Public Affairs’ Open Letter to the Bloggernacle

May 30, 2014

If you want to be heard, blog!

This letter is being discussed on the other blogs.  Wheat & Tares is one of the blogs that did not receive a direct copy of this from Bro. Otterson, so this is a copy paste of the letter for our readers.  *Footnotes are editorial comments by wheatmeister and are not part of Bro. Otterson’s letter.

A few questions for thought and discussion:

  • How does this letter advance the dialogue on the role of women?
  • What constructive feedback would you give to Bro. Otterson and Public Affairs?
  • Does this letter make you hopeful or doubtful about the future of the role of women in the church?  Why?
  • What do you conclude about the role of blogs in the church today?

Discuss.

_______________________________________________________________________________

The following is an open letter from Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A PDF of the letter is available here.

Context missing from discussion about women

The role of technology in the church, according to our ward library.

Comments on various blogs over recent months about what Church leaders should or should not think and do about women’s roles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prompt me to provide some context from an insider perspective that may be helpful.

Recently a woman posted this comment on a blog:

Please understand that not [all] women who wish to be seen in all their worth are seeking to be ordained to the priesthood…. What I am finding…. is that most of these women have been demeaned and marginalized by one (and usually many more) of the brothers of our faith. They have been told their ideas won’t work. They have been told they are not important. They have been told they are lesser.

The point is a noteworthy one, namely that LDS women who describe themselves as feminists don’t necessarily seek ordination, but rather to be genuinely valued and given a voice that is respected and welcomed.

There are three specific criticisms that have been raised on various blogs that will be addressed here:

Criticism 1: The Church doesn’t want to hear from women about painful experiences, doesn’t talk to them or only wants to hear from women who are “blindly obedient.”

This is untrue. I can say with certainty that not one of the senior leaders of the Church would ever want any Latter-day Saint to feel demeaned or marginalized. [1]  Does it happen? Yes, of course. In 30,000 congregations led by lay leaders, it would be extraordinary if it didn’t. Serving as a stake president or bishop is demanding and exhausting, and by and large they do a remarkable job of it. Likewise the countless men and women who serve at various levels in wards and branches. But we are all human, and occasionally we say things clumsily or we lack sufficient sensitivity or language skills or experience. The Church is a place where we make mistakes and then hopefully learn to do better. It is also a place where we allow others to make mistakes and improve.

What this argues for is better training of leaders and members, and more patience, more long-suffering, more sensitivity and Christlike behavior on the part of all of us. Bishops are extraordinarily busy, but like local leaders, should be particularly aware of how easy it is to come across as patronizing or dismissive when a woman wants more than anything to be listened to and feel as if she has truly been heard.

But this is quite a different conversation from one about ordaining women to every office, from bishop to apostle, thereby radically redefining how Jesus structured His Church. [2] Those of the Twelve apostles whose responsibilities include leadership and training are acutely aware of these training challenges and expend much energy addressing them.

If there is one thing that my lifetime of working with Church leaders has taught me, it is that they care deeply about Church members and their feelings. In our remarkable system of Church governance, no man or woman can rise to high office without first serving for decades in responsibilities that bring them up-close-and-personal with a mind-boggling array of human problems. In the course of their lives, apostles have spent countless hours in such counseling situations, struggling and sharing tears and helping members work the miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ into their lives. While their work as apostles is largely accomplished through local leaders ministering to their congregations around the world, they remain crucially aware of issues that concern the members of the Church.

We’re listening. Who else is?

Many members do not understand this. Even as the Church has grown much larger, the First Presidency and the Twelve are widely read on current issues and continue to travel and engage with the body of the saints. Such assignments invariably bring them into contact with rank-and-file members of diverse thought and backgrounds, not just leadership. I have heard members of the First Presidency and the Twelve speak many times of those experiences, and what they learn from such engagements. When they return, those interactions are often shared and a formidable knowledge base develops over time, especially given the lifetime of experiences of the senior Brethren. The same is true for the women leaders of the Church, who meet one-on-one in the homes of members, hold focus groups and have countless conversations with women and men as they travel the world.

