BCC Watch: Why do Mormons that Lose Their Faith Become Atheists?

I read an interesting article at BCC today by Brad Masters. He gives his views (within the context of a Sunday School New Testament style lesson) as to why Mormons that lose their faith also seem to lose their faith in Jesus Christ.

A few thoughts. First, I suspect he’s right that Mormons tend to lose their faith in Jesus Christ when they lose their faith in Mormonism, but do we actually have any statistics to back this assumption up?

Second, I can totally see why the two are so strong connected. It’s like a non-Mormon Christian losing their faith in Christianity but not losing their faith in Moses. When we believe in a religious worldview, I would think we do not normally separate out pieces of it like this.

Nick Literski on Mormon Matters (did I spell the name right?) used to say that the LDS Church did a great job of helping its members see that other Christian religions had less truth then them. So he felt that once someone lost their faith in Mormonism (which Nick did) it only made sense to not bother with other Christian religions.

Still, if Jesus Christ is quite literally God the Son, then I think Brad’s question seems pertinent. Moses is not a Jesus Christ, for example.

One other thought from BCC today. They had a link to this article about a “coming crackdown” on Mormon liberals. It’s only a link to an article, not a post, so its outside my current reading of BCC. And I am not to criticize them at this time, so I will not.

Instead, here is what the burning question in my mind is: do bloggers and readers of BCC identify with John Dehlin? Does John Dehlin’s presumed excommunication cause members of BCC to feel the sort of fear this article claims they do?

My friend, John C, who used to be a blogger at BCC, didn’t seem to identify with John Dehlin much at all. So I’m curious how that community tends to look at something like this. To what degree is this article accurate of their community? To what degree is it totally off the mark?

63 thoughts on “BCC Watch: Why do Mormons that Lose Their Faith Become Atheists?

  1. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    I’m always amazed at how studies so consistently show that the whole “John Dehlin narrative” is just plain wrong. Yet he (and other liberals) continue to believe it with religious fervor. For example:

    6.The only four statistically effective factors in individuals retaining their faith are: (a) daily prayer, (b) regular scripture reading, (c) weekly Church attendance, (d) keeping the law of chastity.

    7.Intellectual issues have more to do with accepting superficial counterfeits to the gospel rather than the gospel itself. Matters of history do not figure at all.

    Nothing surprising about this at all. Studies like “Why Strict Religions are Strong” confirmed things like this and even proposed ‘rational’ explanations for why the above are the factors that matter. This is why I keep saying that John Delhin consistently ignores science when it goes against his beliefs.

  2. I agree, the pattern of abandoning faith tends to be fairly predictable. The example of Nick Literski is instructive, as is D. Michael Quinn. May the Lord preserve us from such enticements.

  3. My impression is that among BCC bloggers and people who are friends with them, the latter category including myself, there’s not a lot of sympathy for Dehlin, even among those opposed to his excommunication. For example, I’ve seen BCC contributors and like-minded blogs like Approaching Justice attack Dehlin’s narrative that his support of gay marriage and OW is driving his excommunication, and I’ve seen arguments between BCC writers and Dehlin get pretty acrimonious.

    Dehlin’s support is more populist and based on internet forums/Facebook groups than blogs, so while there’s some overlap between that and BCC I don’t think they’re the same thing. You might be able to lump them all together under the “liberal” umbrella for some purposes but in this case it’s about as useful as grouping M* with Denver Snuffer supporters.

  4. BCC Mormon,

    That’s what I would have expected. Its a strange relationship though that sometimes fuzzes and blends in ways that I don’t feel like I understand yet. But for the most part my experience matches yours, i.e. not very much sympathy for him.

  5. Ditto on the article by Brad.
    You asked if readers of BCC identify with Dehlin and the idea of a crackdown. I can comment on myself. I’ve been reading and commenting on BCC for 7 years. So to what degree is this true? None really. I’ve checked out Mormon Stories over the past 7 years and think Dehlin’s Stake President and Bishop are spot on with their letters to him. He is purposefully leading people way from the church. So the fact that Kate Kelly was exed and now possible Dehlin does not worry me. This is the same “crack down” on apostates that’s been going on for 180ish years.

  6. I definitely don’t think any crackdown is imminent, at least in any coordinated sense. People who’ve engaged in public activism like Kelly are at risk (I write that as someone who basically supported the OW actions), along with people who seem to be cultivating a following separate from the church like Dehlin or Snuffer, but otherwise it’s business as usual.

