Gordon Hinckley’s Address at the Multi-Stake Conference

Boyd Packer Family Patriarchy Sex and Gender Women

Thanks to Saganist, Main Street Plaza can also provide you with a transcript of President Hinckley’s talk. Interestingly, this speech is based on an earlier one that Gordon Hinckley published in the Ensign in 1984 (PDF, scroll to p. 4). Among other things, he appears to be reminiscing about the controversy regarding the Equal Rights Amendment.

The LDS leadership has included the original 1984 speech in a brochure that promotes The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Therefore, it is clear that we are dealing with a concerted effort to reassert traditional gender roles, a fact that also illuminates the meaning of Elder Boyd Packer’s speech.

My brothers and sisters, I endorse all that has been said. We’ve received much good counsel. Now I would like to speak in a somewhat different vein.

Much more than a century has passed, but I have never forgotten my father’s tenderness toward my mother. She died when she was 50. During the months of her illness, he was constantly solicitous for her comfort. But this attitude was not expressed only after she became ill. It had been evident to us, their children, throughout our lives. In the happy home of our childhood, we knew, and that came of a feeling, and not of any declaration, that they loved, respected, and honored one another. What a blessing that image has been. When we were children, we felt a certain security because of it. As we grew older, our thoughts and our actions were colored by that remembered example.

My own beloved eternal companion and I were married for more than half a century before she passed away. She too was blessed to come from a home where there was an environment of companionship, love, and trust. I know that most of you have come out of such homes. Further, I know that most of you live with happiness and love in your own homes, but there are many, very many, who do otherwise. It is difficult for me to understand the tragic accounts of troubled marriages that constantly come before me. They speak of abuse. They speak of dictatorial attitudes, and of some husbands who are bullies in their own homes. They speak of violations of trust, and of broken covenants. They speak of divorce and tears and heartache.

A letter came to my desk from a woman who wrote at length of her troubles. In a spirit of desperation, she asked, “Does a woman have any promise of someday being a first-class member of the human race? Will she always be a piece of chattel?” She then continued, “To me, the answers to these questions are no longer important, but I have daughters. If it is possible for a woman to look forward to an eternity of anything other than being barefoot and pregnant, I would like to be able to teach them this.”

There is bitter tragedy in the lines of that letter. I fear there are many others who may feel that same way. The situation is tragic, because it is so extremely different from what our Father in Heaven would have for his daughters. Behind this woman’s words, I see the picture of a wife who is discouraged, starved for appreciation, ready to give up and not knowing which way to turn. I see a husband who has defaulted on his sacred obligations, one who is calloused in his feelings, warped in his perceptions, denying through his manner of living the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that there has been fault on her part as well as his, but I am inclined to think that his is the most serious.

To men within the sound of my voice, wherever you may be, I say if you are guilty of demeaning behavior toward your wife, if you are prone to dictate and exercise authority over her, if you are selfish and brutal in your actions in the home, then stop it now. Repent. Repent now, while you have the opportunity to do so.

To you wives who are constantly complaining and see only the dark side of life, and feel that you are unloved and unwanted, look into your own hearts and minds. If there is something wrong, turn about. Put a smile on your face. Make yourselves attractive. Brighten your outlook. You deny yourselves happiness and court misery if you constantly complain, and do nothing to rectify your own faults. Rise above the shrill clamor over rights and prerogatives, and walk in the quiet dignity of a daughter of God.

The time has come for all of us to put the past behind us in a spirit of repentance, and live the gospel with new dedication. The time is now for husbands and wives who may have offended one another to ask forgiveness, and resolve to cultivate respect and affection one for another, standing before the Creator as sons and daughters worthy of His smile upon us.

I should like to read the words of the Lord with slight modification. “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one.” God our eternal Father ordained that we should be companions. That implies equality. Marriage is a joint venture. Of course there are hazards and problems, but these are secondary to the greater opportunities and greater satisfactions that come of sublimating selfish interests to the good of the partnership.

Some years ago, I clipped from the Deseret News a column by Jenkins Lloyd Jones, who said, “There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands, that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and beautiful wife. When the hollyhocks wither, and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed. Life is like an old-fashioned rail journey. Delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas or thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to learn to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” The trick, my brothers and sisters, is to enjoy the journey, traveling hand in hand, in sunshine and storm, companions who love one another. Anyone can do it with a disciplined effort to live the gospel. Remember that except the Lord build a house, they labor in vain that build it.

At the risk of repeating some things I’ve said before, I should like to suggest four cornerstones on which to establish and nurture your homes. I do not hesitate to promise that if you will do so, your lives will be enriched and be fruitful of great good, and your joy will be everlasting.

