Oh, Say What is Truth

“You can’t handle the truth!”

This famous retort by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men seems to me to echo the conscious or subconscious thoughts of some of our leaders when addressing difficult issues, such as the priesthood and temple ban for blacks of African descent, the multiple first vision accounts of Joseph Smith, or the sexist, racist, or homophobic statements of past or current leaders. Read More

Elder Oaks Shows Us the Way Forward

So gay marriage is legal now in Utah. At least for a moment, until the appeals begin. The Church’s response, not surprisingly, is to hope for the ruling to be overturned:

This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.

But this was just the response on day one. Longer term, I wonder how hard the Church will fight this. I mean, if they spent so much money (mostly technically out of members’ pockets rather than directly, but still) and time and goodwill to fight gay marriage in California, how hard will they fight when it’s in their own backyard? Or maybe Utah should be considered their front yard.

(An aside: I feel odd calling the Church “they.” I feel like I should be able to say “we.” I’m a Mormon. I attend and participate. But I have zero voice in or influence over what the general Church leadership does, so in this circumstance, I think it makes sense.)

I think there’s a better way, and it comes out of Elder Oaks’s talk in October Conference. He tells us:

man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.

His intent here is clear, I think. He’s pointing out that even if laws change to allow gay marriage, the Church will still oppose it, so members shouldn’t take cues from secular laws in deciding what’s right and wrong. But the point he’s also making, perhaps unintentionally, is that it doesn’t matter if all the laws change. The Church is fine being out of step with the laws. The GAs will be happy to give a bunch of talks where they dismissively call them “so-called” laws. So given this, why doesn’t the Church take a page out of this talk and just drop its opposition to legalizing gay marriage?

How to Disavow the Priesthood Ban

For many years the Priesthood ban has been a matter of embarrassment and consternation to many Mormons. It makes us seem close-minded and exclusionary as a church, and seems to contradict many of our scriptures and core teachings–God not being a respecter of persons, all are alike unto God, etc. We struggle to explain it to our non-Mormon friends, and sometimes wish that it had just never happened. And to add insult to injury, we’ve had to endure many folk-theories justifying the ban, theories that are non-doctrinal and even offensive at times. So, it has finally come time to fully disavow the ban, once and for all.

Well, it turns out that a recent internet post inspired me to propose a forthright and direct disavowal that does not ignore the messy and painful history behind the ban. I realize my disavowal is imperfect, but here goes:

Read More

Welcome to the Temple

I’ve been working in the temple baptistery now for 6 months.

And there are a lot of aspects that are really painful, just as I suspected there would be. Consider that in the baptistery, there is absolutely no role for women in the ordinances. (While there are more active roles for women in the ordinances in the other parts of the temple, there are also those very serious issues that do not make it worth it—there is a reason I work in the baptistery and not elsewhere.) Men do the baptisms. Men do the witnessing. Men do the confirmations. It is even an exclusively male-only job to feed the names onto the little projector (?!) and sit and the counter to say “Welcome to the Temple!” No matter how short staffed they are with men, they will never allow the women to feed names into the projector…or sit at the counter to say “Welcome to the temple.”

Women’s jobs are folding towels. Hanging jumpsuits. Folding towels. Distributing jumpsuits. Folding towels. Sitting in the locker room to direct people between the ordinances that are all performed by men. Folding towels. Rolling socks, folding sports bras, folding briefs….and folding more towels.

There are men’s voices, everywhere. Prominent. Confident. Loud. I can hear them in the baptistery even when I’m sitting in the women’s locker room, rolling socks. I hear them telling people where to go and what to do. I hear them always saying “Welcome to the temple.” Male voices. We’re supposed to remind the young women in the locker room to be reverent and shush them when they get too excited talking as they blow dry their hair or get dressed. But I can never do it—the temple needs more women’s voices even if all they are saying is “where is my sock” or “pass the hair tie.” I like it when I’m sitting in the locker room, rolling socks and finally, finally the male voices drifting in from everywhere else are drowned out by the women’s. Read More

Four Troubling Theological Assertions in the Book of Mormon


Location: 2 Nephi 4

Situation: Nephi is led by the Spirit, and finds Laban fallen to the earth and drunken with wine. The Spirit tells him to kill Laban. Nephi doesn’t want to do it. So the Spirit explains that the Lord has delivered Laban into his hands and he has to go through with it.

Money quote: “the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better  that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” Read More