Final religious amicus brief on US same-sex marriage

I’ve been following the same-sex marriage debate on the legal front since the days of Prop 8. In 2010, Judge Walker gave his damning ruling thata gender restriction on marriage is nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.” Such language struck at the heart of the patriarchy in the positions of maintaining opposite-gender marriage only. The Catholic, Mormon and conservative Protestant faiths do not permit female ordination; because ecclesiastical power flows through men only in these faiths, same-sex marriage is a threat to their patriarchal order.

The Church has filed animus briefs along the way, but now the final one is filed. Silly arguments have come out in recent weeks, for example, the idea that same-sex marriage discriminates against mixed-orientation marriage (because going against one’s “nature” will be demonized — no, people should just have the choice to marry/start a family with their chosen loved one), or that same-sex marriage will lead to 900,000 abortions (because a decrease in “real” marriage results in more out of wedlock pregnancies — what?!).

The LDS Church, however, has signed onto a multifaith coalition amicus brief that steps up the arguments.

So what are the “final” arguments?

1) Opposite-sex marriage is central to a functional society

By our collective experience counseling and serving millions of people over countless years[,] we know from experience the tragedies associated with unwed parenting and marriage breakdown[…] boys, bereft of their fathers or any positive male role model, act out in violence, join gangs, and engage in destructive behavior. We have ministered to those boys in prison where too many are consigned to live out their ruined lives. […] We have seen girls, deprived of the love and affection of a father, fall into insecurity and then promiscuity that results in pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth – thereby repeating the cruel cycle.

2) Support for opposite-sex marriage has nothing to do with animus against gays and lesbians, but rather age-old faith traditions based in rational shepherding.

Homosexuality is remote from core teachings about marriage and family.

3) Religious liberty in the public sphere is threatened

Comparing opposition to same-sex marriage with racism would over time reduce those who believe in traditional marriage to the status of social and political outcasts.

4) Thought-policing

Striking down state marriage laws [on the basis of] animus would be an unprecedented restriction on the exercise of a fundamental right to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process. […] [How can one] suggest that advocacy for same-sex marriage is somehow less moralistic than opposition, when the entire controversy is saturated with moral discourse[?]

5) The essential secular/religious divide

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have rich religious narratives extolling the husband-wife, child-centric meaning of marriage. Many Americans who accept these traditions understand marriage as a gift from God, intended to establish an optimal setting for bearing and rearing children rather than as a means of endorsing adult relationship choices. These beliefs about marriage are not going away.

6) A subversion of democracy

To declare an unprecedented constitutional right to same-sex marriage would deny people of faith who support traditional marriage the liberty to participate as equal citizens in deciding which values and policies will govern their communities.

Well, so there you have it. The Supreme Court justices have their hands full in resolving this matter.

As I skimmed through the document, the word that appeared over and over is “animus.” If anything, these groups do not want the Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage federally legal while also demonizing anti-gay (by which I mean, anti-gay intimacy) faith communities for having some kind of “animus.”

Perhaps it’s not animus at the root, but I do think the foundational problem is ignorance/xenophobia (which historically has created animus). Many of the above arguments demonstrate a basic ignorance about society. For example, faith communities who okay gay marriage also generally centralize traditional views about marriage; they just also recognize that gay people exist.

If we think about how the Church has dealt with homosexuality over the last several decades, it’s been to take baby steps, make sure the boat is not rocked too much, the overarching patriarchal power structure not disrupted. Silly ideas have been formalized: like, the idea that God only creates heterosexual souls. I think a great deal of animus existed toward gays among church leaders prior to the 1990s, and the Bible was cited in an attempt to justify it. Nowadays, the problem is still trying to contain something as if it were “bad”; on the one hand, the Church has supported LGBT rights in the public arena, but on the other hand, talks about “counterfeit lifestyles.” There is just too much cognitive dissonance.

The analogy to racism is interesting. Considering that the Quorum of the Twelve consists of all white, English-speaking hetero married men who claim to sooth-say for God on matters for the entire human species, I see no problem introducing a “special status” of any sort that pushes against this highly problematic structure.

Anyway, feel free to comment here, whatever your position!

