Tomorrow’s folklore (Updated)

March 6, 2012 | 112 comments
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Recent and highly public events have focused attention on the prevalence of “folklore” — church members, sometimes in positions of authority, “freelancing” beyond church doctrine. Of course, there are a variety of complicated issues in trying to sort out doctrine from folklore, which l’affaire Bott cast into sharp relief. There have been recriminations and hurt feelings, and the community will likely be dealing with the fallout for some time to come.

But we do have a few silver linings. For instance, the church newsroom’s prompt and unequivocal condemnation of Bott’s statements likely means that highly-visible BYU professors will think twice before making inflammatory, sweeping, extra-doctrinal claims to the national media.

Oh, wait. Maybe not.

Yes, that’s BYU Professor Ralph Hancock, telling Newsweek and the Daily Beast that

Joanna’s position on gay marriage is irreconcilable with the church. Latter-day Saints are adaptable, and of course there is diversity within the Mormon Church, but it is hard to conceive of calling anything Mormon that relinquishes the importance of sexual difference and procreation in the big, eternal scheme of things. Joanna is unreservedly confident that all ethical and religious truth must be on the side of acceptance of homosexuality. I think that’s a nonstarter. I don’t want to sound harsh or cruel, because I want her to remain Mormon, but she must choose between being a gay-rights proponent and being a Mormon.

Of course, Ralph Hancock is neither Jesus nor Joanna’s ecclesiastical leader, and he therefore has no actual say on whether she is allowed to be a Mormon.

Professor Hancock’s speculations about eternal procreation and about church members who support gay rights, like Professor Bott’s speculations on race, are not without cost. Nate Oman recently examined how Bott’s comments could affect real members of the church. Hancock’s equally ill-advised speculations have similar potential effects on real people.

Hancock’s ruminations to Newsweek are particularly striking when juxtaposed with his recent comments supporting the church newsroom’s response to l’affaire Bott: “we do not know why the ban was instituted and that we should cease indulging our conjectures on the matter.”

Given the paucity of official church doctrine on the topic, we also “do not know” how God’s plan may eventually work for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. There are a few specific clear doctrines (the church is officially opposed to same-sex marriage at present), and everything else is so much speculation. In fact, some might argue that Professor Hancock should “cease indulging [his] conjectures” in statements to the national media about issues like the place of same-sex couples in the eternities or the acceptable Mormon-ness of gay-rights supporters.

But then, maybe Professor Hancock is just really enthusiastic about the newsroom’s new role — so enthusiastic that he’s already providing them with tomorrow’s folklore.

112 Responses to Tomorrow’s folklore (Updated)

  1. Ziff on March 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Well said, Kaimi!

    it is hard to conceive of calling anything Mormon that relinquishes the importance of sexual difference and procreation in the big, eternal scheme of things.

    I know this is an obvious comparison, but if you go back far enough, isn’t it quite likely you could find similar comments about polygamy?

  2. Adam Miller on March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Interesting, Kaimi. I think Ralph is right that Mormons can’t “relinquish the importance of sexual difference and procreation,” but I don’t see why he thinks this is inherently incompatible with “accepting homosexuality.” Why would we have to choose one or the other?

  3. Manuel on March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I do not want to paint all BYU religion professors with the saim brush. Yet I have a feeling the BYU religion department will indeed be the nourishing uterus, the safe heaven, where future, present and past folklore will continue to be perpetuated.

    The reverence and authority given to these men by their young and many times very gullible student audiences is scary. All students at BYU are required to take religion courses and every semester, thousands of graduates take home with them a legacy of religious knowledge provided by these professors.

    In that context, it is too late to fix the Bott situation. There are probably thousands out there who revere him and who are most likely indoctrinated by his teachings. Previous Church statements did not work to change Bott, and probably won’t work to change his followers.

    Your statement “highly-visible BYU professors will think twice before making inflammatory, sweeping, extra-doctrinal claims to the national media,” is probably the only hope regarding this issue most of us will have to learn to live with, since most likely little will be done to trully adress the root cause of the problem.

    In my day as a BYU student, it was Professor Joseph McConkie, from whose classes I had to walk out more than once due to the inflammatory content and the arrogance of his tone. Botts, McConkies and Hancocks will undoubtedly continue to progress their agendas and indoctrinate many young minds since a laxed system and a group of enablers will always be there to safeguard what seems to me a certain kind of priestcraft in the BYU religion department.

  4. Tim B. on March 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Well, aside from the fact that the OT and the NT and centuries of Christian tradition and everything our modern prophets have ever said on the topic all reject homosexual behavior as sinful. At some point, “waiting for further light and knowledge” is just a polite way of denying the teachings of the church. I’m not sure you can equate three thousand years of scripture and revelation and prophetic guidance to “folklore,” unless by “folklore” you mean “things that I don’t like.”

  5. DLewis on March 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Just to clarify, Prof. Hancock teaches in the Political Science department–I don’t believe he’s affiliated at all with Religious Education.

    I agree with Adam–sexual difference is certainly a very different issue from speculating about race–but I think where Prof. Hancock really loses me is trying to define the boundaries of what is “Mormon” or not. There are too many quotes of Joseph Smith affirming that people can believe what they want to believe in his church. It would be one thing if Brooks was employed by the church, or if she tried to speak for the church in any way, but she doesn’t, so trying to define her “Mormon-ness” is a bad way to start the conversation.

  6. Brad Kramer on March 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    But Kaimi, don’t you get it? Hancock’s speculative political theology is TRUE because it explains current church policies and supports high profile FP statements _and_ totally reinforces our preexisting assumptions. This is, like, soooo different from all that tired old racial stuff which is so obviously just wrong and untrue and speculative folklore, &c, &c.

  7. Ben P on March 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Manuel (3): I can assure you that a majority of religion faculty do not perpetuate “future, present, and past folklore” at the rate you assume. Indeed, your broad brush caricatures a department that has made a lot of strides, and has a growing number of respectable scholars. As one who teaches adjunct there and knows most of the faculty, i promise that the Bott incident took everyone there by surprise, and it is unfair to assert that they share such backward views.

    There used to be a lot more faculty members who taught these types of things. There are very few McConkie-types left, and, as mentioned above, Hancock is not part of the school of religion. Fortunately, these problems have significantly decreased as a tremendous amount of progress has been made–something we should celebrate rather than surmise it hasn’t changed over the last decade.

  8. EHS on March 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    See you in 2078 Kaimi!

  9. Tim J on March 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    “Given the paucity of official church doctrine on the topic, we also “do not know” how God’s plan may eventually work for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the post though I do tire of the argument that goes, “Well, they were wrong about the priesthood ban so they could be wrong about this.” One could make this argument about just about anything.

  10. Craig M. on March 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Sorry, but this doesn’t equate to folklore – it is possible that Dr. Hancock believes in “eternal procreation” (I have no idea), but his comment doesn’t mention it at all. Also, to compare Hancock’s disapproval of same sex marriage (as outlined previously in SquareTwo, and I believe possibly explained on his guest posts here) to Bott’s explanation for the ban is outlandish.

