In other “complaining about stuff on the ‘Naccle” news…

We’ve been having a lively discussion of some quotes from The Crucible of Doubt, and on the same day that that came up in my reader, some other ‘Naccler managed to link to something even worse. Take a gander at this article.

The author lists off a bunch of positive learning and growth experiences that come from parenting, but instead of framing them in a positive sense, she flips them around and states them in terms of how horrible non-parents must therefore be. Normally I would save this sort of thing for a quick mention in Sunday in Outer Blogness, but there are just too many choice quotes to highlight, and I don’t want to clutter up SiOB with them. Like this one:

Pope Francis warned married couples not to forego children in favor of having “a dog, two cats,” and offered a cautionary description of childless old age “in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

Is it me, or is that weird coming from a childless old guy? Is he saying his life is bitter and lonely, or does he think he’s the exception?

What would a society of adults skewed toward childlessness, like the perpetually barren Time magazine beach couple, look and act like without having acquired the altruism, personal growth, and wisdom that bringing up children generally bequeaths on those who undergo parenthood?

This is what the whole article is like. You can learn some great life lessons from parenting, therefore childless people must be inferior.

And with every area of interest that children pursue, parents discover, they bring along mentors and friends who alter our lives and perceptions and create alliances unlikely to form otherwise.

Yeah, but you don’t know what experiences you’d be having if you weren’t busy having kids. You also don’t know what kinds of experiences childless adults are having, and the author apparently has no interest in finding out.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who describes his early career as marked by a “lazy, gluttonous, selfish point of view,” now raises five kids with his wife in Manhattan and admits that “having five kids dramatically changed me,” replacing narcissism with the gift of never having the luxury of forgetting about parental responsibilities, and also giving him “an incredible skill set.”

This is the closest the author comes to proving that childless people are selfish, narcissistic, etc. The problem is that the personal life journey of one random lazy, gluttonous, selfish, narcissistic guy doesn’t prove anything about anyone else.

“I didn’t understand,” she explains, “that having a child would make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. I didn’t know that my child would become my whole experience, the standard against which I measured all other feelings and found them wanting.”

Again, you can’t prove general principles from a handful of personal anecdotes. This one in particular may well be an outlier.

Comparing to my own personal experience, I found that parenting did not make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. However, if all of a person’s non-parenting experiences are “hollow, frantic, and a little silly”, I guess it stands to reason that that person’s child would become the person’s whole experience.

Interestingly, the emotional intensity of paradigms shifting and egocentric worldviews giving way are not contingent on the birth of a perfect child.

I’m not convinced that the author’s egocentric worldview has given way.

That empathy then reaches outward to others — hopefully creating an adult world less narcissistic and undoubtedly more humble

Seriously? Repeatedly implying that childless people are “narcissistic” demonstrates some impressive levels of empathy and humility.

Wisdom and self-actualization, empathy and humility are not limited to parents.

Indeed. OK, she just broke my irony meter with that one.

I think the article sheds some interesting light on Mormon culture. The idea that childless=selfish is so ingrained that someone can write an article like that one, and many Mormons perceive it as simply a positive statement about parenting.

Mormon Moment Series on

Ahhhhh! The smell of fresh, juicy, slightly wrong Mormon blog posts. It must be Sunday!

I have been doing a series of posts related to Mormon and Post-Mormon issues that seem to be *hot* this year. With more and more people interested in Mormons, and now the change in rules for when male and female missionaries are allowed to serve, the Bloggernacle keep heating up! So, if you missed the first posts in the series (because I was a slacker and wasn’t cross posting) here is your chance to catch up. If you have been catching them on my blog, you will notice they are a little different. Thanks to Kevin who suggested that I should include the topic of the post in the title, and not jsut which post number it is. Ahhhhh, aren’t friends great for helping you see your blind spots? I am glad I have so many friends looking out for me.

