Monday, June 05, 2006

BYU Faculty Member Openly Challenges The Brethren On Gay Marriage

Jeffery Nielsen, a part time faculty member of the BYU Philosophy Department at BYU has publically challenged the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on gay marriage. In an op ed piece published yesterday in the Salt Lake Tribune, Nielsen called the “Brethren’s” position on gay marriage, and their call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage troubling, immoral, discriminatory, and based on fear and superstition.

Nielsen begins by proclaiming his loyalty to the Church and Brethren by sustaining them in print, while preparing to thoughtfully question and benevolently criticize them by exercising his moral imperative to do so:
The leaders of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently spoke out against gay marriage and asked members to encourage their U.S. senators to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting homosexual marriage.

As a member, I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as LDS general authorities; however, I reject the premise that they are thereby immune from thoughtful questioning or benevolent criticism. A perfect God does not require blind obedience, nor does He need unthinking loyalty. Freedom of conscience is a divine blessing, and our privilege to express it is a moral imperative.
After reaffirming his support and sustaining of the “Brethren” Nielsen then proceeds to call their position immoral:

When the church hierarchy speaks on a public issue and requests that members follow, it is difficult indeed if an individual feels the content of their message would make bad law and is unethical as well. I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral.
Without reference to specific, supporting scientific studies, Nielsen then invokes science to explain how same-sex attraction is biologically based and is as natural as heterosexual attraction:
Currently the preponderance of scientific research strongly suggests that same-sex attraction is biologically based. Therefore, it is as natural as a heterosexual orientation, even if rare. It seems it might be caused by environmental conditions in the mother's womb, before birth, triggering the DNA to give the fetus a homosexual orientation. Neither the mother nor the child has any choice in the matter; it is a completely natural process.
Is that true? Does the preponderance (meaning greater than 50%) of scientific research really suggest same sex attraction stems from biology leaving an individual with absolutely no choice in the matter? Nielsen argues that, since same sex attraction is biologically based, it logically follows that God and by extension his servants the apostles and prophets would be unjust by condemning a completely innocent person to a life of guilt:

Truly, God would be unjust if He were the creator of a biological process that produced such uncommon, yet perfectly natural results, and then condemned the innocent person to a life of guilt, while denying him or her the ordinary privileges and fulfillment of the deep longing in all of us for family and a committed, loving relationship.

I suppose that if God did in fact create gay people with absolutely no choice in either controlling their actions and/or their sexual preferences Nielsen might have a point; but I don’t think that is the case. God has created the human sexual drive for a wise purpose, to propagate the family structure; however, the human sex drive is one that must be, and has been commanded to be controlled. Life is not one big candy store, from which we are entitled to sample all the flavors. While there may be some biological element involved the fact remains that God has commanded that sexual relationships occur within the bonds and bounds of heterosexual marriage, between a man and a woman.
Elevating the evidentiary standard from preponderance to beyond a reasonable doubt, Nielsen seems to backtrack a bit:

Even if the scientific evidence does not yet establish this beyond reasonable doubt, it seems that virtuous moderation and loving kindness require us to exercise caution before making constitutionally binding discrimination against a whole class of people based only on fear and superstition. In fact, when we examine the statements opposing gay marriage, we find few reasonable arguments. It is not enough to claim that we should oppose gay marriage because historically it has never been recognized. This is the fallacy of appealing to tradition, which was also used to fight against civil rights and equal treatment of women.
So, even if there isn’t a scientific basis for gay behavior, we can’t constitutionally discriminate against an entire class of people because we and the “Brethren” are fearful and superstitious. Besides these are the same arguments used to discriminate against Blacks and women. Never mind the fact that Blacks and women are the true civil rights battles and have little or nothing to do with the so called gay “civil rights” movement.

Nielsen then argues that legalizing gay marriage will actually strengthen traditional marriage, because it will reinforce the importance of committed relationships. Are most gay relationships committed personal relationships? Do most gays even want to marry? Nielsen assumes this to be the case:
Further, to say that gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage and the family without giving any reasons why is the fallacy of appealing to fear. Indeed, once you get past the emotion, it is quite an unfounded claim. How could the union of two committed and loving people negatively affect my marriage? I believe that quite the contrary is true; namely, legalizing gay marriage reinforces the importance of committed relationships and would strengthen the institution of marriage.

Of course Nielsen did not forget to appeal to the separation of church and state. Religious leaders should not offer counsel to anyone that might be considered to be within the realm of the law or politics. That, of course is and should be reserved only for the elected lawmakers. Nielsen seems to be missing the point that the “Brethren” are advocating the people contact their lawmakers on this issue. The fact is that lawmakers in the Senate created this constitutional amendment, not the LDS Church or its leadership. The fact the “Brethren” have advocated a particular stand, on this moral issue is certainly within their rights and not a violation of church and state:
Ultimately, any appeal to religious authority to create law is misplaced. Our Founding Fathers were inspired by their study of history to separate constitutional authority from religious belief, recognizing as they did the potential for tyranny in unchecked religious influence. In our pluralistic democracy, attempting to restrict an individual's rights and privileges based upon a religious claim is a dangerous rejection of our Founding Fathers' wise insight, and it should be unacceptable to all Americans.
The final portion of Nielsen’s article lambasts the Church for its inconsistency on its past practice of polygamy over 115 years ago. His argument is essentially the Church, can’t with a straight face reserve marriage now between a man and a woman, since it allowed the practice of polygamy in the 18th century. This seems to ignore the place of continuing revelation in the Church, and also ignores the real fact that plural marriage was always practiced between men and women, not same sex couples. Nielsen also takes time to complain about the way the Church deals with plural marriage in its history, though I must confess I don’t see how this (even if true) relates to gay marriage today:
As for the statement by church leaders that God has ordained marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, I find it quite troubling. It sidesteps the role of polygamy in past and future church teachings. It seems to me that if church leaders at one point in time, not very long ago, told members that the union of one man with several women was important for eternal salvation, but now leads them to believe that God only recognizes the union of one man to one woman, then some explanation is required. (I am not endorsing polygamy.)

God is not the author of incoherence or injustice, but we humans often are. We in the LDS Church must be more honest about our history, including the past and future practice of polygamy in our official doctrine. This will be difficult, for it will reveal that we have been less than truthful in our public relations, and it will show our inconsistency with current statements opposing gay marriage.

We can no longer afford to teach only what is useful and hope people won't discover what is true. In this day of easy Internet access, a person can find more real history of the LDS Church in 30 minutes online than the same person would in a lifetime studying approved church materials.

This is not right. Too many individuals have suffered a loss of faith when they were forced to choose between the truth or their family after innocently discovering the discrepancy between genuine history and the official story of the church.

We need to trust the membership of the church and treat them as adults, as equals. We are a church of brothers and sisters, not one of the few privileged leaders and the many subordinate followers. There might be a diversity of roles and responsibilities from prophet to Sunday School teacher, but we are all peers with one another and equally irreplaceable in God's thoughts and affections.

Nielsen’s conclusion here is absolutely stunning. Church members are adults. The “Brethren” need to treat them as adults, not as privileged leaders and subordinate followers. Perhaps, Nielsen has forgotten it is the role of the “Brethren” to counsel just as they have for many, many years on this and other similar subjects. We, as Church members are free to choose how we respond. That choice is never taken away from us.

What is most interesting to me about Nielsen’s article is his position as a part time faculty member of Brigham Young University. I think everyone has an inviolate right to an opinion on any matter, Church related or not. Everyone has a right to question the “Brethren’s” counsel; however, not everyone has the right to question and ridicule that counsel in a public forum, when their salary as a part time faculty member at Brigham Young University is paid out of sacred tithing funds. Mr. Nielsen has exercised his God give right to choose a course of action–publishing an article openly critical of the “Brethren.” Now, it is time that he face any consequences that follow. My hope is that there are some.

71 Comments:

Anonymous Ronan said...

Now, it is time that he face any consequences that follow. My hope is that there are some.

Blimey Guy! I understand that being employed by BYU comes with certain requirements, but I applaud the exercise of free speech. Should a professor at a state school never criticise the state because it is paying his salary?

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Ronan said...

One thing that is slightly weird about the OpEd that you didn't catch: note the change of subject towards the end. What was his point? Gay marriage or the evils of correlation?! His former point was made quite well, IMO, and whilst I sympathise with his call for more openness, it did seem a tad incongruous. Nice spot, btw.

Monday, June 05, 2006 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Hi Ronan,
I also applaud the exercise of free speech--one of the benefits of which is of course blogging!

The short answer to your question is no. A professor at a state university should not be fired for criticizing the state. In fact in that scenario I would and do advocate vigorous dissent by faculty members.

Of course the difference is that BYU is not state run--but Church run. There are, in my humble opinion, theological consequences for publically taking the "Brethren" to task and disagreeing with them on doctrine. This is true for run of the mill members like me; but, it is even more true (I would suspect) for BYU faculty. I'm certain you are aware of the "September 6" (or however many there were) who published material deemed offensive enough to warrant their excommunications.

