Sunday in Outer Blogness: The Youth of Zion Edition!

Perhaps you’ve heard the news: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun excommunication proceedings against Sam Young, with the following charges:

  1. Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders.
  2. Organized more than one public “action” that expressed opposition to the Church or its leaders.

I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise — although it is a bit of a disappointment. Once again the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS have demonstrated that their own authority, respect, and prestige pass above all else. Rather than revisit this terrible, abusive policy of arranging sexually-charged interviews with minors, they shoot the messenger because he embarrasses them. Once again the leaders try to solve the problem by getting the critic to shut up — because from their perspective the only real problem is the damage to the church’s image. As I said in my Sunstone panel on criticism:

I argue that shielding the CoJCoL-dS from all criticism — including criticism from strongly interested insiders — does more harm that allowing criticism to be aired and discussed.

Here’s Sam Young’s response letter, and here’s a list of related vigils and news items.

The other recent news story out of Mormondom is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going to finally completely shed the nickname “Mormon”. It looks like this will be one of Russel M. Nelson’s signature issues as president — good thing he has some really important issues regarding the church’s image to worry about!

It seems like they’ve been doing this bizarre dance of embracing and rejecting the term “Mormon” my whole life — will it stick this time?

Well, let’s look at the style guide from the now-ironically-named “Mormon Newsroom.” They don’t want people using the terms “LDS Church” or “Mormon Church” anymore — now when you don’t want to type out the entirety of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” you are supposed to shorten it to “the Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ.” Or a new one that combines cryptic with unruly: the “restored Church of Jesus Christ.”

In other words, anything that is clear, concise, and would actually help a lay person to know who you’re talking about is verboten. That’s a brilliant plan — good thing the prophets, seers, and revelators have the hotline to God to get such great ideas. Bonus points for all of the persecution that the Latter-day-Saints-formerly-known-as-Mormons get to feel when nobody goes along with this nonsensical request.

See also Tyler Scott’s 10 problems with the name change and Mormon History Guy’s analysis comparing the use of the term Mormon with (not) referring to the colonized by their indigenous names.

At least they stopped insisting that people shouldn’t use the term “Mormon” for other offshoots of the same religious tradition, which is nice, though they do request that whenever people talk about modern polygamist groups they specifically mention that the groups are not affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS — good luck with that one.

Will someone stick a fork in this church? I think it’s done.

I’m sorry to be flippant about it — it’s sad for me to see this organization that has been such a big part of my life so fully embracing villainy. Lately, while thinking about Sam Young’s situation, the following song from my youth bubbled up and lodged itself in my brain:

Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!

True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

I found I still have an emotional connection with this song (among others) after all these years. And in retrospect, it upsets me a bit to have been brought up on this. It starts with defending truth and right — which merits universal agreement — but then associates that noble goal with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t necessarily jibe with truth and right.

First, “the enemy assaileth?” — real-world problems are more complex than finding the bad guy and fighting him. This polarizing view is what leads the church to think they’re doing right by fighting Sam Young rather than bringing him into a real discussion. Fighting “the enemy” is just so much easier than introspection.

Then there’s the part about being true to the faith — which, in this case, can be interpreted as the organization or faith community. This is basically saying that challenging the church means being disloyal to your parents and to all those martyrs.

And being completely true “to God’s command”…? That is a terrible idea. Because acts that are good don’t need God to command them. They are justified by their good effects. “God’s command” only gets trotted out to justify things that can’t be justified on their own merits — often because those things are bad, like the closed-door adult/child interview policy.

So, yeah, I’m not happy to have an emotional connection with singing the praises of blind loyalty as being good and right — connecting that with being a part of my family and of the community of my youth. And I’m not the only one — just read this recent tale of how children are taught.

To you, Sam Young, and so many others: My you continue to defend truth and right by challenging all that other baggage.

To wrap up the last couple of items, the CoJCoL-dS is apparently working to prevent legalization of medical cannabis because of course they are. And check out this awesome review of Donna Banta’s novel Mormon Erotica!

Happy reading!

Moral Tyranny

by Johnny Townsend

Elder Boyd K. Packer, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, said back in the April 2013 conference what many of us had long understood and what is still true today. For Mormons, it is a sin to be tolerant. Packer describes tolerance of “legalized immorality,” clearly referring to same-sex marriage, as both a “vice” and a “trap.”

Mormons have given millions upon millions of dollars to fight equality for gays and lesbians, and are still working hard behind the scenes in the National Organization for Marriage and other groups to promote fear and hatred. But while these things might seem bad at first to the sensitive observer, they’re really done out of love. And even more importantly, they’re done out of righteousness.

