Flaws of Language and Culture – Part 1 of a Series

The Missing Women of History and How We Change History’s Future

Language Flaws

Language is limited. No matter which you use, the user is left lacking the ability to communicate perfectly.

Language is an inheritance of all that is past. In English, “man” and “mankind” only uses one gender, but represents both men and women, and means humanity. How is one to understand it – literally or figuratively? Some do say it literally and feel justified because inherited language tells them that those who lived before us believed that “man” was the only word worth using.

One Half of Humanity

History does not speak often of women. Our language and inherited voice and the leadership of the past greatly lacks one half of humanity. The language and culture of those in charge of the words and records, those people wrote it that way. To be angry that they didn’t know what we know, or have the same perspective we have, does not make sense. To hold them to our modern cultural understanding would be unfair. Yes, some excluded women from our history and inheritance maliciously, others not intentionally, but all were human and all very imperfect.

Yes, wouldn’t we love to have the works of the female DaVincis and Mozarts! Wouldn’t we love to have the records of the prophetesses like Anna! We know that they existed. We are discovering little by little the great impact women have had just in the last couple centuries. We are uncovering how their influence has been hidden by the pride of those who surrounded them. The world has been blessed by the shaping and influence of women. Women whose identities were lost and the credit of their efforts, in some cases, stolen.

The Blame

Truth is being revealed. Truth is being uncovered. Seeing the flaws of history, I know well that feeling of boiling blood at the injustice. I know well the desire to point fingers and yell at the top of my lungs for change and the righting of wrongs. As we point to the flawed people of time, let us take pause, and not forget who we are really pointing at.

We are pointing past humanity at the one who has used our weaknesses against us from the beginning… whose injustice is astoundingly criminal…who knows that to weaken and shackle half of humanity is to weaken and shackle all. The adversary of us all has used the great weakness of pride against women for a very long time. He promised at the very beginning he would do everything in his power to thwart human growth and potential. He said he was going to buy up false priests who oppressed, and therefore set up every roadblock for human progression. Let us direct our anger where it is rightfully deserved. (1)

Yes, Lucifer, we see you.

True Meanings

Scripture is a little different than a history text. True, reading the scriptures in literal English, not much mention is made of women. English, however, is not the native language that the scriptures were written in. Did you know that Hebrew is not as gender-exclusive? “And I, God, created man …and I, God, blessed them” (emphasis added) (2). President Spencer W. Kimball points out that in this phrase “man” is always in the plural and it was plural from the beginning. (3) This isn’t a placating effort at feminism. This is the real and original meaning.

A dear friend of mine changed my world when she gave me a book about Eve (4). I was exploding with joy when I read about the concept of “Adam” actually meaning “The Adams.” I mean, how many times had I missed the entire concept when reading the Pearl of Great Price? In Moses 6:9 we read: “In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (emphasis added) (5). Eve is much more present than our language has had us thinking.

Bruce R. McConkie clarifies this concept too, explaining “both [Adam and Eves] names mean the same thing… they are both called Adam.” He explains further that “throughout the Book of Mormon, the transgression is almost always referred to as Adam’s, suggesting that Adam was used in the Hebrew sense to designate the first couple as a unit. Thus the name of Adam and Eve as a united partnership is Adam.” (6) They are not the only ones. In fact, there’s a pattern of this throughout time, language, and scripture, but that topic is for another post (and it’s an exciting one! Stay tuned!).

The Gods

It’s helpful to understanding that history and languages often used one word to mean both a husband and wife together, like a last name. The scriptures in the Pearl of Great Price are some of my favorites for many reasons, but one especially where Abraham talks of “the Gods”… speaking of a powerful team of beings, in charge, diverse in characteristics, skills and abilities, each contributing great value, working together for one purpose: Humanity. Abraham doesn’t speak of the gods the same way that ancient Egyptians or Greeks did. He meant that God does not work alone. We know “Truth tells me I’ve a Mother there.” (7) Neither is man without the woman, or the woman without the man, in the Lord. (8) Heavenly Father is not alone. Maybe, just maybe, “God” could very well be considered what we call in our language and culture, Their last name, The Gods.

You might want to go read the Book of Abraham again, with this perspective.

Voice of the Future

Change is needed in many different places. We need to be much more inclusive in word and deed. Not the loud and quickly dissipating kind of change, nor the damaging kind of change, like fire leaves behind crumbs of carbon. Lasting and deep change is brought only in circles of trust. Did you read that? Let it sink in. Sometimes our brains appreciate repetition so I’ll say it again: Lasting and deep change is brought only in circles of trust. If you want to be an agent of change, then I ask you: Are you building circles of trust?

Deep change comes through intelligence shared that waits for the greatest moments of impact. Lasting change occurs when words of persuasion are placed where they are most useful. Let our influence not lack trust. Let our voice be solid, calm, steady, honest and clear. Let our acts be true, loving, kind, and strong. Let our Christ-like leadership be in our words now, and in our languages’ future.

What will the language be, that you and I give to our world’s future?

References

1. 2 Nephi 24:16; Isaiah 14:16.
2. Genesis 1:27-28
3. Spencer W Kimball, “Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, March 1976 p. 71.
4. Beverly Campbell, “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden” Deseret Book Company (April 5, 2010). See also http://www.iamawomanoffaith.org/eve.html.
5. Moses 6:9
6. Bruce R, McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), p. 69.
7. “Hymns,” #292, “Oh My Father;” See also LDS.org, “Mother in Heaven.”
8. Moses 3:18; see also Abr. 5:14.
and https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/11/it-is-not-good-for-man-or-woman-to-be-alone.p1?lang=eng

Jennifer ApffelContributor
Jenn is a website, marketing, and SEO genius. She served an LDS mission in Berlin, Germany and is currently an early-morning seminary teacher in New York.
2017-07-12T11:15:16-07:00

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3 Comments

  1. Josie February 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I love this, thank you! I am excited to go look up that book by Beverly Campbell. Another good book that has helped me understand more about women in the scriptures is Biblical Lionesses: Protectors of the Covenant, by Diana Webb. It talks about Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, Leah, and Eve from the perspective of the Hebrew biblical writings as well as pulling in some apocryphal writings. I really felt like I got to know those amazing woman through that book.

    • Laura Pratt February 1, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks for the book recommendation! We’re always looking for things that edify and uplift our minds and self-perception.

  2. Jenn Apffel February 1, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks Josie! Love the book recommendation too!

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