We Don’t Need Another Hiroo: Holdout Soldiers in the Culture Wars

dtmanage-000000020140117155220181-1This picture was taken on March 9, 1974–the day that Lieutenant Hiroo Onda officially surrendered his sword and his rifle and acknowledged the defeat of the Japanese Empire in World War II–nearly 30 years after the formal surrender on September 2, 1945.

Lieutenant Onda was the most famous of the zanryū nipponhei, or the Japanese holdouts—fighters in the Pacific theater who either did not hear or did not believe that the war was over. They stayed on their assigned islands for years—sometimes even decades—and followed the orders that they were given. Ondoo was the head of a small guerrilla band on the Philippine island of Lubang. He and the others spent most of the time between 1944 and 1974 hiding in the mountains and trying to survive, descending into the villages only to look for food and occasionally burn a rice field in the name of “harassing the enemy.” 

When Leiutenant Onda returned to Japan in 1974, he was welcomed as a hero—a shining example of Japanese spirit and determination, but the honeymoon didn’t last long. He soon found himself incapable of living in a society that was well on its way to becoming the second largest economy in the world. Not having been part of incremental steps, he was thrust into a world that he could not understand or relate to. A year after his triumphant return, left Japan to become a cattle rancher in Brazil.

And now comes the part where I try to make a modern object lesson out of Lieutenant Onda and the holdout soldiers. This is always perilous, since analogies always end up collapsing under the weight of what is different. But here it goes: the longer contemporary religious people—including Latter-day Saints—persist in fighting the culture wars of the last two generations, the less able we will be to live meaningfully in the world that actually exists and to give our children the spiritual preparation that they will need in the future.

Here is an example of what I mean: in 1950, the question of whether or not women should work outside the home was an open question in our society. At the time, most people had grown up in a world where men worked and women stayed home, and that seemed right to most people. Women had entered the work force in large numbers during World War II, though, which opened up career paths for women that had not been open before. It was the subject of a serious debate of the sort that we often call a “culture war.”

But that war is over. Whatever choices individual families may make, no serious person now argues that the workforce should be closed to women or that social and legal barriers should be erected to force them to have children and stay home. This is no longer an open question in our society, and children growing up today simply assume that both women and men should prepare themselves for meaningful professions. This question simply is no longer at issue in the way that it was when my parents were teenagers in the 1950s.

And yet, members of my family have been told in officially sanctioned Church meetings that the main reason that women work today is that Satan tempts them into the workplace–and that they should not saddle their future husbands with debt for an expensive education that God does not want them to use. When I heard similar things growing up, I disagreed with them, but I at least understood the reference point. But when my children hear them, they just look confused–like they would if someone told them that people from Wisconsin have three heads or that the Empire State Building is made entirely out of waffles. They simply don’t understand how any sane person could think this way.

Something similar can be said for the idea that LGBT people deserve love and respect. We often hear this from the pulpit these days as a preface to a wholesale condemnation involving both “Satan” and “the world.” For our children, however, this is not an abstract theological issue. It involves their friends, their family members, and often themselves. And our kids are smart. When they hear the rhetoric of the last culture war repeated in toto, they are not likely to be impressed by the occasional acknowledgment that “God loves everybody and so should we.” They don’t need people to tell them to love their friends, but they do need us to stop qualifying our love with assertions that these friends are a sign of Satan’s power in a degenerate world. They know very well that this is not what love sounds like.

Let me be very candid here: I am worried about our children. I am worried that they will not even be willing to give the Church a chance because they do not hear it talking about anything that they recognize as part of their world. The longer we persist in fighting the culture wars of the last two generations—and in invoking political rhetoric that was manufactured for questions that are no longer at issue—the less relevant we will be in their lives, which they live in a version of “the world” that bears little resemblance to the hive of Satanic scum and villainy that they hear about in Church. In our minds we may be the last bastions of rectitude in a fallen civilization. To our children we look like crazy hermits in 30-year old uniforms torching some poor guy’s rice field for no particular reason.

I pray that we will figure out how to get this right in time to keep our children in the Church. I pray that, in the process of castigating the world for ceasing to be what it never was, we still manage to prepare our children for the world that will be. And that I pray that, instead of arming them to fight in the culture wars that we grew up with, we will find ways to give them spiritual tools that they will need for the all-too-real conflicts with actual evil (which will have very little to do with whether or not two people in a committed relationship get to use the term “marriage”) that they will one day be called upon to win.


  1. Solid analogy. The anachronistic “Mormons vs. the world” fights that Church leadership can’t quit picking don’t just stand to alienate our youngest generation. I genuinely wonder if, by the time my kids start to grow, I’ll have already been too worn down myself to encourage them to strive for full fellowship.

  2. Definitely not the intended message, but with the WW2 connection all I could think of were propaganda leaflets accidently dropped on your own lines – “Give up, you’ve lost. Think of the children!”

  3. This is a good issue to bring up. I think this is the problem with conservatism in general. Seems like to me, that conservatism seldom beats liberalism.

  4. Or, we could defend our faith, whatever the cost may be, and fight in Washington, in our local school boards, online and publicly, and choose to never surrender. You seem so sure the secular fascists are going to win.

  5. I pray that we will figure out how to get this right in time to keep our children in the Church. I pray that, in the process of castigating the world for ceasing to be what it never was, we still manage to prepare our children for the world that will be. And that I pray that, instead of arming them to fight in the culture wars that we grew up with, we will find ways to give them spiritual tools that they will need for the all-too-real conflicts with actual evil (which will have very little to do with whether or not two people in a committed relationship get to use the term “marriage”) that they will one day be called upon to win.

    Amen to that prayer.

  6. Martin: we will. :-)

  7. Bruce Spencer says:

    Bravo… well said.

  8. “castigating the world for ceasing to be what it never was”

    This is such an important element of this. It is a truly endemic problem in the Church right now. The 1950s is the golden age *that never was* — by virtually any metric society is so, so much better off morally and physically now than then. Of course there are some exceptions — in the 1950s many corporations were less abusive of their employees, for example, treating them as stakeholders in the grand project of the corporation (even while they defrauded consumers and the public, e.g. tobacco companies and other consumables companies like sugar companies that rigged studies and lied to the public to earn a profit, not caring about consumers’ health). And I do not believe that fornication or adultery is more rampant now than in the 1950s but it is true that people have less scruples about it and pornography is much more prevalent and instantly accessible, including for children, which is a very bad development on top of the promiscuity that already existed but more privately. So of course there are things we must be preaching against in modern society — but please let’s stop with the idea that times are much worse now than in some golden age that never was. Such a golden age truly never was.

  9. C. Miller,

    As a conservative, I don’t think conservatism is supposed to “beat” liberalism or vice versa. In an ideal political world, the liberal is the inventor coming up with crazy new ideas all of the time and the conservative is the serious book keeper worrying about the cost and impracticality of it all. In the long run, some of the inventions are successful and some are costly failures. Both sides play their important part.

    Anyway, I too worry about our kids. My own kids are almost school age. But I think the world might do the deciding for us Michael Austin. BYU has recently come under fire for its honor code and policies regarding LGBT. Worst case scenario, it is possible that the entire church and its membership will be cut out of polite society one day. Forget the culture wars at that point.. I worry about raising my kids or my kids raising their kids essentially in cultural exile.

  10. Clark Goble says:

    Michael, honest question. Doesn’t your position entail the members of the church embracing whatever contemporary culture holds as moral regardless of what it is? Is that a defensible stance?

  11. Clark, there is a huge difference between what the Church teaches its members about moral choices and how it encourages them to use their political power to try to effect cultural changes. One can actively teach the Word of Wisdom without becoming an anti-coffee activist. And one can preach the Law of Chastity without getting involved in disputes about the civil definition of marriage. In my mind, at least, there is a very clear distinction between establishing moral guidelines and trying to change a culture. And I am not opposed to trying to change a culture. But there is a point at which we persist in fighting battles over questions that are no longer at issue. That, I think, is when we run the greatest risk of losing our children. We do not have to surrender our definitions of right and wrong in order to try to live more amicably among people who see things differently. And we don’t have to give up any of our moral beliefs in order to stop telling our children to be mortally afraid of “the world.”

  12. Clark Goble: honest question — what is your position on Heber C. Kimball’s opposition to “fornication pants” (front fly rather than side flies)? Are we wrong to have dropped that brief foray into the late 1800s culture wars?

  13. Anon this time says:

    Thank you so much for this. It is balm to my fresh, painful wounds and it is wonderful to hear someone else thinking the same thing.

    A couple of years ago we had a serious bout of “the world is evil”, “gays are given over to Satan”, “follow the living prophets at all cost” messages in my neck of the woods. I voiced my concerns and disagreement with the messages and ended up in meetings with my bishop and stake president. Those meetings went marginally well but my wife and I became much more wary of our children’s interactions with the Church (our two oldest are in YM/YW).

    Following the November policy change, I voted to not sustain the FP and Q12 (I’ll spare you the reasons why) and no longer have a temple recommend.

    I’ve tried to stress love and forgiveness to my children but these messages, the November policy, and my treatment have all contributed to a loss of credibility for the Church with my children. I have managed to help them hold on to God, Jesus Christ, the scriptures, etc., but the Church as an organization, especially the leaders, are losing in the marketplace of ideas for my children. They see no reason to sit through 3 hours of the messages they hear. My argument that they can serve their classmates falls on deaf ears because they would rather perform service in the soup kitchen and don’t consider as service enduring a lesson on culture wars.

    I know this is just my family, but as I look around and talk with my peers, all of whom are struggling with the same thing, I see a dead canary in the coal mine and have to do something to help religion, Jesus Christ, etc. remain relevant to my children and my future grandchildren. Increasingly, it seems the Church will be a marginal part of those efforts.

  14. Clark Goble says:

    John, the issue isn’t whether I can find assertions I disagree with. The issue is whether one must concede because one lost the culture wars. That is grounding ones actions in ones success in the larger society.

    It’s one thing to say the brethren are fallible. Of course they are. It’s also one thing to note that many commandments are tied to social structures and events and with those themselves changing thereby changing the relevance of the commands. Indeed the relevance of Noah building an ark as a command to us was an example used by Joseph to defend continuing revelation. Appropriateness often is indexed to societal views (which is why beards were once seen as appropriate and then grew to be seen as inappropriate – appropriateness is partially tied to society)

    But again, does society determine what is or isn’t good or appropriate in all cases. If you say no, then how doesn’t Michael’s argument hold? It becomes irrelevant whether one wins or loses the culture wars.

  15. There are several different points (and straw-men–have church leaders been arguing that the workplace should be closed to women?) here, so I’ll just make a specific note here: the fact is that youth aren’t flocking to the LGBT-affirming or woman-ordaining churches. Such churches are losing more of their youth than the conservative ones, so on that particular front the adjust or die argument, while popular, is just factually incorrect.

