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. Continue reading “The Progress in Removing Rape Verse from YW Program May Not be only Personal, but Institutional”
Brigham 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 “Restore Honor to BYU’s Honor Code”
John Bonner, of Salt Lake City, Utah, has given me permission to publish his open letter of encouragement to his 14-year old self, posted initially on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page. I can’t thank John enough, either for the honor of sharing his words with you or for his candor. This is a must-read for all people of faith who seek to follow the admonition of Christ to better love and serve the LGBT community.
Dear 14 year-old me,
I see you there in the pews, head bowed, lines of tears marking divides down hot, embarrassed cheeks and pooling up in blurry smudges on the pages of the hymnal as you let the sacrament pass you by because you believe you’re not worthy. I see you standing alone in front of the basement window in complete darkness and silently mouthing the words, “I’m gay,” for the first time and vowing never to speak those words aloud to anyone. I see you pleading, begging, night after night on calloused knees to have these feelings taken away from you–rooted out of you and destroyed. Continue reading “Letter to 14 Year Old Me, by John”
The fear of Mormon intellectuals has raised its ugly head again, which is ironic considering Mormonism lauds the pursuit of knowledge as a way to worship the Creator. This time, the kick back pertains to the Gender Issue Survey being widely circulated on social media. The Millennial Star argues forcefully that the survey is, in essence, little more than a conspiracy crafted by intellectuals to promote agitation for female ordination. Those behind the survey, however, state their goal is “to capture a more nuanced view of gender issues in the LDS Church than is captured by existing (and often-cited) surveys.”(They specifically link to the 2011 Pew Research Survey of faithful, practicing Latter-day Saints and their views on women in the priesthood.) The great irony is, of course, that agitation against this survey, if successful, will guarantee skewed data. To those who are on the fence about whether or not to participate in the survey, I offer a few things for your consideration. Continue reading “To the Fence Sitters Regarding the LDS Gender Issues Survey”
In his April 2014 General Conference talk entitled “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks asked one question that has caused me many sleepless nights. He said, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?” He then answered himself, supposing LDS women must receive a portion of priesthood authority through the men presiding over them. Mormon feminists who hope for female ordination were pleased, if not appeased, by his words, while many traditional Mormons were appeased, if not pleased, by them. I, however, was deeply troubled by his idea and have spent months seeking peace through prayer and pondering. But I can’t find it. The truth is, the prompting I keep receiving is very different from his answer. As a committed, practicing Latter-day Saint, this is an uncomfortable position. Continue reading “Women, Priesthood Authority, and the Holy Ghost”
Ordain Women is changing the name of their teaching platform from “Six Discussions” to “Conversations” in reaction to criticism that the name of the original program demonstrates their desire to evangelize LDS toward female ordination. The term “six discussions” is, after all, reminiscent of the former missionary program used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This title change is bringing the expected banter—claims that the name switch is as silly as the women behind it and other similarly dismissive things. As a non-member of OW (but then, OW doesn’t have a formal membership) who has participated in an online “conversation” group regarding these “discussions” (I’m confused), I recognize some validity in the charge that the Six Discussions are evangelical-ish in their appeal, but only insofar as any argument attempts to make its case convincing. It seems to me the silliness resides in the initial accusation that the Six Discussions were designed to convince others. Not because the accusation is wrong, but because making the accusation is, in itself, an act of silliness. Its a “duh” and a “so what?” Nearly every human conversation is designed to convince, to open or alter minds, to change ideas and, sometimes, hearts. In some ways, argument can be considered the engine of free agency. It is essential.
A sentiment is gaining traction among traditional Mormons that goes something like this: “Women enjoy the blessings and authority of the priesthood through men in the way men enjoy parenthood through women.” Most recently, I read it in this form: “Someone once told me that my husband gets to experience parenthood through me, even though I take the head role in parenting and all the revelations and blessing that come with it. And when I married him in the temple I access the priesthood through him.” This new framing of the old idea, foundational in Mormon culture, that men and women have different divinely ordained roles is new to me so I tried to locate some kind of official originating source, but had no success. Because of the rate at which I’m seeing it on social media, it strikes me there must be some recent catalyst for its popularity. Where this idea comes from matters less to me than that it goes away. Continue reading “Fatherhood as an Appendage to Motherhood: A New Mormon Distortion”
I’ve never understood the concept of the Angry God. I suppose that’s been a function of my religious privilege. Normally, I dislike the word “privilege” because it strikes me as a term progressives wield like a Bowie knife in a bear fight they bring on for the fur alone. But I’ll borrow it here because the term has successfully taken on a meaning that combines arrogance with naiveté. The term suits me because I have been both arrogant and naive in the practice of my faith. After all, my God has loved me: I found Him; I’ve obeyed Him, honored Him, and served Him. [Arrogance.] And I see His love in the blessings He gives me: I have an amazing family, a beautiful home, vehicles to drive, and friends galore. [Naiveté.] Continue reading “The Angry God, the Excommunication, and the Rest of Us”
This morning, I awoke in our cabin, nestled in the piney woods of east Texas, and found, on the floor, the same beautiful black and blue butterfly that had, only yesterday, fluttered by me each time I stepped outside to enjoy the natural world. Somehow, she is trapped inside this morning, motionless, with her wings outspread in the attempt to camouflage against a maple-colored plank floor that will have none of it. I know from the experience of capturing butterflies in my childhood that if I touch her wings, I condemn her. Instead, I find a piece of paper and lay it before her. Although it doesn’t seem natural to her, the butterfly steps onto the paper and I carry her outside, where she flutters back into the trees.
I love symbols. I look for them all the time. As I have struggled to come to terms with the pending disciplinary action against leading LDS feminist Kate Kelly, I couldn’t help but find an imperfect symbol of her predicament in this butterfly. Continue reading “On Kate Kelly’s Summons to a Church Court: An Epistle to the Saints”
You are beautiful. You are beautiful in your original school photos, and you are beautiful in the doctored yearbook photos that appeared in the 2013/2014 Wasatch High School yearbook, which isn’t to say I think the “editing,” or photoshopping, the school did in order to cover more of your bodies than your tops and tanks did was appropriate. It shouldn’t have happened. You should’ve been given full opportunity to represent your personality through your attire. Some may say you forfeited that right by not adhering to the dress code. But a dress code that is not enforced on a daily basis hasn’t the respect of the people who created it and who are charged with enforcing it. By default then, it isn’t reasonable to expect those over whom it alleges power to take it seriously. Each original photo I saw of you depicted a young woman who was dressed modestly and appropriately for school. Your parents should be very proud of you for the brave way you are standing up for yourselves by addressing this in front of Fox 13 News cameras. Continue reading “To the Girls of Wasatch County ISD”