01 April 2008

Conservatism & The Family

We've been thinking about the American family for quite a while now. First came the Peggy Noonan quote (see below) and then we had a conversation with one of our former professors. This isn't our first word on the family, nor will it be our last. We can't even make this a coherent essay on the topic like we might normally prefer. Please excuse the disjointed nature of this post.

The moral traditionalist wing of conservatism and the Republican party has long waged political battle with so-called progressives over issues related to the family. They understood, and we with them, that families are the very building blocks of a successful society. Every measurable statistic related to an individual's potential success and happy life improves significantly when they come from a home with a mother and a father.

We mention this with caution, as we have a number of friends who come from homes without either a mother or a father. This does not, of course, make it any less of a family. In many instances they, and others across this country, have overcome the odds to be successful, productive members of society. But those who have done so without the support of a traditional family are the exception.

We first wrote about family-related issues when a former BYU professor wrote an open letter in the Salt Lake Tribune encouraging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be more allowing of homosexual unions. (here and here)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, in a column about Obama and Clinton, Peggy Noonan mentioned by the by that the great divide in America was not between the haves and the have nots or even between black and white or brown and white, but between those who have functioning families and those who do not. Or, as she put it, "the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family." We think she's right.

What's fascinating is that the Left, (for whom it is now chic to refer to oneself as "progressive") which loves to solve societal problems with the latest, greatest gimmicky idea--it takes a village!--ignores the very simplest solution: strengthen the family. This, despite the fact that empirical evidence shows that everything they'd like to improve with their village!, from test scores to jail rates to literacy (really, the list could go on indefinitely) improves when an individual comes from a functioning family. There is nothing more or less complicated to it than that.

It would seem prudent, therefore, that we do what we can to shore up the American family. What the heck is a no-fault divorce, anyway? Marriage for life has ceased to be the norm. Heck, two marriages are quickly ceasing to be the norm. We conservatives almost nominated a man on his third marriage. And much of the multiple marriages and single parent families can be traced back to the easing of divorce laws in the '60's. As James Q. Wilson pointed out, it's easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a mortgage.

(though it would seem many now might wish it were the other way around)

As anyone who has taken intro to economics will tell you: lower the cost of something and demand will rise. As marriage has devolved from lifelong union to a union of convenience, fewer and fewer people get married and fewer and fewer children come from 2-parent homes.

To come at this from another angle, if you want to invest in America's human capital, do what you can to strengthen marriages. Our friends in the teaching profession often talk to us about how they are unable to "reach" certain students or have the impact they'd like because the students' parents are not involved. We still think that vouchers and more school choice could help alleviate that problem, but they do nothing to address the core issue--the breakdown of the family.

And this isn't something we can go about haphazardly. When we first debated gay marriage on this blog, those in favor said, 'where is the empirical evidence that gay marriage doesn't equal successful home?' We pointed to a number of studies coming out of the United Kingdom and the nordic countries, but, unfortunately, we can't prove it conclusively one way or the other.

But we can't prove it now the same way those who were against the loosening of divorce laws in the '60's couldn't prove the disastrous effect that would have on families either. That is to say, progressives are convinced that whatever the latest idea to come down is better than whatever we have now. The case for and from moral traditionalists and conservatism, broadly speaking, is that things are the way they are now because over the centuries of human experience, it has proven to work.

We know that families with a mother and a father have a far greater chance of creating successful happy offspring than any other organization developed. Why experiment with something so essential, something so integral to civilization as the family? The burden of proof in favor of something new, of change for change's sake or because it is being trumped up as a right(!), lies not with conservatives to defend what is, but with progressives to convince that what they have, whether gay marriage or polygamy or some sort of arrangement with them and their vacuum cleaner or a communal village pitch-in effort, can match the success of the family.

Because marriage in this country is not a right, it's a privilege and a responsibility. Furthermore, it's one which should be closely guarded and fortified and strengthened and whatever other verb we've used in this post. We will continue to argue in favor of the family on principle and because it makes good policy sense.

