The 8 things I’d like to ask

I know…I have resigned my membership. So why do I care about the new Mormon church policy update that impacts LGBT Mormons? Why bother stressing about it if I don’t even belong or believe?

Because this was my faith community for 46 years. Because it was how I was raised. Because I have active believing children (and now grandchildren), parents, a sister, extended family and friends that do continue to believe and participate. Because the Mormon church continues to impact those relationships. I have a gay brother whose married to a wonderful man and they’ve been together for a lot of years. During my faith transition, I reached out and made many friends online and became aware of their struggles and pain. I’m a Mama Dragon, even if I don’t have any gay children myself, because LGBT issues have impacted my life. I’ve received private messages over the past couple of years about what it means to be gay in the Mormon church. I have listened to stories of unimaginable pain and anguish. And the most basic reason is because I’m human and I care about people.

So I’ve examined this policy, as currently written (with no clarification issued yet), and engaged in a lot of discussions. While doing this, I’ve compiled a list of questions – questions that the video the church released with Elder Christofferson left unanswered. Here they are:

#1 – Since the primary reason for the policy given by Elder Christofferson was to protect the children from mixed messages, how does this policy accomplish that when it only bans them from saving ordinances while allowing/encouraging them to attend church? If this is the primary concern, why not ban them from attending our church services all-together until they’re 18? How does the church reconcile the mixed messaging happening for children in other families that are living in situations where parents are living in ways that don’t align with church doctrines/policies? Like non-members, those engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, those with addiction issues, those living with partners but unmarried, those that have left the church, apostates, etc. If the church is trying to prevent mixed messaging or family conflict, why aren’t these same rules applicable for all children under age 18? Are they still working on policy updates for those children/families as well? Because there are many children currently participating in the church the hear messages that conflict with what they hear and see at home.

# 2 – Does the church anticipate that the children of gay parents will still attend church with these new rules? Do they hope that grandparents, family members and friends will continue to bring these children to primary, church and youth activities? Will the church be encouraging that? If so, how does the church envision this experience working for both those children and the adults teaching primary/YM/YW? Because the messaging will be the same. And they won’t be able to fully participate in some things (baptism, blessing/passing the sacrament, temple trips, ordinations). Does the church plan on altering the manuals to help teachers and leaders prepare for these situations and how to make the children feel truly involved/included?

# 3 - Since baby blessings are not a saving ordinance, and viewed as a celebration of a child’s birth, and are done for children whose parents are inactive/non-members, why is this different for children with gay parents? The reason given, during the video, was it creates a membership record and starts ward responsibilities for that child. But that happens with other children, as well, whose parents may not even be attending or believe (and living in situations where mixed messaging will happen). Is the church concerned about having the gay couples names on the certificate of blessing? Or in the church system listed as a family unit?  If so, why? Wouldn’t the church want primary/ward leaders and members to reach out to these children, just like they do for inactive families?

# 4 - Why is the church just now enacting these changes when same-sex marriage has been legal in roughly 20 other countries for anywhere between 1 year and more than 10 years? The total church membership in those countries is about 2.5 million. The church has said this is to protect children and families. Was the church concerned about the children and families in these other countries as well? And, if so, why did they wait until marriage laws changed in the U.S. when this is a global church?

# 5 –  How does the church view support of same-sex marriage for members now? In this interview with Elder Christofferson in March 2015, he stated:

“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”
There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,” Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.

We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues,” Christofferson said. ” … In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.

The current policy update states that children with gay parents, in a same-sex marriage, will need to disavow this practice in order to be baptized or serve a mission. Does that mean regular members can support it, but children with gay parents can’t? What about after they are baptized and 18 years old? Or after they return home from their mission? At that point are they allowed to support it like the rest of the members?

# 6 – Now that the church has included same-sex married couples in the definition of apostasy/apostates, are the temple recommend questions going to be altered to reflect this? Especially the question that asks:

“Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” 

Does this mean belonging to a group like Mama Dragons is a violation of this? Since they support their children and others that live with their partners or get married? What about parents who support their gay children that are doing this? What about being a member of a LGBT support group that supports these as valid options like Affirmation?

# 7 – We’ve heard rumblings that there will be some clarification or additional training coming forth to help expand on this written policy. If this is the case, and the church was planning on doing this from the start, why didn’t Elder Christofferson mention this during the video? The video was released late the following evening and the media and online discussions had been happening for 24 hours. Many people were upset, confused, surprised and honestly shocked at this update and wording. The church would have been well aware of this by the time they began filming the video. Wouldn’t it have been good timing for the church to reassure the members that further clarifications would be forthcoming? And that the church recognized there were a myriad of individual circumstances that would need to be taken into account? That the church was aware of the pain and anguish this policy was resulting in, and that they would work hard to expand on the language to help local leadership understand how to implement this? The policy change became public on November 5, the video was released on Nov 6, and it is now November 12. There has been no clarification. If the church had these exceptions/clarifications prepared, why is it taking so long to release them? Or is this delay due to not anticipating the need for these?

# 8 – If the church provides additional clarification, and allows exceptions for children who have divorced parents (mixed-orientation marriage), how will these exceptions work? Will it be based on specific percentage requirements for the amount of time they can live in the home of the parent that is cohabiting or in a same-sex marriage? After they turn 18, does this requirement end (say, for instance, a student at BYU that lives with a gay parent during a term break)?

OK so perhaps it was more like 8 groups of questions I’d like to ask!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Excommunication again edition!!

I feel like a broken record here, blogging about this again, but I’m not exactly the one who’s in a rut. The CoJCoL-dS has excommunicated yet another blogger for the terrible crime of discussing doctrine online in an interesting and thought-provoking way. Here’s a first-hand account.

Another blogger is currently in danger of losing access to his children due to his blogging. It gets to the point where one is almost proud to be destined for destruction.

