392-395: Ralph Hancock – Critic of Mormon Liberalism

January 5, 2013
By

rchDr. Ralph C. Hancock is a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.  He holds a B.A. and an M.A. from BYU and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and teaches classes on American and French political history as well as the history of political thought.  He is currently serving as president of the John Adams Center for the Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs at BYU, and within Mormonism is perhaps best known as a critic of Mormon liberalism and feminism.  You can read Dr. Hancock’s writings here, and responses to some of his writings here, here, here and here.  In today’s four-part interview, we discuss:

  • Part 1: Early years and the formation of his philosophical positions
  • Part 2: His critique of Mormon liberalism
  • Part 3: His critique of Mormon feminism
  • Part 4: On Mormon apologetics, LGBT issues and his final testimony

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95 Responses to 392-395: Ralph Hancock – Critic of Mormon Liberalism

  1. Brett C
    January 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    You have many amazing podcasts and although I don’t agree with all the interviewee’s, I find most to be full of interesting dialogue. John, you are a fantastic and compassionate interviewer with insightful guests. However, in this case I am desperately trying to think of a respectful way to say that Dr. Hancock sounded like an arrogant, judgmental, and insensitive prick who has never left Happy Valley, yet somehow has a degree from Harvard. I am open that in person he may be wonderful, but I found myself being more and more negatively affected while listening to his tone in Part 2 and 3. I felt that this is not a man who should be addressing the topic of compassion. Deep down, I don’t sense any. He asked how he might have said some things in a different way, but I am not sure he is capable or really interested in the answers. His true colors came out in the interview and I did not sense that he is capable of being in a “real” dialogue. I will give him credit for that….what you see is what you get.

    • February 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      I know what you mean about Ralph’s demeanor. He does sometimes come across as arrogant. I think it’s a result of hanging out with a bunch of arrogant professor types all of his life. When he was a kid he was a great big brother. One day many, many years ago Ralph and I were playing tennis when some young men on the court next to us started making fun of me, (I was a bad tennis player). Ralph asked them to please stop. To make a long story short Ralph ended up roughing these guys up. He got roughed up himself too, all in defense of his little brother. I remember how well he treated my friends as well as people in general. He’s actually quite pleasant to be with. He’s got a great sense of humor; he’s very supportive of others and a great listener. He’s also a very compassionate man and has many times taken struggling souls in and helped them get back on their feet. To make a long story short Ralph is a loving man and would give the shirt off his back and a lot more to help anyone, whether they agreed with his philosophy or not. Anyway, I love him and I think you would too.

    • LMA
      February 14, 2013 at 8:48 am

      Huh. It must be one of those eye-of-the-beholder things. While I like many of John Delin’s podcasts, I have never found him to be a very good interviewer. I became very frustrated listening to one “question” in particular, which was not a question at all, but a rambling 10 minutes (I didn’t time it, but it seemed at least that long) in which he constantly used the phrase, “I guess what I’m really asking,” before trying to restate what he had just tried so inartfully to say, only to come around to it again and again. Aargh! John: try one sentence questions. If you don’t like the question you asked, don’t worry, you can ask another one.

      I thought Prof. Hancock was remarkably patient and kind. He even spoke to the thing for which he is being criticized for here: the idea that by expressing criticism of an idea or argument, he is thereby harsh or judgmental. The odd thing is that those who would direct that criticism against him don’t hesitate to be harsh or judgmental in their own remarks (e.g., “I felt that this is not a man who should be addressing the topic of compassion. Deep down, I don’t sense any.”). Have some compassion, you know?

  2. Brian
    January 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you John for hosting a very intriguing interview. It was difficult at times because I happen to disagree with Hancock, but it’s always a good exercise to have an open and honest discussion from all viewpoints.
    I feel that Hancock was too quick to assign proponents of equality to that of “extremism.” He mentioned the term “radical feminist.” I consider myself a feminist and I hear the “radical feminist” term used often by conservatives, but I’ve never actually met an ascribed feminist who meets the definition that opponents describe.
    I loved your analysis of the gay experience in Mormonism (about half way through Part 4) and how the doctrine leaves little breathing room for these individuals to experience the most basic human intimacy. Hancock stumbled over his response to your assertion and gave a very ambiguous and unsatisfying answer.

  3. Anabelle
    January 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Ralph Hancock said:

    “I can tell you without any doubt that younger women who want to put marriage and family first feel looked down upon by those who consider themselves more advanced, progressive, attuned to the (a…you know) ethical views of the higher educational world and so forth.”

    I think that it is wise to examine the word “feel.” Just because someone may “feel” something (“looked down upon”) does not establish it as fact. Projecting one’s low self-esteem or sensitivity onto a person’s thoughts and assuming that you are being “looked down upon” (in this case by an educated or working woman) happens way too frequently.

    I have been a SAHM for over thirty years. I cannot think of a time when I was “looked down upon” by Mormon women, and especially not Mormon women with feminist leanings, for choosing to be a SAHM. I have interacted with hundreds of Mormon women during my adult life. What I have witnessed and experienced is the exact opposite of what was stated by Hancock. Mormon women who have a career are often looked down upon by those who do not. I have heard private conversations and comments in Relief Society that have been critical and condescending towards working women. One working mother (a convert of five years) never came back to church after hearing negative comments about working mothers in a RS meeting. She did not think that there could be a place for her among such women.

    The community at large is another story. I have experienced being “looked down upon” by those outside of our faith for being “only” a SAHM, but NOT by traditional Mormon women or feminist Mormon women. The Mormon feminists I know support women having the opportunity to direct their lives according to the inspiration that they are entitled to as daughters of God.

    • January 7, 2013 at 7:53 am

      “The community at large is another story. I have experienced being “looked down upon” by those outside of our faith for being “only” a SAHM, but NOT by traditional Mormon women or feminist Mormon women.”

      Thank God for Mormonism!

      • Tyrion Lannister
        February 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

        Mormons did not invent the SAHM or were event the first to do it. Being a SAHM has been (and still is) a very common practice for any women of all religions for the past few hundred years. I have never heard of people outside of mormonism think being a SAHM is strange, or look down upon them. Even in liberal San Francisco were I travel very often I have never once heard someone say being a SAHM is a bad thing. It is still very common, and very accepted in society. For gods sake even Oprah has done entire shows praising SAHM’s as being the most difficult and noble job in the world! Ralph Hancock is very out of touch with the outside world if he really believes this.
        I have on the other hand heard many mormon women degrade working women, I even heard women tell my wife she was not living up to her duty because she chooses to work instead of having children right now. This I have experience first hand many times.

    • Cylon
      January 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      I think that what he’s talking about regarding SAHM’s feeling looked down on certainly happens, but in the case where that’s actually happening it deserves to be called out, and it deserves to be called out by feminists.

      Just because some feminists say something does not mean they speak for the movement as a whole. Hancock seems to always go to the most extreme arguments of his ideological opponents, which may be effective polemics for riling up those who agree with you, but it doesn’t do anything to convince your opponents.

      • John Swenson Harvey
        February 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        RE: Cylon
        “Hancock seems to always go to the most extreme arguments of his ideological opponents, which may be effective polemics for riling up those who agree with you, but it doesn’t do anything to convince your opponents.”

        Agreed! Nor does it do anything to promote dialogue or understanding!

    • Eliza
      January 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      I agree with Ralph Hancock that some Mormon feminists look down upon stay at home moms. I’ve also had a handful of LDS friends who decided they were feminists and also decided at the same time that they needed to leave their children and work, even though they didn’t have to. I don’t look down upon working. After getting my Bachelor’s degree I went back to school and worked while having a child at home. I’ve had my foot in traditional and Mormon feminist circles and I think there is judgement on all sides. Interestingly, it has been my non-lds feminist friends who have seemed less judgemental of stay at home moms. Maybe they feel less threatened and don’t feel like they need to take sides.

  4. Carl Youngblood
    January 7, 2013 at 7:36 am

    I’m frustrated that so many of his responses are simply ultimatums (“either you accept the authority of the church or you don’t”). That’s just not a real response.

    • M Johnson
      January 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      The ultimatum is clear in what the LDS leaders who claim divine inspiration say. Either the church is true and you accept it 100%, or you are in apostasy.

      Perhaps this explains why members are leaving.

  5. Carl Youngblood
    January 7, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I’m frustrated that so many of his responses are simply ultimatums (“either you accept the authority of the church or you don’t”). That’s just not a valid or satisfying response.

  6. Michael Towns
    January 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Carl, you just offered your own ultimatum: “that’s just not a valid or satisfying response”.

    I logically challenge you to show *why* the statement “either you accept the authority of the church or you don’t” is faulty. Are you sort-of pregnant?

