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?

The explanation lies in the concept of false consciousness.  Because of the environment in which LDS women have been inculcated, they have been conditioned to support beliefs which have other people’s interests in mind rather than their own.  In other words, what the vast majority of faithful LDS women honestly and sincerely believe to be in their interest is not really what’s in their interest at all because they have been duped, as it were, by various doctrines about a woman’s place in Mormon culture.  Once one has been “properly” educated, however, they can then see these doctrinal opiates for what they really are: distractions from the ubiquitous and systematic alienation of women within Mormon culture.  As a side note, this almost (but not quite?) amounts to an ad hominem argument wherein the opinions of faithful LDS women are discredited simply because they are offered by faithful LDS women.

False consciousness, however, is a rather dangerous weapon to play with, for it can quite easily be turned against the very person who attempted to wield it.  Once this is admitted, the question then becomes, “What sorts of false consciousness can be attributed to the Ordain Women movement?”  What forms of systematic alienation might we find when we look at them through the lenses of social critique which they are so eager to apply to LDS women?

In order to do this we must first move beyond what the movement says about itself.  The Ordain Women movement is no longer allowed the final word regarding their own interests and motives in the same way that the movement does not allow the faithful members of the church to have the last word regarding their own interests and motives.  Accordingly, just as the Ordain Women movement focuses on who is “pulling the strings” of the faithful LDS females, manipulating them into believing and acting in the former’s interest, so too must we focus on who is “pulling the strings” of the activists within the Ordain Women movement, manipulating them into believing and acting in the former’s interest.  In other words, we must look at the texts and authorities that are cited, who controls the media channels that are frequented and ascertain the origins of the paradigmatic arguments, slogans and values which are brandished within the movement.  This is exactly what the Ordain Women movement does when it critiques the social environment within the church.

The first thing to note about the Ordain Women movement is that the most significant influences and inspirations for it are not of LDS origin.  None of the texts and authorities that are cited, the media channels that are frequented or the paradigmatic arguments and slogans, in short, none of the core ideas are of LDS origin.  To be sure, these ideas and values are all given an overtly LDS packaging, but this is not the same as having an LDS core at the center.  What is more, many of the more public and influential figures in the movement that are of LDS heritage can hardly be considered orthodox or mainstream within Mormon culture, many having been very public about their run-ins with church discipline or other ways in which they simply “don’t fit it”.  It is not that such people do not identify themselves with Mormon culture at all, but that they proudly identify with other ideologies which often conflict with or constrain their otherwise mainstream LDS faith.  In the same way that general conference talks directed at LDS women from female speakers are supposed to mask the masculine core of the church, so too the LDS women who speak for the Ordain Women movement mask the non-LDS core of that movement.

It is important to note that while we are indeed very close to mounting an ad hominem attack here, this is exactly what the use of false consciousness entails.  At this point we are only identifying the secular influences and values which are at the core of the Ordain Women movement so as to reveal whose interests the movement truly serves.  This is the exact reason why the movement is at pains to identify the masculine influences within Mormonism so as to highlight whose interests are truly being served within the church.  They insist that if we are to expose the false consciousness within any group we must first identify the source of the group’s values, i.e. the ruling class within that group.  We must also keep in mind that this ruling class will likely disguise and repress by any means necessary the fact that it is they and not the group at large which are being served by the group’s values.  There is no reason to think that we can analyze the LDS church in this way, but not the Ordain Women movement.

Continuing on, not only are the core influences and inspirations within the Ordain Women movement of non-LDS origin – a fact which the movement disguises and represses through the use of an overtly LDS packaging – but the ruling class within the movement – its core influences and inspirations – are not straightforwardly female either – a fact which the movement actively emphasizes.  Do not be fooled: just because the movement is overtly about women does not mean that it necessarily embodies female values, is of female origins or that the interests of females are its primary objective.  Similarly, just because the movement is overtly about LDS members does not necessarily mean that it embodies LDS values, is of LDS origins or that the interests of LDS members are its primary objective.  Again, this is the exact argument by which the Ordain Women movement is able to discount the opinions and values of the general church membership.  If we follow the Ordain Women movement in believing that a group’s core values are usually not those which favor its majority membership, but are instead those which favor its ruling class, then we are forced to admit that the core values of the Ordain Women movement are not those of mainstream LDS women.

If neither mainstream Mormon culture nor femininity are what characterize the core values of the Ordain Movement, then what does?  While the influences of male and non-LDS thinkers are far too prevalent within the movement’s core to characterize it as essentially female or LDS, there is another (hidden) thread which does serve to unify the movement’s core:  Intellectualism.  The texts and authorities which are cited, the media channels that are frequented and the paradigmatic arguments and slogans which are offered within the Ordain Women movement are (beneath the LDS packaging) at their origin and core moderately radicalized and unambiguously intellectual in nature.  A quick glance at the profiles on the movement’s website will find ubiquitous references to advanced degrees, academic and authorial professions, bookwormishness and other deep-rooted habits revolving around the production and consumption of the written word.  Their resources tab similarly links to symposia, books and articles, blogs and podcasts – the bread and butter of intellectuals.  At the core of the Ordain Women movement, then, is a set of values which is neither female nor Mormon in character, but instead belongs to the intellectual culture of critical discourse (CCD).

Let’s pause to clear up what I mean by “intellectual”.  Following Alvin Gouldner, the intellectual culture of critical discourse, which I contend is at the heart of social movements such as Ordain Women,

“insists that any assertion – about anything, by anyone – is open to criticism and that, if challenged, no assertion can be defended by invoking someone’s authority.  It forbids a reference to a speaker’s position in society (or reliance upon his personal character) in order to justify or refute his claims… Under the scrutiny of the culture of critical discourse, all claims to truth are in principle now equal, and traditional authorities are now stripped of their special right to define social reality…  The CCD … demands the right to sit in judgment over all claims, regardless of who makes them…

“CCD requires that all speakers must be treated as sociologically equal in evaluating their speech.  Considerations of race, class, sex, creed, wealth, or power in society may not be taken into account in judging a speaker’s contentions and a special effort is made to guard against their intrusion on critical judgment.  The CCD, then, suspects that all traditional social differentiations may be subversive of reason and critical judgment and thus facilitate a critical examination of establishment claims.  It distances intellectuals from them and prevents elite views from becoming an unchallenged, conventional wisdom.” (Against Fragmentation: The Origins of Marxism and the Sociology of Intellectuals, 30-31)

The intellectuals have always been the driving force behind movements which oppose social differentiations (race, class, sex, creed, wealth, power, etc.) which they see as being not only non-rational, but actively counter to the rationality which defines and empowers the intellectual.  But do not be fooled into thinking that these intellectuals are for equality across the board, for nothing could be further from the truth.  While intellectuals are unambiguously against those social differentiations which structure other cultures, they not only tolerate, but actively reinforce a hierarchy within their own movements which are stratified along intellectual lines.  Public influence, authorial citations, the skills of eloquent rhetoric, public debate and bureaucratic management all serve to differentiate and stratify movements such as Ordain Women.  Indeed, it is precisely the fact that women within the church which have these intellectual qualifications are denied access to priesthood authority that most scandalizes the core of the Ordain Women movement.  To be clear, intellectuals do not spawn social movements in order to do away with social stratification altogether, but to reorganize social stratifications in a way which is more conducive to their own influence, leadership, recognition and interests.  Consequently, the intellectual leadership has a great interest in producing a false consciousness within the social movements which they inspire so as to mask the way it is the interests of the former which are truly being served by the latter.

The notion of false consciousness, then, entails that these social movements which originate and rally around intellectualism are aimed not so much at freeing various groups of people from bondage to oppressors of a different race, class, sex, etc., as much as they are aimed at empowering intellectual in the place of those oppressing classes.  This is not to say that the leadership of these intellectual elites is never better, in some sense, than that of the delegitimized oppressors.  Rather, this only implies that the alienation which comes from a false consciousness has merely been transformed rather than overthrown, substituted rather than abolished.  The exact same holds true for the Ordain Women movement, for beneath the Mormon lingo with which the movement is garnished, the values and interests at its intellectual core are just as conducive toward an alienating false consciousness as an all-male leadership is.  More concretely, just as the Ordain Women movement construes the general church membership as being under a false consciousness produced by an all-male leadership, so too we can construe the general membership of the Ordain Women movement as being under a false consciousness produced by an intellectual leadership.

It can certainly be said of LDS females what Marx said of the proletariat: that even if intellectuals are in some sense the head of the movement, they – the general membership – are it’s true heart.  Even so, if LDS women are indeed the heart which an intellectual head inspires and influences, the hierarchical difference between the head and the heart should not go unnoticed.  Social critique is based in the idea that it is the leadership, the intellectual head of the movement that defines what is and is not fair, good or just, and it is the general membership, the movement’s heart which puts these ideas into practice by undermining and subverting any person, policy, institution or any other authority which the intellectuals re-construe as a constrictive shackle rather than a supportive structure.   Strangely enough, both of these metaphors are equally appropriate but from different perspectives.  On the one hand, the priesthood leadership has served as a supportive structure for LDS members, while on the other hand, this same priesthood has been a constructive shackle which chaffs at the intellectuals.  In this zero-sum battle of metaphors, one serves to legitimize priesthood leadership at the expense of the intellectuals while the other does the exact opposite.

