FAIR conference schedule

This year’s FAIR Conference (held Aug. 1 and 2 in Provo) will have an incredible agenda. In addition to Robert Kirby, the conference includes a talk by Maxine Hanks, one of the “September Six.”

(You can learn more about Maxine Hanks, who was excommunicated from the Church and has been re-baptized here).

For more information, please visit this page.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

122 thoughts on “FAIR conference schedule

  1. Considering this is the 20th anniversary of the “September Six” event, I’m very interested to hear what recently-rebaptized Sister Hanks will have to say about it.

  2. I personally am stunned they’re having that (former?) apostate Maxine Hanks there. I’m not convinced her motives are pure yet, from the article, she seemed to say she never did anything wrong… FAIR has made questionable choices in the past (such as allowing Kevin Barney to remain in their midst), so I’m wary of some of their choices…

  3. h_nu: After reading the article, I wondered the same thing as you did about Sister Hanks. Of course, as Mike Parker points out, her priesthood leaders have seen fit to readmit her. But in addition to that, since reading the article, I’ve spent a couple of hours personally speaking with her and I am thrilled that she has returned to the Church and that she is willing to participate in the FAIR Conference. I am convinced that she wants to help build the Church and strengthen its members.

    One of the primary aims of FAIR is to help lead people back to the Church. In doing so, it is very helpful to know why people left and to understand their perspective. Of course, even the most loyal members of the Church do not always share the same perspective on everything. So patience, love and mutual respect are necessary as we work together to build the kingdom. I’m sure that if people will come to the FAIR Conference with this in mind, they will be glad they came, and they will be better people for having done so.

  4. Frankly, I’m very interested to see what Sis. Hanks has to say. I welcome her back to the Church with open arms. I assume h_nu is concerned about possible sheep in wolfs’ clothing, but I trust her priesthood leaders to make the correct decisions about her. As for Kevin Barney, I love the stuff he writes (although we don’t see eye to eye on politics, but I don’t see eye to eye on politics with the late Hugh Nibley and I still love to read his work).

  5. @Mike Parker/GeoffB.. Actually, I have not assumed anything about the faithfulness of her priesthood leaders, that’s all you.

    Furthermore, it’s not Kevin’s defenses of the church I have problems with, it’s his utter lack of understanding of the Proclamation to the world on the family and his hope that the Church will allow gay marriage in Temples….

    Note this exchange from BCC:
    Kevin Barney
    On the one hand, as I’ve gotten older I have gotten more liberal socially. So, just to name some big ticket items, I favor gay marriage, I think the priesthood ban was a horrible mistake, and I think not giving women the priesthood is simply based on culture, not immutable doctrine, and I wish we would just go ahead and include them in the priesthood. But on the other hand, I remain a believer, even if my belief is more nuanced and complicated than the average orthodox member’s belief.
    1. Gosh, Kevin, it’s remarkable that you support gay marriage but as a TR-holding Latter-day Saint you are far ahead of your time. The marriage issue will be resolved by our grandchildren, or theirs. Why don’t you and Ardis focus more on trying to stop the excommunication of (non-celibate) gays? Giving us a little space just to be in the Church without fear or lying….that would be life-changing for so many. It’s happening in some stakes already, but it’s just a start.
    #13 MikeInWeHo, what you raise is actually one of the reasons I support gay marriage (even though I forgot to include it when I wrote my classic “Why I Support Gay Marriage” post here at BCC). That is, if such a thing as gay marriage existed it seems to me that that could be a tool to keep gay people in the Church. It would be a way to allow sexual expression with a partner within a covenant relationship, even if it would take a generation or two for the Church to get comfortable with such a scenario.

    FWIW, I could imagine a priesthood leader being fully faithful and the Spirit allowing any apostate to join the church, even without the apostate being fully repentant, it has nothing to do with their faithfulness. If the apostate is deceiving, it will only add more condemnation on their own head. If she is penitent, hallelujah, but I’m not the type of idiot who opens myself up to anyone just because they’re “baptized”, I wait for evidence that they have repented of their sins, and they’ve witnessed unto the church their repentance. Framing everything in terms of a “the brethren were wrong, and finally came to see that I was right all along” is not the type of faithful narrative I would hope to see from Fair…

  6. H-nu, OK, you got that out of your system. Fine. I really don’t want M* to be a forum where we put the faith of other people on trial. You explained your position. Let’s drop the issue now. If you would like to pursue this further, I would ask you to do it on another blog, not M*. Thanks.

  7. I share H_nu’s concerns: those who reject the central tenets of the Proclamation on the Family cannot be fully trusted to engage in faithful apologetics for the Church.

  8. It seems more likely that such individuals will end up apologizing for the Church and its teachings, rather than defending them with apologetics.

  9. That’s fine Geoff, I just did have to refute the false attribution that you and Mike P made against me.

    LDSP, thanks for sharing some doubts…

  10. To be clear, I know nothing of Maxine Hanks or her positions, my concerns are more about Kevin Barney and his reluctance to defend the Proclamation on the Family against the attacks of secularists. Rather, he has in the past apologized for the Proclamation on the Family and its “antiquated” views, rather than defended it. That is not someone I want on the front lines of our defense against the rabid attacks of secularism.

  11. LDSP, I agree that Church members should support the Proclamation and the GAs’ position, which has been made abundantly clear, on SSM and the family. You and I see eye to eye 100 percent on this issue. I don’t think it’s appropriate, however, to call out individual people on a public forum like this. There are more private forums. This falls into the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” type of thing. I have been called out several times on other blogs and frankly I don’t like it, so I don’t think we should do that to Kevin Barney and we shouldn’t turn this good-natured thread into a forum to do that.

  12. Thank you, Geoff.

    And whatever disagreements one may have with Kevin or any other believing member, we should not let those overshadow the good work they have done in other areas. The Maxwell Institute understood that when they published Kevin’s work (including what is arguably the best article for putting the BofA Facsimiles into context), and FAIR understands that, which is one reason Kevin sits on the board there.

  13. It looks to me that my fears have been completely founded. FAIR has pretty much officially taken a “neutral” stance on the Proclamation on the Family (in order to appease more “liberal” Mormons who take offense at its teachings. I don’t doubt that certain individuals played a role in that.

    If you are neutral on the Proclamation, you might as well be neutral on the Church itself. You can’t let wolves into your midst without taking severe casualties.

  14. LDSP, I have asked FAIR for an explanation of the apology for Ralph Hancock’s talk on the first day of the FAIR conference. All stories have two sides. I would wait to judge on this until both sides are heard. We do know, however, that Hancock gave a talk defending the Proclamation and that Scott Gordon apologized for Hancock’s talk. I don’t think we know that FAIR has taken a neutral stance on the Proclamation.

  15. My understanding is that Hancock’s talk was very political, heavily criticizing (even insulting through caricature) contemporary American “liberals” and that Scott Gordon then clarified that FAIR is not in fact, neither should it be, a politically monolithic organization.

    Blair Hodges summarized Scott Gordon’s statement as follows on the Maxwell Institute blog:

    [Note: Following this paper, FAIR President Scott Gordon noted that no FAIR speakers represent FAIR, noted there is political diversity among the FAIR volunteers. He said although Hancock’s presentation was directed to a particular political segment they would like to have more political diversity going forward.]

    In other words, it does not appear that FAIR apologized for anything that might have been said promoting the Family Proclamation. Instead, that appears to be a mischaracterization of Gordon’s statement premised on the idea that his need to clarify that Hancock does not speak for FAIR in his political polemic must therefore necessarily mean that FAIR takes issue with Hancock’s impulse to defend the Family Proclamation. That is a non sequitur and certainly not implied by Gordon’s statement, at least from what I’ve seen on it.

  16. Also, I’m interested in Jeff’s statement that if someone is neutral on the Proclamation, that person must be neutral on the Church. How can he come to this conclusion? It makes it seem like he has elevated the Proclamation to be the defining document or the center/core of the Restored Gospel, which it manifestly is not. The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the center and the core of the Gospel and, built on this foundation of Christ, the Restoration of the Priesthood in the latter days (with its attendant focus on the existence of revelatory guidance through modern-day prophets and apostles) is what sets the Church apart from other Christians.

    Geoff B., I would be interested to hear whether you agree with Jeff’s statement about the Proclamation. Also, do you agree with his apparent dismissal of FAIR as a meaningful apologetic organization defending the Church’s truth claims?

  17. John F., I would say that the Proclamation on the Family is central Church doctrine. As central as the Atonement? Perhaps not. But I personally believe that one cannot (with intellectual honesty) simultaneously accept the claims of the LDS Church to be guided by prophetic authority and reject the teachings of the Proclamation on the Family. If one rejects the Proclamation on the Family as false or fundamentally misguided, one simultaneously rejects, as you put it, “the existence of revelatory guidance through modern-day prophets and apostles.”

  18. Also, my understanding of his address is that he was addressing a particular kind of modern liberal: those who reject the sexual mores that are found in the Proclamation on the Family. That is, those who claim that no sexual lifestyle should be treated as sinful, and that all such lifestyles should be treated as having equal merit in our personal and public lives. He was addressing the false notion of “equality” that holds that all lifestyles should be treated as having equal merit. He was addressing the tendency of some modern liberals in the Church to hold a greater loyalty to their political ideals than to the moral standards of the Church, and who teach that the Proclamation is misguided and archaic because it doesn’t jive with the progressive doctrine of sexual liberation.

    Is that political? Sure, it has political implications. But so does an entire panel on the role of women in the Church and in society. To apologize for Hancock’s presentation because it had political implications, but not for an entire panel on feminism (which has just as many political implications) is a very disingenuous “neutrality” at best.

  19. Also, if anyone thinks the Brethen don’t share Bro. Hancock’s concerns about our growing dismissal of the Proclamation on the Family (in favor of more progressive norms of sexual liberation), just go read the most recent General Conference.

  20. “my understanding of his address is that he was addressing a particular kind of modern liberal: those who reject the sexual mores that are found in the Proclamation on the Family”

    From Blair’s notes on the Maxwell Institute blog, it appears that he defined “liberals” through this caricature or trope as a general matter. It could be that he was only defining “some” modern “liberals” using this trope, as you suggest. I didn’t hear the talk itself.

