The Bloggernacle as Public Sphere – pt. 2

July 29, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 7:55 pm   Category: Apologetics,Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Theology,Truth

In my last post I introduced Jurgen Habermas’ book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and argued that it is very relevant to us in the bloggernacle.  More specifically, I argued that just as how during the Enlightenment independent people came together in a public forum so as to engage in critical debate which eventually served to erode the perceived legitimacy of their state authorities, so too us within the bloggernacle come together as independent persons in this public forum so as to engage in critical debate which can – if we are not careful – erode the perceived legitimacy of our church authorities.  The bloggernacle is largely characterized by the same three traits that structured the public sphere which Habermas sees at the center of democratic politics:  Open accessibility to all, equality amongst interlocutors and all topics are open to critical discussion.  My point in that post was not to accuse anybody in particular of undermining the authority of our leaders so much as it was to warn us all how easy it is to seamlessly and unnoticeably slide from “a public sphere in which the [priesthood authority is] merely represented before the people [to] a sphere in which [church] authority [is] publicly monitored through informed and critical discourse by the people.” (p. xi)   In this post I want to articulate the subtle steps by which this transition can happen. (more…)

The Bloggernacle as Public Sphere – pt. 1

July 22, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 2:57 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Truth

I worry that the bloggernacle is a crucial cog within a cultural machine that takes prophetic religions and transforms them into secular and therefore apostate institutions.  I worry that the same mechanisms by which modern intellectuals overthrew feudal society are also attempting to secularize the church today.  (I have a strong suspicion that a very similar process characterized the transition from apostles and prophets to theologians and state authorities in the early church.)  I will follow Jurgen Habermas in calling this mechanism, “the public sphere.”  Let me first give a very brief description of the role that the public sphere played in the overthrow of feudal society before I articulate the rather obvious parallels which I see in the bloggernacle.  (All references are from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Jurgen Habermas) (more…)

The False Prophets We Follow

July 8, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 5:42 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,Truth

“And behold, others he flattereth away … and he saith unto them: I am no [prophet], for there is none.” (2 Nephi 28:21)

“When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence… Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.” (Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, May 1997, p. 25)

Discipleship and Euthryphro’s Dilemma.  At one point in His ministry, Jesus taught a doctrine which seemed patently absurd to his disciples – so absurd, in fact, that many of them turned away from Him at that point.  In so doing they were using their trust in doctrine to constrain their trust in a prophet.  Jesus then turned to the Apostles and asked if they too would leave to which they responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.”  In so doing they were using their trust in a prophet to constrain their trust in doctrine.  We all must also pick and choose who or what we follow in our lives.  By picking a ‘who’, we necessarily also choose a ‘what’ and by picking a ‘what’, we inevitably also choose a ‘who.’  Many times we frame the decisions we make in terms of ‘what’ so as to occlude, disguise or otherwise repress the ‘who’ which necessarily accompanies any such choices.  While I am willing to concede that our motives for doing this are not always so sinister in nature, I do want to suggest that – contra Euthyphro’s dilemma – there is no deep, intrinsically binding or non-question begging reason for prioritizing doctrines over prophets in our lives. (more…)

One Does Not Simply Lose One’s Testimony – A Heartfelt Plea

June 20, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 12:33 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices,Truth

This is THE lesson that I have learned regarding my misguided departure from the church.  I had worked myself into a position where the values and standards of the gospel had become a second language to me – second to the values and standards of liberal democracy.  The latter had taken the place of the former as my default mindset, the habitual patterns in which I automatically and uncritically thought, spoke and acted.  Through years of training and practice, I had come to evaluate and measure the church and its values according to those of liberal democracy at a deeply intuitive and emotional level rather than the other way around.  I had come to feel more repugnance, offense and moral indignation at the thought of somebody violating my liberal democratic values than if they had violated those of my Mormon upbringing.

But this is not how I experienced it at the time.  Precisely because of the way in which I had internalized the values of liberal democracy I uncritically experienced these values as given and beyond question.  The values of liberal democracy were just “obviously” good and true.  Thus, when I decided to measure the truth of the church by the values of liberal democracy, I simply experienced this process as asking “is the church true?” – an honest and innocent question.  When I evaluated church policies and doctrine by the standards of liberal democracy, I very genuinely felt that I was asking “is this position right?”  Similarly, when a person violated the rules of liberal democracy they were a bad person, but when another person violated the rules of Mormonism they merely had a different perspective on what was right.  The very act of internalizing the rules of liberal democracy had also repressed them and the more strongly I endorsed them the more I placed them beyond question or constraint.  Liberal democracy, in my mind, was not simply a tradition or perspective, but universal and timeless truth – a standing which should have been reserved for God and His church.