Let me rephrase the point I am making here by drawing yet another parallel between what the Ordain Women movement claims about LDS members and what I am claiming about the members of that movement.  Ordain Women acknowledges that the majority of LDS women honestly and sincerely believe that their not having the priesthood is in their own and indeed everybody’s interest.  After acknowledging this, the movement then goes on to say that despite the honesty and sincerity of these women, they are wrong – not having access to the priesthood only furthers the interests of the all-male church leaders whose position and influence in the church are threatened by a female priesthood.  The claim I am making about activists within the Ordain Woman movement is exactly the same.  They honestly and sincerely believe that the success of their movement is somehow in their own and indeed everybody’s interest.  After acknowledging this, a consistent social critic must then go on to say that despite the honesty and sincerity of these activists, they are wrong – their movement only furthers the interests of non-LDS intellectuals whose position and influence in the world are threatened by any and all such traditional social differentiations.

There is a strong motive, then, within the Ordain Women movement to actively disguise and repress the role that intellectuals play within it.  For starters, and most obviously, there is a moderately strong aversion to intellectualism within the church, backed by numerous warnings against trusting in the reasoning of man.  The reason for this have already been discussed in this post.  Another more subtle reason is that the image of freeing LDS women from male hegemony serves to deemphasize the true shift in power which is really taking place according to the doctrine of false consciousness.  By offering themselves and their authority as a competitive alternative to the priesthood or, worse still, the standard against which the priesthood is to be measured, the intellectuals do not empower women with the priesthood so much as they empower themselves by delegitimizing the priesthood altogether.  In other words, by focusing on who should be able to eat from the priesthood pie, intellectuals distract us from their gradual dismantling of that pie.

By now I hope it is clear who is and is not the villain in my story.  I have no problem with women being ordained (I have made exactly zero arguments against such a thing) and I see LDS activists who rally for female ordination no differently than they see LDS women who actively resist it: as unsuspecting and largely innocent pawns in a larger power struggle.  The belligerents in this battle are, as usual, the tradition of prophecy/priesthood and the intellectual culture of critical discourse.  The alternatives before us, then, are not gender equality vs. chauvinism in the priesthood, for this is a false consciousness forced upon us to disguise the true power struggle between intellectuals and priesthood leaders.

If, however, you sincerely and prayerfully insist that women ought to be ordained (and I am in no place to question your personal revelation on the subject), there have been and still are ways of pursuing this goal which do not undermine the very authority which you seek to give women.  The daughters of Zelophehad, for example, went through the proper channels of priesthood authority in order to seek what they thought was right.  Many women in the early church also sought greater priesthood authority in a way which served to reinforce the very authority which they then received to some degree.  At no point has the Lord ever tolerated, let alone encouraged the faithful to seek blessings such as these through “outside” channels like those of the intellectuals.

If you want women to be ordained, fine, but organizing symposia, writing articles and books, blogging, putting out podcasts and outright protesting are not the ways to do it.  These outside channels for change only serve to transfer legitimacy to the intellectuals and away from the priesthood authority which you are supposed to be seeking.  The only way that women can truly come to enjoy the full blessings and responsibilities that come with holding the priesthood, then, is by prayerfully, humbly and discreetly seeking that change through the proper priesthood channels.


  1. Yes, this is right on. Unfortunately, those who it would most benefit I think are least likely to understand this logic. For all the ‘intellect’ the self-professed intellectuals ought to have, I have found that it is strangely difficult for them to grasp the concept of anything being beyond rightful criticism.

    Comment by SteveF — September 26, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  2. Brilliant!

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 27, 2013 @ 4:38 am

  3. Yes. When I try to gently point to much of what you say, there is predictably extreme and vehement pushback. Expect some outraged responses.

    And I have also found that intelligence: the ability to analyze, isn’t often found in intellectualism. It’s a strange sort of dogma.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 4:50 am

  4. “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

    –George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”, 1945.

    I can’t dredge up the quote, but I believe Orwell also heatedly rejected the labeling of himself as an intellectual.

    One of the best discussions of intellectuals as an economic class (which they most certainly are) rather than as people of unusual intelligence (which they quite often are not) is given in Thomas Sowell’s “Knowledge and Decisions”, which I heartily recommend.

    Comment by Vader — September 27, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  5. When I was young and a young adult the same arguments were made against those who advocated or believed people of all races should have full priesthood and temple ordinances in mortality. That we werent “following or sustaining” the prophet, that we were allowing human and secular philosophical beliefs override core Mormon principles.

    Comment by davidh — September 27, 2013 @ 8:08 am

  6. “those who advocated or believed”

    As I clearly repeated many times in the post, I’m not arguing against these things. I’m only arguing against certain ways of doing these things. The last few paragraphs are specifically aimed at arguing that there are appropriate ways of doing those things.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 8:18 am

  7. Please outline and describe the appropriate methods.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 8:21 am

  8. Ah, yes. The “this is just like racial issues” trump card that utterly fails to address the actual point.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 8:21 am

  9. Read the post and figure it out, Howard. I gave two examples of women who did it the correct way.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  10. Jeff G, we both know “proper channels” and “appropriate ways” amount to a Catch 22, one’s request remains local.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  11. Tell that to Zelophehad’s daughters.

    Either way, you have not addressed the point of the post.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  12. I love this. The last four paragraphs are fantastic, and summarize the core issues quite well.

    Comment by ldsphilosopher — September 27, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  13. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I have a tough time seeing how priesthood in the eternities connects to the male anatomy, but like others, Ordain Women leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I do find it interesting that so many people, who aren’t part of the church’s leadership, are so interested in pushing conformance on these women. If they don’t have the right to petition, I’m not sure anyone else has the right to tell them to stop. Then again, it makes for good discussion.

    You’ve given some ways on what they should do and how (i.e. Zelophedad’s daughters), but as I pointed out in another post, we’ve outgrown the ability to ask the top brass questions. The chain of command and letter writing approaches both leave so much to be desired. So how does a group of people ask about a policy or doctrine that they simply can’t make sense of?

    I do worry that the movement will accidentally persuade people to leave the church, but I don’t think you’ve really given useful alternatives on how they can request the prophet’s consideration, and I sure as heck can’t think of any myself.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  14. I’m a little confused – aren’t the “symposia, books and articles, blogs and podcasts” (though can’t help highlighting the irony of a blogger critiquing the use of blogs) fundamentally a means of having a discussion?

    And is not the Ordain Women’s movement doing exactly what the daughter’s of Zelophehad did? Yes, they are stating their belief that women should be ordained. But they are seeking that ordination from their priesthood leaders.

    They are not (despite one example I know of, which is rejected by most supporters) seeking out lay priesthood holders to ordain them, but rather asking for the privilege of receiving the priesthood from those who have the keys.

    This is also why they asked for tickets as Women (rather than getting male supporters to get them tickets), and why they will wait in line for stand-by tickets as Women. They don’t want to “sneak in”. They are asking for admittance because they view themselves as potential future priesthood holders. I.e. – they have a hope and they are acting in faith on that hope.

    If we’re open to the possibility of a revelation changing the limitation to men-only (a possibility our late prophet acknowledge), and if we recognize that most (all?) revelations have come from asking questions, why are we bothered by these women asking the question?

    It seems to me that the real problem most people have is that they are asking Publicly.

    But why does that bother us so much?

    Do we imagine that the daughters of Zelophehad slunk into Moses tent by night, lest someone see them and ask “hey, why do you want to talk to Moses?”

    Comment by Leonard R — September 27, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  15. Well, I was actually addressing the last few paragraphs of the post (#6).

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  16. Jeff G,

    The point I am most glad to see you emphasize is the non-LDS core of the “philosophy” of the Ordain Women movement. I would have more sympathy for this stunt if it could not be summarized as “I have prayed about this, and the First Presidency and Twelve are wrong. I am therefore going to embarrass them by attempting to attend a meeting where I have been told I will not be admitted. I will then embarrass them further by having a press conference immediately afterword. Look at MEEEE!!”

    In many ways, reading the blogs where the OW rules, reminds me of the story of the New York socialite, commenting on Nixon’s win over McGovern: “I can’t imagine how he possibly could have won. Nobody I know voted for him!”

    Why not build on historical precedent from within the Church, like the old practice of healing (done without ordination), or current practice, like administering in the temple (done without ordination)? Continue to build on the incorporation of womens’ organizations in leadership councils? There will soon be an army of returned female missionaries with skills that the Church needs to take advantage of. Build on that.

    Comment by CS Eric — September 27, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  17. As someone who has “agitated” through proper channels and in the proper way, it’s a flat-out lie that it doesn’t reach the prophet. It does. And I’m so weary of people pretending like their behavior is justified because no one is listening to them.

    It’s just like a toddler who thinks if they holler loudly enough, their mother will buy them the candy bar. They just don’t have the capacity to consider that what they think is best just might be wrong.

    The real problem is that change doesn’t happen fast enough to suit those who think they can do a better job of running the church than those who have been called to do it.

    What I find ironic is that those who want the “priesthood power” so badly show an utter lack of understanding of what the power of God truly is. There is no way to gain the powers of heaven through an attitude of compulsion, dominion, or control. By appealing to what agitators see as the bigger power of the media, they are denying the power of God by their very actions.

    And, sadly, without understanding of the priesthood power, they take credit for any “progress” made when it is actually the unseen and humble supplicants working through proper channels and through the Spirit of God who will make change. This will be painfully obvious to them in time, and I’m sorry for it. This is why I feel free to warn them that their methods are inappropriate. Because I care about them, empathize with them, and want them to access the power of God in truth.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 10:18 am

  18. It’s not my job to give alternatives. It’s the Lord’s job, and He certainly has given them (even if you have chosen to argue against them).

