Does one smudge ruin it?

I have been outspoken about Elder McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. Lots of good material in there—but the pages on race which we have discussed over and over on BCC and elsewhere are simply contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Steve’s post about not speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed has made me ponder some things. I know that I could never support any Church leader who said things which damaged the mission of the Church. I would be diplomatic in telling anyone that we do not teach the Curse of Cain or the appalling idea that racial differences indicate “spiritual degeneration”—but I would not simply let it stand because the speaker had a leadership position. Ideally, I would do it in person—though that can get difficult.

But that’s only the prologue.

I’ve been preparing to teach an upper level creative writing class, which I’ll do in the fall. I’ve read all of the stories I want to assign. I am a real fan of Saul Bellow, and wanted to include his “Something to Remember Me By.” But when I read it, I was very aware of the Bellowesque descriptions of a woman’s sexual organs. I have been thinking hard about this. Can I teach a brilliant story which has such graphic descriptions? To go a little deeper, I have no idea who will be in my class. Suppose I have a young man in my class who has been struggling with pornography. What if this story is simply too much for him—like a little bit of heroine to a recovering addict?

My solution has been to provide a warning (but will that also be an invitation?) about the story, and to also provide alternative reading, but to keep it in my syllabus. Perhaps I’m anticipating too much from my students. (It’s a long story; most will merely skim). I am personally unaffected by the images Bellow evokes, just astounded at his skill and at the unity of the story’s elements. Finally, the couple of pages devoted to sexual imagery (a prostitute seems to be seducing a kid, but ultimately just steals his clothes) are only a minor part of the whole story, which is rich with meaning and insight. I gained new thoughts from my reading of it, and plan on reading it again as I prepare to teach.

Remember that BYU and all Church schools are different than others. I know for sure that if one of my teachers said, “I thought this story—which is one of the best ever written—might do some moral damage to some of you who have less sophistication than I have”, I’d be offended—and then I’d go read the story. But I approach my classes with a rather maternal attitude. I become a midwife to my students’ creative work. Do I also help expand their imaginations by the stories I introduce them to? But shouldn’t they get to know Bellow? Shouldn’t they learn to see the whole story and not stop at a provocative paragraph?

I would toss all of Mormon Doctrine because of the two sections on race, which taint the whole thing. Those sections are not TRUE, and they do harm. But as to that Saul Bellow story and what I will be teaching in the fall… Ultimately, “Something To Remember Me BY” is a TRUE story, even a useful story—as much fiction is. (I often tell my students that fiction gets to the truth better than many texts purporting to be objective.) The question is, should we get to the truth through an alley which is simply too dangerous for some readers? Do I have a right to decide what my students are prepared to read and what they should approach with caution? If they don’t learn to read Bellow, have they kept themselves from some of the greatest literature in the world? As a corollary, do people who never learn to read well suffer by not experiencing the literary journeys of Dostoevsky’s Ivan, Morrison’s Sethe, or Twain’s Huck Finn? Do they settle for sugary kitsch when they could be sitting at Babette’s feast?

Put one more little thing into this equation: In our department, we get complaints from students and their parents about some of the material we teach. The complaints are sometimes sent directly to general authorities, not to us. We are required to provide alternative reading for the more sensitive readers.

Well, if Deseret Book were to do what I’m doing, Mormon Doctrine would carry a specific warning—not the generally worded disclaimer it now has. The harmful sections would be specifically identified, and alternative reading (like Lengthen Your Stride or The Rise of Modern Mormonism) would be provided. Right?

Comments

  1. How does one get into your class? =)

    (I’m somewhat serious.)

  2. We don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, right? I hate that analogy where people say you wouldn’t eat a hot fudge sundae if it had a bug on it, so why would you read a book with a questionable paragraph, or see a movie with a bare breast (gasp).

    My wife teaches part time at BYU, and recently had a student write a letter to the administration complaining that she showed a slide with a picture of Rodin’s “The Kiss” sculpture. The student complained that she shouldn’t be exposed to pornography at the Lord’s University. So now my wife, when she gets to slides like that, says “this next image is a nude. Feel free to leave the room for a few minutes. But it WILL be on the test.”

    I feel similarly about the church in general–it has bugs in it (like BRM’s sections on race)–but I don’t throw out the church, do I? (answer: I don’t)

  3. “you wouldn’t eat a hot fudge sundae if it had a bug on it”

    You underestimate me, sir.

  4. People who write about bared breasts shouldn’t have the name “dug”. Actually, even if they’re unbared.

  5. David Clark says:

    I become a midwife to my students’ creative work.

    If you really believe that, then take the analogy to a logical conclusion. Midwives are involved in excruciating pain. Sometimes they have to cause pain (episiotomy anyone?) before it all gets better. The midwife knows when to cause pain and why. If you can’t answer the question with some certainty, you should probably stick to tamer fare.

    If you can answer it, then go for it. The midwife also knows that you have to repair the damage you do, (i.e. sew up that episiotomy) and that in most cases it’s all for the best. However, an experienced and wise midwife will know that even when you do what you have to do, you are going to lose babies and/or mothers, and there is nothing you can do about it.

  6. David Clark says:

    Sorry, the question I forgot to type was, “Is this the time to cause pain?”

  7. Great post, Margaret. I’ll be thinking about it throughout the day.

  8. I remember taking a science class at BYU, the instructor stood in front of the class and prefaced some of the material in his lecture, explaining that every year someone complained to the General Authorities when he explained the theory of evolution. He explained that he wasn’t teaching it as fact, just a theory, one that most of the world embraced, and since they were going out into the world, they should know the theory.

    Even after that preface, the next week he came to class and indicated that someone in our class, even after his preface, had complained. You aren’t going to get away from the self righteous. Especially at BYU.

  9. I always appreciated when my literature or creative writing teachers had us read potentially uncomfortable but great pieces of literature. I think part of creative writing is seeing how other people think about things. You have to get in the mind of your characters to really write about them. And some of the best or most intriguing characters are morally questionable.

    I would use the disclaimer that the story contains explicit references to female sexual organs (tell them what page it starts on) and tell them that they don’t have to read it if they don’t want to. However, you will be talking about it in class and/or they will need to write a response paper about the story – if that’s what you plan on doing.

  10. Peter LLC says:

    Breasts don’t need to be bare to excite the passions at the BYU–one-strap backpacks will do.

  11. The thing is that there isn’t much about MoDoc that is particularly wonderful and there is a lot that isn’t. The parallel to your amazing story with one prurient section isn’t therefor apt.

  12. In case this is a thinly-veiled attempt at making sure we still love you even though you defiled BCC with a link to a video that had some profanity in the comments, I want you to know that I still love ya, Margaret! ;-)

  13. Actually, David, I have given birth at home with a midwife by my side. Good midwives consider themselves nature’s helpers, and tend to avoid forceps and even episiotomies. I won’t go into detail, but I’ve delivered big babies and have had only one episiotomy–a very small one. A good midwife will have been trained in stretching the perineal tissue through which the baby must pass. She will do all she can to prevent cutting. If an episiotomy is required, it’s not particularly painful at the time. So I’m not really going with you to the ends of your analogy. I think good teachers do invite their students to stretch, and even help the process–which accepts the premise that the student WANTS to have the baby (a poem, a story, a new thought, a new paradigm, etc). But if the student wants to avoid getting pregnant at all, there are all sorts of birth control methods. For further reading on the subject of doctors causing pain, try William Carlos Williams’s “The Uses of Force.”

    Mark B–we both had Mrs. DeHart in HS, right? Do you remember the reading she assigned? I know I read _The Brothers Karamazov_ in her class. Other teachers taught _Catch 22_ in the years after we graduated–and had some angry parents at their doors. And your line about “dug” is very clever.

  14. how did I miss out on your classes at BYU?

    In my creative writing class there, I wrote a short story about a beating my father gave me. It is seared in my memory, right down to the F-words that he used. I chose to place those f-words in the piece. The class handled it well, though too many were fixated on the swearing rather than the point of the story. That’s the problem with such incendiary things is that they end up distracting from the main point the author was making. However, they end up creating a whole new story. Now the story isn’t the beating my father gave me, but whether swear words should be used in stories in a creative writing class at BYU.

    McConkie’s thoughts on racism distract from the overall purpose of Mormon Doctrine. However, it creates a new story/conflict that must eventually be resolved/reconciled.

    Some stories/events/beliefs will not ever be reconciled, but those are fodder for a whole slew of new stories/events/beliefs. It’s one of the wonderful, but also frustrating, things about life. You want people to focus on what you want them to focus on, but they find that “smudge” and weave a new story out of that.

  15. “one-strap backpacks will do.”

    We shall henceforth refer to that phenomenon as “The Divider.”

  16. David Clark says:

    I think good teachers do invite their students to stretch, and even help the process–which accepts the premise that the student WANTS to have the baby

    Fine, if you are in college, you want to have the baby. By the way, when did the analogy go from midwifing to sex? Or is college some variation on immaculate conception? Perhaps it’s best to drop analogies that involve a vagina. But then again, that whole point of this post kind of started with that didn’t it?

  17. Maybe you could tell them what pages to skip in the book if you are concerned about it. Thus they can get the “cleanflix” version? And maybe you can explain that the story would still be masterful and beautiful if Bellow had not succombed to the sexual imagery and that they need not succomb?

    I am not well read enough to know who Saul Bellow is, I am ashamed to say. (In fact, I sadly admit that the only one of the above mentioned I’ve even opened is Twain.)

