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Thoughts on “The Lord’s Standard of Morality” by Elder Tad R. Callister

 I’m anxiously waiting for you to chime in on this Tad Callister talk.

This Facebook message from a friend was the final straw. She was the seventh person to ask me what I thought about the BYU-Idaho devotional address turned Ensign article by Elder Ted R. Callister, published in March 2014, titled “The Lord’s Standard of Morality.” The rumbling is enough to coerce me to the keyboard.

Thought: Lord's Standard of Morality - CallisterWord of warning #1 – I’m only going to address those things that I either think deserve positive reinforcement or that I have concerns about. As much as I’d like to, I just don’t have time to address the entirety of everything important every time I blog. And, really, I don’t think anyone asked my opinion on this because they hoped I would say, “Awesome sauce to the core! Go read!” Most likely they found it somewhat troubling and/or controversial and wanted to compare their ideas with others.

Word of warning #2 – I’m writing this without first reading the apparent barrage of comments/posts/articles already written. I may be a misfit or redundant or just irrelevant. That’s OK. I just wanted to record the personal reaction I had without it going through multiple filters.

You can assume that if I do not mention something, I either agree with it, find it neutral, or at least believe it can be reasonably explained. If that approach doesn’t work for you, please stop here! You have been warned!

Here we go…

God Trumps You (and Me)

He was reminded that the supreme court trumps all lower ­court decisions, how­ ever numerous or recent they may be. So it is with God our Father—He needs to speak only once on the issue of morality, and that one declaration trumps all the opinions of the lower courts, whether uttered by psychologists, counselors, politicians, friends, parents, or would­ be moralists of the day.

A few weeks ago, an LDS friend of mine published a post on a currently controversial topic. He asked for input. Given the content of the post and the church’s current stand, I couldn’t see where there was room for much discussion outside of “the church says X, so how do we make that work?”

He, however, did not want to discuss the church’s actual position. Rather, he wanted to avoid that kind of absolutist thinking and roll around in the other possibilities. He deleted my comment and moved on.

So, right up front let me say it again: God makes the decisions without  much regard for my personal taste. I think it’s fine to ask questions and look for clarity, but ultimately I think the decisions are his, not mine.

This goes too far when he says, “He needs to speak only once…” History (within the church itself) has proven that many policies and standards do change with time. So God often speaks multiple times on a given issue, in the context of current events and cultures.

On the other hand, the procreative power is not to be exercised outside the husband­/wife relationship. Accordingly, any conscious thoughts or voluntary actions that stimulate or result in the expression of the procreative power outside the marriage relationship are disapproved by the Lord.

I’m guessing this was the beginning of the trouble. And I’m guessing the problem is mostly a matter of ineloquent  rhetoric. Let’s parse:

ANY voluntary actions that STIMULATE procreative power outside marriage are disapproved by the Lord.

This could be read to say that if a woman chooses to walk down the street in a burqa and some guy gets turned on, the Lord will disapprove of the woman who chose to walk down the street covered from the top of the head to the ankle because the guy was “stimulated.”

Men Ogling Woman in Burka

Source: imgur

I don’t think that’s what Callister meant. But given the history (in the church and out) of women being blamed for and told they are responsible to control men’s sexual feelings, it’s not surprising this might have been read in such a way.

Given the history of such expressions, people (particularly men, particularly church leaders) need to be excruciatingly careful about how they present these statements to stop making women responsible for “Adam’s transgression.”

It Will Make You Go Blind

The Lord condemns self-abuse. Self-abuse is the act of stimulating the procreative power of one’s own body.

This verbiage strikes me as a bit odd. I’m sure masturbation isn’t clinically described as “self-abuse,” so that may cause concern. But let’s just pretend that Callister isn’t a psychologist and is using the term differently. Indeed, he does define what he means, so let’s go with his clearly stated definition. (Unless you’re playing the equivocation game, that seems fair.)

When Callister uses the problematic term “self-abuse,” he means masturbation. And when he says masturbation is wrong, he’s quoting Elder Packer.

When I was in college I had an LDS friend who was sexually active in every way except to actually have intercourse. Once she told me, “Well, there’s really nothing wrong with oral sex, because there’s no risk of getting pregnant. They just tell us that so we don’t go too far.”

In other words, she felt the sin was in actually messing with the powers of procreation, not in just generally messing around. She thought the reason the church advised against all the other foreplay stuff was because once we do that, we’ll be more likely to go “all the way.” Preventative policy.

Is this reasoning correct? Does it apply to masturbation? I don’t know. Callister doesn’t go into much detail here and we don’t have a detailed masturbation policy that I’m aware of (can you imagine?), so we’re left with authoritative sources telling us to keep our hands away from the private parts of ourselves and others outside of marriage.

Maybe it is “just” preventative policy, but it makes sense to me that if you’re having orgasms all over the place you’re thinking about sex. And if you’re not in a position to have sanctioned sex, maybe that’s not a great idea.

The Same Gender Attraction Rabbit Hole

A same-gender relationship is inconsistent with God’s eternal patter that husbands and wives not only have children in mortality but also have eternal increase in their exalted condition.

I have found through personal experience that this topic is so explosive and controversial, that it’s utterly impossible to have a logical discussion about it. Ever. I’d almost like to just pass over this section all together because people immediately leap off a cliff of nonsense in defending their “rights.” But I’m guessing that this section was part of the complaint, so — deep breath — here goes.

Fact #1

I have never taken a position on same gender attraction — either publicly or privately — other than to say, “Well, it sure would make things easier if church policy changed to accept homosexuality.”

Fact (set) #2

  1. I have a number of gay friends. (I was a musical theater major (before switching) and performer. Sorry, it’s just part of the gig.)
  2. Most of them disagree with my politics but I think none would say I am in any way hateful to them.
  3. Most of them are (or were) LDS and most of them struggled mightily with their desires.
  4. Many served missions.
  5. Many tried to change how they felt.
  6. Many gave up in despair and began to live the life they desired to.
  7. A significant number, yes, actually chose to follow the church’s counsel and have — often with outside help — lived happy fulfilling lives either single or with opposite-gender spouses and children.

Fact #3

Science hasn’t given us much consistent, useful information to go on in this arena.

Fact #4

Most people (probably all people) — not just homosexuals — have tendencies, even strong tendencies, even tendencies they’ve exhibited from the time they were very young that are contrary to God’s word. Name a commandment or counsel recognized by the LDS church and I can tell you someone who finds it almost impossible to follow:

  • Chastity
  • Masturbation
  • Pornography
  • Fidelity
  • Honesty
  • Tithing
  • Word of Wisdom
  • Pedophilia
  • Charity
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Selflessness
  • Humility
  • Obedience
  • Service
  • Self-reliance
  • Temple attendance
  • etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum

 I am hard pressed to put the church’s position that homosexual sex is proscribed by God in an entirely different category from all the other stuff proscribed by God.

The trials we face are hard. Sometimes devastatingly hard. Sometimes excruciatingly difficult. Sometimes so overwhelming we contemplate ending it all to avoid the pain.

This isn’t exclusive to LDS homosexuals. And it’s awful for whomever is dealing with these struggles and pain for whatever reason. When someone we love deals with these trials, we should do whatever we can to love and help them.

For Shame – and Fear

Someone messaged me yesterday saying that a psychologist objected to the “shaming” and “fear” promoted in this article and complained, explicitly about this quote:

In some regards, Satan is like an octopus trying to capture us. If one tentacle does not work, he will try another and another until he finds on that will take hold.

OK, so I’ll admit I tend to take the latest psycho-babble with a bucketload of salt. I admit this “problem” in the article would have completely eluded me, because I don’t get it. Seriously, some things are shameful and some things are scary. I’ve never understood all this how-dare-you-hurt-my-feeeeeeeelings-by-telling-me-the-truuuuuuuuuth stuff.

I get crazy when people make up “doctrine” and disseminate it everywhere. That is harmful. But when people discuss actual doctrine and consequences? I think that’s kind of OK.

Is the octopus analogy wrong? I don’t think so. Satan is real. Satan is smart. Satan has lots of experience. If I can tell with almost 100% accuracy how my kids will behave in a given circumstance, how ridiculous to assume Satan can’t do that as well. So, yea, he actually does want to capture us and he does try whatever tactics are available to him. Deal.

 Just Say No to Porno

It is an interesting exercise to read an article with the purpose of divining what other people think is wrong with it. I’m probably more likely than usual to see the problematic parts as verbal slips or communication gaffes than usual. That doesn’t mean those slips and gaffes don’t cause problems, but language is imprecise no matter who’s using it.

God desires that His children not watch any movie or TV show, go to any website, or view any magazine that is pornographic in any way.

Callister uses some problematic language here. I guess it kind of brings up the images of the “becoming pornography” talk from 2005.  When there are people who find sexual stimulation just about anywhere, it’s hard to define what this means, particularly when coupled with “in any way.”