    In the long run, though, my impression is that “BCC Mormons” are a pretty small group and the influence of blogs in general is declining, so the worst case scenario is that the BCC crowd shrinks to the even smaller subset of people interested in Mormon Studies and scholarship talking only to each other while the next generation of popular “liberal” Mormonism gravitates towards the more strident voices like Dehlin or Mormonthink. But it’s always tough to gauge these things when you’re in the bubble and half your friends are involved in the bloggernacle somehow 🙂

  7. re. Ivan’s post, its analyzing statistics on youth retention, not apostasy in general. I don’t think Dehlin is a “youth” phenomenon, but I’d say late 20s-30s phenomenon. So I wouldn’t blame a Dehlin-like apostasy on lack of commitment. Of course commitment will slide during a faith-crisis. But the lack of commitment would most likely be symptom of the faith crisis, not a cause.

    The faith crisis comes from an inability to deal with the irrational nature of faith, either through apologetics, ignoring, or accepting paradox. For Dehlin, paradox is unacceptable, and apologetics are unconvincing. “God, if he exists, has got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do” as he says.

  8. I am actually quite happy to hear that people at BCC don’t feel like a ‘crackdown’ is going to happen to them because of John Dehlin. It would have saddened me if there was real fear in those circles because of something like this.

  9. of course this post has only heard from two readers of the blog, not the people who write the posts. So I don’t know if they feel any fear at this time.

  10. BCC Mormon, you may or may not know this, but many BCC and T&S Mormons based on their comments appear to think that people like Bruce and I and Jmax are agents of Satan. But the truth is that I have long been aware that many posts on these blogs are faith-promoting, and I have written it many times on this blog. The comments are generally less faith-promoting imho. I also have written many times on this blog that I feel a “safe space” like BCC and T&S is important for liberal Mormons who have formed a community of support. Being an outspoken, opinionated liberal Mormon can, I’m sure, be a difficult thing in many wards. My ward in rural Colorado is uniformly conservative, and as a libertarian type of guy it can be difficult for me to deal with the pro-war comments in my ward (but for the record I get along well with everybody in my ward and just ignore those comments rather than getting into tiresome debates that would go nowhere). Just to cite one example: I had a former member of the stake presidency get up in the middle of Gospel Doctrine class and claim that anybody who voted for MJ legalization (which my wife and I did) was unrighteous. I just let it slide. He is a good guy who is just wrong on that issue. No reason to waste time arguing with him.

    But the point is that I can appreciate that it can be lonely for some liberals in a conservative Mormon world, and *the single most important thing for Mormons is not their politics but that they follow the Savior the best they can.* And there is no doubt that most liberal Mormons I know are trying to do this, so I have no issues and no hard feelings.

    But given the many, many, MANY hateful comments from *some* liberal Mormons over the years directed at myself and some of my friends, I have chosen not to interact with them. This does not mean I have negative feelings towards these people, almost all of whom I do not know in person. It means that I generally try to avoid contentious situations, and there are (apparently) many liberal Mormons who simply cannot stand people expressing opinions with which they disagree without resorting to personal attacks.

    I point this out in hopes that some BCC/T&S Mormons will understand where I and others are coming from. I think Bruce is showing here through his actions that he really does not have hard feelings, and I do not either. But we would prefer not to have to deal with the contention that appears inevitable. This is why I generally keep to my side of the Bloggernacle. Just FYI.

  11. I generally avoid commenting anywhere I know I’m a minority or don’t know the participants for about that reason. There are maybe three or four people with opposite beliefs from mine I’ll talk politics with, and seldom on Facebook or blogs where strangers can hop on and derail the conversation. Without some kind of personal connection, it just can’t consistently happen in my experience. But hey, posts like this can only help.

  12. Also, Bruce, it looks like the “LDS headlines” part of the blog that links to the “crackdown” article is a RSS generated news feed that flags for search terms related to the church, so it’s very possible no one at BCC consciously put that article there. I think the “Authors Elsewhere” section is more consciously curated, but I don’t know for sure.

  13. I haven’t been able to participate on the blogs as much as I have in the past, but I just looked at ldsblogs.org and saw this post title and thought I would take a look. As Ivan notes, the LDS Headlines is a simple RSS feed that looks at LDS/Mormon keyword articles, as curated by google news. Authors elsewhere is BCC authors’ other blogs. As far as I am aware, there really is no support at BCC for Dehlin or his professional work to evangelize his positions. While I generally consider myself fairly conservative generally, I don’t think that it is difficult for anyone, liberal or otherwise, who is informed, to see the institutional buttons that Dehlin and Kelley push, which elicit the responses we see.