    Of course you can disagree with Hancock’s arguments or conclusions, but this post seems like an attempt to capitalize on the Bott episode to score a point on gay issues rather than engaging or even acknowledging Hancock’s reasoning.

  11. Manuel on March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Ben P,

    I agree with you. It was not my intention to say that a majority of religion faculty perpetuates folklore.

    I just learned about Hancock not being part of the religion department, so point taken. Therefore, we can learn that there are other professors in other departments at BYU overstepping the bounds of their judgment and speaking authoritatively, even to the point of judging whether someone should remain a Mormon or not.

    I frankly DO NOT BELIEVE YOU when you say it took “everyone there” by surprise. I have recently learned of how vocal and active Bott about perpetuating racist propaganda previously dismissed by General Authorities, even to the point of publishing them in a blog. I have been there and I am familiar with the network of enablers that protect these venomous types. I have seen it with my own eyes when I was there in the case of Joseph McConkie.

    The Dean of Religon’s one sentence response to the Bott gaffe also bears resemblance to me of the typical denial and subsequent tunring of a blind eye that takes place there when something like this happens. I’ve been there and I have been part of similar issues with the faculty. So, I am sorry but, I am not buying your indignated tone.

  12. jimbob on March 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I think Hancock’s phraseology is unfortunate. But I also think that a comparison of homosexuality to race in the context of our doctrine is inapt. I think a change as to homosexuality in the church (i.e., not finding homosexual act sinful) would take a change in doctrine, rather than in policy, and I think that any one holding their breath that that change is forthcoming is likely going to be disappointed. I appreciate that some feel that there is a “paucity of official church doctrine” on this issue, but I’ve long felt that those arguments are based not on the lack of doctrine, but as to the interpretation of that doctrine, which interpretations I find strained.

    That said, if we were to change our minds on big issues like this, I’d prefer we do it as to female clergy first. I’d like to cede my calling to a good sister with better organizational skills so that I could start waking up later on Sundays.

  13. Manuel on March 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    “But I also think that a comparison of homosexuality to race in the context of our doctrine is inapt.”

    I see this is in a chronological medium of what is considered doctrine as well as how we define doctrine itself in the Church.

    I believe there was a time the explanations of why blacks could not hold the priesthood, or could not receive the blessings of the temple, due to whatever events in the pre-existance, etc etc, were at one point doctrine. Therefore, at one point the ban was not really a “policy” as we like to call it nowadays. It was “doctrnial.” Ironically if you may, the most detailed explanations are published in a work called “Mormon Doctrine,” and were written by a General Authority being sustained at the time as an Apostle in the Church. It would be extremely disingenuous to claim members of the Church at some point or another have not considered these explanations “doctrine.”

    Now, back to the chronological issue: time has gone by, the explanations have been dismissed. They are no longer “doctrine.” As a result, the ban cannot be “doctrinal.” The doctrines used to justified no longer stand as doctrines. The ban becomes “a policy.”

    The OP is talking about “future folklore,” and in that sense; what we may consider as doctrinal today (the only marriage that can be validated by God is one consisting of a man and a woman) can change. The likelyhood may seem extremely obscure today, as the likelihood for the dismissal of Brigham Young’s teachings regarding blacks by future leaders would have seen extremely obscure to him in his day.

    In that sense, I agree with Kaimi. Making claims today that seem to make assumptions regarding what will happen in eternity and whether a Mormon should or shouldn’t support certain groups could definitely become tomorrow’s folklore.

  14. geoffsn on March 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Kaimi, I thought the same thing. I hope that in the future I can have some positive experiences with Ralph Hancock. Up to this point most of the things I’ve read which he has written or said have seemed to be consistently condescending. It’s so sad that all of us are so confused and don’t understand religion, politics, and the world like the wise and well-informed ;)

  15. Hosea on March 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Let’s see – speculation about what may be outdated folklore in the far future is OK and responsible but recognizing what is presently doctrine and not folklore is too speculative? Now I’m really confused.

    So the Church’s stance on whether homosexual conduct is sinful is not really doctrine but mere opinion, and what constitutes the eternal covenants made between husband and wife in the temples is all up for grabs because some day we’ll all come around to the wisdom of those who see much more clearly than the present prophet and apostles that homosexual conduct as just fine? Now I’m really confused.

  16. Howard on March 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    sexual difference is certainly a very different issue from speculating about race

    The thing that connects them is prejudice and since the brethren were wrong about race they could be wrong about sex!

  17. a random John on March 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Whatever you think about gay rights, to think that those who differ with you on issues surrounding ray rights don’t belong in the Church is nuts.

    Members are free to advocate for political issues and remain Mormon, much to the dismay of some.

    A question for those that agree with Hancock: Should all the members of the Utah state legislature that voted to repeal Prohibition have been excommunicated because they took a political stand that the Church opposed?

  18. a random John on March 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    “ray rights” in #17 should be “gay rights”

  19. Tim on March 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    “Whatever you think about gay rights, to think that those who differ with you on issues surrounding gay rights don’t belong in the Church is nuts.”

    Exactly.

    How many church members in the U.S. disagree with the church’s stance on immigration? (Oh, hey Mitt Romney…) They’re obviously still welcomed as members.

    And the church itself has supported gay rights to a degree–they supported an anti-discrimination law in Salt Lake. To say one can’t be a gay-rights proponent and a Mormon is wrong on so many levels.

  20. wreddyornot on March 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Not only could “the Brethren” be wrong about how we should react to homosexuals and lesbians over against marriage, as in the racial situation, but so could “Brethren” of former times have gotten it wrong but written it down. Such writings, included in scripture (ambiguously often, at best, anyway) may have perpetuated folklore, it enduring for centuries and driving a small percentage of people underground from fear of the ugly discrimination and persecution against them that generations of people have perpetrated, includeing members of the Church —e.g., you’ve got to be fixed and just marry someone of the other sex even if you’re not attracted to them; it’ll work out, etc. — until just recently all that has been renounced.

    Or has it?

  21. Ray on March 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    #17 – I’m completely in favor of ray rights.

    #18 – Ray rights aren’t always gay rights.

    That’s all.

  22. JimD on March 6, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Hey, I have no problem with ray people. I have friends who are ray. I’m sure that in their own way they are very charming and intelligent commentators. I just worry that someday they may try to teach my children to indulge in their own ray lifestyle, which I cannot support.

  23. queuno on March 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    If there’s a bright side, it’s that no one knows who Ralph Hancock is.

  24. Latter-day Guy on March 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Well, aside from the fact that the OT and the NT and centuries of Christian tradition and everything our modern prophets have ever said on the topic all reject homosexual behavior as sinful. At some point, “waiting for further light and knowledge” is just a polite way of denying the teachings of the church. I’m not sure you can equate three thousand years of scripture and revelation and prophetic guidance to “folklore,”…

    Cough––slavery!––cough.

  25. Michael on March 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    “inflammatory, sweeping, extra-doctrinal claims to the national media”

    I didn’t find his statement to be as bad as you all are painting it. And he does have a pretty good point, if you are willing to have an open mind about it. At some point, we all have to choose between a political god and our faith. Which is more important? A certain wise man whom we claim to adore said that “No man can serve two masters”.