Thoughts on RFRAs and Nondiscrimination

Renewed interest in Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (e.g., Indiana, Arkansas) has arisen because everyone knows the US Supreme Court will okay gay marriage for the country in a few months. Conservative religious people and entities want to be in a comfortable position when this uncomfortable reality hits — they want to still feel like this is “their” country, too. For example, the LDS Church’s push for compromise in Utah, which lead to last month’s nondiscrimination bill with religious exemptions, was likely timed to settle the Utah battlefield so that once the Supreme Court ruling is issued, the Church Newsroom can basically convey measured disappointment yet assurance that the Church’s legal and cultural boundaries are still largely in tact.

Other parts of the country are having trouble creating compromise because conservative legislatures have said “no” to nondiscrimination laws such that RFRAs appear as mere wholesale licenses to discriminate. In fact, without nondiscrimination laws, a right to discriminate is already present anyway, so a RFRA is not necessary — it’s symbolic. The symbolism (AKA legal ambiguity) gives the impression of the state codifying particular religious beliefs even as RFRA supporters argue that they are actually protecting themselves from a “state religion” of nondiscrimination (e.g., upcoming national gay marriage).

The idea that gay families are morally neutral could arguably qualify as a kind of “belief,” as illustrated by this libertarian cartoon:

When a nondiscrimination law passes, it generally always includes the separation of “church religion” and “state religion”; that is to say, the Utah “compromise” was really just a continuation of the tradition of civil rights to always include freedom for religious entities to discriminate.

As such, the LDS Church doesn’t actually support nondiscrimination against LGBTs in housing, employment, etc, but rather the “balance” in the law that allows the Church to continue to discriminate against LGBTs and anyone else, actually. (Mormons might be tempted to argue that the Church does, in fact, support nondiscrimination, but one need look no further than BYU’s policy on same-sex sexual conduct.) On the surface the Church might seem to have gotten what it wants (its cake and eat it, too), but I think internally, things are far less stable than they might seem.

LDS Church becoming more and more Orwellian on gay issues

The Presbyterian Church voted today to alter its stance on marriage:

Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.

This is the kind of definition that attempts to blend the old with the new, kind of like how the LDS Church has taken steps to publicly support LGBT rights, but not marriage/same-sex intimacy.

The difference is that whereas the Presbyterian Church now actually welcomes gay couples into its fold, the LDS Church is maintaining a rather uncomfortable Orwellian situation where people are free to support same-sex marriage or coupledoms as “good” until they actually want to BE in one, when all of a sudden, it’s bad, sinful, etc.

There is also the Orwellian dilemma of Mormons having general permission from their leaders to support gay marriage, women’s ordination or whatever on social media so long as that support doesn’t appear like a strategic campaign to undermine the Church. According to Q12-member Christofferson, the Church functions by “persuasion, not coercion” (which is why one is free to hold opposing views), but he left unsaid that the shepherds are the ones to do the persuading, and the sheep must remain sheep or else risk coercion from the Church. I’m pretty sure that in a situation in which shepherds are trying to lead “from behind,” sheep will be punished who just happen to be out front and other sheep are following.

Obviously, the Church wants to be in a comfortable position when the US Supreme Court this summer overturns the remaining state bans on same-sex marriage. But I think things will become more and more uncomfortable/unstable for the Church.

While the Presbyterian Church can have a conversation and put it to a vote after which there are “winners” and “losers” (some of the losers leave, while others stay because, as one put it, “the conversation is important”), the LDS Church’s idea of a “conversation” is rather stilted (see the above persuasion/coercion doublespeak). Maintenance of the hierarchy means that any anti-gay things said by living apostles pretty much have to be upheld until, I don’t know, at least 10 years after they die. I’ve written before on how I’d hope someone like Dallin Oaks would take his decades of working on gay issues, reflect on the gaps/problems in his paradigm, and now work to alter his own position so as to not put the Church on a path of having to maintain his heterosexism.

But someone like Oaks is a reflection of a church with a heteropatriarchal theology that will be hard to work through for everyone involved. Another difference between the Presbyterian Church and why they can support gay marriage and the LDS Church can’t, is the former also ordains women so that ecclesiastical power is not tied to a single gender, thus not requiring compulsory heterosexuality to maintain it.

