I am not qualified to write this post: A response to Ralph Hancock’s response to a critique of his review of a book I’ve never read

Ralph Hancock recently wrote a post in which his main point is that people were so interested in his obsession with Joanna Brooks that they never addressed his argument.  I’ve not read Sister Brooks’s book, nor have I read Brother Hancock’s initial responses to it, primarily because I don’t care.  I like Joanna’s online persona well enough; I don’t particularly like Ralph’s, but that’s not terribly important (to each their own).  So why respond?  Because Brother Hancock felt it was appropriate to defame me (by means of defaming this here blog) in the larger process of explaining why his response to Joanna was appropriate.  He appears upset that no-one is taking him seriously enough. So, because I aim to please, I will herein attempt a response to Brother Hancock.  We’ll see how it goes.

On a side note: I’m going to quote most of Ralph’s blog post here.  You can read it in its original setting, of course, but you don’t necessarily have to, since it will be here, too.  So, decide for yourself if you want to drive traffic to his corner of the internet.

“When I chose recently, in articles posted at Meridian Magazine, to engage critically what I called “Mormonism Lite,” I knew I was likely to stir up considerable heat, but I was hoping the light might be worth it. To judge from all the anger I have provoked at numerous LDS or quasi-LDS blogs, it would seem heat is a clear winner at this point. Herewith another attempt at light.”

First of all, attempting to engage anything critically at Meridian is strange.  It’s like writing an academic essay and submitting it to US Weekly.  If critical argument was your goal, there are plenty of actual critical venues of which to avail yourself (BYU Studies, Dialogue, Irreantum, ogs-blay).  Any of them would have been a more appropriate venue for critical argument.  Know your audience, Brother Hancock.

“I am neither surprised nor offended to have elicited disagreement — in fact, I’m sorry there wasn’t more actual, substantive, disagreement, as opposed to indignant complaints about my tone, my manner, my masculinity, my employer, etc. Here I propose to restate the main stakes of my argument without reference to any persons, and so clearly that those who pretend to be open to rational discussion will have no possible excuse for avoiding the questions I’m raising.”

Brother Hancock, while I don’t agree with all your ideas (and don’t know them, not having read the original posts), I’d submit that if people are objecting to the tone the most, that is because they find the tone the most disagreeable aspect of the critique.  Perhaps we all aren’t as far apart as you believe, you big lug.

“In particular, I frankly challenge faithful LDS bloggers at what I had taken on the whole to be faithful LDS blogs (Times & Seasons, By Common Consent, Wheat & Tares, for example) to distinguish themselves — if they wish, that is — from voices on their sites that seem to reject out of hand any attempt (such as mine) to limit the absorption of LDS belief into what I will call “lifestyle liberalism” or “extreme tolerance.””

We’re going to stop right here for a moment. Please define your terms.  “Lifestyle liberalism” and “extreme tolerance” are meaningless phrases; good for dog-whistling, light on meaning.

“I have to say I had hoped for more substantive discussion from such sites; but my recent experience suggests that, although surely not all principals on these blogs are fully committed lifestyle liberals, they are not at all inclined (or equipped?) to risk the wrath of the “hard left” among their associates and readers. I am reminded of the slogan of the French Popular Front of the 1930s: “Pas d’ennemi à gauche” — that is, no enemy on the left. The effective rule seems to be: we intellectuals of the Mormon Blogosphere will speak no evil of anyone advocating more “tolerance,” more inclusiveness, more concessions to secular culture and politics, more criticism of “orthodoxy” — in fact, we will not even presume to contradict their arguments. But anyone perceived to be more “conservative” is fair game for the harshest and most personal attacks. (It is not surprising then, that people who agree with me, sometimes enthusiastically, find it necessary to communicate privately, choosing not to brave the bullying of the “open-minded” blogs.) I am looking for evidence to contradict this characterization of the LDS Blogs; so far I haven’t found much. But I’m willing to keep looking: hence this invitation.”

This is a falsehood of one sort or another.  Either you haven’t looked terribly hard or you’re misremembering what you’ve found.  Brad Kramer’s comment on your blog demonstrates this amply and I’ll quote the relevant passages here:

“Both [T&S & BCC] have long histories of criticizing attacks coming from what for lack of a less loaded terminology I will join you in calling “the left.” BCC has featured a number of posts critical, for example, of John Dehlin’s ongoing project, and our comment moderation policy applies itself much more regularly to secular and/or post-Mormon criticisms than to orthodox ones. I do think it would be accurate (at least in the case of BCC) to say that at times we are more tolerant of rudeness from liberal than from conservative commenters (in the sense that we sometimes allow liberal commenters to mistreat conservative ones but are less likely to tolerate the former), but I think that’s more a function of the demographics of blog readership and the nature of communities of shared interest (we are more likely to tolerate bad behavior from our friends and to publicly stand up for them, and more of BCC’s regular commenters are liberal than conservative, and very often conservative criticism comes in the form of drive-by comments by non-regulars), than of any ideological commitment to tolerating bad behavior from the left as opposed to the right. And Daymon Smith has been judged every bit as harshly as you have by the bloggernacle (including and especially these two sites but also Faith Promoting Rumor), not just for tone problems (though they have played an important role—he is routinely perceived as bullying those he criticizes) but for his generally highly critical descriptions of Church administration and of Mormon Studies.”

Back to you

“I thank the appreciative readers who have posted at Meridian and particularly the brave readers who dared share a bit of my infamy by posting comments favorable or at least respectful of my arguments at the more, shall we say intellectually ambitious sites such as Times and Seasons or By Common Consent, as well as those women and men who have communicated to me privately their thanks for saying things they felt were important to say. And I also wish to thank and compliment those few writers unfavorable to my views who actually carefully read and directly engaged my arguments in some way.

A particularly notable attempt to address my arguments was by Lynette at Zelophehad’s Daughters (reposted at Feminist Mormon Housewives). I have attempted to address Lynette’s main points in the general response below, but let me say in advance that the main thrust of her vigorous objection to my review is that I dare to take exception to Brooks’ positions — in a word, that I dare to argue that Brooks is wrong or misguided about certain things, which in itself makes me “authoritarian” or “condescending,” and which is apparently particularly unseemly because Brooks is a woman and I am not. It is hard to know how to respond to such an objection, except to say that I do not honor the sexist principle that a woman cannot make an argument that a man is allowed to answer, and to point out that anyone who makes an argument generally makes it because he (or she) is proposing the possibility that he is right and thus that whoever disagrees with him is wrong on the point in question. I am not an exception to this rule, but then neither is Lynette or Joanna: they think they are right, and they too, I must say, address the world with some confidence.”

I’m going to interrupt this train of thought for a moment because it is my one chance to address tone.  While I didn’t read the two reviews at Meridian, I have read all the monthly blog reviews made at the John Adams Center blog.  Sister Brooks is the only person mentioned in every single of these (excepting the latest, written after criticism of your continually talking about Joanna became more widespread). Context matters, Brother Hancock. I assume you wrote all those blog reviews (admittedly, I may be mistaken).  The fact that you’ve been writing about Sister Brooks in particular for months makes it appear that she is some sort of special case for you.  Obviously, she is in the news (a top religion blogger or some such) and that might explain it, but a condescending tone (which you seem to admit in this passage) just makes it creepy.  That’s not necessarily the case, but appearances matter (as a political philosopher, you should know this). You should have probably recused yourself from writing about Joanna’s book at all.  Give it a break; let the other conservative Mormon intellectuals (Nate Oman, Rosalynde Welch) take up the mantle for a bit.  It will be more productive.

“Like many who prosper in the Mormon blogosphere these days, my respondents are simply not accustomed to having someone contradict their fundamental assumptions. It adds to my sin, I suppose, that I do so rather straightforwardly, which I think is as much for the sake of clarity as it is a sign of confidence. In any case, it would be more useful to respond to my arguments by answering them rather than by complaining that I think I am right.”

Ralph, you can’t say that you want to generate more light than heat and then call your conversational partners whiners.  That path does not substantive discourse generate (check out the comments on your post for further confirmation of this principle).

“It would be quixotic in the extreme to undertake to address any significant sample of the objections, not to say spirited attacks, that have been leveled against my essay, and in fact against me as a thinker, a teacher, a person. It is clear in fact that both sides in this “conversation” find it easy to feel viscerally that they or their friends are victims of the most unjust personal attacks. Here I think President Uchtdorf’s recent observation is very acute and very important:

“But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.

If, then, we find it impossible to imagine ourselves into the shoes of those with whom we disagree, I think it just best to suspend the question of motives and to attend to arguments with as much serenity as possible, ready to forget and even to forgive offenses.””

Hear, hear.  More of this. No objection (said as someone who is attacked in the post I’m substantively responding to).

“Overlooking or forgiving offenses is one thing, but judging ideas and arguments and intellectual-political projects is another matter, though, isn’t it? Can this responsibility for intellectual judgment be avoided — without, that is, abandoning the good we find and the greater good we hope for in dialectical exchange about the theory and practice of our faith? To savor spiritual goods “in the tangle of our minds” requires that we reason together, and this in turn requires that we judge as best we can of what is true and false, well-reasoned and not. And how can faithful and responsible reasoning in this area avoid the effort (however hazardous) of taking account of and critiquing ideological paradigms that may well seep into our religious opinions? That, you will have noticed, is what I see myself doing, and one key area where I think I can make a contribution to our reasoning together about our faith.”

Well, obviously I’m not going to disagree with this.  This is what all the blogging and what-not is about.

“Now, of course, an obvious objection arises here:  but you, Hancock, have your own ideology (“conservative,” I suppose the objector would say), and you are just responding to those you disagree with from that point of view! To be sure this risk is always present. All we can do is beware of the risk, and muster both the virtue and the insight necessary to suspend our ideological inclinations and think around them and through them. The alternative is clearly unacceptable: to accept the relativist premise that our reasoning faculty is enslaved to ideologies or interests from the outset, and so that we are locked in a conflict with no issue, in fact no conceivable issue. This would be a closed world, a cave of all heated conflict and darkness, and I cannot accept that.”

If I’m following you here (remember, non-PhD, non-Ivy-League, non-philosopher), you seem to be saying that there must be a truth out there and someone in an argument must be closer to it.  Arguments should take into account the presuppositions of those who wield them, and be willing to accept that we may be arguing from a place of comfort, rather than rationality.  If I’m reading you correctly, again, no objections.  This seems self-evident. There is a slight chance that you are arguing (or you think I think you’re arguing) that because you are saying there is a truth out there, that I must assume you are wrong because the truth is unknowable.  But that would be a bit silly.  It paints your opponent into a metaphysical corner, on the scale of Korihor arguing that an angel told him there is no God. Surely, you’re not going to build a strawman, similar in a superficial way to the arguments of your conversational partners, but not nearly as well thought out, and then destroy that, declaring victory? Well, let’s keep going and see.

“So judge we must, trying our best to sort ideology from the possibility of Truth [John: love that capital T], and I do my best with the powers and knowledge I have. And here I might begin to respond to questions that were frequently raised regarding my competence, given my academic discipline, to address a personal memoire such as. I’m not sure the question of credentials is really very important, since the quality of a piece of writing should speak for itself, and the critique of professional credentials is a distraction, and hardly normative in the blogosphere. So I’ll just say this: Political Philosophy, my line of work, is a way of doing philosophy and of thinking about the task of thinking in relation to moral, political and religious claims. The intersection of religion and political ideology is very much a part of this task. And I see no reason for abstaining from critique when this intersection is addressed in the form of a personal memoire, especially when it fairly leaps to the eye that this memoire is no less informed by a public purpose than were Rousseau’s famous Confessions — indeed, more obviously, militantly so. I would have been happy if others, especially women, had stepped in to raise the kinds of questions I thought needed to be raised, but I did not see this happening. I have to rest content with the gratitude and endorsement a number have confided in me privately.”

