Asriel: The Counterpoint Conference hosted by the Mormon Women’s Forum held at the University of Utah was a great event, with lots of thoughtful presentations. I didn’t go to the Mormon Women’s Conference that the Counterpoint Conference was intended to provide an alternate perspective to (Hannah’s notes from the conference are available), but hopefully these notes that Alex and I put together will be useful and interesting to some of the blog readers who weren’t able to attend the Counterpoint Conference (audio recordings from the Counterpoint Conference are available online).
(This post includes two parts – Better Communities/Better Lives: Women Working to Promote the Public Good and The Personal is Political)
Better Communities/Better Lives: Women Working to Promote the Public Good
Alex: Bette Hubrich’s talk was great, if only to show the different forms feminism, activism, and personal achievement can take. I also liked her emphasis on the fact that time will bring peace to current trials, even if it won’t make things right.
Asriel: Useful discussion on dealing with women or minority applications to city council and the importance of sticking to responsibilities. She told a story of serving on the city council when a woman made a poorly prepared proposal to the council.
Alex: Women’s good is the public good. BOOM.
Asriel: She works for the ACLU, and it was really neat to hear her experiences. For me it reinforced that I want to go to law school.
Asriel: Mormonism and moral activism.
Alex: These are my notes on Lorie Winder’s remarks on moral activism:
- What happens to a religious institution that neglects half of its population and doesn’t access their full talents?
- We need scrupulous activism; don’t over/understate the case.
- She considers belief in a God whose mission is to empower fundamental to Mormon doctrine.
- How do we accept our role as self as essence and not get lost in the full spectrum of politicized representation? Recognize that we are children of God above all else and so are others.
- When it comes to selecting what to advocate for don’t ask yourself, “What interests me?” Ask yourself, “What pisses me off?”
- Don’t let others intimidate you. Work to resolve shit. Don’t battle yourself, battle oppression and non-love.
- Lorie Winder attributes her entrance into activism to moral outrage
- “I was told by a former relief society president, without irony, ‘Lorie, you’d probably enjoy being in the Elder’s Quorum more.’”
- Lorie Winder is one of the creators of the All Are Alike Unto God petition. She’s been an activist for over 30 years, mostly in support of female ordination. Her determination in the face of continual stone-walling and rebuff is both inspiring and a quandary. At what point do we relocate our focus? Is this a good or a bad thing, to be so single-minded?
The Personal is Political
Alex: The alternate title for this panel is “Exercising Dominion: Section 121 and the Abuse of Power.”
Asriel: The system of common consent established in D&C has been reduced to a loyalty test.
Alex: As an unabashed fan of Janice Allred, I took copious notes and geeked out a bit. Oh well. JMA 4 prophet!!
– The personal is political, thus abuse of power is intrinsically connected to the personal and systematic orders of power and politics within the church structure.
– Power is relative to agency: enforcing obedience is a coercive use of power.
– Effectiveness in authority is inherent in power itself.
– D&C 121 forbids coercion. This scripture contains a “can” as well as an “ought”, with regard to the correct exercising of power.
– The scripture details forms of abuse of power, which correspond to the following general forms of coercion:
1. Violence: Violence denies temporal necessities, such as food, water, and other resources, as well as safety from physical attack. One uses violence to impinge on agency in an overt manner.
2. Lying: Lying distorts reality and, thus, denies one the full ability to exercise agency due to a limited knowledge or distorted perception of the state of things. Lying is a covert form of agency and is, arguably, more insidious than violence.
3. Systems of rewards: These are systems in which one’s behavior is judged to be right or wrong and reward or punishment are meted out accordingly.
– It is necessary for systems of government to practice some form of coercion, with systems of rewards necessarily being the least damaging, at least physically or emotionally, to individuals. However, while coercion can bring about order, it cannot bring about righteousness.
– Is it possible, then, to exercise righteous dominion? It is, but not with coercion or exercises of power.
– Agency forms the essence of personhood.
– There are three ways in which authority of the priesthood can be used unrighteously and all are connected to violating agency. As outlined by D&C 121:
– covering our sins
– gratify our pride—one can never destroy the intrinsic value of souls or add to your own worth
– exercise control or dominion or compulsion “…in any degree of unrighteousness”—as in, using the weight of ecclesiastic authority to force someone to behave or respond a certain way
– Janice Allred discusses whether or not the term “in any degree of unrighteousness” is descriptive or restrictive; that is, are some forms of coercion righteous (restrictive), or can coercion never be used righteously, but there are varying degrees of unrighteousness in coercion (descriptive)?
– She offers defense of a descriptive reading: i.e. that coercion is antithetical in all forms to righteous use of priesthood authority.
