Mother’s Heart, Father’s Heart

A few months ago I was googling around on the Internet and happened to find an interesting discussion which might  be familiar to many Mormons.  There were two factions participating in the discussion.  The first group asserted that you could predict what kind of  person a baby would  become on the day it was born.  Baby A would grow up to be independent, assertive, and to value getting things done.  Baby B would become an adult who was non-assertive and more of a follower than a leader, but who would excel at empathy, listening, caring for others, and building inter-personal relationships.  The second group in the discussion claimed that this was all a display of confirmation bias and presented evidence which contradicted the claims made by the first group.

In this case, the discussion focused on birth order in a family.  The argument was that a firstborn child tends to  get things done but isn’t much of a people person, whereas a middle child will be people-oriented rather than task-oriented.  Much of the language in the discussion reminded me of the way that LDS people often talk about masculinity and femininity. The claim is often made that women are born with an innate ability and desire to care for others.

There is nothing wrong with that belief, as far as it goes, but the part that is left unsaid is that women, because of their eternal nature, are better than men when it comes to caring for others. Even though this idea is held to be true by many among us, I believe it is a folk doctrine which is not only false but actually antithetical to the gospel and damaging to the church.

Do we really believe that there is a difference in the quality of love and caring that men and women offer to those around them? When a father puts the children to bed (baths, pajamas, teeth brushed, book read, prayers said), is it any less valuable than when Mom does these same things? While the fierce love that a mother often has for her children is a wonderful thing, it is deeply wrong, and more than a little insulting, to suggest that fathers love their children any less. When a hometeacher performs a car repair for a family he visits, is he less caring than when the visiting teachers bring meals? For that matter, when a man makes a meal for someone in the ward, is his offering somehow less worthy than a meal delivered by the Relief Society?

It has pleased me greatly that over the past few years our leaders have encouraged the men of the church to be more involved in the day-to-day life of their families and to share responsibility for meal preparation, laundry, caring for the children, and other household chores. When I was young it wasn’t unusual for a man to not know how to operate the washing machine. I remember a testimony borne by an older man who expressed gratitude to his wife and marveled at her ability to do laundry. I have known families where the boys were excused from washing dishes on the grounds that their sisters needed to learn their womanly role of caring for the home. The fact that attitudes like this are becoming increasingly rare among us is a sign of progress.

Often when people write about the superior and loving heart of a woman, they write it like this: “Mother’s heart”. The use of quotation marks is understandable, given that we really don’t know what we are talking about when we use that term. It is also revealing that even women who claim to have some kind of innate talent for caring for others will acknowledge that they have had to learn and develop skills. On one hand we believe that women have a reflexive instinct to care for others — notice the example of the car wreck in the article linked previously — but we then follow up that idea with the admission that caring for others does not come naturally and that it requires work and effort.  Finally, it is ironic to the point of hilarity that people who claim to have an extra measure of empathy and sensitivity to the feelings of others apparently do not realize how callous, insensitive, and harmful it is to make that statement.

The belief that female charity is superior is an apostate notion. It is reasonable to expect that anything so fundamental to our eternal lives would have a solid foundation in the scriptures. It does not, and it is therefore time for us to put this false belief and all its implications behind us.

Comments

  1. This is part of why I love you, Mark Brown.

  2. A thousand amens.

  3. Gee, Mark, you keep the priesthood to yourself and now you horn in on our nurturing monopoly. What are you leaving for women to do in this world? Hm?

  4. Well said, Mark.

  5. Thanks for that forceful set of statements. When the unfamiliar person known as Mark Brown speaks the thinking has been done, for he is not only a prophet unto himself, but the rest of us too!

  6. Eric S. says:

    Mustard is in the fridge. Stick a fork in it. Amen! Great post on a thought that passes through my mind often.

  7. Amen, and amen, Bishop Brown.

  8. Ardis, I’m guessing that Mark would love nothing more than for the revelation extending priesthood to all worthy women to come speedily indeed.

    Did anyone else think that the linked article seemed to suggest that progress made in equalizing women’s access to and recognition in the workforce and the incremental progress made toward the market valuing women’s work the same as men’s work through the continual narrowing of the pay divergences between male and female doing the same jobs — that such progress was somehow evil or threatening to women’s innate nature?

  9. I’m setting myself up as devil’s advocate here, but I actually think there is some tiny amount of truth to women being more naturally nurturing. I think it is a natural outgrowth of having to physically carry babies (or even the necessary mental/emotional adaptation necessary to accept that possible eventuality) together with the tendency towards less physical strength. I think the combination creates a biological bias which is reinforced culturally.

    That isn’t to say that men’s nurturing acts are of less value, just that men are less likely to do them. I didn’t used to think this way, but then I got married.

    Of course, as with all natural tendencies, this quality may be displayed more or less in individual men and women. There is certainly a continuum with a great deal of overlap.

  10. Julie M. Smith says:

    Amen. Thank you.

    The Trib had a nice article on “the bishop’s wife” awhile ago; I loved this quote:

    ” He is into gardening, canning and baking pies — he had a warm rhubarb pie for a friend cooling on the counter on Monday, his day off — while she is into home-improvement projects.

    She tiled the kitchen and dining room, resurfaced the cabinets and, at present, is replacing the worn lumber on the family deck.

    “I like physical labor and changing something ugly into something beautiful,” Karla says. Besides, she adds, smiling, “he’s not a handyman, and somebody’s got to do it.””

  11. One of the things that struck me in the linked article is that the mothers she focused on turned their thoughts to their children in their darkest moments. I am certain my husband, and most fathers and mothers would have their thoughts turn to their children in such moments. That isn’t a mother heart–it’s a parent heart. (Although I’m not sure it has anything to do with thinking you can care for them best, but simply as a parent you want to be with them.)
    The example leaves me wondering where the author has to turn when she claims women who are not mothers also have mother hearts. Where are their final thoughts supposed to turn?

  12. I think it’s largely cultural. Cross-cultrual comparison makes this clear, imo.

    Therefore, I agree with Mark that it ought not be in an ideal world (and within our modern Mormon community) and with SilverRain that it still is a reasonable stereotype overall, as long as individual exceptions and the decreasing applicability of the stereotype overtime in our Western culture are recognized and acknowledged.

  13. “over time”

  14. Antonio Parr says:

    (I wonder if a man disagreeing with this post would somehow invalidate it . . .

    I agee 100% with the call for men to be nurturing and caring, and agree that acts of compassion by men are indistinguishable from comparable acts of compassion by women. And since Christ the Compassionate was a man, that alone should put to rest the notion that men cannot be nurturers.)

    That being said, the following comment warrants consideration:

    When a father puts the children to bed (baths, pajamas, teeth brushed, book read, prayers said), is it any less valuable than when Mom does these same things? While the fierce love that a mother often has for her children is a wonderful thing, it is deeply wrong, and more than a little insulting, to suggest that fathers love their children any less. When a hometeacher performs a car repair for a family he visits, is he less caring than when the visiting teachers bring meals? For that matter, when a man makes a meal for someone in the ward, is his offering somehow less worthy than a meal delivered by the Relief Society?

