Help Me (and Ralph Hancock) Raise Money for the Feminist Mormon Housewives Scholarship Fund

Today brings yet another piece by Ralph Hancock about Joanna Brooks, this time in the Deseret News (no, I will not support that piece by sending link traffic). I have been profoundly troubled by Hancock’s self-appointed and bitingly personal quest to defame and humiliate Brooks at every opportunity (and then some). I feel pained–as a sister, as a woman, as a Mormon, as a feminist, as someone who, like Brooks, has assumed certain risks in choosing to use my voice to speak publicly on issues that matter deeply to me. Until now, I haven’t felt the strength to really respond to Hancock. My hurt and anger has prevented me from being confident that I could speak out in a way that would be as effective in denouncing Hancock’s behavior as I felt the seriousness of the repeated offenses warranted.[1] Today, the imperative to stand firm and proud with someone I am honored to know, Joanna Brooks, has overcome. I am taking up her suggestion and embarking on a fabulous feminist fundraiser in honor of Ralph Hancock. The more he attacks, the more money goes to the Mormon feminist cause.

I am pledging to donate $20 to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Scholarship Fund for each new piece Hancock writes about Brooks in the next 2 months. As a bonus, I will donate an extra $1 for each time he refers to Brooks by just her first name in said pieces, and $1 for every time he says he will pray for her.[2]

Who will join me?

Additionally, I encourage you to write to Deseret News editors Paul S. Edwards (general edtior), and Aaron Shill (Mormon Times section editor), to express dismay that they would publish a mean-spirited and baseless attack piece against a fellow saint.

[1] I am very thankful that Lynette of Zelophehad’s Daughters did a tremendous job of dissecting Hancock’s writings about Brooks on the merits. Our own Brad Kramer and Matsby stepped up to the satire plate with some Princess Bride-inspired indignation. And Angela Felsted cut to the heart of the bullying undertones of the collective works.

[2] I just really hope this doesn’t end up costing me in excess of $10,000, but if he keeps up the pace, it just might. (Unlike Romney, I don’t have that much cash just sitting around for off-the-cuff bets.)


  1. Amen.

  2. HUZZA!!!

  3. PS: Joanna’s book is fantastic. Seriously, go buy it. Like EmJen, who reviewed it for BCC, I was completely transfixed from the first pages. She paints a marvelously detailed portrait of a quintessentially Mormon childhood in southern California. Although in many ways, my Mormon childhood was the inverse of hers (her parents the Skousen-reading conservatives, my parents the evolution-preaching Sunstone subscribers), I found so many details by turns hauntingly and joyfully familiar. Her painful negotiation of the tensions and contradictions on equality issues that are found in the church is heartbreaking yet inspiring. That Brooks could cram so much optimism, love, faith, and love of faith in a book about many hurtful things, says everything I need to know about Joanna’s rock solid integrity and core values. I didn’t agree with everything Joanna says in the book, I’m not certain things can go the way she would want them to go in the church, but that doesn’t in the least change the fact that the book is a great read.

  4. I won’t be joining your fund raising. Joanna is probably a fine person, and I have no doubt that she has a fine family. But after reading her essays for some time, I have concluded that she has a vested interested, both political and economic, in staying outside of mainstream Mormonism. If she allowed herself to move on, she would lose her audience. Not every issue has to be completely resolved, or every question thoroughly answered. Sometimes you just have to let past alleged grievances go (e.g. polygamy, blacks and the priesthood) and move on, because living life in the present is so much more rewarding.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    For those of us too lazy to google, how about a link to the FMH Scholarship Fund?

    [Oh dear, that’s a bit of an oversight isn’t it! Fixed. –CL]

  6. “Joanna is probably a fine person”

    Well, if she was fine, there would be nothing in the universe that could keep her from mainstream Mormonism, wouldn’t you say?

  7. FWIW, here is the letter I sent DNews:

    After the spiritual high of General Conference, where I was invigorated by messages of love and tolerance (ably covered by Deseret News and Mormon Times), I was shocked back into the world of reality by Ralph Hancock’s condescending, didactic, and judgmental book review of Joanna Brooks’s Book of Mormon Girl.