    The size of the church has nothing to do with the proportionate size of the request. If enough of the membership were writing letters and speaking to their priesthood leaders, the top brass certainly would get the message. But that isn’t happening, and if it is happening then we know what the answer is.

    The real problem, then, is not that the proper channels aren’t effective anymore (what a desperate position!), but that this particular question simply doesn’t have enough support within the church, just like the very first paragraph of the post says.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 10:21 am

  19. It is worth noting that not a single criticism has been raised pertaining to the main argument of my post.

    Edit: Whoops! Might have spoken too soon.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  20. SR, if agitators have no influence why do you care what they do?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 10:24 am

  21. Leonard R.,

    I would agree that their asking for tickets to the session was definitely in line with the daughters of Zelophehad. That is definitely a case of going through the proper channels. They have now gotten their answer from the proper channels: no.

    Ignoring that answer and rallying public support through the means detailed in the post are definitely NOT what the daughters of Zelophehad did.

    In the end, you did not address the false consciousness which I identity in the post, but have actually reinforced it by repressing the way in which the movement serves to delegitimize priesthood authority rather than open it up to others.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  22. Howard,

    They have no legitimate influence. The agitators certainly do have an influence in their undermining of priesthood authority. The only legitimate influence within a priesthood organization such as the church comes from above, not below.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 10:34 am

  23. If enough of the membership were writing letters and speaking to their priesthood leaders,

    Interesting. The first choice seems to permit a letter writing campaign or petition. You’re not against this?

    The second…maybe. The church organization may be inspired, but let’s not forget the bureaucracy of it. The point is, if you said something to your bishop, how would you ever know it got up to the top unless the top sent the message right back down?

    If you never got a message, what should you assume? What if your bishop or stake president, or anyone along the line thought you shouldn’t ask this and said something like, “you know, I already know what the right answer is, and I’m sorry for bothering you, but I have a woman in my ward who is pretty angry that she doesn’t have the priesthood, and is demanding it. What should I tell her?” This is not like the Zelophedad’s daughter’s precedent. The middleman communicator makes this disanalogous.

    As for your main post, I take issue with some of the points, but you already knew that.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  24. DavidF,

    I don’t see any reason why letter written to church leaders (and to them alone!) would be out of line. I don’t see anything delegitimizing to the priesthood in this at all.

    That is the main point which comments like yours continue to repress: that circumventing the priesthood in order to give it to women delegitimizes the very priesthood which you wish to give them. I don’t particularly care what the dis-analogies are with my examples since these are only distractions from the real struggle for legitimacy which is at issue here.

    So many of these comments only serve to prove the point that I am made in the post: that intellectual desperately want to repress the core influence which they are playing in the movement and will do so by any number of distracting issues which do not speak to the true core of the matter. This is no different that the church giving evasive answers to the question of women’s ordination.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  25. I wouldn’t call it false consciousness but people do seem to wake up and leave the traditional role for a more egalitarian role far more often than they wake up and do the opposite.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 11:22 am

  26. “I wouldn’t call it false consciousness”

    You can call it whatever you want, it’s the exact same thing that the movement says alienates LDS women.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 11:25 am

  27. The church subtly cultivates a Pollyanna denial culture. When church leaders placate women by putting them on a pedestal some see it some don’t and others don’t want to see it.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  28. Just like I clearly articulated in the post, intellectuals do the exact same thing to activists within social movements. Very few see it.

    The reasoning is exactly the same.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  29. But there is direction to consciousness raising, when people wake up they move more more eglaritarian. Slavery predates wtitten history but today it is illegal in every country in the world. The majority of humankind came to the conclusion that it is selfevident one person should not own another!

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

  30. That’s exactly my point: that as intellectuals raise consciousness among people, these people tend to legitimize the intellectual interpretation of egalitarianism. This does not get rid of inequality so much as transform it to the advantage of the intellectuals. Again, you legitimizing the false consciousness of the intellectuals in order to disguise and repress the fact that it is their interests that are primarily served in these movements, not those of the people whose oppressors are being replaced rather than banished.

    If you are merely saying that as a matter of fact, more people seem to be embracing the values advocated by intellectuals rather than those of priesthood leaders, I simply don’t see the relevance.

    If you are saying that people ought to embrace the values advocated by intellectuals rather than those of priesthood leaders, then you are clearly being subversive to the church.

    Edit: In one case, your pretensions to neutrality serve as a mechanism of repression which distracts from the intellectual subversion of priesthood authority. In the other case, rather than disguising the subversion of priesthood authority, you openly and fully embrace it. I am only using the exact same tools and arguments by which LDS women’s objections to the Ordain Women movement are delegitimized.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

  31. Read my comment, Howard. It answers your question succinctly. Things like this prove to me that you don’t have the least intention of doing anything but trying to cause contention. This is why your comments aren’t generally worth responding to.

    I have more interest in the outcome and the process than you, who isn’t even part of the LDS faith.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

  32. Jeff G, who are the intellectuals behind ending slavery and black inequality and how have they benefited?

    SR, personal attacks now?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  33. Jeff G,

    Interesting. Forgive me for assuming, but a lot of people find the idea of mass letter writing as offensive as any other maneuver, and so I assumed you fell into that camp. I think you and I are probably closer on this issue than we are apart. Like I said, Ordain Women rubs me the wrong way even though I’m sympathetic to many of their ideas. But the gist of your post (in my mind) is that the organization is basically working against themselves without realizing it. I think your right about that.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  34. *BOL* I said that you are only trying to cause contention, since you didn’t read what I wrote (as you normally don’t.) And I said you’re not even LDS, thereby highlighting your hypocrisy. That’s not a personal attack, it’s exposing you for what you are.

    You asked me why I care. I pointed out that you have no right to ask me that question, given what you are and what you are not. Sophistry takes a great deal more finesse than you show to fool me.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  35. Maybe we should try to leave out the ad homonyms…

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

  36. It’s not an ad hominem attack, DavidF. Ad hominems are when the person is attacked in lieu of their points. Howard has no point, but is setting himself up as a moral authority, trying to call my concern into question. It is a pointed and applicable refutation to call HIS right to that position into question.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  37. Howard,

    There are a couple points worth making here. First of all, I am discussing social movements and their attempts at undermining traditional social distinctions. A better example of this would probably be the civil rights movement which was very clearly headed by intellectuals. I’m not terribly familiar with the end of slavery around the world, but the example of the US civil war could not be any clearer of a demonstration of my point.

    If you’d asked anybody from the south what the war was about, they would not have given the same answer as the north did. Again, we have a clear case of repressed consciousness. The north saw the war as being about freeing slaves from their oppressing masters. The south, on the other hand, saw the war as being about resisting the cosmopolitan and intellectual culture which was being forced on them by foreigners. Again, there was at bottom a struggle for legitimacy which was won and then papered over with a false consciousness by the north.

    Like I said in the post, this is not to say that these movements did not help blacks in any way (they very clearly did). But it must be admitted that as far as the legitimizing effects which these movements had on various cultures and authorities, the clearest benefactor was not the blacks or the south, but the northern cosmopolitan intellectuals. One form of hegemonic domination was substituted for another in that the entire south, both slave and freeman were now compelled to adopt the culture and values of the north.

    To summarize, the exact same methods of social critique by which the beliefs and desires of LDS women are delegitimized, we can also use to delegitimize the beliefs and desires of members of the Ordain Women movement or our own beliefs and desires about the civil war. The only way in which you can resist this process of delegitimization is by rejecting social critique and its notion of false consciousness, thereby allowing the LDS women to speak for themselves in rejecting the priesthood ordination.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  38. It’s an old Jedi mind-trick. The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — September 27, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  39. David,

    I don’t have any objection to letter writing as such. But publicly recruiting people to do this is not the same as actually doing this. One thing is about bringing concerns and question to the proper authoritative venue. The other is about utilizing a public venue outside of and in competition with that proper authority.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  40. Jim, I totally ripped this off from your site:

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

  41. the clearest benefactor was not the blacks or the south, but the northern cosmopolitan intellectuals.

    That might not be your view had you been a slave Jeff G! And one of the problems of being a salve is that you are powerless to change your situation yourself.

    So, by retaining slavery weare show those northern cosmopolitan intellectuals who’s boss?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  42. So, by retaining slavery we are able to show those northern cosmopolitan intellectuals who’s boss?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  43. What are you talking about?

    LDS women overwhelmingly oppose the ordination of women. Blacks did not opposed emancipation.

    Again, you are disguising and repressing the transfer of legitimacy that is at the core of the Ordain Women movement.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

  44. I was addressing your third paragraph in 37. Yes I agree LDS women overwhelmingly oppose the ordination of women but there but support is growing and more LDS men support it than women so at some point in the future it may reach a majority.

    Again, you are disguising and repressing the transfer of legitimacy… What are you talking about?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

  45. Facepalm! If you can’t understand what I mean by that sentence then maybe you need to read the post again.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  46. Okay, well take a deep breath and then describe how I disguised and repressed. the transfer of legitimacy

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  47. SilverRain,

    An ad homonym attack is when you discredit a person’s position or opinion based on one of their traits. So invalidating someone’s opinion because they aren’t a member is a great example of an ad homonym.