    Here is the problem: Our society is replete with deadbeat dads. They are everywhere. On the other hand, there are very few deadbeat moms. One could conclude by looking at these extremes that women are somehow more innantely committed to children then men, and, thus, more nurturing. (This is meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive. I agree with Mark’s call for compassion!)

  15. Mark Brown says:

    SilverRain,

    I do not think our positions are that far apart. I agree with you that these are cultural biases we have borrowed from the fallen world around us. My objection is mainly to the idea that this is part of our eternal nature.

  16. John Mansfield says:

    Miles and I were visiting in his house when a call came from the hospital. Miles’ older brother Flint, a PRCA bull rider, had broken his leg in practice. We drove down to see him, and when we arrived, Miles and Flint’s parents, Cathy and Rondo, were already in the room. It was great to see both of them and chat around their son’s bed. At one point, Cathy turned serious and said to Flint with concern “Well, I hope you’ve finally learned your lesson.” “What lesson!?” Rondo fumed.

    Is there anyone who has ever experienced a situation like that, but with the roles reversed, with a father trying to talk a child out of an injury generating activity and the mother cheering the child on?

  17. Matt W. says:

    I dunno. I’ve seen some literature that suggests there is more to what they term the gender division of emotion work than cultural provides. However, if such is true, then it is the natural man, who is an enemy to God, which creates such.

    Anyway, I think my wife IS more awesome than I am. It’s not the quality of the love, but the quantity of it and the type of it. Those things are impacted by our individual situation, our culture, our personal choices, etc. And I don’t want to go into details, but I do have to confess that she is the awesomest.

  18. Kristine says:

    And what if they had, John? What does that have to do with innate nurturing ability? Isn’t encouraging kids to take risks (within reason) part of what they need from us to grow up healthy and brave?

  19. Matt W. says:

    Um, my link didn’t make it:

    http://soc.sagepub.com/content/27/2/221.abstract

  20. Yes I have, #16, in my own home. But that’s because I know life without risks makes wussy children turn into wussy adults. I turned prematurely grey in the process I might add. But that was mostly because of living in dread of what DH would say/do when the “I told you so” stage arrived.

    And this is my #1 reason for liking Scouts – moms/dads can’t sit on their sons when THAT “everybody’s doing it.” So that saved mine from it until the courage developed to follow dreams on one’s own steam.

    Too bad I can’t credit DH for letting his “feminine side” show, just to further this analysis. Control freak’s more like it.

  21. A couple weeks ago, when our RS had its lesson on the priesthood (from the Gospel Principles manual), someone said that women seem to be born with charity, whereas men need the priesthood to help them develop it. This comment was met with nothing but approval, and I am sorry to say that I squandered my opportunity to offer a counterpoint because I was too busy thinking, “Boy, Mark Brown would have a field day with this class.”

  22. John Mansfield says:

    If they had, Kristine, then they would have some evidence that fathers and mothers are pretty interchangeable in the nurture of their children.

  23. I can tell you that in our house, there is certainly a qualitative difference between Mom putting kids to bed and Dad putting kids to bed. Neither is less valuable than the other, and it would be a pity if the kids didn’t experience both.

  24. Hey Mark (or Kristine, or really whomever),
    Outside of physical anatomy (or even inclusive of it, I guess), do you feel like there is any inherent, eternal difference between men and women?

  25. Kristine says:

    Yes. I just think that the cultural crap we’ve accreted in our thinking about gender makes it almost impossible for us to figure out what those differences really are.

  26. Kristine,
    You have any guesses?

  27. Kristine says:

    Lots of guesses, none that I’d especially like to argue about here.

  28. #16: I think my mother might qualify, John. My dad was afraid of heights and he always practically collapsed in panic when he saw any of us with our feet off the ground. It was our mother who encouraged the monkey bars and tree climbing and my brother’s interest in the Civil Air Patrol.

    My parents were both nurturing, but in very different and non-overlapping ways. Dad was actually pretty cuddly with his kids, for a guy born in 1918.

  29. I’m sure I’ll be condemned eventually for this, but I’ve turned down more lucrative employment because it wouldn’t allow me to maximize my time with my children. I have a four-year-old I love reading with, a 10-year-old I love hanging out with (Cub Scouts, long conversations during walks_, and a teenage daughter with whom I’m jointly doing the personal progress program (yes, fathers, you need to look at that and learn from it).

    I can’t imagine not spending as much time as possible with my wife and children. I don’t need a villa in Spain… :)

    But. Am I a nurturer? Not in the least. Don’t ask me to give a crap about anyone else’s kids… :)

  30. But. Am I a nurturer? Not in the least. Don’t ask me to give a crap about anyone else’s kids… :)

    By this definition, many of us with two X chromosomes aren’t nurturers, either.

  31. TaterTot says:

    Thanks for this Mark. Well said.

  32. Interesting thoughts. Here are a few that they triggered:
    .
    When a hometeacher performs a car repair for a family he visits, is he less caring than when the visiting teachers bring meals? For that matter, when a man makes a meal for someone in the ward, is his offering somehow less worthy than a meal delivered by the Relief Society?
    .
    This, written by a man, could be an example of the difference between men and women you seek to refute. My string-of-anecdotes-in-the-absence-of-systematic-analysis experience is that men are more likely to focus on car repairing and meal delivering and women are more likely to focus on being sensitive to the internal well-being of the people receiving their service; the meals they deliver are ancilliary to this.
    .
    Finally, it is ironic to the point of hilarity that people who claim to have an extra measure of empathy and sensitivity to the feelings of others apparently do not realize how callous, insensitive, and harmful it is to make that statement.
    .
    A recent review of a breaking of trust in the bloggenacle five years ago revealed that some of the perpetrators continue to nurse their attitude that explaining the injuries caused by their insensitivity — so apparent to more-sensitive people — somehow was worse than calling these to attention in the hope of validating the injured and helping the perpetrators to see the effects of their insensitivity. The last paragraph of this article seems to echo this attitude.

  33. Eve beat me to it.

  34. Kristine says:

    “My string-of-anecdotes-in-the-absence-of-systematic-analysis experience is that men are more likely to focus on car repairing and meal delivering and women are more likely to focus on being sensitive to the internal well-being of the people receiving their service; the meals they deliver are ancilliary to this.”

    I could offer a string of anecdotes supporting the opposite conclusion. Also my own (horribly overblogged) inclination to DO something, instead of just being with someone.

  35. One of the things I’ve been most struck by since I’ve become a mother is the gap between the mother heart rhetoric and the sorts of things mothers actually in the trenches sometimes confess to one another. Just in the last few months of rather intermittent contact with other mothers I’ve heard a mother say that she sometimes can’t stand her children; several have described the rage they felt at the demands of their first child when their second was born, one admitted that she wanted to slam her first child against the wall. Several have casually mentioned wondering why on earth they had children. Another who’s in the throes of an unexpected and difficult pregnancy and is clearly barely hanging on has asked in tearful desperation how she’s going to manage a third when she can barely keep up with the two she already has.