If Joanna publishes something, it should be up for critique.  No objection there.  Of course, some critiques are more appropriate to a particular genre than others.  Truth and memoir are in a strange relationship. But I’ve not read your reviews and can’t speak to their appropriateness, so I won’t.

“I take Rousseau as a kind of founding master of the personal memoire as political strategy. Rousseau aims to weaken traditional moral and religious restraints by exposing his life in all its lurid vicissitudes in order to argue, or to convey the sentiment, that, underneath all the foibles and the miscues, Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his heart of hearts is as innocent as can be. In doing this he proposes himself as an exemplar of the natural goodness of human beings, in opposition to the traditional doctrine of the Fall of Man and to the restrictions and commandments and punishments associated with this doctrine. The implicit lesson is that it is not obedience to divine commands or some traditional conception of virtue but rather authenticity, that is, simply and sincerely being who one is, that is the key to a fully human existence. Similarly (not identically, of course), the Mormon memoire in question bravely exposes a woman’s personal struggles, weakness and foibles (nowhere near as lurid as Jean-Jacques, it should be noted) in order to present her own authentic, sincere personal existence as an alternative to an old-fashioned regard for commandments and for the authority (in her view often hypocritical and even cruel) of those who teach and, in certain cases, verify conformity to these commandments. As in Rousseau’s case, the personal life is advanced as a public lesson, a standard of personal authenticity proposed as a model for other brave souls.”

This is an interesting point.  Rousseau and Sister Brooks are both making points about the authoritarian forces in their time (I assume, not having read either).  Certainly many authority figures do their best to provide useful instruction and careful guidance to their charges.  And, of course, all of them are hypocrites, because we’re all hypocrites.  Authority can’t come solely from behavior, because we all fail to live up to our principles (excepting One).  So finding other means of granting authority (like placing hands on heads) has become a means for legitimizing that authoritarian role publicly in the church.  Of course, hands on heads doesn’t necessarily change any hearts.  Joseph Smith (and God) warned us about unrighteous dominion and the human (male) lust for power. I’m not certain that Joanna’s experiences with what she considered to be abuse of power should be dismissed.  If God and Joseph Smith thought it could happen, I don’t know why it should be unimaginable in Southern California.  As to Joanna using her personal experiences to make her point, I, like you, am a big believer in “big T” Truth.  If Joanna is being honest about what happened and how she felt about it (always a question in memoir), then I see no reason to object to her points or argue for her misunderstanding.  It’s just more Truth to add to that one great whole.

“As I pointed out at the beginning of my Part Two, feminists often stake their claims by making the personal political. Apparently many believe that this strategy should make an author immune from criticism, but this would be implicitly to accept the reduction of the religious life to the cultivation of personal authenticity. I have no interest in engaging a discussion of anyone’s personal life (or of their Church membership status), but I do not see why I should shrink from a discussion that has more general religious and political stakes.

Thus I do not in fact accept the imperative to allow an author “ to be authoritative on her own experience.” We are not — certainly not automatically and always — the supreme authorities on the meaning of our own experience. That is what religious authority is for – to help us get ourselves right and to let us know when we are wrong, even or especially wrong about ourselves. I do not presume to exercise religious authority; I am simply using rational argument defend a certain view of the meaning of religious authority and therefore, necessarily, to criticize the view that personal “authenticity” is the be-all and end-all of human meaning.”

I’m not sure what you are objecting to here.  I agree that humans are terrible at identifying personal authenticity and the “true” meaning of their own experiences.  I agree that the ultimate authority on the meaning of our lives is God (at least, that’s what I read you as implying).  I don’t know if Joanna she would disagree, but I doubt it.  She strikes me as religious rather than agnostic or atheistic. Making the personal political doesn’t grant immunity from criticism and shouldn’t (if you don’t want people to talk about your life, don’t publish about your life).  I think that, unless you are arguing against strawmen that I haven’t encountered (but that might be out there (maybe in Joanna’s book)), this argument is just stating an obvious thing.

“It is not true, then, that I presumed to “excommunicate” Joanna Brooks. I have made it as clear as can be that I hope she will remain in the Church. I was quoted by Jamie Reno in the Daily Beast as saying that “Joanna’s position on gay marriage is irreconcilable with the church.” This statement of mine, quoted (I have to trust) from a good hour’s wandering discussion with the reporter, was taken by some to mean that I believed Joanna should be excommunicated because she disagreed with me on the political question of the definition of marriage. This is not my position, and I take some responsibility for not being clearer in this sentence in distinguishing between the political and the theological question.”

Thank goodness.

“I did go on immediately to say that I find it “hard to conceive of calling anything Mormon that relinquishes the importance of sexual difference and procreation in the big, eternal scheme of things.” My primary concern is not with the political question of the civil definition of marriage (though this is an important disagreement I have with Brooks), but with the properly religious question of the place of sexuality in eternity. I believe, following the Church’s Proclamation to the World on the Family, in heterosexuality as an eternal reality and thus an eternal norm. (And thus I think our country is better off reflecting the goodness of the man-woman union in law and policy.) I understand Brooks’ interpretation of the principle that “all are alike unto God” to imply that homosexuality should enjoy all the rights of heterosexuality in this life and in the next — or, perhaps that sexual difference is irrelevant in the next life. In any case, the tendency of her political rhetoric has certainly been to undermine the normativity of heterosexuality, and this is what I oppose, and find incompatible with Church teaching. I have no interest in raising the question of excommunication, but, just as she has a right to argue for a certain understanding of Mormonism, I have a right, and, I think, a duty to point out where I think she is wrong.”

I, like you, think that changes in our approach to homosexuality will require changes in how we envision the afterlife and its meaning. However, unlike you, I think those changes are likely coming.  I would also tend to privilege “all are alike unto God” (which is canonized scripture) over the Proclamation (which, as President Packer recently inadvertently demonstrated, is not). I also don’t see homosexuality becoming normative, because most people aren’t homosexual and being more tolerant of it isn’t going to alter the number of homosexuals in the world (except in ways that we’d like (fewer suicides, maybe)). It may become a more legitimate option for some people, but I don’t believe we’ll soon see a mass exodus from family life or marriage by making it easier for more people to legally engage in those activities.  That said, I agree with you that the current approach of the church is to frown upon gay marriage, to be ambivalent toward civil unions, and to generally, quietly support other legal pathways for gay folk to create legal family structures.

“My problem, then, with liberalism and feminism as a frame of LDS belief does not finally concern specifically political questions. What concerns me is a strong tendency for liberalism to migrate from politics and to penetrate and reshape religious understandings. Thus I argued, based upon evidence from her book, that Joanna Brooks tends very much to make a liberal principle of toleration or non-discrimination (which she hears in the scriptural teaching “all are alike unto God”) into the most fundamental touchstone of religious truth.”

If this is what Sister Brooks believes, then I agree with you that it is a wrong-headed belief.  The most fundamental touchstone of religious truth in our particular neck of the ecclesiastical woods is, I believe, also the first Great Commandment.  Her’s is best understood as the second Great Commandment (high, but not quite that high).

“This accords at a deep level with the tendency of her personal confession and of her defenders’ pleas to make every person, and in particular every woman, the best, most authentic judge of her own experience. On this view, to be truly religious is to be compassionate, and to be compassionate is to acknowledge the legitimacy of each individual’s view of her own good, that is, with moral relativism or an ethic that gives final authority to personal self-expression. For example, since all are alike, then, on this lifestyle-liberal view, not only does God love homosexuals as much as heterosexuals, but he loves homosexuality as much as heterosexuality. Thus “all are alike unto God” is understood to mean that every individual has a sovereign right to define his own good.”

See, I don’t know if this is what Joanna is arguing, but if it is, I disagree with her.  I do, however, think that since that final authority is God, it is really hard for the rest of us to understand other people’s good (or bad).  Less judgment all around is probably a good thing. I wouldn’t presume to know where somebody stands with God exactly.  I’ll guess and live with the consequences of that guess, because I’m just as petty or protective as the next guy, but I don’t pretend to myself that I’m necessarily right (usually).

“This formulation of equality of lifestyles under God will no doubt strike some liberal readers as unproblematic, even as obviously sound. And that is exactly my point.”

Well, then your point is a strawman.  Nobody is arguing that all lives are equally good.  I would argue that nobody is Good but God, but then I’d be being snotty. But if the blogs, in particular, held to this idea, then we wouldn’t talk about the vast majority of the things we do. I worry that, if you think that this is what people are arguing, you must really think we’re stupid.

“Over the last generation liberalism has broadened and absolutized its claims, making equality of worldviews and lifestyles and thus absolute Toleration the only truth, and many political liberals have begun to interpret their religion according to this extreme liberalism, especially where sexual and familial norms are concerned. It seems a large number, even a preponderant number on the more “intellectual” blogs, have convinced themselves that this liberalism is the underlying, latent truth of Mormonism.”

Again.  This is a strawman (and a rather odd one).  I can’t come up with a counterpoint, because I don’t believe the argument that is being ascribed to me. So no response possible.

“Such a view is seductive in many ways, including the fact that it seems to justify one’s own or one’s loved one’s behavior, and also that it removes of a vexing obstacle to full membership in the prestigious liberal intelligentsia.”

Wha? In Mormonism? Where is this prestigious liberal intelligentsia of which you speak? Obviously, I aspire to it; the very fact of this response demonstrates such. But there is none such in Mormonism, and I am a Mormon first, a sorta liberal (sometimes) second.

“And here I come along saying, no, I think not. I state candidly and plainly my view, a view I am confident is shared by the great majority of faithful LDS who are aware of such questions, that there are fundamental differences at the level of basic and essential beliefs between LDS teaching and this boundless late-liberal “toleration.” I confess this seems rather obvious to me, and so I state it straightforwardly, and with some confidence. I have to ask whether you liberal intellectual bloggers really believe, for example, that any of the General Authorities you presumably sustain a few times a year would disagree with this proposition. Understandably, many who have constructed for themselves a different , more “open” view of Mormonism are offended, and find me arrogant, bullying, condescending, etc. I am not sure there would have been any way to raise the questions I’m raising without offending those who are committed to the new, liberal Mormonism.”

Again. Strawman. I agree that there is a difference between “boundless toleration” and LDS teaching and I prefer LDS teaching.  Nor do I think that the General Authorities would find that troubling.  Brother Hancock, you’re arguing against something that nobody (that I’ve read) is arguing.  Maybe Sister Brooks does it, but I’m skeptical, because she doesn’t strike me as being crazy stupid.  However, stranger things…

“The problem we confront today, and that Joanna Brooks represents in an increasingly popular form, was clearly in evidence in a conversation a friend reported he had had with several liberal Mormon intellectual acquaintances. This person had dared openly to doubt whether Mormonism could survive full acceptance of gay marriages. They attacked him for questioning one of their articles of faith. Their attitude toward matters of gender does not only include an acceptance of continuing revelation and of the possibility that the Church could someday give women the priesthood and perform same-sex temple marriages; instead, they are convinced that the Church WILL do those things, and this has become part of their testimony. Given this state of affairs, anyone contradicting such liberalized testimony, even in a most moderate and reasonable tone, can only be perceived by the liberal blogosphere as threatening, and thus as arrogant, condescending, and, of course, inevitably,“snarky.””

