Chieko Okasaki on women in the Church – 9.22.01

Less than two weeks after the attacks of September 11, Sister Chieko Okasaki spoke at the Manhattan Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting. She delivered what I thought was a thoughtful, courageous, and provocative sermon. The reaction afterward was striking: some men lined up at the podium to thank her; others lined up to object to stake leaders.

Today I just happened to come across my notes from that meeting, and I thought it would be worthwhile to post them here, for posterity if nothing else. So here they are, without editorializing (and with apologies for their limitations):

The attacks of 9/11 reminded her of Pearl Harbor. She recalled that after Pearl Harbor, her ancestry rendered her a suspect.

Women want their voices heard by the priesthood leadership. Priesthood leaders need to involve women in actual planning, not just asking the women to ratify what is already planned. She said, “The structure does not include us.” There needs to be more “what ifs” — more brainstorming time. Priesthood leaders should ask women for feedback on the efficiency of leadership meetings.

To her, the word “auxiliary” means “subordinate.”

The Proclamation is wonderful, but it causes concerns. The Church should support all family configurations — we want people to know that their best *is* good enough.

Marriage should be managed like a partnership, not a corporation. It should be less centralized, more participatory; not accountable to outside interests, only to each other. She challenged the term “preside.”

9 women officers represent 120 women in a ward. Leaders should not be in touch with only the 9 officers. Church intersexual friendships have been frowned upon. That is sad. Not to condone sexual games, but we need to talk and listen to each other, and not only in formal settings. We should prevent problems, not just solve them.

The women in the ward shouldn’t be thought of as “the wife of . . .” or “the mother of . . .” For example, have everyone at a ward party be considered as separate individuals, not as couples.

Remember, the Pharisees exploit the poor and powerless. They love rules. They are self-indulgent, attention-seeking, and offer ostentatious prayers.

Priesthood leaders: don’t give platitudes; believe survivors of abuse; assist with therapy. Remember, the ends don’t justify the means.

49 comments for “Chieko Okasaki on women in the Church – 9.22.01

  1. Kristine
    January 5, 2004 at 9:30 am

    Greg, apparently the brethren who lined up object were heard all the way to SLC. She took a lot of heat for that talk (which neatly illustrates several of her points). We have an awfully long way to go in the Church before we’re ready to hear strong opinions voiced by women, especially in official settings.

  2. lyle
    January 5, 2004 at 10:39 am


    Hm. What does “a lot of heat” mean? And from who? Without more details, I’m not sure much can be drawn from this decision by (the prophet?/the first presidency?/the 12?/anonymous ‘brethern’) to counsel her on her talk.

    For the record, I consider myself a feminist.

  3. Kristine
    January 5, 2004 at 11:04 am

    Lyle, you’re right. There was no official action taken, so public speculation is unwarranted. Nonetheless, I’ll happily defend my claim that we don’t like to hear women voice strong opinions, especially ones that run against the official grain. If nothing else, we could just note how rare it is for a woman to even address a leadership meeting(!) It almost never happens in the church that women address gatherings of men, while it is de rigeur for men to be given a large portion of the speaking time in women’s meetings. There’s an apocryphal story about the Jack/Clyde/Okazaki RS Presidency being asked during the course of planning one of the RS General Meetings which two of the Brethren they’d like to have speak and Chieko replying “oh, I don’t know…which two of us would you like to have speak at the Priesthood Session?”

    Whether or not it’s true (and it probably isn’t) the fact that that anecdote is funny speaks volumes about how we value women’s voices.

  4. Kristine
    January 5, 2004 at 11:10 am

    btw, Lyle, if you care to elaborate, I’m interested in what you mean by “feminist,” and why you mention it. It’s such a loaded and tricky word, and I’m interested in why and how some Mormons are willing to apply it to themselves.

    Also, everyone–why, yes, it has occurred to me that I’m being a pest here and I should get my own blog! What I should do, actually, is write the paper I’m procrastinating with my endless blathering hereabouts.

  5. January 5, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Kristine, You *should* get your own blog. I’d be interested in reading more of what you have to say.

    On Okazaki – I understand that several people at BYU have wanted for some time to bring her in to do a campus devotional, but then-president Bateman would not allow it. I’m pretty sure, after this talk, her chances of getting on campus are even more slim.

    I know that the Church is not a democracy, nor does it even pretend to be one, but it is unfortunate that some voices are disproportionately muffled in the church structure.

  6. whatever
    January 5, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    women get to speak at general conference. but take a look at what subject they always have to speak about: the family. when women are allowed to speak, they do so only to advance a highly patriarchal agenda.

  7. January 5, 2004 at 12:08 pm

    Everyone has a different perspective. I’ve been a member since I was 25. My friends and family and bishop, for that matter, will tell you I have no problem speaking up. Personally, I haven’t encountered much by way of women being thought less of or treated with less regard. I’ve seen quite a bit of the opposite, in fact.

    While there are cases where it happens, it takes strong women to change it – ’cause aint nobody else gonna! Know what I mean?

    It wouldn’t have occured to me that digging deeper and seeking knowledge is a “boy’s club” thing until I read a post about it here. Fewer women do it, sure. That isn’t a bad or good thing. It’s just the way it is.

    I love so much that I’ve read of Okasaki. As for the Proclamation, it is about the ideals we ought to strive for. Maybe if that was emphasized more often, women AND men wouldn’t end up in the adverse situations that are less than that ideal. I grew up with ambigious values and a mom who picked poorly twice before she placed her and my well being above Mr. Right Now.

    The scriptures give us very explicit instructions. They do not tell us to love the Lord when we feel like it with half of our heart, some of our mind and a little of our strength. They tell us to give it our all. Of course, we fall short of this goal. But our lives are better in direct proportion to our obedience. Many of us have had things happen in our lives sometimes as a result of our own choices and sometimes due to the choices of others that prevent us from attaining the ideal of the Proclamation. But that does not make the ideal any less valid.

  8. Kaimi
    January 5, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    Greg: This is great. It’s nice to see the notes. You summarize well — I can practically hear the talk. We need more women like sister Okasaki in the church.

    Kris: I second the idea that you should get a blog, it would be interesting reading. (However, if you do start a blog, I hope it doesn’t distract you from commenting here — your comments are always good).

  9. Kristine
    January 5, 2004 at 9:44 pm

    In my haste to comment on the fact of the talk and its aftermath, I (stupidly) sidetracked the discussion from the substance of the talk. Several points from your summary deserve further comment and have bearing on previous discussions here (the Boys’ Club, Women and priesthood discussions come to mind). So…

    What do y’all think about intersexual (surely Sister Okazaki didn’t use that word?) friendships? I’ve always thought it weird that Mormons behave as though all relations between men and women are so sexually charged that any one-on-one conversation between a man and woman is likely to end in adultery. The “Bishop and Relief Society President Had an Affair” is its own subgenre in Mormon folklore. This mythos, it seems to me, is deeply degrading to both women and men, partaking of the stupidest kinds of gender stereotyping–men are ravenous beasts, women are defenseless sheep and/or malevolent seductresses. Why can’t we get past this? Will it change as more LDS men work with women as equals or superiors? (President Hinckley actually suggested a couple of years ago that professional men should not go on business lunches with women–my hunch is that this advice has largely fallen unheeded by the wayside, as I’ve never heard it mentioned again, but it does suggest the depth of our fears in this area.)

    And, though it has been at least partially addressed here recently, Renee points to another potentially interesting discussion point in the talk–that, “the structure does not include us.” Is that so? Should the structure change? Or, as Renee suggests, do women just need to be less shy about speaking up? What’s different about the way Sister Okazaki says it and the way Elder Ballard says it in _Counseling with our Councils_?