    The review accuses Brooks of brandishing a “reform” Mormonism that possesses a “political agenda,” an ideology whose only virtue is the opportunity to clarify “a choice we must all face” between “‘unorthodox’ Mormonism Lite” and “the clearly marked path” of the restored gospel, an “ascending secular ethic” versus the “eternal” truths of the Church. Such a dichotomy dominates the entire article. Brooks’s convictions stem from nothing other than “a progressive-liberal-feminist political project,” a worldview the perverts the simple and beautiful truths that her parents taught her–and which, we can assume, Hancock also believes. It is Brooks, Hancock tells us, whose mind is closed to correction due to her “unshakable faith in ‘liberalism’ and ‘feminism,'” as well as the “radical forms…now understood by her generation.” Brooks’s words and actions “abominates” the work of the Church, and can be dismissed as merely “bluster.” Brooks is never given the benefit of the doubt, and Hancock is always assumed to be in the position of gospel knowledge. In the end, Hancock could only condescendingly hope that Brooks will live long enough to realize her wayward ways and return to the true fold–his fold, of course.

    Surely people can disagree with someone else’s views and ideas, but we can also do so without being disagreeable. Judgmental and hateful rhetoric sadly dominates today’s discourse, especially in the political arena, but it is still disappointing to find that damaging rhetoric appear on the same pages that also carry the merciful words of LDS leaders and serve as the vehicle for the gospel message. There must certainly be a better approach.

    This last weekend, Elder Jeffrey Holland powerfully and poignantly urged us “not to be hurt” when others come upon “good fortune.” We are all “in the race against sin,” he continued, and an important lesson to remember is that “coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind…it is a happy way to live.” (emphasis his.) President Dieter Uchdorf compellingly added, “when it comes to our own predjudices 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,” he continued, “when it comes to our own bitterness become we feel that, in our case we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.” And finally, in a list so similar to Elder Holland’s that we can easily classify it as a unified message, “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!”

    I hope we can all better following this prophetic counsel, summed up in the most powerful nine-word sermon offered by President Uchdorf: “don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

    Benjamin Park
    Cambridge, UK

  8. Oh, I’ll join you — but you’ll have to keep me updated with the numbers, because I have’t yet made it through any of Hancock’s patronizing, self-righteous lectures-in-print.

    As for writing to the Deseret News and Mormon Times editors, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve been meaning to cancel that dratted subscription for months.

  9. D’oh. Just caught some typos in my letter. SMH…

  10. Mark B. says:

    I have not read Hancock’s piece in the Deseret News, and just skimmed the one in Meridian, and don’t have a dog in his fight. But your calling Ms. Brooks’s childhood “a quintessential[] Mormon upbringing” is precisely what troubled me about the book. Skousen-reading, rock-ribbed conservative, survivalist households were outliers even in the Provo, Utah, ward that I grew up in during the 1960s and early 70s (although I suppose that Sunstone-reading families would have been equally rare–especially in the years before Sunstone was published!)–and calling that sort of upbringing “quintessential” ignores the fact that both of those experiences were well outside the mainstream.

    The other alternative: Ms. Brooks, by her selection of what scenes of her childhood to include, has constructed a straw man which is altogether too easy to demolish. I’d have a hard time staying in a church of the kind she describes.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    Mark B.,

    Sure, except that a Skousen-reading, Freeman Institute man became president of the church in the 80s.

    I’m willing to grant that both instances are outside the mainstream, as you say. But I think it is incorrect to assert an equivalence, because one group is so much bigger than the other. Glenn Beck outsells Joanna Brooks among LDS people by at least 10,000 to 1.

    The problem with Hancock’s approach is that he apparently has no problem with the Freeman Institute types who wrest the gospel to fit their own ends, but rolls out the big guns for uppity feminists. McNaughton and Bott have been busy polluting the environment in Hancock’s own backyard for years but he can overlook all that because they reinforce his own conservative perversions.

  12. Kristine says:

    Mark B., if we write off everyone whose Mormon childhood wasn’t “mainstream,” or who allows the “wrong” episodes to assume prominence in their memories, church would be awfully lonely. The problem is that Ralph sets himself up as both Judge in Israel and supreme arbiter of correct belief–both positions to which he has neither right nor calling. Even if he did have those callings, the necessary work of helping someone repent would be done in private, not as a means to draw attention and accolades for his own rectitude.

  13. Mark B. says:

    Kristine–I’m not suggesting writing off anybody. I simply hope that when we go looking for descriptions of elephants, we’ll listen to all of the blind men we can gather (or women–weren’t there any blind women in ancient India??), and not hear one blind man’s opinion and assume we’ve found the quintessential elephant.

