Faith and Reason 43: Land of Jerusalem

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Star of Bethlehem 3D Christmas Screensaver

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash


The Bible declares that the Messiah of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem, and the gospel of Matthew records the fulfillment of this prophecy. But the Book of Mormon states ‘…the son of God… shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers’.

The Tell El Anarma Tablets say the “land of Jerusalem” was an area larger than the city itself. The phrase “land of Jerusalem” is not in the Bible and was not current in Joseph Smith’s day. It is, however, an accurate description for Jerusalem and the surrounding cities and is precisely the language that would have been used by an ancient Israelite in 600 BC.


Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

RiseUp Podcast – Interview with Rod Olson

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In this episode of RiseUp, Nick Galieti interviews Rod Olson in a very candid discussion of the challenges of living an active LDS lifestyle while identifying as being homosexual (or what some describe Same Sex Attraction.)


Born and raised in Northern California, Rod was introduced to the Church as a young child through his mother, who became a member following his parents’ divorce.  Rod served a full-time mission in Houston, Texas, studied musical theater at BYU (where he was a member of the Young Ambassadors as well as an instructor at the Missionary Training Center), and performed professionally on the stage in New York City.  After a 13-year hiatus, during which time he worked in New York and Los Angeles in the brand development and shipping logistics industries, Rod retured to his entertainment roots and is now a producer in Los Angeles.

Rod realized early in life that he was gay, and at 10 years of age, unbeknownst to his mother, made an appointment to talk about it with his Bishop.  As he matured, Rod knew that his homosexuality was not going away. He eventually came out to his parents and spent a decade pursuing short- and long-term relationships with men. Toward the end of this period of self-discovery, Rod fell into addiction. It stripped him of everything—love, relationships, career, friends, money, health, and even hope.  With nowhere to turn, Rod entered a 12-step program for gay addicts that, along with the gospel, he credits with saving his life.

Rod has been sober for nine years and active in the Church for eight.  Since returning to full activity, Rod has served as executive secretary to three bishops, in an Elders’ Quorum presidency, as stake Public Affairs Director and as a Gospel Doctrine instructor.  He currently serves as Ward Mission Leader, a Priesthood teacher at the Los Angeles Federal Prison, as well as a veil worker at the Los Angeles Temple.

Click here to watch Rod Olson’s presentation at a special NorthStar LDS Fireside.


Fair Issues 84: Two arguments for Great Lakes model not conclusive

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MAIn this installment brother Ash refers to word “lake” as having various meanings and the Native Americans being called “Lamanites.”

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


Does the Historicity of the Book of Mormon Matter?

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Mormon Abridging the Plates

Mormon Abridging the Plates

[This post originally appeared at Studio et Quoque Fide and is reposted here with permission.]

The “historicity wars” of the bloggernacle have died down, and I am reticent to start them back up again. Since I am generally ignored by the bloggernacle, however, that is unlikely to happen. I have long pondered over the relevance of historicity for the Book of Mormon—if it matters, and if so, why it matters. As I have been reading about the experiences of Joseph Smith and others with the plates and other artifacts in the newly released From Darkness unto Light: The Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat, I have once again begun to ponder the question of historicity.

For me, I think it helps to realize that what we are talking about when we discuss history and historicity is the experiences of other people, and whether they existed or not. When I share personal experiences with other people, it matters to me that the things I experienced really happened. It matters that these are not just stories I am making up, but that they reflect real things that I have personally been through and witnessed. I glean things from real experiences that I don’t gain from “fishing stories.”

Likewise, it matters to me if you believe my experiences are real when I share them with you. I’m assuming I am not the only one who would feel hurt if someone told me, after I shared a deeply personal experience, “That is a nice story. And I think there is a lot we all can learn from it. But I just don’t believe that really happened to you.” Express skepticism that things are not exactly as I perceive them? OK (maybe the all the people driving 3 under the speed limit when I am in a hurry aren’t actually out to get me after all). Believe that there might be other perspectives to consider? Sure. But think I am just making my own life experiences up? Ouch. That hurts just to imagine someone discounting the very things that have made me who I am.

The reverse is, I think, also true. It matters to me if the experiences you claim as your own are real. It matters if the things you tell me happened to you actually happened. I would feel betrayed if, in fact, I found out you were lying to me about them. Granted I might be a little more sympathetic if I knew you were a habitual liar, or had some kind of mental instability, or for some other reason really believe your stories to be your real experiences, but my sympathy would not necessarily mitigate the feeling that I can’t really trust you when you claim to be talking about your own personal experiences. The sense of betrayal would be magnified if the stories you told as if they were your own personal experiences had galvanized me to provide you with monetary support, or in some other way make sacrifices on your behalf. And, again, I am guessing I am not alone in any of this. Most others would feel the same way. It is human nature.