    As to McConkie, I really want to love him and his work, but due to his smudge, I am afraid I can not even open a book of his without being affected by it. The same goes for Paul Dunn. It just goes to show that a few of the wrong smudges can RUIN a life’s work, subjectively speaking.

  18. so, dug, is that why you haven’t been to church lately? just picking carefully around the bugs to enjoy the parts of the sundae you like? hey, why don’t you work in a reference to Rodin’s “The Kiss” and bring it to your next priesthood meeting lesson? that might wake up those sleepy old guys.

    Margaret, great typo (or was it intentional?)–“like a little bit of heroine to a recovering addict?”

    I’m always amazed when Rodin or Bellow become the subject of discussions like this. Bellow is no pornographer, but he is an adult who writes for adults. Why BYU and church members in general want young adults to stay in a perpetual state of childhood is baffling. I guess fear motivates us more than we’d care to admit, and fear of sexuality is a strong motivator.

  19. Margaret,

    might do some moral damage to some of you who have less sophistication than I have

    Are you sure that sophistication is truly morally prophylactic?

  20. In academia, anyone who really wants to pursue literature will need to stretch and be willing to read challenging material. That’s how it works. And their learning will continue beyond BYU–unless they cop out and go to law school. But not everyone is going to want to become a writer or an English teacher. Nobody says they can’t read garbage and be offended by Saul Bellow. In a world of sound-bites, many people want cliches rather than long books–and they are edified by cute little sayings, which they then forward to fifteen friends. In the world of spiritual things, the danger comes when we settle for the quick and easy, consistently depending on what one general authority or another has said to form our own response.

    One of my colleagues blames Deseret Book for the fact that many young people cannot handle ambiguity and abruptly leave the Church when they run into challenging Church history. Why blame Deseret Book? This colleague says that the sappy material published there (and I would differ a bit, as I think there are some fine books published by DB) creates the intellectual equivalent of sugar cravings. Such readers are unprepared for real food and hard questions.

    I do think you can gather a lot about a person by learning what books they read and re-read. (Caveat–doing this can lead to harsh judgment, so do the exercise, but avoid the judgment. Harsh judgment is like a bug on your hot fudge sundae.)

  21. no-man, suddenly I feel like a character in “The Lives of Others.” Paul? D?

  22. Good writing or not, is it worth placing the images in your mind, for the sake of the wonderful prose? I mean that’s the conflict that artists and people who appreciate art face. How to reconcile the two. If I try, I can pull up images from some pornographic photographs that were shown to me in 6th grade. That was almost 50 years ago. Do we justify the same stuff in the name of art? That’s the funny thing, I think, context. The photos were bad, I can remember them if I choose. I can’t remember the nude models at Utah State in my drawing class.
    It’s problematic for Mormons. My uncle, a life long artist, now puts the nudes away when family visits, or as my brother did when visiting, my brother turned them to the wall.

  23. no-man,
    For what it’s worth, in my experience as a student in the BYU English and Portuguese departments several years ago, the professors didn’t try to keep us in a “perpetual state of childhood.” We were exposed to the relevant literature in any given class, without (as best I could tell) any (substantive*) censoring of the syllabus.

    (*Caveat: we didn’t read all Victorian lit in my Victorian lit class, or all African American lit in my African American lit class, etc., etc. The profs made conscious decisions of what to place on the syllabus. But I never got the impression that language or sexuality was the reason why something was either on or off a class’s syllabus.)

  24. David–there’s an edge to your tone. Have I offended you? It is not true that everyone in college wants to be intellectually stretched–or to have their imaginations opened by the various artists offered by the College of the Humanities. (As I recall, Rodin’s “The Kiss” was one of the scupltures which BYU’s Museum of Art kept in a basement room, covered, during the Rodin display. This motivated a few students to protest, and President Hinckley subsequently scolded them.) Some want a job, and know they need a degree. Some want a wife or a husband, and know that BYU is the ultimate hunting ground for Mormons. Some take creative writing because they want to be the next Anita Stansfield.

    MAC–I’m sure of the opposite, actually. I find just about anyone who regards themselves as more “sophisticated” than others is often boorish and not in any position to defend another’s moral compass–let alone their own. I used the line as a bit of a hyperbole–how my dictating another’s preparation for a story might come across to them.

    No-man, I’ve not heard Bellow referred to before in “these discussions.” That surprises me a bit.

  25. Margaret, whatever you do, don’t let those students read the Old Testament. The Song of Songs goes on for pages, and might cause somebody to have an unwanted thought.

    One of the most astonishing things I have ever heard and which is still hard for me to believe, even though I know it is true, is that parents complain to GAs about BYU being too liberal. It really is incredible.

  26. I should at least say that I have my own moral lines in literature, film, art. I never respond to anything gratuitous. The scene in “Something to Remember Me By” is not gratuitous, but is juxtaposed to two other scenes (one with the protagonist’s mother and the other with a young girl’s dead body at a wake). I have walked out of movies and closed books when I’ve felt that the art was becoming manipulative. I demand something of whatever I read or watch. It has to pay me back well for my time. I will even admit that when Bruce and the kids and I traipsed across Europe, seeing every museum Bruce could find, I finally said, “I don’t think I can handle seeing one more penis.” Hope he didn’t take that personally.

  27. David Clark says:

    David–there’s an edge to your tone. Have I offended you? No, I was trying to be funny on that last one, I guess it failed.

    Your description of the university is correct but depressing. If you are trying to cater to all of the individuals you describe (university-as-a-trade-school students, spouse hunters, and the up and coming Anita Stansfield) then you really have no choice, don’t use the Bellow. The only way to cater to everyone is by going the lowest common denominator route.

    My impression was that this was a class for students who can/want to read some challenging literature. (you did call it upper level, that’s where I misinterpreted)

  28. David Clark says:

    Margaret, whatever you do, don’t let those students read the Old Testament. The Song of Songs goes on for pages, and might cause somebody to have an unwanted thought.

    Agreed, you couldn’t film Judges 19 without getting an NC-17 rating.

  29. Peter LLC says:

    We shall henceforth refer to that phenomenon as “The Divider.”

    I could see it becoming a new cleavage in campus politics.

  30. David Clark says:

    Perhaps you should find the most offensive parts of Bellow’s work and type it as a comment on BCC. If it gets put into moderation, then don’t use it. It’s hard to justify having other people read something which your own publisher (the blog) won’t allow. If it sails through then that’s a vote for giving it to the students.

  31. Margaret, I don’t know that Bellow gets specifically mentioned either, I’m just saying… even a Nobel prize winner is not above suspicion when Mormons are evaluating literature. I’m well aware that most of BYU’s English and Humanities faculty have your well-thought-out approach of challenging students while staying within the propriety required by the administration. I guess I’ve heard too many Utah Valley discussions in which parents or non-faculty are outraged by anything not G-rated that their children are exposed to.

    And dug, yes, you are being watched.

  32. Matt Rasmussen says:

    Someone who knew President Kimball’s family told me he had stapled shut the pages of Songs of Solomon in his Bible. Maybe you could do the same thing?

  33. It is now time for me to do something other than blogging. Final words for now: When I taught beginning creative writing, I wanted my students to read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” I provided my disclaimer and gave an alternate story they could read. Several students (some of the very best writers) found O’Brien’s piece the best work they had ever read. I will ask my students in 318 to read that as well, but I’m not providing an alternate, just the disclaimer.

    Here is how the Bellow assignment is phrased in my supplement:
    Epistolary Story
    Though Saul Bellow’s “Something To Remember Me By” is not epistolary in the conventional sense, it is nonetheless written to another person. Read the story, contemplate what letter you would write about some significant event in your life, and to whom you would write it.
    NOTE: This story has some graphic sexual details and several words which could well offend you. As an alternative, you may read James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”—which is not epistolary in its structure but includes a letter. Should you choose Baldwin over Bellow, please read the first three pages and the last two pages of Bellow’s story.

    Dear_______________

  34. What I really want to see is how many BCCers read Bellow’s story and e-mail me their finished assignments.

  35. #17:”It just goes to show that a few of the wrong smudges can RUIN a life’s work.”
    Bellow and McConkie go on, most writers who loved to be so ruined.

  36. Ah, the lovely and talented Virginia DeHart! Yes, indeed, two lovely years were spent with her on the second floor of B Wing (wasn’t it?). We were supposed to read Karamazov, but I didn’t (very bad of me, eh?). Catch-22 was on the reading list, but not assigned, so I read it. Several times. (When I was a senior, I was on the “High School Challenge” team–sort of a College Bowl for high school–and we’d drive up to SLC with Kent Lott (our advisor) for the taping of the show. For entertainment, I’d read Catch-22 aloud. It got us all in a rip-roaring good mood, although Mr. Lott gave me some dirty looks.)

    I read Karamazov about ten years later, and enjoyed it a lot more then than I would have at 16. And I still have the book, which I bought from Reid Bartholomew, who was a year ahead of me in school, and who might be related to Danithew.

    There was a girl in Mrs. DeHart’s class who complained that The Good Earth was pornographic. I admired her courage for saying that in a classroom full of impudent snobs, but I still question her judgment.

    Of course, on the other hand, could you trust Mrs. DeHart? She told us about some play she was in (I suspect when she was in high school) where she had to light a lantern with a cigarette, which presumbly she had to light in the first place. One puff and she collapsed in a paroxysm of choking–and the fans went wild, with laughter. With that egregious breach of the WoW, how could anything else she ever did be trusted?

    I’m glad at least one person got “dug”. It’s a pity if all my efforts at wit go to waste.