Wherever you may be reading this, we invite you to take up the cause of defending marriage. There are many ways you can do this: vote for and helping to elect people for whom family is important; vote in favor of initiatives that define marriage as between a man and a woman; write letters to the editor of your local newspaper... the list goes on.

For further reading on this topic, see the following from James Q. Wilson:

Why We Don't Marry
The Ties That Do Not Bind: The Decline Of Marriage And Loyalty
The Family Way
Welfare Reform And Character Development
No Easy Answers
James Q. Wilson Interview

If you have tips, questions, comments, suggestions, or requests for subscription only articles, email us at lybberty@gmail.com.


Spikers said...

A quick note regarding marriage -

I agree that marriage is a privilege (at least it is my privilege to married to my wife), and that with marriage comes much responsibility. However, like it or not, marriage is now a legal right. A brief history of marriage in the United States may be instructive.

II. The History of Common Law

Marriage in the United States
In her article, “A Feminist Proposal to Bring Back Common Law Marriage,” Cynthia Grant Bowman detailed the history of common law marriage. [FN14] According to Bowman, marriage began outside the realm of legal requirements. [FN15] Formal marriages typically occurred only among *339 the wealthy, with the majority of the population relying on informal unions. [FN16] Unlike today, the legal authorities of the past had little connection to the regulation of marriage. [FN17] The informal marriage was predicated upon the couple's agreement to be married, cohabitation, and the surrounding community's recognition of that couple behaving as a married couple. [FN18]
Bowman's research reveals that informal marriage has been the norm for the majority of human existence with the formal restrictions representing just a small fragment of human history. [FN19] Prior to Lord Hardwicke's Act in 1753, England allowed informal, or common law, marriages to occur via two avenues. [FN20] A common law marriage could be created when the couple expressed their intent to be married in words of the present tense. [FN21] Alternatively, a party could become common law wed through words expressed in the future tense indicating their intention to wed, followed by consummation by sexual intercourse. [FN22]

"A. English Influence

The American colonies were split on recognition of common law marriage. [FN23] Some of the colonies resisted common law marriage and mandated formal requirements. [FN24] Other colonies simply accepted informal marriage as part of the common law. [FN25] This common law acceptance was affirmed in an 1809 New York case, Fenton v. Reed. [FN26] *340 The Fenton court held that formal requirements are unnecessary for a valid marriage and that words in the present tense will suffice. [FN27] According to Fenton, a marriage in New York could be proved by “cohabitation, reputation, acknowledgement of the parties, reception in the family, and other circumstances from which a marriage may be inferred.” [FN28]
Approximately seventy years after Fenton, the United States Supreme Court recognized common law marriage and set forth some important principles regarding marriage. [FN29] In Meister v. Moore, the United States Supreme Court held that marriage is a common right and that the statutes are only directory. [FN30] The right to common law marriage is presumed to exist unless explicitly stated otherwise in a statute. [FN31] Marriage as a civil contract may be entered into by either adherence to statutory regulations or through common law marriage. [FN32]

B. Frontier Conditions in the United States

In addition to the English influence on the colonies, the frontier conditions of the early country led to the acceptance of common law marriage. [FN33] The difficulty of entering into a formal solemnization [FN34] and the benefits that married life provided in the rough conditions of frontier, promoted common law marriages. [FN35]" - 109 Pennstlr 337.

As time passed, dissatisfaction with common law marriage increased, and with it, marriage developed into a civil contract between 2 individuals and the government. As marriage became a state sanctioned contract, the government is able to pass laws regulating marriage (including req. of age, license, etc.)

Eventually, courts began to recognize marriage as a right. For example: Waters v. Gaston County (
Federal Constitution embraces a fundamental right to marry under 14th amendment); Cooper v. State of Utah (Fundamental right to marry encompasses right to have state approved and lawful marriage.);Nelson v. Minner, 604
(Marriage is a fundamental right within the protective ambit of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14.); Lockert v. Faulkner, (Marriage is basic right, not to be infringed on lightly.)

