The Language of Sexism (Doctrine & Covenants 20-22)

Monday, March 1, 2021


Channing: Hi, I’m Channing

Elise: [00:00:00] and I’m Elise

Channing: [00:00:09] And this is The Faithful Feminist podcast.

Elise: [00:00:13] but this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the come follow me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood.
We're here to show you all the really good ways that faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

Channing: [00:00:38] We’ve saved you a seat on the soft chairs, so join us today for a conversation about doctrine and covenants sections 20 through 22 for the dates March 1st through the 7th.
We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:01:01] Welcome back everyone. In this week’s sections, we're talking all about the formal organization of the restored church. And so for our topics of discussion, we're going to talk about the organization of the church. Then we'll talk about some gender-neutral language, and then finally finish up with gender-neutral churchly responsibilities.

So if we start in section 20, it's the longest section of the assigned reading and the section heading talks about this revelation being given perhaps as early as the summer of 1829, but the complete revelation was likely recorded soon after the April 6th, 1830, organization of the church. So on April 6th, 1830, Joseph Smith and five other men gathered together with more men and women like 50 people total that were there.

And these people organize the church at the Whitmer’s log cabin. About this event, Joseph Smith said, this comes from the history of the church manual. He said, “Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our Heavenly Father, we proceeded according to the previous commandment to call upon our brethren and to know whether they accepted us as their teachers and the things of the kingdom of God and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a church, according to said, commandment, which we had received. To these several propositions, they consented by a unanimous vote.”

And I really liked this emphasis here. Um, it really starts to sound like the church was by the people for the people. Right. I can, I can imagine them all gathered together in this log cabin and Joseph Smith and you know, the five other main buddies at the time, or kind of.

It's a culmination of experience, right? Joseph Smith had spent the last 10 years of his life from 1820 when he first received the revelation and then the next few years continuing to work on the translation of the Book of Mormon, finally leading up to this point where the church was formally organized.

And so I feel that there's a bit of excitement here, and I like the idea of thinking about them in this log cabin and kind of proposing themselves and proposing their work to the large group of about 50 people in saying like, do you agree? Like, will you accept us and sustain us as leaders and teachers, not just in the church, but also in the kingdom of God?

And then they put it to a vote. I really, really appreciate that. 

Channing: [00:03:39] What I really love about this story of kind of the birth or the beginnings of the like formal structure of the church is that it really does seem to be like quite democratic, um, and quite accepting of it. Everyone's voice in the community.

And so in that way, I appreciate knowing that the original intent of the formal institution of the church was meant to be like a continual back and forth between, um, its members and its leadership. So that's really exciting to me. And I'm glad that you highlighted that. 

Elise: [00:04:15] Yeah, absolutely. And so for the rest of section 20, I mean, it covers a lot of, kind of like primary doctrine and truth that's at the foundation of the gospel and of the organization of the church, and then it goes into more formal duties, but I thought we could maybe talk about, what is the purpose of having like an organized, formulated, official church? Like why go through all of this effort and process to make it happen formally instead of just letting things be maybe more open-ended and people could come and go and no need to put like, a label on it or something like that?

Channing: [00:04:53] It seriously, sounds like friends with benefits, right?

Well, I think when we think about like a church of, I think in some way a structure is necessary because, um, like if I think about our church specifically, like because of the way it's structured, we can have a consistent. Hmm, like manual to study, we have consistency in what doctrines and principles are focused on the most.

We have consistency in like building codes and like organizational structures. We all have a place, no matter what word we go to. Right? Like we're in primary or we're in the youth or we're the in the adult organization. And so I do think that in some and in many ways, actually a formal structure benefits a church because it gives people a place to go.

And especially like the human need to define and organize everything. That's really helpful. 
Elise: [00:06:03] Yeah. I agree with a lot of that too. And I already mentioned before, but I do feel like there is an energy and excitement and kind of a building towards something. And it seems like this organization of the church was a really defining and important moment for everyone.

