The Mormons on PBS an Early Review

I actually do not have much time to put together a thorough review (which the film certainly deserves), but this is probably the only chance that I’ll have in the next week or so and it airs on the 30th.

The piece I’m discussing here is the first of the two-part series and deals with the history of Mormonism (the second part deals with the contemporary church).

The first film is two hours long is divided into 6 “acts”: Revelation, The Saints, Persecution, Exodus, Mountain Meadows, and Polygamy.

Interviews are done with: Richard Bushman, Kathleen Flake, Will Bagley, Judith Freeman, Dan Peterson, Jeffrey R. Holland, Terryl Givens, Greg Prince, Ken Clark, Harold Bloom, Dallin H. Oaks, Ken Verdoia, and few others.

Rather than critiquing each act, I’m going to simply point out some of the larger issues the film raised.

The piece is partially concerned with “contextualizing” Mormonism, especially its roots. It is somewhat akin to Bushman’s approach in talking about Mormon beginnings in the context of 19th century America (of course the film is produced by “American Experience” and hence interested in situating the Mormon experience as it relates to the larger “American” one), where visions of God and treasure hunting were not uncommon. The piece is critical of Mormonism’s roots (not necessarily unjustly critical), but sympathetic to the Mormons who had to endure the persecutions that followed.

The theme of contextualization comes in again when discussing Mountain Meadows. A significant amount of time is used in trying to situate the incident in its place and time–the history of persecution, threats from the US government, Brigham Young’s theocracy, etc. Those interviewed range in their willingness to see Mormonism as a product of its time; but practically everyone involved sees some degree of Mormonism reflected in its historical setting.

The issue of contextualization is interesting. On the one hand, seeing Mormonism “in context” can be faith challenging when applied to the roots, but on the other, it softens some of the irrationalism of Mountain Meadows.

I wonder if Mormons, as a people, are becoming more comfortable contextualizing our religion–seeing it as one of many (the First Vision as one of many others that were claimed in the 19th century, for instance). One of the questions this raises, are whether or not there are the risks involved in this project. How much of Mormon “roots” are simply a product of its time? Are we ready or willing to admit that much of our religion is social construct, and open to the critiques that other cultural practices of the time are?

The “Mormons” is a “balanced” piece, but not in terms of giving equal time to both “sides” of the issues. I was intrigued with the difficulty of determining the “status” of those interviewed. Besides those that were openly confessional or those that were speaking on behalf of the church (Elder Oaks, et al.), it was hard to know who were members and who were not. This raises a second series of questions–how elastic is our hermeneutic fabric? Can we utilize the theories, tools, and language of academic discipline to “practice” our religion? Or is this simply “studying” it? As a scholar can one integrate this “study” with “practice”, or must he/she check it at the door when coming to church?

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44 responses to “The Mormons on PBS an Early Review

  1. Northerner

    “Besides those that were openly confessional or those that were speaking on behalf of the church (Elder Oaks, et al.), it was hard to know who were members and who were not.”

    While it may be interesting to know, why should one in fact know? I think one of the problems sometimes encountered in Mormon studies is looking more at who said what than what was said.

  2. smallaxe

    Northerner,

    I agree. From one perspective, the ideas that someone puts forth should be evaluated independantly of institutional affiliation (although I could see arguments made otherwise, this wasn’t really the purpose of this post). The issue is one of language. Is there something signifiant about certain Mormons speaking a language that doesn’t overtly disclose their faith? Does this mean that we’ve “arrived” in some regards? That we can function as both academics and faithful LDSs? Or that we’ve crossed the line in conflating our language with “their” language?

  3. Kevin Barney

    How did you happen to get a screening? Have you seen part 2 on the contemporary church yet?

  4. Matt W.

    Northerner, I disagree. “who said what” does matter, even in Mormon studies. If my doctor is licensed or not, I want to know about it. In Mormon studies, “licensing” has it’s own set of criteria.

