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I heart Hellmut


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I hate to define an argument in terms of a single guy (except, of course, for the "Pete Morelli Memorial 'Act Common to the Game of Football" Explanation For Why I Can't Handle an Indy Loss"). But I see Hellmut Lotz making this argument around the bloggernacle a lot lately and I just thought I'd offer my view on it. I actually think his point is something that we have to consider. Too often, we see the family as the be-all, end-all of society, which is a bit misleading.

Quoting Hellmut from a recent BCC thread:

"Confusing self-interest for altruism it is not surprising that the Proclamation would lead to these problems. Parenting is selfless in a metabolic sense. We have less when we take care of our children. In a genetic sense, however, parenting is a self-interested activity.

By contrast, in the Sermon of the Mount the savior teaches that we are no better than the heathens if we only love our own. The standard for the Lord’s people is to love their enemies (Matthew 7, Leviticus 3).

If we had stuck to the words of the Savior then we would have been spared the entanglement in hateful and vain struggles against vulnerable minorities under the banner of family values.

The familiy values agenda is a selfish agenda. Its fruits reflect that. "

I both agree and disagree with his position. First, the reasons/areas in which I agree:

1) I don't like the "we like the family, so the Church is true" or "we are the only ones defending the traditional family" claims. There are tons of people, especially in the religious world, that defend the family as staunchly as does the Church.

2) A corollary of number one, the family is important to most people. While I cannot speak in an informed way about non-Western contexts, the family is hugely important in the West almost regardless of denomination/religious preference. There might be more divorces and other negative developments in Western societies, but most people still love their kids. Hellmut is right to argue that loving our children is not a specific reason to single the Church out for praise.

3) In a political sense, the "family values" and "individual responsibility" arguments tend to undercut a need for social conscience. This does not have to be true, but the rhetoric has been blended in ways that are uncomfortable to me.

However, there are lots of compelling reasons that I stop well short of where Hellmut ends up:

1) It is theoretically possible for family values and social responsibility to trade off. However, I don't think it can be demonstrated that this is a necessary relationship. For example, Church members both support their families and pay tithing and fast offerings. While these funds mostly stay within the Church, they do demonstrate loyalty to a unit outside of the family.

2) Rephrasing number one, it is not clear that less emphasis on the family would immediately lead to a greater social conscience. It might, but it also might lead to a society in which we don't even love those that ought to love us.

3) I think this argument conflates the "family values agenda" (which I reject above) and emphasis on the family. The family values agenda doesn't have to be supported by those that take a broad view of their responsibilities to their families. You can still vote Democrat and take care of your kids.

4) Self-interest is not necessarily a bad thing if it leads to good ends. I promise, I'm not having an affair with Ayn Rand. What I am saying, though, is similar to what another commenter noted on the BCC thread: if taking care of your kids is selfish, then the term "selfish" loses all meaning. Even if it is selfish to take care of your family, kids are still being fed, sent to college, loved, etc.

5) As a pretty liberal guy, I agree that the family values agenda is harmful in tons of ways. But what's the alternative? If I want to fashion an alternative, I've got to work within the confines of possibility. Right or wrong (and I think right), Americans are at least conceptually wedded to the idea of "family values" and, more generally, on the importance of some sort of family relationship. I believe it better to dial down Hellmut's rhetoric a bit and say "hey, I support the family too. But we need to look beyond the family to see that there are some societal needs that the family, no matter how perfect, simply cannot meet." This is especially true in circumstances where someone does not have a family at all.

Hellmut, I hope I don't come across as picking on you (especially given the fact that I agree with a lot of what you're saying). What I do wonder is whether the family rhetoric in the Church is actually causing tradeoffs in our interests that might be harmful, especially where women are concerned.


1391 Responses to “I heart Hellmut”

  1. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    If calling the care of your own offspring selfish causes the word to lose all meaning, then perhaps it had no meaning to begin with?

    By contrast, caring for the the offspring of others...or even that of your enemy is much easier to see as altruistic and not so clearly motivated by the need to self preserve and self perpetuate...which I think is the point Hellmut was making.

    I know we often refer to raising children as a sacrifice, but this is only true if you honestly believe that not raising children is of equal or greater value. Most of us who do have children wouldn't think so...so the sacrifice is more a manner of speaking and if push came to shove we'd probably give more than what we have to this point, even our own lives.

    But would we do this for the children of others or for our enemy...if it meant that our own children would lose access to our parentage and we would lose access to them at, at least for this life? Would we take bread from the mouths of our own children to feed those of our enemies? Would we take education opportunities, quality of shelter and clothing, health care, security, etc away from our own children to make sure that others have sufficient? Or would we only give of our excess...and that to those who deserve it in our eyes?

