The Policy: Year One

Happy birthday, Policy, you are one year old today. In January I posted “Policy or Revelation?” which outlined the public timeline of the messy initial release of the Policy, along with links to relevant documents. Time for an update on the Policy. Maybe I’ll do one every year until it dies.

One year out, it is a little unclear exactly what local leaders are enforcing, whether the original text added to the Handbook (and presumably still there, unchanged) or the narrower and softer form of the Policy spelled out in the November 13, 2015 First Presidency Letter posted at LDS.org. Or maybe local leaders are just following their own conscience or their own inspiration to deal with particular cases, regardless of what they are told in the Handbook or in a First Presidency letter or in counsel given at this or that regional leadership meeting. It’s not an easy time to be a bishop.

Just a few days ago, the Church released an updated and revamped Mormon and Gay site. Importantly, the URL for the site is a subdomain of the LDS.org site, so it is clear to anyone who visits the site that it is an official LDS site. That’s so any mainstream LDS member or leader who visits the site and reads the encouraging and supportive material at the site won’t think “hey, that doesn’t sound like what the Church has been saying” and dismiss it as some pro-gay anti-Mormon site. Like this counsel:

The parent of a child who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay should choose to love and embrace that child. As a community of Church members, we should choose to create a welcoming community.

Reaction to the redesigned site by the usual online commentators has been quite positive. One might get the impression that the new site is an attempt to walk back the Policy, which has certainly had the opposite effect from creating a “welcoming community” for married gays, unmarried gays, sympathetic relatives of unmarried gays, or just Mormons who think it is wrong to label an entire class of people as apostates and bar their children from membership and ordinances. But the claim that the new site is an attempt to walk back the Policy is never actually made on the new site, and as far as I can tell the Policy is never even mentioned or referenced! How can a comprehensive LDS site about being Mormon and gay not explain, not even reference, the Policy? So again, it is a little unclear what local leaders are actually doing and it is a little unclear what senior LDS leaders are actually thinking. It’s still a big mess.

Helpful links: Here is some recent media commentary from the Salt Lake Tribune:

Here are some podcasts:

And here are some blog posts:

91 comments for “The Policy: Year One

  1. Nathaniel
    1
    November 5, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Here is Gene Schaerr’s response to the Greg Prince article you linked to: http://ldsmag.com/the-real-foundation-of-the-lds-churchs-lgbt-policies-a-response-to-greg-prince/

  2. November 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    “to label an entire class of people” — Yes. The inconvenient truth is that the Policy makes distinctions on the basis of status or class (married, child of), not on the basis of actions (sex, or euphemistically “procreative activity”).

    Like it or not, there is a consistent long-standing rationale for church policies and practices regarding sex. But that is not the relevant analytic. Like it or not, there is also a consistent long-standing rationale for church policies and practices around status or class, especially with respect to race and gender, and plural marriage. That is the relevant analytic, and for many (ok, for me) it is somewhere between unsatisfactory and damning in this case.

    Separately, I am really curious about what is happening on a local level. My guess is that responses cover the gamut. From people being disciplined, including withholding a temple recommend, for voicing disapproval of the Policy (I have anecdotes), all the way to voiced objection by a bishop and/or stake president (also anecdotes, but less reliable). In practice there is a great deal of space for differences in administration, even though many of us casually assume that every bishop is like our bishop.

  3. Brad L
    3
    November 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Nathaniel, Schaerr’s article is not a response to Prince. It is a reactionary denialist diatribe at a strawman.

  4. November 5, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Perhaps this is relevant? Letter to Mr Obama

  5. Clark Goble
    5
    November 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve no real opinion on the policy nor the controversy, but the whole behaviour vs. biology dichotomy that gets brought up seems quite odd. All behavior is biological. It seems that what people want to do is say that if it’s biological that somehow it’s not open to choice but that seems demonstrably false. Some try to tie it to genes (not that Prince did but others have) but of course what counts is gene expression as manifest in biological development and behavior. i.e. there’s really no gene determinism but a complex development over time where the biology develops via genes in response to the environment building up a particular biological system. But the biological system is always underdetermined from what we can see.

    The other issue is that people seem to want a simplistic free or not free whereas (as with a lot of biology) things are far more complicated. First off there’s likely a spectrum of inclinations some that are more easily compatible with traditional rules and some that run up against the rules. Into this one has to add pretty complicated social situations.

    Which all makes me think anyone who thinks its as simple as “a choice” or “a biology” are just twisting things pretty strongly. People on both sides create false dichotomies. (And I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the false dichotomy leads to an easy choice to one political side or the other)

    I’d add that an other false dichotomy seems to be class vs. sex act. However if the class is “married” then surely that’s an act not a class? Especially in the case where it is the act of marrying that seems to be the act the brethren (whether one agrees with them or not) find so objectionable. By reframing it as class vs. act it seems to be deeply problematic as well as misrepresentative of the position one is attacking. After all the exact parallel the Brethren gave for all this was polygamy but no one I think would term that a class. (Would they?)

  6. November 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Clark, yes I would term plural marriage a class (wanna arm wrestle over it?! :-)) Some class distinctions are predominantly biological or with limited choice (e.g., race, height, gender), but many class distinctions have an embedded choice or act (e.g., nationality, residence, religious affiliation, degrees and professions, marital status) and yet we deal with them as class, not as act. Status vs act is a somewhat nuanced distinction, only in the most simplistic analysis driven by choice or no choice.
    With respect to the November Policy, it is reasonably clear to me that for adults it is the state of being married that is the offense, not the act of marrying (according to the law, where marriage is otherwise a celebrated and encouraged act). The Policy might have been stated and arguably rationalized over bad acts, and some apologists would like to restructure it that way. But that would be a revision of history.
    And for the children it is beyond cavil that the state of being a “child of” is the offense, for both same-sex marriage and plural marriage..

  7. Not a Cougar
    7
    November 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Local level anecdote: I just found out that a friendly acquaintance of mine, active RM, is now firmly out (he was closeted when I first met him) and was recently married. His husband is also an RM. They have continued to stay active and he mentioned just last week to a mutual member friend of ours that neither of them have faced any Church discipline so far. I don’t have any more details than that but it sounds like some bishops here in the D.C. Metro area are simply ignoring the policy directive altogether. It brings to mind what some leaders and members did in the wake of the plural marriage manifesto.

  8. Clark Goble
    8
    November 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    If that’s true then a class/act opposition becomes meaningless. I’m not saying it’s wrong to call something a class. (Heck, I’m from a math and logic background — we love classes and sets) The problem is the false dichotomy put up when they depend upon the same variable.

  9. Rob Osborn
    9
    November 5, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I dont suppose there is very much policy to enforce. Most married gay Mormons are either going to be wholly inactive or no longer claim mormonism. There may be a few but perhaps extremely rare it would be for a same sex married couple who would still want to go to church every Sunday and feel welcome.