A central Mormon teaching is that in the beginning, God was presented with two plans, one by his son Jesus, who said, “People will make mistakes, but I’ll go down and atone for them.” Another son said, “I’ll go down and force them to do right so there will be no mistakes.” God chose the first plan, the second son rebelled and was cast out as Satan, and the rest is history.

I find it intriguing that Mormons, and fundamentalists in general, seem more willing to emulate Satan’s example when making laws of the land for all people of all faiths. We’ll make them obey our superior spiritual laws whether they like it or not. The reasoning, of course, is rather convoluted. As righteous people, we have the right to make laws for everyone because we are, after all, superior and right. And we know we’re right because our religion says so. And we know our religion is right because God said so. And we know God said so because I can feel it inside. And I know that feeling is right even though other people claim to feel the same thing because I’m me and I know what I feel and I know it must be more real than what those other people feel because I’m not them and I can’t feel what they’re feeling. And if all these other people would only live the way I’m telling them to, they’d feel it, too. They won’t live that way unless I make them, so I’ll make them do it, for their own good, because I really care about them. And if by some chance they still don’t feel the way they are supposed to and obey all the spiritual rules of my church, then we should kick them out of our society and maybe even put them in jail.

Forcing people to comply not only goes against Jesus’ example, but it also contradicts other basic Mormon principles, that only a gift freely given is really a gift, and whatever negative thoughts we feel in our heart are in fact who we truly are, regardless of what positive acts we might perform. So if we force a gay teen to pretend he is heterosexual, we have in no way saved his soul, and we have certainly damaged ours in the process.

Religious fundamentalists use “freedom of religion” to force their views, and then they use that freedom as a shield against debate, yet all the while crossing over that line between the separation of church and state themselves. But religious freedom is guaranteed so that we can have control over our own religious lives, not so we can control the moral choices of others.

If Mormons don’t want to perform same-sex marriages, they don’t have to. They have that right. But they think they also have the right to tell an Anglican priest that he can’t perform one. They think they have the right to tell a Reform rabbi that she can’t do it, either. The same for the atheist Justice of the Peace. Mormons think they have the right to tell all people that they must shape their lives according to Mormon rules. They insist that anyone who doesn’t agree with their religious views be required by law to act as if they did. The same attitude prevails in their fight against legalizing marijuana in Utah. It prevails in punishing women for reporting rape. It prevails in virtually every aspect of life because Mormons feel that “free agency” really means their agency to make someone else’s decisions.

This is not morality. It is theocracy and tyranny. And while Mormons may be afraid of tolerance, I believe there is a lot more to fear from tyranny. What Mormons don’t understand is that there are a great many other fundamentalists out there who believe that their ideas should rule the land. Lots of other people want the power to compel everyone to live according to their own religious beliefs. When those beliefs collide, as they surely will, whose belief wins out then? The one with the most followers? Mormons will be crying out at that point how unfair it is to let these other groups make rules Mormons must obey.

The only way out of this trap is to practice tolerance, and let people make up their own minds about what is or isn’t right for them. But as long as Mormon leaders preach that tolerance is a sin, this makes both political process and equality under the law very difficult ideas for the Mormon people.

Yet this attitude of intolerance can’t only be blamed on the leaders. Followers must make the choice to follow as well. They can’t pass off their actions and blame them on others. Some have commented on the moral pain Mormons must feel, being taught to hate but actually feeling the urge to love. I don’t feel much sympathy for them, however. The dissonance they experience is easily resolved. Choose to love. Think for yourself. Stop following hateful doctrine.

Use the free agency that God gave you and do the right thing. There’s a reason Heavenly Father didn’t choose Satan’s plan. Mormons believe they chose the right plan in the Pre-Existence. If Earth life is our ultimate, final test, we are certainly capable of doing it now when it matters most.

Inasmuch As Ye Have Done It Unto One of the Least of These My Brethren, It Matters Not to Me

by Johnny Townsend

Mormons (and others claiming to be Christian) seem to routinely ignore Matthew 25:40, one of the most profound statements from the New Testament. No one is perfect, and human nature is what it is, but it seems many people are able to ignore this verse without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it. Mormons, of course, are good at feeling guilty for all the many things they’re supposed to do yet often cannot, but they don’t appear stressed over this central point. In fact, they almost seem to glory in their disregard for “the least of these.”

Is it because of the wiggle room in the statement? When people do or say things that make life harder for addicts, do they say, “Well, that verse doesn’t apply here. Jesus would never be an addict”? When they ban gays from marrying, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be gay”? When they ignore homeless people, do they say, “That doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be a bum who couldn’t hold a job”? When they refuse to guarantee health care, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus could always just heal himself”?

