What is wrong with Ralph Hancock’s talk at the FAIR Conference?

On another thread here at M*, we have had a raging debate on Ralph Hancock’s talk at the FAIR Conference Aug. 1.

This talk has now been published by FAIR and can be read here.

Having read the talk several times now, I cannot understand why this talk is all that controversial. I honestly believe that many people simply do not understand it or are confused by the terms he used (such as “liberal.”)

After Prof. Hancock’s talk, however, Scott Gordon, President of FAIR, felt it necessary to clarify that FAIR’s position on the talk, something that was not done for any other talk during the conference.

Here is Scott Gordon’s explanation, as written here on M*:

I had several comments on his presentation. Some from liberals, and one of the last ones came from a very conservative republican. I have no idea if the people who made comments to me listened to the talk or not. On the way to the podium, I thought I should try to nip in the bud the idea that FAIR supported one political ideology or another. I thought my comments reflected that. I was very uncomfortable making the announcement as I was unhappy I had not thought to make that clear at the beginning of the conference and I couldn’t think of a more graceful way to articulate my thoughts.

I reiterate this point not to bash Scott Gordon and/or FAIR (quite the opposite) but to explain why this talk garnered attention. As far as I am concerned, the whole “apology issue” is not really relevant to this discussion anymore.

I would like this post to concentrate on the actual content of the talk. My personal opinion: I think it was a brilliant talk with many salient points for modern-day latter-day Saints. Prof. Hancock quoted modern-day prophets and apostles, de Toqueville and many Founding Fathers and makes his case clearly and forcefully. I honestly cannot understand why believing latter-day Saints would have a problem with it.

I am, however, willing to be convinced otherwise.

Let’s start out with a few things that Prof. Hancock did NOT say.

*He has nothing to say about economic liberals, i.e. liberals who believe in social justice and equality on economic issues. This has been the main, uniting focus of the liberal/progressive movement for more than 100 years now. So, when he uses the term “liberal” he is not aiming at economic liberals.
*He had nothing to say about the Democratic party, the Green Party or any specific political party.
*He does not recommend any specific policy, party platform or legislation.
*He does not say that everything he believes to be morally wrong must be made illegal.
*He does not say that if you disagree with him you are a bad latter-day Saint, should lose your temple recommend, be shunned at Church, etc, etc.

So, what are his main points?

1)Although the Church is politically neutral, there are certain moral issues where the Church does take a public stance and get involved politically.
2)He makes a distinction between what he calls “practical liberalism” and “theoretical liberalism.” This concept is crucial to understand. Practical liberals understand, and emphasize, the crucial role of religion and traditional morality in maintaining a functioning society. Theoretical liberals, however, reject traditional morality and a higher power and believe in human ability to define morality. This implies there are no absolute moral truths.
3)The New Liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s grew out of the ideas of theoretical liberals. Here is what Prof. Hancock says:

The New Liberalism posits open-ended individual self-expression –including, notably, sexual expression, however that may be defined by the individuals’ desires or supposed identity– as a fundamental right, as essential to the “dignity” of the person. The opposition of this view to the Restored Gospel could not be clearer: the Gospel situates sexuality within a distinctive view of the eternal destiny of the person, and subordinates sexual desire and expression to that definite purpose and to the commandments that serve that purpose. It is fundamental to LDS teaching that the family is eternal, and therefore that sexuality must be expressed within the bounds that serve the person’s interest in the eternal family.

4)The Proclamation on the Family, released in 1995, clearly does not support the New Liberal’s view.

This Proclamation would seem to present an insuperable obstacle to LDS wishing to reconcile their New Liberal commitments with Church teaching.

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
…Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
…We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

5)New Liberals are constantly pushing for the Church to adopt their version of morality, but modern-day prophets have reiterated (including, notably, at the most recent General Conference), that the Church will not change its position on moral issues. Prof. Hancock then goes on to quote many of the recent talks from prophets and apostles.

6)Prof. Hancock then goes on to point out that it is difficult for scholars to succeed if they support traditional morality. He says:

It would be a shame to leave our brothers and sisters, and especially our intellectually gifted and enterprising young fellow saints, with the impression that they must choose between being rational and being faithful. Mormon apologists must make it clear, in the area of fundamental moral-political beliefs as they do in dealing with sacred texts and Church history, that the Lord does not ask us to sacrifice our intellectual integrity or rational or our quest for understanding, but only to recognize our own limitations, the fallibility and corruptibility of human reason, and thus the need for prophetic guidance and for obedience to commandments.

As I say, I find absolutely nothing controversial about this. Many of these points are discussed at length in every General Conference.

What am I missing?

(Polite discussion is encouraged. Snarky, sarcastic comments, personal insults, etc, will be deleted).

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

98 thoughts on “What is wrong with Ralph Hancock’s talk at the FAIR Conference?

  1. I think one challenge is that many LDS intellectuals DO feel like they have to choose between reason and faithfulness on these issues — they feel as though reason directs us towards a more open-minded, all-embracing sexual ethic in the public sphere, and faithfulness directs us towards a close-minded bigotedness.

    So their solution is not to render the Proclamation on the Family rational (that is, to find ways to defend it using reason), but to redefine what it means to be faithful. Conveniently, the Proclamation on the Family falls outside the canon in their eyes, and can be ignored while still maintaining loyalty to the Church and the prophets. So, with this new definition of faithfulness, they feel that it is perfectly possible to be faithful and rational.

    But once you start pointing out how important the Proclamation is to modern prophets (e.g., most recent General Conference), they start getting upset, because it spoils their tidy approach of sweeping it under the rug.

  2. “Conveniently, the Proclamation on the Family falls outside the canon in their eyes”

    The proclamation is not canonized. That is a simple fact, not a matter of somebody’s eyes.

    I wish people would follow the example of the Brethren. Since the leaders themselves have issued a public statement saying that a member’s position on California’s Proposition 8 has NO BEARING on that member’s standing or worthiness for callings or temple recommends, why do we continue to insist otherwise, and call them unfaithful?

  3. I personally do not have a problem with Hancock’s speech, per se. I would say that I’m not convinced FAIR was the appropriate venue for it. FAIR works hard to avoid politics, even though left/right issues are discussed there. Had Hancock discussed not only problems with the left/New Liberal side of things, but also the problems with the Neo-Conservative side of things, then perhaps he would have given a better FAIR speech.

    What problems with the Neo-Cons? How about how so many promote war, rather than peace? Or their rigid stance on immigration, which impacts families (many of which are faithful LDS members).

    As for focusing on one singular point, he did not prove his point. He showed that the new Left is perhaps wrong/out of sync with the prophets on one issue. That does not make a valid assessment.

    As a Libertarian, I believe government should be wholly out of religion and marriage, with the exception of providing protection for children, etc. I believe it has been government interference that has gravely damaged and destroyed the traditional family. Dr Walter Williams recently implied that government intervention has done more to harm black families than to help them: http://www.humanevents.com/2013/07/31/black-self-sabotage/

    Government intervention is what caused Mormons to be expelled from Missouri, Joseph Smith to be murdered, and Brigham Young to be in arms about the US Army coming to sack Utah. Later, the government would raid Utah homes and churches, arresting all of its leaders, tearing families apart, and confiscating all property, in the name of fighting polygamy.

    If we give government power to limit people’s rights to privacy and to enter into relationships of their choice, then just how soon will the tide turn and that same government will be forcing its will on us?

    Better for us to leave marriage as a free choice, and let people discuss right and wrong in the public forum. We are to warn our neighbors, not put a gun to their head and force them to comply with our beliefs.

    I can and will gladly speak for the Proclamation on the Family. I want it to be like Moroni’s standard of liberty, for people to flock to. I’d hate to see it used as a club to beat others down. As President Packer has warned about on several occasions, let us not use one virtue to beat up on another virtue (marriage/agency).