Neither are General Authorities immune from challenges that can arise in their own families, with children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews. One of the great blessings of the Church is that we have leaders who experience the same burdens as the rest of us. They are not aloof.

Additionally, various Church bodies such as the Missionary and Priesthood departments constantly channel information to Church leaders through more formal channels such as the councils on which the apostles sit. Some Church entities such as Public Affairs and the Church’s Research and Information Division specifically seek out opinions from members.

An example: some years ago Public Affairs invited three groups of women, all active Latter-day Saints and including feminists, to come for several hours each to discuss concerns. I use the term “feminist” here not to imply political activism or campaigning, but simply as a term to describe those who want to further the interests of women in a variety of ways. The first two groups included single and married women, working mothers and stay-at home moms. Several in the groups had earned PhDs. The third group consisted mostly of members of stake Relief Society and Young Women’s presidencies, and we were particularly interested to learn if there were differences in perceptions between these groups.

In order to build an environment of trust, we do not disclose whom we meet with or what is discussed, although we do sometimes ask for permission to record the conversations so we don’t miss anything important. We find that this creates a safe place for transparent conversation. For several hours, a woman staffer [3] facilitated the conversations, and I sat in and mostly listened for a major part of the time [4]. I assure you that these women were not wallflowers [5]. We learned a lot, and those findings have long since been shared with members of the Twelve individually and in appropriate council settings. Those kinds of conversations are continuing under similar guidelines to promote honest discussions.

Criticism 2: There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.

This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.

As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.

First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.

Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.

Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances. [6]

Criticism 3: By not engaging with the more extreme groups, the Church – and Public Affairs in particular – is not acting as Christ would.

First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest. [7]

As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women. [8]

This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.

The dedicated men and women who work for Public Affairs reflect diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some are native Utahns. Others grew up elsewhere in the United States and some, like me, [9] were born in other countries or are converts to the Church. Young and older, single and married, they have worked through their own challenging life experiences and learned and grown from them, as we all do.

Occasionally, as we have seen in recent weeks on some feminist blogs, those who are spokespeople for the Church and therefore are required to put their names out in the public square find themselves in the cross-hairs of critics. Sometimes those critics are highly cynical and make things personal. [10] In recent weeks, I have seen some of our staff ridiculed by some feminist commentators, called disingenuous or, worse, accused of lying.

Our people are professionals and they have borne this with charity, good grace and without the slightest complaint. I don’t believe for a minute that these strident voices represent a significant proportion of LDS women, or even of those Church members who describe themselves as feminists. [11]

Certainly all the staff understand that public relations is best understood as a bridging activity to build relationships, not a set of messaging activities designed to buffer an organization from others. Readiness to meet with many different groups is therefore basic to public affairs work for the Church, and we do it all the time.

Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. [12] Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved. [13]

Ask and ye shall be called apostate. Knock and ye shall be knocked.

We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course. If Mary Magdalene, or Mary, his mother, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had demanded ordination to the Twelve, had spoken publicly about their insistence and made demands such as we hear today, how would Jesus have felt, who loved them every bit as much as he loved the Twelve? Some of these women were closest to him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being. There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes. [14]

I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. [15] We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this conversation). [16]

Few can doubt that the Internet has transformed our society for the better in many ways, notably in providing a voice for everyone with a keyboard or mobile device. The problem with the Internet, as we all know, is that it has also become a place for angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation. What we read there is often anonymous and unverifiable. People are now apt to quote any blog as a legitimate source, no matter how extreme or cynical or how few people it represents, especially if it happens to comport with their personal view. There is an old quote, attributed to Mark Twain, suggesting that a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. [17] Never has that been truer than today, and it can make civil gospel conversations on some topics difficult.

Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” [18] Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. [19] As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.

Michael Otterson
Managing Director
Public Affairs
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

[1] Just Public Affairs does, in section three of this letter.

[2] The horse is out of the barn on this one.  We’ve already made loads of changes from Jesus’ day.  The point of the restoration was ongoing revelation.

[3] Is “woman” the most important qualification?  Because “staffer” sure doesn’t sound like much of a job title.