Then there are these popular stories that are kind of tangentially related to Mormonism. First, there’s Caitlyn Jenner (who is receiving an award). Second the Duggars gave a disturbing interview in which they did the opposite of convincing people that quiverfullers can be trusted with children. (Contrast modern ethics.) Or with basic honesty:

While, again, I’m not thinking Josh Duggar needs to be lynched for what he did when he was fourteen, I do think the Duggars are full of shit. What Boob is saying doesn’t match up with what was in the police reports. He claims that Josh came to him crying about touching his sisters. I don’t believe that happened. I think it’s much more likely that one of the sisters was doing the crying, not Josh. Michelle is saying they all got “professional” counseling when she earlier said Josh had just gone to do manual labor for awhile.

The Duggars say Josh has changed. Maybe he has. But they are making it sound like this was all very innocent stuff and no big deal. And again, a lot of what they’re saying in this interview is not jibing with what was in the police reports from 2006.

In real Mormon news, the mishies face impossible tasks. More young women than ever are leaving religion, and the CoJCoL-dS wants you to know that it’s because they’re so selfish. Meanwhile, the situation for girls is starting to get a little terrifying:

I naturally assumed this was a handful of crackpots in isolated areas trying to out-righteous each other for scraps of praise until last week when my sister-in-law shared with me that her stake is now requiring all girls to wear both a tee shirt and knee length shorts over their one-piece swimsuit to swim–at Girls Camp!

By the way, this sort of crap doesn’t just harm the girls:

The only thing more frightening to me than my own sexuality was a man’s sexuality. I was told that if I exposed my shoulders or thighs, the young men around me would be unable to control their lusts and I was undermining their priesthood. The thought of being sexually vulnerable with a person that lacks so much self-control that they can’t handle a tank top was and is terrifying. Clearly the church shames men for their sexuality, but hearing those messages as a woman, sex was something to be dreaded and feared. My expectation going into marriage is that sex is something I do to please my husband and keep him under control, because if I don’t put out, he’s going to turn a raging sex monster.

And there are generally some problems relating to outsiders:

She had her cousin visiting that day, and so she called on her to say the closing prayer. I had assumed the whole time that this cousin was a member, but she asked how to start a prayer. I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or just being silly. The other kids prompted her, so she started properly, asked for it to rain cupcakes and unicorns, and then ended. I’m not even sure if she said amen or not. The rest of the class looked at her like she was crazy. They didn’t even laugh (which was surprising) and then someone suggested that we have someone else say a real prayer.

Well, that’s one person who will probably never step foot in a Mormon chapel again.

And their PR department apparently has a really terrible sense for whom they want people to associate them with.

In other interfaith interactions, some letter ideas for mixed-faith families. Remember when Mormons were worried about D&D? Plus the age-old question: is Mormonism a cult?

In scripture study, God has some problems with logic. Also, we learn why it is foolish to wait and hope for the end of the world. Plus the stuff about other gods and what to do with people who believe in other gods. On the other side of the coin, Mormon Atheist provided a progression of Mormon podcasts. And the Archangel Gabriel explained some of God’s strange behavoir.

In life journeys, it hurts to discover you were bamboozled, and Kiley is moving on.

In books, the new version of Brett Cottrell’s book has hit the shelves!! Plus the Hugos are not done.

Well, Summer has finally arrived here in Switzerland, and we spent the day on a lovely birthday celebration for my son. I hope you’ve had a pleasant weekend as well. Either way, happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: The Empire Keeps Striking Back Edition!

Another blogger has been threatened with excommunication! Kirk Van Allen criticized D&C 132 and was told by local leaders to delete or modify the post, or else! (Don’t miss FAIR’s 31-page rebuttal!)

In addition to that story, Nearing Kolob has been doing some really interesting investigation into the changes in the missionary iPad program:

they want to teach missionaries how to protect themselves from pornography while they are on their mission, so they can know how to avoid it when they go home. They are focusing on working inside – out…changing the hearts and minds of the missionary, which will them help them use technology during and after their mission.

The reboot has been titled “Repent, Refresh, and Restart”. I am guessing that translates to “Learning to use anonymous proxies and incognito windows” considering the CoJCoL-dS’s talent for information control.

In gender, The Exponent has been doing a series on how to counter female invisibility in the church. See this advice. Women are getting silently deleted in surprising contexts.

The Meg Stout saga continues with a challenge and analysis of her algorithm, plus a personal example illustrating the use of evidence. And Runtu has started posting some primary-source transcripts about polygamy and sex.

L. Thomas posted a personal list of reasons why “the middle way” sucks:

Church leaders don’t want you to talk about “doubts” or new beliefs you have developed during a faith transition. Make no mistake, while the Church has released statements that it’s okay to doubt, they’ve also said that you’re not allowed to try and convince others of your point of view. You may think that your new belief is beautiful and based on the scriptures, but if you share any of those beliefs too broadly you could get accused of apostasy, which is an excommunicable offense. Because Mormon Doctrine is never actually defined you never know when a belief of yours is going to be on your local leaders’ no-no list. I once bore my testimony in church about how I had experience with being discouraged about the church at times, and that if others had any problems they could talk to me. My bishop called me into his office and asked if I was trying to start an apostate group.

In other Mormon-land news, Free BYU just sent over 230 third party comments to the NWCCU, will be reviewed as part of BYU’s accreditation renewal in April — I contributed one myself! Then we have new hymns, good questions, a snarky response to John Dehlin’s appeal, advice for those with TBM spouses, Mormons having fun, nevermos having Mormon fun and adventures in cognitive dissonance:

Therefore, despite knowing that the church was true and that dinosaurs existed…I blamed this seemingly unreconcilable conflict on the unreliability of science. It also caused me to buy into ridiculous LDS apologetics to explain away the dilemma… the false apologetic idea that dinosaur bones had been parts of other worlds…gathered together during the earths creation. This is why they existed…they never actually had lived on our earth…but had lived on an alien planet who’s part had been used by God to form our own earth. As bizarre as it seems now…I was taught this in Seminary and Sunday School and sadly I believed it…why? Because the church was true god damit.

