Challenging Chastity with At Last She Said It (Doctrine & Covenants 63)

Monday, June 7, 2021


Channing: Hi, I'm Channing.

Elise: and I’m Elise,

Channing: And this is the Faithful Feminists Podcast.

Elise: 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 are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: We saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants section 63 for the dates June 7th through the 13th. We're so super glad you're here.

Elise: Welcome back everyone. We are so excited because we have two very, very special guests. Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve listened to their podcast, maybe you even love them. We have Cynthia and Susan from the At Last She Said It podcast. Welcome, welcome ladies! We're so glad that you're here.

Susan: Yay. Thank you. Hello.

Elise: You mind just introducing yourselves and telling us a little bit about your podcast?

Susan: Well, I'm Susan Hinckley. And I'm Cynthia Winward and yes, we have a podcast that we started about exactly the same time that you guys started yours, I think. And our goal really was just to sort of amplify the voices and ideas and experiences of Latter Day Saint women, because we felt like we don't always quite get as big a microphone as some of the men do in the organization.

And so we wanted a place to sort of tell our stories and those of our listeners and highlight some of the things that… let's just say they've become recurring. I don't want to say problem, Cynthia, but issues. We'll call them issues, recurring issues throughout our considerable church experience.

Cynthia and I are a little bit older than you are, but we have found that the same things came up again and again in our conversations with each other. And every time we would say someone needs to record a podcast about that. And eventually we decided that someone was going to have to be us.

Elise: Yeah, we love that! And I think it speaks really well to the title of your podcast: At Last, She Said It. Like, at last. Not just anyone, but the women are saying what has been unsaid for so, so long.

Cynthia: Yes! Emphasis on the ‘she’. And part of the ‘at last’ is that like Susan and I said, we are a little bit older than you too.

And so part of the, it last has to do with feeling oftentimes we are silenced as LDS women. And so you kind of reached this point, at least, I mean, I can only speak for myself where I reached my forties and I was like, oh, I'm just saying it. I'm saying it. I'm tired. I'm tired of being the nice little girl and I'm just going to say it.

So really our title is. It perfectly describes, I think even though Susan and I have quite different personalities, at last we are saying it.

Elise: So fantastic. And I feel like a lot of our listeners, if you haven't had a chance to listen to the, At Last She Said It podcast, we absolutely recommend it.

Some of our favorite episodes, I really liked the ‘Let's Talk About Emma’ episode, which is totally applicable to the Doctrine and Covenants this year. And you also have a great episode titled ‘If it's Not About the Clothes, What's it About?’ and this was one of the episodes that really stuck out to us and why we were thinking we've got to have these women on some sometime during the year.

And we think that maybe this will be a perfect episode for us to talk about because there's a lot of chastity modesty, pure thought conversation that we're going to have in this podcast episode.

Channing: So before we jump into the section for this week, we wanted to give a little bit of historical background to set the backdrop and let us know where in time and the world we are.

Section 63 is a revelation that was given to Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio in August of 1831, the section header reads quote in these infant days of the church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way concerned, our salvation and as the land of Zion was now the most important temporal object in view, I inquired of the Lord for further information upon the gathering of the saints and the purchase of the land and other matters and quote.

In this section, we see the voice of an angry and punishing God who seems to be mad at the wicked and the Come Follow Me manual devotes an entire section to chastity and pure thoughts, even though this only shows up in a few verses in the entire chapter. And so we wanted to spend some time in this episode talking about the different things that show up in this section, but most of our episode is going to be focused on - strangely enough - just a small set of three verses that is entirely devoted to adultery, chastity, modesty, all of those like really big, hot button topics for women in the church. So we're excited to kind of dive in.

Elise: I wanted to ask Susan and Cynthia first - Channing and I have grappled on a few different episodes about what we do when we hear the angry, punishing voice of God show up in the scriptures? And just a couple of verses that we see here, say for example, verses two through five “God's anger is kindled against the wicked and the rebellious.” and  “Wherefore, verily, I say, let the wicked take heat and let the rebellious fear and tremble.” And then a really kind of damning verse 17: “I, the Lord have said that the fearful and the unbelieving and all the liars and whosoever love it and make it the lie and the whoremonger and the sorcerer shall have their part in that lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Cynthia: Dang.

Susan: How do you really feel?

Elise: So what do you do well, what have you done in the past, but then when you came to this section, how did these verses resonate with you? And what's your approach when you hear this really, really in your face angry type of god?

Cynthia: Well, I know it's, it's been helpful for me to realize that all scripture we have is filtered through quite literally men and.

And so it's kind of perplexing to me actually why the Doctrine and Covenants so often has such harsh language. Because when you read the personal writings of Joseph Smith, he definitely seems much more accepting. He leaves a lot of room for people to believe differently than he does to, to how know he talks about what he, what was so difficult for him was that Methodism, as he puts, it had creeds that we had to adhere to.

And within our church, that was something he talked so much about was that people are allowed to believe in think as they want. And so it's kind of interesting to read the Doctrine and Covenants, because it doesn't often sound like, at least in my experience that that is the voice of Joseph Smith.

