Sex as a Sacrament

[ 77 ] Comments

by Bonnie

This is the fourth in a 7-part series, A Compound in One

Happy Children Playing KidsThe gospel of Jesus Christ is phenomenally respectful of the capacities of the very young. Children are revered as models for our spiritual growth; at the tender age of eight one is considered sufficiently aware to be held accountable for sin; and around the age of twelve, boys and girls begin a separated journey in their priesthood roles. Yes, boys and girls.

Aaronic Priesthood, while only separate from Melchizedek Priesthood from the time of Moses forward, is a preparatory priesthood, with unspeakable powers that many only marginally consider. The keys to the ministry of angels. The authority to provide baptism for the remission of sins, to save life. A profound concern for the temporal salvation of all God’s children. These are not light things God has given to young men.

Young women, both before and after they reach the age of maturity, sometimes chafe at the apparent inequality. But men and women were not created with the same divine capacities. With gifts differing, young women stand as mirrors to their growing young male companions, two to their one. Within every girl lies the temple and veil that has the capacity to birth spirits into souls, to create life. These are not light things God has given to young women.

To prepare young men to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and to both baptize into life with water and eventually baptize into eternal life with fire (the gift of the Holy Ghost), they go through a time of regular ritual preparation, primarily focused on provision of the sacrament. This ordinance is tied to baptism by water and fire, and to the blood and body of the Atonement, both focused on saving life, and is provided to others.

To prepare young women to exercise their estate as priestesses, their bodies go through a time of regular ritual preparation, primarily focused on eventually providing birth into life. The birth they will provide is characterized by water and fire (the spirit). The body and blood of young women signifies the sacredness of birthing souls of spirit, also tied to the Atonement, and also a gift provided to others.

Young women prepare to preside over birth, and young men prepare to preside over second birth.

Priesthood is the power to act in the name of God. Both men and women bear powers to act as God, to preside over veils. Young womanhood is a preparatory priesthood every bit as important as the Aaronic Priesthood is for young men.  The capacity to preside over veils while in this life is the essence of our Second Estate, and the gift is given to the young before the calling comes so that they may be prepared. When young women are older and take on additional covenants, they will be reminded of the veil over which they preside when they step inside their own veil in true prayer. When they marry, their husbands will be reminded of the veil over which they preside as they bring their brides into celestial glory. The equal partnership of men and women in mortality and eternity is made most clear in the temple, both temples of our Church and of our bodies.

Additionally, girls or women are endowed with the power to act as gods, whether or not they have the opportunity to do so in this life. Eve was called the mother of all living before she gave birth to children. Honoring, protecting, and sanctifying the processes occurring in their bodies is a requirement of the Second Estate for women, as much as honoring the oath and covenant of the priesthood is for men.

It is at this time of fragile, developing understanding (youth) that the adversary releases his most virulent attacks. This gift and estate, which includes a developing sexuality, the drawing together of the complementary essences into a balance that can be maintained for eternity, is under fire. Satan is most successful when he divorces sexuality from its purpose, claiming the separation as an emancipation.

ryan-gosling-the-point1Even our chaste youth are often deceived, referring to each other as “hot” or “sexy,” unwittingly playing into the adversary’s plan to toy with indulgence freed from stewardship. It’s not a terribly original ploy, but it’s been very successful. Our entire society is thoroughly sexualized, and yet scandalized when we speak frankly about sex as creation. As many voices are stepping forward now to affirm, the retooling of sex as entertainment instead of a sacred act of creation or priesthood is purely and thoroughly Satan’s doing. Both young men and young women are deceived, as are often their elders.

And our chaste youth are equally deceived when they are taught nothing of sex as a glorious act of creation, but instead obliquely taught to find it a degrading necessity in the spiritual life of a family. The rampant sexualization of our society has poisoned sex in both directions. Tittering in the back of the Sunday School class when they read Old Testament verses about a man going in unto his wife, most completely miss the sacrament that sex is, the high priest going into the holy of holies for the purpose of the salvation of the people. This repression is also thoroughly Satan’s doing.

Over two decades ago, Jeffery Holland, while President of BYU, gave a stirring address in which he discussed the symbolism and sacrament of sex. He quoted Victor L. Brown, in a discussion of the consequences of fragmenting our associations with one another:

Fragmentation enables its users to counterfeit intimacy….

If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification. Sexual fragmentation can be particularly harmful because it gives powerful physiological rewards which, though illusory, can temporarily persuade us to overlook the serious deficits in the overall relationship. Two people may marry for physical gratification and then discover that the illusion of union collapses under the weight of intellectual, social, and spiritual incompatibilities….

Sexual fragmentation is particularly harmful because it is particularly deceptive. The intense human intimacy that should be enjoyed in and symbolized by sexual union is counterfeited by sensual episodes which suggest–but cannot deliver–acceptance, understanding, and love. Such encounters mistake the end for the means as lonely, desperate people seek a common denominator which will permit the easiest, quickest gratification. [Victor L. Brown, Jr., Human Intimacy: Illusion and Reality (Salt Lake City, Utah: Parliament Publishers, 1981), pp. 5-6]

Then Pres. Holland goes on to say:

Sexual intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a man and a woman–the uniting of their very souls–but it is also symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours.

In this latter sense, human intimacy is a sacrament, a very special kind of symbol. For our purpose here today, a sacrament could be any one of a number of gestures or acts or ordinances that unite us with God and his limitless powers. We are imperfect and mortal; he is perfect and immortal. But from time to time–indeed, as often as is possible and appropriate–we find ways and go to places and create circumstances where we can unite symbolically with him, and in so doing gain access to his power. Those special moments of union with God are sacramental moments–such as kneeling at a marriage altar, or blessing a newborn baby, or partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s supper. This latter ordinance is the one we in the Church have come to associate most traditionally with the word sacrament, though it is technically only one of many such moments when we formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power.

These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God’s will, our spirit with his spirit, where communion through the veil becomes very real. At such moments we not only acknowledge his divinity, but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves. Such are the holy sacraments.

In light of this understanding, we diminish boys when we believe they are sexual animals instead of holy priests, and we diminish girls when we make them sexy structures instead of holy temples. And we diminish the entire plan when we fail to teach them the purpose of their priesthoods: to serve others by providing life and saving life. Indeed, without the sealing power turning the hearts of parents to children and children to parents, the Lord reiterated that the earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

Satan’s focus is the attempt to make girls look like boys and women feel like men, diminishing them each in the process to fragments of their divine possibilities. Who will either give or save life then?

That is an utter waste, because the family is the foundation of eternity.

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photo by: epSos.de

About Bonnie

Living life determined to skid sideways into the grave and say, "MAN, what a ride!"

77 Responses to Sex as a Sacrament

  1. Nick Galieti says:

    Fantastic article Bonnie. I have felt similarly for years now, but you have put it out there so well. I am not sure about your position on veils. As I understand the veil, especially when thinking about temple-context veils (which this could be connected) the veil is meant as a representation of Christ, and is the way to the presence of deity. The way you have it here is curious. I would love to hear more about how you have come to the use of “veil” the way you have.

    Thank you for seeing the divine power that is both genders.