So getting back to the question about whether historicity of the Book of Mormon matters, I would like to ask, matters to whom? Perhaps we should think about that.

Do you think it matters to say, Emma, Joseph’s wife, if the object wrapped in the linen cloth that sat on the table as she transcribed Joseph’s dictation, was really a set of metal plates containing a record of ancient prophets, whose words Joseph was dictating in translated form? Emma suffered estrangement from her parents and family over Joseph’s refusal to show this object to any of them. She saw her house torn apart by a crazed Lucy Harris, wife of Martin, who was determined to find and see that object. And she generally endured all kinds of hardships due to the events that unfolded from the translation of that record. Yet through it all, she dutifully chose not to look under the linen cloth. Tell me, do you think it matters toher, if her husband’s claims about angels and plates and ancient peoples are true? I think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to Emma.

Speaking of Martin Harris, let’s talk about him for a minute. Do you think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to him? This is the man who took copies of ‘caractors’, ostensibly from the plates, to scholars back east in New York City (and, probably, Philadelphia), at great personal expense, to see if the writings could be verified. The man who experience severe strain on, and the eventual failure of, his marriage due to his efforts to assist in the work of getting the record translated and published, who mortgaged the bulk of his farm to that end. The man who carefully investigated the members of the Smith family upon first hearing the stories of the angel and plates, who cautiously hefted the box containing the plates, until he was satisfied that the object within was either lead or gold, and who practically begged to be one of the witnesses when word got out that a select few would get to see the plates. Do you think it matters to that man—Martin Harris—if Joseph’s stories about angels and plates and ancient peoples are true? Do you think it matters to him if his own experience seeing an angel holding the plates, and hearing a voice declaring that the translation of those plates is correct really happened? That is wasn’t something just in his head, or some kind of deception on Joseph Smith’s part (or, worse, of God’s part)? I think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to Martin.

How about Mary Whitmer? The women who carried the brunt of the burden of having long term house guests stay with her family as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery finished the translation there. The women who at one point was so exhausted by the extra labor and sacrifice required of her at this time that she was granted—or believed she was—a view of the plates, shown to her by some stranger who then miraculously disappeared; an experience that gave her the strength endure the hardship until the translation was complete. Do you think it matters to her if she really saw a man with the plates that day? That is matters that those really were the same plates that contained a record that Joseph was translating from? I think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to Mary Whitmer.

What about the many others close to Joseph Smith? His father, mother, and siblings, whose lives were put at risk assisting Joseph in hiding and protecting this object that he told them was an ancient record engraved on gold plates. Whose very lives were disrupted and uprooted time and time again for the sake of the movement that started after the text was published. Do you think it matters to them if Joseph was just spinning old money diggers yarns or telling fanciful stories? Or if he himself was somehow convinced of these stories, but they nonetheless were not really happening? No real angel, no real plates, no real Nephites or Lamanites? I think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to them.

Let’s even consider Joseph Smith himself. Everything the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon set in motion ultimately cost him his life. Do you think it matters to him if the plates were objectively real? And if those plates really contained an ancient text? And if the words he was dictating to his scribes really were a translation of that record? He endured mobs trying to take the object he kept in that box. Lucy Harris ransacking his home. The enmity of his in-laws. And widespread mockery for the text he published and stories he told about its origins. In his 1838 history he poignantly told about the ridicule he endured for visions he claimed to have. Do you think it matters to him if the revelations he had were more than merely the product of his own mind? If the history he believed he was revealing actually is history? I think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to Joseph Smith.

I think it is clear that to all of these people, the historicity of the Book of Mormon most certainly matters. And I think it matters to all of them—but especially Joseph—if we believe their stories. Just like it would to you and me if we shared our personal experiences with someone else. We can see how much it mattered to them in the many tellings and retellings of their experiences that we have on record. The historicity of the Book of Mormon mattered to them, and it mattered to them if others believed in it too. I think it matters to them if we believe it now. Likewise, just as it would matter to us if someone today told us bogus stories as personal experiences, it should matter to us if these stories are historically true. We are, after all, giving our lives to those stories.