And I can, I can see that even though we're only nine episodes in, I can kind of feel that growing. And it makes sense to kind of bring everyone together and want to do this very specific thing. And I agree that having a formal organized official church helps get everyone on the same page. It makes sure that everyone's getting relatively the same amount and type of information.

And even if there's a bit of chaos, especially at the very well, definitely at the beginning, but I don't think any of the chaos goes away, but at least it's organized chaos. Um, and for me, I like, like some of my traits personally, like I do, I am really drawn towards consistency. I do really like structure.

Um, and even in my critiques of the church, I'm, I don't think I'm ever necessarily saying that we need to like tear the whole entire structure down and then never rebuild. I think that we need to ask ourselves if our structures and our organizational patterns are open. Are they able to be influenced?

Are they responsive and open to change, open to feedback and open to admitting when things are wrong. So I think structures help keep things organized. It helps us kind of have some consistent ideas of what to expect, but I think we do need to keep those structures open and flexible. 

Channing: [00:07:48] Well, it reminds me of, um, the skyscrapers in New York.

Like there are these big, huge, tall buildings that absolutely have to have a solid foundation and fantastic structural support. But something interesting about the skyscrapers in New York is they're actually built to be able to sway and move in the wind. Um, because if they were so rigid, then eventually they'd get like knocked down or pushed over by the wind.

And so this ability to kind of have a little bit of flexibility and move with the elements is actually enhances their long term like health as a building. I wonder if maybe we can make a similar comparison to the church, um, the structure of the church and saying it absolutely needs structure, but the structure itself should be flexible enough to withstand some push and give, um, as necessary.

Elise: [00:08:43] I really liked that. And I also, one thing that I'm thinking right now is like, who are the people involved in designing the structure and does, in the design phase in the building phase, like are all people's voices and ideas and needs being fully explained and met in the structure, or is the structure built for only a particular set or group or type of people.

And I think that maybe in that way, there might need to be some destruction of the structure in order to make it an equitable, inclusive structure that is still flexible, but also still has a foundation. It's just a lot. I don't know if I could ever organize a church. Right. 

Channing: [00:09:26] I know. Well, I'm sure Joseph Smith is like, Holy crap. 50 people. That is, it's a lot to manage.

Elise: [00:09:35] When I was doing some research for this podcast episode, I had turned back to like the 2017 manual lesson version of the Doctrine and Covenants. And they had a question in there that said, “How might your life be different if the church had not been restored, or if you weren't a member of the church?”

And I found that interesting and wanted to see what you would like, what we would say in response to that. 

Channing: [00:09:59] Oh, my. Well, that's a big question because for me, the church is not just tied up in like what my own personal like religious beliefs are, but it's totally tied up in like what my family's and ancestry's religious beliefs are.

And so like if I, if I go trace my ancestry back, to who my ancestors were before they were converted to the church, I would definitely be a different religion, most likely. And like, what would my life, what would my life look like? I, I definitely, I think would have a more difficult time connecting to Heavenly Mother.

I think that's something really unique about, um, the LDS cosmology is that it includes a feminine divine, even if it's a still significantly repressed feminine divine. Right. Um, and I also think like my whole approach to my own gender would definitely be different. I think that LDS church has a lot of inherently feminist things going for it.

One in Heavenly Mother and two in it's telling of the story of Eve. And I think, um, if I didn't have the church, my feminist ideologies would probably feel a lot more radical than they already feel to me now. And I, I think I would feel like I would have to completely toss out my religious belief.

I would worry that I would have to do that because I feel like I owe a lot to the LDS church in the way that it's kind of nurtured an inherent belief in the equality between all people, even if it doesn't showcase that in ways that I would want it to, I do feel like it nurtured that in my earliest, like stages of believing.
Um, so yeah, I, I do feel like it would look totally different. My life would be different. 

