Tuesday, March 01, 2005

mid-term question 3

i finally finished my mid-term. in 15 minutes, i will be officially 24 hours without sleep. unfortunately, i won't be able to sleep until 11 or so tonight. hopefully i can survive. here is my essay for the third question on my mormon cultural studies mid-term. you may or may not find it interesting.

there are plenty of examples within mormon culture of articulations that serve the interests of power structures within mormonism. one that has been on my mind lately comes in a few forms, but is largely used in two particular ways. the first is the common use of ‘priesthood’ instead of ‘brothers’ to reference males in the church. the second is the common use of ‘the brethren’ in reference to the highest group of leaders in mormonism. while the uses of each work in opposite ways (in the former, the symbol of authority is used to reference gender while in the latter, the symbol of gender is used to reference authority), they both by representation serve the interests of a power structure which places women under men’s authority.
in the first case, where women are still referred to as ‘sisters’ there is a tendency within mormonism to refer to men as ‘priesthood’ instead of the equal symbol ‘brothers’. this is not just used in instances where priesthood authority is a part of the interaction, but in common instances such as “the priesthood and the sisters will both be needed to help out with the youth activity” or “we will a handful of priesthood to help the johnsons move into their new home.” in both cases, especially in the latter, it seems obvious that it is the men that were being referenced and not their priesthood – unless of course, the johnsons needed a blessing to ensure that their china set was not damaged in the move. this use of ‘priesthood’ performs a double-whammy in supporting a male dominant power structure. not only does the symbol ‘priesthood’ have a representation that implies power and authority in mormonism, the symbol itself is one that represents such power and authority in almost any cultural context. by using ‘priesthood’ instead of ‘brothers’, both the symbol and representation of power and authority are placed on men; something that the women are denied. when this is done in a context void of any priesthood authority, this symbol gives a representation that men have authority over women inherently and separately from an actual priesthood.
as mentioned already, the latter use of ‘brethren’ in reference to the leading hierarchy of the church has a usage opposite to the previous use of ‘priesthood’, but has the same effect of supporting a male dominated power structure in mormonism. in this case, the gender exclusive symbol, ‘brethren’, is used to reference authority in the church. once again, another double-whammy is performed in support of the male power structure. first, by representing authority with a gender exclusive symbol, the male gender becomes a symbol which represents authority. furthermore, the male symbol becomes equated with the symbol of hierarchal leadership. this further strengthens the representation of authority by men and representation of men by authority. by doing this, the power structure in the upper echelons also defends itself from becoming infiltrated by women.
by refraining from using symbols of authority to represent gender, and gender-exclusive symbols to reference authority, abuses and oppression by assumed power structures can be lessened. however, as long as the church maintains a male-exclusive priesthood, a certain level of male-authority representation will continue to exist. furthermore, because such a male-exclusive priesthood has existed for such a long time, there already exists a framework or ideology of male authority in mormon culture. because it is so entrenched in the culture, unless there is a break from the male-exclusivity of the priesthood, this ideology of male authority will continue to exist.


  1. Chris Says,

    Dude, good until the last line. Your argument does not exclude other possibilities of solving the "problem" (other than giving women the Priesthood). For example, how about if President Hinckley addresses the subject and asks us to use "Priesthood" only when addressing the Priesthood as appropriate (according to you).

  2. what's your point? should women have the priesthood? what should change? why can't men give birth?
    why should the mans position be valued higher than womens?

  3. chris,

    the last line does not say that giving women the priesthood is the solution to the problem, but that because men have the priesthood and women do not, there exists an ideology deep within mormon culture that gives men a representation of having a general authority over women. this representation has the ability to carry over into non-priesthood related issues, thus further marginalizing women.

    anonymous coward,

    your questions are pretty pathetic and totally avoids the issue at hand. this is largely my fault as i only posted the third part of my midterm on cultural studies. so what is my point you ask. read what i wrote! sheesh. is it not obvious? mormon culture needs to abandon sexist language that leads to the marginalization of women. your silly criticism reminds me of a rather pathetic letter to the editor in the universe a couple days ago.

  4. I didn't critcize you.

    I questioned you.

    Silly and pathetic?

    How can this be if it's "largely your fault?"

    How are women marginalized?

    Your insults weaken any point you were
    trying to make.

  5. i'm not really sure what letter to the editor was so pathetic. and do you have a solution?

  6. chris, because men have the priesthood and women do not, mormon culture has an ideology deep within it that gives men authority over women... even in non-church issues. i do not try to assume that giving women the priesthood is the only way to solve the problem, only that it is the ultimate cause of the problem. while using 'brethren' and 'priesthood' appropriately may at least alleviate the problem as i presented it, because of the difference between sexes in the possibility for having the priesthood, the gender/authority issue will continue to exist. the only thing i can think of outside of giving women the priesthood would be more discussion of the divine mother

  7. anonymous 1,
    if you had tried to read my post, it should be quite obvious what the point was: using a symbol for authority (priesthood) as a reference for gender and a symbol of gender (brethren) to represent authority further endorses an ideology that marginalizes women and gives males undue authority

    anonymous 2,
    the letter i mentioned was the one that ignorantly accused feminism of going against the gospel

  8. the divine mother? lets have that discussion now. give me your favorite scripture on the subject. your argument is extremely weak because you don't even have a problem to go with your cause. you're tracing figures in mid-air.

  9. mr. anonymous,

    if you are going to make silly and ignorant criticisms on my blog, at least have the decency to give some sort of name instead hiding in anonymity. as far as a discussion of the divine mother goes, i heard a wonderful presentation today by jill derr (director of the joseph fielding smith institute) about eliza r. snow and how she found identity and purpose in her life with her revelation on the divine mother. in her days (and as the general relief society president), snow was able to speak openly about the qualities and divine life of "mother eve". from this (as well as her role as a priestess) snow found fulfillment and meaning in her life. unfortunately both of these ideas are silenced in mormonism today.

    as far as your claim that no ideology of a false male authority problem exists, you are plain wrong. the problem exists. the prophet knows the problem exists. that is why he spoke directly about that problem during last october's general conferece

  10. quotes please

  11. hey, if you want to continue this discussion, i'm gonna need some sort of name or pseudonym as well as some maturity. your pleas for quotes are somewhat useless because you aren't telling me what kind of quotes you want, why you want them, and what purpose they would serve. you have yet to articulate what your own point is with your silly questioning.


Please provide a name or consistent pseudonym with your comments and avoid insults or personal attacks against anyone or any group. All anonymous comments will be immediately deleted. Other comments are subject to deletion at my discretion.