Bergeron Equality

I love teaching "Harrison Bergeron," Vonnegut's short-story featuring a dystopia which achieves "equality" by making everyone "the same." Smart people wear devices that chime loudly in their ears, preventing them from thinking clearly, and preventing the less intelligent from  "feeling bad" for not being able to achieve the same intellectual heights.

Beautiful women wear masks, because biologically, some women will never be as beautiful, and it is unfair. The most skilled ballerinas dance with chains and weights, forced to maintain the same degree of clumsiness as their peers.

Rebel Harrison tries to overthrow the system by removing all his man-made handicaps, and likewise "freeing" a beautiful and skilled ballerina. Together, they dance on a televised performance, temporarily proving the beauty of diversity before being shot down by the Handicapper General.

Harrison Bergeron always elicits an interesting discussion from my students on what equality is, and what is looks like in real-world application. Some students decide that equality is bad, because "equality means everyone has to be the same."

I usually use this as an opportunity to talk about how I try and incorporate equality in my own classroom. My average class size is 32. (It's obscene.) In any given class, a few students show a propensity for intellectual greatness. They are probably smarter than me. The majority of students are what I call "average-bright." They are smart and capable...just like "everyone" else, including me. I also work with students who struggle on various levels. Some are very smart, but work with learning disabilities that cause them to process information differently. I would not label any of my students as "dumb," but they are all very different.

So how do I teach the same thing to 32 individuals with different needs, and how do I grade their individual progress in a way that is fair?


For most major assignments and class discussion, I provide choices for how a student proves academic growth. I try and make sure there is a choice for most major learning styles, and ability levels. For example, some students will write a formal academic essay arguing a point central to the novel. Others will write and perform a speech. Some will create multi-media presentations. Others will create original art or poetry.

I try and help each student identify the best choice for their learning needs. But the standard is always the same: Show me what you know about X. As the year goes on, I encourage them to try new choices, and adapt their assignments accordingly. But, they are all learning "the same" thing. The standard is the "same," but differentiated (education word!) to who they are. None of my students are the same, but I'd like to think I work with them as equals.

With the Mormon community's renewed interest in discussing female ordination, the one argument I hear over and over again from naysayers involves some variation on the "Men and women are different! They don't have to be the same to be equal!" theme. There is a lot of Valerie Hudson tossed around (that's a whole other post,) and by the end, I am supposed to accept that because men and women are different, I cannot expect them to hold the same privileges, or Priesthood.

The same naysayers also offer this stunning intellectual insight: Men can't have babies. "Maybe we should start a movement for men to get pregnant!" It would be unfair to both sexes to give women the Priesthood when we can never give the equivalent to men. Except we can. It's called Fatherhood. And yes, I understand that carrying and giving birth to a baby is different than providing sperm. But if men and women are to be equal partners in parenthood, despite biological differences, is it so illogical to make them equal partners in Priesthood, despite those same biological differences?

Of course men and women are different.

But the funny thing about people who rail against gender equality in the church, who claim men are women are just so different and therefore must maintain separate roles, is they actually want men and women to be the same. They are the Handicapper Generals of the church, attaching chains to the legs of any woman skilled enough to both nurture and provide, and chiming loudly in the ears of any man who dares to see beyond his role to "preside" in the home.

According to the current model, all men will want and hold the Priesthood the same way, and all women will produce and care-for children the same way. Their argument, "men and women are equal with different roles" really means "all men are the same as all other men, and all women are the same as other women."

But if men hold Priesthood because women have uteri, what happens to the woman who cannot have children? Can she have the Priesthood, because, just like her male peers, she "can't have babies?" Should we stop giving men the Priesthood until they have children, because women don't get their "thing" until the sperm hits the egg? I mean, if things are already equal in patriarchy land, what do we do when different men and women don't fit the same roles?

Men and women aren't different because of their genitals or their internal organs, men and women are different because people are different.  I am not the same woman as my sister, mother, or daughter. I am not the same individual as my husband, father, co-worker, or friend.

Just as in my classroom, equality in the LDS church doesn't mean making everyone the same. It means giving everyone access to the same standard (Show me what you know about X,) and allowing everyone to achieve that standard in ways best suited to their individual needs.

In a Mormon context, the standard we are all striving for is the same: Be more like Jesus. But the way we get there, the way we show our learning, doesn't involve two assignments determined solely on gender. Instead of assigning the same two paper topics to all the students, imagine a world where women could become more like Jesus by offering a poetic Mother's Priesthood blessing to her sick child. Imagine fathers learning how to nurture their own children, not just "babysit" them while Mom is at Enrichment. Imagine all the original art and poetry we could create by offering the Priesthood to all members.

We wouldn't make men and women the same. We would recognize men and women for what they really are: Individuals capable of eternal progression beyond their physical anatomy.

In "Harrison Bergeron" beautiful people wear masks, so as not to remind others of what they do not possess.  Smart people go slowly insane from the constant ringing in their ears. As followers of Christ, what are we masking, and who are we driving slowly insane each time we claim our anatomy as our destiny? More importantly, who do we shoot down as apostates for daring to dance a little differently than before?