  37. Maybe you could have them read this as an alternative:

    Something to Remember Me By

  38. Michelle says:

    This discussion reminds me of a devotional given by Van Gessel of the College of Humanities a few years ago at BYU, where he provides a gospel centered defense of literature. The whole article is worth reading–he seems to have a low opinion of most contempory literature, art, and music.

    Eight years ago, just after I was appointed dean of the College of Humanities, Elder Henry B. Eyring, then commissioner of the Church Educational System, challenged me to spend some time pondering the answer to a simple question. He asked, “Why do we teach a book like The Great Gatsby at BYU?”…And why is Fitzgerald’s novel about adultery, obsession, alcoholism, and murder taught at a place like BYU? Well, in part, because all those who are crowned with glory and immortality and eternal lives will have, in their own kingdoms, an array of offspring who are, in their own ways, disobedient, annoying, and horrifying. We will have to learn how to deal with an abundance of our own Jay Gatsbys and Sweeney Todds and Pol Pots and Marquises de Sade and Brian David Mitchells. Just as it is presently the work and the glory of our Father in Heaven to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life—in spite of all He knows about us, which is everything—we hope it will someday be our work and our glory to help provide those same blessings for countless souls who are very much unlike ourselves, and many of them will be supremely unlovable. In my experience, the best way to come to know such people—and not merely to know them, but to know them well enough to be able to love them beneath all the layers of their sins and imperfections—is through the instrument of good books. After all, the Lord has repeatedly instructed us to seek wisdom “out of the best books” (D&C 88:118; 109:7, 14).

    I don’t know enough about literature to compare Fitzgerald to Bellow. But, I have often thought about his argument when we select our books for the Relief Society sponsored book group.

  39. I’m glad at least one person got “dug”. It’s a pity if all my efforts at wit go to waste.

    Mark B., if I had a quarter . . . maybe even just a nickel would do.

  40. Catching up, but thanks again, Margaret, for the laugh. The last sentence in #26 is priceless. Whoever files things away for future Niblet awards should archive that comment.

  41. Aaron Brown says:

    Stapley said:
    “The thing is that there isn’t much about MoDoc that is particularly wonderful and there is a lot that isn’t. The parallel to your amazing story with one prurient section isn’t therefor apt.”

    My thoughts exactly.

    Folks, MoDoc is FILLED with problematic material. Take out everything racial, and problems still abound. Even in post-’58 editions. And even if you don’t know anything about the contents, just read the preface. If you don’t see the gravity of the problem right there, well, then you realy aren’t seeing the problem at all.

    AB

  42. Your post makes me want to hole up in my bed for the afternoon reading Margaret!

    Do I have a right to decide what my students are prepared to read and what they should approach with caution?

    Would you answer this question re: Bellow differently if the setting were not BYU? Are students attending other universities more prepared to read Bellow, is it because they have different expectations from literature?

    And yes, teach them the good stuff, or they’ll go for the easy sugar if they dine at all. Then they’ll push it in their ward book group.

  43. #18 no-man
    I completely agree with you. I have a sister who is convinced that anything inappropriate for a child to watch/read is also inappropriate for an adult and I’ve never understood that. There is nothing inherently inappropriate about sexuality – it’s one of the most human and natural things that we do, even if some in the Church may disagree.

    I wouldn’t even bring up a warning about the passage to the class since that would draw unnecessary attention to it, treating it as the focal point of the book. Then you’ll have some looking for “the passage” and reading way too much into it.

  44. Have the people who won’t eat a sundae with a bug in it never heard of the five second rule?

    #38,

    In my experience, the best way to come to know such people—and not merely to know them, but to know them well enough to be able to love them beneath all the layers of their sins and imperfections—is through the instrument of good books.

    That is profound stuff. Not just profound, but profoundly useful. Thanks for the link.

  45. #35 Bellow and McConkie go on, most writers who loved to be so ruined

    I don’t understand the english here. If you mean most writers would love to be so ruined. I think McConkie personally would be sad and repentant that his ideas and teachings cause so much strife among those who were in his stewardship. But that is speculation on my part.

  46. anon for this says:

    I can empathize with your concerns, Margaret. In a deviance class I taught we were discussing p0rnography around the same time my son was dealing with the problem of using p0rnography as a fix for the depression he was experiencing. I was concerned about the possiblility of any of my students experiencing similar problems.

    In the end I decided that I cannot protect everyone. The topic was/is important for us to discuss. I did prepare and go into class with a prayer that if any of my students were having similar problems, that the Lord would help them.

    Literary images, of course, are so much more powerful than classroom discussions. I would be inclined, though, to just casually mention that there is sexual imagery and hope that anyone who has a serious concern would discuss it with me (you).

    Based on what I’ve read in the comments, (FWIW)I’d be more concerned that a number of my students would cop out and read the other story that doesn’t provide quite the same insights into creative writing.

  47. I’m surprised that you had to teach deviance. It seems that most deviates get that way without a formal lesson.

  48. anon for this says:

    At least one school of thought says that deviants learn from other deviants. Should I be reading something into the fact that I keep getting assigned that class? :-)

  49. Michelle (38), thanks for the link to the Van Gessel talk. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or feel profoundly moved by the juxtaposition of such polar opposites:

    all those who are crowned with glory and immortality and eternal lives will have, in their own kingdoms, an array of offspring who are, in their own ways, disobedient, annoying, and horrifying. We will have to learn how to deal with an abundance of our own Jay Gatsbys and Sweeney Todds and Pol Pots and Marquises de Sade and Brian David Mitchells.

    It does make sense in content of the talk as a whole, but I had to wonder why this was put into such a broad eternal perspective (we will be gods one day) when the same benefit applies to this life, here and now. I’ve got in-laws and cousins who are already hard enough to understand, never mind the ultimate crazies he mentions. I guess that’s the pressure one feels when giving a BYU devotional talk–make it a big picture inspirational talk. And my reaction comes from my own preference for this-world religion rather than next-world dreams of glory.

    Surely, however, Br. Gessel isn’t suggesting that de Sade be added to reading lists at the Y?

  50. The Kiss was kept veiled in the basement? Really? Really? Sometimes the puritanical is taken too far. Nude does not equal P0rn- and some of the finest art in the world contains the unclothed human body. Wholesale hiding from classical art sells the human experience short, and denies the divinity from whence we come.

    Margaret, I desperately want to take your class!

  51. In accordance with Gessel, Brigham Young advocated “studying evil” in literature and plays in order to understand its effects. It’s been quoted by a few apostles. Link

  52. This is an interesting post. My husband and I were just talking about where to draw lines with literature last nite. I think people’s tolerance levels and weak spots differ, so I think it’s important not to force material on anyone, even if you think it’s valuable. It could be really positive for one person and really bad for another, as you have already considered. I think it’s laudable that you are asking these questions.

    Personally, I also think it’s good to include a disclaimer if you choose to use it so that people can make choices with some semblance of information, rather than to simply have you make that choice for them and to be surprised.

    As a general comment, I think it’s important not to place value judgments on other people’s choices or tolerance levels. I think it’s way too simplistic to suggest that anyone who can’t handle or doesn’t want to engage a book/story/movie with sex scenes or whatever is somehow shallow, taking the easy way out, or somehow unable to deal with life (which is something I have run into more than once in discussions like this). In the end, it really is just a book/story/movie…there are different ways we can be challenged and stretched and inspired (and it’s not like we lack material to choose from!), and these experiences certainly doesn’t have to be bound to one certain piece of art or literature or film or whatever.

    I also agree with what I hear no-man saying — that real life can give us lots of opportunities to learn to deal with people who are ‘disobedient, annoying, and horrifying.” I’m not saying challenging literature doesn’t have its place, but again, I think it’s important to respect different points of view and tolerance levels and definitions of what is ‘good’ or ‘challenging’ or ‘stretching’ or whatever.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, Margaret.

  53. Researcher says:

    I find the use of the word “smudge” rather interesting. Is it a conscious substitute for the word “smut”?

    I imagine you don’t mean “smudge” to mean something blurred or indistinct but rather something soiled or stained.

    It looks like smudge and smut come from the same late middle English word which originally meant to defile, corrupt, or make obscene.

  54. Wholesale hiding from classical art sells the human experience short, and denies the divinity from whence we come.

    I think the problem lies in the fact that some people are in a box when it comes to the human body, and their unhealthy view of the body could be enabled/fed by art that contains nudity or other “sexual” content. People have to actually be seeing the body as divine and not a sexual object to be able to appreciate it. And for people with sex-related addictions, this is simply not where they are, and that’s important to recognize. That’s why I think Margaret’s sensitivity is so important.

  55. cahkaylahlee says:

    The BEST class I took at BYU was my Shakespeare Film class taught by Brandie Siegfried. Some of the films we were required to watch had PG-13 amounts of nudity in them. Our first assignment for the class was to write an essay about the difference between art and pornography. We had a great class discussion after we had written our papers so we could share our views. The main point that I took away from that discussion was that there is no clear line between art and pornography and that that line will be determined by both the intentions of the artist and the intentions of the observer. We also talked about how we are responsible for choosing what is “too much” for ourselves and that others cannot draw that line for us (teach them correct principles and they govern themselves). Essentially, the discussion helped me understand how I could “govern myself.”

    Dr. Siegfried also did a really good job of helping the class understand the literary value of the nude scenes. I have never read Something to Remember Me By, so I don’t know how well this would work in your class, but I think it could be valuable to your students to discuss why and how sexual themes could appropriately be handled in their own writing.

