in the mission field.”

    Are you sure about this? I know there are sister training leaders (I think that’s the title) and that sisters now sit on the mission council, but I haven’t heard of any female district leaders other than at all-female missions such as temple square. In other words, sisters have leadership only over other sisters in the mission, not over any males.

    “My wife and I decided that who makes the meal decides who will give the blessing. To do otherwise seems an exercise of unrighteous dominion.”

    I love this, even though the meal blessing has never been a big issue for me.

    “- There is precedence in church history for women to be part of the circle in a blessing of the sick. My wife has done that at certain times with our children.”

    I have to agree with Alison here. While it’s historical, it hasn’t been sanctioned in many years. I’m thinking if my church leaders knew I was laying my hands upon my children to give them a blessing, I might be having a little discussion with the bishop. Certainly, I have prayed for and with my children, but never as part of a priesthood blessing.

  • rj April 10, 2014, 10:49 am


    You raise a good point. What I have written is the spiritual law. In reality, we all violate spiritual law and it causes many problems in our life including marriage. To clarify my comment, yes, once the husband has proven his worthiness, the wife cannot say “Wait, I changed my mind. He may not enter” (again this is all symbolic and not to be taken literally). So both have an obligation to act in righteousness.

    re: sister missionaries. Yes, I meant what you wrote. They are only supervising other sisters. I should have written “district leaders” in quotes to mean a similar leadership role.

    re: food blessing. I’m not a fan of “Bless these cookies to give us the strength and nourishment that we need”. In our family, it’s not about asking to give it vitamins, it’s a chance to express gratitude for some of the blessings in our life such as being together as a family, having something to eat, a nice kitchen area to eat it in, nice flowers seen through the window, etc.

    re: priesthood blessings. I agree this is not a public thing. My wife did not give the blessing, only participated in the circle. The person being blessed was our daughter, not an outside person such as a visiting teachee. My wife has a charge over her children and I believe, if the Spirit prompts, she has the right to add her faith.

    Thanks for all those good comments.

  • rj April 10, 2014, 12:06 pm


    You are right. My ideas are not official church doctrine and my opinions only. They should be taken as only that. Disagreement is welcomed.

    re: blessings. I tried to post a reply last night but it said “awaiting approval” so I think it must be in your pending box. I clarified this in that post. I’m sure you are correct that the church has not given approval. It was a private matter and I should have left it at that.

    re: birth. By control I did not mean the birth process. I observed my wife giving birth and there was no control, only endurance. What I meant was before conception, other than by force, a woman can choose not to have intercourse with a man.

    re: ask vs. demand. There are degrees of effort. By “wait” I mean that someone does nothing to make change happen. They just wait and hope a Bishop, for example, will begin to seek counsel from women in their ward. By “ask”, I mean going to the Bishop and suggesting how he might include women more often in his decision process. Perhaps use examples to show how it could make his job easier and more effective. By “demand” I mean when someone tells the Bishop that he has to do something.

    My wife is in the Relief Society Presidency and frequently meets with or sends emails to the Bishop with ideas. Our Bishop is pretty overwhelmed and often goes with these suggestions. He appreciates having ideas to work with rather than having to figure out what he is doing less effectively. My wife doesn’t badger him. Doesn’t demand he do anything. She’s assertive in an intelligent and kind way and her wisdom is self-apparent.

    re: dinner. I never demand my wife make dinner. She offers to do so perhaps twice a week. If she says she is making spaghetti for dinner, I have the right to say “I’d rather have pancakes”. She then has the right to say “No problem, here’s the Bisquick. Go for it”. I then can have what I want for dinner.

    See, this ask and receive thing is actually really easy. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith April 10, 2014, 11:23 am

    rj, your ideas are interesting, but as far as I can tell, not doctrinal and that’s where I give pushback.

    Cassler had lots of ideas, but most weren’t authoritatively sanctioned, so they are just ideas. As you said, “…the church disapproves of women in a healing circle.” So, sure, you can defy that disapproval and do it anyway and you can explain your reasons, but the fact is that the church still disapproves.

    Ordain Women could decide to go to a private room and get one of the sympathetic men to ordain them and they could explain why they did it. But they actually want to do things above board, with approval.

    I still don’t understand your position on the “procreation issue.” Yes, there are “violations of God’s laws,” but I don’t see what you think the violation is in this context. And I disagree that only murder can keep a sealed couple from exaltation.