    “should be treated as sinful”

    Are you suggesting that the government should be in the business of defining or treating things as “sinful” and that therefore the forces of the state should be employed to enforce such a definition? How do you square that with liberty and the freedoms that our founding documents guarantee us? I understand that Hancock dismissed pluralism as part of the “new liberalism.” I’m not sure how any Mormon can in good conscience jump on that bandwagon with Hancock. Latter-day Saints are among the primary beneficiaries of the religious pluralism that is made possible by our robust secular sphere that is defined by a relatively strict institutional separation of church and state.

    “He was addressing the tendency of some modern liberals in the Church to hold a greater loyalty to their political ideals than to the moral standards of the Church”

    Isn’t this as much or more a tendency of the Tea Party faction or other extreme American right-wing conservatives than it is of members who would come into Hancock’s cross-hairs as belonging to this “new liberalism” bogey man he is tilting at?

    I will have to reserve final judgment until I hear the actual talk rather than merely the notes but at this point it looks like what Hancock has done is to make up a definition of “new liberalism” to suit his polemic needs, attribute that definition to people with whom he has policy disagreements in the very temporally and geographically determined current American political landscape, and then argue with that made-up definition as if he’s having a meaningful debate about deeper issues or philosophy. I hope I’m wrong and will only know once I read the transcript.

    As to the women and feminism panel, to my understanding the panel included a range of conservative (Hudson) to moderate voices (possibly Maxine) though I am not aware that it contained any actual “liberals” as that term is classically used in mainstream American political discourse. So not sure if there’s something to hyperventilate about on the existence of that panel at a FAIR conference. Perhaps to a diminishing segment of the Church that actually believes there is nothing at all to be discussed or improved in the way women can contribute to the Church, the existence of the panel could be alarming and a signal of FAIR’s corruption. But I believe that such a segment is very small and radical to the point of violating injunctions of modesty in living the Gospel.

  21. I have been in touch with two people from FAIR.

    1)After Bro Hancock’s talk Scott Gordon, president of FAIR, clarified that FAIR’s position was that people of all political persuasions can be good latter-day Saints.

    2)I have heard no evidence that FAIR is “neutral” on the Proclamation.

    3)I understand that FAIR will be addressing the issue more today and perhaps in writing.

    4)I think FAIR is a great organization and I have contributed financially to the organization and I plan to continue to do so.

    5)However, I would say that this particular incident probably could have been handled better. In my opinion it does seem strange that FAIR has had all kinds of controversial talks over the years but chose to clarify its stand only after Bro. Hancock’s talk. I would like to better understand the reasoning for that.

    6)I personally believe the Proclamation is modern-day revelation given by modern-day prophets to help guide us through very difficult times in terms of understanding the Lord’s position on same-sex issues (and many other issues). I support it 100 percent in the same way that I support President Monson 100 percent.

    7)Having said that in 6), I do agree that good latter-day Saints can disagree as to the exact political role for the Proclamation in our republican government. It is a tricky thing trying to make public policy out of such documents. I believe in a “big tent” church with all kinds of political viewpoints represented.

    8)Now having said what I said in number 7, I would like to point out that the Church has very prominently and clearly said that it opposes same-sex marriage. This most recent Conference was an occasion of prophets clearly saying that the Church position on this and other moral issues *will not change.* Some people I know (ahem, some liberals) are in denial about this.

    9)Just an aside to my friend John F: we have broken bread together and I think you are a really, really nice guy. But I just don’t think you think through the things you write on blogs sometimes. You are absolutely obsessed with disparaging “tea party” and “extreme American right-wing conservatives” and “Fox News watchers” and “Glenn Beck watchers” and on and on and on. Don’t you see that you are doing the very thing that you accuse Bro. Hancock of doing but in reverse? I wish there were a way of making you see how incredibly intolerant this makes you appear. And having met you in person, this is truly unfortunate because you are a really, really nice guy in person.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

  22. John f., if you so wildly misinterpret my comments, I have no expectation you’ll do any differently to Bro. Hancock’s address.

    Are you suggesting that the government should be in the business of defining or treating things as “sinful” and that therefore the forces of the state should be employed to enforce such a definition? How do you square that with liberty and the freedoms that our founding documents guarantee us? I understand that Hancock dismissed pluralism as part of the “new liberalism.” I’m not sure how any Mormon can in good conscience jump on that bandwagon with Hancock.

    I want to ask a question: do you think a Mormon in good conscience can support defining marriage as being between a man and a woman in civil law? If so, then how can you be so sure that Bro. Hancock is saying anything more than that? If not, then how can you claim that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are Mormons in good conscience?

    Society supports traditions, mores, and norms that reflect its public virtue. It has always been the case. And those who are concerned that public virtue is tilting towards belief systems that we find immoral and troubling are not radical, fringe movements.

  23. “how can you be so sure that Bro. Hancock is saying anything more than that?”

    From the descriptions I saw of his talk, he did much more than that in denigrating “liberals” based on a definition that he set up to suit his polemic purposes, a definition that he employs to imply that Latter-day Saints cannot subscribe to such a political “category” (setting aside the question of whether the views he attributes to such people relating to free sex etc. bear any resemblance at all to reality or if he’s still living in 1968 and believes that everyone else in the Church should be too) without being apostates.

    And the aspersions he casts on “liberals” based on the definition he constructed, and the implications of such aspersions on the faithfulness of Latter-day Saints who might subscribe to such policy views, are what Scott Gordon “apologized” for, not the Family Proclamation.

    So I would say that to characterize FAIR’s statement as apologizing for the Family Proclamation is the “wild misinterpretation” at issue here, and not any putative misinterpretation on my part of your comments.

  24. John f., perhaps he narrowly defined the group he was talking about to those who reject the teachings of the Proclamation on the Family? And if that is the case, then how is he wrong?

  25. That’s not how it came across in the notes and the fact that Scott Gordon made the comment he did strongly suggests that Hancock’s talk treated liberals just in the way that comes across in Blair’s notes and as I’ve interpreted in my comments here. I make that reference to Gordon’s comment as evidence in favor of this interpretation because I know Gordon and FAIR would not and do not apologize for the Family Proclamation, and your suggestion that this is what they are doing is ludicrous.

  26. I would caution everyone that you are discussing things you have heard second hand. If you are not at the conference or watching it online I would ask you to withhold judgment until you know what exactly was said and in what context.

    FAIR has no positions except the positions taken by the Church. FAIR supports the Proclamation on the Family. There are various interpretations on how to apply and implement it; because someone does not do so the same way that you do does not make them less intelligent, honest, or sincere. FAIR supports multiple points of view, and takes a “big tent” approach to this issue.

    For what it’s worth, I’m at the conference and standing less than ten feet from Ralph Hancock, who has been here both days. Clearly he wasn’t offended enough by Scott Gordon’s comments to leave.

  27. “If you are neutral on the Proclamation, you might as well be neutral on the Church itself.”

    ldsphilosopher, during 2008 when the church put its institutional support behind California’s Proposition 8, the brethren issued a letter stating that a member’s opinion on prop 8 WAS NOT a matter of worthiness and should NOT be taken into account for things like callings, temple recommends, etc. Given that the brethren themselves obviously think it is possible to have a differing view on same-sex marriage and still be a faithful latter-day saint and sustain the brethren, why do continue to insist otherwise?

  28. And, while the temple recommend interview certainly doesn’t contain questions about the Proclamation on the Family, I think we would all find it beyond bizarre if the First Presidency released a letter saying that the Proclamation was optional to Latter-day Saints.

    Now, I’m sure the First Presidency might find room for reasonable disagreement about how the doctrines of chastity should be reflected in civil law. But to reject the law of chastity itself — to believe, for example, that two men having sex is not actually forbidden by God and should be embraced by the Church — is quite outside the realm of Church belief and doctrine. That places someone squarely as a dissident on some pretty fundamental Church beliefs.

  29. ldsphilosopher, you began your participation on this thread by bombastically, dramatically, and uncharitably calling out a fellow latter-day saint by name because of his support of SSM. I think that is a cowardly thing to do, especially while hiding behind a phony pseudonym. The person you named has done more to keep people in the LDS church than you ever will. This is all about SSM and you know it. Please be honest enough to acknowledge that.

    “I think we would all find it beyond bizarre ….”

    You might find it beyond bizarre, but the only bizarre thing on this thread is your own behavior.

  30. Sitting back and watching this Hancock kerfuffle illustrates to me personally how divided and catty and crass we 21st century Mormons have become. In the online world, Mormons carp and snark about fundamentals incessantly.

    Forget about doctrinal unity among the “faithful”. There is a huge cultural chasm between Mormons who self-identify as “liberals” or “progressives” and others who identify as “conservative”. That chasm seems to be growing.

    Granted, those chasms are minimized when I go to church services, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They are simply below the surface. Teach a lesson and try to talk about sexual morality and society, and see how quickly you piss some folks off.

    I think about the future a lot. What kind of Mormon church culture are we going to have in 20, 30 years? If the present is prologue, I don’t see things blending together in a wonderful tapestry of kumbaya. We see what happens to mainline Protestant churches when the leadership abandons traditional sexual morality — those churches shrink into irrelevance (just google “shrinking of mainline churches). So what happens when significant numbers of the *laity* abandon traditional sexual ideology? I reckon we’ll find out.

    One reason why I have slowly been disengaging myself from the so-called Bloggernacle is that I see very little good being accomplished by liberals and conservatives just digging their trenches deeper. The Mormon Left has a caricature of “conservative LDS” as unthinking bigots who inanely support the Brethren through blind allegiance (among other things) and the Mormon Right has a caricature of “progressive Mormons” as a group of hedonistic theological anarchists. And it’s not getting any better.

    A pox on both your houses. I want that old time religion, people. The Spirit of God burning like a fire, and gifts abounding. I don’t find it online.

  31. What I very much appreciated about Hancock’s presentation, which I hear will soon be online in its entirety, is that he clearly explained why what he calls “the New Liberalism” is not compatible with basic LDS beliefs. As Hancock stated, “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.” He went on to say that, for the New Liberals, “The one fixed, sacred point of the moral universe is the idea of the individual’s right to define the meaning of his or her own existence” (he quoted SC Justice Kennedy on this point). Is this not the epitome of moral relativism? Who out there believes that moral relativism and the Gospel are compatible? If you do, why/how (I sincerely want to understand)? Are we so far gone as a people that this concept is hard to grasp or even “controversial”? As Elder Hales stated at April 2013 GC: “Sometimes we become the lightning rod, and we must ‘take the heat’ for holding fast to God’s standards and doing His work.” From my vantage point (biased, like all of ours), Hancock has shown he is willing to take the heat, but few appear willing to do so with him (and with the Brethren, frankly). Thoughts?
    (BTW, I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Parker’s take above — wait until you see/read Hancock’s remarks before judging what went down. John F.’s comments were flawed, as he is assuming that Blair Hodges’ online MI blog comments about Hancock’s talk accurately represent what went down at FAIR; I know for a fact they do not.)

