Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)? – Side #1 vs. Side #2 and the We Attack / You Defend Model of Dialogue

football-hike-600x250In my last post I talked about the inherent imbalance in negative and positive posts on Mormon Matters. Even if there were equal numbers of them, the types of negative posts had a lot more emotional punch than the positive ones because negatives always have more inherent punch than positives.

In this post, I want to expand on this idea a bit by asking the question “whose side are you on?”.  What do we even mean by “sides”?

And since this is a long post, I should let you know that I issues challenges to John Dehlin and Sunstone at the end, once I’ve laid the foundation for my case.

There Are No Sides. Let’s Build Bridges Instead.

One of the cultural tenets of Mormon Matters (and often even the Bloggernacle as a whole) is that we do not have sides. We are all Mormons whether culturally or by belief. I have already expressed my concerns with this aspect of Bloggernacle culture, at least in some cases. Further, it’s only true when it’s true. John Dehlin would regularly talk openly about “believers and unbelievers alike”, though the preferred language is to speak of “spectrums” of belief (a term I find misleading at best, as many factors of belief are literally off or on). [1]

Still, the idea of not having sides or at least explicitly “bridging sides” was ever-present on Mormon Matters, even when people were forced to draw distinctions to be able to converse intelligently.

DougG, the Book of Abraham, and Both “Sides”

The issue of “sides” or “not sides” was driven home to me by a conversation I had with DougG right after I quit.

We were conversing about the good times on Mormon Matters and he brought up a new permablogger there named AndrewS (who often comments on M* here.) I get a lot of my better, rambling posts out of responding to things AndrewS has said on Wheat and Tares where he is still actively blogging (or at least was when I wrote this).

AndrewS is a very thoughtful person and probably one of very few ‘bridgers’ between the DAMU community and the Believing Mormon community. He self-identifies as an atheist, but really and sincerely seems to want to understand where believing Mormons are coming from, and to that end is willing to extend himself outside ‘his community’ and interact with Believing Mormons.

Because AndrewS is so thoughtful in his approach, DougG didn’t realize, at first, that he wasn’t a Believing Mormon himself.

Interestingly, my conversation with DougG started out as a discussion about the Book of Abraham. As discussed in this post, Richard Bushman explains that the Book of Abraham was originally believed to be a literal translation from various Egyptian Papyri. It is now generally considered to be a revelation inspired by the papyri. The post-Mormon community holds this issue up as a primary ‘smoking gun’ that Mormon beliefs are fiction. I have seen John Dehlin, in particular, making this his top reason for disbelief.

Well, DougG also thought it was ‘close to’ a smoking gun. So, he was curious how I looked at it, wondering how an otherwise intelligent person could deal with what he saw as such an obvious problem. I pointed him to Richard Bushman’s explanation (as captured in this post) and said that explanation worked for me. I also added that I believed that the original symbols were, indeed, Abrahamic and that they had since devolved into something else – as often happens in language. So the papyri were, in a certain sense, actually about Abraham. Doug admitted this was a decent explanation precisely because it didn’t fall into the trap of claiming the rest of the world was wrong. (His fundamentalist father did just that.)

But then I countered. I pointed to the fact that part of Richard Bushman’s explanation points out that the Book of Abraham actually does include in it stories about Abraham that have since been found. (See post.) Doug, without missing a beat, responded something to the effect of:

This isn’t a problem for me because I believe the Book of Abraham does contain authentic information about Abraham because Joseph Smith was praying about Abraham (because he thought the Papyri was Abraham’s personal writings) and God revealed truths about Abraham to him because he was praying about Abraham.

DougG and Me. DougG and AndrewS.

So, there is essentially no difference between my position and Doug’s position on the Book of Abraham!

We both thought of it as having authentic information about Abraham that came from revelation from God. We both thought of it as not being the penmanship of Abraham nor of being a literal translation.

But we both accepted it as being an authentic revelation from God!

The fact was that the only difference between our positions was that to me, the glass was half full. To him it was half empty. In my mind, if it’s a real, authentic revelation from God, then it’s scripture and I’m not going to sweat the rest. To him, it was a fraudulent document that proved Mormonism was not true and accidentally happened to contain a real revelation about Abraham. Despite how we chose to frame it, we were in agreement on all factual points.

As I continued talking with Doug, I realized just how “Mormon” he still was. He still believed in God as a personal God. He still, essentially, accepted the Mormon doctrine of deity in comparison to the more traditional creedal Christian views of God. (Though I think he didn’t accept the idea of God having a body.) [2] Doug also continued to believe in the Mormon concept of personal revelation, as shown by his views on the Book of Abraham.

Though Doug had stopped believing in core Mormon doctrines such as priesthood authority (his own personal revelations were as, or more, valid than the Church leaders), or even in the value of organized religion (“God barely tolerates organized religion” he prophetically claimed). The fact was that he and I just weren’t that far off in terms of our actual doctrinal beliefs.

So I was surprised when he suddenly said.

You know, I thought AndrewS was a Believing Mormon at first because of how subtle he is. But he’s actually on my side.

Side #1 VS Side #2

Click! And there it was! For the first time I finally had it put into an example that made it all make sense!

Mormon Matters, despite all rhetoric to the contrary, did indeed have two intermingling and somewhat fuzzy sides. But here was the thing about the two sides that I finally understood:

  1. DougG was nearly identical to me in beliefs and was an unabashed Theist with strongly and uniquely Mormon beliefs.
  2. AndrewS was an atheist.

But the two of them were on the same side and I was on the other.

Forget the rhetoric about “no sides” and “building bridges”. Forget the ideal of “dialogue.” All of that might be, to some degree, true. But it was not the deepest truth about Mormon Matters.

The fact was that there were two sides of sorts on Mormon Matters and no amount of rhetoric would change that.

But what were the two sides? DougG had finally made it clear to me:

Side #1: Anyone willing to defend True Believing Mormons (TBMs) and their “Traditional Beliefs”

Side #2: Anyone that wanted to criticize or tear down TBMs and their beliefs.

Sometimes what side you were on wasn’t always so clear. I might, for example, do a post talking about some very real issue in the Church and how to improve it. For that post, I might be on side #2. And Clay might do a post on Theosis and might be on side #1 for that particular post. But nevertheless, we did have two sides.

DougG – a very Mormon-esque theist – was literally on the same side as an outright atheist, and someone he believed almost identical to was the other side.

Now here is the key point: DougG and AndrewS. If you think of them in terms of positive beliefs, they have nothing in common at all. What they actually do have in common is what they jointly reject, specifically LDS truth claims, and especially LDS claims to authority. Or put another way, they reject Mormonism as the best explanation of reality, for religions are explanations of reality.

DougG and AndrewS have no agreement at all on what is the best explanation to replace it. They are literally defined as “a side” purely by what they are not.

Now many of you know I call this Rejectionism, i.e. ‘being defined by what you are not’. And indeed, this incident was the beginning of my understanding of this phenomenon.

TBMs: True Believing Mormons

Now, if you’ve been around the Bloggernacle for a while you know what a TBM is (“True Believing Mormon,” or sometimes “True Blue Mormon,” or occasionally “Traditional Believing Mormon”). The term was once in wide use on the Bloggernacle. At one time, people would openly talk about “what TBMs believe” (usually to offer criticism next). Or they’d speak of this “TBM in my ward” (usually to explain how his/her beliefs caused him/her to do something uncompassionate). Further, a blogger that actually believed in the defining truth claims of the LDS Church would often say things like “I’m pretty TBM about this issue” or “I’m pretty close to a TBM.” And likewise unbelievers might say “I’m not a TBM.”

The term “TBM” fell out of use when Joanna Brooks ruined it. She made the mistake of calling Mitt Romney a TBM. No Mormon outside the Bloggernacle had the foggiest idea what she was talking about. And suddenly we Mormon Bloggers collectively realized, with horror, just how alien we had become to the LDS Church. Posts were written criticizing Joanna Brooks and threatening to pull out the Sneeches book. And the term “TBM” started to lose its luster, though I still see it in use.

“TBM” is Simply a Pejorative

I think the reason “TBM” was in such strong use at one time is because it was “safe” to use. It had no connection whatsoever to real Mormon Culture so no one grew up attached to the term via self-identification. It allowed a sort of “straw man” that a non-believer could attack without hurting the feelings of any Believing Mormons on the site. That’s because the term had taken on such a negative connotation that no one on the Bloggernacle was ever a full TBM. So when we talked about the havoc that “those TBMs” would wreak, we certainly never meant anyone on the site. (Or if someone on the site was intended, they were at least not fingered directly.)

TBMs therefore became a sort of fill-in for a hypothetical person that went to Church, believed all the doctrines blindly, had no awareness of the issues, didn’t think for his or her self, paid, prayed, and obeyed. They were the Mormon-Borg. They were John Dehlin’s “Unthinking Mormons.” They were the collective that wanted to assimilate the world. We on the blog were the enlightened ones, whether for or against the LDS Church.

The whole blog was therefore setup for us not to criticize and critique “Mormon Beliefs” per se (after all a “Mormon” was anyone that wanted to feel at least culturally connected) but “TBM Beliefs” and “TBMs.”

I recently had a friend, relatively new to the Bloggernacle, explain to me what she understood a TBM to be. She immediately used it as a pejorative. It was an unthinking Mormon. Certainly I wasn’t a TBM and she wasn’t either.

And yet, “TBM” actually has a dual meaning as it also happens to be a word that refers to anyone that honestly believes in the truth claims of the church. In that sense, I was a TBM.

So, the term itself is loaded. It simultaneously refers to any one that believes in Mormonism but with a negative connotation always attached. This allowed me to not feel like a TBM while also having to pretty much defend every single TBM belief and practice imaginable. It was exhausting.

When we were having our “dialogues” we would take an issue – a TBM issue of course – and we’d break up into “sides” of who wanted to defend that TBM belief and who wanted to attack it. Who was on the TBM side might change from issue to issue.

Believing Mormons

I believe that all Mormons are cafeteria Mormons – some are just more open about it, or aware of it, than are others. – John Dehlin

As the above quote shows, John Dehlin insists that all Mormons are really Menu Mormons of one size or another. No one really accepts all the various beliefs of Mormonism, right? Indeed, many on the site claimed that it’s impossible to even define the various beliefs of Mormonism.

John’s claim, unfortunately, gets three Pinocchios and is rated as “vacuously true, but seriously misleading.”

The truth is that there are a set of core beliefs of Mormonism that are well-defined and have not substantially changed since Mormonism’s birth. In fact, Mormonism exists for the sake of those beliefs. Mormonism is defined by those beliefs. Minus those beliefs, you have no Mormonism at all. Even cultural Mormonism would cease to exist if the believing side of Mormonism decided to, en masse, give up their beliefs.

By ignoring that fact, yes, you can point out the giant body of other (non-core) beliefs that does and has existed and say “you don’t believe that, do you?” And by doing so, you can make the case that everyone is (in this limited sense) a Menu Mormon just like John Dehlin claimed.

None of which changes that many Mormons – probably most sitting in the pews on Sunday — have made a choice to believe in all the following:

  1. Jesus Christ was literal and uniquely the Son of God and was Divine and Atoned for our Sins.
  2. Jesus Christ was literally and bodily resurrected and lives again. All will be resurrected because of this.
  3. Joseph Smith was a prophet to the whole world called by God to restore lost truths – namely the ‘plan of salvation’ – known in times past (in varying degrees) but lost.
  4. Joseph Smith received direct revelations from God, including being given the power to translate an ancient book of scripture called The Book of Mormon.
  5. Joseph Smith was given unique authority from God to perform necessary saving ordinances.
  6. Joseph Smith’s successors in the Presidency are the unique holders of the directing ‘keys’ of this ‘priesthood’ authority today. No one else has it as it had to be restored bodily by angels (namely John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John.)
  7. The living apostles and prophets today are guided by God through revelation.

I personally choose to believe all of those. John Dehlin (and Clay, John Hamer, and AndrewS, etc.) believes none of them. This is a fact and careful misdirection will not change it.

We’re Balanced! We’re Going to Attack You, You Get to Defend Yourself!

And herein lies the biggest problem with the Mormon Matters approach to dialogue. When someone puts up a post challenging the truthfulness of the LDS Church, because I am a believing Mormon it is my nearest and dearest beliefs that are coming under fire. In fact, let’s look at the list from the last post of the types of posts that appeared on Mormon Matters:

Anti-Faith

1. I or someone I know or heard of was personally hurt (or even killed) by LDS doctrines and practices.

2. Here are reasons why the LDS Church’s beliefs are all fiction.

3. Look at how happy I am now that I no longer believe.

Pro-Faith

A. I enjoy how I feel in Church and I like it

B. Here is this way you can look at this known (and thus admittedly real) issue such that you don’t have to see the LDS Church’s beliefs as fiction.

C. Here is this early and still tenuous connection between LDS beliefs and something that was found in real life, thus suggesting that the LDS beliefs are not fiction.

The real gap between those two lists isn’t, as I suggested in the previous post, actually a gap between mere negative vs. positive material.

No, the real gap is that #1, #2, and #3 are all various types of direct or indirect attacks on my nearest and dearest personal beliefs because all advance the claim that my personal meaning-memes are factually false, hurtful, or in some way morally wrong.

But A through C are not attacks on the nearest and dearest personal beliefs of John Dehlin, Clay Whipkey, John Hamer, DougG, or AndrewS, etc. Indeed there was no expectation at all that John, Clay, John, Doug, or Andrew even needed to talk about their nearest and dearest personal beliefs at all. And if someone like me probed them for it so that a full and fair dialogue could ensue, the ire of the whole community was raised and condemnations of side-taking and bridge burning would slam down upon such a person.

So when we are on Mormon Matters and someone puts up a post about how much they like church, John Dehlin, DougG, Clay Whipkey, John Hamer, and AndrewS can pretty much shrug it off, safe in their knowledge that frankly nothing on Mormon Matters is ever going to really attack their personal beliefs or meaning-memes.

But it seems to me that herein lies the problem. “Side 1″ is a well-developed religion and  a well-developed and far-reaching (whether true or false) explanation or theory of reality. It is that well-developed “TBM” theory of reality that we were having a critical discussion about! And there is a considerable body of knowledge publicly available that defines this religion just waiting for anyone to criticize, as we’d expect of any sincere attempt to explain the nature of something, religious or otherwise.

The other ‘side’ (“Side 2″) was merely anyone or anything wanting to advance an issue with the beliefs of Side #1.

We might correctly describe this model of dialogue as the “We Get to Attack You While You are Solely Held to Defending Yourself and are Never Allowed to Counter Attack” model of dialogue.

The “Other Focused” Nature of “John Dehlinism”

Post-Belief-Mormonism is what we might call “Wholly Other Focused.” It isn’t a bunch of people getting together to celebrate a shared faith. Post-Belief-Mormonism doesn’t exist as a single, coherent alternative explanation to Mormonism. In fact, it doesn’t exist as a single, coherent anything other than rejection of Mormon beliefs and Mormon leaders.

Dehlinism”, in particular, is overwhelmingly focused on, and sometimes even obsessive about, how “TBMs” (or any believers) behave and how they need to be corrected. It is not self-critical (ok, who is?) and it only looks at a broad range of Mormon culture and beliefs as a way to bring TBM problems into focus. In this sense, despite many a Mormon Stories podcast about various “forms of Mormonism,” Dehlinism is solely about TBMism, or rather it’s solely about the believing LDS community.

And is it really that surprising? The LDS Church is a massive super-majority of the “Mormon” community no matter how many offshoots you choose to include in that supposed “community.” The idea that the LDS church is merely one part of an overall cultural movement is mostly a fiction John advances to avoid the otherwise obviously “other focused” nature of his approach to Mormonism. [3]

So it is perfectly natural that an ideal environment for Belief-wise-Post-Mormonism to advance itself is a forum where we are only allowed to talk about the pros and cons of Mormon beliefs (i.e. TBM beliefs of course!) but never the pros and cons of Post Belief Mormonism itself as an alternative to Mormonism.

It is easy to see why this is a desirable situation for the non-believers on the site. Imagine, for example, if one of the political parties — let’s say Republicans — somehow pulled off getting the Democrats into a forum where the Republicans got to unload on the Democrats about everything the Democrats ever did wrong but the Democrats felt duty bound by the culture to never bring up problems the Republicans have caused and indeed felt wrong even asking the Republican’s what they suggested as an alternative because they were afraid of ‘burning bridges’ and bringing down public scorn on themselves. It doesn’t sound very pleasant to me either.

The Sunstone Secret Revealed

This is, I suspect, the secret of the “Sunstone approach” to Mormonism. John Dehlin is expert at replicating it with Mormon Matters. So long as a forum for “dialogue” is “other focused” it’s “Side 2” never has to be subjected to painful or concerning attacks about its own nearest and dearest personal beliefs.

My hat goes off to the Hawkgrrls, Stephens, and Jeffs of the world that can handle forums like this long-term. I admire them. And I’m glad they are willing to stick around long-term and not let a place like Mormon Matters spiral down to yet another DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) forum. But we are kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that a forum like Mormon Matters is anything but a hostile forum when it comes to Mormon beliefs and believing Mormons.

But maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Dialogue does have to start somewhere, does it not? And wanting to keep a dialogue as one-sided as possible is — to be blunt — a natural human tendency. So I’m not ready to condemn these forums. But I do wish the John’s and Andrew’s of the world realized the degree to which these forum are energizing to a non-believer that wants to criticize the Church and demoralizing to someone who believes in it. It wears you down and is not something I, for one, was capable of doing for more than a year.

Not So Fair, Not So Open, But it Is Dialogue

I know that these forums wish to be seen as a place for fair and open dialogue. And based on my discussions with AndrewS, it’s pretty clear that even pointing out that this isn’t the case is considered offensive. And I know AndrewS wants to position my lack of desire to be flogged in public as a sign of weakness compared to ‘his position.’

But honestly none of that is the case. AndrewS simply does not understand the real nature of what he is asking Believers in such forums to do and his own sometimes anger when he comes to a site like M* is the real equal and opposite to the “anti-faith” position above.

If you want real Dialogue that is fair and balanced, the Believers need guns as big as the non-Believers and that means allowing the Believers to make points more like this:

Pro-Faith

1. I or someone I know or heard of was personally hurt (or even killed) by anti-LDS doctrines and practices.

2. Here are reasons why the John Dehlin / Sunstone and other Post-Belief-Mormon beliefs are fiction.

3. Here’s a real life example of how following John Dehlin (or Sunstone, etc.) wreaked havoc in the lives of this family.

A true dialogue must allow for both sides to criticize the beliefs of the other side. This requires a set of LDS Critics willing to actually ante up their beliefs for criticism rather than hiding them. For a true rational discussion to occur, there must be a comparison of the two alternatives, not simply picking at problems of the LDS church alone.

Real Dialogue Hurts

Only on M* does Andrew get to find out what it’s actually like to be a believing Mormon at Sunstone or Mormon Matters. Take a look at the post and comment I keep linking to. What is it that Andrew is “holding his tongue” over in this post? Honestly, what is it? It’s that I state that sites like his Wheat and Tares (the successor to Mormon Matters) are unbalanced, though still important to the dialogue. I state that “one stop shops” (i.e. sites that try to show all sides) are always inherently unbalanced in favor of the non-believing side. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good and important sites in their own right and an important part of the overall dialogue.

This is what Andrew is “holding his tongue” over?

Honestly, if we reverse all of this and instead hold up some non-Mormon post that says “Mormonism portrays itself in unbalanced ways, but it’s still an important religion” or “Mormonism has its problems, but it’s still an important religion” Mormons would be dancing in the streets ecstatic about the “positive coverage” compared to what they usually get. But Andrew literally can’t handle it without getting upset?

I suspect the difference here is that Mormons (as a public religion, and not a well-liked one at that) are used to negative coverage. Anything that even smacks of positive is reason to celebrate. But Andrew has very little experience with his own personal nearest and dearest beliefs coming under attack, and it’s a new and painful experience for him.

Andrew has battered my beliefs, and even me, directly (though always in a gentle, kind, and acceptable way) over and over again. But true dialogue is built not on the we-attack/you-defend model. Instead, it is built on a full comparison model of dialogue.  Even though my attack is quite gentle, it goes to the heart of many things Andrew strongly believes in. It is literally attacking a part of his inner self-image and his meaning memes. That’s a particularly harsh thing to have happen to you. But that is exactly what makes this a rare example of real dialogue.

Why Did I Decline Sunstone?

So you want to know the full reason I didn’t want to attend Sunstone on a panel?  Because I believe Sunstone seriously lacks balance and fair dialogue in the same way that Mormon Matters does. If I were to go there, I would also need to accept that it wouldn’t be a true dialogue nor a debate. I would be there solely to defend my nearest and dearest beliefs and would not be allowed to do a true and full comparison of, say, which actually makes you happier and healthier or nicer – Regular Mormonism, or The Sunstone/John Dehlin approach to Mormonism?

Greg Rockwell (who was or is on the Sunstone board) has invited me, more than once, to participate. It was difficult to fully explain myself on why I really don’t want to attend and what circumstances would have to be instituted before I actually would. This post is, in part, a way of trying to help him understand my truest reasonings for not wanting to take part at this time.

Let’s, for a moment, discuss the type of panel at Sunstone that I would actually be energized by and would not find to be merely an invitation for a public flogging.

Possible Panels:

  • Though John Dehlin is well intentioned, does he actually reduce pain the church causes or does he introduce more of it?
  • Is the Sunstone approach to Mormonism a realistic option for the Church as a whole, or is it really more of a niche audience for people that have issues and need to air them with each other?
  • Could John Dehlin be far more effective if he just stopped trying to deconvert the LDS church to his cultural Mormon beliefs and instead just taught his followers how to not approach their spouses and families in a way that threatens their beliefs?
  • Does John Dehlin really have no issues with believing in the church? Or is he really secretly hoping people will deconvert from it?
  • If Kate Kelly won’t state if she believes the LDS church’s truth claims about priesthood, is this something that might affect people’s desires to join the OW movement and does she have a moral responsibility for transparency? Or is her message independent of beliefs?
  • Is the true purpose of the Mormon Expressions Podcast really to discuss issues within the Mormon community? Or is it really more to reinforce and encourage bigotry or hatred towards believing Mormons? What evidence do we have that it is more one than the other?

I suspect that Sunstone could occasionally host these sorts of panels. But that’s only half of the problem. The simple truth is that Sunstone/Dehlin/Bloggernacle culture has grown up with the above types of questions being considered off-limits because they are deemed hurtful. Even if we did set up such a panel and I (and J Max) were on it, it isn’t hard to see that we’d simply get “Bloggernacled” (short for “Bloggernacle Dog Piled”) with anger and charges of inhumanity and immorality until we were again demoralized and had little reason to want to ever do it again (assuming Sunstone even cared to do it more than once just to prove they could).

Culture, and setting safe zones/boundaries, is the primary means of controlling the conversation. This is what I mean when I saw boundaries on the Bloggernacle are culturally enforced. You quickly get the hint you aren’t wanted there. Those that doubt are within the safe zone and those that believe aren’t.

I think there are various reasons offered for why this culture is justified. For example, the argument is made that when we discuss issues with the Church, it’s just a faceless organization, not an individual. But if we discussion issues surrounding Kate Kelly or John Dehlin it is now getting personal. But I don’t buy this argument. I think attacking “the LDS church” is quite personal for those that believe in it in pretty much exactly the same way criticizing Dehlin or Kelly is for them. And I think they hate it with a passion precisely because it hurts so bad (just as it conversely does for LDS Believers).

