Scripture and Interpretation: Some Thoughts Inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

February 13, 2007 | 142 comments
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A couple of weeks ago we had stake conference, and among other things the visiting authority talked about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Among many good and true things, he said that we ought to treat the Proclamation as scripture and that the only reason it was not added to the Doctrine & Covenants is because President Hinckley didn’t want us to all have to go out and buy new scriptures. I don’t want to read too much into what was clearly an off the cuff remark, but this struck me as a rather facile attempt to explain the status of the Proclamation. It did get me thinking, however, about the status of such texts.

I think that the best analogy for the Proclamation is a 1916 document entitled “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve.” Few people read the Doctrinal Exposition any more, but it has been a tremendously influential document in Mormon theology. Essentially, it marks a winnowing down and synthesis of nineteenth-century Mormon thinking on the nature the godhead. In part it was meant as a final repudiation of Adam-God thinking, but it was also meant to stabilize interpretations of Mormon scripture, providing a reconciliation of apparently discordant texts. When modern Mormons explain the relationship between God and Jesus Christ they are generally relying, whether they know it or not, on the Doctrinal Exposition’s interpretation of the scriptures.

If I am right, the Proclamation, like the Doctrinal Exposition, is not a revelation but an authoritative interpretation. (The nature of its authority is open to question.) This makes it different, however, than a revelation. Compare the Doctrinal Exposition with another important addition to Mormon literature from the same time: Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, now included in the Doctrine & Covenants as section 138. Joseph F. Smith’s vision also began as an interpretation of scripture — “my mind reverted to the writings of the Apostle Peter” — but in the end the document is not about stabilizing scriptural interpretation. Rather, it adds a text with which future interpretations must cope. It opens up interpretation rather than closing it down.

Our political and intellectual culture trains us to react to phrases like “opening up” as good, while phrases like “stabilizing” or “closing down” are bad. I actually think that this is a mistake. Community is not simply constituted by a set of shared texts, but by certain (admittedly fuzzy) interpretive boundaries on those texts. Canonization, it seems to me, is about creating the possibility of shared interpretations by providing us something to interpret. Authoritative interpretative documents like the Proclamation or the Doctrinal Exposition, on the other hand, serve to orient us collectively toward interpretation (in the end they can’t really close interpretation down). It is not simply that one set of texts make it into the leather bound books — and therefore survive longer — while another set of texts does not. It is that the texts themselves perform different tasks.

Hence, I think that the Proclamation is not scripture. It could always become scripture, of course, if it were canonized, in which case it would perform the task of scripture rather than that of interpretative guide. This possibility, however, suggests something else about the distinction between scripture and interpretation: the difference does not necessarily lie in any inherent difference in the texts. Proclamations can, after all, be inspired, and scriptures can contain the errors and weaknesses of men. Rather, the difference lies in the particular tasks that we collectively assign to the texts.

[If past is a predictor of future, I suspect that at some point any discussion on this thread will dissolve into a slug-fest about gender essentialism. If you can, however, I plead with you to control your gender-war urges and try talking about authority, canon, and interpretation. Of course, in the end, you have to do what you have to do, and if gender demons must be exorcised (or at least exercised) once more, so be it.]

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142 Responses to Scripture and Interpretation: Some Thoughts Inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

  1. Julie M. Smith on February 13, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I’m wondering what you (or anyone else) can say about the immediate reception of the 1916 document: Did visiting authorities back then say that it wasn’t canonized so the Saints wouldn’t have to buy new scriptures? How was it introduced? How does that compare with the introduction of the Proc on the Family as the end of a talk at Women’s Conference that hit a variety of topics? Can we say that ‘the purpose of the Proc on the Family was to be the final repudiation of X’ the way that you say the 1916 was for Adam-God?

    In other words, I think your approach is a good one and leads to lots of interesting questions–some, dare I say, potentially more interesting than gender essentialism. . . which isn’t real, BTW. ;)

  2. Nate Oman on February 13, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Julie: Those are very interesting questions, and I have no idea what the answer is. It would be interesting to know exactly how the Doctrinal Exposition was used back when it was fresh in the minds of the saints (rather than being an unseen structure of their minds).

  3. Greg B. on February 13, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Can you speak to the use and reception of other proclamations (for example, the 1875 proclamation on the economy)?

  4. Jared* on February 13, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    The worry about needing new scriptures didn’t stop the updating of the map and photo sections of the Bible and triple combo. In fact, as I recall, inserts were made available for those who didn’t want to rush out and purchase new scriptures.

    As for the 1916 document, it is interesting to note that the scriptures were revised just a few years later in 1921 (I think), at which time the Lectures on Faith were dropped. Why the 1916 document wasn’t added, or even section 138, I don’t know. Interestingly, the 1916 document was included in Talmage’s Articles of Faith, itself a semi-authoritative interpretation of scripture.

  5. Doc on February 13, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I think the proclamation to the world is meant to be a final repudiation of societal forces that are breaking down the family, leading to widespread divorce, demphasis on family over career, redefinition of family, abortion, and a host of other “evils”. Since it is coming from the church to the World, I think it very well functions as scripture, as this is how prophets function.

  6. Rusty on February 13, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    For the GA to make an off-the-cuff remark like that seems quite irresposible. What he’s suggesting hasn’t been authoritively stated by the First Presidency so it puts the audience of his remarks in an awkward position of wondering if it is scripture or not. That in addition to the weird idea that the reason it’s not going to be included in the D&C is because the Church doesn’t want to inconvenience us. It just smacks of opinion masquerading as authority.

  7. Silus Grok on February 13, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Do you know if anyone confronted the GA about his irresponsible remark?

  8. Nate Oman on February 13, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Doc: You raise an interesting question about the assumed audience for the Proclamation. I think that you are right to point out that it is addressed to “the World,” which implies that it is perhaps something different than the careful exegesis of the Doctrinal Exposition. In that case, how are we to understand it? Is it a scriptural text that simply hasn’t been canonized? Or is just a kind of collective sermon? If it is more like a sermon than an uncannonized section of the Doctrine & Covenants, then why exactly adopt this formal, collective voice? Why not simply preach sermons in the ordinary way? Do we think that the Proclamation, by virtue of its form, is really more likely to be noticed by the world than say general conference addresses?

    I am just trying to nail down the whats and whys of genre for the document.

  9. Margaret Young on February 13, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    The rare thing about the Proclamation is that it was presented first in the General Relief Society meeting, not in General Conference. It was later published in the _Ensign_. Did it gradually attain more official status? Suddenly, it was available for all living room walls, and it seemed that good Mormons were simply expected to display it somewhere in their homes.

  10. John Mansfield on February 13, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Some of you may also recall 1976 when visions by Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith, currently Sections 137 and 138 of the D&C, were accepted by the Church in conference as additions to the Pearl of Great Price. After that many members carried them around as inserts added to their scriptures.

  11. A. Nonny Mouse on February 13, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    One week in Sunday School the scriptural status of the Proclamation on the Family came up. Some people said it was, some people said it wasn’t. The question was finally presumed to be settled when a returning-home-for-the-holidays college student insisted that it was in fact scripture, because it was in her dad’s new scriptures.

    The Sunday School teacher said, “Well, there you have it. Everybody go out and buy new scriptures.”

    I’d gotten brand spanking new scriptures the week before, so I knew it was total hogwash, unless the student’s father had pasted the Proclamation into his own scriptures himself… But, I didn’t say anything because the Gospel Doctrine teacher was enough of a kook that I was in the habbit of biting my tongue on a regular basis during sunday school.

    It was just interesting to see how people assume things to be scriptures just because they’re official.

  12. Matt W. on February 13, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Julie, please elaborate on Gender Essentialism not being real. If you already have a post out there that does this, I’d love to read it.

  13. Mike Parker on February 13, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    This, of course, begs the question: What exactly is scripture?

    The concept is much more fluid in LDS thinking because of D&C 68:4. We have lots of things we call “scripture” that are not canonized. Some things are called scripture but only apply to certain people (patriarchal blessings are frequently put in this category). Some people raise Church handbooks and magazines to the level of scripture, while others are not so comfortable doing so.

    This is the tension of modern revelation: We constantly want to know what is “official,” but we also don’t want to restrain the Spirit when it teaches truth. So we have official Church proclamations (which we admit can contain errors) and personal revelation (in which everyone decides for him-/herself what is true).

  14. Steven B on February 13, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I have often heard people speak of the mention of gender essentialism in the Proclamation as a new doctrine. Elder Oaks, however, mentioned the concept in his 1993 General Conference address, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” referencing Talmage in the 1922 Millennial Star. He seemed to be answering the question of “gender confusion” mentioned in the previous paragraph.

  15. Seraphine on February 13, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Nate, the comparisons you make between the 1916 Proclamation and the current Proclamation on the Family are interesting. I think the current Proclamation functions differently than the 1916 one because while I think that the earlier document stabilized interpretations, I see the function of the current Proclamation as a prescription of a specific set of behaviors. I guess I’m wondering what “interpretations” are being “stabilized” with these prescriptions (or, perhaps you’re just referring to the parts of the Proclamation that talk about gender and the family in more general terms?).

    Anyway, I’m not finding fault with anything you said. I think I’m just trying to figure out how to make sense of a non-canonized document (because I, too, believe that the Proclamation has not been officially canonized) that prescribes behavior, since most of the literature that prescribes behavior *is* scripture.

  16. Matt Evans on February 13, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    The Proclamation isn’t just scripture, it’s uber-scripture, unless we adopt a narrow, officially-canonized definition of scripture. Over the past dozen years the Proclamation has been the focus of more Stake Conferences, Ward Conferences, Primary themes and high council talks than any part of the canon. It’s probably chosen as the theme for more conferences than passages from the OT and D&C combined. I’d say that the current state of the Mormon “scriptural canon” hierarchy, based on use and influence, is: Book of Mormon, New Testament, Family Proclamation, Pearl of Great Price, Old Testament, Doctrine & Covenants, and the apostles’ talks from the most recent conference.

  17. Nate Oman on February 13, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    “most of the literature that prescribes behavior *is* scripture.”

    I actually doubt that this is true. For example, our current practical understanding of the word of wisdom cannot be found in scriptural texts. The practice of vicarious sealings for the dead cannot be found in scriptural texts. The current practice of succession to the First Presidency cannot be found in scriptural texts. etc. etc.

    I suspect that most of our modes of prescribed behavior are best thought of as interpretations of (often) ambigious scriptural passages that are then authorized and routinize by various institutional practices.

  18. Rusty on February 13, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Matt, you’re not suggesting that just because of its high usage it should be considered scripture are you? If that were the case then some CS Lewis books and Rudyard Kipling poems would be scripture as well, right?

  19. BJohnson on February 13, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    As a survivor of law school, I agree that it would be a relatively painless process to produce “pocket parts” that could be shipped out to meetinghouse libraries for pasting into the backs of existing scriptures.

    In essence, the GA seems to be saying that the additional effort and expense potentially faced by the Saints in replacing their scriptures led the Prophet to graciously suspend the usual scriptural order of things and to produce “canon” without “canonization.”

    It seems to me that the Proclamation represents a recapitulation and a strong, timely reemphasis of core familial doctrines already well-known to the Church. Nothing in the Proclamation is “new” doctrine, to anyone who has listened to the brethren for the last two or three decades of his or her life. It is an emphatic policy statement. In my opinion, its timing and the selection of its content were doubless inspired, but it is no more scripture than any of the other official policy pronouncements that come out of the office of the First Presidence from time to time. If canonization is desired, the process to accomplish it is readily available and doubtless would meet with success.

