Archive for July, 2013

“Are your Mormon families all just waiting for your lives to fall apart since you left the LDS church? “

July 30, 2013

What’s really maddening is the whole double-bind embedded in most attempts to leave the LDS church: Mormons are so tied into their wards and church socially, psychologically, religiously, sometimes financially, that if one of them actually has the chutzpah to call shenanigans on the whole business and leave, there is tremendous social and psychological pressure often brought to bear on that individual. (This isn’t news to any exmo.) Guess what happens when people lose their social networks and most or all of their family ties? They get stressed out and depressed. Guess what happens when people get stressed out and depressed? They can make some bad calls in their personal lives. And what does the LDS church do? It tries to turn people who leave it into object lessons about what happens if someone leaves the church! The LDS church and 99% of its members won’t give you any exit counseling or support, at all, and so the usual advice for recent exmos is to take it easy, don’t go crazy with normal human enjoyments that the LDS church has controlled and denied in your life, give yourself time, breath, see a non-LDS therapist, and wait at least a year or two to get your own moral compass set-up. I was an adult convert and it took a huge act of will to drop it all, and it took two to three years to be in a position where I could talk to a Mo at the door without getting very angry. I can’t imagine the situation for BICs or for people in heavily Mormon enclaves, e.g., Utah. “Social suicide” isn’t just an empty phrase, especially in Mormondom.


Mormonism, the Priesthood of Believers, and Maxine Hanks

July 28, 2013

Interesting, from the article linked below, that at least part of her going back to the LDS church had to do with the idea of lay priesthood. It sounds like, as she says, she “pulled back” in her studies or from being ordained (?) or couldn’t go through with that, perhaps because the idea of a priesthood separate from the laity didn’t fit well with her Mormon background. That would make some sense. And so she re-discovers to her relief the point of a completely lay priesthood, and goes back to the LDS church.

I’m not sure how that works with any feminism, given that the LDS church’s priesthood is decidedly patriarchal, in focus and largely in practice. But yeah, one of the things that attracted me to Mormonism as a convert was the LDS church being led by laity at the local level. My DW thinks that men performing priesthood blessings of healing and comfort is one of the most beautiful things about Mormonism.

Of course, what’s really pulling at me these days, in the wake of the NYT piece on Mattsson, is how empty Mormonism was for me spiritually and intellectually as a practicing Mormon. Couple that with the rigid authoritarianism, the paleo-conservatism, and the intense, cognitively paralyzing and emotionally crippling indoctrination techniques used in the LDS church (members who question LDS church dogma are essentially coerced into staying in the LDS church, sacrificing sacred matters of individual conscience because they don’t want to lose marriages or family ties), and the LDS church seems an odious place.

For me now, considering my experience in the LDS church and considering the Mattson affair, I think about the obvious virtues of a theologically and historically educated class of pastors, ministers, priests, etc., who can REALLY perform actual pastoral work and discussion in the wards. (The experience of sitting in a LDS chapel on Sunday morning is mind-numbing, so one starts to wonder if there are any seriously wise and well educated ministers out there worth listening to each week.) The pastor is paid for pursuing his vocation, rather than a ward or stake having a necessarily puffed up full-time accountant or podiatrist or business executive doing part-time pastoral and ministering work (as though these were after-thoughts!). And he or she is not part of a special priestly class (a la Catholicism) that is understood to specially mediate sacred teachings for the members. For example, I can see where a born and raised Mormon would pull back from Catholicism, or maybe ordination in a church in the Anglican or Lutheran line of Protestantism, but a Calvinist, Baptist, or Presbyterian church doesn’t doctrinally separate off the laity from the priesthood (“of believers)” like that.

In practice, Mormon priesthood is largely symbolic and empty. A pro forma affair where men run around doing Important things; they lay hands of blessing on people; they perform ordinances. But actual pastoral work is often reduced to checklist interviews for “worthiness,” or “pray about it, read your scriptures.” Gee, thanks. I mean, when one is going through a faith crisis in the Mormon church, one is a bit naive to go to one’s Bishop, although that’s exactly who the LDS church hierarchy wants you to go to. And why? Because he’s their man in your ward. He’s there primarily, in the last analysis, as the Handbook of Instruction says, to “protect the good name of the Church.” He is not there first and foremost to counsel, to heal, to offer real advice helpful to that individual. If he does any of those things, that’s just a matter of luck. There’s no design in Church hierarchy and administration for real pastoral work, for an honest grappling with doubts or trials of faith, to actually happen. That’s partly why the LDS church is in such a mess now: Faithful people with serious doubts or questions go in to the Bishop’s office, struggling, and they more likely to be berated, chastised, mocked, looked down upon, than they are to be treated with consideration, compassion, understanding, and true ministering.


[Relevant quotes from the SLTrib article:

Hanks rejoined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February.

On Friday , during a popular evening session of next week’s Sunstone Symposium, an annual meeting for Mormon intellectuals and observers, Hanks will detail her 20-year spiritual sojourn as a feminist theologian and chaplain, which brought her full circle back into Mormonism.

“Given who I was, there was no place to go but out,” Hanks said in 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the excommunications. “Mormonism was limiting to me, so I needed to test the limits — to see who I and the church really might be. … Excommunication opened the door to a larger cosmos, inside and outside myself.”

From that point on, she explored various Christian teachings and practices, assisted clergy with religious services and served as volunteer chaplain at Holy Cross Chapel for 13 years. In 1999, she joined the Interfaith Roundtable for the 2002 Winter Olympics, where she enjoyed the association of representatives from various faiths and led the annual Interfaith Week.

