Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Little Less Like Home

The past 24 hours have been an arrangement of sadness, laughter, and joy.  I have to thank the friends who helped bring in the laughter and joy.  Without their company, I might have spiraled into an all-out rage.

Two members of the Church are being called to a disciplinary council.  These councils are the formal mechanism by which members may be disfellowshipped or excommunicated from the church.

I get that the Church has the right to do this.  I understand why they are doing it.  But in the larger context of the past few weeks, it makes me very uncomfortable.  For me, this is what I see coming from the Church right now:

  1. We're meeting with Mormon Women Stand because this is how we feel proper women of the Church should behave.
  2. We don't meet with extreme groups.  If you have questions about the role of women (or other teachings of the Church), meet with your local priesthood leaders.
  3. By the way, we're likely excommunicating a few of people who have been critical of Church teachings.
So yeah, I feel real comfortable talking to my bishop now.

The thing that I find most frustrating is that it feels like the Church hasn't even attempted any real dialog on the issue.  The closest thing we've seen is Elder Oaks' talk in the most recent General Conference.  I read his talk again this morning to see if there was anything I missed.  Let me share with you all of the new things I learned from his talk-----okay I'm done.  Because he didn't teach anything new.  

Maybe I'm exceptional (I doubt that), but I already knew everything he talked about.  Reminders are great.  I won't begrudge anyone a reminder of the Church's position.  But reiterating your position is not the same as having a dialog on the topic.

For clarity's sake, let me mock up the conversation as it appears to have been had from my perspective:
Ordain Women: We believe true equality requires that women be ordained to the priesthood.
LDS Church: We disagree with your conclusion.
Ordain Women: Perhaps we should talk about this.  Here's are the assumptions and logical processes that led to our conclusion.
LDS Church: We still disagree with your conclusion.  
Ordain Women: Could you elaborate on your assumptions, or tell us where you disagree with our assumptions?
LDS Church: We continue to disagree with your conclusion.  We will now restate our conclusion.   
 Yes, there's a lot of nuance missing there.  There's a lot more going into the disciplinary councils than just pressure for dialog.  But this is the core of what bothers me about the whole affair.  I am extremely uncomfortable with the Church leadership stating its conclusion without explaining how it got to the conclusion.  Would it really be so hard to say something as simple as "We disagree with your assertion that Joseph Smith ordained Emma Smith to the priesthood--it is our understanding that the language surrounding priesthood ordinations and settings apart was not as specific as it is today.  We believe that, in modern language, Emma Smith was set apart to a position of authority."

I want to understand.  I don't even have to agree with all of the logic in order to accept the result.  I just want to see if the logic that led to the result is internally consistent.  With the information that is coming out of the Church (and by information, I mean deafening silence), I can't do that.

I keep hearing people say, "Well how do you know that they haven't prayed about and gotten an answer."  I don't.  I also don't know that they have prayed about it.  I don't know anything.  I haven't been given the chance to understand.  Everything I've heard is just a reiteration of what the current position is.  And that's precisely what bothers me.

Today, I feel a little less safe in the Church.  I feel that people like me, who want more depth and understanding--about not just what, but why and how--are less welcome.  I feel I've lost a part of the refuge that church has been for me the past six months.  Church feels less like home today, and that makes me sad.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mormon Superiority Myths: Infidelity

I'm a sucker for click-bait, I'll admit it.  But my fascination usually stems from a curiosity regarding how badly the headline mangles reality.  So I couldn't resist when I saw the headline "You May Be Surprised How Many Born-Again Christians Use Ashley Madison."

A new survey conducted by Ashley Madison -- a dating website for people already in relationships -- sought to discover the link between religion and infidelity by asking 105,000 of its members around the world about their religious affiliation. More than 60,000 of the respondents were in the U.S.

The implication is that Born-again Christians are more likely to cheat on their partners than those from other religions because they make up 25.1% of the user base at Ashley Madison.  Don't be fooled: they have demonstrated no such thing.  Instead of demonstrating that a randomly chosen Evangelical Christian is more likely to be a user of Ashley Madison, they've actually shown that a randomly chosen Ashley Madison is most likely to be an Evangelical Christian.

Big deal.

If we take a look at the percentages of religions in the population compared to the percentages of religions in the user base, we get a different idea.  Take a look:

Religion Percentage of Population Percentage of Ashley Madison Users
Evangelist 26.3 25.10
Catholic 23.9 22.75
Protestant 18.1 22.70
Agnostic 2.4 2.00
Mormon 1.7 1.60
Muslim 0.6 1.50
Jewish 1.7 1.40
Atheist 1.6 1.40
Jehovah's Witness 0.7 0.50
Hinduism 0.4 0.30

As you can see, the percentages track pretty well.  Statistically, we would call this good agreement between the data.  A goodness of fit tests also indicates no reason to suspect that the distributions differ (p = 0.22).

What's the practical interpretation?  Effectively, all American religions (and non religions) suffer from infidelity in fairly equal proportions.  Well, at least the kind of infidelity where people are willing to pay a website to help them cheat.

So what does this all mean for Mormon culture?  Nothing really.  At most, we might think that Mormons aren't any better behaved than other religions. 

My advice: save your money and take your partner out to dinner.