Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Getting There?

A few months ago I posted about the Priesthood Ban (here); and this week, lo and behold the Church has posted something exciting and new that somewhat addresses my concerns!

Race and the Priesthood

Actually they posted it last Friday. Quietly. Without comment.

Its surprisingly blunt. (Spoiler - here's the important part):

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.23

The good news - they finally admit it was all a big mistake! They blame it on Brigham Young, and they state - for the record - that they disavow and condemn all racism past, present, and future! Amen!

The bad news - they finally admit it was all a big mistake!  Why did it take so long to cough this up? What does that say about other "doctrines" the Church seems to insist on? What else is a mistake?  Where does that put us, exactly?

Yes, the questions this raises I'm sure will boil and bubble for some time to come. But, at least for now, we have an absolute admission that the pet theories of the past regarding 'fence-sitters in the pre-existence", or "descendants of Cain" were nothing but plain 'ole HOGWASH!



P. S. -  I still think an apology would be nice...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Revisiting Stonewall



A while back I wrote an historical piece about what I consider the Mormon Stonewall (read it Here). Today I ran across a document that would seem to be an epilogue to those events.

The document in question is a proposal written by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 1984. This wasn't too long after the publication of the Payne Papers (linked Here), and just a few months after Elder Oaks was called to be an Apostle. So this may well be the first major project he worked on in that role. As you will see, many of the thoughts present in the formation of the defunct Values Institute are carried over in this document. Its also apparent that the Church has followed this exact plan for the past 29+ years in its approach to oppose Gay Rights.

In short - the recommendation was to allow certain types of legislation that had slim chances of winning, that focused on punishing 'sin', or that posed little 'threat' to the Church to go unchallenged (and therefore make our stance seem less "religious"); but to vigorously react to ideas of Gay Marriage (Prop 8) or inclusion of gays in areas where minors may be 'recruited' or influenced by gay adults (Boy Scouts Policy). Distinction was made between those who experienced the homosexual 'condition' and those who engage in homosexual 'practices'. Its a fascinating read, so dive in:

Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals, by Dallin H. Oaks, 1984

Monday, October 7, 2013

Swim

How to Swim in a Burqa
1. Update will.
2. Don said burqa.
3. Proceed to the deep end of the pool.
4. Say farewell to family and friends.
5. Dive in!
6. Enjoy your last, surreal moments as you helplessly sink straight to the bottom - the billowing black cloth transformed into your funeral shroud.
 
This was the image that came to my mind as I sat in Mutual one Wednesday night. As a matter of business we were discussing the upcoming Young Women's Camp, and some rules and guidelines were being reviewed. The one that set off my flight of imagination was this one:
 
"All young women are to wear one-piece bathing suits while at camp. No two-piece suits or bikinis allowed. You are also required to wear knee-length shorts and a t-shirt over your swimming suit at all times - even while in the pool."
 
Say what!? These are girls. Attending girls camp. Girls - get it! Not boys. Not co-ed. Girls!! My BS-ometer instantly pegged over into the red zone! Were the Young Men given the same sort of requirements for Boy Scout Camp? No! As a Scout Leader and veteran of numerous Scout encampments and Jamborees, I can say unequivocably and from personal experience that the boys have no such standards of modesty. This is a double-standard. Again.
 
I have no idea where this directive came from, but at this point I shouldn't be surprised. For the past few yeas I've become more and more aware of the negative and injurious policies we frequently perpetuate against women - and especially Young Women - in the Church. But women are starting to speaking out, and some men are evidently beginning to listen.
 
One account I read that really hit me where it counts was about a Stake Priesthood Meeting. The Stake President invited Bishops to come forward and report on what they had done to prepare the Young Men for Priesthood and Missionary service. The Bishops were eager to share. Many heart-felt stories were told of time spent, tears shed, blessings given, and the miraculous transformation of testimonies as wayward young men were saved from the clutches of the World . Then the Stake President asked each Bishop to come back up and share the stories of how they had helped prepare the Young Women.
 

 
............ < cricket-chirp >............
 

 
The awkwardness that followed was a powerful lesson. And a sad commentary.
 
