What is the proper definition of “spiritual”?

August 25, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 10:59 pm   Category: Personal Revelation,Theology

Julie put up an interesting post over at T&S asking “Are Women More Spiritual Than Men?” This question has come up at several Mormon blogs recently and it has become pretty clear to me that before we can answer it we need to define the word “spiritual”. So what does spiritual mean to you?

I personally equate spirituality with adeptness at hearing the voice of God. By that definition, the better that someone is at receiving personal revelation and inspiration from God the more spiritual that person is. We sometimes call this being “in tune” with the Holy Spirit in Mormonism.

Of course “adeptness at hearing the voice of God” is a bit nebulous too. I suppose it has a quality and a quantity component to it; something like how clearly can one discern the voice of God and how regularly do they have a revelatory dialogue with God.

Hmmm… now I’ve got myself brainstorming a little… So if we put those two things on a 1-10 scale we might come up with a hypothetical “spirituality score” for people and we could even graphically chart it. Like if a person was really good at comprehending revelation/inspiration when it arrived we might give her an 8 on the quality axis. But if she didn’t receive incoming inspiration from God all that often we might give her a 4 on the quantity axis. So her spirituality score would be 32. (Hehehe. This is obviously ridiculous but I’m just brainstorming here…)

Anyway, I like the general idea of adeptness of receiving inspiration/revelation (or “in-tune-ness”) as the core of a definition of spirituality because it seems like the term spirituality ought to have something to do with, well, the Spirit. The logic would be that the more spiritually in tune a person was the more likely she would be to display commendable behaviors/traits like charity, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, generosity, etc. (Though I suppose one could display those commendble traits without technically being particularly “spiritual” by this definition.)

So how would you define “being spiritual”? Once we come up with a definition we might be better able to tackle the spirituality battle of the sexes question that keeps popping up in the bloggernacle.

70 Comments »

  1. Great Topic Geoff, I tired to make this point in my first comment over on Julie’s thread, but got ignored and admittedly went completely out of control after that. It was fun. (Maybe we could do a post on defining “inherent” after this one…)

    Anyway, while I like your definition, it is somewhat limiting, in the sense that persons, places, and things have been said to be spiritual. If a place is spiritual, is it because it generally raises ones ability to discern spiritual things,either in terms of quality or quantity? If that is true, can being near a spiritual person also havethe same results?

    Comment by Matt W. — August 25, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  2. Matt: If a place is spiritual, is it because it generally raises ones ability to discern spiritual things,either in terms of quality or quantity?

    Yup.

    If that is true, can being near a spiritual person also havethe same results?

    Well being around Jesus had that kind of effect on people at times.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  3. What makes this particular question difficult is that the term “spiritual” is used a number of ways in LDS discourse. In the context of the scriptures, such as in Moses 3, “spiritual” is to be distinguished from “natural” which, given Joseph’s view on matter and spirit, seems less straightforward than at first glance.

    More generally however, terms ‘temporal’ and ‘spiritual’ seem to be paired up quite often in the scriptures as polar opposites, in which case things spiritual do not belong to this world. Interestingly, the D&C speaks of “spiritual matters” in the sense of “ecclesiastical matters” (See for example, D&C 107:32, 80). And while the question at hand is the meaning of spiritual as a personal quality or characteristic, often LDS use ‘spiritual’ to describe experiences or meetings or events: The event is very spiritual, some occasion was very spiritual, a person’s talk was very spiritual, etc. In which case, sometimes it is difficult to tease apart the term ‘spiritual’ from ‘emotional’ or ‘moving.’

    Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear “spiritual and emotional” as a set phrase such as when speaking of someone’s “spiritual and emotional” needs. Often people speak of a “spiritual confirmation” and in most cases it is confirmed through some kind of feeling, impression or emotion. The Spirit is usually understood as something which is primarily “felt.” This is perhaps what led to President Howard W. Hunter to say, “I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself” (Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching, 47).

    It seems to me that the method of discerning the Spirit is the main issue here, rather than the Spirit itself. If the Spirit was understood in Augustinian terms as being ‘intelligible’ only through the mind’s eye, rather than something which is felt and “often equated with strong motion or free-flowing tears,” I could imagine a widely different discussion taking place.

    Comment by aquinas — August 26, 2007 @ 1:15 am

  4. aquinas, I don’t believe that spiritual and temporal are set up as opposites, since D & C says that there are things temporal and things spiritual, but that the temporal things are also spiritual as all things are spiritual. Then in another section it says that all things are matter, even spirit. I do believe they are set up as different spheres,but to say they are opposites places an unneeded negativity on one, I believe…

    the most generic description of “spiritual” is “of or pertaing to the spirit”. This distinguishes it from things like “physical” or “temporal” or “natural”.

    Here’s a quick dictionary.com plug in:

    1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
    2. of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature: a spiritual approach to life.
    3. closely akin in interests, attitude, outlook, etc.: the professor’s spiritual heir in linguistics.
    4. of or pertaining to spirits or to spiritualists; supernatural or spiritualistic.
    5. characterized by or suggesting predominance of the spirit; ethereal or delicately refined: She is more of a spiritual type than her rowdy brother.
    6. of or pertaining to the spirit as the seat of the moral or religious nature.
    7. of or pertaining to sacred things or matters; religious; devotional; sacred.
    8. of or belonging to the church; ecclesiastical: lords spiritual and temporal.
    9. of or relating to the mind or intellect.

    I still like Geoff’s definition, which I would think is #5 here…

    Comment by Matt W. — August 26, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  5. I don’t know what it means, but to common perception it means something different than simply being religious. Witness singles websites, where “Spiritual but not Religious” is a category for describing one’s religiosity. I think often we see indicia of formal religiousness (attending church, praying, singing, willingly engaging in acts of service) and extrapolate from that spirituality, but such an extrapolation is not necessarily warranted.