    • Josh Mangelson
      January 7, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      I love your black and white thinking. Try to nuance a little bit. Brigham Young said that everything he said was prophetic then he later said that not everything he said was prophetic. We no longer teach his adam-god doctrine or blood atonement. We no longer teach Joseph Fielding Smith’s stance that there were inferior spirits in the pre-existence and those are the negro race, etc. etc. etc. Prophets are people and fallible at best. If every word they spoke was the mind and will of God then we would have God among us. One can accept their authority to manage and move the institution like a large ship while not clinging to every word they utter. How many times do the scriptures say not to trust in the arm of flesh but to put your trust in God? Last time I checked the leaders of the church are an arm of flesh… they are mortal people we a re talking about right?

      • Michael Towns
        January 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm

        You do realize that constantly taking a “nuanced” view is itself rather black and white? ;)

        • Josh Mangelson
          January 10, 2013 at 1:07 am

          No, Michael, nuance is not black and white. It’s seeing things as varying shades of grey. I can tell by your comments that you’re new to this rodeo. Stick around and you might see things differently as some point.

          • Michael Towns
            January 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

            Josh, you obviously didn’t comprehend my point.

    • Carl Youngblood
      January 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Michael, the problem is that it doesn’t answer the questions that John is putting forth. He’s not asking about church claims to authority. He’s asking specific questions about various issues in church history and church culture. He’s looking for comments on the extent to which certain approaches are helpful or detrimental. But instead of thoughtful reasoned responses, Ralph evades them entirely and just resorts to a defensive “you’re-either-with-us-or-you’re-against-us” fallacy.

      • Michael Towns
        January 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

        It’s not a fallacy if it’s really true. Try to remember not to fall into the Fallacy Fallacy.

        • Rude Dog
          January 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

          I love it. “It’s true.” Conversation over. Isn’t that the beauty of religious dogma, it’s the ultimate conversation stopper. There’s no conversation, there’s no discussion, there’s no interpretation. You know that’s a lot like totalitarianism. And the religionists wonder why so many people are leaving the church and identifying as non-affiliated.

          • Daniel
            January 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

            I don’t know how old this thread is, or if anyone will read this, but I thought I’d offer my two cents.

            I used to pretty much be one of those in the “all or nothing” school with regards to the church. Every word that came out of the mouth of the 1st Pres or Q12, past or present, was literally God Almighty speaking. ..the church is the ONLY organization on earth that has any goodness…and an attitude of “don’t worry about” those sticky subjects we don’t talk about (Adam-God, polygamy/polyandry, etc.)

            Through a very long and complex series of events relating to my personal life and relationship with God, my views have shifted quite a bit. I can only speak for myself…when I say that I believe and have faith (“know”) the church is true, I mean that I believe that God did indeed call Joseph Smith to be a prophet, and that the priesthood keys are with the Brethren. The ordinances are binding in heaven. Jesus is the Christ. More or less, we have a pretty correct interpretation of God’s character. The Brethren, acting united and together, speak doctrine. But every word spoken? Nope. Miracle of Forgiveness, for instance, sends me into a tail-spin of self-hate and wanting to just give up. You can also keep most aspects of Utah-Mormon culture.

            The church is a vehicle. God is the goal.

      • kaphor
        January 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

        Carl,
        Having now listened to all 4-5 hours of the discussion, I do not get the evasive responses you do. I think perhaps in that entire time he made reference to church authority 2-3 time in the manner you claim 2-3 times.

        Now, several times he did decline to comment on a litany of cases at once and said he’d need to consider a specific case when sharing his opinion. That could be considered a dodge, but I’d look at it as not wanting to lump a bunch of things together and judge with a lesser light.

        I don’t know how you can listen to that dialogue and get a “with us or against us” tone. But the ear is truly hearing what it wants to hear.

        Ralph seemed very up front about the perspective and agenda he wanted to defend, but he tried to choose his words carefully in response to a question as if he was formulating an argument he could defend, rather than just rant into the microphone.

  7. Steve
    January 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Mr. Hancock really had no answer for John questions. He either said just have faith or just do what you are told by the church. He just seemed to have a black and white world view.

    • David Packard
      January 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      There are only two kinds of people in this world, (1) the kind that sees everything in black and white; and (2) everybody else.

  8. carrie
    January 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    As a mormon woman, I am mostly disturbed by men who have no conception of what it means to grow up female in this religion. The most painful issue is mostly that as a woman in mormonism, you only exist for the betterment of everyone else in your life, be it husband, child etc. And not only for the now but the here after as well. It is taught from the craddle. Really. When I finally went outside of the teachings and realized that I was worth an education, a career, and equal standing in my
    family, I became a better parent, wife and general
    human being. The traditional system works for some
    but not all. We all aren’t made from the same mold
    despite the teachings from misogynistic men. Besides the fact that not all men are cut out to be the bread winner. My daughter will be the employed member of her marriage as her husband is much more maternal and wants to be the primary care giver to the children. Why
    is that wrong? It isnt. Just as this podcast reduces women to roles we all don’t fit into, we also sell our men short by telling them there is only one way they can be as well.

    • Steph
      January 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

      All members of the Church are encouraged to “forget yourself and go to work”, not just women. As a woman in the church, I hear continually the importance of taking time for myself everyday to do what I enjoy, but, yes, the main purpose of that is so that I will be more fit to serve others. If all you focus on is “what can I get out of this”, you’re missing the point of the Gospel entirely. It’s about becoming who Heavenly Father wants you to become, and that means letting go of all pride. Always be improving yourself in all areas of your life, yes, but I have never heard a prophet or apostle, past or present, encourage women to leave their children at home and join the workforce unless it is absolutely necessary. When you start declaring things that are the opposite of solid doctrine. The The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, ” By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Equal partners, yes, but with separate,and most importantly, divinely appointed roles. Yes, some policies of the Church come and go, but solid doctrine that has been proclaimed again and again from the dawn of creation is not something to grow casual with. To do so is to entertain apostasy. The Church’s goal is not to win any popularity contest, it is to share eternal truth lead others to salvation. Truth is not open to interpretation. For more on this topic, refer to Pres. Uchtdorf’s most recent CES fireside on truth.

      • Jason F
        January 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

        As soon as someone starts throwing out insinuations of apostasy rather than simply state that how they have a different opinion, I tune out. Fear and threats and labels are not ways to conduct a serious and honest discussion.

        “Truth is not open to interpretation” is a pretty final statement, not something the encourages further discussion.

  9. Josh Mangelson
    January 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Ralph was way too quick to stigmatize the groups of people addressed. To throw in my own stigma toward Ralph, it sounds like he has been listening to too much Rush Limbaugh or that sort of conservative talk radio. To be honest I did not make it to the fourth podcast because I got tired of listening to John try to get him to be level headed and empathetic towards people of differing views. I couldn’t do the same job John did. I cringe when people come off that arrogantly, and to be honest that’s why I didn’t like the interview with Paul Toscano that John did years back because he was the same way. Ralph said that just because societal norms are changing doesn’t mean the church will like it did in the past. That’s true, but not true if the church desires to continue to grow. It can hold to its guns on certain issues and die eventually, but I don’t see that in their program. The church is changing and will continue to do so. Not my favorite podcast, although I think you, John, did a good job.

  10. jg
    January 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    i haven’t listened to any of the mormon podcasts for about a year but the title of this caught my eye, so i listened. i left disappointed. better yet, unsatisfied. i oscillated on whether to write anything on this, but hey, i’m in it this far and maybe it can help progress the conversation.

    i felt john was mostly asking ralph to highlight his empathy and understanding of the other side (whatever that means). ralph was doing so in a way that was at least not satisfying to john, so we kept rehashing.

    the whole 4ish hours was spent talking in generalities about “those other people.” ralph talked about how he shows respect for the other side by engaging on their ideas and their arguments. ironically, we never got specific about ideas, at least the interesting and controversial ones. instead they talked about liberals as if they were one united group. and we used the names like ” joanna brooks” way too often. as if she represented a bundle of ideas so we could reference them in the abstract. i wish we could have focused more on the ideas.

    a couple specifics i found worthy of highlighting for ralph:

    1. comparing being gay to being a drug addict or a smoker was a bad move given john spent hours asking you to expose your compassion to the audience.
    2. i thought it was a good point that many liberals think and position around something like “if you’re a thinker, you’ll conclude this.” i think this criticism is fair. (btw, i’m also annoyed by it). however, in some segments of the conservative side I often feel their is a similar banner, “if you’re a moral person, you’ll conclude this.”
    3. i found ralph’s bridge building skills wanting. the part about “i hope they get over it” was one example that comes to mind, but his tone and approach was never relaxed. it seemed to always be attack or defend. it was never calm, relaxed, and open. in that way it was reminiscent of dan peterson.
    4. I never got a real sense for why ralph takes the positions he does on prop 8 or proclamation on the fam or others. again we never got to the details of the arguments. instead we mostly attacked the tactics of “the other side”.
    5. i suspect on political ideology i land pretty closely in the middle of joanna brooks and ralph hancock. however, i felt that the whole time ralph was calling me “one of those people.” perhaps the “either you believe in prophets or you don’t” line was a place where i was pushed into the other group. (btw, another corollary: “either prophets are right, or they are not.” could be used from the other side. and history requires you either nuance that simple ultimatum or you discard it.)

    bottom line: I imagine ralph could be a good person to articulate the social benefits of the churches positions on social and political issues. it is too bad we never got to that. given it seems that john’s main goal was to build bridges, i’m not sure we got to that either.

    i leave this one feeling a little bit like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75diEyiA0

  11. Kevin
    January 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    A remarkable interview, John, one that I found hard to listen to. Over the years of listening to Mormon Stories I’ve come to identify wholeheartedly with an inclusive, egalitarian, accepting viewpoint that Dr. Hancock grinds on and dismisses. He reminds me of the Greeks that Paul accused of being too smart for their own good, or the Sadduccees with their fixation on patriarchy and outward acts of devotion. His sense of self satisfaction is fascinating. I believe he’ll find himself along with McConkie’s self-righteous bullying of Eugene England or the Church’s boosterism for Proposition 8 on the wrong side of history some day. In many ways his views just don’t square with the teachings of the Master.

    Still, I wish him well. Surely he deserves to find joy in mortality like everyone else. Your example, John, of reaching out in open, respectful dialog is the most remarkable part of this interview. It reminded me several times of how Jesus interacted with unpleasant folks in the New Testament.

  12. Utahhiker801
    January 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I can’t believe I made it through all four episodes of this interview. I’ll be by to pick up the ice cream later.

    I think that John Dehlin’s challenge of being able to argue the other side’s argument is an effective way of really understanding an opposing view and ultimately understanding one’s own position. I found it interesting that Dr. Hancock was unable to list positive historical accomplishments of feminists. He responded with something along the lines of, ‘he was not in the business of praising their achievements.’ I’m left with the impression that his reasoned position was decided before he had the opportunity to consider all of the evidence.

    Dr. Hancock, thank you for acknowledging that LGBT individuals deserve compassion. I wonder what that compassion looks like to you. While I’m sure you could come up with a long list of reasons in support of your argument that gays are “suffering from limitations”, I would argue that gay people do not view themselves in that manner. It would be similar to the LDS response to evangelicals’ contentions that we are a cult and not Christian. Your comments come across as brutally judgmental and decidedly not compassionate.

    There were several other areas from this discussion which I wanted to address, but I’ll just come across as petty and disrespectful, and I’d rather not go that direction.

    Thanks again for the polite discussion.

  13. Jonathan Marshall
    January 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Ralph Hancock is such a black and white thinker. His “my way or the highway” approach shows zero empathy or understanding for others. He seems incapable, or unwilling of viewing the world from someone else’s perspective. I don’t fault the man for owning his opinions, but how can you even have a conversation with a man who is so dogmatic and obtuse? Kudos to John for his sensitive,
    “Larry King” approach to this particular interview. I suspect if John pressed him too hard, Hancock might have just ended the interview, or become even more closed/defensive. (However, I wish John would have questioned him a little more on his seeming reservations regarding suffrage.)

  14. Jon
    January 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Non-aggression principle. If we just lived by that most contention would fall by the wayside. Unfortunately both modern liberals and conservatives break this principle.

    Fascinating interview. John, so when are you going to be interviewed? I would like to hear your thoughts on life and religion for 5 hours straight.

    • January 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Happy to be interviewed…just need an interviewer. ;)

  15. One of Hancock's loving children
    January 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    My father, while imperfect like the rest of us, has taught me a great deal about compassion and understanding. I witnessed him give his heart and soul to serving as a Bishop not once, but twice. I served as his home teaching companion as a youth and saw him reach out with love to the meek of this world. I have witnessed him shed tears on behalf of struggling family members. Furthermore, I sincerely appreciate his absolute dedication to getting to the heart of ideas: he shows this by reading and studying book after book authored by those with opposing viewpoints, and then taking the time to critique them. He will gladly engage with the authors on issues where they may not see eye to eye. I respectfully submit to his many “non-lovers” posting at this website (“haters” sounds too harsh, and “non-lovers” may make one or two of you chortle) that your characterizations of him miss the mark by miles and miles, to say the least. (Of course I recognize that my comments here will be summarily dismissed by those who have already made up their minds–in other words, those who are truly “black and white thinkers” when it comes to Ralph Hancock.) In any case, here’s to more thoughtful and respectful dialogue between progressives and conservatives (thank you again, John Dehlin)!

    • January 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      So glad you stopped by! Very grateful.

    • Kevin
      January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Thank you for the insights about your dad. Each of us is more complex than our political or social views. Surely we are linked together in Christ to the extent we serve him and love one another.

    • jg
      January 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Just want to highlight that I’m glad you commented. Your comments have not been summarily dismissed. I also believe that your father is a honorable and principled man. Even if I think some of his ideas are dangerous, I think engaging in this discussion is a good step. I’m glad he’s engaging in these discussions.

    • Josh Mangelson
      January 10, 2013 at 1:35 am

      I’m not a black and white thinker when it comes to your dad. I’m sure that he has done a lot of good in the community that he has served in. That being said, it is terribly easy to help those around you that think like you. In my scripture reading for the day Jesus taught in Mathew 5:46-48 “If ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not he publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” To me the whole perfection scripture in context with what precedes it is a call to love, befriend, and be empathetic toward those that think differently than you. I’ve heard that perfect in this scripture really only means whole, complete, and/or mature. I find it interesting that to be spiritually mature means looking past the person we see and seeing the person “their divine inner-spirit” that we don’t see. Now your dad may be great; we just didn’t see that portrayed in this podcast. His attitude resembles my bishop’s. My wife is a ward missionary and in their meeting the bishop said about a few of the families addressed would not be coming back so long as he was bishop because of what he said to them. I refuse to talk to him because he see things only one way and you’re not good unless you see it his way. I sense your dad is like this by this podcast. That’s fine, but there is always a call to be better. My dad is a good man, typically has the spirit as I would call it, but says absurd things about gays and feminists frequently. I don’t have to defend him in it, and I feel like I am able to love him more for it.

      • J C
        February 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

        Josh, why do you assume that Mr. Hancock only served those who agreed with him when he was Bishop?

        “I’m sure that he has done a lot of good in the community that he has served in. That being said, it is terribly easy to help those around you that think like you.”

        • Hancock's loving kid... again
          February 4, 2013 at 7:47 am

          I can unequivocally state that Hancock has served, does serve and will serve those who think nothing like him. He has loved them, and he does love them. This doesn’t mean that, regarding those who venture out into the public sphere with their thoughts on moral, political and philosophical issues, Hancock will interpret the Savior’s admonition to “judge not” and to “love one another” as “don’t you dare say anything against their ideas.” I, for one, am eternally grateful for his willingness to subject himself to your criticism (speaking to the majority, but certainly not all, of MoSto listenership/readership), as it has helped me and countless others see more clearly and better craft my/our own replies to arguments tied firmly (if that is even possible) to the onslaught that is moral relativism.

  16. Ana
    January 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I was disappointed that Ralph Hancock seems to have little understanding of what feminism is about. He was not even aware of what Mormon feminists want, and yet he is critical of them.

    When John wanted to find common ground Hancock agreed that it was a good thing that the slaves have been freed. When it came to agreeing on women receiving the right to vote, Mr. Hancock hesitated. I had to step away from the podcast more than once out of frustration.

    He also said that women talk to him and say that feminism hurts them. There are many Mormon women/men with a differing point of view who would not approach him with their opinions.

    • kaphor
      January 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      John didn’t articulate what Mormon feminists want, other than to say they want more say in curriculum design, to which Ralph agreed.

      So tell me, what do Mormon feminists want?

    • Pacumeni
      January 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Ana, the previous commenter on your post asked the key question, as did Dr. Handcock, and it still isn’e answered. Please post an answer here. What do Mormon Feminists want? Dr. Handcock’s conjecture is that they want more sameness between men and women. While he thinks women should participate more fully in some activities where they are unreasonably excluded, he also believes there are real and perhaps eternal differences between the genders, a view that is certainly supported by the Proclamation on the Family. So we need a list of specific changes you as a Mormon feminist want to see and that would generally be supported by Mormon feminists. Those proposals can then be evaluated as to whether they just change unfortunate cultural patterns that have no sound foundation or seek to erase real differences between women and men that make heterosexual couples Elohim, a plural that probably reflects the fact that the man without the woman and the woman without the man are not divine beings. If the complementary differences between women and men could be erased (and misguided efforts notwithstanding, they probably can’t) the end result would be that neither male nor female could experience theosis.