    Finally, though whatever might want to use slightly less charged language to make her/his point, it is true that women, even capable confident leaders do tend to limit themselves to subjects that are “safe”–call it the First Lady Syndrome. I don’t believe that their topics are prescribed for them, but there is a high degree of self-censorship and an apparent need to please the Brethren apparent in their conference talks. Why? (for illustration/discussion–what in the world happened to Sheri Dew? Her first few talks were so meaty, and yet she ended up with “are we not all mothers?”–logically impossible and doctrinally vacuous)

    Talk amongst yourselves!

  10. January 5, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    Kristine –

    I’m not so sure that Dew’s talk was doctrinally vacuous. I think she touched on a true principle – we are all caretakers of our neighbors. She simply used the metaphor of motherhood to teach this principle. Ironically, the talk seemed to bear some resemblance to Hillary Clinton’s often-derided (at least by Mormons) “it takes a village” discussion.

    As for your other comment about structure and inequality in the Church, I completely agree. As I’ve said before on this site, a structure that segregates most decision-making by sex is likely to reinforce chauvinism among men and “shyness” among women.

  11. Greg
    January 5, 2004 at 10:16 pm


    I thought that the male/female friendship discussion was one of the more interesting aspects of her talk. And I do think the general attitude on this is an unfortunate remnant of gender stereotypes. (I recall an “elder’s only” session of a mission zone conference in which the president basically said, “Above all, stay miles away from those wily divorcees, who want nothing more than to seduce 19 year old boys.”)
    I’ve heard single sisters say that they feel ostracized by the wives of their male friends in the ward, as if the single sisters are out to steal their husbands or something. And some Mormon men seem to think that the mission no-fraternization rules still apply to any female other than their wife. Of course boundaries are important, and chastity in particular requires vigilance, but I think Okasaki is right in raising this issue. (FWIW, my notes say “intersexual” and I would guess she said that (its not a word I normally use), but who knows, I might have used that as shorthand for “friendships between men and women.”)

    Okasaki’s remark that “the structure does not include us” (that *is* a direct quote) startled me. Not that the feeling exists, but that a women who has served in the what is one of the “highest” callings for women in the church would say that. To me, it meant that even the General Relief Society presidency sometimes feels that their voice is unheard. Certainly that is something that Elder Ballard, at the very least, wants to remedy.

  12. January 5, 2004 at 10:17 pm

    (I’ve been spending the day installing packages on a Solaris box, a Linux box, and then doing an awful lot of compiling – so forgive me writing too much today)

    I just have two quick points. First off I think many in the church get uncomfortable with criticisms of the church *structure*. (Whether accurate or not) I think they do this because they see that a task under the auspice of the first presidency. I tend to agree and don’t think they are quite as ignorant as we think. Certainly they make mistakes, as those of us familiar with history know. And I certainly understand frustration at times. When single I was very frustrated at the role and place of singles in the church. But I think public criticism almost always in counterproductive. (If only because of the attitude of the Apostles towards public criticism)

    Regarding your other point I’m more mixed on. I think your assuming that mixed sex situations are easy for all. I’m not sure that is fair. Likewise I can see things easily getting out of hand. Say if your spouse lacks in one regard and you are bored. It is very easy to start spending more time with someone who interests you rather than finding places to build up your more important relationship. For some this isn’t an issue. For others though…

    It reminds me of being single. We always had these goofy talks about spending time alone with each other, backrubs, and so forth. By and large I ignored them. But on talking with some bishops, I realized that they typically said those things after having to deal with moral failures. It can be easier to go astray than many think and there are many weak people out there.

    Personally I don’t think there’s a big deal with business lunches. But if you are having a lot of such meetings alone with an other woman, it can have an effect. Perhaps if only your wife’s jealousy about your spending time with an other woman.

    I think that the brethren often have to talk to those among us who are weak. However also at the same time I think that we aren’t always the best judges of whether we are weak or strong…

  13. January 5, 2004 at 10:23 pm

    “We don’t like to hear women voice strong opinions, especially ones that run against the official grain.”

    I do not think anyone has problems with strong women’s opinions, but many do object to opinions that run against what you call the “official grain” whether from women or men. I don’t understand why so many are unwilling to accept the doctrines and administrative mechanisms the Lord has established. The Proclamation may not make everyone feel good, who, for whatever reason, cannot (and these are not as many as would like to believe) or chooses not to live up to its ideals. Therefore, to criticize the Proclamation, especially in light of what it represents, is disconcerting, especially from a former general church leader.

    Furthermore, like it or not, God has established a patriarchal order in His kingdom. Until this is changed through revelation to the “official grain”, men are going to continue to preside over the church through priesthood offices. If Sister Okasaki doesn’t like the word “preside” that is too bad for her. Not having heard her talk, it is difficult to know what she said, but the notes seem overly critical of priesthood leadership. This is unwarranted and uncalled for. Pharisees. Give me a break! Are there problems in some wards and units throughout the church? Undoubtedly. Do we have a widespread sytematic problem in the church? No.

    I have read and heard many wonderful talks by Sister Okasaki. If she is gaining a reputation for giving strong opinions that run against the “official grain” then that is too bad. We don’t need contention, we need to work together to more fully establish God’s kingdom, recognizing that he has established priesthood authority and offices to direct these efforts. I don’t know understand why those who challenge priesthood authority are to be celebrated and admired.

    Whatever, conference talks are not assigned, and the church and its leaders seek to bring all men and women unto Christ by preaching His atoning sacrifice and His gospel. If that constitutes advancing a “patriarchal agenda” then so be it.

  14. Greg
    January 5, 2004 at 10:42 pm

    In light of the aftermath, it appears many took her comments the same way you took my notes of her comments. But I must say that the talk was delivered in a tone of love and in the general context of how we as priesthood leaders can do better in serving the women of the ward. She did not criticize the structure of the church. She did not call the priesthood leaders Pharisees, only reminded us of traits that we should avoid. As for the Proclamation, I wouldn’t say she criticized it per se, but rather taught that it should not prevent us from loving and involving and validating those who do not match its ideals. And I tried to make clear by my paragraphing, her challenge of the word “preside” was in the context of marriage.

    In sum, I don’t think she “challenged priesthood authority.” She only expressed her feeling about how the priesthood authority can be used more effectively.

  15. January 5, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    Greg, thanks for the additional commentary. I imagine that those who did take offense probably fell into the category of those who take the truth to be hard. There is always room for improvement within the church. That is why there are so many training and leadership meetings (in fact there is another worldwide leadership training this coming Saturday). I guess I just chafe at what appears to be the willingness of many to criticize church leadership or doctrines simply because they do not like the revealed church structure or certain doctrines.

  16. January 5, 2004 at 11:39 pm

    Wow! I go away for a few days, and look what happens! A few notes to add to the above:

    * I think I can support Kristine’s assertion that Okasaki “took a lot of heat” for this talk. At least I can say that I had a conversation with the then General Relief Society President of the Church who indicated that the brethren were trying to “rein her in” (my words, but I think they convey the sense).

    * Kristine, President Hinckley is not the only person who has suggested that “professional men should not go on business lunches with women.” Elder Maxwell gave a talk in which he gave that same counsel, and I have tried to follow it. I do so not only because it is one of those personal guidelines that helps to keep me clear of problems, but because it gives my wife confidence that I am not doing something inappropriate. This comes with lots of potential old-boys-network baggage, which does not crop up much in my line of work, so I try not to be too judgmental of others on this. But I think you trivialize some real risks by talking about this subject with such disdain for President Hinckley’s counsel.