Elise: [00:12:04] Yeah. I agree. It's hard to, it's really hard to think about a different life because I do think that mine would be completely different. I think a lot of the decisions and people that I know and places that I've been and understandings of who I am and what this life means, I think a lot of that stems from my faith in the gospel. And so it would look really different to me. I think in, on other podcast episodes I'm sure I've said this before, but without my faith I wouldn't, I don't know what other language I would have to think about God. I'm sure that there would be something else, but I don't know exactly what that would be.

Like. I know that there exists a world outside of the LDS faith tradition, and I'm sure I would still feel called to explore that. I, because I feel like in any type of faith as a part of what it means to be human, even if it doesn't mean like faith in God or faith in the gospel or the church, I do still feel like people are called to ask big, deep questions and take leaps of faith.

So I think that there would still be, I would still have that part of me, but I would ask different questions and receive different types of answers. Yeah. So, I don't know. I'm I think I'm thinking about is this question meant to make us say something like, “Oh, my life would be absolutely terrible without the gospel” and that neither you, nor I have given like a detrimental answer to it.

We just think that it would be different, but also that's not to say that the church hasn't blessed my life in significant ways, and hasn't given me really important language and understanding for who I am and how I fit into the world. So I'm neither like negating or disregarding, but I'm also know that like I would, would still have to live my life, even if the church weren't or weren't a part of it.

So we hope that as you're studying section 20 this week, you can ask yourself some of the questions that we've asked, one another, like, what is the importance or benefit, or even the danger of having a formalized church structure. And also how would your life be different or would your life be different if you weren't a member of the church or if the gospel hadn't been restored in this particular way?

Channing: [00:14:32] If we move down a little bit further in section 20, we come to verse 17 and this is the portion of the texts that we start to come across really distinctly gendered language. And that's something that we wanted to explore and discuss is what the impacts of gender language in our scriptures, specifically, scriptures that talk about the creation of atonement and baptism like this section of text.

Elise: [00:15:01] Before I read the scripture. I want everyone to listen for the gendered pronouns or language that shows up here and just take a mindful note of it because we'll come back to it in a minute. But verses 17 through 20, say “By these things, we know that there is a God in heaven who is infinite and eternal from everlasting to everlasting, the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth and all things which are in them.

And that he created man male and female after his own image. And in his own likeness created he them and gave onto them commandments that they should love and serve him the only living and true God and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.” 

Channing: [00:15:46] So we’re going to break down the section of text and kind of go like passage by passage and analyze and talk about the impact of the gendered language that we come across here.
And the first passage that I wanted to focus on is the part that says, thereby showing that he, talking about God, is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. And this section of text, explicitly names God as male. One author that I really enjoy reading about the importance of gendered language or the importance of recognizing gender language in our sacred texts comes from a writer named Sue Monk Kidd, and a lot of the ideas that I'll be sharing today, come from her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.

If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. But in her book, Sue Monk Kidd talks about what happens to our theology when it shaped mostly from the male perspective. And she talks about the act of naming as an act of creation or shaping reality. And when we think about the idea of patriarchy, patriarchy values men's voices over women's voices.

And so it makes sense that men have had more power to create or shape our reality. And so they've had more voice in every realm of society, but. And that also includes the spiritual realm. They name the world, they name who God is and what God is like. And they even named women and defined women from their own masculine perspective.

And then, because patriarchy is the air that we breathe and the water that we swim in, it's kind of considered to be the universal experience. And some of the questions that Sue Monk Kidd asks and maybe re-imagining an alternate reality is she says, “I wondered how the world might have been different if women had been equally involved in the act of naming. How might sacred experience be different and how might we as women be different?”

And so some of my own questions inspired by her are what changes when God is a woman? What changes when God, as a woman calls her daughters to her Holy work. And that's a portion from the passage later on. And I think that this is a valuable perspective to take. And these are important questions to ask ourselves, because this is the imagining phase, the dreaming phase of what could be possible if God were a woman, or if, when we heard the word, God, the image of a woman showed up in our minds. So I don't know. Do you have any thoughts? 