There’s no need to be compassionate to those who need medical marijuana. Jesus would never use marijuana. There’s no need to be understanding of doubters. Jesus never would have doubted. There’s no need to stop shunning ex-Mormons. Jesus would never have left the Church. It seems easy to justify any oppression or lack of compassion for all those people we don’t like because the verse doesn’t really apply. Jesus would never be any of these horrible, lazy, unrighteous people, so Mormons (and other Christians) simply can’t make themselves treat these “others” appropriately. They would never treat Jesus badly, of course, but these other people actually deserve to be treated badly because they’re nothing like Jesus.

If your ward chorister was anything like mine, when he or she directed the congregation to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” you were forced to sing every last verse. (I don’t even need to tell you how many verses there are, do I? You know.) And what do we learn from that hymn?

We must feed the hungry without asking anything in return.
We must provide water to those who thirst without asking anything in return.
We must help the homeless without asking anything in return.
We must provide medical care without asking anything in return.
We must be compassionate to those in prison without asking anything in return.

So where is that wiggle room now? Poor Blacks in Flint, Michigan are the Savior. People whose water is polluted by fracking are the Savior. People who can’t afford to pay their heating bill are the Savior. Homeless people who disgust you are the Savior. Syrian refugees are the Savior. Palestinians are the Savior. Roma “gypsies” are the Savior. Climate change refugees are the Savior. That crazy person ranting on the bus is the Savior.

President Nelson and the rest of the LDS leadership need to speak plainly and frequently on the need for Mormons to help these specific people so the members aren’t able to emotionally wiggle out of their moral obligation to help the suffering.

Until they do, the vast majority of members of the Church will continue to feel justified not only in refusing to help but also in heaping additional oppression onto these groups.

Do LDS leaders think that’s really what the Savior would have wanted? Are they telling us that the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament are no longer relevant? Is the Jesus we all studied while growing up outdated?

Many people already think Mormons are not Christians. If they’re right, perhaps it’s time to update the name of the Church to something more accurate.

Is “The Church of If You Need Help You’re Clearly Not Worthy of Being Helped by Latter-day Saints” too bulky?

Well, I’m sure with the direct conduit to Jesus 2.0 (New and Improved!) which LDS General Authorities enjoy, they can come up with something better.

Breaking News—LDS Church Finds Another Group to Marginalize

SALT LAKE CITY— An audio recording of a conversation between members of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and members of the Quorum of the Twelve was recently obtained by Main Street News. The audio, acquired from an unnamed source in the Russia Moscow mission, has no accompanying video, making it difficult to determine with 100% accuracy which leader made which comment. We present the transcript here without specific attributions.

“We need some better PR. We’re getting slammed in the fake news lately.”
“Maybe we could issue a public apology?”
[General laughter.]
“How about a new common enemy? That usually unites people.”
“Hey, maybe you’re onto something there.”
“But who’s left? We’ve pretty much marginalized everyone already.”
“Who deserves to be knocked down a peg?”
[Brief moment of silence.]
“How about moderate Republicans?”
[General laughter.]
“No one would buy that. And we need to keep stringing the damn moderates along if we want to win the culture war. But good thinking outside the box.”
“Anyone else have a suggestion? Surely, the Lord has kept someone in reserve for us to use in the Last Days. But who?”
[Brief period of silence, followed by what sounds like a hand slapping a table.]
“We’re in the Holy of Holies, aren’t we? Let’s meditate for a moment and come up with something definitive. The welfare of the saints depends on us.”
[Long period of silence, interrupted occasionally with random coughs and once with a tapping sound.]
“Anyone got an idea?…Anyone?…Anyone?”
[Brief period of silence.]
“Yes! I’ve got it!”
“Oh, my goodness gracious! Don’t jump up in my face like that! I’m not a young man anymore.”
“Sorry.”
“But you have something?”
“I was reading about work the Fistula Foundation does in Africa.”
“Africa? That sounds intriguing, but we have to be careful. We’re getting most of our converts there now.”
“Well, I can’t see why that matters. We’ll be going after non-Mormon Africans. Our Blacks there won’t have any trouble discriminating against other Blacks any more than white Mormons have trouble discriminating against white non-Mormons anywhere else.”
“Fair enough. So what’s this Fistfulla Foundation?”
“Fistula. Apparently, when women give birth without the care of a physician, sometimes they can develop a tear in their tissues. This can make urine leak, and these women smell just awful.”
“So? Who cares about them?”
“Nobody. That’s my point! The Fistula Foundation advocates for funding for repair surgery for these women, some of whom had children out of wedlock.”
“We could organize a counter advocacy to protect men against any financial responsibility. We say obstetric fistulas are Heavenly Father’s curse on women.”
“Aha, like menstation.”
“Menstruation.”
“Whatever.”
“So, what do you think?”
“Hmmm.”
“Give me a moment.”
[Brief period of silence.]
“You know, I think this might work. With this one campaign, we can marginalize women and Blacks and poor people.”
“All right then. Let’s each fast for twenty-four hours, check our polling data, and meet back here tomorrow to confirm whether this will be revelation or merely new policy.”
[General laughter.]
“Oh, my heck! You’re killing m—!”
[Audio ends abruptly.]