  32. Blair Hodges is hardly an objective source, for sure. His own biases lean far to the left, so I wouldn’t expect him to give an accurate report on what Hancock actually said. Actually, I think the substance of Hancock’s message probably went over most of their heads, since they are not grounded in political theory like Bro. Hancock is.

    (For the record, Bro. Hancock’s analysis of the New Liberalism is spot on. And I think American Mormon culture is infected with this New Liberalism ethos.)

  33. Jack, for the record,
    It wasn’t LDSPhilospher who uncharitably quoted the public remarks that are still public to this day, of someone who claims to be defending the church, but doesn’t uphold the churches teachings.

    If y

  34. If we define the New Liberalism as being an extreme emphasis upon the individual, and the state allowing the individual to define what is right, I agree with both European Saint and Michael Towns. The tendency to excuse prostitution as just another financial transaction and the willingness to countenance anything-goes pornography as a first amendment right is part and parcel of the libertarian ethos and that ethos is ascendant in today’s Republican party. And Towns is also correct to observe that American Mormon culture is infected with this kind of extreme individualism.

    Is this what Hancock means when he speaks about the New Liberalism?

  35. “The tendency to excuse prostitution as just another financial transaction and the willingness to countenance anything-goes pornography as a first amendment right is part and parcel of the libertarian ethos and that ethos is ascendant in today’s Republican party.”

    Jack, not to get sidetracked, but there is a difference between saying something is wrong morally and saying the police and courts should spend time throwing people in jail for something. In my opinion as a former drinker, alcohol is wrong morally. It is a horrible, horrible vice that ruins the lives of countless millions. But we learned the hard way during Prohibition that making it illegal didn’t work. Every ascendant libertarian I know thinks that drugs, prostitution and pornography are morally wrong. The issue is: how many government resources should we spend making these things illegal? (I am not in favor of complete legalization immediately, but I do think we should, for example, consider decriminalizing marijuana. Pornography is everywhere and is a horrible, destructive thing, but good luck making it illegal. The way you deal with such vices is through moral persuasion and bringing people to the Gospel imho.)

    I would agree with European Saint (and presumably Bro. Hancock) that there are some modern-day liberals who believe individuals should be able to determine their own morality, and this is a very, very dangerous road to head down with dire consequences for society. But as we consider how to deal with this issue we should recognize that there is a difference between thinking something is wrong and insisting that it should be illegal and that the police should be pursuing, for example, pot smokers rather than finding murderers and rapists.

  36. I agree wholeheartedly, Geoff, especially with your last paragraph. We can be opposed to various kinds of sexually immoral behavior but still have disagreements about the extent to which the state should be involved in policing that behavior. I just don’t know whether Mr. Hancock would also agree. He seems to be opposed to individuals deciding these things on their own.

  37. (Quotng European Saint quoting Hancock) “The New Liberalism posits open-ended individual self-expression … as a fundamental right, as essential to the “dignity” of the person…. The one fixed, sacred point of the moral universe is the idea of the individual’s right to define the meaning of his or her own existence”

    This is how most LDS people define agency. David O. McKay said “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”

    I think the Hancock is decrying the tendency to excess individualism, which he is labeling as The New Liberalism. My impression is that this tendency manifests itself all along the political spectrum. I wonder if Hancock also thinks that. I don’t know, but I’ll be interested in the complete transcript when it is available.

  38. I think the key to interpreting Bro. Hancock is the “open-ended individual self-expression”. Open-ended….meaning without bounds or restraint. I think this is where libertarianism drifts into libertinism.

    Geoff, I’m not equating libertarianism with libertinism. What I’m saying is that Ralph Hancock is suggesting that all restraints — societal, moral, legal, etc. — are slowly being chipped away. If we accept the fact that each individual can have “open-ended individual self-expression” then obviously there are going to be huge conflicts with other people, particularly when the “open-ended individual self-expression” conflicts with other folks’ values.

    Case in point: there was a huge issue in NY regarding library patrons being able to view hard core pornography on the public computers. The libraries had to capitulate and let folks access the porn on the computers, despite the fact that there were women and children who could see the porn on their screens. Nobody was talking about the “open-ended individual self-expression” rights of mothers to keep their children from being exposed to the hard core porn.

    This is where these conflicts are found, where to one person it’s “freedom” to another it’s an assault on their right to be “free” from exposure to filth. How we balance these competing interests is vital, but usually it’s the folks who want the absolutely untrammeled right to watch porn anywhere and everywhere who end up winning. I think Bro. Hancock is pointing to episodes like this to showcase where the “open-ended individual self-expression” ethos goes wrong.

    Passing laws to restrict some behaviors does nothing to take away someone’s agency to choose those behaviors. We don’t go around suggesting that people have the personal right to self-express their way into crowded movie theaters yelling fire. Even liberty has its limits. This is something that Jefferson and Madison could understand, and it’s not radical in the least.

  39. “I think the Hancock is decrying the tendency to excess individualism, which he is labeling as The New Liberalism.”

    I just noticed that Jack said this. It’s the “excess” that I think Hancock is pointing to. But just like Jack said, we need to either read the transcript or watch the video.

  40. WRT Michael Towns’ example of the New York public library’s computers and pornography, the libertarian solution is to not HAVE public libraries that are funded by forcible taxation, but rather encourage and allow private libraries, paid by user fees. Private libraries would be able to set their own computer policies, and one could choose those whose policies most closely align with one’s personal values.

    So the problem here isn’t libertarianism, libertinism, or the New Liberalism, but rather a government that tries to be all things to all people and ends up having to define itself downto the lowest common dedenominator.

  41. Mike, you are of course correct, but within our lifetimes everybody will be walking around with Google Glass (or something like it) watching porn all day long and there will be no need for public computers at the library. So we have that to look forward to.

  42. Regarding the discussion about restricting certain behaviors in society vs. decriminalizing them, this Elder Maxwell article posted on John Gee’s blog (http://fornspollfira.blogspot.com/) is worth a read: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/03/popularity-and-principle?lang=eng. Here’s a quote to think about: “We cannot improve the world if we are conformed to the world (see Rom. 12:2). The gospel represents constancy amid change, not compliant adaptation to changing fashions and trends. Firm followers of Jesus, therefore, will not be mere chameleons—adapting their colors to match the ever-changing circumstances by simply blending in.” I am not saying we reintroduce Prohibition, but I do think we throw the baby out with the bathwater when we become open to pulling out virtually all the stops in the name of “tolerance” and extreme libertarianism (the “as long as it doesn’t hurt/affect me and my family” mantra is so incredibly flawed, IMO; it will and it does). I see Mike Parker’s point in his comment above, but I think he (and so many others) underestimate what it means to constantly capitulate to changes that collectively end up transforming the foundational principles that govern society. To me, Hancock’s main thrust at FAIR was that, no matter how strong our libertarian tendencies may be (and yes, a high — but not unlimited — degree of agency is essential to our “free” societies), to totally renounce the battle against moral relativism is to cease to stand with the Brethren and the Lord’s Church. We are effectively enabling and creating an environment where it is increasingly difficult, not only to live the Gospel, but even to believe the Gospel.

  43. Geoff: Yes, just like they do right now with smartphones.

    Establishing laws against pornography are going to have little to no effect, due to the Internet’s distributed nature and ability of groups to circumvent restrictions.

    Setting rules for private interactions would be more effective.

    And advocating for a moral people, wwithout using coercion or force, is always an imperative.

  44. “And advocating for a moral people, without using coercion or force, is always an imperative.”

    To be fair to all sides in this discussion, I definitely agree with Mike Parker on this subject, but I would add that the New Liberalism (and sometimes the new libertarianism) does often reject universal morality even in personal voluntary interactions. There is a tendency to say “whatever makes you happy.” There was a time when Progressives advocated morality (think of Woodrow Wilson’s constant harping on this subject and please note Progressives were a major force behind Prohibition) but since the 1960s this has changed. So, Bro. Hancock’s point — that the new left has a new tendency to reject all universal morality — is a valid point. And this often makes it more difficult for people with traditional morality to make any traction at all.

    I predict that within our lifetimes we will see this start affecting the Church as New Liberals begin insisting that gays be married in LDS chapels and in the temple. I hope we can agree that it is one thing to favor people with same-sex attraction being able to live their lives as they like and quite another to favor forcing other people to embrace your morality. But what many people will ignore is that it is the New Liberalism that is causing this fight in the first place.

    Balancing morality and free agency in the public sphere is a tricky business. I tend to favor allowing people the freedom to make their own mistakes and avoiding using the State to impose morality. But we need to aware that rejecting universal morality can make it increasingly difficult for free people to make their own decisions on how to run their own lives.

  45. “to totally renounce the battle against moral relativism”

    “European Saint” (not sure why you’re using this pseudonym and acting coy about your identity in this discussion), the problem is that if anyone in the Church is actually doing this, it is such a tiny segment that it does not merit Hancock’s attack. He seems to have pulled out his undergraduate notes taken in a BYU politics class in 1968 and brushed those up for this talk!

    Defining the “New Liberalism” the way he does is far-fetched enough (it is hard to believe he really has such a low opinion of his fellow citizens that he ascribes such a caricature to them), but then ascribing this definition or the views said to be integral to that definition to Mormons who differ from him on some policy issues really goes too far. I think this is why Scott Gordon made the apology. FAIR is supposed to be an organization where Mormons can congregate and discuss the difficult issues, providing answers, where possible, regardless of their political party or the positions they might take on any number of policy issues.

    As to this discussion, I hear a number of libertarian sound bites juxtaposed with their opposite: on certain issues that are deemed “moral issues” (and poverty, racism, discrimination against minorities, to name a few, aren’t on that list) to the particular commenters, the government should actually be involved in people’s lives, criminalizing certain behaviors because they threaten the “moral foundation” upon which society is built. “Tolerance” is just moral relativism, nothing more.