As someone who believes that the Church will probably do those things, I don’t quite know what to say.  I have my reasons (the Church has altered its positions on many doctrines considered fundamental several times already; why not this?), but my testimony isn’t based on it.  I could be wrong. My testimony is based on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of the priesthood and revelation.  My testimony has nothing to do with whether or not gay couples will one day get temple married. Why would you have a testimony of that? It boggles the mind. In any case, strawman (you’re not even talking about a blog here).  Also, with our tendency toward obedience, is it really that hard to believe the membership would fall in line behind a shift on gay marriage?  Sure, people left over the 1978 revelation, the end of polygamy, and the original succession crisis, but many more stayed.  I just don’t see it.

“This tendency of a late-liberal conception of justice, and the corresponding virtues of toleration and compassion, to become theologically foundational for a significant number of Mormon believers, especially among those who consider themselves intellectually accomplished, goes far towards explaining a profound imbalance or asymmetry that one finds in the LDS blogosphere. It is remarkable how rare and mild are any objections, even among the more moderate bloggers, to more radical claims to personal freedom and to borderless definitions of Mormonism.”

I’m going to again refer you to Brad’s comment above, you bad searcher you.

“In such cases, an ethic of sympathetic understanding and inclusiveness reigns supreme. On the other hand, as I have found by hard experience, anyone who dares affirm a more … what shall I call it? “traditional” or “conservative” understanding of the faith,”

Oh good gravy! you’ve been calling it that all this time already, I’m sure you can continue.

“especially where feminism and sexuality are concerned, is likely immediately to be classified as offensive, uncaring, beyond the pale, especially if this person happens to bear the burden of a Y chromosome. This is the structural asymmetry I referred to above that results effectively in the “pas d’ennemi à gauche” policy. This is the “openness” that seems for the most part to characterize even what I had not long ago taken to be the more faithful, moderate and responsible Bloggernacle. To be sure, this attitude may be applied in perfect sincerity, since openness to a diversity of views and practices does not operate as a formal principle of deliberation — a way of considering questions —but as a substantive principle, as the answer we know in advance. However sincere, though, such a frame of discussion can only lead more and more bloggers and their readers further away from the distinctive, substantive commitments of the Church.”

Prove it.  I’m serious.  Prove it.  You’re making an assertion here and I don’t believe you. I’ve been doing this for a while and I’m still firmly embedded in the Church.  I’m as flawed, broken, and imperfect as ever I was, but I’m still here. If you’re going to argue this, you better have some stats or something more than your credentials to back up the statement.

“It has been objected, reasonably, to my critique of Brooks that I use the term “feminism” rather loosely and attribute to her positions that she nowhere articulates. Fair enough. The problem is that, for all her insistence on her feminism, Brooks herself gives us precious little help in defining what the term means. In any case, this, I find, is a common problem in engaging feminists: they tend to use the term broadly and vaguely to be as inclusive as possible (“Mormon women matter”), and when one objects to some application or implication, they deny that it applies to their understanding of feminism.”

From someone who likes to drop terms like “lifestyle liberalism” without further explanation, this is an interesting complaint.  But, then again, maybe you’ve defined it somewhere else, so let’s just let this pass.  Also, being frustrated that people don’t fit your stereotypes is the common internet-human condition.

“Despite almost infinite variations in the precise meaning of “feminism,” there is clearly a strong tendency towards the ideal (explicit or implicit) of a gender-neutral society – that is, a society in which family roles, careers and positions and in principle all desirable social outcomes are equally available to men and women, and thus in which men and women are equally represented in all careers and public positions. This may appear unobjectionable on its face, but it begs the question who will devote most time to the direct care of children. To the chagrin, apparently, of many “progressive” LDS bloggers, The Family Proclamation does not shrink from taking a position on this controversial topic:”

This may or may not be an ideal.  Without evidence, it is terribly hard to judge.  It is, however, a wonderful windmill to tilt at.

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Here is a marvelously clear and concise statement of sex roles that are equally esteemed, but also clearly differentiated. Church leaders wisely allow for families’ adaptation to particular circumstance, but they also consistently warn women against putting careers above their distinctive role in the nurturing of children. (Notably, a recent General Conference address counseled members against judging women who work outside the home.) But the Proclamation’s unmistakable endorsement of motherhood is vital counsel, I think, at a time when many full-time mothers and home-makers feel disdained by society in general and by more visibly “successful” women in particular. Now, there is no doubt that motherhood is very important to Joanna Brooks, but I wonder whether she and her feminist defenders fully embrace the role differentiation and emphasis on children that are clearly reflected in the Proclamation?”

Fair enough, Brother Hancock.  If this is marvelously clear and concise, define “preside” in a manner that doesn’t contradict the last sentence of the paragraph. I agree that both parents should care about the children (I assume you intend the non-nurturing father to somehow approximate devotion to his children’s welfare beyond physical support and well-being). Let me ask you, what would a woman who fully embraced “the role differentiation and emphasis on children that are clearly reflected in the Proclamation” look like? For that matter, what do you think Sister Brooks’s ideal Mormon sister would look like?  What are the outcomes you are preventing or supporting here? (Note: I don’t think that I identify any particular traits as embodying the ideal Mormon woman as opposed to the ideal Mormon man, but I’m open to your input on that front).

“Whatever, exactly, is meant by feminism, according to its various versions, a common theme is certainly the objection to certain possibilities being open to men that are not open, or less open, to women.”

Of course.

“Is it not a universal feature of feminism to claim for women certain privileges or opportunities or positions that have been reserved or mostly reserved to men, and to measure progress by the standard of equal (at least) statistical representation of women?”

Maybe to claim that the possibility should be available.  I don’t think anyone is arguing for the unqualified or the unfit to get positions or social status unearned.

“Does this not imply a vision of a gender-neutral society, and tend practically in that direction? Please, feminists, take this as an honest question, and show me where my assumptions or my logic is mistaken.”

That depends on what you mean by gender here.  Obviously sex and such will still be around.  Babies and children will be forthcoming.  If by gender you mean prescribed gender roles, then I agree some of them will become less important.  But I still don’t see a gender-less world on the horizon.  Humans aren’t wired that way.  We find and exploit distinctions.  More likely gender roles will be less likely to be assigned at birth and they will be more likely to be assumed over time by individuals.  That’s not a gender-neutral society; it is an empowered one.  Gender, like every other social role on this mortal realm, can be and should be negotiable.

“In any case, it is clear that Joanna Brooks felt slighted as a girl by differences in the way boys and girls were treated – most notably in respect to the Priesthood – and that she continues to chafe at such differences. In my review, I indulged some anthropological speculations about male and female acculturation, only to illustrate the rather obvious possibility that there are good reasons to raise boys (and thus to motivate them by honoring and rewarding them) in different ways from girls. In fact, the differentiation of boys from girls may be essential, it seems to me (and not only to me), to the formation of a productive and responsible male identity. But the argument was necessarily merely illustrative and incomplete. I stand only on the main point that there is no compelling reason, apart from feminist ideology, to assume that boys and girls should be treated the same in every respect.”

If Joanna Brooks’s argument is that boys and girls should be treated the same in every respect, that would be a stupid argument.  However, I doubt that is what she is saying or what she is getting at (in part, because I doubt she is stupid). So, with no proof, I’m going to assume that this is a strawman.  That said, it’s possible that Ralph is arguing that something about the way that boys are raised in the Church helps them achieve a potential greater than they would be capable of outside of that upbringing and that this something is tied into priesthood exclusivity (and that the same is true of girls, with their potential unlocked by not bearing the priesthood, I suppose).  If this is the case in his reviews, someone tell me and I might go read them; if this isn’t the case in his reviews, then he needs to provide a lot of support and specificity to what strikes me as a vague and tenuous argument.

“In any case, Joanna Brooks, like so many other Mormon feminists, is very much preoccupied, not only with social inequities in this world, but also or especially with what she regards as eternal inequalities that, in Mormon teaching, limit women’s possibilities and show favoritism towards men: that men hold the Priesthood, and that women bear children.”

Wait…what? How is saying that men hold the priesthood and women bear children demonstrating an inequality?  That’s like saying men fly kites and women go to spelling bees, therefore they are unequal.  The source of the inequality in the church isn’t that women have to bear children, it’s that they don’t get to bear the priesthood.  Arguably other inequities come to women because they are tasked with child rearing in the wake of childbirth, but those are common to the wider Western world.  If we’re talking about the church, let’s stick to the matter at hand: who gets to be a priesthood bearer.

“She is worried, notably, about the eternal burden that pregnancy and child-bearing, essential natural characteristics of femininity, seem to put upon God’s female children, and seems to feel slighted that our Mother in Heaven does not get as much public recognition as our Father.”

“Seem” to put upon God’s female children?  Really? Pregnancy only appears to be a burden?  Childbirth is only apparently dangerous? While perhaps risking one’s own life in order to give live to another may indeed be less eternally significant than sitting through endless priesthood training meetings and occasionally having to hum a hymn to oneself to get an improper thought out of the mind, I still feel like you may be underplaying slightly the risks involved (also underplayed: the ratio of information about God to information about his wife).  But perhaps I’m leaning too much on that one turn of phrase.  Let’s continue.

“Here we are at the heart, I think, of the liberal feminists’ discomfort with basic Mormon teaching. This discomfort arises from what they perceive as an eternal inequity regarding women that is grounded in the conventional or mainstream understanding of the role of sexual difference in the eternities.”

Stop.  What is the conventional or mainstream understanding of the role of sexual difference in the eternities?  Aside from having families, do we know anything?  Is there something in Gospel Principles that I’ve missed?  What are you referring to, exactly?

“It is hard to see how this feeling of inequity, this implicit claim to equality as gender neutrality, might be assuaged without sacrificing something essential in the LDS understanding of the corporeality of divinity and the centrality of fecundity to eternal lives.”

Again, equality = gender neutrality is a strawman.  But beyond that, what on earth are you talking about?  What is essential in LDS understanding of corporeality and fecundity that would worry a feminist?  Be explicit, dude.

“Is this understanding “fair” to women? Can any understanding satisfy modern claims of fairness as long as it differentiates between male and female roles, either in this world or the next?”

I don’t think this is some impossible task.  Why do you?

“Here, when speculating about the eternities, it is particularly appropriate to acknowledge the extreme limitations of our knowledge. I certainly do not know the meaning of all things: I do not claim to understand the eternal operation of the priesthood in relation to manhood and fatherhood on the one hand and womanhood and motherhood on the other; I am taught that exalted beings are embodied, but I do not know how parenthood works in celestial spheres — whether or how often, for example, a celestial mother’s belly swells with new life as my mother’s did with mine. Nor do I know in what way an Eternal Queen might defer to her King, or in what way she might yet rule his heart.”

Well, I agree.  We don’t know this.  So why assume we do?  That last sentence is very strange though and it is possibly offensive.  As if men can’t rule via love or defer righteously to their spouses.

“I do not know just how the mysterious and life-giving equality in difference that obtains between the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve is lived and understood by those exalted to celestial spheres. I do not know just how it is that, through the power of the Atonement, “everlasting dominion” can be exercised “without compulsory means,” or just how this dominion can be articulated into male and female spheres without diminishing either dominion. But I trust it is so, would strive to prove worthy, in partnership with my wife, to enjoy the fruits of such righteous and non-compulsory dominion.”

Well, now you’re just like the rest of us.

“I do know that when we claim a certain status as a “right” — not as part of a covenant the terms of which are set by God, but on our own terms, and thus by envious comparison with the “rights” we see others as enjoying — I know that such claims can never bring us goods that transcend our worldly demands, goods that surprise us, that delight us, that enrich us with eternal lives.”

There is a lot of syntax in this sentence and I’m not sure I follow. What status do you have in mind here, Brother Hancock? It seems like you are saying that Joanna Brooks and other Mormon feminists are motivated primarily by envy of the Priesthood and a desire to bear it.  I don’t think that is quite the case (which would make this argument a strawman).  If one is systematically excluded from a particular type of position, one can feel the injustice of that exclusion without desiring to hold the position.  Slaves can consider their position unjust without desiring to become masters.