From the way we teach modesty and chastity standards; to the activites, lessons and programs we design for them,  to the time Priesthood leaders spend with them -  Young Women get the short end of the stick. And you better believe that the girls know it! The tragic thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Much of our treatment towards women in the Church is based on tradition or policy - not on doctrine. We saw an example of this the last General Conference, where women offered prayers for the first time ever. There was never any doctrinal prohibition against women praying, it was simply tradition. A bad one.
 
And women are now speaking out about these issues as never before.  Consider this FAIR article by Neylan McBaine.  Sis. McBaine is an active, faithful Latter-Day Saint who also happens to be a creative director at Bonneville Communications, and has worked on several projects of note, including the I'm A Mormon campaign and The Mormon Women Project. What's even more huge is that her research has been used by the likes of Michael Otterson, which means this stuff is filtering all the way to the top.

Sis. McBaine's excellent article (which I think should be required reading for all male Leadership) underscores the reality that the way women are treated by the Church, both in the way their role is defined and the way in which our Patriarchal culture tends to marginalize them, is leading to a crisis of faith for many women, both young and old. In her words, "The pain is real." From the way we conduct councils of the Church to the amount of money we spend on the Young Women's program, women are treated inequitably in many ways.
 
Another voice in the chorus of women speaking out that I have especially been impressed by is a group called  All Are Alike Unto God. On their web site, they offer a list of suggestions as to what the Church can do RIGHT NOW to change policies and traditions that marginalize and harm women of all ages. Its brilliant! Here are a few pertient examples:
 
> Create parity in the Young Women and Young Men organizations through equivalent budgets, educational programs (leadership, career, and spiritual training,) and activities (sports, service, and outdoor events).
> Balance the stories and images of boys and men in church publications, talks, and other media with stories and images of girls and women.
> Invite women in Church leadership positions to speak and pray during General Conference in numbers equal to the participation of men. Encourage leaders to use gender-inclusive language whenever possible.
> Recognize that girls and boys, women and men are equally responsible for appropriate sexual behavior, and avoid reducing morality to sexuality, and modesty to a preoccupation with women’s and girls’ clothing.
 
> Call women to perform pastoral counseling, particularly for women and girls who have been sexually abused.
 
> Delegate more expansive supervisory authority to the Stake and Ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, including approval of personnel, programs, and activities.
 
> Examine all Church positions to determine whether they can be filled without regard to gender.
 
> Call young women as well as young men to serve missions at the same age and for the same length of time, and afford women the same opportunity as men to function as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president.
 
 
Its time to put an end to the inequities and (often ridiculous) double-standards Young Women must navigate as they experience their journey through the programs of the Church. What are your ideas on how we could improve our program for Young Women and show them they are indeed precious Daughters of God, EQUAL in His sight?
 
 
 


 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dream

I Have a Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

August 28,1963
 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children -- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Technicolor Sunday


When I was younger my family attended a protestant Church that had lots of stained glass windows. In fact, I don't think there was a clear window-pane in the whole place. And it was marvelous! There were biblical scenes and symbols everywhere - executed in astonishing, glowing color. The presence of those windows transformed the building, in its very essence, into a sermon of light; a visual hymn of praise and rejoicing.

But when we joined the Mormon Church I was confronted with an entirely different visual experience; indeed, a complete reversal from my former Church. I found myself immersed in a visual desert of sorts, for Mormon chapels have nothing of adornment. Bland vanilla walls. Muted blue carpet. The plainest of wood trim and pews. The only term I can conjure up to describe it is 'boring'.  The sermon of that chapel was a sermon of silence.

So the only color to be found in our Mormon chapel was the color we brought with us in the clothes we wore. And in the '70's, that meant we wore some pretty outrageous colors. Plum-red was a popular color back then, as was burnt orange. And black was popular too. I can remember passing the sacrament in a black shirt with a snazzy metallic-silver bowtie. And no one batted an eye. It was normal.

But something changed between then and now. A Prophet stood up one day and said, "Every young man is to serve a mission!" And suddenly, missionary couture became all the rage. We wanted to look like missionaries, since that's what we were planning on becoming. The colored shirts were scrapped, and white shirts became the norm. And shorter hair.