Elise: [00:18:35] I think it is a worthwhile experience and exercise because I feel like for a lot of our, I would guess that for a lot of women, um, the concept and the imagery around a really patriarchally masculine God, that is explicitly male in very traditionally masculine ways feels kind of out of reach, um, feels distinctly different than femininity and women womanhood, perhaps. And so I think it's a nice, not just an exercise, but an important imaginative experience to think of the different ways that we could conceptualize God in a more, in a more feminine way or in a more female woman type of way. And see what comes from that. Do we feel more kinship? Do we feel, do, do we feel more emboldened? Do we recognize more divinity in ourselves? So I think that it's a, it is a worthwhile experience. 

Channing: [00:19:38] And I think that leads us really well into the next portion of texts that we wanted to look at.

And this is in, um, continuing in verse 17 to verse 18. The text says “by these things, we know that there is a God in heaven who is infinite and eternal God, the framer of heaven and earth and all things which are in them and that he created, man. Male and female after his own image and in his own likeness created he them.”

And I think what shows up here is, um, a multitude of issues. I hate saying like issues, but from a feminist perspective, there is a multiple, there's a multitude of issues that need to be discussed here. And I think the first one is kind of what we talked about earlier with explicitly naming God as male, but also like the incredibly heavy gendered language that he created, man male, which comes first and female, and that maleness and femaleness are both made and created in the image of a male God.

So we kind of just want to break that down and discuss it and have a conversation about it. And something else that I appreciated learning about from Sue Monk Kidd is she shares some work from Jewish and Christian theologians that assert that God is actually genderless. One of these theologians, Anne E. Carr says that “no image or symbol is an adequate picture of God.”

And so Sue Monk Kidd asks if the divine is ultimately formless and genderless, what's the big deal? Why bother? And she's kind of asking why bother, like with the genders, why bother, like, talking about gendered language? Why talking, why bother talking about the pronouns that we use to describe God?
And she argues that the bother is because we have no other way of speaking about the divine. “We need forms and images. Without them, we have no way of relating to the divine. Symbol and image create a universal spiritual language that the soul understands.” And she goes on to explain that the dominating image in our speech in thought and in feeling about the divine have told us that the divine is exclusively male, arguably so exclusively that most people seem to believe that God really is male.

Elise: [00:22:02] And I think this is kind of a multi part concern because out of a patriarchal system that is organized with men over women, right? Like fathers over mothers and families. Like that's one way that this explicitly male-based language shows up for God, but also in reinforcing only ever male concepts and images of God, we place a different type of hierarchy within patriarchy.

We have this kind of God first, then male, then female. And even further than that, and like then everyone else, but you can see it's like a really steep drop-off with God and male being so closely tied with one another right. Prophets male. And Mary Daly has this really good line that says “if God is male, then male is God.”

And to go back to the question, I might like, well, what's the big deal. I think that really is when we start talking about sexist language, that is the question that people often ask like, well, what's the big deal? Why does it matter if I say to a group of people you guys are, why does it matter if I only ever use male-based pronouns when I talk about God, like what's the big deal? And I think one of the big deals is that it reinforces that norm, it says that that is what is normal. Um, and I think it highlights the connection between our language and our reality. They are tied to one another. So our language reflects back to us, the lived reality of our world.

But I also think that language has the power to make air quotes like “real change.” So I, to me, it does matter.

Channing: [00:24:03] Yeah. What I'm hearing you say is to you, it does matter because it creates powerful change. And so in our careful curating and care of our language, we can simultaneously create a new way of being in a new way of being in relationship with. Yeah, exactly. 