  56. cahkaylahlee says:

    #54 I absolutely agree with you. I think BYU is a great place to teach about the body being divine. If woman is God’s greatest creation, and a painter paints a naked woman in order study God’s greatest creation, it’s beautiful.

  57. #45: Sorry for the misspell (who for would).
    Again, I am not a point man for Brother McConkie, or “Mormon Doctrine”. But I do think it was mainstream Mormonism in 1958, he was still prove of it in 1966 (See 2nd. Ed.). He died almost 30 years after writing it and I know of no stated regret by him for writing it(?)

  58. Jonathan Stapley, Aaron Brown, and Matt W: I agree with you about MoDoc. But Matt’s words are challenging:

    “As to McConkie, I really want to love him and his work, but due to his smudge, I am afraid I can not even open a book of his without being affected by it. The same goes for Paul Dunn.”

    I’m stuck on the same page, but I don’t think any of us should be there. I’m not sure how to change it. A very sensitive student might read “Something to Remember Me By” and have what I call “an allergic reaction” to Bellow–and then miss out on _The Dean’s December_ or _Henderson the Rain King_.

    In the spirit of confession, I find that whenever anyone says in a talk, “Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said” or “Elder Paul H. Dunn has said…” I stiffen and prepare to hold the quote in perdition until I can examine it on its merits. I would guess that this limits me.

    Mark B: Before I read _The Brothers Karamazov_ in Mrs. DeHart’s class, I had read very little. My mother believed in Cliff Notes, and I had gotten away on those. But I read the unabridged _Brothers K_ (though we were assigned only the abridged) and was changed by it. I think the moment I finished “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” was defining. From then on, though I played with a few different majors, I knew I wanted to write and to read anything approaching the depth of that novel. It changed my whole focus, and I began living in libraries rather than in front of a television.

    Tracy M: Feel free to do the assignment described in #33. Seriously.

  59. I will, Margaret.

  60. Nat Whilk says:

    @OP, 13, 36: I’m confused about the relevance of The Brothers Karamazov to this discussion. While it treats adult themes, it has no explicit sexual content.

    @51: The page that Dan links to gives a rather selective presentation of President Young’s views on novel reading. For a more balanced account, see Richard Cracroft’s BYU Studies article here.

  61. Nat Whilk: The relevance of _The Brothers K_ is taken from the original post. You can read it, but the relevant lines are these: “As a corollary, do people who never learn to read well suffer by not experiencing the literary journeys of Dostoevsky’s Ivan, Morrison’s Sethe, or Twain’s Huck Finn? Do they settle for sugary kitsch when they could be sitting at Babette’s feast?”

    Sexuality is not explicit in TBK, but sensuality is one of the driving forces for Dostoevsky’s characters. The point is that our reading has an effect on our world view and even on our character.

  62. Here’s a list of some really good reading:
    Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), Moby Dick,
    Shakespeare’s Tragedies, Parting the Waters, Gilead (Robinson), Self-Reliance (Emerson), The Bible, Lincoln’s Collected Writings

    Care to guess whose list that is? It’s not mine–though mine would be similar, substituting _Beloved_ for _Song of Solomon_ and taking Emerson out entirely.

    So, whose list is this? Would you vote for this person if they were running for some sort of office?

  63. Try this link for some insights into presidential candidates–or vice presidential candidates. Should Romney have chosen something other than _Battlefield Earth_ when asked what his favorite book was? (He also added the Bible.) Fun link:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2165373/

  64. Nat Whilk says:

    @62: “Would you vote for this person if they were running for some sort of office?

    Only if he campaigned in at least 57 states.

  65. Nat Whilk says:

    FWIW, I count 161 citations of Mormon Doctrine in the Church publications I’ve downloaded in PDF form from lds.org. I’d say that the McConkie-expungers have their work cut out for them.

  66. #56 If woman is God’s greatest creation, and a painter paints a naked woman in order study God’s greatest creation, it’s beautiful.

    What if I was to say that sex between husband and wife is one of the purest expressions of love and unity and harmony- would I be wrong? Should I, then, go on to say that if it is all of those things, we should watch and study it in order to study one of God’s greatest symbols of love, unity and harmony???

  67. Margaret, I really appreciate your sensitivity on this issue. I have a hard time reading literature with offensive material, especially abundant bad language (I realize that was not the issue with this story) … it ricochets around in my head for hours or even days afterward, and dulls my sensitivity to the Spirit in a noticeable way. This is frustrating for me, as I love to read, and there are many books I think I’d otherwise enjoy. I echo m&m: “it’s way too simplistic to suggest that anyone who can’t handle or doesn’t want to engage a book/story/movie with sex scenes or whatever is somehow shallow, taking the easy way out, or somehow unable to deal with life.” I always appreciate knowing in advance what I may be reading, and I am sure there are students in your class who will be grateful for your balanced approach to teaching this story.

  68. One last comment before I head to bed:
    The title of my post was not thought out at all. I dashed the whole thing off quickly and asked Steve to post it whenever he wanted to. But returning to it, I do want to state that one smudge does NOT make anything hopeless. Even a smudge on our own character. I hope I remember the words to “I Believe in Christ” better than I remember anything in _Mormon Doctrine_.

    For me personally, if a work is redemptive–meaning it redeems my sense of humanity or adjusts my false assumptions or redeems ME by introducing me to a new, more compassionate way of thinking and experiencing my days and my family’s days; if I am better in some way for having gone on the journey offered by Bellow or any other artist/thinker of any culture, the work is “virtuous, lovely, and of good report and praiseworthy”–even if it has led me to a dungeon (like Liberty Jail or a murderer’s conscience (_Crime and Punishment_). If it returns me to the light, I willingly go on the journey, and hope my students will also allow themselves also to come along.

  69. By explicitly repudiating portions of Mormon Doctrine, or any other GA authored book, does that implicitly endorse the non-repudiated portions? Is that problematic?

  70. Disclaimer: I have not read the book but I am imagining it to be like Tony Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” or “Beloved” which I read for assignments in high school and college and by which I was offended. Well written but not uplifting, virtuous, or lovely.

    Perhaps I am too easily offended, but this is a University sponsored by a church whose belief it is that we should do all we can to stay pure and avoid these sorts of things. Lets expand our minds in a positive direction, it is not necessary to know evil to make someone better. I am reminded of one of our core tenants, the 13th Article of Faith. In any other university it may be entirely appropriate to use this book.

    I would offer up the possibility that some people may have chosen to go to BYU because they didn’t want to be exposed to the garbage they would find in a public university, especially in literature departments. If someone feels they need to be stretched and tried by that type of literature let them do it at another university which doesn’t receive funding from the church. If you choose to go to a school affiliated with a conservative religion, you choose to adhere to its values and to give up reading literature which doesn’t conform. If you need it to teach, teach somewhere else.

    I imagine you can find another well written book that doesn’t require this discussion. If you can’t find good creative writing to use in your class that doesn’t contain edgy material than what better place to encourage this kind of writing than at BYU? Encourage your students to produce uplifting material.

    To 18, the reason the church tries to keep us in a perpetual childish state of innocence is because “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10:15)

    And for the Song of Solomon comment. It my discuss immoral and inappropriate behavior it does not offer a graphic description which produces inappropriate images in the mind, especially in the context of religious instruction. I have never read Bellow but it doesn’t sound like the purpose of the story is to enlighten us or bring us closer to God.

  71. J.Peter, in every comment you’ve made at this site, you’ve voiced offense. That’s a high percent offense ratio. In this context, as you are not familiar with anything Margaret is talking about, perhaps you had better refrain from pontificating on the topic.

  72. I would offer up the possibility that some people may have chosen to go to BYU because they didn’t want to be exposed to [books like that]

    J.Peter, I’m not really clear why you felt it was necessary to “offer up” that possibility when Prof. Young states in the blog post above that she gave students the option of reading something else. It seems she has already taken that into consideration.

    BYU has seen fit to employ Prof. Young, I think you owe her at a minimum a benefit of the doubt, and a great deal more respect than you’ve just shown.

    You make some points that bear being made, but your approach is all wrong. Too rude and too not-having-read-original-post. It seems you’d like to make a habit of commenting here. That’s fine. But you need to dial the rudeness WAY down and the humbleness WAY up.

  73. I would offer up the possibility that some people may have chosen to go to BYU because they didn’t want to be exposed to the garbage they would find in a public university, especially in literature departments.

    I’ve studied literature at a couple of different public universities now, and I’ve encountered little to nothing I’d consider “garbage” at either–certainly there’s no more garbage out here in secularland than there is at BYU.

    The literature curricula have been remarkably consistent across the three universities I’ve attended. At least in terms of the books I’ve been assigned, I can’t perceive much, if any, difference between BYU and secular universities.

  74. One last point for JPeter, then we’d better stop letting him derail our conversation: JPeter, you do realize that BYU lists both Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Beloved on their “Great Works” list of recommended reading, right?

  75. Perhaps I am too easily offended, but this is a University sponsored by a church whose belief it is that we should do all we can to stay pure and avoid these sorts of things. Lets expand our minds in a positive direction, it is not necessary to know evil to make someone better. I am reminded of one of our core tenants, the 13th Article of Faith. In any other university it may be entirely appropriate to use this book.

    This comment makes it sound like you haven’t even read the post or the following discussion. “These sorts of things”? I would argue that the very books that you were offended by are, indeed, virtuous, lovely, and of good report. Like Margaret says, and I agree, if they bring you back to the light, they are, in fact, uplifting.