  17. Julie Case
    January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I contest Mr. Hancock’s assertion that most Mormon women feel less-than if they are stay-at-home moms. My experience in a ward outside Utah is just the opposite-Mormon women who work are looked down on in a variety of ways. In any case, whether either group feels less than is more of a reflection of women being judgmental towards each other rather than proving one way is better or should be the rule. It’s as if Mr. Handcock wants to use these judgements as a scare tactic, something even President Uchtdorf has advised us not to do. It is clear Mr. Hancock has little knowledge on the subject of how the feminist movement has improved the lives of women in the world considering he is not even sure the church’s acceptance of birth control was a good thing. Most Mormon women use birth control at some point in their lives, and if asked would say it is useful if not essiential in bettering their lives. I’m glad Mr. Handcock has talked to some women to get his supposed knowledge on what’s good for women in the church, asserting in the affirmative that the feminist movement as a whole has hurt women in the church. I’d suggest he step outside his circle of friends and yes-men and talk to these Mormon feminists he thinks he knows so much about. The further he can get outside of Provo, the better (no offense to any of you fabulous Mormon feminists in Provo).
    The Mormon women I know who advocate for feminist changes in the church want to have a say in the church especially as it defines their “roles,” and the opportunity to be treated like people who have something important and vital to contribute beyond what is currently offered. The Mormon feminists who are able to swallow current conditions in the church cling to and celebrate progressive (yes, how dare I make this assertion) changes that give women more leadership roles like including women more in weekly ward counsels. Does Mr. Hancock think the brethern need not bother with these types of changes? Hmmm…if 80-year-old men feel this change is an advantage to all in the end, where does that leave Mr. Handcock?
    John, I love what you do and support your choice to have Mr. Handcock on Mormon Stories but listening to his arguments brought the wiff of vomit to my senses. It seems the current church is distancing itself from Packer’s slam on the three modern “evils”-feminism being one of them. Has Mr. Hancock seen the I Am a Mormon campaign? My own stake president tells me to hold on and wait for changes in the church for women, that he understands how our current LDS culture is stifling for women in many ways. I hope my stake president is right and Mr. Handcock’s blast from the past sentiments will die out, however reasoned. It looks like the church is shifting and women will continue to benefit. I hope church leaders ignore any advice from professors at BYU who are not even sure giving women the right to vote was a great and necessary and yes, progressive thing to do. Seriously?

  18. Julie Case
    January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I contest Mr. Hancock’s assertion that most Mormon women feel less-than if they are stay-at-home moms. My experience in a ward outside Utah is just the opposite-Mormon women who work are looked down on in a variety of ways. In any case, whether either group feels less than is more of a reflection of women being judgmental towards each other rather than proving one way is better or should be the rule. It’s as if Mr. Hancock wants to use these judgements as a scare tactic, something even President Uchtdorf has advised us not to do. It is clear Mr. Hancock has little knowledge on the subject of how the feminist movement has improved the lives of women in the world considering he is not even sure the church’s acceptance of birth control was a good thing. Most Mormon women use birth control at some point in their lives, and if asked would say it is useful if not essiential in bettering their lives. I’m glad Mr. Hancock has talked to some women to get his supposed knowledge on what’s good for women in the church, asserting in the affirmative that the feminist movement as a whole has hurt women in the church. I’d suggest he step outside his circle of friends and yes-men and talk to these Mormon feminists he thinks he knows so much about. The further he can get outside of Provo, the better (no offense to any of you fabulous Mormon feminists in Provo).
    The Mormon women I know who advocate for feminist changes in the church want to have a say in the church especially as it defines their “roles,” and the opportunity to be treated like people who have something important and vital to contribute beyond what is currently offered. The Mormon feminists who are able to swallow current conditions in the church cling to and celebrate progressive (yes, how dare I make this assertion) changes that give women more leadership roles like including women more in weekly ward counsels. Does Mr. Hancock think the brethern need not bother with these types of changes? Hmmm…if 80-year-old men feel this change is an advantage to all in the end, where does that leave Mr. Hancock?
    John, I love what you do and support your choice to have Mr. Hancock on Mormon Stories but listening to his arguments brought the wiff of vomit to my senses. It seems the current church is distancing itself from Packer’s slam on the three modern “evils”-feminism being one of them. Has Mr. Hancock seen the I Am a Mormon campaign? My own stake president tells me to hold on and wait for changes in the church for women, that he understands how our current LDS culture is stifling for women in many ways. I hope my stake president is right and Mr. Hancock’s blast from the past sentiments will die out, however reasoned. It looks like the church is shifting and women will continue to benefit. I hope church leaders ignore any advice from professors at BYU who are not even sure giving women the right to vote was a great and necessary and yes, progressive thing to do. Seriously?

  19. K.C. Krisher
    January 9, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Maybe I missed something, but I have to join the other commenters who didn’t see much thoughtful content in Mr. Hancock’s remarks.

    I was especially disappointed by his remarks in part 4 to the effect that a continuing prohibition against gay marriage is supportive of a high standard (of something, I’m not sure what), and that we shouldn’t normalize “exceptions to the rule.” Why not? Is Mr. Hancock simply reluctant to question rules?

    I also didn’t really understand where Mr. Hancock was coming from with his critique of the role of emotions and other not-strictly-rational inputs in decision-making. If apologists — and quasi-apologists like Mr. Hancock — wish to make arguments based on entirely rational or intellectual grounds, they should feel free to make them. But in that case they will have to avoid basing their positions on personal revelation or other sorts of intuitive grounds.

    On the other hand, if anyone wants to make arguments on the basis of personal revelation, intuition, or other less cerebral grounds, they are equally free to do so. But they will then have to avoid criticizing their opponents for relying on empathy and other sorts of feelings.

    • Pacumeni
      January 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Your supposition, K.C., that you missed something is valid. Dr. Handcock was making a sophisticated argument, and you missed it. If one normalizes all exceptions to a rule, one no longer has a rule. Citing Toqueville, Dr. Handcock rightly suggests that humans are always born into an existing social structure and that the structure profoundly shapes their behavior. Dr. Handcock noted the importance of socializing males to fulfill their duty as fathers and suggested that long-standing norms on social sexual behavior helped to do that. The empirical evidence for a collapse in male commitment to fatherhood is indubitable and can be linked to changes, especially since the 1960’s in sexual and marriage norms. The damage of those changes to children is enormous. At the very least, people need to be aware major changes in something as fundamental as the nature of marriage will inevitably have complex and not entirely positive effects on people’s expectations of themselves and others. They could further erode the historically socially constructed identity of males as fathers and providers for their children. If so, the cost in unborn and neglected children could be very high.

  20. Brian Kissell
    January 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I just wanted to say that this was one of my favorite episodes that have been published on Mormon Stories. I am a huge fan of the podcast and have listened to every episode, some I have listened to a few times. I just feel that there was something very special about this conversation. I just glanced at some of the comments below and disagree with some of them. I am fairly religiously and politically liberal, and yet I felt that Dr. Hancock was extremely articulate and interesting to listen to. I am a huge fan of Jonathan Haidt, and I feel that this conversation was a great demonstration of “talking to elephants.” I believe that although none of us will agree completely on everything, we need to be able to have conversations which are not reactant and defensive, but sincerely searching to better understand. The podcast did not totally convince me of all of Dr. Hancock’s positions, but I believe it has been truly enlightening to help me better understand and empathize with a more conservative world view. Thank you for all of the amazing work that you do John. Thank you Dr. Hancock for being willing to be interviewed!

    • David Packard
      January 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Brian, amen to what you said. I, too feel like there was some moments where there was talking back and forth to the elephant(s). I am able to understand conservatives a little more by hearing Dr. Hancock’s sharing of responses and explanations.

  21. C. Green
    January 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I greatly appreciated this interview. I have followed some of the back and forth between Prof. Hancock and others in various blogs and I was happy to gain a better understanding of his position. I may need to read some of Prof. Hancock’s scholarly writings, however, because while he made a good case that political philosophy should focus on the definition of the good, he did not specifically ellaborate on his own definition of the good here. One can glean a few clues as to the Prof. Hancock’s view of the good from this podcast, including that the good is defined in terms of society rather than the individual (or perhaps in terms of the society that creates the best individuals), should be based in moral/religious principles, and includes support of traditional gender roles, but I feel my understanding of his viewpoint is still less than comprehensive after listening.

