Sunday in Outer Blogness: Hi, Mom edition!

In the US (and here in Switzerland) today is Mother’s Day!! Time for musings on parenthood! So, if you and/or your mom are living in countries that celebrate Mother’s Day today, don’t forget to write or call her!

This is traditionally the most dreaded Sunday of the year in the CoJCoL-dS, but Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks started the holiday on a light and positive note:

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me why she actually loves talks like those, and it gave me a new way to think of it. Her point more or less went like this: “When I hear talks like that, I can’t help but think that those moms actually weren’t all that perfect. They definitely screwed up sometimes, because we all do. When I hear people talk about how great their moms were and remember the things they were really great at, it gives me hope that my daughter will grow up and remember my good days, my good qualities, and not just the things I sucked at.”

If that doesn’t make you feel better, remember that at least it’s not too hard to be a better parent than God.

You’ve probably been following the story of the girls in Nigeria who were abducted into forced marriages. Many people can’t help but notice the connection with this year’s Old Testament lessons.

According to the scriptures, Mormons believe that there was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago, but maybe that depends on what you mean by “literally”. Alternative Sunday School lessons include magnifying your boobs, a Gilligan’s Island analogy, and 50 ways to leave the CoJCoL-dS.

Ordain Women: Does it make sense to agitate for revelation? Especially considering people are just going to make up their own interpretations of what you’re doing. Pink Hedgehog recommends some more serious tactics. Here‘s a fun way to learn about women’s experience!

Katie L. wrote some good analysis of what the CoJCoL-dS could do to stop driving away the millenials. Dave Banack wrote some ideas as well, and Jen posted some insights about belief dynamics. As it is, the CoJCoL-dS seems to be frantically rearranging the deck chairs. At least there are a few fun parts about going to Mormon church — and they’re not the silliest religion out there. (Although the idea that same-sex marriage will lead to missionary work becoming illegal certainly puts them in the running…)

Meganhowarth’s experience illustrated an interesting paradox in Mormonism: while sexual sins will get you in big trouble, you can also run into trouble for not even wanting to do it.

On the other side of the belief divide, As cool as it is to be an atheist, there are some ugly things living under a rock in a corner of atheism’s garden.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had nothing to worry about except the antics of Mormons and Mormonism? Unfortunately, God has an important message for us:

Instead of acceptance, we can work on education, and some (Utah-related) people are finding clever solutions to global problems! (And don’t forget local problems as well.)

OK, now let’s have some fun! Does anyone remember this Y? Let’s learn lessons at Comic Con or visit an interesting new place or enjoy nature with family or other random stuff! You might just find a little magic in a bottle.

There are a lot of little story gems in this week’s collection — happy reading!


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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18 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    Is it just me, or are the priesthood “keys” essentially a black box whose internal workings are confused with “God,” when they could just as easily, and transparently be described as “biopower”–that is, govermentalized control over people’s bodies, choices, and aspirations? It would be interesting to try to draw up a list of activities that are ~not~ subject to these mysterious keys, and sad to find that probably nothing would be on the list.

  2. Parker says:

    In practice, the word *keys* can be confusing if you look at what it means in practice. A male holding the priesthood has the authority to baptize, only if he is given permission by someone further up the food chain who has the authority (supposedly the *keys*) to allow person number one to exercise his authority to baptize. Blessings and administering to the sick are the only things a priesthood holder can do without permission from someone up the line. The line ends with the Church president who can give or withhold permission at his discretion (and that is called holding all of the *keys*). I guess you can say that the key unlocks a priesthood holder’s right to perform an ordinance, which lies dormant in the *priesthood* he holds.

    It appears that is the basis of the argument some are using to say women have the rights of the priesthood, they just are not authorized to perform certain ordinances. That is never explicitly stated, but implied, at least as I read some of the objections to the OW movement.

