Sunday in Outer Blogness: Savannah’s edition!

I imagine that by now you’ve all seen this viral video:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have to continue to double down on its homophobia. Or its racist policies. Just look what the Southern Baptists did about their past racism:

WHEREAS, the roots of White Supremacy within a “Christian context” is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years—echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos—which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the “curse of Ham” theory in this Resolution; now be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, June 13-14, 2017, denounces every form of “nationalism” that violates the biblical teachings with respect to race, justice, and ordered liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called “Alt-Right” that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system; and be finally

At least the CoJCoL-dS seems to like non-conformity under certain circumstances

Other personal stories of the week include a first trip to the temple, a magical road trip, daily life in an interfaith marriage, and other interfaith connection with family.

In church news, the European outposts are contracting. In discussion topics, Lynette covered the value of life, Andrew S wrote about invisible gods. See also beauty tips, and can the wording of the sacrament prayer change?

Wheat and Tares posted some intriguing articles including a temple mystery and an account of the days of Mark Hofmann.

In Book of Mormon study, we’re up to another part where Joseph Smith throws in a convenient prophecy. Plus what’s up with the iron rod? Alex also made the best of a bad review.

And the latest Trump drama is teaching lessons about sexual coercion.

After all of that, let’s cleanse the palate with a bit of Frog Eye Salad! See you next week!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Unhappy anniversary edition!

One year ago yesterday, the members of the CoJCoL-dS learned that their church had launched a new policy of excluding the children of same-sex couples from the church’s principal ordinances. This one event broke many people’s hope that the CoJCoL-dS would one day do right by its LGBTQ members, and dramatically changed their feelings about the church — and caused a world of hurt.

So this whole week, the Mormon blogosphere has seen an outpouring of feelings about this unhappy anniversary.

Among the reminiscences, we have a fascinating first-hand account from “the first person to put the baby blessing and baptism portions of the November 5 policy in a publicly-accessible space online”. Of course the central point to remember from his story is the following:

The identity of “the leaker” should’ve been obvious to everyone from Day One. The “leaker” was …. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the internet age, when you send an email to thousands of recipients, YOU’VE LEAKED YOUR OWN DOCUMENT. It is therefore absurd to fret about the singular source of a public dissemination, as if there couldn’t be 99 separate sources.

Exactly. When it first appeared, it didn’t occur to me to worry about the psychology of “the leaker” because — if thousands of people have access to this information — their roll-out was the equivalent of handing it directly to the press. Better, in fact, because their attempt at keeping this critical information secret gave the story a more enticing hook.

Needless to say, this event inspired many people to finally leave the CoJCoL-dS.

In other news, the US election isn’t over yet. The Mormons got some praise from an unlikely source for the integrity I recently praised.

And life goes on! In other topics we have the horror that is modesty education, how the CoJCoL-dS values single women (or not), gendered behavior expectations, the life of Oliver Cowdery, God as a bully, and proof that Trump is Hebrew!

Not-Mormon-related exactly, but can we talk about the situation for Native Americans defending their water supply and land they own while a notorious band of white criminals got no punishment for their siege of public land…?

I guess this time I can’t really wish you all happy reading — and this week promises to be a nail-biting one! — but in case you didn’t notice it, you may be interested in checking out ProfXM’s new post on City Creek ads embracing “the world”.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Mormon and Gay edition!

This past week the CoJCoL-dS launched a new website showcasing some personal stories of how it’s possible to be Mormon and gay — by living a life of celibacy or mixed-orientation-marriage. Well, sort of:

I understand why the November policy wasn’t mentioned, but I couldn’t help but think about it. When Elder Clayton said that he loves gay members and that we have a place in the church I was waiting for the asterisk and footnote that said, “Unless you’re in a committed same-sex relationship or were raised by same-sex parents.” And when Elder Christofferson said that a gay person can serve just like any other member, I was waiting for him to say, “Unless you want to be a full-time seminary teacher or be a temple worker because we don’t let single men do those things.” I get what he’s saying, but I feel like they failed to address the difficulty of our situation as gay Mormons. It is particularly painful for me to be told that I can serve just like anyone else when I have longed to be a seminary teacher and a temple worker and I’m prohibited from doing those things because I’m single.

In fact the new website has inspired quite a lot of heartfelt reactions:

We LGBT members of the Church are reassured that through obedience to the commandments and self-mastery we are going to be able to weather the incessant storms of this life. I can tell you that from my personal experience, and the experiences of many others who have since left the Church before me, that that is not enough.