    Perhaps due to my legal training, my main issue with respect to his philosophy, as explained in this podcast, is the question of who decides the definition of the good and how that decision is made. Is there only one “true” or “correct” definition of the good in Prof. Hancock’s mind? How did he derive his own definition of the good? It seems to me that it is likely that Prof. Hancock disagrees with the people described as “progressives” or “liberals” on the podcast on the definition of the good and on the validity of the premises that underly their understandings of the good. How does he think this disagreement should be resolved? Can it be resolved? If it cannot, how can we live peacefully in a society (or a church) where people have multiple views of the good, or multiple views on how various goods should be prioritized?

    Perhaps these are not questions for this particular podcast, but I think they go to the heart of the arguments over legitimacy that characterize our present deep political divide in the United States, which are reflected, though not perfectly mapped onto, the differences between “conservatives” and “liberals” in the church.

  22. Alan Bloom
    January 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Was the book you were referring to in part I, Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom?

    • January 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      That was it! Thanks, Alan!!!

    • Dove
      February 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      I came here to ask the name of the book. Thanks for posting!

  23. Jason F
    January 9, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Listening to Doctor Hancock explain his point of view on the various subjects left me unable to follow his reasoning or feel like I had been given sufficient information to understand why he views things the way he does. When I have listened to “liberal” or “progressive” individuals explain their rational and worldview, I may not agree but I have found that I more often understand or grasp their point of view more so than when conservatives explain themselves. Ok, now I’ve made a huge blanket statement that I’m sure has exceptions both ways. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get that thought out of my head during the last two segments – generally “progressives” explain themselves better than “conservatives”. So, I appreciate what John has done in bringing this guest on, to give a “conservative” a forum to rationally explain his point of view, but I am left desiring more substance.

    One more note, I also seem to see more from “conservatives” than from “liberals” these labels being used as weapons to bludgeon or defend, which is why I have put them in quotes in this post. I don’t have a problem with the labels per se, but those on the right seem more prone to wield these labels as implements of war, loading up the words with a ton of baggage and meaning beyond their linguistic origin.

  24. Michael Taylor
    January 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

    John,

    I really appreciate your monumental efforts to bring on a huge variety of people on to your show. I appreciate the diversity of viewpoints.

    Although, I was a bit turned off by Ralph Hancock’s tone, I thought he at least provided some challenging food-for-thought for those of us (this includes me) who have become a little too self-assured in certain liberal viewpoints.

    Thanks again, John.

  25. Carol
    January 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Very interesting podcast. I guess my sticking point was that as Bro. Hancock discussed his own philosophical views of the gospel, he discussed how he’d read and thought and then came to a conclusion, and then left little room for that conclusion to be wrong. At least that is how I interpreted it in my own admittedly biased way. I’ve taken the time to look at the issues, as well, and have come to entirely different view points. It just seemed there was very little give and take in the conversation – he was very convinced of his view point, and convinced of its correctness. As the trifecta of evilness or threat to the church (LGBT, feminist, AND intellectual), I found his confidence and unwillingness to at least acknowledge the other side has a viable point quite rigid and off-putting at times. Simply put, he totally doesn’t “get” me, and I have a feeling he probably wouldn’t want to really try to understand me… and that’s pretty sad. It’s that rigidness of so many priesthood leaders and other members of the church that keeps me on the outskirts of the church.

    • Pacumeni
      January 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Carol. It is inconceivable that Dr. Handcock, having worked for decades in academia, doesn’t get the liberal point of view, at least to the extent of knowing what the liberal argument is. Academic liberals can live in an orthodox bubble never hearing a conservative critique of their views. That is impossible for academic conservatives. As Dr. Handcock rightly notes, stands almost alone in intellectually defending many of the positions that he expouses and that many other people hold dear but are less able to articulate. Dr. Handcock doesn’t share some of your premises. So he doesn’t share your conclusions. I am quite certain that were you his neighbor, you would find him a sympathetic and kind human being.

  26. SOPHIA
    January 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Haven’t heard a MS podcast in a while and like others had an eye caught by this one. So glad I took some time out to listen to it today. Great job as always John. The phrase from the movie Elf comes to mind, “There’s room for everyone on the nice list.”-Buddy the Elf
    I feel Dr Hancock is a good man but I don’t want to hang out with him…EVER.

    • Jason F
      January 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      I’m not sure if this came across in my earlier post, but I actually would like to spend time with someone like Dr. Hancock who is clearly intelligent and has reasons for his points of view, I would like to better understand what those are and explain where I see things differently.

  27. Michael
    January 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he is a follower of Leo Strauss. One his major contentions was the usefulness of religion by the political class to rule the masses. Sound familiar? People living in theocratic Utah???

  28. Carl Bair
    January 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I have listened to your first podcast and you mentioned that your mother was from Cowley, Wyoming. What was her maiden name? My wife’s family came from Cowley. Through the years Cowley has a reputation of close friends, family, and associations.

    Carl Bair
    PS We live a few miles from Cowley on a small ranch.

  29. January 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I agree it is fantastic to hear someone from the other end of the spectrum from me explain their views and reasoning.

    One argument Dr. Hancock kept making against change irritated me to no end. Perhaps I don’t have enough education in classical philosophy, but I don’t see how this is really a moral/ethical argument:
    ————————
    Because we operate under a certain set of existing social rules, change is either irrelevant or bad because we are only establishing a new arbitrary set of social rules.

    and therefore,

    We harm some people that are exceptions under the current system. So we are no better off changing because different people will just be harmed instead.
    ————————

    Well … sure … I guess I agree with that in the grossly abstract sense of it, or in some broadly hypothetical sort of way. But the REAL world isn’t that abstract! It’s full of people (the “exceptions”) who are specifically harmed.

    Ending slavery harmed the slave owners financially, but so what? Those aren’t morally equal. Should we have not changed merely for the abstract reason of a risk involved in swapping social norms?

    Women gaining the vote diluted (harmed) the political power of men, but again, so what? It was morally wrong to deny women a voice in politics, not just a matter of changing personal tastes and fashion.

    You could also argue using that same logic that locking up murders in prison for the safety of society harms the murderers… so we should have ever changed our social rules (laws) to punish murderers.

    This is a classic example of where logic and reason fall on their face without some other human dimension like emotions or the fuzzy area of morality.

    • DP
      January 12, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Well said,

      I agree on a “logical” level that we are assuming “the good” for our society that guides our rules and therefore defines our exceptions. But he doesn’t provide an argument as to why his arbitrary “good” is better than a more “progressive” stance in certain areas.

      I also agree that real life is different and more complex. Where progressing into an area where the minority or exceptions to the rule are accommodated often benefits the entire society hugely. It isn’t just shifting from one idea of the good with trade offs to another idea of the good with trade offs. I think we can achieve a society where, through discourse, dialogue, and peaceful respect we gradually improve our rules to take care of the exceptions and minorities in such a way that everyone is benefitted.

      Ralph Hancock scoffed at a “utopian” society. What about a “zion” society? Is that not something we should strive for, at least within our church communities if not in the larger world stage?

      Futhermore, I believe that Jesus transcends rules and social custom. He shatters the arbitrary ways we tend to give some people in society more value and meaning and others less. That is what the New Testament is all about. Those you would expect to be saved are not, those you would expect Jesus to shun, he embraces. I believe, that for all of us, the day will come where our walls will crumble and Love will be the thing that remains and literally will save us all. I believe God is that big and transcends us all.

    • Truthophile
      January 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      I think there is some confusion about “logic” and “reason” here. Because of Dr. Hancock’s academic tone and vocabulary are not the same as either logic or reason. His arguments fall apart on their merits. As CS Lewis put it in “Men Without Chests”: “Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so. “

    • Pacumeni
      January 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Brian, Dr. Handcock is fully engaged with the real world. He repeatedly pressed John to give him specific examples to respond to rather than abstactions rooted in vague emotions. Your murderer example is a bad one for a liberal to use in critiquing a conservative. Dr. Handcock would certainly support long-establihsed rules that punish murderers. It is liberals who, in much of the world, have dramatically reduced punishment for murder and other crimes, taking the side of the exception, the murderer, rather than the majority of people who don’t murder but who supply some of the murderer’s victims. Dr. Handcock’s point is that there are always tradeoffs. Take one of your examples of something you think obviously and unambiguously good–votes for women. I agree and am sure Dr. Handcock would agree that on balance they are good. But they carry a price. We would clearly not have a welfare state were it not for women’s votes. It remains to be seen whether the welfare state is sustainable in the long run. If it is not and we face a Greek style social collapse in the future, the social costs and human suffering caused by that collapse but be weighed n the balance of good and bad associated with women voting. Likewise, it is becoming clear that robust national defense and the welfare state are not compatible (see defence budgets in Europe). If at some future time, our society is attacked and destroyed by an agressive enemy, the suffering and loss of that, too, would need to be weighed in the balance of good/bad associated with women voting. Knowing of those potential consequences, I don’t conclude that women shouldn’t have the vote. But I do recognize that we willy nilly gave up some other goods to achive the good of universal sufferage. Dr. Handcock is sensitive to tradeoffs involved in major social change. His critics on this blog often aren’t. And it is hard to imagine a bigger social change with more potential anticipated and unanticipated consequences than a redefinition of marriage. Dr. Handcock is rightly concerned.

