Sunday in Outer Blogness: Everything’s coming up Jeremy edition!

By now, you’ve probably heard what happened to Jeremy Runnells last week. In a nutshell, he arrived at his disciplinary council with a list of questions and learned that in church court, the defense has no right to cross-examine!! So he presented his court with his letter of resignation from the church.

The video of the court was posted online and has been transcribed. After the church refused to explain what was wrong with what he posted, Jeremy responded, “I don’t know how to repent of the truth.”

This just seems like such a dumb move from the church’s perspective.

Here’s a representative example of the other side’s perspective:

I think Jeremy would have been surprised just to see how many of the questions he had have been addressed by historians over the past half-century (for example, the archives to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought are free and available online, offering over fifty years of thoughtful scholarship).

This sort of response really sticks in my craw: The answers are out there, take my word for it! If you can’t find them, you didn’t look hard enough. Try pouring through the archives of the last 50 years of Dialogue (that should keep you busy!). But don’t expect your leaders to have any answers. And whatever you do, don’t try to crowd-source it because then you will be ex’d. Just keep your mouth shut so that everybody else will think you see the emperor’s clothes found satisfactory answers to your questions.

But even excommunicating Jeremy Runnells couldn’t keep the church’s most horrifying current scandal out of the national and international news: BYU’s policy of systematically starting an honor code investigation on everyone who reports being sexually assaulted, which can potentially lead to expulsion (of the victim). Let the airing of opinions commence!

Utah decided to respond by further whipping its favorite bogeyman.

But maybe they’re improving…?

Many are mourning Prince, who challenged the gender stereotypes Mormons hold so dear.

Also, the world celebrated Earth Day, although, sadly mourning is probably more appropriate for that one as well…

In personal stories, Kiley connected with her new name.

In books, a new review of the Mormon Feminism anthology, and one for the book that explains modern Mormonism.

Well, it’s been a pretty exciting week for Mormonism! Here’s to watching how it all turns out! Have a great week.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Blaming the victim edition!

The CoCJoL-dS has made another splash in the press — this time with the news that when students report having been sexually assaulted, the victims get sent to the honor code office themselves, to see what infractions they were committing themselves to have gotten into this situation!! Wow!

This is just wrong in so many ways. As Mormon Therapist Natasha Helfer Parker explains:

For those that would say, “well, students sign the Honor Code themselves – and should expect to be held accountable in these types of situations” – I would plainly say, NO! There are situations that trump the legalities or implications of any Honor Code signature – particularly a criminal action. We have to have university policies in place that make it as easy as possible for victims to feel safe to disclose trauma, knowing their confidentiality is going to be protected, where mental health services are readily offered, where all will be done to support their ongoing educational, personal and relational goals, and where there will be no negative repercussion or indirect/direct blame for sexual assault. Plain and simple. Nothing else will do.

Maybe you’d like to be an ally and sign a petition about it.

Meanwhile, it turns out that same-sex parents aren’t inferior to the traditional model.

So, Jeremy Runnells (of the CES Letter fame) had his disciplinary hearing last night! In case it wasn’t obvious who’s the villain here, the CoJCoL-dS decided to make it crystal clear by refusing to allow Runnels (who is deaf) an interpreter. It would appear that Runnells arrived with his resignation letter in hand, hence the breakup was quite mutual. The details have been collected on this thread.

In other church news, it has been confirmed that the growth rate of the CoJCoL-dS is declining, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the change in missionary age — and retention of members of dropping as well.

On the positive side, Thunderchicken has offered ideas for getting involved in helping refugees.

This week we finally got a new installment of “Gospel Doctrine for the Godless,” and it’s a doozy!:

And after all this — a sinful nature, a broken compass, and access to bad influences — our self-efficacy is constantly being undermined and belittled by the gospel itself. We’re reminded that we’re less than the dust of the earth, that we owe God everything, and that there’s nothing we can do to be considered worthy.

Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone: the gospel is a terrible system. It’s a set up. God could have made it any way he wanted, but he chose to put us in a situation with impossible, contradictory, confusing, and demeaning expectations. This contemptible god belittles us, and expects us to praise him in return.

