Note: I get a little sweary at the end. But it’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine here. How are you?
Because 2020 sucks, Jacob Hess has delivered a Part 2 to his eloquent and well-written dissertation on Mormons Building Bridges (MBB) and their ilk that is certain to convince all wayward souls to return back to the fold of Mormonism. In an absolute stunning display of excellent pacing, smooth prose, and entertaining education, Jacob Hess has solved Mormon bigotry, cured the divide between LGBTQ people and the church, and offered up a stunning solution to world hunger. He also included the chemical formula to a 99% effective COVID vaccine that is going to be available on the market next week.
The above is what sarcasm looks like. Sarcasm is my defense mechanism when I have decided that beating my head against the wall until either the wall breaks or I do is an improper strategy for coping with ignorance, condescending behavior, and an essay so boring it makes me want to read Steinbeck.
Yes, English majors, Steinbeck is the worst and you are all wrong for thinking that he is a good writer in any way. Seriously, Of Mice and Men is like 60 pages long, and it is honestly 50 pages longer than it should be. How in the world did this guy get added to the list of required reading for high school English classes? I am fairly certain that Steinbeck was read to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to get them to talk.
But I digress.
What we have in Part 2 is a major misunderstanding of the purpose of the story of Nehor, a hollow call to repentance, and terrible epistemology.
I am going to make every attempt, as a fully grown, adult human person, to minimize my Nehor jokes. However, I still giggle whenever I talk about Beaver Dick Park in Rexburg, so I would not recommend setting your expectations very high.
I am going to just go wild and crazy here and start with the end of Hess’ essay. Hess ends his essay with what may be the worst bit of epistemology imaginable. He suggests that there is a chance he may be wrong about his assertions (he is), and that the only evidence that either side can bring to bear is how they “feel”. Spoken like a man who has used “feelings” to determine truth for far too long (this guy has a PhD! HOW???).
He then asks the correct question. If all we have to go on are feelings, and someone can feel the opposite of what he has said is true, then how do we determine who is correct? The answer? Well, Hess suggests “peace” is the answer.
Get a job, you dirty hippie!
Now that I have put Spencer W. Kimball back in his box, let me explain why this is bad reasoning for Hess to use.
First, there’s the obvious issue that “peace” is not something that we can hold or observe any more clearly than “feelings” can be. This makes peace just as useful for determining what is true as feelings are. A thought experiment: Let’s say that Hess and I are sitting in a room and Joseph Smith walks in with an opaque jar of cookies. Brother Joseph shows us that there are cookies in the jar, and says, “In this jar is a certain number of cookies. That number is either even or odd.” Being rational people, both Hess and I agree that it is true that the number of cookies in the jar is either even or odd. I say that the number of cookies in the jar is even. Hess asks me why I think that. I answer, “I feel it very strongly, and that feeling brings me peace.” Should Hess agree with me that the number of cookies in Joseph Smith’s opaque cookie jar is even?
Because Emma was a perfectionist who always baked an even number of cookies, but Joseph was a problem child who would steal one and eat it when Emma was not looking, resulting in an odd number of cookies in Joseph Smith’s cookie jar. The answer was obvious from the start.
In seriousness, the answer is because “feelings” and “peace” are not sufficient justification to accept a position as being truthful. Hess should only accept that the number of cookies in the jar is even or odd after a measure has demonstrated that the number of cookies is even or odd. Until that time, he should make no affirmative statement about the quality of the number of cookies in the jar.
Are we clear on this example? I hope so because we are moving on.
The second problem has to do with “peace” itself in Mormonism. When I was on my mission, I had trouble sleeping. Part of it was the fact that the schedule does not work well with my natural rhythms. I am a night owl, and 10:30 P.M. is much too early for me to be going to bed most nights. The other reason I had trouble sleeping was because I had some spooky dreams. There was the “death by tornado” dream, the “my companion is a creeper” dream, and the classic “spooky Mormon Hell” dream.
As an out and proud gay man, I have had exactly zero of those dreams. This begs the question, does being an out and proud gay man bring me peace, or did being an active Mormon bring me peace?
There is also the fact that Muslims will say that the Quran brings them peace, Scientologists will say that Dianetics brings them peace, and Hindus will say that the Bhagavad Gita brings them peace. So, are Mormons right? Are Muslims? Scientologists? Hindus? It seems that “peace”, for an outside observer, is not a good metric for determining truth. And if two Mormons cannot agree on what brings them peace, then we have an even bigger issue to address here.
But that is another issue for another essay.
The point of this is that the epistemology that Hess asserts at the end of his article is asinine. Allow me to offer a real alternative. The view that we should go with is the one best supported by the data. I have shared that data in previous posts. I suggest going to the Trevor Project website or reading Evan Smith’s Gay Latter-Day Saint Crossroads for a solid collection of data on the subject. And do additional research on the data, as well. See who is able to read the data with the least amount of inferences and interpolations, appeals to supernatural authority, logical fallacies, or dismissals of data that they do not like.
Like a Bridge Over No Water
What does Hess actually suggest as the bridge, like he promised he would reveal to us in Part 1?
Are you guys ready for this?
No, really? Are you ready for this biting insight? Are you sitting down?
Okay, here it goes.
Holy motherforking shirtballs! How did I not think of that? Repent? What insight! What wisdom!
I mean, I have literally never once ever heard a homophobic Christian tell me to repent, ever. In all my life. At all. Even once.
See, kiddos, there was the sarcasm, again. I would say that I am trying to be better about that, but the truth is that I am just leaning into it more and more.