“And I am confident and grateful that, when we see as we are seen, we will be truly equal in the only way that matters, and therefore in no way concerned with equality as measured by the competitive vanity of this world.”

What sort of equal do you have in mind, exactly?  Fools before God?

“And I worry that, if we do not learn to subordinate our notions of political and social equality to the promise of the distinct eternal blessings of manhood and womanhood, if we spend this time of probation envying the perceived privileges of the other sex, then the earth, as far as we are concerned, will be “utterly wasted at His coming.””

What exactly are the distinct eternal blessings of manhood and womanhood that you have in mind? Do you really envy women childbirth (a comparison you brought up)?  Because I don’t.  I want no part of the burdensome aspects of labor and pregnancy, thank you very much.  I love the children, but have no desire for the pain and suffering involved in bringing them here.  Again, I think you are wrong about the envying (and being kind of petty, actually).  Finally, I don’t think that verse you are quoting means what you think it means.  At least not in this context.  But, frankly, it is so wrenched from its original context in this frame that I’ve no idea what you mean by this.

Now, I want to be clear.  This is not a substantive response.  This is a reaction.  To some degree, it is to point out that a substantive response to your blog post is impossible because you argued there against a series of strawmen.  I don’t want to or intend to defend arguments I’m not making.  You also, in this particular post, rely on a series of assertions that are either meaningless or unexplained.  I can’t respond.  However, I am preparing a substantive response.  I’ll have it up in a week or so.  It will be an attempt to grapple with some of the issues you raise in a positive manner.  We’ll see if I succeed.  My best to you, Brother Hancock.  Live long and prosper.

Comments

  1. Wow. I wasn’t aware of this response by Hanckock. I guess the “heat” did affect him deeply, and he used his two greatest skills to cope with it: arrogance and egocentrism.

    “…the earth… will be utterly wasted at His coming.” I bet he is not trying to generate more “heat” with statements like this. What an extreme and presumptuous statement.

  2. it's a series of tubes says:

    John, thanks for this post. It is a thoughtful exploration of an ongoing debate that I have not invested much time or effort to follow. Could I ask you to expand a bit further on one of your points?

    Also, with our tendency toward obedience, is it really that hard to believe the membership would fall in line behind a shift on gay marriage? Sure, people left over the 1978 revelation, the end of polygamy, and the original succession crisis, but many more stayed. I just don’t see it.

    I understand the point you are making here, but I suspect that many would view this issue as different in a fundamental, substantive way than the prior changes you illustrate, viz: if homosexual unions may be sealed in the temple, then we must contemplate the possibility that our God or other gods lives in an eternal, celestial homosexual relationship. 1978 didn’t potentially change the nature of God, nor did the succession crisis, or the end of polygamy. Can you clarify in additional detail as to why you think this wouldn’t be much of an upsetting of the apple cart?

  3. “1978 didn’t potentially change the nature of God.”

    Well, it depends. I don’t think we ever think of it this way, but before 1978, God could not have been a black man and viceversa, a black man could never have become a god (in fact black men could not even have spouces in the afterlife). I think this implicitly changed the nature of God this particular way.

  4. it's a series of tubes says:

    God could not have been a black man and viceversa, a black man could never have become a god

    Excepting, of course, Mr. Abel, “an exception having been made” :)

  5. As someone who really has no idea how to identify himself politcally (libertarian most of the time I suppose, but even then, I’m not hard core enough sometimes for my libertarian buddies. Although I suppose for purposes of the bloggernoccle I’m probably center right) I have found BCC to be a very fair minded blog. Of course it does slant left and there are posting which might not be the paragon of fairness, but then again, it could be my own biases telling me it is an unfair article. Overall, super impressed with the content guys. Keep up the good work!

  6. Wow that was really long to read. Good job, but I’m too tired to otherwise comment.

  7. I must say that I find you much more readable than the man you were quoting. I suppose that’s because I’m an ordinary person, not an intellectual nor philosopher.

    I loved one of your opening comments; it’s what hooked me into reading further:

    “I’ve not read Sister Brooks’s book, nor have I read Brother Hancock’s initial responses to it, primarily because I don’t care.”

  8. I can’t help but figure that Mr. Hancock might look back on all the writing he’s posted about Joanna Brooks and feel embarrassed that such drivel was authored by a university professor.

    The professionalism and class between these two is staggeringly different.

  9. Researcher says:

    Wow. That was long. And entertaining. You do have to give Hancock credit for his tenacity.

    “Be explicit, dude.”

    No! Please don’t! Is it just me, or does Hancock need to perfect the 600-800 word blog post?

  10. Mark Brown says:

    Good job, John C.

    It is hard to know how to make a substantive response to Hancock. I mean, how do you respond to a man who thinks that 9/11 was an inside job, or that the world’s economy is controlled by a shadowy cabal of Jewish bankers, and keeps insisting that you answer him? All you really want to do is back away slowly.

    I think his argument, such as it is, is especially weak when he devalues and dismisses personal experience so thouroughly. There is a useful discussion to be had about the limits of personal experience in relationship with the institutional church, and Hancock and Brooks would probably quibble about the point at which we must yield to institutional authority. But he doesn’t even engage that point, and mocks it, instead. Pretty stunning, really, in a religion which purports to value personal revelation, and whose founder said that he liked thinking and believing as he pleased, and didn’t want to be trammelled. New converts come into the church mostly due to answers to prayer, and those answers are irreducibly personal, and not subject to review by anybody else besides God.

  11. Since Bro. Hancock evidently does read some of these comment threads (and evidently has some hurt feelings as a result), I would direct him toward Robert S Wood’s talk from a few years back:

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/instruments-of-the-lords-peace?lang=eng

    “I recall that as a graduate student I wrote a critique of an important political philosopher. It was clear that I disagreed with him. My professor told me that my paper was good, but not good enough. Before you launch into your criticism, she said, you must first present the strongest case for the position you are opposing, one that the philosopher himself could accept. I redid the paper. I still had important differences with the philosopher, but I understood him better, and I saw the strengths and virtues, as well as limitations, of his belief.”

    But as Hancock has found and the OP aptly demonstrated, strawmen make things so much simpler! Now if you’ll excuse me, my liberal lifestyle demands that I grab a Pepsi and watch an episode of the The Wire.

  12. I started following Prof. Hancock’s campaign (I am trying not to use a loaded word like vendetta, but find myself failing) against Joanna Brooks, but it got rather tiresome. However, someone needed to address it intelligently, and this looks like a good start. I know Pref. Hancock’s brother well, and I will say that I have rarely met a more compassionate and charitable person than Denny, who runs a couple of major non-profits completely devoted to abused women and the homeless. I am therefore predisposed by familial association to give Prof. Hancock the highest motives in his actions. It is a mystery to me then, why he has become so obsessed about Joanna Brooks, and the particular threat he sees in her work.

    I appreciate how you have, as a totally “unqualified” bystander, addressed the tone and tactics Prof. Hancock has used, and like you, I find them mostly overly broad generalizations and characterizations that are, as you have described, primarily straw men, arguments against imagined adversaries where few actually exist. I have no doubts that Prof. Hancock has probably been on the receiving end of a bunch of ill mannered and divisive attacks himself. But it does all come down to what appears to me as an educated and articulate individual who has somehow gotten himself into a death match with the shadows of God-less liberal arch-enemies who just might not really be there in the first place. It smacks more of the likes of a Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, or Keith Olbermann, all intelligent folks who also seem to be caught up in the equivalent political dramatic farce. We all deserve better.

    I look forward to your more “substantive argument.”

  13. Mommie Dearest says:

    I offer a qualified thanks for taking on a long-winded and rather pointless post (Hancock’s piece) and making it readable; on the other hand, yours was a very long read as well. But it was worth my time for this reason. My personal experience (which is now deemed untrustworthy, I guess) is that I lean toward conservative politics, but I hang out with liberals because socially, I am quite liberal. (Yeah, I know it makes life crazy) At one time, I thought of Hancock as a source of fresh ideas to inform my politics, but after watching him crash and burn his credibility in this insane vendetta against his brothers and sisters in the gospel just because they don’t share the same politics, I rescind my former trust. Sorry, Ralph.

  14. I’m with @iasot here, I’m puzzled about this statement concerning homosexuals and temple marriage:

    As someone who believes that the Church will probably do those things, I don’t quite know what to say. I have my reasons (the Church has altered its positions on many doctrines considered fundamental several times already; why not this?)…

    How does that work exactly? I can see to the Church stepping away from legalizing homosexual marriage for the State and those other faiths who wish to perform it. Maybe I could even see the Church sanctioning a Bishop to perform a civil marriage for a homosexual couple – though I’ll admit that is a big stretch for me. But temple marriages for homosexuals? Men to men, women to women? Not saying this as if homosexuals cause me discomfort. So please don’t misinterpret my statement.

    It’s the eternal part and the alignment with God’s purpose where the family is the fundamental building block of accomplishing that purpose. In mortality homosexuality is a reality. Whether or not God made them that way, to claim that these relationships will persist into the eternities runs contrary to what the scriptures reveal is our purpose. The Gods’ glory (Mother and Father) is gained through the building of worlds and the progress of their children. Unless there is some unknown manner by which two males or two females can generate children (and I acknowledge that such biological systems exist in nature with thelytoky and parthenogensis), it strikes me that this would be a FUNDAMENTAL change in our faith. Or would they then be as the angels not having children but working together in other ways to build and progress the glories that are available to those that are inheritors of the Celestial Kingdom and all that the Gods possess?

    Look the sealing provided by temple marriage really just binds individuals into the mesh of relationships that are the celestial covenants that gain us entry to God’s presence. If what we’re really talking about is helping homosexuals gain entrance through those covenants, the question is whether temple marriage is what is really being pursued. Some will say yes, just as civil marriage is what is necessary, of course temple marriage would be necessary or else God is denying some of His children the blessings that should be rightfully theirs if He had simply not made them the way they are. I don’t know the answer – but I will be gobsmacked if this fundamental truth of God’s eternal plan requiring a Man and Woman, which is validated through temple sealings, as currently explained becomes another McConkie moment.

    To say that God is black, white, or any other color has always been a racist statement. I recognize there may be irony in stating this but to claim that homosexuality persists into the eternities, well that is an enormous even earthquake level shift.

    No hate here, just trying to understand how people rationalize the full thought on this and the implications.

  15. I’m with Dovie, almost too tired after reading all of that and trying to catch up to comment. But here’s my two cents…

    I will say that I read Ralph C. Hancock’s two-part review a couple of months ago and enjoyed them thoroughly. That being said, I check BCC every day for new posts, and I realize that in the grand spectrum that is Mormonism there is a varying degree of feelings towards certain topics, and one can lean either right or left. I think we all have the rights to lean whichever way makes our personal boats float. When we submit ourselves to our peers though, whether it be in a book like Joanna Brooks, or on a blog (like countless Latter-day Saints), we are opening ourselves up to wildly differing opinions in a very public forum.

    Whether we are Mormonism Lite, or Mormonism Heavy (the opposite of lite?), I think it’s important to remember that we’re all of the same household of faith. Even if we are in different corners of the house.

  16. And let me say John, I appreciate the thorough nature with which you have explored Hancock’s essay. It helped me better understand my own perceptions of what is going on between the professor the Mormon Girl. I apologize for the threadjack with my question but it struck me with such force I had to ask.