Those are the people who are indisputably real, and others (like David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, etc.) could be added to that list. But what if we take this a little further? Do think the historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to say, Mormon? To the man who so very carefully sifted through a thousand years of history and meticulously engraved his well crafted narrative history onto metallic sheets. Do you think the veracity of that history matters to him? Do you think he cares if we believe that he is a real person who actually went through that painstaking effort? Or what about Moroni, who promised to see us before the bar of God on judgment day? The man who diligently finished what his father started. And then spent 35 lonely years protecting that record as he wondered. And who came back from the dead to see to it that we would have the record today. Do you really think it wouldn’t matter to him if you believe he is real? That he just shrugs his shoulders and thinks, “Well, at least you still think its inspired.” What about Nephi, the man who started the record (who also promises to see us at the judgment bar)? The man who endured 8 years of hardship in the Arabian desert, who not only spent years laboring to build a sea worthy vessel, but also had to navigate it across thousands of miles of oceans, who had to lead and organize a new colony. A man who spilt blood for the sake of providing records to his own people. Do you think it matters to him if we believe the stories he told about his family’s journey and hardships?

How about the multitude who saw and felt the risen Lord, Jesus Christ? Who deemed the event of utmost importance to bear witness of it collectively? Do you think it matters to them if you or I believe their witness? If we really believe that event happened, as they testified? While we are on the topic, how about the Savior himself? Do you really think he does not care what we believe about the things he said and did in front of that multitude? That as he carefully and lovingly ministered to the sick and infirm among them, and blessed their children, he simply didn’t care if others would believe those things happened? I think historicity of the Book of Mormon matters to the Savior. I am sure there are things that matter more to him than that, but I nonetheless suspect this is not something he feels is completely irrelevant.

So, does the historicity of the Book of Mormon matter? It certainly mattered to the people—both ancient and modern—who contributed to our having it today, as is evident in the sacrifices they endured to make that possible. It should matter us, too.

Artwork of Joseph Smith Translating the Book of Mormon

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Early this week I posted a brief notice for the book From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of MormonWith permission from professor Anthony Sweat, the artist behind the new artwork depicting Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon, the new pieces from the book are posted below.







Book Notice: “From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon”

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[This post originally appeared at Ploni Almoni.]
The Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University and Deseret Book have co-published a new book titled From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. I have picked up a copy just today, and have been able to quickly skim through the contents of the book. Co-authored by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat of the Joseph Smith Papers (and both assistant professors of Church history and doctrine at BYU) and with original artwork by Anthony Sweat, the book looks closely at the history of the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon in the years 1827–1830. MacKay and Dirkmaat draw from the cutting-edge research of the Joseph Smith Papers Project in their reconstruction of the Book of Mormon’s translation and publication, including some heretofore unknown or underutilized historical sources. Topics touched on in the book include:

  • The retrieval of the plates.
  • Martin Harris’ visit with Charles Anthon and other savants.
  • Early reactions to and accounts of Joseph Smith’s finding of a “Gold Bible.”
  • The method and instruments of the translation.
  • Attempts to secure a copyright for the publication of the Book of Mormon, including the attempt to secure a copyright in Canada.
  • The 3 and 8 Witnesses.

But perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the new book is the artwork of Anthony Sweat, an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU. The book includes a number of original pieces by Sweat depicting Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon by peering into a seer stone at the bottom of a hat. Below are three of the new pieces, taken from Sweat’s public Instagram page.

Sweat also includes an appendix (“By the Gift and Power of Art”) explaining his artwork and artistic representations of the past in general.

Students of early Mormon history and the Book of Mormon should absolutely pick up a copy of this book! I’ve only skimmed it so far, but what I’ve seen is fantastic, and just what the doctor ordered when it comes to good, solid, reliable, and faith-promoting scholarship on the early days of the Restoration and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I am excited to sink my teeth into this new volume, and hope you’ll do the same.

RiseUp Podcast – The H Word

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In this episode of RiseUp, Nick Galieti interviews a Young Women from Southern Californa named Mikalya.

Mikayla’s parents were members so she was born into the church and baptized when she was 8. But it wasn’t until she turned 13 that she really dove into the gospel. Before that, she was relatively inactive for a few years. She now lives in Southern California where she is currently the Laurel Class President but because her ward is so small, she is effectively the overall Young Women’s Class President. She loves to play guitar, but is not good enough to consider myself anything beyond a beginner. She loves to read, especially anything that involves history, fiction, or both. She love to write and currently writes for her school newspaper and designs a page of the newspaper. She also loves to draw, but her skills are limited to Disney Characters and Looney Toons. She comes on the RiseUp podcast to talk about a poem she wrote for an online contest where she declared her experience as a member of the Church defending  traditional marriage. Here is the poem she submitted and the original link for the poem:

The “H Word”

“Did you know he’s a homophobe?”

