This is a guest post by Tom Stringham.
This post is written for what I assume is a small audience. It will be most meaningful to members of the church who, for one thing, are fans of the Harry Potter series of books and, for the other, still feel a little uneasy about Joseph Smith and polygamy after an eventful November. I won’t be able to contribute any more historical insight than has already been given, but I hope to reframe a story that is still mostly unknown to us by considering a fictional story we may know much better.
Specifically, I want to make a comparison (at the risk of coming across a little irreverent) between Joseph Smith and Albus Dumbledore. The reader, then, can put him/herself in the place of Harry Potter, the earnest and good-hearted boy who at one point found himself feeling disillusioned about a man he loved and admired.
One of the most poignant moments in the Harry Potter series is in The Deathly Hallows, when Harry is suddenly confronted with disturbing facts about his headmaster’s past. A journalist in the magical world has published a book called The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, claiming to expose an unseen side of Dumbledore: “Stripping away the popular image of serene, silver-bearded wisdom, [the author] reveals the disturbed childhood, the lawless youth, the lifelong feuds and the guilty secrets Dumbledore carried to his grave.”
M* would like to bring to your attention this talk from Elder Ballard at General Conference in 1999. Given many recent events, this warning is especially timely. Here are some key excerpts:
When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.
Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).
Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).
This is a guest post by Dr. Andrew Auman, who holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics from Utah State University, and a Ph.D. in astrodynamics from the University of Surrey. His research interests include geometric integration, geometric estimation, and attitude and orbital mechanics. He is also a semi-regular contributor to the blog Just An Average Mormon
Recently, a survey by The Mormon Gender Issues Survey Group (TMGISG) has been floating around social media, and I have accepted an invitation to write this guest post as I wanted to weigh in on the discussion surrounding this survey and TMGISG’s approach to their research.
To those unfamiliar with the online dialogue surrounding the research being performed by TMGISG, many individuals are calling into question TMGISG’s research methodologies. The concern is that the wording used in the TMGISG’s survey shows a bias in support of the ordination of women to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—whose members are commonly referred to as Mormons. Individuals have also expressed concern in the ambiguity of some questions; e.g., what constitutes a “good Mormon”? And there are further concerns that not only do the answers provided on the survey not reflect the most commonly held views on the topics in question, but that at times the only answers provided contain views with which respondents cannot fully agree mixed in with those views to which they do ascribe. That this is the case is acknowledged in the survey. But as these biases, ambiguities, and false dichotomies could easily be removed by the inclusion of additional choices and/or the rewording of current answers, why was the effort not made?
The purpose of this post is to discuss research ethics, and apophasis is not my intent in the above expression of concerns being brought up in the dialogue elsewhere regarding TMGISG’s research practices. May the interested reader peruse the survey and what has been said on the matter for themselves, thoughtfully reflect, and then draw their own conclusions about its phraseology. I simply mention these issues as they are pertinent to the matter of ethics in research, and will be referred to herein without rehashing them for the sake of brevity—brevity being an admittedly relative term.
If you, like many of M*’s readers, found the recent gender survey being passed around very biased, you may find this one a bit better.
Take this this survey instead.
(This was sent to us by M* reader Sydney Bone, who said the following: “I created a survey about the methods used in the Mormon Gender Issues Survey, in a large part in response to your article about said survey. My survey provides a way to collect data on people who responded to the Mormon Gender Issues Survey on whether or not they felt the survey was biased. In the event that the Mormon Gender Issues Survey is used to spread false information about the church, it will be nice to have data about how many people expressed concerns about the survey methods. I would appreciate it if you could promote my survey to your readers.”)
This is a guest post by Daniel Ortner, who blogs at symphony of dissent.
Feminist Mormon Housewives has been running a series entitled When the Temple Hurts, in which members of the Church who had negative or conflicted experiences with the temple have shared their experiences. It seems to me that this has been a useful project in creating a space for individuals to share their feelings and their doubts. I have had several close friends struggle with elements of the temple, and so I know that the feeling of disappointment and disillusionment that some experience is very real. I hope not to diminish from those very real lived experiences in any way.
However, reading the series has made it apparent to me that a place is also needed for individuals to share their positive thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding the temple. I hope that those reading this post will contribute to future posts by sharing those stories and experiences. For those who have been comforted in a time of crisis or received personal revelation in a moment of need, I hope that your stories will inspire and help others. For those who struggled with the temple at first, I hope you will share stories of how you eventually came to find peace and meaning in the ordinances of the temple and that your words will be a balm in Gilead for those in pain.
Of course, different individuals have a different understanding of what they are allowed to speak of regarding temple ordinances. Additionally, many temple experiences are so sacred that they perhaps cannot be appropriately shared outside of the temple or in a public setting. Please use your discretion and follow the promptings of the spirit in deciding what is appropriate to share.
I firmly believe in the promise of Joseph Smith’s Kirtland Temple Dedication: “That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house; And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” I feel very strongly that collecting these stories will help strengthen faith and testimonies and helping others feel the power and holiness of the Lord’s House.
When the Temple Helps: Daniel’s Conversion
This story is part of a new series, When the Temple Helps. Please feel free to share your stories and testimonies of the temple in order to uplift and inspire others.