Big Pornography

March 16, 2009    By: Blake @ 3:45 pm   Category: Life

I’m about to explain why I regard HBO’s depiction of a part of the temple ceremony as morally equivalent to pornography. Let me make clear up front that I don’t subscribe to HBO. Never have. Never will. I was reminded again why I don’t subscribe by HBO’s lame apologies for an ailing petty-drama that is not doing well in the ratings and using sensationalism to prop up pretty poor and pathetic writing.

HBO said that it didn’t intend to offend LDS. Well, they knew it was offensive and announced that they didn’t intend to offend knowing it would offend. That’s just a mealy-mouthed admission of an intention to offend as I see it. It’s like using a defense of lack of intention to a charge of battery: “I knew that I would break your arm by hitting you but I didn’t intend to break your arm by hitting you. I really intended just to hit you.”

Merely depicting what is clearly non-essential and in bad taste is bad enough, but depicting what is sacred outside of the appropriate context to give it the meaning of the sacred turns it into the category of pornography. Let me explain this rather strident claim. That you and your spouse (or your parents) have sex is good and holy. In the appropriate context sex is one of the most life-affirming things humans engage in.

Now let’s have you post pictures of you and your spouse (or your parents) having sex on this site. See what I mean? Here is the essential aspect of context: within the context of the privacy of one’s own bedroom and covenants of faithfulness to protect the procreative potential for human intimacies, human sex is just the best that it gets in this life (in most cases). Precisely because it has such value, the problem with pornography (and out of wedlock sex for that matter) is not that too much is given, but that not enough is given. The value of the intimacy and context is profaned by trading it for something that is not merely of less value, but destroys the potential to realize that value altogether.

The context of privacy is one aspect; the context of the entire covenant-making-setting with the complete reverence for the capacity to be instructed and learn from personal revelation is the entire point. That entire point is missed — necessarily missed and mucked up — by what HBO did. The temple ceremony was mocked by taking it out of context and using it as a dramatic counterpoint to tell a story that distorted its meaning even within the story itself. The rituals can only look confusing and silly from outside of the context of the covenant relationship, just as your sexual acts with your spouse are pornographic outside of the interpersonal context in which they have such sacred, even divine, meaning.

Thus, the comparison to pornography is apropos. It profanes the sacred, takes out of context the holy and makes the interpersonal level of ritual performances into befuddled nonsense. Rituals have their meaning only within a context. Those outside the context, like anthropologists, are keenly aware of their limitations in entering into the world-view that gives meaning to the performances and rites. What HBO did was sheer peeping-Tom voyeurism.

93 Comments »

  1. This is the kind of silliness that blows the doors off the Sanctuary. And then cometh the Abomination of Desolation…

    Comment by Jack — March 16, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  2. Blake,

    I have sort of a mixed reaction. On one hand, I think this is an excellent analogy which can help explain how the Big Love episode make many of us feel, and why it makes us feel that way. I especially like this point you make: “The value of the intimacy and context is profaned by trading it for something that is not merely of less value, but destroys the potential to realize that value altogether.

    On the other hand, I think there are some obvious and significant differences between this portrayal and pornography. As long as we acknowledge that the analogy breaks down in significant respects, I have no complaint. In particular, I am not sure there is widespread agreement on what is bad about pornography. I suspect that in the minds of many people, the primary badness of pornography is not that it takes something sacred out of context.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 16, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  3. I appreciate your effective comparison.

    I am relieved that Im not the only one to compare inappropriate temple talk to sexual voyeurism (though not as eloquently).

    We had good friends who stopped from joining the church due to “extra caring” neighbors who just so happened to have a spare copy of The Godmakers.

    While sitting there watching my fellow companions squirm over deep temple questions I finally got annoyed and interrupted him with questions about his sex life – how often, how satisfying his wife was, etc.

    Finally after 30 seconds of dead silence I explained the comparison of my deep commitments in my covenant relationship with he and his wife. From then on they were humble and left the temple questions alone.

    I still can’t quite bring myself to attribute it to inspiration but I can not not attribute it to it either. And so it is with your blunt, but thought provoking comparison.

    Comment by Riley — March 16, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  4. Blake,

    Did you just state: “That you and . . . (your parents)have sex is good and holy”? I know this is not what you had in mind, but I thought it funny to point out this amphiboly.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 16, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  5. #4 – I missed that. Talk about contributing to stereotypes! Thanks a lot, Blake. *grin*

    Comment by Ray — March 16, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  6. Blake: You state that “depicting what is sacred outside of the appropriate context to give it the meaning of the sacred turns it into the category of pornography.” Are you saying that this is a sufficient condition for making something pornographic? In other words, are you saying that _For any sacred thing S, if S is depicted outside its appropriate sacred, meaning giving context then S becomes pornographic_? This seems to be just a bit too broad, don’t you think? Wouldn’t this make the movie _The Life of Brian_ pornographic? But, it is not. Indeed, it is one of the funniest movies ever. And if you don’t like that example, I’m sure there are plenty of others that might fit better — perhaps a film that pokes fun at the Eucharist – perhaps, _Dogma_. Surely there are many that think this sacred and, of course, it has been taken out of its sacred, meaning giving context many times. But doing so has not created pornography. Surely, something else must be required. I think your example provides the answer. The sacred thing must in some way be _sexual_. But even portraying some sexual act out of its sacred, meaning giving context is not enough to make it pornography. Is it? Take, for example, the love scene in _Braveheart_. I found that scene to be heartfelt and deeply moving, not pornographic. So, there must be something more, but what? And did the _Big Love_ episode contain that?

    Comment by Anonymous — March 16, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

  7. Riley: You state “While sitting there watching my fellow companions squirm over deep temple questions I finally got annoyed and interrupted him with questions about his sex life – how often, how satisfying his wife was, etc.” Now, of course, I do not know the motive(s) of the person with whom you were talking; however, out of charity, I will suppose that he was an earnest seeker. And, if not, let’s imagine that there is a person who is and is also asking questions of this sort. If this be the case, there seems to be a huge disanalogy between his questions about the temple ceremonies and your questions about his sex life. His questions seem to be intended to gather as much information as possible before making one of the most important decisions of his life, namely, committing his life to following the LDS faith. And, thus, asking questions about what takes place in the temple seem entirely rational and necessary. Indeed, to make that type of decision without full knowledge (or at least the attempt to gain full knowledge) seems to be a bit irrational or at minimum non-rational. Your questions on the other hand are not intended to gather information necessary for making a life altering decision. Indeed, they serve no purpose whatsoever. And, thus, are not at all comparable.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 16, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

  8. depicting what is sacred outside of the appropriate context to give it the meaning of the sacred turns it into the category of pornography

    So what do you make of this?

    Comment by Peter LLC — March 17, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  9. While I’m sympathetic to criticism of Big Love, and I do recognize in Big Love’s stunt elements similar to pornography, I prefer to reserve the term pornography for sexually explicit media intended to arouse and titillate. I would call the Big Love stuff voyeuristic, disrespectful, and sacrilegious, but the missing element of sexual explicitness keeps it out of the pornography category for me.

    I have the same objection when people call the Twilight books pornographic. The explicitness has to be there.

    Comment by Tom — March 17, 2009 @ 4:38 am

  10. Anonymous,

    There were very great people who still hold a place in my heart. They were sincere, but the manner and frequency in which he asked became insincere. He knew what he was doing. He knew vey well what we did in there because he had further looked into on the internet (where by the way he saw hidden/recreated videos of the endowment). He just wanted a confession of what he already knew and he wanted to know why the missionaries kept squirming and saying “its not secret, its sacred”.

    That’s where I linked it to sharing deep personal experiences. He knew what the answer was, and he kept going because like Blake likened it, it had not only lost value to him, but “destroyed the potential to realize the value altogether. ” And I bet if someone asked him now (and new missionaries have while trying to figure out and resolve his concerns) he’d say what he’s been saying since that day: “ah no, Riley already covered that:”

    Comment by Riley — March 17, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  11. And by the way, both Blake and I comprehended the underlining intent in both our cases, which is much less deserving of a thorough explaination of something so meaningful to LDS (think of the bible for many of Jesus’ responses to those who do and ask things with hidden intent). Had people been sincere in this case they wouln’t apologize before they kicked us in the face, like HBO did.