    The idea of using youth activity as some sort of leverage to coerce the Church to change its policy/doctrine/theology/whatever isn’t very useful to begin with (I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying, but the OP was vague so I’m filling in blanks), but here it’s also based on false premises.

    If the point is to not emphasize culture-war battles in the rhetoric, I agree, although I suspect that if you were to do some kind of objective content analysis you’d find that they emphasize it less than one might think if they were to just read the bloggernacle, who do in fact tend to zip immediately towards the social commentary aspect of whatever comes out of Salt Lake.

  16. Adam Ellsworth says:

    Brilliant title – assuming you were intending to play on the Tina Turner song. The topic is complex enough that I can’t contribute a meaningful pithy comment. But brilliant title.

  17. Clark Goble says:

    Put an other way, we’ve also lost the culture wars on sex before marriage, gambling, abortion in most of the west, and numerous other things. Many young leave the church because of its views on fornication. Should we therefore simply remove commands against fornication because we lost the culture war?

    And lest one think this is a silly extreme example this is actually a very live debate in the Evangelical community – by some polls more than 80% of Evangelicals have sex before marriage and 2/3rds were sexually active in the last year.

    The question becomes, at what point do all ethics become determined by society?

  18. Clark, this is what Michael said: “there is a very clear distinction between establishing moral guidelines and trying to change a culture. And I am not opposed to trying to change a culture. But there is a point at which we persist in fighting battles over questions that are no longer at issue. That, I think, is when we run the greatest risk of losing our children. We do not have to surrender our definitions of right and wrong in order to try to live more amicably among people who see things differently. And we don’t have to give up any of our moral beliefs in order to stop telling our children to be mortally afraid of ‘the world.'”

    I agree with that. Let’s recognize that we as a minority religion are among the primary beneficiaries of the pluralism that intentionally exists in democratic societies with a strong rule of law and robust protections of human and civil rights. Joining a perceived “moral majority” in select political issues and trying to legislate our beliefs so that others who do not share them are bound by them can *only* harm us in the end — because the erstwhile allies we are trying so hard to win over don’t actually accept us for very deeply ingrained theological reasons that they are not willing to drop. But we can be active, meaningful participants in the pluralistic societies that protect us without giving up any of our moral beliefs. It actually isn’t all that hard, either in concept or practice. If you have the personality of a culture warrior, though, it’s going to grate.

  19. I wanted to concur with Tiberius and add….

    The real long term threat to the church is in fact the opposite of the post. A liberal move alienates far far people thrn a conservative move. The conservatives are far more in number and would be looking for new prophets to lead us back from apostacy.

    In realpolitic terms the church can offend progressives and survive. The opposite is far more dangerous.

  20. Tiberius, those churches are losing many of their youth to deism or atheism. Did they lose their youth because they gave in on these matters, or were the youth collateral damage in their church culture wars, leaving the “victors” winners of a scorched earth?

    Organized religion, with its creedal requirements and (for some denominations, such as ours) authoritarianism, is losing credibility. Our message has to be more relevant to the youth. When our consistent message is to fear or fight “the world” while clinging to “the Brethren”, there are going to be many for whom that message will ring hollow. We can offer so much more.

    I fear we’re becoming more well known for what we’re against than what we are for.

  21. Clark Goble says:

    But John, hasn’t the church done that? I don’t see any evidence it’s not thrown in the towel in SSM in terms of the culture. At this point it’s making the battle within the church.

    I certainly agree that many “culture warriors” are grating but that’s a problem with their tactics and strategies (most of which are designed to signal what they perceive to be their righteousness rather than actually working for change — a common human failing)

    I hope Michael chimes in because this part is where I think he’s problematic.

    Something similar can be said for the idea that LGBT people deserve love and respect. We often hear this from the pulpit these days as a preface to a wholesale condemnation involving both “Satan” and “the world.”

    But of course one can think people need love and respect and simultaneously think satan and the world are problematic. Indeed that’s true not just of these types of social issues but other social issues regularly condemned in church such as wealth seeking (with especial mention of people living in houses on the benches), gambling, war making, and so forth. And in the typical Sunday School for any ethical malfeasance satan gets mentioned as temping people.

    Again, if what we condemn is determined by what’s acceptable by society, how is that not deeply problematic? Can we ever condemn society? I’d note that of course Michael and others do condemn aspects of society regularly in rather strong terms. How do you pick which elements one throws the towel in and which ones one doesn’t?

  22. Clark Goble says:

    And again, probably the *vast* majority of Mormon youth know people who are sexually active. Certainly when I was young most people I knew were sexually active and those who weren’t weren’t primarily due to social awkwardness or the like. Likewise most people I knew used drugs and drank alcohol. Going back to my comment in (11:08) why don’t all these other elements we’ve lost the culture wars on matter? (Or maybe they do and Michael thinks we ought drop those as well)

    Again, this isn’t about personal morality choices. As you note Michael seems to allow for moral guidelines. But it’s that blurry area of society that seems problematic.

  23. Excellent post, Michael. Thanks.

  24. I guess what I’m saying is that we have a spectrum of beliefs, political persuasions, etc. within our communities, ranging from athiest -> agnostic -> deist -> liberal Mormon -> traditional Mormon -> conservative Mormon, with overlap among each group.

    We are supposed to become one, for Jesus said that, if we are not one, we are not His. How, given that large spectrum of belief, are we to be one? I see really only two options:
    1) Compulsion/authoritarianism
    2) Love/persuasion

    It seems to me that the church has chosen the first option, with the conservative Mormons on the spectrum enforcing their beliefs via decree and argument from authority. It’s certainly more expedient and efficient at becoming one, but that “one” is a very small population.

    There are many for whom the second option is preferable and the resulting fallout from the first option makes it tough for these people to remain in a community that chooses the first option.

    To me, the culture wars choose option #1 and those who subscribe to that philosophy are willing to sustain casualties in that war. Those casualties are people and their testimonies. Authoritarian organizations don’t win the hearts of those casualties and they leave to find a community where love and persuasion rule.

  25. While I agree with the maturing of our ability to talk about a vast number of subjects – and welcome it – if we are looking to regulate and protect against misguided, incorrect or opinions being “told in officially sanctioned Church meetings”, I’m afraid you’ll never be satisfied. Fast Sunday is coming up for us in 10 days and is sure to register multiple statements completely incongruous with our doctrine – and that’s just in my testimony ;-)

  26. John Mansfield says:

    Deserters might tend to think those that continue to man their watches are fools.

  27. Thanks for a great article, Michael.

  28. Disagree with OP. I do not believe all these ideas are settled in the culture. Nor do I believe that even if they were settled is reason not to continue to condemn them if we believe they are wrong. The whole idea of a Zion society was settled in the negative generations ago. Yet we still continue to hold it up as the ideal. And we have hope and faith to continue to fight for it.
    I believe we might be over teaching some concepts, which can make others seem less important. Maybe we just need to put some balance back in the picture.

  29. When the church has persuasive reasons for its teachings, it can persist in rejecting cultural norms without much difficulty. Michael mentioned, for example, Word of Wisdom practices and our rejection of extramarital sexual activity. We have good answers when our children ask why Mormons believe these things, so transmitting these practices to our youth does not induce crises. It’s challenging, but it’s absolutely doable.

    A crisis comes when the church does not find a persuasive rationale or doctrine for its teachings. First of all, we must have doctrine that Mormons find persuasive. We must be able to persuade those among us—especially our children—who are sincerely torn and are searching for guidance. If we can’t do that, then we can forget about persuading outsiders.

    The prime example right now is probably our opposition to normalizing homosexuality and same-sex marriage. We don’t have good answers when our children ask why we oppose marriage equality. Our doctrinal teachings on marriage equality do not respond to the core concerns of those who sincerely question us—concerns that are rooted in love.

  30. Great post, Michael. The question that leaps to my mind is whether, given that leaders of the Church are 2-3 generations older than many members, it isn’t almost inevitable that they will want to fight the culture wars that were hot a couple of generations ago.

  31. it's a series of tubes says:

    We do not have to surrender our definitions of right and wrong in order to try to live more amicably among people who see things differently

    Michael, this is an important and useful clarification. I agree that unforced errors and unproductive conflict are not to our benefit. However, history is replete with instances where believers in Christ were not permitted to live amicably among unbelievers, regardless of how agreeable and accommodating the Christians were.

    To assert that this kind of environment will not arise again, as long as we are agreeable enough, is a special kind of folly. It’s going to get tough again to be a Mormon, and soon. Very soon.

  32. First time that I have ever read this blog. Super article. Great analogy. Today, at church, we are basically forbidden from discussing anything but the party line. That’s will be a short lived line if it continues. People are catching on. Our children are catching on. I ask my adult 26 year old child the other day, Would if be racist if I believed that Mexicans will turn white when they become righteous. She burst out laughing at how ridiculous that sounded. I then explained to her that that was the doctrine of the church when I grew up. She was shocked. Our past history and doctrine can’t remain hidden forever. When it comes to light what happens to the faith of my children?

  33. Amen, Loursat. I’m reminded of BKP and his General Conference talk “why would God do that?”

  34. Clark Goble says:

    Loursat, while speculative there are of course rational explanations for the doctrine tied to the notion of eternal gender. It’s just that such explanations can’t be reconciled to the fundamental ethical stances in our culture. That is that if you can’t show an immediate harm something should be allowed. Now we might reject that stance, but most accept it. At which point many of our doctrines become quite indefensible. Not just the ones that are generating the most political heat but also the very basic law of chastity itself. And not just for Mormons. While statistics aren’t really good for Mormons, it seems like we follow it much better than Evangelicals do.

  35. Institutions, and the people that comprise them, have limited energy. The LDS church chooses to spend a lot of the energy on these culture war issues, at the cost of work that could be done in other areas.

  36. Clark, the problem is a failure to reconcile our teaching on homosexuality with the fundamental ethical stances of our religion. If we can do that, then we can probably handle inconsistency with the broader culture.

  37. I guess I’m curious what the slam-dunk reason is for not engaging in premarital sexual activity is (or, sure let’s go there–pornography) that doesn’t invoke non-utilitarian, self-referential, in-group theological language and concepts.

    Also, it’s a way back, but I might as well address it:

    “Organized religion, with its creedal requirements and (for some denominations, such as ours) authoritarianism, is losing credibility.”

    But it’s precisely the ones that don’t have creedal restrictions that are having the worse membership issues. It’s a common perception, dating back to Thomas Jefferson predicting that in ten years everyone would be a Unitarian, but it just doesn’t hold up. But yes, in general I agree with your point is that organized religion in general is losing credibility, I’m just skeptical that a liberalized, less creedal version will save it.