The first of these I choose to call mutual respect. Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. And while it is important and necessary that both the husband and the wife work to ameliorate those differences, there must be some recognition that they exist, and that they are not necessarily undesirable. There must be respect one for the other, notwithstanding such differences. In fact, the differences may make the companionship more interesting.

I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. It involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes. One man has said, “Love is not blind; it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” Many of us need to stop looking for faults, and begin looking for virtues.

Booth Tarkington once remarked that the ideal wife is a woman who has an ideal husband. Unfortunately, some women want to remake their husbands after their own design. Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works. It only leads to contention, misunderstanding, and sorrow. There must be respect for the interests of one another. There must be opportunities and encouragement for the development and expression of individual talent. Any man who denies his wife the time and encouragement to develop her talents denies himself and his children of blessings which could grace their home and bless their posterity forever.

It is commonplace with us to say that we are sons and daughters of God. There is no basis in the gospel for inferiority or superiority, as between the husband and the wife. Do you think that God, our eternal Father, loves his daughters less than he loves his sons? No man can demean or belittle his wife as a daughter of God without giving offense to her Father in Heaven.

I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth, that we might have joy in our posterity. And there is no greater joy than the joy that comes in the happy children in good homes. But he did not designate the number, nor has the church. That sacred matter is left to the couple and the Lord. The official statement of the church includes this language, “It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have, and when to have them, is extremely intimate and private, and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”

Husbands, wives, respect one another. Live worthy of the respect of one another. Cultivate that kind of respect which expresses itself in kindness, forbearance, patience, forgiveness, true affection without officiousness and without show of authority.

I pass now to the second cornerstone. For want of a better name, I call it the soft answer. The writer of Proverbs long ago declared, “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” I hear so many complaints from men and women that they cannot communicate with one another. Perhaps I am naive, but I do not understand this. Communication is largely a matter of conversation. They must have communicated when they were courting one another. Can they not continue to speak together after marriage? Can they not discuss with one another, in an open and frank and candid and happy way, their interests, their problems, their challenges, their desires? It seems to me that communication is largely a matter of talking with one another.

But let that talk be quiet, for quiet talk is the language of love. It is the language of peace. It is the language of God. It is when we raise our voices that tiny molehills of difference become mountains of conflict. It seems to me that here is something significant in the description of Elijah’s contest with priests of Baal, “A great and strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks.” That is a rather vivid description of some of the arguments that take place between husbands and wives. But, notes the writer of the scripture, “The Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice.” The voice of heaven is a still small voice. The voice of peace in the home is a quiet voice. There is much need for discipline in marriage, not of one’s companion, but of oneself. Husbands, wives, remember, he or she that is slow to anger is better than the mighty. Cultivate the art of the soft answer. It will bless your homes, bless your lives, bless your companionships, and bless your children.

Cornerstone number three, financial honesty. I am satisfied that money is the root of more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined. I am convinced that there is no better discipline for one more fruitful with blessings in the handling of our resources than obedience to the commandment given to ancient Israel through the prophet Malachi, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Those who live honestly with God are more likely to live honestly with one another and their associates. Further, as they budget for their tithes and offerings, they will cultivate a discipline in the handling of their resources.

We live in an age of persuasive advertising and skillful salesmanship, all designed to entice us to spend. An extravagant husband or wife can jeopardize any marriage. I think it is a good principle that each have some freedom and independence with everyday necessary expenditure, while at the same time always discussing and consulting and agreeing on large expenditures. There would be fewer rash decisions, fewer unwise investments, fewer consequent losses, fewer bankruptcies, if husbands and wives would counsel together on such matters and seek counsel from others. Live honestly with the Lord. Live honestly with one another as companions. Live honestly with others. Make payment of timely obligations a cardinal principle in your lives. Consult with one another, and be unified in decisions. The Lord will bless you as you do so.

The final cornerstone on which to build your home, family prayer. I know of no other practice that will have so salutary an effect on your lives as will the practice of kneeling together in prayer. The very words “our Father in Heaven” have a tremendous effect. You cannot speak them with sincerity and with recognition without having something of accountability to God. The little storms that seem to afflict every marriage become of small consequence while kneeling before the Lord and addressing Him as a suppliant son and daughter. Your daily conversations with Him will bring peace into your hearts and a joy into your lives that can come from no other source. Your companionship will sweeten through the years, your love will strengthen, your appreciation one for another will grow. Your children will be blessed with a sense of security that comes from living in a home where dwells the spirit of God. They will know and love parents who respect one another, and a spirit of respect will grow in their own hearts. This can be a remarkable, wonderful, blessed experience. I pray that the Lord may so bless you, and that as parents you will be directed to bless them with these same words, all to his glory, and to the glory of our Father in Heaven. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