Should “My Husband’s Not Gay” Air?

The president of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Sarah Kate Ellis, has argued that the new TLC show “My Husband’s Not Gay” should not air. She says

This show is downright irresponsible. No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to.

A petition to end it before it begins presently has almost 85,000 over 91,000 signatures.

Folks are saying that broadcasting the notion that you can live a “straight life for your faith community” continues to be dangerous, and that the network is airing this for pure entertainment value.

Of course, counterpoints are that of religious liberty, cultural pluralism, or even freedom of speech.

Myself, I’m torn. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been annoyed at situations like conservative Mormons marching in Pride parades, because the politics becomes too fuzzy… but on the other hand, the obviously(?) thin veneer of happiness for most mixed-orientation marriages on the screen might be just what people need.


Mormonism, Christianity and Queer Politics

Someone recently brought to my attention an atheist post about how “Jesus was not a queer ally,” how the writer “can’t take LGBT-affirming Christianity seriously” and “why queer spaces must remain secular.” The post covers a lot of important nuances. Looking briefly at my past writings about the intersection between Mormonism and queerness, the someone (who I just met) thought that I might be a good person to critically respond to the above post.

Well, besides the fact that I don’t really feel I have much of a stake in the matter these days, my writings also tend to demonstrate that, indeed as a whole, queer spaces and queer politics do function best when they are secular (and not Christian).

Particularly when it comes to Mormonism. The nail in the coffin for me, looking back, is when in 2012 Mormons started marching in Pride parades and the vast majority of “progressive Mormons” were celebratory about the convergence. Two years later, the institution is as heteropatriarchal as ever, and the rhetoric of inclusion makes it just that much harder to work against the institution’s anti-gayness. It’s constantly an uphill battle with Mormons… they want to “love,” but they can’t support this or that because of their beliefs, including the very welcoming of same-sex couples into their church community.

While my personal sense is that Jesus himself was a “queer ally,” unlike the atheist blogger who thinks this is “absurdly generous,” either way I agree with the blogger that Jesus’ allyship is meaningless if the consequence of Christianity was a global spread of homophobia:

It’s not Jesus’ fault Christians have twisted and ignored his words, one might argue. It’s entirely his fault. When your life’s work is to broadcast your views, particularly if you mean to build a church on them, it falls to you to make them unmistakable – and when people whose life’s work is obeying you do just what you oppose, you may well be in the wrong job.

A counterclaim emerges in my mind that would argue that late-20th century “taming” of destructive LGBT behaviors (too much alcoholism, too much sex, too many STDs) is a result of a kind of infused religiosity (now gays have babies and marry, and stay in on Friday nights and play boardgames).

My own feeling is a sense of nostalgia for the radical queer politics of the 1960s that called for things like public sex and alternative family structures in relation to today’s tamed queers who are good consumers, good parents (in married coupledoms), and good Christians. It’s a similar kind of nostalgia for radical race-based organizers like Malcolm X who were unpalatable for most people at the time, but far more critical of the broken system as a whole. Instead, society upholds Martin Luther King’s notion of “love/inclusion,” even though 40 years after the Civil Rights Movement, racial violence remains. This is not a slight on MLK, just as I wouldn’t slight Jesus…it’s just that at some point, one has to step back and see how “love/inclusion” has actually played out: white flight from underfunded inner cities, the “war on drugs” and the prison-industrial complex.

Consider Apostle Dallin Oaks’ words regarding gay rights in the 1980s:

The public will see the debate as a question of tolerance of persons who are different, like other minorities. Perceiving the issue in those terms, the public will vote for tolerance. But if the legislative issue is posed in terms of whether the public has a right to exclude from certain kinds of employment persons who engage in (and will teach practices the majority wish to exclude for the good of society such as abnormal sexual practices that present demonstrable threats to youth, public health, and procreation), the gay rights proposal will lose. (“Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals,” 1984)

With its top-down structure there’s no doubt in my mind that Mormon leaders will continue to manipulate “love/inclusion” to keep the central structure in tact.