  14. Why does losing faith in Mormonism have to be losing faith in Christ? The Kingdom of God and the church are completely separate things, as is verified by scripture (Galatians 5:18, Luke 17:21, 1 John 2:27) and past church leaders.

    The Kingdom of God is a separate organization from the Church of God.”26 Not only is the Kingdom of God largely separate from the Church of God, 27 but the Kingdom can include men who are not members of the Church. As taught by Smith and Young, among others, the LDS Church will not be the only church in operation during the Millennium. Other righteous people and their churches will continue.28

    26 History of the Church 7:382; see also B. H. Roberts, The Rise and Fall
    of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co, 1900), 180-181.

    27 See also Klaus J. Hansen, Quest For Empire: The Political Kingdom of God
    and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Michigan State University
    Press, 1967), 3-23.

    28 See Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, 65; Journal of Discourses

    The meaning of “church” has nothing to do with an organized religion. A more appropriate definition is “ideology”, which is why Joseph Smith first introduced the Saints to the United Order, prior to their insistence on a Biblical-based religion (Jacob 4:14, Alma 12:9-11). In the correct sense, the word “church” used in the scriptures means a closely organized system of beliefs, values, and ideas forming the basis of a social, economic, or political philosophy or program. It consists of a set of beliefs, values, and opinions that shapes the way a person or a group such as a social class thinks, acts, and understands the world.

    “The clue to confirm that there was no actual “church” or religion, and that the term was used to denote a group of people who followed Christ, is given in what Mormon reveals about the people being “called the church of Christ” [history repeats D&C 20:1], but then later, “there [were] disputations among the people concerning” what they should call their church.” [history repeats D&C 115:4]

    Furthermore, Jesus was a “liberal” making the crack down on who are labeled as liberal dissenters even more ridiculous. I strongly agree with and support the church reformation movement and here is why! I understand the root cause and the justification behind it! https://johnjerdon.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/the-mormon-moment-continues/

    Besides, The Doctrine and Covenants states that all things done in the church must be done in accordance with the Law of Common Consent (D&C 26:2). This law gives every member a vote in how they want the church to proceed in its affairs and is the opposite of a Theocracy. The vote is to be respected, as attested to when Joseph Smith proposed that Sidney Rigdon be stripped of his membership. The body of the church rejected the proposal and their were no repercussions for voting one’s conscience.

    John Dehlin states why he disagrees with current church doctrine on certain matters and allows his forum to discuss the matters. This does not violate any tenet, especially if his and others dissent is justified and founded on sound evidence, such as the scripture which states, “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). Regardless the Law of Common Consent entitles him to his vote/opinion. Otherwise, the LDS Church is backing Lucifer’s Plan in what they refer to as the “War in Heaven” by stripping members of their free agency and coercing them to be obedient.

  15. A friend of mine is Jewish, and we had a conversation about excommunication. He said that no Jew is ever excommunicated for anything–including murder because “God is the judge.”

    I’m not a fan of excommunication, and have pretty much opposed excommunication in nearly all the high-profile cases. I’m more of a fan of the Jewish method–let God be the judge. Having said that, I am less adamant on cases of adultery, and demonstrated apostasy as defined as “meaning defection, departure, revolt or rebellion.” John has publicly said that he doesn’t believe in many of the teachings of the Church. I think a pretty strong case can be made for him being guilty of apostasy. But I still don’t like excommunication. Let God be the judge.

  16. Nate, you’re right, but JD has specifically taken a stance at times on why young adults leave and it’s pretty much the same lines he uses on why people leave later. His advice for keeping youth was to have the church be more open about how it spends its money and to find programs that appeal to young adults. He is clearly not looking at the science on the subject.

  17. MH,

    There is probably no one (or hopefully not) that feels that excommunication is a “good thing” except maybe in the sense that its a “good thing” to cut off your leg if it has gangrene. And that’s the *best case* scenario. It’s a messy terrible thing at best.

    Having said that, I feel like the analogy to being Jewish just doesn’t work at all. There are so many differences here. How, exactly, would one be excommunicated of being “jewish” in the first place, given their lack of magisterium? And its sort of like comparing a fox and a hen and saying “foxes should be vegetarians” or “hens need to stand up for themselves better” or something like that. The LDS church and “the Jewish religion” are entirely different organisms with entirely different replication strategies. And Mormonism does not have thousands of years of culture to pull upon like the Jewish religion does.

