Where Is the Official Moral Outrage?

by Jerry Argetsinger

I was born 9 months to the day after the bombing of Hiroshima. That puts me on the cutting edge of the Baby Boomer Generation. Of the many questions generated regarding immoral actions in the wake of WW2, some the most often asked relate to the rounding-up and incarceration of millions of Jews and other so-calledundesirables in concentrationcamps. Why did the people not rise up in moral indignation? People from all walks of life and from all regions of the globe have struggled trying to understand those heinous atrocities.

Now, seventy years later Americans have witnessed their government stoop to those same actions against displaced families, would-be immigrants fleeing the untenable situations of their own homelands. Not only were these huddled masses being herded into Detention Camps, their children were ripped from them via lies, deceit and force, carried away, locked behind bars and even crammed into cages where they were isolated from visitors of any kind. But this time the world took note. Political and religious leaders, private citizens from America and around the world were outraged, demanding the reuniting of these prisoner-children with their parents. The first government response was the Attorney General reading Bible scriptures to justify these callous acts, demanding that “Christians” were obligated to support their government leaders who were given power by God. We heard the president of the United States equivocate from one excuse to the next in a continuing barrage of new versions of these events frantically trying to find a narrative that the masses would accept. It was stunning how quickly Congressional leaders at first tried to rally in support of their Chief, but soon even Republicans were breaking from the pack in condemnation of the immorality of these actions. The loyal Trump supporters in the White House, on Fox News, and in the streets lapped up the weak justifications that rolled from their lips. But polls were showing that even among Trump supporters, 75% of Americans took the moral high road and with one united voice forced the Administration to reverse its policy. Colion Noir, a leader of the National Rifle Association, spoke out on Real Time With Bill Maher (June 22, 2018), “The country has risen up in utter disgust . . . [In America] children do not suffer at the hands of the government.”

In all of this Moral Outrage, there was one group whose subdued statement was different. In the Official Statement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no moral outrage. Instead the leaders of the Mormon Church state that they are “deeply troubled” by these actions, and then follow with a statement that the LDS Church supports governments in the administration of their laws. The statement concludes by repeating the oft given hope that the Church encourages the U. S. Government “to seek for rational, compassionate solutions.” However there are no real suggestions as to what those solutions might be. This is what I call the “Niles Crane letter of indignation and outrage” often used for comic effect on the old Fraser t.v. show. Anytime Niles was outraged or slighted, in his anger he would write “a strongly worded letter.” It’s an attempt to project the notion that action has been taken, when in fact, nothing has been done. Niles may get a laugh, but in real life it’s just not funny.

As a practicing Mormon, I was puzzled when I considered the church response in contrast to other religious leaders’ statements. Why was the ripping of children from their parents together with no plan for reuniting families not a Moral Issue in the Official LDS statement? If there is one thing that defines modern Mormonism, it is the sanctity of the family via the Proclamation on the Family (1995). The Church is also careful to retain its political neutrality, however they are quick to state that they take strong stands on moral issues that may inform politics. This is most evident in their aggressive actions against Gay Marriage.

Suddenly it hit me! The Mormon Church had already weighed in on the morality of the current immigration issue. On November 5, 2015, the LDS Church announced an unprecedented New Policy in the wake of the nation-wide legalization of Gay Marriage, or other similar arrangement. Such action is now defined as apostocy and requires a Disciplinary Council that would likely result in the excommunication of such members. But wait! That’s not all! The children of gay marriages are now denied all church ordinances: as babies they cannot be blessed, at age 8 they cannot be baptized, at age 12 male children cannot be ordained to the priesthood, as young adults they cannot serve missions for the church. These children may be considered for baptism when they legally come of age and renounce their parents’ gay union. Is this not ripping children from their parents?

That’s the answer. The LDS Church had already made the decision to separate children from their parents and families. They, too, have decided that by punishing the children, it might move parents to action in order to protect their children. This is the same justification that was recently cited by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. However, for Mormons the separation stipulated in the November, 2015 policy is more serious because the gay married couple and their children are separated from their family, friends and even God for eternity.

