This conversation with blogger Mette Ivie Harrison appeared on Huffington Post Dec. 1, 2015. At the time, the LDS (Mormon) Church had made a policy change that the children of cohabiting (conjugal) gay parents–now considered “apostate”–would not be allowed to be blessed, or baptized into the Church or otherwise be officially considered a church member.
As some Mormons decided to resign their membership in protest over this announcement, the question of what’s left after leaving the institution again came up. Thus, this conversation about “ethnic Mormonism,” which is something I have long advocated for.
Mette is a regular contributor to HuffPost, and she invited me to share my ideas with her in a conversational format. Mette is LDS and a best-selling author, most recently of The Bishop’s Wife and the sequel His Right Hand, two mysteries set in Draper, Utah. She was also kind enough to blurb my book Dream House on Golan Drive, which is how we met.
“Today, a conversation with author David Pace about the growing numbers of ‘ethnic Mormons,’ those who grow up Mormon, but for various reasons leave the church, and how Mormons may need to make a bigger tent to include them.
“Q: When I first started to articulate some of my doubts about Mormonism with non-Mormon friends, they asked me why I didn’t create my own church. Take what I loved about Mormonism and move on. Or find a splinter group that matched my own ideas better. It’s a very Protestant view of religion, and I struggled to explain to them that the choices in terms of splinter groups were slim and grim pickings. As for creating my own church, growing up as Mormon meant that I had an abhorrence of “priestcraft,” quite apart from my introverism and general disinterest in organizing large groups in any form.
“David, what are your thoughts on this?” More
In 2002, the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City was an opportunity for the LDS Church to present itself to the world. The theatrical extravaganza titled “Light of the World” was staged downtown at the new indoor Conference Center which seats a whopping 22,000.
This review which appeared in Dialogue, attempts to illuminate how the corporate church, famous for its global proselyting efforts, chose to see itself on the world stage.
“REFASHIONED BEYOND RECOGNITION, Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games in February 2002. While the world partied Olympically—Budweisers in hand, whooping it up in chaotic street fetes—Latter-day Saints found haven in the
LDS Conference Center. With its open door and rich collection of cultural artifacts, the center functions not just as an auditorium, but arguably as the Latter-day Saints’ first cathedral, with side ‘chapels’ designed for devotional and historical art and architecture, and deeply symbolic fixtures, from doorknobs and seat upholstery to windows and waterfalls. The new building is not only an ecclesiastical seat, as in traditional cathedrals, but also a multi-use common where Mormon and non-Mormon can potentially converse with the highest values of the Mormon community.”
Download the pdf to read the full review.
In this essay I talk about the persistence of polygamy (plural marriage) in the faith of my childhood and the tradition of my choice: Mormonism.
Polygamy reigned on both sides of my family during the 19th Century when founding prophet Joseph Smith Jr. instigated the practice in the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Despite multiple efforts to divorce itself from the practice, the LDS Church is still haunted by the hold of polygamy which continues among those in the Mormon movement.
So does “lying for the Lord,” the imperative that my ancestors were given to hide this peculiar practice of “spiritual wifery” from the law of the land. My argument in this essay is that this kind of mendacity continues in the current LDS population which regularly protects the institutional church above all else–even (and especially) if they have to lie to themselves.
Tom Green, Polygamist
“IN 1988, I wasn’t sure I liked having a
wife, and I hardly wanted another one.
So I don’t think it was because I lusted
after more conjugal living that, during a
stand-off that year between law-enforcement officials and Utah polygamists, I found myself quietly rooting for the guy with more than one wife.”
Download the PDF of Sunstone and read the essay beginning on pg. 8.
In this Aug 16, 2008 talk I was asked to participate in a THIS I BELIEVE session at the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium. I was one of, I believe, six speakers who were tasked with illuminating . . . well, what we believe.
I was pretty pleased with how this turned out, even though my delivery includes a lot of pursing of lips. What was that all about? Nervousness?
