If you have any cursory engagement with the extremely online liberal/progressive Mormon community (or have even read the previous Wheat & Tares blog post from from Dave B), then you will know a bit about the drama from Elder Jeffrey Holland’s address to the BYU staff and faculty, The Second Half of the Second Century.
My devotional practice these days consists of trying not to get wound up in the maelstrom of a religion that I have long accepted is doubling down on a particular path. Instead of the scriptures and conference talks, I find myself more likely to read speculative fiction — especially those that present alternate histories where one or two key changes spiral into drastically different futures.
And yet…I read and listened to this address (Lord, grant me chastity and continence from LDS drama…but not yet), and I was struck by how….contingent…it all was. In the philosophical sense as “not necessary.” And how profoundly saddened I felt from the growing realization that, if the church and its leaders hadn’t decided to double down on this issue, then maybe we too could present an alternate history that spiraled into a drastically different future.
Holland’s talk is based around discussing the future of BYU (and, in a related sense, the future of the church itself) as anchored in its past. Since we have agency, there’s always a sense in which the future could change, but Holland’s talk is laced with the evidences that the leaders see no ground to change on this area.
The core and repeated theme of Holland’s talk is that BYU must be distinguished by a holy mission: two soaring ideals — that of a consecrated university with that of a holy city. Zion.
This is imminently fair. But what strikes me, what saddens me, what disappoints me, what frustrates me, is how when the church and its leaders visualize what will exemplify holiness, it comes again and again to certain topics.
Let’s first begin with the general idea, before our direct observation collapses quantum possibility into a single reality. Holland relays a story he had read through personal correspondence of BYU failing to meet its mission:
“You should know,” the writer says, “that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU. It seems that some professors (at least the vocal ones in the media) are supporting ideas that many of us feel are contradictory to gospel principles, making it appear to be about like any other university our sons and daughters could have attended. Several parents have said they no longer want to send their children here or donate to the school.
“Please don’t think I’m opposed to people thinking differently about policies and ideas,” the writer continues. “I’m not. But I would hope that BYU professors would be bridging those gaps between faith and intellect and would be sending out students that are ready to do the same in loving, intelligent and articulate ways. Yet, I fear that some faculty are not supportive of the Church’s doctrines and policies and choose to criticize them publicly.
There are consequences to this. After having served a full-time mission and marrying her husband in the temple, a friend of mine recently left the church. In her graduation statement on a social media post, she credited [such and such a BYU program and its faculty] with the radicalizing of her attitudes and the destruction of her faith.”Personal Correspondence, cited in The Second Half of the Second Century, J. Holland.
When, I read this, I knew that it could apply to any other number of alternate possibilities. Maybe the “vocal [professors] in the media” refers to those like Randy Bott who nearly a decade ago speaking on LDS idea on race? Maybe it applies to BYU professors calling a certain student a Korihor just earlier this year? Those “abandoned and betrayed” could refer to those turned away by BYU or the church’s tepid response to alt-right “DezNat” movement. It could apply to LGBT students who feel abandoned and betrayed by the church’s thoroughgoing and constant re-emphasis of heteronormativity as a sine qua non of Mormonism itself.
But you know — and I know — and Holland knows — and everyone knows that that’s not the type of thing that Holland is speaking about. Though there may be several parents who no longer want to send their children to BYU or donate to the school for these reasons, we know that these are not who Holland has in mind.
Though there may be several who have served full-time missions and married in the temple who have left the church due to the destruction of their faith caused by these issues, you know, and I know, and Holland knows, and everyone knows this is not the vision of the future nor the anchor to the past that Holland is intending.
Why and how do we know this? We know this because Holland and other leaders consistently tell it to us. (This is my frustration with the liberal and progressive Mormons — for they seem to persist in a hope that to me seems repeatedly foreclosed by current church leadership. And I guess revelation can come from the margins so there’s always the possibility for something else, but…)
We know because in this talk, the example that Holland dives into is that of the “doctrine of the family”. And this isn’t new. In this talk, he quote previous address to the faculty and staff by other general authorities who use the same examples:
“In a way[,] [Latter-day Saint] scholars at BYU and elsewhere are a little bit like the builders of the temple in Nauvoo, who worked with a trowel in one hand and a musket in the other. Today scholars building the temple of learning must also pause on occasion to defend the kingdom. I personally think,” Elder Maxwell went on to say, “this is one of the reasons the Lord established and maintains this university. The dual role of builder and defender is unique and ongoing. I am grateful we have scholars today who can handle, as it were, both trowels and muskets.”
