The Progress in Removing Rape Verse from YW Program May Not be only Personal, but Institutional

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The “revelation of the week” is that Moroni 9:9 has been removed from the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, which offered the verse to Mormon teenage girls as a supporting scripture in the section, “Virtue.” Of course, this is significant because Moroni  9:9, 10 tells us that the daughters of Lamanites were taken captive, raped, tortured, and killed; it emphasizes that rape deprived these daughters “of that which is most dear and precious above all things.” In other words, the violent “loss” of their virginity is equated to a loss of virtue and is dubbed more tragic than either their torture or their murder. Fortunately, the verse had already been removed from “For the Strength of Youth,” but somehow lingered in the Personal Progress program. I suspect Elizabeth Smart’s public outcry against toxic chastity lessons was the match that lit the rather long wick prepared across decades by feminist outcry. The deletion of the verse is gratifying and a relief, but also signals something much more. Its removal is an acknowledgment that our sacred canon is fallible, that the views of the men who wrote, abridged, or recapped the events within that canon do sometimes pass on the biases and bad information of their eras—and that, when we know better, we should do better. The deletion reaffirms the pre-correlation notion that we are to learn truth from any source that brings it forward, and reject all untruth, no matter where it be found, including (as in this case) in our sacred writ.

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The Church has taught that the Book of Mormon is not a perfect book and that its flaws are the flaws of man, not of God. The proof of this fallibility, to date, has come in tweaking words here and there in order to better represent the intent of a given passage. To be clear, the Church has neither reworded nor removed Moroni 9:9 from the Book of Mormon, nor do I think it should, though some may demand it.

While I empathize with those who call for its deletion (the message is reprehensible), I submit that there is more truth and power in leaving the scripture intact within the Book of Mormon, provided forthcoming Church teaching and literature acknowledges that Moroni 9: 9, 10 represents the fallibility of human beings and the historical wrong-headedness that endangered women by placing our value squarely on sexual purity. Our choice is to bury this reality through deletion or rewriting, or to embrace it.

I’d champion the addition of a footnote on the verses that clearly states that Mormon’s understanding was incorrect, that virtue is never lost through rape, and that the life of all human beings is most dear and precious above all. Such a footnote would represent an acknowledgment that even the prophets sometimes miss the complete truth because of the influences of their day. It would affirm that we are both a church and a people who will grow in wisdom, light, and understanding, and, when needed, will correct our course. If the Book of Mormon is a book written for our day, we ought not ignore this essential lesson.

Of course, such a footnote would likely be as scandalous as revolutionary, considering the implications it would hold for other ancient scripture. We can’t reasonably reject the teaching of Moroni  9:9, 10 for being out of sync with God’s feelings about rape and virtue, and, at the same time, fail to consider whether or not other ancient scripture is, likewise, off-track in light of additional light and knowledge currently possessed. We know through both anecdote and science that valuing women primarily for their “purity” is detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of women. We also know through anecdote and science that current church teachings are detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health of LGBTQ people. This is significant.

Perhaps equally important, such a footnote and redirection of our teaching of the verses could set a precedent that would free our top leaders from the expectation—the burden—that their words must, at all times, be a perfect representation of God’s will. This expectation is a cruelty, even if its arguably self-inflicted. It would also emphasis, within the membership, an increase in the reliance upon the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I rejoice that the Church officially removed Moroni 9:9 from the Personal Progress program. It’s another improvement for women and a reduction of the pedestal’s height upon which Mormon women live and worship. I’m pleased to think its removal may signal a step toward contemporary acknowledgment that our prophets needn’t be perfect, that all our canon comes through a lens of human fallibility, and that we, as a people, are striving to do better. More of this please.

Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Seek your bishop’s counsel immediately so he can help guide you through the process of emotional healing.      “For the Strength of Youth”

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Is the Potential Big 12 Exclusion Policy a Natural Consequence for BYU?

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So a bunch of LGBTQ activist groups have asked the Big 12 to reconsider their interest in BYU because of discriminatory practices at BYU against LGBTQ students. Needless to say, many BYU fans are upset and protesting back, claiming that these activist groups don’t understand that BYU is open to gay students who live the BYU Honor Code; this is just another example of religious persecution, they say. Well, no. No, it isn’t. Its a natural consequence. Its accountability in action. For all the attention we Mormons like to pay to the idea of consequences, we sure don’t want to accept the unpleasant consequences when they crash down on us. Continue reading

Racial Division and Religion

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I watched the news out of Baton Rouge with my 15-year-old son, who is considering a career in law enforcement. When the reporter upped the death toll from two police officers to three, I turned my eyes from the TV to my son. Nearly two years earlier, I had watched him just like this, watched him watch Ferguson burn.