B. Hodges wrote a few confessions to people who’ve left the church which Andrew S appreciated and analysed.

In scripture study, take the Bible quiz on whether you are just and righteous and whether you want to be. And the Book of Mormon’s math doesn’t add up:

My question is how much wine did Laman have? In order to get every last Lamanite guard drunk enough, there would have to have been a lot. Laman did have an unspecified number of men with him (how, exactly, did the Lamanites not notice they were white?), but there’s no mention of whether any kind of vehicle or beast of burden was present to transport the alcohol. I find it hard to believe that these “escaped prisoners” would have walked all the way from Bountiful each carrying a barrel of wine.

Also, the New Testament has some questionable stuff:

Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
11:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

It’s a bit odd that John seems uncertain about Jesus. He was supposedly present for the baptism and the dove and the voice from heaven, so you think he’d have made his mind up somehow… oops, unless those things were later insertions like so much of the New Testament.

Till next week folks — watch out for the excommunicator! 😉 And happy reading!

Why Nathaniel Givens Can’t Face Reality (or the real reason John Dehlin is going to be excommunicated)

Nathaniel Givens’ latest article on John Dehlin just went live on Meridian Magazine’s website.   While it’s unlikely responding to Givens will do much to alter the opinions of those already decided on this matter, I realized as I read his article that I wasn’t reading it how most Meridian Magazine readers might read it.  So, here are my thoughts as I read his article.

First, his opening line is a winner:

“Excommunication is always evidence of deep spiritual tragedy.”

Givens asserts a truth that is both impossible to prove and ambiguous enough that he could weasel out of the claim if someone tries to pin him down on it.  Whenever someone writes, “X is always Y,” I immediately want to come up with an exception.  In this case, I think there are likely lots of exceptions: For many people who are excommunicated on the grounds of apostasy, they probably don’t consider themselves “spiritual tragedies”.  Many of these people changed their views about Mormonism or believe Mormonism has changed.  Thus, from their perspective, their excommunication wasn’t a spiritual tragedy.  If there is a spiritual tragedy involved, it’s the Church that is experiencing one, not them.

Of course, Givens would likely weasel out of this interpretation of his statement and argue that the spiritual tragedy is the loss of that person’s spiritual blessings.  In other words, from the perspective of the devout, faithful Mormon, everyone who is excommunicated is losing the chance for godhood, so the devout, faithful Mormon sees this as a tragedy, regardless of how the person who is excommunicated sees it.  Which, therefore, makes this statement true, because, like the entire article, it’s all about maintaining a faithful perspective with absolutely no regard for what anyone else might think or believe.

Most importantly, I think an enterprising former Mormon needs to create a “spiritual tragedy” badge (both analog and digital) that people who have been excommunicated from the LDS Church can proudly display. Something like this would work:

Givens follows up his opening line with an excuse for why he is going to hatchet John Dehlin:

“For this and many other sound reasons, formal charges of apostasy should never be treated lightly or tried in the court of public opinion. John Dehlin’s decision to make his own disciplinary council public has moved the issue onto a national stage, however. It is still not appropriate for us to speculate or advocate about the outcome of the disciplinary council, but it would be unfair for Dehlin to take the story national—with implications for the Church to which we all belong—and then expect every other Mormon to acquiesce to his version.”

Translation:

This is supposed to be a private matter, but I need an excuse to attack John Dehlin.  So, since he made it public, I have every right to go public, too.  Forget that whole “Turn the other cheek” or “Do unto others” crap Jesus taught.  John’s a public figure, so I’m going to attack him publicly and I don’t feel guilty doing so because I don’t actually have a moral conscience. I have a Mormon conscience, which is way, way better.

The next section says John is making money off of Mormon stories, as though that is some how immoral (like, maybe, charging people to enter temples or get baptized).

Givens then notes that John Dehlin has interviewed faithful Mormons and “hostile critics,” like this person:

Givens then labels John a “critic” of the Church.  I’ll give him credit for at least not calling John an anti-Mormon, which is probably the term Givens would prefer to use (and uses for some of the people John associates with), but hopefully we’re past claiming that anyone who disagrees with the LDS Church wants to kill Mormons.  Calling John a critic is an effort to discredit John by poisoning the well.  But, you know what, I don’t really care on this point.  John is a critic of the LDS Church, as is anyone else who has ever said, “Hey, wait a minute.  The LDS Church leaders just did what?”  The second you question anything in the LDS Church, you’re now a critic, because that’s all it takes to be critical of an institution – questioning it.  So, props to John for being publicly labeled a critic – he joins the ranks of many other well-respected critics of the LDS Church!

Givens then moves to the real meat of his argument: John Dehlin has claimed that among the reasons why he is being excommunicated is because of his support for Ordain Women and same-sex marriage.  In fact, it’s this part that really gets Givens because the NYTimes picked this part up and ran with it, sending a breaking news text to millions of people that said, “Prominent Mormon Faces Excommunication for Backing Gay Marriage.”

Why is it that Nathaniel Givens doesn’t want to admit that John Dehlin’s excommunication may be rooted in his support of same-sex marriage and Ordain Women?  Oh, right, because if it is true, then it makes the LDS Church look bigoted, archaic, and hateful.  Givens tries to argue that these issues aren’t core to the excommunication,

“Among the concerns King felt were most important, gay rights and same sex marriage are not mentioned in any way, and female ordination is at most implied tangentially by point #3 (although that is far from certain).”

Givens then points out that John Dehlin has been inconsistent in emphasizing how central his support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women have been to his disciplinary council.  Yeah, that’s kind of true.  It’s not entirely clear how central they are.  Are his support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women 10% of the reason for the disciplinary council?  50%?  80%?  100%?

The actual answer is: the only people who know what percentage of the disciplinary council is based on John Dehlin’s public support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women are those who called or arranged the disciplinary council (i.e., his Stake President and, in all likelihood, some people at Church headquarters – no one believes they aren’t involved since this is too high profile of a case).  John Dehlin doesn’t even know, because disciplinary council’s are basically opaque.  Disciplinary councils are basically like military tribunals or federal criminal court cases where the evidence against the accused is classified as confidential.