“What if the wheel [of religion] itself is unnecessary? I believe in daily giving myself and others permission to abandon religion.”
watch the entire video
Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints is valuable . . . .Why? Because in my view the book is so very Mormon. There are rich and telling descriptions of the Church and of Mormon culture, particularly as it conﬁgures in Utah Valley,more precisely at church-owned Brigham Young University. Many of us are apt to resonate with Beck’s account of the young Latter-day Saint leaving Zion, then returning home with not only religious questions but an invigorating sense of the expanding context in which Mormonism and the LDS Church nest. Her account of the disturbing conﬂuence of family, faith, and culture triggered by exposure to the world opens up the question of why many Latter-day Saints—surely one of the great globetrotting groups of the world—can remain so cloistered, so inoculated from the world outside themselves. Read the entire review here, beginning on pg. 82.
The response to this book was outrageous. Even the godfather of self-help books, the late Stephen R. Covey (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame), went insane when he heard about the publication of the book which includes sexual abuse claims by Beck about her Mormon celebrity father, Hugh Nibley. (Covey, a friend of Oprah Winfrey’s, actually tried to derail the publication of the book and to discredit it wholesale since Beck was, by then, a columnist at Winfrey’s O Magazine.) The lunacy of it all was palpable.
This review was originally my comments on the book’s publication as a panelist at the Sunstone Symposium, the year the book was published by Random House’s Crown imprint. I worked those comments into a book review which later appeared in Irreantum, a Mormon literary journal (now defunct), published by the Association for Mormon Letters where I was the sections editor for 5 years. I took some heat for this review, but in the passive-aggressive way that I often experience as “the Mormon way.” Even so, I stand by my review which doesn’t let Beck off the hook for her savagery. This is one of the best nonfiction descriptions of life in the Mormon hothouse that has yet to see the light of day on a national level.
Hugh Nibley, 1983
Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU
Author Martha Beck
This paper was first read at the annual Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City. It was later published as an essay in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 36 No. 3 (Fall 2003)
“THE POPULAR FILM MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING suggests that enthic families will flood pell mell into any space provided by a family member who announces she or he is getting married. In the case of writer / actor Nia Vardalo’s paean to Greek-American culture, the results are funny, raucous, even slightly grotesque. Her groom who falls in love with a spinster waitress is a sort of white-bread Protestant himself. Along with his stiff Anglo-parents, he becomes completely absorbed by the overwhelming insistence of well-meaning Greeks living in a sort of parallel universe . . . .This, of course, brings me to Mormons, a self-identifying peculiar people and arguably their own ethnic group.”
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George W. Pace on his way with three of his 10 daughters to visit Machu Pichu in Peru
In this 1995 essay, which was later published in the Case Reports (Vol 2) published by The Mormon Alliance, I talk about a tempest in a tea pot which nevertheless had wide ramifications in Mormonland during the early to mid-80s. My father was at the center of it. I don’t think he ever fully recovered. I remember that he liked this essay and that he kept a copy of it close by for a while.
MY FATHER CLIMBS MOUNTAINS.
Every year he takes several members of the family to the top of Mount Timpanogos. Sometimes we stay overnight at Emerald Lake; but most often we start out early, climb to the top, eat lunch, and then slide down the glacier on our way back down. Our feet become terribly sore, and our butts get bruised on rocks that have settled below the surface of the snow, but we go back every year anyway. Or so it seems. MORE
Summary and analysis of incident by Lavina Fielding Anderson
Audio excerpt from talk by G.W. Pace
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
This essay was originally a talk given at The Sunday Gathering, August 21, 1994 at
the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City. It was later printed in Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring, 1998.
WHEN MY FIRST MARRIAGE ENDED IN DIVORCE in 1991, what I describe as my current spiritual life seemed to begin. It is the first of three seminal moments in the past three years that I have chosen to detail here. Before that, however, I need to give some autobiographical information. MORE