And so even though I know he's receiving this revelation and it's being filtered through his brain and his personality does get thrown into it, it's really interesting to me and I don't a hundred percent know what to make of it. Other than I'll simply say when scripture is filled with harsh language, I don't find it very motivating to me. It doesn't sound like Jesus to me.

Susan: Well, and I know that you and I were talking about this for just a minute last night. We were exchanging some late night messages. And I said, it was particularly jarring for me in these verses when I opened the Come Follow Me manual. And it said, “the savior says in this verse,” and I thought, well, I don't, I don't read this as the voice of what I think of as my savior.

That was a strange description of this kind of angry God voice that comes to us in these verses. But it's helpful for me to think about always with, with scripture that personally, I believe that scripture tells us as much about. The people who were recording it at the time and context in which they lived, you know, their relationships with God, how they thought about God and perceived God in their lives.

I think we get as much of that through the scriptures as we do, God's actual thoughts or voice. And I don't think it's any different when it's Joseph Smith. And we can talk a little bit more about that deeper in the conversation when we get to specifically what these verses that we're talking about say because I think it becomes clear there also that we're talking about specific people in a specific time. But it's just helpful for me to remember that there's a lens. And when I think about Joseph Smith, where he was living at the time in which he was living, what was going on religiously in the area that he was living, you're having tent revival meetings, you know, there's, there's uproar about religion. And if you've ever heard of fiery tent revival, preacher, this is the kind of language I would expect that I would hear there. And so it seems completely understandable to me that this is the voice that we get through those specific scriptures recorded during that time and place.

Elise: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And I think I read in the Revelations In Context book that another prompter for this section was that Joseph Smith had been away for a while. And when he returned to the group of people, they were kind of like. They were kind of doing their own things.

Susan: Yeah. Made me think of Moses coming down from the mountain.

Right. And he sees what's going on while he's been gone. And he's the parent saying, “are you kidding me? I leave you alone for 10 minutes.” I definitely got that same impression at least.

Elise: And I just wonder too, going back to what Cynthia said about this angry voice, not being a long-standing motivator. I wonder how the people at this time would re responded to these verses, like, were these big tent revival, sermons a motivator for the people? So when they heard the angry voice of God, were they like, oh my gosh, I need to fall back into line or is fear the best way to get people moving in the same direction on one

Cynthia: That reminds me Elise, of that famous talk by President Uchtdorf.

And now the title is slipping from me, but it's one of my favorites. I think the title is something about fear. And in there he talks about fear and he said, fear is rarely a permanent motivator, or it will not change your heart. You know, it may get you to change in the short run, but it really doesn't produce the results it should. I'm like, that's me. That's me!

Channing: Well, researcher Brene Brown also has like a whole body of research to back that up. She says that fear and it's other side of that – shame - is not a long-term motivator, that it can promote like an external and temporary change of behavior. But that inwardly, like if you're still being motivated by fear and or the fear of experiencing shame, you're not going to internalize the change.

Positive motivators are always more effective. And I feel like, I feel like, especially in recent -and I say recent as in, like, I've only been a mom for seven years - but in that time I feel like there's been a lot of research coming my way about like positive parenting and using positive reinforcement and positivity in parenting, because that is more effective than consequences and punishment and reverse psychology.

So, I mean, not necessarily taking a stance on one or the other, but I do feel like for me personally, I'm much more motivated by someone saying like, Hey, you're doing a great job and I can see that you're trying. And like, I love you so much even though, like you're not there yet. I'm not there yet either.

And it's okay. Instead of: If you do an anything bad. Yeah. I'm going to hold your feet to the flames and like, you are damned to hell forever. Like I, even when I come across on the scriptures, I'm just like, honestly, this probably sounds a little irreverent, but honestly I'm like, wow, God's really having a temper tantrum today.

Do you need a popsicle or a lollipop? Let's see how your attitude changes after you have lunch. Like, that's honestly how I feel when I read this in the scriptures. Someone just hasn't had breakfast.

Susan: I don't feel like people then were thinking as hard about those kinds of things though, as we are now. Brene Brown was, you know, 200 years later, right?

Channing: Oh, absolutely.

And so I think that this is what they, this is kind of the approach that they knew and expected, right. When they're dealing with religion, they expected this approach. And so this is, this is the approach that they got. And the reason I think that's really important in the context of this conversation is that I don't think that approach is going to be effective with today's youth or even with us, right.

It's no longer effective messaging. And yet when you look at the approaches that our church takes to some things like modesty, you know, purity, chastity those things. When you look at the approaches that we take, you can see that some of the fear and shame messaging is very much grounded in the way that these messages were received in the Doctrine and Covenants.

And so the question is, can we shift our messaging in a way that is more effective for the kids and the adults that we're trying to reach now. There has to be a better way to teach.

Elise: That's spot on and I think that is maybe one of the underlying motivators for both of our podcasts, perhaps that we think that there's a need for an additional interpretation or asking questions that lead us to different answers than we've seen in the past, because we're looking for a theology and a God that is responsive to the needs of our day in the same way.

