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I Will Destroy Every Last Pretense of Mormonism as a Rational Faith Tradition

A Seer Stone

A Seer Stone

I have a great desire. An exceedingly great and precious promise. A pearl of such great price that it will become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (even as I am).

I will destroy it all. I will destroy every last pretense of Mormonism as a rational faith tradition. Read more…

Read This: “The Great Chasm”

Over at Wheat & Tares, Nate has written about The Great Chasm. What is the great chasm? As he describes:

My wife recently told me that she feels like there are two classes of people in the church: one class for whom the program works (couples happily married with children), and another class for whom the program has not worked (singles, gays, infertile couples, divorcees). Members in the first class dominate leadership positions and it from them that we hear the gospel preached. These leaders are sensitive to the fact that many have not been blessed with family and children and they take great pains to remind us that “no blessing will be withheld from us” in the next life if we are faithful. Unfortunately this phrase is cold comfort to many struggling to find their place in a family-idolising church. Human nature craves validation and fulfilment now, not after death. My bishop wonders why my infertile wife hangs out with older singles and divorcees rather than with the many other married women her age in the ward. In response, my wife says that she can’t really feel a connection with those for whom the program works. Their world views are simply too different. But she feels a natural kinship with older singles, gays, and divorcees. Indeed, in all the wards I’ve been in, trying to integrate these two groups of people has been a central concern for church leadership.

What I liked more than the recognition that there are definitely people for whom the “church program” does not work was the analysis that the church’s very rhetoric changes depending on the group. Nate also goes into this as follows:

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Orthodoxy as institutional imprimatur

Over the past few days, Alison Udall (whom you may know if you visit several of the popular Mormon Facebook groups…Mormon Stories Podcast Community, Mormon Hub, A Thoughtful Faith, etc.,) and I have discussed over Facebook about the new Mormon Spectrum website, of which she is a cofounder. I have written a post about this site at Wheat & Tares, and since it was getting too long (even for me), I decided to cut out an entire thread that I wanted to discuss:

Mormon Spectrum

Many people have complained about Mormon Spectrum for having an idiosyncratic method of classifying websites and blogs. In particular, the orthodox Mormon section only includes official LDS church materials — meaning that any blog, no matter how conservative, no matter how faithful, is relegated to the Exploring, Unorthodox, or Post/exmormon section. (So this produces interesting outcomes…Millennial Star is right next to Main Street Plaza in one of the sections…Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought is right next to the CES Letter in ex-Mormon resources.)

In my conversation with Alison, she gave an answer that suggested this was built into her typology:

ALISON: …We settled on the following areas along the spectrum: orthodox (someone ONLY aware of official church correlated material and unaware and unwilling to trust anything outside of that), exploring (someone becoming aware of material outside of the official correlated stuff and starting to navigate their way through that), unorthodox (well aware of issues and continuing to affiliate with the church in a variety of ways) and post & ex Mormon.

This statement seemed the boldest of everything she had said, and I pushed back. How could orthodoxy only be official church correlated materials? Did that mean that no blog, no matter how conservative, could not be orthodox because it did not have institutional imprimatur? Was Alison suggesting that orthodoxy was more about right affiliation than right belief? When I pushed back again her statement, Alison defended her position:

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Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and the Progressive Exmormon Plan of Happiness

Now that it’s been a year since Kate Kelly’s excommunication, she has written an op ed for the Salt Lake Tribune discussing her change in thoughts since then. To summarize:

When I was excommunicated from the Mormon church just over a year ago, I was widely quoted as saying, “Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.” Many felt that asking women to stay in a church that doesn’t value them as equals was confusing and dangerous. While probably true, at the time I was torn. I didn’t want them to succeed in forcing us out of a space we had fought so hard to claim.

I wish now to amend my original advice: If the church does not “spark joy” in you, leave with your head held high.

Similar statements have been made by major (excommunicated) players of the online progressive Mormon spaces, such as John Dehlin. The basic idea is this: if you can make things work, then stay. But if you can’t, then leaving is OK too.

This seems to be a very balanced approach. Yet, as this tumblr post points out, what at first seems to be balanced can be read in a much more one-sided way.

…If you want to stay, that’s fine with us. We’re the LAST people in the whole world who would want to make you choose one way or another. If we’re being totally honest, it is a little weird to us that you would want to participate in such an irredeemably ugly and oppressive organization. But it’s your choice, and we fully support that. Making choices for yourself is super healthy, and we would never stand in the way of the choice to stay in a male-dominated sexist gulag like the Mormon Church, however puzzling it might be to us.