    European Saint, are you familiar with Nauvoo’s “Tolerance Ordinance” of March 1841 promoted under Nauvoo’s unique Charter? How does Joseph Smith’s commitment to “Toleration” as a means to ensure pluralism–some believe for the purpose of laying the foundation to protect the practice of polygamy (itself a practice that many in mainstream society at the time found to be the quintessential example of moral relativism)–affect your discontent towards “Tolerance”? From the Ordinance: “the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans, and all other religious sects and denominations, whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges.” How does this square with Hancock’s apparent inclusion of pluralism in his definition of the moral relativism of the “New Liberalism”?

    Also, on this point of moral relativism, what are Hancock’s policy commitments that are driving this polemic? It sounds like Hancock is attacking a much broader range of issues in his polemic against the “New Liberalism” than just gay marriage, contrary to “LDSphilosopher’s” apparent understanding of Hancock’s position. Since he appears to be basically saying that only “conservative” (in the narrow sense of how that term is applied to the contemporary American political sphere and issues that are relevant therein) policy positions are compatible with the Restored Gospel (such that Mormons persuaded by policy positions outside of that umbrella are essentially apostates, perhaps even evil), does he want divorce prohibited through the power of the state as well in defiance of the moral relativism that has allowed divorce to be accepted? Anti-discrimination laws meant to address employment discrimination based on gender (i.e. are females in the workplace part of what Hancock views as the moral decay of America?)

    What about interracial marriage? Remember, arguing for the decriminalization of interracial marriage was a “liberal”/”progressive” policy position a mere half century ago. And yet, when speaking of moral relativism, which is the more moral position, objectively speaking? — The government taking upon itself the right to deny people of different races to marry each other on the basis of segregating the races or banishing such racism and allowing such marriages to occur? I think most people regardless of religious creed or political party would agree that the latter is the moral position, wouldn’t you? Yes, it took brushing aside the moral relativism of (often religiously based) racism to access the objectively moral recognition of the fundamental equality and dignity of humans regardless of their skin color to be able to overcome these brutal and oppressive anti-miscegenation laws. But it was adherents of the “liberal” side of this argument who were pressing for such a development, wasn’t it?

    How then does Hancock incorporate anti-miscegenation into his polemic against “New Liberalism”? Is the demise of anti-miscegenation laws a piece of evidence in support of his polemic against “New Liberalism”, i.e. the fact that the “liberals” prevailed on this issue is further evidence of the decay they are causing in American society? But isn’t anti-miscegenation only possible based on a foundation of moral relativism in which an objective morality that would posit fundamental equality of the various races eschewed in favor of a folklore of supposedly meaningful racial differences? Is Hancock’s answer to conveniently say that the push to abolish anti-miscegenation laws taps into “classical liberalism” and not the “New Liberalism”? If so, on what basis? Based simply on how he has chosen to define “New Liberalism” in his theory? Or would he go so far as to say that the movement against anti-miscegenation laws was actually a conservative movement because it was morally right, ergo it was conservative (because anything morally right can’t be “liberal”)?

    Earlier Geoff B. mentioned the role of preaching and persuasion in convincing our neighbors to choose to adhere to God’s will. Piggybacking on that, I have to ask whether Hancock is arguing simply that Mormons should be preaching and persuading about the morals that we believe reflect objective morality (as opposed to the moral relativism that he believes has prevailed and that he so obviously fears)? Or is he arguing for more — that government policies should be outlawing this or that “liberal” trope (gay people having sexual relations, adultery/fornication among heterosexuals, pornography, political correctness, etc.) and that without such laws in place society is de facto no longer anchored to traditional morals? The latter strongly suggests a certain misanthropy — a certitude that people will not choose to live according to such traditional morals based on their religious conviction in the absence of laws shaping their behavior in that direction.

  46. “john f”

    Without a transcript to read for myself, it’s difficult to even attempt to answer your questions. But since I am sort of familiar with Hancock’s political philosophy, I suspect that part of your difficulty is that Hancock’s terminology does not mean what you think it means. Many of the words he’s using don’t mean the same thing to progressives that it means to folks in his corner. So the opportunity for misunderstanding is especially high.

    So, as soon as anybody can get a transcript I certainly would like to read it.

    It does seem, though, that you (“john f”) hold extremely strong views about how wrong Bro. Hancock is to believe the things that he believes. Bro. Hancock has spent a lifetime in academic political philosophy; he doesn’t come by his views with constant watching of Fox News. There is an enormous substance to his thought, disagree with it though you may (and stridently at that).

  47. FWIW, “John F.” is about as forthcoming a name as “Mark. B.” or “Jim S.” Not sure why this matters anyway. I am here to discuss ideas, not attack people for their purported coyness.

    “if anyone in the Church is actually doing this, it is such a tiny segment that it does not merit Hancock’s attack.” I disagree on many levels. The fact that Hancock’s decision to speak out against this New Liberalism is so incredibly rare (and that it was basically apologized for by the FAIR President) shows to what extent the Right and yes, the Moderates as well, have mostly all been intimidated by the new cool club/politically correct moral relativists. Ask yourself who, on the Mormon blogosphere or even at BYU, is willing to stick his or her neck out to “dare” counter the all-powerful Left, which has basically taken over both Academia and the Media. In addition, what Hancock is doing is hardly an attack, unless you consider that uncovering the folly behind poor argumentation is equivalent to an attack. In any case, I have witnessed him time and time again avoid letting things become personal and instead sticking to the arguments at hand — something I will attempt to emulate.

  48. European Saint: You continue to tell us, with some authority, what Ralph Hancock and Scott Gordon said at the FAIR Conference.

    Were you there in the room?

    If not, I suggest you refrain from lecturing others until you can get ahold of a transcript or recording of the event. Neither are available yet, so we’ll have to wait.

  49. Mike: Why do you assume I wasn’t there? I was there, and I read a script of Hancock’s remarks before the talk itself. I also heard every second of Scott’s very awkward apology for Hancock’s “controversial” remarks. I am sorry if that wasn’t clear before. And am I lecturing others? That was and is not my intention. I am sorry I offended you.

  50. (I should note that I very much appreciate Scott Gordon and his tireless efforts to defend the Church via FAIR — I just did not appreciate his decision to marginalize Hancock’s remarks by apologizing for them so as not to offend some incognito critics who, by the way, have yet to come forward and state what rubbed them the wrong way. But were I President of FAIR, I am sure I would not do half or even a third the job Scott is doing, so please take my small criticism of this isolated incident with a grain of salt.)

  51. Thank you for letting me know. I’ve seen a lot of heat about this matter online from people who weren’t there and got their information second-hand.

    FWIW, Scott’s comments were made extemporaneously, which helps explain their awkward nature. I would ask you to be charitable and understanding of his difficult position. Not everyone in the room agreed with Brother Hancock’s take, and Scott was trying to adopt a neutral political stance for FairMormon – not a neutral moral stance.

  52. Wow. Now having read a summary of Ralph Hancock’s talk (see link above) I cannot imagine what the heck was so controversial about it. Lots of quotations from Founding Fathers, GAs and de Toqueville and a bit of commentary. Perhaps it was the way he delivered it?

  53. “Not everyone in the room agreed with Brother Hancock’s take, and Scott was trying to adopt a neutral political stance for FairMormon – not a neutral moral stance.”

    No doubt. But I thought the purpose of having a conference to listen to people with ideas. I don’t see how giving a speech pregnant with ideas was so threatening to the folks that complained. I assume that people go to a conference prepared to hear things that they don’t necessarily expect or anticipate? Isn’t that correct?

    Are Mormon liberals typically so thin-skinned? Did Scott Gordon receive a bevy of complaints after Maxine Hanks spoke? It seems a bit silly to be so threatened by a 65 year old academic, particularly one as nice as Bro. Hancock. (I listened to his three hour interview with the notorious John Dehlin on Mormon Stories, and Bro. Hancock was a total gentleman throughout despite leading and biased questioning.)

    You see, what bugs some of us (like myself and European Saint) is that progressive and liberal Mormonism is given a presumption of standing, but you throw out one “conservative” bone, and all hell breaks loose. It’s just silly. And for someone like me, who is watching all this from afar, I find it both silly and sad that adult Mormons, at an apologetic conference, can’t take a little political diversity. Good grief people.

  54. I concur, Mike, re the difficult position Scott found himself in (and some of the second-hand “heat” going on online — would that the talks would be published sooner rather than later). I think it’s ok that not everyone in the room agreed with every theme in Hancock’s talk — to be fair, the same could be said of the feminist panel and other talks as well. It was simply curious to me that *only* Hancock’s talk got this special treatment in terms of extemporaneous remarks. You might ask yourself why this is. I think I understand the neutral political stance concept — and I know Hancock did not use the words “Democrat” or “Republican” at all in his talk (nor did he specifically allude to them, so far as I recall). I also hope you are right regarding FAIR’s unwillingness to adopt a neutral moral stance. This is what concerns me most.

  55. Did he caricature the position taken by people who categorize themselves as “liberal”? Did that caricature bear any resemblance to reality, particularly as applied to Latter-day Saints who are persuaded by policy arguments and positions that Hancock disagrees with philosophically?

    Continuing with the counter-example of Maxine Hanks, did she caricature “conservative” positions, ascribe them to Latter-day Saints who are persuaded by policy positions that she disagrees with, and then make that the basis of a theory of apostasy that needs to be opposed? My understanding is that she did not. I assume that if she had, Scott Gordon would have issued a similar corrective or apology. (And if she had, the reaction would have been apoplectic here and among a majority of American Mormons who agree with Hancock and believe “feminism” is part and parcel with the moral decay and moral relativism of America.)

  56. john f,
    Here is the problem I have, and it seems like many traditional LDS conservatives share. I have no idea of your shifting opinions on “liberal” policy positions is supposed to be. Often they seem to be in direct contradiction to how the church acts and teaches.

    Hence the great outcry at the church’s Salt Lake City development project under the guise of “couldn’t this money be better spent elsewhere”. The presumption seemingly being the church should just use tithing or fast offering money like a monthly welfare check.

    This is not to say that “liberals” are wrong to see moral injustice at the rich being elevated above the poor. But that the means liberals presume to go about doing it is often completely wrong and contradictory to how the church acts.

    This is a small example, which I’m sure you could nitpick and dismiss out of hand. But the problem is I have no idea what you’re talking about when you insist on being offended in behalf of liberals. Is it liberals who support gay marriage but oppose it privately? -but actually don’t oppose it privately because they can’t point to any instances of it they oppose? Is it liberals who want gays to be married in the temple? want gays relationships to be placed on the doctrinal level with heterosexual ones? Or just liberals who think we should take money from rich people who got it through gaming the system (and somehow those rich people are Glenn Beck or Koch Bros and not Zuckerberg or Bezos)?