Then Elder Oaks said challengingly, “I would like to hear a little more musket fire from this temple of learning.” He said this in a way that could have applied to a host of topics in various departments, but the one he specifically mentioned was the doctrine of the family and defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Little did he know that while many would hear his appeal, especially the School of Family Life who moved quickly and visibly to assist, some others fired their muskets all right, but unfortunately didn’t always aim at those hostile to the Church. A couple of stray rounds even went north of the point of the mountain!Citation of Dallin H. Oaks It Hasn’t Been Easy BYU Commencement Address
This is the anchor to the past that guides the future Holland sees.
There is a difference between reading and hearing a talk, and the LDS church’s history of making slight or severe modifications to text transcripts of controversial topics usually drives me to listen to the talks as well — at least, when I am breaking my previously mentioned devotional practice of continence from LDS drama.
And that’s the thing that struck me when I listened to the talk. When Holland says the following lines, his emotional investment is clear to me:
We hope it isn’t a surprise to you that your Trustees are not deaf or blind to the feelings that swirl around marriage and the whole same-sex topic on campus. I and many of my Brethren have spent more time and shed more tears on this subject than we could ever adequately convey to you this morning, or any morning. We have spent hours discussing what the doctrine of the Church can and cannot provide the individuals and families struggling over this difficult issue. So, it is with scar tissue of our own that we are trying to avoid — and hope all will try to avoid — language, symbols, and situations that are more divisive than unifying at the very time we want to show love for all of God’s children.
What strikes me, what saddens me, what disappoints me, what frustrates me, is that the leaders of the church sincerely believe that the line which God is directing them to never cross is heteronormativity. That, while the church may certainly speak to other difficult issues, other “language, symbols, and situations that are more divisive than unifying at the very time we want to show love for all of God’s children,” the issue that is called out specifically and repeatedly is not alt-right nationalism, is not racism, is not homophobia, is not any of a number of things, but “marriage and the whole same-sex topic.”
The divisiveness-rather-than-unity could be in taking a stand against homophobia, but of course it isn’t…the divisiveness-rather-than-unity is for the church, for BYU, for its faculty and staff to not seem sufficiently united in upholding heteronormativity.
What if we imagined a future anchored in a past where we treated the advocacy and protection of refugees with such an uncompromising fervor? We know that the church takes opinions that aren’t in lockstep with the contemporary American Republican Party on this, so it is something that could be emphasized. But imagine if that is what we waged immense political campaigns about, if that were the theme of repeated messages to faculty and staff at BYU, the theme or undertone of repeated conference and fireside talks. Imagine if that were the line that we were willing to alienate ourselves from the rest of secular society as our distinctive peculiarity.
Maybe I’m just a terrible person, because I struggle to imagine this. I struggle to imagine it because of the way I have been raised in this present, in this past. I cannot dispute that in this timeline, we are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. But I wonder if in our distraction we even misunderstand what the assignment is — what is the assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord? What are the curriculum standards, and how are they weighted? Are we really so sure that there’s going to be as many questions on our devotion to heteronormativity as our classroom prep seems to imply? That the answers we are taught really are the answers on the test, even?
It’s hard to say if our (or maybe just my?) lack of imagination here simply reflects our utter failure to be “unique” and “special” and “singular” from the rest of society on this point. That from this present, we can see no other way to be distinctive because we have already capitulated in every other regard.
I am not suggesting that there are easy answers here. If, in this church, in this timeline, we are convinced that “proportion and balance in the process” requires that “love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people,” compelled by an exegesis that “Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, “Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments,”” and further constrained by the concept that heteronormativity is a foremost commandment, then certainly, it makes sense that Holland and the church are anchored to this past to move to this future.
But it strikes me, saddens me, disappoints me, and frustrates me that “proportion and balance” places this issue so high, that even when the need to avoid “condoning and advocacy” is weighed against the need to avoid “unkindness and disloyalty to people,” somehow — always — the former comes through stronger in the balance than the latter.
