Cultural Mormons Welcome – But Please Don’t Be Deceptive

J Max Wilson recently wrote a post comparing modern liberal Mormons to the more ancient Pharisees. (See Having A Form of Godliness : Modern Mormon Pharisees)

J Max decided to not cross post this post on M*, probably because he predicted it would cause a stir and he wanted to make it clear he took the full credit for what he was writing.

I’m not one to pull parallels between modern and ancient pharisees. However, I do confess that I enjoyed the article because it got me thinking. I was not aware of some of the parallels he lays out and I sort of agree with Ardis Parshall on this: “What I appreciate most about your post is that it caused me to work back and forth between modern Pharisees and what I’ve learned about New Testament-era Pharisees, helping to clarify other reading I’ve done.”

But I think any sort of parallel like this is limited at best.

Unfortunately, the ‘Bloggernacle’ didn’t respond well to the post. BCC immediately put up a nasty named link to the post. Since they took it down, I won’t repeat it. Unfortunately, one of my homes — Wheat and Tares — put up a link entitled “So, are YOU a hypocritical, orthoprax Mormon pharisee?”

Considering the fact that J Max didn’t mention anyone in particular, it bothers me that the Bloggernacle’s main response was mockery. J Max actually left considerable room for individual’s imperfections:

We all fall into the kind of hypocrisy where our private actions conflict with our public statements. This is often a hypocrisy of weakness, where our actions do not always conform to our verbal statements of belief; not because our belief is not sincere, but because in our imperfection we fall short of that sincere belief.

Moreover, his main point seems to be concern over deception.

But those who advocate “orthopraxy” as a mask for unbelief are endorsing a systematic hypocrisy in which they knowingly go through the motions of belief before men, to give the appearance of belief, when they do not in fact believe.

Shouldn’t it be an easy point of agreement that deception is morally questionable? Sure, I’d be the first to admit that not all deceptions are immoral. If I were hiding Jews in World War II Germany, I’d feel it was my moral duty to lie. But J Max is hardly talking about a morally justifiable form of deception here.

If anything, I think the main concern I personally have with J Max’s post is that this group he is concerned about is probably relatively small. A ‘bad apple in the bunch’ sort of phenomenon.

I would assume – no, I believe – that the majority of people I’ve met on the Bloggernacle are relatively straightforward in what they say they believe. In many cases, their beliefs are straight up LDS beliefs but with some interesting nuances. Other times they aren’t LDS in their beliefs, but at least they are honest about that fact, openly comparing and contrasting how they differ from the teachings of the LDS Church. In either case, I see no problem because there is no deception.

So I was glad when I noticed that Wheat and Tares had produced this respectful response from Andrew S to make up for the bad link. And, just as I would have expected of Andrew S, he actually understood and acknowledged that J Max’s post seemed to be primarily about deception and therefore had a point worthy of consideration. 

I avoid some of his criticisms and fears. As a cultural Mormon, I don’t necessary want to give the impression that I’m a believer (especially if I know I don’t believe in the way people will interpret a belief statement in.) As a result of the former, as a cultural Mormon, I wouldn’t want to “infiltrate” areas of the religion that are predicated on belief (being a Bishop or some other calling like that, attending the temple, and so on). Nevertheless, it is true that I wouldn’t be a “seeker.”

Now I can’t speak for J Max here. Maybe he is uncomfortable with a ‘Cultural LDS’ openly participating with Believing LDS members.[1]  But I am not. (And I doubt J Max is either.) In fact, I want Cultural LDS to participate as far as they are comfortable and wish to – so long as they don’t try to ruin it for the Believers that is.

And this is where my own concerns lie. I don’t really care if this is called Phariseeism or not. I don’t care if the analogy is apt or not. I don’t even care if we call it hypocrisy or not. And personally, I don’t care if you do or don’t believe.

I honestly don’t care about anything in J Max posts except this one really good point: if you are being deceptive that means you are doing something morally questionable.

As it turns out, dishonesty has consequences and it always does. Even if I were to lie in Hilter’s Germany, the SS (once they caught me) would be right to assume I can’t be trusted by them. That would be a natural consequence of my action. (One I’d hopefully gladly take.)

So why couldn’t the Bloggernacle at least take that part of the post – the main point – seriously? Can’t we at least all, conservative or liberal (whatever that means), agree that deception is problematic and has consequences?

Examples

J Max gives several examples of this and I guess this is why it hits home for me – because I’ve actually seen several of these deceptions used. It’s tempting to actually put links next to the ones I’ve seen, but Geoff will kill me, so I’ll refrain.

  • Technically, they believe the Book of Mormon is “inspired” because “inspired” means something more nuanced than what most believers mean…;
  • technically they believe Joseph Smith is a prophet, because a prophet is something more broad than most believers understand;
  • technically they believe the church is “true” in the sense that…
  • they gave about 10% directly to a charity of their choosing instead of the church, so technically they are a “full tithe payer”;
  • since the Word of Wisdom says people should eat meat sparingly, and people who eat a lot of meat answer the temple recommend question about obeying the Word of Wisdom in the affirmative even though they clearly don’t obey all of what it says, they also technically can say they obey the Word of Wisdom, even though they regularly drink coffee or alcohol; technically,
  • Faith is the same thing as Doubt because Faith means that you don’t know for sure, and not knowing is technically doubting….
  • Oh, and let’s not forget claiming Elder Holland’s quote meant the Church is moving away from Book of Mormon historicity, so its okay to claim that anyone having a discussion on how the Church does in fact teach that The Book of Mormon is historical is really going against LDS Church teachings.

Goodness! Let’s admit it. If you are speaking in this Clinton-esque sort of way, you’re misleading people. They will think you meant one thing and really you meant something else, nearly the opposite in some cases. 

I have expressed elsewhere some sympathy to the idea that for a temple recommend there should be a level of personal interpretation. But I virtually lost that argument with my more conservative friends when I actually had some ‘liberal Mormons’ (whatever that means) publicly claim that since so-and-so had a temple recommend that meant they were eligible to be Bishop even if they didn’t make their differences in belief known to those making the call.

Say what!? From personal to public in one sweep, apparently, and none nary the wiser.

Let’s call a spade a spade. The fact is that the above really is deceptive and potentially quite hurtful to others. If you let people think that you mean one thing when you actually mean another there are consequences, big or small, that will follow and you are now morally responsible for them. 

This point, above all others, seems like a viable point of discussion that was worthy of more than mere mockery. And in so far as J Max helped people stop and think about that point, if only for a moment to try to argue with it, then I applaud J Max for his post. 

Notes

[1] I mean no offense here, I’m just using it in the technical sense of someone that is LDS and also “believes” in most or all of the defining truth claims of the LDS Church. As I recently told John C, I fully recognize that the word “believing” can have many senses. But that’s not an excuse to not mean what you say and say what you mean. For better or worse, the vast majority of people in the English speaking world still understand “Believing [Religion]” to mean someone that believes the defining beliefs of [Religion]. If you wish to use  the phrase in a less standard way, go for it, but remember that it’s up to you to communicate this difference to your audience to avoid being deceptive.

156 thoughts on “Cultural Mormons Welcome – But Please Don’t Be Deceptive

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  2. Bruce: I appreciate the tone of this post and what you’re trying to do here.

    Here’s what I didn’t like about J Max’s post: When I think of the Pharisees, I don’t think of hypocrites or orthopraxy or any of that; what I think of is people who tell others “Your effort is not pure or correct enough; i.e., like mine.” His post seems overly focused on telling others how they should stop being Pharisaical—and comes across* as Pharisaical in the process :(

    *I admit this interpretation may be a result of my misreading.

  3. Brian J,

    The ‘pharisee’ comparision does seem to be quite loaded in any conversation. No one say, ‘hey ya, I’m like the pharisees’ with a straight face. So I guess I do have to see your point there. But the message of non-deception is what sounded loudest for me as per my own personal experiences.

  4. I think J Max makes a legitimate point, but throwing “Pharisees” into the mix is a bit too much, all the more so because the analogy is so inaccurate as to be misleading.

    First of all, the Pharisees were the doctrinal conservatives, and the Sadducees were the doctrinal liberals. The former believed in the resurrection, the latter did not. The latter didn’t even believe in immortality.

    So if one is going to go around accusing liberal Mormons of doctrinal infidelity, identifying them with the Pharisees has it exactly backwards.

  5. D&C 10:28 seems appropriate here:

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, wo be unto him that lieth to deceive because he supposeth that another lieth to deceive, for such are not exempt from the justice of God.”

    As a long-time Bloggernacle participant, I can tell you there are a number of people who feel that their cause is so just and right that it is OK for them to be deceptive in the name of their cause. This happens all the time. To the extent that JMax is focusing on this issue, he is in the right.

    Having said that, I think JMax perhaps should have emphasized more that he was not judging those who have an overall testimony of the Church but are still trying to develop an individual testimony — and the strength to carry through on that testimony — of specific issues within the Church. That message of non-judgement, which I know JMax believes, did not come through as well as I would have liked.

  6. “Unfortunately, the ‘Bloggernacle’ didn’t respond well to the post…it bothers me that the Bloggernacle’s main response was mockery.”

    So liberals responded to a traditional conservative with insults that ignore the substance of the argument? Gee, that’s strange. Guess there’s a first time for everything.

  7. There are also some fine distinctions to be drawn here – the church isn’t in the habit of standing idly by when people go inactive. The church doesn’t say, you can only come to church if you believe this or that – it practically begs and implores people to come.

    So to go around saying that church attenders who have divergent beliefs aren’t Mormons seems more than a little unfair. To approximate that standard, drop from the rolls any member who doesn’t come to church for a full year. The scourge of Mormon heterodoxy would no doubt be greatly reduced.

  8. “So to go around saying that church attenders who have divergent beliefs aren’t Mormons seems more than a little unfair”

    Whoever said this, I disagree with them.

  9. Now now Huston. It’s not like we don’t find the same problem in reverse at times. :P

    I am really hoping to get away from the conservative/liberal divide on this issue and refocus on ‘deception vs. non-deception.’ To do that, I probably don’t want to lead out with “yeah, but liberals (or consevatives, or whatever) are more deceptive!”

    If anything, I’m hoping those that self identify as “more liberal” will come forward and back a message of ‘non-deception’ and ask for the same in return. A change of ground rules could make a big difference here without really causing problems for either ‘side’ on this.

    In fact, I’d argue that non-deception is even an outright “Cultural Mormon’s” best friend.

  10. I left a comment on J. Max Wilson’s blog yesterday morning to which he hasn’t yet responded. I will reproduce part of it here in an effort to get a coherent response.

    Submission to the authority of the leadership…….This is where I think you are looking for apostasy in the wrong places. In the past two weeks, I’ve seen blog posts and comments which challenge the authority of the church leadership. The first one dealt with the part of the handbook which allows for bishops to help poor people get public assistance. One commenter stated explicitly and publicly that he thought that practice was wrong. The second example involves the way scouting is implemented and attributes a bad scouting experience “to a failure of leadership in SLC”.

    I live in a place (AZ) where I have to sit through priesthood meetings with a bunch of former bishops and high council members and listen to them complain that the Brethren haven’t taken a harder line on illegal immigration.

    So in a sense I agree with you, Br. Wilson. There is an ever-present danger of apostasy within the church. But for every member you can show me who believes the Book of Mormon to be inspired fiction, I can show you 500 members who think the brethren don’t know what they are talking about and should just shut up when it comes to illegal immigration, anti-discrimination ordinances in Utah, or the administration of the BSA.

  11. With regard to the issue of deception, I think a critical distinction has to be drawn between someone who simply keeps serious divergences private out of respect and someone who keeps serious divergences private with some rather more nefarious aim.

    If the church were to promote the ideal that no one can attend unless they are free and open about all their private heresies, the resulting discord would no doubt be far more harmful than if those concerned merely keep their mouths shut when certain topics come up.

    If that is deceptive, then it is all to the strength of the church. The only other alternative is asking them to leave.

    There is something fundamental about trying to be a catholic or universal church, which is clearly the goal here. It means we purposely disparage the idea of people shopping around to find a denomination more to their liking. It also means a healthy level of tolerance for those that remain precisely because we tend to make it culturally impossible for them to leave.

    A catholic church must be a “big tent” church, or it is nothing. Not so big a tent that the tent becomes meaningless, but not so small that we punish any sign of unorthodoxy either. And if that means that people are less than forthcoming from time to time, for the sake of the tent, all the better.

  12. deception is problematic and has consequences

    The problem is that plenty of people are too terrified of the ostracism or other ramifications of showing their doubts or unorthodox beliefs to be honest about them. They’re being deceptive because they expect to not find acceptance. So instead of focusing on “if you don’t believe the same as everybody else and you hide it that’s a lie,” try focusing on “why do people feel the need to put on that “mask” of orthopraxy that J Max was talking about?”

  13. Mark D: “a critical distinction has to be drawn between someone who simply keeps serious divergences private out of respect and someone who keeps serious divergences private with some rather more nefarious aim.”

    Yes! Exactly.

    Carla: “The problem is that plenty of people are too terrified of the ostracism or other ramifications of showing their doubts or unorthodox beliefs to be honest about them.”

    Such as being labeled a Pharisee, for example?

  14. I fail to see how a deception to protect yourself and others from pain and suffering differs significantly from lying to protect Jews from the Holocaust. Most cultural Mormons would be all too happy to leave if it weren’t for the real evil that would befall them if the did: divorce, estrangement from family and friends, loss of employment, ostracism from community, etc. Not to mention the emotional pain caused to others. What’s more, all of these consequences are brought about by people like J. Max Wilson who think they are building up the kingdom of God! I think there is no question that this is a morally justifiable deception.

  15. Being someone whom he quotes in the durn post, I do feel like it was directed at me in one form or another (I don’t know if he considers me a Pharisee or if he thinks I am aided and abetting them or something else).

    There are two aspects to the deception as he sees it. First, there is the not following commandments while claiming that you do follow commandments. Second, there is doing it specifically to lead the church in some direction that you think it should follow.

    I don’t doubt that there may be some people engaged in this behavior. I doubt that there is a large number or that it is organized. So, effectively, he is coming out against child abuse or ballot stuffing. Of course, people shouldn’t behave this way.

    But reading the post in context, where he quotes extensively from me on the “inspired” Book of Mormon thread, he doesn’t seem to be limiting his notion of distasteful behavior to those who actively seek to subvert the church. Actually, that’s not the way to put it. He seems to be saying that believing something like “the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction” is subverting the church. You can come to church if you believe that sort of traitorous filth, but we need you to wear a sign around your neck and ring a bell so others know.

    I, of course, don’t know (and can’t know) what is really motivating J. Max. It is just frustrating because if I were to define someone who is trying to change the church into his own image, suggesting new and more detailed standards for temple worthiness is where I’d start.

  16. “I think there is no question that this is a morally justifiable deception.”