    The “Lord’s University” is not a faceless thing, it is made up of people, teachers, administrators, students, who all get to make judgments about what “conforms” to the 13th article of faith. That one or two students a semester do not find BYU conservative enough is not reason to say to the rest of the faculty and student body, “go somewhere else.” Rather I have a suggestion for those one or two students: enroll in a monastery.

  76. Margaret,

    Your post takes me back to my transition from a master’s degree in family therapy at Indiana State to a PhD at BYU. ISU accepted a token Mormon each year to balance out the class and because we were always near the top of the cohort. Wisdom of the ages was always passed from year-to-year and we were duly warned about the 3 week sex therapy course taught by a lesbian professor. The class included a weekend-long “Sexual Attitude Readjustment” seminar that included graphic self-disclosures about sexuality and watching many films that portrayed all every conceivable variation of flagrante delicto. In a group exercise we w were also required to write down every word possible to describe sexual anatomy and sexual behaviors. We were supposed to practice saying them aloud, but I wasn’t ready for that.

    In juxtopositon, when I arrived back at BYU, I taught an upper-level parenting class and was criticized by my students for discussing sexuality during pregnancy (including an endorsement of oral sex) and for using the Simpsons as the mascots for the class.

    Looking back, I think the sex class at ISU was over-the-top, as were the prudish students in my parenting class. While the teacher of the sex class did allow for students who didn’t want to watch the erotica to simply look away, the entire class and seminar were requirements for graduation. It could have been less explicit for the uninitiated and still provided excellent training for couple’s therapy. Similarly, BYU student comments like “You should only teach that stuff to married couples, and if they are married they already know it anyway” reflect a miserable perspective on both bachelorhood and marriage.

  77. This is a fascinating and important topic. While I try to keep my media intake as 13th-Article-of-Faith-friendly as possible (I’m the guy who originally criticized the darker elements in The Dark Knight here, after all), I’m also an English teacher and a lover of humanity’s arts.

    I say unabashedly that Joyce is my favorite author (and even the Great Nibley Himself could only say that he liked Ulysses by adding the disclaimer “as literature”), and I have had more than one good parent challenge the readings in my classes because they couldn’t give me the benefit of the doubt and see that I was teaching important analytical concepts in context, not merely tyring to titilate. (Uh, huh-huh-huh, he said…he said…”ilate.” Uh huh-huh, that was cool.)

    So hopefully that labored introduction helps this seem like less of a threadjack, but Margaret’s excellent post reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about: is offenseive material more offensive in print or on screen?

    I tend to say on screen: coarse language, violence, and sex on screen leave nothing to the imagination. They force it at you in all of its celluloid glory. In print, it’s easy to self-censor the extremity of such scenes, or skip it altogether (jumping down a paragraph is a lot less intrusive than pushing fast forward).

    A friend, however, would opt for the written episodes being worse. She says that screen incidents are gone in a flash, but written material is still right in front of you, staring you in the face, until you finish another page or two. Interesting. After all, the written word is most powerful.

    What say you? (Steve, if this is all too far off topic, feel free to remove it and put it somewhere more appropriate. Actually, if you could put it up at The New York Times, that would be great. Thanks.)

  78. Steve Evans says:

    Good thoughts Jamie. I wonder over those questions myself.

  79. Margaret,

    This will probably unfairly minimize your dilemma but my opinion is, if you have to go through an internal debate about it and cringe when you give the assignment just change the reading assignment.

    I haven’t read the story you referenced and I have somehow managed to turn out to be rather well-educated and well-read. If you must, just throw it onto a recommended reading list or something.

    The argument that you can’t protect or shield the students from everything is garbage and a total non-sequitur. Your students have (and will) confront plenty of pornographic/obscene/questionable/etc… material that will challenge their ability to withstand temptation and teach them to choose the better part. Sure, you shouldn’t have to be a shield but you don’t want to be the archer either.

    There’s plenty of wholesome, enlightened, creative and stimulating writing out there. Just pick something else.

    That’s my 37 cents anyway.

  80. Rebecca J says:

    I think there’s a point where you have to own your neuroses. I’m sympathetic to people who don’t want to read explicit material, but everyone has a different threshold for “explicit,” and you can’t possibly cater to everyone’s sensibilities. Well, you could try, but you’d wind up with a very boring class (or book club–I have experience in that area). My daughter didn’t want to read a book for school because it had some “inappropriate” words in it–words I don’t allow in my home, but nothing you can’t say on TV. I don’t think this book was crucial to her education, but I want her to be able to get past the “smudges” and focus on what’s essential to the work in question. I couldn’t help thinking of Huckleberry Finn, which repeatedly uses the N-word, which we should all find offensive. It doesn’t really work to say that it’s just words. Words are powerful. But our minds should be more powerful.

    I do think Mormon Doctrine could stand to be tossed and none of us would be the poorer. No offense to Elder McConkie, who had plenty of wholesome and enlightened things to say. That stuff we can keep.

  81. Margaret, care to post your entire syllabus online? Maybe people reading BCC could audit your class :)

    This whole discussion reminds me of my creative writing classes at BYUH with Sis Marler. We used to have long class discussions about what we should or should not expose ourselves too or write about, and the usefulness of so called ‘objectionable’ material in any art form. At the time, I totally disagreed with her at the time (I was young and very pious and incredibly immature and naive inmo). But those discussions stayed with me and I have to say I am glad the english faculty (the Marlers, Keith Peterson, etc) there challenged me and forced me to go out of my comfort zone. I am better for it and I think your students will be also.

  82. I find there is a whole class of Mormon nuns and monks, people who seem to think if they make their lives more restrictive and plain, they will in some sense be judged more worthy and will then in turn receive a greater reward on the judgment day. It is as if they have figured out some secret combination of personal denial that will make them more spiritual than the general riff-raff in the economy section of the Celestial Kingdom. More power to them, but I do believe they are trying to overshoot the mark when all they need to do is wash in the river. As I told a Sister once who was bemoaning the fact there wasn’t anything good to read anymore; I read a ton and there isn’t enough time to read all I want. How do you find good things that aren’t offensive (she asked)? Easy, I have lower standards than you.

  83. The Song of Solomon

    does not offer a graphic description which produces inappropriate images in the mind, especially in the context of religious instruction.

    , says JPeter.

    Only because you don’t understand it, says Nitsav the Semiticist.

    Look for a post at FPR in the future on this topic.

  84. Erm, my comment above assumes that JPeter is referring to the Biblical Song of Solomon, which may not be accurate. FPR post to follow anyway ;)

  85. #80: “I do think Mormon Doctrine could stand to be tossed and none of us would be the poorer.” I agree. But who are/were it’s patrons ? Not the FP under McKay. But how about the FP under Lee? (Lee made McConkie an Apostle). To me, it just seems over the years, McConkie (and Mormon Doctrine) has become a scapegoat for racism that he did not bring into the Church (?)

  86. I’m reminded of the object lesson employed by my high school seminary teacher. He was apparently sick of hearing students justify their desires to view otherwise great movies by saying “there is just one bad part.”

    So to start class, seminary teacher, we’ll call him Bro. A, dons a chefs hat and a scrumptious slice of what I believe was homemade pie. Bro. A asks if anyone in the class would like to eat said pie. All male members of the class raise their hands and start drooling all over themselves…ribbing each other over how tasty Bro. A’s pie is going to be. Bro. A invites big football dude (same kid who had to do the pushups in that other object lesson) to the front of the class and teases football dude with pie. Beads of sweat start to form on football dudes forehead. Bro. A adds whipped cream to the pie…football dude is like a puppy, ready to chase the tennis ball. A couple more toppings are added.

    Bro. A tells football dude that one more topping will be added…and then football dude can eat the whole pie. Bro. A spins around, after adding said topping and to our dismay, the last topping is not a cherry, but a big chunk of dog sheesh! Bro. A asks football dude if he still wants to eat the pie. Football dude probably did, but he forces himself to turn up his nose and run back to his seat. Bro. A turns auctioneer….trying to pawn the piece of sheesh laden pie to anyone in the room who will even look at it. Bro. A’s voice is burned in my memory to this day….”but there’s just one BAD part…..”

    He made his point….I wonder what he would have said about Mormon Doctrine?

  87. I not sure I get the story. I am flawed, and everyone I know is flawed. Should I reject them for this; I mean they are okay except for that one BAD part. It seems a pretty lonely life when taken to extremes like that. Maybe you just know a better class of people than I do, which is entirely possible.

  88. Ha! TStevens….I just thought (and still think) the object lesson was funny as hell (or should I say heck?), but I have the sense of humor of a 14 year old boy. I’m not suggesting I think it’s philosophically, spiritually, or practically sound.

  89. I just cannot take seriously anybody who mistakes “tenants” for “tenets.” I just keep thinking of those lousy deadbeats who won’t pay their rent.

  90. Au contraire, I think that story (#86) is not only unsound, not only “unhelpful” (thanks EO), but dangerous to young minds who still maintain a high sense of idealism and invest heavily in the concept that one might keep oneself unspotted from the world if one tries hard enough. As a result of object lessons like these and other pernicious lies and rumors about good and evil in aesthetics, they develop hypersensitivity to the world around them, judging and condemning everything that does not meet the white glove standard they have set. Ultimately, they end up unhappy, I feel, because they can neither live up to the unrealistic ideal they have set for themselves, and neither can anyone or anything else. I feel strongly about this because that’s the way I feel I was taught as a youth, and it took years to allow myself to open up to messages that saw both the good and bad in humanity. I struggle with it still, to be honest.