As marriage became a right, a right to enter into a legal, state sanctioned contract, Constitutional restrictions apply. Thus, it is arguable that it is unconstitutional for the government to refuse the right to enter into the government sanctioned contract based on the sex of the contracting party. As of today, though marriage is constitutionally protected, this protection has not been extended to forms of marriage outside of the common-law tradition. However, it is only a matter of time until the Court extends Constitutional protection to same sex marriage.

Thus, for those who are concerned with with "protecting marriage", more correctly stated, retaining the common law/religious institution of marriage, only a Constitutional Amendment will do. Anything less than a Constitutional amendment is unlikely to survive future constitutional scrutiny.

RD said...

Great post, Jake.

1. Great analysis Spikers. I agree. A great NYT Op-Ed by Stephanie Coontz describes the evolving relationship between the state and marriage. Specifically, she argues that the idea of the state regulating marriage is relatively new; this is traditionally the church's job. The article is worth reading, and can be found here. Based on this analysis, I sometimes wonder why Christians are so concerned. The LDS Church will certainly never sanction gay marriages, so what do we care about marriages unrelated to the Church? Of course, I know, the real concern is the damage to society. Just a thought.

2. I find Mormon views on marriage and the state to be very interesting. During the 1800s, Mormons and Mormon leaders were very outspoken on their views that the state has no business interfering in marriage. This was due, of course, to polygamy. Mainstream Christians found polygamy to be offensive and dangerous to traditional family values (much as Mormons view gay marriage today). Therefore, while Christians pushed for setting legal limits on marriage, Mormons cried that such efforts were unconstitutional and that the state has no business interfering in marriage. Oh, how the tables have turned! Mormons are now among the loudest voices pushing for legal limits on marriage.

Note: I'm not making any normative claims. I agree with you, Jake, on your thoughts about the family. But I find this whole debate very interesting, especially among fellow Mormons.

Morgan said...

vacuum cleaner. heh.

Danite said...


You make some interesting points and I have a few comments.

1. "The LDS Church will certainly never sanction gay marriages, so what do we care about marriages unrelated to the Church? Of course, I know, the real concern is the damage to society."

I wouldn't be so quick to say never. I understand that gay marriage doesn't fit into today's understanding of the plan of salvation, but the church has a long history (well not that long, only a hundred years plus, post-Taylor) of changing its teachings and practices to conform to updated standards. Your prediction is safe for at least another two or three decades though. Watch also for a stronger female leadership presence in the coming decades. I don't predict the church giving priesthood to women, but I do see an establishment of a female "quorum" with more recognition and authority than the relief society.

2. "Therefore, while Christians pushed for setting legal limits on marriage, Mormons cried that such efforts were unconstitutional and that the state has no business interfering in marriage. Oh, how the tables have turned!"

This is really an excellent point and something that is often missed by today's members of the church. We members are taught a very warped version of the early days of the church, and we tend to think that the values we now hold dear were a result of the restoration of the fullness of the gospel. We praise the Word of Wisdom, but both Joseph and Brigham got drunk after the revelation. (Joseph served alcohol in his inn in Nauvoo, and stopped only when Emma moved her kids out. Also, guess who were the first brewmasters in Utah?) We talk of chastity and monogomy, but Joseph was sleeping with dozens of women and kept the doctrine of polygamy a secret from the vast majority of the church. The insightful reader of the Book of Mormon might ask herself why the book condemns polygamy and secret combinations (Freemasonry) and then Joseph later adopted both into the church. We talk of patriotism and rule of law, and yet Joseph ignored the national and state laws regularly and Brigham left the union and threatened war and riled the saints up against the gentiles and government. We talk of fiscal responsibility, and yet Joseph instituted the United Order, consolidated the wealth of the church, started his own bank and began printing money, lied about the reserves in the vault, and then watched it all crash to the ground. We talk of honesty and integrity, and yet early church history is replete with examples of church authorities "lying for the Lord." We talk of humility and patience, and yet Joseph had the Nauvoo council of fifty consecrate him the King of the Kingdom of God. If you really look at the history, the tables have been turned MANY MANY times in a short period of time.