    This, too, is the reality of motherhood and parenthood, no less than the rapturous love and the desperation to stay alive for one’s children that Frederickson describes. When we hold up such sterilized lofty standards of “good” nurturing motherhood that is somehow innate to women, we drive these darker feelings and experiences, which are just as universal, into whispered, shameful confessions. We bifurcate women into “good” mothers and “bad” mothers and the inevitable bad-mother backlash of Ayelet Waldman and Dooce. I’d argue that irederickson and other nurturing-mother advocates are actually creating the Waldmans and Dooces of the world.

    I think a focus on the innate nurturing qualities of women is misplaced and can sometimes be terribly damaging. Women–and men–nurture not because it’s our marvelous eternal nature but because it’s what our children need. Among other things, it’s amazing how mothercentric–how strangely self-centered–this sort of discourse becomes. In this sort of discourse nurturing becomes something that women do to express our eternal natures, rather than something we do to care for others because they need it. It’s a rhetoric that thoroughly obscures the tremendous sacrifices involved, but at the same time it becomes _all about the mother_ and her mothering. Motherhood becomes self-expression and performance.

    Where among all these insufferably good mothers are the kids and their needs?

  36. Kristine says:

    Eve, that last paragraph=brilliant.

  37. (35) ZD Eve – That is simply a wonderful, self-aware post. Thank you. Know that it will help me draw closer to my wife and the challenges she faces with our two children.

    21 (madhousewife) and Mark Brown. When I read this post this morning, I thought of the same pattern of presentation that madhousewife observed in (21) a few weeks ago: In LDS dialogue, the comment/discussion of women being more charitable and loving comes either immediately before or immediately after a comment/discussion about men holding the priesthood. I ask myself why we feel the absolute need to say this combo. It is similar to the way a parent feels the need to praise both children instead of one if both children are present and listening. This is so, even if only one child (and not the other) did something great recently that the other did not do; the parent will usually come up with something praiseworthy for both out of fear of offending the other child.

    So how, if at all, does emotional capacity for one’s child relate to holding the priesthood? IMHO I think this dialog pattern has crept into the Church because the fallen world and society around us have made us insecure about women not holding the priesthood. The obligatory accompanying comment in Sunday School about women being more charitable and loving–right after the acknowledgment that “men hold the priesthood”–is our attempt to eternally “equalize” the genders while we’re here in a civil society. That’s more socially acceptable to us and the world we are in right now, right? But like you, Mark and ZD Eve, I think this trend is wrong for many reasons and has counterintuitive effects.

    The Family says nurturing and child care are a joint responsibility between husband and wife as “equal partners.” Although it says mother’s are “primarily” responsible for care and nurturing, husbands also must help by being a “provider” and “protector.” That’s the division of the labor–without qualification or regard to emotional capacity. So the practice and logistics of child raising has nothing to do with the gender that was *assigned* (for lack of a better word) the priesthood on earth. In fact, the word “priesthood” does not even occur in The Family! And The Family does not qualify a husband’s capacity to love, be kind, be gentle, care for, empathize with his children. There is absolutely no difference in the emotional capacity of the genders as expressed by The Family. So emotional capacity and the assignment to hold the priesthood are two unrelated concepts, and probably shouldn’t be blurred out of insecurity for one another in Church dialog.

    I accept that we are insecure about this, but I question why. Most people have accepted (don’t resist) that there are some very real, objective differences between men and women. Women are on average smaller in size than men. Men are on average physically stronger than women. Women and men have different plumbing. Women carry and then deliver children. Based only on these physical differences–without considering anything else–gender is part of real experience, real identity. These are dramatic differences, and they are differences that no one can dispute. There is no rational social pressure to try and equalize each other, physically. This leads me back to what I think is the underlying issue of gender identity in the Church: If people are secure and accepting of physical differences, why are people so insecure about the idea that there can also be very real eternal differences such as the assignment to hold the priesthood on the earth? Men hold the priesthood on the earth. It is what it is. That may or may not be the case at a later time. That’s what it is now. It doesn’t effect my capacity to love.

    I agree (in heart, mind, and spirit) with the concept of the post here: that men certainly have the capacity to be as loving, kind, gentle, nurturing, empathetic, etc. as mothers are. But at the same time, there is a part of me that needs to mix in two very real differences between men and women that may have influenced subjective emotional capacity in humans across time: childbirth and physical size.

    Seems like these two factors, which no one can trivialize as being real and objective truths across time, could influence and maybe even expand a mother’s capacity of concern towards children. Men, because of our size, have by and large been responsible for almost all terrible and pathetic things in history. We’re the beasts. Women and children have been the innocent victims. Although we think we are so beyond this and sophisticated today with our sense of civility, this stuff has had at least some effect on the shaping of emotional capacity over thousands of years IMHO. But for whatever reason, we live in a time when that trend can begin to be reversed!

    We live in a time when man (generic) is extra concerned with becoming more civil and self aware. As a result, the way I can earn a living and provide allows me to spend more time with my wife and children whom I love more than anything I have ever encountered. I have a duty to the members of my family, and to humanity, to be an understanding, loving, kind, compassionate, and charitable human being. This duty comes from being human, a child of God, and not because I hold the priesthood–although the priesthood is certainly one of many means to execute this duty.

  38. 35.
    It’s a rhetoric that thoroughly obscures the tremendous sacrifices involved, but at the same time it becomes _all about the mother_ and her mothering. Motherhood becomes self-expression and performance.

    Where among all these insufferably good mothers are the kids and their needs?
    .
    IMO, kids and their needs are the implicit reason for highlighting a crucial way to meet the kids’ needs. If not, I doubt we’d see the same emphasis on mothers.

  39. 37. Thx for that!

  40. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 25
    Astute comment, Kristine. So why do we even try? Whatever these “inherent” male/female differences are, asserting that they’re “essential” is intrinsically oppressive to the sizable minority of men and woman who don’t happen to have those traits. I know those be fightin’ words in a room full of Mormons, but I don’t think my perspective is uncommon.

    I really just want to point out that these conversations are potentially very problematic for people whose gender characteristics are atypical. What on earth happens to the poor little Tom Boy Mormon girl?

  41. What on earth happens to the poor little Tom Boy Mormon girl?

    Young Women’s, then Relief Society.

    The thing is, even a tom-boy, if she has kids, has to learn to nurture. I get annoyed with the rhetoric because I *hate* motherhood being my primary mode of self expression (thank you, Eve, for that brilliant statement) while my husband gets a pass and can continue to explore his intellectual side. It’s so irritating. I’ve lately been very grateful for RS specifically because motherhood is validated there so strongly. Even though I know, deep down, it’s a consolation prize, at least it’s something.

  42. Kristine says:

    Mike–I agree, and I think that somebody needs to write a paper on the ways in which Mormon homophobia is peculiarly tied to anxiety about gender roles. Not that this anxiety isn’t present to some degree in other places, but I think it’s pitched especially high among Mormon men, for whom religious and ecclesiastical markers of masculinity (giving blessings, caring for the sick, caring for and teaching children, adopting a certain emotionally expressive affect for bearing testimony–cf. Glen Beck’s tears, praying in public, etc.) are, paradoxically, behaviors that are otherwise coded feminine. I think this is, in large measure, why Mormon discussions of homosexuality are almost exclusively about gay men, and why the Brethren have in the past talked about homosexuality as “gender confusion.” The Proclamation on the Family, in fact, says nothing directly about homosexuality, relying instead on the understanding that assertions about gender’s essential and eternal nature will be obliquely understood as anti-gay language.