The only people who get to see it are the prosecutors and the judge (or panel of judges).  Everyone else basically just hears, “He engaged in espionage” or “He stole state secrets” but we don’t ever get to find out exactly what happened, because the government doesn’t have to reveal it.  And that is what happens in disciplinary courts: We have no idea: (1) Who started the process against John; (2) What the actual reasons for this are; (3) and Who is actually running the show.  Why?  Because the Church doesn’t have to do that and its members are too sheepish to call them out on this.  If the process were confidential to protect John’s interests, that would make sense.  I can understand this in the case of someone who had an affair or did something else that might tarnish their reputation.  But, in John’s case, what he did isn’t tarnishing his reputation; it’s tarnishing the Church’s reputation.  That’s also why the Church has a caveat in the Church Handbook of Instructions that says no one is supposed to record disciplinary councils – not to protect the accused, but to protect the Church.  They don’t want a record of what the actual reasons are for the disciplinary council, because that would make them look bad.  Really bad.  Instead, they keep it all hush hush and then let their apologetic minions do all the necessary work to attack critics of the Church for them.  This way, the Church’s hands look clean, even though, when you make them take off their gloves, they are nasty.

So, we don’t know whether or not John’s support for same-sex marriage or Ordain Women is 10% or 90% of the reason for the disciplinary council.  But Givens then turns to John’s stated beliefs and practices, noting that John has admitted he isn’t sure he accepts everything.  Givens then claims that the key here is that John is a public figure.  So, John isn’t really allowed to state his doubts or raise concerns because he has a public following.  He even notes that this is why he thinks John has crossed the line,

“It is one thing to disbelieve privately. It is another thing to disbelieve publicly, and with a very large following. And it is yet another to act openly in accord with this disbelief, and to evangelize others to share that rejection of Church teachings. It is in that last instance in particular that Church leaders may have considered that Dehlin crossed a crucial line.”

In other words, Givens thinks it’s wrong to openly disbelieve in teachings of the Church, particularly if you are well-known and have lots of followers on social media.

Wait!

Hold on!

Givens thinks it’s wrong to openly express disbelief!  Isn’t this the equivalent of saying, “If you have questions, keep them to yourself!”  Or, “It’s fine if you don’t believe everything so long as you never tell anyone.”  What is Givens really saying?  He’s saying that anyone who questions Mormon teachings is a threat to those who don’t.  Publicly expressing questions or “disbelief” threatens to pop Givens’s Mormon bubble.  Popping the Mormon bubble might just make other Mormons question.  And questioning is bad!

Believing is good!

Doubting is bad!

Letting the prophet and apostles think for you is good!

Thinking for yourself is bad!

For Givens, then, it’s much more acceptable to kick someone out of the LDS Church because they have admitted they don’t believe everything and that may allow other people to think for themselves than it is to kick them out for supporting equality publicly.  Hmm…  From my perspective, any institution that would consider kicking someone out for doing either of those isn’t an institution worthy of respect.  It’s an institution that doesn’t allow freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, or freedom of association.  It’s an authoritarian dictatorship.

Givens concludes that he is clearly right,

“An objective observer would reasonably infer that King is concerned that Dehlin is using his position of prominence in order to undermine the Church and its mission and in so doing has placed his affiliation with the Church in jeopardy. That, at least, seems a plain and reasonable interpretation of the public record.”

The irony, of course, is that Givens is anything but an “objective observer”.  Givens has a leg in this game – he’s a believer and an apologist, trying to defend his religion’s efforts to control what the members say and do publicly.  Givens isn’t objective and is about as far away from being able to think objectively about this as is possible.

Finally, Givens ends with this absurd statement,

“There may be personal motives and considerations that further amplify or ameliorate the alleged offenses. They are—and should be—beyond the purview of a treatment like this one. But the details outlined above based on publicly available sources are sufficient to correct media reports that an individual is being sanctioned for following his conscience, or for holding particular personal beliefs.”

To Givens, John Dehlin isn’t being sanctioned for what he believes or does.  He’s being sanctioned for hurting the Church.  Never mind that those may be (though arguably are not) the same thing.  John is following his conscience, both in his support for Ordain Women and same-sex marriage, and in his disbelief.  Givens just thinks that it’s dangerous to ask questions and publicly express disbelief, because it might pop someone’s protective bubble.

This is my new image of John Dehlin.

So, he prioritizes protecting blind faith over thinking, and ends up concluding that Dehlin is being sanctioned for making it easier for people to ask questions, but instead frames it as John being a threat to the Church.  John IS a threat, because people need to threaten authoritarian dictatorships.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Nathaniel Givens genuinely believes that the Church is going after John because he is a threat.  But Givens also can’t see the reality behind why John is a threat – because John might make people question.  Because Givens likely believes that the Church can do no wrong (it can’t, or would why he do so much for it?), this is about what John Dehlin did that was wrong and the Church defending itself, not the Church victimizing John Dehlin for expressing his conscience.  Givens has to defend his religion to defend himself.  As a result, he can’t see what the Church is really doing.  He can only see what he wants the Church to be doing.

At the end of the day, Givens is putting the continued existence of an institution ahead of what may be best for its members.  And that is sad….

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Countdown to Excommunication Edition!

Before beginning this week’s links, I want to remind everyone that the Brodie Award nominations are going strong! I will try to consolidate the categories and add my own nominations on Thursday (at which point you’ll have some more time to add your nominations in the final categories) — but I encourage you to look through the nomination thread and see if you have any nominations to add in categories suggested by others, as this can influence the final category list. Also note, the Wheaties/Tareific Awards (on the Wheat and Tares blog) are in their final nominations phase, and you still have until Thursday morning Europe time to vote for X-Mormon of the Year!!

