Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the kairotic moment, or, the preface to the preface

i've been teaching my students about "the kairotic moment"  (and based on the quizzes i just graded, almost half didn't get it. my bad.) this is the moment of kairos--something like the opportune moment-- that a person senses is the right time to act.

as i said in yesterday's post, reading the judith dusku interview was my kairotic moment.  i was compelled to act on something i had thought about doing for a while, but hadn't yet found the courage or the right moment to speak.

i'm slow to act, usually.

this is the quote that compelled, or maybe propelled, me to act:  "as a feminist, i'm telling other people:  don't be afraid to tell your story."  so i started, just barely, to tell mine.  though i left out a lot of the why's and wheretofore's in yesterday's post.  & my kairotic moment came at bad time, practically speaking, when i had such a small window of writing time that i had to keep it brief.

(maybe that was lucky for you!)

the other thing i've been doing at school lately is reading wordsworth's "preface to the lyrical ballads" as well as his "essay supplementary to the preface to the lyrical ballads."  dear wordsworth.  i can so well understand his desire and frustration!  to be heard! to be loved! to be popular!  to be understood! to continue prefacing and supplementing! so many explanations of his poems, and why they are great, and should live forever in our hearts!

and can't we all understand dear wordsworth, at least a little?

so here is my preface.  in response to some questions and thoughts from readers on my mitt romney post.

& if necessary,

maybe another day,

an essay supplementary as well.

1) do i speak for mormons or for myself?  for myself.  i was careful to use the pronouns "my" and "i" when making a claim of belief.

2) do i believe that what i said was merely my own subjective interpretation of mormon scripture and teachings?  yes and no.  i recognize that my stances are not mainstream within the mormon church, but i also know that i am not alone in believing many of the statements i made on my blog yesterday.  i also believe, as text interpretation is what i am trained to do, and what i spend most of my work life doing, i have strong textual evidence from all of the bodies of mormon scripture as well as teachings from the mormon temple for the beliefs i espouse.  this is where i have taken my understandings from. perhaps another day we can talk specifics.

3) am i judging romney for being a bad mormon?  i am not judging romney, or anyone, for being a bad mormon.  by anyone's standard, i myself am probably a "bad" mormon.  by the standards i set out in the "my kind of mormon" statements, i am not even my own "my kind of mormon."  my ideals are high.  mormon ideals are high, and exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to fully live up to (a whole other post!)

i think one thing almost all mormons feel right now is the excitement about getting to "set the record straight".  (dear mormons!  we want so desperately to set the record straight!   to be loved!  to be popular!  to be successful!)  so i'm only adding my own version of "setting the record straight." i just want to put it out there, to add my voice to a few others, that not all mormons are super thrilled with capitalism, trickle down economics, anti-feminist rhetoric, rhetoric that maligns or blames the poor for their circumstances, or public policy that does not put the well-being of the weakest and meekest of society first and foremost.

i know the economic theories that explain why capitalism, trickle-down economics, and laissez-faire policies are ultimately, some day, better for poor people (yes, i took honors american heritage at byu with noel reynolds!) i don't believe these theories, though i have studied them fairly extensively (thank you, noel reynolds!), and i have never seen evidence that convinces me of their validity.  i know there are sincere believers who think the poor are better off under this type of regime.  i don't judge these sincere believers.  many of them are my mormon brothers and sisters, my family members, and people i know to be of good heart and sincere intent.  i don't hate these people or think they are immoral, or bad mormons.  i simply think they are wrong.

4) speaking of feminists, why do i think that feminism has a place in mormonism, and why do i think mormon women, in particular, need a stronger voice in the lds church? this is a bit of a roundabout answer.  it starts with an idea that i learned from political scientist valerie hudson, that when women are not at the table, the entire world suffers drastically.  hudson is a professor at texas a&m,  and was recently one of people magazine's 100 most influential people.  she is moderate, even maybe a little conservative, politically.  she is a mormon, a mother, a feminist, and a was a byu professor for 24 years, and she has gathered a large amount of empirical data backing up her premise that the amount of freedom, education, liberty, and power women have in a society are proportional to the well-being of that society in terms of economics, national security, health, etc.

i do not know how far hudson would take this premise in first world scenarios (much of her work is in the third world), but i do know, in a presentation i attended with her on this very topic, that she feels strongly that women's voices are needed at the highest levels of decision making in the most powerful institutions in the world.

what does this have to do with mormonism and romney?  in terms of mormonism, i belive, like dushku, that mormonism can be a powerful force for good in the world.  how much more powerful if women were encouraged greater and more equal participation in the organization?  i'm pretty confident that we're going to find that out in my lifetime.  in terms of romney, i believe he has discouraged women from full participation, perhaps unwittingly, as a pastoral figure in the church, and politically, he does not espouse progressive policies for american women.  this has been damaging to the mormon church and will, i believe, also be damaging to the american public if he is elected.

again, i know mormon women who feel strongly that mothers should be mostly at home when they have small children.  i don't think these women are dumb, wrong, or doing unimportant work, but i do hope that all women will expand their voices to wider spheres, whether or not they have children.  this will be good for all of us.

5) do i believe that a presidential candidate's religion is relevant? i do not.  i know many people from various faith traditions, and from humanistic and aetheistic traditions, who share my vision of a moral society.  i believe that only the morality and efficacy of the policies a president will enact are relevant, and that's how i decide who to vote for.  i bring up mitt's mormonism more as a comment on how i arrived at my particular vision of a moral society than as a condemnation of the way he practices mormonism.  that is not relevant to my voting choice.

but, since mormonism was so central to the development of my values, i think it's interesting that two people who grew up listening to the same sermons, reading the same scriptures, going to services each and every week, raising families in a traditional nuclear family structure, and engaging in so many of the same cultural, social and religious activities could arrive at such radically different positions politically, could have such polarized world views.

i think that i was trying to explore this curiosity in my post, though that was not my explicitly stated purpose.  and again, to distance myself from a version of mormonism that i find distasteful and not representative of my beliefs.

thanks for your comments and feedback, readers, and thanks for listening to my long-winded explanations.  i hope i've done the job this time, and won't have to start in on my "essay supplementary".


  1. the explanations are as masterfully written as the original text. dear lara. i thnk you've helped a whole lot of people think about a whole lot of important subjects more clearly- and clarified their view of your thought with words as clean as arrows splitting apples. high stakes rhetoric, perfectly deployed. bravely done.