    I don't think there is any question that family life is demanding and requires self-sacrifice...but the level of meaning between providing for our own and providing for others, less deserving perhaps, our enemy even...this is an entirely different paradigm.

    This is the paradigm that Christ teaches, so I'd agree with Hellmut. The church teaches us to be self-sufficient, self-worthy, self-congratulatory, self-conscious, self-righteous, self-serving, and to place our families first in the process...as if we needed to be taught these things. And only after we've consumed ourselves with these subjects do we give lip-service to the more exotic docrines of self-less love which for the most part remains a theoretical object for some future millennial implementation.

    When this church begins to make the abolition of war, and poverty, and social/economic injustices, etc, the central focus of its mission on earth...believing that we can and must act now regardless of the consequences to friend and family...regardless of the fall-out with political allies...then I'll begin to believe that god has a church.

    For now, it's hard not to be cynical...and I have much more hope for humanity despite rather than because of church.

  2. Anonymous D-Train 

    Watt....wow. That's a lot of stuff. I'll try and answer as best I can.

    Caring for others and doing our best to do right by them is not necessarily any more altruistic than doing so for family. Indeed, Thomas Hobbes described this as a "law of nature" in that treating others properly is essential to the maintenance of peace and industry among others. In order to win that argument, you'd have to win that others are somehow more deserving of assistance than your family, at least at the margins. True sometimes, but not all or even most of the time.

    Raising children is not a sacrifice because it is worse for you than not doing so. It is a sacrifice because it is unquestionably harder. Your definition removes the concept of sacrifice and replaces it with a simplistic cost-benefit model. Ultimately, you're right that having kids is best. This is why the Church and so many others choose to stress the principle. But it's a lot harder to have kids than to not do so. The point is that you do something harder to receive a greater reward. This is not altruism per se, but it is a noble attribute in man that should not be discarded.

    Christ simply does not teach to take from our children and feed our enemies. I don't know where this is coming from. He does teach that we should love our enemies, but not at the expense of loving our friends. Besides, love and financial/temporal support are not necessarily the same thing. Christ never taught that we are wrong to love our friends, but that we should also love our enemies. Applying this teaching to infer that we are somehow wrong in looking to our families first is a misinterpretation of Christ's words. Teaching that we should deprive our children in order to provide to others is similarly misguided. Maybe we should give up the yacht so that others can eat, but I see no unique value in taking from our kids and giving to others.

    I agree that the effect of the Church's teachings can sometimes create an insular culture. But I emphatically deny that we should adopt a completely other-centered approach to morality and the family. After all, we have to be self-sufficient in order to help anybody. Selling all that you have in order to give to the poor is all well and good, but you have to have in order to sell.

    As for the Church's commitment to social justice...I agree that we're lacking. I disagree that this lacking should make the Church a whipping post for the left. Our society in general is no better and the Church is but an element of that society. In general, the Church is a good citizen, albeit an imperfect one. Besides, an ecclesiastical entity can only do so much to be a revolutionary force, especially when others are already suspicious of its credentials as a legitimate societal institution.

  3. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    D-Train,

    All good points and, though I don't agree in every case, I think there's room for both opinions.

    But this...

    "Our society in general is no better and the Church is but an element of that society. In general, the Church is a good citizen, albeit an imperfect one. Besides, an ecclesiastical entity can only do so much to be a revolutionary force, especially when others are already suspicious of its credentials as a legitimate societal institution."

    ...this says it all for me. Church subordination as an element of society is both accurate and profoundly underwhelming WRT the concept of its claim to divinty. The church is a good citizen (today) because it made the decision to be in the 1890s, not because it was born that way. Its concern with its image is well known...all of which is, in my opinion, contrary to what I would expect from an organization led by Jesus of Nazareth. I'm not saying that I expect perfection, just that I'd expect the egalitarian concerns to and to far outweigh the concern with good citizenship and public opinion...just as I imagine its namesake would be.

  4. Anonymous D-Train 

    Watt, I have to say that I find your point to be very important. I agree that the Church should do more to step up and be a force for social responsibility. However, I must make a couple of points regarding this:

    1) It probably wouldn't matter. I hate to say it, but we're just a church, and a pretty marginal church at that. I can't think of what we could do to make a bigger impact, other than giving more money.

    2) If the purpose of the Church is to bring spiritual and temporal benefits to the masses, we should be concerned with public opinion. I agree that doctrine shouldn't be blown by every wind, but I also think that we've got to get in the door to get anyone to hear the message. We've got a church full of conservative members (a phenomenon across most religious denominations) and a culture that is vaguely suspicious of our message. I'm not sure that we could be revolutionaries without undermining the cause, to be truthful.

    Of course, your point still stands. The Church has done nothing in the realm of social responsibility to persuade anyone that we're more than just a nice church. Whether that's a problem is debatable.....although I generally agree with you that it is. The question is just what to do about it.