Jennifer Kunz said...

Love this post, and agree wholeheartedly. I'll need to read Bergeron- sounds vaguely similar to Ayn Rand's Anthem.

turleybenson said...


Lost in Translation said...

I love how you write and think. I found myself just saying, "Yes!" every other sentence. Beautifully done.

Nookleerman said...

I must protest. Your comparison to the relationship a father has with his child is inexact. Your premise appears to be, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that women should receive the priesthood because father's can enjoy the same relationship a mother enjoys with their children, negating the argument that motherhood is a replacement for priesthood. I would strongly disagree that a man could ever achieve the level of closeness a woman is capable of reaching with a child she carries inside her for 9 months. No such opportunity exists for man.

Now is it fair that because of this biological imbalance, a social construct restricting a woman's role in the church has been created? I cannot speak to that. Nor do I have a defense against the argument for those women incapable of bearing children. That was a really good point. But I have to say that there is nothing a man can do that will bring him as close to his children as a woman can be. Not to say every woman takes advantage of that opportunity for closeness, but it is an option that is closed to men.

The Dominos said...

I think most people have experienced a metaphorical ringing in their ears when mormon culture overtakes the gospel, and Christ's teaching of love are overshadowed. (Especially Sunday school when the discussion turns to the evils of R rated movies).And don't we literally mask our daughters shoulders and body, taking the focus off the true meaning of modesty? I think most of the time this is done by well meaning people, not necessarily a Diana Moon Glampers type of person, but the effects are the same,

Holly said...

Nookleerman writes

But I have to say that there is nothing a man can do that will bring him as close to his children as a woman can be.

So what? How does that justify making women subordinate to men in so many ways?

And what does that have to do with women's relationships to the people who are NOT their children? Women are mothers to relatively few people. Whereas men in their official priesthood capacity interact with many, many people.

I would strongly disagree that a man could ever achieve the level of closeness a woman is capable of reaching with a child she carries inside her for 9 months. No such opportunity exists for man.

Then let's make some opportunities, shall we? And let's make them IN THE HOME, where the matter is really at issue.

If the problem is that men can't be as close to their kids as women, then let's find ways for men to develop better relationships TO THEIR KIDS.

For starters, the church should say that from now on, all men should stay home and take responsibility for ALL CHILDCARE once a baby is weaned. Being the one who is there when a child takes its first steps, who nurses it when it's ill, who feeds it every day, who changes its diapers most of the time, who bathes it and dresses it every day, will help balance the lack of opportunity to be close to their children that you say men suffer from.

That's what the we'd do if this were really about some sort of balance of roles.

But it's not. This is really about finding ways to justify male authority and domination and female subordination.

Holly said...

Wanted to write a separate comment to say, MCB, I love you. That was the best thing I've read in a while.

Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

Imma have to read that short story now. And somehow it made me think of flowers for Algernon too. (Beyond the almost rhyme w Bergeron).

LC said...

In my mind, the example of your teaching style pretty nicely answers your question. You have students with different abilities. You help each of them individually to reach growth. You don't get them there the same way. They don't all have and do the same things to reach a common goal.

Isn't that a bit how Heavenly Father operates? To some is given one gift and to some is given another. In the gospel according to LC, I think it's that way so we all work together to bless one another.

On a mostly related note, there have been times I've thought, "Man, I do wish I could give my children a blessing," when my husband's not been around and we have had some sort of crisis. With time, I've learned that my earnest prayers can be answered quite equally. I pray in private, and when I feel the urge to let my children know what I hope Heavenly Father will do for them, I pray vocally, with them by me.

I guess I just don't see not having the priesthood as a hinderance to my growth. My access to Heavenly Father isn't diminished.

Natasha Clark said...
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TopHat said...


My sister is adopted. Does that mean my mother can never have as strong of a bond with her?

Natasha Clark said...

I really don't think that having my kids inside me for nine months has made me feel any closer to them than if they had grown in someone else, and many adoptive parents with biological children as well, can testify to this. So, your argument, sir, is silly and shortsighted. And really insulting to dads.

Really, for many women, the opportunity to be pregnant and endure nine months of illness, pain, and turmoil, as well as having the effects upon our bodies last the rest of our lives, makes us feel resentful toward our children. I charge that it's much easier to feel close to a person you only needed to have an orgasm to create.

Whoo, that's a damn good point I made! And neither premise can really be measured or known, so let's cancel them both out and go back to the idea that parenthood is equal to parenthood and there is no equivalent to priesthood.

Holly said...

Isn't that a bit how Heavenly Father operates? To some is given one gift and to some is given another.

Sure. But I've noticed that Heavenly Father gives some women AWESOME leadership skills. He gives some women amazing talents in oratory. He makes some women really great managers. He makes some women totally able to hear revelation. I've known women prophets.

But the church says they can't use or develop those gifts God gave them. In the church, those women are heretics and apostates.