While Mr. Nielsen is free to hold his opinions, I'm not so sure he is as free to publically express them, particularly when they are so contrary to unanimous declarations of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve on this particular subject. This is even more so when he publically ridicules "The Brethren" as he did in this article, while at the same time working as part time faculty at BYU. I'm not calling for his excommunication (those decisions are made way above my pay grade); but, I do believe there should be academic consequences for this opinion piece. And, I believe there is a difference between a BYU faculty member and one employed at a state run university.

Yes, I did catch the disconnect between the gay marriage and the polygamy and history rant at the end. I only gave it a one sentence mention as I, like you didn’t see what it had to do with gay marriage.

Always nice to hear from you . . thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 05, 2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Interesting that he says that he sustains the FP and Qof12 as "LDS general authorities," not as prophets, seers, and revelators. Does it mean anything to say that you sustain them as LDS general authorities?

Monday, June 05, 2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Tom,

Interesting observation. I don't know what that means, or whether it was just an innocent phrase. Good question!

Monday, June 05, 2006 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Even if you agree with him, he crossed the line. He's a goner.

Monday, June 05, 2006 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

you make a great point about homosexual relationships not being monogomous like every heterosexual relationship. yeah right.

if "committed relationships" were the standard for marriage, the senate would be debating the universal dismissal of all marriages, given the prevelance of divorce, adultry and fornication among, gasp, heterosexuals.

remind me, what was the point of your comments. is it that this guy should be publicly crucified and fired for not shutting up? or was it that the brethren are never wrong?

Monday, June 05, 2006 2:40:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Elephant . . .I don't know which do you think it should be?

Monday, June 05, 2006 2:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

i think the point of YOUR comments is that the brethren are NEVER wrong, and that if Jesus Christ himself were to write a letter to the members of the church that go to church, it would be EXACTLY what was read to the members of the church that were at church 8 days ago.

what saddens me, is that the path is so narrow in this church. even if a person were to choose to be gay, an assertion that i find insulting, why cant that persons loyal, faithful and dedicated parent sit in sacrament meeting and not be subjected to such a divisive topic or suggestion as what the first presidency created.

fair enough that a homosexual would simply choose to never darken the doors of an lds chapel, but why would the church choose to ignorantly drive a wedge in the extended family relationships of that person? your assertion that it is because the brethren are right, and that is exactly what the spirit or lord would have them do is, quite frankly, disturbing.

Monday, June 05, 2006 3:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Equality said...

"Perhaps, Nielsen has forgotten it is the role of the “Brethren” to counsel just as they have for many, many years on this and other similar subjects."

You mean like when they counseled the Saints to support slavery.

And when they counseled the Saints to oppose the Civil Rights Movement and support Jim Crow.

And when they counseled the Saints against interracial dating and marriage.

Is that the role of which you speak? Or perhaps you are thinking of when President Grant counseled the Saints in Utah to vote against the repeal of Prohibition. They ignored him and Utah became the state the put the 21st amendment over the top. It seems to me that it is Nielsen who is arguing in favor of the Saints exercising their agency in responding to the current counsel. And for this he is being pilloried on Nauvoo and in the Bloggernacle. What good is it to say we have free agency and we do not have to agree with the Brethren on every point but then to say in the next breath that disagreeing with the Brethren is a disloyal act worthy of firing and/or excommunication.

Monday, June 05, 2006 3:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

Equality, you forgot to mention the church's counsel to oppose the equal rights amendment, because, it was up to the states to determine those details and not the federal government. in fact, when pressed, wasnt that the ONLY reason the church was opposed to ERA? correct me if i am wrong, please.

i must admit my scepticism, Elder Oaks sorta exposed his position on equal rights when he critically and negatively referred to the advancement of women as having levelled the playing field. what a shame. imagine that, equality (not equality specifically as in mr. equality, but equality generally as in fair and equal)

Monday, June 05, 2006 3:55:00 PM  
Blogger MistaBen said...

elephant and equality:

The Iron Rod has a piece that discusses the Church's public opposition to ERA then and support of the current amendment.

But that and the rest of your comments are red herrings.

Nielson can debate and discuss anything the Brethren issue without fear of consequences. That is as it should be.

But to publicly demonstrate his opposition to and ridicule of the Church's official position may be sufficient grounds for dismissal from BYU, or perhaps Church discipline. That seems to be what Guy is saying, and it's correct.

Furthermore, to do all of that based on bad science is entertaining, at the very least.

Monday, June 05, 2006 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

I see some of our friends from the "Foyer" have found us. Welcome and thanks for stopping by. While you are all welcome to comment, I hope you will keep things civil. I can appreciate there are differing points of view on this topic. I'm otherwise engaged at work at the moment, so I won't have time to respond until later this evening to "equality" and "mayan elephant." But, I will.

Monday, June 05, 2006 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Don't kid yourself about polygamy, Guy. There is nothing in the Official Declaration that indicates that anyone has received a revelation, which would repeal polygamy. The doctrine of polygamy is alive and well. Only the practice has been temporarily suspended.

That's, by the way, not only my reading but what I was taught all my life from correlated material.

If we believe in God the creator then the creation is the greatest revelation. Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon. From primates to reptiles and birds, the life sciences document same sex attraction across a wide variety of species.

Of course, people are free to believe the contrary. It's a free country. There is no obligation to be reasonable. As Christians and citizens of a liberal democracy, however, we cannot rely on our biases to infringe on the rights of others. That's not how the Golden Rule works.

But then again, we talk so little about the Sermon of the Mount, may be, it's no longer part of the scriptures.

Monday, June 05, 2006 4:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hellmut, in that paradigm pedophilia is also an orientation that God created. It's natural. So is the inclination that some people have to have multiple sex partners. So is the inclination to steal when we're hungry. So is some people's inclination to become addicted to alcohol. And so on. But in this fallen world in which random chance and imperfect biology rule the day, whether or not an instinct or inclination is natural is entirely irrelevant to the question of what God wants us to do.

Monday, June 05, 2006 6:08:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

To be clear, I was responding to this blurb:

"If we believe in God the creator then the creation is the greatest revelation. Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon."

Additionally, that ignores the whole bit about the Fall. We can believe in God the Creator without believing that all that is is as God would have it.

Monday, June 05, 2006 6:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Queno2 said...

Guy writes that he hopes the author loses his job, and seems to support his being subject to church discipline.

Become I'm trying to avoid negative terms today, instead of responding to Guy, and perhaps pointing out where he fits along the historic spectrum of academic freedom advocates and opponents at BYU, let me just say: Kudos to Nielsen for a fine editorial, and the courage to say some of the things that need to be said.

Monday, June 05, 2006 6:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

tom, congratulations on being the first to link this topic to pedophilia. i understand linking homosexuality to a crime is an irresistable urge among the ignorant.

i hope the owner of this blog has the gentle decency to remove your post as well as mine. if not, perhaps he could open the topic up on a seperate original post on his blog in order to avoid any association with the discussion of nielson, the first presidency letter and the civil rights debate assosiated with both. in the meantime, i hope everyone ignores your ignorance.

with love, mayan elephant

Monday, June 05, 2006 7:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

If this is a first offense for this faculty member, I don't think firing him would be appropriate. Yes, I do consider public opposition to your employer disloyal and thus offensive. As Guy implies, continued disloyalty by an employee surely doesn't merit extended loyalty in reverse.

It seems we should hold a professor of philosophy to a higher standard of argument than we hold most others. The fact that he mushed together his arguments about polygamy/gay marriage and correlation indicates to me more than a logical blunder but rather that he is making a dishonest argument that he knows is flawed. He surely thought through each statement carefully, knowing that each statement would be picked apart in forums like this.

Also troubling was to see these two quotes from the op-ed.

"I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral."

"(I am not endorsing polygamy.)"

So he is opposed to the thing the church has endorsed and endorses the thing the church has opposed.

Monday, June 05, 2006 7:40:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Michael--you may be right. It will be interesting to follow this.

Mayan Elephant: Let me preface my remarks by reminding you the focus of my post was not the merits of same sex marriage, or even the proposed amendment. My focus was really much more narrow. What right did Mr. Nielsen as part time BYU faculty, have to openly criticize the First Presidency (FP) and Quorum of The Twelve (Q12)? And, given that criticism, what consequence if any?

As I wrote in my post

"I think everyone has an inviolate right to an opinion on any matter, Church related or not. Everyone has a right to question the “Brethren’s” counsel."

So, Mr. Nielsen has the absolute right to choose to criticize anyone he wants, including the FP and Q12. Once that choice is made, then a consequence follows. I'm sure you've heard the phrase you are free to make any choice; but, you are not free to choose any consequence.

My only point is that Mr. Nielsen must now face the consequence (if any) of his choice. Given that he is part time faculty at BYU, and given the nature of his criticism of the FP and Q12, I suspect there might be an academic consequence. I don't teach at BYU; however, long go and far away, I did graduate from there. I know the faculty and staff make certain commitments in order to work there. I suspect that one of them is an agreement not to mock the counsel of the FP and Q12 as occurred in this particular case.