There simply is no reason for me to take Sunstone seriously as a fair fight right now. The kinds of changes that would have to be made are massive, structural, and cultural changes that no longer favor a single viewpoint. Could this be done? Perhaps. I am honestly not sure if natural human bias can be overcome enough to create a true forum for balanced dialogue or not. I simply know that we’ve never really even tried because we’re so biased we can’t even conceive of the problem well enough to solve it.

I suspect that even me just saying all the above is enough to create disturbingly angry and personal attacks for the very fact that I even hold this opinion.

Standing Naked and Standing Clothed

Why does the full comparison model energize me while the we-attack/you-defend model demoralize me? Think of it this way. Say you are a True Believing Mormon of the type that Mormon Matters is “other focused” on critically discussing. So you decide to sign up to participate there. This could be a very good thing, I think. I have great respect for the Hawkgrrls, Stephens, and Jeffs of the world that really enjoy putting their personal beliefs on trial like this. Without their presence, Mormon Matters would quickly devolve into just another DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) website. [4]

But here is the truth. People like Hawkgrrl who do this are really sticking their necks out when they go to Mormon Matters. They are allowing near and dear personal beliefs of theirs to get openly criticized and attacked, sometimes in some fairly brutal ways. They are, if you will, allowing these personal beliefs to be “naked in public” so to speak.

But Side #2’s beliefs never have to be equally naked in public. That isn’t the purpose of Mormon Matters, after all. Their beliefs (whatever they are, and if they have them at all) are not up for critical discussion.

People do not come to Mormon Matters to discuss AndrewS’ atheism or the real beliefs of John Dehlin, now that he no longer believes in Mormonism, and how those beliefs might be factually or scientifically wrong or even hurtful to others in some cases. If someone did write such a post it would quickly be denounced as a ‘hit piece’ no matter how factually stated or what tone was used. And why should they expect such a discussion? If you’re on Mormon Matters, you’re there to discuss Mormon beliefs, not John Dehlin’s beliefs? In essence, group #2 is not putting themselves at risk at all and it’s engineered that way.

Conclusions

So here is the crux of my objection to the Mormon Matters approach to dialogue. It is based on a “We Attack / You Defend” model which I find to be an unfair and unbalanced approach to sincere dialogue. I think it works well for some Believing Mormons due to their own beliefs and/or personality. But I do not see how or why the average Believing Mormon should want to stick their neck out like this and get attacked over and over while everyone else isn’t required to do that same.

This, then, is also my real objection to participation with Sunstone. I’m not against believing Mormons participating there, but they are forums and venues inherently hostile to Mormon beliefs and I do not see why anything is owed to them in the slightest. It’s a personal choice and nothing more. Participate because you want to, or you enjoy it, or that you feel specially called to, but not because you think it balances the dialogue or discussion. In fact, it does not balance the dialogue and arguably may even further unbalance the dialogue though  an illusion of balance.

A Final Challenge

I gave several examples of Sunstone panels that I’d be glad to be on if we could also solve the inherent cultural problems.

I have one more challenge I’d like to make to John Dehlin himself based on something he said. And I quote:

[Referring to the book “Letter to a CES Director”] Probably the most thorough (and fair) treatment of difficult Mormon issues in existence (in book form). Definitely worth the read if you value being well-informed about the LDS Church.

 

In my opinion, you can’t really have an authentic LDS testimony until after coming to grips with the issues covered in this book.

If you retain your testimony after reading this… then: 1) hats off to you, 2) I would love to bring you on Mormon Stories Podcast to discuss how you do it.

John, if you want someone on your podcast that has looked at all these issues and can address them intelligently and straightforwardly — I am your man!

But I will only do it if we use the full comparison model of dialogue instead of the we-attack/you-defend model. So here are my totally fair (because I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not willing to do) stipulations:

  1. We take turns asking each other questions. Just as you get to ask me difficult questions about my personal beliefs and the beliefs of my religion, I get to ask you any difficult question about yourself, your movement, what good or ill you are doing, etc. In short, I get to ask the equivalent to what you are asking me.
  2. You will agree to be totally and completely transparent in your answers. For example, if I ask you “Do you believe in God? And, if so, what do you believe about God?”, the answer will be straightforward, without a dodge.  My history with you, John, is that you’ll not want to get into it because any answer you give is potentially damaging. So you tend to say things like “Yes, I believe in God” but wont want to really get too detailed about the nature of that “God.” But if we are to be fair with one another, you’d need to be ready to really talk about your honest beliefs or opinions about God in detail. Is there really a literal God? Is this God an actual Godlike being or really just a sort of label for morality? Can this God answer prayers? And an answer of “yes, I’m open” won’t do either. What’s your honest opinion? There is no possible way you don’t have honest opinions on this subject.  Your opinions and beliefs are as important to a full dialogue as discussing mine are.
  3. I am allowed to ask you pointed follow-up questions about your beliefs if I have any doubt about what you actually meant.
  4. If you give me a dodgy answer (i.e. “I’m open to it”) you’ll quickly discover that I can use such answers myself to your questions and the interview with be a bust.
  5. We will both record the podcast so that there is no possibility of later editing causing imbalances. (Not that I believe you’d do something like that, but this way we know it’s fair.)

Interviews like this would be incredible! It would be a model for full dialogue like the Mormon and Post-Mormon world has never seen nor conceived before. It could even be quite friendly and amiable. I, for one, have a pretty good understanding of why many of the various doubts are legitimate concerns and – if I feel I’m not being given dodgy answers in return – have no problem at all confirming this and discussing how a person can choose or not choose to go about handling issues with beliefs. I have no negative judgment of people who choose not to believe. Hey, I’ve been there.

My ongoing frustration with John’s approach has never been that he raises issues, or encourages dialogue, or shows multiple sides. In and of itself those are good things. And while I feel I have strong reason to believe John does not believe in any of the truth claims of the LDS Church, [update: confirmed here] I have no issue with that at all. That’s completely non-offensive to me and I don’t mind talking to “TBMs” about why that is and why they need to not get overly concerned about that. No, to me the issue is that John entirely guards all possible counter criticisms for a fair comparison between Mormonism as taught by the LDS Leaders and John’s own views of how he’d like to see it improved.

Indeed, despite the incredibly obvious fact that John does want to change it, he publicly denies this. This effectively closes down the full comparison model of dialogue and ends all true discussion on the subject. Mormonism does have its problems, I admit. But so does John Dehlin’s views of how things should be instead. Give me a full transparent view of both and my honest opinion is that John’s views will not compare well once all the facts are known and true dialogue beings. If I didn’t believe this, I’d “be on John’s side.” [Update: While getting ready to publish this post, apparently John Dehlin announced he is considering leaving the Church. I suppose that makes a number of questions about John’s beliefs academic now.]

Notes

[1] believers and unbelievers alike – My own experience with this is – to be frank – that someone who is perceived as challenging the LDS Church is given greater protections in this regard than someone who is perceived as not challenging the LDS Church. If you take someone who doesn’t believe in the core beliefs and challenge them on this you’ll get wacked fast and Bloggernacled until you comply. But people regularly claim that J Max Wilson is out of step with the LDS Church’s teachings and challenge him (often quite rudely) to get in line with “the Church’s teachings”. I suppose this makes sense. No one really believes J Max is disloyal to the LDS Church, so challenging him in that way is always going to be pure rhetoric and he’ll not feel the slightest bit worried about the charge. So maybe there is something to affording greater protections to some than others. I make no judgments here, but merely observe.

[2] …he didn’t accept the idea of God having a body. For some reason this seems to be the first doctrine to go once you consider yourself no longer a believer – this despite the fact that this was actually what I call Mormonism’s most obviously correct hit since there is simply is no such thing as disembodied intelligence as per our own best current scientific theories. This is actually an important example of how those that scream the Church is being unscientific are almost always themselves also being unscientific but simply don’t understand science well enough to know what is or isn’t scientific outside of current fads. Having said that, maybe they are right and God has no body and it’s actually science itself that isn’t worth worrying about in the grand scheme of things. Yet somehow, I suspect this isn’t what they intended either.

[3] The “other focused” nature of Post Mormonism:  I know many will charge me here saying “but John Dehlin does all sorts of podcasts about non-TBM forms of Mormonism.” In a post that may already be too long, it is difficult to express what I’m really getting at here. But let me try to summarize in this footnote.

First, “Mormonism” as John Dehlin and other post-believe-Mormons define it is a broader cultural movement that started with Joseph Smith and then ‘branched’ into many forms. The LDS church is merely one of those forms. So to ‘celebrate’ Mormonism in all forms, it would make sense to, say, interview someone from the Community of Christ or maybe a polygamist down the road from a fundamentalist church, etc. Fair enough.

There is a hidden motive in this regard, however. First, it’s more than just a little obvious that “Mormonism” so defined is overwhelmingly really just the LDS church plus a lot of not very successful offshoots. The LDS church is the super majority of “Mormonism” so defined to the point of falling just shy of being the whole of it. It is not hard to see that one obvious advantage to Dehlinism in advancing the “just one of many “ worldview is also to legitimize their own movement as a legitimate form of Mormonism. The more legitimate they make themselves seem, the less “TBMism” seems like the only real option. But doesn’t that realization also make it clear that an emphasis on “wider Mormonism” is also a TBM focused point?

Furthermore, post-belief-Mormon can guarantee that the vast majority of potential listeners will be from the LDS background (and usually currently in the LDS church) just by virtue of their massive super majority.  So if there is a podcast episode about the Community of Christ, it is – just by virtue of the way reality is – also a story about how the Community of Christ’s approach to “Mormonism” is as legitimate as the LDS Church’s approach, knowing full well this is at odds with the teachings of the LDS church as the sole Church started by Jesus Christ. It’s also an opportunity to talk about how the Community of Christ is handling his top concerns and issues better (in his mind) than the LDS Church, etc. Therefore, TBMism is still an ever-present part of the episode.

The same goes for the polygamist. But there you also get to hope that you’ll get your primarily LDS audience thinking about the problems of polygamy. But what is wrong with this? I am not claiming it is wrong. It seems subtle and smart to me and I have no issue with it at all. But that doesn’t change that John Dehlin is always wholly focused on believing members of the LDS Church, i.e. TBMs.

Perhaps a real life example might also be helpful here. Take a look at this post from John Dehlin himself about why he’s looking forward to the Book of Mormon Musical, entitled “Top 10 Reasons Why This Mormon is Excited About the South Park “Book of Mormon” Broadway Musical

First thing to notice is the use of “this Mormon” even though John (as we’ll see throughout this very post) does not in fact believe in the truth claims of Mormonism. There is a strong desire here to get the main intended audience – TBMs – interested via self-identification.

Here now are the reasons John gives:

  1. It will be funny
  2. Though it won’t pull punches, “fair minds will be somewhat surprised at the level of respect that they ultimately show to us Mormons”
  3. It means “Mormons have arrived!”
  4. Mitt Romney
  5. The Scientologists got it worse
  6. “…it’s time for Mormons to become less insecure and less defensive”: “Thanks to the Internet… our… history can no longer be swept under the rug or denied.” “We are a clean cut, lovable, somewhat defensive, and always “30 years behind the times” group of non-traditional Christians…with a somewhat wacky historical past.” “But instead of running from all this….instead of whining about it….instead of acting like the wimpy kid at school who keeps getting picked on….isn’t it time for us to stand up, with our chests out, and actually OWN who we are?”
  7. It will contain accurate Mormon history: “I think it’s high time for us run-of-the-mill Mormons to actually study and publicly own our history.  I certainly never heard a peep about peep stones, Fanny Alger, polyandry or Mountain Meadows in my 40 years of Primary/Sunday School.  And personally, I’m kinda tired of learning accurate Mormon history from Larry King Live, 60 minutes, and the Daily Show (vs. the whitewashed stuff we usually get at church).” “Maybe it’s time for us to do [our homework].  Even if it requires coming to grips with messy Book of Mormon issues like DNA, unsettling anthropological evidence, and anachronisms.”
  8. Once all the difficult stuff from history is out there, it will become old news
  9. “Let’s be honest.  Didn’t we kind of earn some of this public scrutiny w/ our own series of [Prop 8] shenanegans in California?  As they say…if you can’ stand the heat….”
  10. “It Could be MUCH Worse!!! At least they didn’t title the musical, “Joseph Smith and His 33 wives: The musical!” Then again…that might have been even funnier.  :)”

It just isn’t hard to see that John has immediately turned this list of reasons why Mormons should look forward to the musical into a series of referendums on TBMism. Now maybe this is all fair and maybe he’s even right. No one is arguing that “TBMism” is not problematic. But its obvious the focus is wholly on “the other” here even while claiming to identify with it.

This all becomes particularly frustrating when you realize that John left off the single most important reason he’s looking forward to the musical, even though we all know it’s true.

Real Reason John is looking forward to the Book of Mormon Musical: John knows plain well that he’s not a believing Mormon and that there will be nothing in this then upcoming musical that will in any way attack his personal beliefs or moral worldview. In fact, it will almost certainly advance his personal beliefs and moral worldview, which is not Mormonism.

John simply was never at risk here, unlike his posts intended “TBM” audience. And in fact, when the musical came out that was exactly the case. The underlying theme of the play was that religious beliefs are silly and entirely false, yet they help us live good lives anyhow. This is pretty much exactly what John Dehlin believes. So of course he was ecstatic about it and reported how wonderful the musical was in the news.

In reality, this is about as newsworthy as someone asking President Monson how much he enjoyed the Palmyra pageant. Yet because John has positioned himself as a Mormon insider, it came across more like asking the Pope how he feels about the Palmyra pageant and having him say “Oh my gosh, I found it awe-inspiring!” And, of course, both John and the media that interviewed him probably knew all this. Such is the ethics of the news media.

And if you need any proof of John not being neutral beyond the above, bear in mind that, honestly, the Book of Mormon musical did mock things most believing Mormons hold sacred. Now maybe that personally bothers you and maybe it doesn’t. But an even close to neutral person would have at least said “Well, a warning to some Mormons. Yes, it’s funny, and yes I love it, but it does mock things many Mormons hold sacred and might not be everyone’s cup of tea.” But John instead just gave the play an outright endorsement. The actual news article does give one sentence that explains just that, and it’s a quote that doesn’t come from John Dehlin, of course.

To be perfectly honest, you’d have to be an ideologue to not see that a great many members of the LDS Church probably won’t like this play for very good reasons. Indeed, I have a Catholic friend whose Catholic wife took him to see it and she was so appalled at its treatment of Mormons and their beliefs that she did not enjoy the play.

In other words, at pretty much every level, this post has been positioned to advance a religious view that is mutually exclusive from (and in competition with) the LDS church’s view.

[4] I will here acknowledge J Max Wilson’s argument that if all believing Mormons just packed up from such sites and went home that such sites would devolve into really obvious DAMU sites and the result is that they’d be thoroughly non-tempting places for questioning but still believing Mormons to go. J Max therefore believes that any Believing Mormon participation on such sites is actually a negative to the Church.

J Max is, perhaps, theoretically correct. But I don’t think this is a realistic solution to the problem. Someone on the site is going to play that role, and frankly I’d rather have it be Hawkgrrl than… several others I can think of.

198 thoughts on “Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)? – Side #1 vs. Side #2 and the We Attack / You Defend Model of Dialogue

  1. Bruce,

    You have an amazing mind, and this post is crucial…but you really don’t know how to sell it. You’re too clinical.

    Headline should read:

    Real Dialogue Hurts: Bruce Nielson Challenges John Dehlin To No-Holds-Barred Interview In Which Dehlin Will Be Challenged To Subject His Beliefs To Criticism!

  2. Thank you! While there are of course a few things I might have stated differently, I find the whole piece to be very useful and insightful. I appreciate the fact that you have spent many many hours thinking about these issues and deconstructing the situation down to clearly understandable (and testable) statements of description.

    I think the “meme” approach to thinking about the Church as an organization has a lot of explanatory power, thank you for presenting it so well.

    For me the core belief narrative comes down to just a few things:
    1. Does God exist?
    2. Is the LDS concept of the Godhead and our relation to it accurate?
    3. Did the Restoration actually happen? Specifically were priesthood keys delivered?
    4. Was the initial (and subsequent) transition(s) in the Presidency of the Church in accord with God’s will?

    I think if one answers all four of those questions in the affirmative (I do) then that is sufficient to conclude the LDS Church in its current state is acceptable to God and that its leaders and members should continue to strive to spread the news of the Restoration through whatever means are available and appropriate. It also means that one just has to come to a personal solution to deal with the “issues” people like Dehlin bring up (or any anti-mormon folk for that matter). For some that will simply be ignore it, for others it will digging in and finding new information (Meg Stout’s articles concerning Joseph Smith and Polygamy come to mind as an amazing example) – and likely everything in between. For me I am simply willing to say a few significant mistakes were made, but that God corrects things over time (and that that correction process will continue).

    I agree that engagement with the attacking folks *only on their terms* likely is not a very “high return” activity.

  3. I’m still reading your long OP but I’d like to comment on sides before I’ve finished reading all of it.

    One side amounts to mostly logic and the other mostly belief. A belief based forum is a testimony meeting and no one challenges your belief there, if it’s discussed at all comments are highly likely to be supportive. So belief based forums typically critically examine nothing. Logic based forums tend to critically examine everything. A belief based argument will never prevail in a logic based forum UNLESS or UNTIL the basis of the belief is understood, explained and examined. For example Nate describes the spiritual confirmation in response to Moroni’s challenge as meaning “come follow me”. This fits my experience and it is the best explanation I have heard for it. In other words the confirmation doesn’t mean something global like “the church and everything the church’s leaders say is true even when they contradict” or some such conflated global rubber stamp nonsense. And it implies that additional spiritual confirmation (work) is required to parse out each additional question if you truly want to understand what you believe and why. When you understand your own testimony to this depth you are prepared to confidently enter a logical forum and defend it. At that point the discussion shifts away from church truth claims and revolves around whether the source of what you perceive to be spiritual confirmation is God, yourself or Satan. This latter discussion is how otherwise illogical church claims can be supported by gnosis. But gnosis you say is illogical! Indeed, but it is grounded in personal experience rather and accepted by many sources outside the church. It caries more weight and is more defensible than empty peer pressure belief found in the repeated telling of a testimony you yourself didn’t believe when you first told it. I have experienced gnosis that cannot be explained away by confirmation bias, I am very comfortable defending my testimony in a logical forum.

  4. Pingback: Mild-Mannered Bruce Nielson Pulls Down the Pillars on the Bloggernacle | Junior Ganymede

  5. Bruce,

    This is a fantastic post. Unfortunately, it is also fantastically long and J Max really has a point. There are a number of problems with your challenge, though:
    1. John Dehlin, by your own analysis, has nothing to gain from it.
    2. Your balanced-power format is unstable. Two people poking each other’s tender spots and maintaining good will is difficult, and poise and performance would tend to overshadow substance.
    3. I doubt John would give simple dodgy answers, but I also doubt they’d be particularly introspective or substantive. Any question you asked him would simply be an opportunity to climb on his soapbox and wax eloquent. I think you’d find the experience much more frustrating to yourself than enlightening to the listeners.

    Brian

  6. Fair points Brian/Martin. But intelligent Mormon readers are usually able to tell when someone is being slippery and are able to draw their own conclusions from it.

  7. Just to clarify my third point, John likes to talk, and I think you’ll find that he actually defines his beliefs by what they’re not more than by what they are. I don’t think it’s a pose. That’s a big part of the assymetry of the whole thing. Believers have settled a piece of territory. They get to reap what they sow, but they can’t retreat from weather, disaster, or attack without losing all they’ve built. John and his ilk are nomadic, able to flee all of those things without much loss, enjoying what good they find wherever they happen to be, but often going cold and hungry. Very different approaches.

  8. Howard, I don’t think Bruce’s post has much to do with defending “belief” as a means of arguing a position, or the setting aside of logic/reason. I think we TBMs pretty well understand that if we try to “bear testimony” in most corners of the bloggernacle, we will be laughed out the door posthaste.

    Bruce’s point (as I see it) is that even when making logical arguments, an orthodox Mormon will be eternally playing defense in most corners of the bloggernacle; against attacks that are by their nature very personal indeed. I don’t know that I agree with Bruce’s apparent conclusion that we should start playing offense more aggressively and hitting our critics on their emotional “home turf”; but I think we should at least acknowledge that the position of the orthodox Mormon is draining in a way that the position of the liberal Mormon/critic is not–and not (as you glibly infer) because we TBM’s are just plain wrong.

  9. I can see why you would appreciate a place like M*. To the extent that you see Mormon Matters as a forum where “We Get to Attack You While You are Solely Held to Defending Yourself and are Never Allowed to Counter Attack,” then M* properly serves as a similar locale with the “sides” (as it were) flipped.

    Just to respond to a point or two:

    My hat goes off to the Hawkgrrls, Stephens, and Jeffs of the world that can handle forums like this long-term. I admire them. And I’m glad they are willing to stick around long-term and not let a place like Mormon Matters spiral down to yet another DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) forum. But we are kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that a forum like Mormon Matters is anything but a hostile forum when it comes to Mormon beliefs and believing Mormons.

    I think that recognizing that a place like Mormon Matters is not or has not “spiraled down” to yet another DAMU raises the question of why we must be “kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that a forum like Mormon matters is anything but a hostile forum when it comes to Mormon beliefs and believing Mormons.”

    If there is a gap between Mormon Matters and “yet another DAMU” (and I fully believe that there is — and that gap is mighty difficult to maintain, especially in a low-moderation or soft-moderation environment), then what is that gap?

    I think the part of the gap that is ignored is the existence of unorthodox, liberal, etc., Mormons. Certainly, they aren’t going to fit the profile of what M* is going for. But they aren’t “yet another DAMU” either.

    I mean, I know that it’s very popular in these parts to call the Bloggernacle the “murmurnacle,” and maybe that is tantamount to saying that the bloggernacle is in some way just as faithless as the DAMU. But I dunno…I think it is undeniable that there absolutely is a difference between the bloggernacle and the DAMU (and if you don’t see this, I would suspect that you are not sufficiently acquainted with one or the other.) The question is whether or not the space that separates bloggernacle from DAMU can be considered believing or not.

    Like, if you disagree with Ordain Women, then does that make them nonbelieving? Does that make them yet another DAMU? Does that make their differently-focused belief inauthentically Mormon or insufficiently Mormon?

    From my vantage point, Ordain Women is clearly different from DAMU. The DAMU doesn’t care about the priesthood, and doesn’t think there is any power to it. The DAMU is just as baffled by the OW that any M* poster might be — but their critiques are predictably from a faithless perspective.

    This is even if you note that you disagree with OW, disagree with the Bloggernacle, etc., etc.,

    Let me swing back around

    But I do wish the John’s and Andrew’s of the world realized the degree to which these forum are energizing to a non-believer that wants to criticize the Church and demoralizing to someone who believes in it. It wears you down and is not something I, for one, was capable of doing for more than a year.

    I think that to the extent these forums are energizing to a non-believer that wants to criticize the Church and demoralizing to *certain believers* who believe in it, this isn’t really because the forums/sites/blogs themselves are faithless, etc., I would say (and maybe this is a major concession considering other conversations here) that that is more an impact of secondary values of the participants/bloggers/etc., of the sites.

    So, for Mormon Matters, it was Mormon Matters strong ideological commitment to loose formal moderation/use of informal moderation and inclusivity that would have set up that sort of environment. I think that it’s VERY easy for a site (or partifcularly its comments section — much of this post relates to comments by a DougG, who, as far as I’m aware, was *not* a perma at Mormon Matters [certainly is not a perma at W&T]) to go in a disaffected direction without strong formal moderation (or even more incisive informal moderation).