    • Bonnie says:

      I’m glad you commented, Nick, and I’m sorry to be slow responding. I was offline almost as soon as the series published and then we went into conference weekend, which is family time for us. I don’t know that I agree that the veil is symbolic of Jesus Christ. He reaches through the veil to save us, to give us further light and knowledge, to atone (make us one with those on the perfected side of the veil. To say that he is the veil would be confusing. The veil cleaves, which means that it both draws us to the gods and divides us from them, a lovely paradox and one that was mentioned in passing during conference in reference to spouses cleaving to one another. There are many people who are simultaneously coming to understandings about the veil and their words are widely available online. I personally came to this understanding after a climax year of a profound personal yearning to know about my Heavenly Mother. Much prayer – much, much prayer – and much searching. I have some entries on my personal blog called A Mother There and No Motherless Children that discuss my search. The understanding I’ve come to about symbolism has taken shape in the much prayer much pondering as well.

      • Andy says:

        If I may interject. One thing I find most fascinating about symbolism is the “onionness” of them….so many layers. I think both of you are right about the vail, or atleast can be right at the same time…for Bonnie, if you ever get a chance to attend an endowment with someone who is hearing impaired, (there will be subtitles) it may illuminate the point Nick made. Particularly about who is reaching through the vail, and by extension, what or who the vail may represent….I am new to this page, and admittedly long winded at times, but so far I have enjoyed the spiritual/mental stimulation.

      • Nick Galieti says:

        Does Christ reach through the veil, or does God the Father do that through Christ? I guess where I am getting some of this is in Hebrews 10:20. We could both be right. Many symbols carry many meanings.

        • Bonnie says:

          As they are one in purpose, many times (and Hebrews seems especially to make this point) they are interchangeable. That does complicate things. I have to agree – it’s a fine point and the metaphors and parables usually become strained at the edges.

  2. Adam G. says:

    I’ll fight anyone who doesn’t love this essay.

    The best thing about your insights is that they are so romantic. I mean that as praise.

  3. Cheryl says:

    “In light of this understanding, we diminish boys when we believe they are sexual animals instead of holy priests, and we diminish girls when we make them sexy structures instead of holy temples. And we diminish the entire plan when we fail to teach them the purpose of their priesthoods: to serve others by providing life and saving life.”

    Exactly. And I think this is why it’s imperative to be teaching these kinds of doctrines to our kids as they grow. It’s not enough to teach them how or what –we need to teach them why!

  4. SilverRain says:

    I have mixed feelings about this essay. (But I refuse to “fight,” so don’t bother.)

    I think it approaches the truth and reality, but twists part of it into human rationalization for divine principles. Such rationalization gives food for thought, but is dangerous when accepted as doctrine or fact.

    This theory of women presiding over one veil and men over the other has huge holes in it. For one, under this theory women may not have a chance to give birth, as you point out, yet men have a chance in this life to work within their stewardship. Men’s stewardship lies there, waiting for them to take it up if they choose, while women’s is thrust upon them, sometimes with serious pain. There really are NO “rituals” that women do from prepubescence to prepare for birth that are analogous to the priesthood. Their BODIES do the so-called “rituals,” making them an object to be acted upon rather than an object to act. Finally, this thinking of strictly divided stewardships leads quite easily into the subjugation of women which we have seen in human history.

    I’ve just skimmed the surface of why this theology is problematical, but hopefully that gives the gist of my problem with it.

    I think the truth is much deeper and more beautiful. I think the veils of birth and death are both under the stewardship of men and women, working together. In fact, I think that they are in many ways the same veil, the same powers. I think that right now, we only have a limited understanding and access to the powers. Granted, at this point, our understanding is rather divided due to mortal constraints. But I believe that men are much more involved in the process of creating life than our mortal pattern leads us to believe, and women are much more involved in administration and organization than we currently formalize. I believe men and women will both be answerable with how we have used, honored, and supported these powers.

    As with everything in life, we should make male/female use of creative powers a sacrament. Consecration means that EVERYTHING we do should be made holy, whether it is mowing the lawn or making a child. But I think the use of “preside” for either gender when used in context of sacraments is easily and destructively misunderstood.

    • Adam G. says:

      I also refuse to fight, but I am willing to respond. :)

      The main “huge hole” you identify is that the situation of men and the situation of women is not exactly analagous. But why should we presume that men and women should have situations that are exactly analagous? As Paul acknowledged with his discussion of the Body of Christ, there are needs, gifts, and values that cannot usefully be fully represented all in the same individual or even class of individual.

      • SilverRain says:

        “Class of individual” is the problem, particularly when one is talking eternity. It’s easy to think otherwise when your class has advantages, or when you are satisfied with the proscription.

        I don’t classify my children, I treat them as individuals. Since the principles of the gospel of my Savior had led me to that understanding, I have no reason to doubt my God does the same.

        • Adam G. says:

          Certainly you classify your children. For one thing, you treat them differently because the belong to the class of your children.

          The most important classification that God makes is the distinction between humans and other organisms.

          Other intelligible classifications include sex, time period, age, geography, and so on. To take a relatively trivial example, the Church, and ultimately God, has asked me to attend the ward I do not because my individual characteristics make it the perfect ward for me but because I happen to be classed within its boundaries.

          I see no reason to think that we should accept that individuals can acceptably have unique gifts and roles but that a class of individuals cannot acceptably have unique gifts and roles.

      • SilverRain says:

        And, I should add, you only addressed one tiny part of my point.

    • Andy says:

      Silver, I would agree, I hope the truth is much deeper and more beautiful than any of us now strive to comprehend. I would also be inclined to think it is far simpler. I am not sure about the theory of presiding over the vails…As it is not explicitly taught as doctrine, and should therefore be considered as only food for thought. But I also don’t see as many wholes as perhaps you do.

      There are some men in this life who will never get to choose to accept the priesthood, even if he is searching for it- in an eternal perspective, I fail to see how that is different from a woman unable to conceive. Both will receive opportunity in the next life.

      As for men’s stewardship waiting for them to choose, while women have it thrust upon them- a woman may choose not to accept childbirth, just as a man can reject the priesthood. They are both free to accept or deny, and serious consequences follow each choice.

      I do see your point of “being an object to be acted upon.” When it comes to pubescent “rituals” equating priesthood rituals. They are indeed not a choice, or perhaps they were not a choice once we made the choice to come to earth. I don’t know if we chose genders or not, but either way, in an eternal perspective, we accepted the consequences of coming to earth, perhaps including “forced rituals.” I don’t know, I think that detail may take some more pondering.

      I also fail to see why separation of duties leads to subjugation. I personally think childbirth is more important than baptism, we can’t have proxy child births for the unborn. Everyone needs to be born themselves (so I would think) Just because the exercise of priesthood authority is done with more pomp and circumstance doesn’t make it superior, and I don’t think the weaknesses of the flesh for power and subjugation of times past have any merit on dictating eternal principles. Is it not Satan’s plan to corrupt and pervert the ways of The Lord? Just because a power or principle can be abused doesn’t mean it doesn’t come from God, and doesn’t mean God’s servants the prophets are abusing it.

      And finally, I do not think it was the author’s intention to strictly divide the roles of stewardship between the vails. Rather, I think it better to state each gender is answerable as to the stewardship of each vail. We all know a child cannot be created by woman alone, just like the full extent of the priesthood can’t be exercised by man alone, as a man cannot fully exercise priesthood authority over spiritual birth without marriage and women. So i think it better said we are each answerable to the portion given us, much like you stated in the end of your post….