    I think we end up with a better conversation when we focus on the arguments.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

  48. Btw, I am a member.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

  49. And then I just realized I’ve been spelling hominem wrong. Oops. It’s Friday. That’s my excuse.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

  50. You continue to reinforce the notion that the Ordain Women movement is about emancipating women when the entire point of the post – a point which you have studiously avoided and repressed – is that the movement is really about a transfer in the legitimization of authority. You have yet to address the main argument the movement is more in the interest of intellectuals than it is in the interest of LDS women. You have yet to address the claim that at bottom, the movement is a zero-sum battle between conflicting traditions of legitimization and authority.

    Instead, you keep disguising the main point, which seriously compromises the movement, by focusing on issues which the never raises (the accessibility of church leaders, slavery, etc.)

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

  51. DavidF,

    Sadly, this post pretty much is about ad hominem attacks. After all, the opinions of LDS women are discredited because they are LDS women. I am discrediting the opinions of the Ordain Women movement because they are a part of that movement. If we really want to throw ad hominem arguments out the window, then the Ordain Women movement never gets off the ground.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  52. “In other words, by focusing on who should be able to eat from the priesthood pie, intellectuals distract us from their gradual dismantling of that pie.”


    I confess I struggle a little with all of this simply because I want change to come because God found us ready for it and not because either a) some loud minority corrected the deaf/hardened leadership or because b) the Leadership is more worried about what “man” thinks. Either way leadership seems behind and makes me wonder why “revelation” that brings change is reactionary rather prophetic.

    Comment by Riley — September 27, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  53. Thanks Riley. That sentence is exactly what describes Howard behavior in this thread.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  54. A transfer of legitimacy is not the goal nor is it my goal. But it becomes the byproduct of more altruistic goals. Why? The secular world was able to see looooong before LDS prophets, seers and revelators that blacks weren’t what LDS prophets had been saying they were and when our proactive near infallible prophets finally got around to inquiring of the Lord they finally learned the secular world was right and they were wrong! Now that did transfer some legitimacy!

    How do you know we’re not in a replay regarding women and gays?

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

  55. That’s just it, DavidF. I wasn’t discrediting his opinion/argument/points about the movement because he isn’t a member. I was 1) explaining why I wasn’t going to engage his opinion, and 2) why he had no basis to question why I care about what agitators do.

    That is not ad hominem. Ad hominem would be if I said “You are wrong because you are not a member.”

    What I did was point out that the question he directed towards me was 1) already answered, and 2) wasn’t worth explaining to him further because he was asking it under false pretenses.

    Seriously: go back and look over the exchange. I never once tried to refute his points. It is impossible to have a logical fallacy when you aren’t addressing points to begin with. He wasn’t making any towards me TO be addressed in the first place. His comment was far closer to ad hominem than mine, as he was answering an argument I made with a “what do you care” question.

    You cannot legitimately shut me up by claiming that I’m not focusing on the arguments. You’re the one who accused me of ad hominem, and I have every right to defend myself. If you don’t want to spin the conversation in that direction, than don’t start it to begin with.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  56. If you would like to educate yourself on ad hominem fallacies so you don’t accuse people of it improperly, this is a very good source:


    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

  57. And, finally, it is very much applicable to the OP because Howard’s motivations in engaging in these kinds of conversations is EXACTLY because he wants to delegitimize the priesthood authority within the Church. It is obvious from this and many other conversations I’ve had with him. He has no faith in the LDS structure, and armchair agitates against it for that reason. He is one of the people whose true motives are what Jeff G outlines, and not really to give women the authority of God by ordaining them to the priesthood.

    Though I would consider him more of a scavenger than a mover and shaker.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  58. Jeff G.,

    What you’re doing is fine, and doesn’t really count as ad hominem (it sort of is, but not in the discourteous, fallacious way). What would be wrong would be to say to a poster, “Your a member of Ordain Women, so clearly your opinion doesn’t count.” That would be a genuine ad hominem. I was responding to #34, which is not unlike the quote I made up, and which I don’t think has any place in an otherwise reasonable discussion.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

  59. SilverRain, don’t worry, I know what an ad hominem is. My logic class in college wasn’t totally worthless. Howard has a way of dodging arguments, but looking back, I still find an ad hominem defense (defense being slightly more appropriate than attack in this instance). Howard’s a big boy who can look after himself, but there are ways to argue without getting overly heated.

    But please don’t think I’m trying to shut you up. First, I’m pretty sure that would be abuse of the blogging privilege Geoff J gave me, and second, I think you have insightful comments.

    That’s all I have to say on the matter.

    Comment by DavidF — September 27, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  60. Howard,

    “A transfer of legitimacy is not the goal nor is it my goal.”

    Sorry, but once you go down the path of social critique, you don’t get the final say on your goals in the same way that LDS Women don’t.

    Again, nobody was talking about the race issue (an issue about which you assume A LOT!). Stop repressing the point at issue.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  61. SR,

    I think I can vouch for DavidF to some extent in saying that he certainly meant no offense. We all share the same frustrations with Howard and the argumentative shell-games that he plays, but I think DF was jut trying to ensure that our discussions remain open to well-meaning non-members.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  62. Thanks, DavidF. I’ve been cyber harassed by Howard multiple times on my blog and elsewhere. With my experience of him, I do not often engage with him for this reason on any level, and I do not give him the benefit of the doubt any more.

    I hope you understand that this experience with him, gives me good reason to shut down any attempt by him to engage with me. I only explained why I am not answering his question (what you are calling ad hominem) for the benefit of others.

    I still maintain it is not ad hominem if I’m explaining why I’m not engaging his points, rather than trying to refute his points.

    I do appreciate that you are not trying to shut me up. Please give me the benefit of the doubt that I have good reason for responding to him as I do, since I VERY rarely respond to anyone so firmly.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  63. I assure you, Jeff G. that the only reason I brought up his lack of faith in the Church was because he was questioning MY interest in the topic. It was his sophistry and hypocrisy in questioning why I cared that I was calling out, not his lack of membership.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 27, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

  64. I never doubted any of that. :)

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  65. SR the personal comments you aim at me are largely untrue and certainly unkind. It’s unfortunate you often choose to make it personal. I don’t act that way toward you.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

  66. Sorry, but once you go down the path of social critique, you don’t get the final say on your goals in the same way that LDS Women don’t. What are you trying to say here? That I don’t know my goal(s)? Please explain.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

  67. Hi Jeff. I have enjoyed your blog for the last couple of years. It has often been thought provoking for me, especially since you seem to have a position that is much more conservative than my own, and it helps me to think out why I think and believe the way that I do. Thank you!

    I’d like to begin my response by responding to one part of your thesis: that the use of intellectual methods in the assessment of our progress toward Zion is necessarily and categorically hostile to the progress of the church. I am an intellectual. I pay the bills by thinking, teaching, and doing research. In my journey to achieve the necessary education to become an intellectual, I picked up several tools that enable me to analyze myself and society, including my religion. This includes the tools of “critical theory”, which often entails the application of Marxist critiques. I have made a covenant to consecrate my talents to the church for the building up of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion. I believe that this includes my intellectual talents, and I think that this is probably true for other intellectuals who are members of the church. I am reminded of the song “The Little Drummer Boy”, who had nothing to offer the Savior at his birth but the pitter patter of his humble drum. I am confident that although I have little money to offer the church, my intellectual talents and tools are an acceptable offering to the Savior. It is difficult to know what is in the hearts of men, and women for that matter. It may be unfair to paint all intellectuals with a broad brush, declaring that because they use intellectual tools, they must be serving some master other than the Savior, or that they are merely pawns of some nefarious agent hostile to Zion.

    It may be that the folks at Ordain Women define what it means to sustain the leaders of the church differently than you do. For some people, sustaining includes presenting a dissenting opinion in the spirit of building up Zion, not necessarily the spirit of contention. I think that it is fair to point out that we as rank and file members of the church don’t really have access to the men whose duty it is to seek for revelation regarding the policies, doctrines and practices of the church. We are counseled not to write letters directly to the brethren– rather to make our concerns known to our Bishop, who hopefully will make them known to the stake president, who hopefully will make them known to regional general authorities, etc. etc. etc. after which we may not receive an answer to our questions or requests. This seems to be the written and unwritten order of things in the church. It may not be immoral to violate the unwritten order of things in order to boldly go before the throne of grace. Indeed, there seem to be several examples in the Savior’s ministry of folks who were audacious in their questioning and request for blessings that violated custom. It seems that Ordain Women plans on doing just such a thing next week. The Gentile woman who asked for blessings from the Savior was probably shocking to those in attendance who supped with him, but Jesus rewarded her faith. Ask and ye shall receive indeed!

    After reading your OP, I went to the Ordain Women website to read what they have to say about themselves and their mission. They claim that seek priesthood authority not “coerce, dominate, or control others” but to “enhance our ability to bless and serve others.” Can we not take them at their word? Must their methods be suspect because they employ intellectual tools in their examination of themselves and their church? I think that their fruits will become apparent in the next few weeks. Kate Kelly has said that it is their intention to peacefully wait in line for entry to the priesthood session, and that they do not intend to force their way into the meeting, but they will peacefully convene elsewhere if they are not allowed into the conference center. We’ll find out next week if that actually happens or not.
    In regard to “false consciousness”, I concede that the materials I have read and listened to from Ordain Women seem to imply that the women of the church who do not desire to be ordained have somehow been duped into a false consciousness that is subservient to the status quo. I don’t necessarily agree that women need to have ordination to the priesthood in order to be fully involved in the power and decision-making processes of the church. I think we’re seeing a change in the cultural ideas that have excluded women from many of these processes. I think that they and others may conflate power with priesthood. I totally see your point that it could be perceived that the actions of appearing at the door of the conference center in order to make an end run around their bishops, stake presidents, etc. could be interpreted as a usurping of priesthood authority in order to gain the same priesthood authority. I see the irony there. But again, maybe they just don’t see it that way. And they may have valid reasons for that. Just because their audacious request is so bold and unconventional is no reason to categorically impute impure motives to them. Finally, I believe the Lord has acknowledged the possibility of unrighteous dominion, and even the potential for the development of false consciousness in Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. If the use of critical theory helps me identify the beam that is in my eye so that I can remove it and bring forth fruits that enable me to help in the establishment of Zion, isn’t that a good thing? Perhaps they believe the same.