In reality, if the LDS Church took a public moral stance against the Trump Administration’s separation of children from family, it could easily lead to Church leaders being condemned for taking the exact same action against the children of gay parents as the government is taking against immigrant parents. In the end, I think Mormon leaders are smart enough to have seen the corner into which they have painted themselves. By making the weak statement that the Church is Deeply Troubled, they are likely hoping that no one notices their self-serving lack of Moral Outrage.

Good and bad life-advice from the CoJCoL-dS

It’s a lazy, sunny Sunday, and since I just got back from a long nature-walk with my family, it’s time for some relaxing fun. Let’s analyze the good and bad advice in this latest doozy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints: Sister Oaks’s Experience Dating an Apostle (+ 7 Dating Insights).

Right off the bat, I have a problem with the premise (which echoes a harmful message that women receive in LDS culture): a woman’s success is based on her husband’s status. If you’re a woman, there is nothing you can do yourself that comes close to the achievement of being the arm-candy of some really important dude. And BTW, I don’t just mean that this devalues women’s career accomplishments — I mean it also devalues their accomplishments as homemakers:

You can create the most loving, healthy, conducive-to-growth environment possible for your family, but if your husband is a blue-collar worker who never even made Bishop (or worse — he’s a non-member), then Mormons are not going to look up to you and ask your advice like they do successful Mrs. Apostle.

So she starts by quitting her lucrative job that she’s very good at. I’m actually not going to debate that part — it can very well happen that despite being successful at your job, you can get tired of it and want to try something else while you still can. And since she didn’t have debts or dependents, why not? (Though it’s a little odd that she then turned down a dream job at a competing firm.) Kudos to her at least for not saying that it was because she didn’t want to die an old maid.

But this bit kind of jumped out:

This meeting with a General Authority was extremely unusual for me. My exposure to General Authorities had been minimal, and I liked it that way. I had the utmost respect for them. I revered them, but I also understood the line of priesthood jurisdiction and felt confident that my home teachers and my bishop were sufficient to bless my life.

In other words, all of you plebeian ordinary members need to remember that there are layers of hierarchy between you and the really important people. So just because I became successful through my Mormon-royalty connections, don’t try it yourself.

Looking back, I would never have planned to meet an Apostle of the Lord and his daughter dressed so casually.

Um, why not? Oh, right, because they’re more important than everyone else.

On to dating insight #3: “Take Time to Develop a Good Friendship”. This one is actually pretty reasonable, and directly contradicts the terrible advice Mormon young people often get (namely to try to be married within a year of finishing your mission, and any two faithful Mormons can make a marriage work, so just marry the first available person you meet at BYU).

Time is a dear friend also—it mellows us and matures us. My wish for other singles is that they enjoy each and every day of their life.

Yes, Mormon young people — read that bit. Enjoy your life as a single person. Seize the day! Gain life experiences. Don’t sit around fretting about the fact that you aren’t married. And take marriage seriously by not just jumping into it when you’re not ready yet.

Don’t listen to this next bit, though:

Now that I am married, I do not feel that I have graduated to a higher plane. I do know that I feel more complete.

What does that even mean? I’m going to interpret it as “I don’t want to say that getting married is the most important thing a woman can do with her life (because I don’t want to hurt single women’s feelings), but… it is.”

Then comes the most popular pull quote from the article:

When I look back on my single life, my only regrets are that I spent too much time worrying about my future and too little time in the kitchen. I would do anything to be able to make better dinner rolls.

I don’t want to waste too much time on that one since it makes even less sense than the quote above it.

Then she gives a tip in which she has a friend act as a character witness for her — which was made possible by the fact that she’d done good work for her ward in various callings over the years. I’m not sure why she calls that one “Do Your Homework”. I would call it “Enrich your life with interests and experiences that build friendships and make you an interesting person.”

That’s reasonable advice that will help you to lead a full and happy life whether you marry or remain single. It’s certainly better than encouraging single women to spend all their time obsessing about getting married by, say, having them do wedding-dress fashion shows from the age of 12…

Then comes the real winner:

To help facilitate a successful dating relationship, it is usually wise to allow the man to be the initiator, no matter what age you are.

What the…? What does age have to do with it?

Is she saying “No matter how old and desperate you are, don’t try to rush your man.”..? Or is she saying “Even if you have been a fully-independent adult for thirty years, remember that the man is the adult in the relationship.”..?