That was many, many years ago, but the tradition of wearing white shirts has become completely entrenched in our culture. In fact, it has become such a uniform that I am now alarmed by its continued over-use. There is absolutely no doctrine that says a Priesthood holder has to wear a white shirt, and yet we hear of instances quite frequently of men and boys being forbidden to exercise their Priesthood because they did not wear one. The General Handbook of Instructions states the policy very clearly: 


"Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are RECOMMENDED because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, THEY SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church."

I've had friends and acquaintances relate horror stories about self-righteous Bishops publicly taking Deacons to task over the 'White Shirt Rule' - a rule that simply does not exist. In fact, my current Bishop will not allow someone to participate in the Sacrament if they are not wearing a white shirt. This phenomenon is evidence of a wider (and disturbing) cultural trend in the Church towards pharisaical thinking and the adoption of external symbols as evidence of piety.  This is clearly something Christ warned his disciples about - judging by external appearances. Hugh Nibley has one of my favorite summations on the matter:

“The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism … the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.” – Hugh Nibley in his talk ‘What is Zion?’

So a while back, to protest our decided cultural slide towards robotic conformity and pharisaical obsessions with clothing, I decided I would stop wearing white shirts altogether. And I'm happy to report that, come September, it will have been exactly two years since I have worn a white shirt to Church! TWO YEARS!

In honor of this milestone, I would like to invite all Priesthood holders everywhere to join me in adding a little color to our worship services. On September 22nd, which I am designating Technicolor Sunday, lose the white shirt for once and wear your best and brightest colored shirt/tie combo to Church! C'mon brethren! You don't want to look like a bunch of Storm Troopers sitting in the pews! Take a stand! Be bold! Be different! Let the full spectrum of the Priesthood be seen in our Wards and Stakes! You with me?!?

P.S. Join the Technicolor Sunday Facebook group HERE.

 
_________________________________________________________
 
TECHNICOLOR SUNDAY
  September 22nd, 2013
 
 Worship in color!




Saturday, June 8, 2013

An Apology Would Be Nice

Today marks the 35th anniversary of what Mormons generally refer to as the repeal of the Priesthood Ban. I remember that day well, actually. I was on my mission at the time, and we had just pulled up to visit with some members. The wife sent us out to the barn to find her husband, who was working on a tractor, and he had the radio on. That's when we heard the announcement. A combination of shock and excitement! Was this for real? Was it immediate? What about the Temple and everything else? These questions, of course, were eventually answered. But it was somewhat surreal to be listening to it in the moment.

What has not been answered in the 35 years since is the question of exactly WHY the Priesthood Ban was instituted in the first place? Why did we deny the Priesthood to those of African descent? And WHY did it take 120 years to end it? WHY? We have a pretty good idea, actually, of how it all started in Brigham Young's day. Nothing exact, but the forensics reveal enough evidence to be reasonably sure. The bottom line is that it was racist, and was justified by what many considered the "doctrine" of the Curse of Cain.  Here's a letter issued by the First Presidency in 1951 that gives a neat summation:


“The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said, ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their father’s rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God.’ They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and receive all the blessings we are entitled to.’ President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: ‘The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.’ The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintained their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.”
                                              (Official First Presidency statement, August 17, 1951)

Since the end of the Ban, the Church has made a vain attempt to "move on" and leave this sad bit of our history behind us. In doing so, we have begun to whitewash the seriousness of our former docrtine, labeling it as simple "folklore", and claiming that we really "don't know" the origins of the practice. As you can see from the text I marked in bold above, this was hardly considered "folklore"!

Here's a recent quote from a General Authority. This now seems to be the official sentiment when referring to our previous practices:

“When you think about it, that’s just what it is — folklore. It’s never really been official doctrine… We have to keep in mind that it’s folklore and not doctrine… It’s never been recorded as such
(Elder Sheldon F. Child, “LDS marking 30-year milestone”, Deseret News, June 7, 2008).

See a disconnect between these two quotes?!

We also have the recent introductory paragraph added to the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants that ended the Priesthood Ban - known as Official Declaration 2. It offers only this by way of explanation:

"During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."