As for the rest of your comment debating the merits of SSM, or a gay life style--I have no response, as that is not the focus of this post. If you want to engage in that argument, there are two excellent blogs with a great deal of discussion on those issues here
and here.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Equality: None of the examples of counsel you suggest (other than perhaps the Equal Rights Amendment) were of the same type of counsel I am talking about in this post. Please provide me any evidence of repeated unanimous statements of the FP and Q12 on those examples you cite, and I am happy to respond. As far as I know, they do not exist. At best you might have examples of statements by some LDS leaders on these subjects. Again, I’m not interested in debating the merits of SSM or the amendment on this thread. Please see my reference to other blogs where that debate still rages. Thanks for your comment.

Mistaben: Thanks for the reference to the Iron Rod discussion on the ERA. You did capture the point I was trying to make. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Hellmut: I think I would agree with you about polygamy to a degree; however, I don’t think polygamy justifies same sex marriage, or prohibits the Church from speaking out against it. This was one of the problems I had with Nielsen’s article. Unless you can point me to same sex plural marriages, then I have trouble with utilizing plural marriage as a justification as Nielsen did here.

I also agree with you that I think we do not concentrate enough on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. There were many critical and important truths taught in that sermon, which was essentially repeated when Christ visited the ancient Americas. Thanks for your comment.

Tom: I agree with your analysis that nature creates an urge for multiple sexual partners. I’d shy away from pedophilia as it is such a sensitive subject, and I don’t think anyone, other than convicted pedophiles should be saddled with the label. I understand the point you were making; but, I also don’t want to unnecessarily offend others, like mayan elephant, who in fact took offense to the remark. I disagree with him/her that you in any way imputed that characteristic to anyone, including Mr. Nielsen. Rather your point was that it was arguably a natural appetite of some. Thanks for your comment.

Queno 2: I did not say I hoped Nielsen loses his job. The fact is, I have confirmed that Nielsen has been a part time (one class occasionally) professor in the philosophy department. I don’t think it is in anyway his main source of income. That said, I do believe if there are any academic consequences for his publication, that he should suffer whatever they might be. Whether that entails some warning, censure, or termination as the BYU powers that be might decide–that is up to them. I did say, and I do hope there is some consequence for his actions.

I also did not say Nielsen should be subject to Church discipline. I specifically made the point that those types of decisions are made way above my pay grade. I did point out that others in the past have faced Church discipline for publishing material deemed offensive enough to warrant that consequence. I hope, if Nielsen, is as he describes himself, a believing and active member, that there are no Church discipline consequences. Thanks for your comment.

Monday, June 05, 2006 7:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

Equality, you make several historical remarks and then drop them into the 21st century without any context. Do you believe that the perfect can be the enemy of the good? Frail humans like us often need to take baby steps toward perfection. If you expect us to become perfect all at once you really damn us all. Where is the mercy in that?

Monday, June 05, 2006 7:56:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Bradley: Interesting observation about holding a philosophy professor to a higher standard in terms of argument. I hadn't really thought about it in that way.

Not only is Mr. Nielsen opposed to something the Church has endorsed, as you noted he finds it immoral. That is a powerful statement to make about a stand taken by the FP and Q12

Monday, June 05, 2006 8:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Equality said...

"Please provide me any evidence of repeated unanimous statements of the FP and Q12 on those examples you cite, and I am happy to respond."

So, Guy, am I to take you to mean that the Saints are required only to follow counsel that is given inunanimous statements of the FP and Q12? Nice to know all those GC talks don't mean squat. How many said unanimous statements have there been in the history of the church anyway?

On your point about fredom and consequence, let's extend it and apply it to the First Amendment. If Congress were to pass a law punishing any speech critical of Pres. Bush, most would call that an unconstitutional infringement upon the freedom of speech. Under your rubric, however, Congress could simply answer that everyone is still free to criticize the President; they will just have to suffer a little period of imprisonment if they choose to exercise that freedom. Does that sound like freedom to you?

Monday, June 05, 2006 8:16:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Equality,

No. I mean that on this particular subject matter there have been repeated unanimous declarations. The saints are obligated to obey that which they deem they should obey. The Church can't force anyone to obey anything. One either obeys willingly or they do not.

My point is only that the examples you cited were not the same as the one here. I don't believe, as you state the saints were counseled in your examples as they have been counseled on this subject matter.

You can't logically compare the Church and its edicts to Congress and its laws. There is simply no comprable analogy. When it comes to free speech issues, Congress is obligated to follow the Constitution. Private churches are not. Are you suggesting churches, whether LDS or others are not able to proscribe certain conduct of its members?

Monday, June 05, 2006 8:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

guy. i want to thank you. though i dont agree with all your positions, i still want to thank you for your dismissal of some of the comments above. nothing, nothing, nothing pains me more than the instant association of homosexuality and pedophilia. it is perhaps the most vile and despicable association i have ever seen and it alarms me to see how acceptable such statements are accepted, tolerated, and defended within the lds community. thanks again.

now, bag to the adult swim. you say your post is about nielsen and his consequences that are yet to be delievered. and yet, you said:

"Never mind the fact that Blacks and women are the true civil rights battles and have little or nothing to do with the so called gay “civil rights” movement."

uh, hello!!!!! guy? are you in there? did you forget saying this? what does that little jab have to do with nielsens consequence?

first of all, in the eyes of many you are wrong. this is a judgment on your part and perhaps you stand by it firmly. but, quite frankly, many folks disagree and they are lining up in opposition to the amendment for the very purpose of protecting their own rights. civil rights. the rights to live and love without fear, without condemnation and with all the fiscal and social benefits of a heterosexual.

i think, as you point out in your post, this is comes down to your belief that god disapproves of gay sex and gay marriage but that he approves of heterosexual marriage and heterosexual sex among married heterosexual man/woman couples. well, more peoples' god believes otherwise.

so, perhaps it would be more beneficial for the senate to debate who's god is the right god? we all what those debates have meant to our country and globe.

Monday, June 05, 2006 9:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

ah fercryinoutloud. can i edit my above post for typos? bag/back, insert a know, remove a duplicitous acceptable. whatever eh. you get my point.

Monday, June 05, 2006 9:05:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Mayan Elephant: First I don't mean by my pedophile comments to imply that Tom was attributing anything inappropriate to any one person or group of people. I did not take his comment that way. Rather, I believe he was saying the argument can be made that type of conduct can be considered natural in the context of how the arguments were being presented in this discussion. I don't want to offend anyone, or have others do that. I don't think that occurred. I also disagree that those associations are regularly defended within the LDS community. I don't see that in the online forums in which I participate. You may have a different take.

I did say in my opinion that gay rights are not equivalent to the traditional civil rights battles of the 50's and 60's. There are many individuals who believe this, and it's my opinion. I included that comment only to show that in my opinion it really had nothing to do with the current battle over gay rights.

For example, in California, where I live, gay couples already have the equivalent rights of married persons in terms of adoption, hospital visitation, disposition of property upon death, etc., etc. Blacks and women never had those rights afforded them by statute and had to fight for them over years and years of struggle. It seems to me that gay rights is more a struggle for acceptance of their lifestyle, rather than obtaining rights--since most of those rights are available to many already.

The reason I am hesitant to make this thread a free for all debate about gay lifestyle, or marriage or what have you is that there are already more established and much better developed threads on that already.

Furthermore, I am convinced I will not change anyone's opinion that they hold on that subject, as I am certain they will not change mine. Finally, I just don't have the time to be able to manage such a debate and respond to everyone who might want to go there. So, I've pointed out where you can go have those discussions. I've monitored those threads to a degree, and I'm certain you'll be able to debate away to your heart's content if that's where you want to go.

I'm not sure I agree with your last two paragraphs either. It doesn't come down to who's god is the right god. It comes down to whether one believes there ought to be a consequence in this limited fact pattern to the Mr. Nielsen's conduct and choices. I believe there should be some consequence. I don't know what it should be--but I'm hoping and believe there should be some for the reasons I have already outlined.

Monday, June 05, 2006 9:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

its shameful, but i agree with you that byu should not be obliged to keep nielson. i also agree that the church is not obliged to keep him and they may crucify him as they see fit. they have no obligation to him whatsoever. they can excommunicate him if they want to. its their church, not his, right? its hinckleys university, not nielsons. nielson is just another disgruntled employee, and the employer should be allowed to find a content replacement.

however, it should be disclosed by the university exactly what they expect from their employees. students and parents of students should know the criteria for faculty. and, recruiters and employers should know that students from byu are trained in an ideology, not an art or science.

is that fair?

Monday, June 05, 2006 9:42:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Mayan, We've exchanged enough comments now I feel I can shorten your name somewhat!

I don't see it as shameful at all. Rather I consider it the honorable thing to do. Perhaps you could take this outside the context of the Church and assume some other private organization, not supported by government. If that organization had set beliefs and standards which were well known to its membership-- Yet, some members actively spoke out against those beliefs and standards, even to the point of publically ridiculing them--I can't imagine any such organization allowing that conduct to continue without some consequence. I don't think the Church is unique in that regard.