  43. MikeInWeHo says:

    Gender-essentialism and anti-gay political views are invariably linked, which is especially tragic for people like Lyle:

  44. 42.
    The Proclamation on the Family, in fact, says nothing directly about homosexuality, relying instead on the understanding that assertions about gender’s essential and eternal nature will be obliquely understood as anti-gay language.
    .
    Upon what do you base your assertion of this Proclamation’s reliance? That it’s to be understood as anti-homosexual language?
    .
    My understanding is that this is a pro-family proclamation. It calls out things that contribute to strong families and it names a few that harm them. I agree that anything contrary to a statement of a truth is anti-truth and so the statement of truth implicitly is anti-anti-truth. In the same way it is anti-homosexual, it also is: anti-faithless, anti-prayerless, anti-unrepentant, anti-unforgiving, anti-disrespectful, anti-unloving, anti-uncompassionate, anti-slothful, anti-wholesomely-recreational, anti-unchaste (among the instances of which homosexual acts would be included), anti-abusive, anti-diligent-in-family-responsibilities. However this Proclamation is focused upon building families, which it notes are part of “the devine plan of happiness,” not upon tearing down whatever tears them down.

  45. Mark Brown says:

    Scott (24),

    I am open to the idea that differences exist, but I think we need to approach it all differently than we do now. Whenever anyone comes up with an example, we can all easily think of a dozen counter-examples, right off the tops of our heads. Many of the difference we think we see are probably caused by other things — that’s why I began the post with the example of birth order in a family.

    In other words, it’s complicated. I am willing to be convinced, but I’m quite certain that our approach now is wrong and we will need to do some backtracking eventually.

  46. I’ll add another amen.

    Attitudes on this are changing for the better. A conversation I had yesterday with my MIL is an example. Her son (my BIL) is in a diplomatic career and is currently living in a U.S. hotel with his wife and 4 kids, one of which is a newborn. Each day he gets the 3 older kids dressed and takes them out for some activity. My MIL said “I don’t know how he does it, getting the kids ready all by himself and handling them all by himself when they’re out.” To which I silently rolled my eyes and wondered what was so exceptional about a dad getting his kids dressed and out the door. So my BIL, raised by someone with traditional ideas about what mothers & fathers should be doing, is doing what’s needed in his family, regardless of who gave birth to the brood. I like it.

  47. Mark Brown says:

    Scott, just to add, I think there is plenty of clear evidence that the way we think of gender roles from one generation to the next is proof that we don’t know what we are talking about. Ask yourself this question: Can you imagine your grandfather pushing his children in a double stroller to go get ice cream?

    I rest my case.

  48. Julie M. Smith says:

    Just a little more fire fuel:

    Julie Beck: ‘When women nurture as Christ nurtured . . . ”

    I was struck by how she put that together.

  49. Kristine says:

    manaen, I have a response to that, but it would be a massive threadjack. Here’s a hint, though–check out Appendix A: http://www.qrd.org/qrd/usa/legal/hawaii/baehr/1997/brief.mormons-04.14.97

  50. Mark Brown says:

    Julie, that statement produced a big LOL. Thank you.

  51. Mark,
    I don’t have any well-formed opinion on the matter myself. I was just asking if your post was specifically focused only on hearts/charity/etc…or if it was more of a universal statement with those as examples.

  52. Wait a minute- so the Proclamation was written as part of a legal brief to argue with the state of Hawaii?

  53. I agree with #25 that our accreted cultural garbage clouds our ability to see what the essential gender differences are. Or maybe even prevent us from seeing that maybe it isn’t so much about identifying the differences so that we can separate into two separate roles, but identifying the differences so that each of us can incorporate the best of both within ourselves. To me, the goal is to acheive a balance of the masculine and the feminine within myself.

  54. Latter-day Guy says:

    A very interesting post. Personally, I’m not sure about the reality of any eternal nurturing characteristics divided along gender lines, but I think that some of the typical gender-role behavior when it comes to childcare has got to be evolutionary (though no doubt society plays a major part too).

    Though I am not a parent, I’m pretty sure that if ANYBODY made me vomit daily for weeks on end, and then spent the next several months entertaining themselves by kicking me in the bladder whenever they felt like it… Well, I’d be far more liable to smack them upside the head than take them home and feed them. (I also have no plans to put my tapeworm through college.)

  55. Not quite Tracy–it was included in the legal brief in Hawaii in 1997. The Family Proc was first read in 1995.

  56. Kristine says:

    Tracy, it’s impossible to say whether it was written for that purpose, but it was used in that way. They were already deeply involved in the Hawaii case when the Proc. was drafted.

  57. Congratulations, Kristine, you have posted yet another link that cannot be followed over the church’s servers. Grrrr…

  58. JonJon (and Mark, Kristine, etc…),
    While I entirely agree with the sentiment that we have accumulated piles and piles of cultural nonsense which clouds our judgment–and that it clouds our judgment in far more areas of thinking than just gender relationships–saying as much is a pretty unsatisfying answer to me. It feels like a cop-out, basically–even while it is true, it is also the sort of argument that cannot be proven or falsified and consequently can be asserted in virtually any discussion. Since we cannot extricate ourselves from culture, we can always blame that culture for whatever we find uncomfortable, while asserting the beauty of the unidentified and unspecified (but known-to-be-beautiful?) true nature of things.

  59. Latter-day Guy says:

    Try a proxy server, Ardis. (I’ve never seen this one blocked yet: http://labnol-proxy-server.appspot.com/)

  60. Latter-day Guy says:

    Drat. The closing parenthesis should not be part of the link.

  61. Thank you both, gentlemen.

  62. 49, 52
    Kristine, thx for the interesting link to a court filing in Hawaii that also speaks in favor of the family. In the text before the Appendix that you noted (which is the text of the Proclamation), it refers to the Proclamation to establish the Church’s interest in protecting the institution of marriage. After that, the court filing discusses the issue of recognizing homoxexual unions as “marriages.” However, it does not discuss the Proclamation nor answer my questions for you about it: “Upon what do you base your assertion of this Proclamation’s reliance? That it’s to be understood as anti-homosexual language?”
    .
    As I noted in 44, the Proclamation is an affirmative statement of truths which by logical extension would mean that it is anti-anti-those-truths but I take it to be sighting the ideal and calling us to move toward it without countenancing whatever contradictory positions may be floating around except for specifically-named unchastity, abuse, and failing to fulfill family responsibilities.

  63. Yeah, the accreted cultural garbage theory doesn’t really give any answers, just attempts to help identify one of probably many things that contribute to our own inability to identify what/ if there are essential, eternal gender differences.