    I’m not really sure what you want other than just venting and fuming that there is injustice in the world and your fellow religionists think you’re not only misguided but actually focused in areas which are contrary to how Brethren are generally teaching.

    Naturally, we don’t have to share their politics. We’re all allowed to be wrong and we’re all supposed to find our own way. And certainly their politics can be wrong too. But it’s amazing how easily liberals line up against the traditional moral positions of the church in the name of policy differences when those policy differences are based on radically different moral foundations.

    That is what Hancock appears to be talking about. The New Liberals are building themselves on a different moral foundation.

    The best hope the Mormon liberals have is that eventually some new revelations will come down the line and radically overturn the way the vast majority of the church views morality. It’s strange to hope so strongly for an organization to turn itself on its head…

  57. chris, I am expressing my opinion about why Scott Gordon gave an apology after Hancock’s talk. Others are opposing that by reiterating Hancock’s claim that “conservatives” aren’t allowed or are afraid to speak out on these issues, without providing any evidence that this is the case. The truth is that the “liberal” voice is very suppressed in Mormon discourse and virtually the only viewpoint that most Mormons hear is Hancock’s.

    In terms of elements of my comments that have strayed outside of merely offering my opinion about why Scott Gordon said what he did, I am merely probing deeper into Hancock’s purpose-crafted definition of “New Liberalism” to see how it works outside of the confines of the polemic for which he crafted it.

  58. “The truth is that the “liberal” voice is very suppressed in Mormon discourse and virtually the only viewpoint that most Mormons hear is Hancock’s”

    I don’t believe this is true anymore, john f. It certainly isn’t true online. And for the record, my “conservative” voice has been suppressed on many a Mormon blog.

  59. I must apologize for the way I inarticulately spoke. There is no other explanation for why people think I apologized for anyone, or why I might not support the Proclamation on the Family. Let me be clear. I did not intend to apologize for Brother Hancock or distance FairMormon from the Proclamation on the Family. Either I wasn’t clear, or you are misunderstanding what I said.

    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 believe that whomever is spreading the idea that FairMormon does not support the brethren or the Proclamation on the Family knows perfectly well that we do, but is spreading that rumor anyway.

    So let me restate:
    I am not apologizing for brother Hancock. I wanted to clarify our position.
    We at FairMormon support the Church and the Brethren
    We at FairMormon support the Proclamation on the Family
    FairMormon, like the Church is a large tent of political ideas.
    I was inarticulate at the conference, for which I apologize, but I am more disturbed that some people are misrepresenting my position.

  60. Thank you Scott for setting the record straight. And thank you for your many years of effotts at FAIR.
    Since you didn’t mention any comments from audience members following any other presentation, what issues did folks have with Hancock’s remarks?

  61. I think we need to be careful not to judge members’ worthiness over one single issue. I’m guessing Hnu and LDSP have never met Kevin Barney. I have. He’s a wonderful Latter-day Saint. That he does not hold strongly to portions of the Family Proclamation is between him and his leaders, not for us. I’ll bet if we looked hard enough, we would find that both hnu and LDSP do not agree with everything coming from the Brethren, either. A lot of members want strong laws against illegal immigration, but that goes contrary to recent statements from SLC. I’m sure we could find other examples that may hit closely to home for each one of us.
    That Maxine Hanks recognized that much of her problem in 1993 was looking down on the Brethren, rather than seeing them as equals, shows me that she has made some major changes in her life. Her discussions on feminism, etc, were very positive.
    I would hope that we would focus on the areas we agree on, rather than seek openings of division. Remember, Christ commanded us to be one, and that contention is of the devil (3 Ne 11). So, for those seeking to divide, may I suggest we listen to the counsel given by Pres Packer and not use one virtue to beat up on another virtue (in this case, chastity vs freedom). I would also recommend we consider the Beatitudes in this context. Condemning others over a difference of opinion in one area suggests we are not being meek or peacemakers.
    We cannot be a Zion people, if we’re too quick to condemn those who differ from us in what should probably be a minor difference among Saints. I embrace all those who witness of Christ, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the living prophets. Guess what? Maxine Hanks is eager to do all of that. So is Kevin Barney. So is hnu and ldsp.
    BTW, I thank Scott Gordon for providing one of the best FAIR conferences ever. I wish I could have been there in person. I’m also thank him for being open to explore tough issues and to invite those who were once on the fringes of Mormondom. We need them. Without Maxine Hanks and Don Bradley and others, we cannot become Zion.

  62. So in order to become Zion, we need the folk of the fringe?

    My understanding was that the canonical definition of Zion was the “pure in heart”, not necessarily a rainbow coalition of politicos.

    I am personally dubious about the idea that we can all get together and sing kumbaya. For some people, their political persuasions trumps gospel, every time.

  63. Michael T, I said we need to accept those that generally agree with the fundamentals of the gospel. I agree that politics are going to keep some people out of Zion, because they will refuse to accept other worthy people as Saints.

  64. I look at it from this vantage point: politics will keep some people out of Zion because they refuse to bend their politics to match what God expresses through his spokesmen.

  65. Rameumptom: Without realizing it, you have completely embraced the New Liberal version of Christian compassion, namely, embrace not just our fellow brothers and sisters despite their struggles and misguided beliefs (this we should of course do), but embrace their misguided beliefs as well by refusing to say a peep about how those principles fly in the face of gospel principles. Doesn’t sound good to someone who believes in eternal truths (even though it surely sounds perfectly legit to the masses around us these days).

  66. Michael T, And I think that applies to some people on the right and left.

    EuroSaint: I think it is important to discuss principles and doctrines and to teach them. Zion is built upon doctrines and principles. However, we often mistake procedures, traditions or practices for doctrine. While actively teaching the doctrines of Zion, we do not have to attack personally individuals for their viewpoints that may differ in some ways from ours.
    Zion will be made of imperfect people striving to become one. That does not mean they agree 100% of the time, but that they have a common goal of establishing Zion and being Christ-like. If I’m too eager to kick someone out of Zion for disagreeing with me, then how soon after will someone else be wanting to kick me out on another subject.
    I am not a modern liberal. Politically, I’m a conservative libertarian, or what I would call a Jeffersonian Republican/Democrat. Spiritually, I am a Latter-day Saint, who realizes that not all things have been revealed to us yet. I sustain the Brethren, while realizing that we have a ways to go to build a Zion people. Every one of us is going to have areas to change in. For some, it may be their politics, for another their liberal or conservative views on abortion, homosexuality, immigration, or eating too much meat. We will be focused on the beam in our own eyes more than the mote in our neighbor’s eye. I hope that you, Maxine, Kevin, and all others will accept me as a brother in Zion; just as I hope to greet all of you.

  67. Totally agree re right and left comment, rameumpton. Kumbaya with limits.

  68. “And I think that applies to some people on the right and left.”

    Sure, but let me ask you an honest question that truly deserves an honest answer. Among LDS folks on the Left and LDS folks on the Right, who do you think is most likely to attend a gay pride rally and protest any attempt to legally protect traditional marriage?

    I think that the New Mormon Left is more likely to hold beliefs and practices that are antithetical to the Gospel than the Old Traditional Right. That’s a tough truth, but it matches the personal experiences of many of us who have been in the trenches of Mormonism the past several years.

  69. I support the Proclamation on the Family and promote it. That said, I realize that not all Saints have my testimony on things. Each is on a different part of the path than I am on. In some areas, I am further along, while others have surpassed me in other areas.
    As I mentioned in my update to my post above, a Zion people will be One. That does not mean they will agree on all things, but will strive to sustain one another. We will focus on our own beams, rather than on others’ motes.
    I believe when the fulness of truth is revealed, we will all be amazed at how short we all are from knowing truth. We will conclude we know/knew nothing. We will also see that compassion and charity are more important virtues than judgment. I will allow the correct priesthood leadership to determine who is worthy to dwell in Zion. Once they are given a temple recommend or entry into Zion, I need to sustain that decision, even if I do not agree with everything a person believes. Now, if a member sins, then there is a pattern given us in D&C on how to deal with that.

  70. “We will also see that compassion and charity are more important virtues than judgment. I will allow the correct priesthood leadership to determine who is worthy to dwell in Zion.”

    I didn’t say anything about disciplinary councils or temple recommends. Compassion and charity are spiritual requirements, but can you see the perspective that sometimes compassion makes it imperative to adhere to the prophetic values espoused by God’s chosen servants? Tolerance is a wonderful thing, but it’s excruciatingly easy to transmogrify tolerance into full acceptance of ideology that harms people’s faith and leads to spiritually dark outcomes.

    By all means, welcome folks in from the cold. We will slay the fatted calf and put the ring on the finger. But loyalty to the kingdom is also as spiritually vital as compassion and charity which can often be abused.

  71. “Sure, but let me ask you an honest question that truly deserves an honest answer. Among LDS folks on the Left and LDS folks on the Right, who do you think is most likely to attend a gay pride rally and protest any attempt to legally protect traditional marriage?”

    The left will more likely attend a Gay pride rally, no doubt. How many of those promote gay marriage, and how many are just showing support for people with a genetic SSA issue?

    How many on the left/right will attend an anti-immigration rally? How does that meet up with recent GA comments? How many right/left are protective of the “little birdies” as Pres Kimball asked us to do, versus those who hunt for sport?

    My point is that it isn’t just a one issue thing. There are many points where Saints fall short. It isn’t up to me to judge individuals. It is given to bishops to be judges in Israel. I’ll leave that to God’s chosen judges to determine worthiness of an individual.

    As for me, I will focus primarily on my own beams. I will teach and preach the clear doctrines of the Church, which I believe includes the Proclamation on the Family.

  72. “How many of those promote gay marriage, and how many are just showing support for people with a genetic SSA issue? ”

    Now that’s a perfect illustration of equivocation. “No, I don’t support gay marriage, I’m just dressed in rainbow drag and I’m carrying this sign because I care about gay people”. Please.

    Ideology has power and consequence. Let me illustrate by an example from the military. I can’t show up at a political rally wearing my uniform. Why? Don’t I have a Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech? Yes. But because I wear the uniform of a branch of the military, my presence at a political rally could be construed as implicit or explicit government support of a particular political platform, cause, or party.