I personally don't think this goes far enough. This is, again, whitewashing. I don't think you can ever really "move on" unless you face the issue head-on and own that history - all of it - no matter how ugly it may be. It is, after all, the truth. I like blogger Kevin Barney's take on this:

“We don’t know” was an interim strategy that worked well enough for its time. But the problem is, that mantra was meant to preserve the possibility that God ordered the ban from on high, and a lot of older Saints understand it in exactly that way. And as long as we try to leave that option on the menu, people are going to continue to fill in the doctrinal vacuum with the old, offensive ideas. Those ideas will not die under a “we don’t know” rubric; they will only die under a firm disavowal.”

So what do you think - are apologies in order? Do you think the Church should go further to disavow the Priesthood Ban?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Feminists Rising




You would have to be practically unconscious not to have become aware of the recent activities of "Mormon Feminists". I guess I first began to take notice when I discovered JoAnna Brooks on Religion Dispatches (not that she was the first Mormon Feminist, of course).  Which naturally led me to her personal blog Ask Mormon Girl. I was immediately drawn in by her honesty, wit and down-to-earth style. Here was a Mormon author I could really relate to. Here was a Mormon author who was not afraid to address the 'thorny issues' of the Church head on - and do it in style, no less. My respect meter was instantly pegged!

And of course, once you start reading one Feminist blog, you have a tendency to get drawn into others. Feminist Mormon Housewives is probably the most widely known.

But aside from the musings and commentary of Mormon Feminists, what has impressed me the most is the actual WORK they have been doing. From Mormons Building Bridges, to Pants on Sunday, to Let Women Pray, and now  - Ordain Women. If you think Mormon Feminists are just a bunch of on-line whiners, think again!

And speaking of whining - those who may think these women don't have a valid argument should take a serious look at what they actually have to say and the way they're saying it. The Let Women Pray initiative was, for me, a perfect example of how to approach Church partiarchy on an issue of policy that had absolutely NO doctrinal foundation. Their approach was respectful, yet pointed and well-reasoned. The fact that no woman had ever prayed in General Conference would seem to some a small thing. But those who have such notions fail to grasp the depth of pain and exclusion many women feel in this Church specifically because of such policies. And that simply should not be.

So what is causing this upwelling of feminist activism? Why are women suddenly speaking out? Perhpas the best explanation I've seen can be found in this FAIR article by Neylan McBaine. Sis. McBaine is an active, faithful Latter-Day Saint who also happens to be a creative director at Bonneville Communications, and has worked on several projects of note, including the I'm A Mormon campaign and The Mormon Women Project. What's even more huge is that her research has been used by the likes of Michael Otterson, which means this stuff is filtering all the way to the top.

Sis. McBaine's excellent article (which I think should be required reading for all male Leadership) underscores the reality that the way women are treated by the Church, both in the way their role is defined and the way in which our Patriarchal culture tends to marginalize them, is leading to a crisis of faith for many women. In her words, "The pain is real." From the way we conduct councils of the Church to the amount of money we spend on the Young Women's program, women are treated inequitably in many ways. To get an idea of what this means, let me present a list from a petition that was posted on the web called All Are Alike Unto God. This group is petitioning the Brethren to prayerfully consider ordination for women. While I think that's a long shot to be sure, the other part of their petition is not. It is simply a request to change inequitable policies - not doctrines. In other words, look at all the gender preferential policies and practices in the Church and make room for women to participate when doctrine does not call for a Priesthood holder. An example would be to allow a woman to be a Financial Clerk. This, I believe, is an entirely reasonable request. Here's the entire list:


  • Create parity in the Young Women and Young Men organizations through equivalent budgets, educational programs (leadership, career, and spiritual training,) and activities (sports, service, and outdoor events).
  • Balance the stories and images of boys and men in church publications, talks, and other media with stories and images of girls and women.
  • Invite women in Church leadership positions to speak and pray during General Conference in numbers equal to the participation of men.
  • Encourage leaders to use gender-inclusive language whenever possible.
  • Recognize that girls and boys, women and men are equally responsible for appropriate sexual behavior, and avoid reducing morality to sexuality, and modesty to a preoccupation with women’s and girls’ clothing.
  • Instruct bishops to refrain from asking Church members probing questions about sexual practices and experiences.
  • Call women to perform pastoral counseling, particularly for women and girls who have been sexually abused.
  • Choose a General Relief Society Presidency and General Board that reflect the diversity of viewpoint and circumstance in the Church, and establish frequent meetings between the First Presidency and the General Relief Society Presidency.
  • Include the Stake Relief Society President in Stake Presidency meetings, and appoint women to meet with the High Council.
  • Delegate more expansive supervisory authority to the Stake and Ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, including approval of personnel, programs, and activities.
  • Include women among stake and ward leaders who hear evidence and offer judgment in Church disciplinary councils.
  • Include the local Relief Society president in all bishopric meetings, and rotate the planning of Sacrament services among the Relief Society president and members of the bishopric.
  • Examine all Church positions to determine whether they can be filled without regard to gender.
  • Appoint women as presidents of Church universities and heads of administrative departments.
  • Expand hiring practices in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and within the religion departments at Church universities to provide women the same placement, advancement, and tenure opportunities as men.
  • Call young women as well as young men to serve missions at the same age and for the same length of time, and afford women the same opportunity as men to function as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president.
  • Lift the prohibition on women's participation in the blessing of their children.
  • Change temple marriage policies so that men and women have equal opportunity to be sealed to their second spouses after they are widowed or divorced.
  • Consider further wording changes to temple ceremonies and ordinances such that both men and women make the same covenants and enjoy the same promises.
  • Recognize women as witnesses for baptisms and marriage sealings.
  • Restore the former institutionally-accepted practice of women giving blessings of healing and comfort.


  • Obviously there are additional ways to bring women into more equal participation with men. What I find interesting is that Sis. McBaine seemed to be drawing some of the same conclusions in her own research as we see suggested here by feminists. Time to sit up and take notice?

    Let me close with one of Sis.McBaine's observations:


    There was a woman involved in almost every one of the Savior Jesus Christ’s mortal milestones. From his very first miracle facilitated by his mother, to revealing Himself as the “living water,” to being the subject of numerous parables, to being anointed by a woman hours before his death, to being the first witness of the resurrection… women were not just bystanders but engaged contributors to his ministry. They were symbols of the extent to which the Savior was willing to challenge the conventions of his culture and usher in a new social ideal. Compared to the way women were treated in the Savior’s own time and place, His treatment of them was radical. By involving not just his mother and female friends in his ministry, but by embracing the fallen woman, the daughter of a Gentile, the sick woman, the Samaritan woman, Jesus, through his example, challenged us as His followers to engage all women, trust them, lead with them, and lean on their spiritual power. Let us meet that challenge.



     Amen, Sister! AMEN!







    P.S. - Yes, I'm a gay male feminist!


    Link to Neylan McBaine's FAIR article: http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm
     

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    :-(


    Sunday, April 7, 2013

    Bees were humming...

    ...sweet birds singing!

    That's one of my favorite hymns, and it  seems magically appropriate on a day like today. It was an absolutely perfect day - mild, sunny with a soft breeze. I took a lot of time to walk around my 'Sacred Grove' here on the hill and just soak it all in. Bees indeed were humming, along with a host of lady bugs and other fauna just waking up from the winter nap. Hummingbirds showed up in my yard for the first time - a sure sign spring has truly sprung. The daffodils are in full bloom, and all the trees are budding. It won't be long til the Dogwoods are in their full glory. I have several ancient ones that never disappoint. As the sun was getting low, I watched a bluebird dive-bombing insects in the lawn. He has a favorite perch at the top of my garden shed where he can surevey the whole landscape, and nothing juicy escapes his eagle-eye! I could watch him for hours - it was probably the highlight. For this day, brimming with beauty and wonder, and all others like it - I am indeed greatful for a loving God (who also happens to have impeccable taste!)










     
     

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Changing Canon

    The LDS Church just published a new set of scriptures. What makes this noteworthy is actually not the changes that were made to passages of scripture - these were largely grammatical changes, although there are a few that may be significant. The really important changes came to the chapter headings that give a summary of the verses in that chapter. To a large extent, the interpretation of those verses - along with the historical origins of the text - are summarized. The extent to which chapter headings can (and most certainly will) affect the theology of the Church must not be underestimated. This is huge!

    I want to comment particularly on one of the most significant changes. This is in Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration - 2 , which has reference to the priesthood ban.