The seeds of a different way are in the very sentence! Yet, we all know how it will actually go.
It strikes me, saddens me, disappoints me, and frustrates me that even if we can speak of Zion as not only a consecrated city but also an “old ship Zion,” that the only prominent ways we can think to be distinct and unique is not in steaming ahead of the pack as vanguard in a world of turbulent seas, but only by being anchored in place, not moving as the rest of the fleet moves beyond us.
If Elder Holland is worried about students losing their relationship with the church because of their experience at BYU, he has now guaranteed that this will happen for many. As the father of a graduate and a current student, I can say that their relationship with the church will be severely damaged if Elder Holland’s disregard for academic accreditation makes their BYU degrees worthless.
You have a supposed moderate member of the Q15 speaking in front of a captive audience of BYU professors and staff and this is your message? Why didn’t Holland provide a meaningful vision for where the university is headed? Why not encourage the instructors to prepare the students for the global challenges present and future?
Church growth is in developing countries. This presents challenging opportunities for the Church. BYU is hopefully preparing students for these challenges. Why didn’t Holland construct a vision of how BYU can participate more fully in these challenges?
Instead, our one-time potential hero, obsessed over LGBTQ+ issues. I don’t get it. Is the current vision of Church leaders to turn BYU into an Oral Roberts’ clone?
Thank you for breaking from your spiritual practice to share this. Really insightful (and pretty devastating).
I’ve been seeing a lot of progressive Mormons (before yesterday and since) post messages of love and support to LGBTQ folks. “We love you, we want you, we need you.” They mean well but I keep asking myself, “Who is ‘we’?” I get that “the Church” is not necessarily the institution or the leaders, but there are a lot of possible “we’s” and for most of those “we’s” this message simply isn’t true:
“We” the top leadership of the Church? Nope.
“We” the institutional set-up and doctrine of the Church? Nope.
“We” the majority of the membership of the Church? Not sure on this – would love to know percentage-wise (anyone wanna speculate or have some data here for how much of the membership of the Church, at least in the U.S., is aligned with what Holland expressed?) – but probably nope, I don’t think it’s more than 50%.
“We” the speaker and some of their community? Sure, but is it really responsible to tell people we want them at Church? In an alternate reality, yes I want them at Church – I want a diverse and welcoming and inclusive Church – but can I honestly say I want them in *this* Church in *this* reality? Are progressive Mormons trying to build bridges just building bridges to nowhere – or worse, somewhere extremely dangerous? Should we be building off-ramps instead? (I know this question is hotly debated in groups like Mormons Building Bridges …).
That and other things lead me to wonder what is the moral course of action for a Mormon who claims to be an ally. I know that answer is different for different people, I can see arguments for staying (to remain there for the LGBTQ kids who will inevitably be in our congregations) or leaving (because they can no longer be part of a homophobic institution). I don’t see a great argument for material support to the institution (in the form of tithing and any activity that promotes anti-gay teachings or practices – that’s why I’ve stopped paying tithing to the Church and have openly speak against those anti-gay teachings and practices). I know some LGBTQ folks who say “don’t leave on my account, stay and make it better for closeted kids.” I know others who say, “any kind of support at all is enabling a homophobic institution and you should stop.”
I honestly don’t know what to do. I really wish your alternative realities were real.
Thank you for this piece and the insights you share. Your point that there are alternate scenarios for those laid out by Jeffrey Holland is huge. I feel betrayed in equal but opposite ways from those of the parent he described. I feel betrayed that I have raised my children in a church that holds firm to viewpoints that are not tenable. My children are smart enough to see through the mist. I have deliberately raised children who think and who examine. Should we not? When we know the truth we need to move toward that rather than hold to ideas based on untruths and discredited views. Isn’t that what a good and honorable god would want? Church leaders could shepherd the flock toward new pastures rather than keeping them in an area where their well-being is threatened. Were I the parent of an LGBTQIA child I would feel profound levels of betrayal by a church that refused to accept my child or insisted on limiting my child. As threatened as the Catholic church was by Galileo’s ideas, it did not ultimately spell the destruction of that church. Fighting Galileo did more harm to the Catholic church, presumably than his quest for truth ever did.