    I still think though that maybe we aren’t looking at it in a way that is helpful. That maybe it isn’t so much about gender differences to help us categorize ourselves into our appropriate roles but that it’s about incorporating both to achieve balance individually.

  64. Thank you for this! It reminded me of a conversation I recently had with my parents about the recently shifting norm for “who stays home with the kids.” My mother said something to the effect of, “I would never let your Dad stay home. Men just don’t get how to take care of children.” Then my dad chuckled and backed her up. In utter shock and consternation, I said, “Wow, that is a really sexist thing to say!”

    And I really think that “sexist” label shocked them to no end. Interestingly, I think it shocked them because they understood a “sexist” claim to come by denying a gender/sex the ability to do something noble/powerful/authoritative/culturally-important. and it never occured to them that the ability to nurture would fall into one of those categories. It never occured to them that denying men the ability to be caring and nurturing would actually be a legitimate “diss.”

    I think that also shows a really tragic tendency to undervalue caring/nurturing even as we tend to “reward” that same undervalued trait to women.

  65. Kristine says:

    manaen–the document was adduced as evidence in the church’s attempt to get itself named as a co-defendant in a case that would deny marriage rights to gay people. Calling it pro-family instead of anti-gay is a bit of semantic gymnastics I’m not limber enough for, but if it works for you I’m not going to try to talk you out of it.

  66. JonJon,
    Right. Perhaps it’s so unsatisfying to me because I’m kind of a contrarian by nature, and it seems like the kind of thing that I say when I’m running on empty in a debate–I know it’s a crap argument, but it’s all I’ve got left.

    Again, that’s not to say it’s an untrue crap argument–just that it’s one that doesn’t require any particular insight, creativity, or courage to make since it can’t be falsified.

  67. Scott B.
    Can I call you Marion the Contrarian?

  68. You certainly can. Of course, I’ll ban you, but go ahead if you want.

  69. What on earth happens to the poor little Tom Boy Mormon girl?

    My wife self identifies as a little bit of a Tom Boy Mormon girl growing up and had with no younger siblings to care for. The first diaper she changed was our firstborn was home from the hospital.

    As our family grew, our household/parenting roles did not develop traditionally. She doesn’t go in the kitchen or get kids ready for Church, she doesn’t iron and she never wanted to learn to swaddle an infant. While material family roles and responsibilities are divided along the lines of interest and ability, the emotional relationships we have with our kids are very distinct and gender based. We still say “wait till your dad gets home” and crying kids still want their mommy.

    I guess what I am getting at is when I read something like Eve’s post (35) I think there is some momentary frustration about the overlap between a mother’s eternal role and a particular mother’s temporal situation. If all the 1950’s June Cleaver crap could be stripped away, there is still a set of maternal emotional and spiritual skills than cannot be replicated by the most well meaning father.

  70. You’ve backed me into a corner.

  71. Mark Brown says:

    Scott,

    I think a large part of my problem with the way we traditionally think and speak — women are ______, men are ______ — is because I think it feels like a copout and gets asserted in every discussion and never takes into account any contrary evidence. It is taking the easy way out and since it is an argument from authority, it forecloses any further discussion.

    Contrarians unite!

    manean, I think the subtext of almost all LDS discourse on gender for the past 15 years revolves around homosexuality to a large extent. Remember, we belong to a church where we prefer to say intimacy instead of sex. Nobody — no. body. — is going to come right out and address homosexuality directly. Instead, we will dance around it and speak about roles and gender confusion.

  72. Kristine says:

    Not only that, but we use “gender” where we mean biological sex, which makes the discussion ever so much more difficult.

  73. Mark Brown says:

    Right. And that causes even more gender confusion.

  74. Kristine says:

    Don’t you love how I set that up for you? ;)

  75. Right, Mark.

    Group 1 to Group 2: We’re doing it right. (No satisfying explanations of Group 1’s reasoning.)

    Group 2 to Group 1: You’re doing it wrong. (No suggestions about how to fix it.)

    That about it?

  76. Mark Brown says:

    Scott, almost but not quite. This is how I see it:

    Group 1 to Group 2: We’re doing it right. (No satisfying explanations of Group 1′s reasoning.)

    Group 2 to Group 1: We’re not so sure about this. Shouldn’t we make more of an effort to account for the differences and anomalies that are obvious to everybody?

    Group 1 to group 2: No. We’re doing it right, so shut up.

    Group 2: Sigh.

  77. Mark Brown says:

    Kristine, I can only hope there is a bright debate student at BYU who chooses to argue as follows:

    Resolved, our current dysfunctional discourse is the biggest source of gender confusion in the LDS church today.

  78. Antonio Parr says:

    42. I may get in trouble for this, but . . .

    Who says that Mormons are homophobic, and who says that Mormons are anxious about gender roles?

    Isn’t is possible that the LDS view of same sex marriage and/or gender roles are reflective of God’s position on the issues? And are Mormons allowed to extend some measure of trust with respect to the leadership that they sustain as prophetic?

    And to the extent that Mormons are wrong on one or both of these issues, is/are their error(s) more severe than excessive arguments to the contrary?

    Although I have struggled with aspects of my journey through Mormonism, I find its people to be in many respects the most remarkable and heroic that I have ever met. I am not sure that it is fair to condemn them so easily as narrow-minded homophobics enslaved in unnatural gender roles. Such a position seems almost Mormonphobic . . .

    There are nuances here, as evidenced by the existence of this blog.

  79. Latter-day Guy says:

    Who says that Mormons are homophobic, and who says that Mormons are anxious about gender roles?

    Nobody.

    Ever.

    (…if they know what’s good for them.)

    In all seriousness, most of the comments I’ve heard on the issues of gender roles and homosexuality (within LDS contexts) evince a very high level of ignorance and not a small amount of bigotry. If somebody were to dismiss, say, evolution with a line like “Oh yeah? Well, why aren’t monkeys still turning into humans? You never see that happen, do you?”––as though that were some kind of decisive argument, we could safely assume that the speaker really has made zero effort to understand the issue they’re arguing against. (“You’re very clever, young man, but it’s no use –– it’s turtles all the way down!”) Similarly, the way the issues of gender and sexuality are addressed in Church, even by GAs, does not build one’s confidence that the speaker does more than blow kisses to reality from a safe distance. If somebody cannot even reliably use correct terminology, it’s not hard to conclude that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

  80. Kristine says:

    Antonio,
    Nobody is saying Mormons aren’t remarkable and heroic. To note that they are also a little uptight about gender roles is in no way to deny their essential goodness and faithfulness, nor is disagreeing with certain policy positions (that change over time) evidence of not extending trust to prophetic leadership. There was no condemnation intended.

  81. Antonio Parr says:

    “Homophobic” seems like a condemnation to me.

  82. It can be a condemnation, Antonio. It can also be a simple adjective used to describe certain actions or words.

  83. More to the point, it can be a condemnation of someone’s words without being a global statement about the person’s character.

  84. Kristine says:

    If I had wanted to condemn, I’d have said “bigoted.” “Homophobic” is like “sexist”–it simply describes a practice or belief that discriminates against a group.

