not in Primary anymore

let’s edit some scripture! the gender-neutral Articles of Faith

alpine loop

Recently I read something juicy and new (to me) regarding the church and Prop 8. Someone on the YMF page argued that LDS involvement violated its own 11th Article of Faith. My immediate thought was this: Ooooh that’s interesting…which one’s the 11th again? (I later decided I agree with this argument, but that’s a blog post for another day.) As I studied the 11th article and its twelve friends, I realized how unfamiliar some of them are to me and how infrequently I refer to them or hear about them in church. I know number one because I never miss a Primary program, and I know number two because of the creepy song. Beyond that, even though the Articles of Faith are arguably the most concise body of scripture we have, for some reason I have learned not to depend on them as a doctrinal resource.

As I’ve read and reread the baker’s dozen of Mormon beliefs, I am continually struck by their simple, direct nature, which if you’ve ever heard a General Conference talk, you know is not our style. I believe all scripture is subject to interpretation (and trust me I’m getting there,) but certain points are made quite clear here: God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are separate; we are accountable for our own sins; we believe in modern revelation, etc. etc.

Being the persistent YoMoFem that I am, my thoughts inevitably headed in this direction: what if this key text, expressed with patriarchal language typical of its age, was altered to adequately reflect full equality between the sexes? What earth-shattering edits would we need to make it demonstrate the full, abiding respect and love purportedly felt by God for all His children?

This post is my own answer to those questions. In every case I think these proposed changes preserve and in some cases clarify the doctrinal principle addressed. Of course, these are subject to interpretation, both your interpretation of doctrine and your definition of gender-neutral language. I’ve listed all the articles, but in case you think I’ve changed the text, or you don’t believe for example (**spoiler alert!!!**) that the Article of Faith on the priesthood contains exactly zero gendered pronouns, here is a link:

So if you’ve swallowed at least thirteen grains of salt, let’s begin.

1.      We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Alright, so right out of the gate we see a dilemma: where is Heavenly Mother? Some argue that the term “God” refers to both our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unison. So should it say “We believe in God, the Eternal Father and Mother…,” or is that too confusing? It might be safer to say “We believe in Gods, the Eternal Father and Mother…” Of course this is only grammatically safer and would most swiftly cancel our membership in the Monotheism Club, but did we really belong there anyway? Let’s continue.

2.      We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

Gender-wise, this is probably the most problematic and difficult to resolve. Adam is widely regarded as the “Father of the Fall,” the catalyst of this grand plan for human suffering and accountability. Yet women are frequently reminded that our mischievous, manipulative nature began with Mother Eve, who persuaded Adam to follow her lead and eat the fruit. So do we believe that “men and women will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam and Eve’s transgressions, respectively?” Or is it more true to say that any person cannot be punished for Adam OR Eve, because essentially this is a non-gendered principle about accountability which distinguishes Mormons from other faiths that believe all humans are born sinners? OR was what Adam did worse and more significant than what Eve did, therefore his sin is referenced and hers is not? Tricky stuff. I promise it gets less messy from here.

3.      We believe that through the Ateonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

Piece of cake. Make “mankind” “humanity” and you’ve got yourself one gender-neutrally-beautiful message.

4.      We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Word.

5.      We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Alright two points here. First, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this does not literally refer to men only, but that “man” is used as the typical, patriarchal representation of both sexes. Women in the church are absolutely called “by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” Though women do not directly bestow ordinances, they do “administer in [them]” by working in callings, including as full-time missionaries, helping non-members participate in these ordinances and helping members keep the covenants they already made. Thus, I argue that simply changing “man” to “person” does the trick here.

Second, there is absolutely-unquestionably-hear-me-roar NO reference to the sex organs somewhere south of the “hands” of “those who are in authority.” None. Zip. So good news people: while the hearts and minds of millions must be changed before women get the Priesthood, the second half of the 5th Article of Faith can stay just as it is. Think of the money we’ll save editing all those posters.

6.      We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Some might argue for the inclusion of “prophetesses” in this one, which as far as I know is the only listed role with a feminine derivative. I will point out though that “prophet” is not, by definition, an exclusively masculine word.

7.      We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

Huzzah! Spiritual gifts for everyone!

8.      We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Word on the words.

9.      We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

See number one regarding the definition of “God.” Also, anybody who’s mad at me for even imagining that scriptures might be changed should hang out here at number nine for a while. Onward, Christian soldiers.

10.  We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

[Insert sarcasm about women bringing the refreshments and tablecloths to Adam-ondi-ahman here.]

11.  We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

…unless that worship includes the consecration of a marriage between two people of the same sex before God, because that’s gross.

Hey Boyd get outta here this is my post!

*weezy snicker*

PS. “People” for “men.”

12.  We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Either Mormons in the UK are exempt from all laws right now, or “kings” should say “monarchs.”

13.  We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

And seek we shall. Let’s switch “men” to “people” and call it a post. Thanks for reading, everybody.

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10 Responses to “let’s edit some scripture! the gender-neutral Articles of Faith”

  1. Katie Hyde

    Great!
    I think there is a difference between gender neutral and gender inclusive language and I think these might be more like gender inclusive edits rather than neutral edits. But I’m no expert.
    Either way I found this refreshing.

    Reply
    • erinlindseymoore

      I thought something similar while I was writing. The most neutral thing would be to make no mention of gender at all, wouldn’t it? Thanks for reading!

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

      Reply
  2. Annalea

    Really, for a lot of these, the gendered words could just be stricken, leaving “all” in its place. “We believe all will be punished for their own sins, and not for our first parents’ transgression.” “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Number nine could be simplified thus: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that God does now reveal, and we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (I personally believe “God” is a title, and can be one or many. So that would work for me.)

    So, there are some thoughts from a sometime poet/frequent writer who gets her kicks from proofreading and coaching writing. 😉

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      Can I second Annalea’s suggestions for those who don’t identify as being male or female.

      Reply
      • Rob

        You were born with male parts so you ARE a man. Truth

      • meli

        Um, that’s not creepy at all.

        How would you know what parts I was born with?

  3. Mungagungadin

    I admire the attempt to speak to AOF 2, but I disagree with toying with it for the simple reason that the early writing of the prophets make clear that only men are absolved of Adam’s transgression while women are all, each and every one, subject to the curse of Eve. This is why in the temple the women are placed under men and in control of men.

    Reply
    • hollyhuff22

      The LDS doctrinal consensus is far from clear here. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, for example: “Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73.)

      As to your last point, let me suggest we all take a trip to the Doctrine and Covenants together: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121.33-46?lang=eng

      Reply
  4. JayJay

    Thanks for this. Just want to mention that women do directly bestow ordinances in the temple, though.

    Reply

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