    “The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regards to race that once applied to the priesthood.”
    Originally this section did not have a summary at all. This new one makes important statements and reinforces certain ideas:

    1. It asserts the Church position that 'all are alike unto God', and by inferrance, denounces discrimination or prejudice in any form. This principle has been spoken from the pulpit in General Conference, but now is more clearly reinforced by this chapter heading in scripture.
    2. It publicly states that Joseph Smith ordained blacks to the priesthood. This is a first.
    3. It leaves the door open to the idea that the priesthood ban may have been a mistake. Although some may argue that the statement about 'no clear insights' as to the origin of the ban is somewhat evasive, this is a step in the right direction.

    The one thing that was not mentioned, either in the Official Declaration or in the new chapter heading, is the status of black women. While black men were denied the right to hold the priesthood, black women were also part of the ban, and were denied the right to attend the Temple. Only after the Official Declaration were worthy black women allowed to receive their endowments and participate in other Temple ordinances. This aspect of the ban is almost completely ignored in our history.


    To see all the changes made in this new edition of the Standard Works, download a comparative document HERE. This guide, published by the Church, shows all the changes that were made in the new edition in an easy-to-follow, two-column format (PDF).

    Other links:

    Official 2013 Edition Web Site

    Historical Explanation of D&C Chapter Heading Changes

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    Tribute to Women

    Women are awesome! As a gay man I may not be sexually attracted to them, but some of my dearest and most respected friends are women. My family is full of women I love! I have an amazing mother, fantastic sisters, beautiful nieces and great-nieces. Both of my grandmothers were incredible, wise, forward-thinking women (one of them owned a factory, even). The majority of my Primary, Sunday School and Seminary teachers have been women - so many devoted, wonderful, faithful people! Probably the greatest acts of service and kindness I've expereinced in this life have been rendered by women. I've rubbed shoulders with incredibly smart and talented women in the workplace, and in some instances they have been my boss. In fact, some of my best bosses were women. They are an essential component in any success I can claim in my career and as a person. I love, honor and admire the women in my life, and I would do anything for them!

    So - in honor of the women I love and admire, here are a few links to sites around the Blogsphere specifically for you:

    Zelophehad's Daughters
    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/

    Feminist Mormon Housewives
    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/

    Segullah
    http://segullah.org/

    Young Mormon Feminists
    http://youngmormonfeminists.org/

    Ask Mormon Girl
    http://askmormongirl.wordpress.com/

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Gay in the BSA


    I am gay, and I am a Boy Scout Leader. It happened not too long ago, actually. The Bishop called me into his office, and after a few pleasantries said he wanted to give me a calling. In Scouts. I reminded him that I was gay, and that the BSA does not like gay people in its ranks. He said, "Well, this is the Church first and foremost, and the Lord wants you to be a Scout Leader!". So I accepted the calling. Gladly.

    Some may think me foolish for being involved with an organization that discriminates against the very kind of person I am, but I see it differently. To me, the boys I will be serving are the important part of this story - not an organization with discrimination issues. The boys need a robust program that will help them learn about life, service, and the wonders of nature. Scouting provides that in spades - its a great program! Besides, I can do a lot more to help turn things around if I'm inside the organization instead of outside. I feel the same way about the Church, which is one of the reasons I stay.

    So if they want me to serve, even though I'm gay, I say OK! Just don't get in my way, because I will jump in with both feet and be the best damn Scout leader you ever saw!

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Black Apostle

     
    Future?


    My Home Teachers and I were chatting the other day about various subjects, and the conversation swung around to the achievement of having a black President, and how that had shattered a racial barrier in this country that needed to be shattered. And then the conversation turned to racial/gender/social barriers in the Church - which we agreed also need to be shattered. And I felt impressed very strongly that the day will come when we have a black Apostle. And/or asian. And/or hispanic.

    The Church is a multi-racial, multi-cultural Church. Yet for its entire history, those at the top - the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve - have all been caucasian and almost exclusively American. But I think that "tradition" is going to change very rapidly - I think it has to change. A global, multi-racial church needs a leadership to match. If you're a child in Primary somewhere in Africa, you want to look up at the portraits of our leaders hanging on the wall and see someone who looks like you do. You need the validation - the vision that there are no barriers in God's Kingdom. That you you have equal opportunity in His Church.