    Yet, along with Pres Packer, we can teach people that just because something is legal does not make it moral. We can invite people to turn to God, to repent, and to embrace the Proclamation on the Family, without becoming the tyrants we Mormons have distrusted for almost 2 centuries.

  4. Jack, NO ONE HAS MENTIONED PROP 8. So why are YOU bringing it up? I’ve made no mention of Prop 8. Proclamation on the Family ≠ Prop 8.

    The Proclamation on the Family was referenced in nearly EVERY talk last conference. It is clearly important to them. VERY important to them.

  5. That said, I wish people would follow the example of the Brethen and continue to support measures to encode traditional marriage into civil law, as they currently still do.

  6. Rameumption:

    “He showed that the new Left is perhaps wrong/out of sync with the prophets on one issue. That does not make a valid assessment.”

    That’s all he was trying to do. He wasn’t trying to show they are wrong on every issue. He was simply trying to show that they are wrong on THIS issue. And that this is an important issue to be wrong on, and that LDS apologetics need to not shy away from defending the sexual ethics the Church proclaims, rather than shy away from them for fear of offending this cadre of LDS intellectuals that reject the Church’s sexual ethics. And he did a stellar job at that.

  7. I totally agree with GB, I find the talk to be right on the spot. I see the trend he talks about regarding moral issues among many members. We either believe God’s word on the matter, which is that sexual activity is to be confined to the bonds of matrimony and between a man and a woman, or we don’t. I don’t see any gray areas on this matter. We can try to rationalize all we want, but it won’t change the teaching in the end. I remember clearly my covenants and there weren’t any other provisions regarding the matter.

  8. I wish people would concentrate on the actual talk, which is the purpose of this post. Rame, as LDSP has pointed out, his talk only covered one issue. You are certainly correct (imho) that New Liberals can sometimes be right on the issues of war and immigration, but that is not relevant to this discussion. I listed above some of the things he talk did NOT address. Let’s concentrate on what it DID address.

  9. Jack, to clarify, Bro. Hancock, myself, and others have noticed not just a dismissal of Prop 8 amongst the New Liberalism (which is what seem to fixate on), but a dismissal of gender complementarity of marriage at large. Many LDS intellectuals fully expect, hope, and agitate for the LDS Church to embrace same-sex marriage not just in the legal realm, but in the temple as well. I have many, many friends who have left the Church because they decided that same-sex activity was not sinful. I have many friends who have concluded that the Church will eventually change its position on same-sex activity, and so we should hold no loyalties to the Church’s current teachings on sexual morality. I have LDS friends who believe that masturbation and even premarital sex are just matters of personal sexual expression, and that the Church should stop guilt tripping people for simply following their God-given biological urges. I have friends who argue that divorce should be pursued if we “fall out of love” with our spouse, because marriage is supposed to make us happy, and we deserve — in fact, are entitled to — be married to someone we enjoy being with at all times. I have friends who argue that the Church should stop encouraging couples to have children, because the earth is already too populated and children are a nuisance anyways, so why guilt people into procreating?

    This is what we are talking about when we talk about defending the Proclamation on the Family. None of these have anything to do with Prop 8, but are nonetheless all entailed in the dismissal of the teachings of the Proclamation on the Family by New Liberalism and the cadre of LDS intellectuals who reject the Proclamation. So quit reducing everything to “Prop 8.”

    Is the Proclamation on the Family part of the official canon? No. But is it the word of the Lord to us today? YES.

  10. “I wonder what would happen if the Brethren moved to include the Family Proclamation into official church cannon.”

    I am not sure it makes a difference for us today whether it is canon or not. Prophets and apostles reiterate in every General Conference that they support the Proclamation and go further than the Proclamation on moral issues. They have also made it clear that the Church’s position on these moral issues *will not change.* That is pretty darned strong language for us today. I guess you could make the argument that, say, 50 years from now the fact that the Proclamation in canonized could make a difference. As for us today, I don’t think it is an issue.

  11. Geoff, I know that for *me* there’s no discernible difference whether canonized or not, but I wonder how it would effect the nature of these debates. I have found that most of these arguments are easily answered through the family proclamation, but as long as it’s not canonized, these issues remain unresolved for those who see this as our modern-day version of the priesthood ban. I wonder, then, if this proclamation were officially made scripture, if they would quiet down and change their attitudes, or if they would find themselves leaving the kingdom.

  12. LDSP writes, “Conveniently, the Proclamation on the Family falls outside the canon in their eyes, and can be ignored while still maintaining loyalty to the Church and the prophets. So, with this new definition of faithfulness, they feel that it is perfectly possible to be faithful and rational.”

    I am reminded of a quote from “The Enemy Within the Gate” by John McKee, which I like to cite to Catholic liberals. In it he says,

    “[S]ome who are utterly sincere in reprobating anything which smacks of ‘legalism’ still betray a juridical approach towards papal authority because of a hypnosis induced by the first Vatican Council’s definition of papal infallibility. They have discarded their son-to-father, or flock-to-shepherd, relationship in a way undreamed of by the Council Fathers, a way against which tradition cries out …. Human beings being frail, this imbalance has naturally been rife mainly among those who were already deviating from Catholic doctrine even if only by a minor angle of deflection. To them, papal decisions have been disagreeable, and they have received them, not with ‘Peter has spoken through the mouth of Paul,’ but with the words, ‘Is he speaking infallibly? If not, I need not accept.’ Such an attitude is out of touch with the realities of life. It is as if people would agree to travel by train only if guaranteed that the driver was incapable of error; rather, as if the flock refused to follow God’s appointed shepherd without a written guarantee ruling out any possible slip.” [p. 60]

  13. Many of these points are discussed at length in every General Conference.

    I think this is what makes the talk surprising, though not terribly controversial. It looks like Hancock is proposing that FAIR be something it isn’t nor ever has been – an extension of General Conference – but with a conservative political edge.

    You don’t have to disagree with the talk to think its inappropriate for the venue. To illustrate the point, imagine hearing a FAIR paper, on say, the WoW in General Conference or at any official Church setting. Two orgs. with similar goals and entirely different approaches. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a FAIR article referred to as “anti” by a fellow ward member or relative.)

  14. If we (as a people, as a nation, and throughout the world) actually read, understood and lived by the canon, there would have been no need for a Proclamation, and no need for people to give speeches at FAIR in support of it. Since even our impoverished spiritual memory is quickly vanishing, the Proclamation is as clear and as concise a distillation of the basic principles of the canon as can be found. Does it not testify of Christ, the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and the basic principles of the Gospel? Does it not invite us all to repent? We should be thankful that living prophets have condensed the canon into one single page, thus accommodating our puny modern minds and our pusillanimous modern souls. If we, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, neo-libertarian or neo-anything study the Proclamation and live by it, we shall be blessed with eternal felicity. If we ignore, dismiss it, or neglect any part of it, we do so at our own eternal peril. By rejecting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” we reject Christ, the living prophets, and the canon as well.

  15. LDSP, nice straw man you set up.

    There is no evidence that what you say is correct, nor that most academics that nuance how the Proclamation on the Family should be used, etc., is a form of apostasy.

    That they are trying to use the info in the PoF to understand the world, and vice versa, means they are engaging with it. As I mentioned above, it may be an issue of two competing virtues: traditional family versus agency. Do we follow the king model of leadership, where not only behavior but belief are controled? Or do we embrace King Mosiah’s teaching that all should be free to choose and be responsible for their own choices?

    John Welch just put out a great article on Mormons and Jurisprudence at the Interpreter. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/toward-a-mormon-jurisprudence/

    He suggests that Mormons would be more inclusive and pluralistic. I don’t think he was considering some of those on this list who would use government to force people into certain types of relationships, etc. He discusses the concept of agency and how Joseph Smith expected the saints to govern themselves. I suggest a close reading of Jack Welch’s article in connection with this discussion. While it does not speak on the Proclamation on the Family or on homosexuality, the concepts he brings forth are very relevant to the discussion.