      • Andy says:

        Oh, and it would seem that by creating gender, and levels of exaltation, God has already in a sense created classes. With the creation of gender, God has separated duties and roles. If it were not so, why then create gender? If we are expected to act entirely as individuals- why then give us separate powers and abilities?

    • Bonnie says:

      SR, as always, I’m glad you commented. I’m never inclined to fight with you, or anyone for that matter!

      I think the difference we have is fairly easily resolved. Presiding is a completely misunderstood word. Presiding over a veil means exactly what presiding always means – to have the final accountability and the final stewardship for choice. The bishop is the presiding leader in a ward, but it would be ludicrous to believe that he works alone, or even leads alone. He word in tandem with all other leaders and he considers all other input. He simply presides. Men preside in their homes, but that is not a lopsided leadership. It is an accountability and a stewardship. Presiding in every capacity in which one presides is a partnership with others tasked to lead. The fact is, one presides.

      Women’s stewardships are different, and the Lord was clear about that with Eve. Yes, she did bring forth children in sorrow, as you have as well. The imperfection of mortality was known to her, and it was known to us. It is contrary to the laws of heaven for people to have anything thrust upon them that they didn’t know full well what they were accepting. As we discussed in conference today, the atonement fulfills justice both ways – when we have erred and we owe a debt, it pays it for us, and when we have been wounded, it pays the debt to us. Justice does not occur in this life, and many have been unjustly dealt with. The timeline is long, but that does not change the reality of Eve’s stewardship with children. It was pronounced by God and she accepted it.

      You make an EXCELLENT point about adolescent preparation. Virtually no preparation in ritual, other than the physical, is provided for young women in modern culture. That was actually one of my primary purposes in writing this series. We need to do much better at teaching youth that their youth is a probationary, preparatory time. If women got their minds wrapped around the menstrual cycle and didn’t poison their daughters about it, then a new generation of women would grow up welcoming the ritual that makes possible the giving of life, and all the preparatory education that goes along with that welcoming would be possible. We are antagonistic to womanhood – AS WOMEN. We reject our bodies, we reject the creation within, and we teach our daughters to adorn their temple and ignore the Holy of Holies. We need to change that.

      The difficult of an object to act or be acted upon is based on the crucial difference in outlook well-educated youth of both genders must have. In order to protect and keep sacred the birth women are privileged to give, they must (1) choose to give that birth, (2) be protected and supported while they do by the men and other women in their lives. My sister, who is a childbirth instructor and doula, told me recently that when dophins birth a circle of females surrounds the mother and swims close to her, encouraging, and a circle of males patrols in larger perimeter, protecting the women who protect and encourage the mother. Humans are not so wise. If our culture were more celestial, it would be safe to act as a woman, and fewer would be unrighteously acted upon. Characterizing the mense as being acted upon would cease, because as our attitudes changed, our suffering would as well.

      And I agree that everything should be holy, but this is something altogether different. Creation is the Second Estate’s test.

  5. Jenn says:

    I loved this post as far as its approach to sex as a sacrament, but can’t agree with using that as justification for why women don’t have the priesthood in this life.

    Men create life too. At the age of 12, boys are going through puberty just like their female counterparts, AND ALSO fulfilling their priesthood duties. The priesthood is not an equivalent to motherhood; FATHERHOOD is. To claim otherwise discredits the roles that fathers play (both priesthood- and non-priesthood-holding fathers- fatherhood is not predicated on priesthood). My husband played a very big role in not just the conception but the pregnancy, birth, and raising of both of my children- and that role had very little to do with the unique things he has because of priesthood ordination and everything to do with what he brings to the relationship as a father.
    Not to mention the unfairness of the “women don’t get the priesthood because they have motherhood” argument to women who can’t, in fact, make babies in this life- who get to watch many “unworthy” women (britney spears, for example) who can pop out babies without any thought to “presiding over their temple”. There IS a male equivalent to the female ability to bear children- and it isn’t priesthood, it’s the ability to make seed. Each gender has something unique and essential to bring to the process, and in neither case is it tied to the priesthood.
    “Honoring, protecting, and sanctifying the processes occurring in their bodies is a requirement of the Second Estate for women, as much as honoring the oath and covenant of the priesthood is for men.” But don’t men also need to honor, protect, and sanctify these processes too? Isn’t that part of their role, too?
    And the whole “men are priests, women are temples” thing isn’t an equivalent either. Because men are temples too. All bodies are temples. I suppose men don’t have a womb/veil, but that’s a rather specific interpretation of symbolism that may or may not be doctrinal. All women have a womb and can bear children, regardless of their worthiness. Men can only preside over the temple veil as part of a sacred covenant of worthiness they have entered into. And they can preside over that veil without any woman present or linked to them. If the womb really is a veil and a female body is a temple, women have very little control over when their temple fulfilling it’s divine purpose of child-rearing. There is no equivalent for women as far as “presiding” over veils.

    But honestly, a desire to preside and have power, or be independent from men, doesn’t really play into my agitation for female ordination.

    To me, the part of the priesthood I yearn after isn’t the “power and authority of God” part. Sincerely, I’m not much concerned about that. It’s the fact that priesthood enhances our ability to bless and serve others. If I can’t be a sunday school president without it, or bless my ill child, then my abilities to serve are limited. And as an individual I’m ok with NOT being sunday school president, but as a member of the organization I am NOT ok with not fully using the resources we have available to us.
    I do think it would be wonderful for YW to be able to conduct interviews with a FEMALE when it comes to issues of morality and repentance. I would love to see my brother, who has been in stake leadership for many years, spend a year or two spending sundays with his kids while his college-educated wife helps administer the needs of the stake instead. It’s not that we want more power, it’s that we want to help shoulder the load in ways that aren’t limited to the watching of children (which men are also capable of watching- we demean fatherhood when we don’t aacknowledge its full value/potential or let the focus be on presiding. Men nurture too. Some of the best nurturing parents I’ve known have been my father and my husband).
    Is there any reason a single woman without children couldn’t be a ward clerk? Or a widow well beyond the child-rearing stage of life couldn’t conduct temple recommend interviews? Could we allow a RS president and her team to come up with an enrichment activity without clearing it with a male first? Could my sister hold a mommy playgroup at the stake center without a male present to oversee? Many of these limitations have nothing to do with doctrine/theology and everything to do with culture.
    So if breaking down the ordination barrier makes it so women can more realistically and efficiently help shoulder the burdens of administration and service in the church and fulfill their current roles, I’m all for it. But if there are other ways to break those barriers down that happen without female ordination, I’d be pretty darn content with that.

    • Nick Galieti says:

      There is two priesthoods, there is the one that is the organizational priesthood, which is what most people typically refer. However, the priesthood that is shared between husband and wife is different. Much like the Aaronic priesthood, it is a preparatory state that serves to condition and refine the couple till they achieve a complete and divine state where they are the source of their own priesthood. Because the roles are different does not make them unequal. The assumption is that just because men can lay on hands means they are somehow superior is unfounded. The assumption that women can bear children and have the unique roles of motherhood does not make them superior either.

      1 Cor. 11:11 is a valid source for this position. “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” The use of the term “in the Lord” implies that the two are connected when dealing with the ways and operations of divinity.

      • Raeann Peck says:

        Jenn and Nick, James E Talmage in his book “The House of the Lord” states that women who enter the temple, share in the power of their husbands’ [or perspective husbands'] priesthood. In the temple women serve and administer in ordinances of the holy priesthood. Women are not separate from priesthood any more than men are separate from parenthood.