    * I do not know Okazaki at all. Never met her. But I worry about any member of the Church who becomes a “rock star” to Church members. It’s one thing to have a great reputation as a speaker while one is holding a high-profile calling (Sherry Dew and Jeffrey Holland come to mind), but I wonder about the books and fireside tours. Frankly, I worry about this blog in the same way. (Nate could become a rock star!) As a professional academic, I have witnessed the seduction of the popularity that flows from people embracing your ideas. In the Church setting, it can be very difficult to maintain a perspective on “my ideas” versus “God’s ideas.” Once you start taking credit — and royalties — from God’s ideas, well, that is a very dangerous thing, in my view. (Thus condemning in one stroke the entire business model of Deseret Book!)

    * Finally, a word of support. I like to hear from the women in General Conference and in church meetings generally, and I disagree with the suggestion made above that women only talk about family matters. Okazaki is right when she says that priesthood leaders should include women more generally in the administration of the Church.

  17. Mardell
    January 5, 2004 at 11:51 pm

    Another area where boys are treated differently (better) is the Boy Scouts. The church’s emphasis on Scouts is great. But, the Young Women get nothing like scouts.

    Boys get to participate for ten years. The programs are highly organized, they have meetings, lots of support. Young Women’s achievement program is nothing comparable. (And where are the cool activities — rapelling, horseback riding, camping out, camporees, super activities)? (The leaders always said that young women can’t go on overnight activities because we were girls.)

    When Young Women see those differences they begin to internalize the idea that men have a superior position in the church.

    (And for years, the boys have started earlier — cub scouts at age 8, versus young women starting merry misses at age 10. Now the young women have an 8-year-old program called acheivement days, but it is also an inferior program, just like the Merry Miss always was).

    I agree that the church can’t just use the Girl Scouts. But, why can’t the church have its own program which is as good for young women as scouts is for boys. With as many activties targeted at making us good leaders and to help us grow in responsible young women. Personal progress is a real joke compared to the Eagle Scout program. Where is our nice court of honor with an eagles nest and refreshments? I will tell you – for 3 seconds in sacarment meeting when the Bishop gives our award.

    I apologize for the rant, but this is something that has bugged me for quite some time!

  18. Nate Oman
    January 6, 2004 at 12:14 am

    Mardell: if it is any consolation, I am a Boy Scout survivor who made it all the way through to Eagle, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it much at all. (Although the camping was fun.) Of course, I got bullied a good deal by the other boys in my ward…

  19. Nate Oman
    January 6, 2004 at 12:14 am

    Mardell: if it is any consolation, I am a Boy Scout survivor who made it all the way through to Eagle, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it much at all. (Although the camping was fun.) Of course, I got bullied a good deal by the other boys in my ward…

  20. Mardell
    January 6, 2004 at 12:35 am

    I know that a lot of scouts do not like scouting.

    Having been a scout leader for 3 years myself, growing up with 5 brothers (who are all eagles and all hold callings in scouting presently), having a dad who is an avid scouter on every level (pack, troop, district, council), I am well aquainted with scouting and when done properly it is a great program.

    But the young women do not even have a choice -give us a progam so we can hate it too!

  21. January 6, 2004 at 4:33 am

    I agree with Mardell. I have two daughters and three sons, ranging from 7 to 15, and I notice a big implicit difference in the level of expectation between the boys and girls. We have tried to compensate for this in an ad hoc way, but it never really works.

    I should note, however, that although the programs pre-YM/YW are far superior for the YM, the Achievement Days leaders have generally been very good for my girls, and they have enjoyed that program immensely. It’s a vast improvement over nothing!

  22. Kristine
    January 6, 2004 at 10:51 am

    Brayden: you’re right–I take back “doctrinally vacuous.” (But it was rhetorically nice, dontcha think? :) )

  23. Kristine
    January 6, 2004 at 11:02 am

    Gordon, I don’t mean to be disdainful of President Hinckley’s counsel. I think it gets me hot and bothered because it reduces women, even professional associates, to sex objects. It also suggests a high level of mistrust of men. I’m sure that it is counsel born out of sad experience, but it seems to me that part of the reason this counsel is necessary is that we have no model in the church for men and women working together in appropriate and healthy ways. It seems to me that cultivating a little more respect for the intellectual and spiritual capacities of women and a little less fear of their sexuality would be both more effective and more in harmony with the joyful messages about human capacity that we receive from the gospel. Forbidding business lunches strikes me as a very lower-law kind of response to the problem.

    (And, as always, I fully believe that President Hinckley may know much more than I do, and that if I knew what he does I’d think differently. For now, I have to think as well as I can about what he actually *said*)

  24. Adam Greenwood
    January 6, 2004 at 11:20 am

    Weighing in on intersexual relationships:

    I think most of the comments here are way off the mark. Intersexual relationships are very dangerous. The deeper the friendship the greater the threat to a marriage. This holds true EVEN IF the friendship never leads to sex. For me, my wife is now and will be my primarly lens to the opposite sex.

    I’m reminded of a remark made by Peggy Noonan in ‘I was There at the Revolution.’ She thinks back on her work experience and says, ‘Men and women who work together are always half in love with each other.’ It’s true, I’ve noticed it, and it’s why I try not to develop too warm of a relationship with the women at school, esp. if they’re otherwise attractive.

  25. Adam Greenwood
    January 6, 2004 at 11:25 am

    Again, on the business lunches:

    You can’t just create a different model that takes sex and intimacy out of the picture. The Old Adam can’t just be re-educated.

    And, when it comes to that, a society of ‘unfortunate gender stereotypes’ and of ‘lower-law’ observances is much preferable to an adulterous and divorced one. How exactly have we shown ourselves better than the children of Israel, and deserving of a higher law?

  26. cooper
    January 6, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Don’t get me started on the scouting thing! I swear i had all girls because I don’t have a testimony of the scouting program! Last week we were again hit up for the FOS (friends of scouting) donation. I am entirely against it, but my husband being in the bishopric still has an obligation so he gives. If we could hit the ward with a friends of YW program maybe I’d be more willing to give to give to scouting. My brother was like Nate, he got picked on, ridiculed and basically tortured by the elitists of scouting in our ward. He still got his eagle and order of the arrow, but I couldn’t see why he needed all the torture.

    As far as the subject at hand regarding women in the church. It’s a two edge sword. Be good, don’t make waves, support the priesthood, do all the work at ward activities, seems to be the common thread. If you do voice your opinion (at least in our stake) they don’t take it out on you. Your husband suffers. I know two guys that would be the best bishops in the world, but because their wives have a hard time holding their tongues, they’ve never been given an opportunity for leadership. It’s not like I haven’t known them a long time both are 20+ year friendships. I am not sure how to solve this problem.

    And co-mingling one on one of opposite sexes? Bad idea. Even the best man and the best woman being put together enough time alone can lead to problems. I am not saying that we can’t control ourselves and that there aren’t acceptions to every rule. But why take a chance that you don’t have to?

  27. January 6, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    Adam says – I’m reminded of a remark made by Peggy Noonan in ‘I was There at the Revolution.’ She thinks back on her work experience and says, ‘Men and women who work together are always half in love with each other.’ It’s true, I’ve noticed it.

    Where do you work Adam? I don’t know, I’m baffled by this comment. I’m trying to imagine a workplace where women and men do not have to interact on a regular basis and I can’t. Even at BYU, most of the academic department secretaries are women, and believe it or not, BYU also has many women professors, even a (at least one) woman assistant dean. What are we (men) supposed to do? Should we ignore women and treat them as alien invaders of “our” male workplace?