[4] Good thing, too, because otherwise there was no priesthood oversight!  Too soon?

[5] I think he meant to say “shrinking violets” unless this “meeting” was at a stake dance.

[6] Be patient with the local leaders that we’ve whipped into an anti-doubt, anti-feminism frenzy, many of whom will do anything to be perceived as obedient and aligned to church leadership.

[7] And I’m clearly tired of being a human shield in the war against feminism.

[8] So if you don’t like this letter, you are against church leaders who sanction everything I say because I can’t freelance.  But if you have a beef with the church’s stance on women, your local leaders are to blame because they freelance.

[9] I promise I’m not just some out of touch old white dude from Utah!  Although obviously neither are the church’s top leaders despite being old white dudes from Utah!

[10] But apostates *spoiler alert* are often cynical and make things personal, whereas people who call others apostates aren’t cynical or making it personal.

[11] Evidence of charity, graciousness and unwillingness to complain:  calling your critics strident outliers so no one will listen to them.

[12] Kathryn Skaggs, who sees gay conspiracy theories in children’s movies, is deemed worthy of a meeting and lauded as representative of the savior’s church, but Kate Kelly, noted champion of global human rights is not.  Good call.

[13] And even for some onlookers, natch.

[14] Breathtaking passive aggression.  Only in Utah.  Unfortunately, biblical scholars don’t back these views of Jesus’ mortal ministry regarding women.

[15] Too bad we don’t have ongoing revelation to get answers to these questions.  Oh well, I guess we’ll never know.

[16] Because you can’t possibly have a discussion on women’s issues while simultaneously ignoring Ordain Women.

[17] So, did he just call his critics liars after complaining that they called his people liars?  I believe this is the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense popularized in third grade.

[18] Camel is delicious.  Trust me.

[19] Something on which we can all agree.

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58 Responses to Public Affairs’ Open Letter to the Bloggernacle

  1. ji on May 30, 2014 at 5:12 AM

    What constructive feedback would you give to Bro. Otterson and Public Affairs?

    I would say, thank you Brother Otterson.

    What do you conclude about the role of blogs in the church today?

    Well, many in the bloggernacle have previously expressed hopes that someone in Salt Lake City reads the blogs. Now, the bloggernacle has official recognition from the church’s PR office. Well, I suppose some blogs do — I regret that Wheat and Tares hasn’t been similarly recognized.

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  2. Joni on May 30, 2014 at 6:14 AM

    Footnote 8 raises a really good point – it’s not very sportsmanlike for the paid employees of the church to shunt blame onto the unpaid volunteers. Not very sportsmanlike at all.

    Anyway, to answer the question, this letter doesn’t really do anything to change how I feel about my role as a woman in the Church. It was dismal before, and it’s still dismal. This letter shows me that the people who weren’t listening to me before are committed to continuing on a path of not listening to me for many years to come.

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  3. Dave on May 30, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not employ a public affairs department, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not.

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  4. MB on May 30, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    I find this letter hopeful and a sincere effort, however imperfect and whether or not I agree with all of it. It advocates for dialogue and charity, both of which are essential. It’s clear that he has taken some time and thought in writing this. This is a good step.

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  5. Kullervo on May 30, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    Why is this coming from the Managing Director of Public Affairs, in a church that’s supposed to have living prophets and apostles?

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  6. Kullervo on May 30, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    It’s a pastoral issue.

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  7. Joni on May 30, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Here’s a question: What blog was Otterson quoting at the beginning of his letter? Does anyone know?

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  8. Jeff Spector on May 30, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    ” suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not employ a public affairs department, either in the New Testament….”

    Actually, he did. they were called Apostles back then and the scriptures are the evidence.

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  9. Earl Parsons on May 30, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    I appreciate Brother Otterson taking the time to write this letter. I am not a member of OW. I’m not sure that ordaining women is the best solution for our problems, but I appreciate what OW is doing.

    I think the crux of the problem is this:
    “Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved.”

    It seems to me that groups like OW form because no church leader will engage them. If the members of this church don’t feel that their voices are heard they will escalate and become more “strident” or “non-negotiable” or “divisive.”