  91. FWIW, if any of you get opportunity to read through the FDA’s standards book (informative, but the plot really wanders), and looked up percent allowable bug parts in dry spices, you would never worry about a bug on your sundae. Enjoy the flavor it adds, you are already use to it.

  92. Rebecca J says:

    I wouldn’t eat a sundae with a bug in it, nor would I eat a pie with dog sheesh on it, but I would totally eat a cookie that fell on the ground because, you know, three second rule. So maybe a certain amount of graphic material is okay, provided you can get through it in three seconds or less. Of course, some people have a 10-second rule.

  93. re: #3- I’m with you Steve. Nothing gets between me and my ice cream.

  94. #86: So, are we saying JS & BY were faulted, and should be rejected?
    Having lived through the wars on “Mormon Doctrine”, as I recall, for the first years, it’s ‘crime’ was calling the Catholic Church the “Whore of all the earth”, not racism. But I am open to challenge on that.

  95. Bob, it seems to me there are three chief difficulties people have with Mormon Doctrine: one is the treatment of other religions (including the list of ‘heresies’ in the 1st ed.), the second is racism, and the third is its unequivocal rejection of evolutionary theory.

    Those are just the problems that caused big scandals; there are other, perhaps more troubling ideas in the text.

  96. There are lots and lots of problems with Mormon Doctrine, as Steve and others have pointed out. One of the fundamental problems is the title itself. Had the book instead been named “Thoughts of a Servant,” much of the heat it has taken would have long since dissipated.

  97. A quick thought…

    I’ve noticed that many dismiss all of McConkie’s writings for the smudge of Mormon Doctrine. I am very leery, also, of using it. But instead of treating the bad parts of Mormon Doctrine as the smudge, we treat the book itself as the smudge.

    Elder McConkie, despite the intellectual baggage that he might have carried with him while trying to grasp challenging Gospel concepts, has excellent material in his Messiah series and some of his Doctrinal Commentary on the New Testament is illuminating and helpful.

    I don’t know if this redefining as smudge helps the analogy: if we redefined it this way, we would remove the unprofitable parts.

  98. I just have to say that as much as I appreciate Margaret’s sensitivity with this for her class, I really don’t see that comparing the struggle with bad teachings in MD is really accurate. I can get past bad teachings with true doctrine. But no amount of true doctrine will remove something sexually explicit or graphic from the brain. For some people, that is enough reason to avoid such material and that, imo, should be respected.

    Having had no experience with the text Margaret is talking about, I’m not placing a value judgment on that piece. But to me the continued comparison to MD is like apples and oranges to what the issue is with drawing lines about art and literature.

  99. m&m, that’s an interesting thought. Inaccuracies do indeed seem far more benign than a pornographic image.

  100. Inaccuracies do indeed seem far more benign than a pornographic image.

    MMmmmmmm… I dunno. Hard pornography, perhaps- but I find overt racism masquerading under the guise of doctine far, far more offensive than the naked human body.

  101. #95: We agree. Again, for me, McConkie’s big mistake, was in trying to put in clear Black and White print form, what was Mormon Doctrine. (Or his view of it), Few have made that mistake since.

  102. I’m always careful to refer to “that book” as “McConkie Doctrine”. BRM wasn’t even an apostle when it was first published. You’ll also notice that no copy of “McConkie Doctrine” has ever been published bearing the imprint “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. That means it’s not scripture, it’s not a lesson manual, and you can’t buy it through Church Distribution. You can, however, get “True to the Faith”, an alphabetic topic commentary which is published by the Church, and which was published largely to get people away from McConkie Doctrine.

    And, in regard to the a post above calling BYU “The Lord’s University”, that it ain’t. BYU does not have a monopoly on truth.

  103. Thomas Parkin says:

    “But no amount of true doctrine will remove something sexually explicit or graphic from the brain.”

    While techincally true this paints a misleading picture: the picture of once tainted always tainted. As we are converted, i.e exposeed to and accepting of the Word and sacntified by it, our reactions to what we are and have been exposed change as well. So that one carries images in one’s brain that were once enticing but we now feel aversion, or compassion and understanding, or, in some cases, nothing at all. It isn’t the image itself nearly as much as _who we are_ in relation to the image. So that the real fight isn’t _centered_ in avoiding images but in becoming holy (whole) through Faith, Repentence, Covenant making and keeping, and, ultimately, the work of the Holy Ghost is us. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t many things we should avoid. I point it out because language like this makes hope difficult for many people.

    I refer you to Ether 12 and Isaiah 1:18.

    The missing element in this discussion is the egregious language, unfortunately. It’s really tough to tell how nearly “pornographic” the passages are without having read them. In general, the question I ask is: is the art true and deep? If it is true and deep it will have an expansive impact of the individual who is _prepared_ to understand it. (Prepared: I wouldn’t read MacBeth to my six year old. I love Cormac McCarthy very much, as someone who has taught me a great deal about goodness – but in a million years I’d never recommend Blood Meridian to almost anyone. Because it might fill them with despair. I’m aware that this may sound condescnding – all I can say is that I’m prepared for some things.)

    The trick with art, in my current tentative view, is not to reject or accept wholesale so much as to try and take on the thing that sits on our horizon, the thing that we are prepared for. This is true with all learning. We are only going to hear, and this only if we are both lucky and actually moving forward, the thing that constitutes one of our next steps ahead. Also, we’ve got to learn to engage a thing as it actually is, which often means effacing our subjective responces. After all, many people on hearing doctrines of the church feel aversion. So long as that aversion is taken as the final word for such an individual, they can never engage our religion as it actually is. I think we can assume that we do the same thing. Not every feeling is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is just how we feel about sommthing. The Spirit will help us cull truth out of whatever contains it.

    We also need to approach work that can teach us ackowledging our ignorance. I try to remember to acknowledge my ignorance in prayer everytime I read the scriptures. Appraoching art is not materially different, except for the types and relative importance of the truths we are likely to discover. If I approach material thinking I already understand what is there, or if I let an aversion to something I read dictate to me, then my learning is done for that day.

    A person needs to answer for themselves, and we ought to be sensitive to other people where they are. It seems to me that Maragaret is doing exactly this. I don’t have any problem with a person refusing to read a particular story, or walking out of a theatre when they see or read something that they don’t want to become part of their being. The vast majority of what is hoisted on us may or may not be evil, but is certainly a waste of our time. All the more frustrating when I see things rejected that I know to not be a waste of time.

    ~

  104. Hard pornography, perhaps- but I find overt racism masquerading under the guise of doctine far, far more offensive than the naked human body.

    My point wasn’t about degree of offensiveness, it was about what can or can’t be purged from the mind or corrected by true doctrine. I’m not arguing that racism isn’t offensive, so please don’t misunderstand.

  105. I never went to BYU, but I hear that science teachers often open their evolution units with a statement like, “I don’t necessarilly agree with everything that’s currently agreed upon in the scientific community about evolution, nor some of the philosophical ideas that some people have attached to it, but evolution is a major part of modern science, and it’s important to study it.”

    I wonder if we as humanities teachers should adopt a similar attitude: “I don’t necessarilly condone some of the language used in this text, or the coarser scenes in it, but it is a major influence on our culture / an award winner / a frequent point of reference, and it’s important to study it.”

    After all, BYU is supposed to be a good school. People should be able to get a world class education there, not just a Mormon version of an education. That would be a grave disservice. In the 21st century, the Church needs people who are prepared to be leaders in various fields around the world, not just qualified to teach Sunday School in Utah.

  106. #102 “And, in regard to the a post above calling BYU “The Lord’s University”, that it ain’t. BYU does not have a monopoly on truth.”

    You may have noticed quotation marks around that phrase. That was meant to indicate irony. Or maybe sarcasm. Despite many years spent in the English program at “The Lord’s University” I sometimes still have trouble differentiating the two.

  107. I never went to BYU, but I hear that science teachers often open their evolution units with a statement like, “I don’t necessarilly agree with everything that’s currently agreed upon in the scientific community about evolution, nor some of the philosophical ideas that some people have attached to it, but evolution is a major part of modern science, and it’s important to study it.”

    Nope. Anyone that teaches evolution at BYU believes it.

  108. Aaron Brown says:

    Back in the late ’90s, I specifically asked multiple members of the biology faculty about belief in evolution among BYU science faculty. The head of Zoology could only think of one faculty member in the hard sciences who was skeptical of evolution, and his expertise was about as far removed from evolutionary biology as it could be.

    AB

  109. Left Field says:

    If evolution disclaimers such as those mentioned in #8 and #102 are given by biology instructors at BYU, that is a new development. And since BYU has a number of highly regarded evolutionary biologists, I would be astonished if such disclaimers are given by anyone teaching biology. The fact vs theory dichotomy mentioned in #8 is nonsensical because scientific theories are built on facts.

    Far from giving a disclaimer, professors when I was there (20-30 years ago) made it abundantly clear that they fully accepted evolution, and that the church had no position one way or the other on the matter. Most of those Biology professors are still there, and they have been joined by many others whose research focuses on evolutionary biology.

  110. I think that for some people a pornographic image is certainly more harmful than a doctrinal inaccuracy. But both things can be harmful, and how much harm they do depends on the person who is viewing the image or receiving the “doctrine.” Obviously some people read the offending passages of Mormon Doctrine and concluded they were wrong, but others took them at face value and helped perpetuate those ideas for years and years. We still haven’t rooted out all of the racist folklore, nor have we fully recovered from the consequences of it. I don’t think we need to beat up on Elder McConkie, especially in light of the fact that he redacted those statements; but it just goes to show that repenting of an act doesn’t erase all the effects of that act.