    Comment by Riley — March 17, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  12. HBO loves sex, but the sex is always shown in a perverted way.

    Today in 2009, LDS Church Authorities do not accept other forms of sex. But I wonder if there might be a growing neutrality within the Church to other versions. Surely, HBO is be trying to break down the Victorian or Puritan walls in America.

    God created sex. It is an awesome activity (chuckling).

    But here is a Big Opportunity for the LDS Church. They can tell America that the God they worship loves having sex.

    What do you think, Blake?

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 17, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  13. Anonymous: Of course pornography requires a sexual content. That is why I said that “it is morally equivalent to pornography” and not pornography per se. I am making a moral assertion, not a factual assertion. So you’re just missing the point — and that is rather the point I was making about HBO.

    Here is how the assertion works: take something that is life-giving and good in an appropriate context and destroy it by profaning it (making it common as the word suggests) and change it into something that cannot realize that value because of the way it is treated. HBO adds the same voyeuristic and exploitive dimension that also characterizes pornography.

    Peter: So?

    Riley: Thanks for sharing. I am rather of the opinion that your experience was in fact inspiration.

    Todd: I think that your suggestion is just as disrespectful as HBO’s presentation. I am surprised by your response because I generally have a good deal of respect for you. Perhaps you could just explain to American that you love sex and give us some details of how and why — and don’t forget to include pictures?

    Comment by Blake — March 17, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  14. I believe more than content removed from context, subject and intent are what makes a thing pornographic.

    I would be hard pressed to find any depiction of any ceremony pornographic. The closest I found was on my mission. Every Friday night at 7 PM an evangelical group broadcast The God Makers, on a public channel. While it increased tracting contacts it didn’t make tracting any more productive. Even then it was a far cry from pornographic. Ceremony, like the Sabbath is made for man.

    Rather, I think the territory is reserved for the two parts of life administered by God, the shepherding in and out of life. So, me only sex and death qualify.

    Everything else can and often is depicted in poor taste others are depicted in the spirit of curiosity. I truly think such was the case with Big Love.

    Comment by David — March 17, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  15. Or perhaps you could explain why you loathe sex if that is the case Todd…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  16. Dear everyone:

    Blake did not say the episode was pornographic. He compared it to porn and said it was “morally equivalent to pornography”.

    Stay on target people!

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  17. Geoff,

    Upon what can a moral equivalency be based other than similarities between the two things in question? You have created a distinction without a difference.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  18. My favorite aspect of this post actually involves Blake’s thoughts on why pornography is morally wrong.

    Precisely because [sex] has such value, the problem with pornography (and out of wedlock sex for that matter) is not that too much is given, but that not enough is given.

    Well said.

    Todd Wood: What on earth?

    Comment by BHodges — March 17, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  19. Blake:

    It is true that the opening sentence of your post states “I regard HBO’s depiction of a part of the temple ceremony as morally equivalent to pornography.” However, you later state “depicting what is sacred outside of the appropriate context to give it the meaning of the sacred turns it into the category of pornography.” This latter statement suggested to me that your were discussing the nature of pornography itself. I guess I didn’t understand what you meant by “turns it into the category of pornography.” If someone says to me “doing A turns X into the category of Y” I take it they mean that X becomes the same thing as Y. And, thus, I took you as saying that the episode _was_ pornographic. But we need not argue this point. I now understand what you were trying to say. I apologize if I misunderstood you.

    I am, however, still a bit confused. What do you mean by “morally equivalent”? Do you mean that there are degrees or immorality and that the episode of _Big Love_ is just as immoral as pornography, i.e., the episode of _Big Love_ is immoral to the same degree as pornography is immoral?

    Comment by Anonymous — March 17, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  20. Blake, I like talking about sex.

    But when I ask LDS if their Heavenly Father likes having sex . . . than things start getting touchy.

    There seems to be a number reasons for this.

    Geoff, in response, I will post an article on HI4LDS. When you read it, tell me what you think of why I might “loathe sex”. I will link you to the post.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 17, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  21. Jacob — good point.

    I think that the voyeurism point Blake is making is a good one. However I do agree with the others that have qualms with over-utilizing the porn analogy. I worry that doing too much of that almost serves to de-stigmatize real porn and that is not a good thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  22. Todd,

    I was mostly really annoyed with your obnoxious comment and that was my way of calling you a eunuch. Apparently it was too subtle.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  23. Riley:

    I wasn’t really concerned with discerning the motive(s) of your friend. Rather, I was merely making the point that sincerely asking about the temple ceremonies is in no way comparable to asking about somebody’s sexual life. Like I said above, questions about the temple ceremonies are necessary for somebody to make a rational decision before joining the church. Normally, and certainly not the way in which you stated them, questions concerning somebody’s sexual practices are not part of a decision making process — especially not a decision as important as committing your life to a certain religion.

    You also stated that your friend knew the temple ceremonies already b/c he had look them up on the internet. I have concerns here, too. Why should a seeker have to go to the internet for this information. Can they really be sure they are getting the right information? It seems to me that there should be a way for someone to get this information from a reliable source.

    Let me also say that I have no problem if the LDS church has secret practices. What’s wrong with that? The early Xians also had secret practices and I have neo-pagan friends that also have secret practices. There’s nothing wrong with having secret practices. Why should that even be a concern.

    My point here is an epistemological one, namely, in order for somebody to make a rational decision to join the Church they need to be fully informed about what takes place in the temple from a trustworthy and reliable source, the Church itself. And, since the Church does not currently offer that information, it seems to me that it isn’t possible for somebody to make a rational decision to join the Church. The same here would apply to the early Xians. It seems they too would have made it impossible for somebody to make a rational decision to convert. No favorites here. The criterion applies across the board.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 17, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  24. Todd: Where are the pictures? Where are the vivid descriptions?

    Anonymous: What Geoff said. The “same category as pornography” isn’t an assertion that it is identical to pornography. Like pornography it is exploitive, voyeuristic and fails to give enough value. It makes realizing the value of the rites and performances impossible because it is exploited for its sensationalism and voyeuristic qualities rather than for the value and beauty that could be realized. Thus, it destroys that value.

    Unlike the legal definition of pornography, it doesn’t involve looking at naked bodies. However, what makes pornography wrong or immoral isn’t that it involves naked bodies. Naked bodies can be wonderful and beautiful and holy and life-giving in the appropriate context. What makes pornography wrong is that it is a third-person spectator sport that profanes the value of sex without realizing the value that can be experienced. It is a cheap imitation that distorts the meaning of the real thing and makes realizing the value that could otherwise be achieved impossible for the one exploiting it. Clear enough?

    Comment by Blake — March 17, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  25. Blake and others: has there been, or could there ever be, a depiction of the temple that is not morally offensive ?? And I mean something other than the vaguest of descriptions. Again, following the analogy of sex: we give middle schoolers fairly explicit descriptions in the right context, because 1)they need to know 2)sex is not inherently bad or evil or categoricall entirely secret (as far as the knowledge of it)

    A source of tension here, it seems to me, is that what LDS consider “too much” puts ANY kind of meaningful portrayal beyond a reasonable possibility.

    Peace and grace to you and yours
    GERMIT

    Comment by germit — March 17, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  26. chuckling – you got me there.

    The sex is private.

    But I will show you my wedding pictures.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 17, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  27. Blake:

    Ah, this clears it up. It’s the same _moral_ category, not the same _kind_ category, right? Got it.

    However, I’m not sure I agree with your reason for why pornography is immoral. I, of course, agree that it is, but disagree with your explanation. It seems that the principle you are functioning with is something like the following:

    Some action A is immoral if A makes something X common or distorts the meaning of X.

    First, I think this implies some sort of teleological ethic, which is quite hard to establish. Are you a closet Catholic? :) Second, it seems too broad and would make many things immoral that just aren’t immoral. I’m to lazy at the moment to think of an example, but I’m sure you can see it.

    I tend toward a Kantian type of ethic. Pornography is thus immoral b/c it treats people as mere means and not as ends in themselves.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 17, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  28. Blake:

    Another question just occurred to me: When you say _Big Love_ is in the same moral category as pornography, do you just mean that it’s immoral. If so, then why compare it with pornography? Isn’t it also in the same moral category as murder, rape, molestation, etc? Why not compare it to one them. It must be because the episode shared some of the same qualities as pornography itself, right?