She goes on to say:

If he makes the effort to contact you, arranges to see you, and takes care of the details, you can be fairly certain that he wants to be with you and has some idea of the basics. In addition, it is an interesting truth that the more self-initiated and independent effort a man puts into building a relationship with a woman, the more he comes to value her.

My issue with this is the gender imbalance. This absolutely goes both ways — or it should. I guess in Mormon-land of course a woman would value her husband, how could she not?

And this next bit is, I think, the worst part:

During my early acquaintance with my husband, I allowed him to make all the phone calls and appointments and contacts because I felt those were his prerogative until I knew him well. That entailed more than a few nail bites as I waited for him to call me. A confident woman does not need constant reassurance.

A confident, self-respecting woman does not sit by the phone, biting her nails waiting for a dude to call her. If she wants to talk to him, she picks up the phone and calls him or texts him herself because she knows that her own time is as valuable as his.

Sister Oaks’s tip here is excellent advice if for some reason you want to be with a man who wants his wife to be a total doormat. If, OTOH, you have a bit of self-respect and you want a husband who sees you as a full-fledged adult human being, I would replace that whole section with an improved section called “Don’t be a doormat.”

It’s disappointing, too, because all of that earlier good stuff about enriching your life with independent interests and friendships is suddenly right out the window if an apostle comes knocking at your door.

I also take issue with her naming that section “Don’t Smother or Pester”. “Don’t smother or pester” would be good advice — if that were actually the topic of the section. But with that title, the section advises women not to call their man at all or make any attempt to contact him. I guess that when a woman calls a man, that’s smothering and pestering (unlike when a man calls a woman)…? This title reinforces the misogynistic belief that there’s nothing more annoying to a man than a woman talking.

The last two bits are par for the course of Mormon dating advice. “Maintain the Lord’s Standards” (a.k.a. don’t have sex) is easy to say if you’re an elderly couple. It’s far more problematic for young people since it’s hard to treat the marriage commitment with the gravity it deserves if it’s placed right where it will be trampled by raging young libidos. And the part about feeling peace when you pray about the relationship — I’m not sure that’s really a good way to pick a spouse. YMMV. It’s nice that they like gardening together though.

And then there’s the eternal Mormon closer: “Anything less will be inadequate eternally.”

Well, I hope you’ll enjoy eternally sharing your husband with Sister Oaks #1…

Mormon Erotica, Mormon Romance

Mormon Erotica, the new novel from Donna Banta, is a joyous page-turner that, despite the title, is far more concerned with love and romance than sex. While the book contains plenty of reflection on Mormon attitudes toward sex and marriage, the action depicted is strictly PG. As with so many romance novels, the suspense lies not in whether it will end with its hero and heroine poised to live happily ever after, but what sorts of personal discoveries and growth will make them worthy of that reward. I was always curious about and frequently surprised by the routes the characters forged to true love.

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If you don’t like romance novels, there’s a chance you won’t like Mormon Erotica. To me, this post-Mormon twist on the romance novel is a breath of fresh air, but then, I have a fondness for romance novels, having read dozens if not hundreds of them, from cheap formulaic paperbacks I checked out from the public library when I was in junior high to great classics of English literature like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. For that matter, as a teen I even read a few Mormon romance novels, such as those by Jack Weyland. I think Mormon courtship and marriage make great material for narrative, and I’m glad writers are tackling it in fiction for an audience beyond active Latter-day Saints. It’s especially nice to read a novel that takes you on a good-natured romp through the subject.

One of the best elements of Mormon Erotica is the main character, Jim, who is devout but not fanatical. Jim’s first marriage was disastrous and brief—but his ex-wife still plans to be married to him for time and all eternity, since they didn’t get a temple divorce to go with the civil one. Jim is comfortable in his role as a single dad too lazy and jaded to attempt another marriage—until he sees an old college girlfriend, Sadie Gordon, at a wedding reception. She’s hot, charming, and completely inactive, and she’s written a novel full of Mormons having sex. The title of Banta’s book refers to the way Sadie’s novel is characterized.

Less compelling are a couple of the supporting characters. Jim and Sadie each have a relative who seems like a caricature of the most awful Mormon you can imagine: small-minded, judgmental, and completely unable to understand boundaries. I’m certain there are Mormons like that, but they were so consistent and predictable that I was aghast at their actions without being surprised, a fact made all the more obvious given that Jim and Sadie did surprise me in interesting ways.