    Since I’ve been a graduate student, I’ve been an RA/TA for three different professors, all of whom are women. I’ve had great relationships with all of them, and consider each to be mentors and, yes, even friends. Two are no longer at the same university (one is at BYU and the other is at the University of Chicago), but when we see each other at conferences we usually get lunch and chat about how things are going. This sort of professional fraternizing is absolutely necessary for establishing the kinds of relationships that make for successful careers in academia, besides I value the things these people have to say and the advice they offer. It would seem very silly and completely out-of-line if I refused to accept their mentorship for fears that we might have sex someday. I guess my inner-Adam has been somewhat tamed as I am able to keep my sexual desires out of my work relationships.

    I can’t imagine business careers are that much different. In fact, all you hear about any more is the importance of networking. If we are seriously supposed to avoid all one-on-one contact with the opposite sex, is it also expected that men and women professionals maintain two separate networks? That ought to really help reduce inequality in the workplace.

  28. Nate Oman
    January 6, 2004 at 1:00 pm

    When I was single and desperately wanted my co-mingling with the opposite sex to escalate into romantic involvement and sexual chemistry, I had very little if any success. Now that I am out of shape, bleary-eyed with toddler induced sleeplessness, and obviously married, I suspect that romantic involvement and sexual chemistry is even less likely…

  29. Kaimi
    January 6, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    I commented a little about a related topic last month, in connection with Adam’s post on a soldier suing to not be required to work in close proximity with a woman. I wrote then:

    “The idea of ‘I shouldn’t have to work around women because then I can’t control my thoughts’ seems to be a pretty lame argument. . . . Women have been kept as second-class citizens for years on the premise (among other things) that more liberated women would make men think bad thoughts. Any decision reinforcing that idea — that men are helpless lust animals, and must be kept away from women who might incite bad thoughts — is a step backwards.”

    (See ).

    That reasoning applies here as well. Modern careers require networking. If men cannot network with women, then the best that women in the workforce can do is a separate-but-equal system. (And one problem with separate-but-equal is that while “separate” is strictly enforced, “equal” is almost always inaccurate).

    The smart, successful women I work with, that I have worked with in the past, that I have gone to school with, have helped me in my education and career. Many of them were and are attractive people, but that has never defined our working relationships. If a person is a capable attorney or scholar or law student, I want to discuss things with him or her.

    Despite the idea that men cannot be controlled, the fact is we often control ourselves. We have female bosses and don’t try to have sex with them. We have attractive relatives, and we don’t try to have sex with them. I see attractive women on the subway, and I don’t try to have sex with them. And the same goes for all sorts of inter-sexual friendships.

    Finally, I really dislike the idea that men just can’t be controlled. What a cop-out! Should we also institute a rule prohibiting earning money, in case we’re tempted not to pay tithing? The purpose of this life is to meet temptation and to overcome it, not to run away from it. And women should not be treated as scary creatures who send out irresistable sex signals.

  30. January 6, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    Following Kaimi’s comments, we should also be wary of this attitude of men’s lack of sexual control because it ends up reinforcing the idea that men and women can only relate to each other in a sexual (or reproductive) way. If men only see women as people who are capable of fulfilling sexual desires and producing and nurturing children, we are seriously misusing and abusing the divine nature of half of God’s children.

  31. Kristine
    January 6, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    Why take a chance? Because we will never be able to create the Kingdom of God if we don’t figure out how to use the talents of all God’s children, and that means working together. Because we’re supposed to be transforming the natural man, “the Old Adam,” not just locking him in a cage so he can’t do any harm. Because creating and maintaining that cage requires discrimination against women, which is wrong. And because an ethic based on fear is not Christian.

  32. cooper
    January 6, 2004 at 2:03 pm

    Maybe I’m a little jaded because a woman in our stake divorced her husband of 18 years to marry a missionary serving in our area. A doctor on staff at the local hospital who happens to be LDS and married can’t keep his pants on. An attorney married to a dentist both LDS can’t seem to make their marriage work without infidelity. The brokerage house I worked at had a successful female lead broker. She asked me once if I had ever had an affair. I told her no that it was morally wrong. She replied, I think it would be fun! She went forward, and ruined the lives of two of her clients.

    I do not live in the clouds. I live in the real world. I have worked in a male dominated field for years. I work daily with men – only men. I would be fooling myself if I said I had never been tempted. Of course I have. I have never acted on those temptations. I have been happily married for 29 years.

    I will concede that temptation is part of life. Everyone experiences it. It is what we do with it when it comes knocking that makes us who we are. We are not immune to it.

    When I say why take the chance, I mean just that. Too many people are throwing off their covenants these days. Look around you. How many people do you know that have suffered through the agony of divorce or infidelity? Too many.

    I am not saying don’t look at women or vice versa. What I am saying is don’t drop your guard. It can happen very easily at the expense of more than just yourself. Temptation comes at the most unlikely places.

  33. January 6, 2004 at 2:22 pm

    “I think it gets me hot and bothered because it reduces women, even professional associates, to sex objects.”

    I don’t think this is true. And I don’t think anyone is arguing that we shouldn’t form relationships with members of the opposite sex. Rather I think it is simply to acknowledge that we are complex beings and sexuality is a big part of that. Likewise those in unhappy relationships (or pasts that have disrupted their normal emotional development) may be more susceptible to acting on their weaknesses. So they should avoid situations where that may occur.

    I don’t think anyone is saying don’t work with women. However perhaps frequent business meetings alone with someone you are attracted to or find more interesting than your spouse might open up events you would not like.

    I honestly don’t see this as a “feminist” issue. I think the rule applies as much to women as to men.

    Perhaps a different example might highlight things better. Someone who in their past had problems with substance abuse probably shouldn’t be spending time around people doing a lot of drinking. Most likely they will fall.

    It’s as simple as that.

  34. January 6, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    While I am not really surprised by the general rejection of traditional attitudes in the most recent comments on the subject of intersexual relationships, I do find the level of self-assurance fairly remarkable, bordering on naive. I hate to pull the age card, but here it comes. I find that my attitude on this subject has become more conservative as I have gotten older.

    This is partly due to my own interactions with female students. Just wait, Nate, because a general state of physical unfitness (which I am certain that you exaggerate) will not insulate you from potential problems. Indeed, this problem is so widespread that when I joined the profession, new law professors (both men and women, Kaimi — this is not just about controlling “lust animals”) were given a talk about it at an orientation meeting sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools. This is not a Mormon issue, and people other than Mormons worry about it.

    Mostly, however, I have come to the view that caution is wise from having witnessed the downfall of many colleagues, both practicing lawyers and academics. While most of the people I have in mind are not Mormons, they are mostly people whom I would consider decent and generally honest and generally inclined to keep their marriage vows intact.

    Of course, the fallout from these circumstances is immense, and it affects many people beyond the three (or more) directly involved. Very, very sad. So while you think the probability of a problem is low, you might also consider the potential costs of that low-probability event before you reject the idea of boundaries.

    In the end, my response to all of your highfalutin arguments about the equality of the genders — most of which I could have made myself and some of which I have made to myself — I have only my experience to offer. You might consider the experience of Gordon Hinckley and Neal Maxwell, too, before you get too dogmatic on this subject.