    I can’t wait for this argument in front of the Bar of God. Comparing a few uncomfortable social situations that you could easily overcome in this wide world by moving, divorce, getting a different job, suing for losing one for ideological or religious reasons to the Holocaust is just disgusting. “Sir, I was only trying to save my own reputation and standing in the World. You know, its that whole killing of the Jews thing. You understand.” Then again, many cultural Mormons don’t believe in God and therefore don’t really understand why they are so offensive to the orthodox.

    My major problem is that this is a RELIGION, and that means those who participate (especially in leadership positions) must have FAITH and BELIEVE in its teachings, sacred history, and the Priesthood’s divine authority. How much might be arguable, but there must be faith in those things at at least a minimal level. I don’t have a problem with those who are struggling with a testimony. Rather, I have a problem with those who seek to change the Church of God through deception, manipulation, and social pressure as unbelievers. They are wolves in sheeps clothing, and I remember the scriptures have specific warnings about them. Be honest with us “orthodox” and we will be more forgiving and less judgmental to those who otherwise hide behind a false front. It never seems to cross the cultural Mormons’ minds that the orthodox are critical of them because THEY have been burned by that group. How you may ask? Think of wolves and sheep again. The orthodox are trying to worship in the Church in the way it claims to be, while cultural Mormons often seek to cheat, lie, and tear it down to make it in their image. Do orthodox do that at times?

    Yes. We orthodox are not perfect, but at least we know that this is a RELIGION with specific spiritual and theological goals and not a social club. I rejoice with those who leave because they decide not to pretend anymore almost as much as I rejoice with those who have found the spiritual witness of the Gospel and want to be baptized. My major problem with those who do leave is the bitterness often associated with their attitudes. In the end, however, I feel that comes from them trying so hard to deceive that they are angry at everyone because they feel everyone must do what they did; lie to keep up appearances. When you have a big lie, that means you must make up little lies and then you lose how to tell the truth.

  17. “He seems to be saying that believing something like “the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction” is subverting the church.”

    I agree with this though, it is subverting the Church because the Book of Mormon is the foundational document that has from the beginning been a sign of Joseph Smith’s calling as a Prophet. If you don’t believe in the literalness of the Book of Mormon as ancient scripture (no matter how modernized its translation) then how can you believe in the literalness of Mormon doctrine and priesthood? I also think it puts such a moral flaw in God as grand liar that, in the Book of Mormon’s words, it puts in doubt God’s very worthiness of Divinity. If you can’t trust God, then who can you trust?

    I know this discussion about the Book of Mormon diverts the purpose of the post, but I think it does get at the heart of the issue for the orthodox. These are doubts that have very serious implications for how Mormonism and its theology are viewed. You can’t disbelieve some major portions of the Gospel as taught almost from the start and not expect ramifications. Protestantism was started for lesser reasons. So many voices are trying hard to push for Mormon modernization and mainstreaming (and the orthodox are not immune) that the very nature of Mormonism is in doubt. You should expect a war of words at the least when foundational documents and doctrines are questioned and not be surprised when the fighting happens.

    I believe that the core issue is who gets to define Mormonism; the orthodox or the half or no-believing culturalists? Obviously I know what side I’m on because I believe traditional orthodox faith needs to win over mainline rationalization that weakens the religious purpose of the faith’s founding. I don’t want to be part of a metaphorical modernized Church. I want to be a wicked rebel that believes in miracles, angels, sacred groves, ancient lost civilizations, and peep stones.

  18. I am sensing a trend there that I think needs to be pointed out: John C seems to think JMax’s comments are aimed at him. Knowing JMax pretty well, I don’t think that’s the case. There is a solution for people offended by JMax’s post and Jettboy’s comment #16: *YOU* (Yes, I mean you who are reading this right now) are not a cultural Mormon. You are a person struggling to understand and deal with the vaguaries of faith just like everybody else. If you are purposefully deceiving people (which as I say, does happen), then perhaps this is aimed at you. If you are purposefully deceiving people, then stop it. But if you are like me and 99.9 percent of the people out there and are just trying to struggle through things honestly then this whole discussion is not aimed at you. Stop being offended because it is not aimed at you.

  19. Geoff,
    If I felt that this sort of critique was only being directed at wolves, I wouldn’t care. But a lot of sheep are going to get caught in this snare for no good purpose (see Jettboy’s #17).

  20. @MarkD #11:

    Excellent points. And I agree.

    @Mark Brown #10: says, “So in a sense I agree with you, Br. Wilson. There is an ever-present danger of apostasy within the church. But for every member you can show me who believes the Book of Mormon to be inspired fiction, I can show you 500 members who think the brethren don’t know what they are talking about and should just shut up when it comes to illegal immigration, anti-discrimination ordinances in Utah, or the administration of the BSA”

    Yes, Mark, I agree here. I think the issue, for the Church, is one of authority.

    However, as per my comment on #11, there is a difference between having issues with the Church, intentionally undermining the Church, and pretending to believe something you don’t to intentionally undermine the Church. I’m sure the example you used represents some of all. I’m not sure any of them would be “good” from the General Authorities perspective, but some are not as bad as others.

  21. John C, there is an alternate position to take, which is: who cares what somebody whose opinion I don’t respect says about my righteousness? I’ve been subjected to a long list of people questioning my righteousness ever since I joined the Church. First, many of my friends and former friends who think I’m insane for joining a cult that believes in angels and gold plates. Now, for professing political beliefs that dare to disagree with theirs. Frankly, I couldn’t care less — their opinions of my righteousness carry zero weight with God, and at the end of the day that is the only thing that matters. If my bishop or my stake president or my wife has a problem with what I am doing, then I will take it seriously. Otherwise, it is like water off a duck’s back. You could adopt the entirely unique position of simply saying to yourself, “well, there go those supposedly orthodox Mormons again spouting off their self-righteous tripe — once again I’ll ignore it because they have zero say in my standing before God.” Then, go give your spouse a kiss and play with your kids and plan your next temple trip.

  22. Carla says, “The problem is that plenty of people are too terrified of the ostracism or other ramifications of showing their doubts or unorthodox beliefs to be honest about them. They’re being deceptive because they expect to not find acceptance. So instead of focusing on “if you don’t believe the same as everybody else and you hide it that’s a lie,” try focusing on “why do people feel the need to put on that “mask” of orthopraxy that J Max was talking about?””

    Good question, Carla.

    First, let’s admit that no matter how we try to slice this up, it’s going to be an over simplification.

    For example, there are many people in the Church (in any Church) that do not agree with their religion on some, many, or all points. Such a person might feel very strongly that in so far as they and their religion disagree that they are right and their religion is wrong. But they might also agree that a religion is a religion and should be left alone and not ‘engineered’ by people that don’t agree with it. In other words, they might feel perfectly justified participating, agreeing with what they can, and leaving the rest alone. I know people who feel this way and I find it heroic that they do this. More to the point, I do not see this as deceptive.

    You mention fear of ostracism. This is a serious problem to be sure. However, it’s wrong to make it a one way weapon. The fact is that a religion is a religion because it’s made up of people that hold similar and same beliefs. There is no such thing as a religion that simply allows any beliefs you wish. There is always a detectable core of beliefs that are held sacred and that deciding you disagree with would not be tolerated. This is even true of the Bahai or Unitarian Universalism. (Try going to a UU meeting and shop around the idea that actually beliefs do matter and that it is only logical that God has revealed a one true religion on the earth somewhere and everyone there should start taking their search for the truth about God seriously by finding the correct beliefs about God that are true for everyone, not sure for one’s own self.)

    So we need to understand that fear of ostracism is not unique to Mormonism, nor even to religion. It is, in fact, a natural out growth of the very concept of ‘group.’

    Therefore, deciding to not make people feel ostracized is a good thing, but can only be done on the grounds that we won’t harm other members of the group either. Once this is accepted, the simple fact is that some people will be ostracized no matter what. So we’re really talking about how to minimize it while still allowing people the consquences of their own individual choices.

  23. Ryan says, “I think there is no question that this is a morally justifiable deception.”

    I agree.

    But there is also a morally unjustifiable deception.

  24. @ Mark D

    I’m confused about how a discussion on cultural Mormonism was intertwined with your words here,”Big Tent Catholicism.” I grew up Catholic and never experienced that phenomena that you have just expressed. In fact, I have never experienced any of the bullying, which is what I say calling someones righteousness into question. Or in other words, this whole discussion of Just how Mormon are you would never take place in the Catholic arena.

    One thing the Catholic Church does right is that one can walk into the door and not know who is the most recently baptized and who has members going back to the crusades. Because it quite honestly doesn’t matter, what matters is that you have faith. A second thing that Catholics don’t do is bash other peoples religion all the while proclaiming how Mormonism is the most correct. A little off topic I know, but not really because we are supposedly having a topic about cultural Mormonism but it turned into a Catholic Bashing with your one statement.

  25. “He seems to be saying that believing something like “the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction” is subverting the church. You can come to church if you believe that sort of traitorous filth, but we need you to wear a sign around your neck and ring a bell so others know”

    If he is saying this within a context of someone that is not trying to subvert the Church, then I’d disagree with J Max on this issue.

    Jettboy says, “My major problem is that this is a RELIGION, and that means those who participate (especially in leadership positions) must have FAITH and BELIEVE in its teachings, sacred history, and the Priesthood’s divine authority”

    Jettboy says, “I believe that the core issue is who gets to define Mormonism; the orthodox or the half or no-believing culturalists?”

    I totally agree this is the core issue. Once we realize this, this problem becomes easy to solve in my opinion.

  26. Let me see if I can redirect this a bit to something I feel would be highly productive.

    First, John C, I consider you a Believer in every sense I can think of. If J Max was attacking you, I disagree with J Max. (I do agree with Geoff that probably this wasn’t the case, he just needed some good quotes to make a point. But I can’t speak for J Max.)

    Carla, I think your point is well taken that this needs to be about avoiding hurting people. I ask that you make that not one sided however.

    Mark Brown, I have mixed feelings about your argument. On the one hand, I completely agree with you. On the other hand, the real purpose of this thread is to talk about not being deceptive. So without downplaying your point (which is an EXCELLENT point) I want to see if we can talk about how deception affects others. For example, using your example of Bishop’s mad that the LDS Church didn’t take a harder line against illegal immigration. I think someone deceptively representing the Church as having taken a harder line then the really did would qualify for what I am talking about.

    Ryan, I think you are getting to the heart of the issues. I am NOT saying all forms of deception are wrong. However, I feel like you are turning this fact into a ‘one way weapon.’ I would hope you are not claiming that essentially all deceptions are okay within the LDS Church just because a person that behaves that way has the ultimate card to play of “I needed to do it to not get hurt.” This would be a disaster compared to reality and I’d hope you’d acknowledge that fact and start working on drawing better lines for when you feel deception is justified and when it is not. Merely pointing out that it can be justified means very little, especially since I’ve already acknowledged that point.

  27. John C, re: your #25, do you seriously believe this? Stop and think about it a second: JMax is not worthy of being a bishop unless he is guided by your opinions? Imagine how you would react if he said this about you.

  28. Here is what I’d really like to know from both “liberal” and “conservative” Mormons.

    How should a person that is a “Cultural Mormon” behave? What is permissible and what is not in your opinion? Instead of just arguing abstracts, get specific.

    Is it okay to just not speak out and just participate and enjoy what you can of your religious practices? I’ve already said I feel this isn’t deceptive.

    Does the Church in some way ‘owe’ people that don’t completely agree with the teachings an ‘equal voice?’ This seems like a point of contention of many on the Bloggernacle. My personal feel is “no, because it’s a religion an allowing all beliefs equal voice makes it not a religion.”

    If you agree that the Church does not owe people equal voices, then the next question is “What can the Church do to accomodate people that want to practice but disagree ith the beliefs?” What are things can could be done to make them more comfortable? How much of this ‘comfort’ is their own personal responsibility and how much is the Churches? Get specific here and let’s discuss.

    Is it okay to reimagine what the Temple Recommend questions mean so that you can get a temple recommend? Personally, I have mixed feelings over this. I do not doubt that this is ‘deceptive.’ I used to buy into John Dehlin’s argument that the Temple Recommend was meant to be personal and that the LDS Church intentionally worded it to allow you to insert your personal interpretations into it. But then I came across a real life example of someone that argued that if you had a temple recommend you should be allowed to hold any office within the Church including Pastoral callings. This would be an incredibly hurtful thing to do, so now I don’t know what to think on this question any more. What are your personal thoughts?

    What about claiming you are a “Believing Mormon” when you secretly know you don’t agree with any of the truth claims in the LDS Church at all. Yet you go out and start writing books undermining core LDS beliefs? I had this happen to me. I can tell you it’s one of the single most hurtful things I’ve ever had happen in my life. So I need to come down against this sort of deception. I believe it is fully 100% immoral.

    What about claiming you are a “Believing Mormon” when you actually disagree with all the LDS truth claims but then running a “Mormons for Gay Marriage” group (or any group known to be at odds with the LDS Church’s current teachings.) Is that an appropriate deception? Or is it a hurtful one? (I’m thinking hurtful.)

    What about Jettboy’s question of “who gets to define Mormonism; the orthodox or the half or no-believing culturalists?”

    Try to answer the question. For me, this is obvious. The Cultural half exists only because they used to be orthodox. No religion can accomodate the ‘cultural half’ with an equal voice and survive as a religion. So we have the answer to the question just based on practical reality.

    I realize these are difficult questions. That is why I am asking them.

    I honestly believe that it is possible for the LDS Church to fully accomodate those that wish to practice but do not believe. I believe this can be done with little or no ostracism in the vast majority of cases. I believe it can be done with out hurting either type of Mormon and maximize the spiritual life of both.

  29. dblock says, “Or in other words, this whole discussion of Just how Mormon are you would never take place in the Catholic arena.”

    Just for the record, a lot of my thoughts on this subject came from the Catholic Church struggling through the same issues.

    I think the Mormons could learn some things from the Catholic Church on this front. However, Mormons are not Catholics and vice versa. I am not interested in become like the Catholic Church where things are not nearly so tight as with Mormons. That is largely the appeal of Mormonism. I don’t mean anything bad about Catholics here. To each their own.

  30. @21,

    John, for what it is worth, I (and everyone on M* actually) all get accused of not being righteous or Mormon enough by ‘the Bloggernacle’ as a whole on a very very regular basis.

    I appreciate your desire to protect people on this front. I would hope that as we become friends (and I do want to consider you a friend) you’d start to reach out in the reverse direction as well more often.

    What I am trying to say is that this ‘problem’ you sense that the sheep get caught in the net is not even close to being uniquely a ‘conservative problem.’ We should work on it on both sides. You will find that you can do much more to reign in people on the ‘liberal side’ than I can and I can do much more to reign in people on the ‘conservative side’ then you can. So what we really need is an alliance.

  31. Geoff, # 28, if it were just a matter of opinion your point would be a good one, but it is more than that. J. Max Wilson has suggested new standards for worthiness to participate in the church and in callings. That is quite a different thing than not agreeing with someone’s opinions. Opinions come and go, I’ve changed mine in the past and expect to do it some more in the future. But the incredible part of this entire sideshow is that Wilson has put forward ways he thinks the church should change, while simultaneously condemning people who try to change the church while pretending to be orthodox.