  10. November 6, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Extrapolating and generalizing from the individuals I know and stories I’ve heard, and assuming sexual orientation is roughly randomly distributed (all of which seems reasonable but not exact or provable), I’d guess that as of November 4, 2015, there was one or more person in every Ward who was all of gay, married or wishing to be married, and desirous of a continuing relationship with the Church. If that’s even close to true, the number of close family and friends who care about the situation is large enough that “they” are “us.”

  11. Anonymous
    11
    November 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Here’s what I don’t understand: Weren’t all the adults affected by this policy change already going to face excommunication sooner or later unless they stopped having gay sex? Didn’t that part of the policy change just remove the ambiguity that leadership roulette might have been causing in some limited liberal enclaves? Surely no one ever thought they could get married to someone of the same sex and have it not affect their church membership.

  12. Clark Goble
    12
    November 6, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Rob, I think there’s more than you suspect. And I’d be the first to admit this is very hard for them.

    Christian, I’d imagine there’s a slight inheritance factor and thus not totally random although I don’t know that’s been discovered or falsified yet. Again though I’d simply note that the situation is almost certainly not simply a binary gay/not-gay. Rather I suspect there’s a spectrum of people who’d be willing to engage in such behaviors. Likewise sexuality is complex and there isn’t a single category. I think if one thing’s clear it is we don’t know as much about it scientifically as we might wish. For instance Twin Studies show it’s not purely genetic. Which contrary to poorly done news accounts does not mean it doesn’t have a strong genetic component – gene expression takes place relative to environment.

    However we should also note that environment basically means everything not genetic. (We’ll ignore epigenetics for now especially since they are vastly overhyped) So chemicals can make profound sexual changes in other species. (As we’re seeing with pollution from drugs entering the water system and affecting fish and amphibians) There are some hints of such changes in humans too. So there’s some indication, for example, of soy diets affecting early onset puberty for instance. That’s obviously not the same sort of thing. But it seems clear ignoring direct human actions that chemicals in the environment may have a complex interaction with genes. Which admittedly is so vague as to not be that helpful, but then that’s the way it often is with biology.

  13. November 6, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Actually, epigenetics as a science discipline is not particularly overhyped – just vastly misunderstood. From my perspective as a biologist, to me it seems it is probably mainstream genetic theory ala Dawkins et al that might be better characterized as vastly overhyped.

  14. Clark Goble
    14
    November 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Well the line between overhype/misunderstood is perhaps a thin one. I think sensationalist popular press stories have exaggerated things quite a bit. Especially stories in the popular press about health effects due to epigenetics. But whether it is overhyped or not a lot of significant biologists think it is very overhyped. I also think positing epigenetics as a kind of significant Lamarkian alternative to Darwinianism is problematic. That’s not to say there aren’t epigenetic effects. Just that the popular press typically isn’t careful about the limits of studies (sample size, other interpretations, etc.) and likes to play up the most sensationalist angle. (“Memory of environment stored in genes” is a great example) Again we could call that hype of simply bad reporting that misunderstands the study. The effect seems the same. People assume more about epigenetics and it’s effect has been established than has been established.

  15. November 6, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Indeed, “overhyped” to characterize the reporting of popular journalists is probably a redundancy – on any subject.

    The current understanding of epigenetics in the science community is simply at a beginning.

  16. November 6, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    More to the point of the original post, I was reacting to the public letter to Mr Obama, signed by religious leaders including the Presiding Bishop, Gérald J. Caussé. The letter identifies specific concern about an official government report, “The Commission on Human Rights”. Among the findings published in the report, the assertion, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance”. This kind of rhetoric seems to represent popular perception of the LDS Church policy being discussed, among others.

  17. zjg
    17
    November 6, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    It seems to me that the policy is likely motivated by two general ethical concerns: First, that certain aspects of modernity are at odds with our commitments as Christians, and second, a concern over modernity’s move away from identifying certain behaviors as sinful. It is perfectly consistent to be sympathetic to both of these ethical concerns and yet still be opposed to the policy (and even the church’s position on gay marriage more generally). In that case, one would object on the grounds that the church seems to be making a Platinonizing error in adopting positions that, in striving for transformation, fundamentally deform and mutiliate what it means to be human. It may very well be the case that we as a church are focused on the right concerns but have come up with the wrong response.

  18. zjg
    18
    November 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    “Platonizing,” not whatever I wrote

  19. Rob
    19
    November 6, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Ckark,
    I dont have actual numbers but I highly doubt its more than I think. I think there may be a growing number of disaffected or inactive gay LDS who want marriage and its upsettibg to them but among active LDS I would think its very rare from ward to ward. Its an overhyped priblem thats not really a problem at all with true active LDS.

  20. el oso
    20
    November 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    KC#10,
    I would tend to lean more towards Rob’s estimate than your 1 per ward. I have had stake and ward callings over the past few years where I am in a position to know about many of these types of situations in this area. Most of the gay LDS are either totally inactive, mostly in the closet, or not associating with the church from before the policy.
    It has been a couple of years since I had close association with the nearest YSA ward, but I still have significant contact and have not heard anything from them about the policy. General activity levels and lifestyle choices/decisions are far higher on the concerns of the leaders and parents of the YSAs.

  21. November 6, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Yeah, of a ward had 100 members and only one was LGBT, why go after the one when you’ve got 99 to worry about? If it only affects that one, it must not be a big deal. Going after the one isn’t practical. Right?

  22. November 6, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    *if a ward

  23. zjg
    23
    November 6, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Arguing that the policy has a minimal effect because there are so few people who are caught in its net assumes that the expressive function of laws and rules has a minimal effect on the culture and values of institutions. That’s an assumption that is pretty hard to defend. At the very least, there is a a significant literature that strongly suggests otherwise.

  24. sjames
    24
    November 7, 2016 at 1:37 am

    #12 ‘gene expression takes place relative to environment’, is there a connection here with the notion of the evolutionary development of human biology ie the co-evolutionary interplay of biology and culture?
    Not my field, but this ‘expression’ has triggered thoughts along these lines in respect of the matters discussed above.

  25. Rob
    25
    November 7, 2016 at 1:58 am

    The critics of the policy are not active LDS. I believe there would be an issue if even a semi substantial part of active LDS disagreed with the policy. The truth is that no true active LDS believes and supports SSM. There may be a growing dissent in the Mormon community over the policy to some small minute degree, but that group were generally inactive or disaffected to begin with. I find it interesting that almost all inactive or former Mormons who dislike the church will so easily agree toembracing and defending immoral behavior such as SSM if it further inforces their hatred of the church and justification for leaving it.

    This policy change is really about supporting and defending traditional LDS beliefs and retaining unity amongst its active members. Those who were disaffected before the policy are just using tbis as their new banner. The church leaders arent worried about how or if the policy will have an ill effect on the general active membership. The only ill effect will come from the anti Mormon/fringe Mormons who always look for a new cause to trash the church and its leaders.