  5. Anonymous D-Train 

    I should note that the real measure of divinity in the Church should be what it does to make individuals into moral and well-intentioned beings. No matter how much of a difference the Church wants to make in society, there are barriers that will make that impact very difficult to achieve. The best thing that the Church can do is to teach correct principles and let the people go make a difference.

    Of course, the very topic of this thread and the related argument is whether we're doing that ;)

  6. Anonymous Hellmut 

    Thank you very much for the kind words, D-Train (and you, too, Watt).

    I agree with you that there are many Latter-Day Saints that are selfless and that parenting requires dedication though it is not a selfless task.

    The term selfish does not loose meaning just because one acknowledges that parents have a stake in their off-spring. Rather the argument distinguishes between metabolic altruism, that parenting requires, and genetic egoism, which motivates parental sacrifice.

    If one envisions a continuous egoism-altruism scale, then parenting would be far removed from the egoism pole but still within the selfish half of the domain. Parents sacrifice resources for their children because evolution requires that they invest into the procreation of their genes.

    The Good Samaritan, for example, is altruistic. He does not mind to become impure to save a victim of crime to whom the Samaritan is not connected except through coincidence.

    Evolutionary biologists understand the difference (see Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene or Lee Allan Dukatkin, Cooperation Among Animals). So does Jesus Christ in the Sermon of the Mount.

    Regardless of how we experience our feelings about parenting, parenting is a natural drive and not a moral choice. Nature requires humans to parent because genes that don't push mammals to bond with their off-spring are less likely to be successfully copied.

    It is possible to be mindful of parental obligations and charity. LDS leaders, however, have chosen to emphasize parenting at the expense of charity. The priorities are off because there is confusion about the nature of parenting.

    Family values only become a bad thing if we confuse them for the ultimate virtue. While there are many more selfish enterprises one can engage in than parenting, the nature of parenting remains self-interested.

    We are justifying a campaign that targets a vulnerable minority in terms of parenting. In our self-righteousness, we continue a political agenda and preach a theology that drives the children of other people into depression and suicide. It does not have to be that way. If we were to replace the Proclamation on our walls with the Sermon of the Mount then we might be more mindful about the suffering of people who are not like us.

  7. Anonymous Hellmut 

    Thank you very much for the kind words, D-Train (and you, too, Watt).

    I agree with you that there are many Latter-Day Saints that are selfless and that parenting requires dedication though it is not a selfless task.

    The term selfish does not loose meaning just because one acknowledges that parents have a stake in their off-spring. Rather the argument distinguishes between metabolic altruism, that parenting requires, and genetic egoism, which motivates parental sacrifice.

    If one envisions a continuous egoism-altruism scale, then parenting would be far removed from the egoism pole but still within the selfish half of the domain. Parents sacrifice resources for their children because evolution requires that they invest into the procreation of their genes.

    The Good Samaritan, for example, is altruistic. He does not mind to become impure to save a victim of crime to whom the Samaritan is not connected except through coincidence.

    Evolutionary biologists understand the difference (see Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene or Lee Allan Dukatkin, Cooperation Among Animals). So does Jesus Christ in the Sermon of the Mount.

    Regardless of how we experience our feelings about parenting, parenting is a natural drive and not a moral choice. Nature requires humans to parent because genes that don't push mammals to bond with their off-spring are less likely to be successfully copied.

    It is possible to be mindful of parental obligations and charity. LDS leaders, however, have chosen to emphasize parenting at the expense of charity. The priorities are off because there is confusion about the nature of parenting.

    Family values only become a bad thing if we confuse them for the ultimate virtue. While there are many more selfish enterprises one can engage in than parenting, the nature of parenting remains self-interested.

    We are justifying a campaign that targets a vulnerable minority in terms of parenting. In our self-righteousness, we continue a political agenda and preach a theology that drives the children of other people into depression and suicide. It does not have to be that way. If we were to replace the Proclamation on our walls with the Sermon of the Mount then we might be more mindful about the suffering of people who are not like us.

  8. Anonymous annegb 

    I heart Hellmut, too, but I disagree. Well, in part, but not totally. I think the Proclamation is inspired of God. I don't find it exclusive, I find it defining. I think it needed to be said.

    I don't understand homosexuality, neither do I condemn it. However, in the long run, I think it's possible to embrace "family values" and realize there are exceptions, possibly even desirable exceptions to the rule.

    The brethren are speaking to the world, they must speak in generalities. When they are speaking in that way, they cannot waver. However, I believe they are more inclined to be compassionate in individual circumstances than we realize.

    In the long run, this debate is going to be unimportant and God's going to work it out. In the meantime, we can be true to ourselves and try to understand, at least to accept the validity, other opinions.