When called upon for comment, LDS Church spokesperson Rayleen Bright responded, “What the Brethren meant to say was that obstetric fistulas aren’t Heavenly Father’s curse on women.” Minutes later, Bright contacted the News again with further clarification. “The Brethren are planning to bring back Road Shows, and this was simply a rehearsal.”

Sunday in Outerblogness: Moral Outrage Edition!!

In a previous post here on MSP, Jerry Argetsinger poses the question, “Where is the official moral outrage?” He is referring to the subdued statement issued by LDS Church leaders about the family separations at the border, a seemingly anti-family response that eventually leads him to conclude:

Suddenly it hit me! The Mormon Church had already weighed in on the morality of the current immigration issue. On November 5, 2015, the LDS Church announced an unprecedented New Policy in the wake of the nation-wide legalization of Gay Marriage, or other similar arrangement. Such action is now defined as apostocy and requires a Disciplinary Council that would likely result in the excommunication of such members. But wait! That’s not all! The children of gay marriages are now denied all church ordinances: as babies they cannot be blessed, at age 8 they cannot be baptized, at age 12 male children cannot be ordained to the priesthood, as young adults they cannot serve missions for the church. These children may be considered for baptism when they legally come of age and renounce their parents’ gay union. Is this not ripping children from their parents?

While LDS leaders may be slow to express their anger, there’s plenty of outrage in Outerblogness this month. Mr. Hackman explains the lack of empathy over the border crisis, as well as the importance of religious freedom. Meanwhile, Geoff B. takes a stab at understanding Trump. Sam Young continues his activism to protect the children, including a 17 year-old girl who writes:

And let me tell you, Sam, nothing feels better than knowing that a printed hard copy of my story is in the hands of the apostles, the people who allowed this to happen and the people who can prevent it from happening again.

Amber argues that environmentalism is a Christian issue, and gender-specific pronouns in the children’s songbook inspire more protest. Maggie continues to collect signatures for the appeal of lenient polygamy sentences, while Happy Hubby ponders whether petitions are even effective. Tirza regrets that LDS women and girls are objectified, Knotty shares her “rage quit” experience, and Lisa discusses the negative impact of polygamy culture and temple rites:

Married (sealed) LDS women too often live in marriages in which submission is the ultimate sign of godliness. In the temple ceremony, men covenant to obey God, but women covenant to obey their husband as he obeys God. This isn’t “the usual” religious patriarchy. Typical Christian patriarchy may chain women to outdated notions, but those chains can be broken without the risk of her damnation.

In other news, Samantha over on Zelph on the Shelf offers tips on leaving Mormonism. “The Kingdom of God” series concludes on Pure Mormonism, and there is a thoughtful post about boundaries on Exponent II. Kevin Barney wonders if he could ever walk away from Mormonism, Bishop Bill suggests cultural Mormons might use religion like a placebo, and Fashion muses on how to avoid conforming to the “Mormon mold:”

What I understand now is that the expectation to fit any sort of “Mormon mold” is self-imposed. I can decide if I want to play the game of trying to live up to some invented social expectation or not. Yes, there might be throngs of women around me with white, subway-tile backsplashes, growing at-home businesses, and taking family pics each week. And I can be happy for their pursuits. But the only thing that I am required to offer is my faith and obedience to God. I was never meant to be like any particular Mormon woman. Each has their role to fulfil and I have mine. We all make up the Body of Christ.

As for chanson, she’s taking a break from SiOB this Sunday to work on her mid-year goals which include stoking the fires here on MSP – new and returning authors welcome!! – working on her comic book, and (shameless self-promotion) publicizing our joint venture, Mormon Alumni Association Books.

Happy Reading!