  20. Matt W. on February 13, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I think the question of whether the ProconFam is scripture or not is much less valuable than the question of whether or not it is God’s message to us or not.

  21. Kevin Barney on February 13, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Nate, I agree with you that the Proclamation is an interpretive document. It is my understanding (based on extemporaneous comments from a visiting authority) that somewhere in the COB is a file cabinet just filled with corroborative references. There are no footnotes to the Proclamation, but the approach in drafting it was to require that every single statement could be supported by multiple scriptural loci. These supporting documents were actually collected as a sort of supporting back up to the Proc. I believe the apostle’s testimony of Jesus proclamation was crafted in the same way, and that it has its own filing cabinet in someone’s office.

    If this little faith promoting rumor is true, then it strikes me more as an interpretive document than a revelation in its own right. It seems more scribal than prophetic.

  22. bbell on February 13, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    In a general sense here is what I am taking from the comments above.

    1. Commentators who in general support church teachings on gender roles & sexuality like the Proc. and like to think that its on its way to “cannonization”

    2. Commentators with more nuanced opinions on the same teachings dislike elements of the Proc and are quick to take a more nuanced view on the status of the Proc itself.

    So I find myself in camp #1 based on my personal views and the summation of the issue in #16

    I suspect that if and when the Proc is printed and put right after OD2 in the triple combination that those in camp 1 will be happy and those in camp 2 will be upset. We could get a 500 comment flame war the next day as those in camp 2 express disappointment and threaten to decamp to the local Unitarian congregation :)

  23. Matt W. on February 13, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    bbell, I like and agree with “the Proc”, but I don’t think it should go into the cannon as is, as it weakens the precedent for what else should and can go into the cannon. (Maybe it could make it into the POGP, which is sort of the LDS apocrypha anyway…)

  24. bbell on February 13, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Matt,

    I am hearing your point and your making a great deal of sense. Its not section 138 or OD2 after all. Its not a specific revelation its an interpretation like what Kevin says.

    I think it will go in as a reaction to the current condition of the world. A this is where we stand type of statement. There are a lot of commentators that point to the timing of the proc to coincide with the HI vote on SSM.

    It may happen as soon as Pres Hinckley passes.

  25. Doc on February 13, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Nate (#8),
    The formal collective voice seems to me to indicate that we should indeed take it seriously, like an uncannonized section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It seems to me that GBH has said as much at general conference, although I would have to look it up and am too lazy to do that right this second. Didn’t the first presidency make a statement about having this document displayed in your home and making a serious study of it? Or is my imagination running away from me.

  26. Seraphine on February 13, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Nate, I amend what I said earlier. There are a lot of prescriptive statements that aren’t scriptural. Still, I still think a lot of prescriptive stuff we get today (that isn’t scripture) is clarification of prescriptions that are in scripture (i.e. your Word of Wisdom example), and I don’t see the Proclamation on the Family as doing that (there is very little scriptural reference for the familial models and roles outlined in the Proclamation–the first related scripture that pops into mind is D&C 132, and the family model there seems pretty distant from the model in the Proclamation on the Family), As for your other examples, I’m assume they are not included in scripture becasue they are texts that are sacred and not circulated in public circles.

    I suspect that most of our modes of prescribed behavior are best thought of as interpretations of (often) ambigious scriptural passages that are then authorized and routinize by various institutional practices.

    So, in your mind, what ambiguous scriptural passages are we “interpreting” with the Proclamation on the Family? Or, to rephrase, what scriptures might be cited in Kevin Barney’s hypothetical file cabinet? :)

  27. Matt Evans on February 13, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Rusty, I’m using “scripture” as being broader than the official canon. If only those things that have been officially canonized are scripture, then there’s no point to wondering whether the Proclamation is scripture. If we use the definition from D&C 68:4, “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord,” then I think it’s clear, from the emphasis placed on it by the brethren, that they believe it’s a prototypical example of scripture defined in D&C 68. And while several lines from C. S. Lewis and poets are quoted routinely, they aren’t made the theme for a high percentage of conferences and sacrament meetings.

    If they weren’t moved upon by the Holy Ghost to write it, or in what to write, then it’s merely a creed. By the same reasoning I would argue that the Doctrinal Exposition is also scripture. There’s no time the prophets are “acting as prophets” more than when they authoritatively and unanimously speak about the nature of God.

  28. DavidH on February 13, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Another semi-canonical work seems to be For the Strength of the Youth. It, too, is largely interpretive, but it has been revised at least once (among other things toning down some harsh language about homosexuality). True to the Faith also seems on its way to becoming authoritative as well.

  29. Ardis Parshall on February 13, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    I wouldn’t put For the Strength of Youth in anything like the same category as the Proclamation, which is addressed to the whole world and discussed by the entire membership. FtSoY is more like the missionary handbook (do they still call it the Little White Bible?) — aimed at a specific and very limited slice of the church body, and “binding,” to whatever sense it is authoritative, for a limited time. That isn’t to say that the principles either booklet espouses aren’t generally wise, but they don’t necessarily apply to other age groups — At 40+, I don’t suppose anybody would strongly advise me to limit my social life to group dates, or to keep my teenage curfew, and obviously I’m no longer bound to write to my mission president weekly.

  30. J. Stapley on February 13, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    There are plenty proclamations by the govern councils in our history. How many people know of any of them? I think Nate is spot on in his analysis of the proclamation on the family. Both OD1 and OD2 have revelatory backing. If Kevin’s apocryphal cabinet does exist, I would love to see some of the entries.

  31. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 13, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Nate, any speculations about why the Proclamation was introduced as it was? It was pretty much under the radar for a while after its first reading; were members just slow on the uptake, or can we discern something intentional about the slow(ish) release?

  32. Christian on February 13, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    The proclamation on the family is framed as a PROCLAMATION from the First Presidency “TO THE WORLD.” In my mind, that gives the Proclamation *more* authority than anything in the Doctrine and Covenants, not less authority. This is living scripture written to us today in this time.

  33. Doc on February 13, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Kristine,
    Okay, I did the search. Looking back at conference addresses, In the General Women’s conference one year following, President Faust made the statement, “A year ago in this meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, announced and read the Proclamation on the Family. Because you mothers are the heart and soul of any family, it was appropriate that it was first read in the General Relief Society Meeting.” it appears that it was introduced at Women’s conference in part to emphasize how important Motherhood is. The optimist would state this was done to recognize faithful women for their value and importance in God’s scheme. The cynic would state it was done to keep women in line. Either way, it seems to me a move to boost the importance of the General Women’s conference in importance and esteem.
    The April conference following the release, President Hinckley made this statement “I salute fathers and mothers who are loyal to one another and who nurture their children in faith and love. There has been a wonderful response to the Proclamation on the Family, which we issued last October. We hope you will read it and reread it.” Several of the twelve made reference to it directly in their addresses in that conference.
    It has only gained momentum from there, showing up in lesson manuals, with instructions to distribute copies to class members, and has been referred to frequently over and over and over and over again in conference by GAs and auxilliary presidencies nearly every year since. I don’t think it is quite accurate to see it as starting inconspicuously and snowballing. It seems apparent to me that it was felt by the leadership to be important early on.

  34. J. Stapley on February 13, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Christian, is that kind of like the 1845 PROCLAMATION to TO THE WORLD?

  35. Left Field on February 13, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    In 1980, a portion of the Sesquicentennial general conference was held in Fayette, NY. President Kimball asked Elder Hinckley to read a proclamation to the world from the First Presidency and the Twelve. You can read the proclamation in the May 1980 Ensign*. Being an enthusiastic missionary at the time, I thought this was Way Cool. Not so much the content as just the fact that proclamation had been issued. It was the first formal proclamation since the 19th century. Wow. And to think it happened in our lifetime! But whenever I mentioned the proclamation and how incredibly significant I thought it was, all I got was yawns, shrugs, and blank stares. It seems to have been forgotten by the time Brothers Hinckley and Kimball got back to Salt Lake after the conference.

    Eventually I got older and more jaded and decided everyone else was right. Maybe the proclamation wasn’t that big of a deal after all.

    When the next proclamation was issued, I read it, and then yawned and shrugged, figuring that it would be forgotten within days just like the last one. A hundred years without a proclamation and now we do them every 15 years? I guess it wasn’t exactly the once-in-a-lifetime event I thought it was back in 1980. But suddenly the whole church was a-twitter. “A proclamation from the First Presidency! Who would have thought it in our lifetime!” Framed copies appeared everywhere. People couldn’t quit talking about it.

    I confess to being a little irritated. It was everyone else’s indifference that finally convinced me that a proclamation was No Big Deal after all. Now suddenly, everyone thinks I should call it scripture and put it in a frame. I decided I was done changing my perspective to conform to the crowd. Maybe I’ll change my mind when people start framing the 1980 proclamation and telling me it’s scripture.

    I guess my current view is that a proclamation is a fairly significant statement, but not scripture. I don’t see any reason to regard the proclamation on the family as being any more scriptural than any of the previous proclamations. If it is to be regarded as canon, it will need to be canonized like everything else.

    ======
    *I’d include a link, but there is no obvious mechanism for doing so. Yet I see some links in other comments. How is this done? Did I miss a proclamation on the subject?

  36. Gilgamesh on February 13, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Speaking to the revelatory aspect of canonized scripture. Section 135 is not a specific revelation, but a eulogy – yet it is canonized as scripture. In fact – the heading states only…

    “Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, at Carthage, Illinois, June 27, 1844. HC 6: 629–631. This document was written by Elder John Taylor of the Council of the Twelve, who was a witness to the events.”

    The Proclamation on the Family sets forth some standards of doctrine which are not clearly stated in the scripture. This would fit easily into the “doctrine” side of the Doctrine and Covenants.

  37. Richard O. on February 13, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    How long did it take for Joseph F. Smiith’s vision of the redeption of the dead to become D.&C. 138? Perhaps this will be the path “TheProclamation” takes after several decades. Some proclamations (the “recent” one on priesthood) become scripture fast. Others take longer. Observations on why the difference?

  38. The Dead Plant on February 13, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    What about passages in the scriptures that don\’t seem to be part of our current \”canon\” anymore, even though they remain in the scriptures?

    I\’ve been told we like to keep the King James Bible because then we match everyone else. So, I suppose, all weirdnesses in the Bible can be written off that way.

    But, what about, for example, the latter half of Doctrine and Covenants 132?

  39. Julie M. Smith on February 14, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Re Stephen B. in #14: I don’t disagree with Elder Oaks. Perhaps we need some new words: I believe gender to exist in pre and port mortal states. (Which is all Elder Oaks says.) But usually when the term is used, it means that one believes that certain emotions, virtues, capacities, (nonphysical) traits, etc., belong to one gender more than the other by cause of birth instead of culture and that I do not believe.

    /end threadjack

    “I\’ve been told we like to keep the King James Bible because then we match everyone else.”

    I find this hard to believe given that virtually no one else uses the KJV anymore.

    Also: someone should write a dissertation on the role of HFPE Enrichment meetings dedicated to framing the Family Proc and their role in making it ‘official.’ (I have no beef against the content of the Family Proc, but I think framing it and putting it on the wall is weird. So sue me.)

  40. MikeInWeHo on February 14, 2007 at 4:12 am

    re: 31

    The timing and use of the Proclamation seems clearly tied to American politics, especially the SSM issue in Hawaii (who even remembers that???!) as noted above. It provides quasi-scriptural support for right-wing politics, which is quite sad and can only weaken the Church in the long run.