I am using the same introduction for each post, both because I think that it helps keep them uniform, but also so I don’t have to try to come up with 20 ways to say the same thing!

What this series is about:

If you are Mormon, you are probably sick of hearing about the Mormon Moment. There are so many people who are suddenly interested in Mormon culture, and there are lots of Mormon bloggers that are cashing in and sharing their stories. Some of the stories end up being kind of silly, but if you are simply trying to get people to read about what is important to you, the Mormon Moment is one way to draw people in.

I do not want people to think that I don’t respect the bloggers whose posts I am sharing. All of them are good bloggers, and most of them write about Mormon topics all of the time. I have no doubt that they would have shared these thoughts and stories at some point, but as one friend told me the other day, “in the race to the election, bloggers are pushing hard to attract new readers before the Mormon Moment is gone.” So, to help you, I sifted through hundreds of posts to share the ones that I still remember. (This group of posts are nowhere near a complete view of Mormon bloggers. All of the bloggers are either Mormons, post-Mormons, or write about Mormon issues, even when it isn’t election time.)

So, what have you missed?

Mormon Moment Series – Part One – Mormon Mind Control?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Two – Ayn Rand and Quirks in Mormon Culture

Mormon Moment Series – Part Three – Modesty, Perfection and Secrets

Mormon Moment Series – Part Four –Why can’t we seem to say what we mean?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Five –Fasting For Followers!

Mormon Moment Series – Part Six – Who is a Mormon?

While it is not officially part ofmy Mormon Moment Series, please take a minutes and check out this post about Mormons, Masterbation, and the story of a teenager driven to attempt suicide, because of his wet dreams.

But for the Grace of God….

This post is about a teen suicide attempt and some of the actions that led to it. The language is not vulgar, but it is specific. Please read only if, it is emotionally safe for you. A few days ago, I sent an email out to several family members and friends about a post on the Mormon Therapistblog. It deals with a sensitive subject, so please understand that this particular linked post is not g-rated, although it will not include any explicit language either. If you are uncomfortable with discussions about sexuality, masturbation, how to teach adults and children healthy sexual attitudes, or the negative impacts of shame, I suggest you skip this post, and not click onto the linked article.”
You can go here to read the entire post, including the responses from TBMs who are supportive of Mormon Therapist’s view, who also explain how the email about this young man touched their lives, and the lives of their children. This is a bold stand from all sides, as Mormon Therapist boldly proclaims, “Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.”
We live in a time of great turmoil, and out youth especially need to love and support to deal with a variety of challenges. From masturbation to Coke, homosexuality to the age of sister missionaries, the church is changing or softening on a number of important issues. I believe that we need to support those who are members of the church, who continually ask questions and look for answers. I also believe that current and former members need to find common ground, in as many areas as they can, and work together on those shared goals. Almost every post-Mormon still has family or friends who are members of the church. Almost every member of the church knows someone who has left, been kicked out, or is inactive. While there are very real hurts on all sides, I believe that coming together and being the chance we want to see in our own lives, the lives of our family members, and in the lives of all of the children we love, can make that change a reality.
Whether you are celebrating General Conference today, or are in mourning because of it, there are always ways to find a little common ground, a little place of friendship, a little piece of shared light. We do not have to change our minds about our belief or lack thereof. What we can do is put the first brick into creating a bridge, that will help span the gap between us, and the children and youth who need to know that it gets better, no matter what your sexual orientation or habits!

One last link. If you have a talent to share, leave a comment, and you could be the lucky winner of a pair of pearl stud earrings!

The Hammer of Judgment – What Would You Say?

My last post: Gay Trees and Gadianton Robbers gotseveral comments on my own blog. One, which I took from an email that was sent by a former classmate in high school, was pretty forceful. You can see the original post, and my response in the comments section here.