Why is the church in the business of squelching women's talents?

Obviously, pregnancy is a biologically limited ability.

But leading, guiding, preaching, prophesying, praying-- those are not biologically limited abilities.

The church just tries to pretend that they SHOULD be, because ladies can grow babies inside them.

It's bullshit, and I'm calling it.

I guess I just don't see not having the priesthood as a hinderance to my growth. My access to Heavenly Father isn't diminished.

That's awesome. I feel like I've managed to do plenty of growing without the priesthood and that my access to divinity is pretty extensive too.

But I do feel like I've been hindered by the church's blindness, deafness and outright lies when it comes to women. The leaders don't want to hear the women who tell them they are unhappy; they don't want to see problems they are unwilling to address; and they don't want to admit what the practices of the church really demonstrate.

The "let women pray" thing is pretty instructive here: women gave two out of ten possible prayers, for the first time in almost two centuries.

And we're told that 1) women were actually equal before that happened and 2) this inadequate gesture expresses that equality and 3) we're just as equal now as we always were, despite the change and its obvious imbalance.

it's crap. it's all crap.

And the extent of the damage the church has done to women is evident whenever they refuse to ask for the equality that god, who gives all sorts of girts to his children, wants them to have.

Ru said...

I think this observation is spot-on, and not just in regards to the priesthood. Mormons do think that there is only one right way to be a man (mission, priesthood responsibilities, wife, high paying job), only one right way to be a woman (husband, kids, child-and-welfare-based church service). Sometimes people can do MORE than what is prescribed for them, but if you aren't at least doing those things (or if you in any way indicate that you feel the other things you do are AS IMPORTANT as your "primary" roles), you are somehow defective. Single people, childfree people, men who aren't financially driven, men who haven't served in high-profile priesthood positions, women who care about their careers, women who would be better at balancing a budget than baking a cake, the list goes on. You are automatically suspect, distinctly different from the Mormon men and women who fit neatly into their roles.

And as a random side note -- I am always very saddened to hear men express the belief that because of 9 months (during some of which the fetus doesn't even interact with the mother aside from affecting her hormones), they will never be as close to their children as a mother. It makes me really sad for their kids, if they have any, because they have bought into a load of bull crap.

Stephanie said...

@ Nooklerman, I have to agree with others that your argument: women are inherently closer to their children because of a nine month incubation period, is deeply flawed. Especially because it indicates that adoptive parents are somehow doomed to a second-rate sort of love.

It's also interesting to note that the people disagreeing with you most are women, some of whom have actually carried children.

I carried a child, and while it is a magical experience in many ways (and just plain annoying in others,) I don't feel like my relationship with my daughter started until after she was born. Incidentally, that's also the same time my husband began his relationship.

Before Clara was born, I certainly felt a bond to her, it was neat to feel her kick and move, and it was perhaps easier to imagine what having her would be like since I could feel her physical presence.

But while the nine months were wonderful, the real stuff, the important don't-screw-this-up-or-your-kid-will-need-therapy stuff didn't happen until she was born.

That's when the "closeness" came. It came with late night feedings that my husband and I took turns waking up for, and sometimes waking up together for. It came when we took turns rocking her when she woke up crying, and comforting her when she bonked her head. It came from reading her stories and playing with blocks. That's a relationship, that's closeness. You can't tell me that my husband won't be as close with Clara because I dad nine months of rib-kicking when he is preparing for a life-time of hands on parenting.

Incidentally, for whatever reason, my child will not fall asleep when I try and rock her to sleep. She won't. She hasn't been able to do so since she was three months old.

It always, always has to be in the arms of her dad. He can soothe her in a way I can't, and I'm a darn good mom.

That's a closeness I'll never have, but I have other things. It's how co-parenting works, you work together for the best results for your kid.

Stephanie said...

So basically, with due respect, perhaps your premise of father-child relationships is wrong. I feel like women should have equal access to the Priesthood because mothers and fathers have equal opportunity to develop equally strong relationships with their children.

I watched my Dad do it. I watch my husband do it. I watch people do it everyday. Maybe you don't, but that's your bag.

Cait said...

This is a beautiful post! I know some have already said that, but I just have to add to the praise. You have a way of words.

Nookleerman said...

Stephanie, You are absolutely right. I am speaking from my own singular perspective, and maybe I've gotten this whole parenting thing all wrong. But I can tell you I have been through the birthing experience next to my wife three times, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for my children. I love them with all my heart and I wouldn't think twice about stepping in front of bullet to protect them.

That being said, my own desire for a relationship that my wife has with them does nothing to create such a relationship. And in response to another poster, such an opportunity can't be created for me, because I cannot carry a child.