I won't go down that path of commenting on another person's membership status in the Church. That is not my job. I am not a judge of that circumstance, and am grateful that I am not. I have been very clear to stay away from that discussion as it relates to Mr. Nielsen. Those are issues, even assuming they rise to that level, that are between him, his Bishop and Stake President. I have no further comment on that aspect.

I have never taught for BYU; however, I did graduate from there. While I was a student, for a period of time I also worked full time as "administrative staff" which allowed me essentially many of the privileges that were afforded faculty. When I was there both as a student and as an administrative staffer, I was fully aware at all time what was expected of me as both.

I don't know currently what BYU requires of its faculty and staff; however, I have no doubt but that they clearly communicate to all who are working or studying there just what is expected.

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

thats true. fair enough. its not shameful if byu decides to show him the door. i agree with that aspect. i do think that it is a shame that students at byu are only provided one point of view, especially when that view is this one, something that begs for debate.

i cant help but wonder if nielson is trying to get dismissed/uncontracted.

i too attended byu. i know what it takes to attend there but can only imagine what it takes to be employed there. i was a church employee for a while and recall being asked repeatedly if my temple recommend was up to date. so, i know the drill a bit.

my best buddy from high school was not lds. his mother was a nonmormon professor at the y while i was there. when i consider what has happened to the university since i attended, pre september six, it is no wonder she did not return to the university.

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Mayan Elephant, your response is so predictable. I suppose that since I could have predicted that people would take huge leaps in logic and see my comment as evidence of ignorance and ill will, I should've refrained or toned it down. But at the same time, Hellmut's argument is tired and absurd and we're all adults here. I guess I expected that people would see my point and respond to the point I actually made, not to what they think I must mean or to an argument they think I would make.

When an absurd argument like Hellmut's is made, a good way to point out the absurdity of the argument is to reason within the paradigm set forth in the argument to a conclusion that anybody with half a brain would find absurd. Within Hellmut's paradigm, things that exist in nature constitute a revelation from God the Creator and since homosexuality exists in nature, it must be OK. Well, what else exists in nature? Many other inclinations to do things that, for our own sakes and for the sakes of others, God doesn't want us to do. Some people have inclinations to do some things, other people have inclinations to do other things. Some of these inclinations are good (e.g. to provide for our children), some of them are bad (e.g. to commit adultery), and some of them are really really bad (e.g., well, you know). The point that I clearly made, and the only point that I made, was that the natural existence of an inclination in humans is irrelevant to the question of what God expects of us. If you have a problem with that argument, take a crack at it, but don't infer arguments and connections that I don't make, however convenient and irresistible it might be to do so.

One argument and connection that I did not make is associating homosexuality with pedophilia, nor did I call them equivalent in any way.

Sorry, Guy. I don't usually derail threads. I'm usually a good citizen. I promise.

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Mayan, I don't doubt that BYU students are certainly influenced by the LDS theology and doctrine. I also don't doubt that BYU is a conservative school with an accompanying conservative atmosphere. I think it a bit of a stretch to claim they are subjected to only one point of view. BYU as an undergraduate university has progressed a great deal over the last 50 years. Its business and law schools are nationally recognized.

BYU is not a perfect place. I have my own BYU issues and demons that exist long, long after I left. But, I think students who attend, are able to receive a first rate education if they want.

You may be right about Nielsen wanting to be dismissed. I wondered about this whole thing after doing a bit of digging. He apparently only teaches occasionally, and then only one class at a time. Teaching at BYU is not his primary profession. I wonder how much be played up his BYU affiliation to help make a bigger splash once this hit the press. I'm guessing here, of course.

I would agree with anyone who points out BYU is not for everyone. It is a unique place, in a very unique city.

I'm heading off to bed; but, It's been an interesting conversation. Stop by now and again and say hi.

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Tom, I tried to make the same point, that you were not equating pedophilia with homosexuality. I didn't think you made that connection, and felt it unfair for anyone else to make that connection on your behalf.

I agree with your most recent comment 100%. I do think all too often emotions run so high on these types of issues that we often talk past each other, rather than sitting down and reasoning together.

That said, I've appreciated all the comments on this thread. They've made me think through some more ideas and beliefs.

But, I'm drifting off to sleep, so as I said to Mayan. . .it's time for me to call it a night.

Monday, June 05, 2006 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Oh yeah, Guy, I meant to thank you for pointing out what I actually said in my comment. I just felt like it needed to come from the horse's mouth.

G'night.

Monday, June 05, 2006 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Hellmut said...

You are raising a common misconception about homosexuality and pedophilia, Tom. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to address the issue.

Unlike homosexuality, pedophilia is predatory behavior. Therefore victims have the right to defend themselves and society has an obligation to constrain pedophiles.

Hence there is a clearly defined line between pedophilia and homosexuality, which renders your argument irrelevant: When sex becomes coercive it's unacceptable.

Naturalist philosophy must allow for self-defense. Among social animals such as humans, naturalist philosophy must also demand policies that shelter off-spring. (That's by the way where the fallen condition of mankind becomes relevant. Suffering is not just a matter of intentions. May be, we can explore that in another essay).

The need for sheltering the young is especially relevant for altricious species whose off-spring requires nurture rather than being self-reliant at the moment of birth as would be the off-spring in precocious species. Human beings happen to be an extremely altricious species. In hunter and gatherer society it takes a dozen years for children to become self-reliant, in our civilization some twenty years. Compared to other species that's extraordinary.

Therefore human beings have an especially pronounced need to shelter their young, which must include protection from sexual exploitation.

Regardless whether sex is hetero- or homosexual, there is no analogy between pedophilia and sex between consenting adults.

Since my argument can distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia within the framework of a divine creation, your characterization of it as absurd turns out to be nonsense.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 6:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hellmut, you're responding to an argument I didn't make.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 6:22:00 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

I'll say it again (quoting myself): " The point that I clearly made, and the only point that I made, was that the natural existence of an inclination in humans is irrelevant to the question of what God expects of us. If you have a problem with that argument, take a crack at it, but don't infer arguments and connections that I don't make, however convenient and irresistible it might be to do so."

I didn't say that homosexuality is like pedophilia, and is therefore wrong. I didn't say that if you think homosexuality is OK, you must think that Pedophilia is OK. I didn't even say that I think homosexuality is wrong. I said what I said. Nothing more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 6:37:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

I liked his words, thoughtful questioning or benevolent criticism.

I was thinking, though, about what he said about God being unjust. Life isn't fair. Sometimes we confuse God with life. Things happen that are truly unjust. It's unjust that people are born with birth defects, would it be equally unjust if someone were born with the body of a girl and the genes of a boy?

Things happen, life isn't fair.

I don't understand, but I think we are called upon to react kindly, no matter what. I think we are mistaking kindness and morality. If, as I believe, the church is true, and our church is based on marriage between a man and a woman, if indeed, life is based that way, we have to stand for what's right.

It's right to be kind, but we don't have to embrace things we don't agree with. We can disagree agreeably.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 8:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*If we want to protect Nielson's freedom of speech- we also have to protect the G.A.'s freedom of speech. We can't be two-faced and still claim that we protect freedom of speech.
-Beth

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 8:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

q: Why did Nielson focus ENTIRELY on physical science and completely IGNORE social science? BYU specializes in social sciences- and the overwhelming bulk of emperical data in those disciplines supports the church's current position on the amendment to advocate for children, adults, and traditional family units. It was just too convenient of Nielson to ignore research from the social sciences (including neutral sources).

In academia, there has been a long-standing debate between 'hard' and 'soft' sciences, and this entire ISSUE might just be a playing field for the debate between the validity of physical science as compared to social science. Irregardless of Nielson's vocalizings, the university would have standing to replace him when his contract ends NOT as a result of the editorial, but b/c his reasoning fails to include evidence from sources which do not support his stance. As an academic-his job is to empiracally and objectively analyze ALL variables possible and ACCOUNT for them. His failure to take into consideration other disciplines, other evidence, and 'inconvenient' facts shows a very weak scientific process. That skill a core competency of academics, scientists and those who profess to teach. I would have been equally disappointed in his article if he had arrived at a conclusion supporting the amendment and/or the church- as HIS REASONING does not follow scientific processes. Blogs are chewing him up right and left. Why would BYU keep him when lay-persons can shoot arrows through his background work? If I were to pay tuition for BYU, I'd want teachers with more analytical thought processes.
-Beth

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 9:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cafeteria Mormonism?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger a random John said...

I would think that as an academic institution that BYU would have a rather high tolerance for what its professors say in public. I'm not sure if this crosses the line or not, but I would hope that it is drawn in such a way as to allow for reasonable dissent.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 9:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tolerance for IDEAS, yes, tolerance for sloppy science- no.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 9:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Equality said...

Guy said: "You can't logically compare the Church and its edicts to Congress and its laws. There is simply no comprable analogy. When it comes to free speech issues, Congress is obligated to follow the Constitution. Private churches are not. Are you suggesting churches, whether LDS or others are not able to proscribe certain conduct of its members?"