I am less interested in my personal response, but more about howyou would respond if someone left a comment like this on your blog. When there is a comment like this, does it matter whether you are a current or ex-member, or would your response be the same whatever your status with the church? If the person leaving it was a current or former member, would the difference change how you would address it?

So, how do you deal with people who are obvioiusly not in agreement with something you wrote?

I like you, but I REALLY hate it when you talk about politics. It was bad enough in high school when you read communist stuff and Godless philosophers. There is NO REASON for anyone to read things that go against the scriptures.
You always said the reason you read all the weird stuff was because you needed to understand it to be a good debater. You aren’t debating now, and still you make fun of people who are working for GOD. Romney was a BISHOP! Obama has never held a calling or made a lemonade stand. Romney was a STAKE PRESIDENT! Obama hasn’t ever been a good enough person for God to give him any responsibility.
Julia, it is time for you to stop being STUPID. You are too smart to let Satan tell you what to say and do. You should be telling everyone the Truth. God gave you your talents and the gospel and church gave you the Truth.
You need to do the RIGHT thing, instead of just trying to be popular to a bunch of apostates, liberals, and other people who offend God! I am calling you to repentance and I hope that you can still hear the Holy Ghost enough to go what YOU know is RIGHT!
I am emailing this to you because I KNOW you WON’T let anyone who agrees with you have a comment on your posts. You just want everyone to tell you that you are wonderful. You might think your post is funny, but really it is just a MOCKERY OF GOD!

So, what would you say, if this comment showed up on your blog? Would you delete, or let it stay?

Mormon Intra-faith Dialogue Under Controlled Circumstances

Picket Fence

A week ago, a number of bloggers from across the Mormon belief map joined together answer the following question- do good online fences make good LDS neighbors? My co-panelistchanson has posted some remarks here, andRachel Whipple has posted her remarks at Times and Seasons, andyou can also readHolly’s post herefor thoughts from a non-panelist.

I have written frequently on the topic, but I wanted to address things again here. For our panel, we had wanted to have members of the orthodox, believing Mormon blog aggregator Nothing Wavering. However, both Bruce Nielson and J. Max Wilson declined our invitation, but they did provide reasons for why they declined our invitations to Sunstone (Bruce’s reasons for declining Sunstone detail this idea that the different blogs are “safe zones” for different communities, whereas J. Max Wilson’s reasons for declining talk about the need not to give Sunstone or the Bloggernacle any legitimacy.)

With J. Max’s and Bruce’s posts publicly available on their blogs, I thought that I could present their pointson their behalf — kinda like a devil’s advocate (can you taste the irony?) I don’t know how J. Max feels about this, but Bruce, at the very least, had said explicitly in his comments:

…if you wanted to express my views of boundary maintenance at Sunstone on my behalf just for kicks and giggles and then let your panel shoot it down, I really wouldnt mind. (Not being present, I can hardly be socially rejected now can I?) I might even take this email and post it on M* one of these days and see if it generates any discussion while Im in my safe zone so to speak. But this is up to you.

So I guess his post was fair game. But there was a funny thing that happened after I presented both of their positions.

Continue reading “Mormon Intra-faith Dialogue Under Controlled Circumstances”


This is the presentation I gave for the panel “Do Good Online Fences Make Good LDS Neighbors?” (which Andrew S and I organized) at the 2012 Sunstone Symposium.

Criticism. Sometimes it tells you more about the critic and his own personal issues than bout the thing being criticized, doesn’t it? Other times criticism gives you valuable information about real problems that should be addressed and solved. And sometimes it’s a little of both — you can pick some nuggets of useful data out of an otherwise unpleasant rant.

I bring this up in response to J. Max Wilson’s claim that organizations like Sunstone are parasites that harm and weaken their host (in this case: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or CoJCoL-dS). But all Mormon discussion groups depend on Mormonism for their existence. That includes “Nothing Wavering” — their group depends on the existence of Mormonism too.

So the question becomes: Which groups are doing their “host” the most harm?

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.