    It is almost comical, when you think about it.

  32. Mark Brown, you are reading a lot of stuff into JMax’s post that is simply not there. If you really feel this way, I’d like to see excerpts that back up your viewpoint. As I have said, I would have written his post differently, and I think he could have done a better job concentrating on the real issue, but this is a problem of editing, not intent.

    I would also like to point out that JMax’s post is not a specific condemnation of one person, whereas your comment is. The fact that you don’t see the self-righteousness in that is a bit alarming to me. What gives you the right to judge JMax?

  33. To jettboy’s question, Who gets to define Mormonism?

    The answer is easy — The general authorities of the church define orthodox Mormonism.

    This statement by Bruce R. McConkie sheds some light on this discussion about orthodoxy and orthopraxy:

    You don’t have to do what Jacob said, “Go beyond the mark.” You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing. What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church – keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes – because this is the time and the day appointed, this is the probationary estate – you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.

    Orthopraxy all the way. And notice that Elder McConkie reserved the words zealots and fanatics for those who go beyond this.

  34. First off, I believe that lying of just about any kind is wrong. I am talking life and limb situations might be justified if at all. On the other end, little white lies that keep the peace (no honey, that doesn’t make you look fat) are acceptable only so far as they don’t need compounded. That vast middle of this should not be tolerated as it destroys trust and the very idea of Truth when found out, and it often is discovered because you can’t hide who you are forever from everyone. It only doubles the pain that you seek to protect when the truth is revealed.

    “How should a person that is a “Cultural Mormon” behave?”

    Like a human being who respects others and with honesty. It is permissible for cultural Mormons to attend church. Depending on the worthiness, they might even be allowed to take the sacrament. It isn’t permissible for them to speak against the LDS Church and its Theology or History if they intend to attend. It would be ingratitude toward the host religion. If they feel that negative then they should find another church or none at all as they wish. Under no circumstance should non-believing (although half-believing might be acceptable) cultural Mormons go to the Temple or accept a calling.

    “Is it okay to just not speak out and just participate and enjoy what you can of your religious practices?”

    I think this is exactly right for cultural Mormons. Let them follow the example of Many Catholics who attend mass once a week or once a year.

    “How much of this ‘comfort’ is their own personal responsibility and how much is the Churches?”

    It is not the Church’s responsibility to make anyone, especially cultural Mormons, comfortable. Their main responsibilities are as a religion to teach doctrine and feed the hungry of spirit and body. They are not to be a social club, political party, or entertainment.

    “Is it okay to reimagine what the Temple Recommend questions mean so that you can get a temple recommend?”

    That is more than deceiving priesthood authority. It is going against God and therefore blaspheme! The recommend questions are rather simple and easy to understand. It leaves some room for personal interpretation, but not to the degree that half or no-believing Mormons can simply “redefine” the plain meanings. Such an attitude if found out should be grounds for excommunication.

    I wouldn’t be so upset if I didn’t think there was such a concerted effort to redifine the LDS Church and Mormonism by non-believers. I am not a Mormon because I want to be a Methodist or Catholic.

  35. “The answer is easy — The general authorities of the church define orthodox Mormonism.”

    If that is the case, then why are so many trying to undermine the General Authority leadership? Is it not because they are defining Mormonism far more orthodox than the half and non-believers want?

  36. Bruce,

    for full disclosure, I would like to note that I posted BOTH the link to the sidebar and the post for W&T.

    I wasn’t meaning the link to be one of mockery. I just think that, from the traits that Wilson describes, I DON’T think that many of the W&T permas would be on his believers’ Christmas card list. I mean, considering we had a discussion just a few weeks ago about John Dehlin’s ambitions with Mormon Stories — and whether he is creating a new liberal religious movement, I think it’s a valid question to ask.

    I’ll respond more fully later on.

  37. Geoff said, “I would also like to point out that JMax’s post is not a specific condemnation of one person, whereas your comment is.”

    While I see the problem in naming names here, I think it may have some value. J Max and Jettboy (and others) keep taking about “half-believers” (and other potentially rude, judgmental, and/or cruel terms of divisiveness) without pointing to exactly what they mean. If they would quote the person they have judged and found unworthy then it would help everyone to know who is being criticized and who is not.

    To refrain from naming names is often the high road, but in this case I fear that it creates confusion—or worse, that it allows the judgmental to pretend to not be judgmental by hiding behind “vaguery.”

  38. Brian J, the list of names is far too long ;) Besides, I think most know exactly what “half-believer” means or they wouldn’t be so upset. Here is a preliminary definition; Anyone who doesn’t believe in the 13 Articles of Faith as intended, doesn’t believe the Book of Mormon as translation of an ancient artifact, questions the divine authority of the Priesthood and those who hold it, doesn’t believe in angels, devils, and miracles, and those who can’t truthfully answer the Temple questions in a direct and straight forward manner. That doesn’t mean they can’t be “good faith” members, but they should at least acknowledge they are not “full faith” members and don’t pretend otherwise. This is especially the case when they have no intentions of gaining a testimony of the basic beliefs and yet seek to change for the LDS Church those beliefs.

  39. dblock (#24), I am not sure where you get the idea that I am criticizing the Catholic church, quite the opposite. The LDS Church has similar challenges in part because the entire idea is to be the Church of Jesus Christ, which means being a catholic (small c) church.

    That is what “catholic” means – a universal church, a church intended for everybody. No kicking out people just because they have unconventional beliefs. Maybe if they make a church out of it, but otherwise, no.

  40. Pingback: Reasons why cultural Mormonism doesn’t exist…at Wheat & Tares « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  41. It is permissible for cultural Mormons to attend church.

    This just grates me the wrong way. First, a major focus of every unit in the Church is to persuade anyone who will come to come to church and inactive and less active members in particular.

    D&C 46 specifically states that no one is supposed to be kicked out of church meetings like sacrament meeting because they aren’t earnest enough. Doubly so if they are members. No “permission” required.

    Secondly, I have some serious doubts about the prevalence of “cultural” Mormonism in and among those who actually do come. The -ism may be all too real (and virtuously so, in my opinion) among the less active and inactive, but I can hardly imagine that anyone who comes to church and believes in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost deserves the title “cultural Mormon”. I would be reluctant to call anyone a cultural Mormon who wasn’t essentially an agnostic or an atheist. It’s an insult.

  42. I would assume – no, I believe – that the majority of people I’ve met on the Bloggernacle are relatively straightforward in what they say they believe. In many cases, their beliefs are straight up LDS beliefs but with some interesting nuances. Other times they aren’t LDS in their beliefs, but at least they are honest about that fact, openly comparing and contrasting how they differ from the teachings of the LDS Church. In either case, I see no problem because there is no deception.

    I think people are open on the Bloggernacle because they can be. They use the Bloggernacle as a respite from wards and stakes where they feel they must be closed, for if they are not, they have adverse action taken against them (whether socially or theologically.)

    So, I don’t think you’re going to find the deception on the Nacle, because the nacle is the place where everyone unwinds and say what they really feel.

    Now I can’t speak for J Max here. Maybe he is uncomfortable with a ‘Cultural LDS’ openly participating with Believing LDS members.

    I don’t want to put words in his mouth either, but I don’t think he is. I just think he wants the Cultural LDS to realize they are not *real* LDS. His acceptance of cultural Mormons, if he accepts them, is under the idea that the church should deal with non-members along with members — where cultural Mormons are about the same level as non-members.

    (This gets to my point that I am not completely innocent. I have one strike against me in that I am not a seeker. I have a second strike against me in that I AM trying to change some things about the church: I want(ed) people to realize that cultural LDS are also LDS. But I think Wilson’s point is that *real* LDS people are the believers…if you aren’t a believer, you aren’t LDS.)

    In fact, I want Cultural LDS to participate as far as they are comfortable and wish to – so long as they don’t try to ruin it for the Believers that is.

    The big question is “what would be trying to ruin it for the believers?” Cultural Mormons think their/our concessions are minor, but to a believer, I can see how our suggestions for change would dilute the religion.

    I honestly don’t care about anything in J Max posts except this one really good point: if you are being deceptive that means you are doing something morally questionable.

    I linked to another Faith-Promoting Rumor post in my post about “dirty belief.”

    the gist was this: Deception isn’t morally questionable because 1) there is no reasonable expectation for us to self-disclose what our statements of belief really mean (without someone probing first), and 2) in forming a relationship, tact and relationship-building are more important morally than blunt honesty (at least until a certain level of relationship is built.) (I probably botched that summary, but check out the post and ESPECIALLY the comments.) The argument is this (and it’s one that some made on my post): being open in the ward/stake level will lead to adverse effects relationally (e.g., your family will think you’re a terrible apostate, you may not be deemed fit for callings or things like temple recommends, and so on.) But the goal of fellowshipping at church *is* relationship-building, so it is more morally questionable to pursue courses of action that burn bridges than it is to pursue courses of action that are deceptive.

  43. Andrew S, what do you mean by “non believer”? If you mean atheistic or agnostic, that is a very strange combination indeed.

  44. re 43:

    Mark D,

    I’m going through my two comments here, and I’m not finding when I wrote non believer (with or without space, hyphen, etc.,)

    I thought maybe I slipped and said “non believer” when I meant to say “non-LDS believer” or “non-member” — but I don’t seem to have done that, so I don’t know what part of my comments you are referring to. ?_?

    I’ll preemptively say that whenever I say “believer,” I mean “believer in LDS orthodoxy [whatever that is]“

  45. I’d like to endorse all of Mark D.’s comments. He has saved me a lot of time since now I don’t have to try and write them myself.

    And those of you who are finding ex-communicable apostasy under every shadow of a doubt or inside every fibre of a being you deem not sufficiently zealous, you are creeping me out.

    Oh, and you leave me deeply depressed about the future of the Church.

    This vague group of people you keep talking about that is intentionally deceptive with conscious, deliberate, treacherous intent is probably infinitesimally smaller than you imagine — as is the group of those who would (if they are 100% honest) meet your standards of orthodoxy.

    If we’re going to have candid, freely volunteered, up-to-date, 100% honest assessments of everyone’s faith we’re never going to do anything at church except go around the circle, confess our doubts, and hand out a scarlet alphabet of patches to sew to the merit badge sashes we’re all going to be wearing to keep track of our thought crimes.

    Oh, and we’ll have to shut down 99% percent of the temples and release the majority of church leadership, including a larger number of general authorities than many would believe.

    But at least we’ll all keep paying tithing (since we’re still welcome to do that) to benefit the handful of you who will rule over us in true righteousness.

    Okay, I totally got carried away with the hyperbole — I’m joking about the last three paragraphs. But I am absolutely serious about the first three and mostly serious about the fourth.

  46. Andrew S, It was this paragraph:

    The big question is “what would be trying to ruin it for the believers?” Cultural Mormons think their/our concessions are minor, but to a believer, I can see how our suggestions for change would dilute the religion.

    As I have said, I don’t think anyone who believes in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost deserves the title “non-believer” or “cultural Mormon”.

    “Cultural Mormon” suggests someone who has no definite beliefs about God or what he requires of us, but rather complies with basic Mormon behavioral standards due to some combination of social and ethical considerations alone. “Non-believer” has a similar connotation, with the additional suggestion that the individual concerned doesn’t believe in God at all.

    I think it is all to the better if such individuals come, participate, and contribute. But certainly (by the church’s own standards) an atheist or agnostic has no business holding a teaching position, a leadership position, or a temple recommend. I would also say (again, by the church’s own standards) that it is a solemn mockery for an atheist or confirmed agnostic to partake of the sacrament.

    The church does not require that individuals in any of those positions believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon per se, but certainly requires that they believe it was inspired, and further requires that anyone in such positions not make a business out of promoting propositions contrary to the basic doctrines of the church, and certainly the proposition that the Book of Mormon is historical is one of those precepts.

  47. If that is the case, then why are so many trying to undermine the General Authority leadership?

    Good question, jettboy. Why do so many people around here think they know better than the brethren when it comes to illegal immigration, anti-discriminiation ordinances in Utah, or the andministration of the scouting program in the church? Why give Wilson a pass when he clearly thinks the brethren need to tighten things up a bit when it comes to allowing people who don’t meet his standard of belief to participate in church callings and meetings?

    Geoff, # 33,

    See Wilson’s comments # 16 and 17 on his post. He tells us there what callings people who don’t meet his standards should be excluded from and how their participation should be restricted. Basically, they should think of themselves as investigators, and be treated as such. I am certain that his suggestions would raise some eyebrows at the church office building. I think the brethren are doing fine, and they don’t need help defining worthiness from the likes of jettboy or J. Max Wilson.

    Odd that you accuse me of naming names. I was responding to your comment 28 where you singled out John C. for not being nice to Wilson. I agree, the self-righteousness is alarming.

  48. “So, I don’t think you’re going to find the deception on the Nacle, because the nacle is the place where everyone unwinds and say what they really feel.”

    Okay, here’s the thing, Andrew. Yes, you are right… for the most part.

    But I have encountered people on the Bloggernacle that do in fact say and do deceptive things. In fact, I started making a mental list of “oh, I’ve seen that one before.” And it was a remarkably close list to the very one J Max listed. I was shocked. Apparently I’m not the only one that had noticed.

    The fact is that I don’t feel free to name names. But I could. There really are people that do actively try to make you think they believe things different from what they really do. Many of these people are actually anonymous, so you can’t tell me that they are afraid of persecution or some such. Plus, if that was the concern, there are many many better ways to handle their difference.

    I’m sure you are aware of a certain incident (please don’t name names on this thread anyhow) where someone openly recommended to another person, that had openly declared themselves to not believe in the teachings of the LDS Church, to accept a Pastoral calling for the sake of making changes to the the LDS Church from within.

    The line might be hazy, but it’s not non-existent. I’m comfortable with the fact that there is a wide — very wide — range of beliefs that the LDS Church considers ‘orthodox’. (Though they generally ask that you consider it speculative, don’t teach it in Church, etc.) Truth be told, this is one of my favorite things about the LDS Church, the wide range of acceptance of beliefs and the willingness to allow for speculation on nearly any subject.

    So it saddens me to see people take this strength of the LDS Church and intentionally use it as an excuse to claim there is no line whatsoever. It just isn’t the truth and this is a perfect example of outright hurtful deception.

    And this isn’t the only example. While it’s a fairly small group of people that have crossed this line, it’s also a very small group that has decried it as problematic.

    I guess that is my main concern. There will always be bad behavior. (And otherwise good people do behave badly at times just because we are all human.) But in these extra extreme cases, we all out to be united in condemnation. If I felt that, I’d have very little concern.

  49. Mark,

    “But the incredible part of this entire sideshow is that Wilson has put forward ways he thinks the church should change….”

    I did not see this in J Max’s post and still don’t.

    If you are seeing this in his post, then no wonder it concerned you so much.

    I’ve now conditionally rejected several parts of J Max’s message. (“If J Max meant this, then I disagree.”)

    Are you willing to conditionally accept the part that I’m concerned about?

