Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)? – Introduction

John DehlinPrisoner: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Prisoner: Whose side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling…. We want information…information…information!
Prisoner: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are, Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number; I am a free man!
Number Two: [shouting] Why, why, why did you resign?
Prisoner: I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign.
Number Two: Why did you resign?
Prisoner: For peace.
Number Two: You resigned for peace?
Prisoner: Yes. Let me out.
Number Two: You’re a fool.
Prisoner: For peace of mind.
Number Two: What?
Prisoner: For peace of mind!
Number Two: Why?
Prisoner: Because too many people know too much.
Number Two: Never!
Prisoner: I know too much!
Number Two: Tell me.
Prisoner: I know too much about you!

My Introduction to the Bloggernacle Through Mormon Matters

Recently Bonnie from Wheat and Tares asked me a question that no one had ever asked me before. She wanted to know why I had resigned from Mormon Matters. Actually “resigned” is the wrong word. I supposed I never in any sense officially resigned. I simply stopped posting one day and stopped even visiting or commenting. It didn’t even really happen all at once. It started out with me taking longer and longer breaks from blogging on Mormon Matters and then one day the “break” was so long there was no point in my coming back.

But like our prisoner above, I had reasons for leaving that I had never really told anyone. And, not unlike the prisoner quote above, the real reasons included a realization that both Mormon Matters and I would be a lot more peaceful and successful without me present. (See next post.)

I sensed that Bonnie was asking me in part because she is wondering about how to best focus her own blogging efforts. Like here, I wanted to participate in a sort of interfaith dialogue (interfaith between Believing Mormonism and Post-Belief-Mormonism, with several possible inbetween positions) but found that, in practice, it was just not as good a thing as I hoped.

But why? At first I couldn’t even put my finger on why it just felt so wrong for me to be participating on Mormon Matters. Dialogue was good, right? How could it be bad? We were talking! We are airing differences and coming to understand one another better! Right?! Right!?

I just kept telling myself that, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

So this series of posts will attempt to answer Bonnie’s question to me. I am really attempting to put feelings into words for the first time. These are thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for a while and I’m glad that Bonnie finally gave me a chance to ‘let them out.’

So I want you all to pretend that Bonnie is the “new number two” and she is grilling me harshly and I am finally cracking and spilling all as to Why I Resigned From Mormon Matters.

How It Began

In January of 2008 my stint as a Mormon Matters permablogger began with this post. It continued until April of 2009 and ended with this post. Mormon Matters started as a group blog days after John Dehlin stopped producing his Mormon Stories Podcast. (He has since restarted it.)

Interestingly, I had just discovered the Bloggernacle days before from reading Richard Bushman’s book On the Road with Joseph Smith where he speaks very approvingly of the Bloggernacle, particulary Times and Seasons. I must have commented on Times and Seasons two or maybe three threads and then, following various links, I had come across the Mormon Stories blog and podcast and had even called and talked with John Dehlin on the phone.

John had completed his last podcast (or so he thought at the time) and during an online discussion thread he had an idea to start a so-called “full spectrum” blog where believers, moderates, and post Mormons could get together, share their experiences, and talk about their Mormon experience. John opened up an invitation to be a permablogger and I was soon a permablogger on a major Mormon blog – only days after having found the Bloggernacle. So please keep in mind just how Bloggernacle naïve I was at the time. I think people on the Bloggernacle – especially its John Dehlin side – forget just how shocking the introduction to the Bloggernacle can be to many members of the LDS Church.

John had decided to make this group blog on his Mormon Matters website. Mormon Matters had been his other podcast. Unlike Mormon Stories, which was aimed at telling one’s personal story, Mormon Matters was a panel style podcast with a connected blog. It would now be a group blog with no podcast. (It has since gone back to being a podcast.)

The first year of Mormon Matters, while I was actively blogging there, consisted of a pretty good mix of those that believed in the LDS Church’s defining truth claims (I explain what those are in this post) and those that did not.

As you might imagine for a Bloggernacle site (and particularly for one run by John Dehlin), even amongst those that believed in the LDS Church’s truth claims, there was quite a bit if liberal (political and theological) leaning. So I soon found myself, against all odds, as probably the single most “conservative” member of the blog.

This was a very odd situation because frankly I’m just not that deeply conservative, neither politically nor religiously. But often (despite the presence of some relatively religiously conservative members like Hawkgrrl or Stephen) I sometimes felt like I was the Glen Beck of Mormon Matters. A situation I had hardly expected to find myself in.