Now on to this week’s news!! You’ve probably already heard whose case is coming up soon before the Court of Love! The faithful are saying it’s about time Dehlin got the rack. People speculate that the CoCJoL-dS put some space between Kate Kelly’s excommunication and John Dehlin’s in order to diffuse the PR fiasco, but no such luck! It made the front page of the NYT again!!

April Young Bennett received a similar ultimatum as a condition of renewing her temple recommend which again highlights why the CoJCoL-dS gets criticized for this stuff:

–The inconsistency across stakes is simply unjust. In my stake, people don’t live in fear of having temple recommends pulled for being a member of Ordain Women. There’s something wrong with the system when I can be a firebrand feminist without worry, and my sisters in other places have to be careful what they say.

–It leads to murkiness about what exactly constitutes apostasy, creating a climate of fear. The lowest common denominator—the most conservative bishops and stake presidents—sets the tone for the entire church.

–It allows the church to throw local leaders under the bus when there is controversy: they simply refer to everything as a local matter, and don’t have to take responsibility for their own role in such situations. Plausible deniability wins the day.

Interestingly, it looks like the CoJCoL-dS has created a new type of unit to deal with LDS congregations that don’t have enough adult males to lead a branch. A reasonable solution would be to let the women lead, but it would just be so embarrassing for the CoJCoL-dS to take Kate Kelly’s advice after excommunicating her for giving it.

In other Mormon news, the reviews of “My Husband’s Not Gay” have started rolling in:

it spotlighted three Salt Lake City couples where the husbands are attracted to men but are married to non-men. Contrary to what you’d expect, these marriages were not the result of an escalating series of hilarious misunderstandings, but were done on purpose

It seems that — even though it’s been publicized that these characters make money from promoting mixed-orientation-marriage — they were still unsuccessful at making it look like an attractive option:

Instead, they came across as sexually stunted, immature men who married delusional women who desperately clung to wishful thinking. Far from the sympathy and sunny optimism these couples had hoped the TLC special would generate, most viewers will simply feel angst and pity for the protagonists.

The poor wives of these uber gay men. They try mightily to keep a brave face and express confidence in their marriages. However, the façade often cracked and revealed deep anxiety. At several points, their husbands appeared one wink or gay kiss away from leaving them for men.

Then there was little-reported bit of news: the lawyers of the wealthy CoJCoL-dS have succeeded in legally claiming the word Mormon, denying it to other branches of the Mormon tradition (in Canada).

In scriptures, the Book of Mormon contains some questionable messages, and the Christmas story has some plot holes.

In books, Theric Jepson has been continuing his series on The Bishop’s Wife and City of Brick and Shadow. Also, Mithryn wrote an Encyclopedia Brown mystery and John Larson wrote an analogy.

In other Mormon fun, BYU lightened up a little on beards, missionaries are using fake surveys to get in the door, see some weird stuff inspired by the Osmonds, a bit of a dispute over lying for the Lord, and tips on moving up in the priesthood hierarchy. Also, Meg Stout’s series on Joseph Smith not having sex with his plural wives got an amusing review from her own brother:

I don’t know how to say this. It’s like watching Ancient Aliens on the history channel or a 9/11 conspiracy documentary, but not silly

The Charlie Hebdo massacre has inspired interpretations and analysis: opposition to political Islam, clarifications about free speech, the problem with limiting free speech that insults others’ beliefs, the problems of insulting beliefs for the sake of doing it, and the question: Why must I have respect for religions that have little respect for me? That seek to curtail the rights of women? That find me unclean?

In personal stories, Chelsey Sidler-Lartey has been discussing mental health issues, Dooce relived some horrible Mormon memoires, and Monica Bielanko wrote about her feelings about finalizing her divorce. And Runtu explained why staying with Mormonism when you don’t believe its truth claims isn’t for everyone.

On a lighter note, Tracy M posted a tasty-looking kale salad recipe which made me want to post my own kale adventures!!

Have a great week, and don’t forget to get your nominations in!

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.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Let’s talk about excommunication edition!

Now that it’s been more than a week since the bomb dropped, the whole excommunication thing has gone into the discussion phase — and (as Andrew S noted) everybody has something to say about it!!! Even this week’s Old Testament lesson has some (tangentially related) points about how prophetic authority works.

Kate Kelly won’t be attending her excommunication trial tonight because she lives in Provo and the trial will be held in Virginia, but if you’re in Virginia or Salt Lake City, maybe you can attend a vigil. Or just read her letter of defense:

Please keep in mind that if you choose to punish me today, you are not only punishing me. You are punishing hundreds of women and men who have questions about female ordination, and have publicly stated them. You are punishing thousands of Mormons who have questions and concerns with gender inequality in the church and want a place to voice those concerns in safety. You are punishing anyone with a question in their heart who wants to ask that question vocally, openly and publicly.

Over 1,000 of my fellow saints have submitted letters to you on my behalf. Some are attached and some were sent directly. Please consider each one of their thoughts with due respect.

It looks like she’s right. And lots of people are standing with her. My thoughts are with her too.

Nadine Hansen’s brief in Kate’s behalf illustrates the problem right from the start:

In this Statement, references will be made to the Church Handbook of Instructions, 2010 version. I do not know whether that version is the version currently in use, or whether there have been any updates, because of the extremely limited access to the book, but that version is being used because a downloadable version exists on the internet. Lacking any authorized access to the book as a woman, I am forced to use this “bootlegged” version to review the rules

Both Kate Kelly and the CoJCoL-dS are being tried simultaneously in the court of public opinion, and it looks like the church picked the wrong enemy. Not because Kate Kelly is such a vicious adversary, but quite the opposite — since her actions and intentions are good, the church makes it clear that it is the villain. Even those who don’t agree with her can see that she has had a positive impact on the discussion of women in the church. How many members will follow the church’s instructions no matter what?