    I suppose linguistically spiritual could be taken in either an objective (“embued with spirit”) or subjective (“disseminating of spirit”) sense. But this leaves us with what we mean by “spirit.” Do we mean the Holy Ghost as a formal member of the Godhood? Do we mean some quality apart from formal theology? After all, there are atheists who describe themselves as spiritual, so I wonder what they mean by the word.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 26, 2007 @ 5:59 am

  6. I avoid the word “spiritual” in these discussions precisely because it’s so nebulous. I substitute “righteous” because it’s more observable and quantitative. We know righteous people pray, convert to Christ’s gospel, attempt to do God’s will, help the less fortunate, don’t abandon their children, don’t assault and murder, don’t do other things that will get people excommunicated, etc. Women do better than men at all those things. There are few indicators of righteousness, whether self-reported or observed by sociologists and anthropologists, where men do better than women. Men are more willing to risk their life to save another.

    The most important thing to remember in these discussions is that we’re comparing averages, and that there is so much overlap across gorups that the average can’t be applied to individuals. If we’re comparing a particular random man against a particular random woman, for example, maybe 55% of the time the woman would be more righteous, 45% of the time the man more righteous, but that means we’d be wrong so frequently if we used the stereotype that it’s unhelpful and is counterproductive if people don’t understand how averages and distribution curves work.

    Comment by Matt Evans — August 26, 2007 @ 6:32 am

  7. The problem with that, Matt Evans, is by substituting “righteous” you jump right out of the conversation. If, for example, we are asking “Are Women inherently more spiritual than men?” It has nothing to do with their being more righteous.

    I agree about averages.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 26, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  8. Matt W.,

    I agree with Matt Evans. What in the world does “spiritual” mean if greater spirituality does not imply being greater righteousness?

    And if spirituality does not correlate with righteousness, why should we care about it anyway?

    Comment by Mark D. — August 26, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  9. Good point Mark D. What does a highly spiritual but not very righteous person look like? And if such is the case, are they really spiritual after all, or is it just feigned spirituality?

    The associated song here should be “Spiritchal as Me” by Sons of Provo.

    Comment by Eric Russell — August 26, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  10. Matt W, your point is well taken. I believe the D&C passage you are referring to is “all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.” In the Book of Mormon often the phrase is “things both spiritual and temporal,” which seems to suggest temporal isn’t an automatic subsection of spiritual. Or, as in Alma 36:4, “And I would not that ye think that I know of myself—not of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind but of God.” And it would seem here, in Alma’s usage, that temporal is not a subsection of spiritual, or included within spiritual, but something different. He is making a contrast by saying, “it’s not this, but this.” I’m merely trying to see if we can gather any clues first from the textual information, and secondly looking at the way it is used in discourse, and perhaps that can shed light on current usage of the word “spiritual.”

    My main thought however, is that I suspect that the definition of the term spiritual as it relates to the question of which sex is more spiritual is less relevant (although I recognize that is the question in this post). Rather, it is the means by which things spiritual are detected which is important. If things spiritual are detected primarily through feelings and emotions, then we might ask, “In our society, which sex is perceived to be more sensitive to feelings and emotions, men or women?” If, in our society, women are perceived to be more sensitive to feelings and emotions, and things of the Spirit are detected primarily through feelings and emotions, then it follows that people might perceive women to be more sensitive to the Spirit. That is my main thought.

    It would seem many on the T&S thread seek to analyze this question in the context of priesthood apologetic. That may, or may not be so, I’m only saying here that it might be useful to look at the epistemological dimensions, (the way we know the spirit), rather than ontological, (what the Spirit is). At least this might be kept in mind, once a working definition of spiritual is fleshed out.

    Comment by aquinas — August 26, 2007 @ 11:02 am

  11. aquinas (#3),

    You bring up several interesting points that I would like to address.

    the term “spiritual” is used a number of ways in LDS discourse

    True. But I think that we should limit this conversation to trying to define what it means to be a spiritual person. Obviously the term spiritual can be used to discuss things like spirits vs. bodies or spirit matter vs. physical matter but that is really talking about physics.

    often LDS use ’spiritual’ to describe experiences or meetings or events

    True. My take is that a meeting is considered spiritual when the preaching or general atmosphere of the meeting helped many of people attending to experience some form of direct personal revelation/inspiration from God. So this is in line with the definition I gave in the post.

    it is difficult to tease apart the term ’spiritual’ from ‘emotional’ or ‘moving.’

    I suppose it is difficult to describe to others because it is experientially based. Just like it would be pretty well impossible for me to describe to you how a minor third sounds different than a major third in this setting (assuming you can’t currently discern the difference of course). In order for you to discern the difference you would have to hear it, and it would probably take a lot of repetitions and practice for you to have good enough ears to recognize the difference right away. I posted on this “spiritual ears” concept some time ago.

    I would also note that spiritual and moving and emotional all imply different things to me. I think think real spiritual experiences are probably always “moving” in the sense that revelation/inspiration from God is motivating. But revelation from God is not always emotional in my experience.

    as when speaking of someone’s “spiritual and emotional” needs

    These are spoken of separately because spiritual and emotional are generally considered two separate things (even though they affect one another). Are you implying that they are synonyms in Mormonism or in general? If so, I disagree.

    This is perhaps what led to President Howard W. Hunter to say…

    I think President Hunter is mostly saying what I was saying earlier — revelation from God need not elicit tears or an overflowing of emotions and it is a mistake to assume it does. We are taught that revelation from God always contains actual information/knowledge/intelligence though.

    the Spirit was understood in Augustinian terms as being ‘intelligible’ only through the mind’s eye, rather than something which is felt

    While this “mind’s eye” concept is pretty nebulous too I think it tracks pretty well to what I have been saying about receiving revelation/inspiration from God that contains actual information/knowledge/intelligence while not necessarily evoking a lot of emotions.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  12. Kevin,

    I agree — “spiritual” carries connotations that separate it from simply meaning religious.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  13. Matt E (and follow up comments),

    I think one can consistently behave righteously without being spiritual but I don’t think one can be consistently spiritual without consistently behaving righteously.

    I hinted at this in the thread. If being righteous is consistently behaving charitably, compassionately, forgivingly, mercifully, kindly, generously, etc. then one could be righteous without being spiritual (in the sense of having a significant personal revelatory relationship with God). For instance I just heard in a news story yesterday that Mother Theresa seriously doubted the existence of God for many years of her ministry. That sounds like a prime example of someone being righteous but not spiritual.