Pornography is any picture or narrative [not live event?] that feeds the carnal man within…It is a…snake that will strike you the moment you take your first look and will continue to strike with a full portion of venom with each look thereafter.

Again, language problems. I don’t mind the fear factor, I mind the absolutism. I’m no fan of porn. But as someone who has made my living on the internet since 1994, I can tell you the statement leaves a lot to be desired.

Dealing with hundreds of emails per day and doing extensive internet research, I’ve found it impossible to completely shield myself from porn. No matter how I try to filter email, some gets through — and what gets through is the worst. For example, spam filters aren’t really good at telling the difference between a product image and the image of full frontal nudity in sexuality explicit positions.

No matter how careful I try to be, when I’m researching sinful topics (like, say, looking for that Oaks talk about porn), it’s hard to do so without getting glimpses of objectionable stuff mixed in among the things I need.

I’ve gotten really good at identifying offending email and trashing most of it before opening. I’ve gotten really good at specifying keywords to narrow down the results. But it still comes up. And I don’t think that means I’m caught in the porn trap.

The Modesty Thing – AGAIN!

I’ve just come to the next section heading in the talk: Immodest Dress. Seriously, I do not even want to go there. I don’t even want to read it. I’m so exhausted by the problematic rhetoric we use on this topic and I have yet to see a reasonably sound alternative. (And, no, I haven’t thought of one, either.)

Before I go on, let me point you to one of the most cogent descriptions of the modesty teaching conundrum. It’s a post by my friend and co-blogger on Times and Seasons, Julie M. Smith (no relation). It’s titled Men, Women, and Modesty. You simply must read it.

Now, onward I go into the modesty abyss. Prayers are appreciated.

Given our propensity to make crazy talk on the modesty issue, checking sources can be helpful. Callister starts out quoting scripture. Kind of.

Accordingly, Paul the Apostle counseled “women [to] adorn themselves with modest apparel. (1 Timothy 2:9)

That sounds pretty straightforward, if we assume the typical (unsubstantiated) LDS definition of modesty meaning, almost exclusively, “Women, cover up your parts and stop tempting the men beyond their control!” But is that what modesty really means? Does it fit the actual scripture being referenced?

Here are some definitions for modesty (in the order found in my dictionary):

  1. the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities
  2. the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level
  3. behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency

1 Timothy 9-12 has a bit of counsel for women. Let’s look at all of it.

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

To me this sounds to be much more about definition #2 than the assumed #3. And where it applies to #3, the specified “impropriety” would seem much more about pride and excess than showing a knee cap or shoulder.

Linda Burton Wearing PearlsWe also need to note how the culture in which this counsel was given impacted the specifics. I mean, this is President Burton wearing some  doggone enormous pearls! As far as I can tell from our general leaders, braided hair along with gold and pearl jewelry is perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn’t go down the path of “costly array” — a term which is obviously relative.

In my opinion, this scripture is telling women not to dress in a way that is excessive or indecent. Do you agree?

It’s worth mentioning the rest of the chapter. Again, it represents cultural counsel that not only doesn’t fit our modern day, but is not followed by our church.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Let’s collectively sigh and rejoice that women are no longer expected to shut up. Back to Callister…

The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passion of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.

And there it is again. It just had to be there, didn’t it? Those poor, poor men who are doing everything they can to choose the right are being seduced by those skanky women in their scandalous outerwear!

Excuse me while I go pound 50 on the wavemaster.

Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contributes to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men.

So here’s a question for you. I often hear Mormons talk about how modesty produces self-respect, but I’ve never heard how that is supposed to happen. And please tell me when we will hear this over the pulpit:

Men particularly can pursue girls who dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of women.

I guess (?) I’m OK with women being responsible for men’s behavior (please explain how that is done!) as long as men are now going to be responsible for women’s behavior. (I’m planning a wild party this weekend. Who can I blame it on???)

In the end, most women get the type of  man they dress for.

So this was it.

I’m more than tempted to jump on Facebook and pull up the gazillion photos of Eagle-scout-awarded, admired, lauded, leadership-loaded Mormon boys at prom with the girls in the spaghetti strap (or strapless) gowns or flirty mini skirts.

Then I’ll head over to Beauty Redefined and gather some ammo to impress upon any men who will listen that they need to open up their eyes (and minds) to see that women are more than just bodies and clothing! If how I dress is the determiner for who proposes to me, then the men in this scenario are raving idiots, whether they are pro-modesty or pro-immodesty.

What is that the Lord said? Oh, yea, “Look not on his countenance or the height of his stature [or maybe how much of her shoulder is exposed]…for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Maybe we can pass on some of those godly traits by way of authoritative counsel?

Personal Responsibility Exists

We do have the power within us to take control of our lives and our thoughts.

Right after the modesty blame game, Callister says this. YES! This is true! Of course!

What I don’t understand is how modesty (in the cover-your-parts sense) always seems to be presented outside of this obvious truth. If we have the power to take control of our lives and thought, then we have the power to take control of our lives and thoughts when a girl with a body is somewhere in the vicinity.

As I’ve said before, if modesty (in the cover-your-parts sense) is doctrinal, let’s get a cohesive discussion about it. And let’s not continue to turn it into: “do it so the boys don’t get out of control.”

Consequences of Sin

…it is always better to remain clean than to sin and repent afterward.

A few years ago a friend told me her life story. She got pregnant as a teen, had a “shot-gun wedding,” and had multiple children. Years later her husband joined the church (against statistical odds) and eventually they were sealed in the temple. After the sealing she said, “I’m glad I took the path I did, because nothing can compare to the joy of being sealed to my family.”

Over the years I’ve reflected on that quite a bit. Those who romanticize sin and repentance because of the resulting growth (and I include myself in this number) often miss a number of things:

  1. Is the joy from repenting really better than the joy of continued righteousness?
  2. Is the joy from repenting worth the risks and consequences?
  3. What growth would have occurred had we been faithful during that time?

When I look back at my life — filled with sin — there isn’t a single time I can honestly say, “Oh, I am so happy that I sinned! Look how much better my life is! If I were to do it all again, I’d make sure I sin at least as much, maybe more!”

I suspect some will argue with Callister on this point. But I think it’s pretty dumb. It’s better to follow God than not follow him. Every time.

The Quest for Perfection

Our goal in life is not just to be clean, but to be perfect.

The day I was baptized, my family went out for ice cream. As soon as we got home, I lunged past my brother to see who could be the first to get out of the station wagon. We squabbled and bumped each other. Once I hit the sidewalk, I realized it. I’d blown it! I was no longer clean! I had just been baptized and was heading straight for celestial glory and only a few hours into the endurance part, I was already on the path to hell.

Yes, we want to be like Christ. But none of us are. If being clean isn’t good enough and, in fact, is not the goal, then I’m toast. And have been since 1972.

 Blessings of a Moral Life

The blessings of living a clean and moral life are overwhelming. Such a life will bring self-confidence and self-esteem. It will result in a clear conscience. It will make us eligible for a spouse of like purity and will make the expression of the procreative power in the marriage relationship sweeter and more rewarding because we have reserved it for the tim the Lord Himself has endorsed.

Interestingly, the first time I read this article, I skimmed through this without a second thought. The second time the first two sentences sprung out at me.  Then the third. The the last. I believe Elder Callister was well meaning and this can be the kind of repetitive thing that just rolls off the tongue like “I know the Church is true…” But it may have a troubling impact on some readers.

He states that living a moral and clean life “will bring self-confidence and self-esteem.” This could be read — and in fact, I know scores of LDS people who would interpret it thusly — to mean that if you don’t have self-confidence and/or self-esteem, it’s because you aren’t living a moral and clean life.

If the inescapable consequence of doing A is B, and I haven’t experienced B, I must not yet be doing A.

In my experience there almost no direct earthly correlation between choices/behavior and good/bad life situation. I know amazingly pious people who have had (and still have) all manner of horrific trials. I also know awful hateful people who seem to catch every breath of good fortune within a thousand miles (including gobs of self-confidence and self-esteem).

Let’s remember that the promises of obedience and discipleship are mostly eternal, not always (often?) earthly. We can’t judge others based on their life situations — and we shouldn’t let them judge themselves that way, either.

In Conclusion

Thanks for asking for my thoughts on this. It’s a good exercise. And sorry it took so long to complete. I was on a tax-prep tear this week.

Please leave your thoughts below — including links to others’ posts that are relevant — and I’ll head off to do more reading.

{ 45 comments… add one }

  • Marionette March 1, 2014, 10:23 pm

    *** I am hard pressed to put the church’s position that homosexual sex is proscribed by God in an entirely different category from all the other stuff proscribed by God.***

    This is the most accurate statement I’ve ever heard on this issue. It’s the “special interest” approach that is so wrong and still so easily accepted.

    Keep it up! We need your voice!