    Please see my very first Bloggernacle post on a related topic, here:

    http://ldsliberationfront.net/

  41. Christian on February 14, 2007 at 4:50 am

    #40: I’m sorry if the prophesy doesn’t meet with your political approval, but it seems foolish to imagine that revelation isn’t supposed to respond to actual events on earth. Those who have paid attention to news outside the USA know that the movement to neuter the definition of marriage extends beyond “American politics.” This isn’t the first time that prophesy has come in response to other events and movements; it often happened that way in earlier dispensations as well as during Joseph Smith’s time.

  42. Christian on February 14, 2007 at 4:59 am

    All this talk about previous proclamations, yawns, and scripture makes me think that some folks think this is some sort of fan club or collecting hobby rather than God’s true church. It doesn’t matter whether future times will hold this particular wording as scripture. Fact is that for now, it’s more relevant to us than anything in the D&C. That may also have been true about previous proclamations to those generations. The point of revelation isn’t to make you feel more important than other generations. It’s to help us to know God’s will, and to do it.

    What gets bound into the D&C appears to be the revelations that our leaders find valuable to all generations. Whether it gets bound up for future generations to read does not make a revelation any more or less relevant to the generation which receives the revelation.

  43. Steven B on February 14, 2007 at 5:39 am

    It provides quasi-scriptural support for right-wing politics. . .

    Indeed, it was even used in an amicus brief.

  44. Left Field on February 14, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Christian, I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that people who put framed copies of the proclamation on their wall are just displaying a collection or their membership in a proclamation fan club. They’re putting it on the wall because they think it’s important, and because they believe.

    But if the proclamation on the family really is scripture as some have suggested, or better than scripture, as others have said, then I don’t see any reason that the 1980 proclamation shouldn’t have equal billing. If God gives us two proclamations, it would seem a bit presumptuous for *us* to decide that only one is scripture and deserving of a frame. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that ignoring one or the other proclamation constitutes a rejection of “God’s true church.” I don’t think people consciously choose one proclamation over the other for their cafeteria tray. They’re not ignoring one proclamation because they’ve formed a fan club of the other. I think they ignore the 1980 proclamation mostly because they’re unaware of it.

  45. Matt Evans on February 14, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Left Field,

    *We* aren’t the ones who have emphasized the The Family Proclamation, the First Presidency and apostles have. By referring to it over and over, choosing it as the theme for many church meetings, and having it published in a framable format (it was either Hinckley or Faust that urged members to hang it in their homes), the First Presidency and apostles have made it abundantly clear they think this proclamation is a Big Deal. I don’t see any way that someone who believes the apostles are inspired, and that D&C 68 is inspired, can avoid concluding that the Proclamation is scripture.

  46. MikeInWeHo on February 14, 2007 at 11:52 am

    One can argue over whether it’s “scripture” or not, but I agree Matt than nobody can argue it represents the current, emphatic teaching of the leadership.

  47. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 14, 2007 at 11:55 am

    “I don’t see any way that someone who believes the apostles are inspired, and that D&C 68 is inspired, can avoid concluding that the Proclamation is scripture.”

    Matt, you lack imagination. : )

    Also, it doesn’t really matter whether we call it “scripture” or not. Leviticus is undoubtedly “scripture” as are Paul’s letters, as is the Proclamation on Jesus the Christ (even more recent than the Family one), and yet we find ways to explain them away or ignore the bits that don’t fit in with our current thinking/cultural understanding. Just deciding to call something “scripture” doesn’t solve the hermeneutic problems Nate’s getting at–it may even make them worse.

  48. Nate Oman on February 14, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    It seems to me that we have at least five categories that folks are working with:

    – Inspired statements: statments that are not written in the first person with God speaking, but which are nevertheless a result of inspiration.

    – Revelations : statements written under the influence of the spirit with God speaking in the first person.

    – Canonized Texts: texts that have been formally accepted as part of the Standard Works.

    – Scripture: An unclear category, but it seems to me something like inspired statements and revelations with general authority.

    – Church Doctrine: Something that I would defines as the integrated interpretation of all of the above.

    It seems to me that these five categories overlap a great deal with one another, but they are not all identical and each standing alone probably has different meanings and uses. I suspect that a lot of the disagreement on this thread (although not all of it) has to do with equivication in how we are using words and a conflating of overlapping but different categories.

  49. DavidH on February 14, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Re 43, Steven B.

    Thanks for posting the link to the Church’s brief in the case citing the Proclamation. I have heard some claim that one of the motivations of issuing the Proclamation at the time was to provide in one place a current statement of the Church’s position on family issues which could be cited in the Hawaii litigation regarding same-sex marriage. Do you have any more information regarding that theory?

    To me, the Proclamation is somewhat akin to section 134, a declaration of belief, and the former section 103, statement on marriage, that was removed in 1876, and replaced by section 132. That is, as Nate states, they were interpretive statements of existing understandings rather than purporting to be revelations of new doctrine. Of course, the Proclamation has not yet received a sustaining vote by the membership of the Church to be added formally to the canon, which is the normal procedure.

    Interestingly, the Proclamation itself makes no direct statement about whether recognizing same-sex domestic partnerships or marriages is good or bad. It does, however, provide a platform for making that argument–although I am not sure that platform is any stronger than the Bible (the Books of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants seem to be largely, if not entirely, silent about homosexuality).

    I agree with Ardis that the Strength of Youth stands on a different footing from the Proclamation on the Family because of its intended audience. But my experience as a youth leader for many years suggests that, for the youth, the pamphlet is becoming treated by the Church as quasi-canonical. Thus, they are encouraged to carry around in their wallets or purses an abbreviated “wallet/purse” version to remind them of the principles (a quasi-mezuzah?). To receive the Duty to God award, the young men are to read and discuss the pamphlet regularly with their parents and families.

  50. Matt Evans on February 14, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Kristine, the logic of my assertion is:

    P1 — What leaders say when inspired by Holy Ghost is scripture (D&C 68)
    P2 — FP and apostles are inspired by Holy Ghost when they’re acting as prophets
    P3 — When all 15 living apostles solemnly declare in their capacity as living apostles, they’re acting as prophets
    P4 — FP and apostles solemnly declared Proclamation
    C — Therefore, Proclamation is scripture

    Not having taken a formal logic class I don’t know that my structure is sound, but that’s the basis of it. Which point do you believe is the weak link?

    Nate,

    Your effort to define categories is helpful. I would assign them differently, collapsing 1 and 2 together (I don’t see how it matters whether the prophet writes it in the first or third person — is “the spirit of the Lord came unto me and said, infant baptism is an abomination” an example of God speaking in the first or third person? So long as the author is inspired, the formulation itself seems immaterial to me.)

    “The general authority” qualification to distinguish scripture from revelation is helpful, as it helps distinguish private vs public revelation, though the canonized personal revelations in the D&C complicate the issue. How are we to know which promises or instructions made to Thomas Marsh are of general applicability? (This is problematic whether or not the revelation has been canonized.)

    Regarding the Proclamation, I still believe it meets your scripture definition, if its writers are assumed to be inspired, as it specifically claims general authority.

    The Strength of Youth is different not only in that it’s a reductionist manual for youth, like the Gospel Principles book, but most importantly in the language used to support its use. The Proclamation, by contrast, is neither reductionist (here I part with Nate), and contains the emphatic, and to me crucial, “FP and QA solemnly declare” introductory support. To me there is no clearer language the prophets could use to claim they are “acting as prophets.” It’s the modern equivalent of “thus saith the Lord.”

  51. Kevin Barney on February 14, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Our Stake prepared a “Proclamation to the Young Women of the Schaumburg Illinois Stake.” It was written out on nice, poster-sized parchment paper, signed by all of the then young men of the stake (they did this a few years ago), a la the Declaration of Independence, and framed. It is on the wall near the stake offices to this day. The content is stuff about the young men promising to treat the young women with respect, stuff like that.

    So it is interesting to me the kind of influence the Proclamation to the Family is starting to have, since this was obviously seen as a good model for this local document.

  52. Matt W. on February 14, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Kevin, sometimes in the corporate world, this is termed the compilation of a mission statement, where all the people on a given team sign a document as a form of covenant or contract to make it more binding upon themselves as to what they are all “about”.

    That said, we did sometihng similar in the MTC in our district, at the request of our branch president.

    I am not sure the PoF can be viewed as a mission statement or not, but it is definitely an interesting and useful analogy.

  53. DavidH on February 14, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Re: status of Strength of Youth

    The preface on the Church’s website for the pamphlet “For the Strength of Youth” states, in the second sentence:

    “The information in this section was reviewed, accepted, and endorsed by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,30-1-7-1,00.html

    The pamphlet, like the Proclamation, therefore is something specifically endorsed by both the First Presidency and the 12. Given that those quorums are supposed to act unanimously, D&C 107:27, I think it fair to infer that the pamphlet is endorsed by all 15 living apostles. I suppose the words “reviewed, accepted, and endorsed” may be weaker than “solemnly declare”, but they seem pretty close. Thus, it may well meet P3 and P$ of Matt’s syllogism.

    I do not see such an endorsement in the “reductionist” Gospel Principles manuals. I have not checked the Church’s other publications to see which ones have an explicit endorsement by the First Presidency and the 12, but I expect there are very few.

  54. Matt Evans on February 14, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    DavidH,

    Thanks for that leg work. While the endorsement of the Strength of Youth is meaningful, and certainly included to impress on youth the seriousness of its contents, the brethren’s involvement is passive, and didn’t even write it.

  55. A. Nonny Mouse on February 14, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    That said, we did sometihng similar in the MTC in our district, at the request of our branch president.

    When I was in the MTC we wrote a proclamation on the proper use of the bathroom on paper towels, had it laminated, and then posted it outside. There were some missionaries doing some ridiculous things, which I won’t mention here. At any rate, we had a handing down ceremony to the next generation of elders who took over our quarters before we left.

    I don’t believe we were purposefully entoning the trappings of the Proclamation on the Family when we wrote it, but looking back I suppose you could read it that way.

    Oh, and our branch president had nothing to do with it, we were just sick of disgusting uses of the bathroom.

  56. Sarah on February 14, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I don’t generally think of anything that wasn’t presented to everyone to raise their hands over in General Conference, as scripture. Probably because I’m really only familiar with the “they took the Lectures on Faith out for that reason” issue, and we don’t have a great council of scholars to formally analyze current and ancient texts and tell us they’re scripture (or not.)

    On the other hand, this year’s Primary program includes, amongst 11 monthly “I’d call them scriptures” excerpts, the following (assigned to July):

    “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ” (“Proclamation on the Family,” paragraph 7)

    We recite the monthly scripture every week for that month; this year’s lineup includes John 3:16 and Matthew 5:16. There’s a whole ritual with opening the books and figuring what page this month’s scripture is on. I don’t know how we’re going to have the kids look this one up, when we get to that point — maybe the Primary will give all the kids miniaturized Proclamations to put in their scriptures.

    (I’ve only got records for the last three years, but none of those years had anything outside of the Standard Works in the list.)

  57. Silus Grok on February 14, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    #54… Matt, you understand that the PoTF was also not written by the brethren, right? My understanding is that it was drafted by a couple of committees.

  58. Bookslinger on February 14, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    As far as I know, the proclamation on the family is the first official publication of the church, post-correlation, that states we have heavenly parents, plural. I think we can say that Heavenly Mother is official doctrine now.