    He notes that our complex cosmology is going to make things complex. We believe in a complete system that will therefore be inconsistent, with principles that clash, and with opposition in all things, etc.

    IOW, it is not a black white issue, as Hancock would suggest. There are other factors. Taking one example and expanding it out to fit an entire section of people is relatively poor scholarship. I could see one conservative or liberal Mormon spit ont he sidewalk and then determine that all conservative/liberal Mormons are unsanitary. It does not follow. In fact, I have some very good friends, he is on the high council with me, who are staunch liberals. Yet, they both fully support the Proclamation on the Family and are against homosexual marriage (but are also against imposing our views on others as in Prop 8). Which box would you place them? It is better to see members on a line or quadrant(s), where we can see where they sit on a variety of issues, not just one emotionally packed issue that can draw rave reviews in Utah.

  16. Xenophon, I sort of agree with you, in that we’re being taught (in word and deed) that every word of the living apostles should be viewed as scripture, while what we’ve viewed in the past as canon/scripture can be picked apart for spiritual application when its relevant and discarding it when its not. So by repeating its importance again and again, the Family Proc (for example), becomes a kind of quasi canon – much more important than ta large portion of actual scripture.

    I only bring this up as an observation. I’m not sure that having such a low view of scripture is a good thing.

  17. Rameumpton, wow.

    I’m assuming you are referring to my comment that says, “Jack, to clarify.”

    First, where did I suggest forcing people into certain relationships? Where did I suggest violating anyone’s moral agency?

    Second, I’ve experienced everything I claim to have. I have friends in LDS circles who believe each of those things. I didn’t set up a straw man, because I didn’t claim that ALL LDS intellectuals believe this — or even that most do. But SOME do, and it’s a growing cadre. I’ve met them. They exist. And from my experience, they are growing in numbers.

  18. If by “pluralism” you mean that the teachings of chastity in the Proclamation on the Family should be optional, and that the Church’s tent is big enough for those who believe that the Proclamation is dead wrong on many crucial issues (such as the gender complementarity of marriage, that sex should be exercised only between man and woman, etc.), and that such perspectives are equally valid ways of being Mormon, then I think you are dead wrong. Those are not Mormon ways of living or believing, but are in fact antithetical to the Gospel.

    I’m not even talking about government, so it makes no sense for you to come back with “agency” in your response.

  19. Also, I think you get caught up on the term “liberal.” I’m not saying, and neither is Hancock, that ALL LIBERALS REJECT THE PROCLAMATION. Rather, we’ve defined a narrow cadre of liberals who DO reject the Proclamation, and termed them, “New Liberals.” And they do exist.

    It is to that narrow group of people that this message is directed. And yes, if you reject the Proclamation on the Family as an inspired document, I think that to that extent you have abandoned a core tenet of the LDS faith.

  20. Also, I think you get caught up on the term “liberal.” I’m not saying, and neither is Hancock, that ALL LIBERALS REJECT THE PROCLAMATION.

    LDSP,

    Why is the term “liberal” necessary? Why not say, “some Mormons”? The point would still hold – without the divisiveness. Though, my honest reading of Hancock’s other work tells me that division was part of the point.

  21. Here’s the problem. I’ve state it earlier.

    One group strives to be all-inclusive. They want all perspectives, all lifestyles, all views to be counted as equally valid ways of being Mormon. They want to encourage and foster a “big tent Mormonism” which welcomes those with dissident views that contradict core Church teachings.

    Others (like myself) see a great danger — a hollowing out of Mormonism. We see emptiness in this approach. We see core truths being marginalized because they are offensive to some groups of self-identified Mormons. And so we raise an alarm: these truths need to be defended. These truths need to be spoken. And those who disregard, disbelieve, and actively teach against these core truths ought not be considered faithful Latter-day Saints. They are apostates and they working against the Church (even if they themselves don’t see it that way).

    The other group comes back and says, “See! Divisive! They are trying to exclude people. That’s not Christlike.” And that’s really not fair. It becomes the intellectual tyranny of the dissent. We must moderate our teaching of core doctrine to beware offending/excluding the dissenters, and if we don’t, we are to be excluded and marginalized.

    Zion is not an embracing of all worldviews in the spirit of “Kumbaya.” Zion is being of one heart and one mind — not a pluralism of both sound and false doctrine mixed together into a pastel grey. And Zion is more than just one heart and one mind — it is becoming one with *God’s* mind. And that means turning to God’s words — delivered through the scriptures, the Spirit, and His living spokesmen.

    I honestly don’t think we can build Zion when large segments of our population think the Prophets are coo-coo for teaching the law of chastity or gender essentialism. And I don’t think Zion can be built by accommodating those worldviews as “equally valid ways of being Mormon.” That’s not Zion, that’s the philosophies of men mingled with truth.

  22. LDSP,

    I would never propose that Jesus was not divisive. Anyone who’s read the Gospels should know. I was simply asking why Hancock had to use a term that would bring *unnecessary* division. If its not ALL liberals or not ALL social liberals and if socially liberal Mormons aren’t even the only group that opposed the Family Proc (I know socially conservative Mormons who have left the Church), then why use the label at all?

  23. Well, he didn’t use the term “liberal.” He used the term “New Liberal.” He also very delicately and deliberately defined what he meant by that. He differentiated it from other brands of liberalism. He talked about different brands of liberalism — those that don’t reject the Proclamation on the Family and basic moral values — in very approving sorts of ways.

    So he wasn’t trying to cast aspersions on “liberals.” If you read his remarks, you’ll see that he speaks approvingly and multiple varieties of liberalism, and then narrows his remarks to a particular variety — one that he and others have seen growing within and without the Church — that does have troubling features.

  24. “Many of these points are discussed at length in every General Conference.

    I think this is what makes the talk surprising, though not terribly controversial. It looks like Hancock is proposing that FAIR be something it isn’t nor ever has been – an extension of General Conference – but with a conservative political edge.

    You don’t have to disagree with the talk to think its inappropriate for the venue. ”

    Christian J, this is what you say farther up in this thread. First, let’s agree that FAIR can choose to discuss whatever it wants. It is a private organization that can make its own choices. Having said that, I was at the FAIR conference last year and heard a very good talk by Neylan McBaine. I discuss it here:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/fair-conference-number-three-neylan-mcbaine-gendered-participation-within-church-organizational-structure/

    This talk was extremely political…at least for some people. For others it was uncontroversial and just brought up common sense issues. But for people like…my wife and probably every active LDS woman I know in person (not over the internet)…this talk was extremely political. It starts from the political position that the Church is perceived as unfair by women. Sorry, this is simply not the case in my ward and most wards in my area of Colorado. The women there see such statements as starting from a political position (ie, a *feminist* position) that they completely reject.

    Now, there are many points that Sis. McBaine made that I agree with. I found her talk interesting and refreshing. But I know many women who would have HUGE problems with her talk.

    And this is exactly the point. The “liberal consensus” that Prof. Hancock is decrying makes it OK to call his talk political but not acceptable to call Sis. McBaine’s talk political *even though it is clearly true that many, many people see her talk as political.* This is where political correctness gets you: certain (conservative) viewpoints are simply beyond the pale and cannot be discussed whereas other (liberal) viewpoints are just common sense and must be analyzed, scrutinized, debated, etc, etc.

    I would argue that this is one reason that many people were alarmed that FAIR felt a need to clarify its political neutrality for one talk (the “conservative” one) but not for the other, clearly liberal one.

  25. Christian J, with respect I think you are getting caught up on labels with this comment:

    “I was simply asking why Hancock had to use a term that would bring *unnecessary* division. If its not ALL liberals or not ALL social liberals and if socially liberal Mormons aren’t even the only group that opposed the Family Proc (I know socially conservative Mormons who have left the Church), then why use the label at all?”

    As I say in the OP, he was aiming his talk at a particular faction. I have MANY friends who voted for Obama and call themselves liberals but don’t accept that there is no universal morality. Those are the New Liberals that Prof. Hancock is worried about, not the people like my friends.