  • Ashley A March 1, 2014, 11:15 pm

    Alison,

    The more of your work that I read, the more I like you. I appreciate you for having the courage to both follow the commandments of the Lord but also open for discussion the questions and concerns that we might have as church members.

    I think morality has always been an uncomfortable topic for many. I grew up in Utah and as a teenager in Young Women, I can honestly say that the topic was never so heavily discussed as it is today. My leaders (and I loved them dearly) never really touched on modesty or morality. Sure, they brought it up a few times and told us to wear modest clothing and keep ourselves morally clean, but I don’t think many of us really knew exactly what that meant. “Oh, you know – the Spirit is with you and will tell you what is right or wrong,” they said. Ummmmm… I have always been an incredibly Type-A individual. I feel guilty if I look at someone the wrong way. My own personal emotions oftentimes hinder my ability to hear the Holy Ghost and I don’t think I’m alone.

    I didn’t know that people confessed their sins to bishops until I reached the age of seminary in 9th grade. This brought a whole slew of confusion into my mind. What, exactly, required bishop intervention? What happened to people who confessed? My teacher’s answers were always, “I’d rather confess something to my bishop and find out that it was unnecessary to speak to him than not tell him and find out later that I should have.” Good advice… but for someone as literal as I am, it really opened a can of worms. Feeling guilty suddenly became my new baseline emotion and I began telling my bishop everything – for every minor indiscretion, I contacted him because good heavens, I didn’t want to accidentally end up in hell! One time, he lovingly told me that in fact, the things I was telling him could be handled on my own between me and the Lord.

    As an undergraduate, I attended nursing school. I hold a master’s degree and am currently earning a PhD in psychology. In every academic program I have attended, I have been told that sex is a basic human need. I tend to agree with this logic based on our physiology. I realize you mentioned that the Lord’s law trumps what a psychologist might say but it just seems that as human beings, unless we are married at age 18, we’re pretty much set up to fail – and not fail in some minor, oops-I-said-a-swear-word way, but in a major sin way. It doesn’t seem fair.

    I understand why Heavenly Father has given us the commandment of chastity. It makes sense in every way. By following this law, we are protected from terrible emotional, social, economic and psychological consequences. We will not have to face unwanted pregnancies or life-altering (and/or threatening) diseases. We will have the spirit to be with us. Surely, this law is given to us out of love and not as a way to make our lives miserable… but in some cases, it does kind of make us miserable, especially when we have the righteous desire to follow the commandment to be married and are faithfully looking for a companion, yet for one reason or another, are being denied the blessing.

    I feel uncomfortable, though, when an organization so closely monitors/controls/withholds/attributes guilt to a person’s basic human needs. I can see how speaking to a bishop about a sinful, destructive behavior of which a person is unable to stop could be beneficial (especially thanks to the resources available to bishops). I can understand why an adulterer would need to discuss his or her membership status with a priesthood holder. I can see how confessing certain indiscretions to a bishop might offer a person relief and an ability to forgive himself or herself (is this because we’ve been conditioned to believe so?). What I have a difficult time with is the requirement to discuss the very intimate, private details of a person’s life with a married man who is also the person’s neighbor. It is weird for adolescents who may feel that this is inappropriate and it is weird for adults who feel like they are grown-ups and are capable of working out their own salvations with their Savior.

    Here’s an example: I was married at 19. My husband committed adultery and as a result, conceived a child. We were divorced and I was single for several years before meeting my current husband. Having been formerly married and as a single woman, it would have seemed unsettling to me to have to go speak to my bishop (a married man who was my neighbor and also someone I did not know well) about something so personal. Call me crazy, but while the Lord’s commandments are the Lord’s commandments no matter how old we are, I believe there is a difference between a young, promiscuous girl who deliberately breaks the law of chastity as a recreational activity, and a more mature woman who was once married, is seriously dating a man and has a weak moment once. I get that sin is sin, but it just churns my stomach to think that the latter should have to be subject to the same consequences as a the former. Sure, the bishop may prescribe a different set of requirements for repentance, but isn’t the act of having to look your neighbor in the eye and describe your make-out session to him in detail, punishment in and of itself? The very thought of this makes me want to be a Catholic so that if confession was necessary, I would not have to stare the man in the eye and be subject to soul-piercing judgement.

    Sometimes I wonder how much of the way we do things is influenced by culture and what is actually commanded of us by the Lord. I’m not saying it’s wrong… I’m just saying that things can get confusing sometimes.

    I hope I did not deviate from your topic too much. Just do you know, I’m writing using an alias. The last thing I need is for someone out there to know who I am when I have left a comment of this nature!

  • Alison Moore Smith March 2, 2014, 12:56 am

    Ashley A, thank you for the wonderful comment. I promised myself I’d go to bed at a reasonable hour — hah — and now it’s nearly 1:00 am. But I wanted to thank you and let you know I’ll comment more fully later. For now, just this:

    My own personal emotions oftentimes hinder my ability to hear the Holy Ghost and I don’t think I’m alone.

    You are not REMOTELY alone. I’ve attended Education Week at BYU numerous times. One of the classes that was fairly regular was on recognizing the Spirit. Every year this class was held in a large room, the room was packed, and overflow rooms were provided. In other words, just about EVERYONE has this problem . :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Parent Delighted by Kids Falling On IceMy Profile

  • Tricia March 2, 2014, 1:03 am

    Agreed with above comment. So well expressed! Thank you for putting my impressions into words!! As for the modesty issue- I wonder if what he means to express is the responsibility we all have for each other. Personal responsibility, yes, but we are all so much more connected than we realize- and as such have significant influence on each other. It’s definitely a higher law to think and act that way; to choose behavior that helps rather than hinders another and then to accept accountability for our influence.

  • M March 2, 2014, 11:31 am

    Just two thoughts:

    Masturbation is, in my personal experience, a sin and it is a sin of self-indulgence rather than a sexual sin if one has to choose between categories. And it is similar to the self-indulgent sin of gluttony in its ability to become addicting in some people’s lives and also its power to cause alienation in personal relationships. It does get lumped with other sexual sins as well since it does generally include sexual fantasy and sexual anatomy. But it is primarily a sin of self-indulgence.

    Also, I have at least two members of my family who have struggled with pornography addictions, both introduced to the material when they were young, one in elementary school and the other in junior high/high school. The former nearly lost his marriage and had to get serious, long-term professional help to get on the road to recovery. The second found good ecclesiastical help and has been clean for 5 years. They both know that they, like any other former addict, will need to be on their guard for the rest of their lives and they take that extremely seriously. For them, a woman with a plunging neckline is a trigger that requires conscious self-regulation, just as for my alcoholic family member who is in recovery, an unopened beer can is a trigger that requires self conscious regulation.

    I appreciate the fact that some of the friends of my alcoholic family member do not drink around her and keep their beer out of sight when they socialize with her. It is a conscious kindness to her specific struggle.

    I appreciate each woman who, when she is working with one of my two relatives mentioned above, neither flirts nor dresses in a sexually provocative way. Though they do not know it, it is a kindness to their specific struggles.

    Dressing modesty isn’t taking responsibility for a man’s thoughts. Women are not responsible for that. But I firmly believe that dressing in ways that are not clearly sexual an act of unselfish KINDNESS lived in order to be helpful, knowing that I will likely never know who specifically needs that kindness now. It is putting my desire to be cute and attractive and sexual secondary to the desire to help a struggling unknown other who may be fighting a lifelong challenge in his struggle to follow God’s will.

    It would be sweet if none of Gods’ sons had to deal with recovery from porn addiction and none of God’s daughters had to think about that, but we live in a real world and the numbers of our brothers who have fallen into porn and are trying to stay clean is huge. (Statistics in 2013 indicated that 64% of male college students in the U.S. use porn at least once a week.)

    And I think that if I am to choose between kindness to someone I will not know I have helped and the fun of being cute and noticed and slightly sexy, kindness is the better choice.

  • Carrie March 2, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Nice write up Alison. I would not have been able to keep the balance you did. This talk hit me like a cement block. Besides the modesty in dress issue, the other area that worried me, was the idea of the spirit withdrawing.

    When we say that we have few words to describe that, the words we use often are the same words used to describe depression, anxiety, SAD, post partum blues. Teens especially have swinging emotions all the time. Michael McLean spoke about his depression at a Time Out for Women, how for years he thought he was lacking the spirit. So he increased his everything – prayers, scripture reading – not once a day but twice a day, fasting a full exact 12 hours, donating more money, etc. One day a doctor prescribed a pill the size of a pin head, and suddenly all those feelings of worthlessness went away.

    For me it’s worthlessness in the talk from head to toe that enrages me. Whether it’s what I do or don’t wear, or if my every step is sin. No where did I feel, read, or hear the Love of My Heavenly Father for me. No hope, no gratitude for any shoddy effort anyone has given. So again I praise you for finding a balance. And for delivering it with respect and honor to all of us, no matter what side of the issue we stand on.

