Who’s holding the microphone???

Molly recently left a comment here that, I think, expresses a question on a lot of people minds:

Must admit to having trouble understanding why Joanna Brooks is taken so seriously. Her work is very softball, and frequently skirts meaty issues or downplays legitimate problems completely.

This was largely in response to the fact that Brooks won the Mormon Alumni Association’s prestigious “William Law X-Mormon of the Year” Award, however, I think that the attention she gets from the other side of the aisle is even more mysterious. Specifically, why does the CoJCoL-dS have its media outlets continuously taking pot-shots at her?

Sunstone Symposium 2012 I think Ralph Hancock gives us a bit of a hint in his latest piece on Professor Brooks:

Brooks has a political agenda or, to be more precise, a political-religious agenda, since her outlook on what is true and good is profoundly conditioned by a progressive-liberal-feminist political project, a project that requires a fundamental re-interpretation of the religion her parents taught her.

It sounds like the problem isn’t so much that she has a political-religious agenda — rather the problem is that she has the wrong one. The CoJCoL-dS occasionally claims that it’s apolitical, but who gets to speak from a given platform (and who doesn’t) is itself a political decision.

Have a look at The Narrator’s recently rejected mormon.org profile:

Unlike most Mormons, I don’t necessarily believe in a life after death. However our scriptures teach that eternal life is more than living forever, but is something that can and should be achieved now in the present. Eternal life is to live and love others as God does. Too often I think we are confused in thinking that eternal life is something we must wait for, or that it is something that can only be found in another life after this. Rather, it is by following Christ’s example and learning to love as He did that we can find ourselves with eternal life in the present.

Andrew S explains in his response that the church wants to showcase some types of diversity and not others. For example, they want people to know that you can be black and be a Mormon, or you can be a woman who works outside the home and be a Mormon (y’know, as long as you don’t try to publish your ideas about Mormonism), however, not everybody can have the mormon.org True Mormon seal of approval:

At the conference last week, the mormon.org monitor in attendance justified the practice using the example of someone who might say that he is a gay parent and a Mormon. The obvious problem with this rationale is that there are, in fact, gay Mormon parents.

Personally, I think the CoJCoL-dS is really shooting itself in the foot on this one. As “A Mormon in the Cheap Seats” explains, it alienates the whole range of people who see Mormonism in shades of gray. (On the positive side, Deseret News is helping feminist Mormons raise money.) It looks like the PR department doesn’t get that making a good impression and obsessively controlling who gets to hold the microphone may be incompatible goals.

p.s. I hope you’re going to Sunstone 2012 — to discuss the politics of Mormon discourse with me as well as other Mormon-political questions!!


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at @chanson@social.linux.pizza or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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11 Responses

  1. Chino Blanco says:

    In her book, Joanna Brooks asks: “What is to prevent everything we write–the actual human dimensions of our living faith, our own unvarnished histories, records of our searching hungers–from being used as evidence against us?”

    As far as I can tell, where the Mormon church is concerned, the answer is “Nothing.”

  2. Chino Blanco says:

    By the way, did you see this segment (featuring Joanna Brooks, Will Bagley, et.al)? I thought it was not at all sensationalized, unlike that BBC piece:


  3. chanson says:

    Quite interesting!!

  4. chanson says:

    They still have the “Is it a cult?” question. 😉

  5. Chino Blanco says:

    Yeah, but the editing gave Bagley the last word on that question and he gave a friendly, intelligent rebuttal to the “cult” charge.

    That said, even though I’d agree that “cult” is not a useful/helpful term to throw around, you can guess how I really feel about the LDS church. After General Conference, my TBM family started phoning me and I’m left with the impression that it’s because they needed to check off their “be nicer to apostates” box after hearing Dieter’s dictum to stop being jerks.

  6. chanson says:

    Oh, man! None of my faithful LDS relatives contacted me in response to that talk… Interpret that as you will, I guess. 😉

  7. Chino Blanco says:

    Wow, you must be a super scary apostate in real life for them to risk those eternal consequences… By the way, speaking of consequences, can ProfXM get another set of X-Mormon of the Year T-shirts? If so, I’d like to buy a couple dozen to wear and give away at Sunstone.

  8. Hermana Blanca says:

    I don’t know what TBM stands for but Dad called me too. If General Conference helps him realize his relationships with his children are less than authentic and he makes an effort to change, then I can live with that. Though admittedly–after having listened to the entire conference–I rolled my eyes when I saw his name on my iPhone screen.

  9. Chino Blanco says:

    Hey sis, guess whose little brother called the next day? We had a nice chat but he seemed to fumble for a moment when I told him, dude, you’re more than welcome to pick up the phone any time.

    TBM = True Blue or True Believing Mormon

    It’s how folks like me describe believers like this mother:


    Anybody else resent having their family relationships held hostage by this crazy idea that God would physically bar me from being with my family? I’d like to see Her try. Anyway, not that it’s all Her fault. I’m not even dead yet and some of my Mormon family want to pretend I’ve already been forcibly repatriated to an undisclosed lower kingdom.

  10. Chino Blanco says:

    Wow, sorry for the rant. For the record, I’m chuckling — not wailing — at the silliness of it all. It’s the same messed-up Mormon family dynamic that makes Ralph Hancock think he can summon Joanna Brooks for a personal worthiness interview without the rest of us laughing when he tries to pretend he’s just writing a book review. It’s the same messed-up Mormon family dynamic that makes my Mormon friends wary to post here for fear of being associated with apostates.

  11. Chino Blanco says:

    Dammit, now I’m feeling guilty because I just checked my mail and found a care package from Mom with a pre-conference postmark and a great book and family photos from her recent Brooklyn trip. I need to keep in mind that it’s gotten better over the course of twenty-five years of disaffection and not just because I’m such a lovable apostate. There’s got to be some way to live authentically and still be nice to my Mormon family. It probably wouldn’t kill me to remember that more often.

    Edit: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” -John Steinbeck … Good advice courtesy of r/exmormon

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