    Also, are murder and such wrong because they make something common or distort its meaning? That is, for you, is the explanation as to why pornography is wrong the same explanation as to why murder is wrong? Or do you have a different theory to explain each?

    Comment by Anonymous — March 17, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  29. While I was horrified to see our most sacred religious ceremonies splashed across the screen, I was more horrified when CBS News aired it again as a clip on the early show interview with Paxton and then put up on the CBS News website. This isn’t about journalism but sleezy sensationalism

    Comment by Kent Francis — March 17, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  30. Blake, have you ever read the Song of Solomon? Nothing secret about it.

    The difference between Song of Solomon and pornography is lust. I doubt anyone is having lust issues after watching the HBO endowment ceremony.

    Comment by Christopher Leavell — March 17, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  31. Todd, if you don’t understand how vile and shocking your statement is, you understand us FAR less than you think you do. Ironically, it also fits very well into the general discussion of HBO and the temple episode – mocking the deeply sacred. I understand why you poke at us on various blogs, and I’m fine with that. However, I never expected this from you – mocking God as some people understand Him.

    (and that comes from someone who does not believe there is sexual activity as we know it outside of mortality)

    Comment by Ray — March 17, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  32. Anonymous,

    I can see where you’re coming from. I have never been the type to just jump into something without some sort of reason. But hopefully people don’t require a complete knowledge or proof of all that the gospel or church encompasses before they can commit to joining. If that is the case, I guess nobody can “make a rational decision to join the Church” (or believe in God for that matter). Because as you’ve noticed, the Church will not and can not completely offer any information as concrete proof. They’re in the business of faith. Sufficient reasons to join or follow something have to come from God, to the individual.

    So it seems to me that according to what you want, it isn’t possible for somebody with your requirements to make a rational decision to join the Church, let alone believe in God, since there is lack of information everywhere (and not just voluntary information).

    This isn’t not like buying a car. If they don’t want to “buy the car” because of lack of information they require, or if they join and then feel it was the wrong choice, they are more than free to “drop the car and keys off at the dealership”.

    I can’t speak for anybody else but myself. But for me, the minute I start requiring or demanding things certain things from God or His possible Church in concrete detail, is the minute I start alienating myself from Him even more.

    Comment by Riley — March 17, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  33. I thought for sure that my rationality criterion would have been challenged. Perhaps, though, it was passed over due to the amount of conversation that has taken place. So, let me state it more formally here. The argument is thus:

    (1) For any person P and decision D, P is rational in making D only if P attempts and succeeds to a reasonable degree to be as fully informed by trustworthy and reliable resources as possible.

    (2) Converting to the LDS faith is a decision that some will make.

    (3) Therefore, some person P is rational in deciding to convert to the LDS only if P attempts and succeeds to a reasonable degree to be as fully informed by trustworthy and reliable resources as possible.

    (4) It is reasonable to expect P to succeed at being fully informed about the LDS temple ceremonies.

    (5) Therefore, P is rational in deciding to convert to the LDS faith only if P attempts and succeeds at being as fully informed by a trustworthy and reliable resource about the LDS temple ceremonies.

    (6) The only trustworthy and reliable resource concerning the LDS temple ceremonies is the LDS Church.

    (7) Therefore, P is rational in deciding to conert to the LDS faith only if P attempts and succeeds at being fully informed by the LDS Church about the LDS temple ceremonies.

    (8) The LDS church does not provide information about their temple ceremonies.

    (9) Therefore, P cannot succeed in being fully informed by a trustworthy and reliable resource about the LDS temple ceremonies.

    (10) Therefore, P cannot be rational in deciding to convert to the LDS faith.

    (11) For any person P and any decision D, if P cannot be rational in making D then P ought not make D.

    (12) Therefore, for any person P, P ought not convert to the LDS faith.

    I hope I have not committed any formal error here or been redundant in any of the premises. I am multitasking here. I am trying to paint, supervise the roofers that are working on my house, and think philosophically. I can’t do all at the same time. Hopefully it was only the others that didn’t get done while I was hastily writing this.

    All comments are appreciated. Thanks.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 17, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  34. Anonymous, I would call attention to your ambiguous phrase “to a reasonable degree” in (1) and your phrase “fully informed” in (4). No one can be expected to know *everything* about ANY organization as a requirement for joining. I agree that the church should provide information to inform an outsider about the temple in a fully accurate way and to a reasonable degree. They currently do this.

    (12) Therefore, for any person P, P ought to disregard supposed proof by Anonymous.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  35. If the temple ceremony was indeed something of God and sacred in a special, private, intimate way, then I can see one making the analogy with sex, and the public exposure thereof as pornography.

    But since non-Mormons don’t share the premise that the ceremony is of God, Blake’s argument only works for Mormons. Since I don’t believe the ceremony is of God, why should I treat it as such?

    Sex is easier to argue for being private, because almost everyone knows (at least in their deep conscience) that is is only appropriately done behind closed doors. But non-Mormons make the case that Mormons are taking something that should be public and they’re making it private.

    Comment by Anonymous Too — March 17, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  36. By the way, I’m another anonymous than the above. Sorry about the confusion.

    Comment by Anonymous Too — March 17, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  37. Anon: “Another question just occurred to me: When you say _Big Love_ is in the same moral category as pornography, do you just mean that it’s immoral. If so, then why compare it with pornography?”

    I use the category of porn because it shows that something good can be made into something bad by the way it is treated by others. I use the porno comparison because some people will get that sex, like the endowment, is something that cannot be a third-party observer perspective without making it into something it isn’t when it is treated appropriately. I use the comparison with porno because some people still get that sex has a sacred dimension within the husband-wife relationship but it isn’t when taken as a voyeuristic interest.

    That is why I suggest that you’re just missing the point. From the perspective of those inside a sexual relationship, the relationship and the acts of physical intimacy are life-giving and life-affirming and good and holy (i.e., set apart from the profane gaze). However, from the third party perspective of an observer, sex is just pornography. It is the same with the endowment. From the perspective of the one entering covenants with God, the endowment is sacred and good and life-affirming. From the third-party perspective of sensationalistic exploitation, the endowment is just nonsensical and confusing. The acts cannot make any sense from that perspective and so it necessarily exposes the good and sacred to ridicule and misunderstanding.

    I have taught Kant. I agree that porno misuses folks as mere means and that also makes it a violation of moral duty. However, that is not the only way that one can violate a moral duty in Kant’s thought. If one’s act cannot be made a universal law of action, then it also violates moral duty. In this case, if the sacred is always treated the way that HBO treated the endowment, then the sacred will simply cease to exist as such and only the profane will be left. That is why it is a violation of moral duty because it makes impossible the realization of the sacred in which alone the endowment has meaning and value.

    Anonymous 2: I reject premises (1), (4), (8), and (11). I reject the inferences as non-sequiturs in premises (3), (5), (7), (9) and (12). Frankly, the argument is neither logically valid nor remotely sound.

    Comment by Blake — March 17, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  38. http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/116834/Ostler%20kindly%20rebukes.mp3

    Anonymous, check the audio file, my friend!

    Comment by BHodges — March 17, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  39. Anonymouses, please feel free to pick a pseudonym name rather than posting under “Anonymous” so we can avoid the problem in #36. We still won’t know who you are.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  40. BHodges, classic! (I guess we should add, for those who won’t recognize his voice, that the audio above is of Blake).

    Comment by Jacob J — March 17, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  41. Awesome BHodges. I sense there will be many reasons for us to re-use that link in the future around here.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  42. Ray, you are the first Mormon to ever tell me that – no sexual activity outide of mortality. No wonder you are upset.

    I am upset, too, when LDS people tell me that God can have sex in heaven and why should I even consider that wrong. Some American “Biblical Scholarship” think I am just involved in a cover-up on the issue. Go back to the ANE sources. So I want to know how Latter-Day Saints stand on this issue.

    Or do they think it is even an important issue? I have a great deal more respect when the Church makes itself clear on what is most sacred to God. His relationship with his wife? with Jesus? with you? What?