With hindsight, I can say with absolute conviction that one does not simply lose one’s testimony, even if it genuinely feels as if that is what is happening.  Rather, one actively – albeit uncritically – beats down and erodes one’s testimony.   Through training and practice, we gradually chip away at our testimonies with the hammer of the liberal democratic values we are taught in school, on t.v. and in internet forums.  As we choose to evaluate and navigate the world around us by the tools of liberal democracy rather than those of the gospel, the latter not only atrophy from disuse, but are purposefully displaced by the former in their relentless take-over and re-programming of our minds.  I cannot say it emphatically enough: the tradition of liberal democracy is not neutral, passive or benign when it comes to our religious convictions or any other set of competing values.  It is a god which is no less jealous or hungry for the souls of men (or women) than any other.

As people in the bloggernacle critically evaluate and take inventory on their testimonies, I sincerely hope that they do not fall into the same trap I did.  Our testimonies do not lose their power, except in their struggle against some other power – typically that of liberal democracy.  If some such issue is placing your testimony of the church at risk, why not critically evaluate and take inventory on your testimony of that issue?  I know that it can be difficult and counter-intuitive to do, but instead of judging the church for it’s lack of concern for feminist issues or it’s lack of appreciation or tolerance for open debate or some other way of measuring the church by liberal democratic standards, let’s instead measure such movements, values and institutions by those of the Lord and His prophets.  To paraphrase Jacob, to be a liberal democrat is good, so long as these values and standards are constrained by the counsels of God and His prophets rather than the other way around.

 

Ordain Women: Whose Movement Is It?

June 18, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 3:34 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

(I originally posted this – my one and only post which directly addresses OW – back in September of last year before either of their two attempts to attend the Priesthood Sessions of General Conference.  I was thinking of writing another post in which I would address the events of the past week or so, but rather than pretty much re-writing this exact same post all over again, I decided to re-publish it.  It is left to the reader to decide how well the last 9 months have confirmed or falsified my analysis.)

The vast majority of members – especially females – oppose the priesthood ordination of women.  Which means that if the church were a democracy women would not be ordained.  But the church is not a democracy such that orders come from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up, and the top says “no” to the priesthood ordination of women as well.   In spite of this, the Ordain Women movement presses forward, urging the church to give women the priesthood without any regard for what the rest of the church wants or thinks.  This state of affairs cries out for explanation: How can a movement which is so strongly committed to emancipation and social justice (and I see no reason to doubt their sincerity) try to force people to be free? (more…)

Discussing Marriage

June 6, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 12:00 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

Rather than taking the time to put the finishing touches on one of the many posts that I have half-written up, I thought I’d draw a little bit of attention to a fantastic website that launched today: http://www.discussingmarriage.org/

Here’s a little bit from their mission statement:

We support traditional marriage, and believe that traditional marriage norms should be reflected in civil law. Our goal is simple: we want to compile all of the strongest arguments in favor of traditional marriage, and summarize them for a lay audience. “

I would especially recommend watching the youtube videos that they made as they contain interesting information and perspectives which should be of interest to both sides of the debate.

Drawbacks to Ordaining Women

April 9, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 11:16 am   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices

(Note:  This post was written almost entirely before Elder Oaks’ talk regarding the nature of priesthood.  Sadly, I have not given much thought to the relevance which that talk has to my own thoughts on this subject.)

This post is not about the Ordain Women movement.  Quite some time ago, I posted a critique of the Ordain Women organization wherein I suggested that even though the movement is about faithful LDS women, that does not mean that it is actually for faithful LDS women.  Rather, I suggested, the movement is actually by and for humanistic intellectuals.  In that post, I repeated what has become almost a cliché for those who aren’t fully on board with OW:  It’s not that I am against women being ordained to the priesthood, it’s just that I object to the OW organization and the tactics they employ.  In that way, I attempted to sideline the inevitable accusations of misogyny which such a post provokes so as to look at the conflict that OW presents between intellectuals and priesthood authority (patriarchal or otherwise).  In this post, however, I wish to do the exact opposite: I wish to sideline any thoughts or preferences concerning the nature of the Ordain Women in order to focus exclusively on the ordainability of women.