  50. I think it is all to the better if such individuals come, participate, and contribute. But certainly (by the church’s own standards) an atheist or agnostic has no business holding a teaching position, a leadership position, or a temple recommend. I would also say (again, by the church’s own standards) that it is a solemn mockery for an atheist or confirmed agnostic to partake of the sacrament.

    I am going to have to stop just shy of full endorsement of your comments with this, Mark D., but only for my own personal semantic reasons. For me, the spectrum of agnosticism is too wide, and I don’t mind if the hopeful agnostic holds leadership positions, teaches, or partakes of the sacrament.

    Now, as far as a cynical or apathetic agnostic, well, I get what you mean.

  51. By the way, I think we ought to be open that the Church does have official policies on how to handle people that want to practice but don’t accept the beliefs.

    Here is my understanding of them. Feel free to correct me as you see fit:

    If a person is ‘hiding’ their ‘true beliefs’ but keeping it private, the LDS church has made it very clear that there will be no actions taken against them. They would prefer they are in Church and learning the truth and having opportunities to let the Spirit testify to them.

    If a person is NOT hiding their ‘true beliefs’ but also not working to convert people to their point of view, again the LDS Church has made it very clear that no actions will be taken against them.

    If a person isn’t sure what they believe yet then clearly this is non-problematic too. They are the very sort of person the LDS Church wants to have in Church (Yes, to convince them of their teachings!)

    Given those policies above, there is almost infinite room to believe what you want, isn’t there? (Though perhaps not without some limitations on practicing.)

    So what is the concern, specifically?

    One complaint that seems to be coming up here is that these people (especially the ones that are choosing to be open about how their beliefs differ from the official doctrines) now have consequences. They will end up with Bishop interviews, special home teaching messages, people making them jello, and other means of out reaching to them and helping them come back to the truth as the rest of the community understands truth.

    But isn’t that the price you pay for being part of a faith-based / belief-based community while not agreeing with the beliefs?

    I see no way around it at this time. Asking Mormons to be more apathetic about their beliefs (comparison to Catholicism?) is nonsense.

    I’m open to other opinions here, but right now it seems like people that have complained about this are basically saying the person that makes this personal choice should have per-eminence over the rest of the community.

  52. “For me, the spectrum of agnosticism is too wide, and I don’t mind if the hopeful agnostic holds leadership positions, teaches, or partakes of the sacrament.”

    Interesting point. I think, off the cuff, I’d have to agree.

    To me, this might be what I have in mind for a non-deceptive orthopraxy. I don’t think there is anything ‘wrong’ with orthopraxy, per se, especially if you shine it in this light.

    But then, admitting this, it doesn’t mean you can be an outright atheist that then reimagines ‘God’ and being a metaphor for love, peace, and joy and then, because you do, that means you ‘believe in God’ and therefore, because you can truthfully answer that question as ‘yes’ on the temple recommend interview, it must mean that you can also accept a calling as Bishop and therefore help people in the LDS Church come to realize that God is just a metaphor. And it’s all okay because you *literally* did exactly what the Church teaches and believes.

    Yes, there is this tenuous chain of logic there. But I think it needs to be called what it really is: deception.

  53. Mark Brown, #47, I had not seen those comments, but I would agree with you that some of them are things that I don’t believe. I see what you mean, but again I see them in a much more charitable light than you do. I also think the context is important.

    I still maintain that a lot of the controversy and angst could be avoided if people maintained a live and let live position in general. As I say way up in #21, if JMax is saying things you disagree with, who cares? He does not have authority over you, and you don’t have authority over him. If you are really concerned about him becoming a bishop someday, then have faith that the Lord will work things out. To use the most extreme example, ETB said some pretty dumb things before he became a prophet, but when he was a prophet the Lord worked on him so he became the loving proponent of the Bom we all remember. You are not going to make JMax a better person by condemning him — it only creates unnecessary contention. From what I know of JMax, he would make a great bishop, and I would be happy to serve with him. That also applies to Mark Brown, John C and most of the people I have seen comment on M* over the years. How’s that for spreading the love?

  54. Mark, you said:

    See Wilson’s comments # 16 and 17 on his post. He tells us there what callings people who don’t meet his standards should be excluded from and how their participation should be restricted. Basically, they should think of themselves as investigators, and be treated as such. I am certain that his suggestions would raise some eyebrows at the church office building. I think the brethren are doing fine, and they don’t need help defining worthiness from the likes of jettboy or J. Max Wilson.

    Is this what you are refering to:

    By all means come to church participate in whatever ways a non-believer can. Pay your tithing. But don’t come with the intention of changing the church, or converting others to your position. Consider yourself an investigator or a non-believing friend of the church. But don’t pretend to be a believer. Make sure your bishop knows where you stand and submit to whatever restrictions he feels are appropriate regarding your participation in meetings etc.

    If so, I don’t see your interepretation as quite right.

    I might take exception to saying ‘consider yourself an investigator or a non-believing friend’ since the Church probably means more to ‘Cultural Mormons’ than this.

    But his basic advice to to be honest and let the proper leadership decide what is appropriate for that specific ward and situation. This is a far cry from what you said he said.

    Mark, let me ask you this point blank: Can you affirm that you agree with these two statements here:

    1. But don’t come with the intention of changing the church, or converting others to your position.

    2. Make sure your bishop knows where you stand and submit to whatever restrictions he feels are appropriate regarding your participation in meetings etc.

    Ignore the rest for a moment. How do you feel about each of these statements?

    “You are not going to make JMax a better person by condemning him — it only creates unnecessary contention.”

    Here is my advice: instead of picking out what you disagree with and pretending that therefore all is wrong, make a seperation of what you agree with from what you differ on. You’ll probably find this is more effective in ‘changing J Max’ then anything else.

  55. re 46:

    Mark D,

    As I have said, I don’t think anyone who believes in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost deserves the title “non-believer” or “cultural Mormon”.

    OK, from the way you have phrased this comment, then I think my last response applies: as I said before, whenever I refer to “belief,” I mean “LDS belief.” So, would you agree that it is not enough to believe in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost to be *Mormon*, because you could be (any denomination of Christianity) and believe those things?

    The question is…what are the minimals to be an LDS Christian above and beyond these things? Even in the comments to this very thread we are questioning…literal belief in BoM or belief in BoM as inspired fiction? And there are even other options, other things to disagree on, etc.,

    Nevertheless, I could see a “cultural Mormon” failing one or more of these. maybe the cultural Mormon hasn’t experienced the gift of the Holy Ghost despite membership for 40+ years. I don’t even know what the definition of “faith” is anymore and how to get it with all the discussions I’ve been having these days. :) And so on.

    “Cultural Mormon” suggests someone who has no definite beliefs about God or what he requires of us, but rather complies with basic Mormon behavioral standards due to some combination of social and ethical considerations alone. “Non-believer” has a similar connotation, with the additional suggestion that the individual concerned doesn’t believe in God at all.

    To clarify what I mean, a “Cultural Mormon” may have definite beliefs about God or not — these are irrelevant except in a general sense — because in the general sense they differ from Mormon orthodoxy in a way that would mean the person can’t be said to be a “believing Mormon.” So, when I say “non-believer” I mean “non (LDS) believer.” And the cultural Mormon fits that monicker as well as a Catholic or Muslim does — both do not believe in LDS beliefs, although they certainly have beliefs.

    Hope that helps.

    I think it is all to the better if such individuals come, participate, and contribute. But certainly (by the church’s own standards) an atheist or agnostic has no business holding a teaching position, a leadership position, or a temple recommend. I would also say (again, by the church’s own standards) that it is a solemn mockery for an atheist or confirmed agnostic to partake of the sacrament.

    Continuing with what I was saying before, wouldn’t you also say that a Catholic or a Muslim has no business holding a teaching position, a leadership position, or a temple recommend? For whatever beliefs they have, they are NOT LDS believers.

    I don’t think you would disagree (although…not taking the sacrament? really?)

    I think that is what J Max is saying, applying it to cultural Mormons as well. Cultural Mormons are equivalent to Catholics, Muslims, atheists, and agnostics in our midst. The only difference between a “cultural” Mormon and say, a Catholic, is that the cultural Mormon has learned LDS lingo and has partaken in LDS practices. Yes, we should deal with all of these groups, but we should be aware that they follow different religions and are NOT Mormon.

    The church does not require that individuals in any of those positions believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon per se, but certainly requires that they believe it was inspired, and further requires that anyone in such positions not make a business out of promoting propositions contrary to the basic doctrines of the church, and certainly the proposition that the Book of Mormon is historical is one of those precepts.

    Here’s the problem. You think that orthodoxy does not require historicity, but there plenty of people (some of whom have commented on this blog…some of whom are Bishops, Stake Presidents, and other people of authority), who disagree on this and other issues. They would say that “inspired fiction” *is* a proposition contrary to the basic doctrines of the church.

    re 48,

    Bruce,

    I’m not arguing that deception doesn’t occur.

    I’d argue that you couldn’t realize the deceptive practices if they were ongoing all across the internet. The reason you can point out deceptive practices is because at some point, the people engaging with them offline feel free to reveal them online.

    Now, I think that someone can feel comfortable at one site and not at another, so you can see people saying one thing one place and saying what they really think/do/believe elsewhere, but…anyway. My argument is that the bloggernacle represents a collection of “safe sites” (not the entire LDS blogging world) where a lot of this stuff reveals itself. (Ironically, I think some of the more egregious examples happen on sites that would be considered too fringe even for the bloggernacle!)

    I am aware of certain incidents that you speak of, and I could probably put a name (but won’t) to every specific instance that J Max or you mentioned ;). If I can’t, it’s because I haven’t spent enough time trawling the internets.

    Anyway, I’m not disagreeing that there is a line, or even that that line allows for a lot of diversity (although I have some other thoughts about THAT)…but what I’m saying is that it plays out different in a ward-by-ward level than it does elsewhere. See, people can believe very different things and consider themselves orthodox…but if they were to hear the other person, they might not think the other person was orthodox. So, we have a number of people who each have very different views of orthodox (which each thinks is mutually excludes the others as being orthodox!)

    You want a uniting in condemnation, but you can’t have that until you have a uniting in good and bad. Consider: in all the incidents you have thought about, the person considering them (and people who have agreed with them) has thought that there was something VIRTUOUS about their plight. That they had a real moral advantage and were going through morally sound channels.

  56. But then, admitting this, it doesn’t mean you can be an outright atheist that then reimagines ‘God’ and being a metaphor for love, peace, and joy and then, because you do, that means you ‘believe in God’ and therefore, because you can truthfully answer that question as ‘yes’ on the temple recommend interview, it must mean that you can also accept a calling as Bishop and therefore help people in the LDS Church come to realize that God is just a metaphor. And it’s all okay because you *literally* did exactly what the Church teaches and believes.

    Bruce, I don’t think you’ll have a hard time getting most people to sign off on that. However, in my opinion, J. Max’s original post only makes sense for people in the ballpark of this hypothetical — a group that I believe to be immeasurably small.

    My impression is that J. Max, in his original post, and many others who have commented here — no matter how much a few of them have been subsequently forced to backtrack to more secure rhetorical ground like this outright atheist bishop example — have not had such a narrow scope in mind. And, as I have already said, in #45, that really creeps me out.

    To me, this might be what I have in mind for a non-deceptive orthopraxy. I don’t think there is anything ‘wrong’ with orthopraxy, per se, especially if you shine it in this light.

    Yeah, it’s all semantics, though. Is “hopeful agnostic” an oxymoron? Is there a difference between “hopeful agnosticism” and faith? Jettboy would have the half-believer with a temple recommend excommunicated. Is a hopeful agnostic a half believer?

  57. “But those who advocate ‘orthopraxy’ as a mask for unbelief are endorsing a systematic hypocrisy in which they knowingly go through the motions of belief before men, to give the appearance of belief, when they do not in fact believe.”

    Shouldn’t it be an easy point of agreement that deception is morally questionable?

    Now wait just a minute… This kind of deception is a bad thing? But we’re supposed to do it! The church teaches it! Fake it till you make it, if you act like you believe it then eventually you will. You gain a testimony by bearing it. In other words, tell people you believe until you yourself start to believe what you’re saying. Lie.

    Even after you’ve talked yourself into believing, you still need to keep lying, because it’s not good enough to believe, you have to know. How often do you hear someone say “I believe the church is true” in a testimony? Of those who say they know beyond a shadow of a doubt, how many do you think really know? We even teach little children to say they know before they understand what it is that they “know.”

    As far as I could tell, in 30 years of church attendance I was the only person who had doubts. Of course you can’t be honest about it. You’re not supposed to be honest about it. People come to church to be strengthened, so you have to keep your doubts to yourself. You have to pretend. If you feel wrong about lying then you keep your mouth shut, but that’s not acceptable either. I can’t even count how many uncomfortable situations I was put in by people calling on me publicly to pray or bear my testimony. They didn’t know how to react when I said no. You’re not supposed to say no.

    I grew up thinking that pretending –or being deceptive, if you want to look at it that way — was just how life was. It wasn’t until I stopped going to church that I realized it’s possible to live authentically.

  58. Philomytha, everybody has some doubts. I cannot believe you did not know that. There are plenty of forums to discuss these doubts — with your bishop, with your fellow Church members, with your quorum leaders, etc, etc. I have had many of these discussions myself over time.

    There is a difference (which is pretty obvious, imho) between letting a seed of faith be planted and letting it grow (Alma 32) and pretending to be something you are not so you can convert other people to your belief system, which is what JMax is discussing. The fact that you see it all as pretending says a lot more about you than it does about the Church.

  59. philomytha, many are going to have nits to pick about your #57 (e.g. they won’t like that you interpret “You gain a testimony by bearing it” as “Lie”), but I don’t think any of them will change that fact that, in its general thrust, there is a lot of truth to what you have said. We are absolutely conditioned to not be open about doubts. Condemning people for not wanting to shout them from the rooftops is uncharitable, at best.

  60. Bruce, I don’t think I misrepresented him at all. He gave a list of callings from which he thought people should be excluded.

    Here’s my response to your two specific questions:

    1. But don’t come with the intention of changing the church, or converting others to your position.

    Agreed. And again the incidence of this has to be at least 500/1. Just about everybody tries to convince others.

    2. Make sure your bishop knows where you stand and submit to whatever restrictions he feels are appropriate regarding your participation in meetings etc.

    I am content with the temple recommend questions as they are written. I am guessing the overwhelming majority of bishops are too.

    “You are not going to make JMax a better person by condemning him — it only creates unnecessary contention.”

    Bruce, Wilson has written me off long ago as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and as a person who actively does damage to the kingdom. I am happy to allow him to enjoy whatever amount of self-gratification he obtains by occasionally teeing off on his fellow saints. But when he attacks me, or people I personally know, I’m not going to take his crap.

  61. “I believe that the core issue is who gets to define Mormonism; the orthodox or the half or no-believing culturalists?”

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s the First Presidency and the 12 and no one else.
    Thank God.

    Our personal discomfort in the fact that not everyone at church is on the same page we are is our own problem.