    “When our consistent message is to fear or fight “the world” while clinging to “the Brethren”

    That message does ring hollow to me, which (and I know this is a matter of perception), is why I’m glad we don’t get it that much from the pulpit. We have a lot of consistent messages. I get the sense some gnash their teeth every time there’s some reference to “the world,” and I’m wondering if there isn’t some cognitive bias (which we all have) in play here in emphasizing precisely the social points that tweak our noses, when taken in a whole you may get an occasional instance of a Nelson or Oaks dropping some phrase that some people recoil against. When we spend time on blogs discussing these things more than actually reading them (I’m so guilty here, trying to change), it’s no surprise if all through conference all we hear are “same-sex attracted…Proclamation to the family….etc.”

    Anyway, three very different points. Address them as desired.

  38. “However, history is replete with instances where believers in Christ were not permitted to live amicably among unbelievers, regardless of how agreeable and accommodating the Christians were.
    To assert that this kind of environment will not arise again, as long as we are agreeable enough, is a special kind of folly. It’s going to get tough again to be a Mormon, and soon. Very soon.”

    “tubes”, I think you are correct. Word on the street is that BYU’s Honor Code vs. LGBT as morally wrong is what is keeping BUY out of Big12 Conference Expansion. (or it may just be a pretense, and that BYU is being used as a negotiating pawn by the Big12 schools to increase their current TV contract revenues). If this is true, in what other aspects of American university culture will BYU not be invited to sit at the adults table?

  39. Clark Goble says:

    Loursat what is the fundamental ethical stance of our religion? (Honest question – I’m not sure there is one)

  40. First, thanks, I like the OP.
    Second, Clark (and others) I do think that gender essentialism is a fundamental problem. I can tie a large part of the LDS difficulties with women’s roles and responsibilities and a large part of the LDS difficulties with LGBT issues, to gender essentialism. Our society, in many parts of the world, our children, in many parts of the world, (and me, for what it’s worth), do not buy it. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” (Marie Shear), writ large. The gap is already wide and I don’t see it closing. Anybody holding tight to gender essentialist notions is going to fail to communicate. It’s like talking about syrup on the Empire State Building (wonderful image!)
    This is a serious problem. It’s not about truth or about letting society decide moral norms. It’s about communication and relevance. When the world around us moves on, the Church risks losing a seat in the discussion. The Church risks becoming irrelevant.

  41. Clark Goble says:

    Yup. I think you’re dead on. There’s a fundamental divide over gender essentialism and it’s largely irreconcilable. This is fundamentally a different issue from polygamy or blacks and the priesthood which were the last two big social divides. I’m not sure this one is breachable.

  42. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Clark, I think you’re making it more complicated than it is. Your analogy of ‘should we just abandon all commandments’ doesn’t really hold, and is itself a strawman, because it was never what Michael was actually talking about. What’s meaningful in Michael’s OP to me is the distinction he draws between the question of ‘are all the commandments just culturally relative then?’ (answer: no), and things like:

    – acknowledging when there’s a difference between a morally imperative commandment (e.g. chastity) and a cultural practice (e.g. women in the workforce). Seems to me he’s advocating that the church could do a better job of focusing on the former and getting out of the latter.

    – exercising the “religious liberty” to espouse unusual commandments that might run counter to social trends (e.g. the Word of Wisdom), but do it in a way that doesn’t create a culture war out of our commitment to the practice (e.g. let’s not lobby for coffee to become illegal).

    Candidly, the thing that surprises me the most about the latest wave of culture war conflations (the imperative to Defend the Family, or the November policy, etc) is the extent to which they reflect a very USA-centric interpretation of things. We’re such a global church now… didn’t it occur to anyone to ask the good saints in the Netherlands, for instance, how they’ve dealt with same-sex marriage in the ecclesiastical context? But no, we seem to just be reacting to the latest wave of culture battles being fought on US soil, regardless of whether they’ve already been settled elsewhere.

  43. Clark, and christiankimball, that’s a dismal prognosis, especially if you value the Proclamation on the Family, where gender essentialism is explicit. If the church shuns the wider culture over irreconcilable differences, it’s relegated to being a hermit. If it follows along, it risks losing its core values.

  44. There’s nothing wrong with “non-utilitarian, self-referential, in-group theological language and concepts.” It helps when there are touchpoints with cultural values outside the church, but what matters most in doctrinal teaching is: 1) having a doctrine that the Spirit will confirm; and 2) having doctrine that is internally consistent. In my view, the gay rights movement has happened for exactly the same reasons that the civil rights movement and the feminist movement succeeded. People came to see that their previous beliefs about the inferiority of gays or blacks or women were based in false prejudices and were mistaken. Given that premise, it follows as a matter of fundamental Christian teaching that we must question the ways in which we impose differences on those groups of people. Love demands it. So if we examine the prohibition on same-sex marriage, for example, and we conclude that SSM is wrong, we must have an explanation that is consistent, both rationally and emotionally, with the Christian demands of love.

    Gender essentialism might or might not turn out to be a linchpin in the doctrine. That’s still too much a theoretical discussion, I think. The problems we’re having right now with teachings on homosexuality are based in people’s actual experience with actual gay people, who did not turn out to be awful monsters. That’s where we need to start with the doctrine—in our actual experience with real people—because that’s where we get in touch with what love requires.

  45. According to my reading of the Book of Mormon the first rule in establishing a righteous society is remembering the captivity of our forefathers.

  46. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    But Bro B. and others –

    This is the POINT of the OP. We don’t have to give up our peculiar theological beliefs or the belief system itself, it’s just that as an institution we could do a better job of sticking to our knitting, rather than wading into flavor-of-the-day social issues etc.

    I mean look, Catholics believe, as a point of doctrine, that the Sunday crackers literally become transsubstantiated into the body of Christ. That seems weird to non Catholics. But what they’re not doing is trying to ban everyone else from eating crackers.

  47. Clark Goble says:

    Being relegated to being a hermit isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think that inevitably given demographic shifts that eventually we’ll become more like Europe unless a major shift happens. (And of course ebbs and flows in religiosity were common in the past – although it’s not clear with secular society if that’ll happen again)

    BlueRidgeMormon, I think that’s a bit of a fair criticism. I was more talking about the grounding of our ideas. To my eyes there’s a fundamental different ground between say the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity in that while alcohol may be harmful I’m not sure it’s unethical. So it’s that ground that I think matters. If we think something is fundamentally wrong, then I think we push for it socially. That’s different from legality of course. There are lots of things I think are horribly immoral but that they should be legal. But this all gets complicated as you note so it’s probably not a good tact to take.

  48. Clark Goble says:

    Loursat, again, most people having pre-marital sex aren’t monsters either. Neither are gamblers, pornography viewers, people involved in conspicuous consumption and most other things the church condemns. So in what ways is the types of sexual behavior condemned by the church different?

  49. BlueRidgeMormon,
    Good analogy. Makes sense. I guess I’m just whining that it stings when “everyone else” makes you eat your crackers at the kids table.

  50. There are positions that are counter-cultural but sustainable over the long-run–such as no sex outside of marriage or tithing or the word of wisdom. These are important components of who we and what we believe, and though they are difficult, they represent a burden that we, as Latter-day Saints, take upon ourselves and apply to everyone equally. Those sorts of religious commitments, however, are rather different from those seem to be discriminatory against some group or other based on inherent, virtually immutable characteristics–and those are the doctrines and policies that will cause the most trouble both with young Mormons and outsiders. For more and more people, discrimination based on sexual orientation looks like racism, and it’s worth reflecting on how many Mormons there would be in the US today if the priesthood ban were still in effect. The answer is not to scrap the law of chastity–defined as no sex outside of marriage–but rather for the Church to recognized same-sex marriages as legitimate, and to apply the exact same standard of chastity to gay members as to straight members (i.e., sex within marriage is permitted). Those who propose that life-long celibacy, with no possibility of ever marrying or having children, is the only acceptable option for LGBT saints are asking others to make sacrifices that they themselves would likely balk at.

    I understand that being a single in the church is also difficult, but allowing for same-sex marraiges does not mean that every gay Latter-day Saint will find a spouse or stay married. And I’m sympathetic to those who believe that one-man/one-woman has always been the Lord’s standard of chastity, but that’s simply not true (ahem, polygamy). In addition, Jesus himself spoke out forcefully against divorce and remarriage–going to far as to categorize the latter as adultery (a position that was taken very seriously by Catholics for many centuries), yet we seem to have made our peace with redefining marraige with regard to that issue, granting humane consideration to human weakness and the messiness of life in general. The scriptural teachings against divorce are much clearer than those against homosexuality or against same-sex marriage, which wasn’t even a thing in Old Testament or New Testament times. It’s not the high standards that are the problem, it’s the inquality that rankles; and that’s the unfairness that our children and grandchildren will eventually come to view as un-Christian. I think that in the not-too-distant future we will eventually come to accept the worth and dignity of same-sex couples who are faithful to each other and who are raising children–we have too much in common with these good folks, some of whom would very much like to continue in the Mormon community (even if we have to leave it up to the Lord to work out the details of sealings or eternal families). Inequality between the sexes, however, may take a few more generations to work out.

  51. stephenchardy says:

    I was recently listening to one of those “Great Courses” classes; the topic was the religious history of the USA. The Professor/lecturer stated that the Mormons stood apart from the other religions started at around the same time because the Mormons, in his opinion, were better at passing on their beliefs on to the next generation. He didn’t say how he believed that happened. He just observed that it did. Since I heard that have often thought about the tremendous efforts that we make towards our youth, and the rewards that come from nurturing young faith

    I am sobered at Michael Austin’s statement that ” I am worried about our children. I am worried that they will not even be willing to give the Church a chance because they do not hear it talking about anything that they recognize as part of their world.”

    Now, consider this quote, which I think that every church leader, and possibly every parent should consider each day. It is from Abraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi, and a leading Jewish philosopher, scholar, and theologian of the 20th century. He lived from 1907 to 1972. It is a sobering quote:

    “It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined, not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid.”

    I worry that if we spend a lot of time fighting the cultural wars of the past that we will become irrelevant, dull, oppressive, and insipid.

  52. Clark, I’m not going to walk through the whole line of reasoning that leads us to question whether homosexuality is actually wrong. Maybe you have time for that, but I don’t. You should already be familiar with the argument, anyway. My point is that our doctrine does not respond to the concerns of those who sincerely ask about the foundation of our teaching on homosexuality.