    But the ideological commitment to less moderation is only a secondary value that might arise out of the primary values. (In other words, liberal Mormons understand what it’s like to be shut down and shut out of conversations for not believing the conservative line…and also are sympathetic to folks who experience pain and hurt in the church, because they might experience these things themselves.)

    But if you take a site like, say, BCC, which has strong formal moderation policies, then I think it’s clearer that more DAMU-like comments and commenters are shut out and shut down.

    It might seem, Bruce, that that sort of site is hostile because it will also shut *you* out if you’re not careful…but this does not mean BCC is hostile to believers in the same way that a DAMU site is. Rather, it’s that the sort of believer BCC caters to (and the sort of believer the BCC aims to “demonstrate” that can still be authentically and sufficiently Mormon) is different than the sort of believer that M* caters to.

    I totally understand if you’re worn down as a result of this. I am sympathetic to DAMU types who are worn down by LDS church in general. I am sympathetic to liberal Mormon types who are worn down on both sides — by conservatives who think they are too liberal to be sufficiently Mormon, and by DAMU folks who think they are engaging in hopeless mental gymnastics to stay in the church. So, I can also be sympathetic to your point here.

    What is it that Andrew is “holding his tongue” over in this post? Honestly, what is it?

    I hold my tongue under the realization that anything I say or post will be counted as a “+1″ for Mormon Matters or W&T being considered an anti-Mormon/non-believing Mormon/exmormon sort of site. That my very presence, regardless of what I say, will be considered on the side of DAMU. I myself cannot be an advocate for a balanced or multi-perspectival blog because anything I post will be used to argue for an unbalanced blog that descends to the DAMU side.

    Anything that even smacks of positive is reason to celebrate. But Andrew has very little experience with his own personal nearest and dearest beliefs coming under attack, and it’s a new and painful experience for him.

    This train of thought throughout this post seems a bit bizarre to me. I don’t mean to just quote the piece that directly addresses me, because these comments also relate to your comments about John, Clay, whomever else.

    You act as if post belief Mormons do not have what is near and dear to them come under attack. But this isn’t remotely true. Post belief Mormons have what is near and dear to them come under attack nearly every Sunday at church (in many, but not all wards), nearly every April and October at conference. (I mean, maybe this is just going to be fodder for someone to say, “that’s because post-belief Mormons are contrary to the will of God, etc.,” but whatever). In some sense, yes, a lot of the conversation online does come about as a response to the lived experience on the ground.

    To whatever extent that online sites develop as an extension of the sort of the conversations that happen in many wards, etc., then that is a continuation of the attack on those near and dear beliefs. When people say or imply to OW, “you are not authentically or sufficiently Mormon because of your beliefs on women’s ordination,” that is an attack on their near and dear beliefs. But you know…both conservatives and DAMU types say those types of things.

    Aaaaanyway, this is a pretty large post, and I’ve written a pretty large comment, and there are a bunch of other stickling points I could write about (just one? you could pretty easily get away with those panels critiquing John Dehlin and have people on multiple “sides” challenging him, and you wouldn’t get “Bloggernacled” because John Dehlin isn’t exactly in great graces with the Bloggernacle either. So, to the extent that this post relies upon John Dehlin as the exemplar of its points, it’s conflating a lot of other issues), but alas.

    In total agreement to J Max here.

  10. My first exposure to Dehlin was the Mormon Stories podcast, after it had been going for a while. I’d never heard of him before that, so I had no preconceived notions. His choice of guests was … interesting, but he always seemed respectful.

    Until his first interview with *ominous cellos* an apologist. All respect went out the window, and every other question was, “how do you even justify your right to exist [as an apologist]?” However cordial he tried to be about it, the hostility was palpable. I tried a few more after that, depending on my interest level in the guest, but Dehlin’s Pink Elephants agenda in them was impossible to miss after hearing that apologist interview.

    As you said, what I initially saw as an all-sides approach, quickly became clear as an all-but-TBM motive. I was raised in a home filled with books, pro- and anti-. All this supposed “hidden history” I was well aware of before I hit seminary. My questions were respected, but I was taught to “question everything, including my doubts,” and that helped anchor my inquisitiveness.

    I respect those who struggle, but I raise shields around those who attack under the guise of struggle. Nobody but Dehlin convinced me he was the latter.

  11. AndrewS,

    I think we agree on more than you realize.

    For example, I have no doubt that Mormon Matters was NOT a DAMU site and that there was a huge difference. I also completely agree with you on this:

    “It might seem, Bruce, that that sort of site is hostile because it will also shut *you* out if you’re not careful…but this does not mean BCC is hostile to believers in the same way that a DAMU site is. Rather, it’s that the sort of believer BCC caters to (and the sort of believer the BCC aims to “demonstrate” that can still be authentically and sufficiently Mormon) is different than the sort of believer that M* caters to.”

    In fact, isn’t that the very point I originaly made to you?

    http://www.millennialstar.org/declining-sunstone-and-bloggernacle-safe-zones/

    Actually, your point about values, makes sense to me. A site with a high value on low moderation but low value to asking people to ‘ante up their alternative beliefs’ (i.e. Mormon Matters) is what I’m talking about in this post. So, yes, I think it is to some degree a matter of values. The big difference between you and me on this is that I see two values at play and you are ignoring the second one in my opinion and missing that its a factor that matters to who the site will end up being a safe zone for.

    You talk about how people form Mormon Matters and W&T do have their near and dearest personal beliefs attacked in Church and at General Conference. No doubt this is true completely. This is, of course, a choice for them to be there at all. But I would hope you’d see that I was specifically talking about blogs and a choice of a blog. I’m explaining what you obviously didn’t previously see when you tried to make the claim that M* was ‘trying to control the conversation’ in a way that W&T did not. This is bull, of course. We just contorl it in different ways. We control it via visible boundaries and comment policies with heavier moderation. You do it thorugh low moderation but a culture that favors non-belief indirectly — because they never have to ‘ante up their alterantive beliefs for discussion and criticism. But both are types of controls, yes.

    Since I never make the claim that Mormon Matters was bad — much less W&T — but only that its safer for one type of person compared to another and that ‘balance’ is a significantly more difficult question than any of us have previously realized, I hope you can see that I’m taking a very different view point than what you seem to think I’m taking.

    I’m saying all these types of blogs with varied values are part of the overall conversation. It just isn’t realistic that one site can be all things to all people. (Or if it can be done, we just haven’t figured it out yet.)

    This is hardly a slap at W&T except in so far as many at W&T might have incorrectly thought they were in some sense truly balanced in all senses. I am certainly challenging that point of view. But I make no claims to these sites are bad. I think BCC is good too. I am not even against DAMU sites. Let people say what they want and find their audience through their own chosen safe zones.

  12. Its interesting, but I’m having just this conversation on the other thread. A commenter “Jeff” is asking why, in his opinion, I am treating Meg better than him. This is, of course, an appeal to morality that is meant to say “you need to give me exactly the same treatment you give Meg.”

    First of all, as I argue, I’m not so sure I am treating them differently. I think he was being far more insulting in very personal ways at Meg than anything Meg said and frankly, Meg was accurate as far as I can tell whereas he wasn’t. But in any case, Meg said nothing insultig to *him* and that is a huge difference too. (She took issue with John Dehlin, who Jeff agrees with.)

    But then that’s the proble, right? Because I’m biased too. So it’s not that suprising I see it that way. Fair is just so subjective, I’m afraid.

    I think we should strive for some type of balance. And I suggested in previous posts that possiblity that there were more than one kind of balance and that the different sites were actually acheiving different kinds of balance. This idea — which I think needs more consideration — seems to have been universally ignored.

    The simple truth is that we live in the real world. Meg is a perma here. I have no intentions of letting someone make personal insults at her and even remotely risk having her leave the blog. Now maybe she doesn’t care and maybe I’m being over protective. But since I can’t possibly know that in advance, I am going to do what I need to do to make sure she’s comfortable here and that she stays and the risk is 0%.

    On the other hand, Jeff is just a commenter, and frankly, he’s not exactly a strong fit for the blog’s intended audience (by his own admission) so if I lose him, frankly it just isn’t as big a loss as losing Meg.

    My point is that the imbalance exists in reality. There isn’t anything that can truly be done about it. We should stop pretending towards some false view of ultimate balance and get more serious about the fact that we all do have safe zones and we protect some people more than others in various visible or not so visible ways. And *that is the way it should be.* It’s not wrong or bad, it’s good.

  13. …people form Mormon Matters and W&T do have their near and dearest personal beliefs attacked in Church and at General Conference. No doubt this is true completely. This is, of course, a choice for them to be there at all.

    Yes, it is a choice but there is often a high family and friends cultural cost to leave, certainly much higher than not participating in a blog.

    What wrong with making space for us in the pews? Why is this so opposed, why is literal illogical belief a required truth claim to be considered faithful? Belief is a wonderfully powerful force for good but I don’t have to believe in the literal magic of my doctor’s lab coat for placebo effect to be effective in my healing.

  14. Bruce,

    In fact, isn’t that the very point I originaly made to you?

    Yeah, certainly. Obviously, with quibbles on the details. But since MM isn’t the same as BCC, then there still can be a difference on this front. The latter part of your comment is getting to that:

    Actually, your point about values, makes sense to me. A site with a high value on low moderation but low value to asking people to ‘ante up their alternative beliefs’ (i.e. Mormon Matters) is what I’m talking about in this post. So, yes, I think it is to some degree a matter of values. The big difference between you and me on this is that I see two values at play and you are ignoring the second one in my opinion and missing that its a factor that matters to who the site will end up being a safe zone for.

    I don’t think I’m ignoring this, so much as I have a different idea of what is near and dear — so I don’t necessarily see people as failing to ante up to their alternative beliefs. I think that progressive concerns are near and dear to many MM folks, for example. People aren’t failing to ante up on this though. It’s just that in many (but not all) wards, those progressive concerns will be assumed to be contrary to the Lords will, whereas on liberal/progressive sites, they will not be. (in contrast to either of these, the DAMU perspective might very well agree that progressive concerns are contrary to the church/Lord, but this is just evidence per the DAMU narrative that the church is wrong.)

    I am totally sympathetic to the critique that it will get really tiring to try to defend traditional marriage to a venue that is down with marriage equality. But it’s not as if those Mormons who are for marriage equality do not have what is near and dear to them challenged. Rahter, they get challenges on both sides — how can you be Mormon and believe in those progressive issues, says the conservative How can you be Mormon and believe in those progressive issues, says the disaffected as well.

    In a similar vein, if you are looking to assess John Dehlin’s “near and dear” and you are looking at what theory he proposes as to literal plates, then yes, you’re going to think that John Dehlin is not ante-ing up. Because an alternative theory to literal plates is orthogonal to whether John Dehlin feels comfortable participating with the saints despite not believing in those plates. (Which changes every few months — currently, it seems he is pretty burnt on things. [John recently said that the most important thing is whether the church is what it claims. But I believe — and will probably write about this later — that this isn’t the case for many people or even John particularly. What matters is whether one can feel integrated in the community, and I strongly suspect what is driving John currently is the fact that he feels *rebuffed*. In other words, he claims to care about the truth claims because his local circumstances have convinced him that they do not want him if he does not accept the truth claims.)]

    Long digression aside:

    But I would hope you’d see that I was specifically talking about blogs and a choice of a blog. I’m explaining what you obviously didn’t previously see when you tried to make the claim that M* was ‘trying to control the conversation’ in a way that W&T did not. This is bull, of course. We just contorl it in different ways. We control it via visible boundaries and comment policies with heavier moderation. You do it thorugh low moderation but a culture that favors non-belief indirectly — because they never have to ‘ante up their alterantive beliefs for discussion and criticism. But both are types of controls, yes.

    I’ll meet you half-way. MM represents a market failure of libertarian/laissez-faire governance. It’s not really a type of control, but what happens when you lack appropriate controls.

    Concede that and I’ll agree with you. ;)

    I’m saying all these types of blogs with varied values are part of the overall conversation. It just isn’t realistic that one site can be all things to all people. (Or if it can be done, we just haven’t figured it out yet.)

    I still want to believe in the parenthetical statement.

    This is hardly a slap at W&T except in so far as many at W&T might have incorrectly thought they were in some sense truly balanced in all senses. I am certainly challenging that point of view.

    For whatever it’s worth, I am pleasantly surprised with how many very conservative, very traditional commenters we have at W&T. Even if I am simultaneously annoyed that anything I write at W&T will get several people saying, “clearly this is just exmormon drivel from an exmormon”, I think that we do have a lot more balance that I feel you’re giving credit, even if it’s not ideal.

  15. I think we TBMs pretty well understand that if we try to “bear testimony” in most corners of the bloggernacle, we will be laughed out the door posthaste.

    Well one of my points was the opposite JimD, testimony can be born without being laughed out.

  16. Howard,

    What wrong with making space for us in the pews? Why is this so opposed, why is literal illogical belief a required truth claim to be considered faithful? Belief is a wonderfully powerful force for good but I don’t have to believe in the literal magic of my doctor’s lab coat for placebo effect to be effective in my healing.

    If I understand Bruce’s thought process throughout all of these posts and others, I would respond with this:

    The church is about the faithful (and particularly, the faithful as defined on particular essential axes such as literal truth of several of the LDS claims.) It should therefore be the safe place *for* those faithful, and not others (since the church cannot do both.) To the extent that people don’t believe, the church should be the place to help them come back to belief — because that is what the church is for. If people are respectful and quiet about their nonbelief or nonliteral belief, this can be tolerated, but in no way can the church become a safe place for those who are open about their nonbelief/non-literal belief and want to preach that.

    That’s just not what the church is about.

  17. That may be true Andrew S but the church baptizes at least 3 to keep 1 so a lot of people are just passing through, for some that’s pretty easy to do for others is causes a lot of dissonance and maybe pain. So too bad that pain is required to provide a shelter for the orthodox? The literal? It doesn’t sound very Christian. The truth is more of the church is inactive than active.

  18. AndrewS,

    In my past posts in this series I specifically gave MM credit for a certain type of balance in the comments I gave W&T more credit than MM.

    So when you say “I think that we do have a lot more balance that I feel you’re giving credit, even if it’s not ideal.” Let’s admit that you are ‘reading’ me beyond anything I actually write and assuming you are correct, then assuming that means I am not giving you sufficient credit.

    And I’ll admit that ‘reading’ someone is a necessity and that since we’re so subconsciously driven, self decieved, and have motives hidden from even ourselves, that I will have to accept that you may well be correct about me and I may be wrong about me. So I’m fine with you reading me like that.

    ‘In a similar vein, if you are looking to assess John Dehlin’s “near and dear” and you are looking at what theory he proposes as to literal plates, then yes, you’re going to think that John Dehlin is not ante-ing up.:”

    I laughed out loud on this one. (As I think you intended me to.)

    Yes, it would be silly for John to ‘ante-up’ on this view of the plates — UNLESS he first asserts that the BoM is fiction and, say, that its obvious that it is and yet he also asserts it’s inspired.

    Now as it turns out, he has made such assertions in the past, more or less. So challenging him on how that is possible… well, it’s a fair question.

    Having said that, the vast majority of the time with John, the fair question wouldn’t be “what do you believe about the plates” but to just get him to state what we all know already: that he disbelieves in all the truth claims of the Church.

    Yet somehow — at least until recently — he’s managed to truthfully claim he see it as inspired. What does he mean by that? It can’t just be said without a series of assumptions behind it. Does he mean all religions are inspired? Probably, yes, but he won’t say. What does he even mean by ‘inspired of God?’ Does he just mean ‘it teaches good things?’ Probably yes, but he won’t say. If he only means “it teaches good things” does he in fact believe in a literal God at all? Not sure on this one.

    Yes, John is majorly massively guilty of non-transparency and a refusal to discuss even obviously basic relevant questions about his own beliefs.

    “MM represents a market failure of libertarian/laissez-faire governance”

    I SORT of agree with you on this.W&T did way better on this front for that very reason that they tried to address this.

    “I still want to believe in the parenthetical statement.”

    We should talk about this sometime. I have my own ideas.

    You’re taking heavy issue with the idea that non-believers don’t have their nearest dearest personal beliefs challenged, period. But this is goes so much beyond the point of my post, which is about how they really didn’t on Mormon Matters — and by extension, do much less so on W&T most likely — unless you’ve truly solved this problem – which I seriously doubt.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t recongize the progress you’ve made and your sincerity in trying to get there.

  19. Howard, there seems to be an underlying assumption (though unstated) in your writing that you have some method by which the Church could in fact allow you to feel comfortable in the pews without causing problems for the majority already there.

    First, do tell.

    Secondly, please point to an example of success using your approach.

  20. I wasn’t harboring such an assumption but off the cuff? I’ll offer Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism.

  21. Howard, if you weren’t harboring an assumption that “you have some method by which the Church could in fact allow you to feel comfortable in the pews without causing problems for the majority already there” then am I to conclude that you are demanding a place at the pews at the expense of the majority already there? I can’t see how else to read you here.

  22. Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism are all separate denominations.

    Conservative/Reform Mormonism already exists. It’s called the Community of Christ.

    Ultra-Orthodox Mormonism also already exists in the form of multiple polygamist splinter sects.

    Such is the beneficence of deity that He granted your wish before you had even formulated it.

  23. Well the pews must have some elasticity before they need spill over into a different sect. Why/how does allowing my figurative belief take anything away from the literal believers? I’m not arguing they have to believe figuratively but they insist that I believe literally or I’m not one of the faithful!

    We got into this recently regarding the plates. In what form did they exist? JS says spirit is matter in a more refined form. Suppose I believe the plates actually existed but in a spirit form of matter rather than a material form of matter. My belief may be even greater that that of the orthodox but to them I’m speaking heresy, yet both of us believe in the plates.

  24. Andrew S, I think with that one paragraph (and most importantly the last sentence) you have distilled why orthodox believing Mormons have a problem with blogs like BCC and W&T. For that matter, why they have a problem with liberal questioning Mormons in general. A religion that lets just anyone in, lead, and talk is not a religion – its a social club.

    Jesus came to heal the sick, but if the sick don’t want to be healed then they will die or be seriously crippled. Those who are on the path of death wishing to spread both the desease and reject the cure will quickly kill the body. In such a situation, it is better for the offending body part to be cut off. Instead of saying, “I believe, help me with my unbelief,” they are saying, “I don’t believe and my unbelief should be enshrined with the ten commandments! No, it should replace the 10 commandments!” They become a law unto themselves, denying that the source of the law has not picked them to lead.

    If they were honest with themselves and really believed or not believed what they argue, then there are other religions out there (such as Community of Christ) or none at all. They could form their own. It isn’t that I want them to leave. Rather, I want them to gain some humility and repent. So long as they refuse or make it harder for others to gain faith and repent then for what reason do orthodox Mormons have to welcome them (other than some nebulous call to Christian charity)?

  25. Bruce,

    Let’s admit that you are ‘reading’ me beyond anything I actually write and assuming you are correct, then assuming that means I am not giving you sufficient credit.

    I have no idea what you’re trying to say here, so I can’t really admit to anything.

    ‘In a similar vein, if you are looking to assess John Dehlin’s “near and dear” and you are looking at what theory he proposes as to literal plates, then yes, you’re going to think that John Dehlin is not ante-ing up.:”

    I laughed out loud on this one. (As I think you intended me to.)

    Yes, it would be silly for John to ‘ante-up’ on this view of the plates

    It would be silly for John to ante-up on his view of the plates because those are not what is near and dear to him. This is not to say that he does not ante-up on what is near and dear to him. It’s that they are categorically different things.

    Like, in many discussions I have with nonbelievers, I won’t bring up my nonbelief, because I am instead challenging what I think is their unsophisticated approach to nonbelief. Many people will come away with the idea that I am a believer (albeit some sort of nontraditional kind), which isn’t true, but it is not essential to the point I’m trying to make. In fact, in many instances, as soon as I or someone says, “oh, Andrew S doesn’t believe” then people just drown out everything else I have to say as just exmormon crap.

    Having said that, the vast majority of the time with John, the fair question wouldn’t be “what do you believe about the plates” but to just get him to state what we all know already: that he disbelieves in all the truth claims of the Church.

    But you’re not getting him to ante up on what is near and dear to him with that. Really, you’d get there closer if you challenged this: “what do you believe about the ability for those who do not believe in the plates to maintain a positive, constructive membership in the church?” Because in that mode, the “truth” claims are about fit.

    This is where his projects have been — in asserting that they can make it work. This is the point where, each time he’s been burned, he’s been discouraged or has changed his position. His losses of faith aren’t necessarily on whether the plates or real or not, but whether one can be Mormon and not believe the plates are real. His projects are almost NEVER about, “here’s how you can keep on believing after a crisis of faith.” It’s always, “Here’s how you can make it work after losing belief.”

    Whenever he goes into a more disaffected swing, it’s because (in my view, I’m sure he would disagree with this assessment from his own perspective) something has happened that shakes that belief that you can make it work without believing.

    I think that this more crucial question is blurred and hidden by other questions — for example, as you mention, what it can mean to believe the plates were “inspired” without being literal (or what any sort of inspiration can mean.) So if this is what you mean (e.g., his near and dear issues are hidden by less important issues), then I agree.

    Yet somehow — at least until recently — he’s managed to truthfully claim he see it as inspired. What does he mean by that? It can’t just be said without a series of assumptions behind it. Does he mean all religions are inspired? Probably, yes, but he won’t say. What does he even mean by ‘inspired of God?’ Does he just mean ‘it teaches good things?’ Probably yes, but he won’t say. If he only means “it teaches good things” does he in fact believe in a literal God at all? Not sure on this one.

    Maybe I listen to way more of John’s stuff (including FB statuses) than you, but yes, I have understood that when John says it’s “inspired of God,” he has a combination of several sentiments — it teaches good things, he fits in, it helps him and his family, he knows several people with liberal/progressive views who make it work and so he feels confident in making it work.

    When John dips into disaffection, it’s because he’s not fitting in. It’s because it’s not working out.

    I don’t think John is a good example of people who believe in that “inspired” view though. As I have said, you could find significant criticism from even Bloggernacle folks.

    Yes, John is majorly massively guilty of non-transparency and a refusal to discuss even obviously basic relevant questions about his own beliefs.,

    I can see what you’re saying. But I still want to stress that what you consider “basic relevant questions” aren’t the same in that viewpoint.

    You’re taking heavy issue with the idea that non-believers don’t have their nearest dearest personal beliefs challenged, period. But this is goes so much beyond the point of my post, which is about how they really didn’t on Mormon Matters — and by extension, do much less so on W&T most likely — unless you’ve truly solved this problem – which I seriously doubt.

    I guess my traditional position in these sorts of exchanges is: if this is not being challenged, then let’s *fix* it. This is a work in progress. Whereas my understanding of your view (which apparently, I’m reading you beyond anything you actually write so am indubitably wrong) is: “I would rather leave than try to fix it.”

    And I can understand that. It’s difficult. Is it worth it? Well, if you don’t think it is, it’s not worth it.

    I don’t think that it’s necessarily the case that I (or someone else) just thinks it’s worth it because my near-and-dear beliefs don’t get challenged, because to the contrary, in the comments to my posts, plenty of people will challenge me. Jeff will write a post challenging me (or vice versa). Etc., etc., etc.,

    But I understand that it’s definitely different than if I were to hypothetically write a post at M* and then get eviscerated.

  26. Jettboy,

    Jesus came to heal the sick, but if the sick don’t want to be healed then they will die or be seriously crippled. Those who are on the path of death wishing to spread both the desease and reject the cure will quickly kill the body. In such a situation, it is better for the offending body part to be cut off. Instead of saying, “I believe, help me with my unbelief,” they are saying, “I don’t believe and my unbelief should be enshrined with the ten commandments! No, it should replace the 10 commandments!” They become a law unto themselves, denying that the source of the law has not picked them to lead.