    The onus for understanding is not only on "traditional families." Why do not gay people feel compelled to understand and accept as valid, other options, as well. Why are gay people not held to a standard of cordialty (is that a word?)?

    If I love, strive to understand, and accept as valid my friends love for her partner, if I totally realize her worth before God, is she not obligated to also recognize my experience with the same generosity?

  9. Anonymous Tom 

    Watt (#1): "The church teaches us to be self-sufficient, self-worthy, self-congratulatory, self-conscious, self-righteous, self-serving, and to place our families first in the process...

    I disagree strongly that the church teaches us to be generally self-centered. The overwhelming effect of my participation in the church has been to urge me to look beyond myself and be other-centered. My natural inclination, and I believe the natural inclination of humans, is to be selfish. My participation in the Church has taught me that I must overcome my natural, selfish tendencies for the sake of the well-being of others.

  10. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Tom,

    Standing alone, that comment of my sounds harsh and unjustly measured...I agree. However, I was placing the statement in context of the difference between serving your own (self, family, friends, neighbors, fellow-believers, the healthy and strong, etc...all of which have an aspect of self-interest) and serving others (competitors, non-believers, other-sexuals, the weak and needy, enemies, etc...).

    As D-Train pointed out...and I meant to address this previously...Thomas Hobbes describes a law of nature in which there is self-benefit in serving _all_ others. This suggests that ultimately there are selfish factors even in serving/loving your enemy. I see that this is true. But it this does not acknowledge that fact that it is vastly more difficult and demanding of sacrifice to see and act upon the care and love of "others" than of our own. As Hellmut points out and as we are all aware, this fact is acknowledged in the teachings of Christ...that to love "others" is vastly more difficult than to love your own, a higher law, and extremely important to the survival and well-being of God's creation.

    D-Train,

    When I speak of "church" I mean the collective of all its people, their priorities and actions. While I agree that it is not likely that the church coud act other than it does and still maintain it's continued existence...this does not change the fact that there is a lack of parity between what it is and what is most inspiring (fpr me at least) about Jesus. He was snuffed-out...I expect a church that truly strives to follow him would be as well.

  11. Anonymous John C. 

    My internal relationship with Hellmut is mercurial.

    Evolutionary psychologists also see a genetic advantage in all altruism (for long-lived, social, low-dispersion creatures with good memories (like hominids (presumably) and humans)). If you drag them into this, you lose the fundamental difference between kin-care and non-genetic altruism that you are striving to maintain. Dawkins may say that it is still there, but there is a strong argument against (Robert Trivers produced the best such argument). Evolutionary determinism is evolutionary determinism however you care to describe it.

  12. Anonymous John C. 

    "fact that it is vastly more difficult and demanding of sacrifice to see and act upon the care and love of "others" than of our own."

    Watt Mahoun,
    Would you at least acknowledge that this can't be a universal?

  13. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    "this can't be a universal"

    John, I'm not sure what you mean...

  14. Anonymous john f. 

    HL, you are the ultimate critic of the Church of late around the blogs; one of the themes constantly underlying your comments here and there is that the Church is just a bunch of self-righteous zealots who don't understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which you do understand, according to you.

    I must say that after a lifetime of being a member of this Church, I cannot recall ever meeting anyone as self-righteous as you, HL. This is very ironic indeed, since, as noted, you seem to take as a foundational premise in much of your writing that the Church is more concerned with superficial rigteousness (i.e. following God's commandments) than with what you consider the true Gospel to be. Central to this implicit claim you continually make to have a morally superior insight to the meaning of the Gospel than the Church or its leaders, it now emerges that you claim to understand the Sermon on the Mount better than does the Church or its members. And, according to you, the Sermon on the Mount says that parenting is selfish, striving to be righteous is bad, striving for revelatory knowledge violates the Golden Rule, strict obedience to the commands and directives of God through the prophet whom God has chosen for the purpose of communicating such directives is bad and violates the Categorical Imperative, Mormons are bad overall, every aberrational behavior should be accepted (except blind faith), among other things. To each his own, I guess.

  15. Anonymous Tom 

    Watt: ". . . to love "others" is vastly more difficult than to love your own, a higher law, and extremely important to the survival and well-being of God's creation."

    Agreed. That's not to say that it is not also very difficult to love our own the way God wants us to. Sure, there is some measure of self gratification in taking care of one's own offspring, but it requires a lot of selfless devotion and effort to go further and be the kind of spouse and parent that God wants us to be and that the Church teaches us to be. It doesn't seem to me that humans are naturally inclined to be monogamous, humble, sensitive, patient, gentle, longsuffering, etc. The Church's emphasis on the family as our primary responsibility and on the perpetuation of family relationships in the next life is a fantastic motivator to create strong, loving relationships with spouses and children and to develop Christlike love for them. This is unequivocally a good thing for ourselves and for society.