  5. smallaxe

    Kevin,

    No I haven’t seen the contemporary piece yet, early copies have not been press-released as the first part has.

  6. Regarding the historical contextualization, I think this is precisely why Teryl Givens’ work is so important. I’m thinking esp. of his Library of Congress address on Joseph Smith where—if I’m remembering correctly—he talks about how Joseph distinctly placed himself in a much larger Biblical context, alongside Moses, Abraham, Elijah, etc. To only consider the Joseph’s 19th century context is to miss the significance (or potential significance) of what he was trying to do. I think the issues you raise regarding the 19th century context are interesting and very relevant in terms of judging how inspired and unique Joseph really was, at least from a scholarly perspective. But I’m with Givens in thinking that it is the much larger context that must be considered in terms of taking Joseph on his own terms….

  7. TT

    Robert,
    I am not entirely sure what you mean. Certainly, the Bible was a part of the 19th c. Seeing oneself as an actor in a biblical drama is not unique to Joseph and I am certain can be found in the 19th c. as well. How does seeing Joseph in a “biblical context” mean that he is not a part of the 19th c.?

  8. TT, I think Given’s is pointing to the many strong linkages to Old Testament prophets in particular. Perhaps the most distinctive example is polygamy and how this was linked to Abraham. But I think you are right, Joseph’s way of doing this differed probably more in terms of the extent and distinct manner in which he did this, not that he was the only one to do something like this (seeing himself as an actor in a Biblical drama)….

  9. Did the special discuss how Joseph Smith secretly married other men’s wives and had at least 30 such “wives” (though of course none of the “marriages” were legal)? Or did it avoid such inconvenient things as that? And did it discuss the Mormons’ only recently abandoned racial theories?

  10. smallaxe

    Did the special discuss how Joseph Smith secretly married other men’s wives and had at least 30 such “wives” (though of course none of the “marriages” were legal)? Or did it avoid such inconvenient things as that? And did it discuss the Mormons’ only recently abandoned racial theories?

    Yes it talked about all aspects of polygamy, including Joseph’s marriages (including being married to several women that were already married), and reasons for why he instigated plural marriage (to fulfill his sexual desire for instance, one person poses. Others claim it too reductionistic to completely explain the practice). Brigham Young is also covered and some stuff on “fundamentalist” Mormons who still hold to it.

    Race is not covered in the film. If it is, I would imagine that it would be in the second piece which is about the contemporary church.

  11. smallaxe

    I think Given’s is pointing to the many strong linkages to Old Testament prophets in particular. Perhaps the most distinctive example is polygamy and how this was linked to Abraham. But I think you are right, Joseph’s way of doing this differed probably more in terms of the extent and distinct manner in which he did this, not that he was the only one to do something like this (seeing himself as an actor in a Biblical drama)….

    I haven’t read much of Givens but I assume that the contextual nature of his approach is not situation Joseph Smith alongside Moses et al. (I would be suprised if he did, at least in his academic work, because his training is not in Near Eastern Studies), but with 19th century interpretations of Moses and company. I think it would be a rather faith-based/theological reading to situate JS along with Biblical prophets, unless approached from a comparative perspective where one is well versed in both areas, otherwise the claim would be that Joseph actually communed with Moses in his visions, which I think we would recognize as “theological”.

  12. a random John

    The local news in SLC (specifically KTVX) has reported that Teryl Givens has characterized the section on polygamy as “bordering on criminal.” Given that By the Hand of Mormon struck me as very even handed I thought that this was especially noteworthy criticism. Any comment on this issue? Is Givens overreacting?

  13. a random John

    Stop capitalizing my nick!

  14. TT

    Well, SA is out for a little while, but I saw it with him. To my recollection, Givens showed up once, maybe twice in the polygamy section and I don’t recall it being controversial at all. Do you remember what it was that he felt had been taken out of context?

  15. Matt W.

    (9)It is my understanding that Race and Homosexuality will be in the second chapter. At least,t hat’s what the newspaper says.