No, what I am suggesting is that the church cannot proscribe speech and call it freedom. He's either free to have and express a different opinion than the Brethren or he is not. If he is free, then he should not suffer negative employment or ecclesiastical consequences. If he's not free, let's be honest about it. There is no academic freedom at BYU. Lots of people think that's a good thing. I am not among them, but that it neither here nor there. However, don't say that he has freedom to speak but when he does he should suffer negative consequences for that speech. That's my point: if the church wants to curtail speech, fine. But don't do it and call it freedom.

Bradley said: "Equality, you make several historical remarks and then drop them into the 21st century without any context. Do you believe that the perfect can be the enemy of the good? Frail humans like us often need to take baby steps toward perfection. If you expect us to become perfect all at once you really damn us all. Where is the mercy in that?"

Well, my point in bringing up the historical comparisons was to show that in times past the "prophets" have spoken out on social issues and given counsel to the saints on the matter of, for example, slavery. Would a Saint who disagreed with Brigham Young about the duty to support racial slavery be disloyal to the church for speaking out on the matter? For holding a different opinion? Looking back, some forgive Brother Brigham his views on race as a product of his times and culture. But looking back on today, might people not say the same? How is Nielsen any different than a Mormon in the 1850s supporting abolition when Brigham opposed it? Guy's comment that it is different because there was not a statement of the Big 15 on slavery is, to me, an insignifacnt difference.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Hellmut: You're off base. Tom is correct. You are responding to an argument no one made, nor will they. Let's move past that issue, please.

Annegb: Yeah they were incredibly benevolent weren't they? You are right that many times life is simply unfair. You are equally right that we can disagree agreeably. For the most part I think we are doing that. I hope others will as well.

Beth: I too think Mr. Nielsen played a little fast and loose with the science aspect.

ARJ: Reasonable dissent is one thing. Having a BYU faculty member publically call the FP and Q12's teachings on marriage troubling, immoral, discriminatory, and based on fear and superstition goes beyond "reasonable dissent" and in my view does cross the line. He still has the freedom to say what he wants . . .but then there are those pesky consequences.

Equality: He is free to choose to express whatever opinion he wants, as are all Church members. If your expression is such that it brings a consequence, you must accept those consequences. The Church is not a democracy, and has never pretended to be. Most Churches are not.

My point about slavery and marriage continues to be they are not comparable. Joseph Smith did not support slavery. The Church as a matter of doctrine and practice did not under the signature of the FP and Q12 encourage members to support it. Your analogy does not hold up--as there is a very significant difference between the two issues.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Equality said...

Guy, I think you and I have very different conceptions of what the word "freedom" means and are thus talking past each other on this point so I shall let that one rest.

But I think you are drawing an artificial distinction with this idea that because the many prophetic statements supporting slavery and the codification in law of racial discrimination were not made as untied statements of the FP and Q12 while the statements in favor of the codification in law of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are made as united statements means that one cannot reasonably analogize betweent he two. The issue we are discussing (I think) has to do with the extent to which a member of the church may express disagreement with the Brethren on matters of public policy. I submit that my analogy to slavery and the civil rights movement is apt because the church's "prophets" made frequent and repeated statements over the years in support of slavery and in opposition to civil rights legislation and members who expressed a different opinion on those issues were accused of the same thing Brother Nielsen is being accused of here, namely disloyalty to the Brethren. The question is the extent to which a member may express a dissenting opinion on issues of public policy WITHOUT suffering adverse consequences. I am not saying there are no limits or that the limits might be more circumscribed in the case of a church employee. However, I will say that if Brother Nielsen's comments are considered "over the line," worthy of "academic consequences," such that he should be "a goner" as I have seen suggested, then the church is not just intolerant but borders on the totalitarian. Just my NSHO. Thanks for letting me comment here. I do appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 1:41:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Equality: I don't think it’s the concept of freedom so much as it is the concept of choice and consequence.

Even in the most free of societies there is rarely, if ever absolute freedom. Take speech for example, since that is what we are discussing.

In the United States one is not entirely free to say anything they want anytime they want. There are legal consequences for certain types of speech.

If you were to publish untrue statements about your neighbor that implied certain criminal conduct to him or her, you could legally be liable for money damages.

If you were to walk through an airport boarding a plane, and exclaimed that you had a bomb, and intended to blow up the plane, you would be arrested.

If you were to get up during a city council meeting in a time not allotted for public comment and started protesting the Iraq war, you would also face the consequence of being escorted from the meeting.

Placing election signs of your favorite candidate on the freeway on ramps or off ramps is also against the law.

While you are "free" to engage in any of the speech exercises above, there are also legal or other consequences that would attach, and rightly so.

You want to be able to have unfettered freedom of speech in this case, for Mr. Nielsen, without having any of the "consequences" attach. That is just not reality. It is not life.

In Mr. Nielsen's case, I don't think you have a similar situation to the analogy you want to make with some previous LDS leaders and slavery or civil rights legislation. Neither of those social issues rise to the level of sexual conduct (any kind) outside of marriage, or the core definition of traditional marriage--they just don't.

I haven't researched specifically what LDS leaders said what about slavery, or civil rights legislation. My recollection, however, without doing that research is that yes there are some statements by Brigham Young on slavery. Yes, there are some statements by Pres. Benson about civil rights legislation and the movement. There may even be a few more.

As far as I know and understand, none of those statements or similar ones were ever considered to be doctrine as is the concept that sexual relationships outside of marriage is wrong is considered to be doctrine. Or, that marriage is between man and a woman is considered to be doctrine. They are just not the same, and never have been.

But, one freedom we do enjoy is the ability to exchange ideas as you and I and others are doing about these types of issues. You're always welcome to comment here as long as you adhere to the comment policies.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Allen Lambert said...

Nielsen's piece does not merit an assessment of "good philosophizing", illustrating, once again, that mortal humans are usually human (emotional and political) before and above being impartial thinkers (whether scientists or philosophers) -- critical reflexivity is certainly not noticeable from this professor (action rather than institutional position) of philosophy.
There are numerous errors of logic, premises, and evidence, some of which have already been pointed out. Here is my summary.
* Evidence. In fact, science has NOT found a biological basis for homosexuality (either orientation or behavior), not in genes, not in hormones, and not in brain structure. Whether some day it will we just don't know, but certainly not yet.
- The last relevant genetic research published in the journal Science by molecular biologists from Univ. of Chicago, Stanford, and Western Ontario, concluded there is no identifiable genetic link and unlikely to find one.
- Nor has any correlation with hormones yet been found (despite this being the most obvious hypothesis -- that homosexuals could be random outliers in the normal distribution of proportion of various hormones).
- The brain structure studies (most prominently that of LeVay) have not been replicated by other researchers and their methodology so flawed as to have been justly relegated to the dustbin.
- Twin studies have actually come to contradictory conclusions. But even the "best" one is so marginal in strength of association as to be proof of nothing biological. In fact, the findings, such as they are, lend themselves to better explanation by social psychologists (e.g., Darryl Bem, who claims to be bi-sexual himself).

* Logic and Premises. One expl of problematic premise -- assumptions about G-d's nature ("perfect G-d would ....", etc.). Presuming to know and assert anything about the nature and character of G-d short of direct revelation is wholly indefensible. If there be a G-d (which I believe), He is what He is, period; and we can know only what He communicates. Human speculation is just that (and why philosophy can tell us little to nothing about G-d and implications).
That part also contains expls of straw man argument -- where does the "premise" that LDS General Authorities consider themselves to be "immune from thoughtful questioning or benevolent criticism" come from? And what establishes a "moral imperative" to "express" oneself? Etc. (I don't even like the modifier "benevolent" associated with critical analysis.)
Faulty logic is found in the leap that G-d "created" homosexuality (or any other particular characteristic found in minute percentage in this fallen world). This is the old problem associated with Predestination and similar ideas in which nothing exists that G-d did not create. The alternative, of course, is that the Lord established a system and process and what happens does so on its own, including random variations from "norm" (ranging from animals with two heads to no limbs to truly grotesque manifestations of biology gone haywire) as well as evil in the world (Hitlers, etc.). Further, to treat something as "natural" simply because it occurs in nature and then assign it moral goodness is well rejected as faulty logic.
What leads Nielsen to imply that the Lord "condemns the innocent" and "denies ... ordinary privileges ...?" And how does he presume to tell the Lord what constitutes justice ("G-d would be unjust if He ....")
What makes him think marriage is a "right" and inherent at that? Rights in society are granted by and thru the state; they are not inherent. Whether marriage ought to be a universal right or a status reserved to specific qualifications is an open philosophical and political question.
Why ought marriage even be subject to state regulation? Maybe it should be reserved to communities or religious institutions.
Why does Nielsen assume that the only reason for opposing homosexual marriages is "fear and superstition"?
I happen to agree with him that this Constitutional amendment would be "bad law", but my reasons seem to be different from his. And being "bad law" does not make it "immoral". (I would argue that a Constitutional amendment would be bad political philosophy, i.e., a design of governance with which I disagree, for various sociological and political reasons, including the fact that federal law has been used unjustly against Mormons, especially in polygamy.)
I also agree with him that it is inconsistent for Church to promote a "one man one woman" definition of marriage given that the Lord has promoted polygamy under certain circumstances, including apparently Celestial society. But he does not make this case as well as it could be made.
In short, his factual and moral argument are flawed and weak. That does not mean that there is a good case in favor of this particular (or any) Constitutional amendment regarding marriage has been or could be made.