This has been my experience. My wife, overjoyed at the opportunity to carry life within her, has treasured each ad every one of her pregnancies. She has told me how she recognized personality traits in her unborn children, from their stubbornness to waking in the morning to their resistance to intrusion into "their space" when she would rest her arm on her stomach. Each was unique, and try as she might to include me, I never had a chance to know them like she did. Before they were born, she was already forming a relationship. It breaks my heart that I can never know my children on such a personal, intimate, and exclusive one-on-one level. Yes I can be there for them when they have an owie, or feed them and clothe them and hug them. But no amount of love I show will prevent them for crying out for mommy when they are scared in the middle of the night.

You all probably see me as just another oppressive man, trying to cleverly throw your argument back in your face, but the truth is I couldn't care less about you having the priesthood. I have no interest in standing in the way of such an endeavor. I just saw what has been a gross disparity in my life being belittled and tossed aside as unimportant in your blog post, so I felt compelled to speak up.

Holly, if you bothered to read the second paragraph of my post, you would see that I don't think that such an imbalance is a justification for preventing women from receiving the priesthood. I'm just sick of you all saying it doesn't exist, or can be overcome if it does.

Holly said...

Holly, if you bothered to read the second paragraph of my post, you would see that I don't think that such an imbalance is a justification for preventing women from receiving the priesthood.

No, Nookleerman, I would see that you "cannot speak to that."

I also see from your most recent comment that you "couldn't care less about you having the priesthood."

There's nothing in anything you've written that affirms the right of women to have the priesthood, or that suggests that you "don't think that such an imbalance is a justification for preventing women from receiving the priesthood." You express contempt for the whole question.

You write, "I just saw what has been a gross disparity in my life being belittled and tossed aside as unimportant in your blog post, so I felt compelled to speak up."

How does Stephanie "belittle and toss aside as unimportant" this difference? She writes,

"I understand that carrying and giving birth to a baby is different than providing sperm. But if men and women are to be equal partners in parenthood, despite biological differences, is it so illogical to make them equal partners in Priesthood, despite those same biological differences?"

After all, she is using the church's rhetoric. If she does indeed "belittle and toss aside as unimportant" your grossly inferior relationships to your children, it is because the church insists that parenting roles are equal and one is not privileged over the other.

So perhaps we could better account for and address your inferior experience if the church were honest about what is really going on in the family and gender roles it prescribes and enshrines.

"You all probably see me as just another oppressive man, trying to cleverly throw your argument back in your face."

Not so much the cleverly part.

melissa34 said...

I have read your blog for some time and have wanted to comment frequently. Thank you for giving me a point of view that is nothing like my point of view. You stretch my thinking and help me to really think about what I believe and why I believe it. We definitely see the world from very different perspectives, but that is ok.

Mungagungadin said...

I never regret reading your posts. Always well reasoned, always bravely spoken and clearly articulated.

mere said...

this is by far your best best best post ever. I mean, I haven't read all of your posts, But this was, without a doubt, the best. So layered, poignant, clear and articulate, easy to understand but yet mind-blowing. I love you.

Rich Alger said...

I haven't read all the comments. I wonder if you will give me license to relate my experience in relation to same-sex marriage. In 2008, Prop 8 came out, in Arizona we had a similar proposition on our ballot. The church asked us, asked me since I live in AZ, to support it the best I could. I did support it. I volunteered to make phone calls. To get people to register to vote etc.

At work, I changed my yahoo IM status to support it. We used the yahoo IM client for work in those days. One day a co-worker started a conversation with me. He couldn't comprehend why I would be so closed minded as to want to keep marriage from him. He was a normal, nice guy. I used all that I understood to defend my position in as kind a way as I knew. Our conversation ended cordially but with neither of us changing our view.

Over the course of the following years, I learned all sorts of things. I learned that being gay is not a choice for what seems like the vast majority of those identifying as gay. It rocked my world. I had always thought that it was a choice.

Fast forward to today and the last several months. I have a much different view about gays. But my view on marriage being between a man and a woman has come back to my original view in 2008.

Part of that reason, lately has been the reasonings of Ryan T. Anderson.
"Government recognizes male-female sexual relationships because these alone produce new human beings.

For highly dependent infants, there is no path to physical, moral, and cultural maturity—no path to personal responsibility—without a long, delicate process of ongoing care and supervision to which mothers and fathers bring unique gifts. Unless children mature, they never will become healthy, upright, productive members of society."

He has given me a rational basis for the defending of marriage. It fits into my understanding of eternal truth, even biological and social truth in the raising of new, healthy humans.

I do not think that I am done learning in this area. I expect to keep learning line upon line and precept upon precept.

What I have concluded is that I should not discount the words of the "watchmen on the tower". There is wisdom and foresight in them that I do not have. There is wisdom in "hold[ing] fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes"

I know that there is also wisdom in asking probing questions. There is a balance that healthy in my life.

You have brought up some valid points, in my head. Holding fast to the wisdom of the 15 men I sustain as prophets, seers and revelators may trump some of what you say, though.

In my understanding of of same-sex marriage, I was side tracked by the idea of equality. It seems the question I needed to ask was "what is marriage?". When I understood that marriage exists so that the probable result of children that comes from a heterosexual union might have the best chance of a loving father and mother to raise that child, it shifted my view.