Where Is the Official Moral Outrage?

by Jerry Argetsinger

I was born 9 months to the day after the bombing of Hiroshima. That puts me on the cutting edge of the Baby Boomer Generation. Of the many questions generated regarding immoral actions in the wake of WW2, some the most often asked relate to the rounding-up and incarceration of millions of Jews and other so-calledundesirables in concentrationcamps. Why did the people not rise up in moral indignation? People from all walks of life and from all regions of the globe have struggled trying to understand those heinous atrocities.

Now, seventy years later Americans have witnessed their government stoop to those same actions against displaced families, would-be immigrants fleeing the untenable situations of their own homelands. Not only were these huddled masses being herded into Detention Camps, their children were ripped from them via lies, deceit and force, carried away, locked behind bars and even crammed into cages where they were isolated from visitors of any kind. But this time the world took note. Political and religious leaders, private citizens from America and around the world were outraged, demanding the reuniting of these prisoner-children with their parents. The first government response was the Attorney General reading Bible scriptures to justify these callous acts, demanding that “Christians” were obligated to support their government leaders who were given power by God. We heard the president of the United States equivocate from one excuse to the next in a continuing barrage of new versions of these events frantically trying to find a narrative that the masses would accept. It was stunning how quickly Congressional leaders at first tried to rally in support of their Chief, but soon even Republicans were breaking from the pack in condemnation of the immorality of these actions. The loyal Trump supporters in the White House, on Fox News, and in the streets lapped up the weak justifications that rolled from their lips. But polls were showing that even among Trump supporters, 75% of Americans took the moral high road and with one united voice forced the Administration to reverse its policy. Colion Noir, a leader of the National Rifle Association, spoke out on Real Time With Bill Maher (June 22, 2018), “The country has risen up in utter disgust . . . [In America] children do not suffer at the hands of the government.”

In all of this Moral Outrage, there was one group whose subdued statement was different. In the Official Statement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no moral outrage. Instead the leaders of the Mormon Church state that they are “deeply troubled” by these actions, and then follow with a statement that the LDS Church supports governments in the administration of their laws. The statement concludes by repeating the oft given hope that the Church encourages the U. S. Government “to seek for rational, compassionate solutions.” However there are no real suggestions as to what those solutions might be. This is what I call the “Niles Crane letter of indignation and outrage” often used for comic effect on the old Fraser t.v. show. Anytime Niles was outraged or slighted, in his anger he would write “a strongly worded letter.” It’s an attempt to project the notion that action has been taken, when in fact, nothing has been done. Niles may get a laugh, but in real life it’s just not funny.

As a practicing Mormon, I was puzzled when I considered the church response in contrast to other religious leaders’ statements. Why was the ripping of children from their parents together with no plan for reuniting families not a Moral Issue in the Official LDS statement? If there is one thing that defines modern Mormonism, it is the sanctity of the family via the Proclamation on the Family (1995). The Church is also careful to retain its political neutrality, however they are quick to state that they take strong stands on moral issues that may inform politics. This is most evident in their aggressive actions against Gay Marriage.

Suddenly it hit me! The Mormon Church had already weighed in on the morality of the current immigration issue. On November 5, 2015, the LDS Church announced an unprecedented New Policy in the wake of the nation-wide legalization of Gay Marriage, or other similar arrangement. Such action is now defined as apostocy and requires a Disciplinary Council that would likely result in the excommunication of such members. But wait! That’s not all! The children of gay marriages are now denied all church ordinances: as babies they cannot be blessed, at age 8 they cannot be baptized, at age 12 male children cannot be ordained to the priesthood, as young adults they cannot serve missions for the church. These children may be considered for baptism when they legally come of age and renounce their parents’ gay union. Is this not ripping children from their parents?

That’s the answer. The LDS Church had already made the decision to separate children from their parents and families. They, too, have decided that by punishing the children, it might move parents to action in order to protect their children. This is the same justification that was recently cited by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. However, for Mormons the separation stipulated in the November, 2015 policy is more serious because the gay married couple and their children are separated from their family, friends and even God for eternity.

In reality, if the LDS Church took a public moral stance against the Trump Administration’s separation of children from family, it could easily lead to Church leaders being condemned for taking the exact same action against the children of gay parents as the government is taking against immigrant parents. In the end, I think Mormon leaders are smart enough to have seen the corner into which they have painted themselves. By making the weak statement that the Church is Deeply Troubled, they are likely hoping that no one notices their self-serving lack of Moral Outrage.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Hoax edition!!

OK — it was a few weeks ago now — but I think the most interesting recent bit of Mormon news was the hoax apology from the CoJCoL-dS (apologizing for the CoJCoL-dS’s history of racism), actually written by Jonathan Streeter.

