Mormon Leaders Warn of “Tolerance Trap” and Emphasize Separate Gender Roles at General Conference

LDS President, Thomas S. Monson

LDS President, Thomas S. Monson

The Tolerance Trap

LDS General Conference took place in Salt Lake City this past weekend, and thousands of Mormons descended on the city (as they do every April and October) for the semi-annual meeting of its church’s leaders. During the conference the church’s hierarchy dispensed its usual uplifting sermons and instructions on church business to its congregants; for people outside of the church, conference weekend generally means a healthy dose of controversy from the omnipresent pulpit. This year was no different for non-members when a speech by Boyd K. Packer (an apostle in the church) warned members against changing laws which “tolerate legalized acts of immorality.”

Though Packer never expressly mentioned same-sex marriage, his message comes at a time when the United States Supreme Court is writing opinions on DOMA and Prop 8, and at the local level three same-sex couples are suing the state for the right to marry. Context is king, and we all know exactly what Packer was talking about. At a time when the nation’s views are shifting on marriage equality, Packer warns his followers that, “We need to be careful of the ‘tolerance trap’ so that we are not swallowed up in it.”

Given the church’s reticence to endorse something as simple as a statewide non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT persons from eviction or termination at their jobs, it seems like they are doing a damn-good job of not falling into the so-called “tolerance trap.”

Separate Gender Roles

We wrote earlier this week about a local group’s push to extend the powers of the Priesthood to female members, which happens to coincide with the first time in the church’s history that a woman (Jean A. Stevens) led public prayer. Apparently the church hierarchy needed to clarify that it wasn’t falling into the “tolerance trap” and blurring its archaic gender roles, because several talks were given about the “separate but equal” “different but equally valued roles” of men and women.

We are not condemning women for acting as the primary caregiver for their children while their husband works. Let us say it again: We are not condemning women for acting as the primary caregiver for their children while their husband works.

We are condemning former Young Women’s general president, Elaine S. Dalton’s recitation of the “Family Proclamation,” which says: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

The problem is that “divine design” leaves out women and men who don’t want to fulfill prescribed gender roles. Let’s be honest, providing the necessities of life is a long-winded way to say “gainful employment.” That type of unequivocal condemnation against the healthy and personal choice for women to work outside of the home is what we condemn, because we don’t believe in condemning women for choices. Period.

Was there anything else at this year’s conference that you found problematic? How about uplifting? We would love to hear a Mormon Feminist’s perspective. Let us know via our “Contact” page.




  1. Capn_Danger says:

    I appreciate being given the “highlights” of GC without having to spend my weekend subjecting my eardrums to this authoritarian rhetoric. Thanks for doing the dirty work for me! 😀

  2. mormonfeministisactuallynotanoxymoron says:

    I’m a Mormon feminist who is all for gay rights, being queer herself. I basically believe in the fundamental teachings of the church, but I cannot associate myself with this alignment against LGBTQA rights. I believe that the church is out of date and not looking at the science, but if you look around the church, it is mainly the older generation that believes this. Nearly all of the mormons my age are for gay rights and equality for women, despite what church leaders and their parents think. It’s a generation gap issue. I believe that as new leaders rise to power from newer generations the church will change and be more up to date and accepting, like they were for Blacks holding priesthood in the 70’s.

    • slcfeminist says:

      I agree that the church’s leadership is out of step with younger congregants. Hopefully things change to do believers like you justice!

    • I can promise you that it won’t change, if it did change the church would cease to be true. And if you have had a confirmation that it is true, then you know it won’t change. Blacks being unable to hold the priesthood was something that The Lord gave the go ahead for through revelation, it was temporary, and if looked at through less judgemental eyes can be viewed as one of the most amazing examples of how much Heavenly Father cares about his children. They were suffering all kind of affliction around this period, but once they had finally become equal members of society, they were allowed to become priesthood holders also… The one thing with the priesthood is that it can never under any circumstances be used to help or benefit ones personal troubles, or to get gain, it may only be used to bless the lives of others.. I believe that the priesthood being withheld until the appropriate time shows how Heavenly Father recognized that they were the ones who needed to be blessed during this period. It was delayed until they were able to fulfil priesthood duties and meet the expectations.

