Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Eternal Implications of the Male/Female Imbalance in the Church

I've been thinking about the male/female imbalance in the church and what that means for the hereafter. People have pointed to the fact that there are more active women in the church than active men, and they extrapolate that to the Celestial Kingdom, and then posit that there will be widespread polygyny as a result. There's a great post at BCC breaking down population statistics over time. The conclusion is that based on historical infant mortality rates, there will be considerably more men than women in the celestial kingdom.

Given those numbers, there are a few possibilities:

1. Those who die before age 8 will be saved, but not exalted.
2. There is no automatic exaltation. Those who die before age 8 will have to hear and accept the gospel in the spirit world and receive temple ordinances just like everyone else.
3. There will be exalted individuals who are unmarried.
4. There will be polyandry in the celestial kingdom.
5. There will be same-sex marriage in the celestial kingdom.
6. The celestial kingdom will have people from worlds other than our own, evening out the gender imbalance.

I think we can eliminate option 1 immediately. It goes against the character of God to create a plan that ensures that most of the population cannot achieve exaltation. God's work and glory is to bring to pass our eternal life. (Moses 1:39)

Option 2 makes a lot of sense. However, there is a large body of scriptural authority that cuts against it. (D&C 137, Moroni 8) On the other hand, these predate D&C 138, which revealed temple work for the dead. It is possible that D&C 138 overruled the prior pronouncements. I personally find this unlikely, because if it did, presumably prophets since that time would have said something about it.

Option 3 is problematic because of scriptures and quotes requiring marriage as a prerequisite for exaltation. However, it would provide an elegant explanation for our lack of information about a Heavenly Mother. Perhaps we don't have one.

Option 4 is compelling. It preserves male/female marriage, which is a big deal in the church. There is already precedent for non-monogamous marriage in the hereafter. A man may be sealed to any woman to whom he was married in life, and a deceased woman may be sealed to any man to whom she was married in life. It also can explain why we know so little about our Heavenly Mother. Perhaps She has several families to attend to and consequently isn't around much.

Option 5 would require the biggest change in current doctrine. While it preserves monogamy, it would require a complete change of all gender rhetoric. Men presiding by virtue of maleness would have to go. Women being constrained to domesticity by virtue of femaleness would have to go. There would be no more justification for a male only priesthood. Gender essentialism would have to go out the window. While this would be an elegant solution to the demographic imbalance, I think it's supremely unlikely. First, it would throw all gender-based doctrine into disarray. Second, given the church's political activities on the subject of same-sex marriage, it's unlikely that it's going to happen in the hereafter. On the other hand, early church leaders had some pretty negative things to say about interracial marriage, and I know several couples today whose interracial marriages have been solemnized in temples. (However, the race issue was less entrenched than the gender issue.)

Option 6 moves the problem into the realm of the unknown again, but it could work. We know God has made many worlds. Presumably, He wants all of His children to dwell with Him. That makes it likely that everyone will be in one big happy family.

I suspect that some combination of options 3, 4, and 6 is most likely. Option 6 doesn't completely solve the problem unless the ratio evens out precisely to 1:1, so some other solution is needed to deal with even a minor imbalance.

Are there any options that I didn't think of?

1 comment:

Alison Moore Smith said...

Great insightful posts. I've heard the baby boy mentality a number of times before. It's at least somewhat reassuring.

I don't have an answer to your question, but I'll think some more about other possibilities. I've thought a lot about what I do NOT prefer and about how some of what we romanticize about eternal marriage is only possible if there are an identical number of men and women.

**A man may be sealed to any woman to whom he was married in life, and a deceased woman may be sealed to any man to whom she was married in life.**

If someone can make sense of this to me...

Anyway, thanks for the thoughts.