The appropriate response is the same as it should be for any abuser: we must cut him off entirely, and work within a loving and supportive community to build our own lasting self-respect. Our morality isn’t perfect, but we can work to improve it without the petty sniping of a demanding and jealous father figure.

In politics, it looks like Ted Cruz should be a good choice for Mormons, given his stance on masturbation.

In personal stories, Alex broke up with his girlfriend, and Liz Emery recounted her first time getting a Brazilian.

Until next week, everyone — happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: talking back edition!

It’s the week after General Conference — traditionally the week to chew on all the interesting nuggets that people have teased out of the mass of pablum! Weirdly, though, it seemed like not much happened. Maybe they’re doing a better job of vetting the talks…?

Probably the highlight was the new primary presidency in their primary colors!

Also, some liked the talk on how Mormons should help refugees, some didn’t.

Ordain Women tried asking the first presidency nicely for the right to perform Mormon rituals that don’t specifically require the priesthood — we’ll see if that goes anywhere! Dana Haight Cattani also recounted what happens when you try to give feedback to the CoJCoL-dS through the official channels.

In church watch there was some discussion on BYU’s rape policies and the CoJCoL-dS is still trying to find a strategy for controlling the story.

Here’s a tidbit of odd news: the man planning Mormontown, Vermont also has plans in Utah!

In LDS culture, conservative Mormons don’t seem to like Trump (and Palin has her problems as well), and Mormon Jesus celebrated his birthday!

God’s favorite musical has some explaining to do. Around here, the focus has mostly been on the accuracy of the portrayal of Mormons, but this new review highlights a different problem:

I studied the crowd after the performance. Some folks were hurrying to beat the exodus from the parking structure, but many small groups were laughing as they recounted different scenes. But not a single black audience member was smiling. Most looked shell-shocked.

There was potential in this play. There was a level of depth and complexity that went into the portrayal of the white Mormon missionary characters and a sophistication to the humorous critique of Mormonism and American proselytizing that didn’t make it to the other half of the cast. The Ugandans were played for cheap laughs, and these jokes could’ve been written by just about any racist and homophobic 12-year-old.

In life journeys, we have a the story of a transgender man facing excommunication, Jeremy Runnels’s disciplinary council is coming up, Brandon Pearce gave some advice on a life of full-time travel, and Dad’s Primal Scream described ancestors who left the world with a Mormon testimony on their lips.

In books, Runtu is serializing a new story: The Incidental Prophet. And writers take note — the Mormon Lit Blitz has just announced its call for entries:

Submissions for The Fifth Annual Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest are due by 7 May 2016 to Submitted works may be in any genre so long as they are under 1,000 words and designed to resonate with an LDS audience in some way.

In fun, here’s a new hymn parody!

Happy reading!!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Bad advice edition!

LDS General Conference is upon us again, and with it a reiteration of one of the worst pieces of life advice that the CoJCoL-dS loves to give its unmarried members:

Brethren, may I remind you, if there were a perfect woman, do you really think she would be that interested in you?

I don’t have the complete text (I’m just working from the BCC summary), but apparently President Uchdorf told the single men that it’s wrong to have high standards when choosing a wife — just grab the first faithful Mormon woman that’s handy, and get busy already!

Contrast that with some real, actual good advice I happened upon this week — which I wish Mormon kids would be taught:

In our world, the major rule is to get married before you’re too old—and “too old” varies from 25 – 35, depending on where you live. The rule should be “whatever you do, don’t marry the wrong person,” but society frowns much more upon a 37-year-old single person than it does an unhappily married 37-year-old with two children. It makes no sense—the former is one step away from a happy marriage, while the latter must either settle for permanent unhappiness or endure a messy divorce just to catch up to where the single person is.

Apparently that wasn’t the only example of terrible marriage advice from the priesthood session, as Alex reports:

…if you truly want more Priesthood power, you will cherish and care for your wife, embracing both her and her counsel.