Occasional chapters are from the perspective of Jim’s teenage daughter, Julia. I don’t spend enough time around teenagers these days to know if Banta got twenty-first-century teen lingo and social interactions exactly right, but I thought she did a great job making the basic psychology of adolescence interesting for an audience of adults. Julia was so compelling that I’m now interested in reading The Girls from Fourth Ward, Banta’s murder mystery about four girls who hope to go to BYU.

The book is published under the imprint of the Mormon Alumni Association, and the cover art (which, you discover about halfway through the novel, makes particularly good sense) is by Chanson.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Extreme Parenting Edition!

By now you’ve probably heard the story about the Mormon family who dumped their son in Bryce Canyon when he didn’t want to serve a mission — and about the BYUI professor who got fired for posting pro-LGBT remarks on Facebook.

By Common Consent’s new publishing house looks like it’s off to a great start! I wish them well, and hope MAA Books‘ publishing arm will be ready to roll soon. Other books discussed lately include The Burning Point, The Handmaid’s Tale, Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons, Days of Awe and Wonder, The Burning Point, and ABC’s of Science and Mormonism!

There have been some great discussions lately on apologetics and conspiracies, on gerrymandering, on what the priesthood is anyway, on how the disaffected are silenced and how to counterbalance the problem, and on garmies and porn shoulders.

Sam Young continues to shine the light on the church’s despicable practice of having untrained middle-aged me grill adolescents about masturbation in closed-door interviews. And Grouchy brings us more terrible news from Trumpland — the only worse disaster is climate change.

In life journeys, Myrtlejoy has posted a lovely story about her connection with her pioneer ancestors. Froggie is exploring mystery through photos. Uomo Nuovo has been on an epic bike tour. Kevin Barney recounted becoming a liberal-minded Mormon. And Chiroscuro recounted an adventure with black-and-white thinking:

Do you think I’m being extreme? I wish I were! President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Each of us has to face the matter — either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” (May 2003 Ensign) And guess what? Church history is absolutely not the rosy whitewashed picture we were all taught.

Thanks for your patience, everyone! Sorry I’ve been doing such a terrible job of keeping up my posting here at MSP lately — the thing is that (in addition to extra stress from getting a new job) I have been desperate to finally finish drawing part 1 of my comic book. Well, I finally finished the last panel this morning — yay me!! I still have corrections to do, but I plan to be ready to print up some pre-prints in two weeks. This takes a lot of pressure off, and I’m hoping to have time to catch up on all my other projects in August.

BTW, another fun project I did IRL was to participate in an “Evening of Apostasy” panel hosted by the local freethinkers group here in Zurich. Here’s a write-up of it (warning: it’s in German).

I hope all your projects are going well too, and I hope to be back on track with my series on Mormon strategies next week — happy reading!

Polygyny and Democracy

In my reading for the latest Sunday in Outer Blogness, I came across an interesting article about the differences between gay marriage and polygamy. It’s interesting because of the stuff the author gets right:

Here’s the problem with it: when a high-status man takes two wives (and one man taking many wives, or polygyny, is almost invariably the real-world pattern), a lower-status man gets no wife. If the high-status man takes three wives, two lower-status men get no wives. And so on. Continue reading “Polygyny and Democracy”

Check out “Upper Room Cartoon”

There’s a new Mormon-themed Youtube channel, and it looks very promsing: The Upper Room Cartoon.

Two cartoons have been posted so far. They look exactly the same: five white guys who are leaders of the church (have to admit that I don’t pay enough attention to who the leaders are, so I can only recognize Monson and Uchtdorf for sure) discuss some topic relevant to a problem in the church for under four minutes.

The first is about the horrible new policy punishing the children of gay people. Notable lines:

“But we believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”

“Yeah, but Adam wasn’t gay.”

and

“Utah leads the nation in gay suicide rates. You think that has anything to do with us?”

“Nope.”

The second is about women, or the “Sisters in Zion.” Notable line:

“Ordain” this, “ordain” that. We just say it didn’t mean “ordain,” and then it doesn’t mean “ordain.”

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: People and families edition!