Like you're saying Susan, that this type of rhetoric probably hit really powerfully with the people during this time.

Channing: We often talk about how the scriptures are supposed to be relevant and alive and  a living, breathing text. And it won't be that if we allow them to only function in the way that they appeared 200 years ago.

And if they are meant to carry over and teach us lessons that we need today, you know, especially when we're talking about the book of Mormon, then I think that act of translation of taking a message in the way that it was presented and allowing it to shift and change as we shift in change is a really powerful way to read scripture. So I'm really thankful for that. Susan.

Elise: I also think that you transition us really nicely to what I think is on everyone's minds. And it's only like two or three verses, but it's mid or not even midway, but early in the section, if we read verses 14, 15 and 16, perhaps these verses about there were among you adulterers and adulteresses some of who, some of whom have turned away from you and others remain with you.

That hereafter shall be revealed in verse 16. And verily, I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any, shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear. What thoughts do you all have about this?

And I know that I think Susan or Cynthia, one of you had notes about just the fact that these are only two or three verses, but there's an entire section in the Come Follow Me manual that places so much emphasis on this.

Cynthia: Well, what stood out to me in verse 14 is I just want to point out that it is so rare when men and women are mentioned separately in the scripture.

So often we're told right. That when you read men where says it's supposed to be all of us, and yet here, men and women are specifically being called out. And it's pretty disheartening that it's about adultery. Right? First, first of all, I didn't even know that the word adulterer was gendered to specifically call out women with a feminized version of adultery, rape, adulteresses. I mean, it was really quite startling to me and I'm not sure. I'm not really sure why that should be startling to me. I mean, women are only often specifically named in the scriptures when sex is being discussed.

I mean there are only three women named in the Book of Mormon, and one of them is, is it Jezebel? I can't remember all of a sudden, yeah, whose the prostitute. But I, I still find it jarring to only be recognized in sacred texts when chastity is the issue. Kind of ticks me off actually

Elise: For good reason.

Cynthia: Yes. I also think in verse 16, I mean, here we go right back to male, to men being the default, you know, he, that look upon a woman to lust after her. They're pretty much pointing out men lust, right? The focus here is men and they're condemned harshly for it. And these labels really get tiring men lust and women tempt.

I see so many parallels to what what we do today. I remember a girlfriend telling me that when she was a teenager she was taught… let me see if I get this right. Women are crockpots and men are microwaves. ‘Men are microwaves, women are crockpots’ when it comes to sexuality.

I mean, can you think of a more damaging way to maybe shame a young woman in that lesson? And my friend told me that she says, I remember sitting there going, wow, I’m no Crock-Pot.

Channing: Oh my gosh. My jaw is dropping in real time. Like what?

Cynthia: Well, and I would hope that's not me taught today, but my friend, she's 47 like I am. So I would like to think that lesson is gone, but it affects us today. I can attest to that. It even affects us middle-aged women; all this baggage that we've brought with us about sexuality.

Channing: I have a friend who is a little bit older and she has left the church. And one of the things that she talks about struggling with the most when she was active was that she often felt like she was ‘walking pornography,’ that her body in and of itself of just being a woman, like she had to cover up.

She shared this picture on Instagram once of like the super cute brown dress that was a spaghetti strap. Underneath it, she said she was wearing her garments. And then she's wearing a pair of long like tan, calf-length leggings; then another shirt on top, one of those Downeast short cap sleeve shirts on top; and then the dress;  then layered over the dress to cover the fact that it was a spaghetti strap, she also wore one of those short sleeve shrugs.

This was supposed to be like a light summer dress and she's wearing it in the middle of July with five layers. And she's like, I just remember, like I wanted to wear this dress so bad, but I also like wanted to meet the expectations that were set out for me because I didn't want to be walking pornography.

And I think about that very often. In what ways do we take upon ourselves as women, all of these layers of like chastity and modesty and purity, and like literally wear them out into the world and allow them to define our appearance and define the way that we show up in our relationships and like in our everyday lives? Because I think in some ways we literally do wear them.

That image of my friend just always sticks out to me. She was so afraid of being walking pornography that she would rather wear five layers in the middle of summer then she would like even risk, you know, the other option. So it kind of makes me sad honestly.

Susan: Well, she didn't pull that phrase out of thin air, right Cynthia?

Cynthia: No, she didn't.

Susan: Yeah, that phrase comes from… I know Cynthia cited it in in one of our episodes.

Cynthia: It's Dallin H Oaks, and he doesn't exactly say walking pornography, he says you become pornography.

Susan: And so the, you know, the idea that we're wearing all of these things is a really, it's a great visual image to me.

And I think that in many ways, in very real and specific ways we're wearing the way that we have been told to feel about ourselves. And so being buried under all these layers of things, it doesn't paint a very good picture of the way LDS women feel about themselves.

Elise: Another thing that I find striking about that versus that the language is really clearly like condemning of men lusting after women, but somehow the verse… well, I don't know if it's this verse only, but somehow the message changes and it becomes less about men having autonomy and control over their thoughts and impulses, and it becomes more focused on women going out of their way, changing their behavior, changing their clothes, to make sure that they are not, like you said, Cynthia being a temptress, right, that I'm not provoking or enticing or tempting men with lustful thinking.