It is not about making it equal for other adults. It is about protecting the young. Giving them the best opportunity to be raised to adulthood to become healthy, balanced contributors of the community.

Perhaps there is a similar blinding going on with the priesthood. I see it as possible that there is further light and knowledge to be gained as a church. I am going to take the more conservative path. The one that has born fruit for me, even though it has been nearly 5 years in coming.

Holly said...

Rich Alger: If you want to know what marriage is and what is best for children, read some books about it! Start with "The Marriage Go-Round" by Andrew Cherlin and "Marriae: A History" by Stephanie Coontz. They're both recent books that explain what the world's current definition of marriage is. Cherlin's book focuses in several chapters on what is best for children. You might be surprised at what harms them.

I'll also point out that it's super easy for you as a straight white male to "take the more conservative path," which protests YOUR rights, even as you want to deny those rights to others. And that, after all, is bigotry.

AKB said...

It's so wonderful to see so many more voices on the internet speaking up about this and about many other problems within the church. Thank you so much for addressing this point.

Rich Alger said...

Are you calling me a bigot? I am not sure why. I am saying that marriage is about what has best protected a child's right to a safe and healthy way to grow to be a responsible adult.

I am not talking about my rights. I am talking about the best way to raise children. Governments cannot produce responsible citizens in any way nearly as effective as families can. It is in the government's interest to hold the creators of human life responsible to provide a loving environment to raise that child. Marriage is the least intrusive and most effective way to do that.

Emily Hatch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Hatch said...

Slow clap. You are brilliant. I loved this post.

Holly said...

Rich Alger: Yes, I am calling you a bigot.

You are a bigot.

There are gay couples with kids, you know.

The American Association of Pediatrics has endorsed gay MARRIAGE because that is what is best for children. Check it out: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Same-Gender-Civil-Marriage.aspx

If you REALLY cared about children, you would do the same. Instead, you claim only for yourself and straight people like you rights--the right to marry, the right to raise your children in a home where their parents are married--that you want to withhold from others.

That makes you a bigot.

you are a bigot.

Get used to be called one.

Rich Alger said...

We will have to agree to disagree. Stick and stones and all.

Holly said...

Great, Rich Alger, let's do that. Reasonable people who actually study marriage can consider you an uninformed bigot, and you can think they're wrong, without doing anything to learn more about the topic. If that works for you, sure, everyone else can live with it too.

Rich Alger said...

Does this count as among those that have studied marriage?

"This website presents the latest social science data about how children who were raised in different family types compare, as adults, on a variety of outcomes and measures. It primarily showcases data from the recently completed New Family Structures Study (NFSS), a comparative social science project led by Dr. Mark Regnerus of the Population Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin.

The NFSS drew a large, nationally representative, random sample of the U.S. population of young adults, ages 18–39, screening 15,000 persons and interviewing 2,988 respondents. These respondents were raised in diverse arrangements and categorized in a range of family structures, including step-parented, divorced, intact biological parented, adopted, and single-parented. The NFSS, though, is most noteworthy for being the second-largest probability sample of children of parents with gay or lesbian relationships."

Holly said...

Oh! So you DON'T agree to disagree after all.

I should have known you didn't really mean what you said.

re: the study you posted--just looking at it, I can tell that it's by no means complete. Where is the comparison to children who grew up with two gay parents in an intact relationship?

Instability is indeed bad for children. Instability is what we want to avoid.

Because here's the thing: kids in other countries do better in all of those categories than kids in the US, because relationships in the US are unstable compared to other countries.

Like I said, read Cherlin's book "The Marriage Go-Round." You'll learn a lot.

And before you get there, read this: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1994480,00.html

Holly said...

Took a moment to google the study you cited. here's why it's bunk: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/06/new_family_structures_study_is_gay_parenthood_bad_or_is_gay_marriage_good_.html

Feminist Mormon said...

"...attaching chains to the legs of any woman skilled enough to both nurture and provide"
I think that's an unfair, and well, hurtful statement--hinting that it takes raw skill to do both and those who choose one or the other choose because they aren't capable enough to do both.

I do hope you do a post on Valerie Hudson. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Holly said...

it does take raw skill--and practice, and planning--to provide and nurture. As the US moves away from a manufacturing based economy and as it loses its middle-class, it has become all but impossible to support a family without an education and professional training. Leaving the work force for a time impairs one's ability to provide, in large part because our society refuses to provide things like decent parenthood benefits.

We could do things as a nation to make it easier for WOMEN AND MEN to nurture and provide. We choose not to.

One reason couples are delaying marriage in the US is that they feel they aren't financially stable enough for marriage. They know they won't be able to do things like buy a house, because we have lost the sorts of jobs that support a middle-class.

So as hurtful as it might be to hear that it takes raw skill to both provide and nurture, it's still the truth in our society today. We'll make better choices about our lives if we recognize that.

And it would help a lot if the church would acknowledge the reality of the world instead of trying to get everyone to live according to the family structure of the 1950s, which was frankly anomalous.

