To the General Presidents of the Women’s Auxiliaries

Dear Sisters,

As a Relief Society president in a small unit outside of Utah I have watched with interest the roll-out of the Church’s policy on gay marriage, cohabitation, and the children of gay parents who live or have lived in stable relationships. I would like to ask one question and make one request. My question is this:

Were the three of you consulted about these policies?

Continue reading “To the General Presidents of the Women’s Auxiliaries”

Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage: The Contagion Theory

The recent policy changes in the LDS church treat polygamy and same-sex marriage as analogous in two ways. First, they are explicitly defined as “apostasy,” resulting in automatic church discipline. Second, the children of such relationships receive the highest level of scrutiny before they are allowed to join the church. Why are these two kinds of relationships, and the children of such relationships, subject to such treatment? We might note that other sexual and relationship sins will result in church discipline, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts. However, this does not explain why the children of polygamous and same-sex relationships are also subject to scrutiny. Children of fornicating or adulterous parents are not excluded from church membership or put under ecclesiastical monitoring.

Continue reading “Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage: The Contagion Theory”

Scriptural Authority, Normativity, and Hermeneutics: Women and the Priesthood

Introduction [1]

The Bible often privileges men as normative for what it means to be human, frequently considers women as inferior to men, and presents God in overwhelmingly male terms. For the contemporary believer who is committed to the full equality of men and women the problem is not simply one of reconciling isolated patriarchal, sexist, or misogynistic biblical passages with an egalitarian or feminist perspective, but the revelatory nature of the biblical text itself.  “How can a text that contains so much that is damaging to women function authoritatively in the Christian community as normative of faith and life?” (36). A theology of Scripture that takes this problem seriously must reject the traditional understanding of Scripture as divinely revealed in verbal form to its ancient authors lest the pervasive androcentrism, patriarchalism, and sexism of the biblical text be understood as divinely revealed.  1) What then does it mean for Scripture to be the “Word of God”? 2) How can the Bible function authoritatively for the Church? 3) And is the Bible materially normative for modern faith and practice? Continue reading “Scriptural Authority, Normativity, and Hermeneutics: Women and the Priesthood”

Church Stance on Birth Control, Public and “Private”

Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA), the Church’s insurance company, does not cover prescriptive contraception, for any reason that relates to (“voluntary”) contraception. That is, any Church employee or covered spouse (including BYU employees) that wants contraception requiring a prescription must pay for it entirely out of pocket. The only exceptions for this relate to the physical (not mental) health of the woman: endometriosis, ovarian cysts, etc. Postpartum depression is not a valid medical issue that would result in an exception to this exclusion. This is clearly not an economically motivated decision.

This is not a post meant to criticize the Church; rather it is to ask about the extent to which public discourse matches the “private” (that is, non-Church-wide) practices controlled directly by the Church. Continue reading “Church Stance on Birth Control, Public and “Private””

Gender, Mormonism, and Transsexuality

The declaration that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” is presumably attempted to rebut the second-wave feminist articulation of the sex/gender dichotomy which sees sex as natural and gender as culturally/socially constructed, and therefore malleable. While it is perhaps unclear that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is theoretically sophisticated enough to be aware of the sex/gender distinction that emerged in the 1970’s starting with the work of Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (1970), it is nevertheless situated in a historical moment in which these terms escape easy definition. Indeed, the definition of such terms is in fact the most contested element of feminist theory, and the failure to articulate any precise definition opens the text up to multiple interpretations.
Continue reading “Gender, Mormonism, and Transsexuality”

Open Letter to Protesters of LDS Support of Prop 8

Dear Protesters,
It has been a frustrating week. You’re angry, maybe even irate. I understand. The courts recognized marriage as a right for same sex couples, and that right was lost in a close battle in the ballot box. Though Mormons make up a small amount of the total votes in favor of Prop 8, you hold them responsible for much of the fund-raising, canvassing, and phone-banking for the Yes on 8 campaign. Mormons seem like the easiest and most obvious targets for your anger. You have chosen to protest outside of Mormon temples and meetinghouses to express your anger, including petty vandalism, and to produce inflammatory commercials. I suggest that you seriously reconsider this doomed-to-failure strategy as accomplishing exactly the opposite goals that you intend.

It has been a long haul since Stonewall. Protests and marches have been a critical part of the gay liberation movement’s success. Though the courts have been an integral aspect of the movement’s strategy, public demonstrations remain a key element in consciousness raising and public relations. The problem in this instance is that protests only confirm the fears of the Yes on 8 vote.

I think that a major political miscalculation has been made by the No on 8 folks. While some, perhaps even a great deal, of the Yes on 8 vote can be reduced to homophobia or bigotry, the biggest reason for many religious groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage is the fear that they will eventually be forced to perform same-sex marriages in the future. This is quite likely an absurd fear, one not grounded in sound legal reasoning, but it is a sincerely-held concern. In this view, to vote in favor of same sex marriage is to vote against the future viability of religious freedom. Your job is to convince a majority of voters that this is not the case.

The problem with protesting Mormon places of worship is that it only substantiates these fears that homosexuals are out to destroy religious freedom. When you picket Mormon temples where marriages are performed, block the entrances, and yell at them as they prepare to worship, it seems to confirm the assumption that you are trying to tear down religious marriages and interfere with the free-exercise of religion. When you make inflammatory commercials, it raises the defensiveness of Mormons who have been vilified in American political life since their beginning. These actions are worse than ineffective in convincing the electorate to support gay marriage; they are actually extremely destructive to your cause. For years to come opponents of gay marriage will be able to point to the harassment of Mormons that has occurred over the last few weeks as definitive evidence that gay people oppose religion, seek to impose their marriages on religious institutions, and will choose to vilify religious people. This is a public relations disaster for you. Instead of being able to be the persecuted minority, you have begun to appear as the rabid haters of religion that many fear you to be.

I do not know who is organizing these protests, but I strongly urge any who will listen to stop and reconsider a cooperative approach that will ease the fears of religious people and institutions that same-sex marriage will infringe on religious liberty instead of enacting it.


[Added: This post is has some good coverage on the issue]
[Added: Some good news]

Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage”

As far as I know, FPR has never had a SSM post, and I think that we are somewhat proud of that fact. Despite this record, I am so confused by the document that the Church put out today, called the Divine Institution of Marriage, that I simply must break the silence about this for the purposes of clarification. This document suggests that as a result of the court decisions in MA and CA (the legislative decisions legalizing marriage and civil unions in other states are not mentioned), “The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.” The text continues: “traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children.” While there are a number of different arguments raised in this document explaining the church’s opposition to SSM, my question has to do with the relationship between SSM and the argument concerning the raising of children. The document explains that “if children and families are to be protected,” one must reject SSM. While I have heard this argument raised before by opponents of SSM, and church statements have alluded to this argument before, this document by far represents the most clear official statement on the subject of the threats to children. The threat to children constitutes the most prominent argument offered in this text.
Continue reading “Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage””

The Future of Heavenly Mother

Heavenly Mother (HM) has proven to be a very potent and productive figure in the history of Mormonism. She has been put to use for all sorts of theological and political agendas. Even the silence about her functions to promote a certain political agenda. I want to briefly review some reflections on the history of HM, and offer a theory for why I think she will play a more prominent role in Mormon discourse over the next few decades.
Continue reading “The Future of Heavenly Mother”