    I have no idea. Sincerely. The more I discuss and listen to other LDS, the less I understand the LDS Church. For some, the things I say are a mockery. For others it is not. Understanding of God, Gods, Goddesses, Wife, Multiple wives – it is all very blurry. But for many, that is the pleasure of being within the movement – freedom to believe what you want about all these beings.

    sincerely,
    Todd

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 17, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  43. Todd: Look, when I ask evangelicals to explain the hypostatic union, or how the three divine persons can be one, or how God views us as innocent when we are in fact guilty, or how the merits of Christ somehow get imputed to us, I mostly get blank stares. “We don’t know,” is the reply, “because it is a mystery.”

    I suggest that as Mormons we are just engaging in epistemic humility by recognizing what we don’t know because it hasn’t been revealed. For a religion that claims that revelation is ongoing and there is a lot yet to be revealed, such openness is the natural and healthy recognition of our actual epistemic status.

    However, for a religion that says that God has said all that he has to say, that assures us that all of the answers are in the Bible, such openness and epistemic humility must take the mystery route. Frankly, what you call mystery is just a not-so-good-faith attempt to avoid discussion of obvious contradictory beliefs in a system that is full of such problems. However, I believe that charity demands that we allow you to run to mystery when you confront the end of your explanations.

    Just how Jesus could be have a divine nature that is outside of time and a human nature that entered into time and be the same person isn’t a mere mystery but a logical mess even if I have no experiential basis to know what timelessness is like (and if fact it is logically impossible that anyone have such an experiential basis). However, perhaps we should admit that there just may be something that we’re missing. It ain’t in the Bible (and the Bible certainly doesn’t say that God is timeless).

    The problem with all of this “the Bible answers everything” business is that the reams of theological tomes by evangelicals and others is an attempt to fill in what the Bible doesn’t explain or otherwise clearly address. If it did, the tomes wouldn’t be necessary.

    Comment by Blake — March 17, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  44. Conservative evangelical authorities revels in publicly talking/discussing/meditating on the divine mysteries.

    Why not conservative LDS authorities about their divine mysteries?

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 17, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  45. Todd, let me be even more direct, while crediting you with a mediocre dodge of what Blake actually said. Also, let me add, that I actually am not “upset” nearly as much as I am saddened by the question. In full honesty, you can’t offend me, and you can’t upset me. You simply don’t have that kind of power over me.

    The way you worded your question is vile and sick, NOT the general issue your question addresses. I have NO problem discussing whether or not sexual activity as we know it exists in the next life – not a single, tiny semblance of difficulty or offense. However, I have a HUGE problem with your specific question.

    Based on exactly what you said, here is my construction of your question:

    Does “your” Heavenly Father like sex?

    I have a hard time conceiving of a more condescending, obnoxious, lascivious way to ask about our belief in whether or not we have sex in the next life – and I am totally flabbergasted that you don’t get that. Even if I believed we continue to have sex in the hereafter, that would be an incredibly intrusive, callous question.

    If I asked you about your mortal parents’ sex life, particularly if I did so in a veiled but mocking manner, would that be OK to you? If I assumed your 12-year-old daughter or your Catholic-priest uncle engaged in sex and insisted on asking if either of them liked sex with an obvious tone of derision, how would you feel?

    As an ordained minister, I am appalled that you can’t see how mocking the sacred is vile and shocking to me, and my understanding of our Heavenly Father is about as sacred as it gets for me. How is it appropriate for anyone, much less an ordained minister of God, to ask such insinuating and inappropriate questions – particularly with that tone of disrespect and derision? Again, if I asked you in a derisive way if you 12-year-old daughter liked sex, how would you feel?

    Please don’t insult my intelligence and sincerity by claiming there is no disrespect and derision in your question. There is; it is obvious there is; you have to know there is. It’s not the topic; it’s the exact question and the emotion behind it.

    Comment by Ray — March 17, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  46. Oh, and Todd, those “Conservative evangelical authorities” revel in talking about things they know not specifically because by calling them mysteries they don’t have to worry about being right or wrong. Mormon leaders have learned to be careful of doing so, because too many members and critics dissect every word they say and blast them for anything that is opinion. Hence, they say, “We don’t know” – which is a totally honest statement. So, now you are mocking people for their honesty.

    You might want to read something I wrote on Monday over on Mormon Matters:

    When Evil-Speaking Creeps Unawares Among Us

    Comment by Ray — March 17, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  47. This is the first anonymous to post and from here on I shall be known as “Wormwood.”

    Jacob: I am not sure I agree that the terms “reasonable” and “fully informed” are ambiguous. I do agree that they are vague, but at least clear enough to be used. But I suggest we think of reasonableness in a Rawlsian sense. I repeat this below in the amended argument.

    Blake: Although I am more Kantian in my ethics, I’ve never really liked his universalization presentation of it; for it has the potential to make morally permissible actions into morally impermissible actions. For example, I cannot consistently will that everyone be a Jazz fan and that the Lakers have home court advantage, it’s a logically impossible world. And, thus, it must be immoral to be a Jazz fan, right? Wrong! But, then, it must be immoral for the Lakers to have home court advantage, right? Well . . . when emotional I think this true, but when the adrenaline settles, I know it to be permissible. So, I guess this is why I am not convinced by the inconsistency argument that you present against HBO.

    Rather, I am more attracted to the kingdom of ends presentation. I think it’s a much better argument to say that HBO used/viewed the members of the LDS faith merely as a means (namely, for profit) and not as ends in themselves. Although I’m not sure this is the case. I don’t pretend to know the motives behind the show. But then again . . . I doubt they’re very deep.

    Also, I don’t think that third-party perspective of sex entails pornography. Suppose that Martian anthropologists were to observe human mating practices or vice versa. Is this pornography or voyeurism? I don’t think so. It’s research.

    Furthermore, according to mainstream Judeo-Christian-Islamic thought, God sees all. Does it follow that God is involved in porn or voyeurism? I don’t think so. I think the problem here is that you’re neglecting the mindset of the third party observer.

    I’m also wondering if you find this clip from _The Craft_ morally objectionable (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRxTe9APAJ0&feature=related). BTW, there is no nudity or such in the clip. It’s clean. It seems to fit perfectly with all of your above objections to _Big Love_ and the temple ceremony. I certainly don’t think it’s morally equivalent to pornography and neither do any of my pagan friends. They, of course, think that it misrepresents what they practice and is sensationalized, but not immoral.

    I also have a video by Raymond Buckland of a Wiccan ritual performed sky-clad. This ritual is considered sacred by those who perform it and may be confusing and nonsensical to a third party observer. It also opens the practice up to ridicule and misunderstanding. Is this video also morally equivalent to pornography? Again, my pagan friends do not seem to think so. Rather, they think it a good introduction to what it is to be pagan and perform the ceremony.

    As for your critique of my rationality argument, I suppose I made it overly complicated and made some logical leaps. But, hey, it was done on my five minute lunch break I gave myself while painting the new house and dealing with contractors. So let me try it again with a little more care this time.
    Let’s begin with the rationality principle, namely,

    a) For any person P, if P makes a rational decision to do A then P is fully informed to a reasonable degree by a trustworthy and reliable source about A.

    For example, if someone makes a rational decision to buy a house, car, or smoke marijuana, then they are, to a reasonable degree, fully informed by a trustworthy and reliable source about the house, car, or marijuana. In other words, anybody that buys a house, car, or smokes marijuana without being fully informed to a reasonable degree has not made a rational choice. Notice this criterion does not state that one must be fully or completely informed. Rather, it adds the qualifier “to a reasonable degree.” Of course, this is a bit vague, but I suggest it is clear enough to work with. If you want more about it, I suggest reading Rawls _Political Liberalism_. Now, suppose

    b) Barry decides to join the LDS faith.

    According to (a), it now follows that

    c) If Barry makes a rational decision to join the LDS faith, then, Barry is fully informed to a reasonable degree by a trustworthy and reliable source about the LDS faith.

    Now, it seems to me, that being fully informed to a reasonable degree about the LDS faith includes full knowledge of what takes place during the temple ceremonies. It also seems to me that the only trustworthy and reliable source for such knowledge is the LDS Church itself. And, thus, we get

    d)If Barry is fully informed to reasonable degree by a trustworthy and reliable source about the LDS faith then Barry has full knowledge derived from the LDS Church itself of what takes place during the LDS temple ceremonies.