    Now as Matt noted, observable righteous behavior is a lot easier to measure than spirituality as I have described it. And I have noted that I believe that righteous behavior always results from a high “spirituality score”. (The reason for that is because if we are in dialogue with God and then consciously refuse to keep his his commandments to us, our lines of communication with God become fouled up and then we no longer would have a high “spirituality score”. Intentionally behaving unrighteously short-circuits spirituality.)

    So if it is observable that women generally behave more righteously that men we might be tempted to assume women are therefore more spiritual as well. But that would be an error since we don’t know what percentage of men or women who behave righteously also have a high spirituality score on the hypothetical scale I proposed in the post.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  14. I agree with those who separate out spiritual and righteous. Geoff’s definition captures what comes to my mind…a sort of sensitivity to the Spirit, to things spiritual. Pres. Faust referred to intuition when he spoke of women.

    Elder Ballard did as well in the talk I quoted over in the other thread.

    “Now, finally, I turn again to you dear sisters, you who have such a profound, innate spiritual ability to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.”

    Comment by m&m — August 26, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  15. Interesting quote m&m. So getting back to Julie’s post; do you read that Ballard quote as meaning that all women are innately better at hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd than men? Or do you think he is saying that women (just like men) have a “profound, innate spiritual ability to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd”?

    For the record: The text doesn’t tell us what he really meant but I think the latter is correct…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  16. Geoff, I think your question gets to the core of it all. On one hand, I sense something that suggests women might have an innate sense that might differ, but on the other hand, I don’t feel it presented as a competition. And plenty of other quotes and teachings about the gifts of the Spirit would indicate that these gifts are available to all.

    That said, I don’t think men and women are the same, so I’m not against the possibility that there might be some gifts that women might have a little differently than men, but that doesn’t preclude the opposite, either.

    So, since I am still in brainstorming mode on all of this, too, I’ll just say I dunno. :)

    Comment by m&m — August 26, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  17. And I have noted that I believe that righteous behavior always results from a high “spirituality score”.

    I’m gonna quibble. I think it is possible to do lots of outwardly righteous behavior and still be a rotten person. Jesus denounced the Pharisees more than the winebibbers.

    The traits that you have outlined that signify real righteousness (charity, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, generosity) are really, really hard to quantify and measure.

    Comment by Mark IV — August 26, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

  18. Mark: I think it is possible to do lots of outwardly righteous behavior and still be a rotten person.

    Actaully, this is exactly what I said…

    I agree that the traits of righteousness are hard to quantify and measure. I was largely going along with Matt Evans and agreeing that those traits are easier to quantify and measure than the definition of spirituality I suggested in the post: how clearly can one discern the voice of God and how regularly do they have a revelatory dialogue with God.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  19. m&m: so I’m not against the possibility that there might be some gifts that women might have a little differently than men

    In this thread we aren’t talking about “some gifts that women might have a little differently than men”. We are talking about a relatively clearly defined version of spirituality.

    So if I read you correctly, you are open to the idea that women innately receive a greater “quantity x quality” of personal revelation from God (or a greater “spirituality score”) than men. Are you also open to the idea that men might innately have a greater “spirituality score” than women?

    If one sex does have an inherently/innately better revelatory pipeline to God, do you attribute that to mortality or to a an eternal spiritual nature or to simply a gift one sex gets and the other doesn’t?

    (I bring up these questions simply because I think accepting an innate advantage in spiritual pipelines to God causes many more theological problems than it solves.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  20. Geoff, thanks for the excellent responses and questions. I should have probably started out saying that I agree with you that being spiritual entails some sort of communication going on with God. I think that is a key component. And as a corollary, that a person is actually following or obeying that communication, since as it was raised by others, one might think only a person who is obedient would be privy to that power of discernment on an ongoing basis. If they constantly rejected revelation from God, it is doubtful if they would continue to be in revelatory dialogue. I can see the merits of that view. I think the doctrinal principle that people are alluding to is Alma 12:10-11: “he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full…And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries.”

    The reason for bringing up the pair “spiritual and emotional” is not to say they are identical or indistinguishable. Rather, it was to examine which words are used along with spiritual as another possible clue. The pair “spiritual and emotional” is used with greater frequency than “financial and spiritual” which to me suggests that spiritual and emotional well-being is somehow more related than say financial and spiritual well-being. Maybe that goes nowhere, but I’m just brainstorming.

    My reason for bringing up President Hunter’s comments was simply to suggest that some people equate strong emotion with the presence of the Spirit, to the extent that President Hunter felt he needed to address that issue. (He never says it’s a lot of people, or just a few people). It’s an inquiry into how the word is used and understood by members at large (whether correctly or incorrectly), rather than how it should be used and understood. It raises the question of why people equate strong emotion with the presence of the Spirit at all. Even if we agree it doesn’t necessarily need to be, or that it is incorrect if they do so, why does this happen at all? I’m just trying to use that answer as a clue to how the term is understood.

    The reason I brought up the notion of God being ‘intelligible’ and seeing God with the mind’s eye, is that this formula doesn’t seem as if it would lead people to equate strong emotion with seeing with the mind’s eye. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have other confusions, but confusing it with strong emotion seems like it wouldn’t be one of them.

    Comment by aquinas — August 26, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  21. Thanks for the clarifications and additional interesting observations, aquinas.

    In this post I guess I am trying to create a useful and more focused definition of the word “spiritual”. You are right that it is used to mean any number of things by members of the church. Its usage is so nebulous and broad that it is nearly approaching “smurfy” territory. In another words, asking whether women are more spiritual than men is about as useful as asking whether women are more smurfy than men with the current general lack of definitions. I was hoping to make some progress toward solving that problem with this discussion.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  22. So if I read you correctly, you are open to the idea that women innately receive a greater “quantity x quality” of personal revelation from God (or a greater “spirituality score”) than men.

    OK, I’m realizing that IF women were ‘more spiritual’ I would probably define it a bit differently = more natural inclination or propensity toward spiritual things. That in my mind is different from saying they might have greater quantity or quality of revelation. Yea, that clicks better for me. (Just like you, Geoff, I’m still way in brainstorming mode.) I think God will give revelation to whomever is willing to pay the price, so the more I think about it, the less I like the whole formula thing. I think it might be about a starting point, nothing more.