    Of course, “O man” also means women.

    If the “of course” were true, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. :/

    As with Cassler, a lot of what you say is speculative and, honestly, I don’t think you can reasonably chalk it up to “this is super deep, you just don’t understand because it’s so deep.”

    Bottom line, a righteous woman controls the physical birth

    Not sure what you mean by that. I’d say physiology controls physical birth. Plus sperm.

    They will ask (not demand) to be included rather than waiting for it to be given to them.

    You see the dissonance in that sentence, right? If they ask they are, in fact, waiting for it to be given to them. (Then again, OW is waiting, too, they have just asked directly and specifically instead of passively.)

    Ask and it (influence not priesthood) shall be given unto you.

    You have to see how funny that is, right? Kind of like me saying, “Ask and it (pancakes, not spaghetti) shall be given unto you.”
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  • Ziff April 11, 2014, 11:54 pm

    Alison, thanks for this thorough (and hilarious!) response to VHC’s article.

  • D. P. J. April 12, 2014, 2:04 am

    Thank you for pointing out one of the things I have really struggled with over this. The majority of women in the church have told me: This is an eternal truth! Men will be in power forever! Women will be mothers forever! Cassler said that the Priesthood is an apprenticeship for “The Fatherhood” in the afterlife and Motherhood is the apprenticeship for “The Motherhood.” So males are apprenticed to be fathers AND leaders and presiders in the next life and women are just apprenticed to be…Mothers? How is that comparable? Why can’t both genders be apprenticed to be leaders and parents?

    Also, thank you for pointing out how much of what she said is either completely contradictory or unsupported by doctrine.

    I cringed a little at the statement ” I don’t think surrogates are sufficient substitutes.” Ouch, that one hurt a little. I agree that the church teaching parents to be there at the crossroads is great, but currently they are teaching that the mother is the one whose duty is to be there at every.single.crossroad and she is a terrible parent if she isn’t. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is changing anytime soon. Not even our mainstream, more-progressive, less-1950s culture has figured this out yet. In the meantime, I think we still need to be teaching our girls to get a good education and have a career if they want to. We need to teach them that sometimes, having other caring adults in their children’s lives is ok if it means they can pursue something they are passionate about and feel fulfilled in, outside the home… This is coming from someone who was indoctrinated growing up to believe that working outside the home would lead to my children becoming irreversibly damaged. This led to extreme guilt and anxiety when I went back to school and am now starting a career with two children. Ultimately though I agree, it is the ideal for both parents to be equally responsible to “be there at the crossroads.”

    Finally, can someone please explain the first and second tree to me and how women control one and men control the other? Cassler kept alluding to it and I didn’t know what the heck she meant.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 12, 2014, 11:08 am

    Thanks, Ziff.

    D.P.J. thanks for your comment. I have the same questions.

    Yes, I do know the church generally makes the woman responsible for being the crossing guard. 🙂 Really, I know. I was pregnant with my first child, just about to graduate from college and planning to get a master’s degree and work full time when President Benson gave the To Mother’s in Zion talk at BYU (I was there in person). Trust me, I really do know.

    I also agree that girls should be educated and prepared for the future. (My oldest daughter is just finishing up her master’s degree, my next two daughters are undergrads in college. The fourth daughter and two younger boys are still at home.)

    I absolutely, 100% agree that BOTH PARENTS should be responsible to be at the crossroads and I don’t have a problem with other great adults being part of children’s lives! I DO think they should have the freedom (and, frankly, church sanction) to work that out in the way that is best for the family, not in some gender-demanded fashion.

    For example, I remember reading about two married (to each other) BYU professors (I think?) who worked out a schedule where they kind of alternated being home with the kids and being on campus. I know a number of (amazing) stay-at-home dads and a tons of (amazing) stay-at-home moms.

    That said, I really don’t think “other caring adults” can or should be substantively surrogate parents. I think parents should be parents. And if they aren’t ready/willing to be parents, they should hold off doing that parenting thing until they are. It IS a sacrifice of personal time, resources, and, yes, passion.

    I’m all for passion and fulfillment, but NOT at the expense of children. And I do think leaving others to raise our kids expenses children.