  53. Clark Goble says:

    Right, I agree with that. I just think the reasoning for why it’s not wrong tends to also make many of our other stances not wrong. That’s all I was arguing. I wasn’t attempting to ground every ethical claim. (Especially since I think ethical claims typically can’t be grounded) That’s what I was attempting to argue initially but admittedly didn’t make the point well.

  54. I do think that gender essentialism is, as you say, the linchpin here, which does make the Church’s view internally coherent (which doesn’t necessarily make it valid, of course). Of course it then behooves the Church to explicitly take this tack and start bringing Heavenly Mother up more, instead of just appealing to authority.

    “I think that in the not-too-distant future we will eventually come to accept the worth and dignity of same-sex couples who are faithful to each other”

    So consensual polyamorous same-sex or mixed-sex couples do not have worth or dignity? I think a lot of people don’t appreciate the can of worms that gets opened up once we start messing with the Church’s internally consistent sexual paradigm. All of the other variations from the church’s sexual norm that many seem to want to keep taboo would be automatically up for grabs once it became evident that it was up for renegotiation.

  55. Bro. B at 3pm: I think the Proclamation on the Family is a trap. It was written with a time-sensitive purpose within the culture and vocabulary of the culture war of the time. Right or wrong, it is a leading candidate for the very problem the OP calls out.
    I expect to be called a heretic for saying so (it’s happened before), and I apologize in advance for the risk of thread-jacking, but I will express my opinion that the PotF needs a top to bottom rewrite in more timeless words and principles.

  56. Clark, I think it largely has to do with whether we perceive a characteristic to be immutable, inherent, and God-given.

  57. “[Our children] don’t need people to tell them to love their friends, but they do need us to stop qualifying our love with assertions that these friends are a sign of Satan’s power in a degenerate world. They know very well that this is not what love sounds like.”

    This. Just because the church does something one way doesn’t mean we need to expect the rest of the world to do the same. We don’t do this with coffee (we don’t drink it but have no problem if other people do). We don’t do it with alcohol. We don’t do it with tithing. We have our own rules, but we do not expect people outside the church to follow those rules, and we certainly don’t say that the world is wicked because people don’t follow these rules.

    The world isn’t wicked because there are gay people in it, any more than it’s wicked because most people drink coffee, tea, and alcohol. The world isn’t even wicked because gay marriage is legal. Inasmuch as the world is wicked, it’s wicked because people ignore the two greatest commandments. Our children understand this. They love their gay friends, and they see and identify scapegoating, hatred, and the absence of love in comments about the gay community that they hear regularly in church. No wonder many of them–and many of the best of them!–are leaving the church.

  58. How do we know gender is eternal or that homosexuality is a sin? I think we can boil it down to the following:

    1) The scriptures are silent on eternal gender but not so on homosexuality. Leviticus condemns it and Paul does in two comments. These accurately reflect God’s will.
    2) The modern leaders claim the truth of these two items. They are prophets of God so their pronouncements on these topics accurately reflect God’s will.

    If one questions at all the accuracy of these two propositions, dying on this hill becomes a bleak and possibly unnecessary prospect. Killing others on this same hill (spiritually speaking, as we drive outsiders and our own members away) is even more dubious.

    We have members of both persuasions. Some think both #1 and #2 are accurate while others question the validity of both propositions. Increasingly, those on the outside of our church view both propositions as false. How do you handle this disagreement? We have thus far had those who espouse both propositions compelling the questioners to the former’s view. There have been many ways this has been attempted, from Prop 8 type maneuvers, to legal challenges, to rhetoric, to informal discipline, to even excommunication (of married homosexuals). These methods have appealed to authority (e.g., “we’re living prophets” or “our interpretation of the scriptures is correct”) in order to accomplish their tasks. In short, they’ve compelled by virtue of their priesthood. D&C 121 does not speak well of such attempts.

    So, coming back to the OP, when our argument within the marketplace of ideas boils down to “because we speak for God and we say so”, and many are not persuaded, we should leave it at that and let the Spirit do the rest. The moment we step into compelling by force of law or, within our own ranks, by priesthood authority alone, we’ve lost credibility with heaven and shouldn’t be surprised when we also lose credibility with those who remain unpersuaded by such appeals.

  59. Loursat @3:42: (Whatever Clark says) I agree that a fundamental agreement or disagreement about “whether we perceive a characteristic to be immutable, inherent, and God-given” is central. (I’m commenting simply because this is what I mean when I talk about “gender essentialism,” although I’m coming to think mine may be an idiosyncratic usage.

    Tiberius @3:34: I’d like to think that my polygamous ancestors had worth and dignity. If it’s a can of worms, it’s already open, and already threatens internal coherence.

  60. Tim, great insight.

  61. And for what it’s worth, this topic has been one that has troubled me for some time. I appreciate the OP and the respectful, thoughtful comments. This is what makes BCC great.

  62. I expect we will hear religious freedom mentioned a few times during conference, by the conservatives. I think that what those who use the term mean by this is we want the right to redefine terms we don’t like.
    Last time I had an interview with my Stake President (who is also an institute director), I referred to refusing to give the priesthood to some people on the basis of race, as racism. He said no that wasn’t racism.
    We now want to say that discrimination against gays, and women, should be called freedom of religion. It’s about like the king with no clothes, some of us will accept the church’s definition, but others (especially those in minority mormon areas) are aware of the real definition, and can’t see why the dictionary definition does not apply. We also seem to think because we have defined away the offense, the approbrium that goes with that offense should not apply.

    A few years ago we redefined chastity, which in the endowment is still, only have sexual relations with the man or woman to whom you are legally and lawfully married, which would include those in a gay marriage, to exclude them.

    We do have the freedom to define things however we want, but expecting others toaccept our definition is not realistic, and neither is expecting the consequences to not apply.

    I don’t tthink we should accept gay marriage because the world does. I believe that whenever we choose to discriminate against an individual or group we are refusing to love them as we have been commanded in number one commandment, love one another. I believe the Gospel requires us to approve marriage equality.

  63. Christian–I think we already had a perfectly serviceable proclamation on the family in D&C 93: “bring up your children in light and truth.”

    It happens to also be a lot easier to cross-stitch and hang on the wall than the Baehr v. Miike exhibit…

  64. Stephenchardy’s comment (3:24) about the risk of religion becoming irrelevant, dull, oppressive, and insipid is an important one. I’m concerned about the way that those characteristics could swamp and obscure those elements of our faith that are virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.

  65. As a woman whose children are entering adulthood, I understand the difficulty our elderly leaders are facing. Trying to understand the nuances of sexual orientation, gender identification, and biological sex while being incredibly uncomfortable talking about sex is a tall order. Just when I had figured out what each letter in LGBT stood for, my kids began correcting me to include QIA*. Believe me, they have far more information on these topics than we have.

    Contrast that with a conversation I recently had with a 70 year old church member. She railed about gay marriage being Satan’s plan, said being gay was a choice (which she confided she knew because a gay person told her that), that the policy of exclusion protects children from hearing us bash their parents at church, conflating the term “gay” with “gender confusion,” and expressing her strong opinion that gay men should just marry women because they have so many wonderful things to offer to women as their husbands (aside from an 80% chance of divorce). When I disagreed with her points, she implied I was on Satan’s side, continued to rail against gays adopting children and then tried to tie it all up with a conciliatory “But we just need to love them. Which isn’t easy since we don’t approve of them. But we love them.” Guess what, folks. She’s the norm. I’m the outlier. Also, why did I bother doing my visiting teaching? I certainly didn’t bring this up. She and my VT partner just started in almost from the second I got there.

    I can’t dare tell my kids about this conversation with this woman because I know what their reaction would be. If they think these are the church’s views, the church will lose all credibility to them. I find it discouraging, but I have the history to understand why they have these views. My kids don’t understand these views in the least.

  66. Thank you, Angela, for extrapolating from the anecdote to the general in one easy logical fallacy.

  67. Yeah, it’s easy to dismiss an anecdote unless it’s your own kids. Which you know what? It will be, sooner or later.

  68. People keep talking about religion becoming dull and out of touch. Are you under the impression that religion was ever fun and in touch? People have always hated going to church. The only difference now is fewer people who never liked are pretending for the sake of appearances. The good stuff in religion has always been hard.

  69. Drug abuse or recreational use is wrong because it damages our bodies, impairs our agency in a way that affects society. Abuse is worse than recreational use, but I’ve worked with coworkers over the years who drank regularly for recreation and I could see a clear connection to bad decisions affecting more than themselves. Recreational use is rarely catastrophic enough to outlaw said behavior (unless a majority of society were to agree that it’s better safe then sorry so to speak), but certainly enough to counsel those who would listen to refrain.

    Homosexual activity is wrong because it’s a corruption of the fundamental building block of societies — the family and it’s purpose in the plan of salvation.

    We are to be like God, of whom were are children (what do kids grow up to become, in principle, if not like their parents?). Naturally that entails at the minor level not misusing drugs and at the major level not misusing the procreative powers around which the family it created and sustained.

    This doesn’t mean we need to outlaw private behavior we disagree with, but it does mean a majority of society should have a voice in the building blocks of how society is organized.

    From a religious standpoint, the people who are complaining that the church is being too authoritarian and not persuasive enough means you want to hear more, not less conference talks in line wth what I posted above about the family. You can’t have persuasion without more traditional sermons seeking to persuade. Do you earnestly seek more light and knowledge on this subject in line with what’s already being taught? Because you’ll continue to be disappointed if you think new light will come overturning this aspect (the fundamental building block) of how God lifts his children into peers.

    I have a testimony of the plan of salvation, the nature and purpose of the family, and our eternal destiny if we’re faithful. It’s comes personally from God as a result of following his Son and using his servants teachings as a guide in doing so.

    I don’t write to use my personal revelation as a weapon, but to point out that if the church were to move in from this issue I wouldn’t be leaving the church — the church would be leaving me.

    How many people are there in church who go with the flow and just accept whatever social constructs of the prevailing mindset of the day on this issue? Interestingly, the answer to that question may be in looking at the disaffected over this issue. It’s not only the traditionalists clinging to their God who are easily influenced by group think in church, but self evidently it’s those who are moving away from the church in this issue as their own social groups reject this aspect of the plan of salvation. The sword cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

    By the way, I’m not the least bit worried about the accusation of Pres. Grant’s worry about the change in fashion of pants. It was tuned to the time and what was commonly accepted then. It’s a perfect example of where the church can move on, once a critical mass of society has accepted something new whose controversies fade into thy background. But in an era where some fashionistas would use what seems now a tame clothing choice, to make a subtle provocative statement; I see no issue with prophets occasionally counseling against such.