    Comment by m&m — August 26, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  23. Ok m&m, that makes sense. So by the definition of “spiritual” I proposed in this post you don’t think women are inherently/innately more spiritual than men or vice-versa.

    I agree.

    I don’t really know what you mean when you say “more natural inclination or propensity toward spiritual things”, though. If that is an alternative definition of “spiritual” you are suggesting I don’t think it works because it is a tautology.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  24. you don’t think women are inherently/innately more spiritual than men or vice-versa.

    I would agree with that. Probably. I get messed up in the head when I realize that there ARE those who have spiritual gifts of revelation and prophecy and other such things that could make them “more spiritual” by your definition (at least at the outset, coming out the starting gate), so I’m not convinced that there couldn’t be differences in this regard from person to person. I just don’t know that I see real consisten teachings supporting the idea that women somehow get more and/or better revelation than men.

    But when a professor says ‘women are more spiritual than men’ I don’t think that is what he/she is saying.

    Hm. How to explain what I’m thinking? I’ll have to give it some more thought, esp. because I’m not 100% sure what it is that you don’t think works.

    Comment by m&m — August 26, 2007 @ 11:54 pm

  25. Well what I don’t think works is asserting that all women have a better revelatory pipeline to God by virtue of their being female. (I don’t think men have that advantage by virtue of their being male either.) I don’t think the sex of a person is a determining factor whatsoever in a person’s capacity to receive and understand personal revelation.

    So if we define “being spiritual” as having/developing and maintaining a clear revelatory pipeline to God I think that saying “women are more spiritual than men” by virtue of their being female is patently false.

    Of course if one doesn’t like that definition of “being spiritual” I am certainly open to suggestions for alternative definitions.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 1:03 am

  26. Geoff’s definition is an excellent start:
    “…how clearly can one discern the voice of God and how regularly do they have a revelatory dialogue with God.”

    But, spirituality goes well beyond discerning His voice…
    aquinas touched on it;

    “actually following or obeying that communication”

    After discerning the voice comes obedience and subrogation of will, “not my will, but thine, be done”.

    Even beyond that, becoming “one” or a feeling of “oneness” with the Godhead to the point that our wills merge becoming one.

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  27. Geoff, I guess we have to define what is typically inherent to being female as opposed to what is typically inherent to being male. The risk here, is that we aren’t talking about two cut and dried individuals, but to broad ranges. There are few things which we can exclusively give to one or the other group, and it is very difficult to say much about the individual differences. However, I think if you put down 3 or four measures of spirituality, and put the all male group up against the all female group, you could see differences there. I put forth a miriad of evidence for this on Julie’s post, which was ignored. One, A study by the Barna Group, showed that on average women are definitely more interested in religion, and scored higher than men in 11 out of 12 measures of faith behavior. Here’s an even better Barna study.

    Here is the quick and dirty of it for people who don’t click on links.

    (In 10 different Protestant denominations, and in Catholicism)Women Are:

    100% more likely to be involved in discipleship -women are twice as likely to be taking part in a discipleship process at a church – although just 1 out of 7 women are involved in such a program (14% to 7%);

    57% more likely to participate in adult Sunday school – 22% of women said that they have attended an adult Sunday school class in the past week (14% of men have attended such classes);

    54% more likely to participate in a small group - 1 out of every 5 women (20%) go to a small group that meets regularly for Bible study, prayer, or Christian fellowship (compared to 13% of men);

    46% more likely to disciple others
    – 1 out of every 5 women (19%) are currently serving as the spiritual mentor to someone else (compared to 13% of men);

    39% more likely to have a devotional time or quiet time - 61% of women said that, during the last seven days, they have intentionally spent time alone reading the Bible, reviewing devotional material, or praying (44% of men had done this);

    33% more likely to volunteer for a church - one-quarter of women (24%) said that during the last week they have volunteered some of their time to help a church (18% of men had done so);

    29% more likely to read the Bible - more than 2 out of every 5 women (45%) said that they have read the Bible during the past seven days (35% of men);

    29% more likely to attend church – slightly fewer than 1 out of every 2 women (45%) said that they attended a Christian church service during the last week (35% among men);

    29% more likely to share faith with others - more than one-quarter of women (27%) have shared their faith with someone else during the past 12 months, in the hope that the person would accept Christ as savior (21% among men);

    23% more likely to donate to a church - while a majority of women have donated to a church in the past 30 days (59%), it is slightly less than half of men (48%) who have given money to a church;

    16% more likely to pray – 89% of women have prayed to God in the past seven days (as did 77% of men).

    So, what does this mean in terms of you definition of spiritual. Nothing, unless you believe that people are more likely to receive spiriutal experiences, in terms of either quality or quantity, by participating in any of the above. Or if you belief that a person doing more of any of the above would do so because they have previously had more spiritual experiences, in terms of quality or quantity.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 27, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  28. Anyway, ultimately, I am a proponent of the idea that men and women are different but equal.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 27, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  29. Come on guys. All this discussion can be dangerous. If the Mrs. asks the question, “Are women more spiritual than men?”, just answer, “Yes, of course Dear.”

    Comment by Mondo Cool — August 27, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  30. Howard,

    I think the idea of obeying God’s commandments are already built in to the idea of “how regularly do they have a revelatory dialogue with God” that I mentioned. The idea is that if one does not obey God then maintaining a revelatory dialogue with God becomes impossible. We can’t be openly disobedient and still “always have his Spirit” with us at the same time after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 9:11 am

  31. Geoff,
    “The idea is that if one does not obey God then maintaining a revelatory dialogue with God becomes impossible.”

    Yes, of course but it leaves out the idea that embracing God’s commandments leads to becoming gods ourselves.

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  32. I’m not sure what you mean Howard. Just because I didn’t specifically mention that ongoing revelatory dialogue with God eventually leads us to “oneness” with God doesn’t mean I don’t believe that. Just as a reminder, this post is about defining the word “spiritual” so your comment seems to be a bit of a tangent to me (if not being completely off topic)…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  33. Geoff,
    Yes, this post is about defining the word “spiritual”

    Due to what I will call an “epiphany” about 3 years ago, I now enjoy frequent, rich personal revelation.
    Are these experiences spiritual? Yes very.

