This past week, I saw a post in my RSS feed that was actually titled “The brides of Satan.” I am not paraphrasing. I am not making this up. This is an actual, real life blog post where the blogger said:
Given the fact that Lucifer’s plan appealed specifically and directly to female spirits and their natures and did not appeal at all to male spirits and their natures, it is logical to assume that the 1/3 were all female.
I probably should have DoNotLink‘d to that post, because a sliver of me considers that the only reason someone would write a post like this is for page views. (FWIW, at this point, I am 97.333333% convinced that Matt Walsh is just writing for page clicks, and that all of the liberal outrage shares/clicks are falling exactly into his trap. That is my gift of discernment.)
I did not do that because for a variety of reasons, I happen to believe that LDS Anarchist is fully sincere in believing what he’s writing (and he has since commented on my personal blog that he did not mean that blog post as satire.) I know I’ve gotten Anarchist confused with his coblogger Justin — a confusion that has cause plenty of laughs for everyone, I’m sure — but my impression of the entire LDS Anarchist blog is that these are sincere outside-of-the-box doctrinal/theological investigations.
But let’s get back to me in bed, reviewing my RSS feed items. As soon as I saw this post, my gift of discernment clued me in on something — I knew that the fruits of this post would be that it would get posted to some liberal Mormon FB group, and it would cause a lot of drama. I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent the drama. The only thing I could do was hope that ground zero of said drama would not be the Mormon Hub.
Fortunately for me and the other Hub moderators, it was not. Instead, it was posted to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group, which was probably an even worse place it could go. And indeed, there was drama. So much drama. I don’t want to get into the drama, because it was so much.
I just want to say a few things.
First, and as a side note, I want to say that I was able to derive a bit of Black Humor (pun fully intended) from this. See, Mormonism has huge race issues because of racist doctrine/folklore that claims that black people exist because we were not as valiant in the pre-mortal existence. As it goes, being lukewarm in pre-existence = being black in mortality. (And because the pre-mortal existence is unique to Mormonism, this racist folk doctrine is not one we can just blame on the Baptists or whomever.)
But, if we take LDS Anarchist’s article seriously, then the conclusion to draw is that women are even worse, because of the third part of heaven that went against God and Jesus, we are to believe that all of them were women. (To be fair, all of the women living or who have ever lived were not part of that third, because the third who rebelled didn’t get bodies. But it seems that Anarchist is using traits he has associated with women from *mortality* back onto women’s pre-mortal spirits, so the criticism probably still holds.)
But, as I said, this is a side note. It’s not what I wanted to talk about.
No, the main thing I wanted to talk about is the very idea of going through an exercise like this. Anarchist, for some reason, has been thinking about the personalities of men and women, and seeing how he can develop a theology (or more particularly, Mormon theology) from various axioms and conjectures. I don’t know if he is doing this as a purely intellectual and completely impersonal matter, and I don’t think he is doing it just to rile people up or just to troll. I don’t have any reason to believe that he does not sincerely believe in the work that he is doing.
So, through this exercise, he seems to be creating this elaborate theology upon the sinfulness of women, based on supposed traits of women. (Women love alpha males, and if you look at Lucifer’s plan vs Jesus’s…well, Lucifer is clearly more of the alpha male.)
I don’t understand this. Why does anyone feel the need to do this?
Or, let me ask it in a different way. Why does anyone feel the need to do this when one possible alternative is to develop a theology that affirms women? A theology that is based upon the strengths of women (however one wishes to define such).
Maybe I have just thoroughly drunk the liberal, progressive Kool-aid, because I am aware of writers and thinkers who are addressing theologies that they would say do affirm women from an LDS framework. You’ve got stuff like the sort of stuff that Valerie Hudson Cassler writes that enshrine gender complementarity — and heteronormativity to go along with it — as being “pro-feminist”. And of course, you have folks who absolutely think that the status quo of church practice, theology, and doctrine affirms women.
But when I ask for women-affirming theology, I want to know why more people in 2014 aren’t developing LDS egalitarian women affirming theologies. There was a discussion at Times and Seasons a few weeks ago that sought to “constructively engage the arguments” regarding women and the church, and one interesting thing that happened in the comments section was the post became something of a discussion that the conservatives and liberals couldn’t see eye to eye because the conservatives operated on faith and spirituality whereas the liberals were trying to argue on secular values, intellectualism, and logic. So, even if most of my question is: why aren’t more Mormons in general developing women-affirming theology, the side question would be — why aren’t even the supporters of women-affirming policies, doctrine, etc., more firmly establishing that they are speaking from a position of faith and spirituality? (The status quo is that the faith of liberals is assumed to be nonexistent, and liberals are constantly on the defensive to either change the subject or try to fit within conservative goalposts for what faith or spirituality mean.)
I digress. Maybe it’s because I am not actually a sexist, and not actually a racist, and not actually a believer in the folklores and doctrines as they have been passed to me, but I do not see the pressing urge to defend and create elaborate theologies behind belief structures that essentially degrade or hold back classes of people. I similarly don’t see the reason to try to justify LDS past policies against black folks. I don’t feel a reason to justify that God felt that way, and then to justify why God felt that way. Because instead, my feeling is that if God exists, he either doesn’t feel that way or he is not worth my time.
A Rube Goldberg Machine of Our Choosing?
Matt Bowman once described that one reason it’s hard to figure out what Mormons believe is because Mormons simply don’t have a lot of official beliefs. The lack of an official theology, of course, does not prevent Mormons from theologizing (and theologizing often!) But concerning this mass of theology and trying to sort out what can be institutionally supported, Matt wrote:
But there is no creed, catechism, or systematic theology to hold Mormonism to any fixed point, and therefore, the cluster of ideas that make up Mormon doctrine, all of which at some time or another seemed the unvarnished truth to some group of saints or another, is in a constant state of evolution. Forty years ago, it was common for Mormon leaders to denounce birth control from the pulpit: today, contraception is explicitly condoned. That which Mormons generally believe are those things currently emphasized in official venues. This means they are accustomed to rolling their eyes at worn, little repeated ideas taught fifty or a hundred years ago. “Brigham Young said a lot of things,” when uttered with the right degree of weariness is certain to gain sympathetic chuckles in any Mormon gathering. Consequently, church leaders are generally content with letting ideas no longer appealing simply die out, rather than issuing formal repudiation. There is a great deal which Mormons might believe; there is very little that they must believe.
“There is a great deal which Mormons might believe; there is very little that they must believe.”
I feel that, if theology is the work of constructing Rube Goldberg Machines as Adam Miller proposes — a work of often overwrought creativity and care performed with building blocks (and things that aren’t really blocks at all) that are altogether too much for the task, yet are what we have — then can’t we choose better to what creative ends we employ our building blocks? If we might believe many things, why do we have all of these long and involved theological discussions on why women are bad, why the status quo on the Priesthood is right, why LGBT folks are misguided, etc.,?
Maybe I’ve just thoroughly drunk the liberal progressive Kool-aid, but my questions remain:
Why can’t we have a woman-affirming theology?
Why can’t we have an LGBT-affirming theology?
Do we not have the building blocks? Is Mormonism so encumbered with racism or sexism or heteronormativity that it is not possible to build up a credible Mormon feminism? A credible Mormon acceptance of LGBT?