  3. I don’t think “A” rights are in question through the church?? They do say it takes a couple generations to get over this kind of junk as well. Just like in the military and many other Christian organizations, women can never fully achieve the(ir) potential and must always be seen as in “opposition” or “subordinate” to male leaders, male authorities, male gender, male… everything! It is very nice for male leaders to applaud work done by women.. How nice of them to acknowledge a “woman’s role.”
    I appreciate your article. Your approach is more diplomatic than I feel about the subject!
    : D

    • slcfeminist says:

      It’s a subject that drums up a lot of passion for a lot of people. I’m a firm believer in righteous anger!

  4. Catherine Agnes says:

    In my opinion, the worst part of Dalton’s talk (and there were plenty of offensive things to choose from in that talk!) was when she taught that rape victims have had their virtue and chastity stolen from them. Quote: “In the decadent society of Mormon’s time, he lamented that the women were robbed of that which was most dear and precious above all—their virtue and chastity.”

    She really just said that the women were robbed of their virtue and chastity–as if virtue and chastity are things that can be forcibly taken by rapists! The context of the scripture she is referencing (Moroni 9:9) makes abundantly clear that the phrase she references is a euphemism for rape. The scripture goes on to describe, in the next verse, how the same women were then physically tortured and brutally murdered by the people who had just raped them.

    Dalton has done so much harm. I am glad she’s been released, but so angry about the damage she’s already done, and that her legacy will continue to inflict.

    • slcfeminist says:

      Wow, I had no idea that she said all of that. It’s despicable that she was allowed to spread such hatred. Thanks for sharing.

    • This reply is not a defense of Elaine Dalton’s Conference address, “We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father,” as a whole, but rather a defense against your charge that “she taught that rape victims have had their virtue and chastity stolen from them.”

      After citing Dalton’s reference to Moroni 9:9, you remark that “She really just said that the women were robbed of their virtue and chastity–as if virtue and chastity are things that can be forcibly taken by rapists!”

      Before charging someone with perpetuating lies or inaccuracies, especially when basing your charge upon the interpretation of written text, it is wise to consider the sense of the words being spoken by the individual whom you are charging. In the early nineteenth century, the period in which Joseph Smith purportedly translated the Book of Mormon, the words “virtue” and “chastity” were commonly defined as “Virginity or chastity, esp. of a woman” (“New Oxford American Dictionary”) and “Abstinence from all sexual intercourse; virginity, celibacy” (“Oxford English Dictionary”), respectively. Hence, according to these definitions, it is possible for rapists to “steal” a woman’s virtue (virginity) and chastity (voluntary abstinence from sexual intercourse or, again, virginity).

      The “Oxford English Dictionary” also defines the word “virtue” as “Conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality; voluntary observance of the recognized moral laws or standards of right conduct; abstention on moral grounds from any form of wrong-doing or vice.” Moroni 9:9 does not, and Elaine Dalton did not, imply that, by being raped, the “daughters of the Lamanites” had become any less virtuous in the conformity of their lives and conduct to the principles of morality, which they had control over, in contrast with being raped, which they had no control over. Hence, according to the above definitions, it is possible for an individual to be raped, i.e., deprived of virginity and voluntariness of abstinence from sexual intercourse, yet still remain virtuous and chaste in the sense that, in relation to personal will, the individuals’s conformity of life and conduct to the principles of morality remains unchanged.

      Your lexical sleights of hand only convince the unwary and those who are actively looking to find fault with and misrepresent others. If you spent half as much of your time trying to understand the words of others rather than looking for opportunities to decontextualize and misinterpret others’ words, you might find yourself more often engaged in mutual and effective dialogue rather than in polemical disputes.

  5. Braden J McKenna says:

    I had posted a response to the “tolerance trap” quote on the church’s official general conference post of Packer’s talk from their youtube page. At the time I posted it there were several others engaged in a conversation about this quote. Since then the church has removed all comments related to the “tolerance trap” quote but they have conveniently left seemingly non related posts and posts that deal in overt mormon bashing…… interesting.

    • slcfeminist says:

      Braden, that’s just silly on their part. The speech was picked up all over the Internet. Thanks for letting us know. This post has received some odd feedback, and your comment is an example of the feedback on a larger scale. Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. here is the actual quote.
    “Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the ‘tolerance trap’ so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity.”

    he did not warn “members against changing laws which “tolerate legalized acts of immorality.” “. He simply said that just because something is legal doesn’t make is moral.

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