    I guess the main issue is that the different sites see things differently as to what is sickness, and what needs to be cured from sickness, and so on.

    If they were honest with themselves and really believed or not believed what they argue, then there are other religions out there (such as Community of Christ) or none at all. They could form their own. It isn’t that I want them to leave. Rather, I want them to gain some humility and repent. So long as they refuse or make it harder for others to gain faith and repent then for what reason do orthodox Mormons have to welcome them (other than some nebulous call to Christian charity)?

    We’re kinda moving in a different direction here, but one thing is that the Community of Christ doesn’t equate to the LDS Church with liberal progressive palate. There are other substantial differences in operations as well as the general community/feel of the churches, doubtless because they have been separate far longer than they were together.

    So, I think it’s understandable that LDS folks who are progressive don’t see Community of Christ as an adequate substitute.

    The thing at play is that said folks don’t see the LDS church in the same way that you do. They don’t concede that your way is the only legitimate way.

    This is why liberal Mormons get flak from both nonbelieving and traditionally believing Mormons…because whereas both the exmormon and the traditional mormon might agree on the church’s truth claims (it’s just that the exmormon rejects them), the liberal believing Mormon conceptualizes Mormonism differently from the getgo.

  27. “but they insist that I believe literally or I’m not one of the faithful!”

    LDS Church does not teach this.

  28. “I guess the main issue is that the different sites see things differently as to what is sickness, and what needs to be cured from sickness, and so on.”

    Its not all that hard in a top down authoritarian Church to know what is the sickness. That is, what has been said in General Conference? Pretty simple, but they just don’t like that answer.

    “We’re kinda moving in a different direction here, but one thing is that the Community of Christ doesn’t equate to the LDS Church with liberal progressive palate.”

    Please tell, what is the difference? I sure don’t see any.

  29. Or rather, I don’t see any difference between the CofC and what the liberals are demanding the LDS Church become.

  30. LDS Church does not teach this.

    Hmmm, okay, well how do you think my spirit plates of inspired fictional BoM talk will be received at Sacrament meeting?

  31. “But you’re not getting him to ante up on what is near and dear to him with that. ”

    You seem to be thinking that I’m saying I want John to ante up his near and dear beliefs. You are confused. There are two related points here.

    1) Non-believers on Mormon Matters (including John) did not ante-up beliefs or even opinions when asked if they perceived it as weakening their argument. (In my next post I’ll give an specific example of Clay Whipkey doing this. He realized my question, if answered, would undermine his point so he simply refused to answer it.)

    2) Because of #1, it means non-believers have a great deal of power to avoid having anything near or dear to them attacked.

    No where do I claim that the issue is that John doesn’t ante up his ‘nearest and dearest beliefs.’

    Having said that, I think you do make a good point here. For example, I suspect one of John’s nearest and dearest beliefs *is* that the Church isn’t true and *is* that he has a number of ways to fix the church. (Ways that I think are based on false views of human nature and religion.) Right now, he’s closed lipped about these points. He claims he doesn’t disbelieve, he claims he isn’t trying to change the church. If he *were* to admit those we could then dispense with a lot of useless positioning and start to get serious about whether or not John’s approach really is better or worse than just choosing to be LDS or just living it and leaving it alone and finding something that works for you. What I want is an honest discussion about the alternatives on the table. I am of the opinion that one of the reasons John avoids ever allowing such a discussion as the above is because it would be painful to come to realize the degree to which he is misguided in his desire to turn the Church into a ‘big tent’ or to ‘fix the problems’ or even how often he is the source of the problem. (In saying this, I’m not saying there aren’t problems or that John doesn’t help fix them. My assumption is that sometimes he finds correct problems and sometimes he makes them up out of a sort of need to find problems.)

    AndrewS, I think that’s true for you too. You are FAR more open than John, to be sure. But you spend an awful lot of time writing about a religion you don’t believe in and claim you never believed in. Your posts are massive, thoughtful, and without a doubt they consume enormous amounts of your time. You are literally obsessive about a religion you don’t belong to. Why do you do that? Are you prepared to make that an issue for indepth discussion? I think that would be very interesting and even enlightening. I have several theories of my own as to why you (and others) do that and honestly, I’d love to discuss it publicly a lot more. And I’m going to. And now I CAN without overt anger because there now exists a safe zone where such subjects are no longer culturally off limits.

    Further, I think the truth of why you do it is hidden from you consciously because it undermines certain beliefs you hold about yourself. Isn’t this true of everyone? Why couldn’t it be true for you on this point? I may or may not be right about that, but isn’t this a fair topic for discussion? I think this can be done with civil discourse, of course, but it might be a bit painful to have your actions truly assessed and people constantly questioning your true motivations for the considerable time you spend and how it seems out of alignment compare to the reasons you’ve given in the past.

    Do you seem my point here yet? Maybe not. And maybe this is just something I can’t reach you on at this point. But the simple truth is that it just isn’t that hard to take the critical approach you use with the Church and divert right back at you in some other aspect of your life. And to do so would hurt. Yet, is it honestly not a valid point for discussion? Because I honestly think it is.

  32. Howard, how does the fact that you aren’t allowed to each of an inspired BoM in sacrement meeting equivalent to calling you an unfaithful member of the church?

  33. Jettboy,

    Well, for some reason, these folks seem to believe that Mormonism is about a give-and-take between a top-down authoritarian Church and personal revelation.

    Please tell, what is the difference? I sure don’t see any.

    Ask them. Heck, look into basic differences between LDS and community of Christ.

  34. Howard, why are you even a member of the Church if you don’t believe any of it, and especially the divine nature of the Priesthood holders?

  35. AndrewS,

    Okay, I hate it when we get into these giant back and forths. My real point in the last post was that we all have ‘soft spots’ so to speak. I honestly would love to do a post on specifically why I believe you really spend so much time on the LDS church when it really doesn’t seem to make that much sense for you to do. Obviously doing so has the potential to hurt your feelings because I’d be claiming you have hidden motivations that you claim you don’t. And yet, we all know such hidden motivations exist in real life. So the odds that you have hidden motivations (subconscoius, so hidden even from you) for what you do seems entirely likely. Thus, it seem slike a fair topic for discussion. Does that make sense?

    I would probably not *literally* do such a post specifically on you and instead I’d water it down and use examples from several people, etc. And in fact, I plan to do such a post eventually here on M*.

    I *could* do the same post on W&T, and you’d probably be willing to let me if for no other reason than to prove me wrong.

    But what if I did it constantly? What if my regular weekly post was taking members of the blog and analyzing them and their beliefs and their habits and constantly questioning their motives? Of course at some point it would make sense to cut me off for the sake of keeping people on the blog.

    YET, these are ALL completely valid points for discussion anyhow. As valid as when non-believers on your blog constantly question the motiviation of LDS church members, constantly question if their beliefs are hurtful, etc.

    The issue isn’t *specifically* that you aren’t offering up your beliefs. Indeed, I simply meant there that that would be a good way to allow more fair conversations. The real issue is *that I can’t realisitically see totally fair topics like these being allowed over and over again* even though they are precisely equivalent to what I went through on Mormon Matters until I got tired of it.

    You are so concerned I’m saying something bad about you are W&T. I’m not. I’m saying I’m not even sure it can be done period just based on human need. And that’s okay.

    But tell you what, I do have some idea on how to make it actually work! And I’d love to talk to you about them. Having a group of people willing to transparently and honestly answer counter questions and criticisms IS one of my ideas on how to make a more balanced form work. I have more ideas. And I’m not entirely convinced it can’t be done either. I have wondered about the possiblity of a form where people sign up to participate understanding that all questions and criticisms of everyone’s worldview are open game. If you’re asked “what do you believe about X” (fill in blank — BoM being historical or fiction, belief in a literal God, what that God is like, how do you justify belief in morality rationally, etc.) they are expected to give honest non-dodgy answers and the culture of the site is such that if they do give a dodgy answer THAT is what they got dog piled for, not for asking difficult personal questions.

    Does that make sense? Would you even be interested in such a forum? Because maybe it IS possible!

  36. “Well, for some reason, these folks seem to believe that Mormonism is about a give-and-take between a top-down authoritarian Church and personal revelation.”

    Then they are mistaken as history and Scripture has shown time and again. Personal revelation does not trump the authorities of the Church. Something these same people always point to when you question their faith (you aren’t my Bishop).

    “Ask them.”

    I’m asking you because you seem to be defending them. You are the one who claimed there is a difference, and so its on your shoulders to prove the statement. Now, if you want to say, “I don’t want to,” then that is your right.

  37. Actually, Howard, I’m kind of curious about this too. I get it that you believe in the restoration, so that makes sense. But why not just join the Community of Christ? They already believe in a fictional Book of Mormon. And they are in desperate need for members too. Is there some sort of difference between your beliefs and them that is so significant that you are actaully closer to the LDS church instead? (And frankly, I mean no offense here, but that is really hard to believe just from having talked to you for a while now.)

  38. Bruce,

    Non-believers on Mormon Matters (including John) did not ante-up beliefs or even opinions when asked if they perceived it as weakening their argument.

    Fair.

    2) Because of #1, it means non-believers have a great deal of power to avoid having anything near or dear to them attacked.

    Disagree, because beliefs and opinions of #1 are irrelevant/orthogonal to the near-and-dear positions of #2.

    I think you do make a good point here. For example, I suspect one of John’s nearest and dearest beliefs *is* that the Church isn’t true and *is* that he has a number of ways to fix the church.

    I don’t think whether the church is true in an objective, literal sense is one of John’s nearest and dearest beliefs. I don’t think it is for many people, though. Whether the church works for them — and whether it can be changed to work for them — I’ll be more likely to agree.

    I am of the opinion that one of the reasons John avoids ever allowing such a discussion as the above is because it would be painful to come to realize the degree to which he is misguided in his desire to turn the Church into a ‘big tent’ or to ‘fix the problems’ or even how often he is the source of the problem.

    Strangely enough, plenty of people very much DO have these conversations with him regardless, and DO talk about the ways his own approach is problematic. So, I still don’t think he avoids critique.

    AndrewS, I think that’s true for you too. You are FAR more open than John, to be sure. But you spend an awful lot of time writing about a religion you don’t believe in and claim you never believed in. Your posts are massive, thoughtful, and without a doubt they consume enormous amounts of your time. You are literally obsessive about a religion you don’t belong to. Why do you do that? Are you prepared to make that an issue for indepth discussion? I think that would be very interesting and even enlightening. I have several theories of my own as to why you (and others) do that and honestly, I’d love to discuss it publicly a lot more. And I’m going to. And now I CAN without overt anger because there now exists a safe zone where such subjects are no longer culturally off limits.

    I have written SEVERAL TIMES about this. You don’t need to imagine your own theories about this (although you can if you want to — many people already do in a generic sense and some folks have even written about lil ole me). Maybe you don’t see it recently, because most often these days, I write on Facebook groups, but I could pull several W&T and MM posts about it — it’s because I wholly believe Mormonism is cultural, ethnic, more than religious. It’s because I find liberal/progressive Mormonism to be hopeful, inspiring, thought-provoking, challenging, and wonderful, and if the church were moreso, I would greatly appreciate it. It’s because even though I find literal belief (or even liberal belief) to be utterly foreign to me, I believe in the value of grappling with things one doesn’t believe in.

    Further, I think the truth of why you do it is hidden from you consciously because it undermines certain beliefs you hold about yourself. Isn’t this true of everyone? Why couldn’t it be true for you on this point? I may or may not be right about that, but isn’t this a fair topic for discussion? I think this can be done with civil discourse, of course, but it might be a bit painful to have your actions truly assessed and people constantly questioning your true motivations for the considerable time you spend and how it seems out of alignment compare to the reasons you’ve given in the past.

    You can certainly discuss anything you want. People *already* do this, is what I’m saying. So when you say that near-and-dear is not addressed, I don’t buy it.

    Do you seem my point here yet? Maybe not. And maybe this is just something I can’t reach you on at this point. But the simple truth is that it just isn’t that hard to take the critical approach you use with the Church and divert right back at you in some other aspect of your life. And to do so would hurt. Yet, is it honestly not a valid point for discussion? Because I honestly think it is.

    I don’t see your point, because my contention is that you already can do it — and people *already* do this.

    Likewise, yes you can critique John. BUT PEOPLE ALREADY DO THIS!

  39. “Likewise, yes you can critique John. BUT PEOPLE ALREADY DO THIS!”

    Hopefully my next comment explained myself better that you’ll see that this isn’t relevant. If not, I’ll try again.

    Yes, we *all* do this — to some degree. (Keep in mind that in my past posts I’ve already admitted this.)

    But we skew it. To truly make it a fair environment, you’d have to be prepared (at least in theory) to have as many posts as currently are non-believing on W&T be about your personal motives, criticisms of you, questions about who you might be harming, etc, and you are still comfortable there.

  40. how does the fact that you aren’t allowed to each of an inspired BoM in sacrement meeting equivalent to calling you an unfaithful member of the church?

    When my Bishop learns of my unorthodox beliefs my records are marked.

  41. Huh? There is some place in MLS where you can mark down that so-and-so believes in an inspired BoM?

    In any case, even assuming your records are marked, how does that make you an equivalent to calling you an unfaithful member of the church. It seems to me that is a heck of a lot more like calling you someone that teaches the false doctrine (from an LDS viewpoing) that the BoM is fictional. WHICH IS TRUE, HOWARD!!! IT’S TRUE!!!

  42. I give Andrew S credit for coming here and taking our disussions seriously, rather than an attack of “how dare you self-righteous TBMs have an opinon on the bloggernacle . . . ” On the other hand, I do find a disingenousness about his “I’m just an innocent non-Mormon not taking sides” demeanor, while then saying “Mormonism is hardly a religion.”

    All I can say about Howard is that he mostly knows how to behave himself even if his views are negative.

  43. Why not join the CoC? It’s not as easy as changing blogs, I was raised LDS and the rest of my family is LDS and I doubt a CoC is located nearby. My ancestors go back to Joseph’s circle through Brigham.

  44. Jettboy,

    I agree with you about AndrewS taking us seriously and how cool that is.

    I think, though, that you do err on the whole “Mormonism is hardly a religion” thing. What he actaully said was that there is a huge cultural component to Mormonism and in his opinion its so strong that there is now more to being a “Mormon” than merely belief.

    While I think this point of view can be challenged on many fronts (as it’s far more complex than I think AndrewS realizes), I don’t see it as insulting at all. And I don’t think he at all intended it to be insulting.

  45. Bruce,

    I *could* do the same post on W&T, and you’d probably be willing to let me if for no other reason than to prove me wrong.

    But what if I did it constantly? What if my regular weekly post was taking members of the blog and analyzing them and their beliefs and their habits and constantly questioning their motives? Of course at some point it would make sense to cut me off for the sake of keeping people on the blog.

    The conservative bloggers on W&T *ALREADY* do this. I write a post, and (many times) Jeff will have a post countering it — whether directly to me, or in a generalized sense. I definitely get comments on my own posts from commenters doing this — and I certainly wish they would write a post instead of derailing my comments thread. (But I mean, that’s the grand joke about how W&T operates — we’re just as likely to offer someone a guest post than ban them.) Yeah, I often disagree with the motives he will ascribe to me — but he has no fear of being kicked off the roster.

    The question of whether you will do it or not is not about whether we will allow it or not, but about whether you will have most of the crowd agreeing with you. I totally buy that at MM or W&T, many of the people would probably disagree with you. Heck, many of the audience at MM or W&T disagrees with *me* too, these days. (I really do want to reemphasize that I am SUPER surprised with how many regular conservative commenters we have attracted).

    You are so concerned I’m saying something bad about you are W&T. I’m not. I’m saying I’m not even sure it can be done period just based on human need. And that’s okay.

    I am more concerned that you are saying something totally inaccurate and off-base about W&T, based on other factors (e.g., John Dehlin and MM.)

    Does that make sense? Would you even be interested in such a forum? Because maybe it IS possible!

    Sure, why not?

  46. Okay, let’s go with that. An inspired fictional BoM is false doctrine. It shouldn’t be, nothing about the story compels it to be.

  47. Well a fair answer might well be “My family would disown me and I care more about that then going to church that teaches truth” or something like that. Is that what you’re saying?

    The fact that your lineage goes to BY means nothing to me. So? Shouldn’t you still go to where the truth is?

  48. Jettboy,

    I give Andrew S credit for coming here and taking our disussions seriously, rather than an attack of “how dare you self-righteous TBMs have an opinon on the bloggernacle . . . ” On the other hand, I do find a disingenousness about his “I’m just an innocent non-Mormon not taking sides” demeanor, while then saying “Mormonism is hardly a religion.”

    When did I say “I’m just an innocent non-Mormon not taking sides”???????

    Also,

    When did I say, “Mormonism is hardly a religion”?????????

    (I see the Bruce has responded on this second point.)

  49. No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m remaking the point Andrew S made. Your complaining MM and W&T is an uncomfortable forum for you and others here at M*. I’m saying my ward is uncomfortable and changing is a lot more inconvenient and caries a greater cost than changing blogs. In many ways W&T is my ward.

  50. Inconvenience on your part does not constitute an emergency on the Church’s part, Howard.

    Do Reform Jews normally whine that the local Orthodox Synagogue is closer and has better parking but keeps acting Orthodox?

  51. “The conservative bloggers on W&T *ALREADY* do this.”

    Okay, so here’s the problem. You might well be right. Maybe the conservative bloggers already strongly criticize your positions and there are in fact no cultural norms that cause fair questions — like about any possible hidden motives, or potential harms, etc — off limits. And therefore things are in fact in a perfect balance there.

    If you are right, then congratulations. You’ve suceeded at your goal.

    Let me ask you if you might be open to the possiblity that that isn’t the case entirely. For example, you mention ” but about whether you will have most of the crowd agreeing with you. I totally buy that at MM or W&T, many of the people would probably disagree with you.”

    But isn’t it at least a possiblity that the reason that is the case is because the site sets up discussions primarily of interest to one side? And if we start with such a skew (for whatever reason) and we allow angry comments with personal attacks via a low moderation policy, doesn’t that suggest that it will culturally become self enforcing what types of posts and behaviors are acceptable?

    This is a complex play, I think, AndrewS. You will always be able to show me “hey, here’s an example of this” and I’m thinking I can probably easily show examples where a dog pile makes it obvious that certain types of views aren’t palatable, and therefore it becomes a safe zone for a certain view point and not another. And I think I can probably always show where people asking “what do you believe about X” will be interpreted as “you are calling me an apostate” and a dog pile ensues and so people are hesitant to ask such questions in the future. And I think I can probably come up with considerable examples of this. But I guess I don’t know that for sure because I was only on W&T briefly and you’ve changed things since then.

    I think the question is how do you change that? I’m offering my ideas. You think you’ve already done them, so I’m either wrong in my assumptions that W&T has a self enforcing culture (this is a little hard to believe) or, well, you’ve done your best (this is easy to believe and I’ve already said I agree with it).

    Do you *really* believe W&T has no self enforcing culture — the whole point of my post? If so, I’m open to you convincing me in some way, let’s talk.

    But here’s the thing, sort of get the feeling that what you are *really* saying is that, yes, it has a self enforcing culture — of course it does! — but you have implemented your best counter measures and its as balanced as things get. And frankly, if this is what you are really saying, I’m not sure anything in my post disagrees with you. Thoughts?

  52. “Your complaining MM and W&T is an uncomfortable forum for you and others here at M*. I’m saying my ward is uncomfortable and changing is a lot more inconvenient and caries a greater cost than changing blogs. In many ways W&T is my ward.”

    Actually, I’m saying both. Congratulations, Howard, we are in complete agreement! My ward is my ward and W&T is yours because I’m more comfortable in my ward an you are more comfortable in W&T! Thank you for proving my point!

  53. My problem with W&T is not the comments section. I actually think a lot of conservative commentators are welcome if not accepted. Sure, conservative Mormons get a push back not equal to the number who post, but its far from the way BCC and even T&S are lopsided.

    My problem is the post culture is not friendly to conservative Mormons, often giving prefunctory acknowledgement to the orthodox viewpoint. It has tried to have more believing post participants, but each one has stated how hard it is to maintain sanity when treated more as a “quota.”

  54. “Okay, let’s go with that. An inspired fictional BoM is false doctrine. It shouldn’t be, nothing about the story compels it to be.”

    Well, okay then, we’re in agreement. From an LDS point of view you believe in false doctrine and they are CORRECTLY banning you from teaching your doctrines that they see as false. What’s the issue here again? Seems like this started as a claim that this was somehow equivalent to you being falsely branded unfaithful or something. And seems like even that came out of claim on your part that you should be ‘allowed equal space in the pews’ or something. And then you claimed that you should be equally accomodate — despite the fact that you are teaching non-LDS doctrines — and then I asked you about if you thought this could be done without causing problems with those already there. And then you denied you ever claimed it could.

    So frankly, I’m pretty confused right now. Because it looks to me like all along you’ve been saying “I don’t care that me teaching my non-LDS views might ruin the Church for others, I demand it anyhow, dang it!” And if that is all your saying, I think I’m done.

  55. You’re welcome Bruce. Actually I recognized the reciprocity when I first read your post. Also literal illogical truth claims invite logical challenge, widening the doctrine would lessen the attacks.

  56. “Also literal illogical truth claims invite logical challenge, widening the doctrine would lessen the attacks.”

    I think we’ve found our point of agreement to disagree, Howard. I certainly am of the opinion that allowing you to teach of a historical BoM in sacrement meeting would be a pretty quick way to undermine the LDS church entirely so that it is useful to no one. (or very few)

  57. No. You inserted the progressive strawmen: “equal” and “equally” and “I don’t care that me teaching my non-LDS views might ruin the Church for others, I demand it anyhow, dang it!”

    So, I’m done!

  58. This post is absolutely brilliant.

    I would love to see this type of dialogue. Mormon Expositor would unequivocally offer space to have it. I can’t speak for John Dehlin (or Andrew for that matter), but I know I would be willing to have those conversations, problem is I don’t have “Mormon celebrity” cache’.

    Happy to facilitate as soon as you like.

  59. Greg,

    Let’s do lunch and discuss how to make it happen. (If possible)

  60. But isn’t it at least a possiblity that the reason that is the case is because the site sets up discussions primarily of interest to one side?

    It is indeed a possibility if many conservative bloggers we invite decide they don’t want to join that, as a result, the site would end up setting up discussions primarily of interest to one side.

    And if we start with such a skew (for whatever reason) and we allow angry comments with personal attacks via a low moderation policy, doesn’t that suggest that it will culturally become self enforcing what types of posts and behaviors are acceptable?

    That is totally a possibility.

    But then what a site is “safe” for is really dependent on the masses. And for sure, i think conservative, believing Mormons are not the majority of folks interested in discussing Mormonism on the internet.

    I think the question is how do you change that? I’m offering my ideas. You think you’ve already done them, so I’m either wrong in my assumptions that W&T has a self enforcing culture (this is a little hard to believe) or, well, you’ve done your best (this is easy to believe and I’ve already said I agree with it).

    My ideas on how to change that is, “Get conservative bloggers who will write the posts they want to see, get conservative commenters who will also write the commenters they want to see.” I don’t think we’ve already done this because the prospective conservative bloggers don’t bite at that proposition.

    Do you *really* believe W&T has no self enforcing culture — the whole point of my post? If so, I’m open to you convincing me in some way, let’s talk.

    No, I’m not saying that W&T has no self-enforcing culture. I’m saying your characterization of what causes that self-enforcing culture and what can be done about it are off-spec.