28 thoughts on “Gordon Hinckley’s Address at the Multi-Stake Conference

  1. There is bitter tragedy in the lines of that letter. I fear there are many others who may feel that same way. The situation is tragic, because it is so extremely different from what our Father in Heaven would have for his daughters. Behind this woman’s words, I see the picture of a wife who is discouraged, starved for appreciation, ready to give up and not knowing which way to turn. I see a husband who has defaulted on his sacred obligations, one who is calloused in his feelings, warped in his perceptions, denying through his manner of living the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that there has been fault on her part as well as his, but I am inclined to think that his is the most serious.

    He fails to see that it is Mormon culture and doctrine which is the abusive husband in this woman’s life. He admittedly had more of the letter and therefore may know more of her situation, but from the words that he quotes, it seems that he completely failed to understand her question. I wonder if this was intentional, because what she’s asking seems pretty clear to me, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps an eternity of bearing children and being subject to the law of her husband seems so wonderful to him that he can’t conceive of the idea that women might not see things the same way. He just assumes she’s talking about her current situation and how Father’s Glorious Plan is implemented by her husband.

    I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth, that we might have joy in our posterity.

    Case in point. Is this another salvo in the war against “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”? Is this a strategic move to obsolete the idea of a Heavenly Mother? What exactly does Hinckley now teach that exalted women will do for all eternity?

  2. I doubt that people a) women & men of GBH’s generation, and b) steeped in MoCulture could ever ‘get it’ in today’s world. Regardless of ‘discretion’, they don’t seem to be on the same planet.
    It’s a SHAME that LDS policies, procedures, and prospectives are (100%?) based on the point of view of the church as a collective rather than on individuals needs.
    IMHO, GNPE

  3. The problem is that the “abusive husband” example is too easy. Of course we don’t like guys who beat their wives. Who does? But it’s a tad reductionist to reduce the entire problem to abusive husbands. They are too easy of a scapegoat.

    What about the mild-mannered husband who holds a full-time job and then comes home, and retreats to the computer room to play an MMORPG or watch a football game for the evening. Good member of the ward. Good provider. But he does jack squat around the house. Not because he’s lazy – I’ve already mentioned that he works. But he hasn’t been raised to consider the household and its management to be his problem. He’s pretty-much divorced himself from the issue.

    He’s rather indifferent as to whether the house is a mess, simply because he hasn’t been raised to care if it’s untidy or not. As long as there isn’t a public health concern, he’s cool. If wifey dislikes the mess, she can do something about it as far as he’s concerned.

    Basically, the wife has been raised to care about the management on the household in our LDS culture, and the husband has not. So the wife ends up doing it all.

    Is his wife being abused? Well, not actively, right? Is she being neglected? Well, he does provide. He gives Priesthood blessings. He argues with the auto mechanic. He yells at the phone company when they overcharge. And he even takes the kids to the park or out for ice cream on a fairly regular basis. He even takes his wife on dates and the sex life is pretty good…

    But is the wife being neglected? Is she being treated well and valued in this equation?

  4. I think many mormon wives lead lives of quiet desperation. I think of Ibsen’s “The Doll House” often when considering the plight of mormon women.

  5. Yes, but we’re only addressing half of the problem.

    Our LDS men are being sold short here too.

    Ever heard of women who won’t even let their husband hold his own children when they are crying and upset. Ever hear of women who won’t allow their husbands to have a role in the household? Every time he tries to clean something, she’s always undermining or redoing it. Some LDS women don’t even allow their husbands to hold their own infant children, period.

    Dad is marginalized in the home, just as much as mom is trapped by it. Half of that is dad’s own doing. But mom has a hand in it too. And overarching the whole problem is a Church culture that hasn’t really recognized this problem and addressed it effectively. Our culture reinforces these self-defeating paradigms.

    And not just our LDS culture. American culture adds to the problem too. It settled for telling girls they don’t have to clean up. But it never told the boys to pitch in. So now, no one cleans up. Or we wait until things get as bad as we can stand, and then the person who cares the most cleans up. Which is usually the girl.

    And that’s true of two-income homes just as much as one-income homes.

  6. “I think many mormon wives lead lives of quiet desperation.”