    In a bit of an odd twist this piece was announced as Church friendly in Priesthood yesterday at my ward. While I wouldn’t say it’s church unfriendly, must of what I read would say it isn’t exactly what most would call church friendly either…

    Of course, I’ll have to wait and see..

  16. smallaxe #11, woops, it was Bushman, not Givens—my bad. To give you a more accurate sense of what he’s getting at (my memory is clearly quite rusty), here’s an excerpt from his introduction on page 4 of “The Worlds of Joseph Smith” published conference proceedings (mp3’s of the talks are available somewhere on line—the responses are quite interesting also…):

    I wish to explore, in broad general terms, the histories to which historians have attached Joseph Smith. As you can imagine, the context in which he is placed profoundly affects how people see the Prophet, since the history selected for a subject colors everything about it. . . . To a large extent, Joseph Smith assumes the character of the history selected for him. The broader the historical context, the greater the appreciation of the man. If Joseph Smith is described as the product of strictly local circumstances—the culture of the Burned-over District, for example—he will be considered a lesser figure than if put in the context of Muhammad or Moses. Historians who have been impressed with Joseph Smith’s potency, whether for good or ill, have located him in a longer, more universal history. Those who see him as merely a colorful character go no farther than his immediate environment for context. No historians eliminate the local from their explanations, but, on the the whole, those who value his genius or his influence, whether critics or believers, give him a broader history as well. I want to talk first about the way historians have sought the Prophet’s larger meaning by assigning him a history, and then examine the histories to which Joseph Smith attached himself.

    I think Bushman makes a good point in his address, but I think the most interseting approach would be to see those ways in which Joseph was indeed different than other restorationists at the time, and then to discuss these differences in this larger context that Bushman is calling for….

  17. (Sorry, I messed up the closing tag in the blockquote above—the last paragraph is obviously me not Bushman….)

  18. TT

    But Robert, what gets counted as “different” and “similar” are always historical constructs, which is why Bushman (and others) can’t simply do what you suggest. In this sense, I fully agree with Bushman that we produce a “context” for historical figures, and that such a context is largely dependent on how we value the figure in question.
    The quest for Mormon exceptionalism or uniqueness is, IMO, the wrong approach to take. I am not saying that we reduce everything to seeing Joseph as a “product” of his times either. The problem is with the dichotomy between being “different” and being “similar” as the only historical schema with which to assess Mormonism. At the root of this approach is an attempt to determine the value of Mormonism. Mormonism’s value and meaning do not come from its “difference.” Its value and meaning come simply because it is.

  19. TT

    just to follow up on my #14, the more I think about it, the less I can remember Givens at all in the polygamy section…so whatever he is complaining about made absolutely no impact on me at all.

  20. a random John

    I’m not claiming he was in the polygamy section. I’m saying he has seen the first hour and he characterized the polygamy section as something along the lines of “bordering on criminal.” The local news didn’t go into any more depth than that.

  21. smallaxe

    I’m not claiming he was in the polygamy section. I’m saying he has seen the first hour and he characterized the polygamy section as something along the lines of “bordering on criminal.” The local news didn’t go into any more depth than that.

    The polygamy is actually in the second hour of the first piece. It the concluding act. Givens does make at least one brief appearance in the act where he describes polygamy as the “Abrahamic test” for Mormons of the time.

    It doesn’t seem to me however that he would be complaining about his involvment in this portion of the film. Polygamy is variously depicted, some of the claims given more airtime is the role of sexuality in the polygamy (as I think I mentioned briefly above). Another claim is that difficulty that contemporary Mormons have in dealing with polygamy as part of our history. It is described literarily speaking as kind of illusionary man that just will not go away (perhaps Givens thinks he could come up with a better allusion). We are talked about people who are able to (and want to) embrace our history but are somewhat ambiguous about polygamy.