  85. Naismith says:

    “When a father puts the children to bed (baths, pajamas, teeth brushed, book read, prayers said), is it any less valuable than when Mom does these same things?”

    I wouldn’t say it is less valuable, but it is often going to be DIFFERENT. Because hopefully if the child is under two years, breastfeeding will be part of that nighttime ritual. Breastfeeding is absolutely the best thing for babies, and I hope we don’t do away with it, because men can’t share. Or diminish its value because men can’t do it. And I have seen those negative attitudes from some couples.

    “While the fierce love that a mother often has for her children is a wonderful thing, it is deeply wrong, and more than a little insulting, to suggest that fathers love their children any less.”

    I wouldn’t say it is less per se, but it is different. I held that baby in my body for almost a year. I knew it before it drew it’s first breath. Sorry, men don’t do that. (I’m not opposed to technology that would allow them, that is just the reality at this time.)

    And I’m not going to pretend that my husband’s investment in our children was near the same as mine. For at least six months of each pregnancy, I had to give up any outside activity, other than lying on the couch feeling awful and barfing and/or being zonked on anti-nausea medication. I’ve had two surgeries to try to get my body back to functionality after being ripped apart by the babies. He never missed a day of health or work because of our pregnancies.

    I agree about the value of the home vs. visiting teacher examples and many of the points in the OP, but I don’t think it helps our understanding of sex or gender issues to pretend that mothering and fathering is the exact same experience.

  86. Kristine says:

    I don’t think anyone, anywhere in this thread, has asserted that mothering and fathering are the same experience, or that differing biology is not salient in these questions. Why are we arguing against an obvious absurdity?

  87. Mark Brown says:

    Naismith, I mostly agree with you. However, the points that you have made do not take into account the assertions in the article I linked, where it is claimed that even women who have never given birth or raised children share these same characteristics.

    Antonio,

    This conversation is an attempt to make some sense out of the church’s changing and sometimes contradictory statements about men and women and their respective roles and abilities, and to reconcile those statements with lived experience. This is an area where the ground is shifting under our feet all the time. There is no disrespect intended, in fact the original post praised the way the church is addressing some of these issues.

  88. Anon for this says:

    I don’t think anyone, anywhere in this thread, has asserted that mothering and fathering are the same experience, or that differing biology is not salient in these questions.

    If “Gender-essentialism” is linked to a political perspective, then I have to assume that there there is an opposing school of political thought that doesn’t treat it as an “obvious adsurdity.”

    Gender-essentialism and anti-gay political views are invariably linked

  89. Cynthia L. says:

    I think this dialog pattern has crept into the Church because the fallen world and society around us have made us insecure about women not holding the priesthood. The obligatory accompanying comment in Sunday School about women being more charitable and loving–right after the acknowledgment that “men hold the priesthood”–is our attempt to eternally “equalize” the genders while we’re here in a civil society…..
    So emotional capacity and the assignment to hold the priesthood are two unrelated concepts, and probably shouldn’t be blurred out of insecurity for one another in Church dialog.

    But at the same time, there is a part of me that needs to mix in two very real differences between men and women that may have influenced subjective emotional capacity in humans across time: childbirth and physical size.

    Awesome. Next time somebody says “men get the priesthood and women get to be mothers,” I’ll say, “how about we flip it and women get the priesthood and men get to have physical size?” It seems about as arbitrary a matching.

  90. Cynthia L. says:

    That was in response to #37.

  91. Mark Brown- You keep mentioning “contrary evidence” we are all aware of. I think for the post part, much of this contrary evidence comes in the form of statistical outliers. What if those statistical outliers are genetic aberrations from our true selves, much like being born without a hand, or something like that? How would we ever know? Maybe the fact that you are more nurturing as a man is a mutation?

    On the other hand, what if social evolution is bringing us to be more christlike over time?

    Anyway, thanks for spurring my thoughts with all this discussion and not getting too polemical…

    As for Gender Differences, there are a ton:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences

    From Kristine’s comments I take it you are ok with “different but equal” types of comments?

  92. Mark Brown says:

    Matt, the page you linked uses lots of phrases like “generally speaking…”. So the differences aren’t as strong as we usually make them out to be.

    Is it really so unusual for roles to be reversed? Of the couples I know, I think probably 40-50% of them are couples where it is the woman who is quicker to anger, quicker to raise her voice and threaten physical discipline, etc. When the distribution approaches an even split, it is hard to think in terms of mutation.

    One of the things I take strong exception to in the article I linked was the way the author explained that women who don’t fit the model she described are somehow deficient and it is their own fault. To hell with that. People display a wide range of native talents and abilities and it is stupid and ridiculous to pathologize everything that is different.

    I believe that as we — men and women — make progress, we develop celestial characteristics. Is there a masculine or feminine way to have hope or faith? I certainly don’t see how that is possible. Why, then, do we insist on masculine and feminine ways to have charity?

  93. Antonio Parr says:

    83. Scott: perhaps. But “racist” could also be seen as a simple adjective, and yet we all know that the word is so pejorative that its use, at least in a a colloquial sense, is condemning. To be sure, there are undoubtedly homophobes in the Church who may deserve to be condemned with the harshest interpreation of this adjective. But I disagree that one who, by way of example, concludes that same-sex marriage is wrong is somehow transformed into a homophobe (i.e., someone who has fear and/or contempt for gays) by force of that conclusion.

    (Kristin: I appreciate your distinction between bigots and homophobes, although, again, the use of “homophobe” in its colloquial sense is more often that not seen as an accusation of smallmindedness and bigotry.)

    (Nothing in the above or prior posts is intended to deny the complexities of gender roles and identity. Whenever intelligent people of good will reach opposite conclusions, it is usually because the issue is so complex as to defy an easy answer.)

  94. Antonio,
    Frankly, it just comes with the territory, man. You can call it what you want to call it, but you live in a society which will decide for itself what it wants to call your actions. The person committing an action does not get to decide how other people see and interpret that action.

    If our institutional position is right in the eyes of God, then it is right in the eyes of God whether other people call it homophobic, bigoted, or purple. Complaining, objecting, or arguing about whether such a title is nice, mean, appropriate, or inappropriate is really neither here nor there: it’s the word that most of the people in society associate with our institutional stance, and arguing against it really just looks like sad comedy.

  95. Steve Evans says:

    I’m sure that you don’t see yourself as a homophobe, Antonio. Perhaps that self-perception is what matters most. You don’t fear gays or have contempt for them, you just think they shouldn’t be married, right? That’s fine. But by that standard, you probably need to come to terms with the fact that many will consider you a homophobe for that perspective. Disagree with that if you will, but complaining about the label’s application won’t change a thing.

  96. Steve Evans says:

    er, what Scott said.

  97. Paul Bohman says:

    I just want to go on record as agreeing wholeheartedly with Mark Brown on this issue. This has always been an issue close to my heart, or perhaps close to the skin, in the sense that it always feels like it’s being rubbed raw whenever I’m told, whether directly or by implication, that I am innately emotionally and spiritually deficient compared to women and that I somehow need the Priesthood as a crutch, a “Dumbo’s feather,” to prop me up and give me the ability to live up to a spiritual potential that I could never reach otherwise.

