Sunday in Outer Blogness: Response edition

The big news this week is that Kate Kelly has appealed her excommunication.

In her appeal, Kate wrote:

I am, and have always been, a faithful Mormon. My only “sin” elucidated by you has been speaking my mind and pushing for gender equality in the Church. Far from being wrong, I believe I am following the pattern of revelation taught by Christ in the scriptures: ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Kate’s husband also wrote a letter, questioning why he was not excommunicated when Kate was. My emphasis in bold below:

As a Melchizedek priesthood holder your failure to discipline me regarding my actions with Ordain Women demonstrates the inherent sexism in the disciplinary process taken against my wife. Neither you nor Bishop H* have contacted me or spoken to me about my involvement in Ordain Women. Therefore, I formally request you overturn Bishop H*’s excommunication decision regarding Kate and I request you reinstate her to full fellowship in the Church.

He has a point. Others have pointed out that the process seems flawed – Kate is publicly excommunicated but John Dehlin is not. At least, John hasn’t been excommunicated yet.

The feminists at fmh are wondering about a lost and tired generation. Truthfully, I left around the same time as the 1993 excommunications, but for different reasons. Yet I understand the frustration of wanting to remain in the community, and knowing that change was not going to come (if ever). It’s been a difficult few months for many believing mormons, particularly feminist mormons.

Rock has advice for those who may soon be ex’d – he will be at Sunstone next weekend – and he has a new book out What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated. His brief synopsis is:

designed this book partly with your mother-in-law in mind. If you have friends and loved ones who don’t ‘get’ you, who are convinced that you can’t be a faithful member of this church without displaying the requisite deference to modern Church leaders, this book may help those close to you come to understand that Jesus Christ does not require anything like that from members of His church.

I wish I could attend Sunstone this year, my cousin John Hamer is presenting on a panel titled “A Diversity of Faith: A panel on Heaven and Hell”, one titled “Project Zion: Pulling forward key threads of the restoration for a post-modern world”, and “Mormonism and the problem of heterodoxy”. I will be missing out! Hope everyone has a great time and can fill those of us in who were not able to attend the symposium this year.

In other news this week, Runtu was wondering if missionaries are leaving. Froggie had photos published.

It was pie and beer day – although dooce points out that you can’t buy beer in Utah on Pioneer day. Donna attended a pioneer exmo gathering. Knotty is moving. And I agree with Alexis that nothing is ever routine, ever.

And speaking of pioneers, if you haven’t listened to any of the year of polygamy podcasts – I highly recommend them. I particularly liked the recent one about Heber C. Kimball and his wives (and children), as well as the one about polygamy in public and private. It leads me to wonder more about how polygamy worked among my own ancestors in early Utah.

I’m sure I missed lots of what’s been going on – I hope everyone is well and enjoying their last few days in July!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Reflection Edition

Chanson asked me to fill in for SiOB this week – I think it’s been a quiet week. (Sort of like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon – it’s always a quiet week).

But this week is quiet for many reasons – perhaps we’re all still reacting (or not reacting) to the news of Kate Kelly’s excommunication – and the other active members who have been penalized or silenced. Still others are realizing that they can no longer stay in a church that would treat its members this way, and are leaving.

The silence from the church office building is resounding. Many of us here at MSP are quite familiar with the silence.

Then, there have been further tragedies – a bloggernacle member was killed in a tragic accident. And a family was murdered outside the Houston suburbs.

Some may simply be enjoying the World Cup, or the beautiful July weather. Whatever the case may be – have a wonderful, peaceful week.

Toxic Perfectionism

Evidently some mormon women suffer from toxic perfectionism. So on top of being the angel in the home, they are trying to be too perfect; keep a spotless home, cook a scrumptious, frugal, healthy meal, raise perfectly coiffed children.

It’s not only mormon women who suffer from unrealistic expectations (of course) – Jerry Hall quipped:

My mother said it was simple to keep a man, you must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I said I’d hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit”

Perfectionism is something I’m familiar with. Honestly, when I remember what being a mormon teen was like, I remember feeling like I couldn’t measure up – no matter what I did. Near the end I became discouraged, if I couldn’t measure up – why bother? I wasn’t reading the scriptures enough, I didn’t have perfect early-morning seminary attendance – I fought with my parents and siblings. I was also guilty of sins of omission (does anyone outside mormonism know what those are?) – I wasn’t charitable, I wasn’t kind, I didn’t go out of my way to help poor destitute widows, etc.