I froze.

It felt like one of those moments in movies where




Yet emotions, thoughts, and feelings hit me at 3×10^8 meters per second.

I’m not one to swear.

I never liked the anger and harshness associated with the words,

Didn’t like the feeling of such unnecessary words rolling off my tongue,

Nor did I enjoy the taste they left behind.

Yet those words no longer gave me

The strange jolt-in-your-chest feeling

That young children get

When they’re young enough to feel uncomfortable at the sound of an infrequently heard “bad word”,

Yet old enough to know it’s bad.

Those words, though I still discouraged the use of them,

Didn’t have the same effect on me

As this “H word” did.

This “H word”, used so casually, carried heavy baggage of hatred.

I knew the “he” they spoke of.

I knew his name, his face,

And I knew his church,

Because his church was my church too

And I had an idea why people might give him such a label.

His church, my church, our church

Did not support gay marriage,

And to some people, wearing a BYU sweatshirt

Or an “I’m a Mormon” pin

Was equivalent to putting an “I supported Prop 8″ sign on your back.

And this wasn’t always okay.

This feeling isn’t always there, out in the open,

But it’s never gone.

It’s hiding somewhere in the corner of the room, and comes into the light

When you hear that another state legalized gay marriage

And the person next to you turns toward you and says

“Doesn’t your church hate gay people?”

And whether or not there’s a joking undertone or a serious air to their voice,

It feels like time freezes as their words hit you,

Yet the clock ticks faster as you scramble for the right words.

Because how you explain to this person, whether they be a stranger, acquaintance, or friend,

Whether they be joking or absolutely serious,

That your church doesn’t support gay marriage because of biblical reasons

Without pulling out the bible and throwing out religious doctrine.

And how do you explain to them that just as it says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman,

It says to love thy neighbor,

Whoever they are, whatever they believe

And that you don’t see why people assume that you can’t love someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

As much as someone who isn’t

And simultaneously not agree with gay marriage?

How do you incorporate that your uncle is gay

And happily married to a great man

To provide the ethos-influenced evidence that your English teacher praises in arguments

To show that even though your church doesn’t support gay marriage,

You’re still capable of being happy that your uncle is happy

Because you love him so much?

How do you emphasize that you’ve met people

Who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

And absolutely great people?

Because that’s exactly what they are.


How do you tell them that there’s much more to not supporting gay marriage

Than is shown on the surface.

That it runs deeper and intertwines with doctrine and beliefs

That rest close to your heart.

And that no matter how unpopular they may seem,

You believe them without a doubt.

I don’t remember how I responded to the statement phrased as a question

That labeled a fellow church goer as “a homophobe”

After I unfroze and my emotions, thoughts, and feelings



I don’t remember if I shrugged in an uninterested way that changed the subject,

Or if I looked up and tried to give a Spark Notes-worthy explanation

Of what “he” and I believed

Without seeming like a religious fanatic

Or if I asked the reasons for distributing such a label.

I don’t remember if we were sitting outside with a group of friends,

Sunlight streaming through nearby trees,

Or talking alone in a crowded classroom lit by fluorescent lights.

But I do remember looking down at my shoes at the end of the school day,

Perched on the edge of the sidewalk, waiting to cross

With music blasting through my earbuds

And the “H word” lingering in my mind.

And I remember secretly hoping that that word

Would never be placed as a label above my head,

Yet more than that,

I prayed that I would stand up for what I believed in

No matter what the consequence.


Fair Issues 83: Great Lakes Book of Mormon geography

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MAIn this article brother Ash discusses several authors and the arguments they make for a Great Lakes model for the Book of Mormon geography.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


Miller Eccles Study Group – Texas Edition: Neylan McBaine & the Hidden Beauty of the Gospel

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[This post originally appeared at Worlds Without End and is reposted here with permission.]

At the end of Roger Scruton’s controversial documentary Why Beauty Matters, the British philosopher arranges a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in the St. Pancras railway station. The 13th-century hymn depicts the grieving Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus: “Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa, dum pendebat Filius/At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to her Son to the last.” Pergolesi himself was suffering from tuberculosis when he composed his rendition in 1736 and passed away soon afterwards. Prior to the St. Pancras performance, there is a segment in which Scruton and the singers discuss the impact of the piece:

Roger Scruton

James Bowman (Tenor): “Even a completely unmusical person would get the message that it is a piece of grieving, wouldn’t they? There could be no possible doubt about that.”