If you take the attitude that all criticism is unfounded — and that the solution to criticism is simply to get the critic to shut up — you create a situation where many problems won’t get acknowledged, hence won’t be analyzed, hence won’t be solved.

I hear complaints all the time that all these exit narratives are so predictable. They all hit the same notes. Well, if you’ve got thousands of people defecting, and their explanations all have a lot of the same elements, that’s valuable data. I’m sure some of the similarity is due to the stories influencing each other, but I don’t think that accounts for all of it.

J. Max claims that when faithful Mormons post complaints to the Bloggernacle, it’s like taking your marital problems down to the pub. I find that a very interesting metaphor. The problem is that all these faithful members — who do have a profound and intimate relationship to the church — don’t have the equivalent of a living room or bedroom where they can talk to the people who make church policies and expect the leaders to listen to them and take their perspectives into account.

Telling people that it’s OK to have issues — but please only work through them privately with friends and local leaders until you find a way to put your issues on the shelf — that doesn’t cut it. And when there’s a real problem, that doesn’t solve it.

Even minor issues — refusing to address them can grow them into major issues.

At the blog Main Street Plaza our goal is to have an engaging discussion of LDS-interest topics such as current events and Mormon culture. We absolutely do allow criticism of the CoJCoL-dS and its leaders. I believe that the feedback and critical perspective we provide is at least as helpful to the CoJCoL-dS as it is harmful — and it’s possibly a good deal more helpful than harmful.

But that’s beside the point.

My goals (and I’m not speaking for anyone else in the community, but), my personal goals are not about helping or harming the CoJCoL-dS. I just think that Mormonism is a fascinating topic, and I enjoy discussing it and hearing different viewpoints.

As I said in my earlier panel, we have additional goals like reclaiming our stories: allowing former Mormons to define their own experiences instead of standing by and letting the church invent the “apostate” narrative, according to its own agenda.

But I don’t want to be too earnest and take myself too seriously here. I’m mostly in it for the camaraderie and fun — and because it’s less stressful than discussing the serious problems facing the world.

You can see how our commenting policy reflects these goals. People are welcome to argue any position and present their evidence. Even (especially?) to criticize our policies and tell us when they’re not working, and what needs improvement. And in my weekly blog round-up I link to interesting posts from blogs all over the belief map.

But people who just want to pick a fight — to polarize and reframe the discussion into the familiar paradigm of “the church and its enemies, forever locked in mortal combat” — I have no patience for that. (I generally post a follow-up comment reminding people that “if you wont/cant make your point in a clear and reasonable way, then it only makes your own position look, well, questionable.”)

On principle I don’t fault J. Max for wanting to marginalize viewpoints that he thinks are wrong or harmful. In a society that values free speech, using your own speech to try to push certain voices to the fringes works better than actual censorship.

To take some extreme examples, think of Holocaust deniers or the anti-vaccine movement. You can legitimately argue that their speech is dangerous. We see babies dying of new outbreaks of diseases that vaccination had kept at bay for more than a generation! But censoring such viewpoints actually gives them a weird new credibility, like “These guys must really be onto something if Big Brother is so threatened by letting them speak!” It’s better to make the case for why such viewpoints aren’t mainstream.

I simply disagree with J. Max about whom he’s choosing to marginalize. Criticism can be constructive.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Boundary Maintenance Edition!

By now I imagine all of you have read Andrew’s series on boundaries in the Bloggernacle, and have read about the unfortunate attack in which the official LDS social media guys tried to pave over some real Mormon grassroots to install astroturf — a bad move for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Brooks is cleverer than the official guys. (The CoJCoL-dS’s obsession with homogeneity and with controlling who can speak, who can organize social events, and what they can say doesn’t necessarily help their image, nor even succeed in keeping the skeletons out of view.) But so much of religious discourse is focused on who’s out (including the risk of getting booted out). Dominionists, apparently, have their own mysterious and disturbing in-group language. Politics plays a big role, even for liberal denominations, and are secularists getting into the act?