I have done all that I can to ensure that my kids will never have to choose between having a relationship with their father and his partner whom they both love, and being involved in the church that their mother loves.

Now, because my boys live with me part time, they are excluded from membership in the church unless they receive approval from the First Presidency. I’m really hurting. Just when I thought that I had found a way to live with tolerance toward the church they’ve come out and attacked my family in a very personal way.

That’s from Devon Gibby. Let’s read some more from the people affected by the latest policy change of the CoJCoL-dS, like GodGitsGud:

Of all the cruel and vindictive things the church has done to him and these (now teenaged) children, this move sets a tragic new standard. They have already had to grow up with their mother telling them constantly that their father is a demented faggot who will burn in hell. But they weren’t barred from every important ritual before. Every child of these “fix the gay” marriages -which are essentially doomed to failure- AND WHICH THE CHURCH ACTIVELY ENCOURAGED, has and will be publicly shamed, set apart from their peers, and treated as beyond the reach of God.

From Uomo Nuovo:

My children are directly effected by this new policy. Though half of them have already left the LDS Church, our four younger children are still taken to church by their mother, and I have an adult son who remains active in the Church. If that son decides to go on a mission, he will now – in the language of the new policy – need to “specifically disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage,” and his request to serve will then have to be approved by the First Presidency of the Church. In other words, he will have to denounce me and my husband Mark and will be stigmatized, not because of his own actions, but because of mine.

From lala:

I have two beautiful children. Their father, who I married in the temple, is gay. We are no longer married. I have remained faithful. Fulfilled callings, attend regularly, we read scriptures and have fhe…they have both been baptized already, but this, this right here will be the breaking point. I cannot, will not ask them to choose between the church and their father. I will not ask them to “disavow” him in order to stay in a church that doesn’t want them.

But why? Well…

The wonderful truth of our church is that Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us. And in this case, that plan involves wielding the children of same-sex marriages as a pressure point to attempt to dislodge and shatter these marriages and families.

In other words, from Steve Bloor:

Yet the power to punish innocent children, or withhold “blessings” from them, seems entirely gratuitous on the surface. This policy, however, is not about punishing children. It is about exploiting children. Yes, exploiting. As in, using children as a means to an end. As in, using children as leverage to control the parents, and extended families, and the courts of the Intermountain West of the United States.

Which leads to a really interesting question by Dad’s Primal Scream:

Can I use this as evidence in court that my child’s participation in church is an act of alienating them from me?

Plus, the policy seems to have a bit of a consistency problem:

Barry’s half-sibling Shannon (who does not have a homosexual parent and is a baptized member) is also very excited at this new development. “While I have been freely supporting gay marriage on social media since March when church apostle D. Todd Christofferson said that Mormons who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their temple privileges or church memberships, I think that it’s totally fair that Barry is required to completely disavow the practice,” said Shannon. “I will be watching his Facebook posts very carefully after his baptism to ensure that unlike me he does not show any support for his father’s choices.”

And it’s a problem for the members that they’re expected to sustain anything that comes out of headquarters — without being able to predict what it will be next. Some aren’t happy about it. From Christine:

Honestly, I feel like the church is bringing persecution to us. Just shut up about it. Just stop. No person and no organization is going to change gay marriage. Please stop putting a target on my back and making me have to answer for this.

Some members, however, are taking back to the leaders.

Also many people are offering feelings and comfort.

Additional thoughts include the parallels with the treatment of polygamy, Mormon Monopoly on Jesus, what would Jesus do, what about punishing people for their own sins?, looking on the bright side, the church should grow up, and what the children will learn from this.

Does it make sense for the CoJCoL-dS to categorize gay marriage as apostasy? The Catholics seem to have taken the opposite strategy:

Pope Francis continues to urge Catholic priests not to block gay couples from having their children baptized. Speaking last Sunday during an ordination mass in the Vatican, Francis reminded that priests should not refuse baptism to anyone who asks for the sacrament. The pontiff told the priests: “With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the people of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it.”

On the lighter side, this inspired memes, including getting punished for Adam and Steve’s transgression and whether Jesus wants you for a sunbeam. In satire: “Morally Bankrupt LDS Church Acts on Anti-Same-Sex Thoughts.” The Expert Textperts have some great tips for how to cope — I’ve been using #6 myself.