  26. Brian
    26
    November 7, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Rob, you’re wrong. Many active members have problems with the policy. I don’t think they would ever let you know though. This blog as well as many others refute your claims. We’ve been here before. Still you repeat your mantra of “no true active LDS believes and supports SSM.” Move along. Calling out the faith of people who disagree with you is not your prerogative. I won’t question your faith. But I will call you a troll.

  27. Rob
    27
    November 7, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Brian,
    Pretty much everyone who I have run into who disagrees with the policy are not active, attending church every Sunday members. Thats reality.

  28. Brian
    28
    November 7, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Rob, that’s “your” reality.

  29. Clark Goble
    29
    November 7, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Jim (16) It seems undeniable that for many people traditional religions are primarily about discrimination. This is probably a contributing factor to the rise of the Nones as a demographic factor. The document you mentioned which I’ve discussed before is an other. My prediction for a long time has been that as homosexuality has become normalized that traditional oriented churches will start to come under the microscope. That’s unfortunate but seemed inevitable since the 90’s although I was surprised how fast the transition was. Although in hindsight I shouldn’t have been.

    Rob (15) there are lots of active members critical. You can dispute whether you think they should be, but there really are quite a few. I think for many this has been a big trial of faith primarily due to there being no real alternatives for those who simply can’t be attracted to members of the opposite sex. That lack of opportunities seems inherently unjust – to such a degree that many have a hard time reconciling this injustice to God. I’d add that I think this same sense of injustice was why many conservative members tend to want to say homosexuality is always a learned choice rather than something instinctual. They sense the same feeling of injustice if it’s much more immutable for many.

    SJames (24) A great example of gene expression is how grasshoppers when the population gets too dense express genes leading them to become locusts. This includes large morphological changes. I don’t want to say gene expression doesn’t happen due to social factors – especially social factors of extreme stress. However I don’t know of evidence for that. However the social affects the biological in relatively obvious ways by changing our brains. How much, if any, gene expression is involved there I couldn’t say. I’d imagine little although one might assume during early development periods of high stress can have big changes. Likewise during brain development missing key environmental cues can have huge possibly unalterable changes in the brain. Think of children kept from language when young and how difficult it is for them to learn language.

    Anyway, I’d be loath to tie any of these to homosexuality without evidence. I rather suspect though it’s an interplay of genes with the environment possibly during development. But of course other mammals also have homosexuality so there may well be selection pressure for it we don’t understand. The place of mammalian homosexuality makes me dubious we can tie too much to social pressure. (Again ignoring large stress)

    Rob (19) I’ve known a fair number of people who either are gay (i.e. not interested in people of the opposite sex) or who are more on a spectrum and have had homosexual feelings or actions in their past. Many end up becoming inactive (understandable given the pressures they must face), others have ended up trying to stay faithful with varying degrees of success. While I think the brethren absolutely deserve the benefit of doubt in these decisions they make, I also must praise those who attempt to stay true to their testimonies despite incredible opposition including a lot of hurtful things from members. It’s hard for me not to say they are better members than me.

  30. November 7, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I don’t have any numbers to represent Church-wide, but in the Fast and Testimony meeting I attended yesterday, there were more than 400 members present. None of them bearing placards or staging protest demonstrations. Of those few who stood at the podium to offer their expression of Testimony, precisely zero mentioned that they were troubled and struggling in anguish over the Church policy of discrimination against homosexuals. I spoke with the bishop and the stake president after the meeting, and neither happened to mention any doubts about the policy, though our conversation was admittedly brief.

    My experience in the Church suggests to me that the Bloggernacle hardly represents a heterogeneous microcosm of members. In my own ward, I regularly attend meetings, where the “policy” is decidedly a non-issue that seldom rises to the level of common interest. Nobody cares about it, though we share many other problems. This obsession on the “policy” seems to be a particular manifestation of the Bloggernacle. My impression is that these forums have evolved into an exclusive sounding board for dissidents and malcontents who bear their own heavy burden of axes for grinding.

    I have no explanation for this phenomenon. Wouldn’t it make an interesting subject for serious study?

  31. Brian
    31
    November 7, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Jim, that people don’t mention a struggle with the policy in public at church or privately in your presence to you does not mean it isn’t there. My current EQ President is struggling, but guess what, the only people in the ward who know are me and the Bishop and his counselors. The EQ President in my former ward, also struggled with the policy and many people in that quorum also did. Members in that bishopric also struggled. I know a currently serving bishop in another ward who struggles with the policy.

    These aren’t people with an axe to grind. These are caring, active members who serve in leadership positions. To say “nobody cares about it” is wrong. Perhaps, like Rob, you mean to say, “I don’t hear people publicly speaking about it church” or “No one tells me these things privately.” Maybe, just maybe, that’s because they know you and Rob would call them “malcontents” and “dissidents.” Why would they tell you? You don’t provide a safe venue for them to share their struggles. You can “feel” how you want to what is happening and extrapolate a general rule (I know, it’s a trend), but, again, the comments on this blog and the posts it links to should be enough evidence for the two of you to perhaps suggest you could reconsider your positions based experiences beyond your own.

  32. November 7, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    In moderate circumspection, I am resisting the impulse to respond. :-)

  33. November 7, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Obviously, a wide spectrum of opinion on this issue. Quick responses:

    — The nicest thing I’m hearing is that apparently some local leaders are just sidestepping the policy and avoiding enforcement whenever possible. That is actually in the spirit of the Nov. 13, 2015 First Presidency letter, which quickly stepped back from full and immediate enforcement by directing local leaders to not apply the Policy to children already baptized or to children not actually residing in the home of a gay married couple.

    — I added a link to the FMH post that went up after this post was published.

    — A good companion post to this one is an earlier T&S post of mine that summarizes Patrick Mason’s discussion of those who fall out of activity or completely exit the Church because of either being “switched off” or “squeezed out.” The number of those who formally exit because of the Policy may be small (in the thousands) but I’m guessing there are ten or fifty times more who are switched off because the Policy just doesn’t fit with the general tenor of the Gospel as they see it or who feel squeezed out because of how Policy has ratcheted up the political gospel (you know what I’m talking about) that gets preached in some wards and stakes.

  34. Clark Goble
    34
    November 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Jim (30) much to my surprise there were several in my ward Sunday. Admittedly I’m in Provo in a ward with lots of people either teaching college or attending college. So it’s probably not representative of much. While I definitely agree that blogs don’t represent much I think we can err going the other direction and assume almost no one matches the concerns of various especially leftward politically leaning blogs. From what I understand most studies suggest political views don’t differ significantly between Utah wards and wards in the rest of the country. The main difference is the number of non-Mormons people encounter. However it also seems clear that, as with so many issues, that socializing simply leads to Mormons encountering very different views outside of Utah.

    Dave (33) my guess is that there are people who already have issues for various reasons and this could be enough to push them out. Again I don’t deny this is a big issue for many.