Could the Stanford prison experiment have lessons in understanding how church leaders, whom we know in so many respects to be good people, might sometimes choose harmful positions on social topics? Might they see themselves as guards who have the responsibility of keeping order as they believe God has told them to do? Do they limit their god? Do they hold up a god that I find myself unable to worship? If God is not good, would I choose to worship that god? Could church leaders can trust members better? Could they expand their vision of what God might actually want for his children?
Boiled all the way down, the Brethren’s greatest fear seems to be gay sex. Maybe this is a “normal” or to-be-expected emphasis for conservative Christian churchmen, but the downside is that it’s also blinding. We learned that from our Catholic cousins, proprietors of a disaster apparently without end.
The leadership seems intent on making the Mormon tent smaller with the door narrower rather than expanding the tent and inviting people in.
Sadly, I think you are right that those who “seem to persist in a hope that to me seems repeatedly foreclosed by current church leadership” are hoping up the wrong tree. The logical response to the firmly anchored LDS position for such people is to either to give up hope for change but continue one’s membership and activity for family or other reasons, or to go find another church whose doctrines and policies are more in line with one’s conception of God and His Ways. Remember, that was Joseph Smith’s original question: Which church should I join? Perhaps it is still relevant, although not in the way that LDS manuals are inclined to spin it.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to know how many are captive in the church for family or other reasons? I suspect the dying off of the Boomer generation will prompt a sea change.
Not sure what it will be and I’m sorry I won’t be around to witness it. I wonder who will be left in the church to bear witness.
A part of me wonders if the leaders are anticipating a brain drain from Mormonism and that they are seeing that the future generation of believing, or rather fully believing, academics just isn’t there as it had been in the past. I wonder if Holland’s talk isn’t indirectly geared towards that looming crisis and that he is just trying to weed out the half-faithful academics now and begin the process of replacing them with faithful, but less intellectual, drones as he anticipates will be inevitable in the future. Already the religion department is favoring peoplewith a CES background over PhDs.
I have heard in recent days fears expressed about Holland watering down BYU and making it a less prestigious place to attend. I don’t doubt that his recent talk is contributing to such a trend. But I think that BYU is on the precipice of becoming less prestigious anyways due to a shortage of rising believing academics. Unless BYU secularizes and expands hiring to qualified regardless of religious background and beliefs, it is going to be a less desirable and less competitive academic institution. But alas, the leaders want it to be and remain a place where young believers met and marry. They will prioritize that at the expense of academic prowess for sure. I predict a BYU in decline. But it was amazing that it became a respectable academic institution at all.
Rudi: I recommend listening to this week’s Mormonland podcast with Michael Austin who is provost at a Lutheran college and has been at several non-LDS religious colleges in his storied career. Other schools have dealt with these issues differently, for example, focusing on *teaching* based on their faith, but not on the orthopraxy of students and faculty. BYU is hyper-focused on orthopraxy, and it’s only gotten moreso since I graduated in 1992. When I went there, you needed an ecclesiastical endorsement to get in, but not one every year from your BYU bishop, your church attendance wasn’t tracked and mandatory, and if you confessed somethng to the bishop, it was confidential, and you weren’t required to tattle on yourself at the Honor Code office, resulting in potential academic consequences. It’s insane how far down this controlling rabbit hole we’ve gotten without batting an eye. Of course, we’re policing the crap out of everyone’s thoughts and ideas now, not just their actions. We already control the actions, so that’s the next thing.
Thanks for such a thoughtful and substantive post. I just wanted to take up one thread of all of this and my thoughts were sparked by alice’s question about people being captive for family or other reasons. I actually think that one reason the church doubles down on this harmful bigotry is because it’s not only invested in a “traditional” sense of family, but also it has indoctrinated its members to be invested in that kind of family. For all of the other ugliness in Holland’s words, for all of the fear of gay sex, for all of the refusal to specifically condemn bigotry and the alt-right parts of the church, at the bottom of everything lies a fixed, limited, and immovable definition of family.