  14. Here is the line from his article I take issue with most: “This is the choice between: 1. a politicized, “unorthodox” Mormonism Lite, a Mormonism streamlined in order to remove any obstacle to the increasingly ascendant secular ethic of boundless individual autonomy; and 2. the restored gospel, with its wondrous teaching concerning our eternal destiny as males and females, and its clearly marked path of obedience to laws and ordinances.”
    HE is the one setting up the dichotomy. The “clearly marked” path is not as clear as he presumes, and an “unorthodox” mormonism is not as at odds with “the restored gospel” as he thinks. It may be at odds with the organization of the church at times, but as we heard in general conference, the church is not the gospel. The gospel has led me to have compassion, to treat others as equals, without judgement, and to respect the power of personal revelation as valid, even if it leads me on a different path or makes me an activist in a political party not typically supported by mainstream mormonism. We CANNOT create this split of “us vs them”- of “if you’re not with me, you’re wrong” and still respect the personal journeys, understanding, and personal revelation others have.

  15. Kristine says:

    Sure–it would be great if there were more intelligent, articulate, charming, wise Mormon voices out there. The problem is one blind man, insulted that he’s not getting as much attention as the other, insisting that the other hasn’t been near the elephant and should therefore be kicked out of the zoo. (To stretch a metaphor entirely too far…)

  16. “The problem is that Ralph sets himself up as both Judge in Israel and supreme arbiter of correct belief–both positions to which he has neither right nor calling. Even if he did have those callings, the necessary work of helping someone repent would be done in private”

    As the whole blog sets out to judge and correct Hancock, publicly.

  17. Ben,
    We report; you decide.

    I’m in.

  18. Craig M. says:

    I’m a little hesitant to make this comment given the way things went on the last thread, but I have a few thoughts.

    First, perhaps Hancock’s repeated writings on Brooks are less an “obsession,” as some have suggested, than an attempt to get attention for his critique. I imagine that as Brooks has tried to attract attention to her ideas she has likewise treaded over the same themes repeatedly in increasingly larger venues.

    Second, contempt for Brooks (which is certainly an unholy feeling) may have just as much to do with her opinions and narrative as it does with the company she keeps (Mormon Stories crowd) and her seeming pursuit of attention/recognition.

    Third, it seems to me that despite tone problems, the questions Hancock raises are important and beg response. Particularly, is Brooks’s political agenda shaping her religious agenda/interpretations? (The same questions, of course, should be asked of Hancock.) Simply saying, “You wrote a rude article about my friend, therefore I’m not going to respond,” reinforces the perception of the Bloggernacle as an echo chamber and frankly concedes the battle of opinions to Hancock. (Perhaps none are listening that haven’t already “chosen sides” – though I hope divides aren’t that sharp.) Hancock seems outraged by Brooks, but he addresses her thought as well. The only responses to Hancock I’ve seen essentially attack Hancock as a sexist, which is an issue related to his piece, but not the point of it.

  19. Kristine says:

    Craig–here’s a substantive critique:

    (And, actually, Joanna writes about a great many topics; she is sought out because she continually generates new and informative content, not because of her “pursuit of attention/recognition.”)

  20. Kristine says:

    Ben S.
    I don’t think it’s the same. No one is questioning Hancock’s testimony or his right to belong to the church. We’re just saying his bullying tactics are unseemly. Big difference, imo.

  21. Mark Brown says:

    Ben S.,

    Nobody here is calling Hancock’s version of his religion Mormonism-lite.

    (Although I am very tempted to call it Catholicism-lite.)

  22. Mark B, the part about Skousen was in a different sentence from “quintessential,” and was contrasting that detail that puts her childhood on one extreme of the Mormon experience with a detail that puts my childhood on the other extreme. That detail isn’t what defines “quintessential,” and that’s not how I framed it. The details that are quintessential are the campouts, the vans, the dances, the feelings about being Mormon surrounded by non-Mormons (I meant to call it the “quintessential southern California Mormon childhood,” not generically/globally “quintessential Mormon”–I suppose I could have reversed the word order there to emphasize that.) But even aside from all these points and that I didn’t intend to include Skousen as definitionally part of that, you’re really going to call a Mormon family in that era who read Skousen not typical? Sure, I think it’s perhaps slightly less common today (though Glenn Beck was on the precipice of really changing that), but even that probably has more to do with influx of converts and globalization than the next generation of that era’s Mormons going a markedly different way.

  23. Nobody seems to understand the real event here. Check the Church’s family records and you’ll find, if you read between the lines creatively enough, a Brooks/Hancock handcart ezra taft birch houston konchar-farr England connection. Ralph is pimping his sister’s book. Every time he mentions her in his bulwarkian blog or the meridipollyana magazine or in the deseretsnooze he sells lots of BOMGs! succes de scandale! it’s an old trick and ought to be acknowledged.

  24. Mark Brown (13) – “The problem with Hancock’s approach is that he apparently has no problem with the Freeman Institute types who wrest the gospel to fit their own ends, but rolls out the big guns for uppity feminists.”