Don't be surprised when the tables are turned on the homophobes in the church.

Mike_D said...

In regards to the Avenging Angel comment above, perhaps the first table to turn will be a, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy for LDS missionaries.

MJ said...

Great writing everyone. wow. great great writing.

I need some time to digest all this before I can comment further...

buruboi said...

Great Post, Jake. Marriage is, along with its close cousin (no pun intended), friendship, the very fabric of society. Without it, we're in dire straights. Case in point, there are many variables at play that explain the struggles of the African-American community, one of which, as Juan Williams points out in his book Enough, is the deterioration of the monogamous family.

Spikers, thanks for the American legal history on marriage. The institution of the family, as it is traditionally understood, is in trouble if indeed nothing short of a constitutional amendment will preserve it. The framers of our constitution certainly didn’t envision constitutional amendments being plentiful. The level of collective resolve necessary to pass such an amendment simply does not exist. Moreover, if Europe is any indicator, and it often is, America’s definition of the family will continue to float with the winds of change. Homosexual unions/marriages and polyandry, for better or worse, will eventually be incorporated into the American legal lexicon’s definition of marriage.

Taking that into consideration, I think the legal route is an unwise path to pursue in hopes of preserving the traditional family. The matter seems to be out of our hands. Anyhow, it’s not the legal issues but societal pressures that brought this struggle to fruitation. Treating the symptoms rather than the source seems senseless.

Personally, I believe that marriage is both a right and a privilege to those that accept its responsibility. In view of government’s inability to determine who is capable of taking on that responsibility, I am of the persuasion that government intervention should be minimized.

Rather, we, those who believe that functioning families are integral to society, should pursue cultural standards that protect the traditional and intrinsic values of marriage. That means cultivating sensible cultural norms that motivate people to realize the right, responsibility, privilege, commitment, and even sanctity of marriage and family (i.e. the Mormon community). This can be effectively accomplished, I think, without instituting legal parameters defining what constitutes marriage. Overall, great post!

As a side note, Ryan is right. It is fascinating to note how much the Mormon community has fluxed with respects to its position on government intervention in the personal sphere especially regarding marriage. It’s also interesting to note that polygamy as practiced in Nauvoo and Utah (and Mexico and Canada too) was at times detrimental to both the family especially for the wives and children. Joseph Fielding often lamented over his many siblings misfortune in this regard.

buruboi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buruboi said...

Haha..a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for missionaries. What about the admonition for missionaries to sleep in their own bed?

buruboi said...


I take from your name that the potential for further doctrinal evolution in Mormondom itches your trigger finger. Please confirm.

jen said...

I think buruboi's comment here is key:

"Rather, we, those who believe that functioning families are integral to society, should pursue cultural standards that protect the traditional and intrinsic values of marriage. That means cultivating sensible cultural norms that motivate people to realize the right, responsibility, privilege, commitment, and even sanctity of marriage and family (i.e. the Mormon community). This can be effectively accomplished, I think, without instituting legal parameters defining what constitutes marriage."

If you guys haven't already read the article Lybbert linked to, I recommend you take a look at the first one in the list, "Why we don't marry." Wilson mentions some of the same things affecting the African-American community that buruboi points out from Juan Williams' book.

danite said...

Ha ha, not sure exactly what you mean by that, but I will say I have my white suit and red sash ready to go if needed. I have an ancient spirit and I have been sent in these last days to meet the reincarnated John D Lee and Porter Rockwell. Elohim sent Jehovah who then sent Peter who then sent me back to earth to reunite with my band of Destroying Angels to track down the Three Nephites who have strayed from the true teachings of God. The lease is up on their promise not to taste death, and I intend to send their souls straight to hell with Porter and Lee by my side. Who am I? I cannot say, for it can only be uttered in the original Adamic language, and to even read it might melt your face off.

buruboi said...