  22. smallaxe

    In a bit of an odd twist this piece was announced as Church friendly in Priesthood yesterday at my ward. While I wouldn’t say it’s church unfriendly, must of what I read would say it isn’t exactly what most would call church friendly either…

    I think it will be “friendly” for many members, but make many others uncomfortable, which is why I raise the issues above. It’s certainly not “anti”, but it’s nothing I think the church would ever produce. For those who found Bushman’s Rough Stone “unfaithful” this piece will strike a similar vein. The interesting thing of course is the involvment of many “scholarly” Mormons.

  23. smallaxe

    I think Bushman makes a good point in his address, but I think the most interseting approach would be to see those ways in which Joseph was indeed different than other restorationists at the time, and then to discuss these differences in this larger context that Bushman is calling for….

    To me the key part of quote is “To a large extent, Joseph Smith assumes the character of the history selected for him. The broader the historical context, the greater the appreciation of the man.”

    I can see where Bushman is coming from on the one hand, but on the other how many people are qualified to contextualize JS in the history of Christianity at large? Or even the entirety of religious history (and implicitly, human history) as Bushman seems to suggest? I think his larger point is dead on: we cannot see JS simply as a product of 19th century America (or even a particular part of 19th century America). He indeed should be contextualized in the broader continuity of human history, perhaps pragmatically limited to one’s capacity to competently understand those areas. I do think, however, it is risky business to contextualize JS with Moses (for instance) rather than 19th century interpreations of Moses. Not to say that he didn’t commune with Moses, but anyone making such a claim should have a well grounded/contextualized understanding of who Moses was.

    Any ideas as to what he means by the second sentence?

  24. smallaxe #23, he elaborates in his address (if I recall). I think he’s basically just pointing to a fundamental tension between studying historical figures as products of their history vs. doing something revolutionary that effectively causes a turning point in history. So, although it is useful to study “great historical figures” in the context of their historical milieu, such study doesn’t have to detract from the greatness and the newness of what that historical figure effected. In this sense, Joseph Smith compares favorably to other great historical figures.

    I remember discussing this issue a fair bit in Eugene England’s Shakespeare class. It seemed like there was a bit of a battle going on back then (early ’90s) between critics, some trying to reduce the plays to products of their times (e.g. anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice) vs. those who argued that the plays were better interpreted as critiques of their times (e.g. subversive themes in The Merchant of Venice like Portia’s obvious hypocrisy in terms of being unmerciful…).

  25. a random John

    sorry to have been inaccurate again. I said “first hour” when I meant “first episode”.

  26. Pingback: Northern Lights » Blog Archive » PBS documentary: “The Mormons”…This Monday!

  27. smallaxe

    Robert C.,

    I think the tension between being a product of one’s cultural milieu and a producer of it, has been a fundamental tension in doing history for some time. In that regard, I think Bushman is right, JS cannot be reduced to his historical locality. As such he is both a creator of something new and a transmitter of something already extant such as Moses and others. IMO, though, such a claim is not contextualizing JS with Moses. Making a general comparison is one thing, but contextualizing seems to be a rather different thing where a causal relationship is elucidated between the two historical figures. I’m thinking that Bushman has the former in mind, and not necessarily the latter (perhaps this is simply a matter of semantics).

    As this relates to the issues I raise at the beginning of the post, though, I wonder what degree of contextualization most members will be comfortable with. It seems to me that many members currently see little to no historicizing of the church and its beginnings. What are your thoughts?

  28. tsfab4

    We watched the first hour as a family and then turned it off. There was quite a bit of misinformation in just the first hour. I finished it on Tivo after everyone else was in bed. One example was when it was stated that after Christ’s death He spent the next three days in the America’s. I knew then that this would be just another film that purports to show a realistic view of the church, but came in with an established bias. It has a similar spirit, talking points agenda and smell, as do many of the anti-Mormon productions that have been around for many years. It was interesting to see comments from General Authorities in such a film. Weird but interesting.
    I just don’t think this is a fair or accurate portrayal of the church. If I were not a member I would look at this program and think the LDS Church was comprised of loonies.