    The problem is that the only solutions the Lord has thus far provided (celibacy or a potentially dysfunctional marriage where your spouse gets hurt) seem quite unsatisfactory. That’s not to deny other people in deeply dissatisfying situations. But it’s the traditional problem of why God would give apparently unresolvable situations to people despite their best attempts at living the gospel. That broader issue is why so many have problem with religion in general.

  35. November 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Clark, I wish I could say what is right. Unfortunate that I cannot peer into everyone’s heart and soul. I can only speak for myself.

    Through my adult life, I have lived in areas throughout the US, from Portland OR to Greenbelt MD, and always attended Church. I have never encountered a ward or branch anywhere that resembled the aggregate tone of the Bloggernacle. This is just my own narrative, but I am not convinced that this “policy struggle” is anywhere near as pervasive as any number of other more mundane personal issues.

  36. Rob Osborn
    36
    November 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    #30 Jim Cobabe,
    I completely agree. in my neck of the woods its the same thing. No one ever brings it up in church, no one that I attend church with regularly disputes it. I know the Bloggernacle posters are in large part very liberal and do not in any way represent the common Mormon at church every Sunday. I have been posting on the Bloggernacle for 15 years, even had my own blog on the Bloggernacle, and I am as traditional as they come and yet I have been permanently banned on at least half of them. My own blog was barred also. Why? Because the liberal fringe Mormons who generally control the Bloggernacle do not like to be questioned.

  37. November 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Jim, fwiw, my anecdotal experience is the precise opposite. I know at most a half dozen or so active members who aren’t troubled by the policy. It has been mentioned both explicitly and in asides in my ward, and no such mention has supported or praised it. I know people who have left the church because of it, and I know others (myself included) who are staying in the church in spite of it. So if I were to generalize, based on my own experience, I would have to assume that the negative reaction exceeds the pushback the policy has received on blogs.

    That clearly doesn’t match up with your experience, which is why it’s a bad idea to generalize one’s own experience as representative of the church at large.

  38. john f.
    38
    November 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I know many active 100% Church attending, leadership calling holding members who are *completely* disgraced by the policy. They have never stood up to bear testimony about it to a congregation full of people like Rob and Jim. Why would they? That would be a fruitless endeavor. They suffer in silence. Just like Rob and Jim want them to.

  39. Rob Osborn
    39
    November 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    All I am saying is I see no evidence that active members are in disagreement. I speak with my bishop and relief society president and they no of no instance in our ward. I just dont see it. I see this as just another banner for liberal Mormons to wave and use against church leadership. In time, those who truly do disagree will either walk away from the church or change.

  40. Brian
    40
    November 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Those liberals. Always “rigging.” Don’t like to be “questioned.” Not like me. I’m always right.

  41. Clark Goble
    41
    November 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I suspect everyone is talking past one an other. The typical ward has 400 – 650 members. If 20 had difficulties with the policies that’d be a small percentage but a fairly significant number of people. I’d be shocked if across the Church just given the reality of political views there wasn’t on the order of 2 – 5% struggling with the policy. The actual makeup would likely vary somewhat per ward. But that seems an easy rule of thumb.

    Again though struggling with something doesn’t say the brethren are wrong. As I’ve said I’ve not received anything on the issue one way or the other so I give them the benefit of doubt. Heaven knows there’s lots of things people struggle with. I suspect that over time more people struggle with something than don’t. I just worry about dismissing their struggles, just as I worry about dismissing people’s struggles with the history of polygamy, the broader problem of evil, singles wondering where their place in the church is, and a whole lot more.

    The fact that many of us don’t particularly struggle with these issues doesn’t mean much to those who do. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have good answers for the struggles. It seems that the brethren, while pretty convinced they’re right, also recognize the struggles and pain this has for people. (Thus some of the recent changes on the website) That doesn’t mean there’s an easy solution.

  42. November 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    So what I am hearing is that my own experience is not valid, because others differ. Let me assure those offering more legitimate Bloggernacle narratives, I can discern if someone is judgemental just by looking at them. So don’t even try to mess with me. :->

  43. sjames
    43
    November 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    #29 Thanks Clark, I don’t mean to skew the discussion, however the position you put for environment does suggest an argument for an ‘outside-in’ view of same-sex attraction (though you suggest the probability of a more ‘dialogic’ process).

    Given the likelihood that LDS are informed by more traditional ‘inside-out’ psychology, your observations open up other possibilities and provide some thoughts as to why there is a struggle around this policy by everyone in the church.

  44. Brian
    44
    November 7, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Jim,

    “I cannot peer into everyone’s heart and soul” but “I can discern if someone is judgmental just by looking at them. So don’t even try to mess with me.” Look in the mirror, friend. That’s what this is about: being able to discern that our own perceptions are filtered by ourselves and that maybe, just maybe we should listen to others. Nobody is disputing your experience, we’re disputing your conclusion(s) in the face of other people’s contradictory experiences.

    Rob,

    Get off it. You wrote: “All I am saying is I see no evidence that active members are in disagreement.” That’s not “all” you’re saying. You’re calling people who disagree with you not “active” and that they “hate” the Church.

  45. IDIAT
    45
    November 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Reminds me of the time those in support of a certain feminist cause were to wear pants (if female) and purple (if male) to church, and the anecdotal tally, even by bloggernacle standards, was very low. Anyway, I am as curious as the author to know how local leaders are handling situations where the policy should apply. I don’t know of any openly gay couples (much less married) in my stake attending church (mirroring Rob/Jim’s experience) so I’d like to hear from other people how their local leaders are handling things.

  46. sch
    46
    November 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Yesterday, in my ward, over 200 people were in attendance. I saw no placards or demonstrations staged protesting Hillary Clinton as a candidate for President. Of the few who managed to get to the podium and bear testimony, exactly none of them raised a single criticism of Hillary. Conclusion: Essentially everyone there is going to vote for Hillary.

  47. Rob
    47
    November 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Brian,

    Are you an active, Sunday attending church member?

  48. Rob
    48
    November 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Its one thing to wonder or question the policy versus completely disagree. To completely disagree means one supports SSM and homosexual relationships as moral behavior.

  49. Brian
    49
    November 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Rob, sure thing. Very active. Teach EQ every week except the first Sunday. Was recently an EQ president myself in another ward. Admittedly, (and I’m not being facetious here) that ward didn’t have many active in the EQ. It might easily be said they were scraping bottom.

  50. November 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Maybe I am making everyone uncomfortable with my ignorant uninformed naive comments. I should probably just shut up. Everyone can happily agonize about
    objectionable policies of the Church, to their hearts content.

  51. FarSide
    51
    November 7, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    For me, whether or not a majority of the members support the policy misses the larger question: what impact will the policy have on our ability to: (1) retain those members who are in their late teens or 20s whose cultural experience differs radically from that of their parents, and (2) appeal to prospective converts who are college educated and well informed? When you combine the policy with the ill-advised excommunication of Kate Kelly, the Church’s no-holds-barred opposition to Proposition 8, etc., these questions quickly become rhetorical.