    Why can’t PA and the General Authorities meet with groups like OW? Is our institutional arrogance so great that we don’t feel like we can learn something from someone with a different point of view?

    I also hope that we can all have a more “respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit”

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  10. Mormon Heretic on May 30, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Jeff, then why is Michael Otterstrom making this “open letter”, and not the Apostles?

    Otterstrom’s letter does not make me hopeful, but some of the moves by church leaders lately are moving slowly in the right direction.

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  11. Kullervo on May 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Jeff, then why is Michael Otterstrom making this “open letter”, and not the Apostles?

    Right? Why no apostolic epistle on the matter? That’s what Paul would have done, for certain.

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  12. alice on May 30, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Why is this coming from the Managing Director of Public Affairs, in a church that’s supposed to have living prophets and apostles?

    Personally, I believe it’s so the Brethren can maintain their deniability. I don’t know why the Lord’s chosen would need deniability… Oh yes, I think I do: they already recognize that at the tide of equality and justice can’t be held back and know they will need to be able to have the necessary revelation. I can only hope it will come in the next 5 years and the effort to resist it will not do a terrible amount of damage to the community of Saints in the meantime.

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  13. Last Lemming on May 30, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Personally, I believe it’s so the Brethren can maintain their deniability.

    No, it’s so the members can maintain their deniability. If you disagree with Otterson, you can say (and many have) “I haven’t sustained him as anything” and feel OK about it. That becomes more difficult if the letter is from President Monson or an apostle.

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  14. Kristine A on May 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Mostly just sad my favorite corner of the ‘nacle was not deemed worthy – psh, who needs them? :)

    no really, I’ve been commenting relentlessly at BCC. And I should probably take a break. I do think it’s a step that he addressed specifically the bloggernacle. As for the rest . . .

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  15. NewlyHousewife on May 30, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Joni,

    I searched for “They have been told their ideas won’t work. They have been told they are not important. They have been told they are lesser.” I used those three as they were the only three completed (not edited/cut) sentences from the quote. and the only results are from blogs who published the letter.

    I’m suspecting this so called quote doesn’t exist.

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  16. howard on May 30, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    It appears the church has decided to shame and ignore OW while going around them. It also appears OW is committed to seeing this through. This could get interesting since nearly the entire range feminist of issues require consciousness raising just as many other Pollyanna head in the sand LDS issues. I think OW’s eye opening and consciousness raising 6 discussions may become a game changer as they are proselytizing sister to sister to sister to sister to sister and the fact based memes eventually go vital. Gee, what will happen to the church as we know it if the “read the facts and think for yourself” virus becomes contagious and spread to the men too?

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  17. alice on May 30, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    No, it’s so the members can maintain their deniability. If you disagree with Otterson, you can say (and many have) ‘I haven’t sustained him as anything’ and feel OK about it. That becomes more difficult if the letter is from President Monson or an apostle.

    Do you really think the Brethren are interested in preserving members’ ability to be publicly out of step with them or, at least, the church’s traditional position? They are, after all, aware of this public debate and must project that releasing this letter equally publicly will only add fuel to it.

    This strikes me as a very different tack than drawing the cloak of (non-LDS press) silence over the OW GC event while rapidly releasing info re the Otterson/MWS stand for publication.

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  18. Joni on May 30, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Newly: perhaps it was a blog written by “the poet.” :)

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  19. alice on May 30, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I’m curious why Otterson repeatedly refers to a demand for ordination of women bishops and apostles rather than women priestesses.

    I aware of any women asking to be ordained a bishop or an apostle. Why was that distorted like that?

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  20. Hedgehog on May 30, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    Joni, NH, the quote is taken from this comment on a post over on fMh: (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/05/a-proper-church-on-mormon-women-stand-church-pr-and-listening-and-engaging-in-the-body-of-christ/#comment-1259872)
    Much redacted, but I knew I recognised it. Got 42 thumbs up, which was perhaps why it was selected.
    Its interesting to look at the bits used, and the bits left out.