    On the other hand, the Jewish religion is shrinking and in danger of annihilation. According to a study I saw, the only sects of Juadism that aren’t shrinking are the highly orthodox ones. Liberalism is doing in Judasim when thousands of years of enemies couldn’t. So maybe we do have something to learn from Juadism there, but I doubt its about excommunication.

    And God is the judge, period. So in that sense, excommunication isn’t really about judging someone in some ultimate sense either. It’s obviously got another purpose.

  18. No one in their right mind would be a fan of excommunication, or other types of disciplines. Not even stake presidencies, bishoprics, or branch presidencies. It sounds like you agree that, although unfortunate, discipline is a warranted, and often necessary, step. Did Heavenly Father enjoy casting Lucifer and his followers from heaven? The heavens indeed wept, but the difference is that these disciplines on earth are an opportunity to repent and return.

    Furthermore, God does reveal his will to authorized servants regarding a person’s discipline. We are not simply waiting until the end of mortality to learn His judgment on all things. The decisions of His servants are not always perfect, but, by and large, most are doing the best they can, and doing it right.

  19. I don’t think most become atheists. From what I can see from the various polling data more become Nones. More or less irreligious but not dogmatic enough to say they are atheists. Among more intellectual types it’s probably different of course.

    I think that while attacks on the Church have as their origins secularism going back to the 80’s and early 90’s it really wasn’t until the internet got going among the public that you really had secularism as the main attack vector rather than Evangelicalism or related movements. From around 1995 through 2005 you see the drop not just in Mormons but among Christians in general with most of this move shifting to the Nones – especially among the young.

    I think that the past years we’ve seen this trend slow down significantly. How much of that is just the secularists getting the low hanging fruit and how much is religion adapting isn’t clear. I can’t wait to see the next Pew study to get more data.

    In general though I think Christianity has most of the problems Mormonism does but even more so. It’s hard to buy into attacks on the Book of Mormon’s historicity but accept the straightforward historicity of the New Testament let alone Old Testament. So if you lose your testimony it’s hard to see many becoming Evangelical. (Some will of course)

  20. Geoff. First, how about comment numbers so we can refer back to a comment and people know what we’re referring to. Second, I’d be very skeptical using comments *anywhere* as significant about much. There’s a reason why most blogs are shutting down comments and it’s because they seem to draw acrimonious and even trollish comments. So I doubt most regular BCC or T&S readers think M* posters are bad.

    I do think we need to distinguish between why members born into the covenant leave the faith when they leave home and why mature members (either converts or from youth) leave in their 30’s onward. That said I suspect many of the strategies for retention are similar. I’d lay really good odds that the strongest simplest way to retain commitment is to help people read their scriptures daily in a formal way and have formal regular prayers. I know some will reject that but I’m very, very skeptical that in aggregate people praying and studying make up a significant number of people going inactive or leaving the faith.

  21. “There’s a reason why most blogs are shutting down comments and it’s because they seem to draw acrimonious and even trollish comments. So I doubt most regular BCC or T&S readers think M* posters are bad.”

    Excellent point. And the longer a blog is open to comments, the more rank the comments become, in my experience.

    (Notes the irony in passing.)

    Reading scripture and saying prayers helps. Feeling like your help is needed at Church is underrated, though. I think Clayton Christensen has said some very good things about this, though more in a missionary context.

  22. Clark, I would LOVE some comment numbers. I’m not capable of figuring out how to do it, but I am pretty sure Bruce has added this to his to-do list. Bruce? Bruce? Stop being depressed and add comment numbers. Thank you.

  23. You know there really should be a simple setting for that. I wonder why we don’t seem to have one. J Max?

    I did just download a plugin with numbering, but it doesn’t seem to have done anything yet. I don’t have time right now to explore it and I have no experience with WordPress worth mentioning. But I’ll ask someone that does.

  24. Clark.
    You must have missed the “M*” is run by a buch of bigots dust up a few months ago. I know for certain that at least two permas from t&s and two from BCC think we’re all pretty evil over here. Several have flat out called me a bigot just for being on M*. I don’t want to give names here, but if you message me privately (email or Facebook) I can give you some more details.

  25. Ivan, I confess I’ve not read blogs as much the past few years. I’m now trying to get back into it and restart my blog. (3rd attempt since October – life keeps jumping in) So year, I’ve missed recent tuffles and the reasons for them.