  59. Christian on February 14, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I said: “All this talk about previous proclamations, yawns, and scripture makes me think that some folks think this is some sort of fan club or collecting hobby rather than God’s true church.”

    Someone else misconstrued: “Christian, I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that people who put framed copies of the proclamation on their wall are just displaying a collection or their membership in a proclamation fan club.”

    I have no idea at all how you construed that from what I said. I was poking fun of those that were expressing “yawns” at prophesy just because the church hadn’t packaged the Proclamation into the D&C.

    “But if the proclamation on the family really is scripture as some have suggested, or better than scripture, as others have said,”

    If you understood that’s what I was saying, then I *really* don’t see how you could honestly construe what I said as you did.

    “then I don’t see any reason that the 1980 proclamation shouldn’t have equal billing.”

    Toto, I don’t think we’re in 1980 any more. And we’re not dealing with constitutional rights here; we don’t have to make everything rigidly “equal.” If it’s as relevant or more releavant than the Proclamaiton on the Family, then the church would probably be continuing to quote it prolifically. Maybe it is and I’ve missed something. Or maybe someone erred and Jesus will scold us like he scolded the Nephites for not canonizing the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite. But even if you’re upset about what you consider neglect of previous proclamations, that’s no excuse to degrade or trivialize current prophesy delivered by the church to our generation.

    AFAIK Bookslinger correctly states that “the proclamation on the family is the first official publication of the church, post-correlation, that states we have heavenly parents, plural. I think we can say that Heavenly Mother is official doctrine now.” I’m hard-pressed to think of a more doctrinally significant event in the last 50 years.

  60. Susan S on February 15, 2007 at 1:40 am

    How about: scripture is what wins? Maybe that’s it.

    What wins? To get to that, there’s a lot of chance in the middest. Chance is what makes this all so very interesting. . . . .

  61. Matt Evans on February 15, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Silus, it’s my understanding that it’s your understanding that the brethren didn’t write the Proclamation on the Family.

  62. Day on February 15, 2007 at 2:05 am

    Thank you, Julie M. Smith, for the clarification about gender you posted in #39. I don’t think that was the complete threadjack you labeled it to be.
    Oman’s posting reads “Canonization, it seems to me, is about creating the possibility of shared interpretations by providing us something to interpret.” So, if I’m reading this correctly, how the Proclamation is interpreted is relevant to the question of its role as either sacred doctrinal scripture or as just an authoritative clarification of the church’s position.
    This leads me to something I’ve been wondering–how do other wards and members interpret the Proclamation? The only way I have heard it read is within talks that are basically built around the premise of “Women should not work outside the home,” and I have twice seen this concept taken to what I consider ridiculous lengths. I know a couple where the wife took a job outside the home after the children had all moved out of it, and ward members continually felt the need to “remind” her of the Proclamation, as a reason why she should not be working outside the home. I know another couple that does not have children yet, the husband has recently been laid off; they are having trouble making their house payments; the wife has two college degrees and could easily go back to the job she had before they married. Why doesn’t she? Because, according to her, that would violate the Proclamation to the Family, which she compared to violating a commandment. So that’s how I’ve seen the Proclamation interpreted–I’m hoping it might be different in other places.
    In our last ward they had the YW get up and recite the ENTIRE Proclamation in Sacrament meeting. The YM didn’t, because they were not required to memorize it. No one could give me a coherent explanation for why this was.
    And Julie M. Smith, I have now twice participated in church activities whose sole purpose was to beautify the Proclamation to the Family document. The sealer in the temple handed a copy of it to me after our marriage and suggested we frame it and hang it on the wall. (Which we did, but it got lost in the move.)

  63. Slush on February 15, 2007 at 2:45 am

    #57—\”As far as I know, the proclamation on the family is the first official publication of the church, post-correlation, that states we have heavenly parents, plural. I think we can say that Heavenly Mother is official doctrine now.\”

    Say what? Gospel Principles has made reference to heavenly PARENTS for as long as I can remember, and it\’s the ultimate triumph of correlation.

    Try chapter 2: Our Heavenly Family; see http://tinyurl.com/357due

  64. Slush on February 15, 2007 at 2:47 am

    #57—\\\”As far as I know, the proclamation on the family is the first official publication of the church, post-correlation, that states we have heavenly parents, plural. I think we can say that Heavenly Mother is official doctrine now.\\\”

    Say what? Gospel Principles has made reference to heavenly PARENTS for as long as I can remember, and it\\\’s the ultimate triumph of correlation.

    Try Chapter 2: Our Heavenly Family; see http://tinyurl.com/357due

  65. m&m on February 15, 2007 at 3:16 am

    I think they ignore the 1980 proclamation mostly because they’re unaware of it.

    Isn’t that because our leaders have focused so much more on the 1995 Proclamation?

  66. m&m on February 15, 2007 at 3:32 am

    oops…62, I ended up repeating what someone already said. Sorry.

    This leads me to something I’ve been wondering–how do other wards and members interpret the Proclamation?

    You might be interested in this story, as an example of how it has been interpreted and applied by at least one member in facing various difficult family situations.

    While the endorsement of the Strength of Youth is meaningful, and certainly included to impress on youth the seriousness of its contents, the brethren’s involvement is passive, and didn’t even write it.

    I think maybe that’s only sorta true. I’ve noticed things that are nearly lifted from talks from Conference. The chastity section closely resembles talks given by Elder Scott, for example. Makes me suspect that a lot of research of the words of the apostles and prophets went into that little book….

  67. m&m on February 15, 2007 at 3:39 am

    I think my comment got eaten. …trying again….

    Sorry for saying what was already said in 62.

    how do other wards and members interpret the Proclamation?

    You might enjoy reading this.

    While the endorsement of the Strength of Youth is meaningful, and certainly included to impress on youth the seriousness of its contents, the brethren’s involvement is passive, and didn’t even write it.

    I tend to think this may only be partly true. They may not have penned the pamphlet itself, but I have seen things in the booklet that are basically words from Conference. (The chastity section, for example, can be traced back to talk(s) by Elder Scott.) I suspect that there was a lot of research into prophetic teachings, so I’m apt to think that there are more of their words than we might think.

  68. m&m on February 15, 2007 at 3:40 am

    [Hmmm...posted a comment a couple of times, got eaten. Had a link in it...maybe it's in the spam filter?]

  69. KyleM on February 15, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Re: 1980 Proclamation. The 1980 proclamation was much different and at a much different time. It was at the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church. It was a collection of quoted scripture and a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. I assure you that the quoted quotes are still quoted today. It is valuable, but basically a glossy brochure of our core beliefs.

    The 1995 Proclamation addresses specific political and social issues that are at the forefront of social conscious. Some of these topics are the key issue to many single-issue voters. Some, including most GAs, want a constitutional amendment regarding a specific issue hinted at in the proclamation. Since the subject is a current hot topic inside and outside the church, it is natural that the 1995 proclamation would be quoted often.

  70. Christian on February 15, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    “In our last ward they had the YW get up and recite the ENTIRE Proclamation in Sacrament meeting. The YM didn’t, because they were not required to memorize it. No one could give me a coherent explanation for why this was.”

    Who is “they”? Not the central church, because I didn’t see it in my ward. If it was a YW program, conceived by your local YW leaders, then that’s your answer right there. Otherwise it came from your Bishop, and then he’s the one you should go to for a coherent answer.

    I have no idea how anyone could get “women should not work” out of the proclamation on the family.

  71. Brad Kramer on February 15, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I think the PoF’s significance lies in the fact that it reifies and on some level essentializes gender. Social theory has been telling us for years that gender and sexuality are socially constructed and that biological sex is not nearly as diadic as human tradition would have us believe. I understand the PoF as emphasizing two important things: first, gender (and by implication sexuality) are eternal, immutable qualities and that gender (addressed explicitly) and sexuality (addressed implicitly) are not divorcible one from another; second, gender (and, again, by implication biological sex) is at its core, in fact, diadic.
    As far as its being scripture or not scripture, I’m not sure one can pin down its technical status. To me, it feels like scripture because it does for me what scripture does. It speaks with an authoritative voice, comes from an authoritative source, and engages me spiritually and intellectually. I think the document raises as many questions as it settles (if not more) and demands precisely the kind of serious contemplation that scripture does. Which is all a way of saying that regardless of its technical status (which I don’t really care about) for me the PoF is qualitatively scripture-like enough that I tend to think of it as scripture. And like all scripture, I don’t simply take the most superficial reading, file it somewhere in my brain somewhere, then turn off my thinking cap. I explore the un-said, the implied, the difficult, and the contradictory–to wrestle with the difficult questions scripture constantly raises and, hopefully, to do so under the direction of the spirit.

  72. Nick Literski on February 15, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    “I understand the PoF as emphasizing two important things: first, gender (and by implication sexuality) are eternal, immutable qualities and that gender (addressed explicitly) and sexuality (addressed implicitly) are not divorcible one from another; second, gender (and, again, by implication biological sex) is at its core, in fact, diadic.”

    The PoF says that gender is eternal, yes. I think, however, that you leap when you suggest that such a statement automatically implies a particular sexuality. I am quite comfortable with my male gender. I certainly have no desire to change my male gender. I also, however, happen to be gay. The misconception that gay men and lesbians are “gender confused” (a phrase used in some LDS and other evangelical writings) or that they wish to be the opposite gender, is simply untrue.

  73. Brad Kramer on February 15, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Nick,
    I’m not saying how I feel about the implications, I’m simply saying that my sense is that the document seeks to articulate a structured, systematic theological framework that on some level grants gender an ontological status while simultaneously (though implicitly) collapsing the difference between gender, biological sex, and sexuality. Much is left to the imagination, but I suspect that the brethren in this case imagine (and expect members to imagine) that biological sex=eternal gender which includes heterosexual orientation, thereby relegating homosexual desire to the category of earthly impediments, disabilities, deformities, etc. Because I don’t jump from the explicit statement on the eternal nature of gender to the above-mentioned implications uncritically, I accept the PoF on the terms articulated in my earlier post without thinking that homosexuality is a conscious act of rebellion or a birth defect and without desiring to outlaw gay marriage or some form of same-sex unions.

  74. danithew on February 15, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I think the Proclamation on the Family is important but sometimes the emphasis that some people put on it, perhaps over-emphasis, smacks of some kind of extra interpretation that is happening. It’s almost as if by advocating the Proclamation on the Family, some people are congratulating themselves for having adhered to correct standards or interpretations that they feel are supported by the Family Proclamation. I’ve heard of ward/stake leaders encouraging a ward or stake membership to memorize the Family Proclamation. That seems a little unusual to me.

    I get the feeling that the FP gets pulled in different directions, that as a text it is wrested to mean all kinds of things that simply aren’t there. I came to learn of one case where a parent, upset that his/her son wasn’t accepted into UofU medical school, mailed a copy of the Family Proclamation to a prominent (LDS) administrator in that school – to try to add emphasis to a political interpretation as a response to a perceived bias that didn’t even exist.

  75. Christian on February 15, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Much is left to the imagination, but I suspect that the brethren in this case imagine (and expect members to imagine) that biological sex=eternal gender which includes heterosexual orientation, thereby relegating homosexual desire to the category of earthly impediments, disabilities, deformities, etc.

    And IMO that’s exactly why the church can’t bind the proclamation on the family into scripture yet, even though as a current proclamation it’s more important than scripture. People — even many those who claim to believe it — are too busy second-guessing the Brethren to determine what they “really meant.” That’s not how a believing people treats scripture.