  • Jax March 2, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Allison,

    Good post. Thanks for covering it.

    Re: not watching anything pornographic “in any way”… because what stimulates each individual is exactly that, individual, I think his comment was right on. If watching beach volleyball turns some person on, they ought not to watch it. If you can watch and enjoy the sport, then go ahead. The only problem is if you have people going to opposite way and saying “I can watch scenes of full intercourse and not get aroused…”. Things that are porn need to be avoided at all costs. But if things that aren’t porn are similarly stimulating to a particular person, I think it would be good counsel to have them avoid those things as well.

    Jax

  • ji March 2, 2014, 3:58 pm

    The Lord condemns “self-abuse”? Really? Where? Nowhere in the scriptures.

    If masturbation is a sin, it is a minor and private sin, and repentance can be private.

    Masturbation does not require confession. Read the handbook (Handbook 1). Only serious transgressions require confession, and the handbook’s definition of serious transgression doesn’t reach to masturbation. Far from it.

    If one wants to confess, let him or her. But we mustn’t make anyone else think he or she MUST confess something as minor as this to a bishop.

    So please, let’s teach the whole story. I wouldn’t want anyone to read Elder Callister’s article and think he or she has to has to run to the bishop and make a confession. I also wouldn’t want bishops to use Elder Callister’s article as a basis to ask youth members about masturbation. That would be unfortunate and wrong. After all, masturbation doesn’t require confession.

  • Ashley March 2, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Thank you for saying that, Alison. I am glad I am not alone in my quest to learn how to communicate personally with the Spirit. Actually, I feel sorry to know that others struggle with this as well, but it is also nice to be in good company.

    I look forward to hearing more from you!

  • Geoff - A March 2, 2014, 6:46 pm

    I find it very sad that Callister thought it was a good idea to give this talk to BYU Idaho young people in the first place, but what possessed Ensign editors to send it world wide.

    Living in Australia where 0.5% of the population are members, and where people dress to be comfortable, and appropriate for their destination, and where LDS standards of modesty are not a consideration, this emphasis on women dressing modestly to save men, and that it affects their self esteem is rubbish.
    At the local shopping centre I can see what apparently is pornography in Utah, innocently doing the shopping.
    You might expect that the rate of sexual assault, and teenage pregnancy would be through the roof here if Callister is to be believed, but in fact Utah is higher on sexual assault, and 3 times higher on teenage pregnancy.
    We have had fact based sex education in schools for 30 years at least, which education was mostly about self esteem, power imbalances, the right for a person to say not to anything they are not comfortable with, and a whole lot of background factors and just a small section on biology and birth control options.

    Profession sex education seems to work better than what Callister claims is Gods version. Does he, and the Ensign, not realise they are undermining, themselves as well as hurting people with this rubbish.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 2, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Just to be clear, Idaho isn’t Utah. 😉
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  • IdahoMum March 6, 2014, 6:37 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts. As a psychotherapist, I was intrigued by this talk and the furor it has created. I wanted to crawl under a rock when I heard him use the “self-abuse” term. I thought that one had mostly died. It made me think of a session spent laughing with one of my clients as she described an interview with her bishop. She had problems with self-harming and had gone to discuss them with her. He misunderstood her concerns and asked her about “self-abuse” then started digging in to details (in a way I don’t think was appropriate). She shared a devolving story of him asking more and more personal details about how she did it, and her finally explaining that it was usually with razor blades. Well, you can imagine the terror and confusion this poor bishop and young woman had before they finally figured out that they were talking about two VERY different things.

    I wanted to point out one concern I had about the article. I agree that mostly it is a matter of awkward semantics, but the one that bothered me was in your final section. As one who has spent years working with women who were sexually abused, I’ve seen first hand how many distort their beliefs about themselves and their worthiness. Read the following in the light of a woman who believes she is unworthy and full of sin due to sexual abuse:

    “Such a life will bring self-confidence and self-esteem. It will result in a clear conscience. It will make us eligible for a spouse of like purity and will make the expression of the procreative power in the marriage relationship sweeter and more rewarding because we have reserved it for the time the Lord Himself has endorsed.”

    I know this does not apply to those women in that way, but I guarantee you they will not see it. It will feel like condemnation and confirmation of their unworthiness. They will not feel confident because they must be unworthy. They don’t deserve someone of worthiness because they are not “pure” anymore.

    Not to mention my concerns about telling us this is how we become “eligible for a spouse of like purity.” My husband is a convert. We had frank discussions before marriage about his past. I could see that while he came to our marriage with a different history than me, he did not revel in his old exploits as some do, and had truly moved beyond them–utilizing the power of the atonement to change his heart and behaviour. If I were to believe that he was somehow unworthy, I firmly believe the greater sin would lie with me, not him! To do otherwise would deny the power of the atonement and negate Christ’s role in my husband’s life and personal conversion. Having a perfect past in one sense, while it makes us certainly eligible for great blessings, does not mean that others cannot become worthy.

  • Tiffany W March 6, 2014, 7:02 pm

    Ashley A., I have one quibble with your comment about sex being a human need and therefore impossible to control. To me, a need is something you must have in order to live. Anything else above that is a want. You don’t need sex to live or survive.

  • E March 6, 2014, 7:46 pm

    I had a similar reaction to Geoff-A when I read through this talk. My thought was “how did this make it through correlation?!?” I have seen the Ensign criticized for being bland but it is generally inoffensive. I am truly amazed.

  • Ashley A March 6, 2014, 11:17 pm

    Tiffany W.,

    Ironically, I had written a whole paragraph about that very subject explaining how I realize that we need food and water to remain alive but sex was not necessary for actual survival/sustaining of life… and then I realized it was making my comment too long and wordy and I assumed that everyone reading had at least taken psych 101 and learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs so they knew what I meant without me going into too much detail. I can certainly see what you mean by your comment though, so I apologize for deleting the original paragraph.

    I will try to proceed without becoming too graphic. Consider our physiology. We might be able to abstain from certain, more base needs such as sex in our conscious hours but… and I’m sorry for the graphic nature of this but I do not know how else to explain it… if the body does not get this need fulfilled by our own actions as living creatures, it will do what it has to do when we are not awake. I mean, this is basic 5th grade maturation clinic stuff, right? You already knew this though – I do not mean to patronize, I’m just trying to explain…

    So yeah, I agree 100%. We will NOT die if we do not have sex. It is a basic need, but not necessary for the sustaining of life. You get what I’m saying though, right? Even then, I didn’t make this up. It’s information that is taught over and over in different university programs (I was also a former social work and sociology major, before changing gears – it’s taught there, too!).

    I hope I cleared things up. Thanks for reading my rather revealing comment and I do hope that I do not know you in real life! ;-D

  • Anita March 15, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Great post! I seriously loved out you broke each paragraph down. You logic is very inspiring. It’s great to hear truth explained.
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  • jillio March 21, 2014, 2:42 pm

    You should be a reading teacher. We are teaching kids close reading and how to parse through text and you have it down!
    Now, I’ll be serious. We have to remember all the little sayings I was raised with: the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law, if the Church weren’t true, the members would have destroyed it long ago, etc.
    I think people that struggle with talks like this are looking for an issue or are feeling they lack perfection in one of the areas and it hits hard. It’s just like listening to conference. Every time, I feel like the talks were given with me in mind specifically. I really enjoy them but I also try to use them to better my life not to bring me down and overwhelm me with all that I’m doing wrong or not doing right, omission-co-mission thing. I don’t think the Lord wants us to work so hard on reading between the lines, these are mere mortals after all, but to feel the spirit in which they are relayed. I can’t imagine feeling so against the teachings that I try to find fault with every word that is said or written.
    You are great to take the time to go through this and put it into perspective.
    Thanks

  • Mike May 31, 2015, 2:32 pm

    I was looking to listen to this talk and saw the link to this blog. Thanks for your comments. I am surprised by how often we will pick apart someone’s words when we can ask them directly what they mean or meant. That is one of the major issues with the Christian world and the Bible — everyone argues over what it means instead of going to the source of the truth: God Himself. Put yourself in Elder Callister’s shoes and try to deliver a sermon on chastity, modesty, and sexual morality without offending a single person. There is not time to address every person’s specific circumstance, but the reader can ask, “Lord, is it I?” and seek to do what the Lord would have them do in their life and situation. Prayer is wonderful! This is also why we have local church leaders to counsel with who have been called by the Lord Himself. We can always pray to know if counsel or doctrine is right and true. In the end, is our desire to love God and follow Him or do what we want to do? Also, I want to share that I know that anyone who has ever suffered at their own hands or the hands of others can receive peace and joy through Christ, who suffered all that we would not have to if we come unto Him. I am grateful that we do not have to be held prisoner because of our past sins and He gives us the power and the will to be better. We become perfect through going to Him — not by striving on our own. Saints are sinners who keep on trying. They keep going to Christ, believing in Him, having faith in Him as the Savior and striving to be reconciled to God through His wonderful sacrifice for each of us!