Boundaries aren’t all bad — they can be healthy when appropriately applied. And attempts at communication across traditional boundaries can lead to uneven results: Gay Mormons with fundamentalist Mormons, 19th century Protestant preachers to 550 BC-era native Americans, Mormons to Shinto priests, DVD retailers to clients, God to humans, old men to young singles, door-to-door salesmen to SAHMs, former Mormons at LDS-church family reunions, clueless homophobes to gay celebrities, etc., etc.

Then we have one more round of the eternal question: Why Do Women Fight Against Their Own Interests? Why is it so hard to take care of our own needs instead of always cheering for others? Part of it is the constant “modesty” lessons with their subtext that young women should frame their sense of self based on how they appear to others (attracting men with their bodies or attracting men by covering up their bodies). Of course everyone needs human touch, whether sexual or not. If you don’t believe me, just watch Emily Pearson’s sex diaries on the Oprah Network!! In other amazing stories, a mysterious bump on the head sparked a series of events leading Therese Doucet to finish her third novel and publish her first — check it out!!

As usual, I hope you’re all having a fabulous Sunday, and if you have any comments about these stories or any others, feel free to discuss them here!! 😀

Patriarchy, redux

A recent post on a Mormon-themed group blog asked the question What are some of the common themes that emerge in patriarchal societies? It then compared these societies with Mormonism. There were a number of parallels.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this article was what it didn’t mention. Here are the salient items that I thought were missing:

  • Persecution of homosexuals. Iran and Saudi Arabia prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality. Other patriarchal societies criminalize it. In Mormonism, homosexuality is the sin next to murder, and the Church uses its political muscle against gay civil rights.

    Homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, is a repudiation of the patriarchal orders insistence on strict sexual roles. Gender roles, as Elder Bruce Porter recently put it, are woven into the very fabric of the universe for patriarchal cultures. They are the one nonnegotiable item of patriarchal power structures.

    The Churchs most strongly worded statement of patriarchal gender roles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, was issued in response to increasing civil tolerance for homosexuals. This isnt a coincidence.

  • Male preoccupation with female modesty. Patriarchal societies in the Arab world and elsewhere enforce restrictive clothing standards for women, up to and including full veil.

    In LDS culture, female modesty is a frequent sermon topic. (Male modesty doesnt exist. The shirts and skins basketball game in the Cultural Hall is still around. Male modesty can only jokingly be referred to in LDS circles, usually in relation to homosexuality. Like a lot things in LDS culture, modesty involves gender.)

  • Denial of female sexuality. Patriarchal cultures do not generally do not admit the possibility of women as people with legitimate sexual needs of their own. Instead, women are viewed by their roles as wives (providers of sexual release to men) and mothers (asexual nurturers of children).

    In Mormon culture, you often see women put on the pedestal of motherhood in a way that neglects the existence of female sexual desire and the need for female sexual fulfillment. The sexually empowered woman is not an LDS archetype.

    An odd reflection of the patriarchal denial of female sexuality can be seen in how partriarchal societies treat male homosexuality compared to female homosexuality. In places like Saudi Arabia, female homosexuality is not against the law. Basically, it is not acknowledged to exist. The reason is that the patriarchal view of sex requires a penis to be present. No penis, no sex. No penetration, no sex. In LDS culture, male homosexuality receives the lion’s share of attention. Lesbians are rarely mentioned by Mormon leaders.(Penises are, like, way super important in the dudeocracy.)

  • Polygamy.Patriarchal societies, such as Islam, often practice polygyny (and never polyandry).

    Mormon culture has polygamist roots, and elements of polygamist teachings (D&C 132, along with asymmetrical rules for the sealing ordinance, for example) are still on the books.