    Still processing my response to the letter as a whole. Shame W&T doesn’t qualify as an official outlet.

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  21. NewlyHousewife on May 30, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    Found the original source thanks to a helping hand.

    It is a comment on a fMh post, and as expected has been botched to such an extent it does not make any sense in the context it was in.

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/05/a-proper-church-on-mormon-women-stand-church-pr-and-listening-and-engaging-in-the-body-of-christ/#comment-1259872

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  22. Last Lemming on May 30, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Do you really think the Brethren are interested in preserving members’ ability to be publicly out of step with them or, at least, the church’s traditional position?

    To some extent, yes. The Church (via Public Affairs) has drawn a line. Ordain Women finds itself on the wrong side of that line and the Brethren seem uninterested in preserving their ability to be out of step. But there are many others who do not identify with OW, but who would like to see areas of the Church that are currently closed to women be opened up. And many in that group are dismayed at how the issue is playing out and Public Affairs’ less-than-helpful role in it (e.g., Julie Smith at T&S). Those are the people whose deniability is being protected. For the time being, they can be out of step and get away with it. And thank goodness for that.

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  23. Kt on May 30, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Cherry picking……it’s interesting that they take one comment and address that one side of the ordain women argument, “namely that LDS women who describe themselves as feminists don’t necessarily seek ordination, but rather to be genuinely valued and given a voice that is respected and welcomed.”

    They want to assign this to be the root cause of the ordain women push, and it is my opinion that it is not (I am not a part of OW). Some women may indeed feel the same way as the commenter he quoted, but from what I’ve read, many do not. I believe this is a way of getting around the actual issue and making it about something else – respecting women, etc.

    It’s obvious that blogs help advance dialogue. I don’t believe the letter itself does. I think it’s manipulative, and a way to sidestep the real issue – womens ordination, while still seemingly addressing the discontent, whole actually not. It’s almost like they are telling all female members of the church, ‘you don’t need to join OW and fight for womens ordination. You just need to fight for respect and men to listen to you.’ And then next thing we know, more women will be invited to ‘meetings’, and more talks will be given about how respected motherhood is, without any real change.

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  24. howard on May 30, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Please set aside GC and the busy in-town and world travel schedules of GA’s, I know they’re both well-intended and busy running the church and it’s many businesses and let’s take a an x-ray look at the church’s structure. When we view the church as a mortal organization (largely) words flow downward and money flows upward. The words fall into two basic categories; doctrine and how-to. Since the church has received very little new doctrine in our lifetimes the doctrine mostly amounts to GC talks and an occasional redo of manuals written by underlings. Everything necessary to run the local units is delegated downward via written how-to instructions. The ward level is designed around the concept of ministering to each other, so we’re kept very busy keeping each other very busy on a limited budget of about 8% of our tithe while 92% keeps our brethren very busy as businessmen spending most of the 92% on meeting houses. temples, malls ans apartment houses.

    Intellectuals, gays and feminists are an inconvenient and unwanted intrusion to the otherwise finely tuned 1950’s top-down-machine upsetting this delicate balance by demanding the brethrens’ attention, shaming and apologetics leading to short-term-finger-in-the-dike theories like blacks were less valiant in the pre-existance. Given this view I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that feminist issues within the church and their solutions have been defined by the brethren as local. It appears the brethren are pushing back a problem they don’t want to be saddled with, defining it as a local problem the solution can be delegated into the words-flow-downward-automation and voilà problem solved with minimum intrusion at the top! Never mind that the data collected from the faithful and privileged focus groups doesn’t come close to fiting the complaints of marginalized LDS women, they’re just apostates anyway!

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  25. howard on May 30, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    The main problem is the 20th and so far 21th century church sorely lacks revelation. We have only three in the canon and they are all found in the D&C. Section 138 is a vision received by Joseph F. Smith, OD1 and OD2. This issue should constitute OD3

    TBM’s might argue how do I know TSM hasn’t already prayed and received revelation about ordaining women? It can easily be logically deduced. First we sustain him as a prophet seer and revelator. How can a revelator magnify their calling without revealing? So if he has, we should know about it, shouldn’t we? Second regarding OD2 BRM stated

    We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept.