    I agree with you and Hellmutt that being a good parent isn't the ultimate virtue. The ultimate and most important virtue is charity. The first test of how charitable we are is how well we love our own family. It isn't easy to have Christlike love, even for our family. It requires overcoming one's own self-centeredness and becoming other-centered. True, the ultimate test of charity is whether or not we love our enemy; but if we love our enemy and work for his well-being but aren't devoted to our own family, I don't believe that we can claim the virtue of charity.

    Hellmut: " If we were to replace the Proclamation on our walls with the Sermon of the Mount then we might be more mindful about the suffering of people who are not like us."

    It's not one or the other in my house. We can be perfectly mindful about the suffering of people who are not like us while at the same time being fully devoted to developing Christlike love in our families. In fact, we should strengthen our families by working together to alleviate the suffering of others.

    Hellmut: "LDS leaders, however, have chosen to emphasize parenting at the expense of charity."

    I have not noticed the same thing. I feel like I am living up to my responsibility as a member of the Church only when I look beyond myself and give of myself for the good of others, family and non-family.

  16. Anonymous John C. 

    Watt,
    I mean that we can't make universals out of claims regarding the relative difficulty of loving individuals.

  17. Anonymous D-Train 

    I like the vigorous discussion, all, but let's do remember to keep the temperature a little cooler and avoid getting personal.

    Hellmut - I was hoping you'd come by. I didn't want to argue against a target that isn't present. I agree that parenting is probably more inherently self-serving than the same act would be directed at someone else. This does not, however, lead logically to your argument that it is more morally desirable to help strangers. This is so for several reasons:

    1) Nobody has persuasively demonstrated an actual tradeoff. The commandment is to love, not to provide temporal support. Temporal support is a part of love, but the two are analytically distinct and we have to look beyond temporal support to understand love. So, providing temporally for your children does not necessarily make you less able to fulfill the commandment to love others. Indeed, being a good family member may be vital training for how to act in the world at large.

    2) The commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself" does not define your kids, spouse, et cetera into "yourself". I agree that we're more likely to love those than others and that loving others would then seem to be a higher moral end. But, this is (in my view) answered well by....

    3) Harder or less genetically inclined does not mean more moral. Indeed, it seems quite persuasive to me to assert that parenting involves a number of commitments, covenants, and duties and that fulfilling these covenants is essential to morality. By bringing a child into the world, you accept the responsibility of providing for him or her until he or she is able to do so. What I'm trying to say here is that harder does not necessarily mean more important. For example, it is not hard to refrain from murder for most people. It is still a much more important commandment than a more challenging commandment, such as, say, paying tithing or observing the Sabbath. Basic duties and actions are often of the greatest moral significance. You should certainly make certain that you're attending to those duties before you try for a "higher", although perhaps less morally important end.

    4) What is the alternative? Lost in all of this discussion is the fact that there is simply no viable alternative to a family for raising children and supporting them. At minimum, there's no alternative that's been posted around the bloggernacle that I know of and certainly none that has received serious consideration in society.

  18. Anonymous D-Train 

    Watt,

    I'm really uncomfortable with the distinction between the ideal representation of Christ's ideals and the reality of a pragmatic church as well. I agree with a lot of what you're saying there.

    I can offer two explanations, both of which satisfy me (although they don't completely solve my issues). First, being imperfect people, there's no real alternative to a pragmatic church. Even the most spiritual among us would admit that our access to the divine is limited and not easily understood. So, the problem is that we just don't really know what God wants. We just try our best with what we have. Second, pragmatism is a legitimate approach to reach given ends. Sometimes it's better to live like a dog than die like a lion. I don't think the Church lives like a dog (we do lots of great things and teach a lot of great truths), but we fall short of Christ's ideal. As does everyone, I should suppose. The bottom line question is this: does it move the work forward more to tilt at windmills or hold one's peace and pick different battles? I hold with the second, but respect the first view.

  19. Anonymous Hellmut 

    D-Train, we don't need to speculate what one could or couldn't do beyond the Proclamation. We know what we have done with it. We have pushed a series of initiatives that target vulnerable minorities.

    If the Proclamation reflects the gospel why are there people that attempt and commit suicide over this agenda?

    The point is not to do away with parenting but to stop deluding ourselves that parenting amounts to the ultimate virtue. If we set the bar that low then we legitimize all sorts of nasty selfishness including bashing gays and making fun of unmarried women.

    With respect to alternatives, of course, there will be parents as long as there will be humans. Throughout human history, however, the manifestations of family have been much broader than the image that the Proclamation advocates. There are many different ways to parent successfully. One of the most important resources of parenting throughout history have been childless adults.