    But here’s the thing, sort of get the feeling that what you are *really* saying is that, yes, it has a self enforcing culture — of course it does! — but you have implemented your best counter measures and its as balanced as things get. And frankly, if this is what you are really saying, I’m not sure anything in my post disagrees with you. Thoughts?

    The main difference is you seem to think that I am saying that we have done everything we can do. But I’m saying, “no, I don’t think we have done everything. Part of it is because conservative bloggers won’t write more at the site.”)

  61. Not only useless Bruce, but I assure you there would be an uprising and then almost no one would attend. The LDS Church would be toast, and to be blunt I think those like Howard would like nothing more than for a fork to put into it so as to not have to be uncomfortable around those true believers.

  62. Well, in any case, Howard, (even if I misunderstood you or if you’ve just been very unclear) I don’t really know what your point was. I at least got the part that you think the Church would benefit from your fictional BoM view and I got the part where I thought that was probably just not true. If there was more to it, I didn’t get it.

  63. Jettboy,

    My problem with W&T is not the comments section. I actually think a lot of conservative commentators are welcome if not accepted. Sure, conservative Mormons get a push back not equal to the number who post, but its far from the way BCC and even T&S are lopsided.

    So, we are doing something right.

    My problem is the post culture is not friendly to conservative Mormons, often giving prefunctory acknowledgement to the orthodox viewpoint. It has tried to have more believing post participants, but each one has stated how hard it is to maintain sanity when treated more as a “quota.”

    This is the tricky part.

  64. “But then what a site is “safe” for is really dependent on the masses. And for sure, i think conservative, believing Mormons are not the majority of folks interested in discussing Mormonism on the internet.”

    Well this is something, I suppose. A basis for some sort of agreement?

    You don’t seem to like my proposals for how to create a reverse of that skew. So I can accept our agreement to disagree on this point. Make no mistake *I still think I’m correct* that my ideas present in this post would change the skew. (Namely, a culture of openess on both sides be required.) But I can respect your disagreement with me on this.

    Also, I’m not so completely convinced myself that this is the fix. I think it’s more like ‘part of a fix.’

    I like Greg’s idea of doing it on a podcast. This has a number of advantages because of the distance between the cast and the comments later that create the self enforcing culture.

  65. Bruce,

    You don’t seem to like my proposals for how to create a reverse of that skew. So I can accept our agreement to disagree on this point. Make no mistake *I still think I’m correct* that my ideas present in this post would change the skew. (Namely, a culture of openess on both sides be required.) But I can respect your disagreement with me on this.

    Not sure if I have said “I don’t like” to, but maybe I don’t know what you’re referring to?

  66. “So, we are doing something right.”
    I wouldn’t go that far, just that you are doing something better. There is still, as I say, a lopsidedness. Unorthodox commenters are comfortable with using barbs and mocking, but quick to call out conservatives who might do the same. Get rid of (or call out) the double standards and there might be more improvements.

    “This is the tricky part.”
    Not really. Recognize the names of those who are considered Conservative and those who are Liberal, then do an equal number of alternating posts. I know its not an exact science as what is considered one side or the other can sometimes be subjective, but the bloggernacle has been around long enough that lines have been drawn. The tricky part, as you say, is getting conservatives to participate. The question is if this is a chicken and egg situation? Do they honestly not want to discuss issues on the Internet or do they feel uncomfortable with how the Internet has discussed the issues?

  67. AndrewS,

    Given that you do agree with my proposal on how to unskew things, would you at least be open to testing my theory?

    What I propose is that W&T puts up a new comment policy. It states that it is now fair to ask people their personal beliefs and if you are going ot comment here there is expectation that you’ll be wiling to give truthful answers and pointed follow up questions are fair. And further there is really nothing off limit accept personal attacks (which will be strictly enforced) so it is okay to civilly tell people you feel they are apostate and there is why I believe that. So long as it’s said civilly and handled rationally, it’s considerered legtimate and any post that says “you shouldn’t say that!” is now considered off limits and the moderators will remind them that they in fact can say it.

    This would address the following concerns on my part:

    1. People can’t ask hard questions of me but I am not allowed to ask them hard questions back.
    2. We are not ‘building bridges’ culturaly (which I feel was really just a way of trying to make the discussion one sided) we are having an honest discussion where all points are on the table.
    3. Nothing is off limits because its “personal.” Arguments like “how dare you ask Kate Kelly pointed questions about her beliefs more so than the TR” are now seen as lame arguments that are irrelevant. It was a fair question and the moderators will remind people of that.
    4. It is difficult to do a true boundary enforcing dog pile if everyone is required to be civil or they’ll be moderated.
    5. People can’t hide behind “you are calling me an apostate” as a way of getting out of difficult question, because that is now considered a fair question for discussion. Personally I have zero interest in discussing if someone is an apostate, but my experience is that its not that hard to turn fair questions indirectly into such a question. (i.e. I ask if the person believse in a fictional BoM and I am told “how dare you call him an enemy of the church.”) Perhaps there is some better way to get at what I want here without allowing charges of apostacy, but I can’t think of it right now.

    I need time to think of more. There are quite a few cultural rules that are used to skew things in my opinion. Given time I think I could write most of them down. If W&T were open to changing those rules, I think it would solve the problem and you’d get a real (or at least better) balance. But even if I’m wrong, why not at least try it? My concerns here are certainly fair. The conversation IS controlled by cultural rules like this.

  68. Bruce,

    So, hold on, let me just get this straight. You want us to implement these rules *without* offering to become a W&T blogger along with these?

    Or are you saying that you would start writing blog posts along with these rules? ;)

    I can certainly direct the other permas to this discussion.I have no idea if anyone else would have disagreements (typically, anything that requires heavy moderation will probably be a no-go), but I can direct them here.

    I do sense some cautionary points here. For example, you say:

    Personally I have zero interest in discussing if someone is an apostate, but my experience is that its not that hard to turn fair questions indirectly into such a question.

    What I sense is that if some poster has some controversial point, then someone will say, “Are you an apostate/do you believe in x belief?” “You don’t believe? You’re an apostate? Then I will not engage you on your post.” That’s not what I’m looking for on my posts (although I certainly already get this.)

    If your posting series is meant to express that you experienced that on the posts you wrote, people would say, “Are you a TBM? Therefore I will not engage you on your post” and that is what you feel is the lopsidedness, I’d rather get rid of that on all sides than to implement it on all sides.

  69. AndrewS,

    I think you are about 40% understanding me now. :-)

    First, yes, if we could come up with a way to try out my ideas, of course I’d want to blog on W&T to see what happens.

    I think the issue here is that I feel the lopsidedness is caused by cultural norms. I think many of these cultural norms are somewhat natural (i.e. People get mad if someone calls them an apostate, but they also get mad if they *perceive* someone calling them an apostate because they asked an uncomfortable question.) Further, I think these cultural norms can only be counter acted *through rules and enforcement through moderation* and therefore I’m of the opinion that W&T low moderation policy is in fact what is causing the lopsidedness.

    But it’s not introducing heavier moderation that matters here. It’s targeting a a series of specific cultural rules that has to be done to fix the lopsidedness.

    This post tried to explain the meta level. My follow on post was to give more specifics.

    If you are seriously interested in trying out some of my ideas on W&T, I’ll try to work more specific suggestions into my next post.

  70. Oh, absolutely, though I admit it’s probably far easier to get there with two people than with a blog.

  71. Apostate is a loaded term. An apostate is a person who forsakes his religion, cause, party, etc. The LDS church tends to decide this FOR people but I don ‘t think this is common usage and it certainly isn’t okay for a blogger to decide that either FOR the church or ABOUT another blogger.

  72. Yes, Howard. But people also use the charge that “that’s equivalent to calling me an apostate” as a way to shut off having to answer difficult questions.

  73. I’m feeling a bit late to the party here.

    Jettboy: “Rather, I want them to gain some humility and repent.” I will if you will. ;) On your point about conservative bloggers, it seems to me that conservative posts just don’t generate that much discussion. My instruction to all our permas has always been to tee up a discussion, and they should come from whatever their own viewpoint is naturally. But we’ve never been opposed to conservative bloggers there (or commenters). Honestly, though, the internet in general just isn’t as big a place for that. Perhaps the internet is an alternative version of church for some who feel their views are unwelcome or uncommon at least at church.

    Bruce: as to your proposed rules, I guess I have a few thoughts:

    1) people can certainly ask the bloggers personal questions about belief if they want. I think most people just figure it out on their own or assume they know or honestly don’t really care that much. The posts aren’t about the bloggers; they are about whatever the topic is for discussion,

    2) I thought your interrogation of Kate Kelly was just a little intrusive personally. If you have a personal relationship with her, that’s one thing, but it felt a little socially awkward and forced to me. Your prerogative to ask whatever you want, and of course she can answer however she wants.

    3) I worry a bit about the notion of trying to shorthand discussions based on a “believer profile.” First of all, by what standards is someone a believer? Certainly, by my standards I am, on the whole, but I don’t believe every point equally, and I definitely believe in questioning. From what I know, Kate Kelly meets my standards for a believer. By Jettboy’s I’m probably a vile apostate. In fairness, I often see the uber-orthodox as misunderstanding the gospel and to some degree apostate. Where does anyone fall? It’s in the eye of the beholder.

    And our beliefs are one thing, but then there are our actions. Is Kate’s belief in question or her actions? We know actions don’t always match beliefs. Non-believers live by the Mormon rules sometimes, and believers sometimes don’t.

    Those are just a few thoughts.

  74. Back to the idea of lack of vulnerability for non-believers in these discussions, I think the real issue is that believers are the ones whose beliefs are being discussed in a Mormon-themed discussion forum. Non-believers do, to some extent, fail to have a dog in the fight. However, as I said, I can criticize points I don’t believe in all the live long day because I don’t hold them near and dear. I can talk about the evils of polygamy because I don’t believe it was divine, I have no polygamous ancestors, and so forth. No dog in the fight, except by virtue of belonging to a church that had a polygamous past.

    I think I see Bruce trying to create vulnerability for non-believers to some extent because of the vulnerability believers inherently have. It’s fair game to do that, although it gets pretty personal when you go after the psychological and experiential reasons for either belief or unbelief. At the end of the day, you may unearth some weird junk in doing that on either side of the belief spectrum (if you ever really could get to the heart of it – people are pretty protective of their soft underbellies). For example, is there a family history of abuse, mental illness, or personal moral failing? That stuff is often there under the surface, again for both believers and non-believers, and while I find value in knowing and acknowledging its existence, most of the discussions we have in the bloggernacle are about those topics, not the people holding those opinions. At least, that’s what I think. But I certainly do factor that into what I think of what people say when I know it, and after all this time and all these conversations, I know far more than I ever expected about people I’ve never met IRL.

  75. Three comments in a row . . . ban me now! I meant to add that of course Bruce you are always welcome to post with us on W&T, and this is an interesting discussion. Probably need to distill it down a bit, but there are some salient points here.

  76. I suspect i know why my last comment was deleted Bruce and if my guess was right it should give you some pause about apostate accusations because they can cause problems on both sides of the scrimmage line.

    Now that we’ve had this discussion, feel free to delete this comment as well.

  77. Hawk,

    “it seems to me that conservative posts just don’t generate that much discussion.”

    My last several posts have all been conservative and also generated huge attention hits, comments, and discussion. And the reason they did was because…

    “I think I see Bruce trying to create vulnerability for non-believers to some extent because of the vulnerability believers inherently have”

    Yup — that’s why it worked so well. I created a reverse train wreck where non-conservatives had to go on the defensive more similar to how normally conservatives did. I’m modeling that it works. And it does.

    Which brings me to…

    ‘I thought your interrogation of Kate Kelly was just a little intrusive personally”

    Oh, it was very intrusive personally. Here I am asking the founder of OW if she does in fact believe in the LDS concept of priesthood. And, she (in podcast) couldn’t answer the question and said she felt it wasn’t relevant. But how could that be? If it isn’t relevant, then she’d answer the question, of course. Presumably the reason she doesn’t want to answer the question is precisely because she fears the truth would hinder her movement. And presumably she is correct. (In fact, the woman that asked me to ask her did not join the movement in part for this very reason, though she still believes in ordaining women, she isn’t really comfortable with being part of a movement that she feels is founded somewhat dishonestly.)

    But it is relevant? In fact it’s difficult to see how it’s anything BUT relevant. If Kate Kelly does not believe in the LDS concept of priesthood, but instead, say, believes “priesthood” is merely the LDS term for “ecclesiastical authority” then it is not hard to see that she is, in fact, actually trying to use media pressure to force the LDS church to change via an embarrassment campaign and has no interest at all in receiving the LDS priesthood as the LDS church itself understands it — since she doesn’t even believe in that (given that assumption — I make accusation here, just following a certain line of logic). So, yes, my question was a vital part of the dialogue AND it was socially akward and intrusive. (If I had to do it over again, I’d handle it differently to try to smooth things a bit. But I absolutely see it as revelant and don’t regret forcing her to do a response via a non-response.)

    This is precisely my point, Hawk. We see that this is intrusive and it is, bit it is also directly relevant to the conversation OW themselves started. Right now, we give Kate Kelly a complete pass on what we all suspect — she is motivated in large part via a non-belief in the LDS concept of priesthood. Whether or not this ‘qualifies her’ as a ‘believer’ or not is irrelevant to me. I’m happy to refer to her as a ‘believer’ — that term has a wide range of legitimate meanings. Yet the question asked was still directly relevant to her own movement.

    And this is my entire point. When I’m on MM and I’m asked to defend my beliefs, that is every bit as intrusive as me asking Kate Kelly such questions. The only difference is a sort of cultural understanding that because a “TBMs” beliefs happen to be already public, and therefore can be phrased in terms of beliefs of a faceless organization, that somehow this makes them less intrusive and less personal than when I ask equivalent questions of Kate Kelly. I’m challenging what I see as the false underlying cultural assumptions.

    Could this get us weird results. Maybe. I am not here claiming its possible to correct the imbalance in any one location. I am sort of thinking it can’t be done, though I’m open to possibilities. However, the very fact that there is a single blog that culturally finds the question relevant did turn out to be a game changer.

    I am not sure I have a perfect answer to any of this. I think the way things are is probably already ideal. I’m just pointing out why it makes sense to allow differente blogs to have different safe zones and why that’s necessary for a full fair dialogue.

  78. “Right now, we give Kate Kelly a complete pass on what we all suspect — she is motivated in large part via a non-belief in the LDS concept of priesthood. Whether or not this ‘qualifies her’ as a ‘believer’ or not is irrelevant to me.” I think approaching her in the way you did was just intrusive because you don’t have a prior relationship with her. In essence, it’s none of your business. The person on whose behalf you approached her could possibly have a stake in it, but you didn’t really, and she has no stake in revealing the secrets of her heart to you.

    Ultimately, the question I have as an LDS woman is not whether Kate herself is sincere about wanting the PH or whether she believes in it. The question for me is what exactly is the PH and why are all men admitted and all women barred, except in the temple. E. Oaks’ recent talk only went so far. It opened as many questions as it answered. What does the church itself believe about the priesthood? What does it believe about women? She’s essentially forcing the church to go on record about the matter and about the way women are really perceived by the church. Was that the true intention? To reveal the church’s true feelings about women and about the priesthood?

    If all they wanted to do was move the ball forward, create some thought and conversation, they’ve done that. Unfortunately, we’ve also got a bunch of unhealthy retrenchment along with it, and many women who might have stayed LDS but for this will now leave. When people are told to shut up or get out, they decrease their investment. They either disengage and stay or just leave. I wish I could say that wasn’t what I predicted would happen. I really had hoped to be proven wrong.

    Maybe I’ve come full circle and proven the same point again: that for those of us on the inside, we are invested in these discussions in a much more real way than those who are on the outside. That’s not a surprise. But if you had asked Kate why she doesn’t just leave if she doesn’t like it, I believe she would say “Where else can I find the ordinances of salvation?”

  79. I am so glad to know what DAMU stands for. I had no clue, and it evoked the phrase “damn you” in my mind.

    Interesting post.

    Back in the days when the US first attacked Afghanistan, I would sometimes have conversations with folks about it. They wondered why we had done that, particularly in light of the Iraq experience where it turned out the feared weapons weren’t as advanced as the analysts thought they’d be.

    My supposition was that merely shoring up our domestic defenses was going to be a losing battle. But taking the fight to “them” meant they had to meet us on their field.

    I suppose there were still lots of attacks against US targets–many thwarted. But the focus was “over there.”

    In almost any contest, it is preferable to have the upper ground, the flexibility to attack, rather than merely a constrained ability to respond.

    On this, I don’t really see my participation as attack (except when I’m allowing myself to be human and react). It’s more that I think I’ve found a deeper truth that both sides might be interested to learn of. Heck, since it involves sex and power and lies and death, I think all kinds of people would be interested.

  80. “. . . we’ve also got a bunch of unhealthy retrenchment along with it, and many women who might have stayed LDS but for this will now leave. When people are told to shut up or get out, they decrease their investment.”

    I don’t see a problem with this. Seems that the boundaries are getting set and these women are able to finally make a choice where they otherwise were sitting on a fence. Your definition of the entrenchment as “unhealthy” is subjective opinion, not fact. The ultimate question is if the Church has leaders who are called by God to preach to and govern? If they are, then to argue against them or question what they say publicly and loudly is even by Joseph Smith’s stated standards on the road to Apostasy.

    “I will if you will.”

    I know my standing with God and the Church thank you very much.

  81. “The ultimate question is if the Church has leaders who are called by God to preach to and govern? If they are, then to argue against them or question what they say publicly and loudly is even by Joseph Smith’s stated standards on the road to Apostasy.” Was Paul on the road to apostasy when he disagreed with Peter about the necessity of circumcision and the kosher laws? Is Kate publicly and loudly arguing to ask leaders to ask God for a revelation (which is what she has stated) or is that a demonstration of faith?

  82. Bruce, I am enjoying the conversation. I don’t have much to add, other than I clicked on the link about your first post where you referenced my research about whether Mormon Matters was balanced. I had forgotten about that post, and it was fun to go back and re-read comments for people who I don’t see comment very much any more. I would have commented there, but comments are closed. Anyway, it was a fun read.

    I know I squared off with Doug G quite a lot at MM, but he didn’t really make the move to W&T. At MM, I felt like I was on the TBM side (and I use that term proudly). At W&T, it feels like I’m more of a liberal. MM had more of a wild west feel than W&T, we don’t moderate like other places, and as Andrew said above, if a person disagrees with us, we are likely to give him/her a guest post slot.

    We are open to conservatives permas, but I think you have articulated well why we don’t seem to attract them as much. We also don’t attract the non-believing crowd that MM did. So I would say we have less liberal AND less conservative permas and commenters than MM. But it seems to me, just like at MM, W&T is accused of being too liberal by some, and too conservative by others.

  83. “Was Paul on the road to apostasy when he disagreed with Peter about the necessity of circumcision and the kosher laws?”

    Yes he was. Rather, he would have been if he had not done so privately and then used the influence of the social pressure of Rome.

  84. “I think approaching her in the way you did was just intrusive because you don’t have a prior relationship with her. In essence, it’s none of your business.” I disagree. Kate has chosen to become a public figure and appears to be aiming to become even more public, on an issue which most members consider would fundamentally change the Church, and indeed many members’ eternal paradigms. That makes it everyone’s business and her refusal to answer the question is telling.

    ‘But if you had asked Kate why she doesn’t just leave if she doesn’t like it, I believe she would say “Where else can I find the ordinances of salvation?” ‘ But if she doesn’t really believe that Priesthood Authority is any more than Ecclesiastical Authority she could go anywhere that copies the ordinances, or indeed set up her own Church and copy the ordinances. It doesn’t really matter.

  85. Hawk,

    ‘The person on whose behalf you approached her could possibly have a stake in it, but you didn’t really, and she has no stake in revealing the secrets of her heart to you.”

    Well, first of all, this is what I would have done different if I had to do it over again. I would have coached her through how to ask questions to get the needed answer.

    To be honest, the concern here was frankly that Kate Kelly might come up with a way to answer the question that was misleading (i.e. a lie) but still technically true to avoid feeling like she lied. For example, if Kate Kelly only believes the priesthood is just ‘ecclesiastical authority’ and that all churches are equally empowered by God, then if someone asks “do you believe in the LDS concept of priesthood” (which implies, angels, uniqueness, etc.) she might deceptively answer ‘Oh, yes, I believe the priesthood comes from God.” This is a Clintonized answer that misleads and is therefore really a lie.

    For better or worse, I have no reason to trust or not trust her when I started, but I knew very well that people in her position in the past did give such misleading answers and I knew how to counter them through follow on questions. What I wanted to get for my friend was the correct answer. I did not intend to let her give a misleading answer.

    So it puts me in a difficult circumstance, Hawk. I was in fact more qualified to ask the question and to avoid being deceived.

    If I had to do it over again, I’d coach my friend through it.

    However, I have just got to disagree with you, Hawk, that it’s none of my business. It is certainly *more* the business of my friend, but we’re talking about a public personality that is now famous for starting a public movement that is arguably an open demonstration against the church using secular media as an ally to embarrass the church. This is not a no moral value or all moral value on one side action.

    I can see your point of view here, but I’m shocked you can’t see that the other point of view is also valid here. The problem is, absent good answers from Kate Kelly, we end up having to guess as to real motives, real goals, etc. And the evidence is such that there are going to be legitimate disagreements over what she is doing. I think Jeff C’s comment is a good example of this. He does have a legitimate stake in Kate Kelly’s movement and her motives for creating it.

    So I suppose my own point of view is a sort of middle ground. This is clearly not “none of my business” as a member of the church deciding how I am going to react to Kate Kelly’s movement. But I do wish I had empowered my friend more so than handling it myself, which I think ended up not working out as well.

    “But if you had asked Kate why she doesn’t just leave if she doesn’t like it, I believe she would say “Where else can I find the ordinances of salvation?””

    Would she say that, Hawk? I’m not honestly sure.

    And if she did say that, would she mean it in a straightforward way or in a deceptive way? What would she *mean* by it? Would she mean the LDS church is the sole place she can find ordinances because it alone has the priesthood? Or would she mean something deceptive like “well, in intended to stay in the LDS church for cultural and political reasons, so for me this is the only place I’m going to be able to find ordinances of salvation”?

    And can you honestly say that there is no significant difference between these two answers, both of which can be answered in exactly the way you worded it? Once someone decides it’s okay to Clintonize their answers, there seems to be no way to trust any answer they give without the ability to ask pointed follow on questions. If Kate Kelly is in fact Clintonizing, as I suspect she is, I think this is a significant ethical issue on her part and she is leaving honest seekers of truth about where she is coming from very few alternatives but to ask her increasingly pointed questions.

    I’m not trying to make an accusation here, Hawk, maybe Kate Kelly does in fact believe in unique authority of the LDS church – though if she did, she should have just answered the question — but it is possible she means the second as well. Do you honestly believe that this makes no difference or that it is really just no one business but her own? I find that very hard to believe.

    Tell you what, Hawk, I’d like to know the answer myself. As an interested party, are you interested in asking her yourself and following up questions until we’re satisfied we have a factually correct answer from her?

  86. Now that I’ve slept on the conversation, I want to address something you said. “So here is the crux of my objection to the Mormon Matters approach to dialogue. It is based on a “We Attack / You Defend” model which I find to be an unfair and unbalanced approach to sincere dialogue.”

    I think the reason why “liberal” websites are more prominent in the bloggernacle is because at church, the roles are reversed. At church, they also follow the “We Attack / You Defend” model. At church, I feel exactly like you do at Mormon Matters. If I proposed that it was ok for me to change the cultural rules at church, you and Jettboy would be all over me (as you jumped on Howard, and by the way I don’t believe the BoM is fiction.) So, are you willing to come to my ward and so that I or Andrew or John Dehlin can speak with a liberal voice at church without getting dog-piled? Is that even an appropriate request for me to make?