  29. Matt B

    You think that Whitney made the error you cite intentionally? And it in some way reflects a bias? I’m not sure how the first follows the second. Seems to me that if she had an anti-Mormon bias it would be apparent in much more prominent ways than a trivial error in timing.

    Any other examples?

  30. Pingback: Times & Seasons » Mormons discussing “Mormons”

  31. emcov

    I am related to Joseph Smith and my Mormon ancestor headed a wagon train that arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1848. From my perspective as a lapsed Mormon, it seems likely that tsfab4 is perhaps not reacting to a “biased” view of Mormonism but is instead upset by the reality of seeing an unbiased view on national television. I know from experience that what is taught in Mormon church services is far from a realistic history of the church. In fact, the Mormon hierarchy wish that a large part of their history would just go away, for reasons made obvious by the film. I thought the film’s writer actually omitted a few things, like the fact that Joseph Smith shot at and hit a couple of the mob who came after him at Carthage Jail…not exactly the Christ-like martyr that he is portrayed as in Sunday school. It is the truth, not denial, that shall make you free. It did me, anyway.

  32. smallaxe

    There was quite a bit of misinformation in just the first hour. I finished it on Tivo after everyone else was in bed. One example was when it was stated that after Christ’s death He spent the next three days in the America’s. I knew then that this would be just another film that purports to show a realistic view of the church, but came in with an established bias. It has a similar spirit, talking points agenda and smell, as do many of the anti-Mormon productions that have been around for many years. It was interesting to see comments from General Authorities in such a film. Weird but interesting.
    I just don’t think this is a fair or accurate portrayal of the church. If I were not a member I would look at this program and think the LDS Church was comprised of loonies.

    Overall I think there was actually quite little misinformation. The three days thing, Joseph Smith as Alpha and Omega, sure, but not much more than that. Beyond those couple of mistakes, what bothers you? I think there is something more than mis-information. Were you perhaps uncomfortable with the tone the things were discussed? Kind of like watching something you hold dear being disected for public explanation?

  33. smallaxe

    t seems likely that tsfab4 is perhaps not reacting to a “biased” view of Mormonism but is instead upset by the reality of seeing an unbiased view on national television.

    There is no such thing as an unbiased view.

    I know from experience that what is taught in Mormon church services is far from a realistic history of the church. In fact, the Mormon hierarchy wish that a large part of their history would just go away,

    I would be more sympathetic and say that some parts of history, Mormons are not yet comfortable dealing with (as the film points out in regards to polygamy). I think you have to be cognizant of the fact that there are many members who know the same number of historical “truths” that you do and choose to remain.

  34. I thought the documentary turned out fairly well, which surprised me. I had been interviewed by telephone by Helen Whitney (the film’s writer/director/producer), and the first things out of her mouth were: “I love to speak with intelligent people, people of faith, people of strong belief — who can be so fascinating when they express their doubts. I just find it so enlightening to listen to that kind of thoughtful, engaging candor. So tell me — when it comes to the Mormon Church, what are your doubts?”

    That is known as a “leading question.” In fact, though Ms. Whitney seemed extremely gracious throughout the interview, that is probably the most comically over-the-top leading question that I had ever heard. I’m a lawyer, and in law you are allowed to ask leading questions only to someone who is an adversary, someone considered a “hostile witness.” So her question immediately made me very wary, though I doubt that was her intent.

    I told her I didn’t have any doubts about the Church, that one thing a testimony brings is a certainty that allows me to make personal sacrifices for the gospel, etc. “Oh, everyone has doubts!” she insisted. She then named a prominent writer who had expressed doubts to her, and she invited me again to be more “engaging” and “intelligent” by expressing mine. I told her a personal experience I had had with the Spirit as a young man, which forever erased any doubts about the truthfulness of the gospel, and I added that other experiences since had only reinforced my conviction that the Church is true, that the gospel Joseph Smith restored is in reality pristine Christianity.