    When LDS folks show up at gay rallies, looking all progressive and broad minded, do the passers by say to themselves, “Oh, they are just there because they really care about gay people. But they’re not on board with the gay ideologies of sex and political agitation.”


  73. Rameumpton, three comments:

    (1) In hindsight, I recognize that it was wrong and unChristian to specifically point fingers and call out a fellow member of the Church.

    (2) That said, Kevin Barney has publicly (from my recollection) published his dissent on the Proclamation on the Family (and not just on Prop 8). Now, my memory may be failing me, but I believe his dissent was not just on how the Proclamation should or shouldn’t be encoded into civil law, but on some of the fundamentals of the Proclamation itself (such as the essentiality of gender complementarity in marriage, and the duty to be chaste for same-sex attracted men and women in the Church, etc.). To me, if he publicly published these beliefs on a blog, then his beliefs are a matter of public discussion — he opened them up to public discussion himself.

    (3) I recognize that there are degrees of belief and faith — that is, some people struggle more than others with basic doctrines. All such are welcome in the Church to worship and make covenants with God. I trust the gatekeepers of Zion to decide who is worthy to be a member of the Church and who is not. That is not my call. I welcome Kevin Barney as a member of the Church, and I think many good members of the Church can have doubts about the particulars of doctrine or history.

    (4) That said, I think it goes without saying that there is quite a bit of cognitive dissonance in claiming on the one hand to be led by prophets, and to claim on the other hand that the prophets are wrong on something they have talked so unanimously and frequently about — so much so to sign their names to a document declaring such doctrines to the world. I think the dissonance is such that I do believe that it is difficult to claim to be led by prophets but believe them to be wrong on something that important.

    (5) Even then, I’m perfectly fine with members entertaining such notions while they work to strengthen their faith and seek further light and knowledge. Again, degrees of belief and faith, degrees of nuance in personal worship. That’s fine. To each his own.

    (6) But when they start blogging about their dissent — inviting others to reconsider their faith in certain doctrines — then, again, it becomes a matter of public discussion, and we have every prerogative to converse and talk about those beliefs in public forums. Further, blogging about one’s dissent from Church teachings — particular on such a well-trafficked site — is taking that dissent to a public forum and socializing/normalizing it in a community that is already eager and seeking social validation for their own apostasy. That, I think, is irresponsible, and it is well within our prerogative to discuss, dismantle, rebut, and respond to him in a public forum as well. I’m not claiming that he’s not temple worthy, but I do find such public behavior somewhat problematic and irresponsible for a covenant-keeping people.

    (7) Finally, my nervousness (expressed earlier in this thread, albeit more rudely than I should have) is not with Barney’s membership, temple-worthiness, etc. I have no doubt he’s a good member, and that his bishop/stake president is perfectly capable of assessing those matters with discernment beyond my own. My challenge is that one of the biggest attacks secularism is making against Church members in this day and age is on matters related to the Proclamation on the Family. And to me, it does make me nervous to involve someone on the front lines of Mormon apologetics who has unabashedly and publicly aided and facilitated the doubts that some people have on those matters. That is what makes me nervous.

    (8) I understand now, based on Scott Gordon’s comment, that FairMormon stands resolutely in favor of the Proclamation on the Family. Kevin’s involvement apparently has not changed that. Blair Hodges’s comments about Scott’s remarks at the conference, led me and others to believe that Scott was attempt to ameliorate the offended sensibilities of those growing numbers who claim faithful members but reject the Proclamation as doctrine (that is, the New Liberalism that Bro. Hancock was discussing). Apparently that was not the case. I sincerely hope that FairMormon continues to resolutely defend the Proclamation, as Scott Gordon has indicated. I apologize for responding as I did. It was a knee-jerk reaction (without all the information) and it was wrong.

    (9) Why did I respond that way? There is a new breed of intellectualism in the Church that seems to devalue faithful adherence to God’s teachings and to elevate what has sometimes been termed “faithful dissent.” It does seem to me that when the question is raised, “How can the Church be true when it is on the wrong side of history (with respect to sexual ethics and morality — e.g., the Proclamation)?”, more and more LDS apologetics are — instead of defending the Proclamation — responding, “Prophets can be wrong. It’s ok to disagree with them. They aren’t always right on every issue.” While this may very well be true, as I said before, I seriously doubt we can claim faith in modern revelation and believe that the prophets are wrong on something this central. This response seems to be growing in frequency, and it troubles me deeply. It reeks of cowardice. So I sometimes fear what lies ahead for LDS apologetics. Perhaps I need more faith. Because of this, I am hypersensitive to any warning signs that my favorite organizations are succumbing to this new breed of Mormon intellectualism. Thus my initial response. (This is a rational, not a justification. The initial response was wrong.)

  74. One more thought: we can tolerate degrees of belief in the Church. But I think we are often seeing what J. Max Wilson has termed, “asymmetrical spiritual warfare”:

    Someone can get online and publicly air their doubts, dissents, and disagreements with the Church. They can even imply that others are “blindly” going along with the prophets, exercising blind faith rather than the more nuanced approach of “faithful dissent.” Thus, without questioning their fellow member’s worthiness to be members of the Church, they can directly or indirectly call into question the thoughtfulness of their worship. Those who are more intellectually sophisticated, learned, open-minded, and tolerant (like them), it is assumed, would engage in the same brand of “faithful dissent” they do.

    But when one of us “sheeple” writes a blog post in response, arguing with reason, prophetic authority, scripture, and testimony that, well, the prophets are right, and that we really ought to do as they say and believe what they teach, and that we have good reason — in logic, in revelation, and in our covenants — to support the prophets’ endeavors, we are accused of being intolerant, uncharitable, and in fact creating disunity in the Church. How dare we question the faithfulness of our fellow members! How dare we question their belief systems, or imply that the Church’s tent is not big enough for all of us!

    And then it becomes evidence that doubting members, “faithful dissenters”, etc., are becoming a sort of “protected class.” They can publicly talk all day long about their more nuanced and sophisticated views of the Church, but when we talk about simple faith, obedience, trust, etc. — especially when it is at all applied that they don’t have it — we become demonized.

    And as that happens, the public stage (such as, for example, the bloggernacle) gets slanted against us. It does seem that we are asked to be tolerant of a whole array of dissident viewpoints — and tolerance is defined here as a lack of critique, response, rebuttal, etc. — but they are simultaneously allowed to dismantle and critique our simple faith and our traditional belief systems.

    Are we perfect? Heck no. Our responses are often less than charitable. Much repenting is needed, and I admit that. But perhaps some compassion can be shown in this direction too? Some of us have frayed tempers because we feel a little battle weary. It feels like too much ground is given in the public forums for those who express dissenting viewpoints, and the ground we have is being taken away in the name of tolerance and “big tent Mormonism.” And if we use the same pulpit they use to question our views to question their views, then we are told that we are intolerant and divisive. And that can be aggravating, distressing, and discouraging.

  75. Also, one trouble I really have with the “left” v. “right” dichotomy is that it is used to paint caricatures. For example, because I agree with Bro. Hancock in his critique of “new liberalism” (an admittedly left-leaning trend), Rameumpton wonders if I might disagree with the Brethren’s soft stance on immigration. I happen to support the Brethren on these issues (and actually shared their views long before they expressed them in recent years).

    So I disagree that we can really paint dividing lines along the “left” v. “right” continuum. I have similar issues with those who murmur about the Church’s soft stance on immigration as those who murmur about the Church’s hard stance on chastity. (That said, I don’t think that immigration policy is at all central to our faith in the same way that the Proclamation on the Family is. That said, carefully weighing our own positions against the teachings of God’s servants is central to our faith, and so we should hold greater loyalties to the Church than we do any particular band on the political spectrum.)

  76. Motes and beams, people.

    LDS people who oppose the church’s official stance on immigration have taken out full-page ads in the Salt Lake newspapers publicly voicing their dissent. And if we read the church’s position carefully, we realize that it isn’t so much about immigration as it is about keeping families together. Does Hancock include these people in his definition of The New Liberalism, as people who are mustering an assault on the family and refusing to sustain the church? I don’t know, maybe somebody could clarify. But that is part of the problem here. He states that his presentation will touch on politics and he identifies (without defining clearly) something called the new liberalism and singles it out as apostate. His meaning might have been clear to some, but according to Scott Gordon, people from both sides of the political spectrum understood his presentation to be a political polemic. When an audience misunderstands a speaker to that degree, surely the lion’s share of the responsibility for the misunderstanding lies with the speaker.

    Imagine the hubbub if a presenter had done the same thing, except stated repeatedly that adherents to The New Conservatism are apostate and gave the example of dissidents on the immigration issue who have publicly defied church authority, favor the breaking up families contra the Proclamation, and encouraged others to oppose the council of the brethren. All hell would have broken loose, and everybody knows it.

    As I see it, Gordon had no choice but to gently distance his organization from this presentation. He did the right thing, and he did it well. He has no need to apologize for what he said or how he said it.

  77. Jack,

    I think your last comment indicates a few things. I think you tend to conflate and give issues equal weight in your mind when in reality, some things are far more important than other, lesser issues.

    The notion that illegal immigration carries the same moral weight as the Church’s stance on family and gay marriage is hogwash. In all honesty, very few Mormon conservatives are up in arms about any statement the Church made about keeping families together. In fact, if you can get your heads out of the liberal sand for a few minutes, you’d realize that most conservatives are open and interested in immigration reform, and that includes the vast majority of Mormon conservatives.

    In fact, most Mormon conservatives have immigration pretty far down their list of issues that they are concerned about.

    When the Church issues an Immigration Proclamation, signed by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and given the weight of seriousness that the current Family Proclamation has held for the past 18 years, then we can talk about it. As it is, a statement issued from the Public Affairs Office hardly measures up to the standard the Family Proclamation possesses.

    It’s easy to say “beams and motes”. Perhaps it’s harder to actually acknowledge the fact that gay marriage, with all its attendant spiritual consequences, is far more important to the Brethren, as is preserving the remarkable social institution of traditional marriage. Bro. Hancock was not wrong in his presentation; he was right to present what he did, particularly since it’s based on a lifetime of work in his field. I suspect the main reason why Mormon liberals complained is due to his extensive quoting of dead white men. It’s not easy to have your philosophy picked clean. Instead of complaining about it, go out and buttress your philosophy and present a case at the next FAIR on how progressivism fulfills Articles and Faith 9.