Arguably still, gay-affirming, more democratic forms of Christianity (not Mormonism) are a powerful force in the US today, or else gay marriage would not have gotten as far as it has; that is to say, gay marriage was never a 100% secular vs 100% religious debate, but made legal and social headway only with religious allies at the forefront. But again, I agree with the atheist blogger that “secularization allows genuine plurality,” so that God might be at the center of some people’s queer politics, but probably shouldn’t be wed to queer politics as a general rule for everyone.

The Church asks its gay members to water-down doctrine

The LDS gay community has had ideological ties with the evangelical gay community for many years. Both groups went through an “ex-gay” phase from the 1980s to the 2000s and now both groups are in a phase of “you can be gay, just don’t act on it” after the near simultaneous collapse of the Evergreen and Exodus models to “pray away the gay.”

One of the differences between Mormonism and evangelicalism, though, is there is some room in the latter now to be gay-affirming and to preach that without fear of punishment by a religious hierarchy. The question of whether people will listen or not is separate, of course.

One newbie on the stage is Matthew Vines whose gay-affirming book God and the Gay Christian is receiving some buzz. His arguments are what you’d expect… that the Bible is, in some fashion, contextual rather than for all-times-and-places. He argues the idea of “same-sex orientation” did not exist in the Bible, and before the 20th century, same-sex behavior was generally understood as sexual excess (adultery, pederasty, etc) — not the egalitarian type of today. Christianity (though not Mormonism) has an established tradition that affirms voluntary celibacy, but because of a recognition of gay people, this teaching has to be changed to require “mandatory celibacy.” This change in teaching speaks to a need to contextualize the Bible. From there, he goes on to argue that it’s probably more likely that committed gay relationships are affirmed by God (he runs through the usual scriptural passages).

His arguments aren’t “new” exactly, except they move and are received differently in today’s context of viral Youtube videos and same-sex marriage.

Anyway, there’s a point that Vines makes on a blog post, “Response to a Review: On Celibacy, Human Identity, and the Orientation/Behavior Distinction” that is quite applicable to the Mormon context, and made me think that the LDS Church is actually asking its gay members to water-down doctrine.

Vine writes:

Given the rank failure of the “ex-gay” approach, non-affirming Christians have sought to find a middle way, wherein they do not have to feel morally at fault for their persistent same-sex desires but can still regard any and every expression of those desires as sin.

Sympathetic as I am to that attempt at a middle ground, however, it cannot hold from a biblical perspective. The Bible simply does not allow us to consider ourselves blameless for internal temptations to sin, nor does it allow us to view unchanged sinful desires as a sign of a vibrant, faithful Christian life. In that respect, part of the reason non-affirming beliefs [are] livable is because [they are] watered down … in order to make them livable.

In the Mormon context same-sex desire is nowadays routinely denounced as “temptation” — “not sinful in and of itself.” Church leaders then say that there’s no need to centralize the temptation when thinking of one’s “eternal identity” as a “child of God.”

Vines responds to this paradigm:

One does not have to embrace the flawed view that our sexuality is the most important part of our human identity in order to see the profound harm caused to LGBT people by condemning all same-sex relationships as sin. A non-affirming perspective tarnish[es] the image of God in LGBT people, not because sex is necessary for their flourishing, but because hating and repenting of their every sexual desire is necessary if they are to live into the full implications of a non-affirming position.

Well, this argument makes sense to me, but I’m part of the choir. Generally, I think there are a great number of people in both the Mormon and evangelical communities who want to be convinced to be theologically gay-affirming so that they can collapse a growing dissonance in their hearts, but they fail to be able to resolve the “contextual” vs. “universal” dilemma for themselves. For evangelicals, it’s what charismatic leaders of a “moral majority” say is the unchanging Word of God. For Mormons, it’s sustaining Church leaders who claim access to continuing revelation. It all seems contextual to me.

Jesus didn’t ordain women? — Prove it.

From Michael Otterson’s letter to Ordain Women:

I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue.

Here Otterson is confusing actual history with history as told in the scriptures, which I know he knows are truncated. Even if one believes that the Bible was put together by God, and that gnostic gospels throughout the centuries were supposed to be excluded, that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer glimpses into actual history, such as various relationships between real-world people as told from different perspectives.

