Mitt’s success has put Mormons in the spotlight around and the world, and it’s starting to get uncomfortable. Last week’s controversy hadn’t even cooled off yet when this new one struck!! Here’s the latest on the baptizing-other-people’s-dead-relatives scandal: The First Presidency officially told members to stop submitting names of celebrities and holocaust victims. It was the least they could do, considering who has been involuntarily baptized.
And now for this week’s mess!
If you’ve been in a cave for the past few days (mining for ore and stone to craft into a castle, for example), here’s the short version: A reporter decided to go ask a popular BYU professor what Mormons believe about black people, and — surprise, surprise! — he recounted exactly the same offensive doctrines that so many of us were taught in (LDS) church. The LDS Newsroom swiftly responded with an official statement that they’re very sorry that a BYU professor would behave in such an uncorrelated manner and tell all that stuff to the press. Here’s a chronology of all the gory details. (Plus some background on Mormons and race.)
The commentary from blogspace has absolutely nailed it!!! The first question is Is anyone in charge over there?
“Not known precisely why, how, or when…”, is what we are told. Officially. Who is running the ship? How does a policy and practice, (but apparently not a doctrine), codify itself into sermons, preaching, manuals, guidelines for temple attendance, books, talks, handbooks… all with the upmost air of authority – how does this happen and not have doctrinal roots?
Now, apparently, official doctrine comes from an anonymous committee in the LDS Newsroom, which is kinda convenient:
It is so awesome that the Lord has in-sourced prophecy, revelation, and seership to the Newsroom, I mean, talk about timely! Newsy! and Roomy! Now we can pick and sort through the newsroom announcements, and what doesnt fit our notions or doctrines, we can write off as just some lamo-bozo Zoob at Church PR, and totally NOT the PRoPHet; but what does stroke us right, is pure white 100 proof Da Churchez Rev-L-A-Shun!
The problem is that, up until last week, that “folk doctrine” was simply “doctrine”, and if it wasn’t, maybe one of those prophets, seers, and revelators could have told us so. The obvious conclusion is that, simply, nothing is doctrine, it’s jello, all the way down. (Dontcha love theology?)
Oh, and considering that the doctrine really was racist (and it’s not just Mormons), it would be nice if the LDS church leaders could repudiate it and apologize for reals, and not just pick a scapegoat. And put a stop to stuff like this:
But before I could squirm out of the conversation, he continued: he was sure that in the next life, Id become white just as the Lord has promised.
I’ve read so many Bloggernaclers argue that at least correlation keeps the ward crazies from preaching “folk doctrine” as real doctrine. I completely disagree. When nothing except a short list of pablum can be discussed openly and officially, that creates an environment where crazy folk doctrine can flourish behind closed doors, never exposed to the light of critical discussion, so even the most faithful Mormons don’t know “what Mormons believe”. Maybe discussion should be reopened.
I don’t want to come off as gloating, but I think this attention is a positive thing. I was hanging out IRL with some fellow exmos this past week, and the question of “Are the leaders intentionally scamming people?” came up. I don’t think they are. I think the institution has gone in the direction of a culture of correlation, and they’re so entrenched in the strategy of trying to control the flow of information that they can’t adapt to a world where information is free. They could use a little push to understand that they’re not doing their own institution any favors by teaching the following strategy:
Curious: Do we/you believe in the curse of Cain?
Mormon: Let me bear my testimony…
Curious: No, I asked if we/you believe in the curse of Cain!
Mormon: Why are you attacking me?
Curious: Do we/you believe in Kolob?
Mormon: Is this on the record?
Curious: No, I just want to know.
Mormon: Of course we believe in Kolob, silly! It’s in the scriptures!
Curious: Do we/you believe in Kolob?
Mormon: Is this on the record?
Curious: Yes, I’m a reporter.
Mormon: Um… I don’t know if we believe that. Let me talk to correlation and get back to you.
The other point that jumps out is that — if he’d said the same thing about gay people or women, not only would the newsroom not apologize for it, they wouldn’t even contradict it:
So what happens when the Washington Post writes, The LDS Stance on Women, and contacts a BYU religion professor who explains that women are too spiritual to need the priesthood; women are highly valued in LDS theology because men cant be exalted without them; women are actually blessed by not having to deal with the responsibility of holding the priesthood; [...] Will we get widespread cries of outrage, complaints about the condescension of such comments, a call for the professor in question to be disciplined, a statement from the dean clarifying that these comments do not reflect the teachings at BYU, and hurried responses from the LDS Newsroom?
On that note, this news had my eyes popping:
Now, once a month the Young Women have “service” where, instead of their normal weekly activity, they form 2 groups and have races to see who can deep clean (bathrooms, vacuum, shampoo the pews, take our trash, etc.) the fastest. All the things they used to pay someone to do. And what do the YW get in return? Nothing. Because their leaders have said that it’s part of the “service” you have to do to get their Young Woman’s award when they get older.
Sadly, even satire has some difficulty competing with the harsh reality. So, will the boys also be working towards a toilet-cleaning merit badge? Don’t answer that. I can only imagine that this is a strategy to deal with their retention problem, to deal with the fact that not as many women are exiting as men.
So which topic will hit the press next? The Kinderhook Plates? The Book of Abraham? More polygamy? Nah, it looks like it will be the money. All that money. That’s a far more sensitive topic than a scientific discussion of DNA, for example. The faithful are trying to defend the mall, but it’s kinda futile.
OK, now let’s not neglect all those intrepid bloggers who were creative enough not to write about the prevailing topics this week!!
In personal stories, the joy of new love, and the healing work of dealing with loss of faith, with the end of a relationship, and with memories of sexual abuse.
In discussion topics, thinking for yourself, BYU’s role in loss of faith, being a leader (in Mormonism), terminology: the label “Anti-Mormon” and the real history/meaning of Thee/Thou/Thy, humility, LDS doctrine on emigration, and Satan’s gift.
This has been an incredible batch of stories!! The kind that make be feel energized to keep writing, compiling, and commenting!! I kind of wish more people had responded to my pathetic plea for others to join me as co-authors here, either for a post or two, or as a permanent collaborator. Seriously, it’s fun, and I don’t bite! If you’d like to join in the fun, email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com. Also, don’t forget to vote for the X-Mormon of the Year, 2011.
Have a great week!!