  17. Alain, for me it comes down to the child-having you mention. If my entire purpose in the hereafter is simply to crank out babies, I’m going to be beyond disappointed. (Maybe that’s my selfish semi-intellectual singlehood talking, but honestly – is that all I get? Really?) So for anyone who rejects the supposition that Eternity is all about reproduction as we know it now, it’s not difficult to question man+woman being the only option.

  18. Mikka, I can appreciate that perspective. But I didn’t mean to equate celestial life to child bearing.

    However, what is the work and glory of the Gods if not, as Elohim himself stated, “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?”

    To me, being God is to create. That is Her/His basic role. To create, nourish, and perpetuate life in all its forms and beauties (and perhaps that answers my original question). That is a far grander opportunity in my mind than simply cranking out the spiritual offspring.

    Were you perceiving something different in the future?

  19. Thanks, John. It just now strikes me that Ralph’s chief error in the way he brings LDS blogs like BCC into his discussion is his mistaken implication that the blogs serve chiefly as a place where “liberal” and “conservative” Mormons engage in some sort of war. Liberals don’t criticize liberals (really? He’s clearly not familiar with the blogs) and only conservatives get bullied (really? have him ask me about the time I got banned from M*).

    Mainly, Ralph overlooks the fact that much of what goes on here on yon blogs doesn’t delve into the liberal/conservative wars at all. Ralph: please go read each and every book review I’ve posted here at BCC and tell me where they fit in according to your “culture war” interpretation of the Bloggernacle. (How ironic that he might agree in some aspects of my review of Steven Pinker’s book, for example.)

    John says: Prove it. You’re making an assertion here and I don’t believe you. I’ve been doing this for a while and I’m still firmly embedded in the Church. I’m as flawed, broken, and imperfect as ever I was, but I’m still here

    Perhaps one of the best witnesses against Ralph’s assertions about what we bloggers do is (1) an actual reading of what we write and (20) the fact that we’re still here.

    tubes: we must contemplate the possibility that our God or other gods lives in an eternal, celestial homosexual relationship.

    This all hinges on how one understands “spirit birth,” with at least two views of which being possible to extrapolate from JS and the LDS canon. #14 also takes the same assumption that an eternal family = man, woman, having some sort of eternal sex making a bunch of babies. Other possibilities (e.g., adoption theology, which is part of the foundation of the entire Abrahamic covenant project) do exist, though they remain largely unarticulated to this point. Continuing revelation makes such developments possible, of course.

    be as the angels not having children but working together in other ways to build and progress the glories

    Or perhaps eternal progression is really eternal, on one eternal round and not three separate eternal rounds where no progression between degrees is possible. Again, possibilities beyond what you might have imagined thus far.

    Mark #10: Bingo, and that is an important part of the review I’m presently writing of Joanna’s book.

  20. “The source of the inequality in the church isn’t that women have to bear children, it’s that they don’t get to bear the priesthood. Arguably other inequities come to women because they are tasked with child rearing in the wake of childbirth, but those are common to the wider Western world. If we’re talking about the church, let’s stick to the matter at hand: who gets to be a priesthood bearer.”

    I think you’re focusing too narrowly here. It’s not just that they don’t get to bear the priesthood, it’s that other choices and identities seem to be denied them by the pressure to conform to the “ideal” female role. Heck, there is pressure on men to conform to an ideal role too, which also appears to deny them some choices, but the limitations placed on women by the focus on their proper role is far more limiting and is much more than simply being denied the priesthood.

    Hancock:

    ““I do know that when we claim a certain status as a “right” — not as part of a covenant the terms of which are set by God, but on our own terms, and thus by envious comparison with the “rights” we see others as enjoying — I know that such claims can never bring us goods that transcend our worldly demands, goods that surprise us, that delight us, that enrich us with eternal lives.”

    John:

    There is a lot of syntax in this sentence and I’m not sure I follow. What status do you have in mind here, Brother Hancock? It seems like you are saying that Joanna Brooks and other Mormon feminists are motivated primarily by envy of the Priesthood and a desire to bear it. I don’t think that is quite the case (which would make this argument a strawman). If one is systematically excluded from a particular type of position, one can feel the injustice of that exclusion without desiring to hold the position. Slaves can consider their position unjust without desiring to become masters.”

    That’s all you find wrong with this paragraph? It seems to me that Hancock is at the very least engaging in wild speculation here. How is it that he “knows” that claiming equal rights on the basis of simple justice “can never bring us goods that transcend our worldly demands…that enrich us with eternal life.” Is he saying that struggling for equality can never bring eternal life? If that’s all he’s saying, then it’s obviously true: eternal life comes only through the atonement of Jesus Christ. But what possible reason is that to discount the struggle for equality? Should no one throughout history have ever struggled for any right that was denied them simply because seeking that right was not likely to bring them eternal life? We have a right and even an obligation to seek better lives for ourselves and others in the here and now, regardless of what sort of life we have become heirs to in the hereafter. The one thing need not necessarily impact the other, but it seems to me that trying to acheive a little more justice and fairness in this life is unlikely to have any negative impact on our lives in the eternities.

  21. Re: Hancock and 9/11 truthism/NWO conspiracies – never heard this before, can anyone provide sources?

  22. it's a series of tubes says:

    This all hinges on how one understands “spirit birth,” with at least two views of which being possible to extrapolate from JS and the LDS canon. #14 also takes the same assumption that an eternal family = man, woman, having some sort of eternal sex making a bunch of babies. Other possibilities (e.g., adoption theology, which is part of the foundation of the entire Abrahamic covenant project) do exist, though they remain largely unarticulated to this point. Continuing revelation makes such developments possible, of course.

    The above statement seems to draw too narrow an option, I think. One can view celestial man + celestial woman as essential in the “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” without requiring viviparous spirit birth.

  23. “And I am confident and grateful that, when we see as we are seen, we will be truly equal in the only way that matters, and therefore in no way concerned with equality as measured by the competitive vanity of this world.”

    “And I worry that, if we do not learn to subordinate our notions of political and social equality to the promise of the distinct eternal blessings of manhood and womanhood, if we spend this time of probation envying the perceived privileges of the other sex, then the earth, as far as we are concerned, will be “utterly wasted at His coming.””

    These statements by Hancock strike me as not only dead wrong but dangerous. He’s saying that we ought not to worry our little heads about petty little notions like “equality” because such concepts will seem so silly and stupid when we’re all perfected in eternity. Even if that statement is substantively accurate (which none of us, conveniently, has any way of knowing) it just strikes me as deeply wrong and completely against the gospel of Jesis Christ as I understand it. We are not intended to simply ignore the problems we see around us in this life. We’re not just here to procreate in our prescribed gender roles, then perform ordinances to kill time until we die and eternity kicks in. We’re supposed to help each other and make this life better for each other in the meantime. In fact, I believe that is pretty much the central message of most of our scriptures.

  24. Exactly right, MCQ. We could just as easily say we’re not going to worry about a pack of bandits going around maiming people because we are “confident and grateful that, when we see as we are seen, those with and without limbs will be truly equal in the only way that matters, and therefore in no way concerned with equality as measured by the competitive vanity of this world” and “if we spend this time of probation envying the perceived privileges of people who still have all their limbs, then the earth, as far as we are concerned, will be ‘utterly wasted at His coming.'” Both those statements are actually true! I’m sure people without limbs can live happy, fulfilling lives. I’m sure that in the eternities, their brief time on earth with no limbs will disappear into an insignificant spec and the inequality won’t bother them in the slightest. But to say that as Christians we should let that “eternal perspective” give us an attitude of not wanting to vigorously right wrongs in this earth life is totally ludicrous.

  25. I am with you Cynthia. It is actually starting to bother me that some people use the concept of an eternal perspective to essentially tell people to eff off in this life.

  26. My niece was born with only half of a heart. Two of my children were born with severely dysfunctional immune systems. Countless other children are born without limbs, or with malformed spinal cords. In the resurrection, will they still be in that same state? I don’t think there is anyone in the church that believes that. Our bodies will be perfect. So what is so special about reproductive organs? Do we really believe that those are so important that God personally intervenes in every birth, never allowing them to be misattributed or misshapen? But what about that small number that is born with both? Will they be resurrected just as they are? Maybe “gender” is more than just the organs, then. Maybe it’s something more about how we relate to the world? But if that’s the case, why do we even bother tying “nurturing” or “providing” to the existence (or lack) of external genitalia?

    I hope I’m not coming off as mean or snarky or partisan or whatever. I really don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I suspect that there’s more yet to be revealed on those topics, and that those revelations will significantly change the way we view eternal families. But I don’t know.

    What I do know is this: I have a very tough time squaring the idea of a just, kind, loving and merciful Heavenly Father with the idea that he would consign a large chunk of His children to a life of solitude by making them unattracted to any members of the opposite sex. And yet, I know enough of those children who would change, if they could. So their choice really is to be celibate, to abandon the hope of finding a soul mate and help meet, (and spend the rest of their life in therapy to help them cope with the temptations that the rest of us can deal with by finding said soul mate) or to leave the Church. It’s a pretty mean choice to force on anyone.

    Sorry for the long, rambling response. Maybe someday I’ll try to sit down and put it all in a logical, well-thought-out manner.

  27. RickH (26) Beautiful. I thought it was very well thought out. I don’t know the answers either, but personally for myself I would rather err on the side of having grace, tolerance, and loving kindness for others. Or as Hancock calls it “extreme tolerance”

  28. Thanks for this wonderful post.

    “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

    What is more important than to reveal the role of women in the eternities and to clarify what priesthood means vis-a-vis the equality of men and women. This clarity must and will come as a revelation to our Prophet and President.

    The problem with revelation is this: Only the prophet can receive revelation for the Church. It is, after all, his Church to guide and direct under revelation. It is not to say that truth cannot be revealed to many, substantially ahead of the prophetic revelation, because God is no respecter of persons regarding further light and knowledge. So we must wait, and chafe, at the slowness of it all. That is the rub.

  29. John C: at the risk of inviting a personal attack from Brad Kramer (which happens virtually every time I post at BCC) I’m going to come to at least some defense of Hancock. I’ve expressed my admiration for Joanna elsewhere and won’t repeat it here. Needless to say, I really believe that there is room in the kingdom for wonderful folks like her and I delight in the fact that she is where she is.

    However, I share the hesitations that I’m not sure Hancock has clearly defined but the contours of which are clear enough. Here is the issue: what he means by “lifestyle liberalism” is clear enough for me. It goes like this: “when the prophets and apostles differ from the current enlightened recognition that follows from the principal of tolerance, such as women and the priesthood and gay sexual activity not being a sin, they are just a bunch of old geezers who are not as enlightened as our “liberal” wing of politics and/or culture (since the conservatives don’t share such enlightenment). So my politics and theology are not informed and enlightened by them and their so-called revelations or proclamations; rather, it should be the other way around. Their policies and proclamations should be informed and reformed by my superior grasp of the moral imperative of acceptance of all folks no matter what. My project is to reform these old-fashioned geezers. It is my express mission to be a critic of the prophet and apostles whenever they stray from this enlightened agenda so that they can finally get it like they did with blacks and the priesthood. Rather than the prophet and apostles being a critic of my enlightened (translate “liberal”) cultural imperative, I am their critic. I will remain in the church as the real inspired one to reform those poor geezers and hopefully some day they will get it when they are all dead and replaced by the new generation of enlightened ones.”

    Now I don’t believe that this is a charitable way of putting it — but it is an honest and straightforward way of expressing how I believe Hancock and many conservatives (i.e., the vast majority of Mormons) see it — and I see it that way also to some degree. I’m sure that Joanna would never be a Neanderthal to expresses it like that at all. But when she states very clearly that she is acting on a NOW agenda to change the church to fit her agenda, I think that contours are clear enough. My discomfort with this project is that I believe it ought to rejected. Our politics and culture ought to be informed by the prophets and apostles, not the other way around. Of course there is not just a one way street, but there is some interaction — preferably in mutual love and respect (if possible).