    We're already seeing a wider racial/ethnic mix in the Quorum of the Seventy, including many different europeans, blacks, hispanics, asians, Native American and more. That is the 'pool' from which the top quorums are likely to be filled (although not all Apostles come from the Quorum of Seventy). Currently, eight of the fifteen apostles are 80 years old or more. It is likely we will see a lot of change at the top in the near future, and I'm pretty confident at least one of the new Bretheren will not be a white man. I think that last racial barrier in the Church will be shattered; and we will all be better people for it.

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Gender

    The Church has posted a new, potentially offensive video addressing gender - a topic which they seem to be constantly confused about.

    Watch it: Gender Video

    In this video, titled 'Gender Is An Essential Characteristic' , a cat sneaks into a classroom full of small children. Upon discovering their visitor, some of the children insist that the cat is a girl, and others think its a boy. To end the debate, one child suggests they take a vote on it. Then they play a segment from BKP's 2010 conference talk - the one that set off the firestorm - declaring that 'eternal laws' cannot be changed by legislation or protest.

    The misinformation surrounding this topic in the Church drives me crazy. Gay people do not have a problem with or confusion about their gender, yet the Church is constantly conflating homosexuality with gender issues. Ugh!

    So to set the record straight, here is a brief explanation of what GENDER is and is not...



    1. Gender is not the same as 'sex':

    While some use the terms "sex" and "gender" interchangeably, they are actually very different concepts. Sex is based on physical and biological rules. People born with testicles are considered male, whereas people who grow up to menstruate and breast-feed are considered women. Sex relates to chromosomes, hormones and sex organs.

    Gender, on the other hand is a social construct. Girls aren't born with an innate longing for the color pink or a lifelong desire to wear high heels, and boys aren't born loving blue and playing with cars and trucks. Rather, they learn very early on that such traits are expected and defined for them by society. While "male" and "female" define biological sex, "masculinity" and "femininity" are designated by gender roles. These gender roles affect the mental and physical health of a person [source: Monash University].

    In the video mentioned above, biological sex (i.e. as determined by external genitalia) is conflated with gender.


    2. There are more than 2 sexes.

    Male and Female are not the only sexes. There are variations inbetween, where a person may be part male and part female.

    When a child doesn’t fit the condition of a female or a male, they are called intersex. Intersex deals with chromosomal incongruities. According to Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), intersex is a term used for a person who doesn’t fit the typical classification of a male or a female due to their reproductive or sexual anatomy. A person who appears to be a female from the outside may mostly have a male-typical anatomy from the inside. Another condition is when a person who might be born “in-between” the two types of sex. This would mean that a girl may be born with a large clitoris, or lack a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a small penis or a scrotum that is separated and looks more like a labia. [source: Wikipedia]
    Indeed, there are dozens of genetic, physical and hormonal variations of biological sex that can occur. Examining external genitalia is a poor determinant of sex.


    3. Hormones make the man.

    All fetuses start out with female genitalia. Even though a fetus may genetically be a male, the sex organs start out as female. Only when a male fetus reaches the stage where it starts producing testosterone will the sex organs begin to differentiate and form a penis. Male sex organ development is totally ( and I mean TOTALLY) controlled by hormones. When something goes wrong with this process (i.e. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome), a bilogically male baby may be born with female genitalia. Frequently this condition is not even detected until the child reaches puberty. People with AIS often become 'lesbians', because although externally they may look like a female, genetically they are actually males.


    4. Gender and biology may not 'match'.

    Gender identity or perception does not always match your biological sex. Persons who experience Gender Dysphoria (or Gender Identity Disorder) do not relate to their biologocal sex; and to one degree or another, adopt the societal and behavioral norms of a different sex. This is not a situation that is limited to thinking adults - it is often seen in very small children. I was touched recetly by a mothers blog about her five year old son, who has displayed gender nonconformity practically since he was born. Check it out: Raising My Rainbow


    5. Homosexuals are not transgendered

    Although there is a wide spectrum of practice and culture in the gay community, homosexuality is NOT Gender Dysphoria or transexualism. The two are frequently conflated in Church publications, talks, and in this case - a video. Being gay does not mean you want to be a girl (if you're a guy). It simply means you are physically, emotionally and romantically attracted to members of the same sex. Just like being a heterosexual means you're physically. emotionally and romatically attracted to the opposite sex. I don't understand why this is so difficult for some to grasp...