The following statement was made by the LDS Church last Wednesday in conjunction with the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad in Utah. I see this as a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what was taught in the past regarding the doctrine.
The story of David and Jonathan is one of the most inspiring examples of true friendship anywhere. Our LDS SS manual firmly places this lesson within the mainstream view of Biblical exegesis, presenting the two as strong personal and platonic friends. As I studied the covenant made between these young men in 1 Samuel 18, I was touched by the loyalty shown by the young Jonathan, because he “loved [David] as his own soul.” Because of this love, Jonathan relinquishes his hopes for his father’s throne in deference to God’s choice. In a symbolic and ceremonial gesture, Jonathan strips off his robe, which represents the authorityhe holds to succeed his father, King Saul, and gives it to David. He also gives David his sword and his bow, representing his military prerogative; and his girdle, which symbolizes spiritual truths and the kingdom of God.
But other writers, beginning with Homer and continuing to the present day, have noted the strong elements of intimacy and eroticism within the relationship.
Ever since I was introduced to the word “liminal,” I have claimed it as my own. This word describes a threshold or a transitional position — a balancing point between two states of being. For many years I have felt poised on the threshold between two totally different ways of viewing the world. One is scientific and rational. The other is a place where angels materialize and shake your hand, where dreams have meaning, where God’s words come out of men’s mouths when they lay their hands on your head. Many members of the Church seem easily able to slip between both of these worlds. But I see a fundamental difference between the two world views. In the naturalistic view of the universe, events do not violate natural laws and are subject to the principles of empirical investigation. In the mystical view, divine intervention is possible outside of natural law.
Striving to make sense of my world has been like trying to ride two donkeys with one ass.
When we lived in Saudi Arabia a few years ago, I obtained a faculty position in the fairly newly-formed department of Health and P.E. at a university which was strictly segregated by gender. The women’s side of the university operated independently, with our own female custodians, technical staff, professors and administration, and very little oversight from the male president. Our department consisted of five women, and we made all decisions collectively, with no titular head. After the first semester I was there, one of our staff meetings was dedicated to the question of whether we should have a department head. Being the newest addition to the faculty, I had little say in this decision, but I did bring up the point that we had successfully administrated the department jointly, and I questioned the necessity of one department head. It would completely change the group dynamics that we had experienced as a body of women removed from a patriarchal hierarchy and which I very much enjoyed. The reply from all of the rest of the women, though there had been no problems thus far, was that “you HAVE to have a leader,” that one person MUST be in charge of any organization.
At the time I was struck by how much this assertion resembled the one I have heard from many Mormons justifying the hierarchical, patriarchal system in place in the Church, both within the institution and within our individual families.