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: Robert F. Smith – The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage

Smith

The title of this talk comes from Betty J. Stevenson, of Oakland, CA. This was her first impression of the Mormon religion at age 39 when the missionaries first came to her house.

“They came in and told me the most preposterous story I’ve ever heard in my life, about a white boy, a dead angel, and some gold plates. And I wondered, ‘What they on?'”

Robert Smith is about to publish a book that details the preposterous elements in the Book of Mormon and the Bible (and the Bible has far more preposterous elements and anachronisms than the Book of Mormon). [This was also the first time Robert Smith had ever given a powerpoint presentation.]

The preposterous nature of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a singular advantage, because if it can’t be true, it is all the more impressive when hard evidence shows it to be an authentic, ancient document. Bayes theorem can be used to show likelihood, which in the case of the Book of Mormon should be impossible unless it was the miracle it claims to be. Continue reading

Fair Mormon Conf – Sharon Eubank: This is a Woman’s Church

Eubanks[Sharon Eubank is the Director of LDS Charities, and her board of directors includes the three men who make up the Presidning Bishopric and the women who make up the Relief Society Presidency. In this role she travels the world and interacts with world bodies such as the United Nations.]

Sharon wants to go on record from her own experience: the doctrine and practice of the Church have given her, as a woman, things that she cares more deeply about than anything else in her life.

Sharon has found her experience in the Cuhrch incredibly empowering. She’ll talk about the doctrine and the practices the doctrine has inspired.

The Doctrine of Intelligences. We’ve always existed and cannot be created or made. We chose to ally ourselves with God, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They made it possible for us to have a spiritual body and a mortal body, and Christ allows us to have a resurrected body.

[The rest of this is often in first person, as I was just having a great time trying to capture the substance of what Sister Eubank was saying.]

Let me call my intelligence my first self. No one has the combination of gifts and personality that I have.

We then are able to add additional stewardships and roles. Christ says, I am the self-existent one: I am.” And we declared that we, also, exist. Then as we take on roles, we define ourselves in relationship to others. So as a woman I have taken on attributes and responsibilities and bodily processes.

Sharon believes womanhood has roles related to binding, connecting, bridging, and gluing. From her own experience, being in an image of the divine feminine, this is what she feels responsible for. For example, there is the Roman goddess Hestia or Vesta, a virgin who has no family, yet she is responsible for all family reslationships, her symbol is the hearth fire, she connects all family relationships into family and community, she weaves all things together. Continue reading

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