    Comment by Josh — September 27, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  68. Jeff … this is a fantastic post that has generated some very good comments along with some that serve merely to reinforce your thesis.
    I do want to respond to Josh’s criticism briefly. He defends the use of his intellectual tools as merely a part of his consecration of his efforts and talents to the Lord, and suggests that the Ordain Women leaders may be just doing the same thing. It is laudable to consecrate your time and talents to building up the kingdom of God, there is no complaint there. However, merely having a gift or a set of tools doesn’t presuppose that the use you make of it will be in the interests of building up Zion.
    Additionally, I would argue that reliance on such a toolkit is anathema to the manner in which the Church should be governed. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Somehow I think that “the application of Marxist critiques” doesn’t bridge that gap, and is likely counterproductive. Merely having a tool or a skill doesn’t necessarily make it helpful or useful, and any tool can be used counterproductively. Speaking as a lawyer, I am very cognizant of this. I have a set of tools that serve me well professionally, but I have to be careful about how I apply those to my gospel study and church service. The Lord, the Bishop and the Quorum of the 12 aren’t opposing counsel, and I have to be careful not to use those tools where they aren’t useful. Otherwise, I am substituting my understanding and reasoning for listening to the Spirit and heeding the counsel of those that have stewardship over me and my family.
    Josh also suggests that “for some people, sustaining includes presenting a dissenting opinion in the spirit of building up Zion.” I am tempted to merely dismiss this as a ludicrous comment, because I do consider it ludicrous. Does anyone honestly think that these men and women and building Zion by their very public arguments that the brethren and the Church is wrong in not ordaining women? They may well be consecrating their talents, but they are not consecrating them to the Church or to the Lord.

    Comment by Michael — September 27, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

  69. Regarding #54

    Howard, could you please explain what exactly you claim LDS prophets “thought blacks were” (with sources) and why they were wrong?

    Comment by Eso — September 27, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  70. The OP is a very fragile thesis because it is a flimsy mental construct that pretends to stand in for what is really going on and as a result fails to understand the substance of consciousness raising! It is not a Marxist theory of failed consciousness, that assumes a capitalist society misleads the proletariat. This is not an argument of competing economic systems and substituting this Marxist propaganda theory for consciousness raising is sleight of thought that greatly discounts and cheapens consciousness raising!

    There is much more to it, consciousness raising has both substance and direction it is NOT an arbitrary political model that can be equally applied to both sides. What is it’s substance and direction? It is a move TOWARD loving our neighbors like ourselves! It is a move toward loving blacks, women, gays and any other subclass rather than holding them down or showing them the back of the bus.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

  71. Josh,

    You obviously put a lot of time, thought and heart into that comment. What I took from it is that intellectuals aren’t necessarily all that bad. I mostly agree with you here. I would certainly place myself at the fringe of intellectual culture (in case that wasn’t obvious from the post). My point has always been that it is good to be learned in the culture of critical discourse, so long as it is constrained by prophecy/priesthood rather than the other way around. The tools of the intellectual, are just that, tools which can be used on some tasks to great benefit. But you know as well as I do that intellectualism does not allow itself to be contained to readily. Again, the definition of intellectualism is that you cannot justify any claim at all by an appeal to authority, which is exactly what the tradition of priesthood/prophecy entails.

    As I said in the post, I view the intellectual in the exact same way that they view the typical LDS woman: they are very good people who have nothing but the best intentions. But this doesn’t stop the intellectuals from standing in critical judgment of them, and it shouldn’t stop us from standing in critical judgment of the intellectual.

    “Can we not take them at their word?”

    I cannot, for the exact same reason why the intellectual is not willing to take LDS women at their word. There truly is a zero-sum struggle for legitimacy at play here, and it is nigh impossible to remain neutral… at least that’s how a consistent critical theorist would see it.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

  72. Eso,
    As you are probably aware there were many including the curse of Cain and Ham being neutral or “less valiant” in the pre-existence or in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God.

    This article quotes Darius Aidan Gray, in 2007, saying “I think the most damning statement came from one of the presidents of the church, the third president of the church, John Taylor. Basically, he said that the reason that black people had been allowed to come through the flood, the flood of Noah, was so that Satan would have representation upon the earth, that black folks were here to represent Satan and to have a balance against white folks, who were here to represent Jesus Christ, the savior. How do you damn a people more than to say that their existence upon the earth is to represent Satan?”

    That quote and others can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_people_in_Mormon_doctrine

    So while LDS prophets used various apparently groundless rationalizations to try to justify the policy of withholding priesthood and temple blessings the secular world via. activism and agitation carried out a discussion, debate, argument that resulted in the consciousness raising of this nation finally reaching the conclusion that blacks were people too and should be treated as such. You know the history, the church after a considerable lag followed suit.

    Comment by Howard — September 27, 2013 @ 11:32 pm

  73. Howard,

    How can you be so absolutely convinced that these assertions you make are right? What qualifies you to pronounce such harsh judgments on the Lord’s anointed? You seem to know far more about the OW movement, the thoughts and motives of church leaders and the true aspirations of intellectuals than anybody else here. Why are your interpretations, the motives that you assign necessarily the proper ones?

    Comment by Jeff G — September 27, 2013 @ 11:43 pm

  74. Jeff G wrote: How can you be so absolutely convinced that these assertions you make are right? Well it depends on which assertions we’re talking about but generally I know from personal revelation.

    What qualifies you to pronounce such harsh judgments on the Lord’s anointed? They are not my harsh judgements, BRM did it for all the world to hear: There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year. And SWK did it when he explained his beliefs about revelation and experience obtaining OD2.

    Why are your interpretations, the motives that you assign necessarily the proper ones? I could ask the same of you, my answer is personal revelation, what is yours?

    Please address #70.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 12:06 am

  75. Howard,

    You have failed to both accurately convey what prophets “thought blacks were” and explain exactly how they were wrong.

    You have no citations other than a quote that amounts to hearsay. You implied that the prophets didn’t think blacks were people (via “finally reaching the conclusion that blacks were people too”) yet provide no evidence that the prophets actually thought something so ridiculous as people not being people. I’m not aware of any statement even supposedly made by a prophet that suggests as much.

    You say that there were many things (?) that prophets thought black people were, such as being decedents of Cain and less valiant in the pre-existence. You assert that they were wrong about such concepts, but how so? How exactly were they wrong about that and where is your evidence?

    Finally, you seem to have this idea that the prophets used withholding the priesthood as a form of punishment against black people. Even if you had made your case that all the prophets were racist, you have still failed to provide evidence that the priesthood restriction was a consequence of racism and not a consequence of the Lord’s will. After all, a person can be obligated to uphold a principle even if they have a differing personal opinion.

    You simply asserting that the Lord wanted black people to receive the priesthood sooner but the prophets stubbornly resisted does not make it true. You have provided no evidence that your assertion has any merit, so why should anyone take your position seriously?

    Comment by Eso — September 28, 2013 @ 1:14 am

  76. Eso,
    According to Edward L. Kimball’s BYU Studies article (.pdf):

    The first known direct statement by a Church President that blacks were denied the priesthood came from Brigham Young in February 1849 when he said of “the Africans”: “The curse remained upon them because Cain cut off the lives of Abel. . . . The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”

    In 1852, Wilford Woodruff reported that Brigham Young, speaking to the Utah territorial legislature, took personal responsibility for articulating the restriction: “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane [sic] in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it.”

    Despite the now-official, public “we don’t know” position, most leaders still privately stood by the traditional twentieth-century explanation that
    a spirit’s premortal conduct justified priesthood restriction in mortality. Joseph Fielding Smith, who succeeded President McKay, was among those
    most consistently supporting the traditional views,

    Spencer’s [Kimball] personal position toward blacks was the uneasy and ultimately unsatisfactory one of “separate but equal.” Even though he was in favor of equality, he strongly opposed integration because the partners in a
    mixed marriage could not be sealed in the temple and their children would be similarly limited.

    In April 1976, Douglas A. Wallace, an elder living in Vancouver,Washington, took it upon himself to baptize and ordain a black man in
    defiance of Church policy. He was soon after excommunicated. Some members openly criticized Church leaders for failing to revoke the priesthood restriction and drew up a petition. The
    document asked President Kimball to “modify previous statements on interracial marriage and make a firm commitment” about when black men could be ordained.

    Spencer: I had a great deal to fight…myself, largely, because I had grown up with this thought that Negroes should not have the priesthood and I was prepared to go all the rest of my life until my death and fight for it and defend it as it was.

    Kimball’s statement which began; I had a great deal to fight…myself, largely… is a clear and candid admission of his bias.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 6:55 am

  77. Eso,
    Citations were provided by the article I linked to. Don’t be such a literalist, clearly LDS prophets said things that indicated they believed blacks as somehow less that others for a variety of apparently baseless reasons.