With that said, a number of women in the Bible very likely received teachings directly from Jesus while not in the company of the twelve. In the Gospel of Mary (taken from a text that dates from the 2nd century), Mary is talking to the twelve about some stuff that Jesus told her about the nature of sin, and Peter complains that it doesn’t seem to match with what they were told [from Mary 9:4-8]:

4He [Peter] questioned them [the other apostles] about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?

5 Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?

6 Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered.

7 Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.

8 But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well.

Basically, Otterson is acting like Peter. He cannot see Mary as Mary… he can only see her as a “woman” who cannot possibly have a similar relationship to the Savior that a man does. Levi seems to be more level-headed.

Yes, in the Bible, specifically Luke 6:13, Jesus chooses twelve men from a large group of disciples and names them as “apostles.” But there are gnostic texts that name women as apostles, too…that is, disciples who have “graduated” and could then “lead.” I suppose for some people, it’s too much of a stretch to imagine women in this position, but for others, the patriarchy of the canonized holy texts is clear, and Christianity only makes sense as an ethical religion if supplemented with additional information.

Here’s a question. Why in the Church scriptures is Junia named as an “apostle” (Romans 16:7)? This instance of a female apostle has created significant debate in other branches of Christianity bent to maintain male-only ordination…usually the argument is that Paul uses the word “apostle” to vaguely refer to a “learned disciple”; I’m curious of the talk of this passage in Mormonism.

In any event, the Church would have a lot of work to do to demonstrate that its ordination practices actually correspond to what happened during the time of Jesus (such as ordaining 12-year-olds). It is not something to be “taken as a matter of faith.” It’s an issue of historical fact, and despite Otterson saying that we know Jesus didn’t ordain women, we actually don’t know this.

Women’s Ordination and Gay Equality – How They’re Connected

I’ve made this case before, in most detail in my 2011 Dialogue article “Mormon and Queer at the Crossroads,” that women’s roles in the Church and gay equality in the Church are intimately connected. This is not just a conceptual connection…historically, the Church has treated the two issues as though they are connected. In 1993, Boyd Packer linked “gays, feminists and intellectuals” as evils the Church needed to be wary of.

The Church prepared its campaign against gay marriage at the time of the Equal Rights Amendment because it understood the developing logic of civil rights. The Church’s position against the ratification of the ERA included concern that the amendment would encourage a “blurring” of gender roles as well as forcing “states…to legally recognize and protect [same-sex] marriages” because “if the law must be as undiscriminating concerning sex as it is toward race, [then]…laws outlawing wedlock between members of the same sex would be as invalid as laws forbidding miscegenation.” This is a direct quote from the 1980 Church pamphlet “The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue.”

Thus, LDS women who voted against the ERA could do so knowing they were voting against the “evil” of homosexuality that “blurred” gender roles. This idea of keeping “men” and “women” distinct (and not blurred) and that this distinction is what makes Mormonism beautiful, unique and true is what the Church has used to pit gay rights against women’s rights for the last few decades. It has done a good job of it, in my opinion, because here we are almost 40 years later and the discussions among activists and their opponents seem similar to the 1990s…as if precious knowledges are constantly being quashed by the system, and activists have to expend most of their energy just keeping the knowledges alive, much less altering the system.

Sometimes Mormon feminist discussions keep the gay/feminist connection at the forefront (this Exponent II issue is a good example), but I notice that a lot of the times, discussions become dominated by two competing views: (1) “Eve is already equal to Adam as she walks alongside him, so the Church is fine” versus (2) “Eve is not equal to Adam as she walks alongside him, so the Church needs to change.” This is a debate between heterosexist feminisms that assume an Eve wants to walk alongside an Adam, and strangely, that in some fundamental way, all Eves are similar and all Adams are similar. The Church would have you believe that if an Eve dares to walk alongside another woman, that the woman would also be named “Eve,” as opposed to having a entirely different name, personality, individuality. The argument against “blurring the genders” also requires the genders to be static. I find it ridiculous how people argue that Ordain Women wants to “blur the genders” when the Church is the biggest perpetrator of muddying gender to make everything the same. (Btw, the Eve walking next to another woman, or by herself, or however is certainly not on equal footing as the Eve walking next to Adam.)

