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

September 7, 2014

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.

Thirdly, and as a side note, I want to say that I was able to derive a bit of Black Humor (pun fully intended) from this. See, Mormonism has huge race issues because of racist doctrine/folklore that claims that black people exist because we were not as valiant in the pre-mortal existence. As it goes, being lukewarm in pre-existence = being black in mortality. (And because the pre-mortal existence is unique to Mormonism, this racist folk doctrine is not one we can just blame on the Baptists or whomever.)

But, if we take LDS Anarchist’s article seriously, then the conclusion to draw is that women are even worse, because of the third part of heaven that went against God and Jesus, we are to believe that all of them were women. (To be fair, all of the women currently living or who have ever lived were not part of that third, because the third who rebelled didn’t get bodies. But it seems that Anarchist is using traits he has associated with women from *mortality* back onto women’s pre-mortal spirits, so the criticism probably still holds.)

But, as I said, this is a side note. It’s not what I wanted to talk about.

One thing I wanted to talk about, with Poe’s Law, was that the problem with pretending to be something terrible (without giving any sign to the contrary) is that if it is indistinguishable from the real thing (which is the premise of Poe’s Law), it still lends support to the real thing. In related concerns, this is the basic issue with ironic racism, sexism, and so forth…just trying to be ironic about it still lends support to the real thing. I want to emphasize this. I don’t buy that this is a satirical post (as others have claimed that it so obviously is), but even if it is, what the hell is the point?

No, the main thing I wanted to talk about is the very idea of going through an exercise like this. Anarchist, for some reason, has been thinking about the personalities of men and women, and seeing how he can develop a theology (or more particularly, Mormon theology) from various axioms and conjectures. I don’t know if he is doing this as a purely intellectual and completely impersonal matter, and I don’t think he is doing it just to rile people up or just to troll. I don’t have any reason to believe that he does not sincerely believe in the work that he is doing.

So, through this exercise, he seems to be creating this elaborate theology upon the sinfulness of women, based on supposed traits of women. (Women love alpha males, and if you look at Lucifer’s plan vs Jesus’s…well, Lucifer is clearly more of the alpha male.)

I don’t understand this. Why does anyone feel the need to do this?

Or, let me ask it in a different way. Why does anyone feel the need to do this when one possible alternative is to develop a theology that affirms women? A theology that is based upon the strengths of women (however one wishes to define such).

Maybe it’s because I am not actually a sexist, and not actually a racist, and not actually a believer in the folklores and doctrines as they have been passed to me, but I do not see the pressing urge to defend and create elaborate theologies behind belief structures that essentially insult classes of people. I don’t see the reason to try to justify LDS past policies against black folks. I don’t feel a reason to justify that God felt that way, and then to justify why God felt that way. Because instead, my feeling is that if God exists, he either doesn’t feel that way or he is not worth my time

I feel that, if theology is the work of constructing Rube Goldberg Machines (to quote Adam Miller) — a work of often overwrought creativity performed with building blocks that don’t really fit together — then can’t we choose better to what creative ends we employ our building blocks? I can’t find who wrote this first (I thought it was a Miller quote, but I can’t find it), but I read someone write once that theology for Mormons isn’t what Mormons must believe, but what Mormons may or can believe…if this is true, why do we have all of these long and involved theological discussions on why women are bad, why the status quo on the Priesthood is right, why LGBT folks are misguided, etc.,?

Maybe I’ve just thoroughly drunk the liberal progressive Kool-aid, but my questions remain:

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

Why can’t we have an LGBT-affirming theology?

Do we not have the building blocks? Is Mormonism so encumbered with racism or sexism or heteronormativity that it is not possible to build up a credible Mormon feminism? A credible Mormon acceptance of LGBT?

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17 Comments
  1. Hedgehog permalink

    Well I missed that one, probably just as well.

    Of course, some of us women don’t find the typical alpha male even remotely attractive, heterosexuality notwithstanding…

  2. I can say from experience that his ideas are sincerely well thought-out and logical — but often begin with one, key assumption that must be granted as true before the rest of it can be accepted.