Susan: Well it seems to me that that in that shift is the clue, or maybe the secret to how all of our teachings about this in the church have evolved. We somehow made that shift to we're going to focus this on the women, on their part in all of this.

I don't know if that's taking this message and filtering it through the lens of patriarchy. Maybe I don't really know how or why it happened, that we decided at some point ‘let's focus all of the messaging on girls and women.’

Channing: Susan, I think you're spot on when you say that is reading this concept through the lens of patriarchy. Because I think in patriarchy we find this kind of double standard for women's bodies.

I don't even know if it is a double standard. I think it's just straight, like the villainization of women's bodies. Like women's bodies are bad in the fact that they tempt men to participate in what would be considered to be a very carnal or earthly act. And I think in patriarchy, concepts like logic and thought and living in your head and being very methodical about things is more valued than what I would call embodiment and living in your own body, experiencing sensations, and being in relationship with others. And I definitely think that sex would play a part in that. And so I think in patriarchy, there is a hidden message that women's bodies ask men to live within their own body.

And so it's kind of like this villainized thing, because it's like in patriarchy, you're supposed to live in your head and be smart and not attuned to your feelings. Right. You're cut off from the neck up. And so that's one thought that I have about it, but I also think I, the other thought that I had as well, is that in patriarchy, women really do the bulk of the labor.

And when I say like labor, I mean like the labor of housework and child rearing and keeping society running. Women really are the backbone of a working society. And so it's not surprising to me that patriarchy also dictates to women that it's their job, or their labor is expected to continue to allow men to live from the neck up. To not have to live embodied lives.

And so, yeah, it's unsurprising to me that everyone is cut off from their bodies, and women are supposed to do the work of continuing that because society already relies so much on the work of women that it makes sense to me that, of course this falls on our plate too.

Cynthia: Of course it does.

Susan: Just come out and say, I'm going to At Last Say this: If I were setting something up, of course, it'd be great if I could put the blame on someone. Making women to blame in this problem is, I mean, I think that's a very real part of it. Unfortunately.

Cynthia: Something else that I wanted to bring up is, is not so much the disparity, right? That we see the way men and women are treated. I love how you put that Channing that men, you know, their value is from the neck up.

And, and so often for women, our value is from our neck down. Right. And we see that in, in all ways and in our culture of, of women and our aging bodies, you know, that's something Susan and I talk about is, you know, how things are changing and it's, and the pressure to go and fix that. And anyway, very difficult.

But as a parent of a gay daughter, something that has been particularly sensitive to me is also when we talk about sexuality, how we are separating our LGBTQ kiddos from the heterosexual ones. And it's been really painful for me as a mother to read, for instance, in the ‘For Strength of Youth’ pamphlet under the section about law of chastity, it's pretty explicit in defining the do's and don'ts.

But then there's this separate paragraph calling out our LGBTQ kiddos, just like a paragraph later, it says homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. And if we just finished defining the law of chastity, then why do we need to heap shame on our gay kiddos? I mean, the church has been moving towards a more equitable treatment, I feel like, of the law of chastity. I can think of other, I can think of talks by leaders, another by Dallin Oaks, even where they're saying that, you know, the law of chastity is the same for all orientations. I mean, they don't use the word orientation, but they say that the law of chastity is the same and will be treated the same, but if that's true, we have to recognize the harms and the harm in singling out our gay youth and how damaging that is to them.

And recently, I even asked a priesthood leader, I want you to define lesbian behavior for me, because that's what The Strength of Youth says. And then I want you to define to me how you think a 12 year old would define lesbian behavior, because I guarantee, I mean, behavior is just a euphemism for sex, right?

Heaven forbid we actually just say homosexual or lesbian sex. We're not going to put that in For Strength of Youth. But I'm looking at this through how my daughter heard this when she was 12 and I'm thinking, okay, what is behavior to a 12 year old girl? Is it having a crush? Is it the desire to hold somebody's hand? Because that breaks my mama heart to think that this is what we are teaching our little 12 year old girls, is the desire that you have, this behavior is wrong and it's sinful. And somehow it's worse than just regular old breaking the law of chastity because it deserved its own separate paragraph.

And the note, once again, I did not know the word homosexual was gendered, but clearly like when the church refers to homosexuality there, they're just talking about men and if they feel the need to call out lesbians women, then they do that separately. Just like the verse about adultery and adulteresses.

Elise: Holy smokes.

I have a lot of thoughts about this. Thank you for sharing. I also think that it shows the ways that not only does our culture turn away from sex, but when sex is allowed, it's a very particular type of sex. Heterosexual sex is the only acceptable form and way to have a sexual experience or live a sexual life.

And so everything else becomes not okay, but I think there's a stereotype around gay sex and like lesbian sex as being dirty and erotic and kinky and so over-the-top inappropriate that there's like a double negative here. Not only is it not heterosexual sex, but then there's  a layer of shame and disgust put over it, which further separates it from what is seen as okay and appropriate and what's not okay and inappropriate.