That, of course, leads to one of the cruelest and most frustrating ironies of all: One of the chief reasons for the church’s investment in this kind of family is that it is the “eternal unit”; the group dynamic that will determine with whom we spend our time in the afterlife. And yet, the result of Holland’s (and many other church leaders’) rhetoric is the consistent message that only certain kinds of families matter and that, despite the shallow language about being “kind” to LGBTQ folk, there is clearly no place in Mormon theology where they can ever be equal in the eyes of either God or the church. So that means that members of the church feel it necessary to either choose the church or choose family and, sadly, there is a significant number of believing LDS who choose church over their own loved ones. So the very thing, the eternal unit that is supposed to bind people together actually ends up tearing them apart because of its very rigidity. So according to LDS leaders, love doesn’t conquer all, a rigid family structure does. THAT is one of the great tragedies behind all of this: The very thing that is supposed to provide love, care and stability is accomplishing the exact opposite.
I’ve come to the same conclusion as Dave B. The Church seems to want a smaller tent, and that’s depressing. Holland rebuked the Maxwell Institute a couple years ago for being too academically minded and not apologetic enough (not to mention the disapproval of them using the moniker “Mormon Studies,” which they have now remedied). This current speech is an extension to that, though it was specifically catering to those who believe that BYU has become too “woke,” not just in regards to LGBTQ issues, but also with all the politically conservative boogeymen (cultural Marxism, leftism, CRT, etc.). It’s just that, as this post pointed out, Elder Holland highlighted support for LGBT individuals at BYU as the biggest concern from church leadership.
I remember hearing about some of my aunts and uncles lamenting that college (including BYU) “radicalized” their kids and led them out of the Church. Funny thing is that among my nieces and nephews (Gen Z), the trend seems to be leaving the Church before entering college. If the brethren really want a smaller tent, they are succeeding.
@Brother Sky, I completely agree, but I really only realized that in the last couple of years (that we aren’t the Eternal Families Church, we’re the Eternal Separation Church). It was a real paradigm shift for me, but I’m very glad to now believe that me advocating too hard for LGTBQ folks isn’t going to land me in a lower heaven where I can only see my more righteous family members if they decide to visit me.
What’s interesting is that two of my kids (ages 14 and 10) both came to this conclusion on their own and they think the “Doctrine of Fear of Eternal Separation and the Promotion of One Type of Family” is an absurd, untrue teaching. I *definitely* never told them this (although I also taught them that we love all types of families). They just are a lot better critical thinkers than I ever have been, and I guess I failed-but-succeeded at instilling the kind of fear I felt growing up. Maybe I am just a dummy but I always believed what authority figures told me. Several of my kids don’t, and I’m wondering if this is a growing trend among other kids who have so much access to so much information. If so, Church is kinda dead if it can’t come up with anything more compelling than “because I said so and Dallin Oaks said so and he’s one heartbeat from the prophet’s chair.”
Elisa: I definitely think the younger generation is way ahead of us on the skepticism/cynicism curve. Of course, it’s not cynicism if it’s simply recognizing the truth of the church’s rhetoric, doctrine, and practice. And yes, they also have grown up with the world at their fingertips (the internet) and so are much more able to sense patterns, to see trends and to know bullish*t when they hear it.
And I second your notion of the church being dead. I think one more generation and it’s over unless things are significantly changed. Of all the young people in my ward, I’d say about 20 percent are true believers and 8o percent just roll their eyes and don’t believe much of anything. It makes me sad to hear newly returned missionaries give their report (as happened last Sunday) and talk about how awesome their mission was, how well they did spreading the word of God and other such humble brags. I should be thinking: “Good for you. Missions are difficult and challenging in a number of ways, so congrats for finishing.” Instead, I think: “Okay, the brainwashing is complete and the church has another loyal soldier.” Cynical and unkind of me, I know, but that’s where I am these days.
Three of my children have essentially left the church because of the hard, unloving positions taken by Elder Holland here and other leaders elsewhere. If my last active child leaves when Elder Holland makes her BYU degree worthless, what reason will I have to stay?
“When, I read this, I knew that it could apply to any other number of alternate possibilities. Maybe the “vocal [professors] in the media” refers to those like Randy Bott who nearly a decade ago speaking on LDS idea on race? Maybe it applies to BYU professors calling a certain student a Korihor just earlier this year? Those “abandoned and betrayed” could refer to those turned away by BYU or the church’s tepid response to alt-right “DezNat” movement. It could apply to LGBT students who feel abandoned and betrayed by the church’s thoroughgoing and constant re-emphasis of heteronormativity as a sine qua non of Mormonism itself.