    John F., I am presenting an argument that can be criticized on the merits. Whether it is right or wrong is a question that can be determined in terms of reasons. I do not expect that I always have the best reasons but mine are certainly better than yours because so far your argument is merely personal and devoid of reasons.

    Personal attacks might hurt me. They surely reflect on you.

  20. Anonymous john f. 

    Not every "reason" is naked and devoid of a point. I have accurately restated your "point." Is this not correct?

  21. Anonymous john f. 

    HL, I stopped trying to argue with "reasons" with you when I saw your absolute disingenuous approach when you insisted that the Church talks about Joseph Smith more than Jesus Christ, both in its Sacrament Meetings and in General Conference. You would not abandon your claim--your "reason"--that it was undisputably 2:1 in favor of Joseph Smith in General Conference. From the time when you were within this religious tradition, you know that you are being disingenuous with this "reason" in your argument, yet because of the point you want to make, you will not stand down from it. Based on this encounter with your "reasons," it is apparent that you are not actually interested in "reasons" countering your imagined "reasons." What you are interested in is being right that the Church is something bad.

  22. Anonymous D-Train 

    Hellmut,

    I applaud your insistence on reasons, but I do not understand how you're making this claim without addressing a lot of the points I made above. I argue, for example, that a "harder" task is not necessarily more valuable in moral terms than an "easier" task. You didn't deal with that. I argue that there's no evidence to support an actual tradeoff that implicates Christ's commandments. No answer. I agree with your point about broader conceptions of the family, but I fail to see how accepting this point in its entirety amounts to an obligation to lessen emphasis on the family. I think John F.'s point is not that you're a bad guy, but that a lot of the warrants that you're offering are questionable. I agree with your scriptural argument that only paying attention to the family is insufficient to fulfill the words of Christ, but disagree with your assertion that his words mean that we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Tom, for example, explains this point well above.

    I'm not seeing the hordes of people killing themselves over the Family Proclamation. I'm not seeing the vulnerable minorities that are being shunted aside by Church programs that emphasize the family. I do think that our Church is organized in such a way as to make it more friendly to white families in suburbia and that we can work on that. But, frankly, if suicide is the best evidence to support the Family Proclamation's devastating impact on our society, Satan himself would have to concede the point.

  23. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    All,

    It's clear that we're over-reaching a little on each others opinions. I guess that's to be expected when we feel our own position needs defending.

    I really appreciate each of your ideas...and it has caused me to reflect on the fairness of my own statements. I don't think I intended to come across as so inconsiderate of family values and the church's teachings. For whatever reason, this thread really hit a hot-spot for me. Please excuse me for that.

    We definitely have more that we agree on than not...so I'm looking forward to continued discussions.

    Finally, from what I know if Helmutt...he may be opinionated and passionate, but I have never perceived that he is disingenuous. Perhaps such perceptions have something to do with the collisions of our own passionate beliefs and experiences and his?

  24. Anonymous Hellmut 

    I argue, for example, that a "harder" task is not necessarily more valuable in moral terms than an "easier" task. You didn't deal with that. I argue that there's no evidence to support an actual tradeoff that implicates Christ's commandments.

    Sorry, D-Train. I will try to be more explicit.

    1. I thought I had dealt with that by pointing out that the Proclamation has inspired Mormon participation in a series of anti-gay initiatives in California, Oregon and elsewhere. I agree with you that parenting is a good thing, which concedes your point that one can combine parenting with charitable activities. In reality, however, we are linking the Proclamation to hurtful and fear mongering political campaigns that target gays and lesbians.

    Misidentifying the investment into one's own genes as an altruistic act, we unleash our self-perceived "virtue" on people who are not like us. Adam Smith's aphorism about virtue applies: "Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience." If we had children that were gay then we wouldn't want them to be treated that way.

    Stuart Matis has killed himself over Proposition 22. There are a number of teenagers that have attempted suicide over our theology of sexuality. Here is a letter by a Bishop Eccles, a distressed parent on the subject. In light of the extraordinary consumption rate of anti-depressants in Utah, one must suspect that similar dynamics might affect a sizable segment of the Mormon population, both gay and straight.

    If you want to find out first hand what it means to grow up gay and Mormon then you can attend your local chapter of Affirmation or meet with the Gamofites. To me as a straight guy, it was a real eye opener.

    2.With respect to more and less valuable tasks, I would be satisfied if we stopped invoking the gospel for the purpose of excluding human beings. Expecting other people to be heroic is a problematic demand. I agree with John Stuart Mill, however, that one can demand that citizens respect the dignity of other human beings.

    Insofar as this minimal condition is not met, the relative importance of parenting is immaterial. I don't object to parenting but to the invocation of parenting to bully a vulnerable minority.