    The movement to neuter marriage ultimately has little to do with homosexuality. Gays and their families are just being cynically used as part of a program to strip marriage of meaning and public support. Next they’ll be using the pligs, and then other groups. It’s not ultimately about helping any particular group; it’s about what Gloria Steinem called breaking the link between sexual relationships and child-raising.

    “The misconception that gay men and lesbians are “gender confused” (a phrase used in some LDS and other evangelical writings) or that they wish to be the opposite gender, is simply untrue.”

    Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s untrue. The proclamation doesn’t shed any light on this, and science isn’t giving any answers either. Both sides on this question argue dogmatically without factual basis, and a few of us sit on the fence, waiting for science or revelation to shed some light on the matter.

  76. Greg B. on February 15, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    “Gays and their families are just being cynically used as part of a program to strip marriage of meaning and public support. Next they’ll be using the pligs, and then other groups. It’s not ultimately about helping any particular group; it’s about what Gloria Steinem called breaking the link between sexual relationships and child-raising.”

    Christian, can you please offer a little more insight into where you’re headed? Who is “they” and what evidence is there that “they” successfully break the link between raising kids and sexual relationships?

  77. Christian on February 15, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Nice try, Greg. Why don’t you ask them yourself. This appears to be their home page: http://www.beyondmarriage.org/

    If you do a bit of research into the official face of the ssm movement, you’ll see some of them are angry that the others went public with this so early in the game, but to my knowledge none of the leaders of the ssm movement is seriously disputing that this is the real goal. Some of the rank and file are pretty surprised though: same sex couples and their families who thought that this was actually about securing rights for them.

    I never said that they would be successful, but Gloria Steinem (part of the movement that I linked you to) outlined that as the objective a few years ago, and this new page seems consistent with that.

  78. Rand on February 15, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Really, what is the difference between Canon and the inspired declaration? Are not both truth.

  79. Day on February 16, 2007 at 2:04 am

    Thank you, Christian of #70 for writing “I have no idea how anyone could get “women should not work” out of the proclamation on the family,” and thanks, m&m for that Ensign article link in #66. It really helps me to know that I am not alone in thinking certain people are way off about the Proc. (People like the man in my parents’ ward, who said that his wife “really needed to read what is written in the Proclamation to the Family” when she hired a landscaper to do the yardwork he’d been putting off for too long although he’d told her not to. I really was upset about the implication that the Proc. says women shouldn’t do things without their husband’s permission–I may know that it doesn’t say that, but he seemed to know just as clearly that it does. His wife, incidentally, has a calling in the Primary, and when the Bishop asked the Primary to memorize the Proc., she made a mild comment, “But it isn’t scripture, is it?”) So thanks for the link to that meaningful Ensign article, which tells how the Proc. helped a man work through family problems. (Although that all caps “MEMORIZE” part seemed a bit, I don’t know, cult-ish.) But that article gives me a new way to look at the Proc., and so I won’t wince or roll my eyes when people praise it with such strange intensity in church. (Actually, that hasn’t happened since I moved outside of UT.)

  80. Rich on February 16, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    The PotF is merely another indicator, like KSL airing of Sean Hannity every afternoon, that even the brethren can be ignorant anti-science Republicans like most of the population of Utah. GA’s are men, clearly capable of making mistakes. Time to pull back on the deification status — they are sincere, honest, wonderful guys, who are admirably devoted to serving the Lord as best they know how. But they are still men, and as long as they, intentionally or unintentionally, remain ignorant (and in some cases, arrogantly disdainful) of scientific discovery, they will make mistakes in some of their conclusions. The pervasive anti-evolutionary sentiment still found in the church is another example of the collective ignorance of scientific discovery that leads to the promotion and dissemination of false doctrine, however widely accepted, in the Lord’s “true” Church.

  81. Matt Evans on February 16, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Rich, there’s nothing anti-science in the Proclamation, and no scientific discovery challenging the validity of the Proclamation the brethren could be ignorant of.

  82. Christian on February 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Maybe if we all memorized the Proc., it would be harder for Brother Priestcraft to run around saying that it meant that his wife couldn’t do stuff without his permission.

    #80, Rich, please actually quote the portion of the Proc. that you’re claiming is “anti-science.” I’m unaware of any “science” with regard to pre-mortal spirits, prophesy, or the state of people in the eternities.

    If you’re referring to the scientific fact that a tiny minority of persons that come out ambiguously sexed, that’s not ignorance. That’s standard church policy to focus on the general rule rather than on the marginal exceptions. The new PC postmodern version of sex that centers on the marginal exceptions is not a science; that’s an alien religion.

  83. Rich on February 16, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Yup, so long as you’re just part of the standard ruled mainstream, the Great Plan of Happiness applies, otherwise you’re just an insignificant, “tiny minority”, not even on God’s radar, not worth spit on a hot summer’s sidewalk. Might as well go kill yourself and do the normal rest of us a favor so we can continue to generalize about the eternities.

    “The misconception that gay men and lesbians are “gender confused” (a phrase used in some LDS and other evangelical writings) or that they wish to be the opposite gender, is simply untrue.”

    Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s untrue. The proclamation doesn’t shed any light on this, and science isn’t giving any answers either. Both sides on this question argue dogmatically without factual basis, and a few of us sit on the fence, waiting for science or revelation to shed some light on the matter.

    Here’s a start for you fence-sitters waiting for further light and knowledge on one aspect of scientific inquiry. The ALL and EACH specified in the second sentence of the PotF certainly does NOT apply to that tiny minority, however much you wish to trivialize them into anti-PC insignificance. Is it a lie? Is it gross insensitivity? I find what could have been a great document instead a sorry one, whose credibility is lost when it attempts to marginalize any amount, however tiny, of human life into alien irrelevance.

  84. Matt Evans on February 17, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    The ALL and EACH specified in the second sentence of the PotF certainly does NOT apply to that tiny minority, however much you wish to trivialize them into anti-PC insignificance.

    Rich, the Proclamation says ALL human beings are children of God, and that EACH of them is a *SPIRIT* son or daughter of heavenly parents. No scientific discovery responds to those claims. Yes, we don’t know the biological and mortal gender of some of God’s children, but you’ll notice that the Proclamation doesn’t claim that we know each human being’s sex. That’s an epistemological problem, not an ontological one, and it has no bearing on the Proclamation’s claim that every human being, even those whose gender is ambiguous to us, is either a spirit son or spirit daughter of God. Not only does the Proclamation not marginalize anyone, it is the most uplifting and ennobling doctrine possible: every human being is literal offspring of GOD.

  85. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 17, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    “the Bishop asked the Primary to memorize the Proc.,”

    ugh.

  86. Matt Evans on February 17, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    That, Kristine, is something I can agree with. The Bishop was probably just trying to brighten the rest of the ward with remembering that at least they’re not in Primary. Half of Primary kids never manage to memorize the Articles of Faith, and a quarter of my junior high history class couldn’t memorize the Gettysburg address. The Proclamation is more than twice as long (Proclamation’s 609 words to 278 at Gettysburg).

  87. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    “That, Kristine, is something I can agree with. ”

    Repent, everyone, the end is nigh!!

  88. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Yup, so long as you’re just part of the standard ruled mainstream, the Great Plan of Happiness applies, otherwise you’re just an insignificant, “tiny minority”, not even on God’s radar, not worth spit on a hot summer’s sidewalk. Might as well go kill yourself and do the normal rest of us a favor so we can continue to generalize about the eternities.

    That’s pretty psychotic, Rich. The Proc doesn’t answer your questions if you have ambiguous genitalia, but if you’re reading it as some instruction to go commit suicide, then you should seek medical attention. Those voices are not your friends.

    As for homosexuality, the proc doesn’t address that. The Proc is about sex and gender.

    “The ALL and EACH specified in the second sentence of the PotF certainly does NOT apply to that tiny minority, however much you wish to trivialize them into anti-PC insignificance.”

    What are you talking about? Have you confused homosexuality (which is not a tiny minority) with intersexed genitalia, which is the tiny minority that I was speaking of?

    There is no “attempt” to marginalize. The Proc, like other revelations, deals with the general rule. No one is “insignificant;” we simply don’t have all the answers yet. Could be that physically intersexed persons have a chance to choose their sexual identity, and that this will become an eternal part of their nature. That’s significant to their story and to God, but not to the general story of nations and the world.

    The fact that everything isn’t about *you* isn’t some suicide mandate, Rich. There are plenty of college communities that entertain the belief that homosexuality is the center of the universe, and that all knowledge and history sits on the fulcrum of homosexual identity. If you’re waiting for the church to start tooting that horn, you’re going to wait an awfully long time.

  89. Left Field on February 17, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    There are two distinct meanings to the term “scripture,” and it seems that some people may be talking past each other by conflating the meanings. In a broad sense, the term can apply to any inspired communication. If it comes from God, we can call it scripture. In this sense, scripture might include personal revelation, official statements, patriarchal blessings, canon, sermons, promptings, priesthood blessings, answers to prayer, personal journals, testimonies, or blog comments. If it’s inspired by God, it’s scripture. If it’s not, it isn’t. This is the meaning used in Section 68:4. But how do we know which blog comments are inspired and which aren’t? Simple. The Spirit testifies to us each individually. But what the Spirit tells me isn’t binding on you, and vice versa. That principle was taught by J. Reuben Clark.

    The other meaning of scripture is more or less synonymous with “canon.” These are writings which we have agreed are binding on the community. The distinction between these two meanings of scripture is supported by the article on scriptural authority in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

    When people say that the proclamation is scripture, I have no objection if they are referring to scripture in the general (Section 68:4) sense—that is, they are simply expressing a personal conviction that the document is inspired. But to my ears, when people say that the proclamation is scripture, it sounds like they are trying to hold it as binding on others. It feels like an attempt to make an illegitimate canonization through the back door.

    By referring to the Doctrine and Covenants, Nate’s visiting authority isn’t just saying the proclamation is inspired. He appears to be holding the text binding on the church as de facto canon. Nate doesn’t say whether his visiting authority was a general or area authority, but it really makes no difference. Neither one has the authority to make a text binding as scripture on the church unless specifically commissioned to do so by the president of the church (see J. R. Clark for reference). The church has very efficient means of communication with its members. If the First Presidency wants us to regard the proclamation as some sort of quasi-canon, they will not send a seventy to tell the Fargo North Dakota Stake, and then depend on internet rumors to spread the word throughout the rest of the church.

  90. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    LeftField, I agree that rumors of doctrines isn’t how the church sends out a message, but the church doesn’t use this word “canon” that you’re touting.

    The text of the Proclamation itself states its authority. The brethren don’t need to use your magical sectarian words in order to make clear that this is at least as “binding on the community” as any piece of scripture. In fact, they’ve framed it as binding on and applicable to persons outside the LDS community. http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,00.html

  91. DavidH on February 17, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Re: use of “canon” in the Church

    Elders Oaks article on Scripture and Revelation is an example of a use of “canon” and scriptures (i.e., as “standard works) in the sense stated by Left Field. Ensign January 1995. So is President Faust’s conference talk in the May 2006 Ensign, The Restoration of All Things (“In addition, we have another canon of scripture called The Pearl of Great Price”). A search for “canon” on lds.org brought up 122 articles/talks.