    For example, if a man had to work at a job he didn’t love (that wasn’t his passion and didn’t fulfill him) in order to support his family, few people would find it acceptable for him to abrogate his responsibility to care for his family (or do his part in it) in order to be fulfilled and live his passion. Responsibility and duty come first.

    In the same way, I think it’s derelict to leave children to be raised by nannies in order for the parents to “live their passion.”

    To be clear, I’m not opposed to parents getting an occasional babysitter to go out to dinner and a movie. 🙂 I’m talking about regular, everyday care. And, to be candid, I think many parents use the “preschool” model the same way: to have more “me time.” :/

    If both parents must be gone in order to feed their kids, OK. Because a child who dies of starvation isn’t really benefitting from a parent at the crossroads, right? But if it isn’t a necessity, the children should come FIRST. And by “necessity” I don’t mean, “Oh, my, I’m a better parent when I can sit in my cubical (or corner office) every day to earn an annual bonus and have a plaque on the company wall! Without that, I would be an awful parent.” Because I think it behooves those of us who have children, to CHOOSE to do what we need to to take care of our children and be good parents, even if we aren’t living our dreams of being a supermodel.

    I say that because humans are more important than “passion” or “fulfillment” or recognition or money or fame or stuff. They are more important than ANYTHING and should be the FIRST priority.

    Finally, can someone please explain the first and second tree to me and how women control one and men control the other? Cassler kept alluding to it and I didn’t know what the heck she meant.

    You’re asking me??? 😉 The only thing I can tell is that by “first tree” she means Eve eating the apple first and then “letting” Adam leave the garden? Or something? Still, I don’t get it.
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  • Olea April 19, 2014, 12:35 pm

    I just wanted to chime in here, even though it’s a little old, to say:

    a) thanks for your post. I enjoyed the perspective on the Ruby Slippers essay. (And I totally didn’t notice the missing section!)

    b) I’m a nanny, and I’ll eventually be a primary school teacher. My mother is almost done with her PhD in Early Childhood Education. Both my sisters work in childcare. It’s something I spend every day thinking about, at least a little bit. I totally don’t understand your negativity towards “other caring adults”. Even for families who have the financial ability to have a parent stay at home, it’s entirely possible that (as for the family I nanny for) the family will run more happily and smoothly with regular “outside” care. You need to do whatever works for your family. Each person in the family is an individual, with their own needs and their own journey back to our Heavenly Parents. As long as you are honouring each individual child’s needs (from physiological through to self-actualisation), then it’ll all be fine. I think it’s a little damaging to suggest there’s one right way to be a parent.
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 19, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Olea, thanks for your comment.

    It’s an enormous stretch to claim that saying parents should be parents is suggesting “one right way to be a parent.” Obviously there are many ways to be a parent, but being absentee and hiring someone else to parent is just that — hiring someone else to parent. Which isn’t being a parent, it’s being an employer.

    I don’t remotely object to having scads of “other caring adults.” I object to “other caring adults” being called “other caring adults” when, in fact, they have become the real parents.

    If you are the kind of nanny I see day in and day out, for the sake of the kids you care for, I hope you have committed yourself to parent these children for the rest of your life.

    Yes, I know you have no legal right to insist upon that, but for their sakes I hope that both the bio parents and you are ready and willing to allow you to remain the parent to them. I hope you don’t plan to move away to another job or to a family of your own, because you are the real parent and doing so will be almost as devastating to your kids as the kids of any parent who divorces, moves away, and starts another family that they focus on.
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  • Kristine A May 2, 2014, 12:37 am

    Allison, every time Cassler referred to the “two trees” she was referring to this earlier essay she wrote about the garden of eden. Your site won’t let me post the URL, but google “cassler two trees”. The thing that really bugs me about her is that she teaches her interpretation and opinion as truth, and it has no backup or basis in doctrine or teachings; and yet everyone I know swallows them hook line and sinker because her views match their already held views. {sigh}

  • Alison Moore Smith May 2, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Kristine A, that is exactly my problem and here is my opinion.

    Cassler has gone to great lengths to create a worldview that makes church policy tolerable and removes the cognitives dissonance surrounding many gender issues. Again and again my thought was, “OK, that might answer that question…if it were actually true.”

    I’m no more inclined to have my gospel concerns alleviated by her fantasy doctrine than I am by hearing my English professor tell me that my car’s breaks are out because of poetic license.
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