    But in my experience, this is not even close to being as spiritual as we are capable of becoming.

    Regular revelation is a necessary “pit stop” our way to becoming gods. it simply establishes two way communication.
    My experience suggests; it is what we do with that communication that expands our spirituality.

    It’s the message that is important, not the medium.

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  34. In this post I guess I am trying to create a useful and more focused definition of the word “spiritual”. You are right that it is used to mean any number of things by members of the church. Its usage is so nebulous and broad that it is nearly approaching “smurfy” territory.

    I’m sure that on past threads similar to Julie’s, I have advocated for a clear definition of “spiritual.” But I think that may be a futile effort. I suspect that the professor in question used the term, whether consciously or not, precisely because it is not a measurable quality, thereby making the assertion effectively irrefutable. Listeners can impute to it whatever meaning they choose. Given a self-selectedly receptive audience (that is, one that is inclined to interpret his message positively), he can make a lot more people feel good about themselves by using an undefined term than he could by using a term with a specific meaning that might not apply to as many. If “spiritual” were ever to have a clear definition, a different nebulous word would undoubtedly rise in its place.

    Comment by Last Lemming — August 27, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  35. Howard — Sounds like we are agreeing vigorously then. I’m happy for your spiritual progress.

    Last Lemming — Very good observation. I suspect you are right on track. It seems likely that the professor used an extremely nebulous word intentionally because doing so often has the desired on listeners while remaining effectively irrefutable.

    I also agree that if we generally agreed on a specific meaning for “spiritual” many speakers would just shift to a new mushy/nebulous/smurfy word in many cases to enjoy the benefits just discussed.

    Nice comment!

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  36. Well what I don’t think works is asserting that all women have a better revelatory pipeline to God by virtue of their being female.

    I think I already agreed with this.

    I think Last Lemming might have an idea worth considering, although I’m not sure the professor did that deliberately. I still think that people do hear comments about women and their strengths and generalize them.

    That said, I did find a couple of quotes that reinforce what the professor said.

    “As daughters of God, you cannot imagine the divine potential within each of you. Surely the secret citadel of women’s inner strength is spirituality. In this you equal and even surpass men, as you do in faith, morality, and commitment when truly converted to the gospel. You have “more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word.” This inner spiritual sense seems to give you a certain resilience to cope with sorrow, trouble, and uncertainty.”
    (James E. Faust, “What It Means to Be a Daughter of God,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 100)

    Elder Matthew Cowley: “[M]en have to have something given to them [in mortality] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” (Matthew Cowley Speaks (1954), 109.)

    Comment by m&m — August 27, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  37. BTW, I included those quotes only to show that the idea has been expressed a few times. Most of the time, though, women are told about their innate characteristics without being directly compared to men. And plenty of talks include ideas about how the Lord isn’t a respecter of persons, and that the same spiritual gifts are available to us all, regardless of whether we are male or female.

    Comment by m&m — August 27, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  38. Geoff,
    Great! Since we are in vigorous agreement, I would like to propose:

    “…how clearly can one discern the voice of God, how regularly they have a revelatory dialogue with God and how effectively they use revelation to move closer to God.”

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  39. Matt,

    Interesting stats in #27. Your question gets to the other half of the question. That is, it requires us to really define what we mean when we ask “Are women more ______ than men?”

    That question needs to be teased out almost as much as the word “spiritual” needs to be teased out.

    There are at least three ways I can think of us reading such questions:

    1. Are the uncreated eternal spirits of women ontologically and irreducibly more ______ than the eternal uncreated spirits of men?
    2. Are female mortal bodies such that they make all women essentially more ______ than mortal males?
    3. Are most women in country/culture A during time frame Z more _______ than the men in that same culture and era?

    Question 1 is a metaphysical question that comes loaded with several assumptions. Question 2 asks whether mortal women are more _____ as a result of nature (and somewhat the effects causal determinism arising from that). Question three asks whether mortal women are more _____ as a result of nurture or cultural conditioning (and somewhat the effects causal determinism arising from that).

    The problem with all three is that all of them undermine the idea that women being more “spiritual” (or whatever) than men is morally commendable. If women are more spiritual than men because that is an irreducible part of their beginningless spiritual nature then they did not choose to be that way — they just are. Even those who believe in libertarian free will and buy this assumption might be able to say to a “spiritual” woman”: “nice job not consciously and actively not choosing to go against your eternal nature.” But commending someone for going with the flow is not exactly high praise. The same goes for definitions 2. and 3. If nature or nurture cause women to be spiritual then what is so commendable about them being what the great causal chain drove them to be?

    I think the only way to truly show respect to women is to assume that they are not naturally or inherently more “spiritual” than men at all. That way any woman who does have an unusually good revelatory pipeline to God can be truly commended for freely choosing to be that kind of spiritual person rather than simply going with the causal flow foisted upon them by nature, nurture, or some irreducible spiritual essence.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  40. Howard,

    As I said earlier, moving closer to God as a result of regular revelation is already assumed in the definitions I gave. That assumption is displayed by the following things I said:

    The logic would be that the more spiritually in tune a person was the more likely she would be to display commendable behaviors/traits like charity, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, generosity, etc.

    I think think real spiritual experiences are probably always “moving” in the sense that revelation/inspiration from God is motivating.

    I don’t think one can be consistently spiritual without consistently behaving righteously… I believe that righteous behavior always results from a high “spirituality score”. (The reason for that is because if we are in dialogue with God and then consciously refuse to keep his his commandments to us, our lines of communication with God become fouled up and then we no longer would have a high “spirituality score”. Intentionally behaving unrighteously short-circuits spirituality.)

    I don’t mind you teasing out the fact that we move closer to oneness with God via ongoing revelatory dialogue. One difference of opinion I might have with you is that I don’t think moving closer to God is optional when we have an ongoing revelatory dialogue with him. I think it inevitably happens to us. Therefore I believe it is redundant to define being spiritual as you said: how clearly can one discern the voice of God, how regularly they have a revelatory dialogue with God and how effectively they use revelation to move closer to God

    The “and how effectively they use revelation to move closer to God” implies that one can have a clear and ongoing dialogue but still choose not to move closer in a personal relationship with God. I don’t think that is possible. To know God is to love him so knowing him better always means loving him more in my opinion.