    Similarly, some people can view a “pornographic image” (however one defines it) and come out relatively unscathed psychologically, but others can’t and don’t. I think a literary image that is filtered through your imagination is qualitatively different from a photographic image that goes straight to your retinas, but that isn’t necessarily true for everyone. (I just don’t know.) Those images do stay with some people longer and more vividly than with others, and how they respond is how they respond.

    The difference is that it’s appropriate for the Church to publicly denounce false teachings, but it’s not appropriate (or practical, for that matter) for them to put their stamp of approval or disapproval on individual literary works, the merits of which members are fully capable of judging on their own. I’m not talking about determining which texts BYU students may or may not be required to read; that’s a separate issue. One is always free to read Bellow on his or her own time. A warning such as Margaret is considering would definitely be an invitation to some students who might otherwise miss the offending passage by merely skimming the story–but it would be appreciated by those who want to avoid that material, and that counts for more, IMO.

    Of course, some people will just end up pervy racists no matter what you do, so [shrug].

  111. #102:”I’m always careful to refer to “that book” as “McConkie Doctrine”.
    I feel you are mistaken. BRMc. had been a GA for 12 years at it’s writing, he was the son -in-Law of J.F. Smith. The book’s ‘mistakes’, were a tip of an iceberg in Mormon thinking, and many other GAs backed his writings.

  112. A very quick note: As the semester progresses, I get to see my students’ writing. Some students reveal themselves as wonderful, sensitive, good people–but truly not open to someone like Cormac McCarthy (Thomas Parkin’s example) or Bellow or Morrison. I remember recommending a Christmas anthology published by Deseret Book to one such student. I happen to hate the anthology and am embarrassed by the story I authored which is in it, but I knew she’d get good things from it. She did indeed. She loved the anthology, read every story in it, and learned something about plot. She will never be a great writer–or even a great reader–but that is not essential.

    On the other hand, as I see students a bit more eager to expand their writing possibilities and hungry to find places to feed their minds, and as I see the material and skill they’re already working with, I easily recommend literature I would never suggest to the woman referred to above. The students eventually reveal to me what they’re ready for, and I cater to them specifically.

    As for _MD_, I consider the pages on race to be intellectual and spiritual pornography. I link them directly to the racial epithets some of my friends have been called. I link them to the overt and covert prejudice which shows itself far too often in our church. I see the damage continuing and don’t anticipate it will end until _MD_ and other books like it are off the shelves and the Prophet has specifically repudiated any idea of one race being “cursed” or that God condones a color-coded caste system.

  113. My dad was a science teacher at BYU and I’m confident that he never taught evolution, with or without a disclaimer. Of course, he was a chemist.

    But I do remember his telling me once, only partly in jest, that he was glad that none of the Brethren presumed to know anything about chemistry.

  114. Mark B–you are so fun. That last comment helps me realize why I always associated you with the sciences. I had a sense that you were intelligent and capable in pretty much everything, but especially the sciences. I thought you were good at math. I, on the other hand, am terribly lop-sided, with a well-developed right brain and not much on the left. (No comments about dugs, please.)

    And you became an immigration lawyer? Man! It sounds like you know your stuff extremely well.

  115. Steve Evans says:

    “I consider the pages on race to be intellectual and spiritual pornography.”

    I gotta tell you, your taste in porn is terrible.

  116. Nat Whilk says:

    @108: “The head of Zoology could only think of one faculty member in the hard sciences who was skeptical of evolution, and his expertise was about as far removed from evolutionary biology as it could be.

    Of course, the head of the Zoology Department had no way of knowing what the majority of faculty members in the hard sciences believed about evolution.

  117. Now I get it. Over at NCT the guy from living scriptures said if we didn’t buy their products we would end up with porn. I felt lied to because I didn’t have porn or living scripture dvds. But checking my bookcase I do have MD, so I guess I did end up with (very bad) porn. Scary how prophetic the LSI guy was.

  118. BYU biology professors don’t apologize for teaching evolution. I graduated fairly recently.
    The geology and anthropology professors are in the same boat. I never heard a science teacher criticize evolution (although I did hear it criticized in a humanities class). One chemistry professor, when talking about the 2nd law of thermodynamics, explained why it doesn’t conflict with evolution. Mostly, though, the chemistry and physics teachers stayed away from it because it didn’t have much to do with what they were teaching.

  119. Margaret,

    Please let me know if you teach a distance course. I envy your students.

    The death of Mormon Doctrine in my mind has been hard for me. As a youth, it was the first LDS book I owned other than the scriptures and I poured over it during the period when I was forbidden to go to church. And I referred to it regularly to clarify various things once I was allowed to attend church. Most recently my husband, the crazy conservative, recorded the entire thing for personal use and has listened to the whole thing a few times straight through.

    Sure, I disagreed with the whole take on race, the church of the devil and psychology, but wrote it off as cultural carryover from a bygone era.

    Sad was the day when I realized that no one was going to hand me truth in a thick black book, alphabetized and ready for memorization. I still look at what the stick of Bruce has to say, but the information no longer gets to skip the analysis that every other piece of info has to go through before I accept it.

  120. My experience with BYU is fairly recent. As a student of the hard sciences, I have never heard disclaimers on evolution. (Unless you include the serious rebukes made through the letters to the editor in the Daily Universe, in which case evolution and not recycling are equally damnable. Go figure.)

  121. #112: Margaret, I was one of those young Mormon students who read Bellow, Updike, Salinger, and feel I came out the better for it.
    Again, We agree on *MD*. But putting a flame to it is not enough. It was never was the source of racist doctrine.

  122. As for _MD_, I consider the pages on race to be intellectual and spiritual pornography.

    I’m no fan of the ideas about race propagated in _MD_ and elsewhere; personally, I find them repugnant, and I was appalled to read the ideas being propagated by General Authorities as late as the fifties and sixties. Given Margaret’s extensive research on this topic and friendships with people who’ve been directly, seriously impacted by these ideas, I can certainly understand the vehemence of her reaction.

    But something about calling such passages “intellectual and spiritual pornography” doesn’t sit right with me. There are some pretty disturbing ideas about race right there in the Book of Mormon; are those passages spiritual porn? When Paul instructs women to keep silent in church and be subject to their husbands, is that intellectual porn? When God commands the utter destruction of the Amalekites in the OT, is that porn? (I suppose any of these passages, like the Song of Songs, could arguably be used as porn by a given reader, which makes it even more complex.)

    I’m immensely pleased that the church has moved away from these doctrines and toward condemnations of racism, as in the talk President Hinckley gave recently. But I just don’t know that we can so easily separate true doctrine from what we now (rightly, in my view!) want to distance ourselves from as “folklore.” I’m all for the distancing, but at the same time I want to see some sort of basis for doctrine-folklore discernment other than “we as a church now find this offensive, and we didn’t used to.”

    P.S. I’m reading Song of Solomon right now, the Morrison version, that is. Fantastic book. I’d also highly recommend her more recent Paradise and Jazz, although I think Paradise is the better of the two.

  123. As for _MD_, I consider the pages on race to be intellectual and spiritual pornography. I link them directly to the racial epithets some of my friends have been called. I link them to the overt and covert prejudice which shows itself far too often in our church. I see the damage continuing

    I understand what you are saying, Margaret. I have seen people have the hardest time overcoming things that they have read about lots of hot-button Mormon issues, and have sometimes myself called anti-Mormon stuff spiritual pornography, so I can relate to the way you feel about this.

    I still think that you *can* overcome these things through the Spirit and discernment and true doctrine. On the other hand, I have not heard of anything that can help one purge the mind of sexual images or descriptions.

    I also think it’s a little much to blame all of the racist folklore on MD, but maybe that’s just me. (There were others who held that idea over the decades, and in the end, I think it’s rather unproductive to continue to vilify Elder McConkie, his book, and other people for mistakes they have made in this regard. Try to correct those mistakes? Absolutely! But I think we can do that while being charitable to the people who did their best with what they knew. That’s all we all try to do, no?)

    But then again, perhaps the visceral and long-lasting response of some to MD is a sort of case in point about how we all will respond to different information and stimuli in different ways. Just another evidence to me that sensitivity with presenting material with potentially controversial content is a good thing. I think there is value in letting the students choose how they want to approach this.

    …And in case someone here hasn’t heard this from Elder Holland, this is something that I think is important to share and keep sharing:

    One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

    It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

    There is more, but I didn’t want to include too much here for sake of space.

  124. This is way late in the game, but my experience is that for Mormons under 40, what they tend to value most about Elder McConkie is the fact that he is so clearly, monumentally, and ridiculously wrong some of the time. There’s something transgressive and almost liberating about realizing that a GA can have really crazy, indefensible ideas and teach them as gospel truth (or Mormon Doctrine). The teachings on race, caste, etc., from MD are repugnant; but they would be far more so were they taken seriously by almost anyone.

    I think what’s best is to keep publishing and selling MD but with a strong disclaimer, not limited to any specific entries (though the entries on race and caste would serve as obvious examples), and suggest that contemporary readers view the text less as a lesson in eternal truth than as a window into normative Mormon discourse circa 1960.

  125. Aaron Brown says:

    #116:
    “Of course, the head of the Zoology Department had no way of knowing what the majority of faculty members in the hard sciences believed about evolution.”

    Huh? Are you serious? Umm, yes he did. He asked them.

    AB

  126. I should probably clarify that the terms “monumentally and ridiculously wrong” as well as “crazy” and “indefensible” apply to the MD entries on “race” and “caste” and not to Elder McConkie’s corpus of work as a whole.