  26. LDSP,

    There’s no such thing as a “brand” of Mormon liberalism. There are only individuals with varying degrees of support for the Family Proc.

  27. Geoff, I think you give Mormon liberals too much credit. They remain a very small minority and couldn’t muster “faction” if they wanted to.

  28. This talk was extremely political…at least for some people.

    Geoff,

    Based on your summary, I don’t see how the McBaine talk is political in the way that Hancock’s is.

    You really don’t have to be a political liberal to think that Mormon women are are treated unfairly by the Church anyway. I give you exhibit A.

    And of course, not all political liberals think women are treated unfairly by the Church. Exhibit B is my wife.

    Maybe I just hate labels, but I prefer that – Mormon to Mormon – we use them to describe each other sparingly.

  29. Christian J, agreed that labels are problematic. I am a libertarian-leaning guy and don’t really like being called a “conservative” because when people think of conservatives they think of people like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who both make me want to hurl. So, point taken. But I have to admit I do hold some traditionally conservative viewpoints, so…whatever. But labels are always difficult.

    We are going to have to agree to disagree on the McBaine talk. I saw it as extremely political, even if I did agree with some points she made. But that is my point: there were probably a lot of people who saw the Hancock talk and saw it as a philosophical talk, not a political talk. Just because you don’t see something as political does not mean the entire audience didn’t.

  30. “There’s no such thing as a “brand” of Mormon liberalism. ”

    I think you’re wrong on this point. I give you exhibit A: http://joannabrooks.org/

    And “factions” are present in Mormonism, we’ve had them from the beginning actually. Naturally they congregate online now, but they do exist.

  31. Towns, sure factions are present in Mormonism and always have been. I don’t know of any that you could call strictly “liberal” though. Unless you mean liberal as in – *groups who are inherently against policies or doctrines of the Church*. And maybe that is what Hancock meant – (“there is this group of people and I choose to call them liberal – even if they all don’t fit into the common political use of the term”). I just think that’s unnecessary – if it is what he meant. Maybe I’m too picky.

    And Brooks may have fans and twitter followers, but she’s still an individual with her own ideas. I’m not aware of anyone who calls her leader.

  32. Life is political. The word politics is derived from the Greek word “politikos,” meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens.” As soon as we step into the public square, it’s all political. As I understand it, the point that a few of us have been trying to make is that certain ideologies have become so entrenched, even in Mormon circles, that many people simply and uncritically accept these ideologies as the equivalent of common sense. As soon as someone else, Socrates-like, comes along and points out that these ideologies don’t necessarily coincide with common sense (and in many cases they run directly counter to it), they are dismissed as being “too political.” Does no one else see the irony in this? It’s almost like some people are saying “Here is my political stance, and it is equal to common sense, but if you disagree, you are being too political.” Part of the problem is that the entrenched political ideologies are often so pervasive and so well hidden behind a “narrative” or the co-opting of religious terms such as “compassion,” “tolerance,” and “equality” that they are mistaken for truth.

  33. “It’s almost like some people are saying “Here is my political stance, and it is equal to common sense, but if you disagree, you are being too political.”

    Excellent.

  34. “And Brooks may have fans and twitter followers, but she’s still an individual with her own ideas. I’m not aware of anyone who calls her leader.”

    Might I delicately suggest that perhaps the issue is your lack of awareness? :)

    “I don’t know of any that you could call strictly “liberal” though.”

    Almost all of them vote Democratic. Almost all of them supported — vocally and online — Obama. (This is based on years of Bloggernacle observations.) I mean, I don’t get what you’re trying to say here. You don’t know a liberal when you read, see, or hear one?

    Go to Brooks’ blog or read anything political that John Dehlin has written. It’s a veritable liberal laundry list of typical progressive complaints and grievances, using all the latest liberal lexicons.

  35. “Based on your summary, I don’t see how the McBaine talk is political in the way that Hancock’s is. ”

    This is interesting, in and of itself. I have the same reaction that Geoff had. The McBaine talk was pure politics.

    Now, Christian J, I have no clue who you are, what your gender is (not sure that matters, although I sort of like to know who I communicate with), but — this is pure honesty — you seem to have a blind side when it comes to what constitutes “liberal” (or “progressive”, or “social justice”, or “the rent is too d*** high”, or what have you). I don’t mean that as personal criticism, and I’m not slamming you for it. But it’s frustrating to hear folks say that Hancock’s talk was “totally political” and then be seemingly (or blissfully?) unaware that there have been other blatantly “political” talks at FAIR, even downright controversial ones.

  36. This discussion reminds me of the time my companion and I attended a prayer service at the RLDS church in Allegan, Michigan while I was serving my mission. There was a mixture of men and women present, and while we were drinking punch and eating cookies, one gentlemen came over and commented, “isn’t it great that everyone here, except for my wife, holds the priesthood?” He was obviously being provocative, but my companion took the bait. As we walked home after the meeting, he got really indignant and complained about how horrible it was that the RLDS were ordaining women.

    I kinda laughed at him and told him to get over it. “It’s their club!” I said. “Who cares what they do with their priesthood in their club?” As Brigham Young was fond of saying, the Methodists are free to “worship a God without body, parts, and passions,” and I say that other religions are free to do whatever they wish. It’s their club.

    As for the Church, we are either just a club or we are the Kingdom of God on Earth. I look at those who push the idea of “big tent Mormonism” or those who agitate for changes in core doctrines as subscribing to the club model. If the LDS Church is nothing but a club, why not agitate for changes to make it conform to your preferences? Wear pants to Church, see women praying as a sign that it’s only a matter of time until they are ordained, and conclude that “the Church will eventually change its position on same-sex activity, and so we should hold no loyalties to the Church’s current teachings on sexual morality.”

    However, if the truth claims of the Church are actually True. If there was a Restoration, if there are prophets and apostles with authority from God, if the Book of Mormon is what we say it is, then this isn’t our club. We aren’t free to dictate or agitate for what we think ought to be the case. LDSP said it quite well above, and I’ll echo those words. It all just reminds me of some of my favorite imagery from Isaiah, also quoted in 2 Nephi:

    “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Isaiah 50:11, see also 2 Nephi 7:11

    For all of our cleverness, if we reject the light from God and are guided in this life solely based on the light and knowledge that we kindle for ourselves, we will ultimately “lie down in sorrow.” Certainly whatever fire or sparks we can generate are and will be a poor substitute for the light we can get from God.

  37. I am liberal, and disliked some of the things in the talk, but I think it’s a shame for liberals to criticize Bro. Hancock for his views or state that it wasnt appropriate for FAIR. Hancock was echoing views long stated in General Conference, and it’s crazy if in FAIR of all places, liberals feel like they can be free of those authoritarian attitudes. This is an authoritarian church, not a grass-roots organization.

    True liberalism embraces the rights of independent organizations like the LDS church to be as patriarchal and “backwards” as they want to be. The church is part of a broader pluralistic state community, but the church itself is not pluralistic.

    I disagree with members like Hancock whose views might justify political crusades among the Gentiles to promote LDS-specific morality like the Proclamation on the Family. But I recognize that I must bear these attitudes with patience, as they come in some cases, from my authorized church leaders, whom I have covenanted to sustain.

    I believe my views will eventually win out in the church, but I may be wrong. Crusades like Prop. 8 have not happened again. The church learns from its mistakes. But while liberals wait for things they wish would change, they must not agitate for change. That is not the Lord’s way. Let Hancock echo the spirit of the beliefs of our current leaders. He is following the prophet. We are in shaky ground, not him. Perhaps there are safe places for liberals to commiserate, but not at FAIR.

  38. Nate, good comment. I am wondering what you disagreed with in the talk. It seems incontrovertible that 1)liberalism has changed how it sees traditional morality and 2)these changes are incompatible with the Proclamation and the Church’s greater stance on moral issues. Do you disagree with either of those two points?