    On the contrary, most of Hancock’s criticism’s before Brooks were for far-right wing, anti-intellectual conservatives. See, e.g.,

  25. Let me just be clear that this isn’t about Hancock’s attacking Brook’s ideas, or even her narratives. If someone writes a book, they can anticipate it will be debated on those terms. It’s actually a shame that the person who has stepped up to the plate to take on the book has chosen not to do that responsibly, because, as I said at the end of my comment about the book above, I’m not in full agreement with her on how conflicts between various parts of the church and other values can be reconciled. I found myself with a furrowed brow as often as a warm fuzzy when considering her vision of a different kind of Mormon life. But saying things like this, “The teachings of Brooks’ parents have not lost all their force.”–dragging her parents into this, using such a condescending voice, declaring such judgment about her soul–I’m sorry but it just makes me fly off the handle and I can’t accept it. I really do apologize for the fact that I, in turn, can’t seem to engage rationally with Hancock’s writings about Brooks. I feel too much personally hurt by them. But if anyone wants a lucid breakdown of exactly what is wrong, I refer you to Lynette’s post, which I linked to in the post.

  26. @25: :-)

  27. I like Joanna Brooks as a person, I also love that she boldly exercises both her faith and her free agency. There are 3 things which keep me from donating any of my funds though. 1. I don’t have any to spare as I am a mere lowly student. 2. I don’t like that the name of the entity we are to donate to only recognizes women who are housewives. 3. I did not grow up in the Church, and nowhere near Utah so I have no idea what a typical Mormon childhood looks like or not. In fact, when I saw the commercial for the Book of Mormon and made that fateful phone call I honestly had no idea that it was even for another religion. In the part of NY I grew up in there were only two religions–Catholicism, and Judaism. Nothing else even existed as far as we knew.

    That being said, I do see Hancock’s constant harping as a vendetta of some sort. How many times and in how many different ways does a person need to review one book? Especially when his initial reviews were all several pages long. If he didn’t go off on judgmental tangents so often, maybe he could have fit everything he had to say about the book in a single one page article. Brevity is the soul of wit my friend.

  28. Oh, also, I don’t have a problem with polygamy. I think the problem lies in the people of this time period and that is why polygamy needed to be stopped. In my mind, the practice is sound, and for me anyway it would certainly be preferable.

  29. I’ll join you Cynthia L. And buy another copy or two of Joanna’s book this month. For the record, I recognized much of my own Mormon girlhood in TBOMG, growing up in Alaska, no less. Here’s to an “expansive and exciting” Mormonism! I would wish for no other.

  30. Reading the piece that was not linked (petty! plus it just means the traffic comes from google and not you so BCC loses some esteem), I come across this quote of Joanna,

    “I feel as if my heart has been thrown to the concrete and a cinderblock dropped on it.”

    I couldn’t help but feel it’s similar to this quote of yours:
    “I have been profoundly troubled… I feel pained–as a sister… [I have] assumed certain risks”

    And (some) in the bloggernacle like to talk about an overzealous Mormon persecution complex!

    Here is the difficulty of the argument. We get statements like the above rather than engaging the issues and responding with respect and deference to an alternate position, and not assuming that people who hold a different position are “opponents” at best, but more likely sexist homophobes.

    How does one respond when they are told their existence is like a cinder block ripping another to shreds? How do you respond when your mere opinion is said to make others feel at “risk” which profoundly troubles and causes pain to another?

    The trump card is that someone’s feelings get hurt so now your sought-out ideological opponents must change their opinions?

    While I don’t agree with going to the paper/magazine writing publicly about every named Mormon you disagree with, you have to admit that sense Joanna is putting herself out there in a bold way it’s not entirely unwarranted for someone to say, “No, that’s not right, plenty of us disagree.”

    In fact, Joanna does not give as much deference to Hancock as he does to her (or the OP to Hancock, as it turns out). He engages her points and says where he thinks she has gone wrong.

    Joanna chalks things up to false gender constructs or sexism, or homophobia, etc. How charitable is that?!?

    I could write a strong piece arguing Joannas or the OP’s point. I understand it, even though I disagree with it. The problem is Hancock and others get the feeling Joanna (and perhaps the OP) don’t really understand him or others like him at all.

    I don’t write this in the spirit of engaging in argument, but just to point out that different opinions don’t have to become ideological opponents. The same could rightly be said to Hancock.

  31. Mark Brown says:

    jt, 26,

    Thanks for the link. However, I think it proves my point.