Stephanie, PLEASE do a post on Valerie Hudson, if you can stand to read her. I would love to see you skewer her utterly silly ideas!

Teresa Humphrey said...

That was so profound. That was perfect. Thank you. You have a gift.

Teresa Humphrey said...

Well done. So well done.

Ben said...

Holly, YOU are a bigot. A key part of bigotry is treating someone with hatred, contempt, or intolerance.

While Rich Alger leans to the (perhaps) intolerant view in a very unsettled disagreement, which tends to provide a social and economic advantage to his(and my) "profile," he is trying hard to research the issues, and make an informed decision.

On the other hand, you are being a total jerk because he is coming to a different conclusion than you, or maybe worse, because he is a white dude.

Please keep in mind that reasonable minds can differ on the issue. It's not so simple as everyone who disagrees with you simply being unreasonable.

Holly said...

Ben, I readily announce my contempt for Rich Alger's bullshit ideas. They deserve contempt.

It is the right to hold opinions or express ideas, not the ideas themselves, that deserve respect. The idea that the US government faked the moon landing? That deserves contempt. The idea that the Holocaust never happened? That deserves contempt. The idea that some consenting adults aren't entitled to marry? That deserves contempt.

While Rich Alger leans to the (perhaps) intolerant view in a very unsettled disagreement, which tends to provide a social and economic advantage to his(and my) "profile," he is trying hard to research the issues, and make an informed decision.

Nope. Basing your research on the Heritage Foundation and the NFSS doesn't qualify as trying to "make an informed decision." That's why I recommended that he read some books by actual experts in the field instead of stuff from political think tanks.

On the other hand, you are being a total jerk because he is coming to a different conclusion than you, or maybe worse, because he is a white dude.

Nope. I am "being a total jerk" because he is attempting to deny someone rights he claims for himself.

Please keep in mind that reasonable minds can differ on the issue. It's not so simple as everyone who disagrees with you simply being unreasonable.

Delighted to keep that in mind, Benny boy! I have all sorts of disagreements with all sorts of people, most of them quite restrained. There are many topics where I recognize that all sorts of opinions are valid.

This, however, is not one of them. And it's not that I think that by disagreeing with me, Rich is "simply being unreasonable." I think that he's being a bigot.

See the difference? In the future, please keep it in mind.

Holly said...

and just so we're clear: I have no problem with white men as such. I think they are entitled to the same political and social rights as everyone else. I think they should be able to vote and serve openly in the military and marry other consenting adults and buy houses wherever they want and run for public office and be the heads of churches and start their own businesses and be admitted to colleges and hold the priesthood and publish books and take ballroom dance classes and wear whatever they darn well please to church. I think it would be evil to deny them any of those rights and a great many others I haven't listed.

It's only when straight white guys think that they are somehow entitled to deny others the rights they enjoy that I have a problem with them. --Well, that, and when they're super stupid. (Which, I've noticed, tends to make the denying rights to others more common.)

But other than that, I'm pretty much totally fine with straight white guys. Why wouldn't I be? Who on earth wouldn't be?

Lori Embree said...

So before we make a decision about where we stand, consider this as a Mormon: we are HERE because of agency. Because of CHOICE. We may believe until the end of time that marriage is god ordained between a man and a woman, or that men are the only ones to hold the priesthood, but who are WE to deny OTHERS' the agency and choice that are the very basics of our beliefs?

Lori Embree said...

So before we make a decision about where we stand, consider this as a Mormon: we are HERE because of agency. Because of CHOICE. We may believe until the end of time that marriage is god ordained between a man and a woman, or that men are the only ones to hold the priesthood, but who are WE to deny OTHERS' the agency and choice that are the very basics of our beliefs?

the Beck said...

Dear Stephanie, I have known you and loved you since you were a beehive. I have read every post on your blog and listened to the interviews you've given that are linked on your blog and I've noticed there is a recurring theme to almost every post. It goes something like this: "Because I'm a good and decent person, because I'm smart and make well reasoned arguments and lots of people agree with me, the church should change to be what I want. I want women to have the priesthood, I want gay couples to marry and be sealed in the temple, I want an apology over the pulpit at General Conference for past wrongs." Always it's the attitude that God should do things your way than any seeking of how you can better understand God's way. From CS Lewis: " There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "thy will be done". All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened."
I'm scared for you. And I love you.

Rich Alger said...

"reasonable minds can differ on the issue" Thanks, Ben for the defense.

Rich Alger said...

Ryan Anderson to Suze Ornman, “Why do you assume that I’m ignorant? I don’t assume anything badly about you. I just think we disagree. President Obama himself has said that there are people of good will and sound mind on both sides of this issue. I agree with the President. And so I’m not going to call you names. I’m not going to say you’re ignorant, that you don’t understand. ” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A892bj1anME at 6:38)

Holly said...