  3. Alan says:

    women have the rights of the priesthood, they just are not authorized to perform

    IOW, “It’s not like you’re not part of the system; of course you’re part of it!” *total dismissal of concern*

  4. Pierre says:

    LDS tend to use the term “priesthood” as if it were a “restoration” of something previously existing in Judaism/Christianity. Could a case be made that the LDS concept is a novelty, an innovation, one of those rare “new things under the sun,” that it was not “restored” but more accurately was “concocted”? This novelty is evident in this Webster’s definition:

    Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2d ed., Unabridged, gives a broad survey of the term Priesthood: “1. Office or dignity of a priest; priestly function; sacerdotal character. 2. Priests taken collectively; the order of priests. 3. Mormon Ch. The authority given by ordination to speak and administer in the name of the Deity; also, the body of those so ordained. See Aaronic, Melchizedek.”

    Is it more of a corporate organizational principle, a means of maintaining power through controlling its distribution, a kind of franchise licensing typical of pyramiding? Wouldn’t that analysis bear on the eligibility of women to be included and not excluded by what is nothing more than an expedient corporate fiction? And wouldn’t a sense of that cynical manipulation contribute to the rising indignation of those excluded?

  5. Alan says:

    Is it more of a corporate organizational principle

    @4 Well, this is I meant @1. It’s conceived as divine/restored/ahistorical/whatever, and its inner workings cannot be tampered with because they’re “not fully understood.” The “spirit” is a glue that holds the blocks of the pyramid together — because in 2014, who in their right mind would say that an oligarchy of old white men in Utah speak for the divine, unless that somebody is saturated with this glue? The response to OW is “You haven’t saturated yourself with enough glue….you’re hurting the structural integrity of the pyramid”….when OW is saying, “Maybe we’re not supposed to be glued together in this shape.”

  6. Parker says:

    Garry Wills in his book, *Why Priests* argues that *priesthood* is an invention of early Christianity based upon some weak statement in Hebrews, itself a questionable document. He points out that Protestants are able to be pretty good Christians without a priesthood. But Catholics, and Wills declares he is a faithful Catholic, need the priesthood he says to set them apart from other Christians. And that certainly has been one of the selling points of Mormon priesthood authority. We are authorized.

  7. Pierre says:

    Parker, agreed. The old LDS notion that “it’s between us or Catholics on priesthood,” has a superficial appeal, except it’s trumped by the more biblical Protestant “priesthood of all believers” doctrine. Bad news is that even Catholics are edging toward that same doctrine, as in the 1966 New Catholic Encyclopedia : “Christ is the sole priest of the New Convent (sic!), a covenant preached by Him and sealed by His blood. Unlike the priests of the Old Covenant, Christ can have no successors to the priesthood. He is truly ‘a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek’ (Hebrews. 5:7). Others, however, may share in Christ’s unique priesthood and by sharing in it continue Christ’s priesthood in time. Most non-Catholics restrict this participation in Christ’s priesthood to the universal priesthood of all believers, the ‘royal priesthood’ common to the whole Church (1 Peter 2:9). Catholics and Orthodox Christians of the East teach that the priestly office and ministry has been entrusted in a special way to a particular group within the Church, and that the rite by which they are invested is a true Sacrament that confers a special power and force to equip them for the ministry. According to Catholic teaching this ministry is both sacrificial, or cultic, and pastoral . . . . . The Greek term for priest, ierus, is used almost exclusively of the Jewish priesthood and is often applied to a group who had opposed Christ and His teaching from the beginning. For this reason, perhaps, the term ‘priest’ is never applied to the Apostles or to their successors in the Christian hierarchy. The term is applied to Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and to the whole Christian people in the first Epistle of Peter, a fact that seemingly bolsters the Protestant view that Christ never intended to establish a priesthood other than that of the priesthood of all believers. The problem is admittedly delicate.”

    “Admittedly delicate” indeed! And “delicate” for LDS also, for it guts the entire “ordination” practice. Some contemporary Catholic scholars doubt the very existence in the primitive Church of “ordination” at all: “Nowhere are the twelve ordained. Nowhere are the apostles ordained. Nowhere are the apostles or the twelve described as ordaining. Nowhere is there a command of Jesus to ordain. Nowhere are the episcopoi (elders) ordained. Nowhere are episcopoi described as ordaining” (Osborne, Ministry, p. 26).