  87. Mormon Heretic,

    “So I would say we have less liberal AND less conservative permas and commenters than MM. But it seems to me, just like at MM, W&T is accused of being too liberal by some, and too conservative by others.”

    I have said this a few times to AndrewS, but honestly, I think you’re right.

    You have have found your niche and you play it well. Don’t let anyone tell you you are not legitimate.

  88. Btw, I am *extremely* impressed with the quality and tone of the discussion on what is clearly an emotional and controversial subject. You all rock!

  89. Mormon Heretic,

    Had I been advocating that Mormon Matters should have changed or was illegtimate, then your argument would have been valid. But I didn’t. So it’s not.

    ;-)

    As I’ve said many times, there is simply nothing wrong with Mormon Matters. It was what it was and it had its place in the overall dialogue.

  90. Howard, I didn’t delete anything, I swear.

    Did any of the moderator’s delete Howard’s comments? Or did the site eat it?

  91. I haven’t deleted anything, but maybe someone else has.

    However, Howard is a little paranoid – he’s accused me of deleting comments when all that happened was I hadn’t visited the site to moderate in a while and his comment was caught in a spam filter for some reason.

  92. Thanks for the kind words Bruce. I guess when you raised your objection to the MM model of dialogue, and gave us some rules ideas on a better comment policy, it appeared that you’d like to see changes to make it more comfortable for you.

    As for evasive answers from people like John Dehlin or Kate Kelly, I have tried to pin down both non-believers like DougG as well as more orthodox types (most recently Fiona Givens) and I feel that they have been similarly evasive. So I feel kinship with your frustration, but evasion is often given by all spectrums of belief. When someone asks me a question, I usually copy the question and answer it. Not everyone feels bound by those rules, whether orthodox, liberal, moderate, or non-believer. Once again, I share your frustration in that area.

  93. Bruce, I am in Argentina, and there is a general strike going on, and my internet is completely screwy, doing crazy things. It is possible I may have deleted Howard’s comment unwittingly as I was clicking around on the page. Howard, please post again and I will ignore. No intent to get in the middle of the Howard/Bruce discussion, which is very entertaining.

  94. MH,

    Yeah… this is a long conversation, so I don’t blame you for your confusion on my stance.

    So, the honest truth is that I’ve long taken the stance you can’t acheive balance on a single site (or you can, but you’ll end up with varied types of balance because there is no one encompassing definition) and that instead I care more about the ‘overall balance’ on the internet itself — is every view point available?

    AndrewS has long taken the stance that it can be achieved in one place (though perhaps it hasn’t been) and we should try to fix it. The part you read where I’m making suggestions was a short foray into “okay, might it be possible and how might we make it work?”

    I suppose I’m still open to the possibility, but I’m also still quite skeptical. But within that context, I hope you see that I wasn’t seriously trying to force W&T to change.

    You make an interesting point about evasive answers on both sides. Obviously I have NOT experienced it with conservative members, but then maybe that makes sense given my niche on the Bloggernacle.

    Tell you what, I’d like to work with you the next time that happens (if you can remember.) I want to lurk and watch it and see if I can figure out why they are being evasive.

  95. Bruce, As I mentioned, in my current post “Elder Oaks Lights up the Bloggernacle”, Fiona refused to answer my direct question on how I misrepresented her position. Check it out. I can look for non-believers too, but I can’t think of any recently. You mentioning DougG brought back a lot of memories, because I remember battling him on the Spaulding Manuscript, as well as WordPrint studies. Let me know if you want links. (I have been to Main Street Plaza a few times; except for Andrew and Chanson, I don’t like the tone there, but they don’t seem to like to answer questions.) But anyway, I suspect you’re more interested in seeing orthodox evasion than non-believer evasion anyway. If you want more examples, let me know and I’ll look around.

  96. Pingback: Real Dialogue Hurts: Bruce Nielson Challenges John Dehlin To No-Holds-Barred Interview | Sixteen Small Stones

  97. I have overwhelming examples of non-believing evasion, of course. So, yes, I’m more interested in “orthodox” evasion.

    I’m not doubting you. But I may have just not seen it much because I too live in a skewed world where I hang out on non-balanced sites and prefer to hear my own opinions echoed back at me or at least make sure there is sufficient agreement with me before I post.

    Heck, I’m an idealogue and I know it. But I do sometimes get frustrated with both sides on stuff like this. I’ll check out your post.

  98. Howard is a little paranoid – he’s accused me… Ivan I don’t recall our interacting directly but in any case since all of my comments are moderated I see them right after I post them but the audience doesn’t. From that point there seems to be three outcomes 1) they are posted 2) they disappear 3) they remain in mod que. When they just disappear I assume they’ve been deleted, does the span filter grab them out of mod que?

  99. Wow, MH, that is a mighty subtle argument (between you and fiona). I think I might have to re-read it a few times to wrap my brain around it before I can even comment.

    It seems like she is saying “Realistically, male power exists. The church is not going to be successful if we don’t accept this (for now) and use that as a way of sneaking in female priesthood authority via the temple.”

    To which you seem to be saying, “I don’t buy that. Won’t it eventually come back to bite us? Is that just really support of male hierarchy?”

    To which she is saying, “I told you I don’t support male hierarchy, why do you keep mischaracterizing me?”

    To which you are saying, “But I’m not mischaracterizing you? Where am I miss characterizing you?”

    To which she is saying, “Go listen to what I have to say in full before you mischaracterize me!”

    And somewhere in there I get lost.

  100. See, the funny thing is Nathaniel Givens basically did what I asked Fiona; apparently Fiona was too upset with me to actually do it. (Are they related?) Then she disappeared, and now I’ve promised to transcribe the darn interview to prove that I didn’t misquote her…. I’m going to try a re-write of the paragraph in question, and see if she answers, but I’m not hopeful.

    But I can get other examples of orthodox evasion if you really want me to.

  101. This wasn’t a bad example. And yes, more examples please (no hurry, just as you come across them.)

    It is interesting that the nature of the evasion and reason for it seems to be drastically different than the nature of reason behind “liberal evasion.”

    Specifically, her evasion isn’t an evasion in her head. It’s happening because she’s done a “read through” on you and has decided you “mean” something different than what you claim you are saying and that she has “interpreted you correctly” and that you are up to no good and she therefore has no reason to respond to you.

    Specifically, she feels its just *obvious* that she isn’t support male hedgemony and is merely accepting it and is even, in her own way, trying to undermine it. You feel her approach is going to backfire, therefore she actually is unintentionally support male hedgemony. She can’t conceive the possibility that you might be right, so the only possible reason you can be saying she supports male hedgemony is because you’re a liar trying to misrepresent her. So she owes you nothing.

    As someone that isn’t so sure I can predict the future, for what its worth, I think you are probably both right in your own way given a long enough timeframe to play things out.

  102. Howard, I don’t recall exactly which post of mine it was, but I recall logging in and seeing a comment from you (in the moderation queue) that said something like “so, Ivan I see that you don’t actually hold to your supposed values of open dialogue, since you deleted my post” – I had no idea what you were referring to, but did find a (somewhat borderline, but still allowable) comment from you among comments labeled spam.

  103. Okay Ivan I don’t recall but I’ll take your word for it. Sometimes I do attempt to negotiate my way out of the M* mod que by using a second moderated comment. Peace!

  104. If anything, Fiona’s argument is actually a liberal and not a conservative one. So, its not a good answer to show conservatives as evasive. On the other hand, I have known conservatives who do get evasive when they feel the questions are misleading or trying to misrepresent what they just said; that happens all the time. You ask a conservative a question you are going to get a straight answer. If the question is a follow up trying to dismantle an otherwise straight answer for a totally uncalled for interpretation (“so you do beat your wife?” “No, I said that I believe that men are the head of the household and therefore the final say.”) of course you are going to get evasions.

  105. Ok Bruce, I’ll keep an eye out for orthodox evasion. But just so you know, you and i are on the same team (believers)! I don’t want you to think I’m doing this to annoy you. Shall I just email you my examples?

  106. Well, when Fiona said that she is basically seeking to undermine the Priesthood to bring in Female ordinations eventually, then that seems pretty liberal to me. Assuming that both you and Bruce are accurate in the interpretation of what she said. I didn’t actually say Paul was liberal, only that his methods would have been in the direction of Apostasy if he chose to force changes by other means than prayer, proper authoritative discussions, and revelation. You can twist my words at your own site. I won’t allow you to do it here.

  107. MH,

    Yes, more examples. And believe me, I am frustrated with Fiona’s response too. I’m just observing that the dodge was for very different reasons then when a liberal does it. But is this really surprising?

    I believe you you are on the same team. Despite my calling out of issues like this — what does ‘believer’ mean? what are the doctrines of teh church? what do you really believe? — the simple truth is that when you give me an answer, I pretty much never care other than I’ll make you follow your logic through. I consider Nate who comments here to be 100% a believer even though he’s pretty dang non-standard. I do think people bind themselves to the church in various ways.

    My exploration into meaning-memes was my way fo trying to get past the ‘believer’ vs. ‘non-believer’ question and get to the real issue: some people compete with the church and others don’t. But even this is ‘complicated’ at best. (For example, what if John Dehlin, who I believe *is* trying to compete with teh church, ends up substantially helping it through his efforts?)

  108. Jettboy, Fiona said that she supported male priesthood so that we can get *women to go through the temple* because the temple presents a more fair balanced relationship between men and women than most societies are at today. I did not see it as a liberal view.

  109. Sorry Jettboy, I stand corrected. Let me re-phrase.

    Jettboy, everyone is apostate in your world except for you. (Even the apostle Paul was leaning toward apostasy. Jeesh!)

    I would think it takes effort to be that disagreable Jettboy, but you do it so naturally. It’s so good to see the culture of dialogue alive and well here at M*. It truly is outstanding in its ability to promote dialogue among the sides.

    Bruce, “the dodge was for very different reasons then when a liberal does it.” It sounds like you’re casting aspersions on liberals, while dismissing it when a conservative does it because the conservatives motives are “better” when they dodge. For me, a dodge is a dodge. While I appreciate your input on why Fiona dodged (because it really did help me glimpse into her mind), I don’t view it as “better.” I don’t like it when either side does it, so I’m less likely to give it a pass because BOTH sides do it to me, so I really don’t like dodges. I do want to understand why people dodge, but I still don’t like dodges and don’t believe one dodge is more noble than another.

  110. “It sounds like you’re casting aspersions on liberals, while dismissing it when a conservative does it because the conservatives motives are “better” when they dodge.:”

    Honestly not sure yet.

    I do see a sort of ‘accidental’ quality to what Fiona did. She was so closed minded she couldn’t see you had asked valid questions. But when it comes down to it, there wasn’t much for her to reply to you but to say “I am making a different prediction than you, so I agree to disagree.” So even if she had not dodged, there doesn’t seem to be much left to say because the disagreement came down to something unproven and unprovable on both sides.

    I share your frustration, though. I find it pretty disagreeable that she didn’t even give you the benefit of the doubt nor the courtesy to take you seriously enough to just at least *try* to explain herself.

    So if you’re saying “Bruce, you’re biased” I’m not going to argue. I probably am. But the only way I know to change my mind is to go through this exercise with you and to discuss.

  111. Ok Bruce, I do have an idea. I have promised Fiona that I will transcribe the interview of her, Margaret Young, and Neylan McBaine. I do recall that when John asked Fiona and Margaret in particular some “tough” questions, they dodged. So when I get that transcript up (on my blog and/or W&T) I encourage you to look at those dodges. I will also keep my eye out for others. (Wow this transcript is important for a few reasons now….I guess I better get typing.)

  112. Actaully, that makes sense!

    Yes, of course! I would expect a conservative — if asked a difficult social question — to prefer a dodge! Or in some cases.

  113. I haven’t been paying too too much attention to the conversation between MH et al, but it seems to me that if we want to look at a parallel example of conservative evasiveness on beliefs, then we could point to institutional examples.

    One statement from Bruce caught my eye:

    If it isn’t relevant, then she’d answer the question, of course. Presumably the reason she doesn’t want to answer the question is precisely because she fears the truth would hinder her movement.,

    Bruce has some comments suggesting that 1) conservatives are not evasive because their beliefs are public. For example, from the OP:

    “Side 1″ is a well-developed religion and a well-developed and far-reaching (whether true or false) explanation or theory of reality. It is that well-developed “TBM” theory of reality that we were having a critical discussion about! And there is a considerable body of knowledge publicly available that defines this religion just waiting for anyone to criticize, as we’d expect of any sincere attempt to explain the nature of something, religious or otherwise.

    Or from the comments,

    The only difference is a sort of cultural understanding that because a “TBMs” beliefs happen to be already public, and therefore can be phrased in terms of beliefs of a faceless organization, that somehow this makes them less intrusive and less personal than when I ask equivalent questions of Kate Kelly.

    Alternatively, Bruce has comments that say that 2) when conservative appear to evade, it’s for other reasons…for example

    I do see a sort of ‘accidental’ quality to what Fiona did. She was so closed minded she couldn’t see you had asked valid questions.

    But it seems to me that (1) can be countered. Mormon beliefs appear to be public, but in actuality, figuring out what Mormon beliefs are is tricky, and the gap between what is authoritative, what is doctrinal, what is policy, what is folklore, etc., can be exploited.

    For example, many folks (non-LDS, LDS, former LDS all) would think that Mormons believe that “As man is now, God once was; as God now is, man may become.”. Yet, in an interview, the Prophet can say, “I don’t know that we teach it; I don’t know that we emphasize it.”

    Is this evasive? it seems to me that some people could have reason for seeing it that way, and for those who do see it that way, they would likely assign the same sorts of motivations that Bruce attributes to Kate Kelly (e.g., “Presumably the reason [the Prophet] doesn’t want to answer the question is precisely because he fears the truth would hinder his movement”) and not the motivations that Bruce attributes to Fiona (e.g., “I do see a sort of ‘accidental’ quality to what [the Prophet] did. He was so closed minded he couldn’t see [the reporter] had asked valid questions.”)

    In contrast to presenting questions about LDS beliefs in terms of “the beliefs of a faceless organization” creating a cultural understanding where intrusive questions appear to be unobtrusive, such a possibility to pin statements, concepts, to a faceless organization allow for evasion. Is a statement from the Mormon Newsroom authoritative? Is a new update on LDS.org on controversial topics that is anonymous and undated authoritative?

    Far from LDS beliefs being public and well known, they are extremely fuzzy, which allows believers great leeway in determining how they will answer questions about those beliefs.

  114. I honestly feel like you are only part right, AndrewS.

    The real truth is that it’s pretty easy to get a truthful and accurate answer to every single one of those questions. And Mormons are pretty aggressive at trying to teach them to you as soon as possible. This is a far cry from being totally unable to get an answer, period.

    There is a ‘sound bite’ problem that I’ve written about in the past. And you are really mostly refering to that. If I’m asked “Do Mormons believe, ‘As man is now, God once was; as God now is, man may become’?” It turns out that’s a somewhat complicated answer rooted in doctrine and history and wording and understanding of words.

    If you are willing to give me 2 hours of time to give you the full answer, you betcha I’ll sit down with you and make sure you get it in full. If you are only allowing me a 30 second response, the prophets answer was about as accurate as could have been expected. And people that said otherwise on Mormon Matters in my opinion were not really being honest with their answers. They *wanted* to see a problem that wasn’t there. I still remember Clay putting up “I don’t know that we teach that” but entirely leaving off the rest of the answer (where he goes on to explain it’s a matter of emphasis.)

    So, while I agree with you to some degree, AndrewS, I think there is still an overwhelming difference here.

  115. Oh, AndrewS, one other thing. For the sake of argument, let’s say you disagree with me that this is primarily a sound bite problem and let’s say you convince me that in fact both sides have a pretty substantial problem with dodging.

    Okay, fair enough.

    But isn’t the question whether or not these are fair questions? And isn’t a dodge still a dodge?

    Its one thing to say “well Kate Kelly dodged, but so did the prophet” which is your point. It’s another thing entirely to say “well, the questions to the prophet weren’t valid questions because the questions to Kate Kelly weren’t valid quesetions.” Are you honestly saying that? Or can we agree that both sets of questions were valid? (Regardless of who is or isn’t more honest.)

    Also, let’s face it, even if you’re right that “TBMs” dodge and their beliefs are fuzzy to the public, that sure isn’t the case for those of us on the various Mormon blogs. We’re more than a bit educated on Mormon beliefs.

  116. Bruce,

    I don’t think it’s easy to get a truthful and accurate answer to each of those questions because, as you yourself admit,

    It turns out that’s a somewhat complicated answer rooted in doctrine and history and wording and understanding of words.

    2 hours is not “pretty easy.” But we could say that about pretty much anyone who is asked any “tough question” (or even a simple question in a complex environment) in a sound bite situation.

    I disagree that Mormons “are pretty aggressive at trying to teach them to you as soon as possible” on many issues. This is why plenty of folks respond that we don’t teach controversial history or controversial theological issues in Sunday School because it’s not important to lead with those issues when we can give more succinct, softer, faith-promoting answers instead (because that’s the point of those venues.)

    I think it’s a little bit different, in that many questions in Mormonism don’t have a single truthful, accurate answer. You’ve got people who have spent a lot of time coming up with ways to make a unified grant theory to Mormon theology, but none of those are authoritative.

  117. ‘many questions in Mormonism don’t have a single truthful, accurate answer”

    Yeah, that’s true enough.

    “2 hours is not “pretty easy.” ”

    Now we’re talking semantics. If you are going to define off the bat ‘2 hours’ as ‘not pretty easy’ then I guess you’re right by default.

    But my real point was ‘if you want a full answer, its available.’

  118. “Realistically, male power exists. The church is not going to be successful if we don’t accept this (for now) and use that as a way of sneaking in female priesthood authority via the temple.”
    Is different than:
    “Fiona said that she supported male priesthood so that we can get *women to go through the temple* because the temple presents a more fair balanced relationship”

    One set of words “sneaking” and “for now” is about undermining the existing structure. The other is about exactly what Elder Oaks was talking about, recognizing the power is given everyone even if the responsibility is with males only.

  119. Bruce,

    Its one thing to say “well Kate Kelly dodged, but so did the prophet” which is your point. It’s another thing entirely to say “well, the questions to the prophet weren’t valid questions because the questions to Kate Kelly weren’t valid quesetions.” Are you honestly saying that? Or can we agree that both sets of questions were valid?

    Per my final part of my last comment, if the reason the prophet can dodge is because many questions *don’t* have single truthful, authoritative answers, then that does raise the question of whether the questions asked are useful or reliable, if not valid.

    One of the points I’ve been trying to make (probably not directly as I could) is that all of this probing is derailing to many topics. If I write a post on things Mormons against women’s ordination can support to still be for gender equality, and someone says, “Well, you’re just an exmormon, so I am not going to engage this post,” that is not helpful or useful commentary. If someone probes me to see where I actually stand in Mormonism (which isn’t hidden), so that they can conclude, “Oh, but you’re an exmormon, so I am not going to engage this post,” then that is not helpful or useful commentary to the post.

    If I am critiquing exmormons for having what I think to be an un-nuanced view of Mormonism, but they say, “Do you actually believe this nuanced view?” when I say, “No, I personally do not, but I know many folks who do,” I don’t find it helpful for them to say, “Well, you don’t actually believe this, so I’m not going to even attempt to engage what you just said.”

    If we’re trying to figure out where Kate Kelly stands on priesthood simply to say, “Well, you believe something differently than what I believe on this; therefore, I will view that as apostate and contrary to the church,” when maybe there *are* multiple ways of looking at these things and it is still an ongoing question on which way is decisive, then that is a helpful metric here.

    If we’re trying to figure out where Mormons stand on God’s progression, man’s progression, etc., just to say, “Well, you believe something differently than what other Christians believe on this, therefore you’re not Christian, and you’re just some weird cult with weird beliefs,” then that’s just not a helpful line of questions. (Certainly, we can have a discussion on cults, what the criteria of Christianity is or should be, etc., but if that’s not the discussion we’re having today, why derail the current conversation to get that in?)

    That’s why throughout my comments I have said I have no problem with someone writing posts about me to try to psychoanalyze me. Yeah, I’ll probably think they are way off, and have too much time on their hands…but if that is the topic of the discussion, that is the topic of discussion. but if people want to derail my own posts to do the same thing — I’m not necessarily going to ban them (because I try not to ban anyone), but I’m going to be super annoyed at their horrible manners in derailing my conversation.

    “2 hours is not “pretty easy.” ”

    Now we’re talking semantics. If you are going to define off the bat ’2 hours’ as ‘not pretty easy’ then I guess you’re right by default.

    But my real point was ‘if you want a full answer, its available.’

    I feel like this is many liberal Mormons often want to tell me “If you study source documents and invest your entire life in researching things beyond internet sites, then an answer is available.”

    Whether this is 2 hours or reading books and books of source documents (where people can STILL DISAGREE at the end of the day), I’m not buying that. I can buy that the answer is COMPLEX, but not then that it’s “pretty easy”.

    maybe you can try to take 2 hours some time to convince me otherwise . You might get there, but it wouldn’t be “pretty easy”. ;)

  120. Andrew S,

    First, okay, 2 hours of work isn’t so much ‘pretty easy’ as ‘accessible.’ Which was my real point. No point in me arguing over a term with you. I’ll let you own it.

    And when we’re talking about the specific examples you used (like the couplet) we’re not talking about anything like unto doing research your whole life to get an answer.

    Further, the answer can actually be boiled down pretty simply. One line of the couplet is directly backed by revelation, the other half isn’t, but is widely assumed to be true. See! That *was* pretty easy! The reason I leave 2 hours of leeway is because I know for experience people have so many perceived notions of LDS views intermingled with their own non-LDS views of things like revelation that I’ll need the next 2 hours to help an unknowledeable person sort it all out. You wouldn’t need that, of course.

    “Per my final part of my last comment, if the reason the prophet can dodge is because many questions *don’t* have single truthful, authoritative answers, then that does raise the question of whether the questions asked are useful or reliable, if not valid.”

    Without denying that there are cases where you are right, this isn’t one of them. The issue was a sound bite problem. There is a defintive doctrinal answer that is useful and I just gave it.

    You place a huge emphasis on the idea that once someone knows you’re an exmormon they don’t care about your views (even though perhaps accurate) any more. And I can’t deny this probably happens. And, yes, that principle couuld reapply in reverse. Someone might blow off KK as a non-believer because she doesn’t believe in the LDS concept of priesthood and yet had they stuck around they’d have realized her arguments were valid regardless.

    But such is defintely not the case with me and Kate Kelly, and I’d hope you could honestly admit that. No one is blowing her off upfront due to irrelevant beliefs.

    Somewhere in all this, that seems like the piece your argument keeps missing. Yes, its possible to blow someone off irrationally due to irrelevant beliefs (or belief status). But such just isn’t the case here and it’s sort of obvious. So I’m not really sure why you keep using this example.

    I did argue that if KK doesn’t believe in LDS priesthood while starting a movement to change the LDS priesthood that this had directly relevance to a believer if they want to be part of the movement or not. Do you seriously see that as not the case?

    Also OW THEMSELVES made a huge deal about the importance of them being believing members — just like anyone else — over and over again. Its a key part of their sales pitch. So its them that made their beliefs and belief status a front an center question.

    And again, how could questions about what KK believes about LDS priesthood NOT be releveant to a movement specifically about changing the LDS priesthood? I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s honestly mind boggling that this is anything but obvious.