    I hear this statement everywhere, but I’ve never seen any evidence to back it up. Sure, there’s the odd anecdote or two. People always point to Utah statistics, but the connection between religion and pathology is a matter of speculation. I’ve heard that Utah leads the nation is anti-depressant use. That doesn’t surprise me. If your religion forbids you from using alcohol and illegal drugs to deal with your depression, you’re kind of forced to get legal prescriptions. The statistics may be indicative of the pressure that Mormon culture imposes, but it also may be indicative of the social support that Utahns receive that encourages them to actively seek out professional help rather than suffer without medication.

    And if we only know of a few circumstances where Mormon women do lead lives of quiet desperation, under what justification can one make general statements to that effect?

  7. I’m just not convinced the anti-depressant link to Mormonism is legit.

    Utah’s stats are pretty similar to neighboring Nevada and Wyoming. In fact, they’re pretty similar to most western states. And no one has ever shown that the rates between Mormons and non-Mormons in Utah are any different, as far as I know.

    It’s a fad right now to snarkily gripe about how depressed Mormons are. But I imagine it’s more fad science than legitimate social commentary.

  8. I don’t think that this woman was talking about personal unhappiness. She meant that women are not taken seriously as human beings.

    To lay it on the husband is obviously misinterpreting her statement, so obviously that it might be willfull. What we are witnessing in this speech is how Gordon Hinckley is refusing to take responsibility, which requires him to shift the blame.

    That’s the fundamental problem in Mormonism. Leaders want extraordinary power but they rarely acknowledge the consequences of their actions.

    There is a reason why the United States remains the only western democracy that does not recognize equal rights for women. Gordon Hinckley is a big part of that.

    He led the effort that torpedoed the Equal Rights Amendment by bussing uniformed women to conventions and telling them what to say and how to act. Lately, Gordon Hinckley has expanded that effort to reassert traditional gender roles under the banner of The Family by going after gays.

    This speech and the brochure I linked above shows how comprehensive that agenda is. It’s not just about targeting a small and sometimes unpopular minority. It affects every family.

  9. “[Gordon B. Hinckley] led the effort that torpedoed the Equal Rights Amendment by busing uniformed women to conventions and telling them what to say and how to act.”

    Considering the number of factors that went into the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, I find this statement to be a little bit exaggerated. If you want to blame anyone, you should blame Phyllis Schlafly. The bill’s defeat in Illinois was the ERA’s death knell. The ERA didn’t need Utah’s vote to pass.

  10. I agree, dpc. Utah was the least of it. Turning out the Relief Society for Schlafly made a decisive difference in several states, not least of which Virginia.

    Schlafly may have penned the message but Hinckley provided the foot soldiers at all these women conventions.

  11. And also keep in mind that there are several stakes in the Washington DC area, especially in the wealthier Virginia suburbs. I should know, I am a former (albeit brief – 2 months) member of the Centreville Virginia Stake.

  12. Phouchg — When did you live there?

    How many stakes were there in the 1970s in Virginia? Does anybody know? I would hazard a guess that Southern Baptists had more to do with the ERA’s defeat in Virginia than Mormons did.

  13. re the ERA:
    IMHO, the underlying issue here is how MoCulture intimidates individuals to compliance – supporting the org, No Matter what the question-concern is. From people being discuraged away from asking ‘sensitive’ matters in class,to discouraging women from wearing pants, all the way to the extreme/obvious issues, MoCulture is intimidating. (in my experience)Leaders have NEVER addressed this.

  14. It’s a matter of organizational structure, dpc. Southern Baptists only have a convention. They are not as centralized as we are. Therefore, it is a lot easier to turn out a large number of Mormon women on a dime. (With the recent rise of mega churches that might be changing).

    Besides, Mormons have had a strong presence in the DC metro area ever since the New Deal. Its not an accident that Washington, DC was the location for the first temple east of Utah in 1974.

  15. Seth R:
    MoCulture is Not alien to me: ‘tized at an early age, mission, married in T…
    I guess that your statement holds some truth in a general sense, However.

    the way MoCulture has evolved ‘guarantees’ No Sharp Turns.

    IMHO: MoTradition (including compliance-conformity) is what leaders are about, about 95%

  16. I know I’m late to this conversation.

    I do have a couple of questions – perhaps I need to create a new post – let me know.

    Sometimes actions speak louder than words. There are a few things that could come from the LDS leadership that could really make a difference in the quality of life for many LDS (men and women). And I have to say that I do agree with him partially – sometimes it is important to recognize when it’s time to really take stock of one’s life and make changes or stop complaining (I’m not suggesting people should remain in abusive or harmful situations, there’s just a point where it’s just as much your responsibility to remain as the other person’s).

    1 – He talks about respect for the other (one’s spouse) but never respect for one’s self.