The go-to analysis of it is by Zandra Vranes of Sistas in Zion — her reaction is powerful and moving. I won’t try to analyze it myself (since others have analyzed it well), but I’ll say I think it was a huge mistake when Streeter decided to trick people into thinking the apology was real. As the Infants pointed out, it’s very good as satire — but now it would be insensitive to discuss its merits as satire after all the damage that was done. At least Streeter offered a real apology.

There have been some really amazing transition stories recently, such as Tanner’s exit story, and Leah Elliott’s piece “In the Language of My Former People”, which I really liked — I related with it so well that I’m thinking of writing my own commentary on it.

Bishop Bill’s experience had a cool twist:

Do you remember the very first item about the church that you had to “put on the shelf”? The first thing you learned that didn’t have a good answer, and caused you some cognitive dissonance, so you just put it away to think about another day?

I remember mine, because it was already literally on a shelf

Alex had a pleasant discussion with his believing sister:

She didn’t understand how, when the armies of Coriantumr and Shiz were destroying each other, nobody on either side loved their families enough to flee from the violence. She introduced the absurdity of Ether into the conversation, not me. It was a fruitful debate and I think I did a decent job of demonstrating that my disgust for church doctrines is an entirely separate issue to how I feel about the average Mormon, so she was curious rather than offended.

Then there’s this inspiring tale from Lynette:

Over the years, I’d developed strong defenses to cope with things like polygamy and general sexism and and anti-gay sentiments and dubious historical claims and so on and so forth. But I didn’t have any kind of defense against the experience of finding happiness somewhere else.

Other Zelophehads Daughters posted some fascinating statistics on LDS birth rates and on who likes the 15 leaders of the CoJCoL-dS (on Facebook).

In other discussion topics, Andrew Hackman answered the question: “Why do you not address liberal belief? Why do you only go after ‘the easy targets'”? — and he recounted some experiences with Evangelical services. No Man Knows My Herstory podcast discussed LGBTQ Mormons in history. BCC wrote some criticisms of using religion to justify separating children from their parents. Zelph on the Shelf covered Joseph Smith’s ability to translate ancient records such as the Kinderhook Plates and the Book of Abraham. Steve Wells explained the Masterpiece Cakeshop and Leviticus 20:13, and Knotty discussed the cake case as well.

Also, there are some interesting new books coming out: A Peculiar Transition: 6 Steps to Turn Mormon Faith Crisis into Spiritual Healing and Growth, by Wendi Jade Jensen, and Johnny Townsend’s new book The Moat Around Zion!!

Happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Podcasts edition!

There are so many amazing LDS-interest podcasts these days — I’m really looking forward to the day I can cut back my hours and listen to them all! This morning I took the time to listen to a couple of them: Radio Free Mormon has been doing a cloak-and-dagger series about trying to get access to the Joseph Bishop BYU police report — I can’t wait to hear how it ends! And the No Man Knows my Herstory podcast has some excellent discussion of the despicable concept of “non-consensual immorality” — with some analysis of why the CoJCoL-dS is incapable of stating that rape is actually worse than consensual premarital sex (or even stating that the victim of a sexual assault isn’t guilty).

Additionally the Mormon Happy Hour Podcast is celebrating the lifting of the priesthood/temple ban with some discussion of Mormon Sex Myths. And the Infants on Thrones are doing a very cool listener essay series. I’d like to submit one myself as soon as I have two minutes to rub together, but I guess it will be for next year’s contest. Laura Root has been doing a series of “Ask a Mormon Lesbian” podcasts. And one of our local Brodie-winning bloggers did a Mormon Stories interview!

Another site you might want to check out is Stuff You Missed in Sunday School — a collection of stuff that gets taught at church, but that perhaps the CoJCoL-dS might not want outsiders noticing too much. It turns out that Sacrament Meeting can be quite a mixed bag!

I guess the biggest Mo-news we’ve had lately is the CoJCoL-dS cutting ties with the Boy Scouts. Looks like people aren’t too sad about it.

MormonHistoryGuy made a very good point about dismissing Brigham Young’s racism as “everybody was doing it back then” — plus some more background on the priesthood/temple ban. And Zo-ma-rah shared some great insights on the connection between culture and doctrine.

Sam Young and the Protect the Children movement ask you to mark your calendars for action on National Children’s Day, June 10th. And as a fellow religious minority, I hop Mormons can follow this recommendation to stand with Muslims as they fight against bigotry.