  52. Clark Goble
    52
    November 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Jim, I don’t think I’m disagreeing with your experience, just noting that one should be careful extrapolating ones experience to the church as a whole. And trying to discern the blind spots where your experience might not get at people’s private views not expressed at church. That goes as much for me as anyone.

    Rob, while I personally don’t question the policy as I said, I think you’re presenting a false dichotomy. Surely there are more choices than think the policy is right and favor normalizing SSM within the church.

    sjames, I confess what I know about the biology comes more from articles in the science journals I read. But that leaves pretty big gaps of ignorance. I’ve not heard the term “inside-in” relative to this. (At least that I can recall from my admittedly fallible memory) So I just can’t really speak to that. I was just more taking biology and throwing out some ways it could work. I’m not saying those are correct beyond their just being common structures in biology and development. I think there’s far more we don’t know than we do know. That ought inform our analysis.

  53. Rob Osborn
    53
    November 7, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Clark,
    Perhaps people dont understand the policy. First and foremost, the main policy clarification deals with same sex marriage of which is an excommunacable offense. The second part deals with couples who engage in such behavior which exepmts their children from church membership while they live with same sex couple parents until they become consenting adults. To disagree with this policy is to thus state that you disagree that Ssm is an apostate immoral practice and as such they should be allowed to marry legally, that their union should be recognized by the church and that children of gay couples should thus not be excluded.

  54. Tim
    54
    November 7, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    I’m deeply troubled by the policy. I also live in Rob Osborn’s very, very conservative neck of the woods (although not in his stake). I’m still active in the church, and immediately before I moved out here I was an EQP. No one in my ward except for my wife knows that I have issues with the policy. If I were living in any of my three previous wards (Provo, Midwest, California), all three of which were more accepting of nonconformists, I would have had no problem discussing my concerns with fellow ward members, and I know for a fact that many of them have issues with the policy because I talk to them about it on Facebook. Eastern Idaho’s about as conservative as the Mormon Corridor gets; one shouldn’t assume that just because things are one way here that they’re the same elsewhere.

  55. Clark Goble
    55
    November 7, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Rob most people I know having trouble have trouble with the children who, they say, should be treated independently. After the policy was announced the brethren immediately softened it somewhat, apparently not seeing some cases that it’d affect.

    Given that I believe persisting in fornication with no intent of changing is excommunicable I don’t see SSM as a change in policy. The biggest change was in putting SSM on par with polygamy.

    It’s quite easy to be fine with not recognizing SSM while thinking it unjust that children, especially when one spouse is active LDS, should be kept from church ordinances. Again that’s not my view but I completely understand those who hold it.

    My guess is that had they not included the bit about children and ordinances there’d have been far less contention over it. That said I think there’s a bit of a double standard too since most of these people complaining about SSM & kids didn’t complain about polygamy & kids despite it being the policy I think for nearly 100 years. And arguably given the history of the west probably involving far more kids than the SSM issue. (I know of at least one person who got permission from Pres. Monson to be baptized and then go on a mission because his parents were polygamous — possibly others although I’ve not broached the subject)

  56. Clark Goble
    56
    November 7, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    FarSide (51) I think the question of implications are harder to judge. While I think Rob is perhaps going too far in his comments I also suspect that those most upset by the SSM rules would be upset at all the prohibition of homosexual activity. So while it might get us in the press more I’m not convinced it’ll have that big of an effect beyond the existing rise of the Nones.

    Put an other way it’s more or less the entire proscriptions on people doing stuff that people don’t see an immediate consequence to that’s the issue for many people.

    All that said, as I’ve mentioned in my demographic posts Mormons have typically had most of their converts come from loosely associated Christians. In places where there are few of that group our baptisms tend to struggle too. To the degree there’s a rise in the Nones in America one would have to assume our conversion rate would decrease significantly. Assuming loses to the Nones persists at the same level that would mean a significant decrease in our growth rate. I’m not saying that will happen just that it seems quite plausible.

  57. zjg
    57
    November 7, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Clark — It’s easy to dismiss objections to the policy as just another manifestation of liberalism at prayer, in other words attempts to define Christian ethics “down” so that it’s coterminous with human flourishing. Consequently, we think to ourselves, well, Christianity isn’t merely about human flourishing, but spiritual transformation, and therefore these liberal critics are just missing something essential to the religion. I suspect that something like this is what’s motivating many of the frankly surprisingly (to me at least) dismissive reactions in this comment thread. But this position ignores objections from the other direction — i.e., that it is the policy that is actually missing something essential about Christianity to the extent that it deforms and mutilates humanity (as potentially reflected in what appears to be the uptick in suicides since the policy was implemented). Call this the “platonizing objection” to the policy. In some ways, it doesn’t really matter how many of those who object to the policy fall into which camp — the liberal one or the platonizing one. The liberal objection is easy to dismiss for more orthodox Mormons. But the platonizing one is I think much harder.

  58. November 7, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    It’s no mystery that homosexuality in general and marriage (of non-procreative pairs) does not have an easy place in traditional Mormon and Christian thought, ethics, worldview, vision of the eternities, heaven.

    There are several moves one can make. Three of those (not necessarily comprehensive; not necessarily mutually exclusive) are:

    One: Challenge the ethics. Find exceptions or expand the vision or seek new revelation. (This is where I live.)

    Two: Argue that homosexuality is temporary. This category includes conversion therapy (controversial pseudoscience and largely disproved and disapproved) but also disorder theories (Roman Catholic thought tends to use ‘disorder’) and conversations that include “burden to bear” and “this life” and “it will work out.” This is where Platonic ideals of a perfect model human come in conflict with modern notions of essential selfhood. This is the tradition that says the blind will see, the lame will walk, and the gay will be straight.

    The temporality position is commonly stated, but is troubled by, on the one hand the relatively modern experience and belief that sexual orientation is an innate characteristic (often supported by actually knowing and loving people with a different orientation than oneself), and on the other hand the general failure of conversion attempts. (What I know about conversion therapy strikes me as morally reprehensible and sometimes criminal. But for this purpose it is the general failure that matters, as it ‘forces’ the argument that sexual orientation is either permanent and eternal, or at least fixed for this lifetime and some of us think this lifetime should be taken seriously.)

    Three: Deny or reject. We see this in a long history of closets, and phrases like “only a few,” “not enough to care about,” and “just go away.”

    I place the Policy in the [deny or] reject category. In effect, the Policy says to my loved ones “there’s no room for you in our ethics, and whatever we believe about the eternal and ideal we have come to accept that conversion doesn’t work in this life, and so go away.”

    And just to be clear, I think that statement is a morally deficient short-cut.

  59. Clark Goble
    59
    November 7, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    zjg (57) I think you misread me. I was going out of my way not to do that. I think those who don’t have issues with the problem either don’t understand the problem or else have sufficient faith that there is a solution even though God hasn’t revealed it.

