Pauline teachings

Articles about the Holy Bible

Does the Church support Paul's teaching about women submitting to their husbands?

Paul taught, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5꞉22; cf. 23-24). Insofar as people interpret these teachings to mean that women should do whatever their husband says, that interpretation is wrong. "Prophets and apostles today teach that men are not superior to women and that spouses are meant to be 'equal partners.'"[1] And they have always taught this principle.

"It is important to note that Paul’s words in Ephesians 5꞉22-24 were written in the context of the social customs of his era."[2] Accordingly, within this context, the gospel principle Paul was teaching was love and sacrifice on the part of both spouses.

The Church's Come Follow Me study guide writes:

Paul taught that all members of the Church should submit themselves to one another, or in other words, place others ahead of themselves (see Ephesians 5꞉21). He then explained how the principle of submitting oneself applied in family and household relationships, starting with wives and husbands. For wives, this means submitting themselves to their husbands as they would to the Lord; for husbands, this means loving their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it (see Ephesians 5꞉22, 25). If couples are truly united, then any sacrifice made on behalf of one’s spouse inevitably brings blessings to oneself; thus, “he that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5꞉28).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) stated: “‘Happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come’ (Anchorage, Alaska, regional conference, 18 June 1995)” (“Speaking Today: Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Apr. 1996, 72).

Paul’s counsel that wives should submit to their husbands (see Ephesians 5꞉22) does not justify male dominion. People in Greco-Roman society regarded the father as being the head of the extended family and the absolute authority over the entire household. Therefore, Paul’s teachings represented a dramatic change to these traditional ideas because he defined husbands’ and fathers’ roles in terms of Christ’s love and sacrifice for the Church.[3]

The Church continues to reinforce Paul's teachings that each spouse should "submit" to the other, meaning love and sacrifice for each other. For example:

  • Joseph Smith: "It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; . . . It is the place of the man, to stand at the head of his family, … not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, . . . When you [sisters] go home, never give a cross or unkind word to your husbands, but let kindness, charity and love crown your works henceforward."[4]
  • Thomas S. Monson: "Brethren, let’s treat our wives with dignity and with respect. They're our eternal companions. Sisters, honor your husbands. They need to hear a good word. They need a friendly smile. They need a warm expression of true love."[5]
Related article:Sexism in the scriptures
Summary: Ancient texts such as the scriptures often contain sexist attitudes by our standards. Not every accusation of sexism, however, is justified by the text. Sometimes there is more going on than our 21st century eyes realize.

What about Paul's comment in 1 Timothy 6:16 that no one has ever seen Christ?

Paul wrote: "He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting" (v. 15-16). A key to understanding what Paul meant by "whom no man hath seen, nor can see" is the preceding phrase "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto."

Paul elsewhere taught: "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12꞉29). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: "God Almighty himself dwells in Eternal fire, flesh and blood cannot go there, all corruption is devoured by the fire."[6]

From this we learn that natural man cannot see or be in the presence of God. This was explained by Moses, who beheld God and then said: "Now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him" (Moses 1꞉11). This was also taught by the Lord, who said, "For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God. Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind" (Doctrine and Covenants 67꞉11-12).

So Paul taught that no man (meaning natural man) has seen God. As the Joseph Smith Translation explains: "Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, to whom be honor and power everlasting; whom no man hath seen, nor can see, unto whom no man can approach, only he who hath the light and the hope of immortality dwelling in him."[7]


  1. "Week 41," Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2023.
  2. "Week 41," Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2023.
  3. "Chapter 44: Ephesians," New Testament Study Manual.
  4. "Chapter 42: Family: The Sweetest Union for Time and for Eternity," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.
  5. "Chapter 18: Happiness in Marriage," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Thomas S. Monson.
  6. "Discourse, 12 May 1844, as Reported by Thomas Bullock,"
  7. JST, 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (Appendix).