    And, of course, (c) and (d) yield,

    e)If Barry makes a rational decision to join the LDS faith then Barry has full knowledge derived from the LDS Church itself of what takes place during the LDS temple ceremonies.

    The problem here, however, is that the LDS Church does not provide, or at least not that I am aware of (and, perhaps this is ignorance on my part, and if it is please correct and direct me), full knowledge of what takes place during their temple ceremonies. And, thus, it follows that

    f) Barry does not have full knowledge derived from the LDS Church itself of what takes place during the LDS temple ceremonies.

    Consequently, it follows that

    g) Barry did not make a rational decision to join the LDS faith.

    The second part of the argument runs as follows:

    h)For any person P, P should only make rational decisions.

    And (h) and (i) give us

    i)Therefore, Barry should not have decided to join the LDS faith.

    Of course, Barry is used here only as an example. It seems to me that this argument would apply to any person deciding whether or not to join so long as the LDS Church does not provide full knowledge of what takes place during its temple ceremonies. Let me also state here that this argument is not meant to target the LDS faith alone. It applies to any faith, group, club, or organization that does not fully disclose its practices to would be members.

    Well, I understand that many of you will reject some of the above premises – especially, (a) and (c). But, what I am really interested in hearing is why you reject them, not just that you do.

    Thanks for listening.

    Sincerely,
    Wormwood

    Comment by Wormwood — March 17, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  48. Please don’t insult my intelligence and sincerity by claiming there is no disrespect and derision in your question.

    Hmmm… In my experience it is easy to seriously overestimate Todd and his seemingly cunning ways. I think you might be doing that here…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 17, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  49. Sorry for three in a row, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to say it concisely – and I think I’ve got it:

    Todd, there is a difference between asking to understand, disagreeing and discussing that disagreement, and mocking. Your question doesn’t seek to understand; it goes beyond discussion of disagreement; it mocks.

    It really is that simple.

    Comment by Ray — March 17, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  50. Geoff, see my #48. I can’t fathom a way that Todd’s question sincerely asks or simply expresses a disagreement. Really, asking if God LIKES sex? I just don’t see that as anything but mocking derision.

    Comment by Ray — March 17, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  51. The problem with all of this “the Bible answers everything” business is that the reams of theological tomes by evangelicals and others is an attempt to fill in what the Bible doesn’t explain or otherwise clearly address. If it did, the tomes wouldn’t be necessary.

    Amen

    Comment by Wormwood — March 17, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  52. Blake: You state:

    When I ask evangelicals to explain the . . .how the three divine persons can be one, . . . I mostly get blank stares. “We don’t know,” is the reply, “because it is a mystery.”

    I’m wondering, and, perhaps this thread is not the right place, what you think of Craig’s presentation of the Trinity as it is found in his and Moreland’s book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. It, of course, it not in accord with the historic creeds. But as I understand, he doesn’t care about that and, indeed, believes the creeds to be founded on philosophical and theological mistakes anyway. Anyway . . . I would love to hear your thoughts on his view of the Trinity. Do you address it anywhere in your writings?

    Comment by Wormwood — March 17, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

  53. Also, are you all aware of the blog Trinities.org? It’s a great website devoted to . . . well . . . conceptions of the Trinity. Perhaps, there should also be blogs like Incarnations.org and Atonements.org. If not, you should check it out. I’ve heard from one of the top scholars in the area of Medieval conception of the Trinity that it is the best resource in print or otherwise around.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 18, 2009 @ 12:04 am

  54. Correction: The last sentence of my rationality argument should read as follows:

    And (g) and (h) give us

    i)Therefore, Barry should not have decided to join the LDS faith.

    Sorry for the typo.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 18, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  55. Wormwood: I actually dedicate a large section of the 6th ch. of my third vol. to critiquing Craig & Moreland’s view of the Trinity. It is the least acceptable view I review among many.

    Yes, I am aware of Dale Tuggy’s excellent site about the Trinities. Always a good read. I carried on some correspondence with Dale and found him to be an amiable guy.

    Comment by Blake — March 18, 2009 @ 8:20 am

  56. Note: Comment #47 from Wormwood was stuck in moderation until just now.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2009 @ 8:37 am

  57. #47 – For what it’s worth, the biggest problem I see in your analysis is that you really don’t understand the layered nature of participatory Mormonism very well. There are two distinctly different levels of “membership” or “participation” – non-temple and temple. The first is not dependent on the second; hence, knowledge of the second is not necessary for the first.

    It’s like saying that a higher level college class must be understood in order for a freshman to make a logical decision to take the introductory course, when, in reality, that introductory course is necessary in order to make a rational decision whether or not to take the advanced class. General membership is required to make a rational decision whether or not to attend the temple, not the opposite you describe.

    Comment by Ray — March 18, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  58. Agreed, Ray. Well said.

    Comment by BHodges — March 18, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  59. Ray: I can’t fathom a way that Todd’s question sincerely asks or simply expresses a disagreement.

    You have a point. I suppose the only alternative is to assume that Todd is as dumb as a sack of nails and a social oaf. But somehow that seems like a less charitable assumption to make.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  60. (chuckling) Ray, you can ask my wife for the confirming of Geoff’s suggestions.

    I forget that even NCT is connected to the wider bloggernacle and what might be considered seriously offensive.

    Ray, have you heard of the book, Does God Have a Wife? And if you have, do you find any of William Dever’s comments offensive about his view of his God? If some LDS rave about this book, why would they consider my comment in #12 a diabolical terror?

    But I have learned my lesson with you, Ray. I will never bring up this topic up on your blog, unless I sincerely forget. (And my wife can testify even to my stupidity in that arena.)

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 18, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  61. Ray: I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a person to have full knowledge (by a trustworthy and reliable source) of advanced information before even being introduced to the topic. And, thus, your analogy does not satisfy the “to a reasonable degree” criterion. Now, you might respond that this is exactly the point, namely, that the temple ceremonies are advanced information and, thus, it is not reasonable to expect a person considering conversion to be fully informed about this information before making the decision to convert.

    But this does not seem right. As I understand it, these ceremonies are a vital part of the exaltation process in LDS theology and as such are necessary to even understand the meaning/purpose of life in an LDS worldview. This does not seem to me to be advanced information, but rather basic and foundational.

    This being said, we may still be able to strengthen your argument but adjusting your analogy. Instead of two classes, let’s say there’s only one class and two different participatory paths in that class, namely, a paper-writing path and a non-paper-writing path. Let’s further say that the paper-writing path is the higher lever in that you can earn an A in the course and the non-paper-writing path is the lower level in that the highest grade you can earn by taking it is a C.

    Now we might ask “Is it necessary for Barry to have fully informed knowledge to a reasonable degree by a trustworthy and reliable about the paper requirements in order to make a rational decision to join the class if he only intends to take the lower path?” It seems here that the answer is “no.”

    This seems more analogous to the LDS worldview; for there are different degrees of exaltation and if Barry decides to convert and aim for one of the lower degrees that does not require participation in the temple ceremonies then it seems he can make the decision to convert rationally without full knowledge what takes place during the temple ceremonies.

    There are, however, at least two problems that I see with this reply. First, normally when classes are set up this way it is to accommodate those who are merely taking the course to get a passing grade for a general requirement, for slackers that don’t desire A’s, or some such things like these. Do you really want to say that this is similar to the way salvation and exaltation are set up in the LDS faith? Should missionaries be selling various pathways? Pathways for those majoring, gen-eders, and slackers alike?

    Furthermore, how is one to decide which path to take? In the class, one will need to know the requirements for the paper in order to make a rational decision about pursuing the paper-writing path. Thus, it also seems that in order for the potential convert to decide which path to take in the LDS faith, they must again know what takes place during the temple ceremonies. But then we are back where we started. The LDS Church must reveal what takes place during the temple ceremonies in order for people to make rational decisions about converting.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 18, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  62. The LDS Church must reveal what takes place during the temple ceremonies in order for people to make rational decisions about converting.

    #61 – Hogwash. Advanced ceremonies for the initiated are a part of every major religious movement and many minor movements throughout history. The Native American kiva ceremonies are the best example of which I’m aware.

    We are going to have to disagree on this one.