This just seems like the most idiotic advice. Listen, if the reason men are bothering to cherish their wives and listen to their wives’ counsel is to increase their Priesthood power, maybe Nelson should be giving an address about how to be a good husband and an all-around decent human being before worrying about amping up the magical power levels.

Then there was a talk that was something about lost car keys. On this profound topic even the summary needs a [tl;dr].

The biggest news from conference, though, was the decline in the growth rate of the CoJCoL-dS.

Of course some people stood up to oppose the sustaining vote, like last time.

It looks like some Mormons are thinking of creating a planned community in Vermont, and not everyone is happy about it. Oh well, at least the Mormons’ writing Amazon reviews for the Book of Mormon was amusing.

From the annals of why being Mormon sucks, some members have made a game of making sure the mishies follow every nit-picky rule in the “white Bible”:

Here’s a little challenge for everyone similar to looking for the hidden objects in Highlights magazine while waiting for that dreaded dentist appointment when you were a kid. Scan the photograph shown here and see if you can identify how many ways, if any, these two Mormon missionaries might be violating rules set down in the LDS Church’s Missionary Handbook.

Is it me, or could that paragraph use a little more punctuation somewhere? I had to read that first sentence three times, trying to figure out how someone could be similar to looking for hidden objects. See, I can be nit-picky too! 😀

In podcasts, we have racial issues in BYU athletics and the obligatory Mormon TMI mea culpa about the imaginary disorder known as “porn addiction.” Fortunately, there was someone with some sense in the comments section:

I think it would have been helpful to have a professional therapist, like Natasha Helfer Parker or Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, someone in the Mormon therapy world with real professional experience to provide a perspective on these issues. I think all of your guests were well intentioned, but I’m worried that some of the language used to describe addictions on this episode could perpetuate some of the problems we have in the Mormon culture around sexual issues.

And what would April be without some April Foolsjokes? Plus April has brought us a new exmormon hymn!

Happy April, Happy Conference, and Happy Reading! 😀

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Women’s session edition!

I was going to call this the “Easter Edition,” but then I read about a study that claims that Mormons don’t care about Easter, and — if I can still be considered Mormon — I can provide an additional data point in favor of Mormons not caring about Easter. Sure, we had some friends over yesterday for a party that included lots of Chocolates and an Easter-treat hunt for the kids. And by fortuitous coincidence, it was also my husband’s birthday, so we were able to get in a celebration of that as well during our long weekend. But if we hadn’t been due for a party, we probably wouldn’t have done anything.

OTOH, I don’t care about the LDS women’s conference either. So here are some items about Easter and the women’s conference.

Probably the most entertaining news item was when some folks at BYU decided to give the Book of Mormon a bunch of glowing reviews on Amazon. Also, a Mormon doomsday prophet gave specific dates of the impending doom. In less amusing Mormon news, the LDS Church has been named in lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of Navajo children in the Indian placement program.

There were a variety of fascinating discussions this past week, including Mormons figuring out what feminism is, the key to understanding the Bible, the parable of the hospital, the math of celestial marriage, the crazy stuff in the Journal of Discourses, and evidence of a high-level historical cover-up!

Of course the US political scene has gotten even more grotesque.

In life journeys, Conor Hilton described a “faith remodel”, Ex-Mormon Tales and Chelsey Sidler-Lartey explained why they don’t believe in God — and Andrew Hackman recorded a podcast about his atheism (with his non-atheist brother). And Zina described how her atheism made her a better person. On the flip side, Gina Colvin has gone back to church.

In not-Mormon-related Tom Clark posed as a warrior, and — in case you’re new to coffee — here’s a handy beginner’s guide!

I hope you’ve had and/or are having a lovely holiday weekend! Till next week, happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Primaries edition!

Yes, US politics. I’d like to look away from it all, but Trump is courting Utah — and the response is making Mormons look good. Sadly, the whole Glenn Beck / Ted Cruz thing is having the opposite effect.

There was hardly any Mormon news to speak of. Perhaps this beautiful painting whose artist, unfortunately, seems not very interested in learning something from people’s reaction to his work.