Whatever it is, please do not utter or read your name. Women happen to find me and my face positively irresistible.

RD said...

Danite raises interesting points. It's good to find a fellow student of Church history (other than the big green institute manual). The Church, by necessity, teaches members a very whitewashed history of itself. In this history, the difficult, raw aspects of doctrine and leadership are omitted, and current Correlation Committee doctrines are imposed on the past. Members assume that the (mostly) squeaky clean image the Church now maintains is identical to the Church of the 1800s (and even through the 1980s). This also allows members to forget the past. The marriage thing is just one example.

Even more striking is the topic of religious freedom. Prior to the Utah kingdom, religious freedom was all the rage among members. They couldn't believe that Americans weren't giving them religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution. However, when they got to Utah, they promptly established a sort of theocracy in which non-Mormons were structurally and culturally discriminated in almost every way. Like most people, Mormons only believe in religious (or marital) freedom when the freedom is for Mormons; otherwise, we expect others to conform to our norms.

Of course this isn't relative to the family discussion. Again, I think Jake's points are excellent.

Danite said...

I hereby make you a covenant that I seal in the temporal and spiritual world upon your chosen head. For behold, God hath looked upon you with satisfaction and your faith is true. Your beautiful facial features are a blessing in bringing multiple wives to celestial glory, however your moisture-inducing good looks may also be a stumbling block as arrogance and vanity have robbed many men of their eternal salvation. Therefore, and according to the holy commandment of God, I do issue this covenant and blessing: For as long as you allow your face to go unshaven, I the Lord God shall bless you with a multitude of the choicest daughters of Eve, whose breasts shall lactate milk and honey, except on my holy day, when they shall emit melted otter pops. Verily, if you keep your end of this covenant, I will even allow your wives to abandon the wearing of the holy garment, so they can actually dress sexy and show some of their bounty. Take thy covenants with sobriety, for I the Lord shall not be mocked.

Danite said...


Good point about religious freedom. It could open up a whole discussion about the tyranny of the majority, and it is not surprising that the abused would turn and abuse when the power has shifted. We're dealing with humans here, and the religions they create. Imperfect then. Imperfect now. Imperfect tomorrow. But getting better.

RD said...

A great quote by Reza Aslan (author of No god but God, a fantastic book about Islam):

"All religions are inextricably bound to the social, spiritual, and cultural milieux from which they arose and in which they developed. It is not prophets who create religions. Prophets are, above all, reformers who redefine and reinterpret the existing beliefs and practices of their communities, providing fresh sets of symbols and metaphors with which succeeding generations can describe the nature of reality. Indeed, it is most often the prophet's successors who take upon themselves the responsibility of fashioning their master's words and deeds into unified, easily comprehensible religious systems."

I think this is very accurate. I have no doubt that Joseph Smith was an inspired prophet; however, the doctrines that he outlined were very raw and often contradictory (as were his actions). The very neat and tidy codification of the LDS religious system occurred after his death (in fact, the final codification occurred during the McKay/Smith/Lee years, when the Correlation Committee was formed - and even since then, modifications have been made). Being a missionary Church, we must have a coherent and systematic way to teach doctrine.

Because this organization of doctrine and history was a long process, members often become disillusioned when they learn of incongruities in the early doctrines and actions of leaders. Why did they act as they did? Why did they treat blacks as they did? What about the confusing polygamy question? What about the bizarre statements buried in the pages of the Journal of Discourses? And why don't these things agree with the current Preach My Gospel version of the Church? The reality is that the making of religion is a very raw process, and it takes time to get it right. I think the Brethren have gotten it right, thanks to inspiration and plain dedication. A similar process occurred in early Christianity, as intellectuals and politicians sought to codify the raw teachings of Christ and the Apostles; unfortunately, they were not as successful. Members of the Church must have the maturity of mind and spirit to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that can occur as one studies the nitty-gritty of Church history. As for myself, I have learned to live with that dissonance.

Danite said...

Good quote about prophets. Very true.