  92. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    And unless you can show that one of these articles/talks is a message from the first presidency, or a General conference talk, or something else with full review of a quorum of the church (first presidency, apostles, or seventies) then my statement remains true: the church doesn’t use this word “canon.” Individual church leaders may use this sectarian concept to describe LDS concepts by analogy, but so far, the church, as an institution, does not use this word. Therefore saying that the church hasn’t used the word “canon” to describe the Proc. somehow means that the Proc. doesn’t apply to the church as a body, is clear out of Left Field.

  93. Nate Oman on February 17, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Christian: If there is no canon why are some texts bound in leather and carried in special bags, while other texts are not? The leather binding and the special bags clearly mean SOMETHING….

  94. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Ah. I stand corrected: it appears there are 13 references to the word “canon” in General Conferences. Interestingly, at least one of them is not even a religious reference. (Charles Didier:”Military leaders have canonized the expression “friend or foe””)

    Others:
    L. Tom Perry “After the Pearl of Great Price was revised in 1878 and canonized in 1880 …”

    Ezra Taft Benson: “The book was then published to the world as canonized scripture.”

    Neal A. Maxwell: “He also received additional scripture, which commenced a continuing canon”

    Howard W. Hunter: “Of necessity the word book would have been in the singular because when written it was not associated with any other book or books, and it was after many years and many ecclesiastical debates that it was added to the collection that became known as the new canon of scripture or the New Testament.”

    Russell M. Nelson: “It notes as sacred scripture the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and an open canon of continuing revelation from God.”

    Nevertheless, there’s nothing at all to support the Left Field assertion that prophesy is not “binding on the church” until canonized as scripture.

  95. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Nate, I have no doubt that you’re right that the leather means some thing. Probably means a number of things. But we can be certain that “binding on the church” is not what it means. I submit to you that God’s instructions on how Noah was to build the ark was binding before those instructions were bound into leather, and that Wilford Woodruff’s manifesto on plural marriage was binding on the church before it was bound into leather.

  96. Left Field on February 17, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    The following statement is from Bruce R. McConkie in the August 1976 Ensign (emphasis added):

    “It has been the practice of the Lord’s people to make selections from the scriptural utterances of those who are appointed to lead the Church and to publish these selections as formal and official scripture. All inspired sayings and writings are true and are and should be accepted and believed by all who call themselves Saints. But the revelations, visions, prophecies, and narrations selected and published for official use **are thereby made binding upon the people** in a particular and special sense. They become part of the standard works of the Church. They become the standards, the measuring rods, by which doctrine and procedure are determined. By being added to the standard works, the Prophet’s vision of the celestial kingdom and President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead take on a new and added significance.”

  97. Left Field on February 17, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on “Scripture” by W.D. Davies and Truman G. Madsen (emphasis added):

    “In principle and in fact, additions, as well as occasional official clarifications and translations, are made to the standard works in the dual process of presentation through living leaders and, in accord with the law of common consent, acceptance by members of the Church. In this way, **Latter-day Saints bind themselves by covenant to uphold them as scripture.** The addition to the Doctrine and Covenants of [sections 137-138] are modern examples.”

  98. Christian on February 17, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    “But the revelations, visions, prophecies, and narrations selected and published for official use are thereby made binding upon the people in a particular and special sense. They become the standards, the measuring rods, by which doctrine and procedure are determined.”

    Kind of changes when you put the context back in. Doesn’t mean that the Proc isn’t “binding on the church,” or that it’s not doctrine. It means that it’s not “the standard or the measuring rod by which doctrine and procedure are measured.”\

    I certainly don’t think that Elder McConkie would agree to have his words read to discount the proclamations of living prophets that aren’t bound into scripture. Such a standard would effectively makes us our religion into a dead prophets’ society. There are already other churches for that.

  99. Left Field on February 18, 2007 at 12:10 am

    From Joseph F. Smith’s testimony in the Reed Smoot hearings:

    Mr. Tayler. I think this would be as good a time as any, as to the method in which a revelation is received and its binding or authoritative force upon the people.
    Mr. Smith. I will say this, Mr. Chairman, that no revelation given through the head of the church ever becomes binding and authoritative upon the members of the church until is has been presented to the church and accepted by them.
    Mr. Worthington. What do you mean by being presented to the church?
    Mr. Smith. Presented in conference.
    Mr. Tayler. Do you mean by that that the church in conference may say to you, Joseph F. Smith, the first president of the church, “We deny that God has told you to tell us this?”
    Mr. Smith. They can say that if they choose.
    Mr. Tayler. They can say it?
    Mr. Smith. Yes, sir; they can. And it is not binding upon them as members of the church until they accept it. (Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat. Vol. 1 pg. 98)

  100. Left Field on February 18, 2007 at 1:38 am

    From the October 1880 general conference:

    “President George Q. Cannon said: I hold in my hand the book of Doctrine and Covenants and also the book The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. … As there have been additions made to it … it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the Conference, to see whether the Conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church.”

    Quoted in Our Pearl of Great Price: From Mission Pamphlet to Standard Work. Ensign, August 1976

  101. Matt Evans on February 18, 2007 at 3:21 am

    The quotes from Left Field do present a logical dilemma, given that by their own admission they are non-binding and non-authoritative.

  102. mormon fool on February 18, 2007 at 6:15 am

    I accept Left Field\’s distinctions between what constitutes binding scripture and what doesn\’t measure up, such as The Proclamation on the Family. See my article http://www.mormonandcatholic.org/part-1-motivation/ where I argue that First Presidency-signed declarations form a tier of doctrine below that of the Standard Works and above that of recent Conference addresses.

    For something to be binding on a member of the LDS church, there has to be some outward indication that a covenant has been entered into or sustained. The standard works were all voted on through public procedures (using formal common consent) and furthermore, the acceptance of them as such is privately agreed upon in baptismal and temple recommend interviews. The common consent precedent for accepting texts as binding is itself included in the Standard Works see D&C 28:13.

  103. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    So when Brigham Young announced in General Conference that the rest of General Conference was cancelled so that folks could run out and help the Willie and Martin companies out of the snow, they should have stopped and voted on it to see if it was binding?

    Again, I think that you and Left Field are using the word “binding” too broadly. The fact that scripture is binding in one particular way (e.g. across generations) does not mean that authoritative pronouncements that have not yet been bound into scripture are less authoritative than scripture to the generation to whom the proclamation was issued.

    I agree that there’s obviously something binding about accepting a revelation through a process that seems to be a form of covenant.

    But there’s also something distinctively and especially authoritative about a proclamation signed by the apostles and by the first presidency, proclaimed to the world in our own time, and emphasized and reemphasized in conference after conference.

    I’m not questioning your assertion that the Proc isn’t yet scripture in that special sense, until it’s accepted by common consent. I’m simply saying that common consent and leather binding are not the only factors by which affect the importance, relevance, and authority of doctrines.

    I’d also point to folks framing the Proc and putting it on their walls as informal consent — not the same as formal common consent, but not something to disregard, either.

    “I argue that First Presidency-signed declarations form a tier of doctrine below that of the Standard Works and above that of recent Conference addresses.”

    I agree, but this particular proc is more than a typical first-Presidency-signed declaration. I very much appreciate what you’ve done on your link (about time that someone pointed out that “Mormon Doctrine.” “Doctrines of Salvation,” etc. were private interpretations). But your application of this hierarchy here fails to recognize other factors, both textual and contextual, that can make a piece of text more or less authoritative, for a particular purpose, to a particular people, etc.

    The Proc. meets three of your four criteria, any one of which, according to your article, should make us generally “confident that it is one of the official doctrines of the Church.”

  104. DKL on February 18, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Matt W, I’m not sure what Julie is referring to, but I have a post that alleges (among other things) that gender essentialism isn’t real right here, in a guest post that I did at New Cool Thang, entitled “She Is Different from Cro-Magnon Man.”.

  105. Matt Evans on February 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Mormon Fool,

    These points all beg the question. During the baptismal and temple recommend interviews we sustain the brethren directly, the brethren that authored the Proclamation. I’m not sure where in the interview you think we privately sustain or agree with the standard works.

    D&C 28:13 doesn’t say anything about texts. The Proclamation’s follows D&C 28:13 because its authority rests on our _common consent_ when we sustain the Proclamation’s authors as prophets, seers and revelators. More importantly, even if D&C 28:13 dealt directly with accepting revelation only by common consent, the fact that it was added to the standard works doesn’t resolve the question of which revelations are authoritative because at the time the revelation was received, it was “only” a revelation.

    This is the identical problem from political theory: by what authority is a democracy established? The “people” have the authority in a democracy, but that doesn’t tell us the rules for determining the will of the people, and it’s impossible to determine the will of the people until we decide how to determine the will of the people, but we can’t decide how to determine the will of the people until we determine the will of the people. That circularity makes the dilemma unresolvable.

    Determining which revelations are authoritative raises the same circularity problem.

  106. DKL on February 18, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I don’t view it as scripture. I view it as a statement prepared by committee that tries to articulate certain things that the current church leadership is willing to push its members to argue for.

    But if I were a feminist, I’d say it was an inspired reminder of how sexist our church is — thankfully, I’m not a feminist.

  107. m&m on February 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Mr. Worthington. What do you mean by being presented to the church?
    Mr. Smith. Presented in conference.

    Actually, the General RS Meeting is included in the Conference Ensign, so you could argue that it was presented in Conference in a sense. :)

  108. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    “Actually, the General RS Meeting is included in the Conference Ensign, so you could argue that it was presented in Conference in a sense.”

    Is anyone seriously arguing otherwise? Of course General Relief Society meeting is part of Conference. Additionally, since the Proc. is presented “to the world,” and since the church is presumably in the world, it would be a strange thing to say that the Proc. had not been presented “to the church.”

    The Proc. hasn’t been directly submitted for general vote by the church, though, and as I understand, that’s a valid concern. But certainly not reason for others above to dismiss the Proc. as doctrine.

  109. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    m&m — I beg your pardon — after a closer read, I guess that it does look like some folks above were implying that the Proc. had not been presented in Conference. Strange.

  110. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    DKL, your article’s intriguing take on gender essentialism and the Proc. is undermined by your fuzzy and innacurate assessment of what “feminism” teaches. This misunderstanding spills into your post on #106. You need to realize that the word “feminist” encompasses a (carefully avoiding the word “broad”) disparate and conflicting views, particularly with regard to gender essentialism. If the word “Christian” were as vaguely defined as the word “feminism,” then satanism would be a type of “Christianity.”

  111. Rich on February 18, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    The Proc doesn’t answer your questions if you have ambiguous genitalia, but if you’re reading it as some instruction to go commit suicide, then you should seek medical attention. Those voices are not your friends

    Dude, it’s called sarcasm (I thought it was obvious). You’re the one who seems to think the “ninety and nine” are the only part of God’s children worth the great plan of happiness the PotF is talking about. And Matt, sorry, the PotF is hardly groundbreaking news that we’re all God’s children; that’s been in scripture for millenia.