A lot of people took issue with the claim that this round of excommunications is entirely the responsibility of the local leaders (as if that would make it better). As Denver Snuffer explained in a detailed post, that is not true at all. (BTW, Denver Snuffer will be speaking at the upcoming Sunstone Symposium.) Plus, it’s not the only recent blatant lie from church headquarters. Alan Rock Waterman’s tale showed the same sort of evidence that the orders came from the top, and he brought up a question that a lot of us have been asking:

what do we need with a prophet of God when we can heed the words of someone whose name appears on the corporate flow chart in the box right under “Marketing Dept.”?

Which brings us back to that question: where the heck was the prophet while this controversy has been brewing? Why has he pushed a bunch of PR flacks up front as a buffer to protect him from having to do his job?

I know a lot of you reading this are non-believers, so it’s natural to think “So what if they take away their magic beans?” But aside from the supernatural punishment inflicted by excommunication, it means ostracism from your community, loss of reputation, and often public humiliation. Not to mention punishing family members for siding with family over church.

By coincidence, the Pope just started a round of excommunications, but his target was a little bit different.

The point I most wanted to highlight was judicial fairness. Karen H covered it well, but I have my own story I’d like to share:

Back when Maxine Hanks (of the infamous September 6) got rebaptized, I attended her talk about her excommunication and rebaptism at Sunstone. At the end of it she emphasized that she had not been required to renounce or repent of any of the works she’d been X’d for. She presented it as some sort of victory, that she could continue to write on feminist topics and remain a member in good standing. For me, though, it was a big WTF?

So, in a nutshell, the First Presidency of the CoJCoL-dS determined that the crimes for which she was excommunicated were not, in fact, excommunicatable offenses. And she didn’t give any indication that they’d apologized for unjustly excluding her from her community (and Mormon heaven). And more to the point, they didn’t give any indication that they were planning to review their policies in order to avoid erroneously excommunicating innocent people in the future.

The excommunication of Kate Kelly is particularly egregious considering she’s apparently being X’d over her tone:

So, I was listening to church PR spokesperson Ally Isom’s RadioWest interview with Doug Fabrizio, and I was intrigued by her suggestion that the problem with “Ordain Women” is that it was in the imperative mood, as if Kate Kelly and her colleagues were dictating to the Brethren what the church should do. Apparently, things would have gone much differently for Ms. Kelly had she used a different grammatical construction. Perhaps, “It might possibly be a good idea to ordain women, maybe. I don’t know. I could be wrong, Whatever you want to do. I’m good.” Or maybe like Jeopardy it could have been put in the form of a question: “What is, Ordaining Women?”

It would appear that the power to excommunicate people at whimwithout any pretense of objective standards — is more a feature than a bug, as far as the leaders are concerned. That way people know to keep their heads down and not do anything that might call attention to themselves. This is particularly useful because the thing that the leaders seem to fear most is any kind of rival leaders. This isn’t new, BTW — excommunicating rivals is a technique that traces back to Joseph Smith. Even my own great-grandfather was forcibly removed from his influential calling (though not disciplined) for having too large a personal following. And lots of people posted about others who were excommunicated for talking about their ideas — plus a new survey to see how widespread this is.

Attacking faithful members for their leadership skills (instead of, say, giving them official leadership roles) is incredibly foolish since these are the folks who could bring new vitality into this decaying organization. But Brooke W.’s personal experience perhaps sheds some light on it:

He perceived a non-threatening situation as a threat. He thought that by offering a solution, I was trying to suggest that I knew better than him and thereby, I should be in charge. This, in fact, could not be further from the truth. I did not mean to suggest that I could manage a restaurant better than he could. I didn’t want to manage his restaurant. His position was very secure as he was near the top of the company that operated this particular chain of restaurants and literally nothing I did could remove him from his position.

All in all, I’d say it’s a very exciting time to be an ex-Mormon!

I don’t want to ignore the people who didn’t post about excommunication this week, so here’s rumors about Mitt Romney’s next run, Joseph Broom’s resignation, and Heather’s smokey beans!

And I’d like to close with a plug for my own project Camp Quest!! It won’t be like this one — it’s a fun Science-and-Humanism Summer Camp here in Switzerland that I’ll be participating in! So if you know any kids in the Switzerland area who would like to join up, spread the word!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Excommunication!!!!!!1!

The question on everyone’s mind this week: “Has the CoCJoL-dS finally, truly jumped the shark? Even God is displeased.

You’re probably aware by now that excommunication proceedings have begun for Kate Kelly — the woman who had the audacity to prove the prophets embarrassingly wrong about womens’ alleged lack of leadership skills — and against Internet Mormon extraordinaire John Dehlin. Oh, and they threw in Alan Rock Waterman for good measure. You might be tempted to joke that Nobody expects the Mormon Inquisition!! If only that were true! But, sadly, it was only too expected, and plenty of us have experienced a “court of love”.

Apparently they’ve decided that anyone who can hold in their head the idea that the church may be wrong about something is expendable — and really is better off being shown to the door. Just from a purely Machiavellian perspective, this is a pretty dumb move:

Only a small percentage of members, mostly the Church fanatics of group 5, will see this as a good thing. By far, most members (the 60% whom are already disaffected) will only move further away from the Church. By publicly declaring Kate, Rock, and John as “Heretics” the Church is essentially saying there is not room for independent thought or questioning. Keep in mind these three individuals were not “anti-Mormons”. They were all firm believers who simply had something relevant to inquire about and say (much like Joseph Smith did in his time).

Also, I didn’t include the largest group of people the Church is trying to win over – Nonmembers. These people will most likely get a reinforced and misrepresented idea of how the Church is basically a cultish organization that exercises manipulation in order to maintain conformity of thought. Can you imagine being an investigator who is just learning that some members are now being excommunicated for publicly asking questions? How can this possibly leave a good impression among this group of people?

But the CoCJoL-dS is between a rock and a hard place. If they allow people who demonstrate real moral leadership to stay in the church, it becomes that much more glaringly obvious that the corporation has none to offer. Their business model relies on people not noticing that the arbitrary authoritarianism doesn’t work very well (trigger warning: if you went to girls’ camp, the banned song at the end of that last post will come back to you and get stuck in your head).