This has been a big week for sex! Mormon Stories interviewed Kate Kelly regarding her Planned Parenthood activities (among other things), and also interviewed Alex Cooper (of “Saving Alex“) on reparative therapy. Natasha Helfer Parker’s Mormon Sex Info podcast is going strong. Mithryn discussed Mormons and porn.

On a related note, the CoJCoL-dS pretends to have the same chastity standards for homo & hetero, but it would be great if they’d be a little more honest. Speaking of double-standards, denying women the priesthood affects them in real ways. At least the Girl Scouts have some advantages over their opposite couterparts. On the flip side, Jared Jones recounted his experience as a Mormon stay-at-home-Dad:

The challenges of being a stay-at-home dad are somewhat magnified by the lens of cultural Mormonism. A strict interpretation of the Family: A Proclamation to the World, for example, could suggest I am failing in my patriarchal responsibilities. On the same Sunday I received positive comments (“Oh, that’s so great you’re home with the kids”), my wife received questions and criticism about her career choices (“Why would you do that do yourself?”).

In personal stories, William Law shared his exit story, the Debrief Society discussed trying to work with the local ward, and Joseph Broom shared his husband’s obituary — a beautiful example of embracing the life you have.

Yay, I succeeded in finishing SiOB on Sunday itself — as predicted! And yet I still got in a huge amount of work done on my comic book! A great weekend for me — I hope yours was good as well!

Monday in Outer Blogness: Time travel edition!

Well, it’s been a week since my last SiOB — although this one (like last week’s) was supposed to be on Sunday. I could just switch this thing to Monday, but then it would start slipping to Tuesday, etc., and I don’t want to go down that slippery slope.

This time my excuse is that I was working like a dog all weekend finishing up the last few pages of the first completed segment of my comic book, and it looks great — I’m absolutely thrilled with it! And when I was done, it was getting kind of late to start on SiOB — plus the biggest Mormon news story of the past week was a historian’s discovery that Eliza R. Snow had probably been gang-raped, which is somehow less entertaining to analyze than the usual depressing Mormon fare. But there are interesting related stories.

In other news, there was an interesting leak on the reddit regarding how seemingly-candid discussions with General Authorities are staged, and the Mormon porn paranoia has infected the state government of Utah.

In podcasts, Cleon Skousen has been coming up a lot in the news, so if you’d like some background, the Mormon Expositor has an older podcast and a new one for you! And irreligiosophy has determined that Scalia has been dead long enough that it’s time to start picking his legacy apart.

In Mormon topics, hawkgrrrl explained a bit about gender, Rock Waterman analyzed the problems with what the CoJCoL-dS is selling, William Shunn discussed what makes something “anti-Mormon”, Fred W. Anson described confirmation bias, and Andrew S devised a really interesting analysis about the ward-as-orchestra analogy and what it means for how different people are valued. He even made a music video about it:

And Michael Austin wrote an interesting analysis of Mormon word choices:

Nothing illustrates the schizophrenic nature of modern Mormonism better than the shift from “Brother Joseph” to “Brother Smith” in our interactions with each other. The “brother” and “sister” forms of address were designed to go with first names, to enhance the familiarity. Among adults in our culture, the use of a first name implies friendship and intimacy, and the addition of “brother” or “sister” enhances the intimacy by extending our sense of family into the friendship.

When we use the “brother” and “sister” title with a last name, however, we increase the formality and decrease the sense of kinship. “Brother Austin” is a much more formal way to address me than just “Mike.” It creates a distance, signals an institutional connection rather than a personal one, and (because family connections are usually identified through a last name) emphasizes the fictive nature of our kinship rather than the kinship itself.

In non-Mormon-related, how about that US election? And toddlers with guns…?

So, it looks like there was a lot of interesting reading material this past week after all! I hope my erratic posting schedule isn’t causing people to give up on this weekly feature. I have fun doing it, and I hope you like it too! And now that I’ve hit a key milestone in my comic book project, I should be able to get my schedule back on track.

Have a great week!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: see no homosexuals edition!