Allen Lambert
Ithaca, NY

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth-
Brother Nielson is writing an editorial, his opinion, what he believes, not an article for a professional journal. I don't claim to know the ins and outs of the academic world, but I can't imagine it would be common practice to deem someone a university took the pains to qualify and hire, unfit to continue because he didn't 'present the other side' or give adequate scientific backup for statements made in an editorial.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

The following comment was posted by Mayan Elephant; however, since Blogger doesn't really give me an option to edit comments I had to copy it, then modify it just slightly and then re post it below. In the future, however, I will just delete the entire comment. Please try to construct your arguments without having to resort to profanity:

allen,

you make the biggest flawed assumption of all - that there is a god that has any influence on the sexual orientation of even one single human on earth. for this you have no scientific proof. none. not a bit. none whatsoever. zero. nada. zilch.

perhaps there is a god, but you don’t have scientific proof.

so who cares why or how a person becomes or remains gay? it is not relevant. what is relevant, is that some people identify as gay and some don’t. and the ones that do not identify as gay are not one bit better than the ones that do.

so, why is there justice in making a law prohibiting the rights for one person that are accessible to another. and I ask that specificially, though i should say two persons. even if it is one single couple that wants a gay marriage, how can anyone deny them equal opportunity, morally?

the one good thing about this topic is that parts of it amuses me. my mormon parents have been divorced. three brothers have been divorced. we have several out of wed lock children in the family. oh for the awful decay, shame us and condemn us all to telestialness, please.

and why does this amuse me? because for the rest of my life i will publicly declare every divorce or unhappy heterosexual marriage to be rosie odonnels fault, after all, if she had just *chosen* not marry a woman, there would be no divorce in the world.

back to the point. nielson may get fired. so be it. he cant dictate what byu does. that doesnt make byu or the church cool or right or moral or whatever. it simply makes them an institution exactly like all the municipal and corporate examples that guy points out. big deal. so an institution fires a disgruntled employee. why is that even news?

Orignally posted by Mayan Elephant

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 6:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Equality said...

Guy,
For a minute there I had a flashback to Professor Gedicks's First Amendment class. Yes, I am familiar with time, place, and manner restrictions and other limitations on the right to free speech that have developed in our nation’s First Amendment jurisprudence. I never said that freedom was or should be without any limits. I think you inferred something I did not mean to imply. If publishing an opinion in a newspaper’s op-ed piece on a matter of public policy is not a reasonable time, place, and manner of expressing one’s opinion, then where is? You are not really equating what Nielsen did with the examples you have given, are you? I do not disagree that the church has every right to impose standards of conduct for its members. And I do not disagree that BYU can do the same for its employees. I am simply suggesting that if Nielsen's newspaper opinion piece runs afoul of either the standards set by the church or those of the university, then those standards are, in my opinion, way too severe. And for the university to then proclaim that its employees enjoy academic freedom would constitute a distortion of language of Orwellian proportions. Yes, the university could punish Nielsen. The church could, I suppose, do the same if it so chose. But to do so under these circumstances I think would be unwarranted, unreasonable, and wrong. That Nielsen may suffer consequences it is true. If he does, however, I think that will speak volumes about the church and the university it owns, and the story it will tell is, to me, a chilling one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 7:14:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Allen: I would agree with much of your comments, with the exception of the last part about plural marriage. I don't see it as inconsistent at all. Plural marriage has been approved of in certain times and circumstances throughout history. This does not happen to be one of those times. It might be inconsistent if the Church continued to sanction plural marriage as it had in the 19th century. It does not.

Mayan Elephant: I'm not sure you need proof of God to make these arguments. God is accepted, if at all on faith. I suspect few if any individuals in mortality have a perfect knowledge of God's existence.

I do agree with you that those who do not identify as gay are not any better or worse than those individuals who do so identify. I think the law should have the same application to all individuals. I just believe that marriage laws should be reserved for a man and woman. If you are from California, you are likely aware that California law does recognize registered domestic partners, and affords the same legal protections under those laws that married individuals enjoy in California. I support those laws.

I've seen other writings of yours where you have admitted BYU does have the right to discipline Mr. Nieslen if they so decide. So, I believe we are on the same page there. The reason it is news is the manner in which Mr. Nielsen chose to announce his views.

Equality: Yes, using a newspaper to publish an opinion piece is an appropriate time, place and manner exercise for purposes of the First Amendment; however, the Church is not subject to the First Amendment the same that government is. The Church cannot coerce like the state can. The examples I cited were meant only to convey that even the exercise of speech in certain circumstances will have consequences.

Members of the Church and BYU either choose to follow the doctrines, rules and regulations of those institutions or they do not. But I still can't get past the idea that consequences that will follow after those choices are made. This is likely where we disagree.

The manner in which Mr. Nielsen chose to express his disagreement, as I have already argued, crossed the line of freedom of expression and dissent, particularly given his position as a part time faculty member at BYU. I assume there will be some consequence for his actions. What they are should be up to BYU's administration. Given the circumstances of this case, I don't see how it limits academic freedom.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 7:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Equality said...

"I assume there will be some consequence for his actions. What they are should be up to BYU's administration. Given the circumstances of this case, I don't see how it limits academic freedom."

Welcome to Oceania...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 8:29:00 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

I've been wading through these lengthy comments kind of baffled at how, or whether, to respond. I'd like to add just a couple things to mull over.

academic freedom: In America's past, we've gone through periods when the U.S. government has prosecuted professors for speaking out against its policies, and where state politicians and captains of industry were allowed to direct the contents of research and teaching (especially 1918-1940). That is where the concept of "academic freedom" comes from in American culture. It's intricately connected to the purpose of a university. According to the AAUP's 1940 document:

Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.

The debate, then, should be about about what effect it has on the search for truth when professors are told a priori what truths they may or may not explore, express, research, teach, or write about. The problem at BYU isn't a "free speech" issue--in American democracy he can obviously say what he wants. Nor is it a religious issue--the American democracy also allows free association to churches, giving them the right to set their own membership boundaries. It is about the quality of the "search for truth" on a campus that shackles its professors from the beginning as does BYU.

[By the way, BYU's is not normal behavior for a religious university. Notre Dame, for example, tightly controls student groups and university politics, but does not control the content of its professors courses or publications.]

biology of homosexuality: Although much of the research on the biological origins of same-sex desire is pretty much consensus among scientists at this point, there is much that we have yet to learn. That is simply part of scientific uncertainty that drives research and discovery. But Nielsen's gloss in his article apty and succincty states the state of the research.

So the argument here on M&A is a fantastic illustration to gay and lesbian rights advocates as to why the biological argument ultimately fails in the public sphere.

It seems the real issue at stake is a democratic one. Does the majority have the right to impose its lifestyle choices on the minority? Well, sometimes, when the minority's lifestyles cause demonstrable harm. The base measure of harm is a balancing of rights, the classic question, "Where do your rights end and mine begin." I would add to this, with John S. Mill, that offense does not constitute harm. That is, merely being offended is not having your rights curtailed. [Ironically for our present conversation, in On Liberty, Mill used Mormon polygamy in Utah Territory as his illustration of why offense does not equal harm.] So the question becomes does recognition of same-sex relationships harm individuals' rights or cause damage to a society such that rights would be harmed? The burden of proof on that one lies with the proponents of the amendment. There is literally zero social scientific or scientific research that demonstrates anything other than offense on the part of the traditionalists. In fact, tradition is really at the heart of the matter: Seeing society change to make room for homosexuals is offensive to the traditionally minded. [Don't even get me started on how the tradition of "one man/one woman" marriage is a historical fantasy.] And so we wait for any rational, scientific demonstration of the harm caused by recognition of same-sex relationships (about 4-6% of all relationships).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 9:38:00 AM  
Blogger NoSurfGirl said...

Even if it's a completely natural process and most of those with homosexual urges are born that way, that doesn't mean it's unfair to say that we don't condone homosexual behavior. Lots of people are born with organic dysfunction-- if a paranoid schizophrenic ends up harming someone else because of his psychosis, we still don't condone hurting others because his condition is "natural".

Having said that, I do think that many of those with homosexual tendencies are born that way. But some become that way as a result of life trauma. And some just like the culture. That's my completely controversial and politically incorrect opinion.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

surfergirl: who is we? got a mouse in your pocket?

I had trauma as a kid. perhaps that made me straight? i gotta laugh at the inference that homosexuality is a defect. without the trauma the person would have been straight? yeah right. and also, there are plenty of homosexuals that choose the traditional hetero culture. So maybe that is some evidence that it could go the other way, its still not a basis for you to judge.