  39. “There are only individuals with varying degrees of support for the Family Proc.”

    There are also individuals with varying interpretations (or maybe I should say “understandings”) of the Proclamation, or how it should be followed or even worshipped. I had an elders’ quorum president who basically bowed down to the copy hanging on his wall when he got home from work. He admonished us as a quorum to do the same. I have no problem with the Proclamation itself; I do have a problem with a certain contingent that interprets it one way and expects the rest of us to do likewise to be considered good members.

    President Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” has been cited in General Conference a few times as well. My comment on the BCC conference open thread at the time was that some of the emphasized points made it sound like President Monson would automatically be the best person to perform my wife’s impending surgery. (And Pres. Monson would be the first to disagree with that notion.) Not that I simply reject the Fourteen Fundamentals, but just because something’s brought up in General Conference does not mean we have to accept it, or that speaker’s interpretation of it. (I prefer to look at the big picture.)

    That said, I do appreciate the many recent General Conference talks that have referenced the Proclamation to get their point across. I even wrote one of the Brethren to thank him for how he laid down the fundamentals, and did so with love.

  40. John Taber, you commit a bit of a straw man in bringing up your elder’s quorum prez. Nobody here, including Prof. Hancock, is asking you to worship the Proclamation in that way (wouldn’t that be idolatry?).

    It seems to me the Proclamation’s position on certain moral issues is pretty darned clear. Prof. Hancock mentioned:

    “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
    …Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
    …We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

    It would take a LOT of lawyer-like behavior to twist this pretty plain language into something it is not.

    (Here is a point that I think bears repeating, however: the Proclamation says that procreation should only take place between man and woman, lawfully wedded but does not endorse specific legislation regarding this issue. So there is room (imho) to say you support the Proclamation but still support civil unions for same-sex couples so that they can visit each other in the hospital, etc).

  41. “John Taber, you commit a bit of a straw man in bringing up your elder’s quorum prez. Nobody here, including Prof. Hancock, is asking you to worship the Proclamation in that way (wouldn’t that be idolatry?).”

    That wasn’t my point. My point was (as I and others have stated) that some members and leaders (including the two men I mentioned – and Brother Hancock) use it like a club and expect the rest of us to fall in line. In the process some of them mingle their interpretation with their political views and think it’s all Gospel. If you look again at the last paragraph in my post you’ll recognize that I do support the fundamental doctrines taught in the Proclamation, and have no problem with anyone citing it in teaching those doctrines.

  42. One of the men I was referring to here was the county commissioner I referenced in the other thread. I did both posts at about the same time and mixed them up. My apologies.

  43. He’s mingling his interpretation of it with his personal political views (and very selective quotations from the Brethren) and expecting the rest of us to fall in line with that interpretation. I don’t care if that’s how he sees things, and maybe he wasn’t wielding his club that much at FAIR. But he certainly has on some people he disagrees with – particularly Joanna Brooks. (Not that I agree with her on everything either.)

  44. I think that Brother Hancock (if you actually READ his talk) is simply pointing out the obvious: certain worldviews and ideas clearly contradict the Proclamation on the Family.

    In the other thread, you talk about a county commissioner who opposed “Head Start” because he doesn’t believe mothers should be working. Well, sure — there’s room for variation of opinion on such matters.

    But Brother Hancock’s points are all quite benign and uncontroversial. The idea that gender is a human construct and that we can be whatever gender we choose is a contradiction of the Proclamation. The idea that same-sex activity is no longer sinful once the two individuals are married is a contradiction of the Proclamation. The idea that we should stop having children altogether because of global population is a contradiction of the Proclamation.

    I don’t see where Bro. Hancock’s interpretations of the Proclamation lie within the “wiggle room” — rather, he seems to be talking about the core principles.

  45. I just don’t see him imposing his own political opinions — perhaps you can point it out, chapter and verse?

    Yes, Joanna Brooks contradicts the Proclamation on the Family. Not in the wiggle room, but in the core principles. It’s not “using the Proclamation on the Family as a club” to point out stark discrepancies between someone’s public writings and the teachings of prophets.

    Also, I don’t see how the quotes he used from General Conference were “selective.” It seemed rather comprehensive to me.

  46. I see this a lot of the time: The prophets and apostles can quote the Proclamation on the Family and make quite direct and bold statements about what constitutes moral behavior. But someone like Brother Hancock can do the exact same thing — and supplement it with the quotes of the Brethren doing the exact same thing — but he’s simply swinging a club and pontificating on his own personal opinions.

    I see nothing whatsoever controversial about Brother Hancock’s address.

  47. That elders’ quorum president thought that the fact that I wasn’t married at 29 was a violation of the Proclamation, too. Never mind that I thought that finding a good job so I could provide for a family (I was unemployed and living with my parents at the time) a more immediate concern. The Proclamation isn’t scripture – it’s an explanation of core doctrines of the Gospel in one place for our day. You have your interpretation, I have mine (and like I’ve said a few times, I agree with how it’s been used in General Conference as of late) but Ralph Hancock has no authority to tell us that his interpretation is the only one that matters.

    I am really tired of him, Fred Smith (that high councilor/county commissioner), that elders’ quorum president, and yes, you, Geoff B, trumpeting that because I don’t see things the same way on the surface, or my discomfort in hearing these or other narrow perspectives Sunday meetings again and again – whether it’s this issue or others – that I don’t belong in this Church.

  48. I have to take issue with the use of the phrase “selective quotations from the Brethren.” I have seen this done before. Somebody will take one quotation and twist it into something it is not. This is NOT what Prof. Hancock does. In fact, he cites repeated quotations from the Brethren that *clearly support his point.* This is the opposite of “selective.”

  49. “I am really tired of him, Fred Smith (that high councilor/county commissioner), that elders’ quorum president, and yes, you, Geoff B, trumpeting that because I don’t see things the same way on the surface, or my discomfort in hearing these or other narrow perspectives Sunday meetings again and again – whether it’s this issue or others – that I don’t belong in this Church.”

    Please show me where I or Prof. Hancock have said you don’t belong in the Church. (I can’t speak for Fred Smith of your idolatrous elders’ quorum prez.)

  50. John: “That elders’ quorum president thought that the fact that I wasn’t married at 29 was a violation of the Proclamation, too.”

    Well, Brother Hancock doesn’t do that. So what’s your beef at him?

    John: “Ralph Hancock has no authority to tell us that his interpretation is the only one that matters.”

    Please, do tell: What does Brother Hancock say that you disagree with? In what way does Brother Hancock interpret the Proclamation that differs from how you might? You keep saying that Brother Hancock is imposing his personal interpretation, but you have yet to give us an example of where he does this. You have only given us example of where OTHERS have done this. It’s like you are punishing Brother Hancock for the actions of others in your life.

  51. I had him for Honors American Heritage at BYU. He’s the same man, mingling his political opinions with Gospel. That’s what I have a problem with. I usually ignore FAIR myself, but this address fits right in line with the way he bashes others who disagree with him.

  52. Geoff, thanks for the compliment. What did I disagree with in the talk?

    Well, first of all, these are things I disagree with the Brethren in general, not specifically Bro. Hancock. Bro. Hancock was stating church doctrine as it is stated in General Conference, so I have no bone to pick with him.

    I subscribe to New Liberalism, in that I support an individuals right to choose their own sexual expression, as long as it doesn’t impinge upon other’s rights. I believe this is an inspired direction for the country. I am also very liberal, in that I believe in the rights of organizations like the LDS church to define sexuality however they want to: polygamy, polyandry, underage marriage, encouraged celibacy of gays, reperation therapy, and the most unnatural sexual practice of all: monogamy:)

    I accept the Proclamation on the Family as inspired, but LDS-specific. I subscribe to all of it’s particulars. But I only use it to judge others, after they have accepted the covenant of baptism. Outside of the church, I don’t believe it has a place.