  26. clark on March 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    While I think we should condemn the racist theological speculation of the 19th century which led to racist interpretations in the 20th century let’s also note the other features of such speculation. Even Brigham Young taught blacks would hold the priesthood – just after everyone else. So despite his repellant racism he still believed they would have the priesthood.

    Likewise while the policy is that none of the main leadership offices in the Church can be held by women we do ordain women as priestesses in the temple.

    Contrast this with homosexuality where there appears to be no theological route to legitimize homosexual acts. The distinction between homosexual inclinations (which are almost certainly due to biology in the majority of cases) and homosexual actions has already become Church policy. I don’t see a way to move beyond that other that some advance biological technology. That is understandably troubling to many – why would God create a system like that. And it’s always possible everything we thought on the matter might prove wrong, but I think it misleading to compare it with the other two situations from a theological perspective. None of that is of course to condone those who advance homophobic positions or treat people who are gay with less respect – especially in the public arena. But it does suggest that in terms of behavior there is far less wiggle room theologically.

  27. Mike H. on March 6, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Yes, from experience, some at BYU (and other LDS schools) are VERY impressionable about what a Professor says. There’s plenty of students who feel that their Seminary or Institute Teacher could walk on water.

    I did have one BYU Religion Prof. who taught the Brigham Young idea that Eve was born by childbirth, like anyone else. That flew contrary to what Joseph Fielding Smith & others have taught. Hum, another field of knowledge the Church still does not have all the details to, but, we know “everything” about Homosexuality??

    It was commonly felt in the 19th Century LDS Church that Plural Marriage was very “helpful” to one’s Salvation, until the Manifesto. People in the Church then questioned if General Authorities were bowing to outside influence. Now, practicing it will you Excommunicated. There were lots of divergent ideas about Civil Rights among General Authorities before 1978. I had it implied to me by some members in the Church that racism was fine, before 1978. Oops. And, a few members still felt that Pres. Kimball caved in to outside pressure.

    Yes, Slavery is another good example.

    Is Professor Hancock going also to question if Carol Lynn Pearson should continue the work she is doing with the GLBTQ community? Why won’t someone in Salt Lake try to stop her here, if what she’s doing is so wrong?

    http://clpearson.com/oaklandstake.htm

    And, what about the Gay Rights Ordinance in Salt Lake City that the Church commented in favor of a few years ago?

    A little hint to BYU Professors: “Keep your words short & sweet, you never know which ones you will have to eat.”

  28. Howard on March 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Clark,
    So Brigham Young was right?

  29. Brad Kramer on March 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Contrast this with racial differences where there appears to be no theological route to legitimize miscegenation. The distinction between racial differences (which are almost certainly due to biology in the majority of cases) and acts of race-mixing has already become Church policy. I don’t see a way to move beyond that other that some advance biological technology. That is understandably troubling to many – why would God create a system like that. And it’s always possible everything we thought on the matter might prove wrong, but I think it misleading to compare it with the other two situations from a theological perspective. None of that is of course to condone those who advance racially prejudiced positions or treat people who are colored with less respect – especially in the public arena. But it does suggest that in terms of behavior there is far less wiggle room theologically.

  30. Artax on March 7, 2012 at 12:57 am

    I don’t know who this Hancock guy is, but is he friends with Professor Joanna Brooks? If not, why is he calling her by her first name? Why is he “Professor Hancock”, but she, with the same educational background and professional position, is “Joanna” to him? Dear Ralph, do you realize how disrespectful and patronizing this is?

    (end threadjack)

  31. Winterbuzz on March 7, 2012 at 1:08 am

    this line: “Of course, Ralph Hancock is neither Jesus nor Joanna’s ecclesiastical leader, and he therefore has no actual say on whether she is allowed to be a Mormon.”

    Yes! Wonderful!

  32. Ziff on March 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

    A certain wise man whom we claim to adore said that “No man can serve two masters”

    Fortunately, Joanna has an out. She’s not a man.

  33. Stephen Hardy on March 7, 2012 at 3:48 am

    The problem here is “over-reach.” In the cases of polygamy and the African-descent priesthood ban, we had unpopular practices without a lot of cultural or scriptural support. Thus, some ideas were floated to support the practice by true-believers. As long as the ideas supported the doctrine/practice they got a favorable hearing, even if they were implausible.

    For example, we had church leaders saying that plural marriage was the most important doctrine or practice that a Mormon could engage in. (Sort of like someone today saying that tithing, templework, missionary work, etc etc etc is the most important thing that we can do.) We also had odder ideas such as the idea that Jesus wasn’t only married, but had plural wives, and this led to the idea, occasionally taught, that Joseph Smith was a direct descendant of Jesus. (Taught once to me by one of those “amazing” seminary teachers.) In an effort to support a practice erring on the side of excess was allowed. And it left us with “baggage” in terms of teachings that we now have to distance ourselves from.

    In terms of the priesthood ban, we had a number of speculations which, in the absence of any official well-stated doctrine, found traction among Mormons even in some cases up to these times. Again, as in polygamy, erring on the side of excess was allowed. And it left us with “baggage” in terms of teachings that we now have to distance ourselves from.

    So, now we find ourselves at odds with “the world” in the case of same sex attraction. I know that there is some evidence of longstanding condemnations of homosexuality, but really not that much is said about it. Nothing, for example, in the Book of Mormon or the D&C unless you count condemnations of “perversions”, whatever that refers to. I worry that in our zeal to support a current policy/doctrine that we will again over-reach and say things, teach things, believe things, testify to things that someday will be “baggage” to our children and grandchildren. The church’s stance on homsexuality is both nuanced and changing (for one example, there is the acknowledgment that homosexuality may be based in genetics and not by “faulty” parenting.) We should be careful about what we say, even if its in support of what we understand the church to be saying.

  34. Stephen Hardy on March 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I never fail to post without realizing that I misstated something. On the above post, when I say “erring on the side of excess” what I mean to say is this: “erring on the side of support of the policy”

  35. Howard on March 7, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Since 1975, the American Psychological Association has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations… The prejudice and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual regularly experience have been shown to have negative psychological effects… Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex.

    Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding.

    All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.

    Coming out is often an important psychological step for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s sexual orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health.

    Studies of prejudice, including prejudice against gay people, consistently show that prejudice declines when members of the majority group interact with members of a minority group. In keeping with this general pattern, one of the most powerful influences on heterosexuals’ acceptance of gay people is having personal contact with an openly gay person.

  36. Howard on March 7, 2012 at 9:44 am

    According to Wikipedia: In 1970, Kimball was involved in creating an LDS publication for church leaders to “assist them to effect a cure and … become normal again”. The pamphlet made it clear that “Homosexuality CAN be cured”. In 1992, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases as a mental illness, the church produced Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems which removed all reference to homosexuality as a disease.

  37. Adam Greenwood on March 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

    If you think that the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the LDS church’s claims to be uniquely divine, the priesthood, the atonement, the judgment, and our prophets claims to be prophets in some sense that Gandhi and Barack Obama aren’t, is folklore, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t call LDS teachings on marriage, family, and chastity folkore also. Why strain at a gnat?