Rich: I conclude (rather than assume) that you're ignorant because of the quality of the argument you make, because of the quality of the sources you cite, and because you clearly do not understand the issue of privilege.

and also because ignorance is a less appalling cause for bigotry than flat-out malevolence.

Holly said...

Hey, the Beck: You write,

"Always it's the attitude that God should do things your way than any seeking of how you can better understand God's way."

You make the fundamental error of assuming that the LDS church actually reflects God's will. You have no proof for that. I know you will say that you "have a testimony," but that is not proof. Despite the epistemological claims of the church, a testimony is not knowledge. It is only belief, and it is belief shaped by faulty and circular logic, and it is wrong in significant ways.

Because you take YOUR assumptions and attribute them to god, you should be scared for yourself.

Holly said...

Rich, since you care about children so much and what sort of family structure is best for them, what do you do about teen mothers? Research shows that children do better when they are born to adult women rather than adolescent girls. What do you do to reduce pregnancy among teenage girls?

You will not, of course, say that you advocate that we "teach abstinence" and nothing else, because abstinence-only education has the worst failure rate of all in terms of reducing teen pregnancy.

So what do you do?

Holly said...

Stepanie, sorry for the multiple comments. It's early, and my thoughts aren't coalescing as fast as I would like.

Any the Beck, I have a further warning for you. Here's the thing: God doesn't like it at all when people presume to speak for him and tell other people his will.


(see the irony? LOL!)


anyway, you have no clear idea what god's will is for anyone else. We can only do our best to show love to people, which is the only truly clear commandment. And at this point, with the definitions of marriage and family we have collectively arrived at, telling gay people that their unions don't deserve the same legal recognition as straight marriages is hateful.

God moves in mysterious ways, but whatever God and the Goddess want us to do to and for each other, it's to learn to love more people more fully.

It's entirely possible that learning to love gay people and their families is part of God's plan for us, and that Stephanie is ahead of the LDS curve here, and that you are WAY behind it, and that YOU are the one who is refusing to say to God, "Thy will be done."

Stephanie said...

@ The Beck

The thing is, I feel like I'm doing and saying what God wants me to do or say. I did everything you and other church leaders taught me, I searched, I pondered, and I prayed. These are my answers. Just because they are different than yours, doesn't mean they are wrong. This is God's will for me.

I genuinely believe in a God who is "no respecter of persons, neither male or female, bond or free."

I think the people who agitated for the Priesthood to be extended to Black men were doing what God wanted. I think the women and men who are praying and working for greater equality are doing what God wants them to do.

It's nice that you love me, but I'm not so worried that you are scared for me. That's wasted energy, because as long as God and Jesus aren't scared, neither am I.

Stephanie said...

@ The Beck

Sorry, one more thing. The 13th Article of Faith states the following: We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

I love how it talks about ALL things. We hope all things. Not just the things that scare our young women's leaders because they are different. If there is anything lovely, we seek after it. I've endured a lot of things, especially criticism, but I feel like I must be in good company if it means I can keep believing and hoping for ALL things.

Also, the 9th article of faith states that God will "reveal many great and important things." We are not done yet. Who is to say the things I hope and believe aren't some of those things God will reveal?

And lastly, I believe in the 11th article of faith which tells me I must worship "God according to the dictates of my own conscience." I do that every day.

jen said...

I love this post! Beautifully written. Thank you.

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Wettengels said...

It seems like a straw man argument. I'm not sure that the ability to carry a child in the womb is counterpart right to that of a man's ability to hold the priesthood. I think it's a matter of roles. Women are mothers. Men are not. It's true that men are fathers, but the one does not equal the other.

Isn't that what the Proclamation on the Family has always taught? That genders are divinely appointed? Isn't it trivial to claim then that the only difference between men and women is anatomy? Are we at a point where we honestly believe that mothers and fathers are wholly interchangeable?

I don't think any of us would go that far. Motherhood is not the equivalent of Fatherhood. But both experience the joys of rearing children. So too, then, holding the priesthood and being blessed by the priesthood are not equivalent. But both experience the blessings of the priesthood.

It's simply a matter of roles, both equally important, but certainly different due to divinely created differences in men and women.

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Mike and Chels said...

Interesting points you make regarding women having the Priesthood. The way I see it, which you missed entirely, is our biological and spiritual roles. Men are supposed to lead, it doesn't mean that women don't have an equal say, but the man should lead, he NEEDS to. (Or he becomes a bump on a log) (if you want to understand this better, I'd be happy to point anyone in the right direction). The way I see the Priesthood-it is a man's way to assume responsibility and leadership, and feel closer to Heavenly Father. Women are naturally more spiritual and don't need as much encouragement as men to develop spiritual awareness. Like someone above said, as a mom, if their is something I need in an emergency for my child and no one is immediately ready to administer a Priesthood blessing, a mother's prayer would be equally sufficient. Is God honestly going to ignore my needs because I don't hold the Priesthood? No. That's absurd. Why on earth do women NEED the Priesthood? I really don't understand why some women feel they are lacking in "equality" by not holding it. Women are awesome enough without it :)

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Miri said...