    • Adam G. says:

      1. Fatherhood is not the same as motherhood. Biologically a man can father a child without even knowing it. A woman has a *physical* connection with her child that a man never can, no matter how devoted to the children he is. And biology and physical connections matter, a lot. Mormons in particular should reject the false notion that the flesh is just a kind of animal accident, since we know that even God has flesh and that we came to earth precisely so we could become biological creatures. In any case, if fatherhood and motherhood were equivalent, marriage would be pointless because fathers would have nothing to offer that mothers couldn’t and vice versa. But that is not in fact the case; the sexes are not interchangeable.

      2. You make a sharp distinction between priesthood and fatherhood, as if they were separate things. Why? In this life, it is true, there are priests who are not fathers (perhaps because they do not marry or are sterile or for some other reason). But fatherhood is the object and model of priesthood even in this life. Whereas in the life to come, we really have no reason to believe that there is any separation. Family relations that are not sanctified do not last in the next world. Someone who is a father in this life but who never accepts the priesthood will cease to be a father–will cease to have been a father. The same principle applies to your concern that in this life Brittany Spears can have children while some worthy women can’t. In the life to come, if Brittany Spears does not become worthy, ‘her bishoprick will another take.’ Whereas the anointed woman will find herself crowned with posterity.
      The kingdom is not of this world.

      More on this subject collected at this link:
      http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2007/08/from-the-archives-millennial-children/

      • Rocket says:

        Adam, this is excellent. I would add to what you said by pointing out that the name of the Priesthood, The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, infers fatherhood on a cosmic scale. Jesus was the Son, but through the atonement he became the Very Eternal Father. So Priesthood and Motherhood are not in different categories at all. It is Priesthood that actually creates gender equality in the church because it allows fathers to work Christ’s veil, and that veil is the only commensurate response to childbirth that exists in the known universe.

        To ignore this symmetry between the sexes in the Church is to ignore the clear explanation in Moses 6:59. Agitating for the male priesthood is essentially agitating for both veils.

    • Brittany says:

      I recently wrote a guest post over at Empowering LDS women where I address some of the issues you brought up. I think that our stewardships serve a dual purpose of helping our fellow beings and training us for exaltation. If God is our Father and Priesthood is His power, then it makes sense to me that Priesthood and Fatherhood are, I guess two sides of the same coin. We are all mothers. Eve was called “the mother of all living” before she had children. We are here to learn “motherhood,” but we don’t all learn it the same way. Here is my guest post with some more of my thoughts on this: http://empoweringldswomen.blogspot.com/2013/03/archetypes-of-divine-motherhood.html?m=1

    • Andy says:

      I Agree with Adam. I believe it a fallacy to equate fatherhood with motherhood. Being a donor does not equate to being a carrier. It is impossible for me to have the same love for my children as my wife does, just like it is impossible for me now to love as the Savior loves. I can only be empathetic. I did not experience the quickening of knowing a child grows inside me. I did not suffer personal pain and agony bringing that child into this world. I did not experience the flood of oxytocin when my child was born that forever connects me to that child. The only man who has any sense of these pains and feelings is Jesus Christ. And if I subscribed to this notion of “equality,” I would have to say God is unfair for not letting me experience those things or serve in such a capacity during this life, because of some random “biological” restriction He chose to set in place.

      Even as children, it is impossible to love a father equally to a mother, assuming each parent is a good one. My kids do not know my heart beat or voice like they know their mother’s. we never bonded on an intimate level during nursing like they did with my wife. And no, bottle feeding is not the same. My son never thought he and I were one individual in the first years of his life like he did with his mother. I can attempt to substitute for some roles if needed, but those are exceptions, not the rule, and as such they’ll never equate to being “as good” or “the same” as if a mother filled those roles. As it stands, God has not given me those gifts and pleasures, and my children don’t love me the same.

      It is true some women can’t have kids- but try looking with an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Because yes, even in this life, there are men who can’t receive the priesthood (because they never had the opportunity to accept it). In temporal ideology, sure, the two are different, because if given the choice a man might take the priesthood, but a barren women has no “perceived” choice. But in eternal perspective, biology doesn’t count any more or less than not having the opportunity to hear the gospel preached and accept it. We all chose to come to this earth with all the inequalities and opportunities that God sees fit to give us. And in the next life, any opportunities not afforded here, may be granted there.

      An eternal perspective really puts this notion of equality into a clearer perspective. In an eternal perspective,we are not individuals seeking self fulfillment, we are all brothers and sisters. Each given different gifts and stewardships (motherhood and priesthood.) God gave us both these gifts for our perfection in each of our seperate spheres of creation. Would it then be fair for God to give EVERYTHING to women, while still denying some to men? (Because God could easily make gender obsolete and allow men the gift to create life.) eternally speaking- it wouldn’t be fair to give unequally. Eternally speaking, it wouldn’t even make sense to make us different genders at all! if women can do everything, as the world teaches us, why do men exist, except to donate DNA? unless there is a divine purpose, and we have seperate roles to play.

      None of us would treat our children exactly the same, because our children are different. Say I had two sons. One with a physical handicap but he loved music, while he other excelled in and loved sports. If I wanted each to feel loved, unique and special by giving them a special gift, would I give them both a basketball? Of course not, I would give according to the individual. What if after receiving the basketball, my athletic son felt slighted, and demanded the musical gift given to his brother as well as his basketball gift- being a good parent- should I give it to him? Would that be fair?Would my handicap son still feel special now that his special gift isn’t so special, because everyone else has it too? all the while he still has no use of a basketball?Does my athletic son appreciate his gift if he demands more? Would any of these answers change if I had chosen to make my son handicap, and had the power to make him whole? Or if my son chose to be handicap?

      God gave us everything, and he can take everything away. I don’t know if we each chose to be male or female, handicap or healthy. i just know that by being on earth, we accepted the terms God gave us. He has made us different, but equal. And if we are already equal before God, wouldn’t Redistributing some of his gifts(the priesthood), without redistributing other gifts(child birth) only create inequality?

      Am I to be content and patient for the possible chance in the next life to hopefully create life as a woman does? While a woman already enjoys creation and doesn’t have to wait to become a “priestess?” Is the patriarchal system manmade? or divine? we know nothing of a heavenly mother- is that because God wants it that way? or unfair cultural norms which dictate God’s revelations? How do I even know women haven’t already reached the full measure of their priesthood? Women in the church are already priestesses to an extent. What if God revealed that this was it, This is how it works, this is what you get? Would a feminist be ok with that? Or would she then rebel against God too, because it doesn’t seem “fair?” How do we know the Lord hasn’t already responded to the question of female ordination? Because there is no explicit section in the D&C, and there should be?

      I may feel slighted, but I’d accept if God gave women the priesthood now, who am I to say what God can or can’t do. I don’t believe God just gives revelation when the people are ready, as polygamy, and other revelations attest. I believe God gives revelation when He chooses, and it is up to us to submit our will or not.