    2 – In reference to Seth R’s first point – I believe that there needs to be better guidance about therapy, abuse and counseling. GBH refers to this in his talk. While some members know where to get resources and have the inner strength to get those resources on their own, I’m not sure all do.

    With clear direction at all levels of leadership, training for bishops to refer members, etc. – the church would take the lead making it clear that women (and all members) are valued and should value themselves.

    3 – Why is it that some churches have preschools and other resources for stay at home parents or homeschoolers and the LDS church does not? I can already hear dpc suggest that outside the US it may be different – but inside the US – why would it be a big deal to help out young families like this? I’ve been told in the past it’s a liability thing.

    A step like allowing preschools or homeschool resources (during the week) would clearly show how much early childhood is valued. On the other hand, how can you confirm that a priesthood holder would always be present?

  17. Aerin:

    I like your idea of a daycare. I doubt that liability is the real issue. I think it’s more political than that. If there was a daycare, it might be seen as an implied approval of mother’s working.

  18. Thanks dpc. What I’m thinking of is actually not a day care. It could be as simple as “parents/mothers” day out. Other churches sponsor these types of activities. Some need a great deal of involvement from parents (co-op), others much less so. It allows the mom/primary caretaker parent just a few hours to catch up on rest, study, shop or however they want to spend that time.

    I guess it’s just hard for me to understand why all that building space should go to waste – when other churches have such programs regularly – and those programs can be successful.

  19. I agree with you about the building space, Aerin. Since we are baptizing many underprivileged converts, I have been wondering for a long time how we could serve them better. One thing that came to mind was GED or English as a second language courses for the adults and homework assistance for the kids.

    If we pooled personnel resources at the stake level and supplemented them with sister missionaries who have three years of college education, and couple missionaries, it could be done and would make a huge difference for many people.

  20. Hellmut:

    “One thing that came to mind was GED or English as a second language courses for the adults and homework assistance for the kids.”

    I believe that a lot of places do teach English as a second language at the church at least internationally. I also think that the use of the building depends on the area. I lived in a small town growing up and the church was a focal point for the ward and it seemed like there was something going on everyday. I find this to be less true in the big cities however.

    I agree with what you propose. I think that you could get a lot of lay members involved too. I wouldn’t mind teaching English to new immigrants. Or bettering my Spanish or Chinese or whatever from them…

  21. a few remarks:
    1. If I agree with conservs on Anything, it’s calling Child Care rather than ‘daycare’; days don’t get care, children do.
    2. I think LDS is moving AWAY from education, not towards it.
    Who Knows whether Liability is a true issue or a Red Herring? Only the COB ‘top floor’/GAs. There is a liability concern with the possibility of harm coming to children.
    3. GAs PANIC whenever the prospect of tax exposure comes up; in Pierece Co., Washington, there was a ‘Bad Scare’ about this a number of years ago.
    I agree with Hellmut & dpc generally about these things….

  22. Yes, dpc, we have had ESL classes here as well. However, we relied on the sacrifice of one member who happened to be fairly fluent Mandarin. I guess, it’s a start.

  23. I noticed the GBH essentially does not answer this woman’s questions. I, too, have these quetions. I was visting teaching and being visit taught awhile back and one of the major quotes (paraphrasing here) was that what we are doing now as mothers (changing diapers, teaching pre-schoolers, doing laundry, etc.) is preparing us for goddesshood. Now, I didn’t take particular exception to this because we have limited our family to two children because my husband is emotionally unstable and I looked forward to more children in the eternities. However, all of the women I visit taught and who visit taught me all said exactly the same thing: “Don’t get me wrong, I love my children and I love being a mother, but I’m tired, I don’t want to do this forever.” It was amazing because they all said almost exactly the same speech in exactly the same way.

    I have no reason to believe that these women are being mistreated by their husbands. I have every reason to believe that these women are marginally happy. It’s just that this woman who wrote to GBH and asked succinctly if a thinking intelligent woman who is bright and capable can possibly expect more than drudgery as her eternal reward for all of this sacrifice and obedience (I’m not even bringing in the demeaning proposition of polygyny at this point). I think it is pretty telling that GBH did not answer her question directly.

    Yes, we all need to treat each other better. I love the teachings of Jesus, but that doesn’t erase the fact that women have a pretty raw deal in this Church both in this life and the life to come. The prospect of my husband and I spending our lives sacrificing and being obedient (and my hearkening to him and placing on the altar my God-given right of agency) will result in my husband getting to create and run worlds and a harem with all of the fringe benefits. I get a whole bunch of sister-wives, diapers, and eternal subjugation. It’s enough to drive this obedient gal to get by with a little help from her (anti-depressant) friends.

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