    In a Sacrament Meeting in Seattle I last spring a man said something on the subject of the wheat and the tares that I will not forget. The Savior says that you do not separate the tares before the time because in doing so you will also pull up the wheat. This brother interpreted this to mean that although some folks will think it is a good idea to root out, _beginning by pointing out_, the tares, the process necessary to do that would ‘destroy the purity of the wheat.’ I think we possibly see some of that in the feelings that are generated on this subject and others like it.

  62. Mark Brown, when in his post did he attack you or people you know? Again, I can see disagreeing with his points regarding who should serve in what Church callings. I didn’t see any personal attacks. Could you direct me to them?

  63. Geoff,
    You are misinterpreting me. I’m not saying that J. Max has to agree with me, but, should be ever be called to be bishop, this approach would be abusive. You don’t get to add questions to the temple recommend interview to make sure that people believe what you think they should believe. I don’t think J. Max would do that, but some people have. Some such might be inspired by J. Max’s post (after all, he does say that the people he is targeting should not be allowed into the temple). J. Max doesn’t have to agree with me; he has to agree with the Brethren. At present, he is asking for a distinction to be made that they haven’t requested and aren’t currently making. So we are clear, at present, the status of one’s belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not currently a temple recommend question. To some degree, J. Max can reasonably be interpreted as saying that it should be. As the Brethren haven’t yet taken that step, I think it is wrong for him to imply that they should or that they would like to but are prevented by some other circumstance or some such. We may all fantasize about what the Brethren should or shouldn’t do, but presenting our fantasies about who should or shouldn’t get to go to the temple strikes me as a bad precedent.

    “who gets to define Mormonism?”
    Bruce,
    At present, I think everyone is on their own. We have a good idea of what Mormons do. We have a sketchier idea of what Mormons believe. It is easy to find examples that contradict both of our ideas in this. I’m worried that, in this context, attempts to define Mormonism are prescriptive, not descriptive. And we all have our own ideas about what Mormons should be.

    In the end, until the Brethren present something like a united front on doctrinal issues (which would necessarily include identifying which old, disused doctrines we don’t believe anymore), we continue to be left with only our own sketchy definitions.

    As to apostates, of course they shouldn’t be in leadership positions. I don’t think that their chance to be in leadership positions is that high, but I won’t argue with your experience. My problem is that many of the activities that J. Max cites as indicative of apostasy can just as easily be indicative of someone trying to find ways to believe where they are. On the outside, we can’t really know what is motivating that person’s belief or act. Sure the spirit of discernment should help, but we aren’t all bishops or in positions of authority. Abuse and bullying can take place.

  64. To clarify my previous comment (#14), I don’t think that it’s alright to be deceptive in every situation. But when the only goal of a deception is to protect yourself and/or others from harm in a way that does no harm to anyone else or to the church, I believe that it’s completely justifiable. I also don’t think that it’s the best choice in all situations.

    As far as the judgement bar of God goes (@Jettboy), I guess we’ll have to wait and see, and in the meantime I think I remember Jesus saying something about judging.

  65. “Consider: in all the incidents you have thought about, the person considering them (and people who have agreed with them) has thought that there was something VIRTUOUS about their plight. That they had a real moral advantage and were going through morally sound channels.”

    True. But you’re missing the real point. These same people condemn their own actions when they occur in someone else towards them. This is the real test. Morality has never been a feeling of being moral. Morality is consistency in how you treat others compared to what you expect of others. Obviously we all fall short in this regard. But that doesn’t mean morality doesn’t exist. Indeed, the moment we condemn another’s behavior, we are admiting it does.

  66. Thomas,

    “I believe that the core issue is who gets to define Mormonism; the orthodox or the half or no-believing culturalists?”

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s the First Presidency and the 12 and no one else.
    Thank God.

    LOL

    Okay, fair enough. However, you’re sort of missing the thread of what was said. First of all, the 15 *are* orthodox. All of them. They pretty much define that term.

    So within context, the right way to understand the question is “who decides Church policy, those that agree with the 15 or those that don’t?”

  67. @ John 63 – Okay, fair enough.

    But I think you are stretching beyond reality a bit here. The Church’s teachings are no where near as amorphous as you are making them sound. One of the main things that ‘scares’ people about Mormons is just how aligned they are in terms of beliefs. Mormons are way way way more aligned in beliefs than just about any other religion I can think of. So in so far as you are right that it’s not always so well defined, I agree it becomes a matter of interpretation. But to then use this to claim nothing is defined would be madness.

    @ Ryan 64 – Agreed.

    @ Mark 60 – I agree with the first answer entirely, of course.

    I’m seeking clarifation on the second. Saying ‘the temple recommend questions as they are written’ isn’t sufficent these days.

    Are you advocating for the ‘the temple recommend questions as they are written’ if taken as originally intended?

    Or are you advocating for a John Dehlin style reinterpretation?

    If the latter, then are you advocating that an atheist that believes God is a metaphor should be able to serve as Bishop without explaining he’s really an atheist?

    In other words, you sort of dodged the real question.

  68. “but I don’t think any of them will change that fact that, in its general thrust, there is a lot of truth to what you have said.”

    Not true for me.

    And since I’m the only person I have access to his inner mind (and therefore know what my axes to grind are) I’m at 100% disonfirmation of all verifiable sources.

    I feel bad for people that feel this way. I’d recommend that they start being honest with themselves and continue to be honest with others.

    Somehow using this as an excuse to be dishonest with others doesn’t sit well with me.

  69. re 68:

    Do you guys REALLY have a plugin that automatically links to scriptures if you write out a name and number next together?

    lemme try

    @ Alma 32

    (here goes nothing)

    But seriously,

    re 66,

    Bruce, I’ve seen some people argue a sort of “fighting fire with fire approach” rather than condemning. (Consider people — who will be unnamed — ) who are trying to keep people in the church. Before advocating a new path (of deception), they address the feelings of hurt that people feel by saying, “You shouldn’t feel hurt about being deceived. It’s just how things work. And so, you shouldn’t feel guilty/bad about deceiving others to reach your aims, because it’s just how things work.”

    In this way, they are arguing like you that morality isn’t about feeling moral. (So the sense of indignation isn’t a sign that the other side’s actions were immoral and ought to be overcome.)

  70. “We may all fantasize about what the Brethren should or shouldn’t do”

    Pay more attention to personal hygiene, for instance.

  71. Bruce,

    I’d say those responsible for deciding policy are the same as those who decide (or, as they prefer to say it ‘proclaim’) doctrine. And I’m all for that, for the same reasons. Whether or not they define the ‘orthodox ‘, I suppose that depends what you mean by orthodox. If you mean that because they decide doctrine and policy they set the definition of orthodoxy, sure … it’s a tautology, but why not. If you mean that they are the epitome of orthodoxy the way the word is being used in these discussions, as describing a particular set of dispositions towards belief, then I’d have to say that I don’t agree with that.

  72. “and in the meantime I think I remember Jesus saying something about judging.”

    Can you point out where please? No I am serious. If its the whole “judge not,” don’t forget that modern revelation has inserted “unrighteously” into the equation. Other than that, the Scriptures demand we judge everything and everyone, including ourselves, to determine right from wrong and what is from God and what isn’t. The Book of Mormon is very clear on that point. I find those who claim we aren’t to judge really mean shut up!

  73. ““You shouldn’t feel hurt about being deceived. It’s just how things work. And so, you shouldn’t feel guilty/bad about deceiving others to reach your aims, because it’s just how things work.””

    This approach I like when it gets used in this say. But it’s unfortunate when said same person violates his own rules on this, which he often does.

    Besides, I don’t really agree with him on who or what is doing the deceiving here. He defines ‘deceiving’ in a narrow sort of way that he himself can’t live by. Instead, he probably should be saying “Don’t you see that no one deceived you? They *really do* believe this. It’s only deception if you do it knowingly.” Indeed, that pretty much is in order in like 90+% of the cases in question.

    In short, nice try. Try again. :P

  74. Here’s one place Jesus said something about judging:

    John 12:47

    “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

    (Not that I want to get into a “the scriptures say you’re wrong” debate, because clearly in this conversation if I interpret the scriptures to say that we shouldn’t judge others then it just means that I am a half-believer.)

  75. Thomas,

    Yes, I would definitely agree that tautologically the 15 are defined as the basis for modern ‘orthodoxy.’ In so far as you are out of alignment with their teachings (even if you feel you are *in* alignment with some older dead Prophet) then you are to that degree disagreeing with the LDS Church.

    Yes, it’s tautological. So what?

    So it goes back to the question now: is it okay to use deception to make changes to ‘orthodoxy’ which we are now tautologicaly defining as above?

    Of course the answer to this question is NO. Period.

    Now remove the ‘deception’ and you might have a whole new ball game. For example, is it immoral for Catholics to try to make changes to the LDS Church? (Perhaps to have them all convert to Catholicisim) Of course not. They’ll probably fail, but no harm in trying. And it’s certainly not deceptive or immoral.

  76. re 74,

    Bruce,

    But couldn’t it also be that said person is simply an imperfect person — as we all are — and this is one of the things he needs to work on? Is it necessarily true instead that his methodology is incorrect?

    (OK, I know how this must sound. It must sound like I’m saying, “In a perfect world, communism will work.” But I don’t think what I’m saying is THAT bad.)

    Re: narrow definition of deception. Even in the discussions boards, we get this all the time. Because with this, we have to argue whether the powers that be, whether the apologists, whether anyone in question knows or should have known x, y, or z pain point. The ignorance defense doesn’t work for a lot of people, so yes, they have to come to the conclusion of something like, “Yeah, they know (or should know) these issues, but their goal is to keep the church afloat. As a result, it’s only natural that they would do whatever they could to keep the church afloat — transparency may not be conducive to that goal. Some things are true but not useful, as they say ;).”

    Please note that this argument changes based on the parties in question. Maybe we could say that the Q12 are not historians and they don’t know x issue, but then we get into the apologists, and then we get into university scholars in x field who are members, and the situation gets quite a bit different. Once again, I present the FPR post on Dirty Belief.

    P.S. The scripture referencing plugin. Can you find out out what it is so we can get it for W&T? That would be SO COOL.

  77. Jettboy, I righteously judge that you are wrong and that much of what you have said is not of God.

    I also righteously judge that you should shut up.

  78. Bruce,

    I haven’t addressed ‘deception’, but only who gets to define church doctrine. I quoted the only thing I meant to address. Then you seemed to suggest that who defines policy was a different question, so I addressed that. It seems to me we are pretty much in agreement. And, finally, I wanted us to clarify what we were talking about when we use the word ‘orthodoxy’, because a different usage would greatly alter my response to ‘the orthodox define Mormonism.’

    On deception: the vast majority of the time, people should not be deceptive.

  79. Andrew,

    “But couldn’t it also be that said person is simply an imperfect person — as we all are — and this is one of the things he needs to work on?”

    “Is it necessarily true instead that his methodology is incorrect?”

    Also yes.

    There is a big difference between being charitable to a person who is imperfect and deciding to not call a spade a spade.

    That being said, if said person does not honestly realize they are misinformed on some point, they are NOT being deceptive. They are merely wrong. They should be called ‘wrong’ rather than ‘deceptive.’

    Also, I think I’ve said this elsewhere, but there is nothing morally wrong about being wrong. You have to be wrong to make progress in growth of knowledge and just about anything. So we are wrong to crucify people for being wrong.

    Point being, I think we’re agree on this.

    Thomas,

    “It seems to me we are pretty much in agreement.”

    Yeah, it would seem you are right.

    “On deception: the vast majority of the time, people should not be deceptive.”

    Seems we still agree. :P

  80. On the subject of ‘judging others’ the leaders of the Church (yes, members of the 15) have said quite about as to clarify the LDS Church’s stance on this.

    In essence, it’s impossible to ‘not judge’ and you have to do it. But we should never judge another’s salvation ever. That is Christ’s role alone.

    But consider that J Max (whom we are discussing) is not claiming to judge another salvation, is he? Isn’t he instead calling out people that feel that via a definition game they can rewrite what the Church’s official teachings are?

    If they are doing this for themselves and themselves alone, I have a hard time finding fault. If J Max is condemning such a person (I don’t believe he is) then J Max is wrong

    But he specifies situations where others are involved.

  81. I’m assuming that everyone agrees with me (righteously) judging that Jettboy should shut up (#78).

    If you don’t agree and you haven’t spoken up, I righteously judge you as having deceived the rest of us.

  82. There is something I want to bring up that has been bothering me.

    There seems to be a ‘line of logic’ that is being used at times (even on this thread to a degree) that must be discussed a bit more openly.

    John in particular has made the argument that the Church essentially has few if any official teachings.

    I would agree that they probably have ‘few’ official teachings. But the ‘if any’ is just dead wrong. (Not that John said that, but some people do claim that.)

    Further more, I think that ‘few’ is more than most religions.

    The problem here is that the LDS Church has a pretty strong and easily recognizable set of official beliefs. They also have a vast body of ‘it’s up to you to decides.’

    One ‘tactic’ is to take the ‘it’s up to yous’ and pretend that therefore it’s all ‘up to yous.’

    But this is not true, and perhaps even a bit deceptive.

    Consider a simple question: Does the LDS Church officially teach that the BoM is historical.

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I’m sorry, but that the truth. It’s overwhelmingly obvious and true. Just how many conference talks have been on or even just assumed as incontrovertible that the BoM is historical? Do we really believe that then they bear testimony of it’s truthfulness that they are claiming it’s a parable? How many talks on how it came forth? On it’s literal truth? On the reality of the angels in question?

    The argument that gets used is “well, it’s not in the temple recommend interview.’

    But who ever said that the sum total of official LDS teachings are in the temple recommend interview? Certainly none of the 15 past or present.

    The temple recommend interview is the sum total of *what you needed to confirm to go to the temple*. Claiming it is more than this is questionable.

    And I think people underestimate just how specific the temple recommend interview questions are. If you are answering them truthful and as originally intended, you are claiming a lot about your personal beliefs.

    Yes, the LDS Church both officially teaches that the BoM is historical AND it made a decision to not require that specifically as a temple recommend question.

    It’s deceptive to claim this means that the LDS Church doesn’t officially teach that the BoM is historical.

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said “The LDS Church officially teaches the BoM is historical” and I get a snide remark back saying, “Well, why don’t you just contact Salt Lake and let them know they missed a question on the recommend interview!”

    It’s trite. It’s also deceptive. So why do people say things like this?

    Try to put yourself into any secular context. Or any context really.

    If you saw people double talking like this without a hint of irony we’d be concerned, even scared. We do not expect people to behave in this way in any walk of life. It’s worrisome, bothersome. It’s wrong. Why am I supposed to feel differently just because it’s a religion and I’m talking to people on the Bloggernacle.

    I think, if I were to be completely honest with myself, I’d have to say that probably the reason this gets said about half the time is because people want to protect ‘cultural Mormons’ from some sort of inquisition. (I think this is John C’s real point.)

    But we don’t want to start a counter inquisition either. There is much room for balance here that is being ignored.