    I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again: I suspect that Bro. Hancock’s presentation went over a few people’s heads and they overreacted. If you don’t think that there has been ill fruit arising from the various societal and sexual revolutions of the last several decades, then his message won’t resonate with you.

  78. Michael, let me try again.

    As I pointed out in my previous comment, the Brethren DID make the breakup of families the main issue with their statement on immigration. The immigration issue is secondary to the main objection, which is about the separation of husbands and wives and children from parents. Their position was expressed as part of our understanding about the Proclamation.

    “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets….We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    Our church leadership thinks that a harsh stance on immigration is detrimental to the institution of the family, as outlined in the Proclamation. If you think that the brethren think gay marriage is the only threat to the family, you aren’t paying attention and you are misreading the Proclamation.

    “I suspect the main reason why Mormon liberals complained…”

    Repeating again, Gordon said that a very conservative attendee also expressed concern. I don’t begrudge Hancock his life’s work, I think it’s great that we have people like him. But this was a lay audience, not a convention of PoliSci professors. If his presentation went over the audience’s head, it isn’t the audience’s fault.

  79. To state it more plainly, it isn’t a Gay Marriage Proclamation, to borrow your formulation. Although I am sorry to see that is what it has been reduced to for many of our people. It is a solemn statement about the importance of family and marriage. The brethren see multiple threats to these institutions, not just SSM.

  80. I think all/most of us here are in full support of the Proc on Family. That said, we can see that we cannot even agree on how to read different viewpoints of others. The Church’s stance on immigration has to do with the Proc on Family, and so may be validly seen as weighty a matter as homosexuality. The difference is whether the attacks are coming from left or right.
    I am a libertarian. My view is that government should not be in the marriage business at all. Does that place me on the left or right? I’m thinking it places me in neither spot.
    While I do not agree with hnu on all things, or with Kevin Barney, for that matter, I would prefer to focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. I would then leave the judging of each to his divinely called leaders.

  81. Jack, why are you acting as if we have dismissed the Church’s statements on immigration? As I said, I am concerned for those who do that in the same sort of way that I am concerned for those who dismiss the Proclamation. So why are you acting as if we too have our own dissent?

    Again, I feel lumped in which immigration haters because I support Bro. Hancock’s talk. Weird.

  82. I recieved positive and negative comments on several of the talks. But the other comments were “I really liked…” or “I really disagree…” I did get one ” I had to go out because I couldn’t stand…”

    Brother Hancock‘s talk was the only one where I was asked, “Why is FAIR supporting…” The comment from the conservative was, “That will be percieved as a political talk and some of your audience is going to be offended.” I had other positive and neutral comments on the talk as well.

  83. Thank you, Scott, for some clarification.
    “Brother Hancock‘s talk was the only one where I was asked, ‘Why is FAIR supporting…'”
    This begs the question: Why — instead of responding to the critic with the reasons why you and FAIR do indeed support Hancock’s remarks (which it appears you do not) — did you elect to side with the critic and not the FAIR speaker (Hancock)? Your response was not neutral; it was, in essence, “You are right; let me clarify that Hancock does not speak for FAIR. What he said was not PC (or charitable, or neutral, or pick-your-term) enough for us.”
    “The comment from the conservative was, ‘That will be percieved as a political talk and some of your audience is going to be offended.'”
    This begs the question: What in the talk would offend some people? Did the person even say? And is that message (the part that might offend some people) true and good and important enough to say anyway, or is it mean and divisive and flawed in its reasoning? Instead of trying to find out the answer to this critical question, you capitulated to the critics and made a public statement; I would not be disturbed in the least were you to back down from what you did (without time to reflect upon what you were doing — we all make mistakes in haste, after all), but you continue to stand by your move to do so and the statement that you made. This is what I disagree with. FAIR needs to combat precisely what Hancock decried during his presentation, in spite of (and perhaps especially because of) the many critics out there.
    You have salvaged some supporters (the critics of Hancock’s remarks) instead of standing by the truths laid out by Hancock. This is not a neutral position.

  84. ldsphilosopher,

    I apologize. Although my remarks were directed at another commenter, I can see how you would think that I had lumped you in with him. I do appreciate that you made that distinction in your earlier comments, and had in fact thought about thanking you for doing that, but forgot. And I also still continue to think that this is a huge blind spot for conservative people, we need look no further than this thread for solid reasons.

    Scott Gordon, you have a thankless job. For what it’s worth, I think you are doing it well, and I appreciate it.

    European Saint, it is really so hard to understand that if a speaker uses labels like liberal or conservative and associates that label with apostasy, that people will read more into it than what the speaker might have intended? This is a fundamental matter of knowing your audience and making your point clearly.

  85. Jack: Re Scott Gordon, I fully agree with you. He seems like a great man, and I know he has done more than I am likely to do in a lifetime to defend the Church. For this I sincerely thank him. My criticism is of a very isolated incident and its aftermath — not of him as a person or his life’s work.

    Meanwhile, you have demonstrated multiple times in this conversation chain that you either did not listen to Hancock’s remarks or you did not understand them (of course, according to your logic and your statement above, this would be due to Hancock’s failure to know his audience, and not your or anyone else’s personal lack of background).
    “if a speaker uses labels like liberal or conservative and associates that label with apostasy”
    If this isn’t a caricature or Hancock’s talk, I don’t know what is.
    Knowing his audience, and precisely because he knew this topic might be sensitive to some, Hancock very, very clearly delineated the New Liberalism from Liberalism writ large/Classical Liberalism. I guess you will just have to wait and read the talk in full before regurgitating any other second-hand caricatures (that would be welcome, at least).
    He who hath ears to hear let him hear, I guess. You can bring a horse to the water…

  86. Nope, I wasn’t there. And I’ve heard you do lot of griping about the transcripts that are available, but I don’t see you providing any amendments or clarification. And for that matter, I think the person who took the notes and put them up at MI did an excellent job under the circumstances — it is very difficult to listen and type at the same time — and that work merits some measure of gratitude, but all I have heard you do is complain. About the transcripts, about Scott Gordon, about how everybody misunderstands your father. It’s all everybody else’s fault!

    I understand the difference between classical liberalism and new liberalism. What I do not understand is whether your father is capable of disentangling his own political opinions from his understanding of the gospel.

  87. “Our church leadership thinks that a harsh stance on immigration is detrimental to the institution of the family, as outlined in the Proclamation.”

    Did I say anywhere that “Gay Marriage” is the only issue that concerns the Brethren?

    Now, I did say it was mighty important. And just because there are other important issues doesn’t take away the fact that, right now, gay marriage is all the rage right now. Therefore, it deservedly receives a great deal of the fuss and attention and concern.

    “To state it more plainly, it isn’t a Gay Marriage Proclamation, to borrow your formulation.”

    Yes, it is. You cannot tell me that you can sit down, read the Proclamation, and come away from that document without understanding the significance of the traditional family unit as based on the traditional meaning of marriage, husband and wife. To pretend otherwise is pure fantasy. The fact that it came out in 1995, when literally no one but a lunatic fringe was talking about gay marriage, only underscores the Brethren’s inspired genius and makes it that much more relevant to contemporary concerns. In other words that are surely to earn derision from some fellow LDS, the Brethren had prophetic insight to put out the Proclamation when they did. I remember 1995 very well (it was a good year for me personally); it was a different cultural world back then. The Proclamation is a work of revelation, and some day, it will be placed into the canon.

    “Our church leadership thinks that a harsh stance on immigration is detrimental to the institution of the family, as outlined in the Proclamation. If you think that the brethren think gay marriage is the only threat to the family, you aren’t paying attention and you are misreading the Proclamation.”

    Once again, I never said that gay marriage was the only threat. And in fact, I know of literally no one who is saying that. There are lots of threats to the family. But everything in the Proclamation rests upon an extraordinarily important principle: male and female, married. This is the prime assumption the document makes, and it’s the prime assumption that underlies the Church’s gospel program, from the beginning of time until the fulness of times.

    That’s why it frustrates me, and a lot of my fellow LDS, to see folks supporting gay marriage who should clearly know better.

  88. “Hancock very, very clearly delineated the New Liberalism from Liberalism writ large/Classical Liberalism.”

    Yes, he did. But I do know that critical thinking is in short supply these days. I blame government education.

    “What I do not understand is whether your father is capable of disentangling his own political opinions from his understanding of the gospel.”

    The best “kettle, meet pot” statement I’ve ever seen in online Mormon political discourse. The problem with Mormons online is that instead of viewing our politics through the lens of the gospel, we view the gospel through the lens of our politics. And let me tell you, liberals and progressives do that more than conservatives do.

  89. Jack: You are right, I greatly admire Hodges’ note-taking ability, and I failed to mention this. What he did was incredible — fast and mostly accurate (much better than I could have done, to be sure). What I criticized was not his overall note-taking effort, but his own twist on the Scott Gordon intervention after Hancock’s remarks, namely: “[Gordon] said although Hancock’s presentation was directed to a particular political segment they would like to have more political diversity going forward.” This is simply not true: Hancock’s presentation was directed at the entire FAIR audience, regardless of political persuasion (and it is not difficult to see that it was an attempt by Hodges to marginalize what Hancock had said, which is probably not too surprising, given Hodges’ own leanings). I apologize if my critique was not clear or specific enough on this point. Now back to the arguments at hand.
    What you see as complaining, I view as attempting to set the record straight on twisting and slanting. But we are not likely to agree on this, now are we? We can still be pleasant (and, to some degree, friendly), and not make things personal.
    You must have missed that fact that I posted a few quotes from Hancock’s remarks, and another attendee posted even more at his blog (which link I included above: http://goodgazette.blogspot.com) — this was my feeble attempt at “providing any amendments or clarification,” although apparently they did not meet your threshold.
    Key point: you weren’t there, and yet you heavily weighed in on things you neither heard nor saw first-hand. But now, I am told, you can stream Hancock’s talk on the FAIR website for a small fee and come back to comment on what you know, versus what you guess, Hancock did or did not say. I look forward to your take at that point.

  90. Mike, thanks for linking. This is probably the most controversial bit:

    The New Liberalism vs. the Restored Gospel

    Now, I come to my most important point, which to me seems rather obvious, but is somehow in fact quite controversial, at least among many intellectually or culturally ambitious LDS: This New Liberalism is not remotely compatible with basic LDS beliefs. 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.