    Kind of surprised since back when I blogged here I was good friends or at least internet friends with most of the permabloggers at T&S and BCC.

    Geoff, if you can’t figure out how to do it, let me know. I might be able to help although I don’t want to step on any toes. If you’re going to have comments though they do help – unless you allow nested comments.

  26. There are lots of people on the bloggernscle that have called john a wolf in sheeps clothing and are positively giddy about johns excommunication. Some even on this blog.

  27. “There are lots of people on the bloggernscle that have called john a wolf in sheeps clothing and are positively giddy about johns excommunication. Some even on this blog.”

    Remember the Uchtdorf Principle: some people sin differently than you.

  28. Well, Clark, I thought I was friends with some of them as well. However, several of them “defriended” me on facebook and sent me messages telling me that M* was a place of bigots and if I was going to stay there I had better (in the words of one of them that I thought was a good friend) “own my own bigotry” for supporting such an un-Christlike endeavor.

    I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along the way, the Bloggernacle became a very Balkanized place.

  29. “Mormon heretic” I suspect many think John a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While I wish him the best and think he has done a lot of good, overall I’d probably agree with the wolf assessment myself. Hopefully no one feels giddy about an excommunication, but I think many are surprised the church didn’t act years ago given John’s views and the tact he takes in many of his interviews.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no trouble with him being out there. I’d probably have even agreed to be on his show although I’d probably think twice if he’d been excommunicated for it. But despite his clear views on the church he has had some great interviews with faithful members even if he’s gotten shrill at times. (Thinking here of Brant Gardner or Richard Bushman) But those people are big boys. They knew what they were getting in for and I think they held their own quite well.

  30. This is not a specific answer to the specific question of why specific Mormons who lose their fairth become atheists – but in the past century history of Christianity, one powerful force for secularization/ liberalization of denominations and for people leaving denominations has been sex : i.e. the desire of an individual to justify taking greater advantage of the possibilities of the secular sexual revolution. This often becomes evident after the rhetoric has subsided.

    As a recent example, the English author and journalist AN Wilson was a prominent Christian (Anglican Catholic) writer in the late 1970s-early 80s- but who announced that he had lost his faith (while writing a biography of CS Lewis!) and became a prominent atheist (with insider knowledge). But insider friends told me that this loss of faith coincided with Wilson divorcing his wife, leaving the family and marrying a younger woman – and they believed that that, rather than intellectual doubts, was the primary motivation in becoming an atheist. Either way, Wilson later made an equally loudly-announced return to Christianity, where he still remains.

    My point is that only people with insider knowledge realized that the loss of faith was accompanied by a gaining of sexual opportunities – most of the public assumed it was purely an intellectual matter.

    Typically nobody can ever know for sure about these motivations- and that applies to the individual him or herself.

    Because if the cultural changes of the past 50 years has shown us anything, it is that the sexual impulse is extremely powerful, protean, strategic, deceptive – including self-deceptive.

  31. While I think sex does have an effect, I think it’s also possible to exaggerate this. Further I think we have to be very careful not to assume this is the underlying issue. It may well be in some cases but we should be careful about generalizing.

    That said I think the issue of singles in the church is a difficult one. It’s very hard to separate the issue of sex from he issue of inactivity or disaffection of this demographic. Again, being careful not to generalize to any particular individual but sticking with the aggregate.

  32. “Is there a chance in all this reasoning, that, if Christ himself ordained the Book of Mormon as “a record of a fallen people, and the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ;” D&C 20, i.e., he designed it to illustrate most clearly the “need” for a savior and the wonder and miracle of His grace; then rejection of the Book of Mormon is a rejection of the need for a savior.
    If this were a true statement, then to cut oneself off from the Book of Mormon after having received it, is to reject the personal need for a savior. By extension the mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of Christ, hence a person separates themselves from those influences, is left to themselves and feels without God in the world.”

    I posted this on BCC as a comment and got no traction. I don’t really care if I get traction on any comment because I am under no delusions that anything I contribute to blog post discussions really affects anyone on a spiritual level.

    But the comment fits better here anyway.

    I remember a discussion I had with someone I had striven with for some time who left the church the same week he and his wife attended the temple to receive their endowment and be sealed. I told him that he could never return fully to his former life as a “Christian” (he had been a Lutheran lay minister), that he was forever changed. He agreed and said he was probably done with formal religious life altogether. Not an atheist, just done with formal religion.