    John C, whether or not relationships between unrelated individuals resemble kin care is a function of the encounter probability. The more likely people will encounter each other in the future, the more it is in their interest to treat each other well.

    There are encounters between human beings that might be singular. Interestingly, the parable of the Good Samaritan is about an encounter of strangers, presumably even foreigners, who become neighbors only when one of them acts charitably. After the victim has recovered, he may or may not reciprocate. The Samaritan has no way to know that. In fact, as foreigners the victim and the Samaritan may never see each other again.

    John F, it is not productive to speculate about someone's agenda. People who subordinate reality to an agenda will inevitably be wrong, more often than not in a spectacular way. The issues that you find offensive are verifiable, especially when it comes to conference talks. Excluding ritualistic invocations of Christ at the end of talks, the content analysis of a typical conference report shows that Mormon leaders talk approximately twice as often about Smith as about Christ. If you thought that this is wrong then you could have taken the last conference report and demonstrated it.

    Anne, I appreciate your view. I don't understand why the brethren have to speak in generalities. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus teaches that the good shepherd cares about one sheep, even if that means that he has to leave the herd behind.

  25. Anonymous john f. 

    If you thought that this is wrong then you could have taken the last conference report and demonstrated it.

    You need to re-read the thread where this came up (at LDSLF) if you think that there is no evidence contradicting your agenda-driven assertion in this regard. The reason I referred to this encounter over your disingenuous reliance on your conclusion that references are 2:1 to Joseph Smith over Jesus Christ in General Conference was to illustrate why I have not put any real effort into arguing "reasons" with you on any subsequent discussion. HL, you must realize that any LDS reader of what you write knows that you are being inaccurate, and the only conclusion, with the insight that you were once involved in this Church, must be that you are doing so on purpose, because the result supports arguments that you wish to further regarding how this cannot be the true Church of Jesus Christ. You know as well as all other Latter-day Saints reading this that even when a GC talk touches on or even focuses on Joseph Smith and why believing that he was a Prophet is important, that talk often is actually focused on Jesus Christ and only mentions Joseph Smith because it is necessary to understand the claims Joseph Smith made to understand this Church's interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, i.e. what Jesus Christ demands of the individual and the Church.

    Insofar as this minimal condition is not met, the relative importance of parenting is immaterial. I don't object to parenting but to the invocation of parenting to bully a vulnerable minority.

    Well, this isn't happening. Your argument is laced with numerous assumptions that are only conjecture on your part and that are no more substantiated than opposite assertions made by others. For example, you state that gays and lesbians are a "vulnerable" minority. You are importing terminology that applies to racial minorities that really are vulnerable in this country to apply to a subculture that transcends economic class. Gays and lesbians as a group simply are not vulnerable in this sense. This rhetoric of vulnerability merely helps you make a point of condemning the Church for standing up for what it believes that God has commanded (see, OT, NT, BoM, and D&C for God's position on homosexual acts). You have to do better to condemn the Church for taking its stand in favor of following God's commandments than to import a term like "vulnerable" that doesn't really apply. Measuring the Church's position against the Categorical Imperative doesn't really accomplish anything either. That is because people who believe that God is running the show through the teachings and instructions that he has given to his prophets aren't likely going to think that God is subject to the Categorical Imperative. However, if your audience is non-Latter-day Saints whom you wish to prejudice against the Church before they get involved, and if those readers are more philosophical than religious (because you don't have to be a Latter-day Saint to question whether God is subject to Kant's Categorical Imperative) then your invocation of the Categorical Imperative through your interesting application of the Golden Rule and your reliance on a selective interpretation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan makes very good sense and is well executed (if the reader is willing to overlook an agenda-driven recitation of the "facts," i.e. this strange assertion that people are killing themselves over the Church's doctrines on homosexual acts).

    Regarding that last point, I just don't find your anecdotes about teenagers committing suicide convincing. Let me see if I understand you correctly: because the Church teaches doctrine that has stood for thousands of years in the OT, NT, and now, we believe, in the BoM and D&C as well, that homosexual acts are an abomination to God, some people have committed suicide. And so you are saying that it is the Church's fault that they committed suicide.

    Here's an irony: under your own Categorical Imperative analysis that you subject the Church to around every corner, Stuart Matis was immoral when he committed suicide. As you know, under the Categorical Imperative, the most moral person is the person who has every reason to kill himself and yet does not. This is because Kant viewed any inclination that results from an act to lessen the moral nature of that act. Only when acting purely out of our duty to the moral law--absent any personal inclination or motivation for doing so--is the act truly moral. So, under the Categorical Imperative, maybe the Church is immoral, as you state, for emphasizing mother-father families over non-traditional families, since, as you state, one could ferret out a modicum of inclination in the act of parenting through subconscious evolutionary compulsions to propagate one's own genes. (And, in all this discussion of the "selfishness" of parenting, we completely ignore the fact that only the very select few, yourself included, could plausibly ignore--namely, that parenting is probably the biggest sacrifice most people could ever possibly make in life because it entails 100% effort, to be a good parent, significant time and resource investment, and significant self-denial in every facet of its operations.) But I hope that in your enthusiasm for measuring everything the Church does against the Categorical Imperative you do not fail to measure everything else against it, including Stuart Matis's act.