  38. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Conversely, if you believe God Hates Fags to be the foundational core of the Everlasting Gospel, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t resort to third-grade logic in a drive-by attack comment on a blog.

  39. Tim B. on March 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Hey, Latter-day Guy, I guess I missed the part where our prophets and apostles promoted slavery in the last general conference. FAIL.

    Hey, Brad, after #29, your delivering a lecture to anybody about third-grade logic is the definition of idiotic. You might as well just start posting “I know you are, but what am I?” It’s philosophic geniuses like you that are starting to convince me that Ralph Hancock was right. Everything you post is pretty much a textbook case of what Adam Greenwood is describing.

  40. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    OK.

  41. Manuel on March 7, 2012 at 11:10 am

    The following is a comment posted on the post The Bott Affair: Winners and Losers, in this blog Times & Seasons.

    I would like to re-post it because it seemed to put in to words what I believe is going on at BYU regarding the professors of the discussion at hand. The author claims to be a BYU professor, therefore, it is good to have a perspective from within, and as a contrast to Ben Park’s response (#7) to one of my comments in this thread.

    We can also see how Bott allegedly thinks facial hair may be to blame for homosexuality, among other things. It is disingenuous to think BYU had absolutely no idea of this as Ben Park seems to suggest. Therefore, I leave you with the response by a BYU professor posting with the handle “NG.”

    NG on March 7, 2012 at 1:18 am

    The more I learn about Bott, the more furious I get.

    First, there is of course the blatant racism, which he consciously clings to despite repeated counsel from the brethren to abandon it. The refusal to abandon false doctrine has widespread consequences. I live in Utah county, and I’ve heard the “n” word in my ward’s building on more than one occasion. My children hear overtly racist comments (often directed toward the President of the United States) in the hallways at school. I had to have a child transferred out of one instructor’s class because that teacher had told a wildly offensive racist joke in class.

    Second, this has shined a light on a whole pandora’s box of false and speculative doctrine and offensive personal opinion that he has been sharing in class and on his blog. If you think what he says about blacks and the priesthood is nutty, you should see what he says about which sex acts are appropriate in marriage and which aren’t, his thoughts about premenstrual syndrome, and the connection between facial hair and homosexual tendencies.

    Third, and most importantly to me, this incident has made it clear that professors in Religious Education are not only free to preach absolute nonsense for decades on end, they are rewarded for it! He was one of the most popular teachers on campus–teaching classes where people shared their mission calls for the first ten minutes of each lecture, and where all tests (or “celebrations” as he calls them) are open-book and open note, and any kind of rigorous engagement with the world of ideas is completely absent. He has been featured in Church media stories in the Deseret News and between General Conference sessions. How could Religious Education allow this to go on for so long? This is no fluke. This is a major, deep-seated and far-reaching systemic problem. I don’t think Bott alone should be fired; I think there should be a major house-cleaning.

    I am a professor at BYU. I cringe with humiliation at the thought that Bott’s business cards look like mine, and that I might have to clean up his (and Religious Education’s) horrible, horrible mess when someone asks me at a conference what in the world made it possible for him to be gainfully employed at the same institution where I work, in a department with a rather highly-regarded national reputation. Randy Bott, and the Religious Education department, have created a shameful situation that not only perpetuates false ideas among students, but also diminishes the value and esteem of their degrees once they graduate.

    I have recently served on a couple of faculty search committees in my college. We had faithful LDS applicants with astonishing accomplishments on their CVs and degrees from the most prestigious Ivy League institutions competing for positions at BYU. Dozens of such highly qualified applications have been turned away–their professional accolades considered not quite good enough for BYU. Meanwhile a few buildings away, Randy Bott (and who knows who else) putters away in front of a classroom of impressionable young minds, taking sacred tithing money and hard-earned tuition as payment for the task of telling prospective missionaries that blacks bear the curse of Cain, and that the reason BYU prohibits beards is because growing a beard can turn you gay.

    This is unacceptable. This isn’t a matter of an otherwise qualified person making a public mistake or error in judgment. This is a matter of a broad, systemic negligence of a sacred stewardship over truth and intellect, brought to light by a friendly, clueless, blithely racist charlatan.

    Being a nice man does not make someone a moral man. I know lots of very friendly, but morally questionable, people. If we’re quick to forgive Bott’s racism as mere datedness and generational obliviousness, what we’re saying is that racism is not a moral issue. Because we would NEVER abide someone treating chastity, tithing, the word of wisdom with such casual eye-rolling and quick forgiveness.

    Racism is immoral. The consequences for racism should be commensurate with a moral failing.

  42. jimbob on March 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

    “Conversely, if you believe God Hates Fags to be the foundational core of the Everlasting Gospel, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t resort to third-grade logic in a drive-by attack comment on a blog.”

    This is the left-leaning equivalent of a Jettboy comment.

  43. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

    jimbob, that’s exactly what it was meant to be.

  44. clark on March 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Because we would NEVER abide someone treating chastity, tithing, the word of wisdom with such casual eye-rolling and quick forgiveness.

    Umm. Yes, we actually normally do.

  45. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    He means we wouldn’t abide such things from a Religion professor at BYU without serious consequences. If Bott had been teaching that women should receive the priesthood, or that the WoW was optional and not really a commandment, he’d have been fired a long time ago (at a minimum).

  46. clark on March 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I bet he’d get an interview and if he was humble and towed the official line he’d be left alone. That’s the way it’s normally goes when people make claims like that. I guess I just remember too many people who’ve gotten in trouble for saying odd things. It’s just when they make an issue out of it and persist that trouble occurs.

  47. a random John on March 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Michael (#25),

    I can’t tell if you’re trying to be funny or not. Sometimes it is tough on the internet to discern humor. Here’s what you said:

    I didn’t find his statement to be as bad as you all are painting it. And he does have a pretty good point, if you are willing to have an open mind about it. At some point, we all have to choose between a political god and our faith. Which is more important? A certain wise man whom we claim to adore said that “No man can serve two masters”.

    Which, personally, I find hilarious. But I think you were being too subtle for some. Here’s what I would have said, were I trying to make exactly the same point:

    Hey people, Professor Hancock isn’t so bad. All you open minded types should be open minded and consider his close minded point. He invented from thin air a new membership requirement based on one’s political positions. If you accept that on faith (and you should because you’re open minded!), then you have admit he has a point. And once you’ve done that you have to decide between your politics and God, right? Which is more important? Remember, “No man can server two masters.” So obviously you open minded types need to consider this and pick one or the other. Because Professor Hancock is now your master.

  48. Brad on March 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Comment #4
    “Well, aside from the fact that the OT and the NT and centuries of Christian tradition and everything our modern prophets have ever said on the topic all reject homosexual behavior as sinful. At some point, “waiting for further light and knowledge” is just a polite way of denying the teachings of the church. I’m not sure you can equate three thousand years of scripture and revelation and prophetic guidance to “folklore,” unless by “folklore” you mean “things that I don’t like.””