– Personal problems are often centered in temporal institutions and power structures.
– The priesthood is not a governing power.
– The equality of the gospel is valuing, enabling, and respecting the agency of all people; in this vein, the gospel is incredibly egalitarian as it invites all individuals to do good.
– She then lists a series of ecclesiastic abuses and common perceptions which restrict full use of personal agency. These items are not ubiquitous but are wide-spread and encouraged by group-think and social constructs.
– “Because only men hold the priesthood, the priesthood is distorted.”
– Revelation is a gift, not a right.
– Honoring agency grounds all questions and issues.
Asriel: Habits can make decisions for us—they spare us the trouble of thinking.
There are multiple ways to motivate behavior. The group or individual that has the power to use bribery or threats has the power to compel.
Alex: The following are my notes on Alan Eastman’s remarks concerning leadership:
– Leaders can only lead when they have followers and can only lead where followers are willing to follow.
– The force of habits is a powerful way to elicit behaviors.
– Habits are a really dangerous shortcut—they save you the difficulty of thinking and making decisions.
– The church is masterful at creating a cohesive culture in which it becomes enticing for individuals to conform.
– Charisma is a great way to help craft cohesion and social currents.
– The common thread of ecclesiastical abuse is the conflation of the ecclesiastical leader’s authority to act in the name of God with the simple property of being God.
– Excommunication is the constant threat for misbehavior.
– In order to make changes in the church, social constructs must be pushed and circumvented.
– Change within the church cannot come from threats or jockeying for positional power.
– True use of the priesthood is working for the benefit of fellow humans.
– Doing things in a Christ-like manner “ruins so many peoples’ ways of doing things.”
– Leadership still requires leading followers; even prophets encounter push back.
– Is it any wonder why we, as individual members with no positional power or revelatory charisma, have trouble enacting change?
– “The only way to enact large change is long-suffering small change.”
– Creating new social currents; small and consistent waves, not large.
Asriel: He talked on the potentiality of building communities of righteous dominion.
Is it necessary to have a conductor? Is it necessary for there to be only one bishop? Can spouses be equal? He showed a video about the rehearsals of Orpheus, an orchestra with no conductor, and alluded that its success could indicate that, no, it is not so necessary to have a conductor.
Alex: These are my notes on Michael Stevens’ remarks on “Building Communities of Righteous Dominion”:
– Barriers to communities of righteous dominion:
– Knowing: cognitive model deficiencies (limited mental models; lack of examples).
– Cognitive barriers include the false view of obedience as the absolute law, as well as divinity of gender roles, which are false roles of equitable power distribution.
– Is it possible to have an orchestra without a conductor?
– Absolutely you asshole.
-The point is that a conductor tamps down creative space, ambition, and respectful tension in order to enact a directed, central, and necessarily limited construct.
– Self-awareness biases also act as barriers. Unrighteous dominion is the product of benevolent toxicity; leaders are blind to their own privilege.
– Doing: limited skill sets
– Inexperience with or underexposure to resources
– Stevens mentions here something about not everyone having the spiritual wherewithal to withstand a multi-leader environment. I disagree entirely.
– Feeling: affective barriers such as emotions, self-governance, etc. Anger, fear, or feelings of unworthiness might hold communities back internally.
– Being: potential lack of core values and beliefs which are consonant with righteous dominion (i.e. over-coming orthodoxy).
Asriel: Ordinances are not rites of passage or the way to get your name on the roll. They are metaphors of eternal stuff. Whether a voice is a prophetic voice depends on the content, not the identity or calling of the speaker.
Alex: These are my notes on Paul Toscano’s remarks. My feelings on Paul Toscano are rather tepid and I’m quick to write him off. However the following, I felt, were noteworthy observations:
– The inability to comprehend deity is the inability to comprehend simultaneity.
– It’s impossible to have separate roles with equal import (separate but equal y’all) because there is no cleavage in the heavens, there is simply simultaneity; all attributes and duties inseparably connected.
– The words of the prophets are not as important as the effects they have on their listeners.
– All of the problems of the LDS church are laid at the feet of the apostles and the members who are complicit in their abuses. And God will forgive them.
– The primary error of the leadership of the church is that you can judge with their judgment, thus making a mockery of the final judgment.
– Faith has nothing to do with belief or certainty, but with commitment and fidelity.
– It’s impossible to be a prophet, leader, manager, and follower all at once.
– The duty of a prophet is to bring to life stale beliefs, excoriate evil, and act as an advocate for ALL of God’s children.
– Righteous dominion is a dominion of words.
– It takes courage to admit to others the call you have from God to serve others because it seems egotistical; but believe in yourself, respect all others, respect yourself, and do good continually. We all have this call.