But you know — and I know — and Holland knows — and everyone knows that that’s not the type of thing that Holland is speaking about. Though there may be several parents who no longer want to send their children to BYU or donate to the school for these reasons, we know that these are not who Holland has in mind.”
This. This. This! No doubt there are a minority of parents who worry for their LGBTQ child’s safety while attending BYU. But Elder Holland isn’t worried about the minority. He’s worried about the core Mormon families who are afraid of rainbow flags. How incredibly sad.
Also, how did he get these letters from members? If I wrote a letter to Elder Holland, it would be sent right back to my SP.
“Also, how did he get these letters from members? If I wrote a letter to Elder Holland, it would be sent right back to my SP.”
Isn’t it true that any of us couldn’t get a letter through if our lives — or eternal souls — depended on it.
It’s a sad rhetorical devise. Like back in the day when Cheney would leak something to the press and then quote himself when it appeared in ink from “an anonymous source”.
Pathetic! I doubt many are fooled by this stuff anymore.
Andrew, you point out the the LDS church seems to be focusing too much on SSA issues, rather than on your pet concerns. Here’s an obvious reason why — there are parades, flags waved, commencement speakers, and professors at BYU who openly agitate for leftist views on SSA issues. However, there are zero parades, flag waved, commencement speakers, or professors at BYU agitating for your pet concerns. White nationalism, deznat, or whatever you and other progmos are obsessed with only make-up a miniscule, forcefully rejected, and de minimis speck of Church members.
Holland’s speech was a well-timed reminder of what the Church’s positions are on SSA issues. The culture at BYU apparently has swung in the direction of making traditional-believing LDS students uncomfortable publicly voicing their support for the orthodox positions on sexual morality. There are plenty of other universities where the sexual morals of progmos can be celebrated, but Holland’s point is LDS Church’s university will celebrate and promote it’s own doctrine.
What strikes me, what saddens me, what disappoints me, what frustrates me is that progmos continually villainize and “otherize” those who have sincere beliefs different that there own. The unfair and dishonest distortion of Holland’s speech over the past few days is a good example of this.
I say this as a non-believing and non-attending member. I don’t believe that Holland is a prophet, seer, and revelator, or and apostle called of God. But I have common sense and eyes to see that he is a good man and that his clearly worded speech was not the violent dog whistle that many progmos are claiming.
Talk of alternate time lines encourages me to be more speculative than usual. There is an alternate that looks like making participation in the community—local ward, worldwide church, BYU-P—a matter of desire + understanding + conformance with minimal norms that have to do with not hurting people. I contrast that to a community defined by adherence to a long list of beliefs and practices including heavy emphasis on policing private consensual sex.
The thing is, my alternative is not so speculative. Other churches and other church schools have figured it out. A large percentage of the Mormon bishops and stake presidents I know personally have figured it out. And I would not be surprised (but have no inside information) if some of the emotional and loaded phrases in Elder Holland’s talk are evidence of a lack of unity on this topic among the trustees and administrators of BYU.
I enjoyed your post and the comments here. I love the way your mind works Andrew and wish you would write more often. I used to think there was a way for the church to embrace monogamous, virtuous homosexual couples that want to raise their children inside the “covenant path” and have an eternal perspective and hope for their union. I no longer hold onto this hope. For some reason too many church members are threatened by this notion. Maybe in 200 years when homosexual men are having biological children born in an artificial womb we can change our theology and make God a man as smart as 2200 peoples and not make him in the image of 1870 Brigham Young. The reason we are stuck in the past is our niche is making men and women Gods and teaching that eternal families are only made by straight Mormons. If they give this up, they are just a crummy Christian church that doesn’t ever talk of Christ.
They have acknowledged that people are born gay. They have acknowledged that there are more single people in the church that don’t fit into their “Plan of Happiness”. They just have not connected the dots to realize their plan only fits a small few. If you are a woman who does not like to nurture, you don’t fit. If you are a straight feminine man who loves little kids, you do not fit. If you are gay, you do not fit. Just wait, they say, God will fix you when you die and make you just like us.
