My wife and I just returned from AAR/SBL and I have some interesting reports to make on things I saw related to Mormon Studies. My plan is to post on them tomorrow, once I have unpacked, etc.
Tonight's post concerns the following: If you ask most Mormons about the "bloggernacle", it is generally regarded by them as the haven of malcontents and a den of gripers and almost-apostates. I have seen instances where I think that criticism is justified, however for the most part I believe strongly that we are engaged in a valuable and worthwhile enterprise. In the interest, however, of having folks put their money where their mouth is, I ask the following:
Assume you made the President of the Church tomorrow. What would you change or do differently?
Now this requires a couple of stipulations in order to play the game:
- Females must assume that they are males and have acquired this position through ordinary priesthood succession. I want people to consider whether they would give women the priesthood or not, so assuming that you have been given it (and are therefore eligible to be President of the Church) is not helpful to this exercise.
- You were chosen for this position according to ordinary procedures. There was no catastrophe that wiped out the GAs, making you the next best choice.
- You must assume that the President of the Church can unilaterally make changes in Church policy. If you want, you can discuss the meaning of the policy/doctrine distinction and how your list of actions might change if you had to forge a consensus with other members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy, etc.
I have to play the game like everyone else, so here is my list:
- I would NOT immediately give women the priesthood. I am amenable to them having the priesthood at some point in this life, however I feel like President Kimball as to the matter of black and the priesthood. This is such a big change, I would need a strong confirmation of its rightness before proceeding.
- Likewise, I would NOT immediately allow same-sex marriage either in the temple or to be performed outside it by any priesthood holder.
- I would NOT stomp out Correlation (though the temptation would be mighty), as I think it has an important role to play and function to perform; however, I would retain a personal check on its power.
- I would order Deseret Book to be spun off as a private company unrelated to the Church and let it sink or swim on its own, thus encouraging the development of independent LDS publishers and book retailers (I know, I know, start with the important stuff...)
- I would immediately order the entire Church curriculum redone, to be completed within a year. Furthermore, I would publicly announce that initiative and encourage members to flood Correlation's inbox with suggestions.
- The link between CES and the BYU religion department (and their faculty) would be severed, and BYU would operate a dual-track religion program, one with CES classes and another for religion classes as taught at other universities. CES classes could be taken for credit, but none would be required for graduation.
- CES employees could retain their employment, even after divorce or could be hired even if single/childless.
- In general, I would make decision-making and operations of the Church more public and transparent. See the curriculum item above.
- I would reopen the cases of the September Six (contingent on their desire to have them reopened) and would reinstate them to the degree possible based on their desires and willingness to live Church principles. Other cases of intellectuals excommunicated for their ideas would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
- I would repudiate blacks and the priesthood folklore; I would NOT publicly address or adopt a particular rationale for polygamy or apologize for it the Church's having practiced it in any way.
- One general conference every four years would be held outside Utah (and perhaps outside the United States)
- I would attempt to be as inviting and inclusive as possible to those who deal with same-sex attraction, singleness, childlessness, etc. They would be told explicitly that they are encouraged to attend church.
Now, a couple of caveats (you are welcome to add your own): I am not saying that President Hinckley or the other leaders of the Church are not doing some of the things I listed above. This is not a criticism of their leadership. I am simply providing a vision for what I would do if it were my responsibility to lead. I don't have all the answers. I am sure I could list other things and will surely think of them as soon as I hit "Publish Post." Many of the things, especially the last item, are things so much more effectively handled and observable on the local level and largely outside of the reach of a Church president. However, what compassion and mercy I had to publicly offer, would be offered gladly.