Sunday in Outer Blogness: Ambiguity Edition!

This week’s top topic was more analysis of the exciting revelations from last week!

Paul Senzee has a Word of Wisdom anecdote many of us can relate to. Roger Hansen pointed out that the “clarification” raises a bunch of new questions:

  • Does this make ice-tea okay?
  • If its not the caffeine, what is wrong with hot drinks? Why the prohibition on coffee and tea?
  • Is it okay to drink coffee and tea if they are only luke warm?
  • What is the situation with energy drinks (where they ramp-up the caffeine)?

In case you missed the earlier discussion, Andrew S provided a good chronology and hit on some key points:

In fact, interestingly enough, we see what seems to be an institutional choice toward more ambiguity, not less. […] I think it more plausible that the change focuses around pushback (whether actual or even projected) from the members who do not drink caffeinated soda and who, in fact, believe that caffeinated sodas have always been prohibited.

To these folks, the earlier statement on the Word of Wisdom would have come as a system shock. Their entire lives and beliefs regarding the Word of Wisdom were invalidated with three lines (old version).

I agree with Andrew that this sort of ambiguity is a way for the church to let members govern themselves — except that it would be better if they’d make it clear that they want members to decide for themselves on this one, rather than implying that the CoJCoL-dS does have a policy on this and it’s X. And it is also the opposite of X.

Of course, there’s no ambiguity on one point — girls need to cover their shoulders, and Church publications will not hesitate to doctor photos to enforce this rule. Nobody likes being made fun of, but is the LDS PR machine turning itself into a joke?

Similarly, Postmormongirl’s clarification from last week had a new clarification this week. Specifically, the first president issued a statement to clarify that:

At various times, this statement has been attributed erroneously to President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, President Boyd K. Packer, and others. None of these Brethren made this statement.

But, in fact, it turns out that Ezra Taft Benson did make a statement (when addressing a BYU fireside) that was very similar to the “debunked” statement. So, the clarification from the First Presidency — while not technically false — could use a little additional information if they wanted to avoid misleading people.

njmaverick gave a good explanation of how “lying for the Lord” works:

The vast majority of Mormons would have the same views on honesty as the vast majority of Christians, most of the time.

However. There are aspects of Mormonism that allow for a level evasion and truthiness of what most would regard as dishonesty.

This makes it tricky to discuss changes in doctrine or even past Mormon political actions.

And how about that election? Have religion and politics merged? So, at the latest count, Romney‘s the Libertarian choice because Obama is the devil (or at least a Socialist).

Unsurprisingly, some here crave authenticity, and recommend strategies for getting at truth. Solutions include Im Not Going To Worry About It, reading with an open mind, and staying calm in the face of cognitive dissonance.

You may also have heard that a famous religious leader recently died, prompting people to notice comparisons with other religions. Daniel Midgley made an interesting parallel between religion and drugs (different ones have different effects and levels of addictiveness). And Steve Wells gave a great list of examples to back up Billy Graham’s claim that the Bible is the greatest self-help book.

And now it’s time for the grab bag of posts by wayward/freethinking souls who decided not to write on this week’s topic!!

Burning Man was very cool. This Lego replica of the SLC Temple is pretty cool too. Christine Butterworth-McDermott wrote a lovely poem about a Mormon wedding, and Cate told an interesting tale of a special lesson (for the ladies) from the bishop. Matthew responded to Don Bradleys “Pillars” talk (I was there, and it reminded me of Douglas Adams’ puddle analogy as well). Dan recalls what it’s like to be Mormon, Mormon411 had an unfortunate interaction with Mormon relatives, Monica and Serge had a touching moment (sort of), and Chandelle made lemonade. NoCoolNameTom reviewed John Turners Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet and InconvenientRuth shared her journey through cancer and the church. And — for the francophones — don’t miss Runtu interviewed by Radio France International!!

After a hectic week, I finally had a relaxing weekend! Not only did I have time to gather and read these links at a leisurely pace, but I also did some biking with my son and even started on getting a new server service for my planned exmo Minecraft server!! Which will be used for MSP as well, if it’s good. I think I’m starting to get back into the groove. Hope you’re having a good week too!


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

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks for the mention!

  2. Morgana says:

    Whew! So glad I stuck to this week’s topic! (In a…very…round-about way.) 😉 Thank you for the mention!

  3. chanson says:

    Hey, thanks for writing some great, thought-provoking posts! 😀

    The articles of INGTWAI are great!!!

