The Gospel Doctrine lesson #43 manual objective is “to help class members live in holiness and be a chosen generation”
A commentary on Peter’s directive to faithful wives in 1 Peter 3:1-7.
In 1 Peter 3: 1-7, Peter directs faithful wives to “be in subjection to [their] husbands” even if the husband is a nonbeliever for obedient and amiable wives may be able to convert their husbands. Furthermore, wives are not be concerned with their outward appearance but instead focus inward and adorn themselves with “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” Husbands are to partner with their wives “giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” so that prayers may not be “hindered.”
This counsel of subjection is problematic for me and creates an ire in my belly. As an advocate, abolitionist, feminist and disciple of Christ, I cannot adhere to a belief system or ideology that subjects a person or persons to another. We are agents unto ourselves and the only appropriate subjection is to the Divine and even that is a refiner’s fire of choice.
So, what do I do when I cannot reconcile my beliefs and lived experience with scripture?
In Letters to a Young Mormon, Adam S. Miller says that it wasn’t enough for Nephi to translate Isaiah and for Joseph Smith to translate Nephi, we too must engage in the act of translation.
“God wants the whole thing translated once more, and this time he wants it translated into your native tongue, inflected by your native concerns, and written in your native flesh. To be a Mormon is to do once more, on your own small scale, the same kind of work that Joseph did…Led by word and Spirit, you’ll be empowered to do it and when you’re done, you must ask the Lord if – for you, at this time, at this place – you’ve done it right.”
I am not a historian nor a theologian. I do not know with surety the historical and religious traditions and environment that Peter is writing from or how Peter’s words may or may not have been modified through the various translations. So, I do as Miller suggests and translate into my tongue, concerns and lived experience.
I bring to the table resonating words by people who inspire me.
“Virtue can only flourish amongst equals.” – Mary Wollstonecraft
“That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.” – Angelina Grimke
I bring to the table my own experience with subjection taken to an extreme.
I know how seemingly benign directives and ideologies can coalesce to create an environment that sustains abuse and oppression. I was in a domestic violence relationship for ten years. I know how the soul is systematically dismantled and the pain of a loss of self. During that time, reading a scripture such as this one would have reinforced the the thinking error that my obedience and submission to my husband was righteous. An abuser could also use such scriptures to justify oppressing a spouse. Many Church leaders have explicitly condemned abused. President Hinckley’s words on the matter are particularly powerful.
I bring to the table the counsel of modern-day leaders.
“When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” – Spencer W. Kimball
“We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.
So today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward! Take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before. “ – Elder Russell M. Nelson
I bring all of that to the table and have a reckoning by working these things out in my mind, keeping a prayer in my heart and a desiring to learn the will of God. I have great love and compassion for Peter. In his complicated journey of belief and faithfulness I can see myself. This act of reckoning and translating has little to do with Peter and everything to do with my commitment of transformation into the likeness of my Heavenly Parents.
Through this process I come to this translation:
Walking a path together as lovers, friends, collaborators and supporters as equals creates an environment that nurtures both parties to live to the fullest measure of their creation.
Our bodies are a divine gift and how we adorn them is a direct reflection of our relationship with that gift and our relationship with the Divine. We each have of a responsibility, unencumbered, to take ownership of our place in the world, to fully participate and to be living testimonies of Jesus Christ.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
We Are Made for Love and Light, Rachel von Niederhausern
My ultimate desire and dream is to have freedom in the world, and to have everyone have the joy of being free. To have good health, good educational opportunities, and to be able to live their own truth. I hope by me living my passion, that my children are inspired and motivated to also live their truth. It doesn’t matter what that is. Each person has their own unique gift to give to the world, and I hope that they are empowered to do that. Especially as they see other cultures and people who have different life experiences. That’s the second thing: I want them to see people who have many different life experiences so that they know that they’re okay, no matter what. You are loveable and you can be loved no matter what has happened to you or where you live. God loves us all equally and wants the same blessings for all of us.
Other Related Women’s Voices
The Crucible of Diversity, Meredith Marshall Nelson
I learned directly from God in that marital crucible that my only responsibility is love — not judgment. That my primary role toward my husband is supporter and friend, as his is to me. I learned that in the grand scheme, I’m walking the same road he is. We now enjoy a much richer model of Gospel life, one based on respect, patience, trust, and love. Not every day! But we’ve got a foundation to build on.