  70. Clark @ 10:36 am (I’m late to the discussion) — I’ve been working my way through “A Secular Age” and so I can’t help but see this problem through Taylor’s articulation of the “maximal demand,” which is how to carve a path to transformation that doesn’t deny or mutilate what is essentially human. That strikes me as a good way of envisioning what the brethren are up against in the “culture wars” in general and gay marriage in particular. And I think it implies that of course the church can’t simply adopt the culture’s definition of our telos. But I don’t see why the culture can’t provide relevant information about what it means to deny or mutilate what is essentially human. In other words, it seems to me that we’re being really, really reactionary here vis a vis “the world.” It can’t be the case that any moral judgment that happens to be generated by modernity must be rejected. That sort of idea seems to me at least to have a closer affinity to Plato’s Republic than it does the New Testament.

  71. Seems to me that all doctrines and teachings boil down to “because God says so” (which really boils down to “because those old guys in SLC say so”).

    When people stop believing that God’s really running the show, there’s a big problem. Might be a good time for a Second Coming, but, skeptic that I am, I really don’t think there’s one coming. Not in my remaining lifetime, certainly, and not in my own kids lifetimes either, I’m betting. Any takers?

  72. Mark N.,

    Nibley’s response to critics who didn’t believe in the Second Coming at the turn of the (19th) century was: Where are they now?

  73. True Blue – I think you’re off on both timing and in the assertion that “A few years ago we redefined chastity…”

    The doctrine I hear says that to even “looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery” – and that’s not too recent of a teaching.

    I think what you find from the leaders (and hopefully they are prophets who clarify as the Lord would) is that people are constantly trying to interpret how those doctrines fit into the changing world.

    I love that in the CBS Mike Wallace interview when Mike Wallace asserted that the church’s youth were confused about “where the line is” in terms of chastity, President Hinckley assured him “Oh, they know.” Like Jim Gaffigan said about Catholics and the bible “we only crack it open to find loopholes” – the same is true in our culture sometimes.

  74. Mark N – fortunately we’re offered a little more than “because God/prophet/old guy says so”. The Savior said if you want to know his doctrine, then do his will. Because of that we have plenty of evidences – in some cases harder (turns out the WoW does bring health benefits!) in others softer (I leveraged the atonement and felt redeemed). But we’re not even asked to believe because God says so, or because others had their faith/knowledge producing experience – we’re told if we really want to know then live/ask and find out for yourself.

  75. GSO – when you say “Homosexual activity is wrong because it’s a corruption of the fundamental building block of societies — the family and its purpose in the plan of salvation,” it is going to sound to many like “Infertility is wrong because it’s a corruption of the fundamental building block of societies — the family and its purpose in the plan of salvation.” Why condemn people for carrying burdens that they themselves had virtually no choice in acquiring? I imagine that you will quickly grasp on to the distinction between “homosexuality” and “homosexual activity,” which is an easy condemnation to make if you yourself have enjoyed a God-santioned sex life, or even God-santioned dating. It’s easy to require of other people sacrifices that you yourself have never been called to make–all for the sake of keeping the doctrine pure. (If you are a middle-aged member of the church who has never enjoyed sexual intimacy or the emotional intimacy of marriage, then I will give your opinions more weight. And it’s interesting that both Pres. Nelson and Elder Oaks apparently found celibacy unbearable after the passing of their wives of many years.) Unless we are going to encourage gay members to marry people of the opposite sex (the old model that hasn’t worked out so well), or unless we are going to forbid infertile Mormons from marrying, then there seems to be a double standard.

    I understand the physical, social, and pyschological damage of drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, rape, theft, lying, spouse abuse, and child abuse, both to the sinners and those around them, but I’m having a hard time seeing how same-sex marriage is Inherently evil. It’s just that we can’t understand how it fits our doctrine of eternal families, because we are very uncomfortable with it, because there is a long tradition of discriminating against gays and lesbians, and because we assume that God doesn’t approve based on a few verses of the Bible (though we are willing to override scripture in other cases when it seems unreasonable to modern sensibilities–women speaking in church, divorce, usury, slavery, etc.). What exactly would change if the Brethren were to announce that the temple definition of chastity would now apply to all Latter-day Saints equally? That is, no sexual relations except with a husband or wife to whom one is legally and lawfully married. Some things are wrong because they harm self and others, and they will always be wrong; others sins–like the word of wisdom–are sins because we proclaim them to be such (hot drinks are defined as coffee or tea, but herbal tea and hot chocolate are okay while iced tea is not?). Same-sex marriage seems to me to be in the latter category. It will be wrong as long as we say it is, but if the First Presidency ever announces that all legal and lawful marriages are compatible with the law of chastity, then it will be okay.

  76. Paul once counseled against marriage for certain church members, then went on to say, “But if they cannot conatin, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor. 7:9). How is this less true for homosexuals in America today than for heterosexuals?

  77. “Where are they now?” Dead, obviously, as I most likely will be within the next 10 to 30 years, while Jesus is “at the doors” and has been for quite some time now.

  78. As has been pointed out numerous times on BCC, True Blue, the church did not “redefine chastity” to exclude those in gay marriages. The “legally and lawfully wed” language was adopted in the early 20th century to give no wiggle room to fundamentalists who otherwise could and did claim that their unsanctioned plural marriages did not violate the oath of chastity — if you reject this, then you have to somehow believe that, in the eyes of the church, 19th century church-sanctioned plural marriages violated the law of chastity because plural spouses were most certainly not legally and lawfully wed. The modern adoption of “between one man and one woman” is in the same vein: the doctrine hasn’t changed, but it has become necessary to clarify the wording to remove wiggle room from those who would change the doctrine when in fact it is secular law, not divine law, that has changed.

    Michael Austin, it’s hard for me to know where we begin to become “another Hiroo.” Surely you wouldn’t endorse the corruption of doctrine within the church itself to accommodate True Blue’s mistaken claims about the law of chastity, when understanding and acceptance of that law is taught to members, by members, for members, without any expectation that it will affect the broader culture. Yet multiple comments in this thread demonstrate that many Latter-day Saints don’t have any problem with corrupting church teachings, even for a purely internal audience. People can’t distinguish between keeping the teaching pure where it really matters — in making temple covenants — and being “holdout soldiers in the culture wars.”

  79. Were not Mormon and Moroni, particularly Moroni, “Hiroos” of sorts?

  80. I think Ardis is right that the idea that the law of chastity has been redefined to exclude gay marriage is wrong. There could be an argument about whether our understanding of the law of chastity is wrong our should be changed to include gay marriage, but that would be a new change to permit gay marriage, not a reversal of a change to prohibit it.

  81. I think it is time to seriously teach our children about seeking light and knowledge directly from God. He is the only one who can help us on this divisive issue. Because I am not hearing anything that convinces me here.

  82. I don’t think changing doctrine necessarily means corrupting it. One might say that policies change while doctrines don’t, but this is often just semantics. I take the 9th Article of Faith to mean that doctrines develop, and things can change, even radically.

    I agree with Christian and Clark above that doctrines of gender essentialism are at the root of the problem. As such, I have no problem whatsoever with changing the doctrine that marriage must be heterosexual and that (non-temple) priesthood must be male only. I think the two are inextricably related, and it’s not about paying better attention to our knitting while the world does it’s thing, it’s about acknowledging the full humanity of our own people.

  83. Clark Goble says:

    zjg (10:51) I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to that. And I’m not saying ethical reasoning doesn’t matter. Just that the decisions of the ‘culture wars’ or any other societal view of ethics seems a deeply problematic reason to determine our own ethical responses. As to Plato, he was of course rather disparaging of the masses to figure out truth. But I’m not sure the New Testament views the masses terribly positively either.

    Of course the opposite view is common sensism which sees culture as conducting a test over time for what works. Thus it reflects a strong view and progression. This is the Burkean conservatism that more or less thinks radical change from established norms is questionable. (Not that established norms are necessarily right, but that radical change is usually wrong) It seems undeniable that society does progress ethically – especially as society became wealthy enough so as to let people reason about ethics this last century.

    GSO (10:07) the main argument against alcohol is made in the Word of Wisdom itself – suggesting that it’s a law designed for the weak. i.e. those least apt to partake in small amounts. As soon as one says recreational typically the amounts being consumed are beyond what can be justified.

    Owen (9:37) I think religion for many people answered a need. That need was to overcome sin and explain suffering. Those needs are largely no longer seen as needs by our culture. To the point I’m not even sure if words like ‘sin’ make sense culturally anymore to most people. I’d add religion isn’t always dull. Lots of Evangelical meetings have the nature of a rock concert with equivalent music. Personally I’m not sure focusing in on entertainment over education is helpful but that’s a different debate.

    Angela (7:45) this is what’s most tragic. A lot of the problem is over how we talk about the issues. There’s a huge generation gap here although also big political differences as well. How the typical Republican thinks or speaks about it is quite different from the typical Democrat. That polarization has increased significantly the last decade with rapid change on the left. It’s to the point that neither side really can even understand the other in certain ways typically. That cultural polarization is, IMO, largely the issue as most Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican (and that number just keeps getting higher every poll) thus alienating those who aren’t who are part of the rapidly shifting views.

    True Blue (6:53) I think this is due to pretty common equivocation over the term racism. Whereas it once primarily meant those who thought those of an other race were inferior or to be despised it’s come, especially the last 20 years, to mean structures that unduly affect an less privileged race. This leads to people talking past one an other since the way that language has changed hasn’t been equally dispersed. Further it’s played into the rapid polarization in the country the past 30 years.

    Regarding freedom of religion, the issue is whether structures tied to religion that treat gays and women differently (and thus in many uses of the term discriminatory) should be allowed. A large group thinks discrimination is always wrong and thus you should not have freedom to do it. Right now that is just primarily seen as applying in the public sphere but given polarization also is occuring along religious lines I’m fairly confident within 20 years what’s now unthinkable will be common. Thus freedom of religion will not be seen as a real freedom. (Much like only 15 years ago major figures on the left ridiculed the idea gay marriage would be normalized)

    Christian (3:42) I thought I was agreeing with you Christian. I see that as the big issue. Of course theologicallly one has to distinguish between spirit and body. After all our bodies are primarily just about genes and the expression of those genes in reaction to the environment. So I always think talking ‘immutable’ relative to DNA seems odd although heaven knows both the right and the left do it regularly. Relative to spirits things are a bit more tricky since so little is revealed on the subject.

  84. Emily, you’re right that change does not mean corruption, and I totally agree that the distinction between policy and doctrine is often kind of meaningless. My only point was that if we are asking for change in the way the church understands chastity, we should call it change.

  85. Michael, your analogy did not collapse. It held up remarkably well. Especially this priceless gem: “In our minds we may be the last bastions of rectitude in a fallen civilization. To our children we look like crazy hermits in 30-year-old uniforms torching some poor guy’s rice field for no particular reason.”