    The secular US majority after introspection triggered by much activism, agitation, debate and dialog the eventually came to the conclusion that blacks were not less than others. This conclusion preceded LDS coming to the same conclusion by considerable lag time.

    How exactly were they wrong about that and where is your evidence? Those positions were abandoned by the church and by BRM’s “We spoke with a limited understanding…” quote above.

    Eso, “punishment” is your word.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 7:13 am

  78. From the opening paragraph, you state “…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.”
    I think OW also presses forward with little regard for the broader implications of what they ask.

    1) If women receive the priesthood, generally will that encourage men to be more or less involved in the Christ-like service that PH responsibility promotes/requires? (Who has never heard, “If you really want to get it done, ask the Relief Society”?)
    2) Is the ordination of women another statement that men really are superfluous (i.e., “fish without a bicycle”)?

    Comment by mondo cool — September 28, 2013 @ 7:25 am

  79. mondo cool,

    I think those broader implications probably aren’t relevant. One thing I appreciate about Ordain Women is that they’ve tried to overturn some of the ugly stereotypes that many Mormons have passively come to accept.

    For example, your first point asks if women having the priesthood will influence men to offer less Christ-like service. I think, and forgive me if I’m assuming too much, that this question rests on the old adage: Men need the priesthood to help them get the charity and spirituality that women naturally have. I think this assumption diminishes men. It aligns closely with the pop culture equivalent in many sit coms where the woman is naturally capable and the man is a bumbling clown. I see no reason why we should accept these ideas.

    And it seems a little bit of a stretch to say that women getting the priesthood could make men obsolete. I don’t think the episcopalians have had this problem.

    The point is, and to broaden my answers a bit, one positive aspect of intellectualism is that it serves as a great tool to strip off superflous folk beliefs from divine teachings. I find that invaluable.

    Comment by DavidF — September 28, 2013 @ 7:51 am

  80. DavidF,
    Interesting that you mention Episcopalians. I remember back in the 1969 /1970 era reading an article in the Houston Chronicle about the first, young female Acolyte in the largest Episcopalian Church in Houston. They had a photograph of her holding the candle lighter/snuffer. She wore a crisp, pressed dress. Her hair was perfect, etc. (Being 16, I also noticed she was very cute.) I contrasted that to what the deacons in the LDS congregation usually looked like. I remember thinking, “If they ever give women the priesthood, the boys will do nothing.” I guess I was a victim of a superfluous folk belief back then.
    I also remember attending an Episcopal Church service back then & saw a good mix of men, women & children in the congregation. I contrast that to my most recent visit at an Episcopalian Church where the women outnumbered the men substantially. The men who were there were mostly “old & gray.” The men who were under 35 did not number more than 5. I did not see any male teens. But, the female Acolytes were there.
    I don’t know, is this a case of intellectualism vs. everyday reality?

    Comment by mondo cool — September 28, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  81. DavidF,

    I think you write off Mondo’s comment along with all folk beliefs which you deem “superfluous” far too casually. But this post isn’t about what effects follow from or whether women should be given the priesthood.

    Nor is it about blacks and the priesthood. Let’s stay on topic people!

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 8:26 am

  82. Howard,

    I did address 70. All you did was make overly confident assertions with out any argument or authoritative support.

    Most importantly, your arguments could just as easily have been spoken by an LDS woman:

    The OW is a flimsy mental construct…. that’s not what priesthood means…. you can’t apply that kind of thinking to women…. yada yada.

    My argument boils down to the following conundrum:

    1) LDS women want to not have the priesthood, and we need a special reason for why we shouldn’t give them what they want.
    2) Any reason that we come up with to deny what LDS women want can be used to deny what OW wants.

    You have yet to provide a single argument or counterexample which is not in conflict with at least one of these.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 8:34 am

  83. Jeff G,
    It’s only a conundrum because your position is simplistically short sighted due to assuming a binomial limitation; EITHER LDS women hold the priesthood OR they do not.

    The fact is some LDS women DO want to hold the priesthood but they are prevented from doing so. How can your conundrum be resolved? Simply by giving women the choice! Allow them to individually choose if they will hold it or not rather than deciding for the entire group.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  84. Having thought about it a bit, those are certainly the points which give my argument a bit of force, but it is not the central argument. My primary contention is that the movement sets up a zero-sum struggle for legitimacy, but it is framed in a way such that for any reply to have force is must not be in conflict with the 2 points in 82.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 8:55 am

  85. Jeff G,

    You’re correct. This post is, in part, about the relative merits of intellectualism, which I’ve pointed to in my reply to mondo.

    Incidentally, I’m surprised that you think I write off the assumption which I think guides mondo’s questions. I was under the impression that since the prophets haven’t offered that assumption as an explanation for having a male-only priesthood, then that assumption is merely an intellectual explanation for a male-only priesthood and thus has no place in our belief system, which shouldn’t have intellectual justifications.

    Comment by DavidF — September 28, 2013 @ 8:58 am

  86. Howard,

    More liberal democratic (intellectual) values! Priesthood is not about choice and preference. It’s about responsibility and expectations. You don’t call for a priesthood ordination(!) but are called to it and are expected to answer that call. Your third option is far more shortsighted, simplistic and most importantly delegitimizing of priesthood authority than either of the other two options.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  87. I was tempted to write “dodge”, I disagree but let’s go with your newly stated central argument: Why is it the movement responsible for setting up a zero-sum struggle for legitimacy and not the church? Aren’t both positions necessary to create it?

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  88. DavidF,

    Only the intellectual would feel compelled to address the assumptions which (must) underlie policies, rationales, etc. Folk beliefs, especially those in Mormon culture, are those which get us to heaven not those which paint a accurate map so that we can get wherever we might happen to want to go.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 9:05 am

  89. Howard,

    That’s like blaming a man for setting up a zero-sum struggle for the money in his pocket since he was the one walking down the dark ally thereby setting up the situation where the mugger pulled a gun on him.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  90. That is a poor analogy and a gross exaggeration! No one is mugging the church or it’s leaders they simply want TSM to ask God for them and report back with the answer like what Moses did for Zelophehad’s daughters.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 9:11 am

  91. Oh sure, that’s what they say about themselves, but they don’t get the final say on what they think, remember? They are under a false consciousness!

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  92. See #70. Remember? False consciousness is a false concept as applied to OW.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 9:34 am

  93. Well if you say so, that’s good enough for me.

    Doesn’t that mean it’s a false concept as applied to LDS women too?

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  94. Yes. The problem here is false consciousness is NOT as your OP implies a substitute or synonym for consciousness raising. Consciousness raising or the lack thereof is what this topic is about not the Marxist concept of failed consciousness which you incorrectly applied here. See #70.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  95. Jeff G,

    You and I have very different ideas of what a folk belief is.

    Comment by DavidF — September 28, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  96. Are you calling consciousness raising folk belief?

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 9:54 am

  97. I never thought it was the same. If anything consciousness raising is supposed to be the antidote to false consciousness.

    So if false consciousness isn’t the justification for ignoring what church members want for their own church, what is? The whole point of the post is that the ideas and values at the heart of the OW movement undermine itself.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 10:00 am

  98. After all, democratic principles, public support and consciousness raising mean nothing to church policy. And even if democratic principles did apply, the OW movement would still be wrong since the church membership is against it. And even if the OW movement is able to discount the church membership being against it, the same reasoning can be used to discount what the OW movement wants.

    The OW movement fails on all 3 fronts.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 10:04 am

  99. DavidF,

    You’re probably right. Folk beliefs, like any other beliefs are just tools which can be used for some purpose. Whether they are good or not depends upon the job to which they are put. In the case of the church, beliefs are tools which are, more than anything else, supposed to get you to heaven.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  100. If anything consciousness raising is supposed to be the antidote to false consciousness. Indeed! Well said!

    How is asking TSM to ask God what is right ignoring what church members want for their own church? Don’t they want what is right?

    The law is based on “what went before” but slavery went before and so did a priesthood and temple ban on blacks and neither were right! So what’s wrong with asking?

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 10:14 am

  101. I feel like I’m in the movie Ground Hog Day.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  102. I know, me too. So that means we’ve been around this circle before. Enough already! Have a great day!

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  103. I don’t expect you to respond, but the original post was meant as a direct response to the thoughts in #100. The whole point of the post is that the consciousness raising of the OWM is NOT the antidote to false consciousness, but merely the substitution of one false consciousness for another. That is why the movement has instigated a zero-sum struggle for legitimacy.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  104. Well, how is that different from arguing the civil rights movement was NOT the antidote to false consciousness, but merely the substitution of one false consciousness for another?

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  105. What do you think my answer to that is? (If you need help, you can read all the comments where I already did answer it.)

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 11:27 am

  106. If you don’t want to answer succinctly and directly, please at least point out the comment numbers so I don’t have to reread all of them.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 11:32 am

  107. Just take an educated guess. What do you think would be the strongest, most defensible response to your question?

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  108. Well rather than play guessing games about your position, here is what I see: After the fact the civil rights movement can clearly and easily be seen as consciousness raising, eventually LDS prophets came to embrace back equality. Were LDS prophets leading this? Obviously not, instead they found themselves responding to it. So if activism and/or agitating has some serious negative gospel side effects to it even if or when they are right, that negative ought to really stand out in the civil rights / ban on blacks issue. Can you point to them?

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

  109. I find it revealing that you call anticipating objections by taking somebody else’s perspective a “guessing games.

    Furthermore, if this is a game, then you guessed wrong. What you just said is obviously not the most defensible response to your question nor is it a response that I ever have or will offer.