    • Alison Moore Smith June 1, 2015, 2:08 pm

      Mike, thanks for joining us.

      I have given sermons on chastity, modesty, and sexual morality. I may have offended people, but offense isn’t the issue here, it’s doctrine. When we teach others (particularly youth and young adults, IMO) things that are non-doctrinal from a position of authority, we can do great harm.

      Callister’s talk wasn’t nearly as problematic as Eastland’s talk, but it’s problematic to make the demands you are. For example:

      There is not time to address every person’s specific circumstance…

      And addressing every person’s specific circumstances had never been required. What is necessary is to keep erroneous cultural biases, personal opinion, and random ramblings out of doctrinal claims.

      We can always pray to know if counsel or doctrine is right and true. In the end, is our desire to love God and follow Him or do what we want to do?

      The problem is that the presumption is that it is always right and true and if we are just “in tune” enough, we’ll get on board. But it’s not always right and true. Until we as a people can acknowledge the obvious—that leaders are fallible humans—we will continue to get stuck in this unnecessary quagmire.

      Uchtdorf said:

      To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

      Thankful for an authoritative quote, but dismayed that we need it to prove the obvious point! A mild look at history should be all that we need.

      In a church with general authorities far removed from the “regular folk,” I think it’s imperative that we address the issues that arise from such problematic presentations.
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  • Mike June 1, 2015, 8:10 pm

    Allison,

    Normally, I would rather share something like this one-on-one, but since that is not possible in this setting….
    To be clear: I have read this talk, your responses, other’s responses, and your response and others to the Eastland YSA talk.

    To your blog in general…. What would you say is the ultimate purpose of this blog? if your purpose is to increase people’s faith in Christ and edify them spiritually, then please go about your debate in a different, uplifting way and do your best to encourage others to let Heavenly Father have the final say through study and prayer — otherwise, you are giving the impression that someone is right or wrong based on reasoning and logic alone and leaving the Holy Ghost and faith-building testimony completely out of the picture. Paul warned against this in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 — “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Replying only to the negative or “problematic” portions leaves much to be desired, especially if you wish to invite the Spirit to teach and confirm truth. Where is the light and the spiritual uplifting takeaway? Your method of making arguments (and some may be valid) seems to rely too much on picking apart small sentences that are presented out of the spirit and context of the talk itself, in many cases or, are mocking, angry, or frustrated reactions that cannot carry the Spirit. Many of the things brought up are resolved with another read of the article in the Spirit of prayer and not reacting impulsively to any red flag that might pop up as we play devil’s advocate. If we receive things of the Spirit not through the Spirit as they are given then we are not seeking in the Lord’s way, but of some other way (D&C 50).
    Regarding my comment on seeking the Lord’s will, I believe you misunderstood me. When I say that we can pray about truth or doctrine or counsel, I am indeed saying that when a servant of the Lord speaks, we don’t have to follow blindly. If somehow a mistake has been made, you will never be led astray by the Lord and the Spirit, who cannot lie, and will guide you right. If a mistake has not been made, the Lord will tell you through the Spirit in a way that both you and He knows, and you cannot deny it. You must be willing to seek, knock, ask, and it will be opened unto you. That is a beautiful right that we all have as sons and daughters of God. One of the major roles of the Spirit is to teach us all things and guide us into all truth (John 14 & 15).
    It seems this blog has great potential to be an influential forum for good, but frequently carries the spirit of contention and motives to push agendas other than helping people come closer to Christ. Standing on your own to beat back “problematic” doctrine that is coming from fallible sources, as you say, leads to a very slippery slope. Where does someone draw the line of knowing if a teaching is true or false doctrine? How do we decide if they are speaking the words of the Lord or their own? We don’t have the authority or the calling to do that. God does. By all means, study it out and discuss with others, but seek, ask, and knock so the Lord can teach you. Otherwise, we are denying the utterance and power of the Holy Ghost and letting our own reasoning get in the way of God reaching us individually. Blogging and discussing is good, but invite your readers to find out for themselves through the Source of all truth. What do you want your readers to do with what is taught here?
    If the desire of the blog is to stem the tide of false doctrine, then you can respond to the writer of the false doctrine and/or push it up the chain of Church leadership so that the whole Church and world can benefit from the correction, assuming it really is wrong. You will then have helped someone with their own weaknesses in a Christ-like way and maybe even helped many others in the Lord’s way. Christ made it clear that contention is not of Him and should be done away. He chastised the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11 for arguing about doctrine and He corrected them. Again, let Him have the final say in your individual lives. Don’t make up your mind here and then call it good. Seek confirmation.
    In short, I am hopeful that this blog will do more than be a forum for debate, but for drawing us closer to God by inviting the Spirit through testimony and encouraging people to study things out and to let God have the final say through the Spirit and Prayer. Allison, I believe you have a great opportunity to do just that and am grateful for the positive, uplifting things that have been shared here. Just as I am responsible for what I post here and what I choose to do with my influence, so to will we all be judged for how we choose to use our words/actions and our influence for good or otherwise. I pray that it will be for good and for the Lord and to help us bear one another’s burdens.
    p.s. If you are not sure how to recognize the Spirit, there is a great chapter in Preach My Gospel (Chapter 4) that is chock full of scriptures and words of our modern prophets who have been called by God to help us. It has helped me a great deal to understand how the Lord speaks to me…. Have a great day Allison, readers, and God bless you!

    • Alison Moore Smith June 1, 2015, 10:26 pm

      Normally, I would rather share something like this one-on-one, but since that is not possible in this setting….

      Don’t you think it’s odd, Mike, that you say it’s “not possible” to have a conversation with me one-on-one—even though I have an easily accessible contact form on my blog that goes to my email—and yet you insist the they way I should deal with any/all issues of concern to me are to “push it up the chain of Church leadership” that, in fact, has no real chain I can access?

      As much as you may want to deny it, public access to information and general discussion have made remarkable strides in helping otherwise inaccessible church leaders see and acknowledge problems in the church. Very positive changes have been made and other issues have been clarified.

      Still, thank you for schooling me in how to get inspiration, personal direction, and “how to recognize the spirit.” Plus scripture references! I mean having only read each volume a dozen times or so, I’m sure you can enlighten me on all the meanings I’ve missed. Suffice it to say I have prayed every single day of my life and feel quite at peace with my blog, my posts, and my approach. Iff you pray about whether or not you have the stewardship or authority to chastise me, you’ll probably find out the answer is a big fat no. But, hey, let me know how it works out for you!
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  • Oregonian June 1, 2015, 10:31 pm

    mike, what a pompous ass you are. you really come in somewhere you have never been and start telling people how to feel the spirit, give them scriptures, and scold them for how they write?

    go get your own damn blog and write what you want that is soooooooooooo uplifting that we all are struck dumb in your pious presence.

    if i did not have to spend so much time dealing with self-righteous men who demand deference to leaders who or course are all men i would have written the world’s great novel and climbed mount everest. thrice.

    just get down off you soapbox and solve an actual problem. talking about the problems in the system is not the problem.

  • Oregonian June 1, 2015, 10:33 pm

    sorry, alison, i must have been writing at the same time you were and did not see your comment to mike. i just do not think i can stand one more person like him. and the thing is he will never realize he’s the problem. he will always think it’s the OTHER people.

    mike mike mike how about just a little, “IS IT I LORD?” yourself??????

  • Cambendy June 1, 2015, 10:40 pm

    Hahaha Just got a bunch of notifications and had to come see. Oregonian using capital letters? There has to be something afoot! 😉

    Alison is honest and straightforward. I think I can safely say that she values truth, whether it makes her look good or bad. She takes whatever side seems true and, thus, has friends and enemies on every issue.

    I’m pretty taken aback by Mike here. Mostly because Alison mostly defends Callister (when he got SLAMMED everywhere else) and pointed out only the problems that are repeated over and over again and make no sense.

    Mike is here playing the “Here I am, the righteous priesthood leader, to rebuke the wayward daughters of Zion and bring them back ‘into the boat’ where I can save them! I will inform them of their potential, teach them basic gospel principles, and urge them to be more like me!”

    Mike, really, it’s old. You think you know the way? Do it yourself. You have no power here. Praise be.

  • Brandon June 2, 2015, 6:27 am

    I don’t mean to pile on so maybe I can take the Mike approach and do some chastising myself. Mike just might (sadly) listen to me because I am a man, a priesthood holder, and I actually have a stake leadership calling. (Is that authoritative enough?)

    Mike, for you to go to someone else’s blog space and take upon yourself the role of parent/leader/advisor, telling others what to do, how to do it, and even to go so far as to presume to tell them how to get revelation and interpret scriptures–assuming that they don’t know and you are educating them on gospel basics–is insulting. I know you’re used to being in the patriarchal position where you get to figuratively slap women around and dictate to them, but it’s not appropriate. It makes us all look like last-century brutes.