    This isn’t a govermental decision we’re talking about. This is a member of the chess club wanting to turn it into the checkers club rather than join the checkers club. Even if there is a good reason for this — her friends and family are all in the chess club but she prefers checkers — I fail to see anything but relevance here.

    However, “all of this probing is derailing to many topics”… yes, I admit this is true in some cases. For many topics it is true. It just isn’t true for all topics.

    One thing to consider, though, Andrew, is that belief — particularly in Mormonism — tends to be an interwoven tapestry. It is difficult to make sense of what some people say because they change one part of the tapestry but you haven’t he foggiest idea how that affected everything else – though clearly it must have. Religious doctrine takes an a sort of explanatory framework. If you change one thing, it all ripples.

    In your specific example, there were no ripples precisely because you are an exmormon and the topic was honestly sufficiently secular for you to hold a valid opinion.

    But whether or not you are an exmormon *does* play a role in many questions and how I would assess some of your answers. And it should in some cases. I guess it depends on the question and maybe even the context. So let’s say instead you were writing about the importance of changing X or Y doctrine and how it didn’t matter to Mormons in the end. Well, honestly, that you are an exmormon is starting to have a much stronger bearing on the question now. And if I found out you were an exmormon, yes, blowing you off would make a great deal of sense in this case.

  121. Jettboy, I suppose arguing with Fiona’s position using my paraphrase is sort of unfair to Fiona. The real point was that Fiona isn’t taking a liberal view as far as I can see. She is coming up with a defense of how things are, so it would technically be a conservative view.

  122. But such is defintely not the case with me and Kate Kelly

    I believe you.

    But, in my experience you are a notable exception to the faithful in this regard. I suspect that you well know this and that this is big part of your motivation in unmasking her or others because you know much of your audience will quickly tune out and ignore the merit of arguments being presented.

    Also OW THEMSELVES made a huge deal about the importance of them being believing members

    Okay, but beliefs vary. I have a very, very strong testimony of the restoration backed up by profound personal revelation. I doubt you know anyone with as strong a testimony of it! But as you know, some of my beliefs differ from yours and from the watered down correlated SS gospel indoctrination that passes for today’s LDS doctrine. Am I a believer? I KNOW I am! But, I suspect many in the M* audience strongly disagree or at least doubt my beliefs. But, who are any of you to judge? If you want to rule out the adversary or rule in, truth apply Moroni’s challenge to my arguments but don’t put me down because in you’re opinion my belief isn’t enough or another way to say it is don’t put me down because I sin differently than you. My belief is certainly a lot more than a mustard seed!

    The problem from the heterodox view point is that the orthodox put more emphasis on the source of the argument than it’s content or it’s merit, faith promoting is elevated above logic or even TRUTH! And visa versa. This makes for two different conversations that are talking past each while using opposite dodges with each group feeling justified in using their dodge in order to remain in the discussion.

  123. Bruce,

    One line of the couplet is directly backed by revelation, the other half isn’t, but is widely assumed to be true.

    The very word “revelation” has a bunch of baggage and uncertainty behind it. It is another operating term in Mormonism that is poorly defined and will net you different answers depending on who you ask, what time period they are talking about, what situation they are talking about, etc., Saying, “Half is directly backed by revelation” only reveals how *not* easy answering this question is.

    Being knowledgeable about the complexity of a topic like revelation doesn’t mean that knowledgeable people on the subject will not nevertheless disagree on what the “official” position is on whether x item is revelation or not. So it’s not easy, even with knowledge. So then, add in people who are less knowledgeable.

    You place a huge emphasis on the idea that once someone knows you’re an exmormon they don’t care about your views (even though perhaps accurate) any more. And I can’t deny this probably happens. And, yes, that principle couuld reapply in reverse. Someone might blow off KK as a non-believer because she doesn’t believe in the LDS concept of priesthood and yet had they stuck around they’d have realized her arguments were valid regardless.

    My contention here is that you’re assuming that the LDS concept of priesthood is set in stone (e.g, “The LDS concept of priesthood”), established decisively. Really, the hypothetical is, “Someone might blow off KK as a non-believer because she doesn’t believe in the concept of priesthood that they think is the LDS concept of priesthood and yet had they stuck around, they’d have realized her arguments were valid regardless.”

    As I see it, a MAJOR part of the OW movement’s purpose is precisely to point out that many of the things that people claim to know about the LDS concept of priesthood are not revealed, not decisively established, etc., etc., When they want the leaders to address women’s ordination, they say, “Hey, if this is set in revelation, tell us that God said that. Please confirm it with God so that we can know this isn’t just culture, tradition, etc., But if this is not set in revelation, and it’s just something that we’ve been doing this way because of other reasons, then see what God has to say about that too.”

    So,

    And again, how could questions about what KK believes about LDS priesthood NOT be releveant to a movement specifically about changing the LDS priesthood?

    If your questions are to establish, “KK does not believe in the status quo of priesthood, so she is an apostate trying to change the priesthood,” this is begging the question. Duh, she is seeking a change to the status quo. But really, even if she doesn’t believe what you believe is the LDS concept of the priesthood, what is still open is whether or not what you believe is the LDS concept of the priesthood is free of any cultural baggage, or whether it has cultural baggage.

    The OW makes a big stink about being believing members not to try to say that they are like you (obviously not), but to establish that believing members can be diverse on this position.

    So let’s say instead you were writing about the importance of changing X or Y doctrine and how it didn’t matter to Mormons in the end. Well, honestly, that you are an exmormon is starting to have a much stronger bearing on the question now. And if I found out you were an exmormon, yes, blowing you off would make a great deal of sense in this case.

    I would say you should evaluate the topic on its merits. In other words, evaluate whether changing X or Y doctrine is important, and whether it will matter in the end. If you disagree that it won’t matter, make that point — instead of just saying, “Oh, you’re an exmormon. Blowing you off.”

    If you say, “Hey, because you’re an exmormon, I disagree with your assessment on changing X or Y and I think you mis-assess this because you don’t appreciate how for believing Mormons, X and Y is connected with A, B, C, and D” I think that would make sense.

    If you just steer clear of the discussion, I think that would make sense.

    But if you’re just going to comment on every post, “This guy’s an exmormon; better stop listening to him,” then that’s extremely annoying to me.

  124. in fact, the extent to which people are like that would ENCOURAGE me to be MORE evasive.

    I just personally don’t like wearing a mask. I did too much of that in church.

  125. Bruce,

    Well done on this post! This, for me, rings absolutely true. Every online forum or FB thread I have ever participated in where mormonism is discussed has gone like this:

    1) Liberal mormon makes offensive statement about my beliefs.

    2) I defend.

    3) Liberals pile on me.

    4) I don’t back down. Instead I take it to them.

    5) They call me mean. Say that I am being offensive (ironic given 1 above) and hurting feelings.

    6) Liberals suggest I have emotional problems.

    7) I’m invited to leave, which I do.

    8) Feelings remain hurt (except mine). I’m seen as a jerk.

    See here for an example of what I am talking about (in the comments), where John refuses to answer even a simple question about his original post to clarify what he meant: http://mormonstories.org/my-initial-reactions-to-the-churchs-history-essays/

    This has been especially true with any interaction with John Dehlin, whose post on this thread accepting your invitation is noticeably absent. Unfortunately, my prior probability for that happening is very low.

  126. Tyler, this is what happens when I’m at church.

    1) Conservative mormon makes offensive statement about my beliefs.

    2) I defend.

    3) Conservatives pile on me.

    4) I don’t back down. Instead I take it to them.

    5) They call me mean. Say that I am being offensive (ironic given 1 above) and hurting feelings.

    6) Conservatives suggest I have emotional problems.

    7) I’m invited to leave, so I go out in the hall and read my scriptures or another good theology or Mormon history book.

    8) Feelings remain hurt (except mine). I’m seen as a jerk.

    As for the rest of your comment, well I already cited Fiona Givens above, so go read that.

  127. Heretic,

    I think you need to re-read the OP. There is a difference between our experiences. You have your experience at a mormon church (I’m assuming), which exists for the sole purpose of strengthening the (traditional) faith of those that attend.

    The forums and posts that I am talking about, where I have had my experiences, are directly attacking my traditional mormon beliefs. It is not as if I was attending some kind of opposite church, where people worship in an anti-mormon way and I show up and start mocking their beliefs. No, these forums, blogs, podcasts, FB threads are set up to discuss mormonism from a non-traditional (often non-believing, and even mocking) perspective. Our experiences are not parallel – in fact they are orthogonal.

    Also, I doubt your #1. Can you give an example?

  128. Tyler, the difference is in the eye of the beholder. I encourage you to read the interactions between Bruce and I above. He at least acknowledges that he might have blind spots–you don’t.

    To fully explain this, it might take a while (but not 2 hours :) ) I’ll try the Readers Digest version. A few weeks ago, we had a lesson on Abraham. I personally find the idea that he tried to sacrifice his son as repulsive. I’ve blogged about it extensively. See my first 3 posts at this link if you’re really interested: http://mormonheretic.org/?s=Abraham&submit=Search I’m not holding my breath that you’ll read them.)

    Anyway, here’s the short version. An ancient Jewish rabbi explained that Abraham was deceived, and the angel of God stopped Abraham from repeating the mistake of his father. Furthermore, the prophet Jeremiah condemned Israel for thinking infant sacrifice was godly. Jeremiah pointed to Abraham to say, “Look this isn’t right.”

    So yeah, it’s unorthodox, but this is my belief. I tried to voice it. People dog-piled me. I’m new in the ward. A few days later, the visiting teachers came over to visit my wife. One of the ladies that pummeled me in class was there. Now that she was in my home, I explained myself better. This time she didn’t interrupt. It was my home turf after all. I’ve seen her at church since then. She doesn’t really talk to me anymore. Whatevs.

    All in all, the experience wasn’t quite so bad as I copied your comment, but it’s my most recent example, and happened just about a month ago. In my old ward, I did sit in the hall because Sunday School was unbearably bad. I think my bishopric was glad, because nobody complained about me in the hall. Nobody ever encouraged me to go to class.

    So yeah, I get where you’re coming from. It’s not fun, is it? Maybe you could make it more comfortable for me at church, and I’ll make if more comfortable for you on the blogs. Deal?

  129. I have really enjoyed this discussion, its openness and comprehensiveness — thanks to all responsible, both Bruce and all commenters, from this lurker.

    A dimension to the issues raised by Howard, etc… that I don’t see discussed very often (if at all) is the realities of our lay leadership at the local levels; frankly, I have to admit that as someone who is pretty conservative or traditionalist in my beliefs I would have a rather difficult time, at least as of today, sustaining a bishop, stake president, etc… who held certain views. I would cite for example a nonbelief in the historiocity of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps that is wrongheaded on my part, and I certainly am willing to admit that this view may be something I need to repent of, but it is what it is. And I suspect that most active members of the Church would expect their line leaders to hold to a pretty orthodox line on those types of things. So, the issue in my mind is how much deviation from standard is tolerable in an organization where leadership is drawn from the group in such a way as the Church does.

    And I don’t think we can fall back to the inspired nature of all callings…I’ve been around enough leadership at the bishopric and stake levels to know that not all callings are revealed to leaders as if from Sinai, that it is often (though certainly not always) more akin to working it out in one’s own mind.

    Any thoughts on this dimension? Should more figurative strains of belief be tolerated in the pews, but not on the stand?

  130. I would prefer my bishop is an individual who loves the flock, loves God, and has talent at leading than an individual who literally believes what they learned as a child but is harsh to the members and inept at building the kingdom.

    As bishops are heavily vetted, I don’t think we have to worry too much that there’ll be a bishop who will actively challenge the historicity of the Book of Mormon from the stand. Then again, you might have someone who believes it was given as revelation to Joseph, but rather than necessarily describing peoples in the American continents was perhaps a record of exiled Kohanim, such as the Lemba. If the Book of Mormon described a righteous faction of the Lemba, then my reason for questioning shifts from DNA (which is entirely explainable, by the way) to wondering why God would trans-locate the record from southern Africa to New York. But on the other hand, it’s much easier to allow an omnipotent God to trans-locate a few kilos of stuff across the world than some other things doubters question.

    I’ve lived in a Church were many leaders think Joseph Smith was a coercive, lying, and manipulative individual who bedded dozens of women. And yet somehow they are able to decide that God’s Church was more important than their doubts, locking the doubts in a little box where the doubts could meep away without disturbing their ministry. I myself was one such leader.

    God will use those who put themselves in His hands. And as we open ourselves to the spirit, He will sanctify our hearts and minds as we serve.

  131. Observer wrote: “I would have a rather difficult time, at least as of today, sustaining a bishop, stake president, etc… who held certain views.”

    I agree this would present a problem for many people yet that is the position I’ve been placed in many times. I recognize that pew studies and the CoC experience show that moving away from a fundamentalist view will likely cause the loss of some orthodox believers and some growth rate On the other hand if we define the church as a sect of the gosple rather than the gospel on earth we are confining it to a small % of potential believers. How could we allow broader belief AND grow at high rates? By returning to true thus saith the Lord revelation. If the spiritual gifts of the early restored church were occurring in abundance today these stumbling blocks would simply fade away in our minds. Instead today the few explanations we do receive come by way if the NewsRoon, the PR dept., the corolation dept or Apostles in GC but what does TSM have to say about it? No one knows yet he is the only one authorized to receive revelation for the church. Thus saith the Lord revelation would be a growth game changer for the church!

  132. Another was to grow the gospel might be to merge LDS and CoC but hold separate services. To prevent arguments about who’s lines of authority are correct the leaders of each church could cross ordain each others. The LDS church claims 15 million or so members but only 1 of 3 regularly attends and today the LDS church baptizes 4 to keep just 1. CoC would benefit by having access to the many LDS buildings, both services could be held in each building making CoC more accessible and access to the fruits of more missionaries. Then perhaps CoC can snag 1 in 4 of LDS baptisms that is currently going inactive and LDS continues to keep their 1 in four. The result is a DOUBLING of converts! Okay from the LDS perspective the CoC belief is somewhat lacking but isn’t it a lot more than a mustard seed?

  133. There are sociological reasons why the hierarchy/high-status believers in an organization need to be straightforwardly believers. Or at least to be seen as such, which mostly requires that they are.

  134. What exactly is a “straightforward believer”? My definition of the meat of religion is the mortalization of spirituality, it’s a symbolic approximation of something spiritual. If I believe in spiritual plates aren’t I moving away from the mortal and toward spirituality? To me this is more straightforward and a greater faith in God and in Joseph. Why do they have to be material? We have descriptions of head and stone in hat and that obviously puts the plates out of sight while “translation” (actually dictation?) is occurring. Some witness explained the plates were seen with their spiritual eyes, apparently a vision.

  135. For those from W&T and elsewhere who struggle with chapels and GenConf, I would say that no one forces any of us to attend. Or if we attend, no one forces us to speak in consensus with others. I know several who doubt, but attend respectively, and do not see a need to stir the waters, where they do not fit perfectly in.
    Gen Conf and Church shouldn’t make us always feel comfortable, whether we are TBMs or struggling with our testimonies. It should make us reach, stretch, hurt and grow.
    What is a problem is any person or group that seeks to attend, but insists on establishing their own form of doctrine as a replacement for core LDS doctrine. For me, it doesn’t matter if the Flood story is taught as global or local in Sunday School, as long as I am free to quietly observe my own belief in it, or share my thoughts on the bloggernacle – away from the chapel.

    There is a place for Mormon Matters, as the bloggernacle needs to have safe sites for all. However, I think the issue here is to ensure people understand that while Mormon Matters has a right to exist, it doesn’t have a right to pretend to be something it is not: a faithful and supportive LDS blog. When they chose to be on the opposite side, even though they sometimes stick close to the fence, they chose their side. M*, W&T, BCC and other blogs have each chosen their sides. Some have removed permabloggers that did not agree with their overall view (Adam G and a few others come to mind). That is their choice and right. We’ve had some tough discussions here at M* on occasion, regarding a post here or there. Yes, we’ve been called Nazis by some (which does not make sense, as we are more libertarian than socialist), because of some postings. Generally, however, we have maintained who we are, just as MM has maintained itself. But they are on different sides.

    Most posters here are against the Ordain Women movement. We disagree on whether Kate Kelley is an outright apostate or just misguided believer. So there are a range of beliefs and opinions here. At the same time, we can agree that the permas all are suspicious of MM (and we’re very glad to have Bruce blogging here), and that John Dehlin clearly posts material that questions faith. His Facebook statement to doubt anyone that tells you to doubt your doubts was clearly a potshot at Pres Uchtdorf, and I believe was situating himself contrary to the Church. For me, personally, I can see Kate Kelley as a faithful, but misguided member, while Dehlin is clearly in the apostate realm.

  136. “, I have to admit that as someone who is pretty conservative or traditionalist in my beliefs I would have a rather difficult time, at least as of today, sustaining a bishop, stake president, etc… who held certain views.”

    “Any thoughts on this dimension? Should more figurative strains of belief be tolerated in the pews, but not on the stand?”

    While allowing some room for what Meg suggests — someone with doubts that ‘locks them away’ I think there is a pretty strong pragmatic case to be made that leaders should believe in the core truth claims of the LDS church if at all possible and in the cases they aren’t (perhaps because of the size of the unit and lack of priesthood leaders?) that they are at least willing to ‘lock their doubts in a box’ and come across as such.

    Religion is built on shared beliefs. When this is missing, I think you simply cease to be a religion. In reality, there will always be some exceptions. But it would be wise to minimize that as much as possible.

    Honestly, I feel so strongly about this that as an off and on doubter myself, I would feel very strongly that I not accept certain callings unless I had made my full belief/doubt situation known first to make sure they really knew what they were doing. And even then I’d have to pray a lot about it. I think I’m a faithful believing member of the Church for sure, but I am not as sure someone like me should be the Bishop. I think the Bishop needs to be relatively straight up orthodox and believing with as few reservations as possible.

  137. MH,

    I’m sorry for your experience in church. You and I should talk about Abraham. I might have a few ideas that can be helpful there, since your’ basically right, it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around. But there is something being taught there — even if I don’t entirely understand it — that seems to be a true principle about faith.

    And maybe you’re right to set it out at times rather than be a disruption or put yourself through misery. I’m a strong advocate of choice in situations like this. Church should be a place where there is a set of ‘correlated’ beliefs taught. Which means we’ll all have problems at times.

    Have you read Kierkagard on Abraham? I haven’t yet, but it’s on my list. The quick summary suggested it might be interesting.

  138. Howard, considering how easily you believe the LDS and CofC can “cross pollinate” the Priesthood then I don’t see why it can’t be done right now for you to simply “cross the line” without mixing. The divine approval of the authority for Priesthood is obviously meaningless to you and therefore no mixing needs to be done. For that matter I say the same to the OW movement who seems to be treating the leadership with the same lack of respect to their authority. I will continue to believe, by the revelations I have received by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on Earth tasked with spreading the Gospel that leads people to the Kingdom that is the only Church with authority to do the ordinances of Salvation.

    I have said it before, and I will say it again; the Community of Christ is missing a great opportunity to expand their membership. They have everything that the liberal agitators are asking the LDS Church to become. I am with a wink and nod tempted to proselytize on their behalf. Then maybe the LDS Church can once again focus on its mission and not be side-tracked by the spiritually incompatible elements who refuse to conform to what I testify is God’s will.

  139. AndrewS,

    What I meant by “revelation” was “it’s in the D&C.” That gives that half of the couplet a higher status than the other half of the couplet. This is not difficult, Andrew.You’re just making it difficult unnecessarily through introduction of irrelevant ‘what ifs’.

    “As I see it, a MAJOR part of the OW movement’s purpose is precisely to point out that many of the things that people claim to know about the LDS concept of priesthood are not revealed,”

    Andrew, you’re really jumping away from reason on this. My questions to her were about two points, 1) delivery of the priesthood through angels, 2) only the LDS church has it. Yes, both of those are set in stone. Since those were my points, forgive me, but the rest of what you say — even if true — is a distraction.

    If KK doesn’t believe those two, she’s not believing in some legitimate alternative view of the priesthood that breaks status quo. She doesn’t believe in it.

    “I would say you should evaluate the topic on its merits”

    That’s what I’m doing. But at somepoint I have to live my life and if a person obvioiusly doesn’t understand what they are talking about and doesn’t want to, you have to move on. It is appropriate to use where someone is coming from in such circumstances. Regardless, this side conversation has nothing to do with KK and whether or not she believes in the LDS concept of the priesthood even on the ‘in stone’ parts.

    “But if you’re just going to comment on every post, “This guy’s an exmormon; better stop listening to him,” then that’s extremely annoying to me.”

    Hmm… can’t argue this one.

  140. The divine approval of the authority for Priesthood is obviously meaningless to you… You are wrong in this judgement of me Jettboy. Where we differ is in how much of the pharisical minutia is actually required to be the true church. Today’s church is very different than the church of Joseph’s time or Brigham’s do those differences invalidate today’s church? No! So those differences are not the essence of the church. Several varieties of “the only true church” have already existed. Why can’t another be added through ordination?

  141. Howard,

    My disagreement with you has always actually been that I believe the LDS church leaders are the only ones that can receive revelation to change major doctrines and that people that receive revelations contrary to those are expected to not bring them up publicly.

    You’re welcome to believe what you want, of course, and I’ve gone out of my way to make sure you are able to add your voice here. (Which I find interesting.) But so long as you disbelieve those two doctrines, I don’t really think there is all that much common ground between us in terms of our understandings of the restoration. You do come across as almost a different religion to me. I can’t even imagine trying to combine the CoC and the LDS church and I would certainly never believe it to be a good idea for either religion. But even if it was, it’s not something I’d be at all comfortable having come from any source but the prophets.

  142. Bruce thanks for the voice here.

    That seems to be contrary to to Moses’ position:

    And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

    I will bow out now unless directly addressed.

  143. While I do not doubt that one *could* interpret that passage as meaning that God can give a revelation to the world through anyone, I am in serious doubt it *must* be interpreted that way. Indeed, I would think that most people would see it far more like what I just said, all can receive revelation, but only for their stewardship. Which is the doctrine of the LDS Church today.

  144. I am in serious doubt it *must* be interpreted that way. Indeed. It is subject to interpretation but the tone is quite different than your position. Revelation and speaking of it as prophesy is not only allowed but encouraged by Moses.

    I’ve enjoyed the openness here and the give and take. I don’t want to offend or ware out my welcome. Have a great day Bruce and thanks again.

  145. It is so funny to me that that pot keeps calling the kettle black. And it happens over and over.

    rameumpton,

    For those from M* and elsewhere who struggle with LIBERAL BLOGS, I would say that no one forces any of us to attend. Or if we attend, no one forces us to speak in consensus with others. I know several who BELIEVE, but attend respectively, and do not see a need to stir the waters, where they do not fit perfectly in.
    THE BLOGS shouldn’t make us always feel comfortable, whether we are TBMs or struggling with our testimonies. It should make us reach, stretch, hurt and grow.
    What is a problem is any person or group that seeks to attend, but insists on establishing their own form of doctrine as a replacement for core BLOG CULTURE. For me, it doesn’t matter if the Flood story is taught as global or local in BLOG, as long as I am free to quietly observe my own belief in it, or share my thoughts on the IN the chapel.

    There is a place for M*, as the bloggernacle needs to have safe sites for all. However, I think the issue here is to ensure people understand that while M* has a right to exist, it doesn’t have a right to pretend to be something it is not: a LIBERAL and supportive LDS blog. When they chose to be on the opposite side, even though they sometimes stick close to the fence, they chose their side. M*, W&T, BCC and other blogs have each chosen their sides. Some have removed permabloggers that did not agree with their overall view (BRUCE NIELSON and a few others come to mind). That is their choice and right. We’ve had some tough discussions here at W&T AND MM on occasion, regarding a post here or there. Yes, we’ve been called Nazis by some (which does not make sense, as we are more libertarian than socialist), because of some postings. Generally, however, we have maintained who we are, just as M* has maintained itself. But they are on different sides.