Knotty has some interesting commentary on Mormon parenting:

Now… let’s ponder this for just a minute. I can understand delaying entrance into school for developmental reasons. Since these young people are triplets, it’s possible that they were small and/or immature for their ages. However, the article states that their parents specifically decided not to start their children in school at the usual age because they knew, even when the boys were young children, that they absolutely would be going on missions.

In books, check out this Kirkus Review of Johnny Townsend’s book “The Last Days Linger.”

Looks like it’s Mothers’ Day, and the angst has already begun! Good luck to you all, and happy reading!

Good and bad life-advice from the CoJCoL-dS

It’s a lazy, sunny Sunday, and since I just got back from a long nature-walk with my family, it’s time for some relaxing fun. Let’s analyze the good and bad advice in this latest doozy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints: Sister Oaks’s Experience Dating an Apostle (+ 7 Dating Insights).

Right off the bat, I have a problem with the premise (which echoes a harmful message that women receive in LDS culture): a woman’s success is based on her husband’s status. If you’re a woman, there is nothing you can do yourself that comes close to the achievement of being the arm-candy of some really important dude. And BTW, I don’t just mean that this devalues women’s career accomplishments — I mean it also devalues their accomplishments as homemakers:

You can create the most loving, healthy, conducive-to-growth environment possible for your family, but if your husband is a blue-collar worker who never even made Bishop (or worse — he’s a non-member), then Mormons are not going to look up to you and ask your advice like they do successful Mrs. Apostle.

So she starts by quitting her lucrative job that she’s very good at. I’m actually not going to debate that part — it can very well happen that despite being successful at your job, you can get tired of it and want to try something else while you still can. And since she didn’t have debts or dependents, why not? (Though it’s a little odd that she then turned down a dream job at a competing firm.) Kudos to her at least for not saying that it was because she didn’t want to die an old maid.

But this bit kind of jumped out:

This meeting with a General Authority was extremely unusual for me. My exposure to General Authorities had been minimal, and I liked it that way. I had the utmost respect for them. I revered them, but I also understood the line of priesthood jurisdiction and felt confident that my home teachers and my bishop were sufficient to bless my life.

In other words, all of you plebeian ordinary members need to remember that there are layers of hierarchy between you and the really important people. So just because I became successful through my Mormon-royalty connections, don’t try it yourself.

Looking back, I would never have planned to meet an Apostle of the Lord and his daughter dressed so casually.

Um, why not? Oh, right, because they’re more important than everyone else.

On to dating insight #3: “Take Time to Develop a Good Friendship”. This one is actually pretty reasonable, and directly contradicts the terrible advice Mormon young people often get (namely to try to be married within a year of finishing your mission, and any two faithful Mormons can make a marriage work, so just marry the first available person you meet at BYU).

Time is a dear friend also—it mellows us and matures us. My wish for other singles is that they enjoy each and every day of their life.

Yes, Mormon young people — read that bit. Enjoy your life as a single person. Seize the day! Gain life experiences. Don’t sit around fretting about the fact that you aren’t married. And take marriage seriously by not just jumping into it when you’re not ready yet.

Don’t listen to this next bit, though:

Now that I am married, I do not feel that I have graduated to a higher plane. I do know that I feel more complete.

What does that even mean? I’m going to interpret it as “I don’t want to say that getting married is the most important thing a woman can do with her life (because I don’t want to hurt single women’s feelings), but… it is.”

Then comes the most popular pull quote from the article:

When I look back on my single life, my only regrets are that I spent too much time worrying about my future and too little time in the kitchen. I would do anything to be able to make better dinner rolls.

I don’t want to waste too much time on that one since it makes even less sense than the quote above it.

Then she gives a tip in which she has a friend act as a character witness for her — which was made possible by the fact that she’d done good work for her ward in various callings over the years. I’m not sure why she calls that one “Do Your Homework”. I would call it “Enrich your life with interests and experiences that build friendships and make you an interesting person.”

That’s reasonable advice that will help you to lead a full and happy life whether you marry or remain single. It’s certainly better than encouraging single women to spend all their time obsessing about getting married by, say, having them do wedding-dress fashion shows from the age of 12…

Then comes the real winner:

To help facilitate a successful dating relationship, it is usually wise to allow the man to be the initiator, no matter what age you are.

What the…? What does age have to do with it?

Is she saying “No matter how old and desperate you are, don’t try to rush your man.”..? Or is she saying “Even if you have been a fully-independent adult for thirty years, remember that the man is the adult in the relationship.”..?

She goes on to say:

If he makes the effort to contact you, arranges to see you, and takes care of the details, you can be fairly certain that he wants to be with you and has some idea of the basics. In addition, it is an interesting truth that the more self-initiated and independent effort a man puts into building a relationship with a woman, the more he comes to value her.