    The problem with human flourishing isn’t just “defining” down but the problem of time frames. After all we all recognize that to flourish often requires periods of sacrifice when one sacrifices short term flourishing for greater flourishing later. Indeed I’d argue that a Mormon theodicy does just this – that this life is a period of pain and sacrifice for greater longer term progression. Further that we chose in a fully informed way to take this sacrifice ourselves.

    Where this falls down (and why it’s not a complete theodicy) is because it doesn’t explain why we each have such different sufferings and tests. We might say that’s what we need but there are problems with that view for a variety of reasons (including free will). So I’d say that while we have the outlines of a Mormon theodicy we don’t have a fully complete or successful one. Yet.

    Christian (58) I actually think Mormonism especially without ties to Thomist styled teleology can deal with non-procreative marriage quite well. The problem in Mormonism is much more the manifestation of gender in biology which doesn’t match heavenly ideals. (Meaning ideas of spirits that don’t match biology) It’s this relationship between biology and spirit that hasn’t been thought through well in our theology. With an unfortunate amount of space denying the biology because it doesn’t match up with people’s expectations of justice. In a certain ironic way the opposition to our theology comes from the same place.

    My problem with using the term “innate” is that it seems inherently problematic unless we mean by it a much weaker sense of “instinct.” The problem is that what I think people want to communicate is that they can’t by easy willing feel other than they feel. But of course that leaves quite a wide range. (And almost certainly as I mentioned homosexuality isn’t an one size fits all situation but more of a spectrum regarding what feelings come and what behaviors feel attracted towards)

    To the final point though, I don’t think anyone on either the pro or anti side have a good explanation for any of this in terms of established Mormon positions. This is why, as I’ve said, it seems unresolvable without a major revelation.

  60. zjg
    60
    November 7, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Apologies for misreading you, Clark. The point I was trying to make is that Christianity in general, and Mormonism in particular, I think rejects an ethic of human flourishing as the sole objective in favor of one of spiritual transformation, which, as you acknowledge, sometimes requires the sacrifice of goods that undoubtedly lead to human flourishing. But at the same time, I don’t think that Christianity goes so far as to reject human flourishing altogether (that’s what I’m referring to as the Platonizing move). And so you end up with a balancing act, an attempt to thread the needle between sacrifice in the service of spiritual transformation on the one hand while on the other a concern for not mutilating or deforming our humanity. In these types of discussions, I hear a lot of Mormons assuming that objections to the church’s position on gay marriage or the policy are motivated solely by a desire to redefine the Christian ethic as one of human flourishing rather than sacrifice in the service of transformation. But I actually don’t think that’s the case. I think a lot of folks who take issue with the church’s position on gay marriage or the policy recognize the centrality of the ethic of sacrifice in the service of transformation (in fact, they might even think that we need to take sacrifice more seriously in the church) but they are concerned that on these particular issues, the sacrifice that is being demanded doesn’t lead to transformation but to the mutiliation of one’s humanness — i.e., the Platonizing move. I think if people realized this (and I don’t mean you), there might at least be more understanding than is exhibited in certain of the comments here (not yours).

  61. Clark Goble
    61
    November 8, 2016 at 12:13 am

    I’m not sure I agree – I think a very strong strain in Mormon thought going back to Joseph sees spiritual transformation as the means to the end of human flourishing. Think of his famous quip about if we were sent to hell we’d turn it into heaven. That idea of flourishing is strong throughout most forms of Mormon thought. Even relatively disparate theologies still embrace that in their core.

    I think the debate about flourishing is really over short term flourishing and long term flourishing. i.e. that what makes us happy in the short term hurts us long term. This is a big problem for a lot of views like that including more hedonistic forms like utilitarianism.

    My problem with the appeal to “humanness” is that it’s not clear what that means. There is no essential humanness that I can see. While existential type analysis aren’t essential to Mormon thought they are rather common within it. I’d say that the Platonizing move isn’t denying this move to humanness but rather the affirmation of it. It assumes there’s some platonic ideal of humanness to which we should be true. The more existential strain of LDS thought would say there is no ideal of humanness. Rather there’s the ideal of transformation out of fallen views of essential characteristics. Now of course one can, as you attempted to, turn this around and say it’s Platonic because the essences are heavenly trumping ‘essences’ on earth. But I think that falls apart for various reasons as well. One can after all have difference without essences. (Although that’s a deep rabbit hole)

    The real question is what gets the trump. Our bodies? Or faith for transformation. I think the latter presupposes that our bodies aren’t essential in the Platonic sense merely in a functional or operational sense. i.e. they’re a tool that’s really important but we start thinking it’s the ruler and we’re apt to get misled.

  62. CSC
    62
    November 8, 2016 at 1:06 am

    Imagine you’ve been hired as a consultant by Screwtape to increase the acceptance of a specific sin. You want more people committing the sin; you want them committing it more often; and you want any preaching against that sin to be discouraged if not shunned.

    With that goal in mind, and with today’s society in mind, can you think of a better strategy than to convince people that the sin is central to some people’s humanity?

    What if same-sex sexuality isn’t special? What if it’s just a sin like any other sin? Think of all the framework our society has placed around this sin (sexual identity, anti-discrimination laws, etc). Imagine that same framework placed around a different sin instead. What would that look like? How would you expect the church to respond?

  63. ji
    63
    November 8, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Thanks, CSC. Homosexual activity is sin. Homosexual marriage is sin, a step worse than homosexual activity. This is the real issue — many oppose the right of a church to use the word sin for homosexual activity or homosexual marriage — they want to celebrate their sin and force all others to celebrate with them. I support the right of a church society to continue to use the word sin to characterize homosexual activity and homosexual marriage, or not, as that society may choose for itself.

  64. Brian
    64
    November 8, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Right when you think headway is being made (the Church’s new Mormon and Gay website, for example. Notice the identity label of being both Mormon and Gay!) a couple of comments come in that remind us all how far we still have to go.

    Imagine you wanted to persuade people to commit more sin. What if you could employ cultural stigma to convince several generations of people that only people who identify as they would is “correct”–that, say, homosexuality was completely a choice and they would be the downfall of society. Now that would be a trick. It would take some serious pressure for them to perhaps reconsider their position that perhaps these people were all people who couldn’t just change. But, hey, they did.

  65. Rob
    65
    November 8, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Brian,
    What would make you happy? Is it for the Church to accept SSM or something less?

  66. Brian
    66
    November 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Rob,

    I’m not out there marching in support of same-sex marriage (though many active members are—and they, via Elder Christopherson, should have no reason to worry about any church discipline). I’m not arguing we should change definitions of “sin” for same-sex couples (and, as has been noted here, most of the complaints with the policy have nothing to do with that, but with the children). I’m trying to demonstrate that “gray” areas, complexity, and nuance exist. And though I understand, and even accept, and that a healthy number of black/white, absolutist, simplstic thinking is necessary for a healthy ordination and society, I also think that Church culture creates and lauds such more than is healthy and that it is just as incumbent upon us “gray” thinkers to voice our concerns and thoughts as for the others to voice theirs.