  • Placement of responsibility for male sexual behavior upon women. Most patriarchal cultures view male sexual desire for women as a consequence of female seduction. In these cultures, women who are raped are punished for inflaming male desire.

    In LDS culture, there have been recent sermons that tell young women that they are responsible for the moral purity of young men.

I’m probably not alone in finding this list a bit creepy.

Marvin Perkins: We are one.

Marvin Perkins

Marvin Perkins is described by Mormon blog Times & Seasons as “a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African-Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions.” Here’s Marvin at T&S:

Even couched in kind tones, today we find many in the church who utilize labels of separation like your people, our people etc. We are one.

And here’s Marvin attacking misconceptions as a Yes on 8 campaigner:

“… They can’t reproduce, so they got to recruit. And they’re trying to recruit our kids. They’re trying to promote that lifestyle to our kids and I say NO. And then they bring it under a civil rights issue. It’s not a civil rights issue, it’s a moral issue.”

How does Marvin know they are out to recruit his kids?

Because his gay friends told him so:

This tension was especially pronounced when less-polished speakers — like, say, Marvin Perkins, a forty-ish African American introduced as a “community leader” — took the microphone at the rally. “They’re trying to compare this to the black struggle for civil rights and to interracial marriage,” Perkins told the crowd. “And it’s like, there were no civil unions for black and white couples, so, you know, you don’t have a leg to stand on.” If such reasoning caused some puzzlement — was he saying that civil unions would be sufficient for mixed-race couples? — Perkins had another argument for the crowd to consider. “I was talking to a gay friend of mine, and I said, ‘What’s the story? Come on. You have civil unions. Why are you pushing this?’ And they said, ‘Marvin, it’s simply recruiting. We love to recruit.'” It struck me as a testament to Marvin’s magnetism that he was able to elicit such candor from his close gay friends about the recruiting conspiracy.

Memo #1 to Marvin: Your gay friends hate you.

Watch the whole thing, but catch Marvin in action starting around the 3:15 mark:
Memo #2 to Marvin: Your biracial friends probably hate you, too.

Why is marriage equality not a civil rights issue?

Because separate but equal wasn’t available for interracial couples back in the day.

CNN’s Stan Wilson: Wasnt there a time when interracial marriage was illegal? How do you respond to that?

Marvin Perkins: There was. Interracial couples were told they could not marry or have any of the rights of marriage. Same sex couples in CA have the same rights with domestic partnerships. There were no domestic partnerships for interracial couples.


The OP at that Times & Seasons link goes on to describe Marvin as “… one of the foremost scholars in the Church on the topic of race and the scriptures and has done a tremendous amount to help put an end to doctrinal folklore.”

Memo #3 to Marvin: This is me LMAO at your “scholarship” and your ridiculously homophobic self. We are one, Marvin, but what are you? Looks to me like you’re one big liar, just another Paul H. Dunn, telling whoppers for the Lord.

Q: How to get single Mormons to attend LDS Institute classes?

A: Guilt and sex.

Tonight? Oh, behave. Rrrrr.

h/t: r/exmormon and t.t.a.n.s.

See also Mormon Ad FAIL:

I know I shouldn’t be shocked and outraged that this comes from a church whose finest entertainment moment was the depiction of Johnny Lingo bartering for an 8-Cow Wife. And I know I’ve heard more returned missionaries than I can count who’ve been promised “a hot wife” in exchange for their faithfulness. But it is different when the video comes straight from the Church’s official website.

Making Your Opponent’s Case

If you have to ban somebody over religious differences, it is probably a good idea to wait until the debate about what constitutes a bad religion is over.

When you argue that religion provides a special path to the truth, you are not helping yourself by prohibiting your rhetorical opponent’s speech. You see, people who have a measure of truth can defend their position on the merit of the argument.

So when you shut them up with prohibitions, you demonstrate your ignorance more conclusively than any advocate ever could.
Continue reading “Making Your Opponent’s Case”