So forgive me for being skeptical of this anti-perfectionist movement. Is being a perfectionist an issue for many LDS? Yes. Should that responsibility be fully placed at the individual members’ door? Is it their fault for taking what they hear each Sunday literally?

Heavenly Father is judgmental. This is a major criticism of mormonism from mainstream Christianity. No longer is grace important. Each of us needs to follow certain steps to get to Heaven. You have to physically be baptized, with a prayer said precisely, by a man of a certain age who meets certain worthiness requirements. And that’s just baptism. Everything has to be said just so (I remember the sacrament prayer being repeated four or five times by a stumbling teenager – had to be perfect).

I think of my grandfather who refused to miss church – despite being released from the hospital a few days before. He also fainted doing temple work. I can’t explain why he felt like he had to be at church no matter what. Why he had to serve at the temple despite having health problems – I can’t say. That’s certainly not a message heard from the pulpit. But many quotes can be interpreted that way.

So there’s a measurement stick, and you’re always found wanting (h/t runtu). Even if you follow all the rules; have you been doing your genealogy? journaling? Your home/visiting teaching? Family scripture study? In some other faiths, the idea is that only Christ was perfect. The rest of us have to do the best we can – which includes making mistakes. The journey is what matters, what is in one’s “heart” is what matters; not how accurate certain prayers are said. Not if we had the occasional latte or played with face cards.

I think it’s good that perfectionism and scrupulosity are being acknowledged in mormon culture. But the cultural/doctrinal part of the equation (at least for LDS) cannot be ignored. The need for perfectionism doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Ordination edition

chanson is on vacation this week, so I’m going to attempt Sunday in Outer Blogness.

On the faithful side of outer blogness, things have been astir about female ordination.  Not surprisingly, many faithful mormons disagree about this issue.

Considering the last time feminists called for female ordination they were excommunicated, my hope is that this time will be different.  Personally, I want to cheer the small victories, but it also seems a little like crumbs from the table…

On the post/former/ex/not faithful side, things have been relatively quiet this week. There was snow, even though it’s now officially spring.

Can outsiders understand mormon culture?  Can a mixed faith marriage work?  There was some discussion of the LGBT mormon movement.  There are some up sides to being a post mormon.  Can mormons and former mormons agree on anything?

When does correlation equal causation?  What does it mean to be raised a mormon woman?  What is selfish anyway?

Have a great week everyone!

The Church vs. The Gospel

When I began questioning mormonism, my Dad explained that there was a difference between the church and the gospel.  The church was made of people who were human, and the gospel was the kernel of truth within the church. He said that the mormon faith was the closest to being “all true” that there was.  I heard this from other members as well.  It was part of the push for people to distance themselves from saying “I know the church is true” in their testimonies.

This answer was okay for awhile.  It was easy to dismiss certain people/teachers’ opinions directly from McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, racist beliefs, ignorant statements like “don’t talk to anyone who’s not mormon”.

But what really opened my eyes was the idea that just because the mormon church did something a certain way, didn’t mean their way was the right or only way to do it.  In fact, there are all sorts of churches and faiths out there, and they all have different ways of organizing ritual, strengthening community and fostering leadership.  Just because the blessing of the sacrament involves the same blessing (and same wording) each time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to bless or take the sacrament.

When I really stopped expecting the mormon church to always do things the “correct” way, it allowed me to evaluate it like I would evaluate any organization.  And to compare the
members and structure with what was in the New Testament.

Does it practice what it preaches?  Does it make allowances (the law was made for man, not man for the law?)

With that said, it also became different to discern what part of mormonism was man made, and what part was from God.  Many of the answers to my questions were “we don’t know why”.  We don’t know why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood and inter-racial marriage was discouraged.  We don’t know why women aren’t allowed to go on missions until the age of 21.  We don’t know why all decisions need to be unanimous.  We don’t know why a physical body is needed for ordinances like baptism or marriage.  We don’t know why women don’t have priesthood authority.

It leads to circular reasoning.  If you don’t “know the truth” of a certain principle, one needs to pray about it to find the answer.  If you don’t find the answer, you need to pray more and make sure you’re living “gospel principles”.  The only acceptable answer is that it’s all true – otherwise the problem is with you.  The problem is never with the church or the gospel.