I suggest reading Goodbye, I love You. by pearson. it may give some perspective on the topic.

hey guy. i love trying to bring this back to the topic. here i will try again.

You are critical of Nielson because he was not faithful or loyal to the brethren. You suggest that he merits consequences for what he did by expressing his disaffection.

well, if the senators of america recieved only a few thousand letters or calls from members. and there are 6 or so million members in the US. What should the consequence be for flat out disregard and defiance of the brethren for those that did NOT write their Senator?

Off with their heads I say. Off with them.

What is the greater sin/freedom? Choosing to not sustain the prophet and being honest about it, and public. or choosing to not sustain the prophet and being a coward about it? What say you? Can we see a copy of your letter?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 6:05:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

J. Todd Ormsbee: I'm not certain I accept your blanket and unsupported statement about the problem at BYU as:

"It is about the quality of the "search for truth" on a campus that shackles its professors from the beginning as does BYU. "

While BYU may not be as prestigious an institution as some of the Ivy League schools, it certainly has improved its national reputation, both in the undergraduate program, and now in the graduate schools, such as the Business and Law Schools. Yes, BYU faculty must adhere to a code of conduct, and if LDS, I believe must also be professed believing LDS members. I don't see how that translates into the quality for the search for truth on campus.

Please provide some sources for your proposition that the search for truth at BYU is so unqualitative that the institution suffers academically. Mr. Nielsen's problem arose not in the context of academic search for truth. In fact his publication had nothing to do with this BYU association, other than perhaps to enhance his ability to make a big splash once published in the press.

In short, I think you unfairly tarnish BYU's academic reputation today with a broad brush, which I think is unsupportable. Otherwise, BYU would be on a par with say Liberty University or Bob Jones, or even ORU, and it's just not. There are at least three, and probably more BYU professors who either actively blog in the bloggernalce, and many more graduates from BYU who also blog in the 'nacle. I have never heard any of the professors complain as you assert in your post:

"It is about the quality of the "search for truth" on a campus that shackles its professors from the beginning as does BYU. "

I also disagree with you on the science aspect of the argument; but, we can agree to disagree on that issue. You will read the studies to support your position, and I will read them to support mine. The fact is, Nielsen's piece was never meant to be a scientific dissertation. It was meant to raise eyebrows, in a charged debate. In that, I believe he succeeded.

NoSurfGirl: Many feel as do you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Mayan Elephant: Your protestations about Mr. Nielsen now ring somewhat hollow with me. Please correct me if am wrong; but, did you not write on another internet board in response to whether in your opinion Nielsen crossed the line:

"interesting question.

yes. I think he has. I loved what he said, but I don’t feel that BYU should be obliged to retain him. he did just slam the president of the corporation of the president."

It is attributed to you, if in fact you did not write it. I have no opinion one way or the other on those who did not write letters to their senators. My letter, if you are really interested is posted here

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 9:55:00 PM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

i did post that

i still dont think that byu owes him anything guy. they are simply a corporation with their own standards.

however, as for judging his morality, which you are careful to avoid but not all posters are, is to me somewhat hypocritical. his response, regardless of the media he chose, is not less defiant, in spirit, than the dismissal and lack of obedience of those members and faculty that did nothing. after all, this was a call to arms, and those that failed to heed the call were failing to sustain the brethren, no?

Thursday, June 08, 2006 6:26:00 AM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

oh, by the way, i would love to see you post on that other board. dont just lurk, take a minute and introduce yourself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 6:29:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Mayan Elephant: Sorry . . . your attempt to draw me into a discussion judging Mr. Nielsen's morality or Church status for saying what he said is not one in which I will engage with you or anyone else. I have enough trouble trying to keep my own life in order and on a path I consider consistent with the Gospel of Christ. We all fall short, myself included. I don't need to be opining on that particular issue, as it would be as you suggest hypocritical.

As for posting on View from the Foyer, I don't forsee me doing that; but, never is a long time. For the most part, from what I have read, the method of debate there is not one I enjoy. There are many comments by many people which I consider to be personal attacks, and ridicule about religious beliefs I hold and cherish. That is not a method of discourse in which I believe, or try to engage.

I may read some posts from time to time there. I was interested to read what you had posted there about Mr. Nielsen, so I could get a more indepth knowledge of your views, other than what you were posting here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 6:44:00 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

Hey Guy, thanks for taking the time to respond.

Universities and the "Search for Truth":
The issue of what constitutes a good and effective "search for truth" has intrigued scientists and philosophers for the past 150 years or so, since formal, modern institutions first started popping up in Germany. Basically, the issue boils down to a debate about the method for inquiry that will arrive at "truth."

Through experience, we have learned that the best way to conduct such a search for truth is a free exchange of ideas, where conjectures, hypotheses, ideas, theories are put out into the 'ether' to be vetted, tested, scrutinized and debated. This is a pretty organic process of back-and-forth, give and take, point and counter-point. What emerges over time is a forward moment toward 'truth' (albeit, a destination that, most serious scholars agree, is an end-in-view that is never fully attained). This ongoing, rigorous dialogue among scholars/researchers keeps things honest, helps minimize the effects of bias (religious, political, economic), and verifies and substantiates results.

In formal academic research, this includes the presentation of research at conferences and the publication process, where audiences of peers (people educated and experienced in the field in question) vet the research for accuracy in data and analysis. Research that doesn't pass muster is rejected for publication and research presented at conferences that isn't methodologically or theoretically sound is stopped in its tracks and the scholar then goes back to rework, redo, re-examine the research based on the criticisms received.

In a an environment purporting to be a University, the very idea that the institution would foreclose certain lines of thinking or expression is antithetical to the method of seeking truth. You can see on its face that it stops the dialogue before it begins. The impact this has on education at BYU isn't a measurable quantity--how do you measure the knowledge or ideas that would have been produced had the University not squelched the speech, research, expression of its professors and students?

I would argue alongside you that BYU has the right, if it chooses, to stop the research of and prevent the public expression of ideas it finds offensive. But BYU and its advocates must then bear the consequences of their policy, which is that the academic reputation of the University suffers, and students graduating from the University are suspect because their education did not occur in an environment of inquiry, but rather in an environment of foreclosed and controlled learning.

As Matt mentioned, you are right that in areas where real inquiry doesn't matter (law or business), BYU's reputation is fine. But in areas where real, rigorous inquiry matters, in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, BYU's reputation has suffered. I speak from personal experience of searching for a professorship after completing my Ph.D. that an undergraduate degree from BYU makes a candidate suspect, both in their abilities to think critically and to deal with the real world. (Luckily for me, I'm gay, left the church 10 years ago, have graduate degrees from other institutions, and peer reviewed publications, so I was able to negotiate these extremely uncomfortable conversations in job interviews.) [Your point about posters in the bloggernacle who are BYU graduates is (excuse my frankness) simply a common error accepting personal experience as evidence.]

What I find both interesting and troubling about BYU's actions against professors it deems unworthy are the focus of the administration on social issues. It seems that professors are fired for feminist or sexual scholarship. It is telling to me that evolutionary biologists at BYU have, as yet, not been losing their jobs; and the BYU scientist who spoke out about the biological origins of homosexuality a few months ago, I believe, is still in good standing at the university. The administration's ire seems aimed primarily at the social sciences and humanities, where its values are (or should be) subject to scrutiny and research.

The Science of Sexual Orientation:
Finally, I actually cannot agree to disagree with you on the science of homosexuality. There is a difference between an opinion (an unsubstantiated claim) and an argument (based in research and evidence). Per the method of inquiry I outlined above, ideas and research must be vetted by experts and verified in further research. The idea that "you can look at your studies, and I'll look at mine" is the anti-scientific stance of post-modern conservatism. By refusing the process and method of science, this kind of anti-science stance creates a false sense that there is no truth or that scientific research is highly suspect. In fact, there are often issues in science of great controversy and contradictory research, but they work themselves out over time, as research accumulates and scientists arrive at a consensus, which in turn stands until enough anomalous observations accumulate to warrant the search for a new consensus (what Kuhn called "scientific revolution" or "paradigm shift"). Anti-science conservatism uses this normal part of science to create doubt where there is none [see public evolution debates for further illustration].

I trust the scientific process, and I trust evidence and peer review, so I am confident in the science as it stands. There simply is no research that has past through the process that casts significant doubt on the biological components of sexual orientation. The closest I can think of is the ex-gay research, which has been put out there and tested repeatedly in numerous studies. What testing of the ex-gay hypothesis has found is simply that the ex-gay process does indeed provide a social support network that allows a gay person to live and behavior in a heterosexual-appropriate way, but does not change the sexual desires of the individual. Again, the process of review and testing in the academic world *works*. I am open to the possibility that future research may demonstrate in a way that we don't know of right now that homosexuality is a choice or a result of childhood trauma or some other causality--in other words, there may be a "scientific revolution" at some point in the search for the etiology of sexual orientation. But the state of the research as it stands now is clear, and Nielsen has aptly and succinctly summed it up.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

A brief clarification in the paragraph beginning "As Matt mentioned", I meant to add a sentence there about the institutional consequences BYU has borne since the mid-1990s (e.g., sanctions, etc., from national scholarly organizations). I didn't mean to leave it as merely my own job search experience. I should also clarify that the problem in taking posters in the bloggernacle as evidence isn't one of personal experience but of generalizing from a limited, unscientific pool to draw a system-wide conclusion.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Allen Lambert said...