    Hancock doesn’t object to Skousen and Beck because he thinks they are a threat to Mormonism. He objects to them because he thinks their arguments for conservatism are embarrassing. From the article: “Hancock said he agrees with some points made by Beck and Skousen but overall finds their arguments lacking in substance and scholarly research…”I find in both a trace of anti-intellectualism,” Hancock said. “My interest is to help connect a certain LDS conservative impulse or mood with a more deeply grounded intellectual conservatism.”

    In addition, he doesn’t question their faith, their upbringing, or their commitment to the gospel.

  32. I think there is chicken and egg in Ralph’s critique. Ralph assumes that Brooks’ on the gospel is driven by her politics, without recognizing that it may be Brooks’ understanding of the gospel drives her political views. He does not acknowledge that one’s understanding of the pure gospel may end up more consistent with liberal than conservative politics.

    Let us return to the 1960s, when many of us were struggling with the institutional church’s ban of priesthood/temple for black Africans. Even the father of Mitt Romney received a stern letter from a member of the 12 admonishing him for Romney’s strong stance in favor of civil rights. Were those of us who thought that the ban was inconsistent with the gospel motivated more by our “liberal progressive politics” than by our belief in the pure light of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Critiques, such as Hancock’s, were levied in the 1960s and 1970s against those who vocally advocated change in the Church. I wonder how many of those critiques then were motivated by “conservative right wing politics” than by the pure light of the gospel?

    As far as women and LGBTQ and the Church, I think Brooks’ positions can be motivated by the pure light of the gospel and its teachings. If those positions also happen to be consistent with today’s liberal progressive politics, that does not change their motivation, anymore than the motivation of those of us troubled by the Church’s previous racialist past–motivated by our understanding of the pure light of the gospel–also happened to align with then liberal progressive politics.

    While I happen to agree with most of Brooks’ views and disagree with Ralph’s, I do not assert that Ralph’s views are motivated by his politics. I concede that his political views may well be motivated by a good faith and defensible interpretation of the pure gospel. And I hope those on the right will acknowledge the same about those of us on the left.

  33. My sentiment is, and I think Hancock would agree, that he and I belong to the same church, but we have very different religions.

  34. @UtahMormonDemoGuy says:

    I have read a lot of Joanna Brooks’ essay, but not her book. I have read one or two of Ralph Hancock’s (and others’) reviews of her book, but not the review referred to. So, I feel only somewhat informed on the topic, but think I understand the gist of the discussion. I am troubled to see Deseret Book “take sides” in this unfortunate, contentious discussion.

    I wholeheartedly agree with comments 9, 13 and 14. I find the information in comment 26 interesting, and it certainly adds some nuance to the discussion, What I will say is that I find Joanna Brooks almost unfailingly generous, kind and non-judgmental in her comments, and I have found Ralph Hancock the opposite. He seems to have the self-righteous, overly-personal and judgmental vibe that I (an active, faithful member of the Church) find very distasteful and even disturbing in much Mormon apologetic writing.

    Joanna (in my view) seems to talk to her own experience and criticize ideas and policies. I do not always agree with her or find her tone appropriate or comfortable (to me). Hancock, on the other hand, pronounces (by what authority?) right and wrong, and attacks people. He reinforces the stereotype of the hypercritical, judgmental believer who cannot see the gospel forest for the various trees of religiosity and so-called orthodoxy. Personally, I am much more comfortable with the image Joanna Brooks presents the world of Mormonism. And if I had to place bets, she is a better missionary tool than Ralph Hancock, by a fair stretch.

    P.S. The check is in the mail.

  35. I love Joanna. And I never approve of ad hominem essays. There is such irony that “mainstream” outlets like Meridian and Deseret News would support this unChristian behavior. I’m in, Cynthia.

  36. @UtahMormonDemoGuy says:

    Oops, Deseret News, not Deseret Book.

  37. markymark5005 says:

    [deleted online retail spambot comment]

  38. #39 markymark this must be some sort of internal BCC joke as I have seen this link referenced elsewhere. Please simply be explicit in what you are saying here so non-BCC insiders retain the opportunity to either engage in a thoughtful discussion, or snark back (depending on what your link is intended to say)

    [I think that was just a spam bot trying to drive traffic to that online store. –admin]

  39. #32

    chris no one is saying that Joanna isn’t putting herself out there publicly and no one is saying that the book doesn’t deserve critical review. There are plenty of good, thorough book reviews of “I am Mormon Girl” which address its strengths and weaknesses, where the reviewer agrees or disagrees etc. I may even agree with you that the current efforts now to pillory Hancock might actually nudge up and over the line of some hypocrisy. I will note that this is mostly people who know and like Joanna coming to her defense not Joanna herself who has refused to engage with Hancock.