    A piece of militant conservative, scriptural-literalist, closed-minded Mormon rhetoric at its best. Keep it comin’ Tim B.

  49. danithew on March 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I like comment #4.

  50. Ben S. on March 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Brad, how would reading as a non-literalist make any difference?

    There was plenty of precedent for lifting the ban. There’s precious little precedent or analogy for authorizing or legitimating gay unions with sealings, regardless of how much anyone wants it to happen.

  51. Brian Duffin on March 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I like comment #4.

  52. Ben S. on March 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Not saying nothing can happen unless it has precedent, just that it’s simplistic to make a 1:1 equation between the priesthood ban and other issues.

  53. Bruce Nielson on March 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Comment #4 does have the virtue of being how Mormons do understand scriptural and prophetic authority. In short, like it or not, it’s factually correct about how the leaders of the LDS Church look at revelation, scripture, and authority. Thanks TimB for keep T&S honest.

  54. Brian Duffin on March 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I’ll share some more militant conservative, scriptural-literalist, closed-minded Mormon rhetoric:

    “Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins. Sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage are forbidden by the Lord. We reaffirm those teachings. Mankind has been given agency to choose between right and wrong.”

    President Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1987

  55. The Only True and Living Nathan on March 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Things learned today: “militant conservative, scriptural-literalist, closed-minded Mormon rhetoric” = “actually believing what your church teaches.”

  56. Jeffrey T. on March 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I like comment #4. A lot.

  57. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Just for clarity’s sake, I am not the Brad of comment #48. But I also don’t like comment #4.

  58. Brad on March 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    “How would reading as a non-literalist make any difference?”

    Sure the writer(s) of Leviticus, Paul, and modern LDS leaders all have condemned homosexual behavior. But not everything written in the scriptures or said by LDS church leaders is necessarily binding to cannon. Much of it can be dismissed as particular and not universal. Gay relationships can be reconciled with scripture and LDS doctrine. The Episcopalians found a way, why not us?

    Also there are a lot of “teachings of the church,” many of them contradictory. The church leadership doesn’t try to emphasize every last scripture or every last word that has been muttered by its presidents. It emphasizes some points and ignores others. While there surely isn’t any precedent for toleration of openly gay relationships, why does there need to be?

    The bottom line is that Hancock is wrong. You don’t have to choose between being a supporter of gay marriage and being a Mormon. Church leaders aren’t supposed to excommunicate or disfellowship you for your political beliefs. They may take disciplinary action against you for openly criticizing the 12 and the FP. But I support gay marriage and am still an active Mormon. However, at the same time I have never criticized the brethren for taking the stance that they have. They have softened their stance on homosexuality in the past. I’m sure that with time they’ll soften it some more.

  59. Brian Duffin on March 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    And just to be clear, Brad, it is diversity of thought that makes blogging a rich experience. For that reason alone, I appreciate your comment.

  60. Brian Duffin on March 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    “Church leaders aren’t supposed to excommunicate or disfellowship you for your political beliefs. They may take disciplinary action against you for openly criticizing the 12 and the FP. But I support gay marriage and am still an active Mormon. However, at the same time I have never criticized the brethren for taking the stance that they have.”

    Yet, at the same time, Brad, you are critical of someone who supports the stance of the brethren.

  61. Ben S. on March 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Howard, the change to “pure” from “white” in the text was made by Joseph Smith.
    See Robert J. Matthews. “The New Publications of the Standard Works–1979, 1981.” BYUS 22:4, p. 398.
    as well as Douglas Campbell. “ ‘White’ or ‘Pure’: Five Vignettes.” Dialogue, vol. 29, Num. 4 (Winter 1996), p.119-135.

    A little snark is fine, but self-righteous snark that is also historically uninformed is not. You’re on thin ice.

  62. Ben S. on March 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Brad, that’s not non-literalist as much as simply downgrading the authority or relevance of this or that passage.

  63. danithew on March 7, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Certainly the LDS Church has changed it’s approach to homosexuality in the sense that the Church seeks to be more sympathetic and understanding towards those who are same-sex attracted.

    But there hasn’t been any indication that there will be a change in how the law of chastity has been taught or the way that the Church approaches the topic of marriage. The Church leadership teachings about the commandments and doctrines in regards to marriage and sexuality have been very consistent.

    That is why comment #4 makes sense to me. I felt the response that comment #4 was militant etc. was quite over-the-top. Honestly Brad, in your response, you came across as more militant and intolerant than Tim B. ever did. But maybe, Brad, that’s just how you perceive anyone who disagrees with you on this particular question(?).

  64. Brian Duffin on March 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Well said, danithew.

  65. clark on March 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Clark, So Brigham Young was right?

    About? He was right on some things and wrong on others.

  66. Iggy M on March 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I’m right behind you, Danithew. #4 is a perfectly reasonable answer unlike the responses (#48 and others) to it. Militant and intolerant? Really?

    I always have to laugh at the “close-minded” epithet because, frankly, it’s like calling someone “Hitler.” It signals an end to reasonable, rational discussion.

    Plus, how far can you open your mind before your brain falls out?

  67. Kaimi on March 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Cut out the sniping, y’all. Let’s keep the discussion focused on the substantive issues, not “I know you are, but what am I?” I’ve moved about a half dozen comments into moderation, consistent with the T&S comment policy.

  68. Ray on March 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    In an attempt to be precise:

    The Church’s stance on homosexuality has changed and softened over the last few years (admitting it is not just a function of societal influence but truly biological in many cases, being just one example), but the Church’s stand on homosexual activity has yet to change in pretty much any way – and the Church still forbids expressions of love and intimacy between and among homosexuals that are not sexual in any way (things that non-married heterosexual members can do without anyone but the most extremely conservative members complaining in any way). I like the direction of the recent changes very much, but the current stance still constitutes an unequivocal rejection of homosexual activity – and that term (“homosexual activity”) still is applied much too broadly, imo, since it creates a real double-standard for two groups of people who, according to every standard definition of the Law of Chastity, are living it fully. (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/11/homosexuality-and-most-basic-double.html)

    I can see quite easily the Church continuing to modify its stance (even in my lifetime) to allow a same-sex couple who live together, for example, to attend the temple as long as they promise they are not engaging in activity that would keep non-married heterosexual couples out of the temple – but it would take a major shift in doctrine and perspective to allow gay sealings. I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever. (I can see lots of surprising things happening, given our history and the concept of continuing revelation, but that one would shock me in my or my children’s lifetimes.)

  69. Kaimi Wenger on March 7, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    1. I’m aware that church leaders have tied current statements on homosexuality to Biblical verses, and to church history.

    But church leaders _also_ tied their statements on race to Biblical verses, and to church history. And now we cheerfully dismiss those statements as “folklore.”

    If Brigham Young’s and Joseph Fielding Smith’s and Bruce R. McConkie’s very confident and scripturally-linked pronouncements on race can later be classified as folklore, then current church leaders’ very confident and scripturally-linked pronouncements about homosexuality could undergo the same change.