Elise: [00:24:20] And there's a really great, it's a super short essay it's called why sexist language matters by Sheryl Kleinman and one of the things that, and one of the things that she says is like, look, we have a big language to roam around in, like, we have lots of beautiful words that we can craft and create and pair together in ways that let us reimagine in more expansive ways our world. And I think that we can connect this really easily to our understanding of God.

Like if God is so much more than we expect God to be, then our language should be trying to grasp at every conceptualization of God, knowing that those things can bless our understanding and our relationship. 

Channing: [00:25:10] Hm. That's really, really beautiful. Something that we come across a lot when we're talking about, um, the gender of God is oftentimes we receive feedback from listeners saying, well, if what if God is neither male or female. And to that, we say absolutely like 100% deep down inside that's what we really believe. And so some questions asked are, why do we not just skip the gender pronouns altogether and go straight for a gender neutral reference to God?

And Elise and I do this on the podcast. When we refer to God, most of the time we say God, or God's self, or God's like apostrophe S. And so that is something that at least for me, and I tell me if I'm wrong Elise. You and I really do believe in, that God is way bigger than our like very limited gender binary understanding.

And I would want to make room for that expansive.

Elise: [00:26:15] Yeah absolutely I agree with that. And it goes back to what you were saying that what Sue Monk Kidd says, like we have to have it is normal and natural for us to search for language that helps us make connections with God. Um, which also means that when we look for language, our bias and our prejudice shows up here as well.

So sometimes that means like the gender binary shows up. Sometimes that means the misunderstanding of the connection between sex and gender show up. And so it's important for us to start being aware of it because our language and our communication is consequential. Like it has real lived consequences for the ways that we can connect with and conceptualize God.

Channing: [00:26:55] Yeah. And I'm really appreciative that you brought up bias because I think that that also plays into the way that we use language and something else that I appreciated about Sue Monk Kidd is she wrote about an experience in her book where she, where a minister of a church approached her. He was genuinely interested in creating a more inclusive church.

And so he kind of just asked her, you know, why don't we just skip talking about the divine feminine and move and move more toward androgynous abstract images, something along the lines of saying, um, just like I said, we do in the podcast using the word God, but not the word father or he or his, but to that Sue Monk Kidd argued, she said, “but the word God does not register it in us as neutral.

Technically it may not imply any particular gender, but what registers and functions in the mind is male.” And I think that that showcases what you were talking about with our own implicit bias inside of us, is that yes, eventually we want to get to the point of being able to refer to God as genderless and having that be an accessible and powerful way to relate to God.

But until we can move past the maleness, that's already inherent in our imagery about the divine and maybe not move past, but move into something else as well, which would be the divine feminine, then I think we could make an argument that says we have to first talk about and explore the options that the divine feminine offers us before we can move into a genderless God, I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that, Elise? 

Elise: [00:28:47] Yeah, I think I, at least what I'm thinking right now is I wonder if it has to be one before the other. I wonder if we can say like all of the con, like all of the different images and understandings of God should be explored without saying like, well, gender neutral or gender non-conforming or queer understandings of God, we have to wait until we work our way through feminine understandings of the divine before we get there. So I think maybe it's less of like, so I think maybe it's less of like doing it systematically. Like we worked through masculine male now we're working through feminine female and then we'll work through other like queer elements or conceptions of God.

And I think we can say like, no, we know how important it is. Like if we're feeling called to explore the divine feminine, we also, that should also remind us how important it is to explore even past that, because even the divine feminine is limited and it's bias, and it's like flushed with traditional understandings of woman as mother only.

And so it it's like a constant constant re-imagining of God, but I think that feels, at least to me, that feels fitting, like knowing that I will always be searching after better interpretations for God. 

Channing: [00:30:11] Yeah, I really liked that. And I appreciate you bringing that perspective because I think you caught me in my own bias there a little bit too in saying that feminism is meant to liberate everyone, not just women.

And so we need to make sure that we're bringing along everyone for the ride and not just advocating for like the privilege in our own particular sphere. So thank you for bringing that up. The final section of the verse that we covered that I want to talk about a little bit more in detail is in verse 19.

