Nov 06

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled”

On the Mormons and Gays website, Elder Cook is quoted as saying this:

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, talk is cheap. Especially when you make policies like excommunicating gay members for getting married, and barring their children from being blessed or baptized. Then that kind of stamps baloney on all the nice and conciliatory things you might have said.

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Nov 06

A Peacemaker

I want to start with this great quote (from this post), one I go back to over and over and over again:

Because listen – here’s the thing. After my wrestling match with God, I wasn’t really exhausted enough. I still came up swinging. For a little while, I felt angry. Angry at anyone who had a different understanding of scripture than I did. Angry at people who taught that God disapproved of homosexuality. Prideful about my position, really. And then one day God sat my butt down with the Bible again.

And he said something to me like, “Wait a minute, Lovie. Yes, I love those gays, but I love the ones picketing against them every bit as much. That’s the point.”

And There’s the rub. There’s Christianity. It’s not deciding that one group shouldn’t be judged and then turning around and judging the other group. That is not being a peacemaker. Peacemakers resist categorizing people. They find the light, the good, in each and every person. They don’t try to change people, except by example. They know everyone has something important to teach. They are humble about their ideas and their opinions. They try to find common ground, always.

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Nov 05

Follow the Members

Where do ordinary Church members’ beliefs diverge from General Authorities’ beliefs? I think this is an interesting question that the latest Pew report on American religious belief and behavior can at least hint at some answers to. Of course the report only tells us about American Mormons, and it’s not a terribly big Mormon sample, but still, it’s fun to speculate using its results. I looked through the report and pulled out questions where I thought the responses for Mormons would be most out of line with the results you would get if you put the same questions to GAs. In this table, I also offer my guess as to whether the percentage for GAs would be higher or lower.

Item American Mormons GA
Absolutely certain about belief in God 87% Higher
Scriptures should be taken literally. 32% Higher
There are clear and absolute standards for what is right and wrong. 58% Higher
Abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 26% Lower
Homosexuality should be accepted by society. 36% Lower
Favor or strongly favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry 25% Lower
Having more women in the workforce has been a change for the better. 49% Lower
Humans evolved over time. 42% Lower
Republican/lean Republican 71% Higher
Describe political views as conservative 61% Higher

Note: Percentages are taken from the “Latter-day Saints” lines in the tables in Appendix C, except for the question about women in the workforce, which is taken from the “Mormon” line in a table in Chapter 4 (where there is no separate “Latter-day Saints” line).

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Nov 02

“Latter-day Saints . . . do not pray to Heavenly Mother.”

The Church’s new gospel topics essay on Mother in Heaven says the following:

Latter-day Saints direct their worship to Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, and do not pray to Heavenly Mother.

I think it’s interesting that this is a descriptive statement and not a prescriptive one. It doesn’t say that we should not pray or must not pray to Heavenly Mother. It doesn’t say that if we pray to Heavenly Mother, we’ll face Church discipline. It just says that we do not pray to her.

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Oct 29

Dodging the Temple Bullet

It’s time for a confession. I’ve been a member of the church my whole life. I go to church regularly, and I could probably qualify for a temple recommend if I wanted one.

But I don’t. And I have never been through the temple.

For a long time, I was really defensive about this. Getting endowed is one of the things that marks you as an adult member of the church; like being single, being unendowed will place you, in the eyes of many, in the category of the spiritually less mature. If you got endowed at a young age, you may be oblivious to the social dynamics surrounding this. But if you were older, or an adult convert, you may have some idea of what I am talking about. There is a hierarchy, and there are insiders and outsiders. If you haven’t been through the temple, there is no shortage of reminders that you aren’t a full member of the church.

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Oct 24

Heavenly Mother and Gay Marriage

One of the doctrinal situations in the church that many feminists (and even some non-feminists) find particularly challenging is our lack of knowledge about Heavenly Mother. We know that she exists—this has been reiterated by a recent gospel topics essay—but, troublingly, we are not allowed to pray to her or worship her. I’ve personally blogged about the topic a couple of times—once about why I don’t want to believe in her (because she’s silent and subordinate), and once about why I do (because I want to believe that women are equal in the eternities). Every time this topic gets discussed, I encounter women sharing the deep desire to have a connection not just to an eternal father, but to a mother as well. It’s not good enough just to have a father, they say; we also need the influence of a mother in our lives.