Joseph Smith certainly fits the description, and the church he started is an amalgamation of several different religions and belief systems. He was, no doubt, a religious genius and entrepreneur. And as stated, his followers created their own religions based on his teachings, with varying degrees of success and coherence.

Rd, you obviously have managed to accept the cognitive dissonance- a feat I attempted and failed to do as a missionary. When I first heard Packer's speech about bearing testimony even if you don't have one, I realized he was exhorting a type of self deception that is made possible by cognitive dissonance, or the mental state thereof. I grudgingly engaged in the self deception as an act of faith, and it created problems in my life down the road. I am not asserting that your reconciliation of the dissonance was self deception, but it works out to be that way for many people who learn about the uglier truths of the church.

Also, please keep in mind that the brethren haven't completely gotten it right because they will need to modify things in the future as social pressures and scientific evidence mount. In fact, the church is almost never the leading indicator of anything, and instead defends and defends until it cannot anymore and then it reacts. For example, you will likely see the church remove the Facsimiles from the Pearl of Great Price in the next 10-20 years. These facsimiles were originally included to appeal to those members and potential members who were influenced by the appearance of scientific evidence to support Joseph's claims. Nobody buys it anymore and the church leaders know the facsimiles are now evidence against the book. Also, the church recently altered the introduction to the Book of Mormon to make it more difficult to establish claims against its validity based on genetic evidence. This is another example of the brethren "trying to get it right." At some point you have to stop and ask yourself, "Why did God get so many things wrong?" It is also useful to ask yourself, "Why is there not a single reputable archaeologist outside of the church who believes the Book of Mormon provides even a glimpse of pre-Columbus America?" The answer is that it is a work of the 1800's and if it is read with an understanding of the hot button issues of Joseph's time, it becomes intolerably obvious why it was written and what its major points are.

But I'm guessing you already know all of this RD. The reason you live with the dissonance is because for you, in your actual real life, the church provides blessings that are tangible and real, and you are willing to suspend reason for the things you love about the church. After a while, that becomes reason in and of itself. Am I right?

RD said...

That's very perceptive, Danite. I empathize with your mission experience. My mission was also very difficult as I grappled with that dissonance. I can still remember the way I handled questions about blacks and the Priesthood, knowing that the defenses I offered for that policy were weak and probably fallacious. In the end, while I had a hard time reconciling many doctrines, I did see tangible evidence of the power of the Book of Mormon to change lives. I still don't fully understand that power, but I know that it was/is real. I can't find a satisfactory explanation for that power from skeptics.

Your prediction about the facsimiles is probably accurate. I also believe we will eventually see a repudiation of not only the priesthood ban itself but also the folklore that was used to explain it. I believe we will even see some sort of apology eventually. I had once predicted the alteration to the BoM introduction and was not surprised when it happened.

I can empathize with your feelings about the Brethren. I have had deep struggles with these thoughts. I think that often the way the process of revelation is portrayed in the Church can lead to great crises of faith. Hugh B. Brown described the process in a much better way than any Sunday School teacher can. He discussed the process of Church policy development as largely a result of difficult deliberation among the Brethren. I feel like God places great value in the principle of agency. I feel that he leaves most Church government decisions to the Brethren. As I reflect on the Priesthood ban, the Mark Hoffman incidents, and other instances where the Brethren may have made mistakes, I am inclined to try to view the problem from their perspective. In the early 80s, President Hinckley was bearing a tremendous burden of leadership. That burden is monumentally intimidating and lonely. I feel like God was inclined to leave those decisions up to Hinckley's agency, knowing that there was potential for mistakes. Hinckley did the best he could in the very difficult circumstances he faced. Did he make mistakes? Probably. Does that mean he was not a prophet? I don't think so.

I will need to think about this more to adequately articulate my thoughts.

Danite said...

I like you RD. You are honest, intelligent, sincere, and unique. If there were more members like you, I might still be active. I might be active again one day regardless. Thanks for your thoughts.

buruboi said...


so its to my habitual scruff that I can attribute my many successes. You are prophetic!

buruboi said...