  53. John Taber, you are throwing out charges left and right and you need to support them. This post is about one specific talk at FAIR, not a class at BYU. What exactly in the talk do you disagree with? And again when have I or Prof. Hancock said you do not belong in the Church?

  54. John, again, where in this address does he impose his personal interpretation of the Proclamation in a way that you would disagree with?

    I think we get it: you have a personal grudge against him, and so you slander his talk at FAIR, having not read it. You can’t produce a single quote from his talk that supports your claim that he is bullying others with his own misguided interpretation of the Proclamation. You can only present examples of other people doing it, and a pseudo-example of him doing it some time in the past in a different context. But no examples from the present moment in the FAIR talk in question.

  55. (Also, I personally love it when people mix the politics with the Gospel. I’m terrified of people who think the Gospel has no bearing on how they engage with others in civic life.)

  56. Geoff, I can’t find the exact reference (Google isn’t cooperating with me) but at least once you have told me that this is a conservative church and I should just suck it up the way Helmuth Hubener should have. (It may have been when I was posting with my initials – JWT.)

    I don’t agree with those who are clearly taking doctrine expressed in the Proclamation head-on, but I do understand that they might not see it that way. I do have a real problem with people like Brother Hancock (and those I’ve mentioned – that EQ president later became a stake president) who like to point fingers.

  57. And I have read the talk. I’m just saying it’s par for the course for him. He may not be pointing fingers the same way fingers have been pointed at me, but he’s still pointing fingers.

  58. John, again, please quote me from Brother Hancock where he is imposing his personal interpretation of the Proclamation on the Family.

    Please?

    Also, so — people can bash the Proclamation on the Family, publicly disagree with it, publicly harp on it — but Brother Hancock can’t publicly defend it? Brother Hancock can’t publicly reiterate its teachings? That seems rather unfair — you seem to tolerate dissidents taking the pulpit, but not proponents. And why? Because you personally don’t like Brother Hancock, not because you actually disagree with anything he said in the talk itself (since you HAVE NOT provided a SINGLE example to support your claim).

    In THIS talk, Brother Hancock did not name names, point fingers, etc. He simply said that some belief systems clearly contradict the Proclamation — and he’s right. Tell me, chapter and verse, where he is wrong or simply imposing his personal opinion.

  59. Again, put in quotes a passage of his address where he is imposing his personal interpretation of the Proclamation, rather than simply making obvious statements that are clearly and factually true.

    “This talk is the same old stuff” simply doesn’t cut it.

  60. First, I already said I support what proponents of these doctrines have said, particularly in General Conference. I’m just saying that those who don’t see it that way (I think “dissidents” is a little strong of a word) may not understand the doctrines, whether or not they’re in the Church.

    As for Brother Hancock, it seems in recent years that he wants to purge the Church of those who don’t see things his way politically, and in this talk he ties that to his interpretation of the Proclamation. That’s a far worse example of unrighteous dominion than any of the other examples I’ve mentioned.

    No, he never said anything like that in his class. But he just didn’t seem to understand how those who didn’t see things his way could be good Americans.

  61. Person A: “We are being bigots for not letting gays marry in the temple.” [Meh, we disagree, but to each his own.]

    Person B: “Perspectives such as the above contradict the Proclamation on the Family.” [THE HORROR! How DARE you impose your own personal interoperation of the Proclamation on the Family on others!]

  62. Also, John, until you quote Brother Hancock’s talk, demonstrating with factual evidence where he is either (1) factually wrong, (2) imposing his personal interpretation of the Proclamation on others, (3) engaging in unrighteous dominion, then your comments are meaningless. PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE.

    How many times have we asked for your to provide a concrete example, and how many times have you failed to do so? Provide an example, PLEASE? You’re spouting meaninglessness until you do.

  63. “Neo-Liberals” is example enough. It’s just like what I’ve heard from the pulpit at the local level for years (along with a member who would pass around the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal during priesthood meeting, and use the clerks’ office as a staging area to hand out clippings). It’s just like Geoff saying I should just leave if I’m not comfortable with that sort of thing. It’s just those who say Arthur Zander was right to “excommunicate” Helmuth Hubener and the Brethren were wrong to overturn that.

  64. Why are you using the behaviors of OTHERS to slander Brother Hancock?

    Also, quoting one single word with no context is not an example of anything you’ve accused him of.

  65. You want a more specific example? How about his criticism of the Supreme Court justices who knocked a big piece out of DOMA, basically using the Proclamation to say his interpretation of the Constitution trumps theirs?

  66. It really seems that you have a personal grudge against Brother Hancock. You have YET to produce a single quotation from his talk with which you disagree, or which constitutes a personal interpretation of the Proclamation imposed on others.

  67. John Taber, Prof. Hancock does not even use the term “neo-liberals.” And he does not mention DOMA in the talk. If you are going to hold a grudge, at least have some honesty about what you don’t like.

    I don’t like the game of defending myself against things I never said. Please tell me where I said I should just leave the Church if you are not comfortable. I believe the exact opposite, ie that the Church is a big tent church and that we should try to accommodate all kinds of people.

    John Taber, unless you can actually produce some proof of your claims I am going to have to assume you are a troll and block further comments.

  68. (1) How is it unrighteous dominion to comment on public events from a religious perspective?

    (2) How is believing the Supreme Court was wrong (and believing so for religious reasons) an act of unrighteous dominion?

    (3) I don’t remember him mentioning the Defense of Marriage act at all in his address to FAIR.

    (4) Did he say that those who agree with Supreme Court decisions shouldn’t be members of the Church?

    (5) Did he say that everyone should have a uniform opinion of precisely how the Proclamation should inform civil law?

    (6) Or did he simply say that the Proclamation should at least be a relevant topic of discussion in forming our political and civic beliefs? And if this is what he is saying, then how is that a personal interpretation, since the Proclamation itself says so?

  69. I’ve said all I’m going to say here – except that I’d pretty much forgotten about Ralph Hancock specifically over the years. What he was saying was pretty par for the course at BYU when I was there. It was when he started squawking about out this in recent years that I remembered him again. And while what he and a few others have said does make me uncomfortable, the fact that anyone of any political stripe feels her or she has the right to step on other members’ toes by passing off their opinions as Gospel makes me far more uncomfortable.

  70. “I accept the Proclamation on the Family as inspired, but LDS-specific. I subscribe to all of it’s particulars. But I only use it to judge others, after they have accepted the covenant of baptism. Outside of the church, I don’t believe it has a place.”

    Nate, this statement piqued my interest. I’m not sure how to read this. Are you suggesting that the principles in the Proclamation are like the Word of Wisdom, for instance? For instance, most of us expect that members of the Church would take this seriously but aren’t offended by our non-LDS colleagues drinking alcohol in our presence, and many of us don’t agitate for the return of prohibition based strictly on our reading of the Word of Wisdom.

    I do wonder how you would reconcile your statement above with the following language from the Proclamation:

    “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

    Do you read this passage in the Proclamation as merely a warning to those who are in the Church, or is this a warning to all, whether LDS or not? Do you think that the brethren would regard this as merely a warning to the LDS?

    I would suggest also that the title of the document itself identifies it as a “Proclamation to the World,” and the closing paragraph (werein a call is make to “responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere”) indicate that the Brethren, if no one else, intended for the Proclamation to have applicability outside of the Church. It doesn’t seem the Proclamation was simply a speech to the choir.

  71. John Taber, you are entitled to your opinions, but I would like to point out that you have not produced one bit of evidence of any kind to back them up. You have a personal grudge against Prof. Hancock apparently from BYU, but that is irrelevant to this talk. And you have absolutely no proof of your claims about me (especially since your claims are the opposite of what I believe). I will be charitable and think you may have confused me with somebody else.

    If you are going to comment here in the future and makes claims about other people I would ask you to back them up with some kind of evidence. Thank you.