  33. “I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along the way, the Bloggernacle became a very Balkanized place”

    Ivan, you should ask me about this via email. I can tell you what happened. It was quite intentional. And it was, at least in part, my doing. (As well as several others.)

    But for me at least, it was only step one in a broader plan. It wasn’t intended as an end state.

  34. Bruce, are you basically referring to the information you shared in your Mormon matters series of posts?

    I’ve definitely felt that the nacle has become much more politically hostile than it used to be. I don’t know if it’s just my becoming more politically aware or if it’s because of a shift in my own political views, but I feel a lot more intolerance and moral indignation aimed at me than I ever did 5 years ago.

  35. Jeff G wrote:

    “I’ve definitely felt that the nacle has become much more politically hostile than it used to be. I don’t know if it’s just my becoming more politically aware or if it’s because of a shift in my own political views, but I feel a lot more intolerance and moral indignation aimed at me than I ever did 5 years ago.”

    Do you feel this is because you are basically becoming more of an orthodox Mormon? The Bloggernacle has no problems with questioning and doubting. It is the affirmation of faith that really gets you in trouble.

  36. Thanks Bruce that’s helpful although I think that has always been the case going way back to the early 90’s when there were listservs like Mormon-L or Morm-Ant. I’m not sure anything has changed beyond Dehlin being a bit more noticeable.

    It’s like that annoying Fowlers stages of faith where what is dropped or attacks is always what others believe and never what the person espousing it believes. It’s very common.

    As you all know I consider myself a fairly orthodox member. That’s not to say I’ve not had my own trials of faith, moments of doubt or so forth. But through it all I kept my basic testimony and just wouldn’t attack the church. It’s interesting that this is uncomfortable for some people. Thus terms like cognitive dissonance. I think that perhaps it is so uncomfortable and is discounted with terms like cognitive dissonance because it’s a way of avoiding the fundamentals issues of dispute.

  37. Just to add though, while I’ve not read T&S or BCC regularly for a few years, I’m skeptical that they cater to a Dehlin sort of member. It is true that what’s rhetorically excused for someone critical of Mormonism is not excused for someone critical of the critics. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a double standard though. From a faithful Mormon POV we’re the ones in the strong position and we should be charitable to those having doubts, struggling or so forth. Just think of how you approach families you home teach. While I was admittedly pretty combative in debates back in my 20’s I’ve come to think that approach isn’t as helpful just because of that. As such I think we have to be careful how we engage with others.

  38. Geoff,

    I’m not sure.

    I know that I used to get into it a bit with Jmax and a little bit with you over here, and things definitely got pretty heated between NDBF Gary and I, but I think that, despite the mutual frustrations that we all emoted, none of us expressed that much contempt or moral indignation for each other. But then, we mostly disagreed on various theological issues or the relationship between religion and science, but I don’t think we ever called each other’s politics or morality into question in the way that seems so standard now.

    Thus, I don’t know if things in the ‘nacle weren’t like that, or if it was just me that wasn’t like that because I simply wasn’t interested in debating political issues. Maybe it’s some combination of the two. I do get the feeling that our culture has become much more politicized in general over the last few years…. but again, it might just be my perception that has changed.

    I do get the feeling that I’m seen by the more unorthodox side as being “one of them” now…. even though I think this is a bit of a misrepresentation. Just because I like rubbing people’s noses in the tensions between priesthood authority and reason does not entail that I am an authority-worshipping, hyper-orthodox, self-righteous Bible-thump-er. Not that I think you guys are those things either, but I do think that my disagreements with the less-than-orthodox are very different (and much less appropriate for the general church membership) than the approach that defines M*. (I think Bruce is starting to get a feel for the depth of these differences. 😉

  39. Clark –

    here are a few posts (with some quotes from the post) I did at M* that dealt with some of the issues with the recent
    “M* is home to bigots and fantics” recent dustups.

    “I blog at M*, but I never really considered it my “tribe” – however, several recent events have made me realize people at other blogs like T&S and BCC and elsewhere see me as “one of the M* wackos” even though I mostly just post book reviews and tend to stay out of the more heated and polarizing discussions.”


    “One person basically said that I deserve to be “otherized and marginalized” for associating with M*. Another person even told me “well, you deserve to lose your job if you associate with those people at M*.” I don’t think my wife and nine kids deserve it (but then I’ve been attacked for having too many kids).