    I’m not a feminist nor a liberal, but I recognize easily that the church has been and is a sexist institution. I don’t think that comes from God, I think it comes from sincere, yet fallible, men, doing their best from inside their own cultures and understanding.

    Just like the church has finally acknowledged that its racist past probably wasn’t exactly the way God wanted it, I think they will realize that our racist past isn’t either. Too bad we are so slow to figure it out. We believe in a Mother in Heaven, we believe in priestesses. Maybe we should figure out what those things mean instead of telling women to shut down and keep in their places.

    Finally, I want to say something about the “chain of command” you are claiming. It is nowhere to be found. People only get put in positions of “power and authority” in the church by being submissive and by going along with the status quo. Bishops who readily pass complaints up the “chain of command” instead of nipping them in the bud almost never become stake presidents. And stake presidents who pass on complaints from bishops instead of squashing the rebellions almost never “move up” either. It’s just part of the deal and let’s not pretend it isn’t so. The church grooms agreeable, passive leaders who don’t rock the boat whenever/wherever they can. It’s the corporate yes-man mentality. It’s easier, at least for a while.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 2, 2015, 2:01 pm

      Brandon, welcome and sorry it took so long to release your comment. I was here, just didn’t get the notification.

      Anyway, thanks for the defense. :) I think what you say about the chain of command and those who get “promoted” is mostly true. People who rock the boat or ask too many questions do tend to get blackballed and marginalized. In my experience it happens less where there are fewer members to fill the ranks, but almost always in places where the “yes-men” are plentiful. Why bother using someone who is going to push back or challenge something when you can have your pick of those who just follow the order (written and unwritten) and keep everyone in line?
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  • theothermike June 2, 2015, 9:02 am

    Mike, you remind me of the abusive father who tells his kids not to tell anyone about the abuse because “it will hurt the family.”

  • Mike June 2, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Alison et al,

    I have not attacked you or called you names, please don’t do that.

    I was unaware you had a direct contact link. If I had known, only a portion of my post would have been just for you — mainly, the whole purpose of the blog and the opportunity you have of encouraging readers to go to the Lord in the end or at least sharing your testimony so the Spirit could confirm truth.

    For the readers, I still would have posted the clarification on going to the Lord, reasoning and logic vs. the power of God in testimony building, and the Spirit always leading us right. I’m not hating you or your blog, I really was asking sincere questions that I was hoping you’d answer. There are many good things offered here. I was more especially concerned after reading through the Eastland responses, as were several other responders. My email is jngrbreadman@aol.com if you would rather respond there.

    As for the p.s. section at the end, that was meant as a plural readership “you” just as many of the words refer to we, talking to all readers of the blog. I did a poor job differentiating and am sorry for that. In no way was I suggesting you don’t know how to recognize the Spirit. I wrote this late and would have made it more clear I was offering a good study suggestion to any who expressed difficulty with recognizing the Spirit (in some responses to Callister & Eastland blog pages) or wasn’t sure why I kept referring to the importance of the Spirit.

    I really do thank you again for the good that you’re doing here and hope you see the position of influence you are in to lead others closer to Christ.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 2, 2015, 2:11 pm

      …mainly, the whole purpose of the blog and the opportunity you have of encouraging readers to go to the Lord in the end or at least sharing your testimony so the Spirit could confirm truth.

      Mike, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. The “blog” is MormonMomma.com in it’s entirety. The “post” is “Thoughts on “The Lord’s Standard of Morality” by Elder Tad R. Callister.” Your contribution is a comment.

      Perhaps unlike you, Mike, I believe God is the quintessential example of reason. He follows natural law and works with it. Bearing “testimony” of falsehood isn’t something I’m interested in, nor do I think it serves a positive purpose. (Ask Paul H. Dunn about that, eh?)

      To be clear, I don’t remotely mind having a public response (that’s why I have a blog), but you were the one who told me I should keep my concerns private—even though I have no other real venue—while you took yours public—even though you have a private one should you have taken a couple of seconds to look for it. I’m simply asking you to practice what you preach. :)

      I’ll try to respond to your “sincere questions.” There were only two questions and one was posed as a reader directive:

      There is not time to address every person’s specific circumstance, but the reader can ask, “Lord, is it I?” and seek to do what the Lord would have them do in their life and situation.

      Yes, a reader can ask that. I’m not one to think there are many who are true exceptions to gospel rules. Because of that I rarely ask the question and tend to assume it’s “I” as well as others. My concern in this post, Eastland’s, and some others, is that much of what poses as “gospel rules” aren’t doctrinal. Rather, they are opinion, culture, sexism, manipulation, and sometimes just completely clueless utterances from those who haven’t taken the time to think carefully through the issues at hand. (Eastland’s is a perfect, utterly nonsensical example of the last.)

      In the end, is our desire to love God and follow Him or do what we want to do?

      I’m unsure how I could answer this in any definitive way. What are you looking for? Of course, the problem occurs in following God vs. following some specific utterance from someone that may or may not be true.

      Sincerely, what if God has directed me to ask these tough questions and try to resolve them rationally?
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  • Mike June 2, 2015, 2:53 pm

    This is becoming more and more saddening.

    This is one of the problems I brought up in my second response: you are taking other’s and my comments out of context and the spirit in which they are delivered.

    To be clear…. I have in no way told anyone to keep quiet or private or that blogging or discussing doctrine and seeking answers is bad. I have only stated that contention is bad. Discuss, but please don’t do it in a negative or mocking or degrading way. Everyone deserves this respect and it is not un-Christlike of me to suggest or ask this of anyone in this blog. Otherwise, we just resort to Bible bashing and other forms of it that don’t help anyone involved.
    Just in case this was missed, here is one area where I stated the utility of discussing with others….From my second comment: “Blogging and discussing is good, but invite your readers to find out for themselves through the Source of all truth. What do you want your readers to do with what is taught here?”
    Reasoning is also helpful, but does not by itself lead to testimony.
    If you are trying to understand me, I’m saying that when all is said and done, all of us should seek final understanding and confirmation from the Lord. That is faith-building and keeps us from going astray.
    I am also not telling anyone to testify of falsehoods. I am saying testify of truth so the Lord can confirm it through the Spirit and people can be uplifted.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 2, 2015, 3:38 pm

      I have in no way told anyone to keep quiet or private or that blogging or discussing doctrine and seeking answers is bad.

      From your first comment. To be clear, no, I can’t talk to either Eastland or Callister. (I tried to leave a post with a few questions on Meridian and it was blocked.)

      I am surprised by how often we will pick apart someone’s words when we can ask them directly what they mean or meant.

      I have only stated that contention is bad.

      Then why are you contending? Mike, do you see that when YOU disagree, debate, or argue, you simply label it differently than when others do it. YOU have decided that your position is right and true and so your “contention” isn’t contention, but rather just speaking truth (or something). I CONTEND that you are wrong.

      Discuss, but please don’t do it in a negative or mocking or degrading way.

      Like, for example, treating other readers like Sunbeams needing a guiding hand to understand basics? Mike, others have already told you the approach is insulting. It is. I welcome your input here, but how about input about the topic, not input directing others how to respond in the way you see fit nor in the mode of teacher or director?

      “Blogging and discussing is good, but invite your readers to find out for themselves through the Source of all truth. What do you want your readers to do with what is taught here?”

      Mike, sincerely, why do you think that the comment section is included? Do you really think it’s so that you can (try to) dictate to the authors how they should approach a particular topic? If so, let me clarify. No, that’s not it. The comment section is included so readers can comment on the topic of the post. Doing otherwise actually has a name. It’s called a “threadjack,” as in highjacking the topic thread. It’s considered generally bad form.

      This post is about Ted Callister’s article. It’s not titled, “Mike’s Ideas for What Mormon Momma Should Be About.” Do you see the difference?

      Reasoning is also helpful, but does not by itself lead to testimony.

      I disagree wholeheartedly! I have seen dozens and dozens of people lead astray by goosebumps. I have also seen myriad brought to God through reason.
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Why Mormon Feminists Should Remove the Word My Profile

  • Mike June 2, 2015, 3:00 pm

    Alison,

    If the Lord has directed you to seek answers rationally, that is great to hear. There is one final step once you have studied it out in your mind. Confirm with Him that your end-state answer or answers are correct.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 2, 2015, 3:40 pm

      See, Mike? Couldn’t you have just stopped before those last two sentences? Did you really need to make sure I understood the process? Did you really need to just one more time make sure you counseled me?
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Mother, Where Art Thou?My Profile

  • Linda June 2, 2015, 3:44 pm

    I cannot stop laughing. Mike, I know you mean well, really. I have a guy just like you in my ward. Maybe it IS you, because you sound JUST like him. You just can’t take an answer for what it is, no matter how direct, because you are sure that you know how things should be and if they aren’t you are sure you need to step in and steady the ark.