    He said we get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. Not typically by revelation! Contrary to popular TBM belief revelation has been very rare since Joseph died. Third SWK’s experience receiving the wordless revelation that became OD2 required months of work on his knees and wrestling with his own bias to finally receive.

    Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on the couch or while playing cards or while relaxing. I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems.

    Does TSM appear to be on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can? Wrestling with his biases? I can’t see this, if you can please point it out to me. Instead I see attorney Elder Oaks has presented his legal doctrine brief outlining his position on the current state of doctrine regarding women and the priesthood. I’m thankful for this because it defines some parts but it actually created more questions than it answered.

    How do sincere LDS women make a request for revelatory services from TSM as Zelophad’s daughters did with Moses? It seems these efforts have instead been rebuffed.

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  26. Jared on May 30, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    There are many points of view to be had on the subject of this post. I for one, have been expecting all kinds of things to plague the church in these last days, even the current rise of feminism.

    In the early 1970’s I became aware of challenges in history and doctrine. Today, the things I learned then, are a stumbling block to some church members.

    As much of a problem as church history and doctrine are, it may be that issues with women that this post discusses may turn out to be even more of a problem for the church.

    I remember reading the following nearly 50 years ago and wondered if there was anything to it. It’a an odd kind of “dream” but it is in the church’s archives and in light of what is happening in our day I’ll bring it into the discussion. When I first read it, I about threw it out of my collection thinking it could never happen. I only include the part where his dream talks about women.

    Samuel H. Roundy, a member of the Church who lived in Salt Lake City in the early part
    of this century, relates an interesting dream wherein he had a conversation with Lucifer…While the dream’s nature is unknown and is not binding doctrine on the Church, it nevertheless illustrates how Satan’s purpose is to deceive the Saints and destroy the work of the Savior:

    In the year 1925 about February 15th, I found myself one night sitting on one side of a table in my home and Lucifer sitting on the other side. How he came I saw not.

    Roundy: Then you must know that your end is near.

    Lucifer: Yes, I do, but I want to tell you before I am bound, every person that can be led astray will be, and as far as I can, I am going to accomplish my work through the women from now on, and everything in this world will be turned upside down before I am bound [See Revelation 20:1-3. The "chain" by which Satan is bound means the Priesthood coming down from Heaven].

    S. H. ROUNDY, (Signed)
    Unpublished Manuscript , Church Historical Department in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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  27. howard on May 30, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    So Jared, women are not only responsible for a fallen world but also turning it upside down??? You’re painting women as Satan’s minions. What do you suggest? Keeping ‘em barefoot and pregnant? Maybe make ‘em sit in the back of the bus?

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  28. Jeff Spector on May 30, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    “Jeff, then why is Michael Otterstrom making this “open letter”, and not the Apostles?”

    I guess because he was addressing blogs, not members, necessarily. Blogs are part of the whole PR process, not a communication vehicle for teaching doctrine to members. The Apostles communicate via the standard vehicles like conferences and the church magazines. Which I am highly suspicious some of the bloggers do not attend nor read.

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  29. Jared on May 30, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    howard

    You’re better than to come up with something like that.

    Isaiah points our minds to the same idea.

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  30. howard on May 30, 2014 at 6:30 PM

    Jared, I like you bro, but offering an obscure dream like that to gender discrimination discussion is really in pretty poor taste.

    Jeff, I guess you haven’t heard? LDS apostles have join the world of Twitter. They’re really with it guys.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on May 30, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    Jeff: “the standard vehicles like conferences and the church magazines. Which I am highly suspicious some of the bloggers do not attend nor read.” Suspicion confirmed! Well, I do watch conference, but no, I don’t read the church magazines if I can avoid it.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on May 30, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Jared: Feminism is not a plague. It is one remedy for a real plague: sexism.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on May 30, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    Jeff, in comment 8 you said the apostles were the PR department. Now in comment 28 apostles aren’t the PR dept. Which is it?

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  34. Jared on May 30, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    I knew my comment with an obscure dream about women and satan would be in poor taste. My reason for doing so was to draw attention to extreme positions.

