About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

Fair Mormon Conf – Dan Peterson: Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director

The videos from the Fair Mormon Conference are now available, for those of us who missed the actual conference itself.

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Jeremy Runnells and Dan Peterson

Of those that haven’t been covered, I was drawn to Dan Peterson’s discussion of Letter to a CES Director, which is 90 pages of challenges to the truth claims of the Church. By way of history, a CES Director wrote to Jeremy Runnells, a young man who had left the Church, asking why he had left. And so the fellow assembled 90 pages of objections that would take 500 pages to respond to. [I note that Mormon Stories episodes 480-482 from June 2014 are with Jeremy Runnells.]

The motif of the letter is a shotgun blast of objections, the big list technique, which gives the impression that there are insurmountable objections. These objections are compiled by individuals too intellectually lazy (my words) to examine the many existing faithful explanations, and who are clearly also too intellectually lazy to investigate to defenders’ explanations. If the defenders ever answer “I don’t know,” the attacker can declare victory. It is a painfully familiar technique.

[Updated based on kinglamoni's comment objecting to my use of the term "lazy." When people fling objections to which there are valid responses and when these accusers don't give any indication that they've bothered to research the matter, and then go about promoting their views aggressively, then I'll amend my "lazy" to intellectually lazy, or intellectually dishonest. And anyone who swallows these objections whole without considering the data is likewise intellectually lazy. By the way, I went and invited Jeremy Runnells to read and consider the information I was writing in my Faithful Joseph series a few months ago, and he never bothered responding. So I have my own reasons for thinking he is unwilling to consider information that might challenge his new-found fame.]

The Fair Mormon wiki has done a good job of organizing responses to the objections raised by the letter. Dan Petersen goes through a few of the objections raised by the writer of Letter to a CES Director:

1) DNA evidence – the writer of the CES letter grossly simplifies the matter. Dan explains, for example, the reason that the Book of Mormon never makes claims that some have made on behalf of the book, such as the idea that Book of Mormon peoples were the primary ancestors of the Indians. But the Book of Mormon never claims this for itself.
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God’s Strange Act: A Legacy

[This post is the last of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Taylor and Shazia

In the fall of 2012, Taylor volunteered to campaign for one of the two US presidential candidates. He was primarily motivated by political ideology, but he also hoped that he might meet someone. He’d fought for his country in Iraq and served a mission to Thailand. For a couple of years since his mission, Taylor had been hoping to meet someone he could marry. He’d dated, of course, and he’d introduce whichever woman he was dating to his family, only to eventually have to tell well-wishers that, no, he was no longer dating this woman or that woman.

In the pre-dawn mist, Taylor surveyed the group of fellow campaigners that had gathered at the vans that would take them to a swing district for the weekend of campaigning. Instead of the group of college students he’d expected, the other campaigners were mature individuals or children. Resigned, Taylor set about making friends of those around him.

After dawn, the vans of campaigners stopped for a break. Taylor noticed that amidst the older folks and helpful children, there was a woman. She was bundled in her coat against the fall chill, hair pulled back in a knot, glasses framing an attractive face of undetermined age. Taylor turned back to his new-found friends and continued their discussion, not wanting to make his new friends feel he was willing to ditch them just for an attractive woman. Particularly if the woman turned out to be much older or married or otherwise uninterested in a person like himself. However Taylor’s new friends urged him to meet the lady on the other side of the group.

Her name, Taylor learned, was Shazia. And, no, she wasn’t in her thirties, nor was she married. As the weekend progressed, in the midst of their village of fellow campaigners, Taylor and Shazia began to learn how much they shared in common: music, academics, a love of the outdoors, politics, having a parent from Asia, pioneer heritage, ancestors who were shot at Carthage jail. 1

In time Taylor introduced Shazia to his family and updated his Facebook status. Eventually an e-mail from Taylor’s grandmother went out, days before Valentine’s Day, with the subject “Taylor’s technically not engaged yet, but the marriage is set…”

Thus began one of the myriad love stories of those who believe in the importance of marriage, of those who believe their unions can last for eternity.

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Notes:

  1. John Taylor and Hyrum Smith.

Conversation Six Critique

six

After so many weeks that I’d stopped checking, the folks who support female ordination in the LDS Church have posted the final promised episode. They used to be called discussions and are now called conversations. Rameumpton’s already covered this, but since I covered the other five episodes, I want to complete the set.

Before I proceed, I just wanted to comment on the graphic. This is not a graphic geared toward a Mormon audience. It is clearly a nun wearing a crucifix. I suppose they are trying to evoke the image of Mother Theresa, who is quoted under the graphic.

But Mormons tend to see the crucifix as a symbol of Christ’s death, and we prefer to think of Him resurrected rather than on the cross (despite the verbal imagery in most sacrament hymns). And nuns are typically associated with the Catholic church and vows of celibacy. If one is told, “but this is supposed to be a stylized Mormon woman in ritual garb,” then I’d say, “looks like a nun to me.” Actually, it looks a bit like some kind of alien nun I might see in a science fiction show (shades of Doctor Who).

I think a better graphic would have been the iconic hands from Michelangelo’s painting of Adam and God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Or perhaps a woman with open arms. At any rate, something other than this graphic. Continue reading

Days of Defiance

[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Taylor_wives

John W. Taylor’s plural wives circa 1901: Janet Marie Woolley, Roxie Welling, Rhoda Welling, and Nellie Todd

The majority of Mormons welcomed the end of polygamy, announced by Wilford Woodruff in 1890. The suffering caused by government enforcement of anti-polygamy laws had been great.

Yet even when Wilford Woodruff announced that plural marriage should end, not everything was over.

For the vast majority of men involved in a plural marriage, Wilford Woodruff’s pronouncement ending polygamy did not persuade them to renounce their plural wives. Many of these men were older, with older plural wives who were at or near the end of their childbearing years.

A few men involved in plural marriage had married young brides in the days before the Manifesto. These were often inspired by John Taylor’s dying conviction that plural marriage was the New and Everlasting Covenant, and that this covenant could never righteously be taken from the earth.

Meanwhile, the United States had taken a hard position that polygamy was utterly wrong. On this point the people of the United States were of one mind as they have rarely been since. Continue reading

Families Can Be Together Forever

imageI enjoy the tumblr feed at Just Say Amen Already (JSAA). The author is K, a Jewish convert who lives in New York City. K has a great sense of humor, handy when you are a single female Mormon professional who happens to be a Democrat.

I browsed JSAA a few weeks ago after hearing my son-in-law’s father had died. K’s witty tumblr feed was a comfort. I clicked through to K’s blog posts and read K’s comments on Families Will Be Together Forever.

As a single Mormon woman who is the only member of her family, K took issue with this song, with a line by line critique. I get where she’s coming from. I mean, some of us do live the dream. But when I was getting beaten by my first husband or my dad, the words “[my family] is so good to me” didn’t accurately describe the situation. I am aware of other actual situations that are stark exceptions to the ideal of the good family, like a friend who was murdered by her husband, or another friend whose mother was a prostitute who abandoned her children.

How might it be possible to modify the song ever so slightly so it conveys the original sense of hope and admonition, but rings true to all members of the Church, particularly those whose lives don’t fit the ideal Mormon model for whatever reason? Continue reading