    Most posters here are FOR the Ordain Women movement. We disagree on whether Kate Kelley is an outright apostate or just misguided believer. So there are a range of beliefs and opinions here. At the same time, we can agree that the permas all are suspicious of M* (and we’re very glad to have Bruce blogging here), and that John Dehlin clearly posts material that questions faith. His Facebook statement to doubt anyone that tells you to doubt your doubts was clearly HELPFUL FOR DOUBTERS THAT SUPPORT Pres Uchtdorf, and MANY AT M* believe was situating himself contrary to the Church. For me, personally, I can see Kate Kelley as a faithful, AND HELPFUIL member, while Dehlin is clearly in the HELPING THOSE WHO STRUGGLE.

  146. “. . . would God that all the Lord’s people . . .”

    And the Lord’s people are the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are *not* members of the CoC, FLDS, Catholics, Methodists, Muslims, or any other’s belonging to another church or denomination no matter how loved they still are to God. The only one exception to this I can at all imagine is Jews as the chosen people who I doubt want to mix in with any branch of Mormonism. I would go into all the teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants and the history of Joseph Smith demanding anyone who has the Priesthood carry a paper that proves they were ordained by those who had authority to give it to them, but I fear it would be wasting my time.

  147. After reading MH’s comment, I wanted to remake a point that I’ve made before.

    The various blogs aren’t so much about a specific intended audience (liberal, conservative, etc.) as they are about a safe zone for certain audiences. This was why I took exception to chanson characterizing M* as “ultra conservative.” Have you seriously not paid attention to all the comments from Nate, Howard, Mark D, J Johnson, etc.? Our discussions here aren’t ‘super ultra conservative.’

    However, M* is without a doubt a safe zone for a more orthodox and conservative view point. People out side that point of view are welcome if they recognize that safe zone and don’t try to disrupt it.

    I think *all* the blogs are essentially the same thing. All welcome all viewpoints, but expect a certain type of safety for one or more groups. BCC, for example, is a safe zone for believing liberals and non-believing liberals that haven’t yet come out. (I’m guessing to some degree.) But you can find ‘super ultra conservative voices’ there too. MM was a safe zone to non-believing voices, but really did value other view points so long as they were willing to keep the safe zone.

    We are all playing the same game, really. And there is nothing wrong with that. And there is a lot of cross talk via comments more so than we give credit.

    I think the orthodox / conservative voice failed to gain footing for a while in part because there was a feeling that the cultural norms that created a safe zone for the more liberal sites were somehow actually objective morality. So there was a sort of dog pile effect that drowned out the more conservative voice for a while because you’d get bloggernacle dog piled (bloggernacled) for having too orthodox a voice. That all changed between the revitalization of M* and J Max Wilson coming out of hiding and his (in)famous “Bite the Wax Tadpole” post. At that point, a beachhead had been created and the conservative voice re-imerged.

    Maybe not everyone agrees with me on my take of history, but it is my opinion. I think we are richer for having various safe zones and I am not so sure its really stopped dialogue. I think there is a feeling that it used to be that there was more cross talk amongst the blogs, and that is perhaps true. But there was also once less divesity of opinion, so I’m not sure that increased cross talk (if true) was necessarily a victory.

  148. I agree with rameumptom, “What is a problem is any person or group that seeks to attend, but insists on establishing their own form of doctrine as a replacement for core LDS doctrine. “

  149. I agree with rameumpton too. “What is a problem is any person or group that seeks to attend, but insists on establishing their own form of doctrine as a replacement for core BLOG CULTURE?”

  150. I would love a post and conversation around Abraham and Isaac and sacrifice.

    Bruce Nielson said
    “MH,

    I’m sorry for your experience in church. You and I should talk about Abraham. I might have a few ideas that can be helpful there, since your’ basically right, it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around.”

  151. MH, I will let Bruce answer for me,

    “I think *all* the blogs are essentially the same thing. All welcome all viewpoints, but expect a certain type of safety for one or more groups. BCC, for example, is a safe zone for believing liberals and non-believing liberals that haven’t yet come out. (I’m guessing to some degree.) But you can find ‘super ultra conservative voices’ there too. MM was a safe zone to non-believing voices, but really did value other view points so long as they were willing to keep the safe zone.

    We are all playing the same game, really. And there is nothing wrong with that. And there is a lot of cross talk via comments more so than we give credit.”

  152. Richard,

    It seems to me that your are arguing that it’s perfectly acceptable when orthodox/conservative types are “fairly” marginalizing unorthodox viewpoints at church. However, with this post, Bruce seems to be complaining that the same thing happens on the blogs in reverse. He’d like to see conservative voices not dog-piled. Well fine–that sounds fair. But unfairness at church is ok? This seems like a HUGE double-standard being applied here. So I say, “yes, the medicine does taste bad, doesn’t it?” To which the orthodox/conservative types say, “well when we’re dishing it out it at church, it doesn’t taste bad to us. But we don’t like the taste when we’re eating it, and you’re dishing it out, so you should change your culture to make it acceptable for us.” To which I say, “I’ll change my culture if you change yours.” And around in circles we continue to go.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But you’ll respond, “but it’s different”, and I’ll respond, “no, it’s not.” Getting dizzy yet from running in circles?

  153. MH,

    I would like to point out that I don’t feel I am saying “[I]’d like to see conservative voices not dog-piled.” I am literally saying maybe its okay they are. That’s life, we all need safe zones.

    I do not feel that it is possible to change church such that an unorthodox voice can emerge as ‘legit’ (Well, depends on how unorthodox. Yours maybe in many cases, but probably not John Dehlin’s).

    Pointing out how the game is played is valuable on its own. And I did have a desire to point out how it might be changed, if we wanted to. I’m not entirely sure how realistic I’m being though. (As I’ll explain in my follow up post.)

    I also think there is at least some difference between a church and a blog. Maybe not that much… but some. At a minimum, a church *must* have a set of shared beliefs to be effective whereas there maybe some way to get around that on a blog. So I’d expect a church to have a much stronger policing of orthodoxy than probably any blog. And that is how it should be in my opinion.

    I do think blogs are a ‘release valve’ (I explained this in my part 2.) If you are unorthodox, you sit in church and fume and having a place to go where its all reversed is probably necessary for some to even stay in the church. If all orthodox members had to do to snuff out such places was dog pile everyone (hey, we do it too) than that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing and I’d entirely expect a series of bannings to perserve the purpose of the blog.

    So my advice to those that feel dog piled on those sites is “don’t go there, it’s not a site for you!”

    I think the reason some people get up at arms is that often these sites go out of their way to present themselves as ‘open forums for discussion for the open minded.’ (Go check out BCCs about page!) They aren’t, this is just a convenient fiction to allow the site community to create a sort of “chosen” image (not unlike how the Church and all religions do!) as being more open minded and better thinkers, while actually enforcing their safe zones via cultural norms and, if necessary, banning. (If you think there isn’t far more leeway offered to liberals before banning on BCC than conservatives, guess again. I have an upcoming post planned to demonstrate the drastic difference.) But of course M* plays the same game in reverse unabashedly. So it’s not like ‘we’re better than those guys’ or whatever. We are all literally playing the same game.

    I think one point AndrewS keeps making is that some sites are ‘more open’ than others and this is probably the case, though I suspect the difference is smaller than originally imagined. I also think ‘more openess’ may not be the virtue people think it is and may in fact favors certain viewpoints over others precisely because some viewpoints are experiential and others aren’t. (Or as another example, it is easier for a liberal to point out what is wrong with an institution than for a conservative to defend it since typically the institution is knowledge bearing and exists because it evolved attributes that no person even fully understands. But its also incredibly difficult for the liberal to come up with a change that doesn’t make things worse, despite his apparent ‘logical advantage’ in an open discussion, precisely because no one really understood the true value of the institution entirely.)

    But I do think W&T is as likely to give a person a guest post as ban them, so while there are similarities, there are also differences.

  154. Bruce, I appreciate the friendly dialogue between you and I. At this point, we’re arguing very subtle differences in point of view, so I’m not going to dispute anything you say–you seem fair, and you’re treating me fair, and that’s great. I think you and I are demonstrating a positive example of how you would like us to model bloggernacle dialogue, and that’s great. I don’t agree with everything you say or your perspective, but you’ve been abundantly fair, and for that I greatly appreciate this conversation.

    Other people here seem to be doing exactly what you’re complaining about on the “liberal blogs”, yet they, with righteous indignation, see nothing wrong with their own behavior, but liberals have it all wrong. To them I say, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you can help me with the mote in mine.

  155. Mormon Heretic,
    if you think Bruce is holding up some standard of neutrality to which we ought or even conform, you are mistaken.
    It’s more a charge of hypocrisy. The liberal blogs claim to be more open-minded, but the claim is false.

  156. I second what Adam G. just said. Bruce may be asking for more “nuetrality,” but that isn’t what many orthodox have a problem with. The other blogs claim in their own mission statements and comments they are open-minded, but when you test that theory it doesn’t hold water. Take your example with me here. Instead of engaging what I say, all you have done is roll your eyes and accuse me of things. Bruce, on the other hand, has actually engaged me by either correcting where I have made a mistake (judge Fiona’s words and not my paraphrasing) or given examples counter to my own. That rarely happens anywhere else. For that matter, even Howard has explained his beliefs in relation to mine even if his are even less like mine than yours.

  157. Yes you’re right. Conservatives never are guilty of hypocrisy, and liberals are never nice when correcting misperceptions. My mistake.

    Aren’t stereotypes so useful? (Where is the merry-go-round music?)

  158. MH did say he disagreed with me, i.e. “I don’t agree with everything you say or your perspective”

    MH, I do appreciate you tone. You said I’m “fair” but I suspect what you meant was that you appreciated my tone too. Who the heck is ever “fair”? ;-)

  159. Jettboy,

    One of my favorite sayings that I learned on my mission was this: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

    Here’s what I find ironic about our relationship. At MM, I usually felt like you and I were on the same side: for belief, and against unbelief. I pretty much agreed with a lot of what you had to say, and I felt like you were “fair”. (But as Bruce points out, perhaps “tone” is a better word.) At W&T, when you comment, it appears we are no longer on the same side. You seem that it is your God-given right to belittle and insult those who disagree with you. Then you come here and complain that Bruce engages you, but I don’t. Here’s the difference between you and Bruce: tone. I don’t care how much you know, because I know you don’t care how I feel. I care what Bruce knows, because I know he cares.

    So, if you want me to actually engage what you have to say, then put a little care into what you say. Because so far, all I hear is intolerance. I know I should turn the other cheek, but I’m not that good. I fight fire with fire, and then we burn the place down. I know you admire Bruce (and I do too.) I encourage you to model his interactions. I think you’ll find me engaging you more constructively if you do. Otherwise, what’s my incentive to engage you?

  160. What if I don’t care (assuming such a thing), then are my arguments therefore invalid just because of tone alone? As for fighting fire with fire – that is exactly what I feel I am doing at W&T from the kind of posts they have. To be VERY honest, I have NEVER seen you on my side on anything.

  161. Jettboy, check out this exchange from MM.

    http://jettboy.blogspot.com Jettboy
    Bruce Johns,
    I admit it and that is why I feel we should stick up for them more. The reason we don’t is understandable as they do cross legal, moral, and ethical boundaries that the liberal factions do not. Perhaps you missed that part. Theologically and politically they are much closer to conservative Mormonism. Legally and socially they are worlds apart.

    http://mormonheretic.org MH
    I must agree with Jettboy here.

    See http://mormonmatters.org/2009/05/28/is-mormon-matters-balanced/

  162. Thank you for that example, although it wasn’t theological or extensive. Let it also be an example of how when I’m not treated a negative way my own “tone” changes to less defensive. Maybe with W&T there is still a bad taste in my mouth that makes me not trust them with simple unemotional arguments. On the other hand, if you see me completely disengage (like BCC and MHW) that can mean I find the place hopelessly lost. Satan can have a smooth and pleasant voice, and Prophets of God (not that I am comparing myself to them other than as those who are warned to warn their neighbor kind of thing) can sound rude or ineloquent.

    Interesting how the “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” is exactly what can determine the tone I take. Call me a fool and respect of any kind goes out the door. Life is too short to try and please others.

  163. Bruce: Sorry, got busy and haven’t been checking in regularly, but I did want to get back to this.

    ““But if you had asked Kate why she doesn’t just leave if she doesn’t like it, I believe she would say “Where else can I find the ordinances of salvation?””

    Would she say that, Hawk? I’m not honestly sure.

    And if she did say that, would she mean it in a straightforward way or in a deceptive way? What would she *mean* by it?”

    I think she could mean: 1) she believes the church is true and the only one with the saving ordinances, or 2) she is pointing out that if you believe #1 then it is inappropriate (not Christian) for you to suggest she leave it. Either way, what she believes matters much less than what you believe. Evaluating her argument and actions to determine what you should do doesn’t require knowing her beliefs. I suspect Kate knows very well that people shorthand beliefs and affiliation as a quick way to either dismiss or accept their ideas without scrutiny. Mormons (and pretty much all people) do this all the time. For example, people prooftext scriptures or quotes from apostles to bolster their point of view, even when there are alternate scriptures, quotes or even alternate interpretations of the same scripture or quote. Shorthanding validity of an idea based on the speaker’s beliefs is essentially the “appeal to authority” fallacy. If she dodged your questions, perhaps it was because she knows it’s human nature to use heuristics to our own peril. The Bible even tells us to use this particular heuristic: beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, beware of false prophets, etc. The modern church has warned us not to listen to anyone who is apostate. Same thing. Are so-called apostates always wrong? Not necessarily. It’s hard to self-diagnose when you are steeped in the culture. I’m not advocating leaving to get perspective, just not dismissing the POV of those who have, unless their POV is dumb.

    But there’s also an issue with the question you asked. It’s not exactly straightforward either as someone above pointed out. “Does Kate Kelly believe in the church’s truth claims about Priesthood?” Which ones? What are they exactly? (Since every talk I hear about PH differs from every other one, I’m not really sure what’s IN and what’s OUT of this bucket of “truth claims.”) What if she believes that it was literally restored to JS through resurrected beings, but then current leaders are astray? What if she believes current leaders literally talk to Jesus every Thursday in a staff meeting? What if what YOU believe the church’s truth claims are is not clear to HER? Also, belief itself ebbs and flows. As you say, you’re an off and on doubter (as I suspect are all thinking Mormons – Pres. Uchtdorf likewise alluded to this). So, how much “belief” vs. “doubt” must there be for her to claim “belief”? 80/20 rule? More than 50%? Some other mix?

    But I’d like to point out that this is not the same thing as blogs having an Overton Window for what is acceptable to say or believe. All social groups do have a natural culture with borders on what is acceptable. On that point, we agree. I think each blog differs, and we all have to run it the way we like it. I’ve been pleased that we’ve gotten a better mix of faithful / doubting perspectives on WT than we had at MM. It makes for better conversations. I know many sites turn into an echo chamber, and that’s not a good thing.

  164. “What if she believes that it was literally restored to JS through resurrected beings, but then current leaders are astray? What if she believes current leaders literally talk to Jesus every Thursday in a staff meeting? What if what YOU believe the church’s truth claims are is not clear to HER”

    Great! Wonderful! Fantastic! Then we can have a starting place to really have a conversation rather than guessing games or political football match.

  165. “Evaluating her argument and actions to determine what you should do doesn’t require knowing her beliefs.” Let me clarify my statement here. It may matter – a little – if you are thinking of joining OW because you agree with her ideologically but don’t want to associate with her movement if she is not faithful in seeking it. But it doesn’t matter if you are not thinking of joining OW. And it really isn’t the only reason to decide one way or the other. If she’s right, and her rhetoric is consistently right, participating for your own reasons and your own beliefs is the right thing to do (or not participating due to your own reasons or your own beliefs). Either way, your choice should be based on your own views, not hers, provided her statements don’t contradict your beliefs. She’s just a figurehead after all. People should always participate at their own peril in anything.

    I am sympathetic to OW on some level because the church needs to clarify its views on women which are clearly sexist, and the church should remove that sexism to the extent possible; I don’t personally care whether women are ordained, though. I find it more troubling that all men are. It’s not that it’s an exclusive club. It’s a wide open club, except for women. I believe this is because the church wants to create a need for women and men to marry, a priesthood codependency. I don’t necessarily think that’s a divine necessity, but I do think it’s what motivates the separation.

    E. Oaks’ talk allows for women to be involved in decision making without being ordained, a good step, although not one consistently heeded today, and certainly not at the highest levels. But it doesn’t refute temple theology that places women in a position of being ineligible for exaltation by virtue of our sex. IMO, this is a far more important and more serious matter, putting ordaining women on par with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If women aren’t eligible for exaltation, there is no reason to stay in the church. And we could still say “where else can I go to receive the ordinances of salvation?” and the answer would still be nowhere. And yet, the terrestrial kingdom would be preferable – by far – to a polygamous eternity, for most of the Mormon women I know.

  166. “Evaluating her argument and actions to determine what you should do doesn’t require knowing her beliefs.”

    Hawk, I just totally disagree with you on this. I think we’re talking about a specific situation where beliefs are a significant factor that are directly relevant. The argument that ‘my beliefs don’t matter’ is not an argument that I think is anything close to universal. Especially when we’re talking about religion.

    I accept that one can decide that her beliefs don’t matter to them. You outline a scenario where that could legitimately be the case. But then I’d hardly expect that person to want to know the answer.

    You make a number of follow on arguments. I would just add that I didn’t ask “do you believe in the LDS concept of priesthood?” but asked about two points that seemed pretty relevant to me. If she believe priesthood was restored by resurrected beings and if that had been necessary because it was not to be found on the earth.

    I think anyone can go on about how ‘things are not clear cut.’ But I chose points that are clear cut doctrine that are not in dispute and never have been. Its hard to imagine a more clear cut teaching of the church than this. And it’s hard to imagine a more obvious place for one’s beliefs to be matter more than their argument (depending on personal beliefs and feelings, as you point out.)

    You go on to make arguments that maybe she was afraid of heuristics based on over simplification. This is why I picked the most direct relevant questions that were off/ons and had no particular nuance available to them.

    At some level, Hawk, I think you’re making a series of arguments that dance around the idea that the very act of finding out if someone believes something is always irrelevant. Is this what you are arguing?

    Update: Your next post clarified. You are apparently saying that the only relevant reason to ask is if you specifically are thinking of joining the OW movement and this matters to your choice.

    I would assert by the same logic, any situation where the answer effects a personal choice is therefore equally valid.

    ‘What if she believes that it was literally restored to JS through resurrected beings, but then current leaders are astray?”

    This does sound possibly relevant to me. I would suspect there are a number of men and women that might potentially want to join OW that wouldn’t if this were the case.

    Hawk, for all your arguments, you never really address what to me is a pretty key question: What if she is in fact Clintonizing? (Saying something literally true but with full knowledge that they are using the word in a way that will mislead the hearer.) You have offered a substantial number of scenarios where maybe she didn’t do this. But what if she did? You have not really fully addressed that. What if she really did not believe in the LDS church and what if she was giving misleading answers in hopes that people would think she did? What then? Is there really no ethical issue here?

    You seem to have at least agreed these questions are fair if someone is considering joining OW and this matters to them. So what if they ask and they get fooled by a Clintonized answer? How can this not be an ethical issue if someone joins on false pretenses?

  167. Hawk, I wanted to address your temple / sexism statements seperately.

    As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently helping a dear friend that is struggling with these issues. That was why she considered joining OW, but was only interested if they at least believed in priesthood from resurrected beings because no other church had it.

    But because I’m empathetic to her, she has really helped me see how some women could be offended by various teachings in the Church. And I feel for her and for you on this.

    I can offer help on one item, if you will allow me:

    “But it doesn’t refute temple theology that places women in a position of being ineligible for exaltation by virtue of our sex.”

    But actually the doctrine, as fully understood, is that this is just as true for men. Richard Bushman brings this out in Rough Stone Rolling and it was historicially understood this way as well (at least from a certain point forward). So at least this one is completely equal in terms of being eligiable for exaltation.

    I have to say, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to “what if it turns out it’s all reversed.” There are certainly more children before the age of accountability that die that are male than female, so by pure numbers — if I assume all will be exalted, not sure if this is a correct assumption or not — there should be a dearth of women, not men, eligible for exaltation.

    I think this isn’t such an unthinkable possiblity that here on earth it’s one way and that’s to prep us for how it will really be — in reverse — in heaven.

    Probably not one of my more orthodox speculations, but I believe in speculation.

  168. MH, I comment frequently on BCC and other more liberal blogs. I show respect wherever I go, as I recognize it is their safe zone, even when I politely disagree. I consider many liberal LDS my friends. I gave a presentation at the first Kirtland Sunstone Symposium: one of perhaps 3 moderate/conservative presentations in the entire thing. I did feel like a fish out of water frequently, but I was respectful of the liberal safe zone.
    I do not have a problem with many of those blogging sites. They are upfront about their liberal stances and the level of their faith in the Church. Dehlin, however, is another Mormon matter altogether. He pretends to provide a safe zone for believers and non-believers alike. However, his product poisons the well for believers or those who are truly struggling with faith, by showing them the door out of the Church. Poor form on his part.

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  171. Where do you folks find the time to read, let alone write, all of this? It’s intellectually stimulating and often intelligent, but how do you pay the rent, raise your families and contribute service to your neighbors and still have time to do this? I’m impressed.

  172. Scarecrow, I can’t tell if your tone is serious. But I often wonder myself why I don’t just dust off my feet at the borders of the Bloggernacle, and tend to more important matters at hand.

    I think we are not just indulging in vain intellectual exercises herein. This kind of discussion tests all our own arguments, in an exeptionally harsh environment. We are strangers and foreigners here. The refining process of discourse in a largely unappreciative and scorning audience is daunting and painful at times, but of some value, if we can persevere through it all.

    For one, it helps bring me greater understanding of how many flawed arguments and popular philosophies predominate, in the world, and within the general body of the Church. It helps me recognize the dark and ominous presence of a greater world, and serves to justify my inclination to claim no stake in it.

  173. My impression of the “TBM” appellation and similar acronyms. Nothing could serve more effectively to justify my mental image of mocking from the great and spacious building. How can striving to be faithful be so twisted into such an ugly negative connotation? At first I misunderstood the interpretation of Lehi’s vision. I was under the mistaken idea that the ridicule and mocking must be coming from the world. But worldly criticism has never had the potential to make the followers feel ashamed and wander into forbidden paths. That kind of ridicule and dissent must come from within.

  174. Old Scarecrow,

    Whether you were serious or not, I don’t know. But for what it is worth, I worked on this post for over an year off and on as can be seen from the fact that the previous post in the series was Oct 2012. It was considerable work to be sure.

  175. Jim C, I was serious. Reading only one blog or one comment can lead to a lot of confusion and doubt. But reading a variety of blogs and following the threads of comment leads to recognition that there are others with similar beliefs, understanding and concerns who remain faithful for good reasons similar to mine. Reading one opposition article can cause a lot of damage, but reading many exposes the emotional roots of their anger, as well as the tenuous logic and inconsistencies that weaken their criticisms. I do wish I had time to read more, and even try to write, but when I got home from work today I chose to drive 60 miles round trip to visit a sister in the hospital whom I home teach. As a result, I also missed getting my sprinklers set up and turned on, and my grass needs to be watered already. It was a genuine question.

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