    So, one might ask, why are Mormons so hot on having something that Catholics are coming to admit they shouldn’t have claimed in the first place? How can you restore something that never existed?

    That’s why “Ordain Women” is actually on the wrong track! Why ask for something that, as believers in Christ, they already possess! “The further attempt to find in the New Testament instances of women being ordained is rendered fruitless, since one cannot even find instances of men being ordained. Ordination/non-ordination are not biblical terms” (Ministry, p. 31). The Reformers perceived what Osborne credits Vatican II for outlining:

    “The documents of Vatican II center the entire mission and ministry of the church itself and of each and every specific mission and ministry in the church (bishop, priest, lay minister, etc.) in the mission and ministry of Jesus . . . . . The sacramentality of the church is, therefore, theologically united to the sacramentality of Jesus. . . . . The documents . . . are quite clear on this matter: through the sacrament of initiation, baptism (though one should more rightfully say: baptism-Eucharist), every Christian shares in the tria munera of Jesus. Every Christian shares in the mission and ministry of Jesus as prophet, priest and king (Ministry, p. 31-32).”

    So, my recommendation for LDS women is not to line up at Conference and petition to be let in, but to show up at their meeting places next Sunday and simply start blessing the sacrament and blessing their babies and baptizing their children and simply sitting up in the bishopric chairs, without bothering to ask permission, for according to the New Testament, they’ve got as much priesthood as anyone, measured by the only standard of ecclesial merit, faith in Jesus Christ.

    This kind of demystification is as easy as clicking your heels and saying, “There is no such thing as ‘male’ priesthood, there is no such thing as priesthood apart from belief in Christ.” One click, and the entire fatuous imposture of “male priesthood” vanishes, and half the people in the congregation stand around looking for their clothes in vain.
    “OW”?—“Onward Women!”

  8. chanson says:

    So, my recommendation for LDS women is not to line up at Conference and petition to be let in, but to show up at their meeting places next Sunday and simply start blessing the sacrament and blessing their babies and baptizing their children and simply sitting up in the bishopric chairs, without bothering to ask permission, for according to the New Testament, they’ve got as much priesthood as anyone, measured by the only standard of ecclesial merit, faith in Jesus Christ.

    Yeah, except that you know what would happen if they did this. They would be prevented by their fellow ward members from carrying it out. Their congregation would refuse to cooperate and participate with them in their female-led ordinances. And the women who don’t care whether their ward is with them in worship or not have already left the church.

  9. Pierre says:

    You’re right, of course—that’s what would happen. My call to “direct action”? Unfortunately, ironic, for now. But wouldn’t it be cool?

    That said, knocking down a wall is easier when you come to realize it’s not even papier mache but an illusion inflated from false history. I was not aware of these developments in Catholic thinking until I read the cited sources and thought I would pass the references along.

    The question, “How can you ‘restore’ what never existed?” is a pretty sharp needle that can be subtly applied, and slow leaks accumulate.

  10. chanson says:

    The question, “How can you ‘restore’ what never existed?” is a pretty sharp needle that can be subtly applied, and slow leaks accumulate.

    Very true.

    As far as “Ordain Women” is concerned, if you allow the simple obvious solution (the Mormon priesthood isn’t real) their problem becomes trivially easy to solve. But that’s not a solution that they’re willing to accept.

  11. Pierre says:

    Agree completely, so I’m just suggesting a way that engages their frames of reference (including at least nods toward ecclesiastical and theological history) and can produce dialogue and not confrontation, howsoever satisfying and justified the latter might be. Ultimately, given the amount of slippery-slope wordplay we’re already witnessing on the LDS website, I would not be surprised to see some artful application of the “priesthood of all believers” doctrine before long. But the pressure must continue by all means possible.

  12. chanson says:

    Ultimately, given the amount of slippery-slope wordplay we’re already witnessing on the LDS website, I would not be surprised to see some artful application of the “priesthood of all believers” doctrine before long.

    Do you think so?