    Now, a word about how to live a life that includes women in the workforce. Frankly, I think some of the arguments made in response to Adam were unfair caricatures of his position, but let me try to be more specific. I very much like Kristine’s last comment; it is inspiring, almost poetic. But the cage metaphor may obscure my main point: this is not about hermetic separation of men and women, but about appropriate boundaries. When the “defenders of intersexual relationships” act as if the setting of boundaries is equivalent to advocating the (continued) oppression of women, they trivialize the lessons of experience that cooper discusses in her most recent comment.

    In my own work, I strive to foster professional relationships with women, both colleagues and students. The main forum in the law school is the office, but it also includes socializing at various law school functions. I avoid one-on-one lunches, but I often organize group outings. And I avoid couple travel whenever possible. This can be very challenging, but by and large, it is doable. I do not discriminate in hiring research assistants, and I strive to interact with all of them in the same manner, usually in office conversation (open door for all students) or by email. As I consider my relationships, I see no tendency to create more or closer relationships to men than to women. My wife if my best friend, so perhaps I am just lucky in that I do not feel the need to find a buddy at work.

    As I said above, I try to exercise caution in judging others here. Life if complex, and each person’s circumstances are unique. Nevertheless, I would advice all to implement well-considered boundaries on intersexual relationships outside of marriage.

  35. max
    January 6, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Wow, this is great stuff. Men worried about professional lunches with women because it might develop into something untoward. Let think about the gendered implications here. Women are dangerous to men because . . . . or Men are dangerous to women because. . . . Seems like women are dangerous because they are beautiful, enticing, and might get a man in trouble–get him to do something he doesn’t really want to do and his wife doesn’t want him to do. So when men are alone with women they get out of control? UMMM So what’s the other side of the gendering of sexuality? Why shouldn’t a woman be alone with a man? Because she is out of control as well??? He might do something to harm her??? So maybe the underlying assumption is that we have no control–or very little control over our sexual desires? Now that’s scary.

  36. January 6, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    After that long comment, I should refrain from posting again so quickly, but I have a question for the group, especially Kristine. In one of your comments above, you wrote: “It seems to me that cultivating a little more respect for the intellectual and spiritual capacities of women and a little less fear of their sexuality would be both more effective and more in harmony with the joyful messages about human capacity that we receive from the gospel.” I would be interested in hearing more thoughts about this in connection with the topic of inter-gender relationships.

    From your comments, I understand that you would like to see a more constructive relationship between men and women in the Church. Count me on board for that. Moreover, you seem to believe that we could move closer to that goal if Mormon men would develop friendships with Mormon women who are not their wives. I infer, by the way, that this happens both because the Mormon men become more sensitive to the needs of Mormon women and because Mormon women feel more like valued partners in a joint enterprise. Is that fair?

    If that seems fair, then I wonder: are the personal friendships that you envision essential to forming a more effective working relationship?

  37. Julia
    January 6, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    I’m a female attorney at a big law firm. Male partners occasionally take me out to lunch as part of their routine bonding with the associates they work with. When I worked for a male judge he occasionally took me out to lunch. I frequently go grab lunch with male associates I’m working with. I occasionally travel on business with male partners and associates. To turn down any of these opportunities would be insane. “No business lunches between professional men and women” is bizarre advice that I’m surprised that some think is valid or at least feel obliged to defend. “Do not flirt with and/or form intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex if you or they are married” is legitimate advice, but completely different from the business lunches advice. It is sort of the difference between saying “don’t wear provocatively revealing clothing” and “wear a burkha”.

  38. January 6, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Let me just say that I’m not denying the presence of sexuality in inter-sexual relationships. Coming from a family of divorce instigated by marital infidelity, I am well aware of this potential. I don’t think I am naive in this respect. (I should note that it was my mom who left my father.)

    I was reacting to Adam’s outlandish comments. Everyone else has been very thoughtful in their remarks. I completely advocate caution. Why would we not be cautious about all of our relationships? I don’t need to be a Mormon (as Gordon pointed out) to figure that one out. However, if being cautious means that we refuse to form personal friendships with females at work but continue to play golf with “the boys,” then I think we may be going a little far.

    I think some of my perspective comes from the fact that I’m a sociologist who has read a lot about social networks. Who we know AND who we consider to be our friends has a lot to do with how successful we are in our respective fields. Ron Burt, a professor of Business Strategy at Chicago (who happens to be trained as a sociologist) has written a great deal about the importance of bridging relationships to economic security and mobility. If businessmen (for example) only limit those bridging networks to men, they are essentially immobilizing half their potential network. But worse, it also damages the potential of females to succeed in the business world. Rosabeth Moss Kanter has written a lot about that.

    On a more spiritual level, I concur with Kristine that appropriate inter-sexual interaction is necessary for men and women to acheive their true potential. The key is to teach children how to appropriately interact (and play) and to respect sex as a marital act. If inter-sexual relationships are not seen as so taboo, and if men and women learn how to interact without having to bring sex into the picture, I’m sure some of the risk will be lessened. And we will all be better off for it.

  39. cooper
    January 6, 2004 at 4:12 pm

    Well said Gordon.

  40. Nathan Oman
    January 6, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    reading gordon’s comments, i realize that i would have had a much better social life in college if i could have been a law professor…

  41. Kristine
    January 6, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    I have plenty more to say in response to your excellent post, but it will have to wait till my kids go to bed if my house is to remain standing :)

    But just one brief rebuttal (sort of): I think even the kinds of reasonable boundaries you describe–no one-on-one lunches, no mixed gender travel–lead in practice to discrimination. I know of more than one single woman (and am well-acquainted enough with one case to consider the information reliable) who has been denied a job working for the Church because hiring her would mean a married man would have to travel with her on some job assignments, which apparently violates some provision of the church’s employment rules. I can’t see a way around this problem if such guidelines are enforced as policy, or even if they are widely adopted voluntarily. The effect, regardless of the intent, is to exclude women from certain potentially important business relationships and assignments.

  42. January 6, 2004 at 5:11 pm

    Great discussion. I think Gordon supplied the key observation when he said, “I find that my attitude on this subject has become more conservative as I have gotten older.” Add 50 years to Gordon (still a young guy) and you get an Apostle–very old and very conservative. Or even very, very old and very, very conservative.

    The problem isn’t business lunches, it’s that the top leadership’s gender perspective dates from the first half of the last century. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that senior Church leaders have a talent for being unable to distinguish their own personal views or prejudices from God’s views (or prejudices). Yet there is no vehicle to discuss this problem (the gender perspective one) publicly without being branded either a feminist (if a woman) or an apostate (if a man).

    So what’s a person to do? Julia’s comment in this thread should be a warning shot across the bow: leaders giving counsel on gender issues that is so obviously dated or out of touch with day-to-day life (it’s 2004, not 1935) run the risk that women will just start ignoring them.

  43. Matt Evans
    January 6, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    Besides their ages, another important difference between Gordon Smith and Gordon Hinckley is the time they’ve spent reading grief-laden letters of jilted spouses and grappling with the disciplinary actions related to infidelity. After reading as many letters from devastated and suffering members as he has, it’s understandable that Hinckley’s counsel might border on draconian.

    I’m sure his counsel on guns would be equally stringent if 15% of families were gun victims. People would, of course, argue that gun _misuse_ was the culprit, and that Hinckley should instead urge *responsible* gun ownership. I doubt anyone on this thread would be among them, however, were as many of us from families harmed by guns as we are from families harmed by infidelity.

    One of my exceptionally intelligent bishops once told our priesthood quorum that one of the apostles (Mark Peterson?) refused a ride from his secretary when she found him standing in a downpour next to his broken-down car. He counseled us to never be alone with a woman.