    So, I wouldn’t be so confident that we know all there is to know. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    2. But, all of this is tangential to the point of the post. It’s possible that President Hinckley’s statements on homosexuality will one day be viewed as folklore along the same lines as Brigham Young’s statements on race, yes. But however that turns out, we can say for sure that there is _not_ clearly established doctrinal support for Professor Hancock’s freelancing about “the importance of sexual difference and procreation in the big, eternal scheme of things.” We simply have no freaking idea how sex is going to operate in the eternities. Hancock’s suggestions to the contrary are definitely not official church doctrine.

  70. Ray on March 8, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Amen, Kaimi – and amen.

  71. michelle on March 8, 2012 at 12:54 am

    “the importance of sexual difference and procreation in the big, eternal scheme of things.”

    I’m not saying that I support all that Prof. Hancock said (e.g., I respect people’s space to want to sort through the gay marriage issue without fearing that if they wonder about it, they’ll lose their membership — even as I fully support the Church’s stance on gay marriage), but I read this quote above as being less along the lines of speculating about sex in the eternities and more about underscoring what we have heard a lot — that marriage, procreation, chastity are really important to living and understanding mortal elements of God’s eternal plan.

    To me, this is foundational stuff, and I agree with those who say that the race issue isn’t a parallel, 1:1 comparison with this one. I see them as being very different.

    I see prophets as having two main jobs — teaching about Christ, and teaching about the plan of salvation. Heterosexual marriage is central to that plan. Procreation is central to that plan. And that has been the case through all dispensations since the beginning of time.

  72. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Kaimi & Ben S come on you couldn’t see the humor in my now moderated comments?

  73. danithew on March 8, 2012 at 5:55 am

    I know that many portray the gay rights movement as an extension of the civil rights movement. But it seems to me that it is more accurate and natural to view the gay rights movement as an extension of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s and has continued on now for many decades.

    The Church’s response to the gay rights movement has been similar to its response to the sexual revolution. While some attitude adjustments and softening of policy (I’m thinking of overall attitudes towards contraception) came about, the core aims and concepts of the sexual revolution have been consistently rejected by the Church. So it seems natural to me that if the Church has consistently and actively rejected fornication and the arguments in favor of fornication, that the Church isn’t going to take a more radical step of accepting or approving homosexual activity and will continue to reject arguments in favor of such things.

    In arguments within the Church, the civil rights analogy gets turned into discussion of the priesthood ban. But even if one accepts that kind of analogy – there are pointedly fundamental historical and doctrinal differences. In regards to priesthood and blacks, there was a positive precedent and a positive prediction. That is, in the early church there were some black men who were ordained to the priesthood and there was the prediction (earlier in this thread it was said Brigham Young even predicted it) that someday black men would receive the priesthood.

    In regards to homosexuality, there is no precedent and there is a negative prediction. That is, there has never been an acceptance of homosexual activity or anything resembling gay marriage – and prophecy of an increase in immorality (and an attendant increase in homosexual activity) is considered to be one of the negative signs of the times.

  74. Anon on March 8, 2012 at 8:25 am

    The reference to the sexual revolution raises the possibility of a scriptural alternative. Yes, the Bible condemns homosexuality–though not with as much insistence as it condemns taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable, and it is not certain that the practices condemned in the Old and New Testament were exactly equivalent to the relationships of modern same-sex couples. Nevertheless, one might draw upon Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians for guidance.

    Paul recommended that it would be best for widows and unmarried men (widowers?) to remain unmarried, but he also recognized the value of accommodating very human weaknesses: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 8-10, NIV).

    Marriage is a deeply conservative institution that is good for individuals, for their children, and for society in general. The church rightly celebrates and supports marriage. Yet it is possible to disprove of homosexuality and still be in favor of same-sex marriage, just as one might personally be against alcohol but feel that government prohibition is not the answer. The church could continue hold up the ideal of marriage between one man and one woman, and even insist upon celibacy as a requirement for its gay and lesbian members, while at the same time acknowledging that not everyone is able to live this standard, and that those of other faiths or no faith at all should not be required to abide by gospel principles, particularly with regard to a secular institution regulated by the government for all citizens. It seems more compassionate to want one’s gay friends and associates to be in happy, stable, monogamous relationships, even if there is no room in the church for them, rather than just casting them aside as irredeemable and unworthy of legal protections or privileges.

    If fornication and promiscuity are troubling, as I believe they are, does it make sense to exclude one particular class of people from the one social institution that has proven its worth over time in channeling and directing human sexuality? The church can continue to regard gays and lesbians as sinners, but marriage is a good thing, even for sinners.

  75. Geoff B on March 8, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Nice comments by Danithew.

  76. SilverRain on March 8, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Ray, could you explain this, “I can see quite easily the Church continuing to modify its stance (even in my lifetime) to allow a same-sex couple who live together, for example, to attend the temple as long as they promise they are not engaging in activity that would keep non-married heterosexual couples out of the temple. . . .”

    It seems ludicrous to me, and since you’re not usually ludicrous, I can only assume I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying. It sounds to me like you’re saying the Church might be okay with a same-sex couple living together as long as they promise they are completely celibate.

    As for the rest of the discussion, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you Kaimi, are right, and the Church will eventually change its stance on homosexuality to allow complete and full fellowship of fully sexually active homosexuals.

    Don’t you think that Joanna Brooks’ claim that the church WILL change is just as much out of line as Ralph Hancock’s claim that they definitely WON’T, given that right now they haven’t? While Hancock’s “must” is certainly stepping outside of his authority, there is something in this whole dynamic that warrants examination.

    There are people who claim to be faithful Mormons, while actively working to undermine the Church. Not just disagreeing with the Church, or holding their own council about issues, but actively working to drum up support to force the Church to change their stance on issues, to force a particular interpretation of scripture or doctrine, or to bully people in the Church who don’t support the same issues they do. (And I think they can come from both conservative and liberal sides of the playing field, as this post plainly shows.)

    I, too, would find it nice if they could have a little more intellectual honesty and admit the truth of what they are doing to the media, rather than trying to hide behind a veneer of faithful or mainstream Mormonism in order to win the public perception that this is how most Mormons feel or think.

    And I’d find it even more refreshing (and impossible) if the media could admit that the opinions are not necessarily representative of all Mormons. The thing is that Mormons are a wildly diverse group of people, you’d be hard pressed to find any one of us that could accurately represent a majority of us, so they should really quit trying.

  77. Geoff B on March 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I just listened to a FAIR podcast interview with a man with SSA who lives with his former boyfriend, but both have vowed chastity. The man was baptized, and both of them have AIDS, and if I remember correctly the man is temple-worthy. Apparently both men are OK with the bishopric and the stake president. The key issues here appear to be: 1)A person with SSA living with another man is not a problem (they say they love each other as Christ loves them, but they do not have romantic love). 2)They keep the law of chastity. 3)By doing this they are temple-worthy. Fascinating interview. What do I take from it? It is not a sin to have SSA or even to live with another man, but it is to commit homosexual acts.