    BTW – Have you read any of Blake Ostler’s Mormon theology books? He pushes this concept effectively I think, especially in the second volume.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  41. Geoff, that is an interesting response- ie- we should not praise women for being more spiritual than men, even if a, b, or c are true, because it is not by their own works, but by some other means that they have arrived at that position. This is not so much unlike grace then, is it? So rather than praising women, can we be grateful for this good fortune? Can we not make such a statement as a reminder to men to respect their wives or as a reminder to women to assert themselves and arise to the divinity within?

    Comment by Matt W. — August 27, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  42. Matt: This is not so much unlike grace then, is it?

    It’s really more of another LFW issue I think.

    So rather than praising women, can we be grateful for this good fortune?

    I think this is deeply insulting and condescending to women. Basically you are saying, “all women are sure lucky they are spiritual by no free choice of their own”. Blech! I would want to punch someone in the nose if they said that about my wife and daughters to my face.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  43. I feel like you are putting words in my mouth (perhaps you want to punch me in the nose.)

    What if I said this:

    “I am fortunate, I have been born a white american man in a world and time that is favorable to white american men with good parents. I am an American originally by no free choice of my own. I was not born in a time or place where I am starving or enslaved. I am fortunate.”

    Would you punch me in the nose for recognizing my fortune?

    Comment by Matt W. — August 27, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  44. Matt,

    You are comparing apples and oranges. The physical conditions in which you are born are a completely different category than the essential traits/characteristics you might have as a human being (as a result of 1, 2, or 3 listed above).

    I don’t think I put words in your mouth though. See your quote yourself…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  45. If women are more spiritual than men because that is an irreducible part of their beginningless spiritual nature then they did not choose to be that way — they just are.

    If this concept has any measure of truth, then the comment by Pres. Faust might be a good way to analyze what it might mean. Note that he talked of how spirituality manifested itself AFTER women are converted. I think in a way you have predetermined that anyone who says women are more spiritual is implying that they therefore can sit back and do nothing. I think as off as the original statement might end up being, your interpretation of it doesn’t seem to really capture the sentiment I think is meant when it is said. Therefore, I don’t see it as demeaning. Is it demeaning that any of us might have gifts or abilities or spiritual predispositions given to us, which find their fulfillment as we strive to be righteous?

    Again, I’m not trying to suggest that I am convinced that women are more spiritual, but I think the arguments against the concepts can sometimes be sort of straw men. I don’t think any similitude to this concept was ever meant to suggest that women can be lazy or simply go along with the flow. I just think this is the wrong way to go about trying to debunk this idea, because I don’t believe anyone wants to suggest that women can sit back and do nothing to be spiritual.

    Comment by m&m — August 27, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  46. m&m: I just think this is the wrong way to go about trying to debunk this idea, because I don’t believe anyone wants to suggest that women can sit back and do nothing to be spiritual.

    As Elder Packer and other GA’s have said: “When you pick up one end a stick you pick up the other.” I am talking about logical consequences that follow from my 1, 2, and 3 mentioned above. These are not straw men at all.

    I think as off as the original statement might end up being, your interpretation of it doesn’t seem to really capture the sentiment I think is meant when it is said.

    You are probably right. I think Last Lemming’s comment probably best exemplifies how comments about women being more inherently spiritual than are used at all levels (including by GA’a). That is, “spiritual” is used as a nebulous terms that can mean any number of things. Such comments are not intended to convey metaphysical truths but rather to make the female listeners in the audience feel encouraged.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  47. Well what I don’t think works is asserting that all women have a better revelatory pipeline to God by virtue of their being female.

    I think I agreed with that.

    I’ve been thinking about alternative definitions of spirituality, but haven’t come up with anything profound (had some good ideas last nite, but didn’t write them down and they are gone).

    Comment by m&m — August 27, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  48. Geoff,
    “The “and how effectively they use revelation to move closer to God” implies that one can have a clear and ongoing dialogue but still choose not to move closer in a personal relationship with God.”

    Well, I know from experience that it is possible to pick and choose the messages that you will follow without causing the Spirit to flee…some of us can waste a lot time “kicking against the pricks”.

    Someone who focuses on efficiently utilizing the messages will achieve a higher level of of spirituality and closeness to God in less time that someone who doesn’t.

    Btw, Satan once had a clear and ongoing dialogue with God.

    Thanks for the link.

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  49. Ah, sent that last comment before seeing others.

    I agree that spiritual is a rather nebulous term, although I think Pres. Faust gets a little more specific in his comment. I wonder if he was speaking to actual stats they have seen with retention, etc.? Hard to know.

    Incidentally, I still don’t think that I agree with your conclusions based on your 1-3. Using the concept of gifts such as we might be told about in a patriarchal blessing, if anything, having the awareness of the gift can often cause us to focus on developing it even more than if we hadn’t been told about it in the first place. At least that has been the case for me. I have been fascinated to see how what I thought were gifts and given blessings in my blessing (when I first got it and as I have wondered about certain specifics over the years) have actually been things that have taken considerable effort, focus and faith. The blessing was an anchor to help me not lose hope in the process of my growth and my trials, as a sort of beacon for me.

    So IF there were something that women were more ______ than men, I don’t see that as necessarily having to result in determinism or a causal chain kind of situation. A comparison might be that priesthood isn’t really much unless the men actually live worthy of it, have faith to exercise it, and use it for good and not for pats on the back. I think it’s too easy to think of gifts as something WE have developed instead of remembering from whence the blessings come.

    Comment by m&m — August 27, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

  50. Geoff (#44),

    I don’t think it is apples and oranges. Just because one group of people is, on average, more spiritual does not threaten their free-will or say that their choices do not play into who they are.

    I assume we can agree that people born in some circumstances (say, religious parents who raise their children to value spirituality) are more spiritual, on average, than those in different circumstances (say, secular parents who have disdain for spirituality). (The formula here is not important so long as you agree that such circumstances exist.)