    I spoke with the bishop about it later, thinking the story was too much, especially if it was the woman who was stranded in the downpour. “An apostle would wave as he drove by, rather than give his stranded secretary a ride?” My bishop didn’t budge. “Once you’ve counseled as many people as the apostles have,” he said, “you advocate steep boundaries, and follow them yourself to help those who need them most.”

    Incidentally, I’ve always understood that the “no business lunches” didn’t apply to group lunches. The pairing is the concern.

  44. Nate Oman
    January 6, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    “This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that senior Church leaders have a talent for being unable to distinguish their own personal views or prejudices from God’s views (or prejudices).”

    Fortunately, we have Dave to do this for us ;->…

  45. January 6, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    “Julia’s comment in this thread should be a warning shot across the bow: leaders giving counsel on gender issues that is so obviously dated or out of touch with day-to-day life (it’s 2004, not 1935) run the risk that women will just start ignoring them.”

    Ah, my favorite criticisms, church leaders must be wrong on gender issues because (a) their message is “dated or out of touch with day-to-day life” or (b) some may not like what they have to say. Those who wish to measure counsel against the world’s standards will always raise such criticisms, and sadly, some will ignore wise counsel for those reasons. Of course, they do so at their own risk.

    While I cannot cite to any statistics at the present, I would venture to guess that extramarital sexual relationships between men and women occur at a much greater frequency now than they did in 1935. I would also venture out on a limb and suggest that although real tangible improvements in gender relations have occurred, serious problems nonetheless exist as a direct result of the feminist movement and the relaxing of moral principles. Thus, in many, many ways, the old fuddy duddy principles and counsel of church leaders is what will bring greater cooperation and happiness to all, regardless of gender. The problem is people rely on the philosophies of men and refuse to look to the Lord for direction. Anytime, the scriptures or counsel from church leaders, fails to adhere to such philosophies of men, the problem is the scriptures or the leaders, and not the worldly philosophies. It really is quite sad.

  46. Kristine
    January 6, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    Gordon: first, a response to your playing of the “age card.” Thanks. I’m entirely happy to be reminded that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do and that my opinions will inevitably change. But I am older than Nate and Greg and Kaimi!
    Also, though it seems weird to acknowledge this in a forum where no one can see me, I think the confidence of my opinions stems at least in part from the fact that I’m not terribly pretty, and my lunch partners tend not to fall in love with me (sometimes despite my fervent and wicked wishes :) ) While I’d like to think that I’m able to take a position that’s logically consistent even if divorced from my personal experience (don’t tell the feminist theory police), I suspect that a wildly attractive woman would think about this issue differently. Finally, as is the case for Nate, I am so completely wrecked by parenting young children that even if _______ (insert name of sexy movie star of your choice–I haven’t been to a movie in years!) invited me into his bed, all I would want to do is sleep, so I feel preternaturally unsusceptible to the temptations of an affair.

  47. Kristine
    January 7, 2004 at 12:24 am

    Next, a consideration of the notion of friendship between men and women in the gospel context. Oddly enough, my ideas on this come largely from Paul, specifically Galatians and 1 Corinthians. Paul was serious about the notion that faith makes people into children of God and even of Abraham, so that believers are literally (or almost–it’s hard to tell exactly how far Paul means to extend the metaphor) siblings. In a culture where sibling relationships often took precedence over marriage relationships (insulting someone’s wife was sometimes a fighting offense, insulting his sister always was), this is important. Galatians 3:28, which some scholars have called the initial iteration of the baptismal covenant, is therefore a call to a really radical upheaval of the social order. It’s radical enough that some of the wacky stuff about virgins and loosing wives in 1 Corinthians 7 is thought to be a response to questions that arose among the Corinthian congregation about whether baptism dissolved existing marriage covenants. (!) (!!)

    I don’t begin to really understand this, but I do think it suggests that if we are ever to truly become the body of Christ, we have to have better and deeper friendships than we now do, and that the family, though it is an important place to learn about love, trust, faith, and service, cannot be the only repository of those lessons or their applications. As heretical as it seems, I think we have to consider that some of the ideas and warm fuzzy sentiments we cherish about families may be as much “of the world” as notions about sexuality and individual fulfillment which we rightly reject. One of those seductive, and, I think, false, ideas is that the nuclear family is or should be a self-sufficient unit that reserves its greatest love and sacrifice for its own members. I think it more likely that the family is a schoolmaster to make us capable of loving others as we’ve loved our siblings, and that the church is a place to practice extending that love so that ultimately we are able to rightly take our place among all the offspring of God as our beloved siblings.

    As for Gordon’s (mostly rhetorical?) question about whether personal friendships would improve our working relationships–if we could be friends with other members of the church as we are with siblings, of course our working relationships would be better. If Gordon’s the bishop of my ward, and he and I have had searching conversations about things we both care about and he has seen past the heretical feminist persona to the insecure, nerdy kid who knows the words to every hymn in the hymnbook, then he’ll respond very differently when he interviews my 12-year-old daughter who’s mad that her brother gets to be a deacon and she doesn’t. (This situation, btw, is purely hypothetical and devoutly unwished for–however, last week my daughter, 5 years old, stood up in the pew and asked loudly “how come there aren’t any girls up there?” during a baby blessing. oi vey!) If I’ve had passionate conversations about politics or church history (without anyone looking askance at us in the foyer, or even *gasp* when we took the risk of riding together to a leadership meeting) with the Elder’s Quorum president, I’m going to be a lot less annoyed (or at least I’ll get over it faster) when the Elder’s Quorum forgets that they were supposed to staff the nursery for Homemaking (er, the meeting formerly known as Homemaking). I don’t see how real friendship could fail to enrich our lives and aid the work of the church.

    And, because it’s makes a neat package with my earlier cage metaphor (and because it’s lovely), here’s Joseph Smith on the power of friendship: “…those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with the avidity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it moves the mind backward and forward, from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope…” (TJS, 134)

    Sorry, that’s way more than my fair share for one day–I promise not to hijack any more threads for a while.

  48. Chieko
    September 7, 2004 at 11:22 am

    What does the name Chieko mean?

  49. Restoring Lost Comments
    November 25, 2004 at 11:21 pm

    [Restoring Comments Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    “One of those seductive, and, I think, false, ideas is that the nuclear family is or should be a self-sufficient unit that reserves its greatest love and sacrifice for its own members.”
    Hmm. I probably agree with the “self-sufficient” bit, although everyone in a nuclear family knows that. The greatest love bit I think I have a harder time with. I agree it is a schoolmaster. But I think as we extend the circle of self that it is an extension of gradation.
    Of course “greatest love” is one of those terms I’m not sure is really meaningful. Sort of like “maximize happiness.” But I’ll leave that for LDS-Phil where I’ve raged against such notions for some time. (grin)
    Comment by: Clark Goble at January 7, 2004 12:40 AM