  127. Nat Whilk says:

    @#125: “Huh? Are you serious? Umm, yes he did. He asked them.

    No, he didn’t. I’ve been a faculty member in the hard sciences at BYU since the early 1990s, and the head of the Zoology Department has never asked me whether or not I believe in evolution. Where in the world did you get the idea that he polled the science faculty on this issue?

  128. Nat Whilk says:

    Aaron:

    The Zoology Department at BYU had 2 chairs in the late 1990’s: Richard Tolman and John Bell. Which of them are you claiming discovered the opinions of a majority of the several hundred hard science faculty at BYU on the subject of evolution?

  129. Steve Evans says:

    Nat. Take it easy. I think all Aaron’s saying is that there was indeed a possible way for the head of Zoo to know, i.e. Asking them.

  130. Nat Whilk says:

    @#129: I think all Aaron’s saying is that there was indeed a possible way for the head of Zoo to know

    This only counts as a possibility if travel backwards in time is a possibility. At the time that the chair of Zoology at BYU spoke with Aaron, he hadn’t polled the science faculty about evolution. Unless he had a time machine (or ESP), he had no access to the opinions of the majority of BYU’s science faculty.

  131. Steve Evans says:

    Nat, suit yourself.

  132. Left Field says:

    The chair’s claim as reported by Aaron was that he only knew of one science faculty member that questioned evolution. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It’s just an informal statement of what information he knows.

    Nat’s claim, on the other hand was that the chair couldn’t know the opinions of a majority of the science faculty because the chair hadn’t asked Nat. Sounds perfectly unreasonable to me. Especially since the chair didn’t even make the claim that Nat feels compelled to refute.

    Even if the chair had made such a claim, it’s obviously not necessary to have surveyed every science professor. If there’s 200 science faculty, you just have to know 101 that accept evolution before you know the opinion of the majority. And that’s without even making statistical inferences about the population based on a sample.

  133. Do people think ” Mormon Doctrine” jumped out of McConkie’s ear full grown? Or that he walked around Temple Square like Darth Vader? Who challenged the statements in the book in 1958 or 1966?

  134. Who challenged the statements in the book in 1958 or 1966?

    David O. McKay and Spencer W. Kimball, among others.

  135. Nat Whilk says:

    @132: “Nat’s claim, on the other hand was that the chair couldn’t know the opinions of a majority of the science faculty because the chair hadn’t asked Nat.

    Nope, that wasn’t my claim. That he didn’t ask me is only one piece of evidence supporting my claim of the absurdity of the unnamed chair having access to this sort of evidence. Wandering around from office to office of faculty members outside one’s own department (who don’t know you from Adam) in order to interrogate them on their stance on evolution is simply not something that’s done at BYU. And a formal survey would have had to have been approved by the administration–good luck with that!–and would have left a historical record of its occurrence, a record that does not in fact exist.

    Both late 1990s chairs of Zoology are still alive (although one of them is, for some reason, now a UVUlan rather than a Zoobie). If Aaron really does think that either of them knew the minds of a majority of the science faculty on this issue, it would be a simple matter for Aaron to contact him and have him go on record with a statement of where he allegedly obtained such knowledge.

  136. Left Field says:

    Give it a rest Nate. You’ve killed your straw man. No need to dismember the body.

  137. Left Field says:

    …sorry. Nat.

  138. Interesting to follow the intertwining denunciations of 1) Bruce McConkie’s teaching on lineage, and 2) the notion that any BYU science faculty have any problem with biological evolution. I’m reminded again of the Patri Friedman analogy that I brought up with Ronan’s Mungo Man post. One of the weaker arguments I’ve seen supporting evolution is that there is no credible competing theory, therefore evolution is a correct concept. I see a bit of that with Elder McConkie–the wish to combine every line of scripture into one coherent pattern. So far, I don’t find any offering patterns to compete with McConkie’s that don’t jettison lineage completely. “Old Testament; don’t care. Book of Mormon; don’t care. Pearl of Great Price; really, really don’t care. New Testament; hey, Peter’s vision overturned everything; that’s all I need to know! Don’t bother me with patriarchal blessings and temple sealings.”

    I think Bruce McConkie was far more right at his racist-tinged worst than anyone who insists that lineage has not the least spiritual dimension.

  139. #111 – BRC having a father-in-law no more makes him 100% correct than Lucifer being 100% correct because he’s brother of Jehovah.

    On certain issues, BRC was wrong, wrong, wrong. He had a great many things to say, he was a fantastic defender of truth, and I’m sure he was a nice guy. But, no matter how many alleged “GA’s” have backed his writings, you’ll notice that they have never been canonized. They’ve been quoted in official works, yes, but until we sit in General Conference and are asked as a body to add Mormon Doctrine to either the Doctrine & Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price, I’m under NO obligation to accept it as the Word of God. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but the same could be said about some Playboy articles.

  140. Walt Nicholes says:

    Some really good and provocative posts on this one. Thanks, all.

    “Truth” is messy. Throughout the history of the church, especially early on, there were interpretive differences on doctrine. History shows that on occasion Joseph would publicly endorse one person’s doctrine, or publicly condemn another’s.

    As one studies all that has been taught and recorded as “official” in the church one realizes why Pres. McKay was against the publication of “Mormon Doctrine” and why he let it go forward. Even after a review of what would have then constituted the “correlation committee” there was disagreement in parts of the book. And so it was published as Elder McConkie’s “opinion.”

    But that is the problem with absolute truth. Once something is declared implicitly or explicitly as absolute truth, it cannot change without charging the one who originally declared it as having been at least mistaken, and at most a pernicious liar.

    A review of commonly understood doctrines in the church today, held in comparison to the doctrines that got the early church in real trouble with the world, would be quite telling. For the sake of new investigators, the acceptance of the world, etc. we have “dumbed down” LDS theology to the minimum needed to get through mortality. McConkie went beyond that, as did his father-in-law, Joseph Fielding Smith. They are in a class of folk who believe and live the philosophy – “The truth first and only, and the world be damned.”

  141. JM,
    The lack of a solid counter theory to biological evolution is no more evidence of its soundness than the lack of a competing theory is for the validity of gravitational theory. The reasoning works in the opposite direction: there are no serious competing theories because of the soundness of the existing ones (evolutionary, gravitational, relativity, quantum, etc.), not the other way around.

    Elder McConkie’s problem is not that he takes lineage seriously or assigns it spiritual dimension; it is that he conflates lineage (as you seem to as well) with race. There are no competing theories that explicate race in terms of the spiritual dimensions of lineage because there is no more need for such a theory than there is for a theory that harmonizes the Atkins diet with the book of Leviticus.

  142. #134: The writing of the book was challenged, but I am unaware of any of the contents being questioned at that time.(?)
    #140: I am looking at the book right now, it says nothing about it’s being only an “opinion’. It says: “Mormon Doctrine” is the ideal book for all who seek salvation….and then quotes D&C 88:77-7.

  143. The very next and concluding line is, “For the work itself, I assume sole and full responsibility.”

    That is a very careful way of saying, “This is my opinion.”

  144. John Mansfield says:

    So, Brad, in the organization of the inhabitants of the Earth as families, tribes, nations, etc., the coarsest subdivision of humanity (race) plays no role. How did you come by this insight? Your ridicule of the notion that race is connected to lineage indicates a queeziness with the topic akin to that of the fundamentalist who denounces evolution because 1) there is too a god, and 2) we ain’t descended from no stinking monkeys.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    JM, your latter sentence is pretty much why Elder McConkie denounced evolution, no? That point has little to do with your arguments re: race/lineage, I just found it curious.

  146. #143: You are correct in pointing out to me (thank you), Bro. McConkie’s words in his Preface to the 1st ED. I was not trying to mislead, but was mistaken in quoting only the inside cover to his 2nd Ed.

  147. John, this will turn into just another debate about race soon, and I won’t contribute to that, but it is worth pointing out that it is every bit as easy to read the NT (and, ironically, the BofM) as a new view of race and lineage as it is to quote the OT when this topic is discussed. Iow, it is very easy to believe that the pre-resurrection obsession with race and lineage being intertwined to constitute the Blessed People of God was shattered by the new wine of the Christian message.

    That is important, because Elder McConkie’s (and President Young’s) justifications primarily were OT passages, not the NT and BofM passages that seem to make the OT passages obsolete. I have no problem with OT prophets focusing on race and lineage; I do have a problem with “modern” prophets doing so. (even though I have no problem with the concept of being adopted into the House of Israel, since adoption does not denote limitations based on natural race or lineage)

  148. Lineage has spiritual significance. Race has none. The fact that people have taken it (or continue to take it) more seriously than it deserves or grant it some kind of ontologized status the divine order of things is not relevant to the question of its actual significance.

  149. John Mansfield says:

    Who could argue with an assertion asserted so assertatively?

  150. John,
    I’m confused — is that a critique of my last comment or of Mormon Doctrine?

  151. All this talk about literature classes at BYU is evidence of why I contend the problem isn’t the classes, it’s the LANGUAGE they are taught in.

    In my days in the Spanish department, we had a LOT of conversations that would probably be considered inappropriate. You can’t study the basic Hispanic corpus without finding something to offend…

    I was there when Farr was on the front page, and we lamented that she was teaching English. I told the same to my SIL, whose hiring by the BYU English Department was trashed for similar reasons.

  152. Some scripture smudges:

    Alma 3
    D&C 132

    Don’t let a few smudges ruin it.

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