    The post in question, for example, hinges on: (a) Satan being the primo/quintessential “alpha male” and (b) all females being “by nature” attracted to alpha males. Those two points are extremely debatable in their own right — yet the rest of what followed hinged on those things being true. It’s very axiomatic, as you’d said in the OP.

    As to the topic of why we can’t have woman-affirming LDS theology — I think it’s because Mormons have enshrined the ideas about gender and the gender roles that existed in the late 19th century. We’re stuck with a theology that was birthed in that time-and-place. That’s the “scaffolding” upon which anything “Mormon” must begin its construction.

    LDS have also immortalized the simple binary model of gender from that time-period and have given it a key role in the gospel — so even now, when it’s become obvious that it’s more complex than that — “progressive”/”feminist” Mormons will still be stuck trying to figure out how Mormonism can be true in spite of that fact.

  3. Hedgehog,

    sorry for raising this to your attention, now, haha. Or hopefully it’s been defused enough.

    Justin,

    Although much mainstream thought in the church (and even very non-mainstream thought, as from Anarchist) would incline me to agree with you on your last two paragraphs, I still wonder if it’s not possible to move beyond. I mean, as a practical concern, I would suppose that more people who disagree with those ideas about gender and gender roles leave rather than becoming liberal/progressive Mormons, but I still don’t know if this is because of the accident of how the church happens to be today…or if it’s because of the substance of what Mormonism actually is.

  4. I don’t think that it has to be this way, but I think that moving from current Mormon practice to one that is more inclusive is not likely, given the men currently in line to be prophets. The system that chooses who becomes leaders, who then choose new leaders, doesn’t make it easy for me to have as much hope for change as I once did. It is a function of having a all of the positions of power be exclusively in male hands, that make the path of least resistance, the one that makes sweeping generalizations about those who are assumed to never have access to spiritual power without them.

    Justin, I didn’t read the post, since I have enough reading this term without adding more to it, but I can imagine something written with those two premises, but it is beyond me how either one could be a premise that someone takes for granted, never mind both as “facts” to start from. Maybe that is why I do well in philosophy, but get exasperated with philosophers who never seem to admit that their philosophies are not built on perfect strengths.

  5. but I still don’t know if this is because of the accident of how the church happens to be today…or if it’s because of the substance of what Mormonism actually is.

    What Mormonism “actually is” to me is a declaration of what God has literally said to human-beings in this present day. So when God said something to the 1830’s crowd — He said it in 1830’s terms.

    And so, what’s wrong with things in the church [for me] is that they’ve switched from that to the whole “re-telling” path that led to the so-called “Great Apostasy”, where the passing generations just regurgitate the stories and sayings of God that the previous crowd had received [but where no one is receiving anything new for themselves anymore]. That’s stagnant, and Mormonism needs to be an open-stream where the following generation learns new things and does things in new ways, expedient to their own conditions and circumstances.

    But we can “re-invent” Mormonism within the confines and the context of what Mormonism was/is according to the 1830’s-crowd. For Mormonism to be a new-thing [but still remain “Mormonism”], it would need to be a new revelation, seeking God’s will like Joseph Smith sought it. If not, then it’s just taking the sexist/racist 1830’s Mormonism and putting our own modern, human spin on it.

    • Sorry — the first sentence of that last paragraph should read:

      But we can’t “re-invent” Mormonism within the confines and the context of what Mormonism was/is according to the 1830’s-crowd.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Mormonism was never premised on a new revelation, but merely a restoration of an old revelation.

      • How did that “restoration of an old revelation” take place? Was it perhaps by a “new revelation”?

      • Seth R. permalink

        Point being – we’re not supposed to expect new content. Merely old content restored.

        It’s also worth pointing out that Joseph Smith proposed to restore the administration of the saving ordinances. He made it clear that it wasn’t a restoration of all truth – which the saints were supposed to go out into the world and collect.

        • “Point being – we’re not supposed to expect new content. Merely old content restored.”

          Um, no. It was to be a combination of old and new. If I had the quotes handy, I’d give them to you.