It is worth noting, however, that these kinds of arguments are exactly those being made against same-sex marriage. Children need opposite-sex parents. It’s not enough to have just a father (or a mother)—they need the influence of the opposite sex as well.

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Oct 21

Arguments Against Female Ordination

Rumor has it that there’s going to be a new gospel topics essay on the ever-so-delightful subject of women and the priesthood. I came up with a list of arguments that might be made. Tell me, what am I missing? And which ones do you think are most likely to get used?

1) Women are important/valued/necessary

a) Women are essential to the plan of salvation, “a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation.” (Russell M. Nelson)

b) Woman are God’s supreme creation: “And so Eve became God’s final creation, the grand summation of all of the marvelous work that had gone before.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

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Oct 20

I’m a Mormon Apostle

The Church PR department’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which highlighted the diversity of Church membership, generated a lot of buzz. Inside information has it that the PR department is now working on a similar campaign that turns the spotlight on members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Here are their profiles.

monsonMy name is Thomas. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was raised in Utah. I got a business degree at the University of Utah and an MBA at BYU. I served in the US Naval Reserve. In my career, I was a business professor and a newspaper executive. I am a widower. My deceased wife and I are the parents of three children. And I’m a Mormon apostle.



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Oct 11

Predicting Who Will Be Church President (Updated with new Q15 members!)

Knowing that three new members of the Q15 were going to be called at the same time this Conference, I was interested not only in who would be called, but also in how old the new members would be. The Quorum is old: its youngest member going into Conference was Elder Bednar at 63. If a whippersnapper the age of Elder Bednar at the time of his calling (52) or Elder Oaks at the time of his (51) had been called, such a person would have entered the Quorum with a very high probability from day one of eventually becoming Church President.

But, as we’ve seen, no whippersnappers were called. Elder Rasband is 64; Elder Stevenson is 60; Elder Renlund is 62. Elder Bednar did finally lose his position as youngest man in the Q15 to Elder Stevenson, though. He had held this title since he was called over a decade ago.

Here’s an updated look at probabilities of becoming Church President for each Q15 member.

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Oct 08

A Plea To My Leaders

I’m currently the second counselor in my ward’s YW presidency, and so when we recently had a temple baptisms night and the temple staff asked for us to provide 6 adult volunteers—3 men and 3 women—to accompany the youth, I agreed to go. I find the initiatory and endowment difficult, but I usually enjoy baptisms for the dead, and I always enjoy spending time with the young women of my ward, who are bright, inquisitive, funny, kind, and exploring their lives with faith and verve.

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Oct 06

Generational Differences in the Mormon Experience: A Personal View

We are delighted to feature a guest post reflection from Mofem matriarch Bradamante.


Sometime in the mid-oughts, one of my grown children, who was undergoing a faith transition at the time, remarked to me that the Church I grew up in wasn’t the one he grew up in. He was certainly right about that, though I honestly hadn’t noticed this when he was actually growing up. I had, foolishly as it turns out, thought that it would be the birthright of all of my kids to experience the same optimistic and nurturing Mormon adolescent experience that I had been (as I realize now) unbelievably fortunate to have had. It had actually been one of the things I had looked forward to most when I anticipated my future family, back in the day: that the Church would nurture them as it had nurtured me. I had internalized the “it takes a village” idea long before Hillary Clinton came on the scene to articulate it, and I looked forward to raising my kids in that village.

Privilege. So often you don’t know you have it. Growing up in that uncorrelated Eden of the past,* I had no way of knowing how much things would change. Continue reading

Sep 28

Going to the Affirmation Conference

When I came out a few years ago, I thought of getting in touch with Affirmation, which is an organization for LGBTQ Mormons as well as their families and friends. But I had a vague idea in my mind—I’m not sure from where—that they were somewhat hostile to the church. I figured that I was having enough trouble negotiating the challenge of being a gay Mormon without dealing with that, so I didn’t pursue the idea further. Continue reading