    Pegging people as ‘you’re an unbeliever you jerk!’ might be wrong but so is pegging people as ‘jerks!’ for doing little beyond saying the the truth as far as they understand it. (i.e. That the Church really does officially teach about BoM historicity and in so far as you don’t agree, you are out of alignment with the official teachings on that point.)

  83. “If you don’t agree and you haven’t spoken up, I righteously judge you as having deceived the rest of us.”

    Orwell, I love ya, but shut up please :P

  84. Andrew S, in the context we are discussing here, I think any believing Christian, or any believing monotheist for that matter is far more of a “believing member” than an atheist or confirmed agnostic member of the Church is. He may not be a member of our church, but he or she is certainly a member of “the Church of all believers”.

    When I say confirmed agnostic, by the way, I mean someone who is settled on the position that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Strictly speaking that is what “agnostic” means. Someone who doesn’t know isn’t an agnostic, rather someone who believes that it is impossible to know.

    Any believing member of virtually any denomination is more fit for a teaching position than anyone who doesn’t believe at all. I don’t think we should draw a narrow line around LDS orthodoxy and say that anyone who doesn’t fall within is a “non believer”.

    That is not what the scriptures mean by the term. The scriptures generally refer to “non-believers” as those who do not believe in God in any real sense at all. Anyone who believes in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost (inspiration) is most definitely a believer, no matter which denomination they belong to.

    They don’t even have to be Christian. Certainly there are plenty of righteous Jewish and Muslim people out there, as well as adherents of other forms of monotheism or quasi-monotheism that we should be reluctant to classify as “non-believers”. If someone believes in a Supreme Being who wants him to live a upstanding and moral life, he is a believer, as far as I am concerned. The other difference are minimal by comparison.

  85. Mark D,

    I agree with what you are saying. Your main concern seems to be using the term “non-believer.”

    I note here, however, that I don’t disagree with Andrew S. “Non-Believer” is relative to a group. I am a “non-believer” in Catholicism and I don’t find that to be offensive.

    Let’s not get caught up in a word game. I suggest you just take Andrew as face value here now that he’s clarified what he meant. If you don’t like the wording, I’d submit that it’s easier for you to reword it in your mind (now that he’s clarified) then to ask him to reword it.

    Also, I’d have just as much concern having a Catholic teach Sunday School if he didn’t tell his Bishop he was Catholic as I would anyone. (I know, it’s rediculous when put that way.) But if the Bishop is okay with it, I’m okay with it. But I’d want it to all be 100% above the board.

  86. re 86,

    Mark D,

    I’m not referring to the “church of all believers.” Just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (In the future, when I say, “the Church,” should I be more specific and make sure to say, “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”?)

    So, WITHOUT comparing/contrasting to agnostics and atheists, just answer: are members who believe in the specific teachings of other religions fit to call themselves Mormons, teach in Mormon teaching positions, and take LDS leadership callings, etc.,

    re 88:

    Bruce,

    Thanks.

  87. Bruce

    Wow o Wow, so according to you because I was converted to Mormonism from Catholicism, if I’m extended any callings I need to tell my bishop about it because I’m not Mormon enough for you, is that it? You might be a non-believer in Catholicism which is perfectly fine to say and is not offensive, however, to then go on to say anyone was a former Catholic should tell their Bishop before accepting a calling as a Sunday school teacher is really not only offensive but obnoxious.

    Let me tell you something, this is the same kind of arrogance and quite honestly, stupidity that is making me have my name taken off the roles of the church, I don’t care if you have ancestors going back to the handcarts that doesn’t make you any more Mormon than the newest convert. People really need to get that stupid idea out of their heads. Completely, truly Moronic.

    I don’t see Heavenly Father asking me at the Pearly Gates if I was a convert or not. I think he is going to be asking me what kind of person I was.

  88. re 90,

    dblock,

    That’s not what Bruce is saying at all.

    When you converted from Catholicism to Mormonism, you adopted Mormon beliefs. You ceased to be Catholic, belief-wise. You are, as you said, a former Catholic, not a current Catholic.

  89. “Wow o Wow, so according to you because I was converted to Mormonism from Catholicism, if I’m extended any callings I need to tell my bishop about it because I’m not Mormon enough for you, is that it?”

    I was talking about someone that WAS CURRENTLY Catholic teaching Sunday school without the Bishop realizing the truth. Obviously it would never happen, of course. That’s why I said “I know, it’s rediculous when put that way.”

    Actually, I have seen Catholic Sunday school teachers in the LDS Church. I don’t mean former Catholic, I mean currently Catholic. It’s great. But it was also well known by the Bishop and considered appropriate for the context. It wasn’t hidden or deceptive.

  90. Thank you for explaining your point further, because now what you’ve written makes more sense. That’s not how it came across when I first read. And I read the response a few times before I posted. Its’ just that I have come across that attitude a lot. Its becoming increasingly difficult

  91. For what it is worth, you have to look at the context of the discussion. If that is lost, I can see why you were concerned.

    The context is really that J Max claimed that those that disbelieved in the LDS Church’s teachings should think of themselves as “investigators”.

    This offends some people, and maybe even rightly so because of how it is worded.

    But you do have to look at the point he was making and be charitable enough to not get stuck on the wording.

    The fact is that a hypothetical person that disagrees with all of the defining truth claims of the LDS Church is no more a “believer in the LDS Church” then a Catholic (current Catholic) is. This doesn’t make them a bad person in either case.

    But expecting them to not infiltrate pastoral callings and even be above the board before accepting a calling as Sunday School teacher is really not expecting more than is obviously required by moral law. (i.e. treat others as you’d want to be treated.)

    Yes, we can confuse the issue by making up hypothetical situations where the person is lying because they don’t want to be disowned by their spouse, or something. And maybe this does happen in real life. But never make the mistake of believing that because an exception hypothetically exists that therefore it’s all exceptions. That way lies mistrust and immortality.

    But if it’s above the board there is no problem with it. Ever. There is a setup chain of authority in the LDS Church and I reject the idea that J Max was trying to circumvent it with his comment that people are getting worked up over. And frankly, I think it’s obvious he didn’t say that we should.

  92. “Charming of you to apologize, Bruce, but I’m too righteous to get offended.”

    ROFL.

    Whoa! That was good. You win!!!!

    *Bows in humble respect.*

  93. re 95:

    Bruce,

    not saying it describes all exceptions. Maybe it’s just because I hang around certain sites more than others, but I’d say there simply is a sizeable community of people for whom the scenarios I describe exist. So I’d rather not impute malice to these cases by default.

    But then again, there are people I know who would say this kind of deception is always malicious…and that the person should be willing to leave their family if they don’t believe (because when they got married, they did so under the mutual belief that they were marrying someone with similar beliefs and values — in other words, apostasy is breaking the terms of the contract, so to speak.) Or there are those who say that the person should be willing to leave their family for the sake of the pursuit of truth itself, like the pioneers and early members did (at cost of life and livelihood many times.)

  94. I had intended to not participate here on Bruce’s follow up to my post, especially since I have been trying to limit my Internet use on Sundays.

    But I see that unless I say something to correct the gross mischaracterizations that have been made of me and what I have said, those slanders against me will quickly become the conventional wisdom regardless of how absurd and baseless they are.

    Nowhere have I said that I want to change the temple recommend questions, add additional questions, or excommunicate those who believe differently than I do, or seek out and exclude them from holding certain callings.

    Those who have misconstrued my words to mean these things are doing so dishonestly and uncharitably.

    I have no desire to be a bishop.  But if I were one I would ask the temple recommend questions with exact obedience to the instructions of the church. I would go so far as to say that if I knew that someone I was interviewing had expressed apostate views on the Internet, but they answered all of the questions correctly, I would give them a temple recommend anyway, in order to comply with the instructions from the Brethren.

    In my post, there was no complaint about or criticism of the Brethren.

    While I did specify certain callings which apostates should not fill, my hope, now proven vain, was that recognizing their own hypocrisy, they would attempt some integrity and voluntarily exclude themselves from these callings, or at a minimum voluntarily make their lack of faith known to their Bishop and submit to his direction or restrictions.

    If the Bishop gives them a calling anyway, I have no problem with that. That is his stewardship and right or wrong he will be accountable to God for it. The Bishop should follow the spirit for each individual. Ironically, a bishop that does not believe cannot have the spirit to make such decisions. That is why those who do not believe should not be Bishops. In a nice twist of irony, the very people who want to let someone with no faith be a bishop will be the same people who complain on the Internet when that Bishop makes an uninspired call or decision, and use it to justify not following their local leaders! Talk about being hoist with your own petard!  Hypocrites.

    I thought that the strongest point of my original post was my comparison of the Reductionism of the Pharisees to the Reductionism of the kinds of Mormons I describe and the similar technicality pettifogging of children and teens to what they do to justify themselves. Not a single person has even attempted to refute this. Instead,  ironically, their primary criticisms of my post have been Reductionistic and pettifogging mischaracterizations like those found in this thread.

    Thanks for making my point.

    Those who are confident that they are not guilty of the kind of hypocrisy I have described, have no reason to be offended by anything I have said, even if I am wrong. The fact that my words have caused such outrage, and that so many have tried to justify hypocrisy is a sad testimony to the lack of confidence in their own position. The guilty take the truth to be hard.

    I will be posting a manifesto on Monday or Tuesday on my personal blog. Watch for it.

    I will not be responding further on in this thread.

  95. J Max: “But I see that unless I say something to correct the gross mischaracterizations that have been made of me and what I have said, those slanders against me will quickly become the conventional wisdom regardless of how absurd and baseless they are.”

    Don’t take it hard, because:

    “Since you are confident that you are not guilty…you have no reason to be offended by anything people here have said, even if they are wrong. If their words caused such outrage, and if you tried to justify hypocrisy it would be a sad testimony to the lack of confidence in your own position. The guilty take the truth to be hard.”

  96. [snip]Wilson[snip]

    The reason nobody responded to what you think is a strong argument is because it wasn’t an argument at all, but a claim made without evidence.

    You have absolutely no warrant or standing to call anybody a hypocrite. You have no standing to sneer and call somebody a pettifogging child. Your own pettiness and hatred of your fellow saints is evident enough, and your ridiculous thoughts deserve nothing but rididule in response. [snip]

  97. Wow, J. Max, that #98 is a [snip] piece of work. This whole thread has been pretty tame by bloggernacle standards — people have been disagreeing but, for the most part, it’s all been pretty respectful. [snip].

    I was trying to let Bruce persuade me to give you the benefit of the doubt in all this, but now I’m just embarrassed for you.

  98. This is not aimed at anyone in particular, but I would ask all people who comment here to remember the words of the Savior:

    “43¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

    44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”

  99. Andrew S: are members who believe in the specific teachings of other religions fit to call themselves Mormons, teach in Mormon teaching positions, and take LDS leadership callings, etc.,

    I think I have made my position perfectly clear that I believe that virtually all such individuals are radically more qualified to hold teaching positions in the LDS Church than anyone who is a confirmed atheist or agnostic, no matter how many years he has been in the Church or how extensive his background in church history, doctrine, and culture.

    The scripture says: “trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” That’s Mosiah 23:14.

    Personally, I am unalterably opposed to the suggestion that anyone who is a member of LDS Church but doesn’t believe it anymore has the slightest advantage over a believer from any other denomination, on that basis alone.

    So in that sense I consider all those believing individuals much more authentic members of the Church of Jesus Christ than anyone who has abandoned the faith to the point where it is no more than a social contrivance, and if a choice had to be made I would rather see ten thousand bishops, RS, and EQ presidents who believed, but knew nothing of LDS specific doctrines and practices than to see even one pretender who doesn’t believe in God at all.

  100. Bruce, one bullet point I find missing is a treament of the “land mines” that the semi-believing Mormons scatter in some of their blog posts and comments. The implications (and sometimes outright statements) are that one can be a member in good standing and still not believe (or do) such-and-such. I believe that does damage to the seekers and sincere questioners, by tending to send them off-track.

    I’ll have to go back and re-read Elder Holland’s conference talk about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but I got the impression that he said that someone who believes that the BoM events didn’t actually occur is out of line with Church teachings. I don’t think he addressed whether or not it was out of line sufficiently to deny callings for such a person. But, such a person who makes public statements (online or in real life) in any way that promulgates the idea that the BoM is not historical, would not be “in the mainstream” as McConkie was talking about.

  101. Andrew S, On second glance, I appear to have misread your question. My answer is that I think that anyone who meets the Mosiah 23:14 standard, of whatever denomination, is potentially qualified to hold an LDS teaching position, provided he sticks to the fundamental principles of the gospel, or is familiar enough with LDS doctrine not to contradict it on other matters.

    I believe leadership positions should be held to a higher standard, namely the temple recommend standard. Someone who has not yet converted to the LDS Church is extremely unlikely to believe in the divine calling and mission of Joseph Smith.

    Similarly a member who has lost faith in God, the Atonement, the divine calling and mission of Joseph Smith, or the modern day leaders of the church cannot honestly answer the temple recommend questions in the affirmative, and as such should not hold a leadership position, by which I mean bishop, president, or counselor. There are plenty of other callings such a member can hold though.

  102. Okay, I’ve been thinking about this conversation for a while and my conscience has convicted me on one point.

    I have been agreeing that there is such a thing as a moral lie. And, of course, there is.

    I have also been agreeing that, at least in principle, there could be (though probably unusually isn’t) a reason to lie about your beliefs to family members.

    And even know, as I write this, it still seems to me like in principle this should be true.

    But every time I try to think of a specific example it disappears like cotton candy in my mouth.

    So I feel like I need to back track a bit and fess up to what I am currently feeling.

    What I am doing in my mind is I’m asking ‘think of a specific scenario where you’d actually give real advice to a real person to lie to their spouse or parents about their real religious beliefs.’

    This is not Mormon specific now. I mean this in general.

    And I just can’t think of any such situations.

    If someone came to me for marriage advice (Why? I have no idea. It’s all just hypothetical, so move along.) and they said “Bruce, I used to be devout Mormon/Catholic/JW/Evangelical/Whatever and now I don’t believe in it any more. I’m afraid my spouse will divorce me if I tell them the truth. What do you suggest I do.”

    By golly, there is no way I’m going to tell them to lie.

    I think the first thing I’d say is “Honesty really is the best policy, and you can’t build a relationship on a lie. If you really love your spouse, you have to think of their feelings too. So let’s figure out how to best frame the real truth to them.”

    I’d then probably recommend that they make a choice to not be belligerent to their spouse beliefs. There is a world of difference between saying “Honey, I just don’t know any more, but I still accept this as good for you and others and you’ll never hear me speak against it.” and “It’s all false and you are going to @#!*% for your false beliefs.”

    If they argued with me that they weren’t being ‘intellectually honest’ with themselves, then I’d point out that they are thinking of lying anyhow, so clearly this is better. Besides, marriage is built out of compromise. This is absolutely a fair compromise in my opinion. They don’t have to ‘believe it’ to choose to not be belligerent for the sake of their marriage.

    If they told me they knew for certain their spouse was still going to divorce them (despite their religion teaching they shouldn’t) I’d first want to know what is wrong with their spouse that they could be so hard line (against their own religious beliefs) on this point? And are they really sure that is the case?