And this section of text says, “and God gave unto them,” which means the humans “commandments that they should love and serve him the only living and true God and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.” And so my question about this is what does this verse imply based on the conversation that we've had?

Leading up to this about like male exclusivity, a male understanding of God and that awesome quote that you least gave from Mary Daly about “if God is male than male is God.” My question that I want to ask is what does this verse imply? And I think to answer my own question for me, that because of the use of gendered language, this verse implies that we should love maleness, that we should serve and uphold maleness because it is the only living and true way of being and that maleness only should we worship.
And it sounds extreme and intense, and over the top, when I substitute the word maleness for the word God, in those verses, which is exactly what I did, but I did that in order to demonstrate just how subconsciously we do exactly that. That's what happens in the system of patriarchy. And so I hope that we've demonstrated clearly that our gendered language and our sexist language about God has real impacts in the real world. And I do want to kind of temper this portion of the episode by saying, cause I can just like anticipate some of the feedback that we get from this and I just want to be so, so, so very clear.

That neither men or their masculinity is inherently bad. We don't hate men. I think it's our love for ourselves as women and our love for everyone that compels us to critique the patriarchally encouraged worship of maleness as a form of idolatry, instead of a genuine reflection of the mystical undefinable expansiveness of God. Maleness is good, but it is not better than. Masculinity can be encouraged and embraced, but not at the expense of all else.

Men are definitely good, but they are not better than any other gender. And so I just want us all to keep that in mind, as we're talking about this feminist critique of these particular verses looking at the gendered language, and I think that this conversation about, um, patriarchy, masculinity, sexist language leads us really well into a conversation about priesthood.

And the remainder of section 20 strongly focuses on a lot of the organizational structure of the church and the organizational purpose of the priesthood. And I was actually really fascinated reading through the section because it very explicitly defines each role and office of the priesthood and what their responsibilities are.

And so I'm excited to go through and explore some of those from a feminist lens. 
Elise: [00:33:56] If we look at verses 37 to 60 ish, we start to see some of the responsibilities of the people that desire to be baptized, and also the different responsibilities of elders, priest, teachers, deacons, apostles, but yet, also members of the church of Christ.

And Channing and I were both kind of blown away by this language because what we once thought was maybe like an exclusive boys, only priesthood, only type of responsibility, we now see that it, that members of the church of Christ or perhaps the body of Christ have a responsibility to do things, do these things as well, whether it's participating in the caretaking of the church, participating in priesthood power or moving toward baptism, some of the characteristics of the different, um, like areas of the priesthood that I found really exciting, because I feel like there are more inclusive than we traditionally and organizationally understand them to be are things like their responsibility to teach, to expound, right.

To share the word and help people understand the gospel and to watch over the church. I think that's a responsibility of all members and in that way, we can feel included in the work because if you listen to our episode that I think it's just titled the one where we talk about the priesthood, we talk about the difference between priesthood authority, which feels much more like organizationally structural versus priesthood power, which everyone has. And I think that these verses back us up by saying, yeah, we, we're all called to watch over the church.

We're all called to help one another learn. We're all called to teach and share with one another. 

Channing: [00:35:53] Yeah, I think that's really beautiful. And some of the other things that also stuck out to me, some of the other responsibilities that I felt were exciting. Um, one of the verses mentions that priests should visit the house of each member and exhort them to pray.

And then it also talks about that their responsibility is to add minister bread and wine. And I don't know why, like this language stuck out to me so differently than it would have if it had just said administer the sacrament, but I'm like, I serve bread at my kitchen table all the time. 

Elise: [00:36:28] Like how many meals has the, like, have we been asked to give or how many, you know what I mean? Like how much baking and cooking is involved in taking care of people in the ward? 