    In essence, this is bullying behavior. Bullies do not suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Instead, bullies see themselves as so superior to other people, they believe the others deserve their treatment. Even if it leads to job loss and ruined lives.”


    “In the most recent conference, Elder Oaks said:

    “today, when [followers of Christ] hold out for right and wrong as they understand it, they are sometimes called bigots and fanatics.”

    I expect that from the world. What most depresses me is that too many of those calling Mormons bigots and fanatics are, well, other Mormons.”

    All of these posts refer to permas from BCC, T&S, and FPR, though I don’t give names (though some of those I don’t name did publicly name me in attempts to shame me).

  40. Thanks Ivan. It’s interesting to compare and contrast charges of bigotry or sexism with charges of apostasy. In a certain sense I think there’s a similar rhetorical move at play. Especially when they are too swiftly played. I’ve noticed that in other social media, especially Twitter, of late that I see people playing these sorts of trump cards quite quickly. There is a move that perhaps comes from a good place in terms of trying to make for a less racist or sexist world but is so quick to play these cards and then enforce the social norms that it is destructive.

    This isn’t just conservatives complaining about the racist card being played too much. While I think sometimes that’s true I also think that sometimes conservatives complain about the racist card to avoid serious looking at what might be structural or unconscious racism. (As a conservative though I’m obviously sympathetic to conservatism, but I think the movement as a whole has become too quick to adopt reactionary positions even if critics are sometimes too quick to make the charges)

    Overall what I see, especially the past 5 years, is people looking to enforce victimhood and then enforce social norms. Unfortunately I really see it on all sides. It’s becoming more and more ubiquitous. Sadly.

    I bring all this up because I wonder if perhaps that what’s going on in LDS blogs is an example of this. Interestingly the next move, after adopting a kind of victimhood is to engage in discussion with the other side less. Us vs. them becomes the prominent lens through which to see everything. Then discussions become more about identity politics and norm enforcement.

    I’m not pointing fingers at anyone mind you. I think this sort of thing is easy to get caught up in without even knowing we are doing it. I’ve seen myself caught up in it at times. It’s subtle. Just that charges of racism and sexism seem to fit the pattern. What’s so problematic is that often there are real issues of racism or sexism or at least rhetoric that may not seem such to us but may seem that way to others. Yet the focus on identity politics over understanding and communication means that for all the best of intentions the moves actually make things worse rather than better.

  41. I think that is exactly my experience too, Clark. I think that the rise of social media has polarized discussion both within and without that media since it has become so much easier to associate and inter-act exclusively with one’s own tribe. The think the rise of memes that express and reinforce victim-hood is as clear a case as any of this phenomenon in action. I simply cannot imagine anything like OW or MWS emerging 5 years ago.

  42. Joel:

    “ … then rejection of the Book of Mormon is a rejection of the need for a savior.
    If this were a true statement, then to cut oneself off from the Book of Mormon after having received it, is to reject the personal need for a savior. … ”

    I think you’re not taking into account a significant faction of Terrestrial Kingdom type of people: Honorable Christ-believing people who were blinded by the craftiness/traditions of men, who accept Christ in this life, but not the fullness of the Father, and who haven’t the faith/humility/whatever to investigate/pray-about the BoM.

    Please make no mistake: there are many millions of devout Christ-believing, Christ-seeking mainstream Christians in the world who reject “Mormonism” (for many different reasons) and we are going to meet them in either the Celestial Kingdom or the Terrestrial Kingdom.

    Whether it’s less-than-valiant Mormons, or non-LDS-Christians who were blinded by traditions, or honorable non-Christians, the Terrestrial Kingdom is for those who were “good” in this life, and they will be ministered to in the TrK by the Savior.

    Christ refered to the CK as “my Father’s Kingdom”. Section 76 indicates that the TrK is Christ’s kindom (because he ministers to it), and the TlK is the Holy Ghost’s kingdom because he ministers to it.

    I have known plenty of Evangelical type Christians, most of whom were/are very sincere in their belief in the Savior and the Atonement, and led/lead pious lives,

    Your next paragraph is also very telling, especially the part about the man being a former lay minister in another church. That factoid alone possibly explains his failure to survive the endowment/sealing. Protestantism conditions (programs/brainwashes) people to believe there is nothing beyond “accepting Christ” and “getting saved”. When your whole paradigm is based on “mere” salvation, the mind-blowing concept of exaltation/theosis is unable to be processed. It appears to some of them that *everything* has to be torn down, and many people cannot wield the fine scalpel to separate out the man-made post-nicean doctrines from the still true Christ/Son-of-God/Atonement/Resurrection parts. Joseph Smith and his contemporaries had a real struggle with people who brought sectarian beliefs into the church. I think it still happens. People get confused about what they can keep and what they have to give up.

