William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Elder Ballard's Position Regarding Responding To Polygamy Questions

The comment was made:

"Elder Ballard gave an address to the graduating class from BYU earlier this year, in which he states that Mormons should not appear apologetic for their beliefs and practices, but should speak with confidence so as not to appear defensive.


Knowing how people see us is an important part of understanding how best to explain ourselves. . . . [M]embers of our Church can sometimes appear very defensive to those who are not members of the Church. . . .

If we are not careful, we may convey a sense of defensiveness in our communications with others. . . .

If we want to be respected today for who we are, then we need to act confidently--secure in the knowledge of who we are and what we stand for, and not as if we have to apologize for our beliefs. . . .

But when we act as if we are a persecuted minority, or as if we expect to be misunderstood or criticized, people will sense it and respond accordingly.

And then, right before he promotes the "correct" manner of responding to plural marriage, Elder Ballard leads into it with this line:


I'm going to give you two suggestions for how to engage in conversations nondefensively.

Strangely, Elder Ballard now advocates that Mormons should not bring up the subject of plural marriage to non-members, and that should a non-member ask a queston about plural marriage, it is to be discounted and then glossed over.


Our Church members have too often allowed others to set the conversational agenda. An example is polygamy. This ended in the Church as an official practice in 1890. It's now 2009. Why are we still talking about it? It was a practice. It ended. We moved on. If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge it was once a practice but not now, and that people shouldn't confuse any polygamists with our Church. In ordinary conversations, don't waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during the Old Testament times or speculating as to why it was practiced for a time in the 19th century. Those may be legitimate topics for historians and scholars, but I think we simply reinforce the stereotypes when we make it a primary topic of conversations about the Church.

This is remarkable to me.

I give credit to Elder Ballard for acknowledging all the right ways Mormons should discuss their beliefs and history with non-Mormons.

But I am at a loss as to why his proposed method of discussing plural marriage violates every one of the precepts he has just laid out.

Any thoughts?

Please note that this is not another thread about plural marriage, but rather how is it that such a huge disconnect can be going on between how we think we are presenting ourselves to non-members versus how non-members view our presentation?"

To which I responded:

Elder Ballard unfortunately is not among my favorite apostles, and these quotes help to illustrate why. If we claim doctrinal inerrancy, then we have to deal with our past and confront it. We either justify the practice, or back off of our stance of doctrinal inerrancy. Certainly there is much more to the church than its polygynous history, and polygamy does not deserve to be at the forefront of our conversations about the church AS LONG AS WE ARE NOT CLAIMING THAT PURPORTED PROPHETIC UTTERANCES OF MODERN PROPHETS AND APOSTLES ARE IMMUNE FROM DOUBT, DEBATE, QUESTION, AND LEGITIMATE INQUIRY. But if we want to present the illusion that modern prophetic utterances are the authentic word of God because it has always been so, then we have a problem on our hands, and we can expect nothing less than to have our critics raise the very issues that Elder Ballard would prefer to avoid.

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