This week’s big Mormon news story was Elder Bednar’s public claim that there are no homosexual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! It was the same tired old claim that you shouldn’t label yourself (with labels that the church doesn’t like) and pretending like that’s somehow being inclusive. It’s hard to avoid making the obvious parallel with Iran and/or getting snarky about it:

And then, the more I started thinking about this, I realized there really isn’t anything anymore. There are no sinners, because we are more than our sins. There are no Saints, because we aren’t just our good deeds. There are no heterosexuals, because they probably don’t want to be defined by their sexual orientation either, nor do I assume there are couples, because why should we be defined by our marital status, which brings me to the good news that there are also no singles anymore (wow, look, he just solved the “single problem” for the Church. Genius).

Elisothel presented an analogy that explained lovingly and eloquently what’s wrong with Bednar’s idea:

She told me of a school assembly later in the year where the headmaster, as a gesture of unity and in a moment of furvor, stated “We are more than our denominations, we are all Christians here…”

This statement was obviously exclusionary to the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist families, but did this statement feel inclusive to my Mormon friend, who actually was a Christian? Did she feel embraced as a Christian? Of course not – she knew she would only be considered Christian if she betrayed her own identity as a Mormon. Did this statement acknowledge her Christianity as a Mormon? No, it set her apart from every other Christian in the room and echoed how non-Christian she was because of her Mormonism. Now, if the school had different practices, and hired Mormons as Christians, then the sentiment would have been received as inclusive. But in the context of school policy and practice, the sentiment highlighted her outsider status. If she chose to interpret the statement in the best way possible – that she was considered a Christian in that moment – she knew that at the very least it erased her Mormonism and saw her as a Christian in spite of her religion, not because of it.

My favorite observation was pointed out by Heather during the Infants on Thrones smackdown and by Andrew S here (and others). They pointed out that by saying “We are not defined by sexual attraction. We are not defined by sexual behavior. We are sons and daughters of God” — Elder Bednar doesn’t allow us to be more than our gender labels. And considering their constant barrage of nonsense (including later in his same remarks) about how men are like this and women are like that, I have to admit it would be pretty awesome to get to take a break from having these doofuses define us in terms of our gender.

In other churchy news, Mitt Romney may yet save the GOP from the horror of Trump, Leah Marie Silverman made some great points about the discussion of female ordination, the FLDS are facing legal and other challenges, and Elder Holland is telling strange things to missionaries.

At least they got everyone to forget about that inoculation thing!

In scripture study, Steve Otteson reviewed “How Jesus Became God,” by Bart Ehrman. Benjamin Knoll offered a new interpretation of the Nephi story as an allegory for the plan of salvation, with a little caveat:

Now, the skeptic/agnostic in me must candidly admit that this all may simply be a coincidence. Or that the similarity between the two narratives may be indicative of larger arch-typical structures underlying most epic narratives that gifted story-tellers (like Joseph Smith) have a keen ability to channel.

Hmm. The skeptic in me says the Book of Mormon doesn’t appear to contribute any new insights about the plan of salvation, so it’s still not terribly helpful for providing justification for revering the Book of Mormon. This review sums it up pretty well — but maybe the new edition for Millennials is better!

In personal stories, here’s a great comic about leaving religion. Mormon Hurt is having difficulty with mutual respect in a mixed-faith relationship. And a beautiful and inspiring love story from our community has reached a tragic transition:

But you know, as I think about it, Mark never did that. Not out loud, anyway. Not once in the nearly three years of his cancer did he bemoan his fate or express outrage that the universe had done this to him. What he did say, repeatedly, was how lucky he had been throughout his life. And rather than express sorrow over the short time he had with me, he instead expressed – many times – how lucky he was that I had come into his life and how fortunate we were to spend together what time we had.

In fun, check out some Mormon live stand-up comedy!

Folks, I’m sorry about the lateness of this SiOB — I had some Internet issues yesterday, but it appears to be all cleared up now. Happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Inoculation edition!!

Well, they’ve finally done it! The CoJCoL-dS has decided to have a General Authority stand up in a public meeting and tell people to read the infamous essays!! (Are they getting desperate?)