  86. Since the original question was about the long-term consequences on the children, here is my perspective. As adults, we can choose how much to engage in these topics and discussions by whether we participate in online forums or attend classes with a correlated curriculum. I am finding that in an effort to “make sure the youth understand doctrine”, their seminary and Sunday School and YM/YW classes are becoming a real problem in retaining church activity. I have several children in this age group who would be considered as active as they come. They know their scriptures and feel that these church lessons 6 days a week have become a source of brainwashing. Every lesson is another opportunity to double down on the importance of priesthood keys, temple marriage, chastity, and eternal families (supported by quotes from “the Brethren” when their real need is to have a time and place to discover the scriptures for themselves. More time is spent quoting general authorities than turning to the scriptures to determine the Lord’s standards. Their favorite classes are the ones where the teacher ignores the curriculum and starts a discussion about real life which then leads them to the scriptures for answers. Unfortunately, these classes are rare, even more so when taught by CES trained instructors. Seminary graduation was primarily an opportunity for these youth to publicly announce their mission calls, but less than 6 months later, many of these youth have already quietly returned home.

  87. Kevin Barney says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. I just returned from my 40-year high school reunion. There was a friend and classmate there who is gay. I remember when people first learned this information, a few years after high school (so circa 1980), and it seemed so shocking and scandalous at the time. But that was a long time ago; it has been many, many years since this was an issue for anyone. Now he’s just our friend and classmate; nobody cares at all that he’s gay. The culture has simply and rather definitively moved on.

    2. If that’s true for my generation of relatively old codgers, a fortiori it’s doubly true for my children’s generation. In fact it’s already far too late for my own children; they’re long out of the Church, largely for social issues such as how we treat LGBT persons. The impact this will have on our youth for me personally is already a fait accompli. Maybe it’s still acceptable to mistreat LGBT youth in, I don’t know, Pleasant Grove, but where I live it is simply not acceptable anymore. Period. And increasingly young people are not going to be part of an =organization that they perceive as mistreating LGBT persons. As Churchill might say, up with that they simply will not put.

    3. I thought the “legally and lawfully wedded” thing presented a real opportunity for the Church. When gay marriage was legalized nationwide, that seemed an opportunity to use that formulation to carve out a space for LGBT persons to make lives for themselves within the Church. But the Church obviously didn’t see it that way and defined entering into such a marriage as per se apostasy. Mark it, the day will come when future leaders of the Church will rue our current entrenched conservatism and lack of nimbleness on this issue. Eventually we are going to become the Westboro Baptist Church of Latter-day Saints.

  88. “Every lesson is another opportunity to double down on the importance of priesthood keys, temple marriage, chastity, and eternal families (supported by quotes from “the Brethren”) when their real need is to have a time and place to discover the scriptures for themselves.”

    Yes, so much truth in this observation! The scriptures are the key to reaching the hearts of the youth, and not scriptures merely used as de-contextualized prooftexts for the latest musing of a current General Authority! Rather, the scriptures used for their deep and rich contextual meaning.

  89. it's a series of tubes says:

    Eventually we are going to become the Westboro Baptist Church of Latter-day Saints.

    There’s constructive dialogue for you. Interesting how the “dishing it out” always seems to flow one direction, but the “taking it” direction is set on hair trigger for offense.

  90. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m quite serious, tubes. Over time it’s going to get worse and worse. If BYU football is blocked from the Big 12 over its treatment of LGBT students, for example, that will just be the earnest of increasingly serious ramifications the Church is going to experience. And the more we portray this as hard and fast unchangeable DOCTRINE, the harder it will be for our future leaders to navigate.

  91. Kevin is simply extrapolating from his own experience, regardless of whether it sounds offensive or not. If Pres. Kimball had not received a revelation ending the priesthood ban, we would be the Westboro Baptist Church of Latter-day Saints today. Doctrinesand policies (sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference) can and do change as God sends more light and understanding to his servants the prophets, and sometimes advances come in in conjunction with social changes (just look at the cessation of polygamy, expanded roles for Mormon women, less tolerance for child abuse, and more support for rape victims, including those at BYU). Otherwise, the church will begin to fail in its progress. That’s what continuing revelation is for.

  92. it's a series of tubes says:

    Kevin, I agree that the church’s stance on this issue will grow increasingly unpopular. But until I see a general authority manning a picket line with a “GOD HATES F*&S” sign, your rhetoric above is misplaced.

    Mark it, the day is never going to come when the church will declare homosexual sexual activity to be in harmony with the law of chastity. And that cold, hard fact is going to sift a lot of people out of the church, for better or for worse.

  93. Thanks for your reply, JKC. It would be quite all right with me if changes to doctrine were clearly referred to as change, though I think there’s very little precedent for acknowledging change as such.

    Ranae, my kids aren’t quite old enough to be getting the kinds of lessons your kids are getting, but that time is quickly approaching, and I worry about it. I think my approach will be to talk to them about how it’s not necessary to agree with all doctrines in order to be in a church. But they won’t need my permission to agree or disagree with doctrine, the question will be do they find the teachings nourishing and stimulating towards further seeking? And does the doctrine resonate with the 1st and 2nd great commandments? If their answer is no, then I’ll completely understand it if they leave.

  94. Re: Kevin Barney: “Eventually we are going to become the Westboro Baptist Church of Latter-day Saints.”

    Sad to read this. Particularly from someone whose tempered response to these issues I often look for some measure of guidance. As a church community, I believe we are much more loving, inclusive, and understanding of those that do not fit the “norm” than claim our critics. There are, of course, many exceptions. But I think we hold up pretty well on examination. I hope your prediction will not bear out. At least I pray it won’t.

  95. Tubes, I stand corrected. The LDS Church will never go out of its way to be as offensive as the Westboro Baptist Church, but the day may come when, like Westboro, we become a symbol of, or the go-to example for, religious bigotry. That may not be a fair or accurate assessment (my own feeling is that our policy towards LGBTs is more rooted in theology than in animus), but that will be the way that we are perceived. especially if the Catholic Church finds a way to incorporate gay parishioners first. In that case, the LDS Church will be smaller, most insular, and more set against the world. But perhaps you’re right; that may be what God wants for us, and only the elect will be saved.

  96. I see lots of comments here about LGBT issues including marriage and sex, and without agreeing or disagreeing (that would take a point-by-point reply) I want to raise the flag for women’s rights/roles/status. As does the OP, correctly in my opinion. As big a deal as LGBT issues are in my family (really big, and clearly the place where I personally have given the most attention privately and publicly), in fact women’s issues are even greater. Looking at my family, without naming names I would say that the role of women in the Church has had the (even) greater impact on our several and collective relationship to the Church.

  97. “Mark it, the day is never going to come when the church will declare homosexual sexual activity to be in harmony with the law of chastity.”

    We ought to remember this:

    “9.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.”

    In my opinion, we ought to be very careful about predicting the future of our church and its teachings. We seem to have the idea that future revelations will, shall we say, garnish our teachings. That is, add a bit of flavor, or some nuance. For example reducing the age of male missionaries from 19 to 18 years of age has been cited as revelatory. But this change was mostly a mere tweak. We Mormons appear to have the sense that most of what we need has been revealed already. But this article of faith, our bedrock doctrine, says that “many” … not a few, not 4 or 5, but “many great and important things…” will yet be revealed. Great and Important things!! Suggesting, to my mind, that we are still significantly short in many ways. What may these “great” and “important” things be? I can’t say. But then neither can any of us.

    We should be very careful predicting our future beliefs. Polygamy was taught as a bedrock doctrine. Not as an appendage, but as a necessary teaching for the eternities. Now we hear that the definition of marriage not only will not ever change, but has never changed. Huh?

  98. it's a series of tubes says:

    sch, given that a relevation contradictory to my statement would be without precedent in the scriptural record, and would upend our theology at its most fundamental levels, you’ll have to forgive me for using that nasty word “never”. YMMV; I’m not holding my breath on the topic.

  99. Clark Goble says:

    Kevin (11:42), while I think the LGBT issue is big for some school presidents deciding the Big 12 issue, the Big 12 is such a mess that I don’t think we’ll be able to point to any one issue as what killed expansion. Honestly the Big 12 is a laughing stock in college football for a reason. If BYU didn’t need some conference given the evolution of football privileging Power 5 teams more and more each year I suspect they wouldn’t even try.

    My guess is we’ll see a superficial toning down of the honor code text that the school will tie more to reforms due to Title IX issues but behind the scenes will be enough to justify Big 12 entrance. (Assuming expansion happens) Baylor did something somewhat similar.

    If the Big 12 demands removal of the honor code about homosexuality entirely then the Church doesn’t care. Football, as fun as it is, isn’t *that* important. It wouldn’t be out of the question when push comes to shove that the Church drops football. I don’t think that’ll happen mind you.

    BTW I’m so sad for what happened with your kids. I didn’t know that.

    Christian (12:21) I think for some womens issues will become bigger. But again, I’m not sure what would count as common ground on the issue. As I said I’m pretty pessimistic here.

    sch (12:37) I agree we have to be careful in our ignorance to predict what God does or why he does it. That said I think many assume they’ll be a change that simply incorporates social changes whereas I’m much more skeptical that would happen. In that regard I think homosexuality simply offers a bigger issue to Mormon conceptions of materialism than any other topic. I see far less room than say with womens issues where there are a ton of ways given Church history that could make for significant change. i.e. the history of women giving blessings, anointing with oil, the distinction between spiritual gifts and priesthood blessings, the nature of priestesses in the temple, the past greater independence of the Relief Society, existence of women prophets in scripture, our theology of mother in heaven and so forth. On gay issues there’s simply far, far less to work with.

  100. it's a series of tubes says:

    But perhaps you’re right; that may be what God wants for us, and only the elect will be saved.

    Kevin, I’ve learned much from your postings here at BCC. As rd mentioned, your tempered response to many topics has been instructive. So I’m surprised to see you, again, deliberately misstate doctrine that you know backwards and forwards in order to set up a straw man in place of my position; the scope of who is “saved” is set forth clearly in D&C 76:43.

  101. I think that we can draw a distinction between, “the Church is never going to declare homosexual marriage consistent with the law of chastity” and “the Church is never going to stop excommunicating people involved in gay marriages and anathamizing their children.” We could very easily teach and preach about the law of chastity and even say that heterosexual marriage is the foundation of eternal life without actually casting from our midst people who are unable to have meaningful heterosexual relations. There are, in fact, all kinds of people who we don’t have to excommunicate in order to have standards.

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    tubes, you’re quoting Edward, not me.

    I think Edward makes an instructive point. The priesthood revelation came 38 years ago. Thank goodness. What would the social and cultural position of the Church be today had that not happened? I shudder to even think about it.