    Kristine, somewhat different question though I think importantly related. How would you feel if your husband was having business dinners alone with an extremely attractive co-worker? Wouldn’t you be jealous? Wouldn’t that affect your relationship?
    I think we’re only looking at this from the view of adultery. But I think there are far more dynamics involved with sexuality than simply infidelity.
    Likewise I think we are considering sexual tension only in terms of physical appearance. Consider a relationship where your spouse perhaps isn’t interested in the things you are. The old stereotype is the bored housewife who meets a man at dance lessons, for instance. Or the bored businessman who meets a woman who actually likes talking about the details of his interest that his wife is uneducated about (and couldn’t care less about). I think those sorts of dynamics are far more likely and dangerous than some raw physical sexuality based upon appearance and lust. I agree that for most that isn’t likely.
    Although I have had friends where women have made passes like that (in one case dropping her clothes) I think that in general those are rare. Instead what happens is you meet someone who meets some need your spouse isn’t fulfilling. While we all imagine we will have a perfectly fulfilled relationship, hopefully we recognize that over time any relationship will have ups or downs. Perhaps illness, pregnancy, children or such make keeping the excitement and interest in marriage more difficult. While such things always can be worked through, adding in the temptation of someone else who *is* interesting can be dangerous.
    Likewise, as I mentioned, not all people are as strong as the people contributing here likely are. Some people have been exposed to odd relationships and sexuality during their development. That could be past divorce, abuse, or simply not having a stable family while growing up. Some make be emotionally insecure or even have undiagnosed depression or bipolar disorders.
    While I agree there is some danger in making policy based upon the lowest common denominator, there is also a danger of going by what the strongest are like. The fact is many aren’t like that. From talking with people in Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies, there is a lot more going behind the facade of stability in most wards than I think many of us would think.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at January 7, 2004 12:49 AM


    Adam: I agree with you somewhat about intersexual relationships, but more along the lines of what Clark said well above. It has always seemed silly to me that my wife and I travel great distances to see our friends of many years in distant states, and my short conversation with the wife of my friend amounts to little more than I would have with a grocery store clerk. Vice versa for my wife.
    Gordon: On being a rock star–it’s just as easy, and more common, to become a “rock star” by repeating all the conventional wisdom in the most hackneyed way as it is to become one by being controversial. Gerald Lund is a Mormon rock star if there ever was one.
    On the other hand, I have no problem with intelligent and faithful people gaining popularity among the Saints which their peers (academic or otherwise) may not enjoy. I’m just as pleased seeing a learned Saint like Stephen Robinson become a household name for his book on the atonement as I am seeing yet another hard-bound and richly adorned $50 volume of Elder Holland’s go on the market.
    Comment by: Jeremiah John at January 7, 2004 01:36 AM


    This is a wonderful discussion. I have never talked about these issues with so much depth and diversity of viewpoint. I appreciate all of the participants sharing their views.
    It seems that the discussion has splintered into two related, but separate issues: (1) work relationships; (2) Church relationships. I have said almost all that I have to say about the first, but I will “finish” that here, then make a separate post about the second.
    Julia writes: “‘Do not flirt with and/or form intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex if you or they are married’ is legitimate advice, but completely different from the business lunches advice. It is sort of the difference between saying ‘don’t wear provocatively revealing clothing’ and ‘wear a burkha’.”
    This is a debate about the relative effectiveness of rules and standards. Rules are specific commands (“wear a burkha”), while standards are more abstract principles (“don’t wear provocatively revealing clothing”). Both are legitimate, but both have shortcomings. In my experience, law tends to vacillate between a preference for rules and a preference for standards, and I suspect that we as individuals probably do the same.
    The advantage of a rule is that it is clear. If you have a rule that says, “wear a burkha,” then compliance is fairly easy to measure. On the other hand, rules tends to produce perverse results in some situations, thus generating exception to the rule (“wear a burkha, except when bathing”).
    Standards are not so easy to measure. “Don’t wear provocatively revealing clothing” leaves a lot or room for discretion. People will have different assessments of what is revealing. On the other hand, standards allow for close tailoring to the individual circumstance.
    My sense is that many of us want the same thing: faithful marriages and meaningful inter-gender relationships with people other than our spouses. I think it is unfair to suggest that rules are an illegitimate way to reach the goal. You may think the rules are overinclusive — and many of us would agree — but that may just call for an exception to the rule, rather than a move to a standard. Of course, create enough exceptions and you have a de facto standard.
    It is probably worth remembering that it is much easier to establish rules when you are the person who is in the control seat. You should not be surprised to learn that even in my time at the firm — the early 1990s — women were senior associates and partners. In many, many instances, I was put on a deal team with women who were my superiors, at least in rank. Did we travel together? Yes. Did we eat meals together? Yes. Am I a hypocrite? Probably, but not on this issue. I have consistently striven to maintain appropriate inter-gender relationships, usually through a combination of rules and standards.
    In the end, my main concern here is that this issue not drop off the radar screen. Faithful marriages are increasingly the exception in American society, and I think they deserve and require special effort. I am not interested in drawing battle lines in the Church over this issue, and I do not think of this as a Mormon issue.
    Comment by: Gordon Smith at January 7, 2004 04:57 AM


    Clark, the simple answer to your question is no, I wouldn’t be jealous of my husband having dinner with an attractive co-worker. If our marriage isn’t strong enough to survive some momentary sexual attraction or even a deep friendship based on an interest he shares with some other woman, then it isn’t much of a marriage. (Again, I suspect that the emotion behind this opinion, if not the intellectual content, is influenced by the fact that I’m not gorgeous and am therefore confident that my husband is not primarily swayed by physical attractiveness)
    Comment by: Kristine at January 7, 2004 11:02 AM


    Now my promised comment on inter-gender friendships in the Church. As luck would have it, I am at the moment on a faculty development program in India with Kate Kirkham, who is a faculty member at BYU and was a member of the General Relief Society Board when Okasaki was serving. Kate was immediately familiar with the issue we are discussing, and she has much more profound thoughts than I on this subject. We were able to have only a brief discussion, but I left realizing that I do not have a model in my head for inter-gender Church friendships, as I do with inter-gender work friendships. The bottom line is that I really haven’t thought much about it. (I am a little embarrassed about this recognition, coming as it does 50-some comments into a discussion of remarks by Okasaki that had nothing to do with work relationships!)
    Before I slink off to the corner, however, I want to add to one strand of the exchange that Kristine and I were having above. I think Kristine misinterpreted my question about friendship. The question was: “are personal friendships … essential to forming a more effective working relationship?” It was not rhetorical. I was intending to inquire about whether I need to be your “friend” to be your priesthood leader, or whether something short of friendship might suffice.
    From her response, it is clear that Kristine has a model for the type of friendship she would value. She speaks of “searching conversations about things we both care about” and “passionate conversations about politics or church history.” My initial reaction to this was to say, “Is that all you mean from friendship, Kristine?” Because if that is what Okasaki is talking about, count me in. I have had such relationships with many Mormon women, and I value those relationships greatly.
    Comment by: Gordon Smith at January 7, 2004 12:05 PM


    Gordon: You have talked about rules and standards, which is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Hurray! Legal theory at last!!
    First, I am not sure that there is a real distinction between rules and standards. I have a niggling suspicion that it is one of those odd distinctions forced on the legal academy by Duncan Kennedy in his structuralist phase.
    It is worth thinking about why one might adopt a rule versus a standard. Here Fred Schauer’s book _Playing by the Rules_ is interesting. There are essentially two reasons that one might adopt one rather than the other.
    First, you may want to distribute power. A standard puts power in the hands of the decision maker, while a rule puts power in the hands of the rule maker. Thus, textualists laregly prefer rules over standards because rules distrbute power from judges to legislatures.
    Second, you may be making a trade off about error costs. If you think that the cost of a rule’s over or under inclusiveness exceeds error costs of a standard (ie the magnitude of an error discounted by its probability) then you opt for a rule and vice versa.
    Apply this in the context of a “rule” against business lunches promulgated by the church. One way of reading it is as an attempt to distribute power away from church members to the church. (Brent’s position) Another way of looking at it is as a decision that the error costs of the rule are much lower than the error costs of the standard. (Matt’s position) The critics — max, julia, and kristine — implicitly adopt the second approach, but argue that the error costs of the rule are much higher than its proponents think.
    Comment by: Nate Oman at January 7, 2004 12:13 PM