    Deficient though I may be in many ways, I don’t blame it on my sex or gender. I have to own my weaknesses as mine, just as a woman needs to own hers, and not categorically toss in the towel and say, “well, that’s just the way women are.”

    Promulgating the myth of the innate spiritual superiority of women damages men, damages women, and damages the relationship between men and women. In fact, gender essentialism itself (women are like “this” and men are like “that”) is a damaging perspective from which to view life. There are almost surely real differences, but most perceived differences are merely statistical trends, perhaps rooted in biology, and perhaps not. Statistics may help predict outcomes, but they do not explain the root cause.

    In fact, the misguided belief that the statistics and generalizations somehow explain the root cause can actually turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy. The belief that things *are* or *should be* a certain way is a pretty good way to ensure that they *will be* that way in the future too.

  98. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve/Scott:

    There is a difference between complaining and seeking to clarify.

  99. Antonio Parr says:

    There is a case going to the Supreme Court involving a group of truly misguided human beings who picket soldier’s funerals with hateful signs that, in essence, say that “God hates fags”. (I apologize for even repeating this blasphemy, and feel sullied in doing so, but am trying to make a point.) This group and their conduct are hateful, and an affront to God and to humanity. My reason for attempting to respond to allegations that Mormons are “homophobic” is to distinguish our hopefully otherwise loving and respectful interactions with our gay brothers and sisters from those outlined above.

    Out of fairness to critics (both in and out of the Church), I live in a heavily Democratic state and don’t come across many bigots, either in or out of the Church. I suppose it is possible (and even probable) that those who live in Mormon-centric locations may be sufficiently isolated from people of different lifestyles and/or backgrounds that some end up being less gracious to those who are different.

  100. 72.
    I think the subtext of almost all LDS discourse on gender for the past 15 years revolves around homosexuality to a large extent.
    .
    If so, that subtext didn’t spring from a vacuum; homosexuality has been the subtext of almost all non-LDS discourse on gender the last 15 years. If one of the basic purposes of a living prophet leading a restored church is to warn clearly of the wrong paths of his time, we shouldn’t be surprised when this happens.
    .
    Remember, we belong to a church where we prefer to say intimacy instead of sex.
    .
    Along that line, I included “safe sex” in my list of oxymorons because the intimacy of sex makes it anything but safe.
    .
    Nobody — no. body. — is going to come right out and address homosexuality directly. Instead, we will dance around it and speak about roles and gender confusion.
    .
    So the anti-LDS demonstrations and vandalism the week after Prop 8’s victory, the posting of only-LDS-donors lists on the ‘net, having a mockumentary named for us, and the continuing rancor in news and blog postings a year and a half after Prop 8’s victory are because we did *not* come right out and address homosexuality directly but danced around it instead? Internally, God Loveth All His Children addresses homosexuality directly.
    .
    (I do, however, like the pun about nobody coming out to address homosexuality).

  101. Latter-day Guy says:

    And yet, Antonio, which Church has had more perceived negative impact on the actual lives of American homosexuals: Westboro Baptists or Mormons? (I say “perceived” because many LDS feel that the Church has been trying to save them from themselves by preventing gay marriage.) I suspect many CA couples would be willing to accept a little more hateful picketing if it would spare them from some of our “loving and respectful interactions.”

  102. Steve Evans says:

    Plus, L-d Guy, with Westboro at least people know where they stand. We tell homosexuals that we love them, we just hate everything that they do and want.

  103. Latter-day Guy says:

    It’s kinda like how one of my friends summarized the instruction on chastity she received during her years in the YW program:

    “Sex is dirty and evil and gross and sinful and dangerous and bad. And you should wait and save it for someone you truly love.”

  104. 85.
    “Homophobic” is like “sexist”–it simply describes a practice or belief that discriminates against a group.
    .
    I hadn’t supposed anyone using that word actually took a neutral context for it. The hyperbolic “phobic” suffix accuses its target of unreasoning fear, of not having a supportable basis for their position. This out-of-hand dismissal of an opposing view is not a neutral context. “-ist” is neutral; the false appellation of “-phobic” in this usage is not.

  105. Antonio Parr says:

    Latter-Day Guy: I have not yet determined the extent of my agreement or disagreement with the Church’s position on gay marriage. I happen to have a great deal of respect for the current LDS leadership, and generally afford their teachings a rebuttable presumption of validity. That being said, I struggle mightily with some past practices (most notably the Church’s tragic exlusion of Blacks from not only the Priesthood, but meaningful fellowship, as well), and realize that they can make mistakes.

    I also see (generally speaking) the hand of God upon the Church, and believe that there is a sincere and inspired attempt on the part of both the leadership and Church members to follow Christ. Because of this combination of sincerity and inspiration, I tend to bristle when I see smug, attacking generalizations hurled at my Church. (I take the same defensive posture when I see lazy accusations made against my Catholic friends or Jewish friends or Muslims (I don’t really have any Muslim friends, but am a big fan of Yusuf Islam, if htat counts . . .) It may “go with the territory”, as Scott says above, but that doesn’t mean that I or anyone else should abandon my/one’s efforts to be heard in the public square. That is what dialogue is all about.

    (Now that I think about it, “dialogue” might be a good name for an LDS publication committed to open discourse about things Mormon . . . I wonder if the name has been taken . . . )

  106. Antonio Parr says:

    103. Steve: Not sure who the “we” are that hates everything that gays do. I think someone can be against gay marriage but really, really enjoy the company of one’s gay neighbors, have them over for dinner, laugh at each other’s jokes, whatever.

    The only intrinsic difference between gays and heterosexuals has to do with sexual expression. In that context, we all need to determine whether there are any moral guidelines associated with sex. Only for married heterosexual couples? Only for committed couples, irrespective of sexual orientation or marital status? If it feels good do it? These questions all seem to beg for answers in the arena of religion and/or philosophy, and one needs to seek answers to these important questions with what Kierkegaard called “fear and trembling”.

    But even the conclusion that sex between members of the same sex is wrong should not bar any of us from appreciating everything else about our gay neighbor. If they are like most of us, sex takes up very little of their day, and there is plenty of opportunities that arise outside of bedrooms to discover and appreciate shared interests.

    Independent of gender (to bring things back to OP) and sexual orientation, taking a sincere interest in others seems to be worth something.

  107. Antonio Parr says:

    (I have just become one of those people who post incessantly about the same topic. They drive me crazy, and I have just become one of them. Shudder. Anything else that I say will be redundant or overkill, so I’ll stop.)

  108. Cynthia L. says:

    “I take the same defensive posture when I see lazy accusations made against…”

    Antonio, if there is one thing that could not possibly conceivably ever be any LESS true about about several people on this thread’s “accusations” about the church’s discourse and actions on the gay issue, it is that they are lazy. You really have no clue what the life experiences of people are. Overwhelming depth and breadth of experience on this issue from many of the participants.