    Mike, come talk to us here. Talk about the topic. But please remember your stewardship (that’s a word you probably love!) is not to parent others here. We are all adults and most of us know the gospel. Join in fellowship, but you can’t come here and assert your leadership because you don’t have any!

  • Mike June 2, 2015, 4:41 pm

    I’m sorry for the confusion and threadjacking this is causing.

    I cannot assume that everyone here knows the Gospel well — there are always new people in the Gospel and there are also those who are not members of the Church or even Christian.
    Usually, expounding the scriptures is looked upon as a good thing. I am not trying to be offensive and I’m not responsible if you choose to take offense.

    And I did not put those last sentences in to counsel you. They were to solidify my first comment about going to the Lord in the end. Do people not believe they should do this? That was my message from the beginning, along with a testimony about Christ’s Atonement dealing with sexual issues.
    My comment was then misrepresented and still no one seems to have acknowledged or understood what I meant.
    Focus in this and the Eastland post has been negative, some bashing men and the priesthood, and much seems geared towards a lack of respect for the brethren as out of touch, fallible, and in some cases, creepy.
    The President Uchtdorf quote was used out of context.
    Maybe I’m not understanding. Are you saying God is not the source of all truth? Are you saying that President Monson and the apostles are not called of God? Are you saying you don’t believe God has called these and other Church leaders to guide us today? Are you saying women should have the priesthood?
    I’m trying to understand. If this is not what you are saying, that’s a relief.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 3, 2015, 10:36 am

      Focus in this and the Eastland post has been negative, some bashing men and the priesthood, and much seems geared towards a lack of respect for the brethren as out of touch, fallible, and in some cases, creepy.

      Mike, I’d disagree that this post is mostly negative. The Eastland post, absolutely. Because it was a horrid talk.

      You say I’m “bashing men and the priesthood.” I’m actually bashing ideas that are wrong and harmful. It’s interesting, however, how often this is “refuted” with the idea that disagreeing with a man (particularly a priesthood holder and more particularly any priesthood holder who holds authoritative office of any kind) is in itself disrespectful and inappropriate because the priesthood is the authority of God and should never be questioned, particularly not be a woman who, obviously, is not of rank.

      Instead of addressing the issues I discuss—either agreeing or disagreeing on the merit of the issue itself—you resort to telling me it’s bad form to address them at all, because they came from the lips of a man with the priesthood.

      Mike, how does this work for women? More to the point, what conclusions do I reach about either talk that you actually disagree with?

      The President Uchtdorf quote was used out of context.

      OK, what do you think the appropriate context was that makes it mean something other than what I’ve implied?

      Are you saying God is not the source of all truth?

      Can you point to any place in any discussion where I have ever said or even implied such a thing? (Hint: no.)

      Are you saying that President Monson and the apostles are not called of God?

      Can you point to any place in any discussion where I have ever said or even implied such a thing? (Hint: no.)

      Are you saying you don’t believe God has called these and other Church leaders to guide us today?

      Can you point to any place in any discussion where I have ever said or even implied such a thing? (Hint: no.)

      Are you saying women should have the priesthood?

      Women should have priestesshood. That’s a real thing, Mike. Maybe you can explain it to me. Or maybe you can explain the authoritative source stating why women can’t have it. (However what that has to do with this discussion completely eludes me…)
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Women at Church: Translating Gendered DoctrineMy Profile

  • SandraDee June 2, 2015, 6:29 pm

    Mike, I have a sincere question for you. You are worried about “bashing” and “lack of respect” for “the brethren.” Do you worry about bashing and lack of respect for sisters? Who deserves respect and why?

    • Alison Moore Smith June 3, 2015, 10:39 am

      SandraDee, excellent question. I’m not going to pretend to answer for Mike, but I do often find that those of his position tend to see men and women as almost entirely different species, with wildly divergent rules of engagement. Men have the priesthood, men are in authority, men preside. Therefore they are afforded deference that women will never be afforded, given their place of rightful submission.
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Freedom from the Oppression of the Word of WisdomMy Profile

  • SandraDee June 3, 2015, 12:15 pm

    **I do often find that those of his position tend to see men and women as almost entirely different species**

    Sigh. Yes. It’s as if we are dogs or pets. It’s OK to chain up a dog (to protect it, because you know better) and to determine its feeding schedule, because it’s just a DOG and you are MASTER.

    He probably won’t answer my questions. When it gets down to this men of his ilk will shrug and declare that I just don’t understand the proper order of things. That dismissal is easier than trying to answer the questions.

    But Mike, I’d love to hear you answer how women can ever ask or say anything in a patriarchy without being stomped out.

  • Mike June 3, 2015, 4:42 pm

    I tried posting this earlier, but it didn’t seem to work, so I had to recreate from memory a few hours later and hope this works this time…

    SandraDee,
    That is a loaded question. For me to answer that effectively (and I realize I may not be able to to your satisfaction), I need to better understand what you mean.
    **How can women ever ask or say anything in a patriarchy ….. without being stomped out?
    a. what do you mean by a patriarchy?
    b. what do you mean by being stomped out and do you have any examples of you or other women you know that have been stomped out? If you or they have been disrespected or stomped on, that is concerning.
    Alison,
    I have never heard the term priestesshood. I only know of being called up to become priests and priestesses. I would appreciate an explanation and any doctrine or scripture associated with it. If there is a talk or sermon on it, sending a link would be great, too.

    Earlier you stated, “I have seen dozens and dozens of people led astray by goosebumps.”
    This is concerning as well. What happened? How were they led astray?

    As to returning to the thread….
    I believe that men and women are responsible for their thoughts, words, actions, and influences. I agree with you and Elder Holland. I believe that men who lust after, sexually abuse, and sexually assault women are in the wrong.
    I believe that women who intentionally — through dress or other means — try to (aside from obvious exceptions within marriage) seduce, sexually stimulate, or manipulate (not ever ok) men are in the wrong. A similar argument can be made for men. Please don’t take this as women can’t be attractive or sexy. That is not what I’m intending here.
    I believe that modesty for women can be a protection against men and boys who do not believe in or completely disregard the law of chastity, member or not. I believe that it is important for women to know that how they decide to dress sends a message to men and that this is a natural consequence of what women choose to wear (a similar argument can be made for men). This DOES NOT make inappropriate actions/thoughts by men ok. That is lust/sexual abuse/sexual assault. I also believe that the message that men and women are responsible for their own thoughts & actions needs to be heard more, especially outside the Church.
    I believe it is possible that Eastland (I have not yet read the full talk) was prompted to share specific things with the YSA women in his ward, as evidenced by the female commenter who was either in the ward or attended the ward at one point and noticed the brazenly immodest YSA women there. In saying this, please don’t forget what I have already stated above.
    I believe that both men and women can do much to encourage modesty and self-esteem in women by sincerely complimenting women on their modest attire and choices. (I remember an article that talked about YM in high school wearing “MODEST IS HOTTEST” t-shirts to encourage the YW, member or not.) I also believe being modest is a gesture of charity/kindness in supporting others in keeping the law of chastity.
    I believe that YW/women can and should seek counsel from parents, YW/RS leaders, and Visiting Teachers on modesty and chastity and that Bishops can and should recruit these leaders to teach alongside them or Bishops, parents, YW/RS leaders, etc. can encourage these things to be taught by parents/YW/RS leaders without the Bishop or another present.
    I believe that women can be attractive and get the desired attention from men without going against modesty. There is a great talk by Elder Holland that ­­­­brings his and many quotes and points of view of women about what true beauty is. It was given in conference at least 4 or 5 years ago, I think. I’ll dig it up if you like. I’m excited for the day that my girls will be old enough to understand this and will encourage them to seek guidance from the same men and women mentioned above.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 3, 2015, 9:23 pm

      I have never heard the term priestesshood. I only know of being called up to become priests and priestesses.

      So…what do you think a priestess is?

      I would appreciate an explanation and any doctrine or scripture associated with it. If there is a talk or sermon on it, sending a link would be great, too.

      And that is the point, Mike. Priestesses are part of LDS doctrine (as are female prophets, by the way…but that’s another topic) but we know approximately zero about them. Kind of like Mother in Heaven.

      Earlier you stated, “I have seen dozens and dozens of people led astray by goosebumps.” This is concerning as well. What happened? How were they led astray?

      On more than a daily basis I encounter people who are devastated because they “felt the spirit” confirming something that went terribly wrong. Once in gospel doctrine a young woman said, “I know I feel the spirit because I get goosebumps!” And I said, “Have you ever gotten out of a shower in a cold room?”

      I agree with you and Elder Holland. I believe that men who lust after, sexually abuse, and sexually assault women are in the wrong.