    I could answer your question again, but what assurances do I have that you won’t conveniently forget it all over again? Hence, the Ground Hog Day dilemma.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

  110. Perhaps in your condescension you missed it but I declined to guess at your position. Have a nice day Jeff!

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

  111. Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

  112. Yes, I agree that describes this discussion!

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

  113. Howard,

    Again, you haven’t shown anything that the priesthood ban was a result of prejudice and not a result of the Lord’s will.

    Prophet’s have stated that the reason for the restriction of the ban was a result of their lineage from Cain and their pre-mortal conduct.

    You have provided no evidence that African black people were not descended from Cain. You have provided no evidence that the reason for the restriction was NOT due to their lineage. You have provided no evidence that the reason was NOT due to their pre-mortal conduct.

    You say Kimball’s statement there shows his bias, so what about another statement of his from the same paper: “I have always prided myself on being about as unprejudiced as to race as any man. I think my work with the minorities would prove

    Finally, even if all of the explanations of the restriction were wrong, that has nothing to do with whether or not the restriction itself was wrong (ie that it was due to bias and not the Lord’s will). So even if the prophets were wrong about why African black people were restricted from the priesthood, it does not mean that they were wrong about restricting them from it.

    From many statements from prophets, it seems quite clear that it was indeed the will of the Lord. You quoted Brigham Young at the earliest. Here you have a prophet speaking “in the name of Jesus Christ” about a restriction of the Priesthood. That doesn’t indicate the will of the Lord to you?

    How about David O. McKay in 1934, ““It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes . . . are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time”? Is that just his bias?

    Spencer W. Kimball in 1963: “The conferring of priesthood, and declining to give the priesthood is not a matter of my choice nor of President McKay’s. It is the Lord’s program… When the Lord is ready to relax the restriction, it will come whether there is pressure or not.”

    Indication after indication that the restriction was the will of the Lord and not simply a matter of the bias of the prophets, as you assert.

    Comment by Eso — September 28, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

  114. You have provided no evidence that African black people were not descended from Cain. You have provided no evidence that the reason for the restriction was NOT due to their lineage. You have provided no evidence that the reason was NOT due to their pre-mortal conduct. Sorry Eso, but you’re uninformed and flogging a dead horse here! The evidence is the church has abandoned these positions and they distance themselves from those who attempt to teach them like BYU religion professor Randy Bott.

    Comment by Howard — September 28, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

  115. “Finally, even if all of the explanations of the restriction were wrong, that has nothing to do with whether or not the restriction itself was wrong (ie that it was due to bias and not the Lord’s will). So even if the prophets were wrong about why African black people were restricted from the priesthood, it does not mean that they were wrong about restricting them from it.”


    Comment by Jeff G — September 28, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  116. Abandoning a position is not equal to evidence against the position. It’s just the church being PC. Basically, the church considers past statements speculative with the official stance being, “We simply don’t know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place”.

    A speculative statement can be true. Also, if we currently “do not know” the reason then that would mean we can not validly conclude that reasons given in the past were wrong (which would require knowledge of the reason).

    Nevertheless, it doesn’t even matter if the explanations for the restriction were accurate or not. I’ll illustrate:

    Gravity describes the natural phenomenon whereby objects fall towards the surface of the Earth. It can be explained by:

    1) It is in the objects’ nature to tend towards the center of the universe (Aristotle) – wrong.

    2) It is the nature of the Earth to attract objects – wrong.

    3) Gravity is a force that exists between objects with mass (Newton) – wrong.

    4) Objects move along straight paths through spacetime, which is curved by matter (Einstein) – incomplete.

    Currently all of our explanations about gravity aren’t correct, but that doesn’t mean that gravity isn’t a reality. Likewise, it was the Lord’s will that blacks were restricted from the priesthood. Even if our explanations as to why the Lord restricted the priesthood weren’t correct, that doesn’t indicate that the restriction was not the Lord’s will.

    You can not demonstrate the prophets’ explanations were wrong. You can not demonstrate the restriction was in place due to bias and not the Lord’s will.

    Comment by Eso — September 28, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

  117. “Likewise, it was the Lord’s will that blacks were restricted from the priesthood.”

    I agree with the logic of this post, but I disagree with the above sentence as the only possible faithful conclusion on that topic from the evidence we have. If we give any credence to the revelation of Darius Gray, that Pres. Hinckley found acceptable, I think it could also be true that the Lord simply allowed and accepted the priesthood/temple ban instituted by Brigham Young, possibly as an acceptable solution to an issue in the church BY felt needed to be addressed at the time. And then once instituted it required a revelation to change the policy, and it may have been the Lord’s will that the policy would/could only be overturned when the collective church was prepared to receive that further light and knowledge.

    That the policy was necessary, or the only possible path that aligned with the will of God when it was first instituted, to me is not a foregone conclusion.

    Comment by SteveF — September 28, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

  118. I really love the turn this took in #101-109. This got me thinking that maybe the reason Howard is so frustrating is that he is not genuinely trying to get inside the argument from his interlocutor. It can be a fun exercise in a circular argument to switch positions and see if after fifteen rounds each person understands the other person’s position well enough to argue it. #108 convinces me that Howard really does not know what Jeff is arguing after all this time, which means #109 is exactly the correct response.

    It also brought to mind an old post (which continues a new habit of only posting when I can cite an old post of mine). On Discussion. But seriously, it did make me think of that.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 28, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

  119. Sure, plausibility is the lifeblood of apologetics, isn’t it?

    So I guess it must have gone something like this. Elijah Abel a black man was ordained an Elder by Joseph, Walker Lewis a black man was ordained an Elder by Joseph’s brother. Later God said to Brigham either; oops Joseph really screwed up, I cursed blacks to pay for the murder of Able but naive Joseph was treating them like they were his neighbor or I changed my mind I don’t want any more of that. Then in 1978 in response to Spencer’s problems God said okay you convinced me, go ahead and ordain some more, I suppose I’ve punished them long enough besides is isn’t PC to continue with this.

    Comment by Howard — September 29, 2013 @ 6:23 am

  120. Jacob J, there is much more to a debate than just it’s content, there are underlying psychological dynamics and below that assumptions and beliefs that give rise to those dynamics. And if you notice the central argument of the OP was revised in 84 after running into problems in 83 making it a moving target. Guess? Who knows what revisions that invites. I play my hand and generally allow others to play theirs.

    Comment by Howard — September 29, 2013 @ 7:01 am

  121. Howard,

    You’re only proving our point. 84 states what is very clearly at the core of my OP. 83 is not the core, but the structure of my argument. The fact that you can’t see that only shows how little effort you’ve made to take another’s perspective.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 29, 2013 @ 8:39 am

  122. Jeff G,
    Apparently you missed that distinction yourself in 82.

    Comment by Howard — September 29, 2013 @ 9:03 am

  123. You’re right. It was 82 not 83.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 29, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  124. Y’know–several of the women who are in the leadership of Ordain Women are trained in feminist theory and could probably tell you what they think about the notion of false consciousness and whether it’s part of how they legitimate their activism. Have you asked them? I know it’s more fun to tilt at windmills you’ve built yourself, but if you were actually interested in understanding…

    Comment by Kristine — September 30, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

  125. I’m more than a little confused here.

    First of all, I know that they are trained in that stuff. That’s exactly why I’m using that stuff against them. That’s the whole point.

    Second, what makes you think that I need to ask somebody for help here? It sounds like you’re assuming that I’m wrong here rather than arguing that I’m wrong.

    Third, you kind of prove my point a little bit by insisting that to consult the proper intellectual authorities. You are showing that not only is there an authoritative structure here, but that it is intellectual in nature. That pretty much is my point.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 30, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

  126. 1)I think they might tell you that they don’t believe all Mormon women should be ordained or should want to. I’m just not sure you can tell whether they see themselves as acting in Mormon women’s best interests or in the interest of some more abstract principle like justice or the building of Zion, or whatever. I don’t know what their argument would be about whether or how Mormon women who oppose OW should change their minds. I’m just wondering if they believe what you’re suggesting they do. (But since you also say that they’re not the authorities on what they believe, maybe it doesn’t matter).

    2) I mistakenly thought for a moment you were interested in understanding or illuminating something about OW or the question of women’s ordination. I realize now that you just want to score rhetorical points and spew clever bile around. Clearly, you don’t need help with that.

    3) Nope. Did nothing of the kind. I suggested that you might do the women of OW the courtesy of asking them to clarify their own position with respect to the ideas you’re throwing around. I don’t organize my mental life around a freakish obsession with “intellectualism,” so it wouldn’t occur to me to try to figure out who the “intellectual authorities” might be in this situation.

    Comment by Kristine — September 30, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

  127. *Sigh*

    Enlightening as always, Kristine.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 30, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

  128. Jeff G,

    Fascinating to see your point being made over and over again in the very responses levied against it.

    Comment by Riley — September 30, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

  129. Jeff–I actually don’t have a stake in this fight; I’m not part of Ordain Women, so I’m not sure what kind of enlightenment you want from me. I just find your naked hostility sort of baffling, and your willingness to bend _everything_ into your thesis about intellectualism vs. religiosity (or whatever you’d call it) frustrating.

    Comment by Kristine — September 30, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  130. To be honest, I sincerely appreciate that last comment, if only because it correctly identifies the main villain in my story.