Cynthia: Well, it's explicit. Like, here's garden variety sexual sin, and then here's gay sex.

Susan: Its just insidious though, when you think about it in the context of how many LGBTQ kids we have in the church who are not coming out of the closet, because when you're a kid, you're not at liberty to get up and leave.

Right. You’re still living in your parents' home. You know that you're in this church for a while. You don't have a lot of choice very often. Its not always the case, but they don't feel any liberty to come out. And so they're subjected to shame upon shame upon shame upon shame when you have the regular modesty rhetoric and lessons, and then this other layer on top of it. And the way it must be is just incredible. Like it it's so sad to me.

Elise: I think we're having an amazing discussion, but I think that we have also kind of alluded to, but maybe not talked explicitly about why we think it might be that when we only see two or three verses devoted to chastity and pure thoughts, why the Come Follow Me spends such a long time with multiple paragraphs harping on this idea.

Susan: Yeah, that is a really interesting question to me. And since I read this chapter, well, I'll be honest. So when, when you had reached out to us to come on the episode and suggested that we might be having  a conversation about modesty, purity, culture, all of those kinds of things, and you said it's on Doctrine and Covenants 63.

When I first read the section, I thought you're kidding me. Why is that what we're talking about out of this? I thought this is really interesting. This is odd. This is interesting. There are only these couple of verses. And so then I opened the Come Follow Me manual and I said, aha, well it's because that's what the focus of the lesson is on.

They had chosen to completely, almost entirely. I mean, there are a couple of paragraphs about other things, but the main bulk of the lesson, and particularly in the Sunday school edition of it, the bulk of the lesson is definitely on this. And so I'm wondering why we chose to make that the focus of a section that I feel like is really full of a lot of interesting other ideas that that could be discussed.

And, you know, the cue really came from me and looking at the Sunday school edition of it. One of the suggested activities in there was to have the class members make signs saying things like “Beware,” warning what some of the consequences of this behavior were. And I read that aloud to my husband at the time.

And his jaw literally dropped because he couldn't believe that here, we had an opportunity to take a deep scriptural dive into 66 verses. And somehow they infantilized the entire proposition down to making signs that say beware and warning. I mean, to me, we just missed the opportunity for so much richness in our discourse at church by choosing something like this.

And so I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about that? Why would that be, and is it ever going to change and how, because to me, you know, when we choose a message like this and we deliver that message in ways that are not effective, in my opinion. Cynthia and I have talked about this a lot on our podcast, the way that our modesty messaging is not only flawed, but damaging and ineffective to accomplish what must surely be the goal of empowering members to make good choices for themselves, right? Controlling girls' behavior is not at all the same thing as empowering girls to make good choices. And so, you know why we would focus on something that even the way we come at the topic we've chosen to focus on is not the best way to accomplish our goals.

I'm flummoxed by it. We're smart people. And the people in charge are smart people. The curriculum department are smart people. Why? Why is this happening?

Elise: Oh, I was just looking at the youth lessons that would be taught on June 13th about Doctrine and Covenants section 63. And the lesson title is How Can I Resist Pornography?

Susan: Right, so out of this whole thing, how did they get to pornography? Yes. Yes, that was, that was exactly. That was exactly my question. When I looked at the lessons that would be taught at the Sunday school edition, I said, you have to be kidding me.

Cynthia: What, I'm not really surprised though. Susan, are you? Come on.

Susan: You'd be surprised, Cynthia. I continually want to be surprised .

Cynthia: Until we have someone kind of, and I don't feel like in the church we've had anyone really truly explained to me the verses in our scripture that talk about, you know, the only sin worse than murder is breaking the law of chastity.

I mean, until we really break that down, I mean, and we're not going to do that today I'm sure we have, we don't have the time… but I think sometimes we literally believe that. And so I think every chance we get to talk about sexuality pornography, whatever, you know, whatever the church label they want to give it behavior, they're going to do it.

Is that too cynical?

Channing: No, because what I'm about to say is probably even more cynical.

Susan: Okay, lay it on us.

Channing: I think that we will never miss an opportunity to talk about something that we're afraid of. That is like both fascinating and taboo and forbidden. So whenever there's  anything to bite onto… I honestly think it's a subconscious/unconscious reaction.

Like, Ooh, there's a topic that I'm interested in, but I'm not allowed to talk about, or I really shouldn't be interested in, but here's an opportunity to talk about it and it's in the scriptures so I can say it. And so that's one thing. The second thing I think too is this is a big area of behavior control for the institution of the church.

And so again, why miss yet another opportunity to continue to engrain our harmful messaging about sexuality and modesty and women's bodies? Why miss an opportunity if it's in the scriptures? And I do think it's fascinating, especially because like we've talked about before we hopped on to record, just like you said, Susan, there are so many other compelling topics in this chapter. Why this?

 I think that we can offer up like a whole bunch of speculation about why that is and probably all of them in some measure are correct. But I think it just goes to show like where our collective anxiety lies and apparently it's in sexuality and pornography.

Susan: I think you hit right on it with the two words, fear and control.

