Sunday in Outer Blogness: Further Punishment Edition!
Perhaps you’ve heard about the latest smack-down by the CoJCoL-dS. Not satisfied with their earlier swipes at Ordain Women, the CoJCoL-dS has upped the ante by rewarding another women’s group that exists to criticize Ordain Women.
To take suggestions from people outside the church hierarchy or to take their arguments seriously threatens the belief that the right answers always come from the leaders. On the other hand, by behaving so wretchedly towards Ordain Women, the CoJCoL-dS makes it that much harder for anyone who sympathizes with Ordain Women to continue to hold the belief that the church is a source of good moral leadership.
Another round of faithful members is being thrown into a faith crisis, and — while some of them will find a way to hang on — a fair number of them will start asking hard questions and ultimately conclude that the CoJCoL-dS is the problem:
When the Church Public Affairs Department met with Mormon Women Stand (while refusing to even acknowledge other groups), it felt to me like a deliberate escalation of the conflict between Mormon feminists and the Church. It felt like a denial of the importance of the relationship. Mormon feminists are speaking. They are stating facts, giving their interpretation, and asking for a variety of requests (some more manageable than others). I have made myself vulnerable because I love this Church so much and I desperately want to preserve the relationship. The response, in this case, was a resounding, â€œThere isnâ€™t a problem.â€ That, to me, is a failure. Failure to listen, failure to engage in dialogue. Failure to hold the relationship close to the heart.
The plus side for the CoJCoL-dS is that — when this batch hits the exits — it will become that much easier to say “See? See the bitter fruits of apostasy?” and to paint Ordain Women as an outsider/apostate organization. And those members who judged Ordain Women will feel validated, which increases their emotional attachment to the CoJCoL-dS. It’s called polarization, and it has been the church’s go-to strategy for some time. (Case in point: There’s a new series of discussions being produced by Ordain Women, and faithful blogs are countering them.)
But maybe there’s a bit of a glitch with using that strategy in this case:
The spokespeople of the church are selling a dubious productâ€”submission and feminine agreementâ€”that is not palatable to an increasingly large number of concerned and thoughtful women whose public lives and responsibilities are ever-increasingly at odds with their expected demeanor at church. Dressing it up through proxy self-congratulatory language extolling the â€œtreasureâ€ of â€œbold womenâ€ who dare to publicly agree with the status quo and current authority is unconvincing. The problem of female alienation within the church is real.
I think their discredit-the-messenger strategy is likely to be less effective against a problem like this one where lots of people can’t help but notice that there really is a problem. And the polarization strategy becomes increasingly problematic the more people leave the church — because more faithful members are required to think ill of their own family members. In a podcast on Dallin Oaks’s “language of prayer” talk, the Mormon Expositor hosts talked about how such organizational strategies often evolve rather then being consciously-designed — and that would explain a lot in this case. If polarization were a deliberate/official strategy, then whoever is running things might do a better job of deciding when it’s time to knock it off, rather than just applying it continuously until there’s nobody gathered around the Mormon pole except the hardest-core fans.
Speaking of Dallin Oaks, he seems to be on a roll with giving talks that inspire people to think twice about the CoJCoL-dS. In his latest talk in New Zealand, he did such a top-notch job of making the church’s moral leadership look questionable, that they’ve decided to make a world-tour of it, with unsurprising results:
“I’ve been worried about the rising sea level that threatens my farmland,” 47-year-old Hans of Denmark said. “But last night the Brethren told us we should be up in arms over gay marriage. I don’t understand. Am I being selfish?”
So, how about that Old Testament? Walter van Beek analyzed the implications of an Old Testament story that actually has some archaeological corroboration. Steve Wells is enumerating all of the commandments in the Bible. Daniel found the romantic part. And Profet found a problem with the creation story’s math:
It is like saying it takes you 3 times longer to individually place 1 grain of sand than to individually place all the grains of sand on the entire planetâ€¦times 5.
My point is if you do the algebra it doesnâ€™t matter how long the creation periods are, it still doesnâ€™t make sense. It would absurd to insist otherwise.
His logic checks out — my only critique is that I think he’s really underestimating the non-literalists’ ability to weasel out of anything.
In food-for-thought, it turns out that your ideas about your own identity play a huge role in what you’re willing to believe and how you’re willing to behave. Maybe that’s why humans create god in their own image.