Allen Lambert comments:

Mayan Elephant (apparently) said:
“allen,
“you make the biggest flawed assumption of all - that there is a god that has any influence on the sexual orientation of even one single human on earth. for this you have no scientific proof. none. not a bit. none whatsoever. zero. nada. zilch.
“perhaps there is a god, but you don’t have scientific proof. ....”

Allen replies:
Agreed, we have no “scientific proof” of G-d’s existence. Is that a new idea of which we were heretofore ignorant? And why is it an issue here? I am baffled as to why Mayan Elephant makes his statement addressed (presumably) to me in response to my note about Nielsen’s piece. To what part of anything I said is the issue of empirical proof of G-d relevant?

Guy Murray said...
Allen: I would agree with much of your comments, with the exception of the last part about plural marriage. I don't see it as inconsistent at all. Plural marriage has been approved of in certain times and circumstances throughout history. This does not happen to be one of those times. It might be inconsistent if the Church continued to sanction plural marriage as it had in the 19th century. It does not.

Allen replies:
The FP letter offered a PRINCIPLE, not current or other time-bound practice, as the basis for its statement. The statement’s principle does not hold as a principle because of a competing known-to-be-true principle that G-d can and does from time to time call His people to live polygamy. In short, polygamy as a principle contradicts the principle of “one man one woman”as a Constitutional (universal and intended to be virtually eternal) definition of marriage as the only acceptable one.

Todd Ormsbee said...
....
biology of homosexuality: Although much of the research on the biological origins of same-sex desire is pretty much consensus among scientists at this point, ....

Allen replies:
Although Ormsbee fails to specify what view has found consensus, I take it he means the view that there is established strong scientific evidence in favor of a biological basis for homosexuality. NOT SO. Apparently he had not read my piece. The conclusion of extensive genetic research is that no genetic basis has been or will likely be found. This conclusion is so strong that that path of research has dwindled to nearly nothing. And despite much effort, no hormonal differences have yet been found. Etc. Go back to my original piece. So, the only “consensus” is that no biological basis for homosexuality has been found. Therefore, it is not scientifically defensible to argue in favor of the biological view on the basis of current state of empirical research.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 8:10:00 PM  
Anonymous C (What is the world coming to?) T said...

So the question becomes does recognition of same-sex relationships harm individuals' rights or cause damage to a society such that rights would be harmed? The burden of proof on that one lies with the proponents of the amendment.
While this question appears to be a scientific challenge, it is actually an intrinsic value judgment because we must determine what "damage" would be caused by legalizing gay marriage. As LDS people discussing the issue of gay marriage, the distinct values we hold are the key to why so many of us firmly believe that legalizing marriage between homosexuals will harm the rights of most in our society. The Proclamation to the World sets forth the ideal for which faithful Latter-day Saints strive - heterosexual marriage in the eternal pattern established with Adam and Eve, respectful marriages that have partners with different talents, experiences, and spheres of responsibility collaborating to build homes and families where we and our posterity can follow Christ (who, despite some utterly groundless assertions on the internet, never advocated homosexuality or lifelong celibacy). This is our ideal and one which we believe will lead to the greatest happiness (lasting happiness, not momentary satisfaction or pleasure) for all people. Because this is our ideal, we consider it a great harm to sacrifice that ideal to what appears to be a faddish focus on the "right" to not just live a gay lifestyle, but parade it as equal and admirable in front of us and all children. It is also a great harm to the whole of society to force it to subsidize that lifestyle with all the same legal and social benefits of marriage that have grown up through the centuries to support the ideal, but extremely vulnerable, traditional family, thus removing any present comparable legal or social advantage of being in the latter family structure.
There's nothing new about what I'm saying. The ideal we hold of a traditional family is one we learn in church from nursery. I know how many imperfect families there are (I'm from a really imperfect one), but I have also seen how much joy comes from reaching for that ideal with a husband who reaches for that same thing. The thing I most hope for my children is to be able to successfully go after that same ideal. One of the greatest "harms" I see for all children and youth in the world is to be diverted from a focus on establishing a traditional family and instead encouraged to wallow in the filth of sex-obsessed worries about attraction issues and submit to the fear or disdain of relating intimately to the opposite sex that I see in homosexuals. (Blah, blah, blah, flame me now already. I'm not going to read your responses though, because I already know what you think. "It's biological, I can't help it, would I choose this? etc." I still think it's predominately lust, fear, or boredom, with an (un)healthy dose of plain old temptation that gets homosexuals where they are. But that's my opinion, not doctrine.)
As far as the academic freedom issue in this thread, I'll accept that I should worry about academic freedom at BYU when secular universities show the same tolerance of the ROTC and drug law enforcement that they do for Planned Parenthood and underage drinking. Till then, BYU was the closest place to paradise I've been on this planet and BYU administrators can ask people receiving tithing funds to teach there to please not call the prophet and apostles "immoral" in a public forum all they want, and I'll just be grateful rather than concerned.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 8:52:00 PM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

oh boy.
lemme guess guy. are you going to concur that lots of people think people become gay out of boredom? and that makes it ok to think it and pass laws creaming gay people? sheesh

that last post was a wee bit over the top in its baseless assumptions and judgments about homosexuals. but i understand the tone, hetero=good people, homo=bad people.

however, there is a good point made. byu is a business, it can do what it wants to further its business. if it wants more sheeplike followers to feel comfortable there, it is free to hire faculty that will toe the line. as i stated in my first post on this topic that was partially quoted by guy, i am ok with byu doing just that. but, i expect full disclosure on this point. and students, parents, recruiters and society should know that the education is nonsecular in its foundation. it is often nonscientific where it should be. that is fine, if it is disclosed.

maybe congress should take up debating a truth in advertising law for universities and require the educational marketing equivalent that sarbanes-oxley has brought to the financial markets.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Hi Everyone, Thanks for your comments. I appreciate all the discussion. I am following it, and will respond to the most recent comments, once I've had a chance to clear a few real world things from my plate--you know like work and all. It may be a day or two--but again thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Friday, June 09, 2006 6:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Equality said...

Well, here is an example of the wonderful respect for academic freedom and independent thinking BYU cherishes in its philosophers:
http://www.sltrib.com/ci_3932572

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 3:09:00 PM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

well,
the suspense is over.

he got axed.

so much for agreeing to disagree. the philosophy department has another opening. im sure independent philosophers are lining up for this job.

i still think its within byu's rights to fire people for thinking differently than boyd packer. caveot emptor baby.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

J. Todd Ormsbee: Sorry for the delay in response. I'm really only going to engage you on the academic freedom issue, for two reasons:

1. The homosexuality debate in general is not one I really sought in making my original post. It's hard to separate it--I agree. But, as I've already pointed out in prior comments, there are plenty of LDS blogs where that discussion can and is going forward.

2. Unlike you I'm not an academic. I tend to think more along the lines that Allan Lambert has discussed in his comments. I haven't read as in depth as have you or Mr. Lambert. I'm content to let you both argue that point if you wish. I happen to side with Mr. Lambert's opinion.

Thanks again for stopping by. I've read with interest a few of your posts on your blog, including Mr. Nielsen's suppposed response to BYU. I'm still thinking on that one.

In terms of the academic freedom issue, I've commented on it in another post, and I'll refer you to my lengthy comment in response to RT in this thread here.

(it's toward the end). In short, I don't think in the context in which this tempest in a teapot originated, Mr. Nielsen's academic freedom was infringed upon in anyway. Again, I refer you to my comment in the most recent thread on this same subject, referenced above.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger John Pack Lambert said...

Being a believer in the continuation of dialogue, I am posting now over two years after the last post.
I had heard about Nielsen, but had never realized he had gone as far as to claim the Church's proclamation that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God is somehow out of line with "past and future church beliefs".
The latter phrase is totally bizarre. Despite Elder McConkie's apparently firm belief in future polygamy, this is not an official doctrine. Eugene England, who maybe liked to tweak ideas more than neccesary but who never was even close to excommunication, suggested that since way more males than females die before age eight there may be a large over-abundance of males in the celestial kingdom, that might require women having multiple husbands. Fortunantly Brother England was better than many people at presenting his ideas as just notions and not facts.
On the issue of past plural marriage, I think the problem for Nielson and company is they want firm answers where none exist. Sunday School is about teaching doctrine, so it is hard to justify delving deeply into plural marriage when it is currently not such.
The other fact is that despite a century of excommunications people still think the Mormons practice polygamy. So Nielsons gratuitious attacks just fed this lie, without getting anyone closer to the truth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:55:00 PM  

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