    What would make me “happy” is more people willing to step outside their world views and acknowledge complexity in the issue, even if they disagree. Much like what Clark has done here, and which–to my regret, and his praise–he has done much more diplomatically than me.

  67. Rob
    67
    November 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    The problem is though that the naysayers in large part all want to fit in the gray area. Yes it does exist but how its defined is where the heated debates exist. Yes, same sex attraction does exist. But, I think it exists in sone degree in everyone it jyst eepends on social and mental triggers. The flesh is like that. Its why everyone, under the right conditions and circumstances will choose to sin or other ungidly sexual perversions. So, in turn, this gray area becomes so broad as to include actual sins as if they shouldnt be sins.

  68. Clark Goble
    68
    November 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Rob the question is whether everyone is attracted to members of the opposite sex in such a fashion that a functional marriage could develop. If not, what is to be done? That’s what you seem to be missing. It’s easy to simply throw out celibacy but do you not at least see why that is deeply problematic? Put an other way, if Pres. Monson came out and said everyone with a name starting with R had to be celibate and if married divorce their wife if they had one, would you see that as a trial of faith?

  69. Brian
    69
    November 8, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Rob, I’m not talking about “gray” areas in terms of sexuality. I’m talking gray areas in terms of thinking about the world: like accepting that maybe active members can and do struggle with the policy. I’m talking about the black/white thinking that spurs comments like your 25, 27, 36, and 39. Stuff like that. Comments like Jim’s 30.

  70. Rob Osborn
    70
    November 8, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Brian,
    Why do they struggle though? Its as if they cant wrap their minds around the idea that homosexual activity is really a sin.

  71. Rob Osborn
    71
    November 8, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Clark,
    The scenerio you gave makes no sense. You are trying to equate SSM with traditional marriage. they are at polar opposites. ones godly and the others evil.

  72. Brian
    72
    November 8, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Rob, you’ve started back over again. Read the OP and the links, read the comments. Pay attention to people’s concerns with “children.” I’m not sure what better evidence you want concerning people’s inability to deal with “gray” areas than your own comments. That same inability is not demonstrated in the comments of those you disagree with.

  73. Rob Osborn
    73
    November 8, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Brian,
    Where the rubber meets the road is whether one believes homosexual acts are sinful of the apostate type that includes excommunication from the church. it is black and white. Obviously, those who disagree with the policy are the very ones who generally side with, to some extent, homosexuals who wish to act upon their desires and committ sin.

  74. Rob Osborn
    74
    November 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Why not the same outcry over polygamous parents? Their children face the same route to membership but somehow no one wants to talk about them but rather pick apart this instead. Its almost as if they are saying that polygamy is really bad and a threat to the church but yet homosexuality needs embraced.

  75. Rob Osborn
    75
    November 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    And also, what about the fact that most men, including myself, are attracted to females other than our wives. We cant act upon those desires unless we wish to sin and possible excommunication also, we are to suppress that desire. How is that different? But beyond that, the certain act of SSM flies directly in the face of everything our church teaches. What should the church tolerate or not tolerate? Would it be okay for a gay married couple to attend sacrament meeting every Sunday and hold hands and hug each other? What about church dances-should the church tolerate a same sex couple to dance together and get close together in front of youth?

  76. Brian
    76
    November 8, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Rob, Your comments continually demonstrate an unwillingness to engage with those your disagree with in a faith-based dialogue. I’m not interested in responding to you beyond what I have. You show no regard for arguments made against your very black and white claims. You keep trying to reset the discussion when it gets to the point that you must do actual work. Answers to your questions have already been addressed in this very comment thread and in the links the OP provides.

  77. Clark Goble
    77
    November 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Rob (73) did you read what I said? The issue is the sacrifice and demands required of one not required of others. What you address is completely beside the point for what I was addressing. Further the example I gave appears to have been an example from history.

    Now the reply might be that sometimes the Lord demands unfair things (in the sense of it not being demanded of everyone) One needn’t read much history of Joseph Smith to realize things were demanded of a few people that weren’t demanded of most saints. To take those demands and remain faithful is quite difficult. However while I look at someone like Zina Huntington as a praiseworthy hero I seek to emulate the world will look at her history as a deep example of injustice. That’s the point I’m getting at. It seems to me that those who simply don’t empathize with what is demanded (especially when it’s not something demanded of themselves) are missing something fundamental about what’s going on.

    We can completely agree upon what’s demanded. It’s this other element that you seem to be refusing to even look at.

  78. Rob
    78
    November 8, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I dont or cant empathize with sinners on this issue. To say its injustice is no different than to empathise with a man who habitually cheats on his wife because he desires other women. We arent talking about empathy towards same sex attraction. Thats not the issue. Its whether one chooses to obey or sin.

  79. Clark Goble
    79
    November 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Read up on Zina Huntington Rob and then ask if you could do what she did. And she’s amazingly strong in the faith. Now imagine someone being asked to do something similar who wasn’t. That’s the situation with many gay youth and young adults. We agree on what is required. You just seem to think little is being required. That’s wrong.

    And be aware that many great leaders of the Church failed on the test Zina passed including Orson Pratt who was excommunicated over it.

  80. Rob Osborn
    80
    November 8, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Clark,
    I think the area we cant agree on is that you believe gay youth and agay adults are giving up so much to be obedient and it thus isnt fair. I believe whether they give up a little or a whole lot is irelevent. I personally believe that its social factors and conditioning that has led to not only our acceptance of homosexuality but also the false belief that folks are born a certain way and cant change. If thats the case then all should be justified in whatever their sexual sin is.

    New research is showing that sexuality, attraction and gender identiry is fluid and not only can change but does change as we go from infancy into old age. The flesh is completely willing to be pleasured by almost anything. I think the church has made great stretches to accomodate the gay members. but, they are perhaps even stretching it over too far just to be nice.

  81. Brian
    81
    November 8, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Rob, You write “[the church is] perhaps even stretching it over too far just to be nice.” And yet you criticize others for their struggles with church policies? Has anything you written been sincere? The church even isn’t willing to say that people aren’t born gay. They leave it as “we don’t know.” You seem to be the one who is over-stepping. Also, we’ve already been over your false assumption about sexual fluidity. The article you cited in a previous post about it was blatant misappropriation of original research. Again, you show your incalcitrant nature on the subject, even beyond current positions by the church. That you can’t acknowledge your own conflict with the Church for what it is while assailing others for doing the same thing is both striking and offensive. From what I understand of psychology, there may be a reason why you do so. I’m sorry you struggle so much with it.

  82. Loursat
    82
    November 8, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Following Christ is very hard because it requires us to love each other, and there are no exceptions to that requirement. There is no issue on which God says it’s ok not to empathize with others.