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Proving out scripture: How Mormons Became White and Delightsome

Religion of a Different ColorEvery so often, I’ve seen an article or review or Q&A that references Paul Reeve’s book “Religion of a Different Color.” To be totally frank, I have not read the book and up until very recently, the various posts discussing the book haven’t really interested me in it. The talk about Mormons as being seen as racially compromised seems just…too disconnected from present reality. I have felt that by focusing on this past, this would somehow distract from talking about how the whiteness of modern Mormonism pervades today.

Paul wrote an article on the Oxford University Press’s blog answering the question: “Are there black Mormons?”, and that got me rethinking about the subject.

As he discusses the history:

The irony lies in the historical evolution of that public perception. Black Saints were among the first to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and have been a part of the Mormon experience from its beginnings. The first documented black person to join this American-born faith was Black Pete, a former slave who was baptized in 1830, when the fledgling movement was less than a year old. Other blacks trickled in over the course of the nineteenth century and are woven into the Mormon story. At least two black men were ordained to the faith’s highest priesthood in its first two decades.

Mormons were so inclusive in the nineteenth century that accusations from the outside tended to focus on the perception that they welcomed everyone. In an American culture that favored the segregation and exclusion of marginalized groups, the Mormons stood out. The allegations leveled against them included that they had “opened an asylum for rogues and vagabonds and free blacks,” that they embraced “all nations and colors,” that they maintained “communion with the Indians,” and that their missionaries “walk[ed] out” with “colored women.” The perception was that they welcomed “all classes and characters,” received “aliens by birth,” and integrated people from “different parts of the world” into their communities and congregations.

As I read this, I think about what could have been. The LDS church could have been so different. It could have stayed inclusive. It could have stayed radical and prophetic.

But as we all know, it didn’t.

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RIP even to BKP…


Saying that President Boyd K. Packer is probably not most disaffected Mormons’ (especially for disaffected gay Mormons) favorite general authority would be an immense understatement. In fact, Packer probably would go down as many people’s least favorites due to his talks and comments on homosexuality. (Although to be fair, it’s not like he’s alone, and it’s not like he’s the only general authority disliked for it.)

I don’t really have many comments on him, except just to wonder…why?

I understand intellectually that many people can feel strongly that homosexuality is wrong, and I understand further that being in a socially conservative, heteronormative religious tradition like Mormonism certainly should increase the likelihood that one feels that strongly.

At the same time…I don’t get it.  Read more…

On the differences between Christian marriages and secular marriages…

In my Facebook feed, I saw linked an article that aimed to discuss why same-sex marriage is not the same thing as Christian marriage. As I read through it (mainly because I wanted to understand how others think…I know that many people did not find the Supreme Court decision to be a joyous occasion, but I wanted to understand better why), I think that I got something of what he was trying to say, and I actually found it — if I might say so — beautiful. Just a few parts from the post (I have removed the formatting from the original so that the text won’t take as much space):

There exists a dichotomy between what Christians and society understand marriage to be. But this dichotomy isn’t new; the rift wasn’t just created by SCOTUS yesterday. Christians have always had a distinct and special understanding of what marriage is; and it differs wildly from society at large.

So, what is Christian Marriage?

It’s not a tax benefit. It’s not hospital visitation rights. It’s not insurance benefits. It’s not a legal arrangement provided by the government.

It’s not even the consensual, legal partnership of two adults who love each other and want to spend their lives together.

These things seem to be what people think marriage is. And for the American Government, it now seems that that is exactly what it is. But Christian marriage is, and always has been, something different.

Christian Marriage is the holy, sacramental giving of one man, and one woman, fully to each other. With the purpose of being fruitful, creating new life together, and nurturing that life within the complimentary presence of both a mother and a fatherChristian Marriage is meant to reflect Christ’s self giving relationship with the Church and it is a microcosm of God’s covenant with his people. Christian Marriage is an echo of triune love; as God created out of an overflow of just that. And so God has granted humanity, the ability to create life out of human relationship. In this way, marriage is a holy and creative reflection of the divine life.

That is Christian Marriage.

I can respect traditional, orthodox Christians for their views on marriage (or other things) because of the extent that these folks are living a vision presented through their religion and worldview. To be fair, I dislike and fear some of the positions pursued through this vision. But even though I think that rejecting contraception, divorce, and so forth are extreme and not workable models for everyone in society, I think that from within the worldview espoused from the post I quoted, these things make sense as a reflection thereof.