Perhaps the most touching came from John Gustav-Wrathall:

I had been there by his side for several hours holding his hand, and even though he couldn’t open his eyes, when he first realized it was me there, he started to sob. He just sobbed! And then hours later when he could finally speak, he pulled me up close to him, and he whispered, “You’ve always been here for me!” I replied, “Yes. I love you.”

If you’ve been on Mormon social media lately, you may have noticed a trending hashtag about the “Mormon Mafia”. In a nutshell, it was inspired by the Mormons launching their own alternative candidate for POTUS.

Yes, the US election show isn’t over yet. There have been some positive developments, but it’s not over till it’s over. One of our blogland Mormon prophets is (seriously?) prophesying a Trump win, so it’s not time to get complacent, especially given the threat of illegal poll-watching vigilantes intimidating voters.

Halloween is coming up tomorrow, and “Trunk-or-Treat” is becoming ever more odd:

This is assuming ward members are expected to invite their non-member friends to the Trunk or Treat. Such a thing would never occur to me, but I guess some people would do that. I just think it seems more natural to say, “Hey, they’re giving out candy at Friendly Neighborhood Park. As long as you’re out trick or treating anyway, why not stop by?” rather than, “Hey, my church is giving out candy on Saturday night. Why don’t you dress up your kids in their costumes two days early and drive out there? There might be some donuts left if you get there on time. Yes, we are holding it at rush hour. Before it gets dark, you know!”

After getting rejected by the Big 12, it looks like BYU is finally getting serious about correcting its policies towards those who report sexual assault.

In other news, the Bundy bandits were found not guilty. Plus there are some updates on the Native Americans suing the church for sexual assault during the CoJCoL-dS’s Indian Placement Program.

In random fun, Johnny Townsend’s book The Washing of Brains just won an Honorable Mention in the Rainbow Awards. Daniel Lewis wrote an allegory about how faith crises are handled. And Runtu explained that (contrary to popular belief), he’s happy.

Happy Halloween and happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: see no homosexuals edition!

This week’s big Mormon news story was Elder Bednar’s public claim that there are no homosexual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! It was the same tired old claim that you shouldn’t label yourself (with labels that the church doesn’t like) and pretending like that’s somehow being inclusive. It’s hard to avoid making the obvious parallel with Iran and/or getting snarky about it:

And then, the more I started thinking about this, I realized there really isn’t anything anymore. There are no sinners, because we are more than our sins. There are no Saints, because we aren’t just our good deeds. There are no heterosexuals, because they probably don’t want to be defined by their sexual orientation either, nor do I assume there are couples, because why should we be defined by our marital status, which brings me to the good news that there are also no singles anymore (wow, look, he just solved the “single problem” for the Church. Genius).

Elisothel presented an analogy that explained lovingly and eloquently what’s wrong with Bednar’s idea:

She told me of a school assembly later in the year where the headmaster, as a gesture of unity and in a moment of furvor, stated “We are more than our denominations, we are all Christians here…”

This statement was obviously exclusionary to the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist families, but did this statement feel inclusive to my Mormon friend, who actually was a Christian? Did she feel embraced as a Christian? Of course not – she knew she would only be considered Christian if she betrayed her own identity as a Mormon. Did this statement acknowledge her Christianity as a Mormon? No, it set her apart from every other Christian in the room and echoed how non-Christian she was because of her Mormonism. Now, if the school had different practices, and hired Mormons as Christians, then the sentiment would have been received as inclusive. But in the context of school policy and practice, the sentiment highlighted her outsider status. If she chose to interpret the statement in the best way possible – that she was considered a Christian in that moment – she knew that at the very least it erased her Mormonism and saw her as a Christian in spite of her religion, not because of it.

My favorite observation was pointed out by Heather during the Infants on Thrones smackdown and by Andrew S here (and others). They pointed out that by saying “We are not defined by sexual attraction. We are not defined by sexual behavior. We are sons and daughters of God” — Elder Bednar doesn’t allow us to be more than our gender labels. And considering their constant barrage of nonsense (including later in his same remarks) about how men are like this and women are like that, I have to admit it would be pretty awesome to get to take a break from having these doofuses define us in terms of our gender.

In other churchy news, Mitt Romney may yet save the GOP from the horror of Trump, Leah Marie Silverman made some great points about the discussion of female ordination, the FLDS are facing legal and other challenges, and Elder Holland is telling strange things to missionaries.