1. I too have read church history, but not nearly to the extent that my esteemed colleague Ryan has. I too have suffered from the double-think that Danite and Ryan both mentioned. You both have my sympathies. The intentional whitewashing of church history is both misleading and disgraceful. Picking and choosing historical events and ‘friendly’ sources does not induce real, authentic faith. Faith has no substitutes, and neither does reality. And though I’ve had my struggles with much of my faiths past, I would never trade in this reality for institute sponsored fiction that unbalances truth.

2. What is equally as challenging as cognitive dissonance, perhaps even more so, is the intense opposition against opening the door on the skeletons in our closet. BKP has openly showed his disdain for any history that touches on the negative (just ask Quinn). This is simply senseless as, again, true faith is not based in unbalanced truth. As much as the cognitive dissonance can truly be a challenge to live with, this socially institutionalized opposition to church history represents a greater obstacle for me to surmount. Danite, I imagine this reflects on some of the frustrations you have felt. Again, my sympathies.

3. Great point on BKP’s non-sequitor. I unfortunately ruined a nice priesthood lesson challenging this idea. The class members did not take to this lightly.

4. The process of revelation is not portrayed accurately by church members. As Ryan argues, God is comfortable leaving much to the very fallibly agency of the Brethren. The Hoffman example is an excellent one. Another one is JFS meandering views on polygamy btw. 1890 and 1904. At times he disregarded LS’s revelations on the practice by frequently disobeying the manifesto along with half the apostleship. Other times, JFS affirmed the veracity of the manifesto. Obviously, JFS opinions were far from revelatory, even while at the helm. How could they be?!? It was self-interest and security-dilemma that dictated the variance in his thought. I’m drifting but my point is this: revelations are not received with a great degree of frequency, even when counselors in the first presidency go AWOL and surreptitiously subvert the prophet with over half the apostleship (not to mention excommunicate apostles under not matters of revelation but by way of legal advice).

5. I can’t express myself any better than Ryan has, so I quote: “In the end, while I had a hard time reconciling many doctrines, I did see tangible evidence of the power of the Book of Mormon to change lives. I still don't fully understand that power, but I know that it was/is real. I can't find a satisfactory explanation for that power from skeptics.” As I’ve always said, religion is raw. A sliver of the divine is intertwined with all the carnality of the imperfect. Its why I worship God and not man.

6. Danite, you also are well informed in your church history. Congratulations, you are one of the few.

7. This has little to do with Jake's post which, by the way, happened to be brilliant.

Spikers said...

"I also believe we will eventually see a repudiation of not only the priesthood ban itself but also the folklore that was used to explain it." If you are referring to the banning of Blacks from the Priesthood, then the folklore has already been repudiated.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote in Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, Part II - The mission of the Holy Ghost, Chapter 9--Revelation on the Priesthood 1989.

"There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, "You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?" All I can say is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and light line upon line and precept upon precept (2 Ne. 28:30; Isa. 28:9-10; D&C 98:11-12; 128:21). We have now added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter anymore."

RD said...


Thanks for bringing that in. I was actually aware of that - and Elder Holland and others have also repudiated the folklore. What I meant by that statement was something more along the lines of an official statement. Many members still believe the same old folklore and bring it up in church. What I'm hoping for is something in Sunday School or an official statement of some sort. Even a general conference talk. Something that members would have no choice but to recognize.

Danite said...

Rd and Buruboi-

Your words are appreciated. I didn't expect to find attitudes like yours on this blog and it is really a breath of fresh air. Too often I feel that members don't care to take a hard look at difficult evidence, and they seem to quickly dismiss anything that threatens their testimony as "anti-mormon." As a result, I find myself more often than not having these discussions with those who have left the church, and it is nice to read some opinions of thinkers who have found a way to make it work. And a HUGE thank you for not telling me that these issues are just a test of faith and that I need more faith and prayer to understand. You guys are good.

Spikers said...