It is tragic that this movement spent 100 years defending polygamy and they shifted it into this concept of eternal families. It was a brilliant shift, but along the way we left out Christ and half the people that are born into this church. If they let go of eternal families, they have nothing.
BTW eternal families are the dumbest thing you could ever imagine. I don’t want to spend a trillion years with my wife. She can’t stand me and we have only been married 20 years. Mormons are the quickest bunch of people to completely disown their own children while crying over the pulpit how much they love their eternal family. It only works for men who have 200 wives and don’t have to spend much time with their children or their wives.
Sorry, but I have to share some more of my thoughts. I’m sure everyone here is aware of “sunk cost fallacy”. When they decided to make religion about obedience and connecting yourself to someone else to make it into the highest degree of heaven, they really painted themselves into a corner. It is no longer about fighting the natural man and overcoming that natural man by adopting the teachings of Christ. It is no longer a personal struggle and a personal relationship with your Savior. Your exaltation is depending on someone else. Someone else has to be worthy and have the same goals and level of devotion or they drag you down to a lower kingdom. They have spent billions making temples and holding up this idea. They get to decide if you are worthy and the easiest thing in the world to weaponize is your sexual desire because most people are born with a pretty strong urge. Never mind the fact that our first 7 prophets had sex with multiple women on different nights of the week. They are going to make every teenage boy and girl with a sexual thought in their head fear that they might not make it to heaven if they don’t do what they say. Our church is built around this. Two men or two women having sex is the pinnacle of sin in their minds. There is no way to rewrite our temple ceremony or are theology to make this work. The church will NEVER accept gay people. They will make the tent as small as they need to. If you think that they are going to change, you need to change your expectations. This talk that Holland gave is exactly what they have always taught.
The BYU-Golden-Goose just laid a Rainbow Valedictorian Egg.
And nobody gave Elder Holland the memo. It was a well-executed announcement by a brilliant Valedictorian.
But be honest: at any other university in the country, “coming out” at graduation would be considered tactless. Cringe. Only at BYU would such a thing be newsworthy.
Elder Holland’s comments concede the brilliance of timing and execution of the Valedictorian’s announcement with the admonition that BYU graduation ceremonies not become launchpads for agendas.
Fair enough, superfunny, no foul, play on.
If I could pick an ‘alternate reality’ for the Church, it would be for the leaders to raise the alarm about the oath of Gadianton that is creeping into our world today. The oath of Gadianton is:
That they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings. . . . that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God (Helaman 6:22–24).
The band of bad guys promised to protect each other from the consequences of murder, exploitation and theft, and also whoredoms. Seriously, let’s beat the drum about men in power holding other men in power accountable for the abuses of that power. Then we can even quote Book of Mormon scriptures! Homosexuality doesn’t appear anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Whenever sexual sin is referenced, it’s about men having too many wives and concubines, or committing whoredoms.
(Funny how Jacob went out of his way to say polygamy is okay if God wants to raise up seed, but then no one in the BOM ever practices polygamy. Instead, ‘many wives and concubines’ is always cited as an abuse of power and a sin.)
Anyway, on the topic du jour . . . homosexuality. When I prayed about the issue with an open mind, the understanding that I received is that God is most concerned with how you treat your sexual partner. Kindness, respect, and integrity are the key to a Godly relationship, regardless of whether you’re the same gender as your partner or not.
Danyal, here are some tips. “Progmos” don’t actually use the term “progmo.” That is a derisive term that came from DezNat to describe progressive members of the church.
Second, calling everyone who disagrees with you a “progmo” indicates that you are not familiar with this website or the decades-old Mormon-affiliated blogosphere. We have a wide range of people who participate as both bloggers and commenters on this forum that include orthodox, progressive, and former members. We also have folks who’ve never been members of the Church.
Finally, if you are going to attack a blogger for having “pet concerns” when you clearly don’t know anything about that blogger, you will not have any credibility in this conversation.
Excellent post, Andrew.