      • templegoer says:

        I’d like to address the issue of ‘why the difference?’
        As I see it this becomes part of what we need to do in order to address and overcome the ‘natural man’ and the ‘natural woman’, in order to become as one flesh, to become one, we need to incorporate those parts of the other that are essential for our growth as parents. For instance, a naturally authoritarian father may need to address compassion and growing beyond a ‘Mosaic’ approach, whilst a naturally more yielding and compassionate mother may have to find her more authoratative self and incorporate some justice as well as mercy into her approach as a parent. What matteers is that we become one as parents, each able to cover for the other and acting in the best interests of our families, however they may be constituted. It has been noted in the past that the Saviour seems to incorporate characteristics that we might have often seen as feminine within our societies. I think as we grow and mature we can become less afraid of those parts of ourselves and , becoming more Christ-like, include them without having to name them by gender.
        Thanks for this most enlightening and clarifying discussion.

    • Becca says:

      I am confident that the author was not suggesting that motherhood be used as a justification for women not having the priesthood. I do not think women not having the priesthood needs to be justified.

      “if breaking down the ordination barrier makes it so women can more realistically and efficiently help shoulder the burdens of administration and service in the church and fulfill their current roles, I’m all for it. But if there are other ways to break those barriers down that happen without female ordination, I’d be pretty darn content with that.”

      There are absolutely other ways to break down those barriers (and I think female ordination would do absolutely nothing to break down the barriers anyway – we would still have men vs women because of Satan’s lies) – such as better use of the divinely inspired council system, which the Church is improving in mission fields, and which the brethren have begged us to use better. The biggest reason for these barriers is the membership of the Church – stubborn, ignorant, imperfect, but hopefully all working toward a more perfect Zion – unity and oneness. Unfortunately Satan’s goal is to thwart our attempts at unity as best he can. And he does a very, very good job.

      • Bonnie says:

        You were right, Becca. I’m not inclined to offer justifications for God’s plan. I think Chesterton’s fence plays a crucial role here. Before we break down a barrier, we ought to consider why it was placed there at first, by whom, and what is served by removing it. Conference provided many opportunities to consider obedience, and the fact that we may know *all things* only conditioned upon obedience. D&C 93:24-28 GOOD STUFF.

    • Brittany says:

      I have another comment after more thought. I think the church is working to break down some of the barriers you speak of. Women praying in gc (and I believe the spokespeople of the church who say decisions about prayers were made months ago, before the letter-writing campaign started), sister missionaries receiving leadership positions, etc. Men certainly can be partners in pregnancy and childbirth without being able to actually be pregnant themselves, and women certainly can be partners in the administration of the church without being ordained to the priesthood. Change takes time, but we’re already on that path.

      • Brittany says:

        I got sidetracked and forgot that I originally started that comment to share this quote:

        “Don’t you see that our sphere is increasing? Our sphere of action will continually widen, and no woman in Zion need[s] to mourn because her sphere is too narrow.”-Eliza R. Snow

  6. readermom says:

    A great article. You have given me a lot of ideas and things to think about. It gives me a new view of how to speak of these things to my children. Thanks

  7. Ray DeGraw says:

    I’ve struggled with how to comment since I read this post earlier today. I’m going to try, but I’m still not sure how to say what I want to say.

    I have no problem with the general theme I read in this post, and I agree absolutely that sex has become bastardized in our current societal climate. As Pres. Hinckley said in an interview, when asked how we feel about sex, “We believe in it.” I have seen the terrible destruction of family and the horrible mutation of sexual relationships and responsibilities in much of my professional work over the years. I work in a college setting and hear regularly how distorted views of sex among so many young adults.

    but . . .

    I personally don’t like the term “sacrament of sex” – for societal and interpretive reasons.

    I know people who interpret that phrase too literally, in my opinion. Our culture and history is not like those of the Catholic Church, where “sacrament” means something different than it does in Mormonism. They speak of “sacraments”; we speak of “the sacrament” – and that is a HUGE difference in practical terms.

    Most Mormons equate the word “sacrament” exclusively with the ordinance associated with the Last Supper, and, therefore, calling sex “a sacrament” carries connotations that are unique and, I believe, potentially damaging.

    I know members who believe sex is “a sacrament” and, therefore, should be as “reverent” as “the sacrament” – which means, to them, not “awe inspiring” but “quiet”. Without getting graphic, I just don’t accept that as a necessary condition of “proper” sex. I know other members who use this construct to believe that men are the “presiders” or “administrators” of sex – which means to them that women should be the recipients of sex and never the initiators. I absolutely don’t accept that. I know members who believe sex, as a sacrament, should be begun and ended with prayer. I can’t accept that. I could use other examples, but these are enough for this forum to illustrate why I am wary of using the term “sacrament” in our culture to describe or explain sex.

    I am fine – totally and completely fine – with other people viewing sex in the manner I just described, but we have a tendency in the Church to try to codify our views regarding sex and sexual activity as the divine will of God and, as a people, begin to gravitate toward an extreme as the proper communal norm – as witnessed by the fiasco a few decades ago with oral sex and temple recommend interviews. Thus, I shy from anything that I believe might lead members toward that sort of proscriptive attitude toward how my wife and I choose to approach our own sex life.

    Finally, sex is a physical activity with which we imbue spiritual meaning – NOT a spiritual activity that happens to be physical, as well. I believe passionately in the deep, important, physical and spiritual meaning of sex within marriage, but I am very uncomfortable with the Victorian effects of framing it as a sacrament within Mormonism’s unique theology, culture and vocabulary.

    • Adam G. says:

      I don’t know of any members who have the attitudes towards sex that you describe (though, admittedly, I don’t spend much time polling them on the subject either). But I’m skeptical that the attitudes you describe are anything like as widespread as you say, if at all. Sex has its own logic and nature that you learn through doing (though I think part of that logic *is* spiritual–we don’t *imbue* it with spiritual meaning, the spiritual meaning is already there).

      Anyhow, saying that sex is sacred and sacramental means that sex has to be solemn says more about LDS rhetoric about how we think our ordinances should go then about how our ordinances actually are. An LDS sacrament, passed by 12-year old boys, to a motley congregation, with kids chattering, several adults staring vacantly out into space, and one adult scrambling to turn off his cellphone, is nothing like a smells-and-bells high mass.

    • templegoer says:

      Ah Ray, both you and Paul are often able to articulate things that are swimming around so nebulously in my own mind. Thankyou for clarifying this for me.
      I had been thinking about sex as a sacrament for some time, as I do believe that it is a holy and consecrated act in which we can approach the most divine parts of our nature. It is interesting to me that we do so by become so deeply human in our love and care for one another’s bodies. How beautiful.
      But I think you’re right in having doubts and misgivings around how that can become misinterpreted, and I think sex is an incredibly fragile and vulnerable part of our human experience, so open to attack and misinterpretations. Each generation seems to have it’s own set of vulnerabilities, but those of another may be informative. I’ve tried very hard to raise my children in a sex positive home, aware of all the distaste that has so often surrounded the subject at church. Recently, feeling that I had to underline a boundary I repeated it to my 17 year old son who was a little short with me, because he’d spent yet another sunday at church where his lessons had revolved around chastity. As a consequence he feels constantly reminded of sex when he is most trying to concentrate on spiritual things as he prepares to pass the sacrament. I need to remember that we teach correct principals and let them govern themselves, but making sex the constant centre of our teaching of our youth tells them only how afraid we are , and maybe even envious, of their sexuality . I think we need to communicate that sex has an important part to play in a joyful and fulfilled marriage, and make sure we live what we preach.