And I see it in that verse 16, one of the interesting things in that verse to me was that it says, “they shall deny the faith and shall fear.” In a way, in that verse fear is kind of both the threat and the effect that's going to happen. We’re so used to using fear to instill fear, which is really interesting too, to layer fear in that way.

But I think that fear operates unfortunately effectively. Yes, yes. Among the members of our church. Very often.

Channing: Another one of my thoughts is that it's also interesting to me that these verses are mostly specifically talking about adultery, which happens in adult married relationships. And so why are we talking about adult married relationship issues in a class full of adolescent youth?

And as a parent, I dread the day… and someday, I would love to pick your brains, Cynthia and Susan on how to navigate this… But I dread the day when my daughter attends church to hear about how bad her body is and how bad sex is and how like tempting she is. That's not a message that I want her to receive.

And so I feel anxious knowing that this Sunday, like at church, that's what all of the women in our youth organizations worldwide, that's the lesson than that they're getting. It makes me nauseous actually.

Susan: As a mother, it makes me deeply sad.

Cynthia: I teach the very youngest kids at church that get Come Follow Me, the 11 turning 12 year olds. And so I'm also seeing it through their lens now, too. And it's difficult. And so, so very often I'll pick two or three verses and we'll focus the entire lesson on just those two or three verses. Because these are our little ones and this is their very first experience with probably taking a somewhat deep dive into the scriptures.

And I want them to feel invigorated and motivated and inspired by sacred texts. I don't want them… I know I can't control that. I can't, you know, they're going to go to seminary and they're going to have other teachers, but I at least want them when they come to my class to feel hopeful and to feel a desire, to be more like Jesus Christ rather than, like what you were just talking about a second ago, Susan fear.

Oh, that F word, right? The F word of fear.

Channing: Yep. Yep. I just had some thoughts that I wanted to share specifically about pornography and our collective focus on the dangers of pornography. And I think for me, when I think about porn, I kind of come at it a little bit differently. I think that viewing pornography is not necessarily the sin that deserves our focus and attention, because I think at the heart of the church's quote pornography problem is actually something more insidious.

I think, in the church that it's believed that pornography is bad because it's inherently sexual. Just like we've talked about, so far, but I also think that pornography has been more of a scapegoat for the deeper root problem that the church has been willing to ignore from its infancy. And that is the objectification of women.

And we've talked about this on the podcast before in our episode titled High Horses at North Union, this idea of the objectification of women. And I love the definition that we have from Carol J. Adams of objectification. She describes it this way. “Objectification occurs when a being is seen as an object, rather than as a living, breathing, suffering, being.”

And all of this talk about like women being walking pornography and women's bodies holding the responsibility to not tempt men, reminds me of an experience that I had in my teenage years. And I remember in my senior year of high school, and around this time I heard in church that women should not wear bikini's because it makes men think of us differently.

And I kind of forgotten about this experience, but recently I've been thinking about it a lot. So I decided to do a quick Google search about where all of this came from. And it actually was a scientific study done, like with brain scans on adult men on how they sexualize and view women in bikinis.

And so when I did the Google search, the first hit was an article from National Geographic and its headline said, “Bikinis Make Men See Women as Objects, Brain Scans Confirm.” And I will read just some small excerpts from the article. It says, “Sexy women in bikinis really do inspire some men to see them as objects. According to a new study of male behavior, brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lights up.”

And my first knee-jerk reaction to that is like, oh no, this is horrible. And then talking again about that same concept that we mentioned earlier, where men's value comes from the functions that they have from the neck up and women's value comes from the functions that they have from the neck down, I feel like this next part of the article really highlights that. Well, it says, “Twenty one heterosexual male volunteers first took a test that scored people based on different types of sexist attitudes.

The subjects were then shown pictures of both skimpily dressed and fully clothed men and women. Most of the men best remembered headless photographs of women in bikini's, even if they'd only seen the image for two tenths of a second.”

And I think that that's really striking just to understand how deeply ingrained we are taught or at least men are socialized to view women from the neck down and then what that does to their understanding of women. And so I think that the shows really well, this concept of objectification that women have gone from living, breathing, feeling, experiencing human beings to, now, an object to be used.

And if we continue on with Carol Adams analysis on what follows objectification, the next step is what she calls fragmentation. And she describes this as fragmentation “or butchering is the process that happens when the being's existence as a complete being is destroyed one way or the other.” And these are my own words now, fragmentation is the process of fully removing women from themselves. It splits women into parts.

And when I think about this, I always think of those awful Carl's Jr commercials from like 10 years ago. And I don't know if you all remember them, but they're like seared into my brain. I cannot unsee them. But what I can't remember are these women's faces. I don't remember them at all. All I remember are breasts and tongues, licking red lips and wide open mouth. And I think that this is a prime example of a time when women became piecemeal objects of pleasure alongside the burgers they were selling, which are also parts of whole beings who were once alive and one into themselves by using these women's body parts, the advertisement wasn't just selling a $5 burger.

It was selling an experience, one that promised pleasure and satisfaction and fulfillment of hunger. So I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. I know it's a lot and I know that it can probably be like pretty emotionally charged, but I'm sure we all have some.