  78. danithew on March 8, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Anon (comment #74),

    The logic you are using in regards to Corinthians could seem logical enough in isolation – but not in conjunction with other passages in his epistles where Paul specifically criticized both female and male homosexual acts. There is no way he would have condoned the extension of what he teaches in Corinthians about marriage between a man and a woman to homosexuals. I think Paul would have responded that such a construct/concept is spiritually unfathomable, perverse, impossible, dangerous.

    Romans 1:26-27
    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    From what I see in the arguments that often take place, many times a Christian schema or approach to the problem is almost wholly abandoned or very superficially sourced and replaced with a modern progressive liberal agenda and rationale that basically ignores the scriptures and the consistent and extensive prophetic precedent – ancient and modern.

    In that schema, the desire to save the souls of people who have same sex attraction, the desire to exhort them to abstain from sinful behavior is replaced with concern that they should be able to satisfy their emotional longings and needs by acting on physical desires that have been scripturally/prophetically prohibited. In the here and now that might seem very sympathetic and compassionate, but from a scriptural eternal perspective it could be considered the equivalent of encouraging them to walk into a firestorm.

  79. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Ben (62), you’re quibbling about semantics. A scriptural literalist is someone you believes the scriptures to be not just historically inerrant, but also doctrinally inerrant.

  80. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Silver Rain dialog and activism related to church reform does not undermine the church it helps make it stronger. Would the ban on blacks been lifted when it was without the civil rights movement? Of course not. President Hinckley said he could allow women to be priests “But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.” apparently indicating that agitation is not only okay but required for change.

  81. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Danithew (78), I love Paul, but unfortunately some of his interpretations didn’t seem very godly. Here he is on women:

    1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
    34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
    35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    Have “modern progressive liberal agenda” pushers ignored scriptural injunction here?

    The scriptures aren’t doctrinally inerrant. The church emphasizes some points of doctrine and downplays others. The abovementioned passage of scripture may have seemed relevant to many religious folks before the women’s rights movement. But now the quotation of this scripture in any LDS chapel in the US is merely for effect. No one takes this literally. In many churches today, people look at injunctions against homosexuality the same way: they reflect a personal bias of a particular time and place, but are not to be interpreted as some universal truth.

  82. Tim B. on March 8, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Ben (62), you’re quibbling about semantics. A scriptural literalist is someone who believes the scriptures to be not just historically inerrant, but also doctrinally inerrant.

    There, I fixed that for you.

  83. Tim B. on March 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Gosh, if only we had someone who could help us sort out which scriptures are most important today and how to interpret them!

  84. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

    danithew can you demonstrate that Romans 1:26-27 is not referring to anal intercourse? An e coli infection would have been no small problem back then.

  85. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Also, it should be borne in mind that not all supporters of gay marriage are liberal progressives. Some of them are actually very conservative. Many Episcopalian supporters of gay marriage also frown on premarital sex and promiscuity and believe marriage to be a divine institution that all should enter into, not just for procreation, but also to learn long-term commitment to another human being. Their rationale for supporting gay marriage is that we should allow it not just to be kind and tolerant, but to stave off future broken marriages (in the case of one partner being gay and feeling forced to marry the opposite sex) and to help increase the overall happiness and sense of responsibility to the community among individuals.

  86. Hosea on March 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Here is the problem with the notion of future change brought into the present: the value of prophetic leadership is completely undermined. It isn’t as if those proposing that gay marriage and homosexual acts will be the norm in the future are arguing that at some future date the Church may change its views. No, and this is critical, the argument is that the Church is likely wrong now because our society is shifting to accept gay sexual relations as normal. But that is both presumptuous (because it assumes way too much knowledge about the future) and dangerous (because it undermines prophetic authority in the present).

    Those arguing that the Church could be wrong are actually arguing that it will be shown to be wrong and is thus wrong now. The conclusion is that they are, therefore, now free to disregard prophetic counsel and fight the Church and its prophetic leadership. Yet the upshot of that is that they just don’t believe it is prophetic leadership at all. They don’t have to wait for a new word of prophetic guidance, they are free now to disregard it because it could change some day.

    There is a looming fallacy here. The fact that the Law of Moses wold some day change does not mean that Israelites and later Jews were not bound by covenant to follow it before it changed. Moreover, if the societal norms are really what determine whether the Church is led by reliable revelation, then there is no reliable revelation. We are reduced to a merely democratic organization that is led by societal norms and not God or prophets. But the Church is not a Democracy. God is not bound by societal norms.

  87. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Tim B., you’re only confirming everything I said about you before. Quit acting childish.

  88. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Hosea wrote; Those arguing that the Church could be wrong are actually arguing that it will be shown to be wrong and is thus wrong now. Well, that is what happened with the ban on blacks so it could it happen again?.

  89. danithew on March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Brad, you’ve mentioned the Episcopalians a few times now. There’s quite a gulf between the way they do things and the way Mormons do things.

    You know that, right?

  90. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 11:07 am

    “Brad, you’ve mentioned the Episcopalians a few times now. There’s quite a gulf between the way they do things and the way Mormons do things.”

    Beyond the point. The point is that not everyone who supports gay marriage has some “modern progressive liberal agenda.” Quit creating straw men.

  91. Adam Greenwood on March 8, 2012 at 11:09 am

    The problem is that there aren’t tight parallels or discrete common factors between Paul’s view on women and Paul’s view on homosexual acts, or between the priesthood racialism period in church history and marital heterosexuality. As seen here, the method therefore simply has to be to subvert or deconstruct scriptural or prophetic authority.

    But this goes too far. “Prophets can err, scriptures can err” is an argument against traditional marriage, but its also a possible argument against marriage, period. Or the atonement, or the temple, or our doctrine of racial tolerance or equality, or love, or anything. Too their credit, liberal Mormon critiques haven’t gone this far. They are happy to accept scriptural and prophetic authority insofar as it coincides with their opinions (and in some honorable cases, even in some instances where it doesn’t). But there is no principled reason in their critique not to go that far, so we, and they, should reject it.

  92. SilverRain on March 8, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Howard, you have no way to support your theory, so I won’t ask it of you.

  93. Michael on March 8, 2012 at 11:18 am

    “Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude…” –Finnegans wake

  94. danithew on March 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Brad – I’m not creating straw men arguments – I’m responding to your comments. You mentioned Episcopalians. I’m responding.

    Your view of Episcopalian practice as conservative and worth noting just doesn’t make sense to me. Episcopalians who push for gay marriage and gay priests aren’t conservatives, in my view.

    For what it’s worth, I occasionally visit a few different Episcopalian churches around here in NYC, just because they sometimes host interesting events. But I have zero interest in seeing Mormonism mimic Episcopalian forms or practices.

    I should say that, even though I was critical of LDS proponents of gay marriage preferring a progressive liberal agenda to scriptural/prophetic precedent, I wasn’t ultimately arguing that conservatives are always right and liberals are always wrong and that the LDS Church should be conservative. That’s not an axe I’m grinding. Rather, my intended focus in these comments is that we should be following the doctrines and scriptures as they have been taught and as they are taught today by our modern prophets.

  95. Michael on March 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

    “Rather, my intended focus in these comments is that we should be following the doctrines and scriptures as they have been taught and as they are taught today by our modern prophets.”

