Radical Orthodoxy – a Manifesto

Peggy Fletcher, religion author at the SLC Tribune, shared a new Manifesto with her readers today. It is the Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto. The Manifesto was written by Nathaniel Givens, J. Max Wilson, and Jeffrey Thayne (many of you will recognize those three names, especially J. Max).

In this new Manifesto, it establishes a middle ground between the harsh progressiveness of the left and the extreme fundamentalism of the right. The former encourages worldliness and pushes the beliefs of the voices on the far left. The latter pushes a dangerous form of fundamentalism, such as what we find with Denver Snuffer’s apostate group. Both sides harshly question the teachings of the prophet and scripture, attempting to replace the teachings of the Restored Church with their own views. Often these forms are also displayed in the contentious politics of our day.

What the Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto encourages is a new path down the middle. We accept key concepts: God Lives, Jesus is the Christ, the gospel is Restored, modern prophets, scripture. We embrace the new Proclamations from the Church on Family, Jesus and the Restoration. At the same time, we are open to considering new ways to look at old traditions and beliefs: such as moving past the old canard of the curse of Cain.

“To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Ne 9:29)

There is a middle ground that is radical and orthodox. Orthodox in that it keeps us safely standing in holy places with the living prophets, sustaining them and carefully considering their counsel. Radical in that we believe in continuing revelation and the ability to learn new things.

Perhaps an example of the radical is Pres Nelson’s sharing his story of learning a different translation of the name Israel: Let God Prevail. From this new information, many Latter-day Saints have transformed their gospel view, just since the beginning of October. In fact, Pres Nelson has encouraged us to “take our vitamins” because of modern revelation that allows us to move forward, quickly, from one new concept to the next. Yet, each of these new programs and teachings (from ministering to Come Follow Me to #GiveThanks) is founded upon the orthodox principles that never change.

With this Manifesto, we encourage and invite those on the extreme left and right to return to Christ in the sane center. I am a signer of the Manifesto. I embrace new ideas and possibilities, while standing with the prophets in holy places. I hope you will too.

Peggy Fletcher’s article

The Radical Orthodox Manifesto

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery (joelsmonastery.blogspot.com). He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

25 thoughts on “Radical Orthodoxy – a Manifesto

  1. Ram: Thank you for excellent missive. One of the things you mention is the Far Right. On Twitter, there is a group linked together with the hashtag #DezNat, meaning, I believe, Deseret Nation. They are staunch believers of following the Brethren and defending the Church’s mainstream. But there is a palpable undercurrent attitude of contempt toward persons of their choosing—whoever they may be. They troll others who they see as enemies, and use jeering to mock and insult them. Initially I liked what I saw among them—a touted discipleship. But I began to see the rot in their actions, and as I tried to gently suggest that there was a problem, many of them blocked me. Now I have them all muted on Twitter, but the whole experience left me with such a feeling of disappointment and sadness. Those good folks are on our side, yet they are *not* on our side. They are not right, they are blight; the natural man forming a *clan*—term used purposefully.

    Thank you for your timely, insightful post. I hope Meg [Stout] chimes in on this; she always has points of light as well.

    Cheers, cherished brother! 🙂

  2. DezNat is one of the groups mentioned in the Tribune article as one of the big concerns. They have a form of fundamentalism that seeks to create the Church in its own image by shaming people or coercing them over social media to comply with their belief set. That’s not what the Restored Church is about. The Church is about inviting people to Christ with love and kindness. That is the direction that the new Manifesto takes us.

  3. Ah, I see. I did not actually read Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article; I read only your own. I do not read her work, for a reason. From her earliest late-1970’s Sunstone days, she has lathered the Church with cheap-shot contempt. By 1983 I had had enough and stopped my Sunstone subscription, but read enough to know that she has never changed her acrid game.

  4. I’m skeptical. Is this going to be another organization that’ll just end up apostate?
    They even have to use newspeak and doublethink in their name ‘Radical Orthodoxy’.

    “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

    So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

  5. Lukewarm, it won’t be. It is not an active organization in the sense that DezNat or other extremist organizations are. Instead, it is just a place where people can take a personal stand to follow the prophets in a safe center. The name, Radical Orthodoxy is a play on something Orson Scott Card wrote decades ago, and shows that the Manifesto is first supportive of the orthodoxy of Christ’s Restored church. We do not want to tell the Brethren they are wrong, as many on the two extremes try to do. However, we are radical in the sense that we do expect the Church to grow and change via revelation, something many fundamentalists do not like.

    The signatories include several very faithful LDS scholars, including Terryl and Fiona Givens and Daniel Peterson. Brother Givens recently wrote an article against abortion advocacy among the church members. This is the orthodox part of the Manifesto in play. Terryl was attacked by several on the far left for his position.