Channing: [00:36:40] Right. Exactly. And so what's the difference between that act of service that ritual that, um, like act of devotion to God, how is that different than like a formal administration of the sacrament? And so, I mean, obviously there are arguably differences, right.

But are the differences gendered? I think that's the question. That's the question that I'm really trying to get at is. Are men really the only people that like can administer the sacrament, can they really only be the ones that administer bread and wine when women do it in their tables, in their homes every day?

And so I encourage you to go through and look at these different, um, responsibilities of the different offices and the priesthood. Again, that's in section 20 versus 37 through 60. I think you'll find it really enlightening and yeah, that, that small, tiny sentence tucked away in the middle of everything else where it says, these are the responsibilities of the priesthood.

And like, I wish I could put it in all caps members of the Church of Christ. We're all called to do this work. And the final thing that I thought was incredibly interesting about this section of texts. If you'll read it, you'll find it too, but it actually says that teachers and deacons and the priesthood are not authorized to administer the sacrament.

And so kind of going along with what we just talked about, I'm curious about that. And I'm, I'm not prepared to like, make a full-blown statement saying that like recurrently doing it wrong because I don't know if there's been recent revelation that's maybe like changed or shifted the way that we classify these different offices of the priesthood, but if the responsibilities of teachers and deacons are to watch over the church, see that the church meet together and like warn and teach and exhort other members of the church, but they're not authorized to baptize and they're not authorized to administer the sacrament, I'm like, oh, okay. I'm already doing all those things. Where's my priesthood ordination? 

Elise: [00:38:54] The thing that's striking to me is like, okay, the church has like, things changed. The church has changed. And so that, that is on one level. That's really hopeful to me. Like, yes, things can change. Um, what is written in the scriptures isn't always measuring up to what our lived experience of different elements of the church are today. And for that reason, I'm kind of like, okay, okay. There was, there was change. 

Channing: [00:39:24] Yeah, I appreciated what you highlighted there with talking about. Yay. I'm excited for the change because obviously it's happened before, but I'm also disappointed that this was the change. And so maybe a more exciting interpretation of this I think we can pull from your comment and basically saying, yeah. The church has changed before and so it can, again, and this time let's make sure that it reflects like the values and embodiment of all of the body of Christ. 

Elise: [00:40:01] In section 21 verses four and five, it says “wherefore, meaning church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words, Joseph Smith's words and commandments, which he shall give unto you.
As he received them walking in all holiness before me, for his word, you shall receive as if from my own mouth in all patience and faith.” Oh, that's a tricky one. Yeah, it is. It is. And as I was preparing, I was looking at the By Comment Consent blog and they had a blog post that asks the question, How do we make sense of this verse saying that anything that any revelation given, if any word spoken out of Joseph Smith's mouth is the same as if it was God or the Lord saying it.

So how do we make sense of that alongside Joseph Smith's actual ministry? Like were all of his words and all of his revelations and all of his prophecies, the same as the Lord’s? And I, we kind of talked about this a little bit in last week's episode, just a slippery slope that we can get into, but what I'm really hoping here is that the Lord wasn't granting like immunity or infallibility to Joseph Smith because Joseph Smith did some really, really not great is an understatement things. 

And so, I don't know. I'm at first I'm wondering if, because this is a revelation that was given in April 6th, 1830, like right at the beginning of when the church was formally organized, I'm wondering if the Lord is trying to give Joseph Smith like a bit of credibility, maybe the Lord is being Joseph Smith’s hype-up person.

I don't know, but we can just see how tricky that becomes because we start to see it kind of overstated and to severely become a one-to-one connection that doesn't really account for Joseph Smith's humanity, that doesn't account for Joseph Smith's like human messy mistake-making fallibility. 

Channing: [00:42:07] One of the things that we've discussed in the past when coming across tricky portions of text is oh, you're going to have to remind us all who actually said this [Shussler Fiorenza], but that there's a couple of different things that we can do with the text. We can decide to name it as, um, a product of its time. We can like take all the good that we can learn from it and then throw away the rest. And the third way that we could engage with the text is to re-imagine something different than what's there.

