Category Archives: Mormon Culture


Misrecognition is one of those important terms in anthropology that is so useful that you almost can’t help thinking about it all the time. Two of its most important proponents are Pierre Bourdieu and Catherine Bell who use it to explain ritual, or more precisely, ritualized practices.
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Filed under Leadership, Mormon Culture

Gender, Mormonism, and Transsexuality

The declaration that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” is presumably attempted to rebut the second-wave feminist articulation of the sex/gender dichotomy which sees sex as natural and gender as culturally/socially constructed, and therefore malleable. While it is perhaps unclear that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is theoretically sophisticated enough to be aware of the sex/gender distinction that emerged in the 1970’s starting with the work of Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (1970), it is nevertheless situated in a historical moment in which these terms escape easy definition. Indeed, the definition of such terms is in fact the most contested element of feminist theory, and the failure to articulate any precise definition opens the text up to multiple interpretations.
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Filed under Family, Feminism, Sexuality, Theology

Apocaliterature and Historical Fiction

NB: This post compares and contrasts a set of books that I have never read (just like a true academic, or a true fundamentalist, er, a true ideologue of some sort ), so any feedback would be extremely helpful.

It is useful to compare the Left Behind series that has been so popular since 1995 in evangelical circles, with the Work and the Glory series since its release in 1990. Both are multi-volume epics that are aimed at the faithful as didactic literature that inculcates its audience into a theological and cultural insider status. Left Behind represents “apocaliterature” while the Work and the Glory takes part in the historical fiction genre. I am interested in the ways that these two series are expressions and producers of popular culture in each community represent different relationships to the presence of God.
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Filed under LDS Church History, Mormon Culture

Open Letter to Protesters of LDS Support of Prop 8

Dear Protesters,
It has been a frustrating week. You’re angry, maybe even irate. I understand. The courts recognized marriage as a right for same sex couples, and that right was lost in a close battle in the ballot box. Though Mormons make up a small amount of the total votes in favor of Prop 8, you hold them responsible for much of the fund-raising, canvassing, and phone-banking for the Yes on 8 campaign. Mormons seem like the easiest and most obvious targets for your anger. You have chosen to protest outside of Mormon temples and meetinghouses to express your anger, including petty vandalism, and to produce inflammatory commercials. I suggest that you seriously reconsider this doomed-to-failure strategy as accomplishing exactly the opposite goals that you intend.

It has been a long haul since Stonewall. Protests and marches have been a critical part of the gay liberation movement’s success. Though the courts have been an integral aspect of the movement’s strategy, public demonstrations remain a key element in consciousness raising and public relations. The problem in this instance is that protests only confirm the fears of the Yes on 8 vote.

I think that a major political miscalculation has been made by the No on 8 folks. While some, perhaps even a great deal, of the Yes on 8 vote can be reduced to homophobia or bigotry, the biggest reason for many religious groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage is the fear that they will eventually be forced to perform same-sex marriages in the future. This is quite likely an absurd fear, one not grounded in sound legal reasoning, but it is a sincerely-held concern. In this view, to vote in favor of same sex marriage is to vote against the future viability of religious freedom. Your job is to convince a majority of voters that this is not the case.

The problem with protesting Mormon places of worship is that it only substantiates these fears that homosexuals are out to destroy religious freedom. When you picket Mormon temples where marriages are performed, block the entrances, and yell at them as they prepare to worship, it seems to confirm the assumption that you are trying to tear down religious marriages and interfere with the free-exercise of religion. When you make inflammatory commercials, it raises the defensiveness of Mormons who have been vilified in American political life since their beginning. These actions are worse than ineffective in convincing the electorate to support gay marriage; they are actually extremely destructive to your cause. For years to come opponents of gay marriage will be able to point to the harassment of Mormons that has occurred over the last few weeks as definitive evidence that gay people oppose religion, seek to impose their marriages on religious institutions, and will choose to vilify religious people. This is a public relations disaster for you. Instead of being able to be the persecuted minority, you have begun to appear as the rabid haters of religion that many fear you to be.

I do not know who is organizing these protests, but I strongly urge any who will listen to stop and reconsider a cooperative approach that will ease the fears of religious people and institutions that same-sex marriage will infringe on religious liberty instead of enacting it.