At least they got everyone to forget about that inoculation thing!

In scripture study, Steve Otteson reviewed “How Jesus Became God,” by Bart Ehrman. Benjamin Knoll offered a new interpretation of the Nephi story as an allegory for the plan of salvation, with a little caveat:

Now, the skeptic/agnostic in me must candidly admit that this all may simply be a coincidence. Or that the similarity between the two narratives may be indicative of larger arch-typical structures underlying most epic narratives that gifted story-tellers (like Joseph Smith) have a keen ability to channel.

Hmm. The skeptic in me says the Book of Mormon doesn’t appear to contribute any new insights about the plan of salvation, so it’s still not terribly helpful for providing justification for revering the Book of Mormon. This review sums it up pretty well — but maybe the new edition for Millennials is better!

In personal stories, here’s a great comic about leaving religion. Mormon Hurt is having difficulty with mutual respect in a mixed-faith relationship. And a beautiful and inspiring love story from our community has reached a tragic transition:

But you know, as I think about it, Mark never did that. Not out loud, anyway. Not once in the nearly three years of his cancer did he bemoan his fate or express outrage that the universe had done this to him. What he did say, repeatedly, was how lucky he had been throughout his life. And rather than express sorrow over the short time he had with me, he instead expressed – many times – how lucky he was that I had come into his life and how fortunate we were to spend together what time we had.

In fun, check out some Mormon live stand-up comedy!

Folks, I’m sorry about the lateness of this SiOB — I had some Internet issues yesterday, but it appears to be all cleared up now. Happy reading!

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!

Final religious amicus brief on US same-sex marriage

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

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

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

So what are the “final” arguments?

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

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

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

Homosexuality is remote from core teachings about marriage and family.

3) Religious liberty in the public sphere is threatened

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

4) Thought-policing

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

5) The essential secular/religious divide

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

6) A subversion of democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on RFRAs and Nondiscrimination

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday in Outer Blogness: New directions edition!

This week’s biggest topic was Elder Christofferson’s talk about how it’s now (sort of?) OK for faithful Mormons to support gay marriage. See this great analysis:

Oops, he does go ahead and mention that by short term he really means “all of mortal life” – and then he doesn’t bother to remind you that on the issue of homosexuality, the “commandments and principles” of the church are that it is 1) an immoral sexual perversion 2) something which can be eliminated through the process of repentance and 3) completely in conflict with the sacred institution of marriage and as such can have no tolerance or acceptance among the righteous.

There seems to be some backlash among the faithful. The homophobia may have been one of the selling points of Mormonism for some people, so even this grudging step in the right direction is a step in the wrong direction for some.

It was a big week for interfaith interactions! Alex has his own Mormon spy! Then there was a temptation to say “I told you so”, some very funny stuff, and a tale of getting shunned for apostasy. Plus a Mormon Stories episode on speaking to loved ones about faith differences. This essay on Faith, Doubt, and Context is also related.

In the annals of gender, we have some commentary on traditional marriage, there was a really interesting personal account/analysis of being a woman in a singles’ ward:

Most importantly, by separating single people, it is easy for other church members, and most importantly leaders, to loose touch with what the needs of the YSA members actually are. And because there are more single LDS women than men, this also means that Sister’s concerns get pushed even further out of the forefront.We should be taking every opportunity to strengthen women’s voices. Inadvertently (I hope), YSA women are all to often left out of conversations.

Clearly, auxiliaries aren’t designed to address women’s concerns.

In church-watch, we have the leaked secret handbooks, why all-testiomony-all-the-time is a counterproductive strategy, polygamy opinions, the Mormon Duggars, a timeline of the rise of the modern church, the CES Letter at a crossroads, and when not being able to say the real word is worse than saying it. Note that the secrecy goes way back.

In response to apologetics, the church is now passing off obvious forgeries as “facts”, but Runtu is on the case. Runtu is also continuing his concise dictionary of Mormonism and came up with a fabulous list of 52 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism!!

In other random fun, we have this weeks biggest design fail, and some fun recipes! Also, the awesomeness of post-Mormon baby showers, the example of Taylor Swift, and some fascinating photos of cemeteries. Plus, PUAs attempt to write poetry.

Folks, sorry this SiOB is a little late. My niece (across the ocean from me) just got her first Minecraft account, so I spent a big chunk of the weekend building a castle in the new world we set up on my server to play with her! The first house she built was beautiful, and we’re looking forward to some more fun in the weeks to come! I hope you all are having fun times as well! 😀