  4. Holly says:

    Does this make ice-tea okay?

    At the risk of being curmudgeonly, I hope that it will be a while before ice-tea is OK. Iced tea, however, is awesome.

  5. Badger says:

    Chanson, as always, thanks for this week’s set of links.

    There’s a new (well, sort of; see the second link below) review of last year’s Free Inquiry special issue on Mormonism by Lewis (not Daniel) Midgley at the new post-Maxwell apologetic journal Mormon Interpreter:

    Your name is mentioned! Unfavorably, of course, but as a BYU-library-sex-haver, what can you expect?

    The apologist-watchers at Mormon Discussions are all over it (your name is mentioned there, too):

    I have mixed feelings about the calling attention to this mess, but with the disclaimer that it’s a potential waste of time and source of unnecessary aggravation, I imagine some MSP readers would be interested in knowing of it.

  6. Badger says:

    It looks like I put one too many links in my last comment, if somebody wouldn’t mind checking the mod queue.

  7. chanson says:

    @5 Potential waste of time and source of unnecessary aggravation? No way — this is hilarious!

    In his discussion of the C.L. Hanson article, Midgley stops just short of using a sexist epithet to describe Ms. Hanson:

    She pictures herself as a mild mannered mom who posts up a storm on the Internet promoting what she calls the middle ground where nice, tactful atheism can occur (p. 41). Her blogsMain Street Plaza and Letters from a Broadstrike me as a bit raunchy and as lacking intellectual content.

    Midgley helpfully supplies a link to help illustrate what he finds “raunchy”:

    For example, it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU. See My deconversion, part 3: the tipping point., including the comments for one of many similar examples of childish rubbish.

    You kind of have to wonder what sort of sleuthing Midgley had to do in order to track this material down. The link takes you to Hanson’s account of her loss of faith–as Midgley indicates, you really have to read down into the comments to learn that Hanson is (in?)famous for having had sex in/at the BYU library. The question I’m left with here is: Why was Midgley perusing this material? How much time did it take him to track this stuff down? And, is anyone else as creeped out by the thought of this man:


    not only reading material of this nature, but saving links to it, probably sharing them on Skinny-L, and using them in an article like this? There is clearly a voyeuristic component to Midgley’s complaints, and I personally think that he and his article would have been better off if he’d omitted this. The posting is over half a decade old, and I’m sure that he could have zeroed in on something that was more indicative of “Letters from a Broad” as a whole. Instead, in rather pervy fashion, he chose to focus on the author’s recollections about her teenage sexuality. He ought to limit this kind of behavior to watching provocative videos on SocialCam.

    That’s the assessment of Doctor Scratch from Mormon Discussions.

    When you mentioned the sex-at-the-BYU-library thing, I just assumed that they’d connected my FI article with my presentation at Sunstone’s Vagina Testimonies. But no. Interestingly, this lends another data point in favor of Doctor Scratch’s theory that this article was written last year, as a companion piece to the “hit piece” on John Dehlin that caused such a big shake-up at the Maxwell Institute.

    (Oh, looking further down the MD thread, it appears they found an earlier version of the article was indeed published last year.)

  8. Dayna says:

    Correction: Christine Butterworth-McDermott isn’t describing a Mormon wedding, just a wedding. But, the imagery is still lovely and can be creatively applied to a Mormon wedding 🙂

  9. Badger says:

    …it really is ludicrous for Hanson to describe her teenage efforts to seduce boys or to describe what she claims to have managed in the library at BYU.

    Chanson, I beg your pardon. Alleged BYU-Library-sex-haver.

    I’m glad you found redeeming social value at the MD link.

  10. chanson says:

    See? This stuff is comedy gold!

    Actually, while I mentioned both those things, I didn’t really describe either one. But I could have. Dude, it’s a blog. A personal blog about my life.

  1. September 12, 2012

    […] Now, it’s probably undignified of me to acknowledge and respond to this piece, but to hell with dignity. The piece is actually kind of funny, and as I said at Sunstone I don’t want to take myself too seriously. For reference, the Mormon Interpreter article is a response to Free Inquiry‘s Mormon issue from last year. My article from that issue was posted here. Thanks also to this Mormon Discussions thread for further information about the Mormon Interpreter article (notably for pointing out that a version of the same article was published in another venue shortly after the issue of Free Inquiry came out last year). And thanks to Badger for calling the article to my attention. […]

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