In a nutshell, the CoJCoL-dS is totally OK with you having your own ideas silently, in the privacy of your own head, but when you say them out loud, you run the risk of demonstrating — by contrast — that the CoJCoL-dS is unable to provide leadership, especially when it really matters:

Three LDS youth – Helmuth Huebener, Ruddi Wobbe, and Karl Schnibbe – believed that Church leaders who instructed them to be obedient citizens were wrong. The boys were troubled by the racist, authoritarian, and outright mean attitudes of not just the Nazi Party, but their own LDS church community, which they believed were behaving in un-Christlike ways. They secretly produced and distributed several anti-Nazi leaflets. They were caught, arrested, put on trial, and punished severely. Huebener, who the State considered to be the ringleader, was executed: beheaded by the Nazis at the age of seventeen. In between Huebener’s arrest and execution, his branch president obeyed Heber J. Grant’s instruction to be a loyal citizen, and he excommunicated Helmuth Huebener from the Church. Huebener was excommunicated because he defied the instructions of Church authority, and instead acted on his own conscience.

This move is going to convince a lot of people to leave the CoJCoL-dS, especially young women. One of the reasons people are leaving religion in general is the fact that organized religion is seen as hypocritical and judgemental.

Every time the CoJCoL-dS excommunicates someone, it forces LDS family members to choose sides. This new batch of high-profile excommunications will polarize Mormon wards, leading to mistrust and hostility among members as Kate Kelly becomes an object lesson on unquestioning obedience. And, sure, some members will side with the church no matter what:

When I told my wife that I didn’t agree with what the church is doing with John and Kate, she said: “Before you started to question the church, you would have felt the same way I do when you hear things like this.”

To my shame, I believe that would be true.

But the organization can’t survive on the fanatics alone, especially since the fanatics all have friends and family in the not-quite-fanatic (a.k.a. expendable) group that the CoJCoL-dS is hell-bent on driving away.

Many say that if you don’t agree 100%, then you shouldn’t care if you’re kicked out, but it’s not that simple:

Growing up in the church, it is your family. No matter how flawed, it is yours. You want to understand. You want to make things better. You want to stay. And if you’re pushed out, told you have no say, much like you had no say in being indoctrinated in the first place, that’s got to be crazy painful.

OTOH excommunication can be an opportunity for personal growth.

It is rather amazing that Kate Kelly could get excommunicated for the crime of asking for admittance to priesthood meeting (an action they did not intend to repeat next time), and asking the Brethren to open up a dialogue on women’s ordination. The message is that even asking about issues that concern you will be severely punished. It is chilling for many faithful members who sympathize. Some no longer feel welcome:

With all the recent new from the purchase of the SL Tribune to the legal case against that mormon dating site to the John and Kate excommunications, I have been getting weary.

I know John was vocal and had a large following but John is the guy who kept me in the church. If John could stay with his non-standard beliefs, so could I. Now it feels like I have no one who understands me inside the church anymore. I know there are tons of everyday members who feel similar to me but without a public figure, we will all feel alone. My testimony right now is only as strong as I feel happy to be part of the church and right now I am not happy, but fearful.

They talk about inclusion but the message feels like “conform or get out.”

For some, it’s the last straw.

One of the galling parts of this story is the leaders lying about it being entirely in the hands of the local leaders. And even if it were true, that would be worse! Let’s imagine for a second that excommunication actually were to affect your eternal future. Is it admirable to place this power in the hands of untrained (sometimes petty) authorities to be applied in a random and arbitrary manner? And don’t forget the extra sexist toppings!!

The next obvious question is why these three when there are so many others more deserving? Why not Cliven Bundy? Or for that matter, why not me or for the legions of others who are technically still members, but are far more apostate than the folks on the block today?

“Women in the church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme,” she told Ordain Women, saying that 1,300 women who signed the OW petition were not significant in a worldwide church of 15 million members.

Well, if you’re going to count them, maybe it’s time to count me.

Because here’s the thing. When the Church says that it has 15,000,000 members, they are counting me, and lots of women like me. They’ve never formally kicked me out, at least not to my knowledge, though I’m WAY more apostate than Kate Kelley or John Dehlin.

But, of course, people like me (who admit to being atheists) are no threat since the faithful already know not to listen to us. That’s apparently the key to who gets X’d and who they don’t bother to X. (That and, perhaps being an outspoken racist inciting insurrection against the government is not nearly as antithetical to being a faithful Mormon as a belief in women’s leadership abilities is.)

It’s especially cruel, though, because loads of people like me (who don’t believe in or care about the eternal consequences of excommunication) are left alone while the “blessings” of church ordinances are stripped from exactly those people think they’re essential.

*sigh* What a week!!!

If you’re more a podcast person, you are in luck! There are three parts from Mormon Matters and a whole series of panels from Sunstone, plus a little something from Infants on Thrones. Also videos of John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and others.

And if you don’t have time to read or listen to all that, check out the hilarious commentary in images! On that note, who’s the better artist — George W. Bush or Boyd K. Packer?

In other random church watch, more details on the CoJCoL-dS trying to copyright the word “Mormon,” plus the continuing modesty debate. Oh, and the latest shooter was a Mormon out to kill sinners.

Plus a few dad posts in honor of Father’s Day — which is sometime this month (depending on what country you live in).

And hang in there!!!

Three Ways to Leave the LDS Church – Loudly, Quietly, and Forcefully

I had a missionary email me after he listened to a podcast in which I was interviewed.  He was deciding whether he wanted to be Mormon and was wondering what the best way to leave the religion was.  I’ve written about this before, but after having spoken with lots of people about this over the years, I think my views have changed a bit.  Here’s what I wrote to him.

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There are a lot of ways to leave Mormonism and every situation is different. In my experience talking with people who have left, there are basically three approaches, each of which has its merits/benefits and drawbacks/costs. Let me see if I can describe them sufficiently so they make sense to you.

