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Decoupling the Status Quo from Eternal Doctrine

Over at Wheat & Tares, Hawkgrrrl has a great post following up on an earlier one she wrote about the strange bedfellows of the LDS Church. The basic idea is this: as the church has entered into several political initiatives, it has become allies with organizations that it should seem to be enemies of. For example, most notably, Mormons worked with evangelicals and Catholics against gay marriage during Prop 8, even though there’s lots of stuff running through Mormon history suggesting that the Catholic Church is the “great and abominable church,” the church of the devil, the whore of babylon or something like that, and evangelicals are probably better known to Mormons as the people who have explicitly targeted the LDS church in their countercult efforts.

However, in the post Hawkgrrrl also describes LDS cultural or political efforts to support causes she believes are inessential or incompatible with Mormonism. As she wrote of the pitfalls of these alliances:

  • Introduction of False Doctrine.    What’s worse than others misunderstanding us?  Our own people conflating our doctrines with those of our political allies.  For example, do some members begin to think that we have a different or stronger stance on issues because our associates do?  Do they think we are young earth creationists, that we scoff at science, that we are biblical literalists, that we believe women should be subjects to their husbands?  Or perhaps more insidiously, do we just downplay our unique doctrines to fit in?  Do we pretend there is no Heavenly Mother or that we don’t believe we are God’s literal offspring with divine potential?

However, my issue was that I was a bit incredulous at Hawkgrrrl’s questions. Hawkgrrrl asks: “Do [some members] think [Mormons]…scoff at science?”

…well…don’t Mormons scoff at science?

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All the single ladies (and men)…the Mormon church is not “for” you

After my previous post asking why we can’t have a pro-women Mormon theology, I read and commented on a post by Hawkgrrrl contrasting a church of duty with a consumer church. My comment was as follows:

I’m not exactly driven to go to church, but it’s not because there aren’t rock concerts or small prayer groups. It’s because on any given Sunday, it will probably be boring and utterly irrelevant to my life circumstances punctuated with moments of absolute offensiveness.

I think there is conceivably a value to learning how to hear offensive things without even blinking…learning how to regulate internal blood temperature, as it were…but then i realize that baffling things happen in life without seeking it out in a church.

My thoughts really are that, for some folks, the LDS church experience can be very relevant and interesting to their lives. I mean, when it comes to building white picket fence families with husband, wife, and 2.5 kids (ok, let’s be real…there will be more kids), LDS church teachings are admirable. But when someone doesn’t fit that mold in any of a number of ways.

Over at By Common Consent is a guest post: Thoughts from a Mid-Single Mormon. And while I sympathize and hope that things can become more welcoming and inclusive, at the back of my mind is the thought:

This church simply isn’t for you.

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Why can’t we have woman-affirming Mormon theology?

This past week, I actually saw a post in my RSS feed titled “The brides of Satan.” i am not paraphrasing. I am not making this up. I actually saw a blog post where the blogger said:

Given the fact that Lucifer’s plan appealed specifically and directly to female spirits and their natures and did not appeal at all to male spirits and their natures, it is logical to assume that the 1/3 were all female.

I probably should have DoNotLink‘d to that post, because a sliver of me considers that the only reason someone would write a post like this is for pageviews. (FWIW, at this point, I am 97.333333% convinced that Matt Walsh is just writing for pageclicks, and that all of the liberal outrage shares/clicks are falling exactly into his trap. That is my gift of discernment.) 

I did not do that because for a variety of reasons, I happen to believe that LDS Anarchist is fully sincere in believing what he’s writing. I know I’ve gotten Anarchist confused with his coblogger Justin — a confusion that has cause plenty of laughs for everyone, I’m sure — but my impression of the entire LDS Anarchist blog is that these are sincere out-of-the-box doctrinal/theological investigations.

But let’s get back to me in bed, reviewing my RSS feed items. As soon as I saw this post, my gift of discernment clued me in on something — I knew that the fruits of this post would be that it would get posted to some liberal Mormon FB group, and it would cause a lot of drama. I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent the drama. The only thing I could do was hope that ground zero of said drama would not be the Mormon Hub.

Fortunately for me and the other Hub moderators, it was not. Instead, it was posted to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group, which was probably an even worse place it could go. And indeed, there was drama. So much drama. I don’t want to get into the drama, because it was so much.

I just want to say a few things.

Firstly, if this is satire, this is bad satire. In the sense that it is completely and 100% ineffective. I mean, maybe I’m just a stick in the mud, but I don’t see how this is satirizing anything. It is possible that this is the best example of Poe’s Law, but I’ll get on that in the future.

Secondly, probably the best thing that arose from this was that I learned the new term “Schrodinger’s Asshole.” I will keep that term saved for later.

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Is liberal faith and spirituality credibly Mormon?

A week ago, James Olson wrote a post at Times and Seasons summarizing many of the arguments for and against the treatment of women at the church. The purpose of this “dialectical mapping” was to align people with the most current iterations/rounds of the arguments, rather than having people repeat the points of rounds long since finished.

