Molly recently left a comment here that, I think, expresses a question on a lot of people minds:
Must admit to having trouble understanding why Joanna Brooks is taken so seriously. Her work is very softball, and frequently skirts meaty issues or downplays legitimate problems completely.
This was largely in response to the fact that Brooks won the Mormon Alumni Association’s prestigious “William Law X-Mormon of the Year” Award, however, I think that the attention she gets from the other side of the aisle is even more mysterious. Specifically, why does the CoJCoL-dS have its media outlets continuously taking pot-shots at her?
I think Ralph Hancock gives us a bit of a hint in his latest piece on Professor Brooks:
Brooks has a political agenda or, to be more precise, a political-religious agenda, since her outlook on what is true and good is profoundly conditioned by a progressive-liberal-feminist political project, a project that requires a fundamental re-interpretation of the religion her parents taught her.
It sounds like the problem isn’t so much that she has a political-religious agenda — rather the problem is that she has the wrong one. The CoJCoL-dS occasionally claims that it’s apolitical, but who gets to speak from a given platform (and who doesn’t) is itself a political decision.
Have a look at The Narrator’s recently rejected mormon.org profile:
Unlike most Mormons, I don’t necessarily believe in a life after death. However our scriptures teach that eternal life is more than living forever, but is something that can and should be achieved now in the present. Eternal life is to live and love others as God does. Too often I think we are confused in thinking that eternal life is something we must wait for, or that it is something that can only be found in another life after this. Rather, it is by following Christ’s example and learning to love as He did that we can find ourselves with eternal life in the present.
Andrew S explains in his response that the church wants to showcase some types of diversity and not others. For example, they want people to know that you can be black and be a Mormon, or you can be a woman who works outside the home and be a Mormon (y’know, as long as you don’t try to publish your ideas about Mormonism), however, not everybody can have the mormon.org True Mormon seal of approval:
At the conference last week, the mormon.org monitor in attendance justified the practice using the example of someone who might say that he is a gay parent and a Mormon. The obvious problem with this rationale is that there are, in fact, gay Mormon parents.
Personally, I think the CoJCoL-dS is really shooting itself in the foot on this one. As “A Mormon in the Cheap Seats” explains, it alienates the whole range of people who see Mormonism in shades of gray. (On the positive side, Deseret News is helping feminist Mormons raise money.) It looks like the PR department doesn’t get that making a good impression and obsessively controlling who gets to hold the microphone may be incompatible goals.
p.s. I hope you’re going to Sunstone 2012 — to discuss the politics of Mormon discourse with me as well as other Mormon-political questions!!