    #60 – Todd, I’ve already answered your question. There’s a huge difference between discussing disagreement, explaining beliefs and framing questions in a mocking and disdainful way. I just can’t read the actual words you used as anything but dismissive and disdainful. If you didn’t actually use those words, but instead simply asked if the people with whom you were talking believed God has sex, I have no quarrel with that. That’s fundamentally different than the words you used here.

    Even if you meant nothing disrespectful by it, I hope you realize why the wording changes the question fundamentally.

    Comment by Ray — March 18, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

  63. Wormwood,

    I don’t see why anyone should accept your premise (a) in #47. Therefore the rest of your argument seems sorta pointless to me. Can you you explain why you think anyone should take your (a) seriously?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 18, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  64. Ray: Let’s suppose your statement that most religions have advanced ceremonies only for the initiated that they do not publicly disclose is true, which it is not. How does this help your case? The only thing that I think that follows from this if it were true is that every religion makes it impossible to rationally convert to that religion. You might complain that I added “do not publicly disclose” to your claim. But I did so only to make it make it relevant to our conversation; for, my argument had nothing to do with ceremonies only for the initiated. Rather it had to do with religious ceremonies that are not publicly disclosed.

    Geoff: The argument for this are long and complex, but the short and sweet of it is that being fully informed allows us to maximize the utility of our decisions for ourselves and others. It also seems to me that we rationally ought to act in ways that maximize utility for both ourselves and others. Or at least the contradictory of this seems absurdly false. Now, of course, for beings with our limited capacities, it is nearly impossible for us to be fully informed and, thus, we need the reasonableness criterion to talk of human rational action.

    I also offer this thought experiment: Suppose, someone buys a house for the purpose of living there for a long time. A few months after doing so they discover that it has termites. In fact, the problem is so bad the house is uninhabitable and has to be completely demolished. Suppose further that this someone knew prior to purchasing the house that houses in the area commonly have termite problems and that they could have easily discovered the problem by having the house inspected before purchasing it. But instead of doing this this person asked their 96 year old grandma who doesn’t even know what a termite looks like to inspect the house. My question here is: was it a rational decision to purchase house. It seems that it was not. But why? Well, it seems to me that this person’s decision was not “fully informed to a reasonable degree by a trustworthy and reliable source”. That is, given this person’s goals and background knowledge, it is reasonable to expect them to get the house inspected by a professional for termites before deciding to purchase it. And, thus, to make the purchase without doing so, is not rational

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  65. HBO said that it didn’t intend to offend LDS. Well, they knew it was offensive and announced that they didn’t intend to offend knowing it would offend. That’s just a mealy-mouthed admission of an intention to offend as I see it. It’s like using a defense of lack of intention to a charge of battery: “I knew that I would break your arm by hitting you but I didn’t intend to break your arm by hitting you. I really intended just to hit you.”

    So I take it that you reject the doctrine of double effect? Are you then saying if someone jumps in front of a train to push a child to safety and they know that they will die in the process that they intended to die? Or if a medic knowingly gives a lethal dose of heroine to a soldier that has just been blown in half by a landmine intends to kill him even though he says his only intent was to alleviate his pain. Hmmmm . . .

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  66. Wormwood: but the short and sweet of it is that being fully informed allows us to maximize the utility of our decisions for ourselves and others.

    I think you have a major problem with assuming anyone is “fully” informed about anything. But I see you realize that limitation. Still, if you dump “fully” and go with “sufficiently” you run into the same problem of determining how much information is sufficient. All this leads me back to me general opinion that your first premise doesn’t work.

    Your home purchase analogy is a poor one in my opinion. Joining a church (or choosing to stay in a church) has little in common with purchasing products. I think you would be better off comparing joining a religion to joining some other organization. For instance, maybe you could compare it to accepting a full-time job. When one takes a job one usually basically understands the job description and the pay structure. That is certainly not the same as being “fully informed” about the experience though. And like with joining a religion, if one doesn’t like the organization one quits.

    By your logic no rational person should ever take a full-time job. That is an absurd position to take, therefore, I find your logic rather absurd.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 19, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  67. Let’s suppose your statement that most religions have advanced ceremonies only for the initiated that they do not publicly disclose is true, which it is not.

    Obviously, we are at an impasse.

    If you want to claim that religious affiliation is illogical and not rational, I don’t think you’ll find any real disagreement here; if you are trying to make an appeal for atheism, say so directly; if you really believe you should be “fully informed” AND also should join a religious organization, fine. Good luck finding a religion you can join by being “fully informed” first. If you can do so, it’s a weak and shallow religion not worth joining, imo.

    Even the disciples of Jesus in the NT weren’t fully informed. They had no clue he would he crucified and resurrected, but he still said, “Come, follow me.”

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  68. BTW, just to be crystal clear, I used the term “religions” – NOT “denominations”. Christianity, Native American Indian religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc. all have had and/or have ceremonies only for the initiated. Many “denominations” don’t, but that’s not what I actually said.

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  69. Ray: Part of the problem here is that you keep dropping the qualifier “to a reasonable degree” from my argument. It’s not reasonable to expect the disciples of Jesus to know that he would be crucified before they chose to follow him. And, thus, it does not violate my principle, at least not for that reason.

    Also, I agreed that it probably is true that every major religion has ceremonies in which only the initiated can participate. This by itself would not make deciding to join the religion not rational. Rather the decision to join becomes not rational if the religion expects you to participate in them once you join, but will not let you know what takes place during them before you join.

    And can you explain to me what “imo” means.

    Geoff: The home-buying thought experiment was not an analogy, it was an example meant to lend credence to the rationality principle I offered up. And you seem to keep falling into the same trap that Ray is, namely, dropping of the qualifier–”to a reasonable degree”– from my principle. Think of all the reasonable things that a person should be expected to be aware of before taking a job. If they fail to be aware of that then deciding to take the job was not rational. Take, for example, job duties. Anybody who takes a job expecting to do certain duties and does not find out what the job actually is has violated the principle; for it is reasonable to expect both the person to ask and the business to answer what the job entails.

    Here’s the analogy: Just as it is reasonable to expect the person to ask and the business to answer questions about job duties, it is also reasonable to expect the person to ask and the religion to answer questions about religious duties, i.e., practices necessary to achieve salvation/liberation. In the LDS faith that entails temple ceremonies.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  70. Wormwood,

    “imo” means “in my opinion”

    You seem like an intelligent and informed person, but your argument here is not at all compelling. You have taken several swings but they are all whiffing.

    People are leaving off “to a reasonable degree” because reasonableness is exactly what is at at issue. What you are counting as “reasonable” seems unreasonable to everyone else commenting (it seems from my reading). The unreasonableness of your requirement that a person know all about temple ordinances before joining the LDS church has been argued by several people already.

    I work at a big company. Almost no one who gets hired has a good idea of what their immediate day to day responsibilities will be when they are hired. And yet, I would argue they are being perfectly rational in taking the job. You just keep claiming a standard of knowledge is required when that standard is totally unreasonable and almost never achieved in practice.

    Also, you keep switching between “fully informed” and “to a reasonable degree” as I pointed out early in this discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 19, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  71. you keep switching between “fully informed” and “to a reasonable degree” as I pointed out early in this discussion.

    Not at all, the argument has always functioned with “fully informed to a reasonable degree.” Go back and take a look. And again, you just seem to keep missing the point, it is not reasonable to expect people to know the day to day details because these change from day to day and humans don’t know the future. But it is not unreasonable to expect people to know their basic job duties. ISo suppose Barry took the job of a school janitor. He may not know that on Tuesday he will have to clean up vomit from a sick student; however, he should know that being a janitor involves cleaning up vomit. If when he has to do this, he states “Had I known that being a janitor entailed cleaning up vomit, I never would have taken the job, then, he was not rational in deciding to take the job in the first place; for he should have know that that is part of the job.

    Let me suggest a defense for you that I think might be worth pursuing. Suppose Barry, our potential convert, has been told by somebody he trusts and is reliable, call her Debbie, that the temple ceremonies are beautiful, life affirming, deeply moving, and so forth, but that the details cannot be revealed. I see no reason why it would be unreasonable for Barry to trust that person and, thus, this may count as being “fully informed to a reasonable degree” for Barry. Might not this also work with the Holy Spirit?