In life journeys, JohnnyM is on the second-to-last step of his. Joseph is learning to forgive himself for not being at peace. The black sheep is rising. And here‘s an interesting metaphor for where a lot of us are at:
If you left Mormonism and left the Mormon Corridor as well, it’s like you had a horrible communicable disease but recovered and now live among a population that is so highly inoculated that outbreaks are rare. If you left Mormonism but you’re stuck in the Mormon Corridor, it’s like you recovered from a horrible communicable disease but there’s always an epidemic. People are dropping dead all around you. And it’s your job to work in the hospital and care for those who are really sick but have a good chance of recovery.
It’s dirty work but someone has to do it.
In other random fun, Knotty is in France. A little girl is on her way to becoming a scientist. The Daily Currant reported on the best NDE ever! Runtu’s story is up to part 8. BiV has gotten to the best part of her 3rd-world eating week! And check out Dottie’s Big Adventure!
Weirdly, I’m almost looking forward to seeing what kind of shenanigans the CoJCoL-dS will pull next… Enjoy this week’s batch, and we’ll see what happens next!
the church tries to insist that members mustn’t think ill of people who leave–you can pity them, maybe, or consider them duped by Satan, but you can’t come right out and call them evil–unless, of course, they advocate something as utterly outrageous or abhorrent as giving women the priesthood. In that case, you can think and speak ill of them.
Some people will. Some people won’t, and some people will resent the church asking them to do it.
One of the arguments against Ordain Women is that overseas, the Church’s gender roles are sometimes more egalitarian than the local norm, so pushing too hard for a church-wide change is a mistake — because it couldn’t be realistically applied to other societies. So, the Church works with a kind of least-common-denominator global feminism.
But Oaks’ talk makes me think that exporting social issues generally is not something the Church is competent to do, in any respect. The Church didn’t intervene in gay marriage in Argentina, probably because of the “cultural difference,” but then they do intervene in New Zealand, perhaps presuming Anglos “understand each other.” The fact that the Church has grown at all outside US borders seems almost serendipitous….as if the growth drives the church’s definition of itself more than any kind of “prophetic insight” or leadership.
Meanwhile, Oaks seems to be following the path of Packer by becoming the new Mr. Grumpy who has the “nerve” to fight for the unpopular but “truthful” position, and the Church will have to stick with that least-common-denominator until at least his death.
When communication is mostly in-person and the proportion of people leaving is small, ostracizing apostates can be an effective way of preventing the spread of critical ideas. But with so many people leaving, the CoJCoL-dS is effectively giving many of its valued members an ultimatum — insisting that they choose the church over beloved family members. There are probably lots of members who were willing to ignore other issues, but who get that it’s not right for the church to make them make that choice.
I think that’s true. And given the age and cultural distance between the LDS leaders and much of their audience, the sets of things each group sees as a hard truth that we should have the moral courage to proclaim become increasingly disjoint. Donna Banta’s satire (highlighted above) really nails it.
The reactions to Oaks’ talk that the NZ blogger wrote about had something of the feel of the Swedish disenchantment a couple of years ago. Different topics and situations, of course, but it does illustrate how out of touch LDS authorities are, also that they don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes. (Or even acknowledging them.)
Thanks for another stat boosting shout out. Also for another thoughtful SiOB post.
Couple issues at work here:
(1) The history of the Church can be read as a history of a growing generational disjoint between the shepherds and the flock. Smith was in his 30s when he led the Church; the median age of the Twelve today is late-70s.
(2) Since the 1960s, growing cosmopolitanism has been met with a non-cosmopolitan leadership.
Really, I think the coherence of the Church is fueled by things like the global reach of Christianity/Jesus, and the fact that families led by men exist around the world. The leadership is just tagging along with the flock. At times, they comment on things like a troubling extended adulthood that leads women to not be subsumed early enough within a patriarchal regime (obviously, they don’t word it like this), or same-sex relationships that also disrupt the “God-ordained” structure, but I agree…true religious leaders of today should be talking about climate change and poverty.
I noticed in Otterson’s letter to Ordain Women that he specifically addressed this issue of apostle incompetence — stating that due to a lifetime of varied interactions with different kinds of human beings, the apostles are actually not out-of-touch robots, but are quite wise. Yet, given the content of his letter, Otterson’s judgment on the matter is a bit hard to trust.