It was Orientation Day at UWA. Clubs (like the UWA Atheist and Skeptic Society) set up booths and attract members. So do churches.
It’s not my idea. I think I saw it here first.
Where did I say that? Oh, yes: here. Why are atheists so rude?
Click for larger images. Or put your favourites in comments.
This hasn’t happened yet, but I’m so confident it will that I’m writing about it in the past tense. You too can have the spirit of prophecy — no Holy Ghost required!
Well, it’s been quite a week for Mormon-watchers! Ever since the church’s shockingly cruel policy for LGBT families was leaked from the not-for-regular-members handbook, there’s been talk. And you and I — former mission companions, fellow ward members — we’ve been mixing it up and arguing about it on Facebook.
Now I’ve been pretty harsh about this policy because I think it’s going to hurt people. “But, Daniel!” you’ve said. “Who’s it going to hurt? Those gay people aren’t going to want to be in the church anyway, so their kids aren’t missing out on anything. And you’re just a big old apostate anyway, so what do you care if kids — or anyone — don’t get baptised?”
Well, I do like it when people don’t join the church, that’s true. But you may be surprised to find that more people have become caught up in this thing than you might think. Some gay parents, formerly part of a mixed-orientation marriage, are happy for their kids to be in the church — maybe to keep the peace, maybe in the mistaken belief that religion teaches good wholesome values — and they’re now surprised to find that their kids aren’t welcome (unless they denounce their parents), and will be relegated to second-class status over this. Sorry — third-class. Women have second-class status. Hard to keep up.
Now I have a confession. I don’t actually think the Q15 actually intended this. There’s a saying known as Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Well, I think the Brethren — fine legal minds notwithstanding — simply intended to retrofit the polygamy policy to another group that they wanted to take a hard line with. They didn’t mean for it to become well-known or publicised, and were surprised when it all blew up on them. (There’s one bit of anecdotal hearsay that bears this out.) Then they were in a bit of a corner, wondering what to do. They rolled out one of their elders (who has a gay brother) to make a video statement, but that didn’t help.
Now here’s the most shocking and disappointing thing about all of this. In the week since the story broke, during our discussions on social media, you never doubted anything after maybe the first few hours. You never showed (to me at least) any sentiment like, “Gee, that’s a bit harsh.” Nothing like that. You wanted to believe that your leaders were inspired, and so when an explanation was handed to you, you clung to it. And so your defence of your leaders was full-throated and vociferous.
And the defence you offered was: It’s not a cruel policy! It’s a kind policy. The church has decided not to cause tensions between gay parents and straight kids. (Besides the eventual denunciation, that is.) By not letting kids get baptised, the church is really preventing setting families against each other. It was a silly rationale — the church doesn’t have a problem creating tension in part-member families, in which kids can get baptised. And we debated that.
But, again, your belief that your leaders couldn’t be wrong — when they clearly were — was shocking. It told me that you had outsourced your conscience. Is there anything they could do that you wouldn’t sign off on? Probably not. And that tells me that your moral compass is broken, in a way that wouldn’t be so without the church.
So now, on a drowsy news Friday, President Newsroom has released a statement walking back some of the policy, and relaxing the ban. They had to do it. There really wasn’t a choice, if they wanted to control the damage.
But in so doing, they’ve sold you out. There you were, defending them and their “kind policy”. Now that even they’ve had to admit that the policy wasn’t so kind, they’ve sort of pulled out the rug from under you, haven’t they? You were defending something that even they couldn’t defend. Not to mention what this says about their supposed revelatory capacity; they really didn’t see this coming! So much for ‘discernment’.
Most of all, I wonder how you feel now. I wonder if this will trigger any reflection, or if you’ll just go back to obedience and moral slumber. I hope not. I hope you’ll think about this for a good long while.
Here’s an old mission companion, on a thread about this:
Mormon Church to exclude children of same-sex couples from getting blessed and baptized until they are 18
Children living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or baptized until they are 18, the Mormon Church declared in a new policy. Once they reach 18, children may disavow the practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage and stop living within the household and request to join the church.
The policy changes, which also state that those in a same-sex marriage are to be considered apostates, set off confusion and turmoil among many Mormons after the policy was leaked online. The changes in the handbook for local church leaders for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were confirmed Thursday by church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
My former companion says:
>I received a witness of he Church as a young 19 year old as I pounded the streets of Perth with many of you.