Scruton: “The music takes over the words and makes them speak to you in another language in your own heart.”

Catherine Bott (Soprano): “It means that today in our secular world it can delight and move without people having to know what it’s about.” 

Scruton: “We learn without the theological apparatus that there is thing called suffering and that it is at the destiny of all of us, but also is not the end of all of us.”

As the documentary ends, the camera focuses on the various faces of those who have stopped to listen in the station while Scruton’s voice-over summarizes the film’s message. Based on what is seen onscreen, several people stopped and were visibly touched. But the majority moved along.

Joshua Bell

This reminded me of the now-famous experiment put on by The Washington Post in which world-class violinist Joshua Bell played incognito in a Washington D.C. Metro station. In the 45 minutes that Bell played, only 7 out of 1,097 people stopped. One woman recognized him, having seen him play at the Library of Congress three weeks earlier. Her $20 tip was excluded from the final count (due to it being “tainted by recognition”), which ended up totaling $32.17. As the WP said, “Yes, some people gave pennies.” While the beautiful can sometimes reach us among the noise, it can often be difficult. Psychologist Paul Bloom sees the WP experiment as “a dramatic illustration of how context matters when people appreciate a performance. Music is one thing in a concert hall with Joshua Bell, quite another in a subway station from a scruffy dude in a baseball cap.”[1] It was the latter example of Joshua Bell that Neylan McBaine used to open up her November presentation at the Miller Eccles Study Group here in Texas. She stressed that sometimes the beauty of the Gospel is often lost in the midst of its presentation, whether that be leadership rhetoric, Church structure, or cultural experience. This is perhaps especially true among women in the Church. The different reactions to Bell’s subway performance are similar to the very different reactions from LDS women:

Neylan McBaine

Our doctrine around the eternal nature of gender and the importance of mothers is, in many women’s eyes, a unique theological gift resulting in worth, self-confidence, and self-definition. Many women find purpose in these doctrines and the roles they prescribe. The teaching that they are daughters of God, who loves them without their having to earn that love, results in a strong sense of personal worth. Many of these women happily leave to men the ecclesiastical structure of priesthood authority and the accompanying leadership roles; they also assume separate, less public, responsibilities themselves. Many mothers feel supported in their potentially isolating and thankless jobs, and in many homes there is a division of labor that works for both parties. Especially in developing countries, the gospel’s empowerment of women has resulted in positive seismic shifts in the way women are respected, families are run, and men rise up to their responsibilities…But not all of our women find themselves so aligned with these attitudes. For a range of reasons…women in the Church today can feel a tension between what they are being taught at church or how they’re being engaged at church, and what they feel is a true evaluation of their potential and worth. It is not uncommon for a member in the Church today–at least in the United States or developed countries–to know someone who is wrestling what it means to be a Mormon woman.[2]

What I found so thrilling about Neylan’s book, presentation, and the conversation afterwards is that she is looking for ways to make actual, long-lasting changes in Mormon culture–the context of the Gospel music–regarding women by examining the current processes and constraints within the Church. When it comes to institutions and movements, too often we judge them based on their intended goals and/or their sincerity. Rarely do we look at their actual mechanics and results. “”Profit-making” businesses, “public interest” law firms, and “drug prevention” programs,” writes one economist, “are just some of the many things commonly defined by their hoped-for results, rather than by the characteristics of the decision-making processes involved and the incentives created by those processes. So-called “profit-making” businesses, for example, often fail to make a profit and most of them become extinct within a decade after being founded.”[3] Movements and organizations “look very different when viewed in terms of their respective goals than they do when viewed in terms of their incentives and constraints.”[4] Even though business is often at the receiving end of Mormon intellectuals’ criticisms (especially Nibley), I believe it is Neylan’s business and marketing experience that has been influential in her tendency to analyze gender issues within the Church through the paradigm of incentives and constraints. Business managers, wrote the late Peter Drucker, “have to focus [their] knowledge on effectiveness and results.”[5] By looking at everyday church processes and bottom-up solutions, Neylan is uncovering ways of addressing current problems that might be more effective than mere top-down decrees (as important as those may be). By doing so, Neylan is able to make suggestions that can impact the lived everyday experience of the average LDS woman now. I think it also allows her to recognize that some of the supposedly obvious solutions to gender issues in the Church may not be so obvious. For example, her December 2014 WeForShe speech states,

