Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Among the Mormons

Utah State.jpgI’m
back from my little sojourn at Utah State University–the former
agricultural college that is now a splendid city on a hill at the Cache
Valley end of beautiful Logan Canyon. They reckon that of its 15,000
undergraduates, 85 percent are LDS. The Mormon equivalent of a Catholic
Newman Club and a Jewish Hillel House is an Institute of Religion, and
at USU the Institute, adjacent to the student center, counts between six and seven thousand regulars.

short, you can say (as I did in my lecture), “If the Constitution is
divinely inspired, then it’s because God wanted the United States of
America to be a secular state,” and you’ll get a laugh because the
audience is well aware that Mormon doctrine does, indeed, consider the
Constitution to be divinely inspired. No doubt because of Mormonism’s
monopolistic dominance, non-LDS students have to hang on to their own
spiritual convictions for dear life. Last year saw the establishment of USU SHAFT–Utah State University Secular Humanists, Atheists, and Free Thinkers. They’ve got a couple of hundred members too, I was told.

Everyone was talking about Boyd K. Packer’s remarks on homosexuality and their aftermath–and that included a vigorous exchange of views in the letters column of the local daily, the Herald Journal News.
On campus, I didn’t find a lot of support for the Packer position, but
rather a sense that the 86-year-old apostle was a declining
representative of an era that is passing. Evidence that that could be
the case came along with Church public affairs managing director Michael
Otterson’s strong denunciation of anti-gay bullying, which Religion Dispatches’ Joanna Brooks sees as a significant piece of aggiornamento for the Church.

important to recognize, though, how big a deal homosexuality is in the
Mormon belief system. In the Christian tradition, gender is not central
to the main message, though some seem to pretend that’s so today.
Celibacy was the preferred option: Better not to burn, was the best Paul
had to say about the institution of marriage. In Roman Catholicism,
marriage was the johnny-come-lately sacrament.

But as my friend
and host Phil Barlow, USU’s new Arrington Professor of Mormon History
and Culture, emphasized to me, in Mormonism, ontology and
soteriology–the theories of being and salvation–are heterosexually
gendered. Where Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishops have to be
unmarried, Mormon bishops have to be married. Families exist for time
and eternity. One might call Mormonism the apotheosis of 19th-century

It’s likely, then, that accepting the naturalness
of homosexuality would be a bigger theological deal for the LDS Church
than putting plural marriage on hold or accepting people of color as
full-fledged members. Fortunately, however, this is a tradition designed
for the reception of new revelations.

Comments read comments(11)
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posted October 15, 2010 at 10:26 am

Why do so many of your articles deal with homosexuality? I have not counted up the percentage, but the number of times you write on it either directly or peripherally seems to be very high. I may not speak for everyone but I personally believe that this subject is getting far too much attention in our national, public discourse.
But getting back to the essence of your article……the Mormon concept of marriage and heterosexuality is indeed important for them, but the orthodox Christian ideal of marriage is just as strong in other ways. After all, Paul pictures it in Eph. 5 and other places as a representation of Christ and the Church. In view of Jesus’ teaching that “…in the resurrection, there will be no marrying nor giving in marriage…”, Paul’s emphasis becomes very important in this current age.

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Mark Silk

posted October 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

I guess because it’s currently the biggest national issue involving religion in public life. This is a blog that stays close to the news.

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posted October 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

That may be the case but it surfaces the old question of cause and effect. Are you not indeed falling into the trap of letting the broader media dictate your own personal, journalistic agenda?
Furthermore, you seem to be playing right into the hands of the libertines and secularists in our national media. This is supposed to be a religious forum.

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posted October 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Kimball, the subject of homosexuality should be on everyones mind in the entire world. These are our children, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends and strangers living their lives as second class humans. Not quite as good as Kimball, in her eyes, and everyone elses eyes who think people like Mark Silk, and others focus too much on the GLBT. Our country is suffering because our troops that are gay are being tossed out when they could be helping bring this war to an end. Have you noticed this? Have you also noticed the hate being spun by the righteous ones contributing to the mental stress that is causing young teens to commit suicide in larger numbers every day in America? This is a blight on our nation and everyone should be working at changing it Kimball. Religion is this website and have you noticed that religion and our laws are crossing everyday and have to be respected equally?

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posted October 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

So, what’s your problem with discussing this, Kimball?
Blood on your church’s steps? Or the fact that one of your Elders seems to enjoy dancing in it?

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Myrna Lea Houston

posted October 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if folks could talk more about the great difference being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints makes? A recent U.S. Pew Study: Mormons Top in Knowledge of Bible, Christianity ~ in which Mormons scored the highest of all religious groups in their knowledge of Christianity and the Bible in a new study conducted from the Pew Research Center. Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion. Why did Mormons do so well on the survey? USA Today postulated that “It may be that the conscious choice to take a minority faith or philosophic stand requires an intellectual engagement with religion to a greater degree than experienced by Protestants and Catholics, who dominate U.S. culture.” It is also probably not surprising, given the Latter-day Saint view on the divine origins of the Constitution, that Mormons had the highest score of any religious group in their knowledge about what the Constitution says about religion and the government. Mormons also score higher than the general public in their knowledge of world religions. One could hope that the “conversation” could change and “lift up” instead of “put down” when an LDS Church member mis-speaks. Thanks for reading and check out the pewforum web site.
Myrna Lea Houston

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posted October 18, 2010 at 8:33 am

I doubt that you have much experience with the US military so it seems a bit presumptuous of you to editorialize for the open inclusion of homosexuals. Besides the effects on unit cohesion, the big argument against it is that we need a morally-based Armed Forces.
Frank. I asked Mark why he continually plays into the major media’s game by writing on this subject so often. It has nothing to do with “blood” on church steps, your expression which needs further definition. I don’t know of any blood on any church steps unless, of course, someone slipped on a wet morning and cut himself while making a hasty entry into the narthex.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted October 20, 2010 at 10:06 pm

So now those of us who are people of faith and are pro-equality are reduced to merely “libertines and secularists”
We don’t all go to your Church, Kimball.
Your “unit cohesion” is a red herring” – since it doesn’t affect the troops the way you seem to ‘think’ it does in the 25 countries that allow GLBT people to serve openly, and with pride and honor.
Your apparent “need” for a “morally-based Armed Forces” is pretty self-righteous. You seem to believe GLBT folk are ipso facto immoral. In your “Biblical worldview”, would atheists be prohibited from serving their country? (Not that DADT is the topic here.)
I wonder what religious tests you might impose.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted October 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm

And, while we’re at it Kimball, you castigate Mr. Silk for writing on the topic too much. It says a lot about you that you comment on the topic much yourself. Something about ladies and protesting too much comes to mind.

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Your Name

posted October 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Isn’t a “morally-based Armed Forces” a bit at odds with the very fact that they’re trained to kill?
Swords and ploughshares and all that.
I’m just sayin’.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted October 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm

There used to be a Mormon blog here on b’net and it seems to have disappeared without a trace. Anyone have any info?

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