Apr 05

The Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings

YW leaders

Unless you live under a rock, you are no doubt aware of the high-profile movement that has been urging Church leaders to pray to ask God for new revelation regarding the hanging of pictures of female leaders in prominent church buildings. Led by Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney Sherri Shelley, this movement has been making waves in the media, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and even the Provo Daily Herald, pushing their “non-negotiable” agenda.

Said Shelley:

The Joseph Smith Papers Project has brought to light historical documents proving that Joseph Smith espoused the then-radical egalitarian belief that pictures of female church leaders should hang side-by-side with pictures of male leaders in church buildings. He even told Emma and other prominent sisters in the first meeting of the Relief Society that its meetinghouse walls, “…would one day be a veritable kingdom of tastefully-framed photographs of well-coiffed women in a kaleidoscope of pastel colors.”

The Church, not surprisingly, pushed back at first, stating in a letter from the Public Affairs Department that the Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings represents only a tiny minority of LDS women. Spokesperson Jessica Rooney explained: Continue reading

Dec 13

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:

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Oct 17

Pride (In the Name of Love)

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love!
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love!
What more? In the name of love!

For seven years I home taught a gay man. Despite numerous invitations during that time, he only came to church twice–once to wish me a happy birthday and once when I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. He regularly prayed for my family, spoiled my kids with Key lime pie and toy frogs, and treated me to his favorite Mexican restaurant–El Toro. I helped him repair his leaky roof and foolishly pushed his 1991 Toyota pickup to the mechanic at 2am (with my car!) because neither of us could afford a tow. Two days before he died of a heart attack at the age of 59, he confessed to me that he had finally met the love of his life, a kind, affirming man from Germany. At that last visit together my friend theatrically lifted up his shirt while sticking out his chest and sucking in his gut to show my daughter and I how much weight he had lost with his latest diet. We laughed, not knowing he would soon be gone.

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Jun 20

Please, Emperor, Prayerfully Consider a Wardrobe Change

In the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the Emperor is fooled by some charlatans into paying a lot of money for some invisible clothes. As he parades through the town in his underwear, the cowed crowds lining the street applaud and praise his marvelous new clothes. It is not until a boy yells out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”, that everyone finally acknowledges this truth.

I was reminded of this story when my wife, a Young Womens’ leader, related her latest Sunday experience. In the new youth curriculum, the June lessons are about the Priesthood. So, this week the Young Women’s president asked a couple of male leaders to come talk to all the girls about the Priesthood. Continue reading

Jan 27

On Stewardship and Revelation

In a 1997 talk, Elder Gerald Lund spoke of 5 ways you can distinguish between real and counterfeit revelation.  For number 5, he stated the following:

5 A person is not given revelation to direct another person unless they have priesthood or family responsibility for that person.

This principle is described by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the principle of “stewardship in revelation.” This means that “only the President of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. … When one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own area of responsibility … you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord” (“Revelation,” New Era,Sept. 1982, 46).

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Apr 29

Deciphering the Divine Signal

I’ve debated for quite a while about whether to post this, but I think it’s a topic worth discussing. I would, however, ask that in commenting, you especially note number five of my recent pointers about ZD: “Don’t assume that discussions of difficult personal issues are invitations to point out the poster’s failings, recite platitudes, or give lectures. And unless it’s specifically requested, giving advice is dangerous territory.” I might be a little twitchier than usual in moderating comments.

In the spring of 2001, I decided to go off the antidepressant I’d been taking since the previous December. It was one in a long line of psychotropic meds I’d tried over the years–and as was usually the case for me, I found it difficult to tell whether it was making any difference. As I often lamented to my sister Eve, I needed a control group, a control “me” in order to make an informed judgment. My decision to go off this particular drug was motivated by a number of factors. I was feeling burned out on the whole project of experimenting with medication. I also suspected that this drug was numbing me out a bit, making me feel less alive, and I didn’t like that.

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Jan 05

Heavenly Mother: Is This Line Secure? (or, the Heavenly Mother Catch-22)

The LDS church is often portrayed (and not without reason) as a highly authoritarian institution.  When the prophet speaks, you’re expected to listen.  But every Latter-day Saint knows that this comes with a significant caveat.  If you’re skeptical about something you hear, you can skip all intermediaries and go directly to God for your own answer.  Church directives come with a built-in loophole, and even with some official acknowledgment that general principles might not apply to everyone–for example, the oft-quoted comment from a talk by Boyd K. Packer that “we’d like not to take care of the exception first. We will take care of the rule first, and then we will see to the exceptions,” (which acknowledges the existence of exceptions), or the comment in the Proclamation on the Family that “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”  If you’re struggling with some practice or doctrine, you don’t have to simply swallow it; you’re expected to individually work it out with God. Continue reading

Nov 06

Personal Revelation

When it comes to personal revelation, I’m a believer; I really do think that there have been moments in my life when I’ve been on the receiving end of divine communication. I like that the doctrine plays such a central role in LDS thought; I love the idea that you can go directly to God for answers and help, that we believe in a God who is interested in us as individuals and who will interact with us personally.

Yet at the same time, I have to admit to a certain degree of skepticism when it comes to the use of revelation as a means of discerning truth. Continue reading

Sep 16

Doctrinal Development and Continuing Revelation

One of my Catholic professors once wryly observed that ten seemed to be the magic number for official Catholic pronouncements: after a new teaching had been repeated ten times, documents would begin with the phrase, “as the Church has always taught . . .” The comment made me laugh, because it reminded me of the LDS tendency to assert that every current notion in the Church must have existed in antiquity. Like other religious traditions, we are confronted with the challenge of theologically accounting for change while maintaining continuity with the past. Continue reading