    • Bonnie says:

      Oh heavens, Ray. Prayer before and after? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what one says someone will take it to an extreme. Thanks for commenting, but good grief. :D

    • Brenda says:

      Although I thought this entire series was fantastic, like Ray the title of this part gave me pause. Several years ago I read “Purity and Passion: Spiritual Truths about Intimacy That Will Strengthen Your Marriage” by Wendy Watson Neslon and she used the same term. While reading, the difference between “a sacrament” and “the sacrament” was somewhat lost on me. (It seems I get to be the case in point girl for a lot of these conversations. :) ) I came out the other side wondering if physical relations were supposed to be as reverent and introspective as we are asked to be during “the sacrament”. Greater light and knowledge later clarified what she meant but for us rank and file members out here it could initially be a little confusing.

  8. Ray DeGraw says:

    Adam, I agree with everything in your comment – except the implication that my examples are made up or so limited as to be irrelevant. I never said they were wide-spread or the majority view; I only said I know enough members who see it that way to make it a legitimate issue.

    Of course, I’m old enough that most of the examples are even older than I am – and I doubt seriously that very many of the members my kids’ ages feel that way. I certainly hope they don’t.

    • Adam G. says:

      Fair enough.

      From what you are saying, the ‘sex is a sacrament’ view predated Elder Holland’s talk 88 talk. I was aware of a lot of prior preaching that the “powers of procreation are sacred,” but I wasn’t aware that there had been much preaching before Elder Holland that the sex act itself was sacramental. If you remember anything specific, can you point me to it? Thanks.

  9. jendoop says:

    Lots of interesting things to think about. Some I agree with, some I’m not so sure. I see Ray’s point about using the word sacrament (I’ve known a few couples to pray before sex and similar “odd” practices). I think the problem is more about our limited vocabulary than the usage of the term.

    I’ll use a less important word as an example: ministry. It is a word that other religions frequently use to talk about their work at church. It’s a word LDS people shy away from usually using the phrase only in relation to Christ’s work, his personal ministry. I think we should all look at our service as a similar type of ministry; I think it’s been addressed in GC. Still, I’ve been reluctant to use the phrase very often because of how our Mormon culture hasn’t fully embraced the word and there’s a great likelihood of misunderstanding.

    So while I like the thoughts here about sex as a sacrament and especially the quote by Elder Holland, I won’t be using the term in FHE or a Sunday School lesson.

    Beyond that though, I am so very appreciative of all the dialogue we are having about what gender means, and that so many people in the church are willing to consider that our American culture undervalues women. So we inspect ourselves, the culture of Mormonism, how we the world might be with us too much, and policies are adjusted and the entire body benefits – like the Mission Leadership Council that was just announced, which includes Sister Missionaries in leadership positions. It’s right, and appropriate, while not placing one sex above another, and in keeping with the order the Lord has laid out before us.

    Lots more thoughts about this, as the post is so meaty, but I’ll stop :)

    • Bonnie says:

      Yes, I have to agree that there is a certain prudence about how we discuss these principles with those who are sensitive. And a mass class setting is perhaps not the best venue. I too love the discussion, and look forward to more!

      • Nick Galieti says:

        I consider what you have written in this article to be a very strong idea. Perhaps this is a bit of casting pearls as there are many who take a far too worldly view on sex to even enter such a celestial discussion… at least that seems to be the case with some of the comments.

    • Adam G. says:

      I wish more people were willing to consider the ways American culture overvalues women.

      • Bonnie says:

        This is a can of worms. I know you can’t possibly mean that worldwide culture overvalues women, when treatment of women internationally is still abysmal, and a hallmark of many, many backward societies. If I read your words carefully, and generously, I think I can agree, but with a caveat.

        Modern culture does not really overvalue women, it pretends to a political correctness about women that is cloying and imbalanced. Men are often portrayed in popular media as buffoons, and women are often portrayed as smarter, harder working, better focused, and more reliable. They are also expected to do all that and look good, and the standard is impossible. If one falls short, one is substandard. There is no media middle ground for either men or women.

        On the other side of that portrayal, however, is a reality. In international development, it is well recognized that in family building, you cannot trust men with microloans because they will not use them for long-term investment. It is only in at least the second generation of cultural stability that men are trustworthy with money. That isn’t meant to be a slam against men. It’s a fact. What we do with it is entirely up to us.

      • Brittany says:

        Can of worms, indeed. I dislike the word “overvalues”–both sexes are of infinite value to God. Undervaluing men, which I agree is a big problem in our culture, is not overvaluing women because its not a competition. Objectification of women is rampant in American advertising. I will never believe that a society really values women at all when images of the female body, manipulated into an unrealistic ideal, are used to sell everything from sports cars and hamburgers to clothing, products, and procedures that promise to give women that unattainable ideal. The ways men and women are undervalued are different, but both are unacceptable.

  10. Michelle says:

    “I think the truth is much deeper and more beautiful. I think the veils of birth and death are both under the stewardship of men and women, working together.”

    I tend to lean more in this direction of things. I think there is value in some of what you are saying, but it almost feels a bit rigid to me in its exploration.

    The working together of men and women to me is KEY to God’s work at every level, from youth councils to the highest of Church councils, as well as the family council. I agree with the idea above, too, that both young men and young women are working during their teenage years to respect their bodies as temples and their covenants as protection and guidance toward future roles as husband and wife, father and mother, and partners in the work of God’s kingdom that is about men + women, not men vs. women.

    That said, I DO think that motherhood and fatherhood are not completely parallel, so I agree with what Adam G. said about that. It’s just not as simple as saying “men have a and women have b.” I think there is a Gestalt something in here that we aren’t getting to. And maybe as mortals we are simply limited by language.

    Using such imperfect language, I want to say that I tend to think a male-only priesthood invites partnership rather that a struggle for parallel processes, so to me it’s not necessary to try to explain that away or apologize for it. I also think partnership is as much to be discovered as it is to be talked about. It transcends structure or function, imo, and is to me first about conversion to Christ and then about hearts and lives and efforts and motives being woven together.

    And that transcends genders, too. That is approaching Zion in my mind.

    Within a marriage, imo, when sex becomes a symbol of true partnership, it becomes sacred because it’s about hearts and lives being unified, not just about bodies. I love Elder Holland’s talk, and I think we ought not be afraid of that concept of sex being sacred. Even figuring out what that means for a couple ends up being about a partnership, so rather than being afraid of it because people might misunderstand it, I think it’s good to talk about it and trust that people can figure it out with God’s help and with time. Personally, I think the *fear* of talking about sex as being a sacred part of God’s plan is part of what makes the adversary’s work so successful. e.g., if it’s not sacred, people turn to secular resources. I think rather than run from it, we ought to consider what joy God desires for us in this life to allow sexual union to be such a potentially joyful, fulfilling, fun, exciting experience. (In other words, I don’t believe God is just ‘reverent.’) But if you take God and His plan out of it, it too easily becomes distorted in serious ways.

    We ought not be surprised at the opposition surrounding sex. I think we just can use it as continued opportunity to acknowledge that the adversary wouldn’t fight something so forcefully unless it was critical to God’s plan.

    • Ray says:

      I agree totally that one of the worst things about our current culture in the LDS Church is our near obsession with not talking about sex openly and directly. I believe sex can be sacred, but I also believe sex can and should be wonderfully physical, as well – and I believe we ought to know how to make it both, particularly once we are married.

      I am concerned whenever I see a movement toward the Catholic denunciation of the body and all things physical. We believe in the beauty and important of the entire living soul – but our attitude toward sex often belies our theological foundation.