      You know what makes me crazy about this? I’ve been saying that since I was a tween. It’s obvious and indisputable. But I was taught over and over and over and over at church that I needed to keep the boys’ minds out of the gutter. It wasn’t until Elder Holland formally declare the obvious that people like you suddenly agree with me. Good heavens, hallelujah that I have authoritative backup on the OBVIOUS.

      I believe that women who intentionally — through dress or other means — try to (aside from obvious exceptions within marriage) seduce, sexually stimulate, or manipulate (not ever ok) men are in the wrong. A similar argument can be made for men.

      I do as well, Mike, but understand, what we are talking about now is the heart. We aren’t talking about how wide our straps are or if the hemline touches the knee. And we sure as heck aren’t talking about how a man can’t keep from becoming aroused every time he sees an armpit.

      Please don’t take this as women can’t be attractive or sexy.

      sexy = sexually attractive or exciting

      So how can a woman be “sexually exciting” and not be said to “sexually stimulate”?

      I believe that modesty for women can be a protection against men and boys who do not believe in or completely disregard the law of chastity, member or not.

      Because in Polynesia, where women often went topless, there were getting raped left and right and in Iraq, where they wear burqus, it never happens. Right? (And there the theory falls apart.)

      I believe that it is important for women to know that how they decide to dress sends a message to men and that this is a natural consequence of what women choose to wear (a similar argument can be made for men).

      What is the “message,” Mike? What is the “natural consequence of what women choose to wear”? Please be specific, no dodging.

      This DOES NOT make inappropriate actions/thoughts by men ok. That is lust/sexual abuse/sexual assault.

      OK…so…how does this fit with your previous sentence?

      I believe it is possible that Eastland (I have not yet read the full talk)…

      Hold the freaking phone. Really? So you’re happy to condemn my post and repeatedly claim I took things out of context…but you don’t actually know the context? Good heavens, Mike.

      I believe it is possible that Eastland…was prompted to share specific things with the YSA women in his ward, as evidenced by the female commenter who was either in the ward or attended the ward at one point and noticed the brazenly immodest YSA women there.

      Mike, Eastland didn’t just give the (extremely problematic in ANY context) talk in his ward. He chose to post it to the internet as general counsel for all to read. But what’s interesting here is that you (without even reading his talk) defend him, accuse me, and trump with a presumed spiritual prompting. So, I ask, why didn’t you presume that I had been inspired to counter some of the very harmful rhetoric Eastland promoted?

      I believe that both men and women can do much to encourage modesty and self-esteem in women by sincerely complimenting women on their modest attire and choices.

      Actually, you can do more to “encourage modesty and self-esteem” by:

      1. Learning what scriptural modesty really is.
      2. Sincerely complimenting women on their accomplishments and efforts NOT on how they look.

      I remember an article that talked about YM in high school wearing “MODEST IS HOTTEST” t-shirts to encourage the YW, member or not.

      For the love of all that is holy…NO NO NO! Mike, THINK for a minute. Stop just going with the flow and the cliche and THINK THROUGH your position. I’m not trying to be patronizing, I’m sincerely trying to get you to use logic about the issue.

      If we aren’t supposed to “sexually stimulate” (your own claim), then why should we try to be HOTTEST? So it’s evil to “sexually stimulate” someone with a low cut dress, but awesome to do so with a turtleneck? Again, HOTTEST is all about turning on the opposite sex and the promotion is all about “look how sexy you are while still covering the garment area!” Please tell me you see the problem!

      Here is some help:

      Is modest really the hottest?
      How ‘Modest Is Hottest’ Is Hurting Christian Women
      Modest is Not Hottest
      Modest is NOT Hottest

      I also believe being modest is a gesture of charity/kindness in supporting others in keeping the law of chastity.

      Per the Samoan/Iraqi statement above, how does modesty support others in keeping their body parts in their own clothes? Again, don’t just pretend a bare shoulder can promote the ripping off of underwear, actually tell me how this works.

      I believe that women can be attractive and get the desired attention from men without going against modesty.

      Why have you never once suggested that bishops/quorumm leaders/home teachers/parents can/should men to give attention to women for things other than their bodies?

      I’m excited for the day that my girls will be old enough to understand this and will encourage them to seek guidance from the same men and women mentioned above.

      I’ve been blogging for 12 years and my four daughters are ages 17-27. Come back and talk to me when you have that kind of experience. Seriously, I’ll still be here. It will be an entirely different conversation. Trust me on that. I’ll wait.
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Mother, Where Art Thou?My Profile

  • Mike June 4, 2015, 8:46 am

    disappointing in more ways than one. You knew I read the Eastland article right after my comment because I sent you the message last night before you posted your comment here.

    Indeed, women have many wonderful qualities — various talents, sense of humor, intellect, creativity, worthy efforts in many areas of life, all Christlike virtues, gifts of the Spirit, and many more.

    Thank you for helping me to learn more and study more about modesty and chastity.

    • Alison Moore Smith June 4, 2015, 10:14 am

      disappointing in more ways than one. You knew I read the Eastland article right after my comment because I sent you the message last night before you posted your comment here.

      Mike, you said, here,

      I believe it is possible that Eastland (I have not yet read the full talk) was prompted to share specific things with the YSA women in his ward, as evidenced by the female commenter who was either in the ward or attended the ward at one point and noticed the brazenly immodest YSA women there.

      According to your own, publicly posted timeline, you accused me of taking Eastland out of context and determined he was inspired to say what he said without even reading his entire talk.

      I asked you a bunch of specific questions in this comment. Would you address them, please? To be clear, I don’t necessarily disagree with your point in all these cases, but I think it’s important to specify what you mean, why you mean it, and how it works. I’ll repost them here for your convenience. :)

      1. What do you think a priestess is?
      2. How can a woman be “sexually exciting” and not be said to “sexually stimulate”?
      3. Given that topless women in Polynesia are raped far less frequently than women donning burqus in Iraq, how is modesty a “protection against men and boys”?
      4. How does “This DOES NOT make inappropriate actions/thoughts by men ok” fit with “I believe that it is important for women to know that how they decide to dress sends a message to men and that this is a natural consequence of what women choose to wear”?
      5. What is the “natural consequence of what women choose to wear”?
      6. How does modesty support others in keeping their body parts in their own clothes?
      7. Why have you never once suggested that bishops/quorum leaders/home teachers/parents can/should men to give attention to women for things other than their bodies?

      One more thing about this:

      I’m excited for the day that my girls will be old enough to understand this and will encourage them to seek guidance from the same men and women mentioned above.

      I understand why you would say this. I’m a seventh generation Mormon raised mostly in Utah County. I’m utterly drenched in the culture and have raised four daughters. It wasn’t until the last of those four was a junior in high school that I even questioned the status quo. I went through it and expected my kids to do the same.

      Suddenly I verbally went through the process we demand and realized there is no way to make it appropriate or good. Say it out loud, the truth. We expect our middle school and high school aged—pre-pubescent to young women—daughters to go into a private office with a (usually) middle-aged, married man to discuss personal and often very intimate things. In cases of perceived or real sin (and in cases of abuse!) we expect them to explicitly describe intimacies—to the older married man.

      I understand the need for worthiness and for confession. But the way we do it is completely inappropriate.

      When your daughters are older, I ask you to please run the scenario through your mind as it really exists. Don’t brush it aside or say, “This is the way it’s always been done.” Walk through the process of your daughter, sitting in a chair with a 45-year-old married man and being asked about her sexual activities and behavior. Even if she is utterly chaste, think about that from her point of view. Try. I know you can’t quite do it accurately because you’ve never been in that position and you never will be, but for the sake of your girls, try to do it. As they get closer to those semi-annual required interviews, think through it again, with your actual, real, dear, sweet daughter in mind.

      When it’s more than a far-distant idea, but something coming up on Sunday morning, tell me how “excited” you are about that.
      Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Baltimore Problems and Liberal Guilt AssuagementMy Profile

  • Mike June 4, 2015, 3:10 pm

    Alison,

    I don’t think we’re doing any good going back and forth like this. I may not agree with you and your friend’s methods on the blog, but I will definitely be thinking through these things and studying and praying more and appreciate the opportunity to see some new/different perspectives and reinforcement of some others. I really do believe there are valid ways to be heard in the Church for things like these and if you and your friends do have injustices that have been done.

    I wish you the best of luck with your blog and am sorry for threadjacking — I have never posted on a blog before this one and I’m sure it shows.

  • Margo June 11, 2015, 12:39 am

    ***When it’s more than a far-distant idea, but something coming up on Sunday morning, tell me how “excited” you are about that.***

    THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS!!!!!!

    Mike, I really wish you had answered Allison’s questions instead of dodging. There are always “stalwarts” who can’t answer the hard questions and so they will come around and argue and then run when asked to really dig deep into the nitty gritty.

    Bishops interviewing our young women (ANY women) just needs to stop. It’s not necessary. It’s a terrible bit of tradition.

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