    It very well might be that I attribute too much to the OW dependency on false consciousness. In that case, I’m merely taking away or deflating one of the (many?) tools which are used by such movements. I’m okay with that.

    Yes, there is some hostility toward intellectualism, but I don’t think its too over the top. (But who does think that about themselves, right?) Obviously somebody who reads, quotes and blogs about the things that I do can’t hate intellectualism all THAT much. The primary source of my hostility is in seeing intellectualism as being the thing which led a younger, more naive me out of the church.

    I personally don’t think that I have been “bending” things into my anti-intellectualism to any degree beyond bringing up subject which I think tend to be repressed within the ‘nacle, mostly by intellectuals. Very briefly, I think Mormonism and intellectualism are two different cultures which, despite the moderate amount of overlap between the two, affirm and prioritize values in mutually incompatible ways. The typical strategy for coping with this, especially in the ‘nacle, is by trying to incorporate and transcend Mormonism within intellectualism, as if the latter were the standards against which the former ought to be measured rather than the other way around. This is exactly the mistake that I made and I see it as a mistake that almost all of the more educated blogs are making.

    So yes, I do come down hard on intellectuals, if only because they are so prone to give themselves free passes, in the exact same way that most Mormons give themselves free passes when the anti-Mormons speak. Neither culture is willing to see itself as contingent and in any sense subverted to another. That’s why I think that most of the criticisms against intellectuals are typically dismissed as a kind of know-nothing-Bible-thumping which is clearly motivated more by frustration than anything else. Whatever the merits of my criticisms of intellectuals might be, it’s not know-nothing-bible-thumping, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

    Comment by Jeff G — September 30, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

  131. One thing I sincerely struggle with in all of this is I don’t see an option to intellectualism. Jeff, if anything, you show over and over that calm intellectualism trumps pleas to emotion within your calculated comments. Thus by being intellectually rigorous, you undermine your argument against intellectualism, in a sense. Or so it seems.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 1, 2013 @ 7:59 am

  132. Great point, Matt.

    There is a distinction which I have not drawn very well between the mindset/culture of intellectualism and the mental tools of intellectualism. In my posts I have been turning the tools of intellectualism against the culture in order to undermine the latter. I have pointed out quite a few times that science, philosophy, etc. are all merely tools which can be put to various uses for good or bad. They have no right to be taken as necessary, universal or certain in any deep metaphysical or epistemological sense.

    As I was responding to Kristine, I realized that while I spend a lot of time arguing against intellectualism incorporating and transcending religion within it, I have not spent much time showing how religion can incorporate and transcend intellectualism within it. We’ll see if I can’t change that in any future posts.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  133. Getting back to Matt’s comment, the fact that he sees no other option than intellectualism is exactly the mentality which I am trying to undermine. That mindset is based in the (mis)perception that intellectualism is more than merely one culture among many from which we can choose. It is because of this mentality that people think religion can and ought to be measured by intellectual standards (which is exactly what the OW movement is doing) or that systematic theology is important (which is sort of what the NCT is about). I think this mentality construes the relationship between intellectualism and religion in a way which systematically favors the former. What is needed, then, is a way of construing this relationship in a way which favors the latter.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 10:48 am

  134. Spirit is Organized Intelligence. The Lord tells us to study it out in our mind and ask him if it be right. Culture is the result of collectively studying it out in our minds. Intellectualism is studying it out in our minds giving great weight to reason and little to emotion.

    All we have to do is ask if it be right.

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  135. “Culture is the result of collectively studying it out in our minds.”

    No it isn’t.

    “Intellectualism is studying it out in our minds giving great weight to reason and little to emotion.”

    No it isn’t.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 11:23 am

  136. Okay, what is it then?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 11:29 am

  137. I’ve addressed the first assertion a couple times, but not very explicitly. A culture or mindset, as I am using it, is a particular set of rules and values that are prioritized in a particular way. Thus, even if intellectualism and Mormonism share the same values and rules (they don’t), they would still be different cultures since they prioritize these rules and values in different ways.

    I specifically addressed the 2nd assertion in the OP, and I’m not going in that circle again.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  138. Okay, how did the structure of culture, the rules, values and prioritazation come about if it was not collectively studying it out in minds?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  139. I see no reason to believe that even a small portion of the rules and values which constitute the cultures around us came about from study of any kind.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

  140. Random then?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  141. Why would you think that? Why are those the only two options?

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  142. So, how do you think culture came about if studying it out in minds was not a big part of it and it was not just random?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  143. Why it is important for me to answer that? Why can’t I just deny your answer?

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

  144. To better understand that culture IS the result of collectively studying it out in minds. What else could it be?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  145. Why would we ever think that’s premodern, illiterate culture must be based in or derived from any kind of study? Can you even give one single argument, one reason to accept this position?

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  146. Dodging and weaving. Stuck on “study”? What does study it out in your mind mean if not think it through?

    Could culture have been created by man without thought? Is culture actually thoughtless genetics?

    Does premodern and/or illiterate mean void of intelligence?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  147. What makes you think that genetics, illiteracy or premodern are thoughtless? What makes you think that studying it out and intelligence are the same?

    I’m still waiting on some argument.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

  148. Lol! You don’t want an argument, you want to change the subject to avoid having to admit that culture is the result of collectively studying it out in our minds because that concept undermines your stated goal of undermining culture.

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

  149. Jeff–thanks for your #130. That’s helpful to me. I’m inclined to think that what you’re railing against is not so much “intellectualism” as lazy, half-assed puffery that fancies itself intellectual. I’m happy to join you in that, but I refuse to believe that the problem is thinking itself–it’s _bad_ thinking, and not enough of it.

    But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

    Comment by Kristine — October 1, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

  150. Still waiting Howard.

    Kristine, I assure you that my criticism is not aimed at lazy intellectuals only. There are contradictions and tensions between religion and intellectualism that I think get papered over. But more on that later.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

  151. (edit this was in response to a comment that DavidF asked me to delete. I’ve done my best to edit out those elements which David wasn’t happy with.)

    Well, that’s not a terrible depiction of it, but I think it leaves out a lot of pragmatic elements which I think are pretty essential.

    My claim is not that there aren’t any useful ways to evaluate or legitimize claims. Rather, I’m claiming that there are too many ways and that there is nothing necessary, universal or certain in the intellectuals’ way of doing evaluating or legitimizing. Thus, my real target is intellectual imperialism.

    Let me use this as a way to refine your points:

    A) A priesthood leader can have other sources as well as other reasons for saying and citing what he does. Submitting a paper to peer review and empirical verification is certainly not what he was going for.

    B) We can say that priesthood leaders are wrong, but only from a particular, cultural perspective. In other words, we can say that they don’t live up to a particular set of rules, but whose rules? It might very well be that they break the rules of intellectualism, but we have no reason to believe that we are ever trying to play the intellectuals’ game.

    C) I don’t want to throw the law of non-contradiction out the window all together, but it seems clear to me that it is less of a priority from a religious mindset than from an intellectual mindset. I think a better way of putting it would be to acknowledge that while the intellectual tradition may see empirical and rational consistency as being THE most important constraints to speech acts, the same cannot be said for the religious tradition. For them, the biggest constraint would be pointing as many souls as possible to heaven, a constraint which is prioritized higher than empirical or rational consistency. Thus, it might be that many priesthood leaders’ positions point the most souls to heaven at one time, while the same position might not do so any more.

    The point is not that there is no useful way to evaluate the reliability of priesthood leaders’ claims, but that there are many useful ways to evaluate the reliability of such comments, and that some ways will be more useful than others for different purposes. The way in which you evaluate these comments will be very different depending on whether you want to accurately describe empirical data, raise social consciousness or if you want to shepherd people to heaven. The idea that any of these tasks are one and the same, I suggest, is simply an article of faith by which legitimacy is covertly passed from the prophets to the intellectuals.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 1, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

  152. Ah, at the expense of nit-picking, I quite agree with your reply, and especially the last paragraph. But I come at it from a different perspective. All intellectual pursuit, whether it be science, history, sociology, and so forth, have inherent flaws that make them ultimately unreliable at discovering “the truth”. I’m quite a big fan of the early modern philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who was a (fairly) radical skeptic, and who developed the position that since we can’t know what is morally right from any of our intellectual pursuits, we ought to have faith in God since God actually does know what is morally good. So I think Montaigne, and by extension, me too, arrives at the same basic conclusion you do but from a different path.

    I ought to write a blog post on Montaigne’s thought at some point.

    Comment by DavidF — October 2, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

  153. Again, I find myself thinking that we aren’t that close to each other at all, which means that at least one of us is misunderstanding the other.

    At the risk of exposing my own misunderstanding of your position, let me explain. Mine is no defense of skepticism or fallibilism of any kind, for the rules and values which define these two positions belong wholly to the intellectual tradition begun in Greece and popularized during the Enlightenment. The people of the scriptures were neither skeptics nor fallibilists, and LDS should not be either.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 2, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  154. Tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 4), starting at 4 PM MDT, r/mormon will be hosting an AMA with one of the organizers of Ordain Women. You are personally invited to bring your questions and get the inside scoop before OW’s direct action scheduled for the following day.


    Comment by Chino Blanco — October 3, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  155. Jeff G, very interesting, thought-provoking post. Thanks.

    Comment by Geoff B — October 6, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

  156. Jeff G.,
    this has been really grand. Your follow-up comments were almost as interesting as the post. I hope to see the series on Mormonism digesting intellectualism soon.

    Comment by Adam G. — October 18, 2013 @ 10:07 pm