    My point (since you both seem to keep missing it) is that this whole talk of gender in the PotF appears to be nothing more than stupid neocon political haymaking and the marginalization of those that don’t fit into the nice little formula described in the great plan of happiness — the one that only applies to heterosexual mothers and fathers creating their eternal families (no other family unit can therefore be recognized, either by God or society) — those that lie outside this neat little package, assuming they completely deny their basic need for sexual intimacy, get to play angel or servant or something less that the proscribed ideal, even while God (who claims to be no respecter of persons) himself continues to make some of us physically hermaphroditic, or “gender confused”, or having zero attraction to the opposite sex. Why is that? Does he just hate the defects, along with society’s WASPs and rednecks and orthodox dogmatists and neocon hatemongers? How does that fit into the meaning of life — the one that we learn in the Temple that talks about filling the measure of our creation and having joy therein? How can this great plan of happiness possibly apply to those who simply cannot be a part of an eternal family through no fault nor choice of their own? Why doesn’t the PotF’s great plan of happiness address them too? There is nothing ever said concerning how their situations might be addressed in the eternities, or if God even cares. Too often instead they are simply lumped in with the sinners, often described in fact as “abominations”. Good grief, how can it be that this allegedly “most uplifting and ennobling doctrine possible” exclude anyone, especially in light of such doctrine as is taught by the Savior in Matt. 18:12-13?

    So why does the PotF even bother with any of this? The disintegration of the family has very little to do with whether Bruce and Ben, or Sally and Sue, want to make a monogomous commitment to each other, and more to do with selfishness, lust, and greed. It’s divisive. It’s not unlike George W. Bush claiming that he’s “a uniter, not a divider”. In its entire history this country has never been more divided! My point is that whole gender discussion, which seems central to the PotF, is what renders that document not only NOT great, but divisive, political, and unworthy of our consideration, much less an adornment for our walls.

    We are part of a church that seems at times to be more interested in preserving the status quo than recognizing scientific truth outside of “revelation”. We’d rather cling to the nonsense that people with dark skin have dark skin because their ancestors offended God or were less valiant in the pre-existence, or were the seed of Cain or Laman or Lemuel or similar bullsh*t, than what science (and common sense) has revealed about melanin and skin cancer and natural selection and the fact that those that live in hot, sunny equatorial climes with dark skin tend to thrive and procreate, and those with the fair skin tend to get sunburned and die of cancer and don’t get to procreate unless they move north where it’s cooler and cloudy and their white skin is no longer a liability.

    We would likewise rather cling to the nonsense that the earth today is made of leftover parts and pieces of “other” worlds, containing fossil evidence of ancient, meat-eating life, than acknowledge that God created life through an evolutionary process, because T-Rex’s 6-inch carnivorous fangs might just cast a problematic light on scriptures such as 2 Nephi 2:22 or Moses chapter 3, or the timetable implied in Genesis 1. How do we explain the little 4-footed duckling featured in today’s news against the idea that things were created spiritually before they were created physically? Does his spirit also have 4 legs? Does my friend Toby, who was born with a cleft palate, also have a spiritually cleft palate?

    We would rather pretend that global warming is just a liberal conspiracy because we know that, even if Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity might be wrong, Jesus is coming anyway to clean up our messes.

    This is what I meant by anti-science. It permeates the “conservative” part of our culture, the very part that the majority of Church members identify with. I cannot think of any other reason why the whole gender discussion even exists in the PotF. It’s time we as a church address the explosion of knowledge coming out of each of the scientific frontiers, than keep our collective heads in the sands of old, outworn doctrinal traditions inherited from our ignorant fathers. I agree with Carl Sagan — science IS a candle in the dark, demon-haunted, superstitious world too many of us LDS still seem to find ourselves living in. It’s sad and tragic and unfortunate.

    And FWIW, I am a straight, active HP and father of 3.

  112. Left Field on February 18, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Just a few thoughts:

    The fact that a text has not been accepted into the standard works and is not formally binding on the saints does not imply that it is uninspired or that it can or should be disregarded.

    Presenting to the conference is necessary but not sufficient. Both Joseph F. Smith (twice) and George Q. Canon said that it must be both presented AND accepted.

    Brother McConkie and others have been very clear that canonization confers an important and special status not shared by other texts. No matter how inspired or valuable I think a text is, I don’t think we should ever imply that an uncanonized text has the same status as one that has been accepted by a conference as part of the standard works. To do so would blur the distinction that Brother McConkie thought was so important.

    I would be interested in any official or semi-official statement from the church or its leaders that calls the proclamation scripture. I couldn’t find any. In fact, everything I found suggests that they are careful to avoid any implication that it is equivalent to canonized scripture (e.g., Earl C. Tingey, Oct 2004 Ensign: “…rear a righteous family as guided by scripture and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”). If the brethren aren’t calling it scripture, I wonder why some find it so important that we do.

  113. DKL on February 18, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Christian: You need to realize that the word “feminist” encompasses a (carefully avoiding the word “broad”) disparate and conflicting views, particularly with regard to gender essentialism.

    Blah, blah, blah. You really should try to avoid adopting a preachy tone when you’re explaining the obvious. You end up sounding like this: “You need to realize that a key use of ‘toilet paper’ is wiping one’s ass.”

    Needless to say, you’re take on my post is undermined by your fuzzy and inaccurate assessment of what it teaches.

  114. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    “Dude, it’s called sarcasm (I thought it was obvious). You’re the one who seems to think the “ninety and nine” are the only part of God’s children worth the great plan of happiness the PotF is talking about.”

    No, that’s not my voice you’re hearing there. I said that the PoF isn’t giving all the details on marginal cases. Gender is eternal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s straightforward in every case.

    “We are part of a church that seems at times to be more interested in preserving the status quo than recognizing scientific truth outside of “revelation”.”

    You’re shooting intellectual blanks, Rich. I and others here have challenged you repeatedly to state the actual scientific data that contradicts anything in the PoF, and the best you can do is say that you’re a “straight, active HP and father of 3.” Enough with the authority worship. Science and rumors of science.

    I don’t think that Carl Sagan intended his little metaphorical candle to form some pseudospiritual basis for writing your own LDS doctrine. You talk of scientific frontiers but you wave names like Sagan as saints and Hannity and Limbaugh as your little totem demons, and you have yet to produce a single scientific fact to back up your rantings.

    The Proc. has nothing to do with evolution or four-legged ducklings or racism or global warming; get a grip, brother. I have no problem with the fact that I share most of my DNA with primates; I opine that global warming is a problem; I suspect that Brigham Young’s personal racism caused his misinterpretation of scripture that led to blacks not having the priesthood (since Brother Lebaron and other LDS researchers have failed to show any revelation behind blacks not being able to have the priesthood); I note that the Book of Mormon prophets admitted right out that their point of view was racist and imperfect (Jesus rebuked them for this re Samuel the Lamanite’s teachings), and think that it’s more likely that the Lamanites interbred with other people in the land than God actually supermaturally changing their skin color. And I still think that you are blowing hot air when you claim that science somehow disproves the Proclamation on the family. So nice try with the distractathon, but you’re batting zero.
    ———-
    Thank you, DKL, that response was exactly as informative as it was amusing.

  115. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    “The fact that a text has not been accepted into the standard works and is not formally binding on the saints does not imply that it is uninspired or that it can or should be disregarded.”

    Nor does the fact that it is not formally binding on the saints imply that it is not binding in any sense of the word. Or even that it’s necessarily *less* binding in every situation than formally binding scripture.

    “No matter how inspired or valuable I think a text is, I don’t think we should ever imply that an uncanonized text has the same status as one that has been accepted by a conference as part of the standard works.”

    I agree, LF. I didn’t say that it has the same status. I think that the immediacy and other contextual issues make it *more* important in some respects. But in the long run, its relevance to future generations depends on the processes that you and others here described. I just don’t think that Rich can wiggle out of a joint proclamation of the first presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve simply by closing his eyes and saying “Darwin, Sagan, send your almighty candle and deliver us from this cultural conservative madness.”

  116. Matt Evans on February 18, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    [God] himself continues to make some of us physically hermaphroditic, or “gender confused”, or having zero attraction to the opposite sex. Why is that? Does he just hate the defects?

    Rich, there are so many maladies that naturally afflict mankind we couldn’t list them. Sex and gender issues are only two. We have to go on faith that God has a wise purpose for making, actively or passively, our natural desires and dispositions in opposition to his will.

    In its entire history this country has never been more divided!

    I’m not able to cure many maladies, but I do know the prescription for this one: reading a history book.

    I completely agree that there’s no reason for Mormons to reject modern science. So does the church.

  117. Christian on February 18, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    “[God] himself continues to make some of us physically hermaphroditic, or “gender confused”, or having zero attraction to the opposite sex. Why is that?”

    I don’t know. I don’t know if God “creates” people as “gender confused” (whatever that means); the science is still up in the air on that subject. But I’m not going to let ignorance about the exceptions cause me to reject what I do know about the general rule.

    I have a son whose severe disability will probably prevent him from serving a mission. Should I rail against the church for teaching that worthy young men should serve missions? Should I have a psychotic episode and pretend that a talk that focuses on the majority of worthy young men that will serve missions, somehow means that my son is insignificant or should just go die? No. Sarcasm is no excuse for such hateful words. I don’t understand the meaning of all things but I do know God loves us. And every bit of light and knowledge that he sends us, may cause us some discomfort as we sort out what we know from what we think we know.

  118. DavidH on February 19, 2007 at 12:33 am

    I think we all agree the Proclamation is not “scripture” in the sense of being part of the Standard Works. Conversely, I think we all agree that a declaration signed by all who were then members of the 12 and FP is much more likely to be inspired than a book authored by, or a conference talk by, an individual Church leader.

    To say that the Proclamation is inspired does not mean that each and every word is completely accurate or represents what God would say if He had written it Himself.

    That is true for the Standard Works–Joseph Smith made many revisions to the written revelations now in the Doctrine & Covenants and, as I understand it, made a fair number of revisions to the Book of Mormon in different editions. It would not surprise me or damage my testimony if the Proclamation were revised at some future date–even after it officially became part of the canon (if it ever does).

  119. mormon fool on February 19, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Christian,

    I am glad you get my point that conference voting elevates some texts to a certain status and I agree with much of what you say. I have written elsewhere about informal common consent and so I am much on the page. Informal processes were surely at work in the defeat of BY’s Adam-God teachings and were a factor, in my opinion, for the “not yet” answers to lifting the priesthood ban.

    So when Brigham Young announced in General Conference that the rest of General Conference was cancelled so that folks could run out and help the Willie and Martin companies out of the snow, they should have stopped and voted on it to see if it was binding?

    I am not one to insist that every directive or text needs to be voted on before it can be influential or actionable or considered authoritative in some sense. What should be clear is that there are orderly procedures that set certain texts above and apart from others, and give them a “stamp of approval” by the membership not given to other texts that might be perceived to have “equal verity” by some members (BRM’s example was the JST).

    I consider it problematic to give some texts “super scripture” status when they haven’t been publically accepted as such by the membership. Uncanonized revelations that were given higher status have been used as a justification for apostasy in the past and can be a source of embarrassment like the so-called White Horse Prophecy. Consider B.H. Roberts’s stance in 10 July 1921 speech in the Tabernacle, which I didn’t use in my article because he hasn’t been quoted in a correlated source that I am aware of.

    “The Church has confined the sources of doctrine by which it is willing to be bound before the world to the things that God has revealed, and which the Church has officially accepted, and those alone. These would include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price; these have been repeatedly accepted and endorsed by the Church in general conference assembled, and are the only sources of absolute appeal for our doctrine. . .
    “It is not sufficient to quote sayings purported to come from Joseph Smith or Brigham Young upon matters of doctrine. Our own people also need instruction and correction in respect of this. It is common to hear some of our older brethren say, “But I heard Brother Joseph myself say so,” or “Brother Brigham preached it; I heard him.” But that is not the question. The question is has God said it? Was the prophet speaking officially? . . .