  30. Allison
    January 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I get that Dr. Hancock’s academic speak holds a lot of currency in his world but, for me, his exhausting use of lofty language just managed to muddy his part of the conversation. As a woman, I was mostly troubled by what Dr. Hancock had to say about women. He asks the listener for sympathy with his impatience because he has been “… working for decades in an academic environment where the assumption is so thick that smart equals liberal that it gets a little wearying to have to contradict it all the time.” I would ask Dr. Hancock for that same sympathy with the impatience of his LDS sisters who have been living their entire lives with the assumption that women are somehow expected to happily accept the teaching that they are to be presided over by men. Please have sympathy with the impatience of your LDS sisters who have been asked to accept the premise of polygamy, the objection of equal rights for women by their benevolent male leaders, the profound lack of voice given to women in a religion they have dedicated their lives to, the idea that concubines (let’s just call them women) have been given, by God, to His male prophets for their righteousness. I could go on …

    John, another great interview! You have managed to articulate the struggles of the LGBT community with absolute perfection. I wish you could do the same for LDS feminists. I don’t fault you for speaking candidly about the “soft spot” you hold in your heart for the traditional roles of women but don’t discount the dangers of sentimentalizing any role born of a patriarchal society.

    • February 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Allison, I just want to give you the biggest, juiciest hug. Thank you for representing the REALITY of women in patriarchal societies with absolute perfection!

  31. Jason
    January 11, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Great job with the interview John. I definitely liked hearing Ralph’s view and he actually gave me some thoughts to consider in my own faith journey. I love to be reminded that there are many differing opinions out there and my way of thinking can always be changed and/or improved upon.

    I will say, I thought Ralph’s tone felt somewhat abrasive. He came across as a bit of a jerk.

  32. January 13, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I started writing a comment and it got way, way too long. So I’m posting on my blog rather than here.

    I will say, though, that I did enjoy the podcast. It’s refreshing to hear two people who strongly disagree with each other to talk civilly.

  33. Paul
    January 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    The gist of this podcast was rather telling. It tells me that the tactic of ‘BS baffles brains’ is ever prevalent in Mormon apologetics. Hence, “Those who tell, don’t know, and those who know, don’t tell,” at least not ‘telling’ by continuing to beat around the worn out trail of the Mormon apologetic bush. I don’t portent to be ‘wise in my own eyes’, but I do credit myself with having enough of a capacity for basic reasoning, i.e., as it relates to the adage, ‘it doesn’t take a rocket scientist’.

    Please bear with me:

    Today, I followed through with a commitment I made to my wife when she asked if I would take her to attend a Methodist church service. This would be the first time for both of us attending such a church. When the service was over, the first simultaneous thought we expressed to each other while walking back to our vehicle was that neither of us could ever recall attending a Mormon church service (after decades of attendance) where ‘Jesus’ was the *sole* (or to be sure, 90%+) focus of the service. The sermon, the singing, the very simple liturgical ritual(s) made it absolutely clear that we were attending a ‘church of Jesus Christ’, and for which the feeling of ‘the spirit of Christ’ was made manifest to our intellects as well as to our hearts. Discussing this further, I posed the rhetorical questions, “How could Jesus ever condemn anyone for attending a church service like this one where the people testified of Him, sang hymns in praise of Him, prayed in His name, and taught lessons about Him as He being our Exemplar and Savior? How is it is possible (i.e., what sense does it make) that Jesus told Joseph Smith that the church we just attended this very Sunday morning, a church comprised of wonderful, striving and professing Christians, is “an abomination in (His) sight”?

    This is my point:

    I struggled (for the lack of a better word) throughout this whole podcast series listening to John Dehlin trying to make tenable (reasonable) and tactful attempts to ‘get to the heart of the matter(s)’, while Dr. Hancock just bounced around all over the place with convoluted, ‘rubber ball’ defensive (and sometimes offensive–literally) rhetoric. I’m sorry, sir , but the rationale for your answers with regard to many of the questions put to you caused me, if anything, to wonder what kind of a church you belong to. To wit: It was telling to me that throughout all of the hours during this podcast interview I don’t think even once Jesus Christ was ever referred to (or inferred) with regard to “What would Jesus do?” or “What would Jesus think of this?” Was Professor Hancock attempting to ‘professes’ that the LDS church is–what?–the *only* ‘true’, and consequently the only viable church of Jesus Christ on the face of whole earth? To me (as an affirmative Christian) this is the crux of the matter of what the ‘true’ religion is, i.e., the religion which clearly manifests that it is fervently all about Christ. To be sure, this ‘true’ religion of Jesus the Christ would have nothing whatsoever to do with condemning, marginalizing, ostracizing, denigrating (and especially excommunicating!) sincere and questing individuals who take seriously their attempts to synthesize matters faith with reason (intellectuals?), well-intentioned feminists, or honorable and ethical people with non-heterosexual gender issues or proclivities. If indeed, “the glory of God is intelligence,” then the true church of God the Son would certainly have no objections with sincere inquisitiveness and fact-based examination as for the validity and truth claims of works that purport to be His revealed word, especially if it is factually evident that there are a plethora of ‘red flags’ that would suggest otherwise. In fact, isn’t this germane to what ‘Mormon Stories’ is about? Shouldn’t this interview have been about giving some sort of credence, or at least acknowledge as valid the multiplicity of ‘stories’ of hundreds of thousands of people who have had, currently do have, and obviously will yet have, a multiplicity of ‘issues’ with regard to not only attempting to ascertain the unique and exclusive ‘truthfulness’ of the Mormon church, but also attempting to ascertain its utility and viability for temporal, spiritual and mental well-being for all of God’s children who are striving to become worthy children of God, i.e., Christians? This clearly did not happen. Instead, this interview was replete with obfuscations and ‘doublethink’ commensurate to ‘doublespeak’.

    “BS baffles brains”, indeed.

  34. Brian
    January 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

    So hard to listen to. My wife and I have been talking a lot lately wondering how intelligent people believe in a god, any god. Hancock gives the perfect example. Somehow, magically, he “knows” god exists, not just any god but the Mormon god. After achieving that knowledge, little things like facts simply just don’t matter. Ah, the comfort the bubble must give.

    In my case, struggle as I did for over 40 years to make sense of the senseless, I couldn’t do it any more.

  35. Pacumeni
    January 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for a great interview. Dr. Handcock several times quite tactfully pointed something out about John that I have long thought. It is this. The cast of John Dehlin’s mind is fundamentalist. He was a Mormon fundamentalist as a young man, and he is something of a liberal fundamentalist now. In part, I think this follows from the outsized role that emotion plays in his thought. He reasons from salient individual examples, proposing major changes in political or Church policy based on the experience of this suffering young intellectual who is facing hard questions for the first time in his life or that homosexual who is having a very real struggle with the conflict between personal prediliction and Church doctrine. Since he clearly understands the complex and integrated nature of social systems, Dr. Handcock resists sweeping changes in long-established social norms based on emotionally salient individual problems. He rightly points out that the simple, sweeping social change will produce its own set of structural victims, e.g., children who are either unborn or uncared for as norms change for acceptable male sexual and marital behavior. Paradise isn’t part of the consideration set for fallen human beings. A fully developed, mature thinker understands that we must pick our poisen. We need general social norms, and there is good reason to place faith in those that have been market tested by centuries of human experience. A heavy burden of proof should rest on those who propose any major change in long established norms. Social change is necessary, but we should proceed cautiously, understanding that we have much to lose if our tested social model is replace by some unworkable utopia. Dr. Handcock rightly acknowledgesthat any general rule–general rules are inescapable and are implicit in all John’s suggested changes–creates suffering for those who fall outside the norms in one way or another. We should, the good Dr. says, be flexible and humane in our individual interactions with the vicitim of inescapable and very useful social rules.