Cynthia: I do. I remember about 10 years ago, I sat my children down and I had a family home evening lesson with them on objectification because I wanted to make it very clear, I wanted them to understand what that meant.

And I took out a blue vase, this beautiful blue vase I have that is blown glass. And I said to my kids, I decide whether this vase has value or not. Do I like the curve of the glass? Do I like the color? Is it pleasing to me? I said, I can do that because it is an object.

I said, the problem with pornography is… I mean, yes, pornography is a problem and there are a host of reasons why there are problems, but I think, and this is what I wanted… my kids were tweens and teens at the time. I said, I want you to understand that this is the problem. When we turn anybody into an object and we pick them apart. And you can do that not just in sexual ways, right? And I gave them the example of, you know, if I stand behind a woman in Walmart and she's wearing pajama bottoms, I'll be honest. Like I have to tell myself, don't judge her, she's here buy medicine for her baby. You know what I'm saying? Like, I do that to people and I'm trying not to do that. And so I wanted my children to understand, I even do this to human beings.

I turn them into objects and then I judge them for it. And then specifically about Carl's Jr. Okay. You have to understand I'm from California. And I mean, my first memory, even of going to like a birthday party was my friend had it at Carl's Jr. When I was eight. So Carl’s Jr. Kind of a big deal for me.

And, and so yet here I am with my, my own kids and I'm saying we're not going to go to Carl's Jr. Because they turned women into objects. Even though I love the Santa Fe chicken sandwich with every fiber of my being, because it has green chili in it. We aren't going to go there and eat anymore because you should not take women and put them next to ground meat, and somehow, like you were saying, Channing, make it this, like they're selling this experience of women's bodies and ground me. It was just ridiculous. And so that was my decision to boycott Carl's Jr.

It wasn't so much that, oh my gosh, it's the pornography, which of course is bad, but it was how dare you do this to women and try to sell it along with ground meat.

And then a few years ago, when they said, you know what, we're not going to do this anymore. They actually put out this whole promo video and they said, we are now going to be family friendly. And they had this like jokey little ad about it. And I said to my kids, all right, let's, let's go get a strawberry milkshake at Carl's Jr.

So I I've tried to broaden it with my own kids. I've tried to broaden, you know, the idea of, you know, pornography and sex are bad and try to get them to understand these are human beings. And we can't turn human beings into an object like this blue vase, because when this, when I get tired of this blue vase, I can throw it out. I'll give it to D.I., but you can't do that with human beings. 

Channing: Yeah. Well, and I think too, you've highlighted really well this natural progression that Carol J. Adams illustrates in an interview that she had, she, like, she ties these three steps, which are objectification, fragmentation, and then the final step, which is consumption, they all actually follow each other very closely.

It's a very short jump from objectification to fragmentation. And then once you get to fragmentation, like consumption is really just like the next step, the next step, it happens so quickly one right after the other. And it it's that leap from humanity to objectification that really causes the problem.

And I think that, I think in our church institution, we have an objectification issue and I think pornography is really just a result of that. Our pornography problem or the anxiety or the focus on pornography, I don't think that that's the actual problem. I think it's objectification of women.

And until we are willing to take responsibility and accountability for that and say, wow, our church really does exist with within these different intersecting systems of oppression, until we take accountability and responsibility for that, we will always have a problem with pornography. We will always have a problem with purity culture and modesty shame, and like inappropriate teachings about the law of chastity, because it's all centered and founded on the objectification of women.

And so obviously I feel really passionately about this, but I really do think that that's the, at the root of what a lot of our anxiety and our issues and our like unhealthy attitudes, attitudes toward sex, sexuality, orientation, and women kind of really all stem from. So. Yeah. That's a lot to think about.

And it's, it's sad because it's not like - I keep talking - but it's not something that just is going to be fixed in individual counseling sessions or by using the church’s pornography recovery program. It's not an easy fix. It's an entire systemic fix that has to happen over a wide institution but it's never going to happen until people are willing to take accountability for it.

And I have yet to see even a trend in that direction. So it makes me a little cynical about the future.

Susan: I really appreciate you sharing all that research though. And those thoughts, because it helps me as a member sort of connect the dots of how we got to this place that we are, it's sort of provides an explanation of how this might've happened.

How is, how did this become our focus? And I mean, the hope is as, as I was saying that Brene Brown wasn't around 200 years ago to explain things to us. My hope is that when we can begin to connect some of these dots and figure out how we got to wherever we are, you know, when we know better, hopefully we can, can do better.

And it is a systemic problem, but understanding the problem is surely going to be the first step in solving it. And so that was really helpful actually for me. Thank you for that for laying that out in a way that I could sort of say, okay, I can see how this happened and maybe. Maybe if more of us start to see and understand it can begin to change.

Channing: That's a really helpful outlook. I'm going to join that team!

Susan: Well, and hopefully, you know, having conversations about it for a wider audience is  the only way I can think of for that to happen, which is, I guess, why we all have podcasts, right?

Channing: Yep.