    If they still felt that way, I just can’t see myself ever recommending that they lie. I’d probably recommend counseling first. I’d probably recommend that they find a way to believe as much as they can to avoid it being a lie. I’d probably recommend a lot of things, a lot of compromises. But I don’t think I’d ever recommend a lie.

    Would recommending a lie ever be good advice here?

    I think the problem is that there are two people here. If, for example, this hypothetical person’s spouse really and truly felt this strongly about wanting to only be married to someone that believed exactly the way they did, then that would be a very tough marriage either way. And I have no reason to believe either option has a stronger chance of divorce now. Lying to save the marriage is not obvious even in this case. I’d be more worried about a divorce resulting from the person’s inability to fake it perfectly or the tension created by that fake-out. So I’m still not sure lying is the best course. Probably at least trying to work it out would generally be better, so that would be the advice I’d give.

    In the case of parents, this seems even easier. The stakes aren’t nearly so high, so either being open, being non-belligerent to your parents faith, or maybe even just saying nothing all seem like viable options in any case I can think up. So advice-wise, I still can’t think of a situation where I’d recommend a lie.

  103. Bookslinger,

    You make a good point I had not thought of.

    J Max,

    Thank you for the clarification.

  104. I’m tired of hearing about what bothers [snip], and one of my primary goals as a regular Bloggernacle contributor is to destroy the faith that he sets out to defend — a faith that I do not identify with the message of Mormonism and that I find to be a prideful perversion of the pure love of Christ.

    The pure love of Christ is not about establishing an asymmetrical moral discourse with those who disagree with us so that we can elevate them to our own level of righteousness. We are called upon to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows with the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection. But in all [snip] screeds against intellectualism, I’ve never seen [snip] focus on a message like this: “I love everybody who attends Sunstone. I want them to be happy and to get closer to God and feel his unconditional love for them. If they feel that going to Sunstone will accomplish that, then I sincerely hope that it does. It may not surprise you that I can’t really imagine how it might accomplish that, but I realize no serious question has ever been settled based on what one can or cannot imagine. I respect their approach to the restored gospel, and I hope that they respect mine.”

    [snip]. Christ recognized the superiority of the widow’s might, because she gave everything she had. Knowledge doesn’t work in such a way that we can pick and choose our beliefs on a whim, and most Mormons who hold to those beliefs that you outline are doing the best that they can. They’re giving it their all. But [snip] (a) contribute to an environment that makes it impossible for them to communicate their beliefs candidly without causing controversy, and (b) condemn them for being reticent about expressing these beliefs. I can think of nothing more Pharisaical than that (to use your term as you understand it).

    We’re just poor failing sinners anyway. Next to greatness of God, we are as puny and as minuscule as almost any wayward soul, [snip].

  105. I don’t see the orthoprax-heterodox crowd as being particularly deceptive. By attending LDS church and practicing Mormonism, they’re saying that they think it’s a good idea to practice Mormonism and be a participant in the CoJCoL-dS. It’s a non-trivial statement — it contrasts strongly with the position of a whole lot of people who think that LDS church participation is not a valuable or productive use of their time.

    Especially considering (as others have pointed out) how vague the brethren are in matters of theology compared to how specific they are when it comes to certain behavior requirements — one can honestly and sincerely argue that practicing Mormonism implies believing in the practice of Mormonism (including WoW, tithing, church attendance, etc.) more than it implies belief in a precise list of specific doctrines.

  106. J. Max,
    So we are clear, I wasn’t accusing you of being someone who would add to the temple recommend questions. I was saying that you could inspire that behavior. I know that you were looking for people to convict themselves, but the sort of people who would convict themselves aren’t the sort of people you were talking about (this is why I’m saying that you’re casting the net too wide).

  107. chanson,

    “they’re saying that they think it’s a good idea to practice Mormonism”

    Hopefully you aren’t saying you thought I said otherwise and just adding a point worth reminding people of.

    However, chanson, we have talked about some specific circumstances (that are in fact real, if perhaps rare) that are clearly deceptive. Even many arguing that they are okay have gone on to claim that it’s moral deception, not non-deception.

    So a broad statement like this is really just argreeing with my previous point that it’s the bad apples that spoil the bunch. And I do agree with that sentiment still.

    In so far as I might have any thing broader to say, it would probably be that there is a very high tolerance, and even acceptance, for deception as moral in situations that seem rather questionable. Including, for example, lying to your spouse and building your relationship with him/her on a false foundation.

    I don’t deny the existence of the ‘moral lie’ but I do think it’s easy to then claim every self serving lie is moral. I would hope would steer away from this as far as we can.

  108. It isn’t permissible for them to speak against the LDS Church and its Theology or History if they intend to attend. It would be ingratitude toward the host religion. If they feel that negative then they should find another church or none at all as they wish. Under no circumstance should non-believing (although half-believing might be acceptable) cultural Mormons go to the Temple or accept a calling.

    Now you know why cultural Mormons lie.

    If you’re going to presume to tell me what I can and can’t do with regards to a belief system I invested a huge portion of my life in, I’m going to find a way to do what I want and need to do, including pointing out in priesthood meeting, sunday school, the bloggernacle and every other forum I can access when I think something is wrong, and trying to change things in every calling I’m given.

    the fact that you can’t stop me from doing what I want and that my actions stick in your craw ia just a bonus.

    Changing Packer’s talk when it gets published, toning down some of the racism in the BOM, reaching out to the gay community–these are actions on the part of the brethren that I am confident my dissent has helped to bring about.

    And the fact that I and other people like me are actually changing things is an even bigger bonus.

    Some day, Jettboy, you just might be the one who feels all he identifies with is the culture, and who has to decide whether to go find another church.

    Let’s have faith, anyway.

  109. @116,

    Another example of someone openly admiting it’s deception, but feels it’s okay. I need to count up how many people said that on this thread. It as a lot.

  110. Andrew S,

    Okay, this is a response to what I feel you and I are talking past each other on this thread and the other thread.

    Here is the thing I think you are missing about what I am saying. I am *not* advocating for some way to have the best of all worlds, i.e. you participate in the LDS Church, you are not dishonest, and you are not detected.

    That is probably impossible for the very reasons you outline.

    What I *am* saying is that you should be a moral person, and that means you are honest in all situations where you have the potential to hurt others. (And probably even in almost all others.) ‘Not saying anything’ is only okay if it doesn’t amount to misrepresentation that then hurts others.

    However, ‘not saying anything’ is a time tested way of avoiding lying a la A Man for All Seasons. But the truth is that Sir Thomas More still ended up having everyone know what he *really* thought, they just couldn’t prove it. (Well, until they perjured him.)

    *That* is what I am advocating for. I’m saying morality and ethics is about not putting ourselves above everyone else. Being truthful with your spouse *is* going to hurt. But it will hurt less then the alternative in almost every circumstance I can imagine. It is respecting your spouse in the very way you expect to be respected too.

    So in so far as our actions start to hurt others, we will have to take a hit. BUT, it’s okay to minimize that hit as much as possible. Refusing to say what you believe and ALSO not going out and tearing down other people’s faith is the right course of action here. It won’t mean people don’t know the truth about you, but it will mean you are moral.

    The reason we keep talking past each other is that you keep coming up with situations where the person is detected and I don’t care. I’m saying they should be detected when they didn’t want to be because in these situations you are coming up with there are other people to be considered beyond ones own self.

    I’m not saying morality is easy. I’m saying it’s better than the alternatives people are offering up where we justify dishonesty and justify hurting others because you don’t personally want to be hurt.

  111. re 117:

    Bruce,

    Yeah, people are open about it online because they really feel their plight is justified. I haven’t been mentioning hypotheticals here…just being a messenger for plenty of actual experiences I’ve heard.

    re 118,

    I understand that we can’t have the best of all possible worlds. I just think you are equating the “moral person” idea with blunt honesty (…in all situations where “you have the potential to hurt others”, I guess), and other people are coming out of the woodwork to disagree. I’m not saying I agree with them…I’m just saying, THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT THEORETICAL. They are not just constructions I have made for a thought experiment. And furthermore, it doesn’t seem like you have the most personally persuasive case for these guys. You just note, “Oh wow, so, you really do openly admit deception and feel that’s OK” as if you can maybe shame someone who doesn’t already share your view into agreeing with you.

  112. Including, for example, lying to your spouse and building your relationship with him/her on a false foundation.

    You mean like Joseph Smith, Jr. “forgetting” to tell Emma that he had married their 15 year old housekeeper?

    Be careful, Bruce. In your eagerness and zeal to purge the church of people you think are deceptive evildoers, you are doing a lot of damage. Just so you know. Think about it — Joseph Smith himself would not meet the standard that you are trying to impose.

  113. Mark,

    You have missed the point. I am not condemning people. I’m point out the consequences that are being ignored. The choice to lie to your spouse should not be an easy one, like many here have advocated for. And even Joseph Smith had consequences. Is there really any doubt about this?

  114. I have never commented here before, but I would like to Bruce at 107 above.

    I don’t believe some of the Church’s fundamental doctrines. I have served as a teacher and leader while entertaining those doubts or lack of belief. I continue to do so. Most would consider me a pillar of the ward and stake. My family does not know of my lack of belief. Am I an immoral liar? Maybe, but I will try to explain.

    I have several grown children. Those who are married, are happily married in the temple. All are active members with strong faith and are very happy. I don’t want them to experience the torment I have experienced. The church makes them very happy and they have a lot to give. If I told them the truth, they would be devastated and I am quite convinced that some of them would also begin to doubt just like me. Is that what you want–do you want me to destroy the faith of loved ones, because that is precisely what you are asking me to do? If I expressed my lack of belief, there are many in my ward and stake who would be affected by that. I have actively built the faith of many members. I would be pulling the rug right from under them. So I shut up.

    I don’t believe that morality is as simple as some believe. Yes, honesty is important but there is no reason to exalt it above all other virtues. I believe that confessing my true lack of belief would wreak havoc on those whom I love. And so I come, and I actively participate. I guess God approves, because he continues to inspire his chosen servants to call me to a variety of leadership positions. Ironically, I am quiet precisely because I don’t want to destroy faith. Do you really want me to do otherwise?

  115. And even Joseph Smith had consequences.

    He sure did.

    But that does not make him a cultural Mormon or half-believer, or somebody who should conduct himself at church as an investigator.

  116. ” just think you are equating the “moral person” idea with blunt honesty…”

    Andrew,

    Is it really possible I could have added more nuance then what I’ve said, including claiming it’s small numbers, ‘admiting to moral lying, and even offering up good alternatives that, while not perfect, at least are less likely to cause problems. Do you really mean what youy said here, Andrew? I really hope not. Because it seems a rather blantant misrepsentation of what I actually said and I think you are better than that.

    You go on to say “And furthermore, it doesn’t seem like you have the most personally persuasive case for these guys. You just note, “Oh wow, so, you really do openly admit deception and feel that’s OK” as if you can maybe shame someone who doesn’t already share your view into agreeing with you.”

    But that is not what I am seeing at all. I’m shocked you are seeing that.

    This is what I am seeing. I’m seeing that everyone is in agreement that we are talking about deception. I am seeing that everyone is in agreement that deception is not always wrong but usually is. I’m seeing a high level of agreement when we get right down to it.

    It’s normal and natural to want to say, ‘yeah, but you aren’t considering all circumstances’ if you aren’t sure you agree with the person fully. I believe that is what is happening.

    Others are managing to claim ‘well, lying can be moral’ merely be staying very very abstract. As soon as we mention a specific, no one will take it up. No one will say, “yes, go lie to your spouse for the rest of their life because that is probably usually better than telling them the truth.”

    What I am seeing is people who agree with me, pretty much entirely, but want to make a point that there could be exceptions that we aren’t considering. And I see myself agreeing with them on that point.

    I also see a lot of people that aren’t focusing on me, because they basically agree with me. They are focusing on J Max and how they perceived him going further than I perceive him.

    If there is a real difference between me and those ‘arguing with me’ (if you can call it that) it’s that I’m willing to get specific and they are not. I will come up with a real life scenario and say, “it seems this is morally wrong to lie here.” No one argues. Why should they?

  117. “But that does not make him a cultural Mormon or half-believer, or somebody who should conduct himself at church as an investigator.”

    Huh? You must have lost the thread of the conversation. We switched from what makes one a ‘cultural Mormon’ to when it’s okay to lie.

  118. “I don’t believe some of the Church’s fundamental doctrines”

    No fair, Liar, to take a hypothetical context Andrew asked me about (what about someone that believes none of it and is just cultural) and then apply my words to a new situation.

    “Do you really want me to do otherwise?”

    No

    “So I shut up.”

    Exactly!!!!! You don’t go secretly writing articles on blogs trying to undermine people’s faith. You have decided to handle this honestly instead. Kudos to you. You are my hero and an perfect example of the right way to handle it.

  119. re 124:

    Bruce,

    Is it really possible I could have added more nuance then what I’ve said, including claiming it’s small numbers, ‘admiting to moral lying, and even offering up good alternatives that, while not perfect, at least are less likely to cause problems. Do you really mean what youy said here, Andrew? I really hope not. Because it seems a rather blantant misrepsentation of what I actually said and I think you are better than that.

    Devil’s advocating here.

    But that is not what I am seeing at all. I’m shocked you are seeing that.

    So, how many of the people who have come here admitting to deception (and having no problem with it) have come out and said, “Oh wow, I need to change my ways.” I’m not seeing *that*. I guess the people for whom “deception is not always wrong” are coming out.

    I’m saying the specific scenarios are people’s lives. The ones they actually live. So when people come in and admit to deception and have no problem with it, they bring the specific scenario of their actual life. Not a thought experiment. Not even a specific thought experiment.

  120. I can tell this thread has gotten too long. People are starting to take comments out of their context now. Generally this happens because the thread got too long and people are losing the context.

    Mark, I am NOT claiming if a person lies they are somehow a cultural Mormon. Please re-read.

    Liar, I see nothing wrong with what you are saying. But I would hope you’d agree with me that a person that entirely disagrees with the LDS Church (i.e. they are an atheist) but lies to their spouse about this probably is not the best policy in most cases.

    Andrew, well, I emailed you.

  121. “Oh wow, I need to change my ways.””

    Because they understand we aren’t talking about them personally. I have been assuming that no one here falls in the category in question.

    I think everyone has agreed (or at least not denied) that such a category DOES exist. What is in question is how large it is. I’m saying small.

  122. I endorse all of Mark D.’s comments as well. Very well said (though I am only halfway through the comments at this point).

    Also, this one from Orwell was insightful:

    If we’re going to have candid, freely volunteered, up-to-date, 100% honest assessments of everyone’s faith we’re never going to do anything at church except go around the circle, confess our doubts, and hand out a scarlet alphabet of patches to sew to the merit badge sashes we’re all going to be wearing to keep track of our thought crimes.