And then, it just gets better. This expert on LGBTQ issues suggests NorthStar, that organization with strong ties to the old Evergreen International, ya know, that organization that advocated for conversion therapy and murdered (not a legal, but rhetorical allegation) LGBTQ kids who just needed acceptance . Yeah, that organization. Yeah, survey says hell no, Hess.
And Hess has the audacity to drag Tom Christofferson into this. Tom Christofferson is not someone who I agree with, but I hear that he is a wonderful person. He does not want his story used like this, Hess . He would probably be appalled at how he was used in Hess’ vapid arguments.
Do You Wanna Build A Straw Man?
According to Hess, we are all just a bunch of Nehors. I mean, my boyfriend would call me one, and you can interpret that however you want to (this is the only Nehor joke I will make, I don’t promise that at all).
Nehor was this guy in the Book of Alma, in the Book of Mormon, who preached a doctrine of universal salvation and priestcraft. Hess asserts that we can just ignore the priestcraft, the part that Alma and company were really upset about, and focus on the universal salvation. I am going to dive into both issues and why this was not a smart story for Hess to bring into his argument.
First, it is interesting that universal salvation is discussed in the Book of Mormon at all. The Book of Mormon is a peculiar book when treated as a literal translation of historical, divine text. One of the things that is so interesting about that is how much the text addresses the questions New England Christians had in Joseph Smith’s day. Questions like: Where did the American Indians come from? If God loves all his children, why did they not have prophets in the Ancient Americas? What happened to the Lost Tribes of Israel? Is universal salvation correct, or are we saved by grace?
Yeah, that last question was a pretty big deal in Joseph Smith’s day. And the Book of Mormon seemed to favor the “saved by grace” approach. But Mormon doctrine found in the Doctrine and Covenants presents more support for the universalist approach .
First, let us get a couple of definitions out of the way. “Salvation” is defined as the rescue from death, the condition introduced to mankind by the Fall of Adam. “Exaltation” is the state wherein saved souls become like God the Father. Mormons tend to conflate those two words, and, in standard Mormon dialogue, that is fine. However, the distinction is important. Everyone who comes to Earth will be “saved”, in the sense that Jesus died and was resurrected and now he has gone full Oprah with resurrected bodies. The overwhelming majority of people who have lived on Earth will also be saved from spiritual death, since only those cast into Outer Darkness will not enjoy the presence of a member of the Godhead for all eternity . That’s right, folks, Mormons are, in a manner of speaking, universalists, just like Nehor.
Look at you Hess, being a filthy, filthy Nehor, just like us gays.
Exaltation may not be assured, but, since the Nephites were practicing the Law of Moses, at the time of Nehor, there is no reason to believe that Nehor was speaking of exaltation. In that sense, Nehor was correct. As Obi-Wan Kenobi taught, “Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.” Also, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” But really just that first thing.
Doctrinally speaking, Nehor was not wrong. Thus, Hess’ point is what we call “a bad argument”.
Then there is the fact that Hess consciously ignores the priestcraft discussion. And this is going to seem like maybe I am spewing “anti-Mormon garbage”, but this is just the truth. The Q15 receive sizable stipends for their positions as prophets, seers, and revelators. It is only because of Mormon Leaks that we know about that . They have not been transparent in those dealings. It is also only because of a whistleblower that we know about $100 billion in liquid assets  that the church has that it is not using to support research into a COVID vaccine . Justify that however you need to. That idea just does not bring me any peace at all.
Which leads me to the last point, and the point that Hess spends most of his essay complaining about. This all makes me kinda angry. The Book of Mormon has this big issue with anger except when it does not (it’s cool for Captain Moroni to do it, trust me). Hess ignores that time that Jesus flipped over tables and chased people with a whip because they were using the temple to make money . I suggest that we accept that there are times when anger is justified and times when anger is bad.
I am angry because kids are killing themselves because God will not send an angel with a flaming sword to tell the Brethren that the current teachings are wrong and, frankly, evil. They have blood on their hands, and God is complicit in that, since angels and flaming swords have been a viable option for compelling prophets in the past . I am angry because so-called Christians continue with this “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit that justifies their homophobia, because their best way of loving you is to tell you to repent of your sins. I am angry because I was bamboozled into fighting against my own interests (Prop 8). I am angry because the church continues to harm people like me just for the identities that they have struggled and agonized over (November policy, BYU Honor Code February 2020).
And I am angry because pretentious pseudo-intellectuals like Jacob Hess assume that I take any of this for granted. You have no idea what I, or any other LGBTQ+ person has been through. You are being little more than an ignorant, malicious asshole, and MBB is going to be better without your stench anywhere near it.
I hope you repent, Jacob Hess. I hope you become an ally. But right now, you embody the worst of what humanity has to offer: bigotry wrapped in compassion.
I am sure that that has never caused any harm.
 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/08/feds-spending-more-than-9-billion-covid-19-vaccine-candidates/5575206002/ Essentially, the church could spend around 1% of its liquid assets on COVID vaccine research and be competitive with what these companies are receiving from the government. They are saving that money for an emergency, I guess…
 https://gephardtdaily.com/local/lds-church-releases-plans-for-residential-community-near-tooele-valley-utah-temple/ Draw your own conclusions here.
 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy/Did_Joseph_Smith_coerce_women_to_marry_him#Question:_Did_Joseph_claim_that_an_angel_threatened_him_with_a_.22drawn_sword.22_or_.22flaming_sword.22_if_a_woman_refused_to_marry_him.3F Always good when I can use apologist sources to prove my point.