    “As to the printed discourses of even leading brethren, the same principle holds. They do not constitute the court of ultimate appeal on doctrine. They may be very useful in the way of elucidation and are very generally good and sound in doctrine, but they are not the ultimate sources of the doctrines of the Church, and are not binding upon the Church. The rule in that respect is–What God has spoken, and what has been accepted by the Church as the word of God, by that, and that only, are we bound in doctrine.”

    I’m not questioning your assertion that the Proc isn’t yet scripture in that special sense, until it’s accepted by common consent. I’m simply saying that common consent and leather binding are not the only factors by which affect the importance, relevance, and authority of doctrines.

    I agree that there are other factors that affect “the importance, relevance, and authority of doctrines” than being able to classify a text by an ontologically defensible classification scheme. I mention some of these things in an earlier writing I called the Doctrinal Spectrum Index (maybe I will post that here when I find it), but the biggest criticism was that certain teachings from one class of doctrine were able to trump a higher class and that too much subjectivity was involved.

    This particular proc is more than a typical first-Presidency-signed declaration. I very much appreciate what you’ve done on your link (about time that someone pointed out that “Mormon Doctrine.” “Doctrines of Salvation,” etc. were private interpretations). But your application of this hierarchy here fails to recognize other factors, both textual and contextual, that can make a piece of text more or less authoritative, for a particular purpose, to a particular people, etc.

    I didn’t spend a lot of time addressing why some some doctrines in the scriptures might be more binding then others (say OT circumcision vs. Christ defining his gospel in 3rd Nephi) or why some First Presidency signed declarations get more air time than others or why non-doctrinal GA works get cited more frequently than doctrinal non-GA works. However, it would be hard to objectify criteria that can sort these types of things out.

  120. mormon fool on February 19, 2007 at 7:19 am

    Matt Evans #105,

    You are right that I botched the content of the interview questions as they do not contain anything directly about the Standard Works. I do think that what made Section 132 binding to some but not all members from 1843 to 1852 was a private affirmation with a priesthood authority often culminating in an covenantial ordinance. It doesn’t appear that affirming the Standard Works as a whole ever entered into the temple interview, although such language was adopted in an 1856 (Mormon Reformation) catechism according to Edward Kimball’s 1998 JMH article (24:1:147).

    D&C 28:13, doesn’t say anything about texts. The Proclamation’s follows D&C 28:13 because its authority rests on our _common consent_ when we sustain the Proclamation’s authors as prophets, seers and revelators. More importantly, even if D&C 28:13 dealt directly with accepting revelation only by common consent, the fact that it was added to the standard works doesn’t resolve the question of which revelations are authoritative because at the time the revelation was received, it was “only” a revelation.

    The historical background to D&C 28 was all about accepting or rejecting revelatory texts through common consent. Oliver had disagreed with some wording in one of Joseph’s revelation and the entire Whitmer clan had accepted Hiram Page’s revelations. The precedent was set at the ensuing conference (pursuant to D&C 28) by which revelations could be accepted or rejected. Circularity problems go away once precedents are set and definitions are commonly accepted. So while it is clear that revelations advanced by the First Presidency enjoy a degree of authority prior to being formally accepted as such, it is also clear that the status of the text is momentously upgraded when it is “canonized.”

  121. mormon fool on February 19, 2007 at 7:41 am

    Here is a piece I wrote back in 2005 called “The Doctrinal Spectrum Index (DSI)”

    I have been thinking a little about the debates between critics and faithful LDS on what constitutes LDS doctrine. Latter-Day Saints often take care to explain how some sources of doctrine are more weighty than others, critics frequently contribute counter-examples to whatever guidelines the LDS correspondent outlines. Frequently this ploy is used to exalt the doctrinal status of an un-related item. As a partial solution to this recurring un-productive type of dialogue, I offer the Doctrinal Spectrum Index, which gives a numerical score on how fervently on how LDS members should or do believe in some item.

    Step 1. Give your source a base score (parse if necessary to the debated item)

    For accessible, written sources:

    80 canonized scripture
    60 signed First Presidency (FP) proclamations
    40 Last General Conference
    30 Church magazines, other books by General Authorities (GA)
    20 Scholarly Examinations by a faithful member

    Exceptional Sources
    80 “temple doctrines” (binding for those who participate, often symbolic and open to interpretation, details really shouldn’t be argued about–but their personal, doctrinal status should be acknowledged)
    80 commonly consented to interpretations of scripture (ex: WoW)
    60 non or pre-canonical revelations that the current prophet uses his prerogative to enforce (the score here might be debatable)
    50 “administrative doctrines” (ex. Church Handbook of Instructions)

    Other
    10 ones own church experience
    5 hearsay
    -80 The Seer

    The base score should be sufficient in most cases. But for fine tuned arguments more factors should be considered with score adjustments.

    Step 2 Adjust for interpretation issues

    2.1 Authority of interpreter: prophet +10, apostle +5, GA +2, scholar +0, lay member -2, former member -5, antagonistic critic -10

    2.2 Interpretation characterized by: explicit, stated revelation +10, exhaustive analysis +5, strong reasoning +2, questionable reasoning -2, selective analysis -5, conclusion that has been explicitly renounced by a prophet -10

    Step 3 Adjust for currency

    current prophet’s administration -0, since 1978 -5, since 1890 -10, since 1820 -15

    Step 4 Adjust for frequency that an average member would encounter that particular doctrinal source in church.

    weekly +10, yearly +5, per decade -0, only through personal study -5, only if interested in apologetics -10

    Step 5 Adjust for known, unresolved disagreements in the church

    among GA’s -10, among influential mormon thinkers -5, among lay persons -2, a member might face discipline for disagreeing +5, no LDS church member in their right mind would disagree +10

    Step 6 Adjust for your personal beliefs

    personal inspiration combined with exhaustive study +/- 10, one or the other +/- 5, leaning for or against +/- 1

  122. Talon on February 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    In its entire history this country has never been more divided!

    Except for that whole Civil War thing, but that was just a disagreement between friends compared to the real divisive issues of our day.

  123. DKL on February 23, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Christian: Thank you, DKL, that response was exactly as informative as it was amusing.

    Then my work here is done.

  124. Jack on February 23, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Christian: “I note that the Book of Mormon prophets admitted right out that their point of view was racist and imperfect (Jesus rebuked them for this re Samuel the Lamanite’s teachings), and think that it’s more likely that the Lamanites interbred with other people in the land than God actually supermaturally changing their skin color.”

    How exactly did you come to such an intimate knowledge regarding the goings on in Nephite and Lamanite history? Aside from actually being there, what imperical proof to you have that the text must be interpreted the way you propose?

  125. Christian on February 23, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Jack, I’m not aware of any “imperical proof” with regard to textual interpretation. Could you link me to an example of an “imperical proof” that shows that a scriptural text “must be interpreted” in a specific way?

  126. Jack on February 24, 2007 at 12:02 am

    Christian,

    No, I don’t have any “imperical proof.” In fact, I don’t have any *empirical* proof either with regard to textual interpretation. At this point, the only empirical proof I can offer with respect to any kind of textualization at all is my comment(#124) as proof of my gift for misspelling.

    But as to the matter at hand—I just thought it a little ironic that one who resists so vehemently the over-interpretation of the PoF should be so confident in one’s interpretation of the BoM. That’s all.

  127. Christian on March 2, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    “But as to the matter at hand—I just thought it a little ironic that one who resists so vehemently the over-interpretation of the PoF should be so confident in one’s interpretation of the BoM.”

    Wasn’t my interpretation, actually. Gene England’s the one that talked me into this one, and I fought him tooth and nail in Book of Mormon class, took me a while to realize he was right. If you’re interested in the argument, I’ll lay it out for you, but it’s not empirical proof, it’s merely textual proof.

  128. DKL on March 3, 2007 at 6:47 am

    Christian: Jack, I’m not aware of any “imperical proof” with regard to textual interpretation. Could you link me to an example of an “imperical proof” that shows that a scriptural text “must be interpreted” in a specific way?

    Just a quick note: nothing makes one look quite so much like an ass as when he emphasizes other people’s typographical errors, as though more careful fingers or access to a web-browser that spell-checks text-fields improves the quality of someone’s argument. (Not that such behavior is at all surprising when it comes from you…)

  129. Christian on March 3, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Jack seemed to understand the typo was not not what I was emphasizing. Do you not get that, or are you only playing stupid in order to be a gadfly?

    I don’t care how he spells it — my point is textual interpretation is not a matter of empirical proof.

  130. DKL on March 3, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    No Christian, I don’t get that. You’ll have to explain to me how surrounding a mistake with scare-quotes and then repeating it is not emphasizing it.

    I’d ask why you seem to be playing dumb, but the obvious answer is that you’re not playing. If you generally did more than presumptuously emphasize the mundane as though it were groundbreaking truth, then it might appear otherwise.

    Are you by any change related to Mark Butler?

  131. Christian on March 3, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I don’t understand how a snarling little monkey like you got a reputation for having a sense of humor. Is it split personality, or is there someone else that posts under your sig?

  132. Christian on March 3, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    “You’ll have to explain to me how surrounding a mistake with scare-quotes and then repeating it is not emphasizing it.”

    It’s called education, DLK. I was taught to carefully avoid misattribution. Normally you use “[sic]” in such cases, but I avoided that because I didn’t want to draw attention to a typo. I put “Impirical” in quotes, because if I’d spelled it as “empirical,” that would have been misreprentation. If I left “impirical” out of quotes, then it would look like I was misspelling the term. My question was, and remains, why would someone ask for empirical evidence of scriptural interpretation?

    And why are you using procedural whining to dodge my question?

  133. Christian on March 3, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    I’ve never heard of your little friend Mark Butler, DKL, but it’s not surprising to hear that I’m not the first person that you’ve had problems getting along with.

  134. ghost of Richard Klein on March 3, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    It’s called education, “DLK”.

    How right you are, Christian. “DLK” is stubborn and argumentative. “DLK” also twists people’s words.

  135. Kaimi Wenger on March 3, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Ban DLK!

  136. DKL on March 3, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Christian, I’m not avoiding your question, I’m treating you with contempt! Get used to it.

    Whatever you claim to have been taught about misattribution, your comments are empirical evidence that it’s doubtful you’ve been taught to carefully do anything.

    You’re definitely the next Mark Butler/Aaron Cox. Thanks for confirming! I sensed this early on, and that’s why I refrained from engaging you when you pretended to point out that I’d somehow spoken too broadly about the various schools of feminism that I discuss in my post. I’ll just sit back and enjoy while you try to pick fights that are over your head, make pompous statements of conventional wisdom, and try in every way to extending an arguments in ways that avoid arriving at a conclusion.

    Ghoest of Richard Kleien, you’re like the opposite of a guardian angel.

  137. Christian on March 4, 2007 at 12:39 am

    You didn’t “refrain from engaging” me, you shallow little man. You started sniping at me, and you still have not stopped. Shoo.

  138. DKL on March 4, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Yep. Aaron Cox/Mark Butler.

  139. Christian on March 4, 2007 at 2:23 am

    Kaimi, is there a trick for getting LDK off my leg? It seems to have mistaken me for one of its old masters.

  140. DKL on March 4, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Christian/Aaron Cox/Mark Butler, the answer is “No.”

  141. Christian on March 4, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Then

    No, LDK, no! Get off my leg. Bad dog. No!

  142. Blake on March 4, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I knew LDK. LDK was a friend of mine. You sir, are no LDK!

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