  72. Michael, you ask: “I do wonder how you would reconcile your statement above with the following language from the Proclamation:

    “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

    It’s a good question, and thanks for trying to keep me honest. I don’t think I can parse or reinterpret the POF to fit my own LDS-specific interpretation. I think the brethren intended it as “a proclamation to the world.”

    So I guess I have to say that I disagree with some of the statements and implications of the POF, inasmuch as it claims to apply with equal force to Gentiles.

    I’m not alone in thinking of it as an imperfect document. Chieko Okasaki stated she was upset at the brethren for not consulting the relief society when crafting the POF, and thinks they could have “done better” with help from the RS.

    Regardless, I don’t doubt that the Holy Ghost ratified the brethren’s efforts on the Proclamation. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s an infallible document.

  73. “And while what he and a few others have said does make me uncomfortable,”

    And yet, not a single quote presented from his talk with which you specifically disagree, and not a single piece of evidence that he was expressing/imposing his personal political preferences, as opposed to the clear text of the Proclamation.

  74. So to sum it all up: the Proclamation on the Family “isn’t scripture”, talks given at General Conference “aren’t scripture”, heck…..not even the scriptures are scripture!! [Love the New Liberal Logic].

  75. Michael Towns, my own New Liberal Logic is that the POTF is scripture, as are all General Conference talks, Journal of Discourses, etc.

    The Lord makes clear: “whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

    The Lord did not say this because everything the brethren say is a recitation of words written by the finger of God in tablets of stone. The Lord ratifies the words of His servants in their weakness, and according to their understandings.

    The POTF is sacred scripture. It is not however infallible, and neither are any of our scriptures, and that is official doctrine.

  76. “It is not however infallible, and neither are any of our scriptures, and that is official doctrine.”

    Who says otherwise?

  77. The Articles of Faith ratify the Bible, insofar as it is translated correctly. Likewise, the brethren are hesitant to say that they are infallible, and Bruce R. McConkie (for one) very famously told us to forget about things he said on a specific topic. I’m not sure that the BofM or the D&C have the same caveat that the Bible is subject to, as we regard them as having been translated and/or received correctly. The POTF seems to have a higher standing than a general conference talk, simply because it is an official statement that was ratified by the First Presidency and the Twelve.

  78. It is not just the Proclamation. In nearly every General Conference we are reminded of the sacred nature of the family and the importance of male-female marriage. There can be no clearer teaching from the Brethren than this moral issue.

    Now having said that, there IS room to disagree on what public policies flow from this principle. But you simply cannot deny the centrality of Church teaching on this issue.

  79. I would add, Geoff, while there IS room to disagree about what public policies should flow out of our beliefs in the Proclamation, there isn’t much room to disagree about the fact that the Proclamation should at least be relevant in our civic and political discussions, since the Proclamation itself says as much.

  80. Geoff says:

    “It is not just the Proclamation. In nearly every General Conference we are reminded of the sacred nature of the family and the importance of male-female marriage. There can be no clearer teaching from the Brethren than this moral issue.”

    This is true, and believe me, it does give me pause. I could be wrong in my views.

    Nevertheless, what I see in the history of the church, from antiquity to present, has taught me that sexual practices within the church have varied widely, and defy the simplistic categorizations found in the POTF.

    Knowing this history makes it impossible for me to read the POTF without at least some sense of irony.

    Further irony follows learning what sociologists tell us about those who seem to have the most stable families with low divorce rates: college-educated liberal leaning folks who marry late, and who were weened on a doctrinal diet of safe-sex, versus the bible-belt, lower educated, young marrying, high-divorce rate set who were fed a doctrinal diet of abstinence.

    The only group that defies this categorization are the LDS. Abstinence works for us, not for others. The POTF is great advice for us, maybe not for everyone else.

  81. I’ve followed the discussion from the sideline but have to chime in on Nate’s last assertion – Bible belt, lower educated, young marrying, who were fed doctrinal diet of abstinence leading divorces? Baloney. Low education and young marrying, maybe. Why? Because they wanted to have legitimate sex with their partner instead of fornicating their brains out while using birth control. I haven’t seen a statistic yet that can’t be twisted and turned on it’s head. The POTF is for everybody, just as the gospel is for everybody. The fact is that there are a very few churches (mainly Evangelical) who really preach abstinence in a serious fashion. And those few churches do very well with low divorce rates and committed marriages. I don’t see abstinence reflected in any of the factors below:
    “There are certain other factors that influence divorce statistics. They are listed below:
    •Religion: When a married couple belongs to the same religion, the spiritual bond that they share tends to hold them together and they are less likely to go in for a divorce as compared to couples who belong to different religions.
    •Parents still together: In general young married individuals who have their parents still married and together tend to have marriages that last, than couples whose parents are separated or divorced. This holds true because of the simple fact that such individuals tend to follow the same approach as their parents on resolving conflicts and staying together to save the marriage.
    •Children: On an average, it has observed that couples who have children tend to stay married longer. Children act as a stabilizing factor in a relationship when going through a rough phase.
    •Salary: Financial stress can be one of the major contributing factors for a couple to go for divorce. Sociologists have identified a level of household salary beyond which the financial stress will reduce. This level of comfort stands at $50,000. This may not be huge salary for some; but having income lesser than that gives way to a lot of stress and conflicts that continually ruin your personal relationships.
    •Age at the time of marriage: When the couple is too young (less than age 25) while tying the knot, chances of the marriage ending in divorce are quite high.
    •Education: The divorce statistics also reveal that couples who are dropouts from high school have a significantly higher rate of divorce as compared to those who have completed at least some higher education.”

  82. IDAT, you may have a better grasp on divorce statistics, and you are right that they can always be twisted to say whatever you intend. Of course the POTF has great advice that is for everyone.

    I got distracted with the abstinence debate. But my point was, what is ironic, is that the college-educated liberals who cry out against the authoritarianism of things like the POTF, actually follow the POTF in their personal lives by and large. They value their children, they have low divorce rates, enlightened liberal moms spend as much one and one time with their children as stay-at-home moms did in the 70s, even if they work. Husbands pitch in much more with child-rearing. If you stated the proclamation in more secular terms, it would sound very trendy.

    So who doesn’t follow the Proclamation on the Family? Who are those who are going to bring callamaties down upon our nation? Well, according to IDAT, it’s people who have problems: poor, uneducated, cultures that mary young. Not liberals. Sure, liberals sleep around before they get married in their 30s, but once they get married, they stay married, and they take child-rearing seriously.

    Then there are the exceptions, the minority players the debate is focuses on: gays, gays with children, gay married people, people against marriage all together, people who don’t want children. Maybe these are the people who will bring down the calamaties? I just don’t see it. They are a minority. The majority of liberal people settle down and get married and have kids. They just want other people to feel free to do otherwise if they so choose.

  83. “The majority of liberal people settle down and get married and have kids. They just want other people to feel free to do otherwise if they so choose.”

    From the many articles on demographics that I’ve read over the past couple of years, liberals are having very few children. And let’s not forget, they tend to abort most of them. It may be an inconvenient truth, but it’s there. Look at Europe: stagnant and declining (demographically). Europe has been secular/humanistic/liberal for a long time now.

    You cannot convince me, nate, that yuppie liberals in New York and California are having a bunch of kids. The numbers don’t add up. Both states, by the way, have been losing congressional representation in the census for decades.

  84. Well, they don’t have many kids, and that’s a problem demographically. But the POTF does not specify that people need to have lots of kids. Liberals do have kids, one, or two, and that still keeps them in line with POTF.

    I don’t know about abortion statistics in Europe, but they are in sharp decline in the US, and just as in divorce statistics, the demographics that have the majority of abortions are not drunk liberal college students. That honor goes to poor minorities.

  85. “The only group that defies this categorization are the LDS. Abstinence works for us, not for others. The POTF is great advice for us, maybe not for everyone else.”

    I understand your position, and I know where you’re coming from. So please don’t take this as personal criticism.