    The problem here is now that Deseret News choice to choose the Hancock review and give it an implicit imprimeur of mainstream Mormon respectability. Hancock’s piece is by its own admission a piece of political theatre targeted at what Hancock perceives as Joanna’s agenda. It isn’t a book review in any normal sense. If the DN is going to run a political piece then according to journalistic standards they should put in context. It should be noted that Hancock is highly active in linking Mormon thought to specific political causes (he describes himself this way). It should be noted what those causes are and his role in them. It should also be noted that the author has a history of engaging Joanna critically including links or references to his other criticisms of her of which there is a long pattern. Instead they just publish a piece in which Hancock’s chosen political agenda is portrayed uncritically by Hancock as the assumed mainstream orthodoxy in the church upheld by the Church’s leaders and policies. This is an extreme fail of just basic journalistic and book review editorial practice. It is particularly hurtful to a significant segment of the Mormon population who so often see these types of political projects run under the banner of assumed Mormon orthodoxy.

    Finally, you must decide for yourself how Hancock’s piece reads. You think it does a clear job of addressing point by point the content of Joanna’s book. Maybe, but what you seem to be missing is all the subtle and not so subtle condescension, belittlement, and disrespect in the article. Go read the Zelophehad’s Daughters review of the review linked to in the OP and see if you still feel that Hancock is not engaging in clear ad hominum attacks rooted in what many of us recognize as classic misogyny.

  40. “I am pledging to donate $20 to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Scholarship Fund for each new piece Hancock writes about Brooks in the next 2 months.”

    You may (or may not) wish to extend the stated deadline. I imagine that some version of Hancock’s review will appear in an upcoming issue of Mormon Studies Review (fka FARMS Review fka FARMS Review of Books fka Review of Books on the Book of Mormon). Perhaps 6-12 months from now.

  41. “Unless I’m wrong—and I’m never wrong—she’s heading directly into the beguiling, liberationist-infected space of Mormonism-Lite.”

  42. #32 “How do you respond when your mere opinion is said to make others feel at “risk” which profoundly troubles and causes pain to another?”

    Okay. What if my genuine opinion is that women should keep silent at church, ’cause Paul was such a great apostle? In fact, I’m going to campaign for women to be taken off the prayer and talk lists at sacrament meeting! And refuse to go to a GD class where there is a female teacher! I need to go talk to the Bishop every week to discuss my views! I believe in the Bible, and if you don’t agree with me you don’t believe in the gospel. Apostate. You are a bad Mormon, and should get behind me or you should be excommunicated. I think I’ll write these views in newspapers/magazines/the ward newsletter. (It doesn’t matter if I’m supported by the church. Voicing these views is enough to make an unsafe emotional environment for women.)

    You see the problem? If your opinion infringes on my right to have my own opinion (by denying my testimony or calling for my excommunication if I disagree with your opinion), or if your opinion subjugates me to anyone (especially the person holding the opinion), then I have a right to not only disagree with your opinion, but to be hurt by it.

    “The trump card is that someone’s feelings get hurt so now your sought-out ideological opponents must change their opinions?”

    I don’t think so. You can keep your opinion. But if you have been made aware that your opinion is extremely hurtful to someone else, I think you need to really look at that opinion to see if it makes sense and arguments for and against it. Then you need to see if you really believe that opinion after examining it. If you do, well, then you have an opinion that hurts others’ feelings. Tough for them. I think, though, that we should make sure we are regularly examining any opinion of ours that is hurtful to others, and being humble enough to change it if we decide it needs to be changed.

  43. Kristine says:

    Oh, Molly. Don’t you know being a Mormon man means never having to say you’re sorry? (At least not to a woman).

    [sorry–more bitter than usual today]

  44. You know what? It’s not just Hancock that should be ashamed of himself here. It’s people who know he’s acting like a horse’s ass but refuse to call him out for it. When I criticize his behavior toward Brooks, he and his acolytes can just dismiss it as the “liberationist” in me sympathizing with whatever he/they perceive Brooks’ agenda to be and attacking Hancock for registering his substantive disagreement with her. I actually happen personally to not be a fan of at least some parts of her personal approach to reconciling aspects of Mormonism with other values and commitments. But if I were extremely critical of the substantive arguments she makes in her public writings and speeches about the relationship of Mormonism and liberal values, I would be so pissed at Hancock for positioning himself as the arch-apostle of Brooks criticism and obscuring legitimate, substantive critiques behind his own personal (both in the “personally obsessed” sense as well as the “getting personal” sense) vendetta. The way he has conducted himself gives the impression that criticism of Brooks is, at its core, grounded not in reasonable, serious, and thoughtful questions about the philosophical and pragmatic implications of her public scholarship but, rather, in angry, mean-spirited, old-school patriarchal resentment toward and intolerance of smart women who have the audacity to publicly claim that their own personal experience of Mormonism does not conform to what the patriarchs loudly proclaim it should.