I have been so troubled these last few days. This wasn’t one of those moments involving a slip of the tongue or an indiscrete phrase. The speed with which an article was up on the Church News and the Newsroom website along with the social media publication shows that they were ready to publish. The YouTube video was posted and linked to in the Newsroom article. “They” wanted the word out loud and clear.
Everything about this talk was calculated. And I guess that is what is so troubling to me: it was a deliberate call to arms.
Last night we had dinner with some friends that were passing through and staying the night with us. One is a transman that we have known since he was two years old. He is a doctoral candidate in psychology (at a Christian university in Washington that has similar doctrinal positions as the church but leaves them completely separate from academic pursuit). His fiancé is an MD, just finished her residency. She is a lesbian. My son and his fiancé – gay men in their late 20’s. My wife and our youngest daughter.
The three men have been out of the church for 10-15 years. The woman has never been a Mormon. I was not expecting how extremely upsetting and unsettling they would find this talk as they were not active in the church. They reflected on how those messages would have been received by their younger, teenaged selves. The pain and that fear that those words would carry into their young hearts and minds. Those same emotions newly fired up now.
I didn’t get much sleep and couldn’t focus at work today and ended up driving around. Many of my daughter’s friends are talking about it – this is going to be one of those shots-heard-’round-the-world. I have the sense that I will not be the same after this talk and that neither will the church.
And what about all of those rainbow kids that just got a body slam? Well, for while I will have on some rainbow gear whenever I go out. It’s not about signaling my views or asking anyone to change theirs.
It’s about the off chance that one of the kiddos will see that there is someone in their corner. That not all old white men are against them. That maybe tomorrow will be better – and worth waiting around to see. Please consider doing this yourself: a pin, a ribbon, a tee-shirt, maybe even a rainbow face mask.
I read all 300+ comments on the article on the newsroom Facebook page. From the tone of most of the commentators, the rainbow kids will need all the help we can give.
Danyal Jamil, if kids waving rainbow flags upsets you more than violent white nationalists, then you are the one with “pet concerns,” not the other way around. Same goes for Elder Holland. Violent white nationalism, bigotry, and homophobia result in measurable real-world suffering and death. Rainbow flag waving hurts no one (unless you believe that imposing limitations on someone’s ability to express their bigotry in the workplace constitutes some sort of human rights abuse which has always been and will continue to be a morally bankrupt and logically stupid idea).
The results are in: Same-sex marriage is a net positive for society. Cultural acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals is a net positive for society. Queer individuals flourish when the rainbow flags fly free, and flourishing individuals make the world a better place. The only arguments against same-sex marriage that hold any water are based on the idea that God has decreed it’s bad—which, to be clear, he hasn’t, even if 15 old straight guys seem to think he has. And if you don’t believe those guys are conduits of God’s will, then why do you have a dog in this fight anyway?
All of our “pet concerns” should be on the stuff that creates the most suffering for the most humans: climate change, the pandemic, poverty and inequality, violent white nationalism, and all expressions of homophobia, racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Andrew S is right on.
I tried several times to read through the original blog post. Just couldn’t do it. I found the writing to be strangely obtuse and inaccessible. I have enjoyed the comments though.
Fred: “Your mom’s strangely obtuse and inaccessible.” Sorry, couldn’t resist. That’s my kids’ go-to comeback. I’m sure your mom is lovely.
Angela C: Thanks for making me smile. Yes, you’re right, my mom is lovely. And just so you know,… “My dad is tougher than your dad!” 🙂
Great post – it’s been a profoundly disturbing week.
I agree with Zack – it’s ok with the church that a whole bunch of prophets and a good portion of the Mormon male population had multiple wives but it’s not ok for same sex couples to seek for companionship and marriage and for transgender folk to live authentically. I think generally speaking the Q15 are good people who do their best to serve a God they believe in and also their fellow men but I don’t think they speak for God – not one that I want to believe in at least. The church has great potential for good and I see where it has also had a positive influence in my life but I also see the profound harm it can do when you don’t fit this ideal nuclear family. How does that make sense – that a God would favor such a narrow construct? Where does this work for the teaming masses of the world’s population who barely struggle to survive?
“(the future of the church itself) as anchored in its past”
As are all Christian churches. Jesus died approximately 2000 years ago. I admire or at least respect any church that is *anchored* as you put it.