In our last conversation, Dr. Margaret Toscano explained what she liked about the Gospel topics essay on women and priesthood. This time, Margaret will look at weaknesses of the essay.
Margaret: My general critique really centers around two things. On the one hand, I feel like that they’re not willing to look at all of the evidence, that they pick out evidence that supports their thesis. And maybe I should state what their thesis is. Their thesis is, they start out with this idea that people who look at the statements of Joseph Smith to the Relief Society of Nauvoo, they’re going to be surprised by the priesthood language that Joseph uses in relationship to women. So, how do you reconcile that? So I say that the thesis of the Church Essay is that Smith’s statements about women and priesthood do not mean what they seem to mean. When he says that “I’m going to make of you a kingdom of priests,” he’s not talking about priests in the sense of like a priesthood office or something. He’s referring to the temple, and that the temple only refers to family units and temple sealings, and men and women being sealed so that they can go to the celestial kingdom and become like God.
So, they say, “Well, that kingdom of priests only means, kind of like kings and priests, queens and priestesses in the temple.” But I would argue, what are kings and priests and queens and priestesses in the temple? Is that self-evident? Right? They seem to think it is. The other thing that they say is that Joseph Smith never ordained women to any priesthood at all, and that the temple priesthood does not have any authoritative keys connected to it, and that the Relief Society was never intended to be a priesthood organization. So, of course, he made that statement where he says, two things: “The Relief Society should be organized in the order of the priesthood”; and Joseph Smith also said that the Relief Society “should move according to the ancient priesthood.” They kind of say, “Well, those statements of Joseph Smith don’t mean what you might think they mean at all. Really, Joseph Smith’s views on the priesthood and women in the temple are exactly the same as what leaders today believe and teach.”
So they say that there’s no difference between Joseph Smith’s teachings, and the current leaders teachings at all. And so, “You don’t need to look at that language at all.” From my perspective, I say, “Well is there any evidence from Joseph Smith, from the Nauvoo period, that can contradict their central thesis and argument?” Obviously, I think there is. So I see that as a weakness in the sense that–I don’t want to say that it’s disingenuous. I think that the authors are convinced of their thesis. But the very fact that if you’re convinced, why won’t you look at contrary arguments? That’s where I have a problem with it.
Find out what else she had to say. Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversation with Dr. Toscano.