  109. Steve Evans says:

    “The only intrinsic difference between gays and heterosexuals has to do with sexual expression.”

    is that all?? Thank goodness. Yes, it leaves plenty for us to agree about. Why on earth are the homosexuals so upset, when they could come over for dinner and laugh at our jokes? Why should they not want to be our friends and appreciate our fine company when we are so ready to appreciate everything else out about our gay neighbor?

    Antonio, seriously — yes, you have become one of those people.

    BTW Kierkegaard hardly invented the phrase.

  110. Antonio Parr says:

    Cynthia. You are absolutely correct. My choice of words was poor. I apologize.

  111. #90 – I LOL’d for a long time while imagining someone saying that in church and the accompanying reactions. Priceless.

  112. Latter-day Guy says:

    I am all for dialogue (and Dialogue)––and I think the disagreement here is largely a semantic one––but I’d actually be shocked if non-Mormons thought that the default LDS position on the issue was anything but “homophobia,” to say nothing of the unofficial, non-Church-sponsored actions and comments of individuals who happen to be Mormon.

    The Church’s position may be very charitably laid out in thoughtful, kind, and gentle statements, sermons, pamphlets, etc., but who can hear it? Actions have drowned it out. I don’t expect the echoes will abate for a considerable time, so it’ll be a while before anyone will be willing to hear arguments to the contrary with any reaction but scoffing disbelief.

  113. Steve Evans says:

    Lest I be accused of being pointlessly sarcastic —

    The point is that when a church spends thousands publicly and millions privately to wage war on gay marriage, publicly decries the defining characteristic of gays and lesbians, and publicly opposes again and again what gays and lesbians would take to be a basic communal right, we have no room to complain if gays and lesbians call us homophobes. Indeed for all our talk of truly loving our gay neighbors, our religion is dead set on destroying one of the gay community’s most important stated goals. So the point is that we really, really don’t love gays, and arguments to the contrary ring hollow.

  114. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 103
    What Steve said.

    It’s hard to claim much “I’m No Homophobe” street cred when you give 10% of your income to a church that expels from membership any poor gay dude who happens to find a boyfriend.

  115. I hear the Church’s position, and I appreciate it and the Church for it. Anyone who is willing to listen can hear. Anyone who refuses to listen will not hear.

  116. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve:

    Since disagreements on this blog are so quickly personalized, one either has to ignore or respond.

    Obviously, gays are upset because they do not have the same right to marry as heterosexuals. Blacks and Whites were once upset because they couldn’t intermarry. Early Mormons were upset because they couldn’t engage in plurar marriage like their monogamous friends. Does society have a right to speak on these issues? Perhaps. Have they been wrong in the past. Absolutely, with respect to racial intermarriage. Not so sure about plural marriage and same-sex marriage. Tough issues.

    You move quickly and with biting words to satirize a position that you could have just as easily absorbed with grace. Your choice. And tossing some dig about the origins of “fear and trembling” does what? Kierkegaard didn’t event it, but he sure used a lot of ink writing about it, hence my reference. But think, if I would have used the original scriptural reference, you would have been denied a dig. You owe me, man.

    You obviously support gay marriage, and you may be correct in your position. You also probably stand up to your local and general Church leaders and speak to them with the same force as you do posts on this blog, and that type of consistency takes a rare comgination of courage and integrity. Hats off to you for not being one of those people.

  117. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 114

    Hate to burst your bubble my friend, but the Church’s track record is crystal clear and goes WAY beyond “destroying” gay marriage. From sodomy laws to aversion therapy to Evergreen…..the message is nothing if not consistent: homosexuality is a grievous and consequential sin that must be opposed with the force of civil and ecclesiastic law.

  118. Antonio Parr says:

    Here is the problem with being a convert to Mormonism: you abandon the lively discussion that is the hallmark of many more liberal gatherings (both ecclesiastic and not) in order to partake in institutional worship that, at least in a classroom setting, can resemble an endless cycle of almost rote catechism. Dialogue in unofficial cycles is discouraged, so you find yourself pining for discussions about things of substance with thoughtful humans. You discover a forum like bycommonconsent.com, and think that you have found paradise. But, dang it, you express yourself in a way that runs afoul of common consensus, and the “wild eyed dogs of day-to-day come snapping at your heels” (Cockburn, not Kierkegaard), just like what the folks do on the correlation committee when you express some kind of perceived exotic thought in an official setting. You get perceived as “one of those people” by both camps. Thank heavens for mothers (going back to the OP), who love their wayward sons unconditionally.

    I am really glad I am a Latter-Day Saint, but conservative or liberal, you folks can be one tough crowd!

  119. MikeInWeHo says:

    Well for me personally, Antonio, I’m glad you’re here and speaking out. The last thing I’m interested in is sitting in some echo chamber of fellow über-liberals. Nothing more boring and pointless. Hang in there!

  120. Latter-day Guy says:

    116, Sorry, ji, what was that? I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch it. I think I’ve had tinnitus ever since 2008––the clanking of political machinery can be so loud sometimes.

  121. Mark Brown says:

    People, let’s try to move the discussion back away from the political implications of the church’s stand and focus on how we got here.

    As I see it, much of the difficulty stems from our changing explanation as to why homosexuality exists. Fifteen years ago homosexuals were said to have a case of gender confusion, that is, they couldn’t decide if they wanted to be male or female. That is why there was such an emphasis for a while on our divine roles. The family I described in the post where the boys were excused from kitchen work also thought that if their boys did too much woman’s work — kitchen work or cleaning house — it might turn them gay. This attitude was common among our grandparents. We then stated publicly in conference that homosexuality itself was evil and so was anybody who self-identified as gay since God would never create anything so loathsome. To the extent I can now discern our current position, it is that homosexuality isn’t bad in itself, it is just bad to act homosexual. But we still have not even made an attempt to reconcile the existence of homosexuality with our ideas about the eternal nature of men and women.

    All this has taken place in the last decade and a half, and I expect our position will continue to change. So when people tell me the position of the church is crystal clear, I wish they would also tell me which position.

  122. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE homosexuality ≠ gender confusion, see here.

    There is a fascinating irony here touching on gender roles and sexuality. The Mormon penchant for having lots of kids is tied into attitudes about the role of women and the pressure to be a SAHM. Living this progeny-heavy lifestyle enshrined in the PotF (and elsewhere) does not come without some surprising costs. Oddly enough, the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. (More info here.)

  123. John Mansfield says:

    As an exercise in analogy, take Steve Evans’ #114 and replace “homophobes” with “apostates” and whatever other terms seem appropriate to make the analogy work.

    “The point is that when a blog puts up dozens of posts and thousands of comments to wage war on their church’s stance . . .”

  124. Latter-day Guy says:

    “…to make the analogy work.”

    It doesn’t, because it’s a straw man(sfield).

  125. John Mansfield says:

    Latter-day Guy, are you claiming that there are not any blogs where a reader can find dozens of posts and thousands of comments waging war on the writers’ church’s stance, and that that is an exaggerated fiction I just created?

  126. Mark Brown says:

    Ooooh, you’re a coy one, Mansfield. That is definitely a feminine trait.

  127. Mark Brown says:

    And, with that, I’ll close comments for now and probably forever. We’ve proved once again the validity of the bloggernacle axiom.

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