    I agree that the website’s doctrinal pronouncements are increasingly slippery. However, I think they’re pretty intent on maintaining the claim that only The Churchâ„¢ can grant you The Priesthoodâ„¢ (which is the only way to really have the saving ordinances you need for eternal happiness with your eternal family).

    This doctrine is no more reasonable than all the stuff they’re willing to dump (as “folk doctrine”), but they need to hang onto their claim to unique authority. It’s their bread-and-butter; their value-added.

    If all believers have the priesthood, then why give your time and money to the corporation of the CoJCoL-dS?

  13. Pierre says:

    To me, the slippery-est lines I’ve seen on that site, which I’ve not labored over, are these:

    “Jesus Christ is central to the lives of Church members. They seek to follow His example by being baptized (see Matthew 3:13-17), praying in His holy name (see Matthew 6:9-13), partaking of the sacrament (see Luke 22:19-20), doing good to others (see Acts 10:38) and bearing witness of Him through both word and deed (see James 2:26). The only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.”

    Really? Grew up in the church and never heard it put like that before.

    Half the Protestants in the country would probably have little to balk at in that paragraph. Brigham Young and Joseph Fielding Smith, on the other hand, would be shaking that box, waiting for the good stuff to come out and be getting very, very impatient!!

    Anodyne? Mormon pabulum? Room-temperature Jell-O? If Jesus is the Answer, where does priesthood come in?

    I just did a search on that Mormonism 101 item, and “priesthood” was mentioned five times in almost 4,000 words addressing the question, “What Are the Core Beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The only references are to groups denied the priesthood, women and blacks. “Core Beliefs”? Really? Are they just not talking about that so much to the gentiles? Do people get excited when someone at the door tells them the priesthood’s been restored?
    “Oh, I’m so happy—I’ve been looking for it everywhere!”

    And would members continue to write checks? Probably, and for the same reason that a whole lot of other churches’ members write lots of checks—because they like that organization and want to support it. And the LDS might even do pretty well, once they dropped the franchise’s historical proprietary restrictions. And other people might like the place more once the
    “Renovation in Progress, Pardon our dust” sign comes down. Who knows?

    I think they’re headed that way “with all deliberate speed.” I think you’re right in a previous comment that they plan a leadership role in the conservative movement–last time I checked, there’s a pile of money available there.

  14. Alan says:

    I think we’re still several generations off on the questions of ordained women and girls, and same-gender relationships. The “priesthood isn’t real” argument seems similar to the route that some people took in regards to same-sex marriage: “Why have the government recognize anyone’s marriage?” Historically, it seems logical, and it immediately diffuses the issues, but at the same time is not the fastest route to resolution because a whole host of other issues arise. Like, without the priesthood, how would the Church organize itself?

  15. Pierre says:

    From a Judeo-Christian history standpoint, they could simply fall back on the traditional divide between Priest and Prophet, allowing the church to continue to be headed by a “Prophet” supported by a “priesthood” organization regardless of who holds that priesthood; after all, Smith tried different ways, including a lineal prophetic leadership calling and a charismatic prophetic calling supported by a priesthood-focused organization; after all, they would say, there was a prophet before there was a church to be organized, before the priesthood was “restored.” The church claimed to be organized by prophecy, not priesthood.

    I suspect they’ll follow something like you suggested, maybe moving from a “separate but [un]equal”/”civil union” approach before eventually lapsing into full participation by all “believers” not in the “Gospel” but in Christ.

    For support on that point, consider that in that same Mormonism 101 essay, the word “Gospel” is used two times. From earlier LDS rhetoric, an outsider might be forgiven for thinking the name of the church was “Church of the Gospel of Latter-Day Saints.” “Heavenly Father” is used twice, and apart from the name of the church (14 times), “Christ” and “Christ’s” are used 25 times. Does that suggest some slippage of the polar ice cap? Could be. CIA used that and other kinds of linguistic analysis in their Kremlinology, a target less opaque than COB. “Cobology”? Hmm.