    “Hm, you sound just like President Hinckley,” she said, with just a hint of disappointment. If she intended that last as a veiled insult, she REALLY missed the mark! I was smiling all day that someone would say that about me. It’s probably the nicest compliment I’ve ever received.

    Now, again, I want to stress that Ms. Whitney was extremely gracious in talking by phone with me, and I was left with the impression that I would like her personally. But she also spoke with disdain about FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) at BYU, saying that though the professors themselves are kindly in person, she finds their work “mean.” (I could not disagree more about the work/research done by FARMS.) She also seemed positively shocked when, at the end of the interview, she attempted to find common ground with me by mentioning what an awful disappointment it was that Pres. Bush had been re-elected in 2004. “I voted for him,” I noted. She very clearly equated functioning human intelligence with “Democrat.”

    Anyway, she got in touch with me later, wanting to do more interviews, but I begged off. I did not at all have high hopes for the documentary, but all in all I thought it went all right. Parts of it were maddening, but other parts were deeply moving and favorable to the Church (i.e., accurate).

    Ken Kuykendall
    MormonCentury.org

  35. Austin

    I thought the movie was biased from the beginning. What was with the creepy music and fuzzy pictures? I thought the author played with the viewers to instil a confused and “creeped out” feeling that shouldn’t be in an aparently unbiased documentary.

  36. HP

    Ken, stop putting the same comment up everywhere.

  37. smallaxe

    I thought the movie was biased from the beginning. What was with the creepy music and fuzzy pictures? I thought the author played with the viewers to instil a confused and “creeped out” feeling that shouldn’t be in an aparently unbiased documentary.

    Let first erase any notion of “unbias”. Ultimately what you are saying is that the film did not cohere with your perception of what the church is. That’s fine. It portrayed real people and their real experiences with Mormonism. I don’t think it pretended to be “unbiased”, but to share many facets of Mormonism. Some of it may not accord with your experience, but your experience is not the norm. If you are going to attack the piece you should do it with something much more than than music and shaddy artwork. It’s like me saying, “I knew your comment would be biased from the beginning because your handle is Austin. And the only Austin I know is the place in Texas, which is really hot. Hell is supposed to be really hot and so you must have a tinge of hell in your comments.” Equally ridiculous of course.

  38. smallaxe

    Ken,

    Thanks for your personal experience. It seems that you have some doubts about Ms. Whitney’s ability to put together a balanced documentary. Perhaps you could share… Pardon the leading question.

  39. emcov

    Ken-

    You seem to have taken unfitting pride in dispelling any hopeful notions that Ms. Whitney may have had about your ability to be contemplative or philosophic about your Mormonism. For a self-proclaimed “intelligent” person, you have surprisingly few questions about something so uncertain…in fact, no questions. Let me pose one of my questions for you, then. If the main tenet of Christianity is unconditional love and Mormonism “is in reality pristine Christianity”, how do we explain the church’s exclusion from the priesthood people who were born black and how do we explain the church’s similar political attempts to deny homosexuals their civil rights. Christ never said a thing against either group. It’s a question that may require something more than intelligence and blind belief. Like wisdom.

  40. Matt W.

    Emcov: first of, please prove that the church is trying to deny homosexuals their civil rights. To do this you will need to define what exactly civil rights are, and what civil rights are being denied homosexuals politically by the church. The only thing I think the church is attempting to do, that I am aware of, is maintain the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman designed with the family unit in mind. I am not at all convinced it is a civil right for homosexuals to be legally married.

    Now, please let me know how exclusion from the priesthood denies unconditional love to african americans? I would say neither this nor exclusion of women denies this unconditional love. In any case, as you are well aware, this issue is not the current state of the church.