    But disregarding the moral stand that homosexual sex is a sin seems like a pretty fundamental departure from what the prophets of this dispensation have taught and the importance of that moral imperative on the church’s political stance couldn’t possibly be clearer based on support for Proposition 8. Add to that the family based theology that would require a pretty fundamental change of the LDS view of what the eternities hold (I would say “our view” but I don’t believe it is a view that many here share at all) to accommodate the change strikes as a not merely a change, but a fundamental departure from the founding revelations of this dispensation. Thus, it seems like those who reject the Church stance on homosexual marriage for instance are not merely reformers but risk abandoning what is essential. The fact that those who see it this way see themselves as loyal church members doesn’t reduce the dissonance for me.

    Now I dearly want all political reasonable views to be acceptable within the Church. But if someone taught, for instance, that teaching that pre-marital sex is a sin is just too guilt inducing and drives away a lot of folks and and leads to judgment and rejection, so we must reject that teaching, I’m going to oppose them because I believe it is contrary to the Lord’s commandments even if the our “enlightened” culture says it is not merely just find, but those who hold a different view are just old geezers who don’t get it.

  30. Mark Brown says:

    21, Cogs,

    Sorry, it was not my intention to suggest that Hancock is a truther.

    I mean only that he is as obsessive as one, and that it is as difficult to have a reassonable conversastion with him as it is with a truther, or with a believer in the Bavarian Illuminati.

  31. Mark Brown says:

    And if anybody needs to see first-hand what obsession looks like, you only need to consider his ongoing absortion with The Book of Mormon Girl.

    Holy cow, it is unseemly.

  32. Kristine says:

    “But when she states very clearly that she is acting on a NOW agenda to change the church to fit her agenda”

    Can you point me to such a statement?

  33. Someone recently pointed this out to me–and while it’s a generalization, I think it’s interesting…liberals when they discover their philosophy differs from revealed truth..they assume they are right and the the prophets are behind. when conservatives notice vaguely in the back of their minds that their philosophy differs from revealed truth they assume they must have read it wrong and really the revealed truth says what they want it to say.

  34. When the Church allowed the priesthood for all men, there were many who knew it well ahead of the leadership. Were we just the “liberal lifestyle people,” or were we informed by the Spirit?

  35. “Know your audience, Brother Hancock.”
    If you really consider him your brother in the gospel sense the way your Father in Heaven does, you’d apologize for the manner in which you treat him, regardless of what he’s said of you, your blog or your friend. You don’t prove yourself to be a better person with this post, just more of the same that you dislike. The tone is saddening…

  36. in the gospel sense the way your Father in Heaven does… (a son, daughter)

  37. Tone is a difficult thing to gauge, and “Know your audience, Brother Hancock” could come off as snarky, but I don’t think it was intended that way. I think, in general, whenever anyone uses formal appelations like brother or sister in a blog post, it can sound condescending or sarcastic, but again, I don’t think that was John’s intent. I think you are misreading him here, kaphor.

  38. I’m not actually qualified to comment because I didn’t read a single word of the post. But I bet it was pretty good.

  39. tubes and Alain,
    I agree that it would require a fundamental shift in our understanding of the afterlife, not so much regarding whom we’ll hang out with, but regarding what we’ll be engaged in. However, Taylor Petrey’s article demonstrated that such a shift is theoretically possible (could someone not typing on a cell phone put up a link) and it doesn’t strike me as a bigger shift than the shift from our earlier polygamous notions of the afterlife. But recognizing that I may be reading the herbal tea leaves wrong, I’ll let the revelators do the revelating.

    About notions of “influencing the Brethren,” I am of two minds. The Brethren don’t seek revelation for things they aren’t thinking about. That won’t prevent revelation, necessarily, but in recent times it has been amply demonstrated that the Brethren pray about stuff that is on their mind. Do I believe that this blog gives me a telephone or a direct link to the Brethren? Not even a little bit. It’s a place for me to work out my own ideas, ideally in a manner that other people find entertaining. But if something

  40. (dumb phone!)
    If something is in the air, the Brethren are more likely to pray about it. I don’t care about the revelation proving me right. I would like the clarification that further revelation brings. So if talking about it increases the likelihood of revelation on the topic, more power to talking about it. Even if I turn out to be wrong and have to eat crow, I had fun in the interim.

    That said, this isn’t an advocacy blog and I think advocacy is generally a dead end on blogs. We obviously can’t remake the Church in our image (a frightening prospect to be sure). At best, I explain myself in a manner the shows my path to God. Effects beyond that are outside my control (and usually unintended).

    To the person who was saying we should bend our will to the church, not the other way around. I agree 98% of the time. But two percent of the time Abraham gets to talk the Lord into sparing Sodom if it has 10 good people and that’s okay, too. Just don’t let it go to your head.

    Kaphor,
    I probably was being a bit snarky with that comment. So sorry for that. I hope it didn’t render all the other stronger points in the post moot for you. I hope we’re all allowed a few dumb jokes, but I’m biased. That said, I’m much harsher on Meridian than Brother Hammock in that particular paragraph. Never forget that I once tried to start an internet rumor that reading Meridian causes cancer. If being mean to Meridian is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  41. Has BCC been critical of me? I searched the archives and really couldn’t find much in terms of posts. Did Brad Kramer mean in the comments? I’m happy (I guess) to stand as your example of criticizing the left…I’d just like to see the evidence. My impression is that BCC pretty much ignores whatever we do. Just curious.

  42. John,
    He may have been referring to comments on other venues. That said, I hate to disappoint you and your fans. While I once found your project interesting and worthwhile, right around the time you started misappropriating Elder Jensen’s words for your own political and self-promotional ends was right about the time I started tuning you out. If you’ve we ignore you, there is a reason. Aaaannnnd threadjack over! Hooray !

    Note: Brother Hancock, if you take this comment to mean that we care more about your opinion than Dehlin’s, you are correct. Also you should probably replace all those ‘we’s with’I’s. I should probably shouldn’t speak for my co-loggers who may just find John irritating, instead of considering him someone who is actively trying to destroy the Church.

    Further note: I’m serious about no threadjack. Go discuss my cruelty to John and my misunderstanding of his purpose on some other blog where I don’t have to read it. The last thing I want to do on a Hancock post is discuss Dehlin.

  43. If you’ve *noticed we…sigh

  44. John C. – Question withdrawn. Sorry.

  45. “I am not qualified to write this post”
    that would have sufficed.

  46. lucy,
    sadly, such forethought rarely occurs in the blogs.

  47. European Saint says:

    For those inclined to attempt to write Hancock off as an obsessive, misogynistic (etc., etc.) creator-of-strawmen, you might ask yourself why the likes of Terryl Givens, Nate Oman and Jim Faulconer all accepted to speak–and Givens for the second time, I believe–at the yearly conference he puts on at Duck Beach (see http://www.johnadamscenter.com/2012/05/duck-beach/). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see those quality minds associating themselves in this way and to this degree with the type of narrow-minded thinker many at BCC seem to see in Hancock.

  48. European Saint (48) I cannot answer to the operation of other peoples’ minds. There could be any number of reasons they have accepted invitations from him. My uncle is a ridiculous hypocritical racist, but I accept the invitation to go to his daughter’s birthday party. Does that mean I agree with him? I can freely associate (and associate myself with) people I strongly disagree with–again, for any number of reasons. Unless the three mentioned individuals have specifically come out and stated they endorse Hancock’s tone and ideas I would not assume that for them.

  49. European Saint says:

    EOR: I do not claim to know and have no intention of attempting to describe “the operation of other peoples’ minds.” From what I know about the situation, Hancock and his intellectual Mormon friends and associates–including the three I mentioned above–agree on many issues and disagree on others, to be sure. But they appreciate and respect each other enough to seek out intellectual exchanges between themselves. You are certainly free to go on believing that Hancock is in some other (lower) class of thinkers (“my uncle is a ridiculous hypocritical racist” was an… interesting addition to the discussion, IMO), but I think otherwise. That’s basically what I was stating.

  50. BHodges,

    (really? have him ask me about the time I got banned from M*).

    Who DOESN’T get banned from M*?

  51. European Saint 50 you must have misunderstood me–the reason I brought up my uncle was to illustrate that I (a lowly non-intellectual) find myself associating with someone whose views I find reprehensible. I was in no way equating Hancock and my unfortunate relation. Although I actually consider Hancock to be more dangerous in some ways. He is a “high thinker” but I feel he uses his intellectual prowess against people and to do the opposite of what he claims to be doing. He creates heat rather than light, and in my opinion it is not by accident.

  52. European Saint,
    Ralph has, from what I’ve heard, many admirable qualities. And on topics not related to Joanna Brooks, he appears to be a fairly rational thinker. Harvard don’t graduate no dummies. So I’m not surprised that other folks want to work with him or participate in activities with him. Nor, frankly, do I think that blog posts should be held to the same standards as academic papers. Blog posts are necessarily informal (you’ll note many of my typos in the OP have disappeared because I let my wife edit them out). I don’t think that this represents the height of Ralph’s thought nor would I draw generalizations about Ralph from it. So there you are. I just got involved because he started bad-mouthing the blog.

  53. Kristine says:

    “Harvard don’t graduate no dummies.”

    I beg to differ :)

  54. Capozaino says:

    Is it weird that, every time I try to read “extreme tolerance,” all that comes to mind is charity and love? It’s almost like when I try to read “gay agenda,” but all I can think about is moleskine.

  55. #47 “lucy, sadly, such forethought rarely occurs in the blogs.”

    there’s the rub.

    #53 “I just got involved because he started bad-mouthing the blog.”

    A blog impervious to criticism is a blog incapable of improvement. Hancock is not bad-mouthing the blog, he is simply questioning the assumptions and intellectual foundations that inform authors such as Joanna Brooks and permeate most blog posts and comments. Of course, no one likes having their paradigm called into question. A prevalent assumption in the post-modern world, especially in the microcosm of academia, is that one must be “liberal” in order to be “reasonable” or smart. This assumption trickles into the Church and finds expression in venues such as this.

    In the bloggosphere in general, and the bloggernacle in particular, it is often taken for granted that “equality”, “progress”, “compassion”, “tolerance” and “freedom” are the be all and end all of creation. What if they’re not?

    #55 ‘Is it weird that, every time I try to read “extreme tolerance,” all that comes to mind is charity and love?’

    No, it’s not… it’s a very popular ideology. The problem is that few bother to question the underlying assumption that tolerance is synonymous with charity. This is simply untrue. Tolerance is impossible without truth. Mercy makes no sense without justice.

    What is the purpose of a blog? What is the purpose of the bloggernacle? Does a blog post contribute to reasoned discussion, the search for truth and edification? Does it add to or detract from the mission of the Church? These are questions that should be asked, and need to be answered.

  56. Kristine says:

    “This assumption trickles into the Church and finds expression in venues such as this.”

    Oh, please. By definition, Mormon liberals are not knee-jerk academic lefties, because no self-respecting knee-jerk liberal would spend one second trying to reconcile his/her beliefs with the precepts of a conservative, patriarchal church. We’ve all read The Closing of the American Mind. You’ll have to work a little harder to question paradigms around here.

  57. lucy imo it is pretty well settled that justice is God’s providence and ours is mercy.

    Freedom i.e. Agency is the foundation of existence–it is why we all have bodies, and Satan’s ilk do not. Please tell me if freedom, compassion, tolerance, etc are not the be all and end all of creation what would you say is?