Ya, I figured you would be aware of it, as you seem to be generally well informed. And I agree, it will likely take an official statement to eradicate the lingering misconceptions and false beliefs. I enjoyed reading Danite and your's conversation. It is nice to see an intelligent, informed conversation on these subjects.

Dennis said...


I'm not sure if the answer to these problems consists in official statements from Church leaders. Yes, that would help change Church members' views on the subject. However, it wouldn't help with the fundamental problem of relying too much on general authorities for forming one's own beliefs in the midst of a messy world. We need to be doing more of forming and owning our beliefs -- using the scriptures and prophets as an essential resource, but not a sufficient one.

For those who are interested, I have spoken to this subject on my blog several times in the past couple weeks: denniswendt.blogspot.com

buruboi said...

I disagree. One of the primary responsibilities of the Brethren is to clarify matters of doctrine and expose falsehoods, and seeing that the folklore is not doctrine but purported as such by many, it makes both institutional and practical sense to clarify that the folklore is indeed just that.

I think you are right, however, with respects to church members owning their own beliefs. The key lies in differentiating btw. opinion and revelation. The Brethren could help the matter with a greater degree of clarity in their own rhetoric.

Dan said...

Nobody in the Mormon church wants to be the reason for another member's lost testimony. For this reason we have things like the strict BYU honor code. Think about it from an administrator's point of view. How will a students parents feel when she/he comes to BYU and loses her/his testimony? Thus the conservative nature of the honor code at BYU and the sunday school manuals. Paradoxically, for those of us with the need to be critical thinkers this conservatism of policy can produce the opposite effect.

I agree that the brethren should expose falsehoods and clarify doctrine. However, Dennis is right to suggest that too many members are too anxious for too much clarification and delineation.

Go to denniswendt.blogspot.com and read the post called "Mormon Folk Beliefs!" I think you'll really like it.

Danite said...

I checked out "Mormon Folk Beliefs" and it was very cool. It's amazing how many beliefs we accept as doctrinal that aren't. Also, is anyone aware of any site that has a compilation of the most popular faith promoting rumors? In the MTC the amount of folklore that was passed around freely was incredible. I love Three Nephite stories (some of them so trivial that you wonder if the Three Nephites find themselves with pornography addictions with all the extra time on their hands), apostate missionary stories (always ending with a general authority getting called in and discerning the secret combination participants from the righteous), garment salvation stories, and dusting-off-feet stories. It would be awesome to find a site that has worked to compile many of these legends.

In the MTC I once sat and listened as my district related a series of faith promoting stories about missionaries getting attacked and incurring no harm thanks to the protection of the garment. In a solemn voice I shared the following story:

I have a good friend from Chicago whose dad is a member of the bomb squad up there. He is an active member of the church, and one day he was just leaving the temple and got an emergency call about a bomb threat downtown. He rushed to get into gear and headed to the scene. While he was working on disarming the threat, something horrible happened and the bomb detonated. The crew worked to remove the rubble and when they found him, they were amazed that underneath his garments he was perfectly fine, not even a scratch. (At this point I paused for dramatic effect.) But unfortunately, his arms, legs, and head were blown clean off.

Spikers said...

Well I know my faith is strengthened. I guess the moral of the story is always wear long johns.

jen said...

And a mormon burkha if there is such a thing

Danite said...

If you get the burka version, you might as well make the final upgrade and get some protective glasses or goggles. I personally recommend the LV Minus model from Beehive Technologies. Or if you think you can risk it for a few months, the newer technology- consecrated eyedrops- should be perfected sometime soon and the burkha alone would then be sufficient.

I know some traditional hand-conscious women who choose to wear the gloves, but progressive women see the gloves as impractical and a relic of the homemaker age. I personally decry this trend of religious fashion liberalism creeping into our society, contributing to the destruction of the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.

(As a voice from the dust)

If the people will let us alone we will preach the gospel in peace. But if they come on us to molest us, we will establish our religion by the sword. We will trample down our enemies and make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. I will be to this generation a second Mohammed, whose motto in treating for peace was ‘Alcoran or the Sword.’