Sep 26

Thanks for the Memories, Elder Scott

Elder Scott 580Dear Elder Scott,

I heard the news this week and immediately started grieving. Even though I haven’t stayed in touch over the years, I will miss you. I loved your gentle kindness, your good humor, your deep and sincere interest in me. Though more than 20 years have passed since my last year at BYU, I still vividly recall fighting traffic on I-15 most Thursday afternoons to reach the cavernous parking deck under Temple Square, my Portuguese grammar manual tucked under one arm and O Livro de Mormon tucked under the other, marching to the elevator of the Church Administration Building to meet with you. You were often too busy to have practiced your Portuguese during the week, but during our time together you were nonetheless a most earnest student. In addition to our grammar lessons, I enjoyed reading “as escrituras” together, and I especially loved hearing the personal stories you haltingly and then more confidently told me as your Portuguese fluency improved.

Here are some of my favorite (albeit faulty) memories of our interactions: Continue reading

Sep 23

Church President Probability Changes with Elder Scott’s Death

Elder Richard G. Scott died yesterday at the age of 86. As I did when Elder Perry and President Packer died, in this post, I’ll show how this changes the probabilities of becoming Church President for the remainder of the members of the Q15.

All the probabilities come from a simulation I did for a post back in April. It’s a straightforward simulation: it uses an actuarial table and each Q15 member’s age and seniority in the quorum as inputs, and it draws a series of random numbers to simulate different possible life expectancies for each member. The life expectancies are then compared to find in what fraction of the simulations each member outlives all other members senior to him to become President. For a more detailed description, see my April post.

Here are the changes with Elder Scott’s death:

change in probabilities of becoming president with elder scott's death Continue reading

Sep 02

Defending the White Family

In last month’s (August) Ensign, Elder Bruce C. Hafen purports to put the Proclamation on the Family into its historical and cultural context.1 Hafen’s view is that marriage as an institution is collapsing, and the family with it, because society has come to value the individual’s interest at the expense of social interests, one of which is the support and privileging of stable heterosexual nuclear families. He views this as a cultural shift driven by legal changes in the last half decade, before which “laws maintained a workable balance between social interests and individual interests.” In the 60s and 70s, however, the courts “began to interpret family laws in ways that gave individual interests a much higher priority than social interests, which knocked the legal and social system off balance.” (52) Hafen picks out no-fault divorce laws, the availability of child custody and adoption to single people, abortion, and (as always) same-sex marriage as elements of this threat to the family, and mourns how far the family has fallen since the year 1960, to which he makes repeated and regretful reference, as his reference point for a happier time when families were stronger and we better enforced pro-social values.

But here are some other fun things going on in 1960: Continue reading

  1. “The Proclamation on the Family: Transcending the Cultural Confusion,” Ensign August 2015, 50-55 []
Aug 30

A Talk

The following is a slightly longer version of a talk I gave in sacrament meeting on August 30, 2015.

On Patience

A Broken Heart

Patience, I suggest, is linked to the injunction to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ether 12:27 reads, “if men [and women] come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto [people] weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [those] that humble themselves before me.” This is not a comfortable verse. I have to admit that for much of my life, I have been wary of it. I have imagined God with a long computer print-out of all my flaws, ready and waiting to show them to me. But today I want to consider the matter in a somewhat different light.

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Aug 26

“Youth” = Boys

The Church released a statement today saying that it will continue to be a chartering organization for the BSA. This came as a little bit of a surprise given the huffy tone of the Church’s “we’re re-evaluating our relationship” statement of less than a month ago.

What’s interesting is what’s consistent across the two statements: the equation of “youth” in the Church with boys only. From the earlier statement:

As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available.

And from today’s statement:

With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.

A lot of people commented that last month’s statement read like a first draft, written in frustration, that somehow slipped through and saw the light of day. Today’s statement does sound more measured. It’s disappointing, then, that even after having calmed down and re-considered things, the writers still don’t imagine that the Church’s youth include girls.

Aug 20

Priesthood Leaders of Good Report

The caricature of the Mormon feminist is that she gets hurt by a priesthood holder exercising unrighteous dominion, and gives up on the system altogether, without realizing that the system is actually benevolent and there are unfortunately a few bad apples. Or to use Elder Oaks’ analogy, she has a bad experience with a particular electrical appliance and gives up on electricity.

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