My issue with this is the gender imbalance. This absolutely goes both ways — or it should. I guess in Mormon-land of course a woman would value her husband, how could she not?

And this next bit is, I think, the worst part:

During my early acquaintance with my husband, I allowed him to make all the phone calls and appointments and contacts because I felt those were his prerogative until I knew him well. That entailed more than a few nail bites as I waited for him to call me. A confident woman does not need constant reassurance.

A confident, self-respecting woman does not sit by the phone, biting her nails waiting for a dude to call her. If she wants to talk to him, she picks up the phone and calls him or texts him herself because she knows that her own time is as valuable as his.

Sister Oaks’s tip here is excellent advice if for some reason you want to be with a man who wants his wife to be a total doormat. If, OTOH, you have a bit of self-respect and you want a husband who sees you as a full-fledged adult human being, I would replace that whole section with an improved section called “Don’t be a doormat.”

It’s disappointing, too, because all of that earlier good stuff about enriching your life with independent interests and friendships is suddenly right out the window if an apostle comes knocking at your door.

I also take issue with her naming that section “Don’t Smother or Pester”. “Don’t smother or pester” would be good advice — if that were actually the topic of the section. But with that title, the section advises women not to call their man at all or make any attempt to contact him. I guess that when a woman calls a man, that’s smothering and pestering (unlike when a man calls a woman)…? This title reinforces the misogynistic belief that there’s nothing more annoying to a man than a woman talking.

The last two bits are par for the course of Mormon dating advice. “Maintain the Lord’s Standards” (a.k.a. don’t have sex) is easy to say if you’re an elderly couple. It’s far more problematic for young people since it’s hard to treat the marriage commitment with the gravity it deserves if it’s placed right where it will be trampled by raging young libidos. And the part about feeling peace when you pray about the relationship — I’m not sure that’s really a good way to pick a spouse. YMMV. It’s nice that they like gardening together though.

And then there’s the eternal Mormon closer: “Anything less will be inadequate eternally.”

Well, I hope you’ll enjoy eternally sharing your husband with Sister Oaks #1…

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Post-conference edition!

In our last episode, we were too distracted by scandal to take much note of General Conference, but apparently there was a bit of a surprise! Since people were not happy to see three apostleships all going to white guys from Utah (in 2015), this time the CoJCoL-dS decided to try to make an effort to add some actual diversity to their (all male) top brass. One of the new apostles is even in an interracial marriage — which shouldn’t be a big deal, except that the CoJCoL-dS officially discouraged interracial marriage until quite recently.

With a new president comes new policies, and apparently the latest change is to scrap (or at least modify) the Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching programs. In retrospect it’s not too surprising.

The really exciting conference tidbit was that someone shouted “Stop Protecting Sexual Predators!” during the conference! Mormon Happy Hour Podcast interviewed the girl who did it.

On that note, the follow-up on the Joseph Bishop scandal continues:

And Lynette asks:

To put it baldly: how is it that church leaders who are said to have special gifts of spiritual discernment get duped by predators?

I can think of a very simple answer to that one — you’ll have to read her piece if you’d like to know whether she accepts the obvious solution.

Walter Van Beek wrote a good discussion of Mormonism’s lack of a public wedding ritual, and explained the central problem:

What aggravates the situation, at least for couples of ‘mixed provenance’, is that in the USA the Church does not give couples the choice to marry civilly first; if they opt to do so, they have to wait for a year before being allowed to the temple; outside the USA this is not the case.

When civil weddings are performed by bishops in the USA, they are discouraged from rendering the ceremony too much ‘like a wedding’: no wedding march, no walk through the isle, no exchange of rings. The Church not only has no wedding ritual, but leaders prevent the members from fabricating one themselves.

In my view this is a problem that will not go away, since at its basis lies exactly this missing ritual: it is the absence of a wedding ritual that creates the quandary.

Then there was this tragic tale of a fun community tradition that the CoJCoL-dS latched onto like a parasite — and ultimately ruined.

Since the CoJCoL-dS appears to be contracting, let’s visit the world of the formerly-Mormon!

Sara will be chronicling her post-Mormon journey. Dad’s Primal Scream is still working on reclaiming honesty. Zelph’s Samantha Shelley explained five things she wishes she’d known before leaving Mormonism, as well as a fun exmo gift guide. And check out this profile of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In fun, Andrew Hackman did a March Madness of film reviews, and let’s take a visit to Gilgal Gardens!

Happy reading!