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  72. Wormwood, let me be concise, by going back to what I said in my very first comment to you. I don’t mean what I am about to say to mean anything more than what the words themselves mean, so please don’t read into them anything more than what they actually say:

    The problem is that you don’t understand Mormonism. It really is that simple.

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  73. I probably should have added the following:

    The reason I say that, frankly, is that your #71 is exactly what happens at the practical level. Every new convert is supposed to be told about the temple itself and taught that vicarious ordinances are preformed there. Given that reality, your last comment makes everything else you’ve written about being informed mute. Your condition in #71 is precisely how the temple is handled in the Church.

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  74. Ray: What assumptions you make! How do you know that I am not LDS?

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  75. Wormwood, if you are LDS and making the argument you are making, fine.

    I agree 100% that we should talk MUCH more openly about the temple with those who are preparing to attend. When I teach the temple prep class, there’s not much I won’t discuss. However, I have no problem going into much more detail with a member than with an investigator. (Frankly, I’m MUCH more open about the temple that almost any active member I know.) However, they simply are completely different situations, imo, when we are talking about what “the institution” should share with non-members, as opposed to what you wrote in your comment about an individual saying, in essence, “Trust me.”

    If, “Trust me,” is an acceptable alternative, we agree totally.

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  76. your #71 is exactly what happens at the practical level. Every new convert is supposed to be told about the temple itself and taught that vicarious ordinances are preformed there.

    Ray: Also, again, you miss the point. My argument had nothing to do with new converts. Rather, it has to do with potential converts, i.e, the pre-convert.

    Given that reality, your last comment makes everything else you’ve written about being informed mute.

    Again, you miss the point. My suggestion has everything to do with being “fully informed to a reasonable degree.” Perhaps, you may want to go back and read it again.

    Your condition in #71 is precisely how the temple is handled in the Church.

    If this is true, then why did it take us so long to get to it? And why did I have to bring it up? Furthermore, can you see the potential problems with this reply? It leads to a highly neglected area of religious epistemology, namely, that rationality of trusting religious experience.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  77. Wormwood, please treat me for the moment as if I had a 3rd Grade education. What, precisely, are you saying missionaries should teach investigators about the temple?

    Comment by Ray — March 19, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  78. Wormwood,

    fully informed to a reasonable degree

    The words fully and to a degree strike me as being mutually exclusive. However, to the larger point, this exchange seems to be going nowhere so I am going to bow out. If I am missing your point, I apologize.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 19, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  79. Wormwood,

    It seems to me that your “fully informed to a reasonable degree” is nonsense. “Fully” means “entirely or completely” in English. So your “to a reasonable degree” clause makes no sense as a qualifier when you insist on using the word “fully”. You need to make up your mind — either you mean reasonably informed or you mean completely informed. Which is it?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 19, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  80. Doh! Jacob beat me to that fully, completely, entirely obvious point…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 19, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  81. Geoff and Jacob: Interesting objection, yet,ultimately unsuccessful.

    Since I am painting my house at the moment, let me try a painting analogy to clear this up. Suppose you are not an experienced painter and I give you the instruction to fully cover the wall with a reasonable amount of paint. Is this nonsense? Of course not; for while its true that if the wall is fully covered, there is no more wall to be covered, the paint can still be either too thin or too thick. Similarly, you can be fully informed but to lesser and greater degrees.

    This might also be comparable to Dostoevsky’s man of action and man of inaction. The man of action underthinks whereas the man of inaction overthinks. The man of action is not fully informed, but the man of inaction is fully informed but not to a reasonable degree; rather he’s always informing himself and thus has no time to act. So, the suggestion seems to be “fully consider the matter before you act but only to a reasonable degree.”

    Does that help?

    Also, a bit of advise, if you’re going to use a dictionary, make sure to read all of the definitions, not just the first one. Here’s the Oxford dictionary entry for fully:

    “Complete, perfect, thorough, without defect. Also, of a full or rounded form.”

    Do any of those make sense with the qualifier?

    Comment by Wormwood — March 19, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  82. Wormwood: Suppose you are not an experienced painter and I give you the instruction to fully cover the wall with a reasonable amount of paint.

    That would make perfect sense if you formed the instructions that way. What wouldn’t make sense would be for you to instruct us to “fully paint the wall to a reasonable degree”. Yet the latter is the formulation you are using in your argument and it remains nonsense. (Which is it? Fully paint the wall or just paint the wall to a reasonable degree? If you mean fully paint the wall with a reasonable number of coats that is ok but of course that makes more sense if you just say it and of course the it leaves the “reasonable number of coats” open to personal interpretation.)

    And sorry — if you can’t provide a link it doesn’t count as a dictionary at a blog debate… (Ok, I’m kidding about that part.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 20, 2009 @ 1:11 am

  83. Geoff J,

    I kinda like where Wormwood is taking this…

    This logic will really make my “honey-do” list a lot more open than before (as well as a myriad of other things).

    “Yes honey, I did ‘fully [take out the trash] to a reasonable degree‘…”

    or..

    “No sweetie, your sister isn’t ‘fully [annoying] to a reasonable degree’…

    Comment by Riley — March 20, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  84. Riley: LOL! That’s funny!! Yeah, to tell you the truth, I could not understand why Geoff would make the following complaint:

    By your logic no rational person should ever take a full-time job. That is an absurd position to take, therefore, I find your logic rather absurd.

    If this were truly a consequence of my argument, I would fully endorse. Well . . . to a reasonable degree, that is.

    Comment by Wormwood — March 20, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  85. Wormwood:

    “to a reasonable degree” seems to be a subjective opinion rather than some universal qualification or quality.

    Comment by BHodges — March 20, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  86. Wormwood,

    I wish thats’s how it worked, but it seems to me that going back to what I took out of Blake’s original point (you remember, way back at the top), we Latter-day saints feel as though someone has taken something that means everything to us. They took it and shared with those who can’t fully understand it in context, since understanding it in context requires that the person involved is involved for more than just intellectual knowledge. We feel as though entertainment and money reached a new low. In fact, I’ll go farther than Blake in asserting it was total, forced prostitution.

    I’m glad to lighten the mood, but – hasten to add that I completely agree with Geoff and the others, in that, for anyone to require “full” or utter knowledge in order to make rational decisions must be supermen with super-cognitive/emotional abilities. I for one can’t fathom how they’ve been able to make any decision at all unless they do.

    To me, you’re suffocating yourself with your unrealistic qualifications (logically speaking) that you’re setting up for Mormons.

    Comment by Riley — March 20, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  87. Blake and Ray:
    It’s been my personal experience, that Evangelicals have no conscience in determining whether a comment is religiously offensive. Publicly, we have examples like Mike Huckabee and Todd Wood (who has never fooled me, btw). For me, it is a greater impedance to their missionary work than their faulty doctrines. I guess we’re lucky they don’t know they’re ultimately hurting their own proselytizing efforts.

    Comment by MadChemsit — March 22, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  88. And I misspelled my own handle. doh.

    Comment by MadChemist — March 22, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  89. I don’t see why there is such a big arguement about people needing to know all about the temple before they join the church. Fundementaly, a person can learn what does happen in the temple before they go. They know about work for the dead. We teach about temple sealing. We that additional covenants are made, covenants based on principles already taught. Washing and anointing is really no secret. Statements like Brigham Young’s about learning the signs and tokens that are needed to pass by the angels who stand as sentinals are not secret, quite available, and often quoted. The METHOD of delivery is what is kept from the world, as well as as the verbage and language used to make these covenants. Investigators, and the world in general do not NEED to know this until you are ready and worthy to take these covenants on.
    As I read church publications I’m sometimes surprised at how much information really IS there about the temple. Nobody has to go to the temple completely blind, so I reject the notion that hidden cameras, reinactments, and detailed questions are necessary to know what a person is getting into.

    Comment by Ambrose APencil — March 24, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  90. Don’t worry Ambrose, this “Wormwood” person was just trolling and we were mostly humoring him in this thread.

    I know, I know — we shouldn’t feed trolls. But it can be interesting at times.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 24, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  91. I know, I know — we shouldn’t feed trolls. But it can be interesting at times.

    One of the great paradoxes of life, that is.