Men and women today – in developing countries and even here in the United States – expect different levels of influence from themselves and from each other. Even when numerical representation is righted – in the media, in deliberative bodies, in governments and industry – we are stilled saddled with the unequal levels of authority that are expected and generated by men and women. In his new book, The Silent Sex, BYU political science professor Christopher Karpowitz and his coauthor Tali Mendelberg define “authority” as “the expectation of influence” and they prove through their studies that women claim and express less authority than men. In addition, “the types of considerations women tend to articulate, and how they articulate them, are valued less because they reflect ways of thinking and self-expression that have been socially constructed as less authoritative.” (page 26) Women’s devalued communication styles mean that even if we were to solve numerical representation in the governing bodies of our governments and institutions, we would still grapple with the lack of authority women perceive in themselves and men perceive in them.

Neylan excitedly shared Karpowitz’s findings with me after her presentation, seeing them as a validation of her overall approach to the subject. A position of authority does not automatically mean one is seen as authoritative or respected as such. Even beyond expressed authority, women often help more within organizations–the “office housework”–yet are less recognized for it. “When a man offers to help,” write Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant,

we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? She wants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is “busy”; a woman is “selfish.” …When men do help, they are more likely to do so in public, while women help more behind the scenes. Studies demonstrate that men are more likely to contribute with visible behaviors — like showing up at optional meetings — while women engage more privately in time-consuming activities like assisting others and mentoring colleagues.

The above evidence demonstrates that blanket authority isn’t the end-all be-all to solving Mormon gender issues. While ordination may help in shaping culture, it ultimately boils down to valuing the experience and views of women (and not just those deemed within the confines of a rigid, inflexible gender role). This is what makes Neylan’s contribution so important and (arguably) appealing to both sides of the female ordination question. Her focus on the regular processes in local wards and stakes can be applied whether female ordination happens or not.

It is easy to become engrossed with abstract causes and sweeping, overly simplistic “solutions” (I don’t really believe in solutions, only trade-offs). Plenty of people do it, from politicians to CEOs, Church leaders to activists. Stanford’s Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have said that it is a

rare ability…to make sure that the short-term stuff gets done and done well, while simultaneously never losing sight of the big picture. This is a tricky balance for us human beings. Research by New York University’s Yaacov Trope and his colleagues shows that thinking about distant events is good because we focus on long-term goals–and it is bad because we manufacture unrealistic fantasies. We don’t think enough about the steps required to achieve those ends, and when we do we underestimate how much time and effort they will take.[6]

Neylan appears to be aware of the time and effort and has made practical suggestions accordingly. Though she is sometimes viewed with skepticism and lambasted as being too moderate, too naive, or even in cahoots with The Patriarchy© (a term she seems to avoid, I’ve noticed), Neylan’s approach strikes me as one of the most useful in creating a culture of equality. Her suggestions, if implemented at the individual and local levels, could help Mormon culture bloom into its full potential. They could, in essence, help put the music back into the concert hall where everyone can recognize its beauty.

And that’s something we can all get behind.


1. Paul Bloom, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), 118.

2. Neylan McBaine, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014), xvii-xviii.

3. Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions (New York: Basic Books, 1996), ix-x.

4. Ibid., xi.

5. Peter Drucker, The Essential Drucker (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 13.

6. Robert I. Sutton, Huggy Rao, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 17 (Kindle).


To hear more from Neylan McBaine, listen to this FairMormon Podcast
To purchase Women at Church, click here

Front Page News Review #7

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FairMormon’s Front Page News Review provides context and analysis of the past week’s media coverage of Mormons and the LDS church. Hosted by Nick Galieti and manager of the FairMormon Front Page news service, Cassandra Hedelius.

What we present is not to be understood as being the official position of FairMormon or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We speak for ourselves, and sometimes not even then.

This week’s news:

Get your Early-Bird Conference Tickets now!

On August 6 & 7 we will be having our FairMormon conference at the Utah Valley Convention center.

Lodging is provided at the Provo Marriott across the street.

Right now you can get early-bird pricing for your tickets so register now before the price goes up.

To register click here and scroll down the the conference registration.

Speakers this year include Margaret Barker, Ed Pinegar, Stephen Webb , Brant Gardner, Ron Dennis, Brittany Chapman, David Larsen, Jim Gordon, Laura Hales, Cassandra Hedelius, Paul Reeve, and, Dan Peterson.

We have both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars this year speaking about Mormon topics, so this conference is one that you don’t want to miss.

Sign up at this link:

FairMormon Front Page, signup at