    Empathy does not require us to endorse sin. But when a person simply refuses to empathize and then condemns another, that is not a Christian act, and it is not a legitimate position in the church.

  83. Clark Goble
    83
    November 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Rob “I believe whether they give up a little or a whole lot is irrelevant.”

    Yes, I understand that’s your view. It’s a wrong view. What we are supposed to do is what it is, regardless of how hard it is. However how hard something is matters a great deal in terms of what we are overcoming. To assume that a person for whom what is asked is easy is doing the same thing as someone of whom what is asked is hard seems demonstrably false.

    I wish I could find the link to the talk, as it’s one of my all time favorite talks. Elder Ashton gave it and it was about how what we perceive to be blessings or curses really is a limited view compared to God’s. A person who lives in a upper middle class Mormon community with few challenges may look like they are blessed but they may actually be cursed relative to the person who is given great trials.

    We don’t know how much biology plays into our choices. I strongly feel this is why only God can judge. It may well be there is someone out there who’s brain developed as a sociopath with anger and impulse control issues. For that person to not be violent and hurt people may take tremendous effort from their spirit. I’d imagine they’d be rewarded far greater for that accomplishment by God than I would for the same behaviors. They’ve done far more than I have. Most of the world’s population really hasn’t been given the gospel in any strong way. Yet this life and its trials are as much for their development as it is ours. We’ve been given great blessings, but as Luke 12:48 says, where much is given much is required. God judges justly knowing all that a person if overcoming. One wishes everyone would seek to judge as God does.

  84. Rob
    84
    November 8, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Brian,
    We both know where each other stand, we are beating a dead horse. Its been a year on the policy and we are still beating a dead horse in devating it. The church will not budge. I stand fully by the policy. Thats all. Time to move on

  85. zjg
    85
    November 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Clark – I understand why you would push back against the human flourishing/transformation dichotomy particularly in the context of Mormonism. This reminds me of that conversation with Rachael Givens from a few months back regarding Charles Taylor (who uses this dichotomy in discussing Christian ethics) where Rachael made the point that Mormonism sort of collapses the distinction for better or worse. While I’m sympathetic to Mormonism’s effort to find spiritual transformation in ordinary life, I don’t think that can be the only aspect of the Mormon ethic. Think of how we talk about sacrifice. It’s not just the renunciation of things that we think undermine human flourishing in the short or even long-term but the renunciation of unqualified goods that unquestionably contribute to human flourishing regardless of the timeframe involved. For that reason, I don’t think it’s right to say that the Mormon ethic is really just about long-term human flourishing. I think that it’s about spiritual transformation (i.e., progression) that sometimes requires one to give up things that are unquestionably good from a human flourishing standpoint. But at the same time, it’s also not true that Mormonism tries to jettison ordinary human desire, for example, in the name of something higher. To do so is what I’m referring to as the Platonizing error, because I think that’s more or less what Plato was up to. So, Mormonism can’t make human flourishing (even long-term) its sole ethical focus any more than it can focus on spiritual transformation to the exclusion of all else. Hence, the balancing. I agree with you of course that the idea of figuring out the essence of humanness is tricky, but I don’t think that’s a reason to give up on the idea because I think that in a religion of God incarnate (and particularly in the hyper-materialist version of that religion, which Mormonism provides) preserving what is essential to humanness is surely a constraint. And while I can’t tell you exactly what is essential to our humanness, I think it includes marriage and family, which is why I think that the church’s position with respect to our gay brothers and sisters requires the renunciation of something truly essential. That alone might not mean that we should change that position. But it does help us articulate the ethical stakes involved.

  86. Clark Goble
    86
    November 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    I don’t think it’s only about long term flourishing. Again turning to Joseph he focused on building things up here too. However looking only at short term is significantly distortive. (This problem of time is the #1 reason I’m not an utilitarian for instance)

    I don’t think Mormonism “jettisons ordinary human desire” at all. Rather the common metaphor is circumscribing it. Which honestly is pretty common in all ethics. After all a lot of ordinary human desire is considered unethical. Indeed arguably civilization is all about regulating such desires.

    My problem with the appeal to “ordinary human desire” is that typically it picks and chooses what is acceptable and not. That is there a hidden criteria as to what counts as ordinary because it’s certainly not the range of demonstrations of human desire which are often pretty horrific. (Seriously – what’s happening in Syria is well within the norms of human history)

    Now Plato wants an other worldly criteria based pure reason and ideals. I don’t think that’s what Mormonism is doing because I think Mormon ethics are very much this world. That is I think within Mormonism a body isn’t something we have (as with Plato) but something we fundamentally are. But since a body and its comportments isn’t static, this means that Mormon thought essentially sees it as a process. (As opposed to many forms of Platonism that sees static pure intellectual ideals)

    It’s fine to outline what you think is essential for humanness, but it’s not at all clear on what basis you make that judgment. (Or even why you think it’s some essence of humanness as opposed to some other criteria) I raise this going back to my earlier point simply because I am far from convinced what’s ‘essential’ to humanness is always good. You apparently are but it’s not at all clear why you’d say that. For instance anger and violence seem pretty intrinsic to human nature but you don’t want to be true to those. That suggests some other criteria that is an essence but not tied to human behavioral norms. Which seems pretty platonic to me. i.e. you want the pure human essence rather than the actual human behavior — but that’s precisely what Plato asserted.

  87. zjg
    87
    November 9, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Fair points, particularly your observations about the uniqueness of Mormonism. But you should read Taylor (if you haven’t already). He’s obviously working from a Catholic perspective, but I think that his articulation of the ethical predicament that besets both secular humanists and theists applies to Mormonism as well.

  88. Clark Goble
    88
    November 9, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Well I don’t think there is a Mormon ethic. By and large Mormons have a theory of how to learn if something is good but not a good theory of why it is right. Not that that is necessarily bad. Typically science progresses by finding out what something is and then postulating more fundamental structures. Ethics is somewhat odd by frequently going the other direction. (Although there are exceptions – I take G. E. Moore as just taking some ethical beliefs as given for instance)

    If you want to write up an argument from Taylor I’d love to read it. I’ll post it here on T&S as a guest post. I liked Taylor a great deal but I’m not sure I agree with him on some key points. In particular I think Catholics have problems due to the ubiquity of natural law arguments. That then conflicts with the type of naturalism common in modernism. I’d also say that while Taylor touches on the nominalist/realist debate that he doesn’t put enough focus on it. I think most problems are due to nominalist mistakes including in ethics. But one can be a realist about ethical structures without buying into the history of natural law theorizing that I think Taylor takes as a background.

  89. zjg
    89
    November 12, 2016 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for the offer, Clark. I’d love to. How do I get in touch?

  90. Clark Goble
    90
    November 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Just email me at clark at lextek.com and let me know so I can check the spam filter.

  91. zjg
    91
    November 16, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Thanks, Clark. Just sent it.

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