    I do not believe it is appropriate to construct metrics of other people’s orthodoxy at the grassroots level (which metrics would necessarily be based on the opinions of those constructing the metrics of what orthodoxy actually means or entails). The result is subjecting Mormons to a creed. Here’s the rub: Mormonism is or was fundamentally a non- or anti-creedal religion, so this project runs contrary to the best nature of Mormonism.

  123. Not trying to be mean spirited here, just trying to give some feedback. I don’t believe people are taking things out of context on purpose. I think what happens is that sometimes on a OP like this especially when their has been one person who seems to be prolific in their post their thinking after awhile becomes kind of convoluted at time. That’s just my opinion.

  124. Anyway, now that my one-on-one conversation with Bruce has been cleared up, I’m going to look through some of the other comments. I’m going…backwards. The numbering appears to be very off though…so…I guess deal with it?

    re 127:

    john f,

    Who is constructing metrics of orthodoxy?

    AT BEST, if you are looking at any metrics of orthodoxy, it should be from the vantage point that there is a wide range of beliefs that are accepted and tolerated, because there are few things comparatively that the Church officially and expressly stresses over and over. The rest is leeway, interpretation, speculation…and the thing is most of it has been deemed ok.

    re 117:

    Mark Brown,

    Who is advocating a purge?

    Rather, it’s an advocacy that dishonesty can cause damage, and often-times more damage than honesty. If you REALLY want to bring up Joseph Smith, then I’ll just have to state, from an ex- perspective…the thing that upsets ex-Mormons about Joseph Smith is his dishonesty. The dishonesty causes a great deal of harm and pain even *now*. What would have happened if there were less of it? Perhaps Joseph would have had to deal with some personal issues…but it wouldn’t have had this massively harmful effect on others around him (and in the future.)

    re 113:

    Cultural Mo:

    You can do whatever you want. Bruce isn’t saying you can’t, and neither is anyone else. But what he is saying is: consider the effects to other people of your deception. From your perspective, you are trying to improve this religion.

    But for the people who believe in this religion as is, you are undermining it. Not only that, but you undermine it PRETENDING to be one of them. Instead of coming out and saying, “I don’t believe this, I don’t believe that, and I want to change this.” You openly admit that you *lie* to reach your goals in changing the church.

    Do you see anything questionable about that? What if it happened to you? Would you just say “good game, no rematch” or would you point out how unfair that is!

  125. dblock,

    I wasn’t saying it was intentionally. Re-read. I said it was because the thread has gone too long and people are losing context now.

  126. I think these kinds of problems will only become more common place as relativism as a guiding principle is increasingly adopted. The heart of it is even similar to the growing schism over gay-(im)morality in the church. It boils down to, “I have my view, you have your view, and neither is more legitimate than the other.” That answer may be true in the eyes of the law/society, but in the church we actively preach that God has his views made known to each of us if we humble ourselves and are willing to receive it.

    It’s one thing to not be sure of and given principle or teaching (JS and the plates, BY and the discourse, Benson and the Socialists, the church and teachings as applied to gay morality, etc.), or to even disagree with that principle as it’s being taught. But it’s a whole different thing to to go and teach or actively argue (within church context) that what you are teaching is the ideal.

    That is usually what riles up most situations.

    It’s ok to not be sure, and to desire further light to come to the same knowledge God has revealed. But when people pretend a certain standard doesn’t exist or that’s it’s just mere opinion and has little to no bearing, then I see that as a problem.

    None of this excuses those of us who aren’t cultural Mormons from using the words of the prophets or the Lord to beat others back in their place, so to speak. I see both as a transgression. One is sown in the seeds of doubt, mingled with contention, the other is frustration, mingled with contention.

    None of which sound like patience, meekness, charity, and long suffering to me.

  127. Andrew S., to me it looks like Jettboy is constructing metrics of others’ orthodoxy as he has taken JMax’s post to extremes that I doubt or hope that JMax would disagree with.

    I had also thought JMax was advocating constructing metrics of others’ orthodoxy at the grassroots level and proposing to exclude potentially large numbers of active Latter-day Saints from the category of “Mormon” with his post at his blog but he has pointed out in his comment above that this was not his intention. I guess it was the Pharisee thing that threw me off, as with others (particularly given that the Pharisees were the more faithful of the two main religious sects in Jerusalem, as pointed out by Mark D., and, in my opinion, given the main points of the Pharisee’s faith — belief in resurrection and angels — Jesus himself was perhaps closely affiliated with that sect although he obviously provoked the discontent of the leaders of the sect through teaching the Truth with authority, as he did).

    To boil it down, once again to agree with Mark D. above, I do not think it is appropriate for us to expect baptized members of the Church to consider themselves non-believers if they are in a period of doubt or decreased faith in their spiritual journey. Our baptism means something. It is sealed on heaven as it is on earth. Baptized members are not properly considered non-believers if there is some degree of divergence in their belief — including on the point of Book of Mormon historicity. My guess is that very few active Latter-day Saints have any concern about Book of Mormon historicity, so this is all theoretical. If they are having doubts, they are probably theodicy-based. I happen to believe that a large number of Latter-day Saints harbor such doubts to some degree or another for much of their lives. Despite these concerns, they press forward and serve, not doubting that the Church is the only true Church or that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the Book of Mormon is historically true, assuming the fact that God does exist.

  128. Bruce

    I never said what you were saying what you are trying to explain is intentional.

    That being said, here’s the problem I have and it kind of goes along with what Chris just said, ” None of this excuses those of us who aren’t cultural Mormons from using the words of prophets or the Lord to beat others back in their places.

    I believe the common thread that has been expressed in the thread in different ways is calling people out on their righteousness because they don’t believe the same as you. That is just plain wrong.

  129. “to me it looks like Jettboy is constructing metrics of others’ orthodoxy”

    Can you point out to me the metrics of orthodoxy that isn’t a real metric of orthodoxy in the living LDS Church?

  130. In other words, is any of the following no longer a metrics of orthodoxy?

    13 Articles of Faith
    Temple Recommend Questions
    Divine authority of the Priesthood
    The Book of Mormon as ancient scripture (arguable it might not matter as much, but it is still considered an orthodox belief).

    If I have mentioned any more than this I am not aware, but these are the most basic of beliefs to be considered a Mormon. At least, it used to be.

  131. Might I suggest (again) that there are two ‘sets’ of beliefs here: One is ‘those in the temple recommend interview’ and the other is ‘the set of things the LDS Church officially teaches’ (as separated from the set of things they leave up you.)

    I would like to point out that both sets exist and that one is the subset of the other (as in #139.)

    I would further point out that the word ‘orthodoxy’ is ambiguous and could point to either set.

    I would also point out that those that are claiming Jettboy has an ‘orthodoxy test’ have the responsibility to explain which set they are referring to first since Jettboy made no such claims for himself.

    We may then find we all agree. Or we may find we all disagree. But there is little point in word policing over the word ‘orthodoxy.’ Define what you mean in this context first so that we all understand.

    Jettboy’s list of ‘official beliefs of the LDS Church’ seems rather incontrovertible to me. Whether not this is the same as ‘orthodoxy’ is a matter of semantics so we need to clarify first.

  132. Bruce: fwiw, I think many have unintentionally taken your comments out of context. To me, you seem to be trying to understand everyone’s point of view and are getting caught in the crossfire.

    Jettboy: the problem isn’t what you choose to put on your list, it’s how you choose to spin it. In comment 139 you offer an “incontrovertible” (to use Bruce’s adjective) list, but exactly 100 comments earlier you tacked on little qualifiers:

    13 Articles of Faith as intended
    questions the divine authority of the Priesthood and those who hold it
    the Temple questions in a direct and straight forward manner.

    The devil, as they say, is in the details.

  133. but these are the most basic of beliefs to be considered a Mormon. At least, it used to be.

    The church isn’t in the business of deciding who is a Mormon or who isn’t based on a list of defining beliefs. As far as the the church is concerned, you become a Mormon by baptism. You stay a Mormon until you resign or do something so intolerable as to be excommunicated.

    However, the baptismal standard is useful, because it elaborates the requirements the church establishes to become a member:

    All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church. (D&C 20:37)

    That’s basic Christianity, not distinctively Mormon orthodoxy, which is as it should be. The only distinctively Mormon issues that are generally a requirement are a belief in the divine calling of Joseph Smith and the prophetic status of the current president of the church.

  134. I should add that basic compliance with the Word of Wisdom is another Mormon-specific requirement for baptism. I am not sure there are any others.

  135. Mark, in addition to the actual scriptural standard that you have quoted for baptism and becoming a disciple of Christ, there is the list of baptismal questions, which I believe provide a good framework for assessing lowest common denominator beliefs one must hold (as this seems to be what Jettboy and perhaps some others are looking for) in order to be a Mormon. Someone who passes the baptismal interview and is baptized is thereafter a Mormon. If they go inactive and stop coming to Church, for whatever reason, they will actually have difficulty avoiding contact with Mormons who will continually visit them and invite them back to Church, regardless of their concerns. This is pretty much the opposite of declaring people with lapsed faith but who are baptized to be “not Mormons”.

  136. john f, yes, that is more or less what I was trying to say. If you don’t do anything worthy of excommunication (or don’t voluntarily resign) from the church), you are still a member, and still a Mormon, so far as the church is concerned.

    Furthermore, the entry requirements do not include anywhere near the level of exacting orthodoxy that some have suggested are required to be considered a Mormon at all.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t a Mormon orthodoxy (pretty much anything taught in GC or in the publications of the church over the past two or three decades), but adherence on every point is not a requirement for membership. That would make us a creedal church, and Joseph Smith specifically spoke out against that, and in my opinion for very good reason.

  137. “13 Articles of Faith
    Temple Recommend Questions
    Divine authority of the Priesthood
    The Book of Mormon as ancient scripture (arguable it might not matter as much, but it is still considered an orthodox belief).”

    When I joined the church, the only thing I could say was that I believed the BoM to be from God and that the LDS Church must be also .

    I did not have a testimony of Joseph Smith
    I did not have a testimony of the divine authority of the PH
    I did not know all of the articles of faith (prolly still don’t)
    Therefore, I couldn’t answer all of the Temple Recommend questions.

    Yet my desire and intentions to learn and be a part of the community were sufficient to be admitted into the Church.

    I was counted among the saints with nothing more than my word that I would abstain from sex outside of marriage, eschew alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, and a promise to pay 10 percent of my increase to the church.

    I honestly don’t recall having to believe everything that was said over the pulpit to be considered as a member.

    How come your standards are higher than my Bishop and Stake President’s standards?

    Your words throughout this thread, Jettboy, are cold and harsh and they hurt people. They don’t hurt me. I’m fine with being considered unworthy to participate in your Church. I have no reason to keep silent my opinions about some doctrines, or the handling of specific Church affairs, or the priggish attitudes of some members. I’m lucky, my husband isn’t LDS and will love me even if I have soft opinions about “the gays”, “the illegals”, “the liberals”.

    Your attitude hurts really good people that try to be a part of the community despite the many obstacles they face.

    I really believe that people like you, with your hard-line “take it or leave it” attitude hurts the Church by making good people with less certainty than you, feel unwelcome.

    Is this how Christ operates? If so, I think I picked the wrong spiritual leader.

  138. In comment # 99, just before he slammed the door, took his ball and went home, Wilson linked to a sermon by Elder Ballard. I guess he intended it as some kind of trump card he was throwing down on the table before storming out of the room in a huff, but there is a statement in that talk that has bearing on the conversation:

    Remember, too often our behavior is a bigger deterrent to others than is our doctrine. In the spirit of love for all men, women, and children, help them to understand and to feel accepted and appreciated.

    Amen. Amen and amen.

    Once again, as Elder Ballard emphasizes, behavior is usually more meaningful that confession of belief in this or that doctrine. When people take it upon themselves to “beat others back into their places”, we inflict damage upon the church.

  139. “but these are the most basic of beliefs to be considered a Mormon”

    Ah, I get it now. He does say “a Mormon” where as in my head (due to the context) I was reading it as “a Believing Mormon” (i.e. someone that believes in the teachings of the LDS Church. Allowing for this as one possible definition of “Mormon.”)

    I’d caution all of you that are now dogpiling Jettboy. His last two comments, that you are responding to, really aren’t in any way rude if you are reading it the way I was reading it. Whether I was reading him right or not, he’ll have to say. But he seems only to say the obvious: if you don’t believe in the teachings of the LDS Church then you don’t believe in teachings of the LDS Church. It’s just tautological. As mfranti pointed out, there is expectation that if you don’t believe certain things, you will stay out of the temple until you do. These are very limited, I agree, but also very important ponits that the LDS Church obviously places very high value on.

    I would suggest that the right thing to do here is to ask for clarification just as is needed for an ambiguous word like ‘orthodoxy. (To say nothing as an ambiguous word like ‘creed’). You may actually be in agreement. Let’s not talk past each other.

    And with that, I have to go. I may be closing the thread soon too. I sort of feel like this has all played out now. I’m hoping we can all be adults here and talk things through.

    But please don’t be rude to each other. This is unnecessary. It seems at least possible to me that Jettboy (who will have to speak for himself) wasn’t trying to say that ‘if you don’t believe these things, you are not considered a member of the Church.’ At least I did not read it that way and didn’t even notice that you could until all of these clarifications took place.

    (And for what it is worth, I completely agree that the ‘best’ definition of being ‘a Mormon’ is the official one: you’ve been baptized. But I do not believe this automatically makes you a ‘believing Mormon’ except in some really specialized senses of the phrase.)

    So until you get clarification, please don’t assume he said that. Poor wording is not a crime, especially if it’s not unobvious what you were really getting at as I suspect it was for me.

  140. “Remember, too often our behavior is a bigger deterrent to others than is our doctrine. In the spirit of love for all men, women, and children, help them to understand and to feel accepted and appreciated.”

    Mark, I agree, but I think this needs to be a two way street. I can say, that I have really sincerely tried to be fair to everyone in my comments and to try to find as much common ground as is possible. But still (across both sites where I was commenting on this) I’ve had some somewhat nasty things said to me and about me, especially on the other site. (Wheat and Tares.)

    I am uncomfortable with people quoting things like this unless they are also serious about it too. I’m not saying you aren’t. I’m just reminding people that this isn’t a contest, it’s a discussion. Be charitable in the discussion like you would expect to be in a ward, if perhaps letting ourselves be a bit more open (but respectful.)

    Personally, I wish I felt more welcome on the Bloggernacle. If the Bloggernacle was my ward, I’d have moved. Indeed, in a sense, that what happened to me. I moved to M* because the Bloggernacle as a whole was a often a less than ‘loving’ place to someone like me. Merely holding certain opinions has result in at least one person (who I don’t even know) stalking me.

    But then it’s not a ward, so that’s an unfair comparison. But it does suggest we have much room for improvement on just merely discussing important issues like this on both sides.

  141. Bruce 68 said: “Mormons are way way way more aligned in beliefs than just about any other religion I can think of.”

    Also to Jettboy 139: “~ Are the following no longer metrics of orthodoxy?” Does that imply “requirements of belief”?

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you about how things are, but I don’t think that’s how Joseph Smith saw things. What he said was “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (“History of the Church”, 5:340)

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