(If you’re not familiar with the essays, please see this earlier roundup with discussion of how the CoJCoL-dS publicly posted a series of essays to address some of the most problematic issues of the church — but they never mentioned them over the pulpit, and then moved them around the website a bit, making it look like they want something to point to if accused of secrecy, but don’t actually want faithful members to find them unless they’re really looking for them. Possibly because some of these issues can’t be spun in a way that fails to make the church look bad.)

The wild thing is that Elder Ballard actually used the term “inoculation” this time!! It’s not that it’s useful/interesting/edifying to have more info/clarification about doctrinal and historical points you may have been worried about. It’s that some of these “Anti-Mormon lies” can be deadly to your faith (when you find out that they’re not actually lies). So the hope is that if these upsetting tidbits of information are presented to you in a weakened form, then maybe your faith will develop an immunity to them — especially when presented as an alternative to googling.

(Related podcasts include Feminist Mormon Housewives’ awesome new series on race and Mormon history, plus, in his pre-excommunication interview with Mormon Matters, Jeremy Runnels talked a bit about how yesterday’s “Anti-Mormon lies” are todays essays on the church website.)

I’m pretty surprised that Elder Ballard presents the strategy this way — it’s not like it makes the church look good. (Of course, I suppose anything that that takes on those evil “Anti-Mormons” and their nefarious plots is, by definition, good…). But the other thing that jumped out at me is that Ballard explained this strategy as “inoculation” without giving the slightest hint that this is something that has been debated on the Bloggernacle and all over the Internet for years (see here, here, here). But, by accidentally not having time to give any credit/attribution for this idea, the non-Internet-savvy believers can believe that the General Authorities got this inspired idea themselves — on the hotline straight from God!

Continuing current issues for the CoJCoL-dS include medical marijuana, suicides (especially involving the LGBTQ), going out of their way to find gay couples to excommunicate (among other weird family/privacy invastions), women and the priesthood (etc.), well-meant (or not) bad advice, and evidence for the Book of Mormon (not to mention plausibility).

Of course the world has not-Mormon-related problems that may be even worse

In life journeys, Katie L shared a lovely exit story.

In the horn-tooting category (or viola-playing), I posted some more of my comic book and another of my puppet shows from my college days. And Knotty recounted the fun of meeting fellow expats!

Happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Quiet for now edition!

Seems pretty quiet on the Mormon front this week. Ordain Women? Still pressing on. Worthiness interviews (where middle-aged men ask teens about sex behind closed doors) are still a problem. Kirby is preparing for his inevitable excommunication. Legalizing medical marijuana has some unintended consequences. And J. Max wrote an article that’s totally reasonable (of course it wasn’t about Mormonism).

In other church news, the CoJCoL-dS explicitly refuses accountability when it comes to the gay question, and if they’re standing for something, it’s not like they haven’t flexed before. Oh, and that “hastening the work” thing hasn’t really worked:

Although everyone was bearing their heartfelt testimony that the field was white and ready to harvest, it just wasn’t the case. The only thing that has gotten whiter and more ready to harvest are the organ donors serving in the Quorum of the Twelve.

In scripture study, Paul Barker posed an interesting thought experiment about the consequences if the Book of Mormon actually were true. It turns out, the Book of Mormon wasn’t even written for white people. Meanwhile, some folks appear to have been taken in by some rusty gold plates. And Jason L is longing for a Moroni 6 church — I assume you have your scriptures handy to find the reference!

In history, Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young offers 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Martin Harris.

In theology, FannysForAlgernon recounted how confirmation bias worked in his own life. Steve Otteson recounted how he didn’t choose not to believe. And without saying “cult” we can talk about how organizations can control people.

In personal, Michelle L wrote about women having a hard time being OK with other women’s choices. And Alliegator posted a charming tale of LDS leaders doing the right thing.

In random fun, Seth and Michael are taking on the Word of Wisdom in the coolest possible way, but Verlyne is right up there! The Brodie-Award-winning Mormon coloring pages are getting ready for publication — give your feedback! Mormon creative dating is alive and well! And Froggey took some beautiful waterfront photos.

And let’s close with some poetry! Have a calm, safe, happy week!