On the other side of the story, ever since the policy was leaked (from the text of a restricted handbook), the faithful have scrambled to explain how misguided you are to think this is bad. They can’t seem to stop making it worse. (Why bring Bill Nye into this?) For example:

Myth #4 Requires Children to Reject Parents […] They do not need to say anything about their parents. This is the same standard expected of every convert who has a parent that still smokes when to be baptized they must specifically agree to the word of wisdom. Children in this situation must simply recognize the Church’s teachings on sin.

Why won’t people understand that the just have to say something about their parents’ marriage….? (Specifically that it’s not a marriage, hence that their family isn’t a family, and, potentially, that a beloved step-parent isn’t really a parent. S/he’s just your mom or dad’s stinky bad habit.)

The main excuse seems to involve protecting kids from mixed-messages — which seems to mean protecting them from the trauma of getting told at church that their families aren’t real families. Otherwise, taken at face value, their argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense:

Where is the outcry for child protection in families where one parent is an atheist, or from another religion, or an alcoholic, or abusive etc. You can go on and on with the thousands of “conflicting” scenarios current LDS children already exist and learn to live in. If the LDS church trusts those families, children and adults to figure out what works for them, why step in where children of LGBT families are concerned?

When church allows a little flexibility, there’s room for examples like this one on the one hand, and like this on the other:

My parents let me drink alcohol from the age of like… 12. They were not religious at all. They regularly told me reasons the church was bad. They also encouraged “having sex with enough people to figure out who you’re compatible with”, and only one of them gave me permission to get baptized. That was good enough for the church, who are absolutely fine with kids leaving the majority of their parents’ religions, lifestyles, and beliefs in order to join the church. There are endless other scenarios where a child is taught differently at home than at church.

Perhaps the most grotesquely callous of the “Myths” was “Myth #7 This Hurts Me Personally” — willfully ignoring an outpouring of stories of people who really are hurt by the policy, including the possibility of suicide. Natasha Helfer Parker has asked people to distribute the information about mental health resources to those who might be needing them right now.

Is intentional polarization a good strategy for the CoJCoL-dS? It seems like the CoJCoL-dS is inviting its less-orthodox members to simply leave — so that they will stop influencing the others:

Its obvious to everyone what would happen if we let gay families be part of Mormon congregations: they would look like normal, happy, healthy Mormon families, they would talk like normal, happy, healthy Mormon families, they would serve and love and mourn and give their lives to the church like all the other normal, happy, healthy Mormon families.

In other words, they would be happy, healthy Mormon families and people would stop caring altogether that they were gay. They would pass the Turing test. So we can’t let them take the test.

This policy change stinks to high heaven because the policy transparently acknowledges that this is the case.

And attractive alternatives are waiting to welcome them

If the above isn’t enough discussion for you, there are also a number of podcasts on the subject!

My apologies to anyone who wrote on any other subject this past week. I’ll try to include you in next week’s SiOB. This topic was just too explosive to share with any other. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this policy today.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Love Wins edition!

Probably a lot of you had this experience the other day:

social media rainbow

I know I did. Yes, the SCOTUS has ruled that the United States of America has joined the list of countries where marriage equality is the law of the land. And there was much rejoicing!!

Also on social media, some believers went apocalyptic (satire), and the PR wing of the CoJCoL-dS encouraged members to get their persecution complex on. (Alex posted an amusing example of how he has evolved on this.) It’s hard to be on the wrong side of history:

Nothing says “tyranny” like being forced to whisper about how much we hate gay people in private so we won’t be labeled as bigots. It’s totally unfair.

Sincerely, the polarization is unfortunate, but honestly, I think the outcry on the losing side is just the last defeated howl before they move on to pretending none of this fight against gay marriage ever happened, just as they seem to have forgotten that they used to be opposed to one-man-one-woman marriage:

It appears that you can take whatever you want to demonize and say that it was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire. I thought it was the gays – but the Mormons prophets taught me better. It was marriage between one man and one woman. I am waiting for prostitution, whoredoms, sexually transmitted disease and ruin to befall my family and when it does I will cry out with great lamentation that it all comes from being shackled to but one wife.