Thank goodness when we knocked on doors, we didn’t have to say, “Hi! We’re missionaries from the Church of… er… your parents aren’t gay, are they? Good, we’ll continue.”
I’m wondering how missionaries today will keep from inadvertently teaching someone who isn’t eligible.
>I believe in God and I believe the LDS church is his church. If this is what God has decided then it’s not for me to argue.
I would say that this cruel and unfair policy is convincing evidence that either
Or perhaps both.
>Maybe I’m too simple in my views but what I fought for as a 19 year old when I laboured with you all then has not changed now.
Our views should change as we get older. As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I think homophobia is a childish thing, and worse, it harms people. In my life, I’ve made gay, lesbian, bi, and trans friends, and some co-workers. I’ve learned that there was a commonality to our life experiences, and that any prejudice I might have felt toward them was my own problem. And I’ve sorted it out. I’ve learned that every member of a society has the right to equal treatment.
Sadly, the LDS Church hasn’t learned this — speaking of the church collectively and not individually, of course. It has formed harmful and cruel policies, and now it has doubled down on them. Well, as an exMo, it would be easy to say, “What do I care — I’m no longer in the church.” But the climate of homophobia fostered by the LDS Church is having a harmful effect on LGBT people, especially the ones in the church. It is setting children against parents — a potential convert will have to leave the supportive environment offered by gay parents, turn their backs on them and denounce their relationships. Wow. That’s cold.
Kids (even straight kids) in blended families won’t be able to participate in the church they’ve grown up in, because one set of parents is in a gay relationship. Suddenly ineligible. And this is contrary to AoF2; the kids will be responsible for the actions of their parents.
Does all of this seem right to you?
Fortunately, most people in “the world” are starting to operate from a position of kindness. They are showing more compassion and love than the LDS leadership is currently capable of.
You may be too far into the LDS community to see how regular people regard this. When I tell my neverMo friends about this, or who they see it in the news — yes, it is hitting the news — they’re horrified. And it confirms to them that the church is a homophobic organisation. It is — as we call other groups when they exist to promote bigotry — a hate group.
The leadership will eventually change on this issue, just like they did with race and the priesthood. They’ll walk it back with an anonymous essay on the website, if we still have websites then. Until then, they (and you) are on the wrong side of history. They’ve chosen exclusion and bigotry.
What will you choose? Understanding and compassion? Or obedience?
Last week, the LDS Church released photos of a small brown rock belonging to Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Here it is, on a tasteful mat.
The LDS Church, most notably through its artwork, has promoted the idea that founder Joseph Smith translated the book from gold plates, but the story now is that words would appear on the stone in English, and Smith would dictate these to a scribe. Apparently, he didn’t need to use the gold plates in the translation process at all — and Moroni and Nephi are not happy about this.
So what’s going on here? Why is the church promoting this strange artefact, essentially admitting that a small brown rock was instrumental to the Restoration? And what effect will this have on Latter-day Saints?
First, let me lay down a theoretical framework that helped me. It’s from a post by redditor ShemL.
The church contains not one gospel, but two. There’s Gospel A and Gospel B. Gospel A is the one missionaries teach. It’s lovely, inspiring, and uncomplicated. It’s the one where Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus in the Sacred Grove, he translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates, and only had one wife.
Then you find inconsistencies in the story, and unsavoury things about church history, and you transition to Gospel B. Gospel B is difficult and tangled, and there’s so much to explain away! It involves a lot of mental gymnastics. Nobody feels the Spirit from Gospel B. If you’re here, you might say that you have a “complex faith”.
The weird thing is that when you go to church, you have to pretend that Gospel A is the real one. There’s no acknowledgement of the complexity.
Now back to this rock. The rock is part of Gospel B. It’s a weird thing, the rock is. People are loath to believe that you can translate a document using a magic rock in a hat, and for good reason. It just screams fraud.
So why is the church publicising this? My answer: it has problems that are even worse than I thought.
It used to be easy for the church to keep everyone in Gospel A. Information about the church was reasonably scarce, except from the church itself — that was plentiful, but wrong. Anything that would divert people into Gospel B was dismissed as an anti-Mormon lie. Some people were in Gospel B because they knew about the rock and Joseph’s sex partners and so forth, but they had to find their own ways of dealing with that. In church, it was all Gospel A.