      • Michelle says:

        “also believe sex can and should be wonderfully physical, as well – and I believe we ought to know how to make it both, particularly once we are married.”

        I am trying to figure out where/how else one would come to come to know how to make it both except in marriage. :-)

        That tension is what I was trying to get at. Just because something is critical to God’s plan doesn’t mean it can’t be, as you pit it, physical. I think even that is consistent with what Elder Holland taught….body and spirit are what God’s plan is about. I think Elder Bednar’s talk this weekend gives some more great insight.

        I think ultimately we get to where we want to be, though, by talking about doctrine. The doctrine of the body and the plan and purposes of sex, etc are what we need more of, IMO. I think if anything, your concerns are just the flip side of the same sexualization coin. If the adversary can get us to fall into hyper-sexualized behavior, he wins. If he can get us to react to the sexualization of society by becoming fearful of our bodies, he can win, too.

        True doctrine, taught, talked about and *understood*, can change behavior. The problem in my view is that too many people turn to ‘the world’ for answers rather than through spiritual channels of truth, true partnership, and revelation.

        And parents teaching boldly and consistently through their children’s lives about the doctrine–not just the standards but the why of those standards, which includes protecting the process of married couples discovering intimacy together as something uniquely theirs.

        I just had a thought about how the challenges of social media could hinder healthy marital sexual relationships because other elements of healthy human relationships can be stunted in kids who don’t learn to interact in real life.

        So many layers to this.

      • Adam G. says:

        If that’s one of the worse things about the LDS Church, we’re doing really well. Our reticence about sex isn’t part of some move towards Catholic asceticism since we’ve always been pretty reticent. There are more reasons for reticence than shame. No, I am not going to talk about the sex act with you and not, its not because I am disappointed with my marital union.

    • Brittany says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. When I first read about the “two veils” concept, I thought it was the most wonderful thing ever and had to be the answer, but now my understanding has shifted to be more in line with yours. I think it is an oversimplification to say “men and women are of equal importance because men do y and women do x,” and if it really were that simple, it seems church leaders would say so. I think looking at it that way can be helpful for understanding that women are essential to the plan, but it is problematic in that it tends to perpetuate a divided, almost competitive view of gender, and I think this whole series was trying to make the point that unity of the sexes is essential. My mother once explained the “opposites attract” thing like this, “if you are in a relationship with someone who is exactly like you, one of you is unnecessary.” I am reminded of the analogy in this post about helicopter missions: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2013/01/understanding-what-it-means-to-preside.html?m=1.

    • Bonnie says:

      Since I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said, I’m not sure where we’re disagreeing. I’d love to have you describe in more detail where you see rigidity in the exploration.

  11. SilverRain says:

    I appreciated how Elder Ballard’s talk just (this Saturday morning in Conference) corroborated my point. Both the Priesthood and procreative powers are wielded between men and women in partnership.

    • Bonnie says:

      We have no difference of opinion. Wielding powers together does not imply that both preside.

      • SilverRain says:

        The problem I see is that the concept of “presiding” so often is read as trump power, rather than as the responsibility to make sure things are going smoothly.

        I still have issue with women/physical, men/spiritual because there is a definite hierarchy. And since men are physically more powerful than women, they have frequently robbed women of that alleged presiding responsibility. If presiding over the physical for women and spiritual for men is innate, then it really sucks for all of us with the misfortune of being a woman. Temporally, I’m okay with such injustice. Mortality IS injustice. But eternally, I have serious issues with it.

        Which is probably why I’m going to be nothing but a ministering angel for the rest of my eternity. Oh, joy, I just can’t wait.

        • SilverRain says:

          Not to mention, if we women are supposed to preside over physical birth, where is our Mother in Heaven when we need her most?

          • Rocket says:

            Silver Rain, this statement strikes me as odd. Many women feel Her presence when they give birth. Are you familiar with the book The Gift of Giving Life? Contained within it are multiple birth stories that locate HM at event surrounding travail.

        • SilverRain says:

          Sorry, I just keep having new thoughts popping into my head. Final thought, promise.

          I can see if some people need to think of things this way to bring them peace or a sense of contentment or understanding. But I don’t think it’s any more accurate than the theory it’s supposed to replace. They each hold different pieces of the truth. But they are not the truth. And when we try to teach it for doctrine without clear direction from the Prophet, we are teaching for doctrine the understanding of (wo)men.

          I’ve seen this theory and similar ones (like the two trees theory) rapidly gain popularity. But they are extrapolation in an attempt to rationalize our current world, much as the descendent of Cain theory and others of the past, and not sound doctrine.

          • Rocket says:

            “But they are extrapolation in an attempt to rationalize our current world, much as the descendent of Cain theory and others of the past, and not sound doctrine.”

            I disagree. I think it is simply taking Christ at his word concerning the body. Just because a woman saw it first is no reason to dismiss it.

      • Becca says:

        You say there is a “definite hierarchy” with women having a physical stewardship and men having a spiritual stewardship. Could you explain this a little more? Are you saying that the physical is less important/significant than the spiritual? Or visa verse?

        It’s interesting, too, that you point out that men are physically more powerful than woman. I think it has been posited many times by many different people that perhaps women are spiritually more powerful than men.

        The eternities are not strictly spiritual. Nor are they strictly physical. In fact, I would suggest that a main purpose of this life is to learn to connect the physical and spiritual and see how they are one and the same.

        • SilverRain says:

          I reject the notion that women are more spiritually powerful than men. That is an individual working. If it were true, should women get any credit for it? I have worked hard on my relationship to my Savior, and I refuse to have that hard work be diminished just because it theoretically comes naturally to me.

          Yes, in this life physical is less than spiritual. I find it odd that you bring up original sin, yet imagine that it has no bearing on this way of thinking in a mortal world. Physical form without spiritual is perceived as carnal, devilish. Many men have felt more than justified hurting women because of this perception, that women were physical and men spiritual. It is the same reasoning that leads to egregious abuses in human history, particularly through the middle ages, which has echoed down to present day.

          That is different than exalted physical and spiritual form. The moment you separate physical from spiritual power, and try to assign one or the other to a gender, you are putting a barrier between them to the detriment of understanding. Physical matter is an object, spirits are the subject which gives physical matter life. If women preside over physical structure, and men over chaotic form, then why do the men require structural priesthood, and women are left to chaotic methods of accessing the power of God?

          I’m not saying there is nothing good about it, just that it dangerously separates powers that are meant to be wielded together, both individually and as part of the group.

          The only way for matter both spiritual and physical to be exalted is for them to first be eternally and irrevocably bound together. This is part of the reason I reject the theory that women are in charge of one and men the other. We must learn to “preside over,” if you will, both powers within ourselves as an individual, and then unite them with others. We are not parts to be subsumed into a whole, or into another. We are individuals who then unite into a whole. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it makes a world of difference in ramification.

          More than that, I do not feel at liberty to explain.

          But I will say I find the idea of HM “being put” somewhere repugnant. I know you didn’t mean it that way, but it indicates that she is an object to be acted upon, which is in part the exact mode of thought that makes this worldview problematic when applied across the board.

          Look, it is clear that some people are twitterpated over this idea. More power to them, if they feel it brings them closer to God. Just don’t be teaching it as “the way things are.” I am not a mirror. I am not a passive receptacle for the deposit of a man which will give me life. I am a daughter of God, with potential access to all the powers and authority that He (mind, you HE) has. If it were not so, then I would truly have no role model in this world, and nothing after which to pattern my mortal life on eternal principles.