(more…)

Speech, Speakers and Privilege

March 22, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 2:06 pm   Category: Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices

Within the bloggernacle we are confronted with a strange mix of intellectualism and faith-based non-intellectualism (I’ll just call this “faith” for short).  On the one hand, the anonymity and lack of ecclesiastical or jurisdictional boundaries within this online forum essentially guarantee that no blogger is able to justify their own ideas or policies with an appeal to their own position or authority within society.  This is very close to the defining rule of intellectualism that no claim can ever be justified by any appeal to any person’s position within society.  On the other hand, the tacit acknowledgement of various priesthood authorities by nearly all participants provides a clear and rather anti-intellectual exception to this rule in that the position of some quoted speakers within society can legitimately justify their quoted speech.  There simply isn’t much argument to be had between those who do and those who do not accept the non-jurisdictional priesthood of General Authorities.  Thus, the bloggernacle is not quite like a church meeting since there are no presiding officials, but it is not like the Salons of the Enlightenment where every person that has ever lived has equal standing either. (more…)

A Bunch of Imbeciles Wrote About a BYU-Idaho Video

February 4, 2014    By: Geoff J @ 6:25 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

First, here is the BYU-Idaho video that has apparently caused a small stir this week:

It is a video warning about the dangers of pornography addiction. The dangers of pornography addiction are well documented and opposition to pornography is certainly not only a Mormon thing.

So here’s a question for you: How many times did you hear the word “masturbation” used in that video?

If you answered “none times” that means you are brighter than numerous writers and bloggers across the country who railed against what they called an “anti-masturbation” video.  Here are some of the headlines from these clowns:

    The Daily Beast: “BYU to Undergrads: Self-Love Is A Battlefield — The Mormon university is urging its students to narc on chronic masturbators, whose fight against self-pleasure is like rescuing a fallen soldier during war.”

    The Stir: “College Wages ‘War’ on Masturbation With Video That Offends Soldiers”

    The Daily Caller: “War-themed BYU video implores students to rat out masturbating roommates”

Look, I realize that people who view porn often masturbate too. But this particular video is not about masturbation. How is that hard to comprehend?

I am a little baffled by these stories. They actually link to the video and write entire posts saying it is about masturbation when it never even broaches the topic of masturbation. Is this just a copycat situation from writers not bright enough to comprehend the video? Were these writers too lazy to actually watch it? Or is the concept that pornography addiction itself might be a bad thing so foreign to these writers that they miss it entirely?

At any rate, the ridiculousness of the articles irritated me enough to get me to post about it. Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Ordain Women: Whose Movement Is It?

September 26, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 9:57 pm   Category: Ethics,Happiness,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

The vast majority of members – especially females – oppose the priesthood ordination of women.  Which means that if the church were a democracy women would not be ordained.  But the church is not a democracy such that orders come from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up, and the top says “no” to the priesthood ordination of women as well.   In spite of this, the Ordain Women movement presses forward, urging the church to give women the priesthood without any regard for what the rest of the church wants or thinks.  This state of affairs cries out for explanation: How can a movement which is so strongly committed to emancipation and social justice (and I see no reason to doubt their sincerity) try to force people to be free? (more…)

The Mechanics of Priesthood Blessings

September 21, 2013    By: DavidF @ 8:08 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,PH/RS Lessons

The first priesthood blessing I gave terrified me.  How does one, exactly, pull inspiration out of the air and give a blessing?  No one ever described this to me; they just said it’ll happen.  But I had no idea of how the words would come to me.

We can divide priesthood blessings into two components: the procedure, and the mechanics.  We’re really good at discussing blessing procedure; that is, the steps to giving a proper blessing.  But how does one pick the words they use?  That’s the mechanics.

Below are some of my observations on priesthood mechanics, including an explanation of how I seek out inspiration in a blessing.

Do the Words Matter?

Firstly, do the words even matter in a blessing?  Elder Oaks pointed out that in healing blessings, the recipients faith and God’s will, not the verbiage used, determine the outcome.  So why should we fret about what to say?  The words serve at least two functions in a blessing.  First, when the priesthood holder echoes God’s will, the words enliven the spiritual environment where the blessing is given.  I think that this can give the recipient confidence in God’s power to heal.  Second, inspired words can help the recipient receive personal revelation.
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Recovering Modesty, Old Wisdom for a New Era – New Approach to Modesty Series

September 14, 2013    By: DavidF @ 12:26 pm   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the fifth post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  Click for post onepost twopost three, and post four.

I’ve noted before that LDS speakers and writers occasionally point out that modesty is much more attitude than dress code, but whether dress code or attitude, today’s modesty probably doesn’t qualify as a virtue.  Based on how they’re constructed, modesty guidelines conflate being modest with appearing modest.  And since appearing modest generally satisfies communal standards, modesty falls short of a quality of character and, subsequently, a real virtue.

The emphasis on appearing modest sets modesty apart from other cherished Mormon values.  Few youth leaders would teach youth that in order to be faithful they have to appear faithful.  Modesty teachers, however, do follow this process.  While I’ve spent a considerable time critiquing current modesty rhetoric, the main goal of this series is to establish an alternative meaning for modesty that avoids the negative elements currently attached to it.  My intent in this post is to lay out a modesty that is primarily a quality of being but also gives some guidelines on appropriate dress.  To do this, let’s return to what modesty meant before the English humanists radically altered its meaning.
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An Unveiled History of Modesty in the West – New Approach to Modesty Series

August 3, 2013    By: DavidF @ 10:52 am   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the fourth post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  Click for post one, post two, and post three.