And so I think for me, the approach that I'm most tempted to take to this passage is to say like, okay, this was revelation given on April 6th, 1830, and it was meant to stay in the exact day of April six, 1830, like to kind of put a stamp of approval on like, yes, the church was organized. Yes. This is what I wanted to happen.

Great. And then at midnight on April 6th, 1830, like that's expired, right? Like it's not like it just carries through and is like this total seal of approval on everything that Joseph Smith ever did. So I think for me, that's the approach that feels like most authentic to me. Um, but I don't know. I do, I could be convinced by another argument of another way.

So if someone feels differently, let me know. 

Elise: [00:43:30] In the blog posts that I was reading, they kind of highlighted the, what comes at the end of those verses, right? It says “for his own word, you shall receive as if from my own mouth.” Here's the highlight “in all patience and faith” and they, they asked the question, how does this change our understanding of what's being said here? The keywords, patience and faith, are we to exercise patience and faith because as the kind of lessen or, or manual would imply that like hearing God's word is hard sometimes, or are we required to move forward with patience and faith, because what we hear often falls short of what we understand about God. [By Common Consent blog]

Yeah, for me, it's definitely the second one, because at least in this verse, we do need patience and faith because all God has on earth is us like messy, imperfect mistake-making beings. And we're always falling short. And so, because we're human, I think that when there are gaps or disconnections or confusions or misunderstandings or harmful policies that are claimed to be a one-to-one revelation from God's mouth, I think there's something that is hopeful that I remember from previous section doctrine and covenants chapter 17, verse seven, it says, “wherefore, you have received the same power and the same faith and the same gift, like unto him, like unto Joseph Smith.”

And that makes me just think like, okay, if God gave David, Joseph, and Oliver, and Martin Harris and other people the same power, same faith, same power to speak like Joseph Smith, does that also mean that God is being my hype person too? That, that when I walk in all holiness before God, do I have the same type of access and power to the revelations and the words that Joseph Smith has from God?
I also think that this probably isn't the last time that we're going to see statements like this being made that say anything that comes from Joseph's mouth might as well come from God's mouth. So continue to find your own way of grappling with these. Does it have an expiration date of like midnight after the revelation was given?

Are there other words that can kind of help us re-understand or give a more generous reading? Are there other scriptures that we can pair, pair the tricky scripture with to help give more depth and maybe help us twist free from any harmful interpretations of them? 

Channing: [00:46:22] I think I love this conversation because we've talked in the past about the Doctrine and Covenants being like a tricky text to apply a feminist interpretation to and that we felt a little bit nervous about it.

But I think that this conversation, I hope that this conversation has demonstrated just how alive the Doctrine and Covenants really is. And just, and how we can use the same tools and the same skills that we applied to the Book of Mormon that we will apply to the Old Testament and New Testament. We can apply those here too, because this is scripture too. And it operates maybe not in all of the same ways, but in similar ways. And so I'm so excited that we had the opportunity to talk about and remember those skills that we've used in past episodes and use them, some of them for the first time in the Doctrine and Covenants today. So, yay. I'm so excited about that.

Elise: [00:47:25] So thanks everyone for joining us on this week's episode, we hope that you have had an adequate amount of time to think about the organization of the church. We hope that we have kind of asked you some hard, maybe uncomfortable questions about the gendered ways that we understand God, and how can we push past that to be more inclusive and less sexist?

Thinking about the openness and inclusivity of the power of the priesthood and the responsibilities of the priesthood. And then finally finishing off with this conversation about tricky scriptures and being a one-to-one correlation from God to Joseph 

Channing: [00:47:59] Friends, we've loved sharing this episode with you and we're honored to continually be in conversation with you, with the text and with each other. We love you so much and can't wait to talk to you again soon.

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