  103. it's a series of tubes says:

    Michael, I agree that we can, and should, draw the distinction in question.

    Kevin, yikes! My apologies :)

  104. John Mansfield says:

    “Said one way, if parents sneeze, their children may get pneumonia!”—Neal A. Maxwell in 1985, when many of the parents of current young adults were themselves young adults. It’s funny how little snippets from decades ago lodge in the mind, and surface like a forgotten soldier.

  105. “We’re such a global church now… didn’t it occur to anyone to ask the good saints in the Netherlands, for instance, how they’ve dealt with same-sex marriage in the ecclesiastical context?”

    Or America’s hat – Canada?

  106. Clark Goble says:

    Talon, around 50% of Canadian Mormons live in Alberta. In my experience they often bear more resemblance to Mormons in southern Idaho than to those in Utah with all the associated political views. I can’t speak to Europe but typically Europeans have much lower retention rates than Americans.

  107. Lest we be accused of complaining without offering a solution, I think Clark’s comment above to me was pointing toward the best solution for now (which Michael also commented on). It doesn’t require any changes or softening of doctrine, just a change in our policies, actions, and communication. If we simply said we don’t know how gay people fit in the plan of salvation (which is the actual truth), but we welcome gay members to our congregations. The below is an interim solution, mind you, but it could be our version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until we figure out the best long-term solution.

    We can still make three distinctions:
    1) Gay but celibate or married heterosexually. Full participation with nothing barred to them. This is already the case.
    2) Gay married, with or without children. They can’t participate in the temple, but they are welcome to attend church, give talks, say prayers and hold some callings. We just treat them like the other second class citizens in the church – those who aren’t temple recommend holders. We allow their kids to participate and to be baptized, and provided those kids don’t enter homosexual marriages (and why would they unless they are gay?), then they are fine. Live and let live. This would make gay members’ church experience on par with how they are treated in most other churches.
    3) Gay but sexually active – not gay married or celibate. They can attend church but like others who are not living the law of chastity (or marital fidelity), they are roughly disfellowshipped status. They can’t speak in church or hold callings. They don’t bless or pass the sacrament.

  108. Angela C–I really can’t see the church recognizing a distinction between #2 and #3 at this time. I think the best we could hope for is that those in #2 receive the treatment in #3. They’re welcome to attend, they’re not automatically exed, and their kids are allowed baptism.

  109. The crux there would be whether the same-sex married individuals would be able to bless and pass the sacrament or perform other rituals. To allow that would be an implicit recognition of same-sex sexuality within the framework of LDS theology.

    I’ll have to admit that attempts to somehow use the legalisation of same-sex marriage to sneak in a fundamental change in how the Church views human sexuality seem to fall flat to me. Given current LDS theology the distinction some make between monogamous and non-monogamous people involved in same-sex sexuality vis a vis their relationship with the Church seems like doing an endowment in your backyard but then proudly proclaiming that you did it according to the exact guidelines. That might be true but….it’s still in your backyard.

  110. Clark Goble says:

    Angela, typically people seen as continuing to fornicate are excommunicated not disfellowshipped. Disfellowshipping typically (but not universally – lots of Bishop discretion) is for people who screw up but are seen as potentially in the repentance process.

    The problem of course is that while many want marriage to justify homosexual acts, the church just doesn’t see those acts as legitimate. What you are asking for is effectively for the church to justify sexual acts outside of what it accepts. There’s really no history of this.

    I’m not saying the church might not do something in the future but this really doesn’t seem like a live option without pretty significant revelation. Contrast this with say blacks and the priesthood where there always was a doctrine they’d get the priesthood and the question just was when. Likewise it appears that the majority of the brethren had been willing to make the change fairly early on. (1948 as I recall) While the policy/doctrine distinction has always seemed problematic to me, the way the blacks and the priesthood issue simply was seen by many of the brethren as more of a policy question not tied to any essential doctrines. As I said over at T&S while it’s fine to say we have continuing revelation, typically revelation harmonizes in various ways with what’s already been revealed. It’s just not at all clear how to reconcile pre-marital sex by people who aren’t seen as being able to be married in the next life.

    I completely understand why some would want this as a way as at least reducing the conflict. I confess that while that might work for a few years as homosexual relationships are seen as normative that people will quickly become dissatisfied with this. Note that effectively what you’re asking for is that gays be put in a formally second class status unrelated to sin. In other words your solution really is “blacks and the priesthood” prior to 1978. Do you really think people wouldn’t be pissed off about that? At least now people can say it’s about the act not the person. You’re putting the focus entirely on the person.

  111. Clark Goble says:

    My books aren’t available so I can’t look up that date so that 1948 date is off the top of my head and may be wrong. I know right around then non-African blacks were allowed to have the priesthood by McKay. I’m pretty sure the apostles voted on it around then and only Joseph Fielding Smith kept it from unanimity but I can’t look it up right now.

  112. The OP is great. I felt like my worry for my children was recognized and understood.

    The comments were disheartening. What a huge divide. It reflects the divide in my local congregation. People talking over the real/lived experience of others. People using their faith to belittle and step on those who doubt. Earnest sincerity and snark on all sides.

    So this is how the party ends…

    I hope and I pray for miracles. And when my faith isn’t big enough for those miracles I pray for smaller ones: namely that my church/our church will take a page out of Pope Francis’s book and move beyond all this in favor of real good. They want to defend the family, then contact every marriage expert that they can and come up with a better curriculum for Sunday school that addresses communication and conflict resolution. Put the breaks on calling the parents of young families to callings that will keep them away from those families. Give families “grants” or discounts on their tithing for dating or what’s the phrase “wholesome recreational activities.” Children the world over are malnourished. Invite the community to a nutritious meal at church and spend the two hours after sacrament meeting working together to do it. And you better believe that feeding a family’s hungry children is going to do them more good than spending another hour talking about how the elect will be deceived.

    My parents swear that they have done more good in the church than they ever could have done outside it. I’d like to be able to say the same thing.

  113. “A huge divide” — Some days I’m optimistic. Some days I despair. Some days I think my opinions and what I want are broadly shared. Some days I feel alone. But every day, all the time, I believe the issues we’re talking about run deep and long and that change–if it comes–will have to be at a fundamental level. Radical revelation, not incremental revelation.
    In the meantime, I cry for accommodation. Half measures, to be sure; won’t satisfy anybody in principle or generality. But minister to the one, on the street corner, in the present. Baptize the kids. Cancel the disciplinary council. Magnify women’s roles in every way possible. Extend a hand of fellowship. Stop criticizing life choices that we are in no position to judge. Leave the judging to God and self. Break bread with your neighbor. Love one another. All the others.

  114. Thanks Clark. I know where I live, and it is as thou sayest (sans gun racks).

  115. Angela, I think that your three categories make a lot of sense.
    Category #1 – everyone agrees with this.
    Category #3 – Clark is correct that disfellowship for sexual sins is usually thought of as part of the repentance process, and if such activity continues it often leads to excommunication. Yet this was the defacto way that sexually-active gay members were dealt with in several urban stakes with large LGBT populations–you are welcome to come to church and participate as a member, but don’t take the sacrament and you can’t hold most callings. This is what changed last November, especially for same-sex couples who chose to marry.
    Category #2 – this became a possibility nationwide with Obergefell, that is, to be a legally married same-sex couple. I wish, with Kevin, that the Church had found a way to recognize the stability and committment of these new relationships by offering some sort of place within our community. To my mind–thanks to my Mormon upbringing and values–marriage is much preferable to temporary relationships or one-night stands. Instead, the Church went the other direction in singling out these relationships as particularly abhorrent (by contrast, casual homosexual activity does not rise to the level of apostasy). There are certainly theological obstacles to recognizing same-sex marriages in the eternities, and perhaps those are insoluble. So it would make sense to not seal such marriages in the temple (much as Mormons married to non-members can’t be sealed in the temple, and children can’t be sealed to just one parent), or to restrict same-sex partners from some callings (much as divorced men can’t serve as bishops)–there’s a lot that I’m willing to leave up to God. And I would gladly sign on to the compromise that Angela suggests: same-sex married members are welcome in community, but can’t hold temple recommends or the callings that require them. But I’m afraid that what we’ve got right now is not going to be sustainable over the long run, not if we care about missionary work or passing our faith on to the next two generations.

    And finally, I agree with ChristianKimball that women’s issues will ultimately be a bigger deal, but I think that we have more time and more flexibility to work through those. The quiet, gradual shift from Pres. Benson’s pronouncements on women’s roles to Pres. Hinckley’s teachings and to more recent incremental changes gives me hope that progress can continue without splitting the church or driving too many people away.

  116. Saints were never meant to live meaningfully in the world.

  117. Clark Goble says:

    Ah, sorry Talon, didn’t know you were from there. I’m from the other side of Canada but my family moved to Alberta more than a decade ago. My point was just that while Canada is pretty different on these social issues it doesn’t appear the members are much different than more conservative wards in the US. So unlike what happens in Europe.

  118. Clark Goble says:

    Edward, from what I can see the Brethren felt those wards treating gays as not really sinning when they were sexually active were completely out of step with Church teaching. I remember being quite shocked hearing several wards in the Bay area were doing that. At a minimum it treats sexually active gay people completely different from sexually active heterosexual people. I’m not sure how that could be justified.

    I certainly understand the drive behind it – there’s no legitimate acceptable solution for sexual activity. However older single heterosexual people feel pretty similar in my experience. (They can’t seem to fall in love with anyone yet have no options sexually beyond marrying someone they don’t like)

  119. Of all the religions in this world that would be willing to jeopardize their mission to teach others to follow Christ because they refused to give up a particular doctrine or creed, I can’t imagine why ours should have need to fall into that category.

  120. I find it amusing that BYU footballs’s inability to cooperate with and bind itself with a coalition of other football teams is considered to be a bad fruit of the Church’s position on gender, marriage, and sexuality.

  121. queuno,

    I think it is a little amusing, but it is also likely a sign of more important “fruit” to come.

  122. queuno, I don’t. You can say football is just fun or fluff, but college athletic conferences are kind of a big deal. Seems like ours is a church that encourages learning and achievement in a variety of endeavors, including athletics. If BYU gets shunned to the point of isolation from other major universities, what does that do for its credibility, influence, and relevance? Back in the 60’s when most of the church leadership had a staunch position against teaching the theory of evolution, Henry Eyring told the leaders that they better reconsider this position and teach it at BYU or risk losing accreditation. I’m glad the church stopped fighting that Hiroo battle.

  123. I fully grasp the accreditation issue. I’m poking fun at the football issue. Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of faithful Mormons don’t care about BYU football. BYU wasn’t even a top candidate for the Big XII and now fans are using this as a pre-determined excuse. If you want to bring up accreditation issues, fine, those are important discussions, but not football.