    I think it’s extreme for some groups who claim to be LDS followers of Christ to expect thousands of years of established principles of the gospel to be changed by current church leaders as pointed out in Criticism #3 above.

    I hope that the changes in church procedure and clarification to doctrine relating to the role of women, that have been made, and that will be made, by the apostles and prophets will be accepted by church members.

    I don’t like the tone of the footnotes in this post. I think some of them are condescending and ignorant.

    I think Otterson’s open letter is balanced and sincere. The church needs the support of LDS bloggers and this letter is an attempt to obtain it.

    I think the following scripture applies to the members of the church in our day on a broad range of issues.

    10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
    11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

    13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.

    (Book of Mormon | Alma 12:10-11, 13)

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  35. Jeff Spector on May 30, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    “Jeff, in comment 8 you said the apostles were the PR department. Now in comment 28 apostles aren’t the PR dept. Which is it?”

    I said “Actually, he did. they were called Apostles back then, and the scriptures are the evidence.”

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  36. Jeff Spector on May 30, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    “I don’t read the church magazines if I can avoid it.”

    I actually do not read them like I did at one time. The old Improvement Eras are much more interesting anyway.

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  37. Jared on May 30, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    #32 Hawkgrrrl-

    I don’t understand all of the concerns feminist have with the church. I don’t think feminism is a plague. As #34 pointed out, I purposely took an extreme position to make a point.

    My definition of a plague is when church members cease to sustain the apostles and prophets.

    I think Otterson’s open letter was at its best when he wrote “sometimes we don’t handle things well.”

    In my 50+ years of church activity I have experienced many instances of things not being handled well by church leaders at all levels. I have a testimony that church leaders are more fallible than most members have hitherto supposed. That said, I also have a testimony that the Lord is at the head of His church. He told us there is opposition in all things. “All” is a big word here.

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  38. Casey on May 30, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    I like the annotated version of the letter better than the original.

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  39. Mormon Heretic on May 30, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    So Jeff, by your logic, shouldn’t the Apostles be sending the open letter, and not the PR dept?

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  40. Nona on May 31, 2014 at 4:21 AM

    Maybe I read Jared wrong, but I think what he was truing to imply in his comment was that the “coming down from Heaven of the Priesthood” to WOMEN, would be the thing that binds Satan in the Last Days.

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  41. Nona on May 31, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Truing, not truing…dang it!

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  42. Nona on May 31, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Oh goodness…TRYING.

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  43. Hedgehog on May 31, 2014 at 4:33 AM

    That there is a letter is definitely hopeful. I do think at this stage it probably is necessary that the discussion be mediated by public affairs. I tend to agree with Last Lemming, to some extent. It’s difficult to have an open discussion if so many people are going to be jumping in with accusations that those who have issues to raise aren’t sustaining leaders. Though that happening a lot anyway.

    Still the letter isn’t explicitly inviting response either, so much as trying to address the concerns raised by those who observed the recent disparity in treatment of OW and MWS. It’s heartening to find that at least some of those blog posts and comments had been read by someone with the authority to suggest that an official response of some sort really was required. Somebody was concerned about collateral damage, and that at least is a good thing.

    I’m not yet convinced that the concerns raised in those discussions have been properly and fully understood. But it’s a start. Whether the letter was intended as a start however, rather than an effort to close that particular OW/MWS discussion, is a question in my mind.

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  44. Hedgehog on May 31, 2014 at 4:38 AM

    Jeff #36 “The old Improvement Eras are much more interesting anyway.”
    You are probably aware, but for anyone wondering:
    http://en.fairmormon.org/Online_document_index/Improvement_Era/1960-1970

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  45. Joni on May 31, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    I wish that Otterson could have used a less negatively charged word than ‘criticisms’ when laying out the statements he attributes to bloggers. Labeling a statement like “There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive” as a criticism casts the many women who feel that way in the role of critical complainer, and puts the reader on the defensive immediately from the get-go. I would have gone with ‘concerns,’ rather than ‘criticisms.’ It’s rather like when you are engaged in a reasonable disagreement with someone, and they say, “Why are you being so defensive about this? Can’t you just be rational?”