Barnabe Rich was a pioneer moralist.  In 1613 he wrote a book explaining the roles that men and women should play in the home.  Of make-up wearing, provocatively dressed women Rich said that their appearance provoked:

The first, offence to God, the second, It giveth hope to the vicious, and thirdly, It bringeth destruction to the husbande.

Today, Rich’s list looks unremarkably consistent with current modesty discourse. Yet Rich had been born around the time that modesty had been invented.  While up until this point I have criticized current modesty rhetoric, in the last four posts I’ll advance ideas that may strengthen modesty and chastity.  But to begin with, I will first discuss modesty’s origins.

A few decades before Barnabe Rich wrote moral advice for married couples, Thomas Elyot, a friend of Thomas More and early English humanist, wrote a widely circulated moral manual for youth, The Boke Named the Governour.  Among other things, Elyot’s fame comes from introducing several English words taken from Latin writers.  In The Governour Elyot introduced modesty.  Elyot rendered modesty from the Latin modestus, citing Cicero, which meant something like restraint or moderation (I’ll return to this in greater detail next time).  Elyot’s modesty had no connection to sexual purity, which makes sense given the fact that modestus doesn’t connect to purity either.  When the Romans discussed sexual purity they used pudicitia, an ambiguous word relating to sexual virtue including modest dress for women.

While the Romans held pudicitia in utmost regard, this virtue disappeared sometime before the Middle Ages, as did any idea linking modest dress to sexual purity.  Medieval writers and artists show that the Middle Ages frowned on public nudity, but for reasons unrelated to chastity.

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Revealing Themes in Feminine Modesty – A New Approach to Modesty Series

July 12, 2013    By: DavidF @ 7:11 pm   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the third post in the Modesty and Chastity Series.  Follow these links to post one and two.

Speaking at a Women’s Conference event, Sister Claudia J. Dansie said:

Part of our responsibility as parents is to guide, direct, and warn if necessary…. Some topics must be covered as directly as their consequences are lethal—subjects such as modesty, drugs, pornography, and immorality.

Lethal?  Assumedly, Dansie meant spiritually lethal.  A woman’s bare shoulders expose herself to consequences with eternal implications.  Does modesty really merit this language?

Elaine S. Dalton expressed a similarly solemn message calling modesty “the foundation stone of chastity,” explaining “it is essential to our very safety to be modest.”  Adding to Dansie’s and Dalton’s severe warnings, BYU president Cecil Samuelson explained that dressing immodesty may be as perilous as breaking the Word of Wisdom:

Most of you have no problems concerning the Word of Wisdom….What we may not realize is…that what we put on our bodies may be as equally corrosive and dangerous as what we might ingest into our bodies. (emphasis in original)

It’s hard to imagine that a woman’s uncovered knees could be as dangerous as her drinking alcohol, especially since the latter has temple-worthiness implications.  But because feminine modesty so closely connects to chastity, modesty rhetoric has adopted grave themes.
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Uncovering Feminine Modesty – New Approach to Modesty Series

July 3, 2013    By: DavidF @ 9:27 pm   Category: Ethics,Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the second post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  For post one click here.

Getting ready for a Mutual activity, Chelsea Anderson casually put on a pair of short shorts. “It never occurred to me that they were inappropriate.”  She sat down in one of the few remaining seats, prepared for a lesson from the missionaries.  With the last couple of remaining seats to her side, Chelsea overheard the missionaries’ whispered argument over who would have to sit next to her.  Although she didn’t hear why they argued, Chelsea figured her immodest shorts caused the argument.  “I realized that I was making virtuous young men feel uncomfortable.”  Thereafter Chelsea dressed modestly.

While her story is unique, Chelsea didn’t have to look far for council to mirror.

Young women, respect your body and help others, particularly young men, maintain virtuous thoughts and actions. (Dress and Appearance: Let the Holy Spirit Guide)

Not only does this sort of council make young women responsible for young men’s actions, but it signals an even greater problem with current modesty rhetoric.  But before getting there, we first have to establish what modesty means today.  To begin with, modesty rhetoric rarely refers to men.  When it does, speakers implore men to dress appropriately for sacred ordinances and meetings, leaving references to virtue virtually nonexistent.

Part of why male modesty rarely focuses on male sexuality could be because male leaders don’t find men sexually alluring.

(hottie?)

If leaders applied the sexuality standard equally, perhaps the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet would read a little differently:

Do not engage in any activity that might build a visible “six pack.”  As soon as you are able, grow a beard.

(not-ie)
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