    But: I have to back up what (I think it was IDIAT) was said earlier about how other Christian churches have essentially capitulated to sexual liberationist culture. Very few churches actively teach young people to stay chaste. Most threw in the towel on that a few decades ago. I would argue that if these churches would return to traditional Christian sexual ethics, they would likely start seeing some success.

    Which brings me to my main point with your statement. You’re saying that “it works for us” but not for others. But the vital question here is to ask: *Why* does it work at all? And if it does work, why wouldn’t work for others?

    What is the point of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world if what’s important is our own narrow parochial view? We expect Africans, Russians, Japanese, and yes, liberals in New York, to keep the law chastity. It’s simply a requirement from our Heavenly Father (and theirs!).

    If the POTF is “great advice for us” why wouldn’t it be great advice for the rest of humanity? It is a Proclamation to the *World*, right? I am struggling to understand the nuance of what you’re trying to convey, nate. I mean no disrespect to you; if you want to talk via private email, hit me up at mtowns at g mail dot com.

  86. The college-educated liberals aren’t preaching what they’re practicing though. Instead, they’re making excuses for the high promiscuity and non-safe sex, and never-getting-married-ism among those who aren’t college educated.

    College-educated people who get and stay married are in the minority among liberal voters. Our social problems (crime, drugs, unemployment) are mainly connected to people who *don’t* get married and who go on to have children out of wedlock; it’s those children born and raised *outside* of the traditional two-parent familty.

    And let’s not forget that those college educated liberals also (generally speaking) screwed their brains out prior to getting married, with many having abortions. Recently, a college-educated law-school-grad far-left liberal joined the church, who grew up on the East Coast, and she related to me that nearly all her friends from high school and college had abortions before getting married.

    Also, take a guess which group has a higher incidence of rape and date-rape, Occupy Wall Street, or Young Republicans?

  87. I could feel the Spirit tell me not to write some of the things I wrote some comments back. But I appreciate the sensitive response of Michael Towns, which does help me articulate where I am coming from.

    Yes, I believe we should share and promote the family values of the gospel to the Gentiles. But I think there is a proper time and place to do it. When missionaries teach an unmarried couple, it won’t be until after four discussions, and an enormous amount of doctrine, that the law of chastity will be brought up. And missionaries embark on that discussion with the most care and trepidation of them all. The missionaries know they might reject it, just as they might reject the Word of Wisdom. If they do, they are sad, but they still understand that what they were asking was something extraordinary, and they will view their decisions sympathetically. (Or is it just me?)

    Why is it that we treat the subject with such deffrence and sensitivity when dealing with individuals, yet we speak with such outrage about declining morals when joining our voices with the religious right crusaders, trying to take back America from the liberals? I don’t think we have any place in this crusade. Our place is knocking on doors and teaching advanced principles to those who have ears to hear.

    Bookslinger also noted that my rosy picture of liberal family values isn’t so rosy. This could be true. My own views come from my own environment surrounded by high functioning, unbelieving liberals. But I’m sure I’m not getting the full picture.

    Yet at the end of the day, I still think that the liberal approach, as imperfect as it is, will work better for the Gentiles as a whole, than an approach which assumes abstinence and marital heteosexual monogamy is a practical solution for the masses. At the end of the day, I believe a focus of contraception will lead to fewer abortions, and fewer out of wedlock births, than abstinence. Liberal culture also breeds smaller families, higher education, and more stability in those families, (although I agree with Bookslinger that sometimes liberal attitudes might be apologizing too much for out-of-wedlock culture in the lower classes.). I don’t know how to encourage more children, but I think social approaches that give lots of perks and status to working moms, will help encourage them to have more kids. Telling them to stop working will not work.

    I’m going to bow out now out now, as I’ve said way to much and departed so significantly from the thread. But thanks for listening. It’s been an interesting discussion.

  88. Reading through this thread again makes me think that we are missing something. Recently, we’ve talked about divorce rates, number of children, quality of child rearing and abortions. However, lost in the abstinence versus birth control debate is the damage done to individuals (and yes, to society generally) by failures of individuals and members of society to live a chaste life. If we are a nation of fornicators and adulterers we are ripening for destruction for that reason alone. Certainly it’s worse to be a nation of fornicators, adulterers and abortionists, but simply avoiding the abortions doesn’t wipe the rest clean.

    If we only focus on gay marriage, divorce rates and abortions in our outreach and influence in our communities, we are setting the mark too low. This idea that “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” when it comes to abstinence gives license to those boys and girls to engage in activities that have real consequences, even if no pregnancy results. It’s the “have your cake and eat it too” approach. The kids get a slap and a tickle without the immediate economic consequences and without the societal stigma, but let’s not kid ourselves that it’s harmless if no pregnancy or STD results.

    We are, or at least should be, concerned with higher and more important results than whether or not Johnnie will graduate from college or whether or not Janie will have a career before becoming a mother. We are, or should be, concerned with maximizing the salvation outcome for society as a whole.

    I read the POTF then as not just encouraging policies to reduce teenage pregnancies or divorce. I read the POTF as encouraging policies that reduce the incidence of sin and assisting in the salvation of souls. I see this as a big lesson we learn from the discussions of law and governance in the Book of Mormon as well.

  89. Michael hit the nail on the head. The whole point of doctrine, like the law of chastity, is the salvation of souls including those “theoretical liberals” which are beloved children of Heavenly Father as well. Alma said “wickedness was never happiness”. It most certainly is true that people cannot be happy while breaking sacred commandments and that a nation of adulterers, fornicators and abortionist will not make for a better nation. We learned that actions do have consequences, and the sum of every individual’s action will have and effect upon society as a whole, since we are not islands. Most of the time the effects rippled through the communities.

    The Book of Mormon clearly teaches this and it can be seen throughout history that when lastima because morally corrupted their societies began to crumbled and in a lout of cases disappear.

    TPOF it’s a reaffirmation of those teachings and a warning voice to the world.

    Bro. Hancock’s talk was not about politics or liberals, but about the dangers this sort of individualistic thinking brings upon those people themselves and upon the rest of those who do not share their views.

  90. I enjoyed Ralph Handcock’s podcast interview on Mormon Stories. What’s wrong with the FAIR talk? I think the controversy lies in the political framing of this talk. He begins with the church’s political neutrality and the reasons for separation of religion and politics but soon weaves a political argument. As he correctly states liberalism is about liberty and equality but the fundamental overriding issue in the founding of the US was individualism vs collectivism and New Liberalism is simply an extension of those ideas carried too far perhaps given your perspective. But there is a lot of nuance between practical liberalism and new liberalism. The reader is left with an impression that conservatives, the brethren and the forefathers are one in their righteous goals and by implication liberals are wrong. If that were so would the church be politically neutral? I doubt it, they openly oppose Satan.

  91. If the Proclamation on the Family were not prophetic, it would not have been at the forefront of our message for 18 years! Every General Conference I anticipate/wish that the prophet will make it Section 139 in the D&C. But I am not the prophet… Time will tell if I am close to the Lord’s Spirit and His servants in that respect. I suspect a lot of horns would be honking in SLC if it happened, just like in 1978 woth the Proclamation on the Priesthood (I was a 17-year old non-practicing French Catholic then and had no clue) Think of it, DOMA was passed in 1996: “In 1996, DOMA was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and in the Senate by Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.). It passed the House by a vote of 342–67 and the Senate by a vote of 85–14. President Bill Clinton signed the act into law on September 21, 1996. Supporters of Gay and Lesbian Rights had no success in stopping DOMA, in part because the vote became a Referendum on the idea of “gay marriage.” Even liberal Democrats who were staunch supporters of gay and lesbian rights voted for DOMA, arguing that it would be better to give same-gender couples some form of legal recognition short of traditional marriage” http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Defense+of+Marriage+Act+of+1996). So, the POTF was truly prophetic when one looks at how the debate has changed and how pro-homosexual groups have grown in influence, loudness, and boldness these last 17-18 years. Have to go…

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