  41. emcov

    Matt W.-
    I was not trying to get into an argument on specific principles of Mormon belief. I was attempting to spark a questioning, philosophical thought process in Ken’s mind (something he claims his faith makes impossible) by posing only one of dozens of random questions I could have come up with.

    Since you asked though, I believe that marriage is a civil right and that religions shouldn’t try to dictate who has the right to marry and who hasn’t. In non-theocratic countries, marriage licenses are traditionally granted by the government, and rightly so. Giving the civil right claim even more legal weight is the prominent mention of “the pursuit of happiness” as in unalienable right in The Declaration Of Independence. And in a Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, which dealt with an anti-miscegenation statute the court wrote: “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” But the Mormon church and its money has quixotically entered the political arena to sway the outcomes of elections to narrowly define marriage and the family unit to its own liking. Now, I have two gay friends who recently adopted a child whom they love very much. Should theirs not be considered a family unit? If not, what would you personally tell them it is? What would the LDS church tell them it is? More to my point, what would Christ tell them it is?

    And speaking of unconditional love, your other question almost answers itself. Denial of the priesthood to African Americans flagrantly implies racism, the commonplace racism of the 19th century from whence it came and it shouldn’t seem too controversial to state that racism is pretty close to the opposite of unconditional love. As you are well aware, this practice was suddenly unsanctioned during the late civil rights era. I would prefer to think that the timing was not a mere coincidence since otherwise would imply a dangerously indecisive God.

  42. smallaxe

    I think Emcov’s point as it relates to this thread is that there are many things that do not have easy answers. And Ken’s claim of having “no doubts” slights some very important and complex issues.

    Any of the questions he was raising as examples of this complexity, the two of you are free to debate.

  43. Matt W.

    Smallaxe and Emcov, a person can have questions without having doubts, can’t they? Also, many questions only have easy answers of faith.

    Emcov, if marriage or the family unit were some sort of condition we believed only existed within the temporal duration of this life, I could happily agree, we however, due to our theological tenants do not hold marriage as just a government instituted program. Therefore we do not hold marriage as a civil right to be violated. Further, we have a specific definition of marriage, which precludes same-gendered unions as being defined as marriage. As to your gay friends who adopted a child and whether they are a family or not, sure their a family. Are they the ideal or best situation? Is it less loving or more loving to allow the people call something marriage which we believe that God does not call marriage, without raising our voice to say that’s not marriage.

    Does gender exclusion of the priesthood to women deny unconditional love? It would if we believed man had any control over these items. If you believe that God did tell David O. McKay that the priesthood ban could not end during his tenure and that he did tell Spencer W. Kimball it could end during his tenure, then we have to hold out the idea that perhaps God had his reason for this difference at that time, just as there is a reason for the current difference between men and women at this time.

  44. Emcov

    Matt-
    As I said, I don’t wish to question your religious dogma which is, by its very nature, not debatable. You either believe it or you don’t. And I don’t have any problem with how the LDS church defines marriage to its own members.

    As for my beliefs, I believe that is more loving to resist the temptation to enter the secular and political world to legally force one’s own religious beliefs upon the populace. The church may still define an LDS marriage as anything they want. Isn’t that enough?

    You say man has no control over any of this; that it’s God-ordained. But every generation has put its mark on this evolving church and I think it should be allowable to question whether it was God or man who spent millions of dollars of members’ tithing to affect the outcome of specific gay marriage ballot initiatives and to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment? Remember that the ERA simply guaranteed the rights of citizens regardless of sex…what could the church have against that?

    My philosophical concern arises only when purely religious dogma is legally mandated by LDS leaders upon people who don’t believe in it and especially when those religious laws will have a negative effect on non-believers’ mortal lives. I’m sure my gay friends would love to be legitimately married while in “the temporal duration of this life”, with all the legal, social and financial benefits that entails, and take their chances that in the next life God may disapprove. And it’s probably not much of a gamble; an omniscient and just God wouldn’t create gay people just so he could then punish them by proxy, denying them the same happiness that the majority enjoys.