Ten days ago, at a peaceable Black Lives Matter march, a gunman shot and killed five Dallas police officers, wounding several others. One of the murdered officers used to escort my daughter-in-law from the Dallas theater where she worked late shifts to her parked car; she loved his sense of humor. The young man who killed him grew up in the town in which my two oldest children spent their elementary school years. Had we not moved, they’d have gone to high school together, my oldest son a grade ahead of him, and my daughter, a grade behind. As is, we have friends who knew the killer.

When Ferguson burned, I begged my youngest son to reconsider his future career, saying the world is too dangerous and that I’m afraid for him. His response was, “Imagine how dangerous the world would be without police officers.” As Baton Rouge unfolded, he said nothing. He just stared. Continue reading

Making Space: Tyler Glenn asks, “How Many More?”

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So often, discussion of doctrine, particularly related to homosexuality, becomes academic in its characteristics. For so many believers, God is found in a book–in the Bible–and the inclination is to scour the words of the book for evidence with which to bolster the preferred argument. But the scriptures were not meant for argument, but to settle arguments–to settle them with the one great power all human beings can harness. Not priesthood, not the gift of the Holy Ghost, but love with its many names: empathy, compassion, kindness, and charity. Continue reading

The Mysteries of God, or Handbook 1

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I’ve done something scandalous again. I’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions 1, or at least some of it. The recent debate over whether or not the contents of Handbook 1 qualify as doctrine got under my skin, so I decided to study it and find out for myself. (How Mormon of me.) Of course, there was a hitch to my plan. Handbook 1 may be an authorized read for stake presidents and bishops (plus those who outrank them), but not for lowly members like me, who aren’t given access. My problem is compounded, of course, because I’m female, which means I’ll never serve in a bishopric or stake presidency. I suppose I could, technically, be plucked from obscurity and called to serve as one of the nine women in the general auxiliary presidencies who have authorized access, but the chance of that is exactly zero. So, for all intents and purposes, the book is sealed to me, in spite of the fact it contains policies by which I, as a Latter-day Saint, am to live and be judged. Huh. That stinks. What’s a girl to do? Continue reading

The Rainbow Mormon Initiative and the Promise of Hope

rainbowBy now, we’ve all felt the fall-out from the November 5th policy change. Our church has been bleeding members, both gay and straight. This is a clear marker that our LGBT community needs us to demonstrate our love for them. We have that opportunity this Fast Sunday, June 5th, 2016 if we participate in the Rainbow Mormon Initiative. The initiative organizer, an LDS psychologist, asks us to don a rainbow ribbon as an outward sign of the inward love we have for our LGBT members, especially our young people who remain in hiding, unsure as to whether or not they will be accepted and understood. Continue reading

Dress to Protect, Missionary-Style

missionary-pants1It’s in my nature to laugh at things that aren’t funny. Like when one of my children falls face-first onto the floor while doing the forbidden dance on the coffee table. Or when my husband misses the giant escape hole conveniently built into our garage and damages the side-view mirror of my car. Or when, in the wake of accusations it doesn’t understand rape culture, my beloved church announces female missionaries must cover more of their bodies as a protection against the flesh-hungry buggers [read as mosquitoes] they encounter in daily living. I mean, this stuff is funny. Continue reading

No Man is “Trash”

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Previously published at By Common Consent, dated May 4th, 2016. 

Angry? You bet. Tyler Glenn’s latest song and video boil with rage. Glenn, a gay man and former missionary, was embraced by the church for his Tyler-2advocacy in building the inclusivity bridge. That is, until the LDS church’s November 5th policy change regarding homosexuals—a change that codified those in same-gender marriages as apostates, required their excommunication, and forbade the baptism of their children under certain conditions. The policy change hit him hard, like a gut punch, he says. Feeling himself betrayed, denigrated, and literally dismissed over his sexual orientation, Glenn took a hard look at less-visited areas of Mormonism and decided he could no longer believe. The release of “Trash” depicts a stunning reversal of attitude toward his faith heritage. Continue reading

Restore Honor to BYU’s Honor Code

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brigham-young-university-rollins-center-for-etrepreneurship-technologyBrigham Young University has released a statement, pledging to “study” policies that open student victims of sexual assault to discipline from the Honor Code office and to possibly enact “structural changes within the university” to resolve what BYU President Kevin Worthen calls “tensions.” Good for BYU. I hope the university and its Church sponsor work quickly to devise a system that encourages, rather than discourages, the reporting of rape. In the meantime, all university disciplinary actions against victims of sexual abuse should be put on hold. Continue reading

The NeverTrump Message

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PAY-BearsPressure is mounting on conservative NeverTrump voters like me to pledge our allegiance to the business mogul. I can’t speak for every person in the NeverTrump camp, but this life-long conservative is sure going to speak for herself so that those who don’t understand my NeverTrump position can comprehend why all the nonsensical arguments being thrown about won’t convince me to “unite for the sake of the party.” Continue reading