Other believers have long held that divine commandments and the laws of the land are two different things, and that’s a feature, not a bug. And still others wish this celebration could extend to their own families within the church:

For me, this poses a profoundly spiritual problem, a problem that cannot by fixed by court rulings. As a believing Mormon, my highest yearnings include fellowship with God that includes bonds of family that endure in eternity. You indeed can’t legislate that.

This is going to be a problem for the CoJCoL-dS, moving forward:

I don’t expect giant conflicts over Bishops being forced to perform same sex weddings. Instead the most interesting questions will arise in the decades to come as a natural extension of our regular practice. In a few decades, we will have converts who are the children of same sex married parents. If those parents do not join the church before death, their child will inevitably be drawn to the temple to participate in our proxy liturgies for our beloved dead. It is our mandate.

The question will be, to whom shall our convert be sealed to as a child? Child-to-parent sealings are only performed to parents who are sealed in marriage. While it will be interesting to see if FamilySearch eventually allows users to input same-sex parents, more interesting, and more vital to the soul of our convert will be how he or she connects to the broader network of eternal kin.

The progress on this issue has been impressive. See this discussion of an incident in Louisiana.

Personally, I’m still on last week’s topic, so on my blog I wrote about some recent insights on how to address racism:

It’s great that our culture has gotten to the point of essentially agreeing that racism is wrong. Yet this positive development has ironically spawned a new problem: the “black hat villain” problem. To wit, it’s the reasoning that “Racists are evil villains; my friends and I are not evil villains; therefore we are not racists.”

Racism is far from over.

And now for all the other dispatches from Mormondom! The silent deletion of the BoA facsimiles has begun — and some other info has gone missing! A member had an interesting exchange with an apostle over what their special witness actually entails. This year’s ‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ production will feature Heavenly Mother and Kate Kelly (dramatization). You’ll be surprised by this tale of being solicited by an LDS swinger. Take a trip down memory lane with this history of the CTR Ring. Oh, and the CoJCoLd-S is at it again:

If I cannot bring my authentic self to church without being censured and told my questions are dangerous and shouldn’t be expressed publicly, this situation additionally negates the example I wish to set for my children of integrity and courage. On June 21st my leaders also put me under formal sanction to not speak because of my questions regarding inequality, a sanction my former leadership in Texas had similarly imposed on me before we relocated to Georgia. “Not even in the hallways,” my Texas leader decreed. But I could not remain silent, especially after I heard Church spokeswoman Ally Isom publicly state that conversations about difficult topics including women’s ordination and the priesthood/temple ban for Black members were welcome in a congregation, in Sunday School, in women’s meetings. Sadly, my experiences have not mirrored Isom’s inclusive invitation.

It’s sometimes hard to believe it has gotten this way.

In our New Testament lesson, we learned how useful spiritual experiences are for gathering real information. In Book of Mormon studies, we’re treated to some rather impressive military strategy:

Since he can’t lure the Lamanites out of Nephihah, Moroni instead personally scouts the city in the middle of the night. He discovers that the entire Lamanite army is asleep (because honestly, who posts round-the-clock guards when your city is under the threat of attack anymore?). Moroni then makes use of a whole bunch of ladders and ropes that his army seems to have and has everyone climb over the wall without waking up a single Lamanite soldier (because it’s not like the movement of an entire army would make any noise or any of the Lamanites would get up to pee during the night). In the morning, the Lamanites wake up to discover all of Moroni’s men inside the walls of the city, and they flee for their lives. Bloodthirsty Moroni commands his men to kill as many as possible before they escape, and everyone lives happily ever after

Now before getting back to depressing topics like climate change, let’s bask in the love a little longer! Treat yourself to this sweet love story! Have a great week!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Duggars edition!

The Josh Duggar incest/molestation scandal has been the big topic of discussion and analysis this past week. These guys aren’t Mormons, but the story has strong resonance for us because of their tradition’s familiar attitudes about sexuality, gender roles, and family:

In the LDS church, there was a massive focus in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s on having large numbers of children. Many people were given these manipulative sorts of promises when they were married, or chastised by their bishops for putting off having children. Did anyone, ever, teach my parents to be prudent before having another child. Were they taught to consider whether they had adequate resources to provide clothing food, shelter, and beds for their children? Did anyone teach them how much time children require? No. My mother was afraid to die, so they just kept having babies, even if they couldn’t even give us a decent home with running water and electricity, or adequate supervision and love.