    Let me conclude with an example of John’s latter-day fundamentalism. In an earlier interview (I don’t remember which one), he asked an apologist to consider what 500 scientists would conclude if asked to evaluate all the evidence and determine whether the Book of Mormon is historically true. Clearly, he stated/implied, they would conclude that it is not. But John, that question is on a par with your young self saying something like “When the prophet speaks, we know the answer.” You just have a new prophet. Exercise some skepticism. Recognize the huge set of implicit assumptions that shape any intellectual endeavor. The scientists have an ex ante answer to the question of whether God intervenes in the world. Qua scientist, they must answer “no” because science rules out supernatural explanations a priori. As individual, they may say “yes,” and many do, but not as scientists qua scientists. I enjoyed this interview in part because Dr. Handcock repeatedly pushed John to recognize unexamined and contestable premises of his sweeping emotional appeals. Having said all that, let me conclude by giving credit where credit is due. Over the course of these interviews, his natural tendency toward fundamentalism notwithstanding, John has become a more nuanced thinker. Some of this is probably a function of age. Some of it is clearly a function of an earnest and laudable desire to be fair and respectful toward positions that, in his fundamentalist gut, he doesn’t now feel to be true.

  36. Debbie
    January 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I’ve only listened to the first 30 minutes, not long enough to get emotionally tangled up in the discussion. So before I get any further into the podcast, I just have to say THANK YOU to Brother Hancock and Brother Dehlin for doing this interview. It is so important that we make the tent of Mormonism big enough for all of us. We CAN have civil conversations and listen to each other’s point of view. We don’t have to agree with each other but it’s okay. God doesn’t require us to agree on everything. There’s room for different ideas and opinions.

    Let me paraphrase the words of Jesus in Matthew 5. “You have followed the inclines of the natural man that says, ‘love the person who agrees with you and hate the person who doesn’t agree with you’. But I say, love your religious and athiest brothers. Pray for those who disagree with you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the believers and the disbelievers, and he sends rain on the conservatives and the liberals alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt politicians do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even robbers do that. But you are to be generous to everyone, even as your Father in heaven is generous to all.

    I hope we can make the Mormon church a place open to all people not just the people we agree with.

  37. Rick Smith
    January 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Brother Hancock,
    I enjoyed the podcast and interview.

    A few points / critiques:
    – I think sometimes you accuse Mormon liberals / academics as setting themselves up as prophets, as usurping leadership and gaining followers who listen to them rather than the Brethren. But, apostasy can come from the right as well as the left. I think that often the “conservatives” can be just as much a hindrance to prophetic counsel as the “liberals”.

    I’m not meaning to accuse you of anything here–I think you have good motives and intentions–as just to point out that, without further development, this point that you often make is somewhat weak.

    – I was really surprises at your derogatory comments on utopia, because Mormonism fundamentally is very Utopian–Zion, after all, is a Utopia. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were very explicit in their goals to create a Utopian society on Earth. Furthermore, the Gospel’s view of Zion and the last days is the Church is building Zion to prepare for the second coming, not that the second coming will magically transform us into a Utopian society and us into a Utopian people. Am I missing something?

    – I’m not really a “liberal” in the “member of the democratic party sense, but I am a liberal in the sense that you described liberalism in the podcast–I believe in “rights” more than “good” as a way to organize society. However, in my studies of Enlightenment era political literature, I never got the sense that the philosophes weren’t concerned with good, but rather they saw themselves in a society where the great evils and tyrannies of their age were carried out in the name of “good”. Concentrating on rights put certain boundaries on the institutions that gave space for individuals to pursue good.

    Why is liberalism in this sense a problem? After all, most issues that you might argue on can be addressed from both a rights perspective and a good perspective. For example, one argument against gay marriage can be based on that we all–straight or gay–have the same right to marriage under the law today–anyone who convinces someone of the opposite sex to marry them can get married.

    I also find that rights tend to be less “relative” than “good” is–moral relativism is not just an issue between cultures, but also across generations. I think, in the end, the model where government is formed by individuals who are focused on rights, but have a strong moral compass for good, is the best way to organize society.

    – As far as stay at home moms being judged by professional mothers, that is a two way street. Both groups feel judged and under attack by the other. Oddly enough, both seem to feel themselves to be the persecuted minority.

    – Having not read much feminist literature, I would take a wild guess that behind their inherent dislike of the “different but equal” approach is that they don’t feel that they have equal treatment. If a sizable portion of a group don’t feel that they receive equal treatment–and I have been surprised by how many very (perhaps otherwise) conservative, orthodox Sisters in the church will grumble about what they view as being treated as unequal–then it may mean that the Church as an institution and we as Church members are coming up short in this area.

    Just one example that I’ve seen a lot from having served in bishoprics: women’s organizations in the Church often really struggle to keep callings filled simply because they don’t get as much face time with the bishopric to get callings filled. Young women who struggle often get less pastoral care for the same reasons–their leaders just get less face time to keep a bishopric informed. The recent changes in making ward council more prominent should help this.

    I enjoyed your interview and perspective. I especially appreciated your points that past wrongs don’t mean that liberalism is right today.

  38. Ray G
    January 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Great interview. It was nice to hear an articulate conservative have a respectful discussion. I have a new person to follow, as I strongly agree with what he had to say. Well done dr. Hancock. I found it interesting how apparent the emotion based aspect of the liberal argument is, at least in this discussion. Over and over the feelings were what was emphasized, not the consequences or results.
    Thanks for doing the interview John. I’ve donated a couple times and it’s nice to see more stuff I agree with.

    • Michael Towns
      January 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Ray, I noticed the same thing. Progressives/liberals place enormous stock on emotions and feelings, rather than logic and reason.

  39. JT
    January 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

    If the first amendment of the Constitution were “hanging by a thread” who might cut it in the name of heteronormalacy?

    Fred Karger, Huffington Post
    11/12/2012
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fred-karger/where-have-all-the-mormon_b_2117549.html

    (Excerpts)

    During the summer of 2008 …I discovered the massive involvement of the [Mormon Church] in Prop 8.

    Since the Mormon Church did not report its vast involvement in Prop 8 to California election officials, and instead claimed to have only spent $2078, I filed an unprecedented sworn complaint against them with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)

    Several top Mormon Church leaders … called me a liar and even subpoena me in their federal lawsuit in California they had filed to strike down our 35 year old campaign reporting law …

    That backfired and the Mormon Church not only lost its federal lawsuit, but the FPPC prosecuted, investigated, fined and found the Mormon Church guilty on 13 counts of election fraud because of my ethics complaint.

    The Mormon Church is extremely political. They admit to having … 77 full time Mormon Church employees in their Salt Lake City office working to pass Prop 8. … They even had to provide their names for the investigators.

    (Caution: Not independently fact-checked)

  40. Zara
    January 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    This was extremely difficult to listen to. Hancock is an intelligent man, but he seems to be in his own bubble of white male privilege, and hasn’t learned the skill of empathizing with others. It’s as insufferable as listening to a very bright teenager who thinks he has the world all intellectually figured out, but hasn’t had any actual life experience yet, isn’t good friends with anyone who isn’t privileged like himself, has never had to struggle. This is a man comfortable with the system and his place in it, so he sees no need to change Furthermore, he sounds like a throwback to Mormon rhetoric from 30 years ago. Surely he can’t be serious, with his suppositions that women need the mommy track and cannot make inroads in their careers as quickly as a man could? Surely he cannot believe that if there are more women in his department, it must be because they were the beneficiary of lowered hiring standards or quotas, rather than the realization and correction of an inherent and institutionalized sexism in the system to begin with. Can he be serious when he asks “what if more men wanted to be a nurse or an elementary school teacher?” as if those are the “women’s professions?” Does he realize that at BYU, many bright young women are actively discouraged from pursuing higher degrees because of the misogynistic boys in their classes who believe they are taking slots away from them? The problem with extreme conservatism is that it presumes that the status quo is there because it’s the best way. Usually those preserving the status quo are those who benefit from it most, and those who may be completely blind to the ways in which it harms others.

    • Michael Towns
      January 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Zara…..”white male privilege”? Seriously?

      Your comment says more about your own myopic worldview than anything Dr. Hancock said that offended your sensibilities.

    • John Swenson Harvey
      February 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      RE: Zara
      “The problem with extreme conservatism is that it presumes that the status quo is there because it’s the best way. Usually those preserving the status quo are those who benefit from it most, and those who may be completely blind to the ways in which it harms others.”

      As a 51 year old privileged white Mormon male economist I’ve got to say that you perfectly nailed this statement! Well done.

  41. chris
    January 31, 2013 at 3:49 am

    I do not care how big the “tent” is… if this guy is in it I must be outside.

  42. RayG
    February 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I have commented once, but feel the need to comment again. Why is everyone so insistent that Dr. Hancock feel empathy the same way you do? A majority of commenters seem to say that since he doesn’t feel the same feelings and want to treat everyone like they do, he has not heart.

