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Seeing the Mormonism/Apple Analogy AGAIN

April 24, 2012

I’ve analogized between the LDS Church and technology firms at least a couple of times, once by comparing Mormons to webOS fans, but then once in response to a series of posts that analogized Mormonism to Linux. Today, I read an article that again made the comparison between Mormonism and Apple…although the main point of the article was to discuss what LGBT people could expect from a Mitt Romney presidency. (I’ll get to that later in this post.) From that article:

…Mormonism is like the world of Apple products: a walled garden within which everything is designed to work seamlessly together. That’s fine, if you’re content to stay inside and accept doctrine, worldview, life choices and culture dictated by others. Mormonism relentlessly stresses obedience to leaders; even the kids are taught songs about it.

But people and issues that don’t fit the design of the garden are not well-tolerated, nor is public disagreement with church leaders. And no other religion has a theology so focused on sex as Mormonism…

As far as the church and correlation are concerned, this is probably somewhat accurate. However, since I’ve been thinking so often about the fringes — uncorrelated, unorthodox, liberal, whatever Mormons — I wonder how “fringey Mormonism” would fit into the framework.

Perhaps we could say that in general, the church is cultivating a “walled garden,” but just like Apple’s walled garden, there are those who will not be stopped. They tinker, they hack, they jailbreak, and they turn their various Apple products into things that are uniquely their own.

Sometimes, they cross some line, drawing Apple’s ire and some sort of legal action. Perhaps we could compare that to church disciplinary action? And just as with Apple, the church has periods of time when it is more active with taking disciplinary action, and other periods when it looks away from many things.

But there are also those who remain under the radar, and thus continue to live outside of the walled garden without problem.

Anyway, to get back on the topic of the article, Mormonism and its position on gay people, there was a part I particularly liked (HT Chino Blanco for pulling this quote for his reddit link):

To their credit, I’ve heard a few local Mormon leaders concede that the church has no answers for its gay members. They are correct. But senior Mormon leaders cling to their 19th-century gender role theology, which has no place for the very concept of homosexuality.

Interestingly, I think that even this part can be analogized to Apple. Whenever Apple would make a design decision, Steve Jobs or whomever would be unapologetic about his conviction in the rightness of that design decision.  It would always be the one best way. Why? Because Apple said so. So, when the iPhone lacked multitasking and a stylus, Steve Jobs went on record as saying:

It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager… they blew it. Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it.

I doubt that Apple will release an iPad with a stylus any time soon (although clearly, there are interesting applications with styli and it might decide, in the future, to “change everything”) but when Apple introduced multitasking in iOS, it introduced something that looked suspiciously like a task manager.

iOS multitasking bar

Moving back to the topic on hand, I think that there is a tension. Because people certainly have different positions on the issue. As far as the current LDS leadership is concerned, to say that the church doesn’t have answers for gay members isn’t really controversial. To say that, in spite of not having answers, they still assert gender role theology is not really controversial either.

…but I mean…as Mormonism has been in the news for the hot button issues of the past recently (e.g., race), this has become a trend. The church admits it doesn’t know one thing, but in its admission of ignorance, there is still another position supported.

So, take the race thing. The church “doesn’t know” how the ban arose, and it rejects all the folk explanations that people have developed…but it doesn’t really reject and renounce the ban itself — presumably because the church doesn’t want to open itself up to the thorny issues that relate to revelation, whether leaders of the church can lead it astray, etc.,

And here with the homosexuality thing. The church doesn’t know where homosexuality comes from, or what causes it. They now acknowledge that it might not change in this life. But that doesn’t stop them from knowing that celibacy is the only right answer.

Alan has addressed the pertinent issues over at Main Street Plaza today:

…It’s conceivable that single gay Mormons (in their 20s, 30s, 40s) are returning to church in greater numbers.  This “invitation” was already put forward in a 2007 Ensign article when apostle Jeffrey Holland said, “You’re gay.  And?”

But non-celibate gay Mormons…wouldn’t they would face immediate disciplinary councils and be excommunicated?  What would happen if I, for example, went to back to church and let my local bishop know I’m still on the official roster?  After a few questions, wouldn’t he be required to begin the excommunication process?

Me:  “You said you want me here, and the first thing you do is excommunicate me?!  Rude.”

Currently, non-celibate never-been-Mormon gays are “welcome” to attend, assuming they’re okay with remaining unbaptized, which I doubt there are many people out there with that mindset…

I’ve seen members approach things from different ways…some members approach it in a hopeful way, and I am heartened by their hope. For these members, it wouldn’t be too difficult for the church’s position to soften. On the least extreme end, perhaps the church could treat gay relationships (especially marriages) similarly to how it treats any non-temple marriage. The church isn’t all that fond of non-temple marriages to non-members — those aren’t the “ideal,” as so many members also like to say about gay marriages with respect to straight marriages…but it doesn’t loosen its standards on the temple (nor feel pressure) for that. But neither does it excommunicate those who enter those relationships. So, it could have a position like that for gay relationships — it’s not supporting it or deeming it worthy of the temple, but the policy changes so that is no longer an actionable offense. That resolves Alan’s major points here.

And on the more extreme end of that progressive kind of change, some people suggest that the spirit of what the church teaches about relationships could easily be tooled to apply for gay relationships. I mean, what is the spirit of the modern LDS church’s teachings on relationships and marriage? It’s not about heterosexuality so much as it is about commitment, fidelity, and (in the modern church) monogamy. The progressive Mormon would argue that not only are those values not restricted to straight people and relationships, but that by not sharing these values with all members, the church is doing a great disservice to its LGBT members.

So, those kinds of ideas are gladdening. I can’t know if they will actually come to pass, but what makes me glad is the fact that some people think that Mormonism could bear these changes and stay Mormon.

…but with that being said, other members approach the same issue in a more fatalistic way. For these other members, changing the church’s position would need a drastic upheaval of Mormon theology and doctrine. For these people, heterosexual relationships are part of the spirit of Mormon teachings. To accept gay and lesbian relationships would mean giving up something essential to Mormon theology.

Why that position ultimately saddens me is because if it is true, then it means that not only will Mormonism not have a compelling value proposition for gay people, but it probably never will.

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2 Comments
  1. jewelfox permalink

    By “folk explanations that people have developed” I’m sure you mean “official and semi-official teachings of the LDS church which were widely promulgated and have never been denounced.”

  2. Indeed, but with correlation, the latter becomes the former. Even general authorities can become mere “people.”

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