@Mike and Chels (which one am I speaking with)?

I avoid the thinking that one class, race, gender is more or less anything else than another. That's where we get classism, racism, sexism, etc. My husband is not a better leader than me, I take umbrage that you say a man NEEDS to lead. Hogwash. I am not more spiritual than he is.

If all women are "naturally more spiritual" than men, shouldn't the most spiritual gender be in charge of this religion???? (How does one measure spirituality, anyway?)

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Sarah said...

I enjoyed your post. I know few people who are on the fence about women holding the priesthood, rather most are pretty firmly on one side or the other, and it can be such a touchy issue. It is critical as it affects how many feel in their standing before God. To wonder if you are just somehow less to God than a man is, is not a small thing. I certainly don't have it all worked out but I feel strongly that the fact that women do not hold the priesthood is not supposed to make us feel like we are less.

I served as a missionary on Temple Square, the leadership was sisters since we were all sisters! Then I served in another mission for four months (standard at the time) and I admit, it was hard for me. The Elders who were my leaders, some were good, and some just were not as solid as the sisters I was used to so I would think, "Girls can do that, and often better than boys!"

Culturally, there are gender issues in the church that feel less than great to me. I'm analytical and fiesty and independent. However, I do NOT identify with feminism, which makes me feel in a land apart.

While men not being able to bear children is a poor explanation about women holding the priesthood, it does seem pretty clear to me that Heavenly Father did in fact create genders, and they do in fact have some roles. And while we are on questions, there are a whole lot of questions out there. Historically, not all men held the priesthood. Obviously blacks could not until a few decades ago, and in Old Testament times it was the descendants of Levi. Beyond priesthood, so many people are born in poverty, war, abuse, and other terrible situations. I think of the very small amount of people born on the earth that knew about Christ and His Church. I wonder why there needed to be an apostasy. I feel like I have more questions than answers, but I really believe that Heavenly Father knows what He is doing. He has a plan and life is very individual and it is somehow how it is supposed to be. I actually believe that this is a church led by the Lord, under the direction of His Father. I don't believe the members or the leaders are perfect or without fault, but I believe the leaders are guided by revelation. The Savior in His ministry did a lot to shake things up in the day, and maybe he'd do the same to us today if He were here, to get us to really think about the critical matters. I think it is great to be thinking, questioning individuals, seeking truth. However, to hear talk of protests and demands makes me absolutely cringe. Who are we to tell Heavenly Father how to run His church?

Again, to my core, it just doesn't seem like the fact that women do not hold the priesthood was ever meant to be a message that women are somehow less. Less capable, less righteous, less anything. Priesthood or no priesthood, women can have a direct relationship to Heavenly Father and receive revelation and answers. I just hope to continue to nourish that relationship. I feel like Heavenly Father does not mind questions and concerns. He wants us to come to Him. To seek and ask and knock.

Sarah said...

Holly, I can tell you feel strongly about these things, and I have no doubt that you are sincere and well meaning. I have to share that while I think we agree about many things and might be able to have a great discussion, your comments and attitude epitomize my struggle with liberal and feminist views. I find too many "liberally minded" to actually be terribly close minded.

You speak of the great importance of loving others, yet rather than feeling love in your tone, I see scores of insults and outright contempt for those who disagree with you. I experience this too much which makes me feel like wanting to close up rather than discuss things (when I'd rather discuss things).

So please, I ask for love, and not hate. I have a question that I am hoping you could give me your perspective on and perhaps help me better understand. You shared: "You make the fundamental error of assuming that the LDS church actually reflects God's will." If someone doesn't feel that the LDS church actually reflects God's will, why is it very important how they choose to operate? Rather than try to instruct or change them, couldn't they just move in the direction they felt was right?

Goldie said...


I imagine Holly's responses would seem a lot more ~loving~ to you if you were capable of empathy + normal human emotion.

Regardless of your beliefs, it takes a special kind of monster to look at everything the church has thrown at the gay community (+ the cultural impact that's had) and still have the nerve to scold someone about showing a bit of emotion in response.

Holly could call Rich a bigot all day everyday for the rest of her life and it still wouldn't come close to causing him the same amount of hurt he caused gay families (especially working class gay families) with his vote.

Yet, here you are getting pissy because someone dared to respond to him by expressing a miniscule amount of "contempt" in the form of an anonymous comment on a blog?

THAT'S what stood out to you as not being "loving"?

Privileged white male skips in and proudly proclaims to everyone that he helped strip a minority group of it's equality... benefits... hospital visits... and you choose to reprimand Holly because you don't like her 'tone'?


It makes you want to 'close up' -?

How do you think you'd feel if you were on the other side of the issue and it was your family that was being directly effected on a day to day basis?

Maybe Stephanie can do a blog post on why LDS attracts sociopaths.


Sarah said...

I never said one word about gay people, although Holly and Rich did. I have gay people that I care about and you don't know a thing about me. All right, thanks for the love. See you never.

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