I think the most interesting thing that happened in this discussion was that very early on, there was pushback in the comments about James’s bias. In particular, several commenters believed that James weakly summarized the final responses of the nonfeminist side. Commenter SilverRain (among others) pointed out that the problem is that James’s entire endeavor to present the arguments intellectually misses that the sides don’t rely on the same premises. As she wrote:

The reason “AA” doesn’t have a great response to you is because you have set a battleground upon which she cannot win. Then, you assume that she has no ability to win.

In other words, participation in the Church is predicated upon faith in its basic principles (God the Father, Christ, the Spirit, personal revelation, God’s authority via the priesthood, the efficacy of priesthood ordinances, etc: ie. that the Church is true.) Without a testimony in those things, the “FF” arguments try to persuade on the battleground of intellect. But AA has no interest in fighting on that battleground. It doesn’t mean she CAN’T (after all, there are many people who do just that in apologetics, and they generally have good points even if you don’t accept them.) It means that she shouldn’t. That’s just not the battleground on which we have been asked to fight.

and, in a later comment:

One last thought: these kinds of posts illustrate quite effectively the major problems between the two schools of thought.

Those who believe in the Church’s claims of authority have really only one answer: I have searched, prayed, and received a testimony. You can, too.

But if someone is determined not to gain a testimony, or if they devalue spiritual sources of information, they will never receive that witness. These sorts of posts are like throwing a gauntlet into someone’s lap: prove it, or I won’t believe. By design, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church cannot be proven. It is intended to be unprovable. That is why it is faith.

Ultimately, their belief and lack thereof will rest only in their own laps. Those who believe are not called to convert, but to testify. Conversion is solely between the individual and the Spirit, and ultimately it will be to God an individual must answer. Judgment as to whether or not they have reached for knowledge from God in every way they can is up to God, temporarily those He has designated, and no one else. All we can do is shrug and say, “I don’t know why you haven’t felt it, but I have.”

That’s not a non-answer, it just isn’t the answer you want.

I believe that SilverRain was on to something, but I wanted to find out further. I for one do think that many progressive Mormon folks on the internet “intellectualize” issues far often, and so conservative answers that aren’t intellectualized don’t seem compelling.

However, I was not so sure about what I perceived to be implications of SilverRain’s comments. For example, I don’t think that liberal Mormons lack a testimony, or that support for, say, women’s ordination, cannot be grounded in faith and spirituality.

So I asked a few questions

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The Reason Why Only White Jesus Saves

After I wrote my article on the ideal of being White and Delightsome, one of my friends shared it on her wall, and one of her friends wrote the following:

Praise White Jesus!

To which I replied

White Jesus saves.

A Jesus of any other ethnicity probably would get himself killed by the powers that be. Oops

Obviously, there are many reasons why the portrayal of Jesus as a white guy is problematic — and not because he was killed by the powers that be. However, this Medium article: Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down got me thinking about the popular racialization of Jesus, particularly with its subtitle: “So instead, can someone just shoot Jesus Christ already?” and a particular paragraph: Read more…

Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

When I was growing up, my parents taught me never to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Although this is advice that seems innocuous enough to be applicable to anyone, I sometimes get the sense (as I alluded to in my previous post) that this advice is laden with special meaning for black and other minority youth. Still, this was neither a lesson that any parents would give nor just a lesson with subtle racial nuances. It was also a lesson born of goodly parents, a lesson reinforced by my Mormonism.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

-1 Thessalonians 5:22

Or, as filtered more recently through a Mormon context:

…The best counsel I ever received about staying away from the edge came when, as a young married man, President Harold B. Lee called me to be a member of a bishopric. He said, “From now on, you must not only avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil.” He did not interpret that counsel. That was left to my conscience…

-“On the Edge” (1997 New Era) and “Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon” (October 1995 General Conference), President James E. Faust, Second Counselor of the First Presidency

I know that LDS intellectuals typically want to point out that the basis for this interpretation is faulty…our modern understanding is based on linguistic shift, where “appearance” should mean something more like “kinds” (or, to put in another way, the scripture should read something closer to “Avoid evil wherever it appears.”

But I think this is one case where what is true (the linguistic origins or the actual meaning) is not useful.

Mormons certainly aren’t the only folks to suffer misinterpretations from using the King James Version of the Bible, but since Mormons do typically explicitly teach out this scripture as, “Not only avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil,” I’ll put this as a second item in a list of things I’m grateful for Mormonism for.
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A Glimpse of Becoming White and Delightsome

A long time ago when I still went to church and was a good, righteous Mormon, this elderly gentleman in the ward (who was apparently really concerned for the welfare and well-being of Africans, as I recall that he delivered several winding testimonies in Fast and Testimony meeting about the spreading of the gospel to the beautiful souls in Africa) came up to me and complimented me on how righteous I was.

He said that he was sure that in the afterlife, I would become white and delightsome.

When I tell people this story, they are often offended. Or flabbergasted. They might be sorry I had to experience that. They might be embarrassed.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t really offended, or flabbergasted, or sorry, or embarrassed at the time. I don’t think it even registered in me. I may have even recognized the intention of a compliment, and thanked him. If I felt awkward, it was because I often feel awkward being complimented in general, not because the compliment was perverse.