She studied “traditional, sacramental Christianity and priesthood,” Hanks said this week. “But when I got to the point of priestly ordination, I pulled back. I moved into recognizing the value and power of a lay priesthood in the body of Christ and Christian community. My searching was complete. I had my answers.”

Brigham Young’s racism and false prophets

July 26, 2013

Argh, it hurts to read this guy’s apologetic stuff: Basically, as far as I can tell, he just messes around with historicizing and contextualizing Young’s racism (the contextualizing with Young’s text is useful, the historicizing a bit random). He concludes that lots of leaders had an insufficient understanding of racism (even Lincoln). Of course, this side-steps the whole problem of how a PROPHET OF GOD could be okay with slavery in the 1860s (the country was at war in great part over this issue and people were taking life and death stands for equality). How could the Voice of God be okay with the whole curse of Cain racism in the Book of Mormon? How could God (through Young) ever be racist? “Cornell” never addresses any of that.

Mormonism, censorship, and the limiting of cultural achievement

July 23, 2013

The LDS church has had an official historian from the start, and later a whole history department, but who has heard of its official artist or art department?

In matters of the arts and literature, even philosophy, history, and I dare say the social sciences, the LDS church and its culture seem eerily similar in their control and censorship to Stalinist dictates about what could count as “official Socialist” art or literature. Even more eerie is that both cultures favor(ed) overt realism in the representational arts, suspicious of the subjective freedom or potential for subversion in abstraction and expressivism. Even Shostakovich was expected to keep his music compositions in line with more predictable, less abstract or discordant, paths in order to appease his Soviet masters.

The Ostlings, though they can be quite sycophantic about Mormonism, loving as they do any semi-Christian organization so long as it is culturally so in tune with Evangelicalism and conservative–do have something instructive to say about the limits of Mormon cultural achievement:

“Weaker areas of [cultural] achievement are equally predictable. A characteristically literal turn of mind combined with dogmatic Mormon ideals and a certain cultural isolation results in highly sentimentalized representational visual arts. LDS sculpture, paintings, even typography and graphic arts, appear rather like orphans from the late nineteenth century. Something similar undercuts Mormon efforts in the high arts in general; art is confused with propaganda, never with a quest; preconceived answers precede questions. In Mormon culture art is inspiration or entertainment, not exploration[–just as for Mormons, members of the church are not on “spiritual quests.”] As a result, Mormons…are largely absent from the highest levels of achievement in the fine arts, literature, and the humanities in general. History is something of a special case.” (Mormon America, pp. 145-146.)

Happiness and Freedom Despite the LDS Church’s Uses of Fear and Social Pressure

July 9, 2013

The first time I stayed home, telling the bishop I was sick (I was the Exec. Sec.), I just had this big grin on my face that wouldn’t go away. I was experiencing sweet freedom. I was so happy to be away from that burdensome church and those generally sweet but tedious people. I had my whole Sunday morning and afternoon to myself! I look back now and think of how the LDS church kept me in this subservient, servile, fearful, anxious, dreadfully pathetic state. You can’t be yourself. You can’t explore and find your own voice, your own interests. You barely know how to. Your individuality is suffocated; every thought has to be church approved or you feel terrible and guilty.

Being in the LDS church is a nightmare of being controlled. You don’t know who your real friends are until you get out of the church, because a lot of your LDS friends will be uncomfortable around you if and when you dare to not follow the script. They’ll begin to quietly avoid you, i.e., shun you.

Of course LDS friends and family think that when you become disaffected with the One True Church you are in “a dark place.” They are fearful, because the LDS church falsely teaches them that anyone who dares to leave the LDS church will suffer and bring only shame and terrible things upon him or herself and family.

My god, what a farce, what a sick, sad, terrible thing the LDS church and its culture of shame, intolerance, and fearfulness are, especially when you consider how the “darkness” they fear is partly their own creation: 1) an exiting person’s LDS social circle starts to variously pressure, shame, and abandon them, so no wonder some people go a little crazy, 2) their family will often be freaking out and even the person’s marriage can be destroyed, 3) they’ve been on a church created hamster wheel of obligation pressure and moral and sensual repression for so long that when they do actually first experience being free of it they might well use poor judgment in trying out new things–like socially awkward teens–and 4) the church makes its people so dependent and afraid of thinking and evaluating for themselves, that when the spark of real freedom, liberty, and agency does arise in them, they will often first try to gropingly get away from the church–hanging out in the bathroom, skipping third hour to go get coffee or a donut, making excuses–in ways that, looking back, seem awfully timid but that may just confuse the people around them who care at all.

What Will Probably be an Ongoing Series Reporting on the (Premature, Exagerated, and Just Wrong) Reports About the Death of the Humanities and the End of Literature as We Know It With Links

July 7, 2013

The Hyperarchival Parallax

David Brooks’s 20 June 2013 op-ed piece for The New York Times, “The Humanist Vocation,” in which he declares that the humanities are in decline, has sparked a flurry of debate and response. One of these reasons for the flurry of commentary is that the issue is more complicated than Brooks allows for in his quite brief piece (and he’s simply wrong on a few points, see Michael Bérubé below). Another reason for the considerable response is that his discussion of the humanities cuts to the bone for those of us who actually work in the humanities. (Certainly for me, as will be apparent below.)

Brooks’s article accompanied a report released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences titled The Heart of the Matter, which takes the familiar line of: the humanities have to “retool” to fit the changes presented by our networked, scary world, with its…

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Live this One Life to the Full

July 7, 2013

Live this One Life to the Full..

Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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