    This exercise is meant to illuminate your selective use of the Categorical Imperative, as questionable as it is when applied to the directives of God, to condemn the Church but give others a free pass on it and not as a condemnation of Stuart Matis or his friend Whitmer who also committed suicide. I shudder at how insensitive this is for the memory of Stuart Matis; yet, the question remains: why are you not willing to condemn him under the Categorical Imperative like you are willing to condemn the Church? Is it because it doesn't fit into your political agenda to do so?

  26. Anonymous John C. 

    Hellmut,
    The Prisoner's Dilemma indicates that altruism is evolutionarily advantageous even when the likelihood of re-encounter is remote. The reason to bring it up is to say that if genetic determinism drives kin-care (which makes it somehow selfish), then the same genetic determinism drives all altruism (making it selfish in the same manner). For that matter, if altruism is observable as an instinct in animals (as Trivers and others claim) then the likelihood of re-encounter is immaterial. The drive to act, if instinctual, will motivate without concern for possible future consequences.

    I agree that the church's rhetoric can be interpreted as particularly harmful to homosexuals (although I agree with John F. that it is, perhaps, unreasonable to single out the Church for this when it has been common to all Christian Dogma until fairly recently). I also believe that the Church, as an organization, has recognized this and that it is reaching out to its homosexual members (as to its success, I don't really know; for anecdotal evidence contact Silus Grok). For all the anecdotal evidence you can provide for harmful intolerance in the Church, I could probably provide similar amounts of evidence of inclusion by scouring the Bloggernacle for an hour (under the same principle, I could probably show heinous acts of intolerance by doing the same). I don't know what this proves, aside from pointing out that the Church is a large organization with semi-autonomous local branches and that it has a hard time putting one face forward. We can do better, I admit, but I don't think that doesn't mean we aren't trying at all (not actually what you are saying, it seems like, but it also seems to be implied).

    I, for one, don't want to comdemn Stuart Matis or anyone else. Heaven knows I have enough problems of my own. I still think that a true emphasis on family love would do more to clear up the problem of teen suicide than a softening of the church's stand on homosexual acts (which, it seems, I don't read as being as harsh as either you or John F. see them). That said, I also find the imputation of motive to Stuart Matis troubling. I don't know the story and haven't seen the evidence, but can't we accept that this poor boy's death is tragic, his motivation is ultimately unknowable, and that their is no good purpose served by using it for political purposes.

  27. Anonymous D-Train 

    Hellmut,

    Thanks for the clarifications. It seems then that the question has morphed somewhat: if I'm hearing you correctly in your last comment, it seems that the problem that you're having with the family proclamation is with our treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality in the Church and not with the morality of proper parenting. I'm pretty much in agreement with you on this one, with a couple caveats.

    There are certainly Mormon kids that have killed themselves over sexuality (the infamous masturbation case and homosexuals alike). I don't want to defend the way the Church often treats homosexuals. However, I would note that Mormon or non-Mormon, Christian or non-Christian, gay teenagers are much more likely to commit suicide than straight kids. This indicates that there is probably a societal problem that is not unique to the Church. Homosexuals are mistreated in a lot of quarters and gay-hating is, in many ways, the last acceptable prejudice.

    Also, I am troubled by the linkage of the Proclamation and the Church in general to the religious right. I don't like that one bit. I view our decision to get in bed with these folks on SSM and other issues as problematic at best and think that it's at least a tactical mistake from leadership. That said, I don't see any reason to condemn the basically pure doctrine of the Proclamation. Among the progressive elements of the Proclamation that are ignored is the assertion that husband and wife are to help each other in the tasks of family. Additionally, homosexuality is never mentioned in the Proclamation itself. We've got to do better on treating homosexuals properly, but I think we can do that without giving up on good doctrine and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I see nothing wrong with opposing homosexual activity presuming that one treats others with dignity and respect. I agree that this isn't happening within the Church in the way that it should, but I would contend that there is nothing about the Church in structure or doctrine that makes improvement impossible. I'd also argue that pretty much everyone else has the same problem.

    Watt, amen. The internet is a tough place to build understanding between different people. I just hope that this forum does a bit to contribute to understanding among people with different experiences. I certainly can't speak for Hellmut, but I understand where he's coming from, even if I have had a very different experience with the Church than he has had.

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