Earlier this year I helped my 1st-grader make a wolf habitat diorama and discovered that wolves take their pack hierarchy very seriously.
Wolves are highly social animals that live in extended or intimate family groups. The pack is led by a mated pair: the Alpha male and female. These family leaders can bond for their lifetimes and are the only breeding members of the pack allowed to reproduce. The Alpha male breeds with the Alpha female when she is in heat, then guards her from all other interested lower-ranking wolves by biting, barking and growling at them to stay away.
He similarly deters any possible suitors away from lower ranking female wolves when they are in heat (but does not mate with her himself.) This makes sure that only the Alpha genes continue in the pack. Controlled access to females limits which males are allowed to mate. All other wolves in the pack are single and not allowed to mate with each other. (with an occasional exception for the Beta male and female)
Lower ranking single wolves often stay at the den to babysit the pups when the Alphas go out to hunt with the pack.
Alphas establish the rules of the pack: who eats first, where each wolf sleeps, who stays with the pups and so on.
Wolves hunt as a pack so they can take down larger prey animals together, since no single wolf can hunt a deer or elk alone. Packs are territorial in where they live and hunt, rarely overlapping with other packs.
The lowest ranking wolf of the pack is the Omega. This wolf is picked on, bullied, teased, dominated and forced to submit. The low-ranking wolves can be ousted from the pack and forced out on their own. (The “lone-wolf”) Without a pack, these lone wolves can starve to death. Sometimes lone wolves or other outcast Omegas band together and become their own pack, with a former Omega male and female becoming the Alphas of a new pack.
The Alphas use the lower ranking wolves for help raising the pups and for hunting as a group, but low-ranking wolves are significantly underprivileged with restrictions about eating, sleeping, procreating and general status in the pack.
Similar hierarchy systems exist in Mormonism, with Alpha male and female – or AlphaMormons (monogamous couples sealed in the temple, one or both returned missionaries) being the acknowledged “ideal” and given leadership callings within the church. Bishops, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents and Temple Presidents, Area Authorities and Apostles must all be temple-married at the time of their calls. Individuals married to a non-member are like BetaMormons: allowed a few more privileges than single people, but still not fully respected or allowed to lead. Single people are the Omega -automatically lower ranked and not considered for leadership callings, with the exception of single women being called as auxiliary leaders at local and general levels. Like members of the wolf pack, childless women are told that they are “all mothers” as they nurture other people’s children.
The “Patriarchy” part of this analogy is that the AlphaMormons in power are the ones who control access to reproduction and the raising of children. For example, chaste single women in the church are discouraged (and sometimes disciplined) by church leaders and handbook policies from having a child via artificial insemination and raising them as a single parent. Single people are discouraged from adopting or fostering children. Through church policies, it is dictated that same-sex couples may not marry or raise children. No exceptions seem to be made for single people who are exceptional nurturers or who would make excellent foster parents, nor for committed same-sex partners to experience the joys of family life. The “joys of family life,” it seems, are reserved only for AlphaMormons, and the rest of the pack is barred from full participation. Even those who have chosen a satisfying and fulfilling life without spouse or children are told that they’ll get those “blessings in the next life” as though it’s automatically assumed they want those things and are missing out on something in the meantime.
Children aside, the Wolf-Pack-Patriarchy mentality means that any non-Alphas are forbidden from having any sort of sexual expression as a part of their single life. (ironically one of our “God-Given” inclinations)
By extension, AlphaMormon Heaven is exclusive of single people, relegating them to the status of “ministering servants” to the fully exalted couples, as though heaven didn’t have enough room for everyone to have full privileges.
How did Jesus treat single people, or those with differing marriage practices? We know Mary and Martha (single women and sisters living together) were his beloved friends and disciples. The Samaritan woman at the well had been married 5 times and was cohabitating with a man to whom she was not married but was the first to receive his declaration of his divine mission. The woman taken in adultery was not condemned, but forgiven and excused to go and sin no more. For those who will argue “it’s not man’s prerogative to change the patriarchal structures God has put in place,” let’s reaffirm that Jesus is not the source for discriminatory actions against single people, nor does he place restrictions on who can care for children, so long as they don’t abuse his “little ones.” Jesus declares himself both “Alpha” and “Omega” – showing that his empathy is for both leader and outcast.
It’s time to abandon the language of hierarchy and superiority when it comes to marriage, children and sexual expression. In our deepest hearts, we know this exclusive mindset is discordant with the wishes of a loving Mother and Father God for their children. Salvation is individual and unique! It’s time to make our worship services and church fellowship fully inclusive of all individuals, without teaching that some members have more ideal lives than others. Nobody should be judged for having a “counterfeit” lifestyle when they are in the pursuit of what brings happiness and goodness to their lives.
This analogy shouldn’t have been so easy to write.