    Now, just because I was born into the first (higher average spirituality) group, does that mean I am spiritual through no free choice of my own? Of course not. Is someone who points out the difference between the two groups being condescending? I don’t think they are. You said it is apples and oranges because inherent differences are a different category than physical conditions, but how does this make it apples and oranges? In both cases, we have something outside the control of the people involved, which has a direct influence on their spirituality. If one of those is possible (which it clearly is) then why not another?

    To me it is exactly the parable of the talents. Just because someone starts out with 5 and another 2, it doesn’t change the fact that both are supposed to double their talents.

    Mind you, I am not arguing that women are more spiritual than men, I’m just disagreeing with the particular objection of yours.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 27, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  51. Howard,

    My belief is that disobedience or “kicking against the pricks” short circuits a revelatory dialogue with God. So since I am talking about a continual dialogue with God it assumes human obedience to God as a requirement just to maintain that relationship.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  52. m&m: I think Pres. Faust gets a little more specific in his comment

    Well he did do more of a comparison between men and women but he didn’t define “spirituality” at all so I don’t think that helps answer our question about the definition of “spiritual” at all.

    I’m not sure what your anecdote about your patriarchal blessing has to do with the 1-3I mentioned.

    So IF there were something that women were more ______ than men, I don’t see that as necessarily having to result in determinism or a causal chain kind of situation.

    If not that then what? Will you argue for “1.” that women have just always been that way through all eternity? We can’t easily argue it is due to pre-mortal choice because the assumption is that 100% of women have this advantage.

    A comparison might be that priesthood isn’t really much unless the men actually live worthy of it, have faith to exercise it, and use it for good and not for pats on the back.

    Not really. All the men on earth are not born with the priesthood so that comparison fails here.

    I think it’s too easy to think of gifts as something WE have developed instead of remembering from whence the blessings come.

    So are you arguing that “greater spirituality” might be a gift that 100% of females get and males don’t get? If not, what do you mean here?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  53. Jacob: does that mean I am spiritual through no free choice of my own?

    Probably. For instance, young men who are born into active Mormon families are FAR more likely to serve Mormon missions than young men born into non-Mormon families. It is a life track issue. So I feel safe in saying that it was more morally commendable for Matt W. to serve a mission than it was for me to do so because he was a convert and I grew up in the church.

    Now one could argue that people born in the church were more righteous in the pre-mortal existence than those who didn’t but that is a very slippery slope. It is much more problematic to defend the idea that all women who ever lived on the earth are born with a innately better pipeline to God. What of all the women who have a great deal of difficulty getting their prayers answered? If they are born with a leg up in that area are we going to argue that they must be choosing wickedness to explain their difficulty receiving inspiration/revelation from God? That too is a dangerously slippery slope that follows from the idea that all women are born more “spiritual” than their male counterparts.

    To me it is exactly the parable of the talents. Just because someone starts out with 5 and another 2, it doesn’t change the fact that both are supposed to double their talents.

    I agree. This is directly what leads to the slippery slope I mentioned above. If we assume all females inherently come to earth with a better pipeline to God than males, that is basically like ascribing 5 talents to every woman on earth and only 2 talents to every man on earth from the get-go. So if we follow the parable we would then have to agree that all women who are not able to easily hear and receive revelation/inspiration from God must be wasting their revelatory talents and therefore are in line to have the Lord say to them: “Thou wicked and slothful servant”. Are you really ready to place that sort of responsibility and pressure on all the females on earth? (I’m not.)

    (I realize you aren’t arguing for all women innately having a better pipeline to God than men, but I wanted to clarify the problems I see with moving down that path at all…)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  54. Geoff,
    Since my experience contradicts your belief, let’s agree to disagree.

    Comment by Howard — August 27, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  55. It is much more problematic to defend the idea that all women who ever lived on the earth are born with a innately better pipeline to God.

    I agree with this actually, but what about the average of all women? Could not the average of all women’s pipeline be more spiritual, and thus, women collectively speaking, are more spiritual than men?

    Is it fair to say also that regardless of gender some people really are born more spiritually in tune than others due to 1, 2, or 3?

    Comment by Matt W. — August 27, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

  56. Howard,

    I don’t mind disagreeing, but where does your experience contradict my belief? Are you saying that in the past you have consciously chosen wickedness and it had no negative impact on your revelatory pipeline to God?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 27, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

  57. Geoff,
    As I posted in #48:
    “Well, I know from experience that it is possible to pick and choose the messages that you will follow without causing the Spirit to flee…some of us can waste a lot time “kicking against the pricks”.”

    I was following some messages but consciously choosing not to follow others and revelation continued.

    I’m not sure how to quantify “no negative impact”…but revelation continued.

    Comment by Howard — August 28, 2007 @ 12:46 am

  58. Geoff,

    You seem to be making an all-or-nothing mistake. It may be more commendable for Matt W to serve a mission than for you, but it does not follow from this that you served through no free choice of your own. This seems obvious, but you stuck to your guns so I have to point it out despite its obviousness.

    Further, we need not assume that every female is given 5 talents if we believe that women are on average more spiritual than men. We need only assume that there are more women with 5s than men with 5s, which doesn’t allow us to say anything with certitude regarding any individual woman, but does allow us to say something about the collective. That’s important.

    Given that the parable of the talents does say some get 5 and others 2, it seems to be that such a disparity cannot, in principle, be detrimental to personal choice and moral praiseworthiness in the way you are claiming. Some people do, in fact, get 5 talents. I was born in the church, and there is some pressure associated with that (much is given much is required).

    Comment by Jacob J — August 28, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  59. Geoff,
    I think Jacob J. captured better what I was trying to say in 50.

    As to Pres. Faust, I think he did give some definition of spirituality. “You have “more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word.” This inner spiritual sense seems to give you a certain resilience to cope with sorrow, trouble, and uncertainty.”

    Comment by m&m — August 28, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  60. Jacob: it does not follow from this that you served through no free choice of your own

    I never said it did so I’m not sure why you are making that obvious point either.

    if we believe that women are on average more spiritual than men

    This is an interesting move and certainly a more defensible position to take. But I haven’t seen any quotes from anyone actually saying all women are on average more spiritual than men. Has any church leader added that caveat that you know of? (It’s not in the quotes m&m provided earlier.) If not, then I would say it is a red herring in this discussion.