    This reminds me of a few years ago when we took the family to Yellowstone Park. It was early spring, and the animals were looking pretty sad. My young daughter insisted that we feed them, because they looked hungry and needed food. When I forbid her from doing that, she looked at me like I was the most insensitive person in the world. Here were clearly hungry animals, who we could help if we just gave them some of our food, and she loved them enough to do that, and couldn’t understand how not giving them what they wanted was another way of showing them, and the other animals, a higher degree of love and concern.

    To me it seems that is similar to what is going on here. Many want and expect Dr. Hancock to accept and embrace everyone who’s different, but he insists, rightfully I think, that long term it is more loving to not necessarily give them what they want. Love them? yes. Embrace them and encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing? No.

    John kept bringing up the parable of the lost sheep, and we are encouraged to go after them, but the parable tells us to bring the sheep back to the fold, not bring the fold to where the lost sheep is. I agree we should love those who are “lost,” but that doesn’t mean embrace everything they are. It is an uncomfortable fact that certain lifestyles and cultures are not conducive, by our standards, to healthy, enduring, prosperous lifestyles. Are there exceptions? Yes, but why try and create rules around exceptions (another concept Dr. Hancock continued to try and explain, but with limited success).

    Conservatives are stereotyped as blindly opposed to change. That is unfair. From my study of politics and history, I feel conservatives have identified the cultural and lifestyle norms that allow for the greatest degree of freedom and prosperity. Within that definition is the nuclear family–Man and woman, married and faithful, raising children, ideally with the mother at home. This arrangement, uncomfortable as it may be for some, is the institution that has the greatest odds for preserving our way of life. Any society that demeans this is sowing the seeds of their eventual collapse. It isn’t immediate, it might take decades, but it is inevitable.

    Progressives, feeling that change is always progress, demean those who stand against it as being cave men. They look around and say, “see, we’ve changed and the world hasn’t ended.” but don’t take into account the downward spiral we’re on. The 60’s forced huge changes through our culture, and we’re in a slow motion crash as we speak. People force religion out of the public square, then wonder why politicians and business leaders raised that way are unethical. People demean marriage and redefine it, say fathers are unnecessary, then wonder why there are so many young men in jail. They push free love, then wonder why marriages don’t work. It goes on and on, and will do the same in the church if we insist that the leaders “get with the times.”

    Am I for Gay marriage? Absolutely not. Should they be jailed or abused? Absolutely not. Should all stigmatism be removed from the gay lifestyle? (I know this will provoke anger) No, it shouldn’t be completely destigmatized. The more accepting we become of homosexuality, the more youth who will go down that path, and expose themselves, and our culture, to the harmful impacts that lifestyle brings. Again, I’m not encouraging any kind of abuse, but I don’t thing it should be treated the same as choosing to get a new hairstyle (I realize this makes it sound like I’m trivializing it, or that it is completely a choice, but I’m not).

    Anyway, I’ve gone on too long. Please understand that conservatives are not hateful, and we can still have love and empathy even if we don’t do it the same way you do. We just look at things from a different perspective. We may be right, we may be wrong, but so may the progressives.

    One other thought, those who quit listening because he said things you disagreed with. Toughen up. If that’s how you deal with contrary opinions you will never be able to defend your side effectively. I try to seek out thoughtful discussions from the other side, just so I can consider my own opinions from a different perspective. I would recommend the same practice to you.

    • February 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

      I am for gay marriage. I am for all adults finding a loving companion and raising healthy, well-adjusted children. Homosexuality has been falsely judged as immoral, unhealthy, and as detrimental to the family. The evidence is in, and it is time to align ourselves with the truth.

      It is time to align ourselves with the truth!

      When it comes to religion you must all ask yourselves this: “Does my religion teach false ideas? Does my religion hurt people? Does my religion support and defend bigots?” Religion is a human-made phenomenon, and consequently, should be open to change. As we know better, we should do better.

      • RayG
        March 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

        Debbie,

        How can you say that homosexuality has been falsely judged as immoral, unhealthy, and detrimental to the family? Do we live in the same universe? The immoral part is based on beliefs, of which most people and religions in the world over the course of history have decided it is immoral (and unnatural). I believe that honest gay people would agree that it is a less healthy lifestyle than heterosexuality, especially male homosexuality. Detrimental to the family–did you miss a talk from your mother when you were 10? Even current studies in our PC world show that gay parents produce significantly higher rates of gay children.

        I don’t understand how seemingly intelligent people can weigh as equivalent thousands of years of trial and error producing the nuclear family against their radical decade old dreams of sexual equality and decide they are of equal value and merit.

        Again, I’m not saying we should persecute them, but to decide over the course of a decade that we need to conduct a massive social experiment, the results of which we have no real idea, is pretty irresponsible. I say, let’s study the cultures that have successfully integrated a predominant homosexual agenda and see how they have done over the centuries, but there are none. It is exclusively hetero-normative societies that have survived over the course of time.

        You may not like the conclusion, but your agreement isn’t needed for the truth to be identified. And speaking of bigotry, how do you feel about beastiality, NAMBLA, polygamy, necrophilia, etc. Is all bigotry forbidden, or only what you give permission to be against? There are a lot of things in the world that mature thinkers should be allowed to agree with, or disagree with, without being labeled bigots.

        Finally, all change isn’t necessarily good change. Just ask the handicapped and Jews in Germany, who were killed to allow for the perfect race. Those people thought they knew better, but time proved them wrong, in a quicker time frame than is usually the case.

  43. Howard
    February 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I enjoyed this interview very much and despite my strong leaning toward church reform I thought Ralph made some interesting and creditable points regarding conservative political philosophy. But one word stuck with me for days after “rules”. Ralph talks about rules but Joseph talked about principles and self governing; “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” Rules strikes me as pharisaical and principles strikes me as gospel. One the letter the other the spirit. This is where I think Ralph derails.

  44. Sam
    February 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    The just of it:

    There is a progressive and liberal agenda.

    Big on gender roles, but exceptions to “the rules” are kinda sorta okay, but not really.

    Meh, what’s new in the Mormon world?

  45. February 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

    http://www.johnadamscenter.com/2013/02/the-common-ground-an-invitation-to-continue-the-hancockdehlin-discussion/

    I appreciate many thoughtful responses, and still plan to engage some reasonable criticisms posted here. Meanwhile, here is an invitation to follow up on problem John and I agreed needed more reflection.

  46. Karen
    February 19, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Listening to this guy makes me not want to go back to church.

    • Rye
      February 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      Makes me want to go more often. Please find more people like Ralph to interview! He made so many good points that caused me to question the validity of assumptions I’ve made. Excellent interview! John is so good about chewing that bone and I loved that Ralph engaged every question and wasn’t a pushover.

  47. Noel
    February 23, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    An interesting paper on the site First Things on homosexual marriage by the chief Rabbi of France. Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption The Chief Rabbi of France says what we often forget to say.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/02/homosexual-marriage-parenting-and-adoption

    Interestingly enough is the comment at the end of the paper.

    Gilles Bernheim is the Chief Rabbi of France. This statement was translated by Ralph Hancock of Brigham Young University, and adapted for publication from a longer essay.

  48. Noel
    February 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    The rabbi comments “I have written in light of the French debate. Whether legal rights concerning homosexual parenting and adoption are extended or limited, it is also clear that LGBT activists will use homosexual marriage as a Trojan horse in their greater efforts to deny natural sexuality, to erase sexual differences and replace them with orientations that make it possible to leave behind the “straitjacket of nature” and to pursue the destruction of the heterosexual foundations of our society.”

    Really?
    Percentage wise just how many gays will it take to destroy the foundations?

  49. February 27, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I’m proud of myself for getting through all four hours. I was gritting my teeth through most of it. I was also driving to and from our San Diego CoR “atheist billboard”. So, on the one hand I was celebrating my freedom and emancipation from religious dogma, and on the other, I was trying to parse out the wisdom from the demagoguery of Ralph Hancock.

    I applaud John for being patient and kind so that Ralph felt free to speak openly. We were able to get a good picture, it seemed, of his true sentiments about many issues.

    What I take away is this: Dr. Hancock applies scholarly techniques to the examination of evidence and opinion, and he reminds me to do the same. Things are not true or false simply because they appeal to our personal sensibilities, they feel good, they are part of our heritage, etc. And, change is not always good or for the better.

    Where I part ways with Dr. Hancock, is that after a similar examination of evidence, he and I come to very different conclusions.

    As John remarked, Ralph is articulating well his opinions, and he does in fact represent his camp very well. I have enjoyed a visit to his camp, but I don’t want to live there.

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