  58. #56, lucy, will you read my #19 comment and reply? In part, I said:

    It just now strikes me that Ralph’s chief error in the way he brings LDS blogs like BCC into his discussion is his mistaken implication that the blogs serve chiefly as a place where “liberal” and “conservative” Mormons engage in some sort of war. Liberals don’t criticize liberals (really? He’s clearly not familiar with the blogs) and only conservatives get bullied (really? have him ask me about the time I got banned from M*).

    Mainly, Ralph overlooks the fact that much of what goes on here on yon blogs doesn’t delve into the liberal/conservative wars at all. Ralph: please go read each and every book review I’ve posted here at BCC and tell me where they fit in according to your “culture war” interpretation of the Bloggernacle. (How ironic that he might agree in some aspects of my review of Steven Pinker’s book, for example.)

    Then, as per Kristine’s #57, I noted, “Perhaps one of the best witnesses against Ralph’s assertions about what we bloggers do is (1) an actual reading of what we write and (20) the fact that we’re still here.”

  59. “Hancock is not bad-mouthing the blog”
    lucy, I’m curious regarding your definition of bad-mouthing. He is saying people leave the church over things they read here, he calls the authors here intellectual cowards and implies that they aren’t smart enough to write coherent sentences, much less critiques. Now, I freely admit that my post may provide ample evidence for that last accusation (especially before my wife had her way with it), but that still seems like bad-mouthing to me.

    As to the rest, I’ve heard it all before and I’m fairly unconvinced. Or rather I doubt that the faults that you see in our little project are absent in Ralph’s online work or in the works of vocal online LDS conservatives. Perhaps you’d prefer no online discussion at all; we’re all stepping on the toes of the Brethren to some small degree. In any case, questions regarding the inherent usefulness of the bloggernacle (note the correct spelling (I do it occasionally)) are threadjacks on this particular discussion. Please focus your ire on the original post, which you previously dismissed.

  60. Mommie Dearest says:

    #57 “The problem is that few bother to question the underlying assumption that tolerance is synonymous with charity.”

    Perhaps not synonymous, but certainly tolerance is associated with charity. What really comes to my mind when I read “extreme tolerance” is the scriptural injunction that the Lord will forgive whom he chooses, but of us it is required to forgive everyone. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? I admire those I see who try to do this, and I struggle to do it myself, and I’m aghast when I see people that I would normally admire reject it without batting an eyelash.

  61. Well said, Mommie Dearest. You expressed exactly what I was thinking, only much better than I could have.

  62. IMO “extreme tolerance” would be…a fear of identifying anything as right or wrong for fear of offending the people who are participating in that behavior. I’m not implying that a lack of “extreme tolerance means principles need be pointed out whenever we notice a sin or that we should ever become the official morality police. It starts to feel as if there really is not right or wrong…when what is really lacking is perfect people. To really judge a person implies you fully understand their heart, intentions, circumstances and life experience. To judge behavior is a different matter…though the purpose of judging behavior would only rarely be to correct the other person. The difficulty of loving the sinner while hating the sin is that when we see or hear of the sin we are seeing one point of behavior and attempting to identify a 3 dimensional object…even seeing a few points doesn’t round out the figure. Charity IMO involves recognizing we can’t see the whole picture and our job is to love. It is based on truth-the Love of God. It may in rare circumstance and only ever in cases in which there is stewardship involve sharing the truth as we see conflicts between truth and behavior. rare.

    to sum up…to love…I don’t really care what you think of the person’s behavior as long as you recognize that God loves them and there is MUCH more to the person that the teensy bit you think you know.

  63. Kristine says:

    Hrmmm. I’m actually more sympathetic to the concern about “tolerance” than maybe some here. I think it’s at least potentially condescending and disrespectful to simply excuse behavior you believe is morally wrong for the sake of “tolerating” someone else’s right to choose a different morality–“extreme tolerance” might, for instance, insist that female genital mutilation is a practice that people should be allowed to choose based on their personal religious convictions, or that a woman who wants to throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre should be allowed to do so in accordance with her conscience. Allowing everyone to “speak their own truth” is ultimately atomizing and can blind us to our common humanity.

    I think there are more robust arguments to be made in favor of gay rights. If we were Catholics, with an absolute belief that all human passions are to be overcome or denied in favor of spiritual pursuits–if we had any potentially ascetic doctrine–we might have to merely “tolerate” gays and lesbians obviously inferior choice or their failure to live up to the Christian ideal. But we’re not Catholic, and the apostle Paul is not the last religious authority to have spoken to us on these matters. As Latter-day Saints, we have a tradition that privileges embodiment and that insists that human love and affection are salvific. We have a duty to argue seriously about the extent of that teaching and the morality of limits on it, rather than begging the question by an appeal to tolerance. I think that Hancock is right to insist that we debate the real issues, even though I think he ultimately lands on the wrong side of them.

  64. Peter LLC says:

    #29: many conservatives (i.e., the vast majority of Mormons)

    Since the vast majority of Mormons are foreigners I would be astonished if they subscribed to Hancock’s brand of conservatism.

  65. Peter (65) great point. It escaped my notice completely.

  66. Vast majority Peter? Slight majority would be more accurate, I think.

    I like the comments from LN1 and Kristine re tolerance, but ultimately, we need to define our terms if we’re not going to continue to talk poast each other. I’m not sure that we’re all defining tolerance, the same way, for example. What does it mean to have tolerance for others even when you disagree with their behavior? How does that translate to how you act toward them?

    It might mean, for example, that a person who has extreme tolerance is someone like this:

    suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    Does that sound like extreme tolerance, or that extreme tolerance is a part of what that is describing?

    I don’t think this means that we have to endorse or agree with every behavior that we see someone engage in. We might actually seek to prevent someone from engaging in behavior that we think is harmful or wrong, and yet still have tolerance and love for them as a person. To me, it has more to do with how you act toward people than how you feel about their behavior.

  67. Peter LLC says:

    Ok, so it’s a slight majority. If we were to slice it another way, the vast majority of Mormons would be those who haven’t attended church in a month of Sundays, and I would be equally surprised if they shared Hancock’s conservative politics. The point is, #29 is not speaking on behalf of the vast majority of Mormons.

  68. Kristine says:

    MCQ, maybe more simply: I think “tolerance” is a merely passive defense of, say, equal rights for women or lgbtq folks, and we are duty-bound to present affirmative arguments instead.

  69. Predictably sarcastic. And weak. Read your scriptures and pray more.

  70. I have not read all the comments- the post was long enough- but I have to say your snarkiness was the wrong tone to take after so many on this blog accused Hancock of just that. Your tone came across as hypocritical.

    And could you please find another term for ‘strawman’? Way overused. There are over a dozen specifically fallacies out there. I am not trained in argumentation, but it seems illogical to me that all of Hancock’s mistakes are of the specific nature of “strawman.”

    Also: “Gender, like every other social role on this mortal realm, can be and should be negotiable.” How do you align this with Church doctrine? Specifically the line in the Family Proclamation about the eternal nature of gender. Do you think spirits sent to earth should have the right to choose/change their gender? Is that what you mean? {Sincere question} Do you think it at all possible God allows some humans to work through trials related gender confusion–trials which are only earth/life based (and are therefore not felt by the spirit after their life on earth is complete)?

  71. Rebecca,
    I’ve no idea what souls get to choose regarding their gender, but humans alter their gender roles all the time. I’m sorta dealing with the facts on the ground.

    Regarding my hypocrisy and my lack as a logician, guilty as charged.

  72. Capozaino says:

    @ 69
    I think you’re right, Kristine, and that’s why we should make our tolerance more EXTREME!
    I get what Hancock’s trying to say in that section, but accepting that intellectuals (or other experts) can sometimes have better ideas or a better grasp on truths at least within their own fields than church leaders, that women and men should be able to define their own roles in their relationships, and that homosexuals at the very least deserve to live happy lives with secular marriage and church participation sans persecution (and I’m not even saying that we have to go so far as to stop saying homosexual intimacy is sinful, just that we leave the saying of that to people called as judges in Israel and make sure everybody gets that it’s not their job to issue reminders, to shame, to ridicule, or to hurt those who engage in or would like to engage in that intimacy) as available options does not equal a wholesale adoption of moral relativism. (That is the worst run-on sentence I have ever written so I will stop now.)

  73. Ryan,
    Excellent advice. Thank you.

  74. Antonio Parr says:

    I think that Ralph Hancock makes some great points. I think that some of his thoughts miss the mark.

    I think that Joanna Brooks makes some great points. I think that some of her thoughts miss the mark.

    I think that blogs are a remarkable social experiment, that have the benefit of allowing people to form a semblance of community, but the curse of concealing the eyes of the people behind their posts. I am convinced that the sarcasm and vitriol that exists in most blogs (including, at times, BCC) would not exist if those participating were in the same room and looking in the faces of their “opponents”, whose quiet hearts hide sorrow that even the eye can’t see.

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle (including those who you “meet” on the internet, whose imperfect writings undoubtedly capture only a fraction of what they really mean and who they really are.).

  75. Jacob H. says:

    Huh. Making “absolute Toleration the only truth”… I am certainly liberal, but I have never once thought such a thing… straw man indeed. If Hancock’s arguments are really based on this kind of premise, no wonder he hasn’t been engaged in a satisfying way. #29 mmm, you share the same straw man when you claim a “principal of tolerance” as the underlying motivation for liberal ideas. For instance, I honestly find no scriptural justification for many conservative ideas about gender roles that are free from critical problems. lucy #46 & 56, you have similar quirks in judgment that I don’t get. I could care less for tolerance, but rather I recognize that the Lord has not actually given the last word on these issues, and I’d rather not assume things will always be the same as we think they are, or I might have ended up being a polygamist or something.

    Alain # 18: Semi-seriously, in thinking about the immortality and eternal life scripture, it occurs to me that the interpretation of eternal life as eternal lives came almost a decade later, and might not be the original point of that verse. In the same chapter we have a provocative thought (pre- Celestial Marriage and preexistence -izing our interpretations) in verses 32 and 33, that God created all things through Jesus Christ.. hmm… two men….

    I believe Joseph Smith once said, “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.”

  76. After reading and thinking about the several attempts to discuss the “real issues” it seems as though it is still very unclear as to what the “real issues” are. Please understand, I believe most of us are much more interested in discussing ideas rather than personalities.

    #57 “We’ve all read The Closing of the American Mind. You’ll have to work a little harder to question paradigms around here.”

    That’s good. Except for the author of the post, we’ve also read Book of Mormon girl. We’ve read Macchiavelli, Rousseau. With your invitation to work harder to question paradigms, why don’t we begin with the following idea:

    #69 that we are “duty bound to present affirmative arguments” in favor of “equal rights” for women or lgbt folks.

    Why are we duty bound? How do you define “equal”? “rights”? What are the affirmative arguments?

    #64 “I think there are more robust arguments to be made in favor of gay rights.”

    For example?

    #59 “Mainly, Ralph overlooks the fact that much of what goes on here on yon blogs doesn’t delve into the liberal/conservative wars at all.”

    He doesn’t overlook it, but he might recognize it as a problem.
    Many blogs don’t delve into the “liberal/conservative wars” because they are quickly becoming insulated repositories for ideological indoctrination and self-congratulation. I admire that Kristine is trying to talk about real issues.

    #76 ‘I believe Joseph Smith once said, “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.”’

    He wasn’t talking about believing sophistry or lies.

  77. Lucy,
    Have you ever been seen in the same room as Brother Hancock?

  78. European Saint says:

    “I believe most of us are much more interested in discussing ideas rather than personalities.” Thank you, Lucy. I for one tire of the virtually never-ending focus on perceived “tone issues”–not to mention assumptions made about personalities–both of which come at the expense of discussions on, well, more substantive issues. I have no idea what John C. is after when he asks you if you have been seen in the same room as Brother Hancock (he’ll no doubt tell us); I have on numerous occasions, and I am a better person as a result of our interactions.