    Protestant ministers and scholars can so married to 4th century or post-Nicean theology that even after having a conversion experience to the restored/LDS gospel, they are unable to change their paradigm. By not being able to cut out that which is in conflict with LDS doctrine, they either cling (go back) to it, or just cut out everything, going agnostic or at least non-religious.

    Habits, old friends, and belief systems have to be replaced with something when they are given up. Removing parts of our lives creates a vacuum, *something* will replace those parts, and we have to be careful to choose what we use to fill those holes.

  43. Jeff G, Clark and Ivan, I would like to point out that Bruce N argues (and I agree) that boundary maintenance is not necessarily an unhealthy thing. This applies to BCC for example. Comments by BCC regulars tend to gang attack people who don’t accept certain basic precepts of the mostly liberal nature of the BCC experience. So for example if somebody leaves a comment saying people are accepting a “gay lifestyle” several commenters will point out that using such a term is simply not acceptable at BCC. I actually think this is a good thing because the people who read and write at BCC mostly feel this way and it helps maintain a certain culture at that blog. Obviously, M* has boundary maintenance in a different way, but the same basic dynamic is taking place. I can tell you that we have four or five times the readership we had just a year ago. This also means that many of the members of the liberal bloggernacle no longer comment here. And I at least am OK with that.

  44. I’m sympathetic to this view at BCC. I think terms can hurt even if people using those terms aren’t aware of it or don’t understand why. The problem is how to accept the church teachings on these issues while also communicating in love to others. It’s tricky and can be difficult. Yet I think we do have a duty to those hurting and struggling to be aware of these issues. That said, I think those worried about these sorts of things would be much more successful in change if, instead of merely attacking people they explained ways to both keep ones religious commitments and simultaneously worry about hurtful communication. Sometimes that isn’t done and often things reduce to identity politics and boundary enforcement.

    Maybe I’m naive but I still think we can manage to do both. But it does require that everyone perhaps act a little more charitably.

  45. I have no problems with boundary maintenance. However, it crosses way beyond that when they start publicly attacking other blogs and bloggers by name.

  46. It seems to have faded way down the list now, but for a few months there, one of the first page results for a Google search on my name was a blog post at another ‘Nacle blog calling me (and others at M*) by name out as bigots, though they saved the “lack of self awareness” label for just me.

    That’s not boundary maintenance, that’s attempts to publicly shame; as I discussed in my post linked above, that kind of discussion can ruin someone’s employment prospects (especially when you work in a field like higher education, where hiring committees are hyper-sensitive about any appearance of bigotry, and there are too many applicants for each job).

  47. I second Ivan’s comment. I would go further than Ivan in calling it a psychosis that manifests itself in ugly ways from some corners of the Mormon blogosphere.

  48. No disagreement Ivan. There is a difference between boundary maintenance and mean-spirited and intolerant name-calling (especially by people who claim they are followers of Christ). We both have experienced our fair share of the latter.

  49. Bookslinger,

    I hear you. The statement of my own

    ““ … then rejection of the Book of Mormon is a rejection of the need for a savior.
    If this were a true statement, then to cut oneself off from the Book of Mormon after having received it, is to reject the personal need for a savior. … ”

    If you will allow “after having received it,” to qualify my whole statement, it both fits the OP and allows for your insight about other Christians. I know “Mormons” who have never actually “received” the Book of Mormon.

    I happen to spend my Thursday nights in bible study with several Christian brothers. I pray with them, they pray for me.

    One other point of distinction. I didn’t intend my comments to mean that there is any ultimate condemnation from a current rejection of the Book of Mormon. Hope is not lost. But I believe that the scripture, “he who sins against the greater light and knowledge shall receive the greater condemnation” includes a current effect much as taking the sacrament unworthily can have a damning and spiritually stupefying effect today, rather than accumulating until a day of final judgment. For one who has once received the Book of Mormon, which I assert is not only another witness of Christ but also a more pure witness of Christ, a rejection of it has an effect not experienced by other Christians.

  50. There’s definitely a difference between boundary maintenance and going over the top unjustifiably. And, as I said, this sort of thing seems to be happening a lot on the internet.

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