Ordination in the Church is a unique issue because [nearly] every boy is ordained, and no girl is, so if girls were also ordained, then everyone would be ordained, which wouldn’t work. But given the current set-up, it’s hard for me to not see the priesthood as entirely about a maintenance of heteropatriarchy, funneling people down certain life paths. I find curious this Apr 5th tweet from Joanna Brooks:

ordination isnt my issue but i believe women should be involved in decision making on all issues at all levels of the church.

The Quorum of 12 is a “level”– how can a woman be an apostle without being ordained? I scratch my head at Brooks. Perhaps the problem is that women’s ordination would give the Church a heart attack from an organizational standpoint, so a piecemeal strategy is not exactly preferred, but is the only option. (This is what the Church says when it calls Ordain Women “unhelpful.”) At the same time, given the way the priesthood works, one wonders about the Eve who doesn’t want to marry an Adam. Without a change to the gendering of the priesthood, gay equality is also rendered a distant dream.

Missionary Chat: Ordain Women

I thought I’d follow proxfm’s lead, and talk to some missionaries. My chat was about Ordain Women…

Spencer: Hi Alan! How are you doing today? :)

Alan: Pretty good.

Spencer: Glad to hear it! How can we help you?

Alan: I’m just curious about the Ordain Women movement in Utah…

Kedric: ok. We honestly know very little about it. But we can try to help

Alan: Well, do you feel that women should be given more power in the Church?

Spencer: Well, women do hold leadership positions in the church. The church wouldn’t be successful without women. You look at our prophet, the 12 Apostles, etc. They often say how they are only able to fulfill their calling because of their wives and the other women in their lives. As far as the priesthood goes, God has established that men are to hold it. That being said, it doesn’t put men above women or give them more power. We are all still equal in the sight of God. The priesthood is there to bless everyone, men are just the ones that have been asked to hold it. Does that make sense? :)

Alan: Hmm…
Alan: So, it doesn’t bother you that in other religions, women can hold the same leadership roles as men, but Mormonism they can’t?

Kedric: Why would that bother me? I follow Jesus Christ, He runs this Church. If our personal opinions or social views contradicts what He commands, we need to address those views, not attempt to change His commandments.

Alan: Okay, well, let me reframe what I’m asking….because I understand that Mormonism has the idea of “Heavenly Parents”

Kedric: Yes. Heavenly Father and Mother

Alan: What is the role of Heavenly Mother?

Kedric: Outside of Her existence, we know very little about Her. (…types more, but doesn’t post it)

Alan: hey, you looked like you would say more
Alan: lol

Kedric: SOrry

Alan: Okay, well from where I’m standing, Heavenly Mother’s role seems to represent how the Church treats its women….they “exist,” but their roles in influencing the Church are kept at an arm’s length.

Kedric: Well, that is fine, Alan. That’s where you are standing, I suppose. That hasn’t been my experience at all. We are warned in the scriptures several times not to counsel the Lord. This Church is His Kingdom. As a Kingdom, we do our best to carry things out in His way. It is up to us to make our opinions in line with His, not try to change His. We need to be going, Alan, but have a great day.

Alan: Now, wait a moment. I though missionary service was not just about teaching, but also learning
Alan: not learning to “counsel the Lord,” but learning about how people view the Church
Alan: anyway, bye

I opened another window and got a female missionary, but that conversation went weird, but was rather informative about how technological proselytizing is really problematic for the Church:

Holly: Hi Alan, how are you?

Alan: Pretty good.

Alan: I just talked to a couple of male missionaries…about Ordain Women in Utah

Holly: Okay, and how can we help you?

Alan: Well, I guess I’m just interested in how younger Mormons think about the issue

Holly: So if you already chatted with missionaries, what made you come back?

Alan: Because the first ones shut down the conversation pretty quickly

Holly: why?

Alan: I asked whether they thought women should have more power in the Church
Alan: and then I asked about the idea of Heavenly Mother, and suggested that the Church seems to treat women like it treats Her

Holly: Okay, well yeah, the church treats them sacredly, just like they treat Heavenly Mother sacredly

Alan: If you’re interested, I can give you some perspective about myself
Alan: I was raised Mormon, and my mother is quite Mormon

Holly: Nah, We aren’t interested in that

Alan: Really? lol

Holly: but we would love to help answer questions you have
Holly: and provide an opportunity for you to learn more for yourself

Alan: how can you answer questions people have without knowing where those questions are coming from…lol

Holly: Well we feel that we know you enough to answer your questions

Alan: how can you know me? i’m text in a chat window…

Holly: because we have been chatting now for ten minutes, we have learned a lot. So how can we help you?