    Some people do, in fact, get 5 talents. I was born in the church, and there is some pressure associated with that (much is given much is required).

    I agree. That is my issue with teaching that all women have a leg up when it comes to revelation. Some probably do, and some don’t. Just like some men probably do and others don’t. This issue is with the claim/insinuation that all women are innately “more spiritual” than men — at least as we have defined “spiritual” here.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 28, 2007 @ 10:41 am

  61. m&m,

    So does that mean you contend that all females are born with “more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word” than males?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 28, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  62. Geoff (#60),

    I never said it did so I’m not sure why you are making that obvious point either.

    Well, it seems like you did say this. I thought I asked this question specifically and you answered it directly.

    In #42 you said: Basically you are saying, “all women are sure lucky they are spiritual by no free choice of their own”

    In #50, I asked if being born into a group with higher average spirituality really means I am spiritual through no free choice of my own.

    In #53 you quoted my question and answered: Probably.

    Moving on to my red herring. It is possible I am giving too much credit to the position I am defending. I assumed people were suggesting that women are generally, statistically, on average, etc. more spiritual than men. If I’ve misunderstood that side of the debate then please ignore the red herring and stay on track.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 28, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  63. I haven’t seen any quates that said “every single woman is more spiritual than every single man” If we go with the starter “women are more spiritual than men” I think it can be read either way.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 28, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  64. Jacob,

    I can see why you might have assumed that. But your specific comment in #58 was “it does not follow from this that you served through no free choice of your own”. I never claimed my choice to go on a mission wasn’t free at all so I think that was mistaking my position entirely.

    However, I would say that if all women are born more “spiritual” than men then it is safe to say that their innate spirituality is not a result of choice here on earth.

    You are right that I missed the all important “on average” caveat you threw into that comment in #50 though. So I can see why my “Probably” response would be misleading.

    Last, I think your “on average” assumption is a much stronger position than what I have seen actually quoted.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 28, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

  65. 61,
    Geoff, dear brother, I was restating what Pres. Faust said. I have told you I’m still not sure what to think about this issue, excepting the agreement on the fact that by your definition I don’t think women are more spiritual.

    Comment by m&m — August 28, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

  66. Gotcha m&m.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 28, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  67. Here are some GA definitions of spirituality:

    Elder Antoine R. Ivins of the First Council of the Seventy

    The recognition that we are the sons and daughters of God, spiritually born of him, it seems to me, is a starting place if you are going to try to define spirituality. Then it seems to me to be a feeling of nearness to God, our Heavenly Father, a devotion to his cause, and a determination to acquit ourselves to the utmost of our ability, of the responsibility he has given us in life.

    (elder Antoine R. Ivins, Conference Report, April 1955, Afternoon Meeting 76.)

    Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, of the Quorum of the Twelve:

    Supplementing the dictionary definition of spirituality, he explained that spirituality is of or pertaining to that which promotes the eternal exaltation of man.

    (Adults, Improvement Era, 1936, Vol. Xxxix. March, 1936. No. 3.)

    Comment by Howard — August 29, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  68. On the topic of men’s vs. women’s spirituality I found these quotes:

    Spirituality comes more naturally to some than to others. Spirituality is a spiritual gift.

    I am persuaded that women are generally more spiritual than men. Perhaps this is because their unique gift of child-bearing, which places them at the wellspring of life, makes them more sensitive to eternal verities. Perhaps some of women’s apparent superiority in spirituality is because historically they have remained in the home, less exposed to the anti-spiritual influences of the world than their male counterparts. If so, as more women are employed and exposed to anti-spiritual influences outside the home, they will need to make increased efforts to preserve and develop their spirituality.

    (Dallin H. Oaks, Pure in Heart [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 123.)

    On the other hand…

    Aileen Hales Clyde, second counselor in the general Relief Society presidency

    It’s not that women have a more innate spirituality than men, she said, but that

    “women survive on it. I’ve told my sons, you are lifted by the tide of the society in which you live—if you’re good boys, you become deacons, teachers, priests, and you rise like this. And women who don’t have those particular levels to go through… develop a spiritual sense of connection with the Lord, because if you don’t, you don’t have any spirituality.”

    (Relief Society General Presidency: ‘the Gospel Gives a Sense of , LDS Church News, 1990, 05/12/90 .)

    Comment by Howard — August 29, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  69. Here’s another “more” statement (actually a kind of two-for-one):

    The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate. And the Hebrew for help in “help meet” is ezer, a term meaning that Eve drew on heavenly powers when she supplied their marriage with the spiritual instincts uniquely available to women as a gender gift.

    As President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said, men and women are by nature different, and while they share many basic human traits, the “virtues and attributes upon which perfection and exaltation depend come [more] naturally to a woman.”
    (Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, “Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners,” Ensign, Aug 2007, 24–29)

    Comment by m&m — August 29, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  70. I think being “spiritual,” or in other language, the level of someone’s “spirituality” simply refers to how much a measure of the Holy Ghost someone has.

    So to say “women are more spiritual,” would be to say that women enjoy a greater measure of the spirit than men.

    I believe those who enjoy the spirit, enjoy certain qualities. A person who has the spirit is more like God. He/she may be more charitable, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, selfless, etc.

    Men and women are different. Women are more emotional, whereas men are more intellectual/logical. This is a general statement, and not true in every case.

    But perhaps a woman’s emotional nature is interpreted as compassion, kindness, etc., whereas a man’s intellect is perceived as being cold (I could see where many people think God is cold, because God is logical and to the point.)

    Maybe this is why people say women are more spiritual.

    But I think emotion and intellect (or the qualities associated therewith) are both good things bestowed by the spirit. And a women in her natural-man-state may be be too emotional, while a man in his natural state may be too intellectual. A perfect being would find the proper balance between the two.

    I dont think, generally speaking, women and men are unequally yokes. Both are spiritual, but have different spiritual qualities, until they finally perfect themselves, and find a proper balance, and become one.

    Comment by John Coltharp — September 9, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

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