That being said, I still recognize the problems in this model (and perhaps the problems in any one-size-fit-all model). The beauty of this uncompromising vision is a great yet terrible beauty. It’s not something I want for myself.

So, I want to move in this post by commenting on the inspiration I got from a Facebook quote from a friend:

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The social aftermath for the legalization of same-sex marriage

This week looks like it has been a really great week for progressives in terms of Supreme Court case decisions…with the two highest profile cases being the affirmation of the Affordable Care Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage across the entire United States. But another case that was decided this week that should also make progressive folks happy is the upholding of disparate impact in its Fair Housing Act decision — this wasn’t quite as certain since a lot of folks thought the court would gut the Fair Housing Act as it did the Voting Rights Act (…and in the aftermath of that, a lot of states just coincidentally decided to push through all manners of voter ID restrictions and what not).

But, back to same-sex marriage.

I was surprised to find early in the morning that my Facebook feed was entirely supportive. I live in Texas; I know I have conservative friends — I don’t unfriend anyone, and I don’t think people unfriend me all that often. I know I have conservative Christian friends both within and without Texas. So the silence gave me pause.

….it turns out that they had not all disappeared, since in the afternoon I saw more and more articles and posts challenging the decision, lamenting what will happen to America (or at least, the people in America who still oppose same-sex marriage). What will happen to religious freedom?

I was heartened by the comments of one marriage equality supporter who pointed out that the divide shouldn’t be seen as severe as it might look. This isn’t exactly a red vs. blue thing, because even 61% of younger Republicans support same-sex marriage. So, that suggests that a lot of the backlash may be age-related, and as time passes, backlash will die down.

…however…I don’t know if I’m totally satisfied with this. I still think that there is something to think about the social aftermath of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I am not talking about the curtailing of anyone’s rights or any speculative slippery slope or anything like that. I just want to reflect on what will happen when a very controversial issues has been legalized while many people still vocally oppose it.

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Growing up black in a white church

In light of the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, (and some of the sad, yet sadly predictable responses to such), Fatimah Salleh wrote about the black church. I encourage you to read the entire thing, but I’ll share just a snippet:

…Upon their arrival here on the auction block, black Africans were subjected to white Christianity. A white Christianity that used their Bible to support black subjugation, a white Christianity that preached of a cursed skin and black bodies adherence to white ownership. Yes, all of this destruction and degradation was cloaked in Christianity.

White Christianity used their white Jesus to tell black folks they were anything but children of God.

But. But.

But, black slaves refused to believe the Christianity presented by their enslavers.
Instead, in what can only be counted as one of the greatest acts of radical resistance, they claimed Jesus for themselves. What they chose to find was a God who saw them, what they chose to believe was that God could answer their prayers much like the God of the Hebrew slaves…

As a black person who has been a member of the LDS church my entire life, I can’t say that I have much personal interaction with the black church. My parents are converts from black churches, but I have not talked to them too much about their experiences. I know that my father sees something in Mormonism that converted him for sure.

I know that my one experience going with a friend to his black pentecostal church ended up with me being exorcised (or whatever the hell they would call it) for Mormonism in a back room.

As an atheist, I don’t get Christianity. I don’t get why Mormonism attracts black followers, but then again, I don’t get why black people would join the religion of their enslavers. But then again, I don’t perceive to have any experiences with the divine, and I don’t get Christianity or Mormonism in general, so it seems natural that those more specific cases would seem more opaque.

But I think that the first time I really started thinking about the black church was during Obama’s presidential campaign when all of the Reverend Wright stuff came out.

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What would it take to believe that God cares about me?

Four years ago, I wrote a post about the oft-asked question: “What would it take for you to believe in God?” I discussed how I see many atheists answering the question with very “objective” sorts of scenarios…but my own criteria would be far more subjective.

The question is a perennial favorite in online discussions, and of course, it came up again. I answered with the following:

i would just look for some subjectively perceived consistent response/reaction to my reaching out to said deity (as would be expected if I were talking/engaging with someone), especially if the interactions and engagements with said deity subjectively improved my life.

The importance of subjective perception here is that all the objectivity activity in the world wouldn’t matter if I didn’t recognize it and interpret it as such. But what I’m getting at here is that I would have to feel as if God is a being that can be interacted with…and who will interact back in a way that can be perceived and recognized as such.

But that second part…that gets at another question, because someone could certainly believe in God, but not believe that he’s all that great, right?

Read more…


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