    All this and much more is clear to every LDS who is even passingly familiar with the great Proclamation to the World on the Family published under the authority of the First Presidency and the Apostles in 1995. 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.
    The opposition seems clear. But in fact, as I have learned, a significant number of LDS who consider themselves and would like to be considered faithful are ready to discount the authority of the Family Proclamation and to subordinate it to the New Liberalism that they have adopted as an authoritative moral touchstone. For them, a practically self-evident syllogism dictates this discounting of the Proclamation’s teaching:

    The Church teaches moral truth; the New Liberalism (equality, progress, sexual freedom) defines moral truth; ergo: what the Church really teaches, or must one day teach, is the New Liberalism.

    A significant division is thus emerging among LDS: on the one hand, the overwhelming majority of faithful LDS cherish the clarity and power of the prophetic teaching of the Family Proclamation; on the other, a small but active, articulate, intellectually ambitious and mutually reinforcing set of New Liberals have redefined the moral core of the gospel to reconcile it with the views now dominant among cultural and intellectual elites more generally. These are self-described Mormons who have surrendered the moral citadel that governs basic beliefs about the nature and purpose of human existence to the dominant forces of secular culture. Religion thus becomes a hollowed-out shell occupied by the moral vision of the New Liberalism. According to this vision, the one fixed, sacred point of the moral universe is the idea of the individual’s right to define the meaning of his or her own existence.

    Elder Maxwell understood very well, already decades ago, the political implications of the new amoral moralism:

    “Decrease the belief in God, and you increase the numbers of those who wish to play at being God by being ‘society’s supervisors.’ Such ‘supervisors’ deny the existence of divine standards, but are very serious about imposing their own standards on society.” (The Prohibitive Costs of a Value-free Society, ENSIGN, Oct. 1978)

  91. I would postulate (speaking for myself, and not for FairMormon) that self expression, including sexual self expression, is indeed a right, if we define “right” as a behavior that one may engage in without government sanction or permission. Just as speech, religion, assembly, and other expressions are rights, sexuality is not something the government should prohibit, regulate, or endorse (with obvious exceptions for the protection of minors and exploited persons).

    One can support the ideals and ideas in the Proclamation on the Family (as I fully do) without enjoining government interference in the personal, private acts of consenting adults who believe differently.

    Lawrence v. Texas was decided correctly.

  92. Mike Parker,

    The key to Hancock’s thesis is “open-ended individual self-expression”. The emphasis is on the “open-ended” aspect to the self-expression. It’s a self-expression with no moral limit whatsoever. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would mean that each person gets to be the sole arbiter of whether or not his or her action is right. In society, even libertarians would agree that there are other arbiters that have a say in whether our actions are acceptable or not.

    A moment’s reflection would underscore the fact that even self-expression has limits, even in a libertarian context, no? What Hancock is criticizing is the moral nihilism of the age. And let’s put our political conceits aside for a split second and acknowledge the fact that the restored gospel is a gospel of self control, not self worship.

  93. Of course there are moral limits in society. Libertarians like me would argue that the limits are established when your behavior directly affects me.

    Getting drunk or stoned in your own home doesn’t affect me; getting drunk or stoned and then getting behind the wheel of a car on a public highway does. Two gay people getting married doesn’t affect me or my marriage; forcing my Church to solemnize gay marriages in our temples does.

    I may consider homosexual relationships to be contrary to the plan of God – that’s what the Family Proclamation implies – but my theological views don’t necessarily make for good public policy.

  94. So who or what are those other arbiters? Who defines the limits of self-expression? Where do rights come from? What constitutes self-expression, including sexual self-expression? Do prophets have a right to interfere in the personal, private acts of consenting adults who believe differently by calling them to repentance if their acts are sinful? Why or why not? If the gospel is a gospel of self-control, and not self-worship, but we remove God and divine standards from the political equation, who or what is left to worship besides the self?

  95. “but my theological views don’t necessarily make for good public policy”

    “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.”

    I don’t know, Mike Parker, calamity and disasters aren’t exactly a recipe for societal bliss, either. I am well aware of the “let people do whatever as long as they don’t affect me” deal. The problem is that aggregate sin *does* affect us.

    Either we take this “We warn” statement seriously or we might as well throw up our hands and join the Episcopalians in irrelevance.

  96. Michael T, does “We warn” imply imposing governmental restrictions, or just that people/individuals/couples need to consider the consequences of their choices? We can warn people about the spiritual dangers of homosexuality without imposing a government requirement upon them. I don’t want government imposing requirements upon Mormons, Catholics, Baptists or other Christians. I certainly do not want government forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives to their employees against the Catholic teachings. Why then should we use government to impose our religious belief upon others? We open up a dangerous can of worms when we do so. Better to give a word of warning to mankind, then let God impose his judgment on those he wishes to judge.
    When we build Zion, there will be a requirement that we do not impose Mormon beliefs upon other Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc, who choose to join us. We will only have actions against behaviors. Those who do not agree with the basic commandments will not be punished, but will not be allowed to join our Zion society. So it is today. Those who choose homosexual marriage will not be allowed to join/remain in the Church.

  97. I honestly don’t understand why people are assuming that I am advocating for government control of anything. I am not really a stranger here; when is the last time you’ve seen me calling for government to run our lives? Good grief.

    I believe in a renewal of *culture* and of *moral awareness*.

  98. MP “Two gay people getting married doesn’t affect me or my marriage…” this is the very lukewarm and lazy dogmatism against which the prophets are warning, and against which they have always warned, even before issuing the Proclamation. But the Proclamation makes it clear:

    “WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    Rameumpton: “Why then should we use government to impose our religious belief upon others?” Defending faith and family in the public square is what allows freedom of conscience to flourish for people of all beliefs and of all denominations. Freedom of religion, the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience, hinges upon the preservation of certain moral absolutes (see Elder Oaks, Truth and Tolerance, and his speech at Chapman University School of Law), principles for which brave men and prophets have been willing to lay down their lives. The liberty of all men to worship how, where and what they may did not arise from moral chaos, but from a divinely inspired constitution established by wise men whom God raised up for that very purpose. Why should we stand idly by and watch government sanction and impose moral turpitude upon an entire nation? Why should we stand idly by as even fellow church members fail to stand up for truth?

    MT “The problem is that aggregate sin *does* affect us.” Truth has been spoken. Now, as always, the question remains: What is to be done?

  99. “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    It seems to me that many Latter-day Saints – especially those who are already inclined towards social conservatism – have taken this sentence as the motto of a crusade to stamp out gay marriage and gay marriage alone. But there are so many other problems facing the family that are so much more serious and impactful that we spend comparatively little time worrying about: The close to half of children who are born out of wedlock, the declining but still high divorce rate, absent fathers, rampant materialism, children being raised with no boundaries, and on and on. And yet the around 1% of the population who are gay and want to enter into stable, long-term relationships is somehow not only an “attack” on traditional marriage, but the greatest threat to it?

    To be perfectly honest, if I had two gay people living next door to me and my family right now, I would prefer that they be married rather than uncommitted singles. That would be better for my community and my family.

    Speaking from the standpoint of political solutions, the greatest threat to the family is the need for both parents to work because taxes are so high because we have a massive, bloated government that does too much. So cut the spending sharply, cut the taxes sharply, and let parents be home with their children. That’s the way to strengthen the family.

  100. “It seems to me that many Latter-day Saints – especially those who are already inclined towards social conservatism – have taken this sentence as the motto of a crusade to stamp out gay marriage and gay marriage alone”

    No. This is a straw man caricature. We are not on a mission to “stamp out gay marriage and gay marriage alone”. It just so happens that gay marriage has been at the forefront of social concern the past few years, so naturally it gets the lion’s share of the attention. When prophets asked us to support Prop 8 (I lived in California at the time, and I responded to a prophet’s call with gladness), naturally it was because they were concerned about a narrow issue: preservation of traditional marriage. Not that they don’t have other concerns; they do, and they speak out about them.

    Social conservatives care about a host of issues, as I suspect that you know deep down. Really, Mike Parker, you’re a smart fellow, and I expected something a little above the belt than this.

  101. ““Two gay people getting married doesn’t affect me or my marriage…” this is the very lukewarm and lazy dogmatism against which the prophets are warning, and against which they have always warned, even before issuing the Proclamation.”


    Social conservatives (and I’m using that term in the mode of Russell Kirk) are concerned about the long term stability of society. We understand that we have not just an obligation to ourselves and our own selfish interests, but to generations yet unborn. It’s the total absence of the long view and a lack of concern about future generations that prevents me from being a libertarian. The libertarian canard “it doesn’t affect me” is shortsighted and lacks nuance.

  102. Mike Parker:

    (1) Modern prophets — the same prophets who penned the Proclamation on the Family — have consistently invited us to oppose same-sex marriage, and to work to encode traditional marriage norms into civil law.

    (2) All the other problems you talk about — single parents, children born out of wedlock, etc. — will be amplified as we abandon traditional marriage in our civil law. Why? I present some reasons here: https://www.millennialstar.org/why-i-support-traditional-marriage/.

  103. “Social conservatives care about a host of issues, as I suspect that you know deep down.”

    When social conservatives spend as much time and money on the problem of unwed births as they did on gay marriage – or more, considering that it’s a much, MUCH bigger societal problem – I suppose that I’ll know it deep down.

  104. And I think prophets and apostles are a reliable source to gauge our priorities, don’t you?

  105. I have started another post to discuss this issue. You are all free to continue to discuss this here, but the other post may be a more appropriate place.

  106. “I support the Proclamation on the Family and promote it. That said, I realize that not all Saints have my testimony on things.”

    I would add that I don’t agree with all members’ interpretation of it, or the way some wield their interpretation like a club and/or make a graven image out of it. (That’s part of why, IMHO, it isn’t D&C 139 as of yet – and I don’t have it hanging up on my wall.) There is a county commissioner in the state next to mine who is a member, and has come out repeatedly against funding things like Head Start because he doesn’t think women should be working. If asked to clarify his philosophy he hands out the Proclamation in pamphlet form. This brother, last I checked, is a high councilor and a former bishop. How do he and his wife treat the working mothers in their ward and stake? (All this has been in the Washington Post – I can dig up the references if anyone wants them.)

    There are two phrases bandied around a bit too much these days, in and out of the Church, and I find the meanings associated with those who use them rather insidious: “marriage equality”, and “religious liberty”.

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