Challenging Church Leadership

The following is a reprint of a post originally written in Oct 2008.  Something reminded me of it and I decided to share it again.

Paul’s bitter dispute with Peter and James poses a problem for thinking about LDS notions of authority because it puts into tension church authority and moral and doctrinal issues. When true doctrine and church leadership are in conflict, how are we to make a choice between them? When our sense of what is moral conflicts with our leaders’ sense of what is moral, what are we supposed to do? Paul found himself in exactly this situation, and had to make a choice between his own sense of what was right and the views of his leaders who had been commissioned directly by Christ to take care of the church.
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I am the newest BYU Prof!

Many of my close friends and family already know this, so it won’t be a surprise to them, but I am still giddy to announce that I have accepted a job at BYU Religious Education starting in Fall 2014.  Hiring decisions were recently made public, so I can finally share the good news with our readers.  My life-partner and I will be moving to Orem this July, so let us know where we can find a supportive ward!

I would like to share a bit of the back story about how all of this came to be.  Officials from BYU Religious Education approached many of us at the blog over the last few years acknowledging some of the concerns of the LDS graduate student community.  Out of these conversations they invited me to apply, and have actually created a special position for me funded by the office of the President to bring some of a new vision.  President Samuelson, as many observers have been reporting in national magazines, has been turning BYU into a secular liberal institution, and I am pleased to report that this trend will continue under President Worthen.

As part of these changes, I have been asked to put together some new courses. In addition to further side lining apologetics and promoting secular Mormon Studies in its place across Religious Ed, I am working on a new Religious Ed course on the collected works of Joanna Brooks, with possibly another that focuses on the podcasts and Facebook posts of John Dehlin!

Friendly Fire on Mormon Scholars

While some corners of the LDS church’s intellectual health have been thriving, including in some aspects of church curriculum, the LDS Newsroom, Church History, the Maxwell Institute, and even BYU Religious Education and Deseret Book, other corners of the Church Educational System and the secretive committee that vets all potential hires, speakers, and academic boards at BYU, have been silently blacklisting, banning, and investigating LDS scholars. The anecdotal evidence is increasingly persuasive that there is a campaign in some quarters of the LDS church’s educational arms to marginalize LDS scholars of religion that are perceived to be too controversial. Some see a silver lining in continuing the trend that the most powerful and influential scholars of Mormonism will continue to exist outside of BYU and CES.  I hope that will not be the case.

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What is the Moral Lesson of Genesis?

Latter-day Saints are studying the Old Testament this year.  Unfortunately, many LDS readings of the Old Testament adopt a hermeneutic wherein the stories in Genesis provide moral role models.  It seems that we have come to see the scriptures as a kind of guide book for living a moral life, in spite of the fact that the stories never tell their readers to emulate any of the characters.  If we adopt this reading strategy, we miss important ways of engaging in moral reasoning, and quite frankly, misread the point of these stories entirely.

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The Myth of “Listening” to the Scriptures

So, I am still thinking about the interpretive claim made by another blog that “God is a child sacrificing, misogynist, racial bigot.”  I started writing a post about the nature of interpretation and the naivety behind the myth that the scriptures contain a meaning prior to human interpretation. What I have found objectionable about this particular reading is not simply its conclusions, but the way it presents these conclusions as the outcome of an unbiased reading of scripture.  While I was thinking about writing this post, I remembered that Blake Ostler and I had an great exchange about the nature of interpretation a few years back.  Rereading it, I realized that pretty much everything I wanted to say now I had already said a few years ago.

Here is a link to my earlier blog post about interpretation and the comments section with Blake (and others) weighing in.

“Generous Orthodoxy” and Continuous Revelation

I recently came across a phrase from feminist theologian Hannah Bacon that I really liked.  She talked about a “generous orthodoxy,” a term used “to identify orthodoxy as an emerging, incomplete process that is never closed in on itself, always receptive to the voice of the other.” (See Bacon, “A Very Particular Body: Assessing the Doctrine of Incarnation For Affirming the Sacramentality of Female Embodiment,” in Women and the Divine: Touching Transcendence, eds. Gillian Howie and J’annine Jobling (New York: Palgrave Mcmillan, 2009).  Her essay is interesting in its own right, but I was particularly moved by the framework of the project itself.   [Read more...]

A Mormon Tribute to MLK

Given some of the discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr. in some LDS venues, I thought it would be a good time to reread my own tribute written five years ago.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2009/01/an-american-prophet/

 

Repost: Ethics as an Interpretive Lens

This is a repost of an earlier post of mine that seems relevant today.

How should we evaluate and adjudicate doctrinal and practical matters? As LDS we look to scripture, authoritative statements by leaders, and to the history of LDS practice and thought. Appeals to these sources of authority, however, not only fail to yield definitive answers, but also obscure the authority with which they are invested. The authority by which these sources are invested is never itself investigated. The reinscription of the authority of these sources and the results they produce requires another level of scrutiny, particularly ethical scrutiny. Too often, authoritative sources become a cover for not having to deal with the ethical implications of doctrinal or practical matters.

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Yes, M* is a Child-Sacrificing Misogynist and Racist Bigot Blog

I believe that I recall the last time I posted M*.  It was April 2012.  JMax was defending Mormon racism and inventing a new history of the exclusion of those of African descent into LDS priesthood and temple rites.  (You can read the post and comments here.)  After they closed the thread without explanation, I decided that I had too many things going on in my life and I unlisted them from my RSS reader.

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FPR Best of 2013

This year, like many years past, we had some great posts.  We tend to be pretty inconsistent week to week, with regular life taking over, but every time we think we are going out of business, something else sparks our interest.  Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.

This year we also resolved to quit reading some of the more problematic Mormon blogs and “journals” (or at least to quit publicly commenting on them).  There were a handful of frustrating exchanges on other blogs, but overall we were a lot happier simply ignoring the incessant drivel out there.  Still, I think it is nice to reflect on some of our greatest hits from this year.

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