Then, with more information, people learned the information that the church was trying to control. It moved some people into Gospel B, but it moved a lot of people out of the church entirely. The church noticed this, and they figured that at least having people in Gospel B (and paying tithing) is better than having them leave. As a response, the church tried opening up a little by releasing unannounced (and uncredited) essays onto their website in the dead of night.
The secretive strategy didn’t work, and people found out about the weirdness anyway. So now it seems that the church is trying to roll out all the weird stuff at once, and I think they’re hoping that if they can just get it all out there, and weather the resulting exodus of members for a couple of weeks, whoever else is still in the church will be in for good. No more unpleasant discoveries for anyone, or if there are, it won’t be the church’s fault; they’ve disclosed.
Is it going to work? I doubt it.
First of all, if they’re hoping that they can dig down to bedrock lunacy and hope everyone copes from there, they’re going to be disappointed. It’s all lunacy. The nonsense goes down to the core. Reveal all the weird stuff? It’s all weird stuff! And fabrications.
Second, by opening up about its history, the church has effectively transitioned everyone into Gospel B! How is that supposed to work? How is the Gospel-A illusion supposed to work in church, when everyone is aware of Gospel B?
As for the apologists, they’re working overtime. Right now, they’re doing two things:
(If someone really thinks this rock is like an iPad, I don’t know how I can help them. A rock is not an iPad. iPads work reliably and predictably for more than just one person. A rock is a rock.)
So what will happen? My seer stone is a little rusty (it’s iron pyrite), but I think the church is in uncharted waters here. Owning up to its magical past in the scientific age is going to highlight the implausibility for many members. Some people will stay in no matter what, but with the Gospel-A narrative tarnished, more members are going to wonder: why am I cleaning the chapel toilets again? What is this all for? Some people say, “Even if the church weren’t true, I’d stay in because it’s a good way of life.” But how good is it looking, now that its absurdities and obfuscations are manifest? This is a major discontinuity in the church narrative, and it will make the church story really different for those who remain. If people are freaking out, I don’t blame them.
One member explained his acceptance of the weirdness to me with the phrase “Faith is a choice”. That’s true. But now Mormons have many choices. They can stick with Gospel A, but this will be increasingly difficult in the information age. They can go with Gospel B, as the church is pushing them into, but Gospel B is often a last step before ditching the church altogether. And that, I think, is the best choice of all.
It’s partly a response to the Kelly/Dehlin excommunications, but also a call-to-arms for conservative Mormons to hold fast to their intolerance and authoritarianism. It says, in part:
I don’t care whether you’re Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or any other type of Christian…one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. It is done by appealing to Christ’s infinite love and mercy. But you can’t just go around rehearsing that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) and then be done with it. John 3:16 is awesome…but it’s just one verse! God wouldn’t have given you all of those other verses if he didn’t want you to read them and apply them.
In my response, I decided to ignore the fact that conservative Mormons are cherry-picking just like the liberal ones are, and to focus instead on the inflexible ‘iron rod’ mentality that I see in this piece.
Here’s my Facebook response, written to a wall full of Mormons:
I’d like to respectfully share my thoughts, even though I’m coming from the perspective of an ex-Mormon atheist.
In a way, I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. So many times, I’ve seen liberal religious people saying, “Jesus would have loved everybody! Jesus was all about the lerrrve.” And my response has been, “While it’s admirable that you’re trying to emulate those good qualities, ‘love everybody’ is by no means the sum totality of Jesus’ message.”
Jesus was a 1st-century rabbi who knew the law of Moses, which required (for instance) gay people to be killed. While he was somewhat revolutionary in his willingness to teach women, there’s no indication that he would have been aligned in any significant way with 21st century political liberals.
I confess that I have an ulterior motive in pointing this out to people: I secretly like it when religious conservatives (like the author) give voice to sentiments like these, because I know that this is the one thing that is driving people away from conservative religions like the LDS Church. The more hardened and stuck Latter-day Saints are in these attitudes, the fewer people will be attracted to the LDS Church and to Christianity, and as an atheist, I think this is a good thing. My biggest nightmare is that the Church will liberalise, because then it will become more appealing to people and actually become stronger. There is a lot that is (or could be) good about the church, but currently a small constellation of political issues and actions are making it less-than-appealing to potential converts, and churches who take this course are not surviving. This may not be a concern if you think that the church is true, inspired, and can’t fail. From my outside perspective, I think members should be very alarmed.