Cynthia: We have things to say about this. Sure. So in verse 63, there's something here that just kind of gets all the wires firing in my brain and it says, “Wherefore let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord will own them. Otherwise they shall be cut off.”

And I think isn't that interesting that the church is called to repent. So often in the Doctrine and Covenants it's individuals. And I always feel kind of sorry, if I'm honest, about some of these individuals that are called out. You know, it's like, oh, their poor names are going to be known here forever.

But in this case, it's the church that's called out. And I have a hard time accepting that our church doesn't make apologies. And yet it's kind of scriptural that the church should go through a repentance process as well. And so where all the wires get firing in my brain is what does it mean for an organization to repent? I'm not a hundred percent sure.

I know that there are things I'm embarrassed about that the church has done, particularly racism and we've never issued an official apology on that. We disavow, right? Those are the words we use. We disavow thoughts and teachings from the past, but we've never said we're sorry. And I mean, there are a host of other things, of course, that I am personally even embarrassed about, but what does it mean for a church to repent?

Elise: I really like this verse because it talks to the larger institution and system, which also always already includes me too. There's not a church without people.

And so it's both. I also think one of the things that Channing and I have talked about on the podcast is that repentance doesn't only mean saying sorry, but it means changing your behavior and refocusing your attention to the people that you have harmed and making sure that you don't cause more harm.

Susan: And I think the church is uniquely one of those things that I think of in terms of being  an organization or an institution and also a group of people. We're both things. And so when I think about repentance, I think yes, about changing actions. And then I also think about changing our minds and our hearts, because I think that is an integral part of repentance.

Also can an organization change its mind or heart? Not necessarily, but maybe perhaps if the members were to change their minds and hearts on things, eventually the organization seems to catch up and change behavior. As we, as we've seen in the case of race that Cynthia mentioned, we lag, but you know, eventually it happens.

So I think the change of mind and heart among the membership is going to be an important part in sort of determining what things the church deems appropriate to repent of in the long run and, and where we'll go next on some of those problematic things.

Cynthia: I think it would be helpful to that when things get updated in our church, I don't know, doctrine policy, whatever we want to call it, and I'm thinking specifically of LGBTQ issues is it would be nice if the church would come out and say, we were wrong on this. We do not believe this anymore because it's dead. I'm grateful that the language does get updated, and I'm thinking specifically that we used to teach homosexuality as a choice, right? And now we don't teach that.

And yet there was nothing that came out that said we were wrong on this. And what's especially difficult about that is as I talked to other LGBTQ mamas and papas, we all feel like we have to be these ambassadors when we are at church. We are the ones that constantly are trying to re-educate because there are a whole lot of people in our congregations that still espouse these ideas and say these hurtful things in comments and I'm tired.

And Susan knows this. I'm constantly telling Susan I'm tired. I'm tired of being the one to raise my hand to say, actually the church doesn't teach that anymore. This is what they teach. And it's so disheartening. And I just, I just wish that when the church chooses to repent of how we treated LGBTQ persons in the past, I wish we would be more vocal in what it was that we're no longer teaching because the word isn't getting out. It shouldn't be up to LGBTQ mamas and papas like myself to have to say it. It's not my job. That's what I'm trying to say. It's not my job to have to educate my ward members and I'm tired of it.

Channing: I think too, that definitely falls into the category of accountability. If the institution has the power to make a change, then the institution also has the responsibility to take accountability for harm that they've caused in the past because the marginalized communities that those previous policies harmed, it should not then be their responsibility to shoulder that in addition to trying to continue to make change and trying to continue to manage all of the burdens and like microaggressions and all of that, it should never be the responsibility of the marginalized to carry the shame of an institution's wrongdoings.

If the church is big enough to make changes like that, then the church is also big enough to hold its own story and its own accountability and to move forward from that. If the church is strong, they should be able to do that. And I think that that goes across the board: LGBTQ issues, the marginalization of women, racism, colonialism; the church should be able to hold its own weight. And I would like to see it step up to the plate.

Susan: We can't expect the marginalized communities to be the ones who always shoulder the burden of all the emotional work, and yet this is how it's been. They're continuing to shoulder the emotional work of that. And I do really hope for the day that the institution can step a little bit into that emotional space and interact with the change of heart part of the gospel on a more official level. I guess what I'll say is, let's make our change of heart as a people and as an organization official.

Elise: Friends. Thank you all so much for listening today, and a big thank you to our special guests, Susan and Cynthia. Thank you both so much. Could you tell our listeners where they can find you and listen to your podcast or follow you?

Cynthia: Yes, they can go to We have all our episodes there, but you can listen to us on your favorite podcast platform.

Susan: Find us on social media. We're also on Instagram and Facebook @atlastshesaidit.

Channing: I also saw that you just released a newsletter too. So can anyone who wants to find you sign up for that on your website?

Cynthia: Absolutely.

Channing: Perfect! Friends, we love you so much. Thank you for spending this time with us this week. Thank you, Cynthia and Susan, for coming on and sharing all of your wisdom and insight with us. We are all incredibly blessed by these conversations that we're willing and brave enough to have. We'll see you soon. Bye.

Powered by Blogger.