          You can’t have one (belief that men and women are different) and not the other (the active mortal presence of both Mother and Father.)

          • SilverRain says:

            Now that I’ve had a few minutes to think, I regret ever getting into this conversation. 99 out of a hundred, I’m good at staying out of such things.

            Since I can’t retract any of my comments, I will merely assure anyone still reading that I withdraw.

          • Rocket says:

            Physical was never less than spiritual to Christ. He asserted that his _body_ was a temple. Was he objectifying himself in saying so?

            I understand that you’re done with this thread and that you’re not going to respond, but I think your entire argument that women are being categorized as “over the physical” is inadequately explained and, as is, a red herring.

            Temple bodies are incapable of separating physical acts from spiritual acts. It is secular thought that asserts otherwise.

            If Christ was legit, then there isn’t anything people can do that isn’t temple work. That includes everything from kindness to violence, from doing yoga to watching sports, and yes, menstruation, sex, and birth. Just because we don’t think of some things as spiritual does not make it so. You are a temple of God 24/7, not just at church.

      • Becca says:

        “I can see if some people need to think of things this way to bring them peace or a sense of contentment or understanding. But I don’t think it’s any more accurate than the theory it’s supposed to replace. ”

        I really think that it is hard for us as mortal beings to see anything physical as “good” – no matter how much truth we are taught about the importance of our physical bodies (including their infirmities) we still keep an aftertaste of the “original sin” idea – that somehow this mortal existence is WRONG, rather than the absolute key to the plan of salvation.

        It is easy to see a physical stewardship as being less important/powerful than a spiritual stewardship, but is it? Just because it functions differently does not make it less important.

        And I would say Heavenly Mother is wherever we put her.

        Sheri Dew once said, “if we could comprehend how glorious a righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom will be, we would rise up and never be the same again.”

        Ha ha, I’m feeling like this comment got all “Girl Power” on me.

  12. Becca says:

    I enjoyed this post very much (and the comments). I have never felt that motherhood was a good equivalent to the priesthood, but I never felt that there needed to be something “equivalent”. As has been stated by other commenters, there doesn’t necessarily need to be a “men have a and women have b” I do, however, agree with the author about the separation of stewardships. I think members of the Church unfortunately misunderstand the meaning of the word “preside”, just, as Jen has pointed out, we do not understand words like “sacrament” and “ministry”. Presiding is not about “lording” over, or being “in charge of” in a controlling sense. Quite the contrary, presiding is about being responsible for. I think the claim of men being stewards over the spiritual birth and women being stewards over the physical birth is absolutely correct.

    I also agree with SilverRain “Both the Priesthood and procreative powers are wielded between men and women in partnership.” This is absolutely true. But I don’t think it contradicts the original post at all. I do not think the author was suggesting that men wield priesthood powers alone any more than women wield procreative powers alone. Obviously women cannot bear children alone (although many women today are attempting to do so, purposefully).

    I think Adam made a fantastic argument when he mentioned that a father who rejects the sealing ordinance will not be a father in the next life, just as a woman who rejects bearing children will not be eligible for exaltation in the next life. I had never thought of that connection before, but it makes sense, especially when discussing stewardships.

    And, when I think of women who for one reason or another are denied the opportunity to bear children in this life, I also think of all the women who fight for other women – women who fight for gender equality. Women who raise children who are not their own – whether through adoption, marriage, fighting for children in poverty, abusive families, etc. A woman does not ever have to formally be a a mother through biologically having children in order to be a good steward over motherhood. Protecting womenhood, motherhood, and children with or without bearing your own children is in every way being a good steward over the veil of providing physical bodies.

    Similarly, a man who does not have the opportunity to receive the priesthood in this life can in every way be a good steward over the spiritual birth of his family, and others. I have know many good Christian (and non-Christian) men who are focused on spiritual health and bringing their fellow brothers and sisters to God and Christ.

    The key, I think, is that we do the best we can in the situation we are in. Of course, that is what stewardship is all about anyway.

  13. Rocket says:

    Great post, Bonnie. Veils create belonging. This is true of the veil of the Priesthood, and it is true of the womb.

    I think your approach in identifying adolescence as preparatory to temple/veil stewardship is vital. I also think it is far too obscure in our culture. We prefer to offer far more abstractions to the young women (and young men) in our communities than concrete, temple-related imagery. Those abstractions feed into rationalizations, and the cost is high. The cost of being politically correct is high.

    • Bonnie says:

      Yes, they do! The veil, which many see as separating us from God, does, but also keeps us THIS close to Him – able to reach through in a moment and receive encouragement and enlightenment. How exciting! And I also agree that obscure and flowery imagery is not helping our youth grow into their divine nature. Thanks for stopping by. You’re doing good work over in your corner of the interwebs.

  14. Jacqueline Farnsworth says:

    My husband and I have always felt that just as the sacrament of the Lord’s supper is a recommitting to the covenant of baptism, the sacrament of intimacy in marriage is a recommitment of the sealing covenants. It seems a powerful sacramental act and reminds us of the things said in the sealing. Very strengthing to the marriage.

  15. Paul says:

    This from the OP: “we diminish boys when we believe they are sexual animals instead of holy priests, and we diminish girls when we make them sexy structures instead of holy temples.”

    I’m reminded of comments from our bishop over 20 years ago, probably in a testimony meeting, in which he spoke of his sadness that in our American culture sex had been reduced to an expression of animal instincts and his plaintive charge that we remember we are not animals, but children of a living God.

    I did not read this post (or the rest of the series) when it was published because I was away on vacation. Reading it now in the light of Elder Bednar’s talk (and others) has been interesting. Thanks, Bonnie.

    I must confess my inital response at seeing the title of the post was to do a double take and wonder what we at RI were up to. (Perhaps provocation is part of your motivation — the right post titles will drive traffic…) I share some of Ray’s concern about this particular construction. But I get your point (and Elder Holland’s before you).

    Surely as we talk about these issues of intimacy in our own families, open, honest sharing of this kind has great value as a means of providing a way to continue a life-long discussion.

  16. Kathryn says:

    Oh my goodness! I love this post and the comments. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts. I honestly don’t have anything to add because it’s way past my bedtime and I can’t think straight. I whole-heartedly agree with the previously comments about the use of the word sacrament. There’s something about it that just doesn’t sit right with me, but it probably has more to do with my tired brain and the connotations (sp) of the word than any thing else.

    Also, I don’t believe women are “overvalued.” I believe that in our society, each gender is so bent on being “better” and trying to make themselves feel better about things they cannot control that they tear others down in an attempt to build themselves up. It’s sad really. Women are objectified and men are belittled. We should all remember that it takes more skill to create and build than it does to destroy. Any idiot with a sledgehammer can gut a kitchen. It takes several trained and skilled craftsmen to put it back together again.

    As far as women holding the priesthood, I agree that fatherhood and motherhood are not interchangeable. I also agree that it isn’t about men getting a and women getting b. Personally, I am content. I don’t want the priesthood, I have more than enough responsibility, thanks. Being a mother is more glorious than anything I could have imagine (even with the spit up and the poopy diapers) and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

    And now I’m starting to ramble. I better go to bed now.

  17. Thought provoking post and discussion. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to present their views. I found this very helpful.

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