[Added: This post is has some good coverage on the issue]
[Added: Some good news]


Filed under Family, Politics, Sexuality

Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage”

As far as I know, FPR has never had a SSM post, and I think that we are somewhat proud of that fact. Despite this record, I am so confused by the document that the Church put out today, called the Divine Institution of Marriage, that I simply must break the silence about this for the purposes of clarification. This document suggests that as a result of the court decisions in MA and CA (the legislative decisions legalizing marriage and civil unions in other states are not mentioned), “The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.” The text continues: “traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children.” While there are a number of different arguments raised in this document explaining the church’s opposition to SSM, my question has to do with the relationship between SSM and the argument concerning the raising of children. The document explains that “if children and families are to be protected,” one must reject SSM. While I have heard this argument raised before by opponents of SSM, and church statements have alluded to this argument before, this document by far represents the most clear official statement on the subject of the threats to children. The threat to children constitutes the most prominent argument offered in this text.
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Filed under Family, Politics, Sexuality

On Criticism

I think that it is important to discuss a technical term in LDS culture as it overlaps with a term in academic discourse: criticism. This term and its related forms (critical, critic, etc) is extremely important concept in both worlds, with an almost exactly opposite valuation.

For Latter-day Saints, to be “critical” is very negative. It implies a negative view of ones leaders, the Church, and by implication for many, God and Christ themselves. We covenant not to practice this kind of criticism, and we are commanded not to be “critical” of our fellow saints and neighbors. In this view, criticism is understood as disapproval, and to engage in this criticism reflects badly on its practitioner.
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Filed under Mormon Culture

African American Spirituals and the Mormon Pioneers

In honor of the 161st anniversary of the Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley, I would like to explore the relationship between two of the most profound spiritual movements of the 19th century: ante-bellum African American spirituals and the rise of Mormonism. While the vast majority of work with regard to African Americans and early Mormonism has focused on the explicit role that African Americans played in Mormonism, and LDS attitudes to African Americans, I would like to examine some shared themes, narratives, and assumptions, especially in the period between Mormon migration and the beginning of the Civil War. At the outset, I acknowledge that such a comparison does not in any way entail an equality of suffering between Mormons and slaves, only some shared circumstances and themes expressed lyrically.
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Filed under LDS Church History, Mormon Culture, Theology

The Holy Person in Mormonism?

Eve’s recent post at ZD on the magical GA got me thinking about how such a phenomenon fits in the larger history of Christianity. The LDS conception of religious potency is so closely intertwined with hierarchical leadership that it is not surprising that these businessmen and lawyers are able to receive such devotion by those seeking ecstatic or thaumaturgic experiences. What is interesting to me is whether or not the religiously potent can exist outside of the structures of LDS authority, as it has in so many other Christian traditions. If such a condition does not presently exist, can we expect it as a phenomenon that inevitably spills over?
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Filed under Leadership, Mormon Culture, Speculation

Bloggernacle Bullies

I don’t venture into other blogs as much as I used to, mostly because of time. Lately, however, either I have been procrastinating a bit more than usual, or there is a uptick in the kinds of posts that I am interested in, so I have been following a few more blogs. One of the things that I have noticed is that there seem to be new bullies that weren’t there before. Of course, there have always been bloggernacle bullies, but some come and go. What I am interested in is some sense of how these bullies are treated by the bloggernacle.
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Filed under Mormon Culture

Salt Lake City

In a nod to our friends at A Motley Vision, and in advance of this weekend’s Conference, I offer the following, as is, with no commentary, except to say it’s often refreshing to see the familiar through strange eyes.

Salt Lake City

Pompous Mormon symmetry. Everywhere marble: flawless, funereal (the Capitol, the organ in the Visitor Centre). Yet a Los-Angelic modernity, too — all the requisite gadgetry for a minimalist, extraterrestrial comfort. The Christ-topped dome (all the Christs here are copied from Thorwaldsen’s and look like Bjorn Borg) straight out of Close Encounters: religion as special effects. In fact the whole city has the transparency and supernatural, otherworldly cleanness of a thing from outer space. A symmetrical, luminous, overpowering abstraction. At every intersection in the Tabernacle area — all marble and roses, and evangelical marketing — an electronic cuckoo-clock sings out: such Puritan obsessiveness is astonishing in this heat, in the heart of the desert, alongside this leaden lake, its waters also hyperreal from sheer density of salt. And, beyond the lake, the Great Salt Lake Desert, where they had to invent the speed of prototype cars to cope with the absolute horizontality. . . . But the city itself is like a jewel, with its purity of air and its plunging urban vistas more breathtaking than even those of Los Angeles. What stunning brilliance, what modern veracity these Mormons show, these rich bankers, musicians, international genealogists, polygamists (the Empire State in New York has something of this same funereal Puritanism raised to the nth power). It is the capitalist, transsexual pride of a people of mutants that gives the city its magic, equal and opposite to that of Las Vegas, that great whore on the other side of the desert. [French sociologist Jean Baudrillard, from America (trans. Chris Turner; New York: Verso, 1988), orig. pub. Amérique (Paris: B. Grasset, 1986)]


Filed under Mormon Culture