But you know, maybe that’s one good thing about Mormonism. It gives for me the Beatific Vision, which for a person like myself is the glimpse of becoming White and Delightsome.

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Infinite SurveyMonkey Theorem

Monkey at Typewriting

You probably have heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. The idea is that an infinite number of monkeys typing randomly at keys on a typewriter will eventually type a given text, such as all of Shakespeare’s works.

What about infinite SurveyMonkeys?

Unfortunately, there aren’t an infinite number of members of the church to fill out church surveys, and I think for a number of reasons, surveys like the church is running apparently to gain more insight onto attitudes about women (read: Ordain Women) probably won’t do anyway. But here’s the question:

Could a not-so-infinite number of SurveyMonkeys randomly picking at opinions eventually get a revelation on women’s ordination?

Ty Mansfield on Deconstructing Homosexuality (while preserving heterosexuality)

Ty MansfieldI have to be completely fair (pun not intended). I did not attend the 2014 FairMormon Conference. But I do not have complete notes of Ty Mansfield’s talk have seen the notes of Ty Mansfield’s article posted at FAIR’s website. All I have are summaries from news articles, like this article from DeseretNews titled “Terms important to same-sex discusion in LDS Church, Ty Mansfield says at FairMormon Conference“, and summaries from people who attended, like Rachel Whipple’s Thursday afternoon session coverage on Times and Seasons. And I am aware that news articles and summaries can’t capture the complete comments of a talk…that’s why they are summaries. So instead, they will highlight the juiciest points…the ones most likely to rustle someone’s jimmies.

Well, my jimmies are rustled.

I don’t know if this is the exact title, but from Rachel’s post, Ty Mansfield (famously known for living with same-sex attraction and being married to his wife, whom he loves [but totally not in a bisexual or even remotely heterosexual way, of course. {and certainly, in this narrative, demisexuality doesn’t exist.}]) spoke at the FairMormon conference on the subject: “Mormons can BE gay, they just can’t do gay”?: Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective.

But as far as I can tell…Mansfield isn’t deconstructing sexuality…he’s just deconstructing homosexuality while leaving heterosexuality intact. (Update: since I first wrote this post, I found a link to Ty’s full comments, and while I like the additional nuances within, it absolutely does seem that he is leaving heterosexuality intact.)
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But can apologetics of care override the facts?

At Faith Promoting Rumor, smallaxe has written an article discussing the apologetics of care. This is not the first article to discuss a move away from the traditional sort of apologetics, as Seth Payne presented on pastoral apologetics at FAIR’s 2013 conference. (I thought I recalled some posts at By Common Consent or Times and Seasons with a similar emphasis, but I can’t find them now.)

The pastoral/care view reframes disaffection away from the intellectual issues (after all, there are plenty of people who know all the “problem spots” of Mormonism and yet stay) by situating it onto the social. Disaffection is not so much about finding out that the church isn’t true as it is finding out that the church doesn’t fit. From smallaxe’s post:

An apologetics of care seeks to reconfigure the context that induces feelings such as frustration, fear, and anger. It does not seek to remove these feelings since they serve important moral functions (frustration can signal, for instance, the fact that something valuable cannot be tended to); rather it seeks to validate these feelings through a process of sympathy (discussed below). An apologetics of care recognizes that people are relational beings seeking concern, comfort, and communion often before seeking an answer to a question. It recognizes that answers to intellectual concerns, provided without tending to the relationships they invoke, all too often fail to recognize the reasons for anger and frustration. The question of Joseph’s polyandry, for instance, isn’t simply a question about how a prophet could marry a woman who is already married to someone else and still be a prophet; rather it is also tied to our relationships with church leaders (why haven’t the leaders of the church discussed this more openly?) and/or our relationship with our spouse (will I have to share my spouse with someone else in the eternities?), among others. An apologetics of care seeks to recognize the fact of vulnerability—the things we care about most, our relationships with others, are by nature vulnerable to other forces in the world, but they are also vulnerable to our changing beliefs. Care apologetics is apologetic in the sense of decreasing the need for frustration and anger by eliminating the space of fear and loneliness. It provides reasons for people to stay by recognizing vulnerability as shared—that we care when someone else hurts, even if we cannot fully understand their pain.

I like this approach. Even though I understand that many disaffected folks would disagree with me, I think that many instances of disaffection ultimately are not about “the facts” as much as they are about more emotional or personal considerations. For example, with issues of gender equality, LGBT issues, racial issues, and so on, it seems clearer to me to understand that these are issues in terms of the church’s engagement with people. These aren’t intellectual concerns (although one can certain place them in an intellectual framework. Where I’d go one step further is to say that even an issue with translation methods or historical recollection isn’t so much an issue with the fact as to say, a sense of betrayal. A sense that an institution that was viewed as ultimately trustworthy just doesn’t seem trustworthy anymore. How can one have faith — in a sense of faith as loyalty, when one doesn’t find the thing the faith was placed in to be worth being loyal to?

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