    “nursery for Homemaking (er, the meeting formerly known as Homemaking)”
    Kristine, get with the program. It is “Family, Home, and Personal Enrichment.”
    Nate I-am-married-to-a-Homemaking-hating-former-Enrichment-counsel-in-a-Relief-Society-Presidency Oman
    Comment by: Nate Oman at January 7, 2004 12:14 PM


    Nate: I think rules-standards is a useful construct, and you show why. Nicely done.
    Comment by: Gordon Smith at January 7, 2004 12:19 PM


    I agree with Gordon; one thing that may be muddling the discussion a little is the fact that different people have different definitions of friendship.
    Is a friend someone you call up to talk about the weather, discuss life goals, and just generally get support from? For many people, that seems to be what friends do.
    Should I be calling up women in the ward to talk about the weather, and about my dreams as a teenager of becoming a rock guitarist? Probably not.
    But then again, I don’t call up anyone — man, woman or child — for that kind of chat. I’m just not a small-chat kind of person. (My wife always says that I’m a terrible host when company comes over — I simply discuss whatever issues are to be discussed, and then I’m done.)
    What I do want to be free to do is call up a woman in the ward to discuss arrangements for a joint Elders Quorum-Relief Society activity. Or call up a woman to discuss a musical number that we will be doing in Sacrament meeting. Or call a woman who is a nurse for advice when my child splits his lip open.
    It’s the same for me at work. I don’t call people up just to chat. On the other hand, I have 8-10 work colleagues who I sometimes go to lunch with. Some are men, some are women. Lunch is definitely not an intimate affair — it’s more like $5 on a sandwich at the firm cafeteria — and we catch up on firm gossip, discuss what work we’ve been doing, and so forth. This is work networking, and it’s an incredibly valuable part of my employment.
    The one exception for me on idle chat is sports chat. I follow sports, and if someone else does, we are likely to end up talking about recent trades in the NBA, for example. Also, if my team beats theirs, I may give them a hard time (and I get the same back, of course, when their team beats mine).
    (Sometimes I end up discussing personal lives with colleagues, especially a few who ask about my kids. It’s not something that I actively avoid. But it’s also not something I really seek out.)
    The point of this lengthy discussion is that I don’t see anything wrong in the kinds of work and church interactions that I now have with both men and women. However, I recognize that others — especially the people more inclined to personal talk with friends — might be more inclined to form closer relationships with the opposite sex than I would be comfortable in.
    Is the answer a bright-line rule, to protect the “friends” people, but at the cost of the “colleagues” people? I’m not sure.
    Comment by: Kaimi at January 7, 2004 12:30 PM


    Hmmm. Gordon, I just had one of those “no wonder people think I’m weird moments” reading your post. Long, philosophical conversation is not my entire definition of friendship, but it’s a big chunk, and, I realize now, probably a significantly smaller piece of what most people mean by “friend.” Like Kaimi, I don’t really do small talk; I’m a disaster at parties (except grad school parties where everyone’s already depressed and making pretentious conversation–at those kind of parties I’m the ditsy, happy (if only because I’m not imbibing alcoholic depressants) cheerleader of the group!), and my comments in Relief Society are frequently met with a chirpy “um, yeah, thanks… getting back to the lesson…”
    So, yeah, no wonder inter-gender “friendship” seems less threatening to me than to others. I think I may slink off to a therapist now :) !
    Comment by: Kristine at January 7, 2004 01:46 PM


    Nate: would it surprise you to learn that I well know the new name of the still-usually-dull RS extracurricular meeting, and that I have a well-developed opinion about it? I’ll spare you for today, though :)
    Comment by: Kristine at January 7, 2004 02:06 PM


    A recent book by Dr. Shirley Glass discusses the dangers that friendships with members of the opposite sex pose for marriage. It’s called “Not ‘Just Friends’: Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal.” I haven’t read the book. But, in listening to a lengthy NPR interview with the author, her research and experience tended to reinforce the type of caution in such matters that we often see in Mormon culture.
    Comment by: Scott at January 7, 2004 02:58 PM


    I compliment for their kindness those who did me the honor of assuming I wasn’t nuts, and for their acuity those who did so assume.
    For the record: I’ve have always tried to maintain friendly relations with my colleagues regardless of race, creed, sex, etc. But I have tried to avoid tete-a-tetes with female colleagues, especially if our ages were at all similar and our positions equivalent (I am a very hierarchical person, in no danger of feeling attracted to persons above me in rank). But there is a sort of friendship that one cherishes in one’s heart, where one misses the person when they’re gone, and feels like one can unfold oneself to them. This I have strictly tried to avoid. I have avoided alliances not of mutual convenience or of shared goal.
    Two objections have been made:
    first, that life is richer with more friendships and that it is only the Old Adam, which I need to overcome anyway, that holds me back. To which I answer that it is folly to act as if the Old Adam didn’t exist until he is gone. One’s policy may be to drive out the Danes, but until one has gathered enough strength one must perforce pay the Danegeld.
    Second, that if many men took my position a sort of practical barrier might arise in the workplace to the advancement of women, or in the church to an understanding for the female point of view. I doubt that this is really so–good relations can be maintained, nor do expect that many men really find deep friendships in the workplace, although the same may not be true of the church. But let it be so if it must. Take everything that is said as true, and I would still do as I do and still urge it on others. Better structural inequality than personal adultery, or loveless marriages. Better my wife have me than that her sisters have the world before them.
    If I had a boss, who had deep friendships with some of my female colleagues, and I suspected that their careers would inevitably benefit, even had my boss the best will for fairness in the world. If I then tried to become her friend myself (faagh! mercenary enterprise!). If I succeeded. If she came to me and told me she had begun to like me all too much. If she told me she intended to like me less by seeing me less, with more formality. If I were then to be asked my opinion, this I would say: my soul burns with admiration.
    God bless those who welcome the manacle inherent in their marriage. God bless the sacrifices laid on the altar.
    Comment by: Adam Greenwood at January 7, 2004 04:11 PM


    Adam: “manacle inherent in . . . marriage.”
    Lyle: Um…I really dislike the ball/chain analogies/euphemisms of this. Marriage is about increased, not decreased, personal and combinatorial freedom. I feel strongly that agency is enhanced, not reduced, by marriage.
    Clark said: Likewise I think we are considering sexual tension only in terms of physical appearance. Consider a relationship where your spouse perhaps isn’t interested in the things you are.
    Lyle: Yes. This isn’t just about physical attraction. I don’t know ’bout the rest of y’all, married or single, but don’t most dating to marriage relationships involve two people who ‘connect’ on all levels? i.e. physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, etc.? If you already work/socialize together, then…just add another factor and suddenly your spouse has a built in competitor…regardless of intent.
    Adam (new or olde? lol) said: Better structural inequality than personal adultery, or loveless marriages. Better my wife have me than that her sisters have the world before them.
    Lyle: Yes. To sound/feel like a neanderthal, but I seem to remember hearing/reading, repeatedly, counsel from the “15” re: women not working. While perhaps this is an end-run around the problem (i.e. it doesn’t solve the church male-female relationship issue), and isn’t a solution (whether practical or one individuals or society is willing to follow), it does effectively prevent the “career/social” connection (mostly) from occuring. Of course, feel free to dismiss my radical ravings, I am of course, holding an affirmative action bake sale in honor of MLK in the next week after all.
    Comment by: lyle at January 12, 2004 07:12 PM

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