Is it any wonder that some people step out of this cycle?  Some don’t, they stay because of the “line upon line” principle.  They stay because it’s their community, their ethnicity; because the mormon church is the best answer out there.

Another option is that there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, and many ways to develop faith and worship God (if at all).

At one point, many mormons were not as able to compare religions, and would know little about the works and doctrine of other faiths.  While the internet has shed light on mormonism, it’s also shed light on many other beliefs.  The mormon bureaucratic way of doing things is not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the right way for everyone.

Christmas Eve Service

Some years ago, I attended a Christmas Eve service with my grandmother. She converted to Mormonism as an adult, and was raised in a more traditional/ritual religion (Ukrainian Orthodox). It’s a religion where they make a big deal out of Christmas Eve.

She liked attending services of other churches on Christmas Eve.  She loved the music, the lights.

When I was a teenager, my ward went to a different format for Christmas.  I can’t remember if most Christmas celebrations would be a two hour program (with hymns and music) or if it would be the regular block schedule.  I think it may be the bishop’s discretion (I could be misremembering).

Part of the reason was to be different than the Roman Catholic church.  I think Mormons sometimes had/have a lot more in common with the Puritans than they would readily admit.

My Dad also said that it was because Jesus wasn’t born in December.

I just always thought it was interesting that my grandmother was open to other traditions around the holidays, and other ways to celebrate.  Mormonism doesn’t have any prohibitions on attending other churches or church services (unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses).  But it is not common (at least it wasn’t common for me growing up).

It’s a paradox.  I’m sure there are many mormons who are happy to have the Christmas holidays celebrated as they are currently.  With a block schedule or special program on a Sunday around Christmas; with no special program on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  And there must also be members who would like to see more ritual and tradition surrounding Christmas.

For me, I’ve enjoyed attending holiday celebrations at different churches.  I like making latkes and talking about Kwanzaa with my kids.  I really like our festivus pole. And some day I’ll make the traditional Ukranian Christmas dinner – probably when my kids are older and I have more time.

The history surrounding the different celebrations is pretty fascinating.  And how the celebrations have changed over the years.  The difference for me now is that I explore more traditions to see what I want to adopt, and what is okay to let go.



Sunday in Outer Blogness: Pants on the Ground edition!

Chanson asked me to fill in siob this week. This week was going to be all about the pants, when a terrible tragedy happened Friday. I haven’t been watching or reading the news – my children are close to the ages of the children involved. It hits a little close to home for me. Many bloggers have weighed in on what happened, gun control, gun ownership and mental health care. Others aren’t ready to weigh in yet. I certainly understand that.

It started a few weeks ago with a call to action from a mormon feminist. Her goal:

The possibilities are endless, all I know is that I’m tired of seeing my Mormon Feminist sisters die a slow spiritual death.

And the bloggernacle exploded. For some reason, this particular suggestion, at this time, in this manner, touched a nerve. Perhaps it’s that many people were not aware of mormon male priveldge.

Much of the criticism leveled against the protestors has been about why pants, whether or not pants are disrespectful, and whether or not the organizers want to be men. For me personally, this argument sounds straight out of the 1970s. But it is also about power, and about respectful disagreement.

In other news, people posted about picking yourself up after an accident, more discussion about the new “Mormons and Gays” website and always an interesting topic – why people leave the LDS church. Also timely given the U.S. government’s financial problems, compromise in government. Helpful for those of us who are twitter challenged – foxy pink cheetah posted about the proper use of hashtags. Also discussions about birthdays, thinking about charity for the holiday and letting go.

So there was a lot of great stuff this week, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. It will be interesting to see what happens with women wearing pants to church, and the feminist allies who are wearing purple. Also, I know my thoughts are with the families in Connecticut.

Don’t forget we have holiday celebration theme week beginning Dec. 17th and also to vote for the William Law X-mormon of the year. Have a peaceful week everyone!

And…The Book of Abraham is de-canonized

When I was growing up, I had a triple combination. This was a copy of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Abraham in one book. We studied the Book of Abraham in seminary, the same year as the Old Testament. I remember my seminary teacher actually built a cardboard replica of Urim and Thummim breastplate (and glasses) to bring to our class.

So I was shocked to read the other day that the Book of Abraham is now an “esoteric” work. I know some faithful mormons who would also find that surprising. It’s true, I don’t remember the Book of Abraham being discussed all that often (much like D&C section 132 about celestial marriage/polygamy). But it was still included as scripture, revealed (restored) to Joseph Smith by God.

