I am struggling with the apparent sexism found in 1 Peter Chapter 3, verses 5-7—
For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in Subjection unto their own husbands. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
Although I am happily married to a wonderful (and in my opinion, nearly perfect) man, I have friends who were once married to such abusive husbands, mentally and physically, that to subject themselves to their husbands would clearly be a big mistake. And to read that referring to one’s husband as “lord” is deemed to be a good thing makes me feel on the same level as the dog in the family. Most of all, to be referred to as a “weaker vessel” when I feel I have proved to be much stronger in the trials I’ve encountered than most men I know makes me feel cursed to be born a woman. Could you please help me understand if the language Peter used means something different to what it appears to mean on the surface? I would be very grateful if you could help me understand that Peter is not telling me that as a weaker, lesser person, wives will have to be on a lower level to men as they obey this scripture, “…being in subjection unto their own husbands.”
The eternal conflict. Since you yourself are stronger than some men, I guess we should make women the dominant partner in the marriage relationship. It would be difficult to twist the meaning of the scriptures that you quote to have the leadership in the home pass from the man to the woman. I guess we could do that if we gave women the priesthood rather than men.
Actually, there is complete equality in the marriage relationship, but the assignments of the two partners are different from each other. To the woman goes the responsibility for the physical birth and for the training and upbringing of the children. To the man goes the responsibility for the spiritual birth and for the training and upbringing of the children. And it must be obvious that no more could a woman baptize a child than could a man bear a child. It is also easy to see that the woman has by far the greatest effect on the children than does the man. Take the priesthood away from the man, and he becomes a drone. The priesthood is an attempt to bring him up to the level of the woman. And, by the way, many men do not understand this principle; they attempt to bring the worldly concept of authority into the kingdom. In the world he who presides is an overlord. In the kingdom he who presides is a SERVANT!! So don’t feel lesser because the man has the priesthood. It would be well to study D&C 121:34-46, in this regard and you will see that the priesthood is indeed a service function. The principle upon which priesthood power is to be exercised is expressed in verses 41-42—
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge–
It would also be well to remember that the advice that Peter gave was given to the people of his time who were living in an entirely different culture than ours. So referring to one’s husband as lord, was the social norm of the day. The word, lord, in our bibles was translated from the Greek, kurios, which was a title of honor expressive of respect and reverence. Now, should not the wife respect the husband, and revere the priesthood that he bears? The prophets today do not counsel wives to call their husbands lords, but that does not invalidate Peter’s counsel to the people of his time. However, the principles expressed in Peter’s counsel apply equally well today. The woman is indeed the weaker figure. Men are generally larger and stronger. That is so because they have the added responsibility of providing for their families, which up until the middle of the last century frequently required heavy physical labor. Of course there are some women stronger than some men. But to make women dominant because of the example of a minority would indeed be a sexist position.