    Hancock has poisoned the water around Brooks’ status as a high-profile public Mormon intellectual, and if I wanted to make a serious, conservative, substantive critique of her public discourse on Mormonism, I would be doing everything in my power right now to persuade Ralph Hancock to take a Dr-Leo-Marvin-style vacation from Joanna Brooks.

  45. This is exactly what I predicted would happen as the Deseret News made a conscious choice to become the Huffington Post of the Mormonism as ethnicity set. As they become desperate for LDS themed content they’ll publish anything that reverberates well after a quick check in the echo chamber. So sad to watch the decline of the Deseret News.

  46. Amen, arj.

  47. I agree, randomjohn. For Deseret News’ part, I am glad (?) that I can feel pretty confident in chalking this up to a lack of editorial control as things turn more to free-for-all outside contributors in the wake of their massive layoffs, rather than a very considered and high-level editorial choice on the part of Deseret News to provide a platform for this. I especially don’t assume that we can deduce any kind of endorsement, even miniscule tacit endorsement, of the piece due to DN publishing it. They were, after all, willing to publish that city councilman’s glowing reports about himself that he submitted under a fake name. They are greenlighting a lot of things without a lot of thought or investigation over there. Very sad.

  48. Mommie Dearest says:

    Sigh. I’d rather think about Easter stuff. Today was the crucifixion.

    But I did read Joanna’s book late last night while my hair/laundry dried, and it hasn’t harmed me nor has it made me feel pressured to convert to Gospel-lite. I’m in the last section now and IMO she’s been quite gentle in her honesty about her own experiences with her religious life. Hancock’s effort reminds me of a better-educated and (only slightly) more sophisticated version of that guy who wrote the snarky Valentine’s day note of rebuke to the BYU coed chastising her for not living up to his version of the dress code. The most hurtful element in this whole business to me is that it appears that Hancock doesn’t consider Brooks to be a good enough member to represent the church in public. Even though I’ve actively served for decades, like her, I’m on the fringes sometimes; married to someone who’s never joined the church, and I know how common this kind of thinking is. I It’s the sort of discouragement that I don’t need at present. Better to contemplate some of the kind words I heard during General Conference, or think of how the Lord treated the lowly women he encountered in his ministry.

    And I’m already on board with the scholarship fund; time for another donation.

  49. That Hancock considers Brooks to be on the fringe is rank hypocrisy. He might better conform to traditional Mormonism theologically or even politico-philosophically. But in terms of their public behavior and the general respectfulness and christian generosity and civility of their discourse, Brooks is a much, much, much better Mormon than Hancock is (and than I am).

  50. Ralph has thoroughly provoked us. I’ve been wondering why he’s able to do that.

    He gets under my skin when he claims, as he did in the Meridian article, that Cecilia and Gail and David failed their tenure and third-year reviews because they didn’t have enough good scholarship. I tried to comment there that after we (AAUP Chapter) published a list of their publications and showed that their work was in the top 10% of those who had passed the same reviews that year the BYU administration withdrew that claim and went with what was actually the case: they were outspoken feminists. Meridian didn’t publish the comment.

    But false claims aren’t the main problem for me. What gets me is the absolute lack of any sense of humor. That includes an inability to read Joanna’s chapter about her infatuation with Marie Osmond as self-satire. It’s a funny chapter, funny and poignant, and yet Ralph takes it seriously.

    The name of the blog Ralph contributes to, The Bulwark, similarly manifests a completely deaf ear for language.It might just as well be distributed along with the oh-so-serious Watchtower. The name leaves me thinking that all that tight-sphinctered conservative writing could be left aside if the bulwark were just loosened with a little fiber.

    The deaf ear to language (and a lot of writers here have pointed out other examples in Ralph’s measured diatribe), brings to mind a book title with similar problems, written by a distant relative of mine who converted to Mormonism from Judaism: My Burning Bush.

  51. Great comment, Scott Abbott.

    Cynthia – I just have to say I love the picture in your post!

    And I also wanted to say I missed Kristine’s musical recommendations for Holy Week this week.

    Other than that, I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said.

  52. Brad, let’s let this thread unfold southern California style. Calling out whose who need calling out, but while gazing contentedly at the beach sipping an umbrella drink and letting nothing harsh our mellow. More “dude” and “harsh” and “whatever” and “radical,” and less “rank hypocrisy” etc Boston pub intellectual debate. :)

  53. More meme goodness:

    That is a lot of fight packed into 0.5cm. Respect that.