    Comment by Ray — March 24, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  92. OK, perhaps there is a more appropriate word, blasphemy. But those who blaspheme generally have the similar motivation as those who promote pornography, though blasphemy in most usage refers to the spoken vs the visual.

    Comment by Michael — April 22, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  93. Blake,

    I think that your analogy and hostility are inappropriate for the following three reasons:

    (1) A fatal lack of precision.

    You make no distinction between moral equivalency and functional equivalency.

    Unless the producers of the program are endowed members of the Church (or excommunicated / formerly endowed members), then they are not guilty of committing the moral equivalent of producing pornography. If they don’t have a divine testimony that the rituals they are portraying are sacred, then they are not pornographers in the moral sense. I will grant you they are pornographers in the technical sense, in that they have profaned the sacred by making it common, but this is a far different accusation than the one you have made against them.

    When the Roman soldiers pierced our Savior’s hands and crucified him, he did not accuse them of pre-meditated maliciousness, first degree murder, or deep evil. Instead, he recognized that “they knew not what they did”, and forgave them instantly. Functionally, they were murderers and torturers. Morally, they were in much less extreme category. With regard to temple ordinances, a similar, minimal kind of accountability likely applies to most if not all of the people at HBO who were involved.

    It may be the case that by “moral equivalent” you intended to convey something closer to “functional equivalent” or “technical equivalent”. Even if that is the case, (and it does seem clear you are not accusing them of being wilful traitors to the cause of Christ) your tone, imprecise language, and hostility overshadow any semblence of moderation, fairness, or forgiveness.

    We need to make peace with our perceived enemies to a greater extent, try to see the world from their perspective, give them the benefit of the doubt, and even advocate their position–whatever fragments of it might be honorable or innocent. Failing in this, we will continue to be rightly accused of being arrogant, self-righteous, and easily offended. Such weaknesses contributed to why the early Saints had such a horrible time, were so viciously hated by their neighbors, and were repeatedly cursed and chastened by God. As a people, we are still a long way from repenting of those prideful attitudes.

    Take a step back and consider how much profanity you commit each day in the eyes of other religions: you vocalize the Tetragrammaton, you eat pork (I assume) and other non-Kosher combinations, you don’t object to pictures or attempted likenesses of Mohammed, you allow your wife to walk openly and alone in public, you allow her to interact with other men while she isn’t wearing a head covering, etc., etc. The fact that these things are not true profanities does not make them any less offensive to those who consider them to be such. Indeed some of the behaviors listed above were once upon a time punishable offenses in the sight of God. (Side discussion:)

    In order to operate on a level playing field, we must treat all profanities, (both perceived and real), as being of equal non-importance in a general or public sense, when people are within their rights of freedom of expression. This does not require us to abandon our commitment with regard to how we personally or privately treat information that we know is sacred, but it should mitigate our hostility towards those who don’t have a testimony of the truth. Any course that is less tolerant than this establishes a “we-are-virtuous-and-you-are-evil” dichotomy, and that attitude will often lead to counterproductive outcomes.

    We need dispassion and coolness in these situations, not anger and defensiveness. Because we have more knowledge than many others, we will be held to a higher standard with regard to how we respond to their mistakes and transgressions. In my view, us being offended and hostile towards them in these matters is a greater sin than the profanity which they are producing.

    (2) The real world impact of profanity.

    The portrayal of sacred ordinances in a profane or common setting is not necessarily a net negative for the Church. The following quote –or something like it– has been attributed to Brigham Young: “Whenever you kick the Church, you kick it upstairs”.

    Regardless of whether Brigham Young said it or not, I and many others are living proof that there is some accuracy to the sentiment. My siblings and I are members of the Church as a fairly direct result of anti-Mormon activity. My father was a member of a Protestant sect in which the minister was a virulent Mormon hater. This minister tried to recruit him for help in fighting the missionaries. The minister provided him with negative literature referencing many verses in the BoM along with an inexpensive missionary copy of it. After reading it, my father gained a testimony and was baptized within several months.

    There is another example of this kind of conversion-resulting-from-an-attack-on-the-Church on the commonconsent blog related to the Greer / Aurora branch: “No Press is Bad Press”. See here

    Also consider the following passage from our Lord:

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me….neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10)

    I’m not suggesting that we should ignore anti-Mormon literature or take it lightly. What I am saying is that in a limited sense it is a form of free advertising: it makes progress towards the “every ear shall hear and every heart shall be penetrated” outcome that the Lord has stated must occur. Clearly, some anti-Mormon literature is more potent and dishonest than other kinds and deserves a stronger response (per the commandment in Section 123 of the D/C), but I don’t see this HBO program as being particularly anti-Mormon or dishonest, if at all.

    In the end, whether or not HBO was “intentionally” trying to kick the Church may be arguable, but what is not arguable is that they exposed millions of people to some important and essentially accurate fragments of the truth. Those fragments or seeds may one day germinate into action, investigation, and conversion: possibly sooner than later. Could the material also lead to alienation, hatred, bigotry, mocking, and sacrilege? Of course it could, but most of the individuals who react that way already have hardened hearts and darkened minds gained by a lifetime of bad choices. The program cannot be blamed as the source or motivation of their distemper.

    (3) Transparency & common availability.

    HBO didn’t illegally wiretap or smash down a temple wall to steal the details of the ceremony. The signs, keywords, and tokens which are revealed in the temple have been public or common knowledge for many years now, and are part of the “all things shall be spoken upon the housetops in the last days” situation.

    Given the reality of modern print and broadcast technology, plus the perpetual existence of traitors and ignorants, it is obvious that God never anticipated that the temple ceremony would be kept out of the view of the world. The signs, key words, and tokens are owned by and available to the whole human race, and it has been that way for a long time, long before HBO ordered their recent lineup. Again, this does not absolve us of our commitments with regard to how we personally treat the information we have, but it should lessen our hostility towards those who don’t know what they are dealing with.

    From Mark chapter 3:

    “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

    This verse cuts to the heart of the matter, and it speaks to the issues of (A) knowledge, and (B) malicious intent or mens rea. Since HBO producers obviously lack the first, they are incapable of the second.

    Where you see HBO’s disclaimer as being mealy mouthed or disingenuous and taunting, I see it as sincere and above board. It is the same kind of disclaimer that any professional organization would provide when dealing with an issue that they see as fair game but which they know others consider to be taboo.

    Seek to advocate the position of your perceived enemy, and you will find a world that is far removed and far more open and accurate than your current position. The Golden Rule demands this of you.

    Your “Never have. Never will” attitude is regrettable and unacceptable. I invite you to reconsider your position and subscribe to HBO for a trial period of one month. Plan your viewing in advance and watch just one or two programs during that 30 days that might hold some interest for you. As a start, I recommend their documentary selections. They have some amazing and powerful work in this area, and have won many film awards.

    One documentary which recently premiered on HBO, titled “Which Way Home?” shed some light on the hundreds of Mexican orphans who risk their lives every day jumping illegally onto cargo trains that might cross into Texas. Many of them have their arms and legs amputated when they attempt to board the trains and get run over. Others starve, get raped, kidnapped, or are otherwise exploited by transients or criminals. Some drown in rivers and others die in desert areas. It was an eye-opening and tragic film, and it broadened my understanding and increased my compassion. (cr “perplexities of the nations” D&C 88:79)

    Another recent documentary was about children who are born into brothels, and the struggle and hardship they face trying to make a life for themselves and escape the slavery they are in. I was shocked and horrified by the reality they face, but also inspired by the courage of the film makers and by the children they interviewed. The film makers and producers are people who passionately hate the flesh trade and want to see it eradicated. They want more people to be aware of it and fight against it. These people fit the very definitin of “praiseworthy and of good report”.

    One final mention is “Assault in the Ring.” This HBO premiere was one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It was the redemption story of fallen boxer Luis Resto, and his journey to seek forgiveness for what he did to Billy Collins in 1983. Even if you choose not to subscribe to HBO, rent this movie on DVD and watch it with your family. It is an extraordinarily potent narrative about peer pressure, lying, accountability, pride vs. humility, and repentance. Synopsis here

    HBO also has some great kids programming and family movies at certain times. All you have to do is look.

    Comment by Prisoner #Unknown — October 21, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

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