    That would require a spiritually healthy dose of humility, something that I often see lacking on these Bloggernacle sites.

  96. Señor Ganymede on March 8, 2012 at 11:29 am

    #91,

    They are happy to accept scriptural and prophetic authority insofar as it coincides with their opinions…

    Ain’t it the truth.

    Say, how ’bout the church’s current stand on illegal immigration? The last I heard, you thought the brethren were “giving you the finger”.

  97. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Adam the secular world is evolving to higher levels of enlightenment too. Without being Mormon somehow they have become much more civilized than they were in Old Testament times. The concept of equality is part of this secular enlightenment and we should be embarrassed that they beat us to it and with regard to the ban on blacks proving our prophets wrong. Tighten your seat belt and hang on to your quad brother because they are doing it again with regard to gender and sexual orientation and the church is already looking for wiggle room pandering to women and reaching out to gays.

  98. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Silver Rain,
    So was the church weakened by lifting the ban on blacks? Did it remain about the same? I think it was strengthened but I’d love to hear what you think.

  99. Michael on March 8, 2012 at 11:38 am

    “Tighten your seat belt and hang on to your quad brother”

    Your unbounded faith in secularism is inspiring!

  100. Jeffrey T. on March 8, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Tim B., you’re only confirming everything I said about you before. Quit acting childish.

    Brad, I find this comment to be a little childish.

  101. Hosea on March 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Howard #88: Your response confirms precisely what I argued. The fact that blacks were given the priesthood does not entail that before the revelation giving blacks the priesthood that it would be appropriate to do so in contravention of prophetic authority.

    It so happens that there was no doctrinal basis or revelation which justified this exclusion — I accept that the ban was a result of Brigham Young being persuaded by a particular member of the Church that blacks shouldn’t have the priesthood because it would lead to intermarriage. BY was wrong and bigoted. He led the Church into a practice that was wrong and only perpetuated because those around him didn’t dare to oppose his opinions.

    However, Kaimi’s present argument goes too far. There is sound basis in the canon (Paul’s statements, Leviticus’s bans and so forth) regarding homosexuality. It seems to me that these passages are fairly clear and the way they were applied in Israelite and Jewish culture is equally clear. Those who claim that there is no basis in the canon for seeing homosexual acts as sinful are swimming upstream against the really clear weight of these passages in my view.

    Kaimi’s argument to justify his rejection of the Church’s position on gay marriage goes too far. It simply undermines prophetic authority and rejects it. The same arguments made by Kaimi and others here could be made for virtually everything the Church believes as Adam Greenwood has pointed out.

    For instance, an argument exactly parallel to Kaimi’s can be made that it is wrong to teach that premarital sex is is wrong because it stigmatizes the vast majority of the population. It is now the societal norm and we cannot judge anyone who engages it it. Moreover, the Church is hurt because it sees premarital sex as sinful because it is just old fashioned to do so, all of the prior prophets who taught otherwise are just old fogeys who didn’t know any better given their times. Moreover, it is immoral to keep folks from indulging their innate urges and desires that they were born with. That is how the argument works.

    But it is a fallacious argument. It simply ignores that one having prophetic authority has given crystal clear guidance on these issues. I know they feel free to simply disregard this guidance and the statements in the canon because all prophets could be, and they fallaciously argue, therefore are wrong. The danger is that their god is actually the prevailing societal norm.

  102. Michael on March 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

    “The danger is that their god is actually the prevailing societal norm.”

    Bingo! This illustrates the dangers of having a political god instead of the one true God.

  103. Peter LLC on March 8, 2012 at 11:59 am

    “Prophets can err, scriptures can err” is a fact of life, period. Fortunately, this has not had a negative effect on racial tolerance or equality, which I see as improving as time progresses.

  104. Howard on March 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    The same arguments made by Kaimi and others here could be made for virtually everything the Church believes as Adam Greenwood has pointed out. Hosea don’t you find it interesting that this argument is NOT being extended to everything the Church believes?

  105. TT on March 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    The idea that a god which opposes same-sex marriage is NOT a political god, but the god who favors it is a political god, seems self-evidently ridiculous.

  106. Hosea on March 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Howard: #104 – No I don’t find it interesting that the argument isn’t extended to all other beliefs, I find it revealing.

  107. Hosea on March 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    TT #105: No one argued about a political God. What is patently ridiculous is that God is opposed when his politics differ from yours.

  108. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Adam (91)
    “As seen here, the method therefore simply has to be to subvert or deconstruct scriptural or prophetic authority. But this goes too far. ‘Prophets can err, scriptures can err’ is an argument against traditional marriage, but its also a possible argument against marriage, period…. [Liberal Mormons] are happy to accept scriptural and prophetic authority insofar as it coincides with their opinions (and in some honorable cases, even in some instances where it doesn’t). But there is no principled reason in their critique not to go that far, so we, and they, should reject it.”

    Adam, your reasoning echoes the notion touted in the 1945 New Era, “when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” George Albert Smith rejected this idea and wrote the following in response, “the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.”

    Let’s not pretend that conservative Mormons don’t also “accept scriptural and prophetic authority insofar as it coincides with their opinions.” (Immigration anyone?)

    The church encourages us to engage in reasoning and discussion. It gives its members a lot of latitude in what they can believe. Certainly the leadership believes that gay marriage is wrong. They once promoted the idea that blacks couldn’t receive the priesthood because they had been cursed. I can still be a member in good standing and not agree with them on that issue.

    As Joanna Brooks has pointed out, Mormonism is a rich tradition that can and already does accommodate a large variety of beliefs and identities. Our specific beliefs don’t define us as Mormons or not. Active LDS both in the leadership and membership have a wide variety of beliefs about scripture and doctrine. It doesn’t make one of them less Mormon than the other. Joanna Brooks is as much of a Mormon as is Ralph Hancock.

  109. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Danithew (94)
    “Rather, my intended focus in these comments is that we should be following the doctrines and scriptures as they have been taught and as they are taught today by our modern prophets.”

    Not everything is so cut and clear. That sort of reasoning could have been used back in the 60s to criticize those who didn’t believe Cain’s curse doctrine or Mark E. Peterson’s (in)famous 1953 BYU talk in opposition to interracial marriage. If you were to tell me that you believe and support everything ever said in the scripture and by LDS leaders past and present, I would tell you that 1) you are not thinking for yourself and 2) your belief are full of contradictions.

  110. Hosea on March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Brad: How would one identify a reliable “belief” on your view that doesn’t just boil down to the judgment: “that’s just what I want to believe and that is enough”?

    Further, are you asserting that one remains faithful to the Church as the kingdom of God regardless of what one believes? Is someone who believes that the Easter Bunny is god also a mormon if he or she just shows up to church meetings consistently?

  111. Brad on March 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Hosea, the criteria for who is a Mormon are defined more by belonging than by believing or even behaving.

  112. Kaimi on March 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. The thread seems to be repeatedly turning into personal back-and-forths, and I think we’ve largely covered the substantive issue, so I’m going to close comments now.