Duggar’s Christian defenders are basically digging him deeper. For example Ray Comfort claimed that Duggar committed the acts during his “before Christ” days — even though Josh Duggar accepted Christ when he was 7. Worse, they’re highlighting one of the big problems with believing that any-and-all sex-outside-of-marriage is one of the most heinous sins one can commit — it makes it very hard to tell the difference between consensual acts and abuse:

Crowder’s article doesn’t draw a distinction between non-consensual contact and pre-marital sex, though, because presumably both of those are “wrong” and “sins” so it doesn’t matter what the context was, right? (Oh and nice dig on young women who choose to have abortions too.) Can you guys believe that young women who aren’t married are having more than one child?? That is totally the same thing as Josh Duggar molesting a 4-year-old! Teenagers having pre-marital sex (because if they’re married teenagers then it’s OK, presumably) is logically equivalent to “teenagers molesting little girls,” which is exactly what the above paragraph implies.

Here’s another:

If this boy had been experimenting with girls in a non-Christian family, then he would have been encouraged. I know a family that were proudly showing photos of the their teenage son on a trip to Disneyland unchaperoned with his girlfriend. It’s “normal.”

Plus further analysis from the same source:

There are all sorts of problems with putting any sexual contact outside of marriage in the same category. For one thing, victims of sexual assault, including children, may end of feeling that they are in some way guilty of what happened—after all, sexual contact outside of marriage is considered sin. For another thing, a teenager sexually molesting children may be treated as a similar offense to a teenager having consensual sex with his girlfriend.

And, as great as forgiveness can be, the victims should be treated as important as well, instead of getting blamed.

The biggest item of LDS-interest news (aside from a shooting at an LDS Stake Center, the lady who ran over her husband for voting for Obama, and the lady who tried to jump off the COB) was that L. Tom Perry died. (Ziff has continued to provide actuarial analysis of the top leaders of the CoJCoL-dS.) A particularly sad side note for this man’s legacy is that the last memorable thing he did before his death was call LGBT families “counterfeit”.

Then, of course, we have more excommunications! It’s getting to the point where they’re not so much a news item as a regular feature — which inspires memes like Stay in the boat… until it’s your turn to get kicked out. This time it looks like Alan Rock Waterman is finally in the hotseat (this coming wednesday), possibly for this post that threatens the church’s revenue stream.

In church watch, Nearing Kolob reported on some interesting stuff the missionaries are learning, Thinker of Thoughts wrote some analysis of racism in the Book of Mormon. And Mormon Hurt noticed something interesting bout the task of keeping your garments white:

They were never white to begin with. The blinding purity was a mirage, a deception. With each wash, they revealed more of their true nature. I had fallen victim to their illusion.

In history, there’s more on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. In scripture study, we have avoiding hypocrisy.

In philosophy, Profet analyzed the human tendency to count the hits and ignore the misses. And Stephen Carter explained a popular modern strategy for dealing with the Book of Mormon’s lack of historical basis:

So, if you’re wondering about the truth of a particular scripture story: whether or not it happened is irrelevant. You only need to ask, “When I experiment upon this word, does it make me grow? Does it reveal a larger universe? Does it taste good?”

See here for some similar discussion.

My biggest problem with the “BoM as inspired fiction” theory isn’t the obvious one (namely that it means the Joseph Smith was intentionally, explicitly, and frequently lying to people). It’s that — sure, the BoM doesn’t need to be non-fiction to be considered inspired or worthwhile — but it has to have something to recommend it. If it’s really “another witness of Christ”, then that’s something. If you take that away (by admitting that all of the witnesses in it are, in fact, fictional characters), then what are you left with? If your intention is to find a great work of fiction that edifies ant enlightens you — that teaches you profound truths — then the Book of Mormon isn’t even going to make the top 10, nowhere near it.

In fun, we have the proper Christian-Mormon response to a Mormon woman showing her shoulders in public, the Angry Jesus meme, Adult Onset Atheist’s decisions on how to vote in the Hugos, and — finally — we learn what the GA’s did in the “War in Heaven” to land their sweet gig!!

Happy reading!!