  6. Julia,

    While I think there’s probably a lot to that, I think that is pretty sad, given that one of the big sells of Mormonism over many other religious traditions is supposed to be continuing revelation. I mean, I could just be speaking from a thoroughly secularized liberal/progressive perspective

    Justin,

    It seems to me though that if leadership isn’t talking about God saying anything different in 2014, then many members will take what God said in 1830 (or whichever year is relevant) to be what God is continuing to say in 2014. Basically, there is a critical assumption that divides the faithful from the faithless as to whether or not what is happening is regurgitation or perpetual reconfirmation of the status quo.

  7. Seth R. permalink

    I think this runs directly contrary to our Eve theology, to be honest.

    My own take on Satan was that he was essentially the first religious fundamentalist. A self-righteous control freak who felt that his own need for being right and everything around him sterile and tidy outweighed all other considerations.

    Thus his desire to eliminate the possibility for free choice and uncertain outcomes. Religious fundamentalism is always interested in eliminating uncertainty and chance. All outcomes must be predetermined, and self-confidence in one’s own superior/pure/justified state must be absolute. Death and pain are also considered to be filthy and intolerable. Human weakness is equally intolerable.

    But the reality of life is that it doesn’t exist without death. Growth does not exist without pain. And the female reality is highly tied to this. It is a reality intrinsically bound up with blood, growth, pain, nurture of that which is weak that it may become strong, and the hurts in life that cannot be helped. Eve deliberately chose this path as a woman. Adam just went along with her after the fact.

    To Lucifer, nothing could be more detestable than the female reality that Eve chose. He hates blood, he hates weakness, he hates pain, he hates uncertain outcomes, he hates choice. He despised Eve for her choice, even as he lured her into it, feeling that the “wretched woman” deserved it.

    Fundamentalism and the self-centered pride that always accompanies it was at the heart of Lucifer’s rebellion, and you can find pious, self-righteous, intolerant control-freaks among both men and women.

  8. Wow.. we have come along way when it comes to women’s rights, from Brigham Young claiming that women did not have the spiritual capacity to rise as high or fall as low as men…ie, women cannot become “daughters of perdition” like men can become “sons of perdition”, to the anarchist claiming that ALL Satan’s followers were women. LOL I don’t know if women should feel liberated and empowered or simply offended by the revealing of this mystery that the anarchist has shared with us.

    At any rate, I am here to come to the defense of the anarchist, as a long time reader of his.

    First of all, I don’t think it was meant as satire, although he would be wise to claim it was, based on the comments that some of his readers have made.

    Secondly, I don’t think it is a case of “Schrodinger’s Asshole”, although the anarchist, like most popular bloggers is not above creating a little controversy and drama to get a little attention and a jump in page views, (and I am delighted also to become familiar with the term since it applies to so many bloggers, perhaps myself included)

    My best guess is that it is simply a case of “temporary insanity” which will be resolved with the passing of time and processing the feedback he is getting from his readers responding to his pontification.

  9. LOL, Watcher. Thanks for coming to my defense. I suppose that most who read my writings think that I’m insane, so as I’ve been blogging since October 2007, I don’t think that “temporary” applies any more. 😉 FWIW, since I published that post, I got a large jump in the number of blog subscriptions, so maybe I didn’t offend as many people as one would think. Plus, only 9 people posted comments, although hundreds saw (and presumably) read the post. But I got linked from exmo sites, so I’m not sure whether these comments were from believers. Lastly, I didn’t post to get a jump in page views, though I did pick the topic carefully so that the blog would come back to life somewhat, after being stagnant for months.

    Oh, yeah, and no, it wasn’t satire.

    Finally, and this is for Andrew, I noticed a large number of links from Facebook, but the blog won’t let me look at the page they came from. So I suppose that must be the fMh group you wrote about, and I suppose it is a private or closed group, which is why I couldn’t access it. I would love to read some of the stuff they were saying there, but alas!, I can’t.

    • That is absolutely fascinating that you got a jump in subscriptions!

  10. Anarchist,

    Unfortunately, Facebook is pretty wretched at letting people scout out when they’ve been linked to (and where).

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