Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mormons Celebrating Pope Francis's Affirmation of Traditional Family Values: Wait, What?

Big headline in Salt Lake City's Deseret News yesterday:

Pope reinforces traditional family values.

Deseret News is a semi-official organ of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It competes with (and, some might say, complements) the non-LDS-affiliated Salt Lake newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune. Several years ago, the Mormon-owned paper Deseret News added to its editorial board Robert P. George, the past-president of the National Organization of Marriage and driving force behind the culture-war declaration attacking same-sex marriage, the Manhattan Declaration. George is, of course, Catholic.

Today, Deseret News is celebrating the cementing of the alliance between top Mormon and top Catholic leaders as both battle against marriage equality with this news spread replete with videos. Notice anything about the photos?

Yes, you're right: for a conference ostensibly celebrating the complementarity of male and female, somebody's face is conspicuously missing. And that sort of tells a story about what all this brouhaha about defending "traditional marriage" is really all about, doesn't it? 

A powerful story, in fact: aging white men — only white men — proclaiming to the world that children can learn nothing about God without a male and a female to teach them.* And expecting to be taken seriously as they make that proclamation, while excluding from all religious authority the other half of their gender equation, women . . . . . 

This is not even to broach the thorny subject of what a bizarre fit traditional Mormon theology is, with its deep roots in the practice of polygamy, for the traditional Catholic insistence that marriage is between one man and one woman. As Mormon scholar Joanna Brooks tells Sarah Posner in a video interview uploaded today to Religion Dispatches, the belief in polygamy is not merely an historical vestige of Mormon theology: it remains alive today at the very core of Mormon theology. And as Sarah Posner rightly notes, "These unresolved theological issues, incidentally, have gone unnoticed in the context of LDS participation in this week’s Vatican conference on 'traditional' marriage, The International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman."

Well, admittedly, the title of the Vatican colloquium doesn't say "the complemantrity of one man + one woman," does it? And so it leaves room for the definition of "traditional marriage" as one man + one woman + one woman + one woman times forty, doesn't it?

Whatever. When you're declaring the gays outsiders with no human rights, and when you're intent on subordinating women to men, whatever works., right?

Why worry about things like theological consistency or even plain logical consistency, right? As  elderly white men continue proclaiming to the rest of us that it's impossible to come to know God without women also in the picture . . . .

* In case it's not absolutely clear to readers, I wanted to point out that the bishop mentioned in this news report is a Mormon bishop, not a Catholic one.

The graphic: I find this engraving of Brigham Young, successor to the founder of the LDS church Joseph Smith, with some of his 55 wives, at many websites, with no indication of its original course. It seems to me to be an illustration from a 19th-century journal. Does any reader know the original source?

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