If it is de-canonized, that certainly makes things easier to explain for LDS leadership and apologists. The Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) doesn’t consider it to be a religious text. The Egyptian from the facsimile and papyri do not translate into the text in the Book of Abraham.

I just think the process of determining what is LDS doctrine is fraught with peril. It would be nice if the LDS church would have a Vatican council (like the Roman Catholic church did) to better define what is and what is not scripture. Until that time, I suppose answers from a public relations specialist for a national news program will have to do (much like “I don’t know that we believe that” about eternal progression with Larry King Live.)

The Happiness Factor

Over the years, I’ve watched former mormon blogs come and go. And posters on various former mormon boards join and leave. (Kiley recently talked about it here). From what I can discern, there appears to be a cycle that some former mormons run through. At first there can be a lot of emotions; hurt, betrayal, anger or fear. But generally, after some time, people stop posting. In the least, they stop posting about mormon culture, leadership, history, etc.

Why is that?

My theory can’t be sustained by fact. After all, most people will say they are happy or content with their lives. Both mormons and former mormons have a vested interest. Most people (mo and non mo) have a strong inclination towards denial “it’s not that bad”.

Seth studied ex-mormon narratives some years back. I suspect that ex-mormon narratives are quite a bit like conversion narratives (I agree with runtu here). A person holds one belief (or hasn’t thought about it) and then revisits that belief (sometimes with severe personal consequences). Parents disown children; children disown parents. Couples divorce. Lifelong friends stop speaking to one another.

After some time, this social upheaval stabilizes. Relatives and friends accept that the original person hasn’t fully changed, although some of their outward beliefs may have changed. There’s an acceptance that they are no longer are true believers (if they ever were). They come to terms with the divorce (if one happened). Both sides either come to an uneasy truce or end the relationship (even a familial relationship).

Personally, I strongly suspect that it’s the social upheaval that creates the majority of the angst (if angst is the right word). It’s the feelings of betrayal (on both sides). One side thought love was unconditional (beyond faith). The other side thought a family member would be strong enough to remain in the faith, would overlook truth claims or political controversies.

So it becomes an interpersonal conflict, the personal becoming the political. And after a few years, everyone basically accepts the new reality (ex. aerin is no longer officially mormon, not married to a mormon, not going to raise her children mormon). While both sides may challenge the status quo, things stabilize.

And some of this prediction take into account mormons who return and mormons who leave and never write anything on the internet.

And despite all the protest to the contrary, most former mormons (who’ve gone through this process) appear to be doing just fine. They live different lives. They make different choices in relationships. They may go to a church, they may not. But just like mormons they find themselves content with their lives.

For me, it was hard at first to watch some of the bloggers that I have loved reading over the years stop posting as much. But then I realized that this appears to be a cycle of sorts. And that it’s healthy, in fact, for people of all backgrounds to grow and change. Sometimes that growth means not posting as much on the internet. What was fascinating is not as consuming as it once was.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Protest Edition

Chanson asked me to do the round up of posts this week. For the record, I think this process is more difficult than it looks (please bear with me stumbling through it). And Ill give out a shout out to the work she does each week an important part of the community, tying threads together. Yet she definitively deserves a break every once in awhile (just like all of us!).
It has been a interesting week of protests, with the reddit and Wikipedia blackout(s) to protest SOPA and PIPA. Other blogs went dark as well in support. As a response, it sounds like the legislation is on hold for the near future.
Here in the states, it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day. Mormon Heretic wrote about an early black mormon, one whom I hadnt heard of before. And it looks like another same-sex marriage debacle is brewing in Minnesota.
In other news, some bloggers attended the mormon stories conference in Houston. There was more discussion of the milk before meat policy and who needs to teach church history. Maybe its time to stop making excuses for the church and the more unpalatable parts of its history.
Some posters are enjoying their Sundays and living in the present.
There were also posts about sexuality and parenting a daughter. A famous blogger and her husband have separated but still appear to be putting their kids first. It seems many former mormons are parenting through divorce. Others are thrilled about pending grandparenthood and musing about life and faith.
As it’s January, theres also snow.
Being the January before the U.S. presidential election, theres lots of political wrangling and drama going on, particularly with the Iowa recount and South Carolina. Perhaps Romney doesnt have the nomination wrapped up after all!
Eta: fixed links (like I said, much harder than it looks).