Alan:should i close the window, or are you still typing?

Holly: Why would you close the window? Sorry this new chat system says that we are typing even when we are not sometimes

Alan:oh, okay
Alan: well, i don’t ask about women’s power in the Church to be a nuisance…I’m just curious if the Church is going to move in a different direction.
Alan: and I see the perspective of young people as an indication of that
Alan: but i suppose missionaries are the wrong young people to ask, because they’re not allowed to talk about their own perspectives

Holly: This church is Christ’s church that He established, it holds the authority that He held. That authority can only be held by worthy males, so no, the church is not going to move in another direction.

Holly: We are all equal, we are all promised the exact same blessings

Alan: All equal in heavenly terms, but at the end of the day, men hold the ropes, and that has real-life consequences

Holly: See, and that is where you haven’t done your “research” because that is not true. You said you were raised mormon and your mother is mormon, are you not mormon anymore?

Alan: well, my mother would agree with you, lol
Alan: and now you’re asking about my background….i thought you knew me, haha

Holly: you know, this isn’t a place to argue, this is why the other missionaries ended the chat. We are just trying to help you.

Alan: all right, but surely you understand that people are dynamic creatures, and they don’t just come in here as empty vessels
Alan: you say i’m “arguing,” but you’re the one who said you “know” me when you don’t. how can you not expect me to be defensive?

Holly: I am sorry you feel that way. I just said that we knew enough. You know, the purpose of this chat is to receive answers to questions pertaining to basic beliefs of the church, and to provide opportunities to learn more. But you know, that is not what you are doing, so we are going to have to end the chat unfortunately. We hope that you will just ponder this issue yourself, and ask God, because coming here is not appropriate. We hope that you will ask God about this issue, and trust His answer because we know He will answer you. Also feel free to watch General Conference, I am sure that there is something that we be said that is specifically for you. Have a great day.

Alan: then maybe you all should change the interface, cuz it says: “Do you have a question, want to know more, or just want to talk about the gospel?”

Alan: i’ve talked to missionaries before and talked to them about these issues more deeply

Alan: it seems like on the internet, there’s less willingness to do that

Holly: But this isn’t the Gospel, this is a human-interpreted issue that doesn’t pertain to salvation. Please refrain from coming back, have a wonderful day. Also feel free to go to Thanks, bye!

[The chat session has ended.]

Why has the Church responded to Ordain Women?

Yesterday, the Church sent a letter to Ordain Women, telling them that the movement “detracts from the helpful discussions that Church leaders have held as they seek to listen to the thoughts, concerns and hopes of women inside and outside of Church leadership,” because Ordain Women has made their position “non-negotiable.”  This is a silly way to phrase it, I think, because ordaining women in the Church is non-negotiable (according to the Church), so the non-negotiability stems from the Church’s position, not Ordain Women’s.

Since the two groups are in absolute disagreement, when the big powerful group responds to the small group and tells them that they are “not helpful,” it means that the small group has struck a chord of some sort.  In the case of Ordain Women, what is that chord?

I think it’s the fact that Ordain Women intends to protest on Temple Square on April 5.  The issue is not what they will protest, but where they will protest — IOW, if they protested off-site, would the Church have sent them a letter? Probably not.  The whole letter is framed around the issues of doctrine and gender segregation, yes, but those are more for show, since Ordain Women knows about all that stuff already.  The real issue is that of private property that the Church wants to maintain as “sacred.”

The Church says the group is welcome to demonstrate in “free-speech zones” adjacent to Temple Square.  The language here makes it sound like the Church does not consider free speech sacred, but rather something that needs to be designated to a specific space and channel.  The content of the debate aside, I commend Ordain Women for breaking down this troubling public/private divide, which is actually a highly gendered set-up to begin with.

Feminism 101:  “The private is public.”