  54. I think Deseret News did a serious disservice by not having someone at their paper read Prof. Brook’s book, then review it. Sometimes you do see someone’s book review republished, but, is the Deseret News staff so short handed that they can’t have someone read & review the book? This subject should be relevant enough with Deseret News they should bypass the middleman, & look directly at the source.

  55. #40 Admin- Derp, I feel super foolish now. Ahh well, what is the point of becoming part of a community (online or otherwise) if you’re not able to make a fool of yourself sometimes :)

    Also, I just want to say that I love that sloth picture toward the top. Sloths are high up on my favorite animal list, and once I am finished with school and have an income I am going to adopt one (sponsor one).

    I actually really feel for Joanna that she has to face these kinds of attacks. I remember one time in a relatively benign (I thought) online discussion a friend of a friend called me an apostate. It really pissed me off. Apostate is a very serious word, and it makes me angry when people throw it around casually. It got under my skin even more than when thet McNaughty fan called me Satan.

  56. I find this every bit as shocking as it is perplexing. You mean to tell me there are still people who read the Deseret News?

  57. StillConfused says:

    I too often wonder why this man is being such a butt face to Ms. Brooks. My theory is that they were both at a youth dance many years ago. A young Mr. Hancock asked the young Ms. Brooks to dance assuming she would naturally say yes. (The gals are supposed to always say yes, right?) In fact, Ms. Brooks, her douchebag radar fine tuned even at a young age, declined. Scorned, Mr. Hancock swore his revenge. He has been following her for years looking for his chance. At last, now that Ms. Brooks is in the spotlight, he attacks her with all of his venom. That will teach her for scorning him back in the day.

  58. Hancock’s obsession with discrediting Brooks is certainly perplexing. Has anyone considered trying to writing an article in defense of Brooks for Deseret News?

  59. I’m sure Brooks would consider writing a defense of herself in the LDS version of DailyKos if she weren’t busy preparing defenses of mormonism for major national media outlets…

  60. Haha, Brad. Exactly.

  61. #32

    “How does one respond when they are told their existence is like a cinder block ripping another to shreds? How do you respond when your mere opinion is said to make others feel at “risk” which profoundly troubles and causes pain to another?”

    With self-awareness, humility, and charity. That is, as I understand it, what the gospel requires of us.

  62. I dislike the bulwark metaphor, as well. It seems to indicate that truth is something defended from behind a barricade, rather than something that is grown into, expansively and progressively. It is the ‘watchman on the tower’ metaphor that dominates so much of Mormon response to … I was going to say culture, but would prefer to say reality. I prefer Moroni’s metaphor, which tells us to enlarge our borders forever.

    Really, the goal is to be like neither Ralph nor Joanna. The aim is something that both they and we will fall well short of. If there is a must in all this, for me, it is that we take our eyes off each other, and place them on Him.

  63. “If there is a must in all this, for me, it is that we take our eyes off each other, and place them on Him.”

    Well said, Thomas.

    I would hope Bro. Hancock listened closely enough to General Conference that he would change his approach to Sis. Brooks – and that all of us, as well, would evaluate our own responses to Bro. Hancock. There’s an application for all of us in the messages that are relevant to this conversation.

  64. #65 Ray, I agree to a point. If we are never to shout down injustice when we see it to avoid judging others how will evil be eradicated? An extremely exaggerated for instance: Why put people in jail for committing crimes? Isn’t that judging them? We would never get anywhere. As individuals, we determine for ourselves what we consider to be civilized discourse. I find Hancock’s brand extremely distasteful and sexist to boot. Calling him out for it is nowhere near the same as what he is doing to Brooks. Her book was about her experiences, and her thoughts she was not judging others only giving her perspective. Hancock is unrighteously not only judging Brooks, but anyone he deems does not live up to his standards of what gospel living should look like; especially if those people are women.

    I believe it necessarily does not need to get nasty in defending Brooks, but it is hard in the face of such a bully to keep one’s cool always. I know that we should all strive to. However, it would be judging us for judging him for judging Brooks for judging The Church for judging the members for judging anything. It is a vicious snake-eating-tail cycle. :)

  65. “If we are never to shout down injustice when we see it to avoid judging others how will evil be eradicated?”

    EOR, I agree and have said so on this blog in other threads.

    I am not defending Hancock in any way whatsoever, so don’t read into my comment anything that isn’t said explicitly in it. That’s a good rule for any of my comments anywhere. I take quite a while to find the wording I want for my comments, specifically to say only what I want to say – so if I don’t say something, don’t assume it in my comments. (I say with a smile on my face and no rancor whatsoever.)

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