    Daniel Peterson has frequently written on being in the center politically, far from the socialist left and far from the fascist right, or as he would put it, the authoritarians are all on the far left and the anarchists on the far right, with him in the center. There are many who attacked him on both sides for seeking to be in the center.

    For those who know J. Max Wilson (sixteen small stones blog), who has supported this blog for years, you know him to be strongly orthodox in following the prophets, while promoting fresh ideas that encourage learning and moving the gospel forward.

    None of the signatories are asking people to join a group. They are asking us to consider where they currently are spiritually and the need to be centered on Christ and the prophets, and not on some fundamentalist or progressive idealism.

  6. I’m skeptical of these named movements/organizations within the church. We already have the scriptures and the Bretren, and Gen Conf, and PH and RS. IOW, we have our marching orders; and then we have the Holy Ghost, and local leaders, to help us figure out the local details of how to carry out those marching orders.

    I do look to certain individuals whose opinions I admire, for insight and example, sort of as role models. But mainly I look to them for ideas/examples of _how_ to folliow the brethren at the grass roots individual level. I think they help me _follow the Brethren_, not “interpret” the Brethren.

    I’ve only skimmed this RO manifesto, and so far, I don’t see what the purpose is. I may study it a little deeper, out of my respect for J Max.

    but, ouside of online topical discussions at M* where these 3 may

  7. I do not use the DezNat hashtag myself, and I generally fall closer to what you’re calling the center. But I personally know several people who use the hashtag (one of them a sister missionary currently serving from my ward), and I take issue with a few claims you’ve made, Rame.

    “It is not an active organization in the sense that DezNat or other extremist organizations are.”

    DezNat is not an organization in any sense. It’s about a dozen people who use a hashtag on Twitter. Most of their interactions take place in public on Twitter, and they are no more affiliated than a group of commenters on your local paper’s website. Occasionally somebody will say something stupid, and they’re usually called out pretty quick. You can’t police a hashtag. It’s also a phenomenon almost exclusive to Twitter. It’s high-context and meta. Not easily understood by reading a Peggy Fletcher Stack article.

    Your claim is an absolute falsehood. Was this intentional or are you simply under-informed? I have an idea.. I’ll let you define “active organization,” then let’s see if we can use evidence to fit DezNat in that box.

    “We do not want to tell the Brethren they are wrong, as many on the two extremes try to do.”

    You didn’t mention DezNat here, but I assume you imply it. I challenge you to find any posting with the hashtag where the poster is challenging anything said by the Brethren. Seriously, go ahead. I’ll wait.

    Like I said, I probably identify more with RO than DezNat, and I certainly don’t condone the trolling tactics of many who use the hashtag. But I’m not going to stand by and let you perpetuate myths.

  8. “…dangerous form of fundamentalism, such as what we find with Denver Snuffer’s apostate group.”

    Yea, its dangerous to adhere to what Joseph Smith Jr. taught….

  9. I think no one is suggesting that DezNat be policed. They are only a few, true, but they are very vocal on a very effective social platform. Their acidic mockery of others and juvenile behavior toward their randomly targeted persons can cause damage to the very institution they seek to help. True, there are a few who may be innocently participating with #DezNat, but it is the *pattern* of the group’s behavior that should cause pause.

    Btw, I am a strong advocate of authentic discipleship. I believe that secularism, Liberalism, ‘Progressive’ism are a disease in the Church. They practice a subtle, sophisticated form of priestcraft that is gaining ground in the Church’s perimeter—in such institutions as BYU and Deseret Book, and elsewhere. Because of it, we see toxic fad/false philosophies parroted in Sunday gospel doctrine classes and other classrooms and meetings. This phenomenon not benign. It is a concern that should burn.

    But #DezNat’s methods of are not a solution. They are rather another problem.

  10. “ Because of it, we see toxic fad/false philosophies parroted in Sunday gospel doctrine classes and other classrooms and meetings.”

    Evidence, please. A ballpark example might even do.

  11. The evidence is self-evident. Maybe you can seek and peek yourself; I normally avoid the void of give-and-take on blogs. I think it is a forum for taking things for what they’re worth. One agrees or disagrees.

    But for what it’s worth: I think about Patrick Mason’s toxic new age philosophy of *doubt* as a belief system—as a *type* of belief, and as a means of spiritual progress. In strongest, pointed language, the Savior condemned doubt. Mason’s muck is supported by Adam Miller and others. They are marketed by and showcased at Deseret Book. Their tomelets are products of the BYU “Neal A. Maxwell” Institute.

  12. JUDGE: Mr. Danielsen, you have accused the defendant of robbery. Do you have any evidence to present? Video? Photo? Eyewitness? Anything?

    GLEN: The evidence is self-evident.

    Do you see how ridiculous this is? We’re supposed to be reasonable adults here. Make claims all you want, but good heavens, at least attempt to back them up!

    I’ll ask again– which toxic fad/false philosophies parroted in Sunday gospel doctrine classes and other classrooms and meetings? This is a reasonable request.