  79. @Jacob #76 – it was more than two men involved in the creation of the world if we pay careful attention to allegories we experience in the temple and the explanations provided in the scriptures. As Joseph noted, it was the Gods plural who participated in the creation. But I do not think there is any stretching to state that women were equally involved in that creation if our theology as again explained in the temples and scriptures is correct. The nature of that creative endeavor is a largely blank slate to which I would not pretend to project any clear definition given the fuzziness of the current canon.

    I’ve read Taylor Petrey’s piece since last commenting on this thread, it’s an interesting argument but I am not persuaded that “women are superfluous to creation and salvation.” I find it interesting that some would argue the scriptures are merely silent on women’s participation in priesthood and creation efforts perhaps due to chauvinism on the part of the writer (or even due to respect for women) and yet that same absence is then conveniently leveraged to substantiate that clearly a homosexual relationship is viable for creative purposes. I find myself skeptical that both arguments will be supported as revelation unfolds.

    However, it seems quite clear to me that to claim that God the Father’s relationship to the Savior, His Son and Only Begotten, is the equivalent of a homosexual relationship, strays quite far afield even if we’re subtracting sexual relations from the equation. There’s a very clear interpretation of those verses that is substantiated in multiple other books in the canon in which it is understood that Jesus did His Father’s work in implementing the creation. There is strong evidence to recognize this as a hierarchical and stewardship relationship.

    Absent any revelation from the Prophets to clarify the questions at hand, I prefer not to speculate in any direction. The direction in which you semi-seriously point with that statement strikes me as getting too far out over your skis given what we know today.

  80. oudenos says:

    I have learned so much from Harvard trained Professor Doctor Hancock PhD, Doctor of Philosophy, Harvard (HARVARD, suckas, HAR-f-ing-VARD) about Joanna:

    BAD=Joanna, extreme tolerance, liberalism lite, feminism, BCC, non-Harvard hacks
    GOOD=Professor Hancock PhD (Harvard), severe conservatism (shout out to a fellow Harvard Man!!! w00t1!!), everything Professor Hancock PhD (Harvard) says about some mo-bloggy mom named Joanna, (Harvard) dudes telling broads everything they need to know about themselves for all eternity, inquisitions, MERIDIAN, be-otches, MER-IDI-AN, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvrad, Harvard, Harvard Harvard, Harvard, Harvard.

    Harvard

    ergo,

    Harvard

    Q.E.D.

    Harvard.

  81. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies – especially when we use our church membership and our alma mater as clubs against each other.

    That isn’t a comment about specific churches and specific alma maters, btw, since it’s just as true for Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Crimson, Yale swine, Zoobies, Ute apostates, Buckeyes, Wolverine neanderthals, etc.

  82. “chauvinism on the part of the writer (or even due to respect for women)…”

    Amazing how difficult it can be to differentiate the two.

  83. Peter LLC says:

    I have [been in the same room as Brother Hancock] on numerous occasions, and I am a better person as a result of our interactions.

    Let’s hope we can all say the same for those whose paths we cross in real life.

  84. Ray (82) Go Aggies!

  85. Kristine says:

    “However, it seems quite clear to me that to claim that God the Father’s relationship to the Savior, His Son and Only Begotten, is the equivalent of a homosexual relationship, strays quite far afield even if we’re subtracting sexual relations from the equation. ”

    You’ve seriously misread the argument, I fear.

  86. Kristine, I don’t believe I misread Jacob’s argument but perhaps I was imprecise in my own. He was claiming two men in the creative process. It seems a real stretch to equate God the Father and Jesus Christ working together in creation to the question I brought up in the context of harmonizing homosexual relationships in a temple sealing. Obviously reproduction, as I indicated, even in our mortal existence can be accomplished with parthenogenesis among some species. And creating adult bodies outside the womb as was done with Adam and Eve quite possibly embodied some alternative form of creation. But I’m not willing to go to the lengths Jacob even semi-seriously is in supporting the argument.

    And Eve, #83, we agree completely on that sentiment. I see no reason why women are excluded from the scriptures other than the gender and cultural circumstances of those who wrote down / translated the stories.

  87. “creating adult bodies outside the womb as was done with Adam and Eve”

    We have no solid idea of how Adam’s and Eve’s bodies were created. There are so many things we assume about which we really don’t know. Even the temple used to state unequivocally that the presentation of human creation was figurative.

    That is directly relevant to this post, I believe, since it ought to make us a little less quick to call someone else apostate simply because they understand already ambiguous things (or things about which even apostles and prophets have disagreed) differently than we do.

    For me, that is the heart of my objection to what I have read from Bro. Hancock in his focus on Sis. Brooks. I get a message of, “My Mormonism is better than her Mormonism, and if you don’t agree with me you’re an apostate, also” that colors the points so deeply that it’s hard to have a respectful conversation about the actual points he makes. I don’t know the mam, so that message might be far from his intent – but it’s what I get when I read his words.

  88. Hmm, I may engage him at W&T as he has asked, after all … Thanks for the inspiration.

  89. #77, lucy: #59 “Mainly, Ralph overlooks the fact that much of what goes on here on yon blogs doesn’t delve into the liberal/conservative wars at all.”

    He doesn’t overlook it, but he might recognize it as a problem.

    In his piece he entirely overlooks it, as you also have in your response. He brings the blogs up, saying basically “I thought these were some nice discussion places but now I see they’re liberal-tolerance danger places without much critical thought.” Here’s where your response gets really interesting to me:

    Many blogs don’t delve into the “liberal/conservative wars” because they are quickly becoming insulated repositories for ideological indoctrination and self-congratulation.

    I said there are plenty of posts that don’t delve specifically into the sort of liberal/conservative divides and I read your response as saying that is 1) a problem because 2) we covertly and uncritically sneak in all our self-congratulatory liberal assumptions. But again, you’re making broad generalizations without much support, and you’re also arguing from the position of already knowing what is best for all of us here. I’m certainly not unaware that blogging can result in a sort of balkinization. Read here:

    http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2010/04/google-earth-mormonism.html

    Also, I invite you to check out a few of my book reviews here. Please point out how they represent ways that BCC is an overall repository for “ideological indoctrination.” (I’ll give you “self-congratulation,” though. After all, I am pitching my own book reviews to you!)

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/03/08/review-justin-l-barrett-born-believers-the-science-of-childrens-religious-beliefs/

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/02/16/review-stephens-and-giberson-the-anointed-evangelical-truth-in-a-secular-age/

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/01/31/a-few-reflections-on-mormonism-and-critical-thinking/

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/01/23/review-stephen-h-webb-jesus-christ-eternal-god/

  90. Kristine says:

    Taylor argues only that the creation narrative we have does not rely on heterosexual procreation–there’s no attempt to characterize the intimacy of Father and Son as anything but that.

  91. Even something so basic as the practice of baptism had to be cleared up when the Savior visited the Nephites, and he had prophets here who were certainly capable of receiving revelation. The doctrine of Christ is the atonement, and there is precious little else that gets a divine stamp of permanence, at least for our childlike mortal eyes. I am pretty conservative, but I haven’t found anything here worth getting my panties in a twist about. And Ray is right, despite having several creation narratives, there is a lot of detail that’s ambiguous. To paraphrase Pres. Uchtdorf, there’s no sense judging someone who thinks (sins) differently than we do. I know it’s fun to have the back and forth of mock offense, but other groups who lurk here are criticizing elsewhere the distraction from truth and principle that Ralph is promulgating. Like it or not, BCC is a place to which many look for genuine enlightenment, and they would hope it wouldn’t devolve to personal issues. Not that it matters what they think, but just my .02.

  92. European Saint and Lucy,
    I told you in the post that I am writing a counter-proposal but it will take a week. I know that ya’ll feel like I should have left Ralph’s accusations about the blight unchallenged a bit longer (until I’d read Joanna’s book or so), but I didn’t feel that way. Wait a week and , once you’ve seen that, then you can complain about how I never discuss ideas.

    On a side note, I broke down and read Ralph’s reviews at Meridian. His tendency to use Joanna as a jumping off point to discuss stuff only tangent related to her book is as equally evident there as here. The second post became too uncomfortable for me to finish (though I’ll make myself), because Ralph’s attempts to respectfully discuss Joanna’s early adolescence and sexuality (as described in her book about herself, which does make it fair game for discussion). Not because I think Ralph is attracted to Joanna or something, but because his obvious discomfort talking about it came through, making me embarrassed for everyone involved. I also had a hard time sitting through making”Meet the Parents”.

  93. Note: I watched Meet the Parents, I didn’t make it. Also, I hate Autocorrect.

  94. natkelly says:

    All this talk of creation and world-making in the next life.

    How much do I have to sin to be assigned to the “hang out and enjoy the view” squadron of angels up there? Y’all make me feel so tired.

    Reading this post gives me an itch to do an aggressively feminist response (aggressively feminist because I’m EXTREMELY LIBERAL and SO ANGRY THAT I HAVE OVARIES!), but I think my laziness and disdain will ultimately win out in the end.

  95. This comment was deleted for an excess of Schadenfreude ;)

    Admin.

  96. hahahahaha :D

  97. #81,

    BCC has a number of Harvard hacks.

  98. Since the John Adams Bulwark blog no longer seems to be available, perhaps John C. can put Ralph Hancock’s entire blog post to which this blog post responds into a footnote so that it can be read in context by readers who are interested. With the link going to a blank site, the sections that John pulls out and responds to in the post are disjointed if someone is trying to read them together to see what Ralph wrote initially.

  99. Also, I love Ralph Hancock and I have gained much personally, intellectually, and spiritually from my association with him. I can say the same about John Crawford, Kristine Haglund, and Taylor Petrey.

    Okay, that sounds like me bragging that I know some pretty cool people. However, my point is that these are all great people.

  100. John F.
    I actually wound up using the whole thing, at least I think I did. So its preserved, such as it is.

  101. looks like they’ve paid up.

  102. Jacob H. says:

    #80 Alain,

    =) Semi-seriously, perhaps you are bothered by my comment because you still believe that the scriptures are consistent with only a single perspective, or even consistent at all. My Book of Mormon declares that God and Jesus are the same, so it’s actually just one man that created everything. Similarly, my D&C 132:26 says I can commit whatever manner of blasphemies I want and because I’ve been sealed it’s all good. Beyond that, my reading into ancient scripture indicates that there is no gender, male nor female, in the resurrection. In other words, I really have no clue about what God is really after, and whether a syncretic approach really fixes things. I don’t know if I even want to go skiing in this kind of theological weather.

    Not to discount Kristine. She makes much better use of my argument. There is consistency somewhere, but there is plenty of room for further light and knowledge and we shouldn’t pretend God has given clear answers where He hasn’t. That is closer to my real argument, that we can’t assume interpretive consistency over time even with the same canon and professed faith. And thank goodness for that. God keeps correcting us, but often through cultural forces. One would accept any of my interpretations of scripture here at their own eternal peril.

    The other point that was overlooked is that my views don’t have to have anything to do with tolerance. Rather, in trying to grab at the dancing flame we call theology to justify a political opinion, I find my fingers just get burned.

  103. Jacob I’m glad to see we agree considering that I put the same caveat to my comment:

    The nature of that creative endeavor is a largely blank slate to which I would not pretend to project any clear definition given the fuzziness of the current canon.

    But I disagree that there is no single interpretation since the whole benefit of having a living mouthpiece of God is to overcome the theological debates that threw the original Chrisitian fathers into such disarray. Absent further revelation, like you I prefer not to assume more than has been clarified.

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