Question: Why did Brigham Young say that women "have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God"?

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Question: Why did Brigham Young say that women "have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God"?

Brigham's intent has been distorted

Brigham Young said women "have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God". This is used to portray Brigham as authoritarian and sexist. However, Brigham's intent has been distorted, and those who cite this have used presentism to bias the reader against him.

Sally Denton uses this quote, and uses D. Michael Quinn, as her source. Unfortunately, Denton omits the context which Quinn's volume provides:

[women] have no right to meddle in the affairs of the Kingdom of God[—]outside the pale of this they have a right to meddle because many of them are more sagacious & shrewd & more competent [than men] to attend to things of financial affairs. they never can hold the keys of the Priesthood apart from their husbands. [1]

Brigham then continued, "When I want Sisters or the Wives of the members of the church to get up Relief Society I will summon them to my aid but until that time let them stay at home & if you see females huddling together veto the concern." [2]

Brigham's statement about "meddling," then, in no way reflects on women's competence or skills—he insists that many know better than men. Brigham's point is that women have no right to priesthood government. This statement was probably precipitated by Emma Smith's use of her role as head of the Relief Society to resist Joseph's teachings, especially plural marriage. [3] Brigham is signaling that those without priesthood power may not dictate to ordained priesthood leaders about priesthood matters.

The author relies on presentism, since Brigham and virtually all of his contemporaries (men and women) likely had attitudes about women's roles which would strike us as "sexist"

Though the quote seems offensive and exclusionary, we need to remember the context of the time. Attitudes toward women during that time, and even 100 years later, were far from our current attitudes. It is unreasonable to expect people living in a different time to fit 21st century perspectives. Brigham was, however, quite liberal for his day—he encouraged women to get an education: for example, he even assigned several to travel to the eastern United States to get training as physicians.

Notes

  1. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 650.
  2. Seventies Record, 9 March 1845, holograph, LDS Church Archives (cited in Beecher, see below).
  3. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, "Women in Winter Quarters," Sunstone no. (Issue #8:4/15) (July 1983), note 37. off-site