  16. Alan says:

    Smith tried different ways, including a lineal prophetic leadership calling and a charismatic prophetic calling supported by a priesthood-focused organization

    Haha, this reminds me of Jana Riess’ essay on her “Pope envy,” to which a number of Mormons admitted that Francis has a lot more charisma than Monson … and not just charisma, but (not Reiss’ words, but a commenter):

    The general problem with the leadership of the LDS church continues to be an overabundance of retired CEO’s, CPAs, MBAs, marketers and attorneys.

    which affects factors like spontaneity, simplicity and closeness to people. (Not that Francis got there totally by charisma….)

    Mormons are too used to mediocrity of their leaders, but then you could go the other direction toward the megachurches where charisma is everything, and folks turn a blind eye to the million-dollar mansions and personal helicopters.

  17. Pierre says:

    Perfect, Alan. Excellent points about both sides of the American religious landscape. Bureaucratic dullness vs. charismatic excess. Maybe that’s part of Francis’ appeal; charismatic without personal excess and pretense but, as you point out, that’s not how he got there.

    My father had a friend of legendary wealth and power in the Pacific before and after WWII, whom he took him to Salt Lake to introduce to the Brethren. The friend, whose wife was LDS, came away underwhelmed, observing something like, “Someone should teach them about style commensurate with status.”

    But, you know it wasn’t always lack of “spontaneity, simplicity and closeness to people.” I can remember as a child going into the old COB, that small, dignified neo-classical building just off Main Street Plaza past the old Hotel Utah, and the receptionist calling up the requested party, who often would come to the lobby to greet us with big hugs! It was probably like the White House back in Lincoln’s time, but without the spittoons.

    Even into the 60s, some of that air was maintained. I just dug this out of my files: I’d uncovered an atrocious situation at BYU and took the evidence to SLC.

    “ . . . . pressure from exposure became great enough. The next day, we went to Salt Lake and tried to see Hugh B. Brown [old family friend] who was busy all day [had it been my parents, he would have been less busy, I’m sure]. Finally, after trying to see Earl Hawks [another old family friend], we went back to the [old] church office building and saw Brother Monson in the hall and stopped him to see if he had time. He did, and we explained to him in his office what we had found. He was very disturbed at the revelation, and called Paul Dunn in to hear it also . . . . I gave him the pictures and we left. We were tremendously impressed by Brother Monson [I did not know him]. He is a large man, larger than I had anticipated and has a radiant person. He came out of the elevator, saw us, and beamed out a greeting, to which I responded by interception. We were most warmly invited into his office and listened to respectfully and attentively, for which we were grateful. We left his office deeply affected both by the man and his calling. He acted and bore himself precisely as we thought an Apostle should [and we knew a number of them]. He was hearty and warm without being jolly or light-minded and treated us as though we were the most important people he knew at that time, and our problem was the most important thing he could think of at the time.”

    There were some charming virtues to provinciality. That’s gone with the tumbleweeds somewhere into the neighborhood of the old Coalville Tabernacle. I think that gracious old building is now the “Church Administration Building.”

    But on the point of changes in the church, I think it’s instructive to think of the old Soviet Union when Gorbachev arrived with his “perestroika” and “glasnost.” It’s also instructive to read Tocqueville’s Old Regime and the Revolution, which is not only a superb read but sheds light on societal change in general. The church is unintentionally but ineluctably following the outlined steps. I wonder if they know it.

  18. Alan says:

    “Someone should teach them about style commensurate with status.”


    There were some charming virtues to provinciality.

    You know, the 1960s is when the Church turned its eye outside the borders of the US, when it really began to start functioning as an international corporation. Local leaders could continue to be provincial, but the top leaders had to shed that sentimentality, and the culture of bureaucracy took hold. It’s partly an American culture thing (Francis being Argentinian is notable), but it’s also an economic thing… to include the suburbanization / compartmentalization of American families. And the Church daftly latched onto this change and made it into an eternal principle…. where the “family” is less an eternal construct, than a reflection of 1960s/70s white America. When that gets bureaucratized, you stop seeing people as people, but instead how they fit (and if not, how to make them fit) as individualized puzzle pieces in a supposedly “global family” underpinned by numbers and speculative investments.

    I don’t quite follow how you’re thinking of Tocqueville vis-a-vis Mormonism….?

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