Obedience and Desire

There is a common folk myth — and I use the term “myth” not because it isn’t true, but only because I’ve been unable to independently verify it — about the training that Arabian horses undergo before riders will trust them to carry them through the harsh deserts of the Middle East. The trainers will train the horse to come to the owner at the sound of a bell. But casual obedience is not enough — the trainers want the horse to be able and willing to override their strongest urges and desires to comply with the rider’s commands.

To put this to the test, the trainer will tie the horse within sight of water for several hot days, without feeding the horse or giving it water to drink. Then, as the horse is severely parched and dehydrated, the trainer will release the horse, and the horse will immediately dash to the water, expecting a long, thirst-quenching drink. Just as the horse is about to drink, the trainer will ring the bell. Those that respond to the bell even in that moment have passed the test and are ready to be trusted — those that don’t must continue with their training. (There’s an old seminary video that depicts this, which can be found here.) Continue reading

On Social Science and Bias

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to venture once more into the contentious subject of the recent survey that has been distributed across the internet, ostensibly to learn more about the beliefs of members of the LDS church with regards to gender roles within the church. Earlier this week, we posted some initial concerns we had about the survey. Yesterday, Dr. Andrew Auman shared his thoughts as well.

The concerns expressed so far have ranged from the biases of the researchers to the construct validity of the questions on the survey. The accusation is that the survey does not objectively measure what it claims to be measuring, that the results will not be analyzed objectively, and that the research in this and other ways fails to meet the standards of rigorous research that good scholarship generally ought to have. All of these concerns are legitimate. I just wanted to contribute a critique of the project from a slightly different point of view. Continue reading

The Parable of the Faithful Husband


Three men were young, naive, and smitten with love. They each believed that their bride was perfect in every way. As they committed their lives to their brides, they thought to themselves (and said to others), “I make this commitment — enter this covenant — because my bride is flawless. It is for this reason that I love her, and commit to her.”

Others looked on who were older and more mature, who had been married for quite some time. These shook their heads knowingly, and with apprehension for what these men would face in the coming years ahead. Some tried to counsel the young men, assuring them that their brides were wonderful, and that nobody — not even they — were perfect. The young men repelled such talk.

But as always, the closer one gets in a marriage, the more warts one sees. These young men soon began to notice the flaws in their brides — the toilet seat covers, the laundry on the floor, the bad cooking, the cattiness towards neighbors, the snoring, etc. To these flaws, each man responded differently. Continue reading

The Debate Isn’t Over

Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear several appeals regarding same-sex marriage, allowing the decisions of lower courts (who overturned same-sex marriage bans) to become the de facto law of the land in several U.S. states. This is troubling to many of us — but we want to reassure our readers that the fight is far, far from over.

Not only did the Supreme Court decline to rule on the matter, but the debate is alive and well in many U.S. states and in many countries. Further, if the Sixth Circuit upholds traditional marriage, the Supreme Court will likely revisit these cases. Nothing is locked in stone (or will ever be).

Further, did the fight over abortion (and its societal consequences) end, simply because the Supreme Court declared it legal? Not at all — rather, the fight against abortion has picked up steam in recent decades, and public opinion has shifted towards the pro-life movement.

Do not stop standing up for your beliefs about marriage, civilly and respectfully. Continue reading

Crafting a Narrative

On Saturday, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the women of the Church. Apparently, how he did so was unprecedented: he referred to them as disciples. Here’s the headline at the Huffington Post: “Mormon Feminists Surprised By New Wording Referring To Women As ‘Blessed Disciples Of Jesus.'” Here’s a quote from the article:

Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Saturday (Sept. 27) at the church’s general women’s meeting.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”

In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities.

Apparently, it is unprecedented to mention “Heavenly Parents,” and unprecedented to refer to women as disciples of Christ. Except for the fact that the term “Heavenly Parents” is used in the Proclamation on the Family, and leaders of the Church have been including women as “disciples” for ages (the linked post lists just a few examples of what I’m sure is many).

But that’s how you craft a narrative: anytime the leaders of the Church talk about the divine role of women, act as if its something that’s never been done before. That’s how you spin the tale so that people — both within and outside of the Church — come to believe that, until now, the Church has been demeaning towards women. But now, due to the vocal efforts of Mormon feminists, things are changing, and women can be disciples too!

I’m with Kathryn Skaggs on this one: sometimes it feels like some people belong to a different Church. Not that I want them to. I want them to be a part of the Church I’ve been a member of all along: The Church I grew up in always treated women as fellow disciples of Christ, and there was never a doubt in my mind of that. I see that the leaders of the Church tried for decades to communicate to women how much God values them, how important and central they are to the Creator’s plan for His children. And now Mormon feminists are taking the credit, by pretending it’s only now happening (presumably due to their vocal efforts).

I don’t think the Church is perfect. There may be practices and traditions that need to change. But I’m going to make a bold claim: If a sister in the Church just now realizes that she’s valued as a disciple of Christ, it’s not because the Church hasn’t taught it, frequently and often. What President Uchtdorf said this past weekend is nothing new. It’s not a change of rhetoric. Rather, perhaps our ears are opening enough to hear for the first time what they’ve been saying all along?

I think it’s dishonest to claim that this is some unprecedented shift in rhetoric on the part of the Church, and I think this twisting of the facts is designed to ultimately make the Church look bad and feminist agitators look like the protagonists of the story. It’s also designed set up a false crisis later on: If the Church has always been true, why is it only now treating women as disciples of Christ?