I will say one thing about the liberal religionists: Yes, they are cherry-picking the good bits, and ignoring what’s in the scriptures. But they are generally nicer and better people for it; less authoritarian, less likely to have oppressive attitudes toward women, less likely to reject their gay kids. I agree that a strict reading of scripture lends itself to the kind of conclusions that this author is arriving at. But I’d say, so much the worse for the strict reading. I don’t think it leads to a good place.
I welcome your thoughts on this.
For religions like the LDS Church that fight social justice and inclusion in a world where doing so is less and less acceptable, there’s only one way for the numbers to go. It will shrink and harden into a rump. Yes, it’s sad that good people are getting harmed by the dogma of this church. But if it refuses to change, then I’m happy to watch it drive itself into the ground, and drive away its younger and more tolerant membership.
Today I got naked with 800 people and jumped into the ocean. It was an attempt at the world’s biggest skinny dip at Perth’s Swanbourne Beach.
You may not know this, reader, but at one time I was a rather enthusiastic nude beach goer. In my Mormon days, no less. Even though I normally wore the g’s, I loved the opportunity to throw off the constraints of clothing and swim freely with nothing on.
The first time I went to a nude beach was in Barcelona in 2004. I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was people, doing people things. Some old, some young. Gay couples cuddled, a professor-looking type strode au natural across the sand. But the thing that stood out most to me was a young couple kissing. He drew a modest towel around himself, and he and she kissed like boys and girls have kissed on that same Spanish beach for millennia. I was seeing something primal and human. I was watching Orpheus and Euridice. The eternal dance.
I’ve had that kind of experience at nude beaches several times. Once on a stroll, I saw a nude man and woman, and as I got closer, I saw their baby was with them. The human family. Somehow the lack of clothing made the moment transcendant.
Then I would go back to church, with their conventional views on ‘modesty’ and ‘morality’, and I’d think, What a small worldview. This world is so much more than they can imagine. It was one more thing that got me thinking, and put some mental distance between me and the church.
The people at Swanbourne Beach are not much of a draw really — lots of dudes, some younger couples (shy female, won’t undress), and gangs of leathery 60-somethings sitting around talking, being entirely too comfortable around each other. But that’s okay; I don’t care how people look. There’s something about getting nude in public that’s very come-as-you-are. Everyone looks fine to me. Which was the message of the Skinny Dip: everyone’s body is fine. Proceeds are even going to the Butterfly Foundation, which raises awareness about body image.
So this was a good chance to get back to the dear old Swanny. Oldest Boy (now 19) opted not to come along because a) Dad naked, and b) there might be too much penis for his liking. He’s quite right; these things do tend to get rather penisy.
I wondered what the headline in the West would be: perhaps Naked Skinny-Dip for Charity: 800 Nudists Hit Swanbourne for World Record Attempt. I actually ran into some friends at the event, and we chatted in our sarongs, provided by the organisers. It was a cold grey morning, but no one seemed to mind.
But when we all got to the water and got our gear off, there was a plot twist: choppy seas and huge waves. A horn sounded, and in we went, the front line getting battered by walls of water. Now the headline was Terror Dip: Sexy Swim Becomes Desperate Race for Survival as 3-Meter Waves Pound Shore. It was such a struggle to get into the water that I could hardly concentrate on the boobs. The trick to avoiding waves is to get out past them, but the 600 or so people who made it that far found themselves on a roiling roller-coaster that was quite worrying, but actually really fun. Good thing the Surf Life Savers were out there on their jet skis, watching everyone like hawks.
Did we make the world record? No, for that to happen we’d all have to be in the water for 5 minutes, and about 100 people looked at those waves and said NOPE. I don’t blame them, especially if they didn’t feel they were strong swimmers. That stuff was dangerous. I was dumped by a serious wave on the way in and lost my hat, but hats can be replaced. It was still fun, and I’d do it again next year.
It was O-Day at UWA, and I like to help out with the UWA Atheist and Skeptic Society. Would you believe: our booth was right next to the Mormons.
Orientation Day has come around again at my university, which means religious groups are canvassing. And that includes a huge group of Mormon elders and sisters. They’re nice, but it doesn’t seem honest that they form an ad hoc campus club (the LDSSA) that never does anything during the semester. It’s almost like it’s — gosh — a front for getting missionaries onto campus. Oh well, Mormons gotta morm.
I was chatting with one of them, and then this happened.