  124. Clark Goble says:

    Queuno while I agree people worry about football too much, most put BYU as the top candidate for months before the LGBT issues started appearing.

  125. I am wondering if BCC would be willing to endorse the Benedict Option in the face of societal divisions.


  126. Saints were never meant to live meaningfully in the world.

    What does this look like in practice? Rent instead of own? Buy high, sell low? Pretty much all the Mormons I know would consider themselves solidly in the mainstream of their respective societies.

  127. What does Romans 12:2 look like in practice? I suggest that listening to General Conference might provide some answers to this question.

    See also James 4:4, John 15:19, 17:14-16; 1 John 2:15-17

  128. I’d be interested to know what it means in practice to hate the world too. I understand the need and rhetorical power of having a foil–opposition in all things!–but what about the question and answer posed in Hymn 223:

    Have I done any good in the world today?

    Then wake up and do something more
    Than dream of your mansion above.

  129. Leo, the Benedict Option is absurd and wrong. There’s one BCCer’s take.

  130. The LDS church follows 20 or 30 years behind the trend towards openness and egalitarianism that has taken root in western democracies. It’s inevitable that the church will change its official position on LGBTQ and women’s issues. This fact makes the recent LGBTQ suicides even more damning – the church bears great responsibility for perpetuating anti-gay policies that create suffering. And especially because these policies will be reversed in a couple of decades (hopefully sooner).

  131. peterllc, Hating the world in New Testament language is likely a different take from our understanding of that word. Consider Luke 14:26. Admittedly, it’s a lot different perspective than “families are forever.” Different times, different needs, I suppose.
    Leo, yes hopefully we’ll get some General Conference perspective on the Benedict Option. For one, I hope and believe it’s not what the leadership means by discipleship.

  132. I have no idea what the future holds, but it’s hard to keep a straight face when tubes or someone effectively says “It would be unprecedented for the church to make such a fundamental shift in its doctrines and rhetoric on marriage.”

    Er, let’s make sure we say “ALMOST unprecedented” there…

  133. Kenzo +1

    We were radicals in the nineteenth century. With the end of polygamy we abandoned our radicalism, and we swung to the other extreme. Maybe one of the reasons for that swing is the great trauma we had to endure over the end of polygamy. It’s probably not healthy to have forgotten so much of the reality of what we were and what it cost us. It’s a sign of denial rather than healing. Sadly, our reaction to that period of trauma seems to have set us up for repeating the same kind of trauma, only in the post-polygamy phase the trauma comes because of our extreme conservatism rather than our radicalism.

    And yet the church is still true. I pray every day that we and our leaders may receive further light and knowledge.

  134. I don’t know that tubes is completely off – did the church change their doctrine on plural marriage? I haven’t seen the doctrine change, though the policy around its practice most certainly has due to balancing our doctrine of being governed by kings, presidents, etc…

    With that in mind, I’m not sure if JK when you say “inevitable” whether you’re talking about the doctrine or the policy of how we enforce? Some would say the doctrine of chastity (or even WoW) has not changed, but the policy (whether written or de facto) may have changed in how leaders address the sin.

    If anyone is hoping that it is inevitable that the church changes their doctrine from “sin” to “acceptable behavior”, that doesn’t seem to be how the first 186 years have gone.

    On women’s issues – I think there could be room for hope (I’m not placing odds). We have no “doctrine” that says women are forbidden/less than/etc – though I can see how policy and culture have communicated that. A revelation that says “women can be ordained to XXX priesthood” would not change doctrine.

  135. Agreed (pconnornc) regarding women. Regarding LGBT issues, I have little hope after last November (most days asymptotically approaching zero), but if there is a way forward (my most optimistic moments) I suggest that it will be by promoting attention to relationships, marriage, and sealings (up and down and sideways), and reducing attention to sex acts.

  136. CK and pcon, unfortunately, in his attempt to analyze the issue of women and the priesthood, Elder Oaks inexplicably but definitively said that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood because “doctrine” cannot ever be changed. He essentially foreclosed any future revelation on this subject. He did not explain how this relates to the ninth article of faith.

  137. john f: I’m well aware. I choose to believe that “cannot be changed” in a Mormon church context is whatever is the opposite of tautological–incorrect and self-referentially incorrect. On the other hand, as an alternate way of communicating “cold day in hell” there may well be substance.

  138. Not so much “cold day in hell” as “over my dead body.” Which…well, Elder Oaks is an old man.

  139. CK, such a good response. I concur.

    APM, I agree that Elder Oaks was, in essence, really saying “over my dead body” when he said, amazingly considering our history, that “doctrine” cannot change and that women and the priesthood falls into that category of “doctrine.”

  140. John F. writes “the Benedict Option is absurd and wrong”

    I am waiting on the forthcoming book to see what Rod Dreher means by the Benedict Option, but I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on why you think the Ben Opt is not only wrong, but absurd. Is it too much of a retreat from the world? The Latter-day Saints are clearly not planning on building Catholic abbeys, but I don’t think that is Dreher’s central plan, particularly since he is (Eastern) Orthodox.

  141. Is it too much of a retreat from the world?

    Yes. Also, it relies on the myth that things are worse now than they have been before. This is completely untrue. Everyone is freer now than ever before. Everyone has more knowledge now than ever before. The golden age these people posit never existed. Unless that golden age is now because the world is better by virtually any metric than it ever has been.

  142. john f.

    I don’t know if the Benedict Option is a good idea… but Dreher is under no spell that we used to live in a golden age and are now lost. As I understand it, the point is that if religious people want to carry on their traditions and beliefs, they have to focus more on that and less on all of the “worldly things”. Because the West is more hostile or at least less supportive of religion in general than any time in the recent past.

  143. @ABM. I agree

    @john f

    I don’t see where Mr. Dreher posits or maintains that things are worse now than they have ever been or where he imagines a golden age. Perhaps you could cite something from Mr. Dreher to back up your claim.

    Nor does Mr. Dreher believe that Christians should not participate in the public square, rather that they should be more realistic about putting their faith in princes.

    As for all the metrics showing how all is well in the world, the world prospers, all is well, see the statistics on the record number of refugees displaced by conflict, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the Church.
    Or for the US, surprisingly higher death rates

    I do agree, however, that the Church is larger and stronger than it has previously been by multiple metrics, e.g., number of members, wards, stakes, temples, etc., which is a very good thing.

  144. Nothing in my comments implies there aren’t serious problems in the world right now, gross inequities, or serious sin. But is the world worse off right now, by any metric, whether moral or physical, than in 1955, 1830, 1789, 1492, 1066, 830, 325, 70, or 0 AD? The thought makes reason stare for anyone well immersed in history and how humans have been living in those periods (hint: though everyone was ostensibly religious, fornication and adultery were not particularly less prevalent and other abuses, in particular of women and lower castes, were drastically more prevalent). And yet the culture warriors among us think so. Many who posit the Benedict Option is necessary rely on this premise — that we are so far from a golden age of Christian influence in the public square that we must withdraw. I haven’t analyzed Dreher’s own contribution with enough granularity to confirm that this is one of his explicit premises though.

  145. john f,

    I believe ABM has a good grasp of what Mr. Dreher is really saying.

    And yes, by the metric of the number of persons displaced by war, the world is worse off than in any of your dates. I suspect the number of deaths by drug overdose is also at record levels compared to any of those dates. World income inequality is likely greater, given that huge numbers are still dirt poor while millions enjoy luxury that was undreamed of in any of those years, Not long ago The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (hardly a bunch of right-wing culture warriors) moved their doomsday clock forward, and no one accused them of believing in a golden age.

    The opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities can always find support. I wonder if anyone called Dickens a culture warrior, and if so, would he have taken it as an insult or as praise. I suspect he would have taken it as a compliment.

    Do you agree that the positive metrics for the Church are real and a good thing?

  146. chuckschulz says:

    “Resistance of futile. Reconcile yourself to the new order or be destroyed.” — Signed, Marshal Petain and Sauromon.

    Austin’s analogy is either naive or pernicious. Onda was fighting to defend an awful old order and had been replaced, in Japan, with something quite defensible.

    The measure of continued resistance to a new order is not its presumed inevitability. The measure lies in the merits and urgency of the cause. Austin’s argument, in so many words, was offered to Charles De Gaulle and to Gandalf.

    Inevitability is not an argument. It’s a cop out.

  147. chuckschulz says:

    Austin is attacking a straw man. I see nothing in the Church as a whole or in our home ward that is paleo-angry the way he describes. I see some sadness, and more determination.

    You use the word “translation.” He does not. I see no translation or solution offered in his essay, unless he means abdication on all points. He doesn’t even reference the core LDS doctrines on the eternal centrality of gender.

    It is those very doctrines, and our rights as individuals and a people to live by them, that are now under assault. How can he “translate” what he does not even acknowledge? How can you teach your children doctrine you are unwilling or unable to articulate?

    This is not a call to translate. It’s a call to surrender. Literally.

    Even Austin’s analogy to the traditional role of mothers and fathers is all about abdication. And even here, he is wrong. The Church recognizes that many women will have to help earn a living. That was always true, even in pioneer days.

    But our model and ideal, subject to exigencies, remains that the father’s primary role is to support the home, and the mother’s primary role is to nurture it. If Austin thinks that point has been abdicated, he should read the Proclamation on the Family and think again.

    We have raised our children on a very modest salary. And we lived modestly in a small house and with one older car as a choice. My wife, who has a masters degree, has taught piano inside the home. But she has prioritized our children, and was always there for them through all their anxieties and challenges of youth. That was our plan from the outset. It was mutual, and it was central to why we chose each other.

    Austin’s abdication begins with parenting roles in the family, a defeat he simply and mistakenly takes for granted. From there he leaps, implicitly, to gender dysphoric men using women’s restrooms. An insistence that LDS church colleges open its restrooms to all comers, and that they allow gay couples to live in married family housing cannot be far behind.

    If anyone out there is, as he suggests, frothing and angry, hurling epithets at the Great and Spacious Building as they pass by, then yes, they should calm down.

    But the tone of resistance is not really Austin’s concern. Nor is translation as you suggest. He’s clearly calling for surrender. And that call’s validity hinges on the merits of the cause and how one sees history unfolding in the long term.

  148. It is rather convenient for his metaphor that he chose Onda. It would be quite another matter if he had been playing the role of the Vichy French urging French partisans to surrender, because the 1,000 year Reich is here to stay. History is always best seen in hindsight. I tried to explain to an acquaintance that inevitability is not a moral argument, and that your job might be to help your children understand the core doctrines at stake, not follow them off the cliff.

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