  13. This, troll Kiddo, is why I refuse to get sucked into give-and-takes on blogs. Someone’s not paying attention, otherwise you idiot-speak would not be allowed to post here.

  14. Rame, thanks for this article. I can’t see anything wrong with this manifesto, and it might do some good. I can support this.

  15. I’m still skeptical – I have followed and admire the good work of many of the signatories on this manifesto, but it still seems a bit… off. There’s little I really disagree with exactly, but it seems timid and not at all radically orthodox.

    I think enemies of the Church already know what they’re going to do to co-opt this latest effort at promoting faithfulness – using their (the faithful) own principles of civility against them, sneak in falsehoods under the guise of being ‘open’ to new ideas and searching for the truth, and ultimately using the platform to turn the hearts of many. It always seems to happen with these scholarly/intellectual-type pseudo-organizations. I wish it didn’t, though, but maybe there’s some natural law against using this approach to enhance faithfulness. Defense, yes, enhance, maybe not.

    Say what you will about the DezNat guys, but I consider them the salt of the earth. They are one of the least organized of all the groups I’ve seen and only have two things in common: Twitter and fierce defense of the Church. I don’t know if their approach is any better, but they seem to grow instead of decay, and there is fire among them.

  16. Glen Danielsen said:

    “This, troll Kiddo, is why I refuse to get sucked into give-and-takes on blogs. Someone’s not paying attention, otherwise you idiot-speak would not be allowed to post here.”

    Tell me more, o wise centrist sage, about being Christlike on the internet.

    Lukewarm said:

    “Say what you will about the DezNat guys, but I consider them the salt of the earth.”

    I’ve mentioned it before here, but about a year ago, certain events in my life left me in spiritual crisis and saw me critical of both ward and church leadership. I made an off-hand remark on a Twitter thread where some of the commenters used the hashtag. One of the DezNat guys reached out to me privately and spent an inordinate amount of time talking me off the ledge. Using scriptures and quotes from current apostles, he lovingly convinced me that my attitude needed to change.

    Maybe he was super mean to somebody on the internet right after that, but I will never forget his sincere efforts with me. A few months later, I discovered that another person who used the hashtag daily, then suddenly disappeared, was a sister missionary from my own ward who is faithfully serving the Lord in California.

    So while I don’t condone some of the tone and tactics of the DezNat crowd and do not use the hashtag myself, I take it personally when unsubstantiated claims are made about them.

    Lukewarm also said:

    “I have followed and admire the good work of many of the signatories on this manifesto, but it still seems a bit… off.”

    Yeah, what tipped me off is that it was being promoted by Peggy Fletcher Stack.

  17. I am not sure I would call it “promoted” by Peggy Fletcher Stack. I saw nothing in her article that showed that she supported it in any way. If anything, I got the opposite feel.

    However, I do respect the majority of the signatories and will take some time to read their articles.

    I do not know much of DezNat, as I do not do Twitter. And really, all that I know about them is second hand from boards like this one and some other articles. So I will withhold judgement in either direction at this point.

    I do find that I like the idea of having more sites where faithful saints can congregate. And for all of the dross on the internet, there are some really wonderful things out there too.

  18. “We are open to considering new ways to look at old traditions and beliefs: such as moving past the old canard of the curse of Cain.”

    Old canard? Cain was cursed, scripture is clear and no prophet has denied it. Quite heterodox of you to suggest otherwise.

  19. Sorry, typo in spell checker. While California seems to be cursed in 2020, i was referring to Caan.

  20. B – I would hope that they meant to say, “old interpretations of what the curse of Cain really was.”

    The scriptures are clear that Cain was cursed. However they are less clear on how that curse was actually manifest. I think that this is what they were referring to. Just my supposition, and I am happy to grant them that leniency.

  21. Um, I don’t see a need for a ‘manifesto’. If you are actively studying the scriptures and general conference, and are worthy of a temple recommend, you should be good. I don’t like putting any person’s idea of what ‘orthodoxy’ is in the same realm as the truths of the gospel found in scripture. But that’s just me.

  22. Yeah, while I take no issue with any of its content or its definition of orthodoxy, I bristle at manifestos in general.

    Interestingly, this statement…

    “Radical orthodoxy is not a faction, nor a label intended to set forth boundaries for any particular group or organization. It is rather a rallying point, and invitation to embrace conviction and fidelity.”

    … is an apt description of DezNat. Btw, still waiting on Rame or Glen to address my responses to their unfounded accusations. While I suspect Glen’s issue with DezNat stems from a negative interaction on Twitter (I’ve followed him for a while now), I assume Rame’s concept of DezNat comes all third-hand.

    Honestly, Radical Orthodoxy sounds like a more polite version of DezNat. While they might not be thrilled with some of the signatories, I’m not sure they’d take issue with anything in that document.

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