    I realize I may be ‘an offender for a word’ (literally)… but Otterson is a PR professional in the employ of a multinational corporation. I don’t think rthere’s a single word in this letter that wasn’t carefully chosen.

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  46. Howard on May 31, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    Idolated body guarded elderly celebrity apostles manage a multi $Billion a year business and with the help of a Correlation Dept. and a PR Dept. a top-down church who’s members upwardly fund their bricks and mortar investments. Contact with those members is limited to vetted adoring starry eyed TBMs and it is through these carefully controlled and choreographed meetings and carefully selected “faithful” focus groups that they stay close to the heart beat and slumbering minds of the most unquestioning active members who represent but a small fraction of the third of members who are still attending after baptism.

    Where can this scenario be headed?

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  47. […] a safe, or helpful, or positive, or constructive place for many types of folks. I think about how the church is treating women seeking equality, and I am not optimistic. I think about the church’s approach and treatment of LGBT issues, […]

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  48. Howard on May 31, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Isolated not Idolated

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  49. hawkgrrrl on May 31, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Joni: It’s a classic tone argument: “A tone argument is an argument used in discussions . . . in which it is suggested that feminists would be more successful if only they expressed themselves in a more pleasant tone. This is also sometimes described as catching more flies with honey than with vinegar, a particular variant of the tone argument.

    The tone argument is a form of derailment, or a red herring, because the tone of a statement is independent of the content of the statement in question, and calling attention to it distracts from the issue at hand. Drawing attention to the tone rather than content of a statement can allow other parties to avoid engaging with sound arguments presented in that statement, thus undermining the original party’s attempt to communicate and effectively shutting them down.” From Geek Feminism.

    This is why on BCC’s thread I said the title of the open letter was a typo and should have read “Content missing from discussion about women” (not context). We’re instead focused on tone of complaints, and which feminists are acceptable vs. unacceptable based on some broad categorization of tone (bad = strident, demanding), not the actual content of their concerns.

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  50. Jeff Spector on May 31, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    “So Jeff, by your logic, shouldn’t the Apostles be sending the open letter, and not the PR dept?”

    No. The letter was about communication, not doctrine. In the modern Church, the communication and the interface to the Internet and other social vehicles appears to be handled by the PR department.

    If the Apostles wish to send a letter about Priesthood Doctrine and practice, they would. I think Elder Oaks addressed much of it last conference as have others.

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  51. hawkgrrrl on May 31, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I agree with Jeff on this one. Bro. Otterson wrote the letter because he was defending his staff and himself from criticism. He’s the one conflating criticism of PR with criticism of senior church leaders, not that he’s the only one, but there certainly is a difference, even though he states he’s not allowed any latitude to act on his own.

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  52. alice on May 31, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Who’s looking forward to SM this week?

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  53. Brian on May 31, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    As I see the church shrinking in my rear view mirror, I begin to think I need to discontinue reading W&T, and then I read this post with the entertaining footnotes. Nice job.

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  54. Jeff Spector on May 31, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    “Bro. Otterson wrote the letter because he was defending his staff and himself from criticism. ”

    It does have a bit of soap opera-y feel to it with the back and forth. I’m frankly amused at how worked up folks are getting over it. Maybe Congress should force Michale Otterson to resign and see how far that gets anything resolved. :)

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  55. Jeff Spector on May 31, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Hedge,

    “You are probably aware, but for anyone wondering:”…

    Thanks for passing that along. But I actually have a full set. Bought them from Elder Rasband’s brother. They take up a lot of space, though.

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  56. […] of the CoJCoL-dS are not to have unauthorized dialogs among themselves.) He sparked quite a lot of discussion, allegories, parallels, and mixed reviews. Some problems are quite evident from what […]

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  57. Mormon HereticMH on June 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    But Jeff said the apostles were the PR dept. I guess I’ll chalk it up to a flippant comment and Jeff didn’t really mean what he said.

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  58. Ziff on June 2, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Thanks for these wonderful footnotes!

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