Loudly:

The first approach is basically the one I took: Decide when you want to leave and then announce it to everyone who you think should know. In my case, my wife and I (I was already married) announced it through letters to our parents and our bishop (we had callings and didn’t want to leave the ward without someone to fill the callings). The benefit of this approach is that your position is very clear – you are leaving and you aren’t hiding that fact at all. This approach also makes it easy to make a clean break from the religion. But there is a major drawback to this approach: confrontation. Despite the fact that this approach is typically motivated by sincerity and honesty – traits you are taught to value in Mormonism (sort of) – it also involves confronting people who strongly believe in their religion and basically telling them that you reject it. Unfortunately, for most Mormons who are very devout, rejecting their religion is the equivalent of rejecting them, personally. Once I was on better terms with my mother, she said that to me. Literally. She told me that my rejection of Mormonism was the same as me rejecting her, which is why she took it as hard as she did. And, yes, she took it very hard and very personally. This approach basically has the biggest risk of ruining family relationships. Despite what Mormons claim, family doesn’t come first; religion does. If your family feels threatened enough by your apostasy, they can (and sometimes do) cut you off. By basically shoving your rejection of their religion in their face – through announcing it publicly – you will make them feel threatened, and people aren’t very nice when they are threatened. So, in summary, the benefit with this approach is that your new position is clear; the cost is the possible loss of congenial family relations.

Quietly:

The second approach is basically as opposite to the first as you can get: Don’t tell anyone, just slowly ease your way out of the religion until you are no longer attending, participating, wearing garments, etc. The best way to make this successful is to move away from home, so your family is not constantly around you and can see your efforts to work your way out of the church. Once you move, you can look up the local ward, in case someone in your family, like your mother, asks which ward you’re in, but you don’t have to make any efforts to attend. Make new friends who aren’t Mormon and slowly start to rebuild your life without Mormonism. When religion comes up over the phone or in other communication, downplay your involvement. Tell family that you haven’t been given a calling. Then, slowly, over time, talk less and less about it. When you go to visit family, you can still go to church with them. It will be hard, but you’re the more mature individual and you can suffer through it in the interest of maintaining family harmony. If and/or when they realize that you’re no longer participating in the religion and they ask why, don’t make a big deal out of it. Tell them that you’re busy. Tell them that you go occasionally, but feel like you have more spiritual experiences in nature, so you go camping or hiking or biking on Sundays instead. Don’t be confrontational, just show general disinterest. Tell them that you love them but that Mormonism just isn’t that important to you. The major benefit to this approach is that you have the best odds of maintaining family harmony. Things may get a little uncomfortable at times, but because you are avoiding confrontation, you should largely avoid any major issues. You’re not telling them that their religion is not true, only that you have different priorities. That is a bit easier for them to swallow then the full frontal assault on their beliefs and values. The major cost to this approach is that your family and friends won’t know your true feelings AND they are likely to keep pestering you to get you back in the religion. That leads to option #3.

Forcefully:

The third approach is somewhere in between the first two. For the most part, you can follow option #2 – slowly disengage over time. Don’t make a big deal out of it and just let things develop, all the while maintaining as close of relationships with your family as you can. But, when your family finally figures out that you are no longer participating in Mormonism, you don’t have to make excuses. Don’t try to be overly confrontational, but slowly let them know your true feelings. Tell them that you found some problems with the religion and they made you question the teachings, history, etc. After careful study, you decided it wasn’t right for you. If it works for them, that’s fine, but you’re just not interested. If they press you and try to address your concerns, warn them that the conversation may not go where they want it to, but then push back. Again, you know more than they do; this is, in my experience, almost always the case. It is very rare that those who leave the religion because they have studied it know less than their still Mormon family members. So, be forceful and defend your position. The benefit of this approach is that it emphasizes your prioritizing of family over religion and minimizes confrontation, but still can eventually make it clear to your family where you stand. The drawback is that there is likely to be confrontation at some point. But because you eased into it, it probably won’t be as severe as option #1.

It really is up to you and your specific situation which approach you take. I took option #1 because I didn’t know any better. I thought I was being honest and sincere. But the backlash from my family was tough. I have several good friends who took option #2 and it went much better for them. In fact, my mother told me that she would have preferred that I had simply never told her and just stopped attending. Some people have a lot of success with option #2. In fact, my brother-in-law took option #2 about 5 years after my wife and I left. He still gets occasional re-activation efforts from my mother-in-law, but he largely just ignores them and lives his life. It’s uncomfortable for him, but he can take it because he knows why his mother is doing it. The third approach would probably alleviate the re-activation efforts, but will make the relationship a bit more strained.

Option 4 – Don’t Leave; Be a Jack-Mormon

There is another option, but it’s a tough path, and one that I’m not inclined to believe is morally honest. I’ve found that more and more people in the Mormon Church are Mormons when it is convenient for them. Basically, they use the church rather than letting the church use them. I had a girlfriend in high school whose parents were this way. They never went to church; they drank coffee and alcohol on occasion; they swore; they didn’t wear garments; etc. But when one of their still active kids was going to get married, they started going back to church, started paying tithing, and lied to get a temple recommend. As soon as they got it, they quit with the Mormon act and went back to living their jack-Mormon lives. In other words, they pretended to be Mormons when it suited them but certainly didn’t follow the strict behavioral guidelines the religion demands. Morally, I could never do this. But some people make it work.

Congratulations to Wm. Law X-Mormon of the Year 2012: David Twede!!!

This year’s X-Mormon of the Year is well-known for his work as Mormon Think‘s managing editor, and — now that he has left that position — he is continuing to publish interesting information about the CoJCoL-dS on his own blog Mormon Disclosures! When he was threatened with church discipline, it was national news! But instead of playing along, he sent in his letter of resignation during a session of the Ex-Mormon Foundation conference.

Yes, our X-Mormon of the Year 2012 is David Twede!!! Congratuations David!