The Key Players

Let me tell you about some of the key players back then so that you have some context. First, let me say that this is my honest and sincere attempt to explain my impressions of each of the players and what they believed. I do not know if they’d all agree with me or not on my assessment of where they were coming from. Indeed, one of the problems I discovered on Mormon Matters is that some people hold their beliefs close to their vest.

Here are the key players as I remember them:

John Dehlin was an occasional poster, of course. John is, belief-wise, a post Mormon but back then (he’s changed this position since) with a desire to help people like himself that no longer believe in the truth claims of the LDS Chruch to still be actively involved in Church.

Hawkgrrl was a very active blog commenter back in those early days and eventually became a permablogger and even started running the site. She believes in the core truth claims of the LDS Church (including Book of Mormon historicity) due to an experience she had with God in her younger years. However, she positions herself as a “moderate Mormon” and this is probably accurate. She is a very sympathetic individual and can relate to the issues with the LDS Church that many talk about. She clearly wants to help people find their place (in or out) of the Church as they choose.

John Hamer is a historian and blogger that grew up in the LDS Church but stopped believing in it by the time he was a teenager (though he apparently went on to go to BYU despite not believing in it). He, at the time, considered himself a “Secular Mormon” which he never did define in a way that I can tell you what that means. He has since joined the Community of Christ when they changed their stance on homosexuality and priesthood. I remember a conversation with John where he strongly hinted that he feels called by God (it is unclear how he defines “God” and he may only define “God” non-literally) to free the LDS Church of the evils of scriptural literalism and priesthood hierarchy and to move them towards more of the Community of Christ model. Nevertheless, John is convinced that doing so would save the LDS Church from the destructive path (he believes) they are already on and will allow them to be successful and continue to grow. John eventually quit the blog to go to By Common Consent (BCC) as a permablogger. Interestingly, despite insisting that he just wanted to go blog at BCC, many people believed that a backroom permablogger brawl between him and Chris Bigelow was the real reason for his leaving.

Stephen Marsh was a relatively conservative and believing Mormon that was sometimes hard to pin down. But overall, he seemed to me to be a believer in the defining doctrines of the LDS Church and friendly to its practices and beliefs.

Clay Whipkey was a close friend of John Dehlin and his story is similar to John’s. He was entirely post Mormon believe-wise, but (at the time anyhow) still active and even (like John Dehlin) held a temple recommend. (See this article on how this is accomplished.) Clay was entirely open about his lack of belief and was really the first post Mormon I talked to at length and (mistakenly) thought that he was typical of post Mormons. In fact, he is not.  But I loved talking with Clay in those early days because he seemed so completely open about where he was coming from which sometimes included a very strong distaste for the LDS Church’s hierarchy and also for many of their beliefs and practices. However, he did accept at least one LDS truth claim as a worthwhile teaching (even if he wasn’t sure it was true or not) and that was Theosis: becoming gods.

It had not been long since Clay Whipkey had turned from still being a believer in the LDS Church to a non-believer agitating for change and he admits it was due to his friendship with John Dehlin. It’s interesting to read some of his earlier comments before becoming post-Mormon to see how much his rhetoric had changed such that he didn’t even seem like the same person to me anymore. (See this 2006 post and look for the comment from “Clay”) I really enjoyed talking with Clay because of his openness.

Andrew Ainsworth was a fairly typical LDS member and believer with a strong interest in other religions and their beliefs. He had incorporated a number of beliefs and practices with from other religions into his life. (See here and here)  (So do I, actually. I do Buddhist meditation.) But he was still quite conservative in his Mormon beliefs and started out his time on Mormon Matters as probably the second most religiously conservative permablogger. By the time he was done, he had become noticeably more “liberal” to even someone like DougG (who commented to me on the change) and was far closer to someone like John Dehlin. I started out fairly close to Andrew and we used to talk on the phone, but as he changed he seemed to have lost interest in talking with me.

John Nilsson was a self-proclaimed “Menu Mormon” which is a term for those that pick and choose what to believe of Mormonism. However, I was unaware of any defining belief of Mormonism that he had chosen off the menu. Clay Whipkey and John Dehlin self-labeled as Menu Mormons at the time as well, though that term has since fallen out of disuse to some degree.

This turned out to be a common occurrence amongst Menu Mormons — choosing little or nothing off of it menu. But John was different somehow. At least in his writings and comments, he didn’t mind entertaining the possibility of it all being real. I remember him talking to me about “well, I don’t know what it would be like to have angels ordain me” or the like. This made him refreshing to talk to and he was openly friendly to belief at times, even if he did not personally believe in such cases. John was a joy to converse with.

Jeff Spector was a permablogger that seemed to me to fall fairly firmly in the range of “believing.” However, I did not know Jeff that well and can’t tell you much about him because we rarely talked or interacted while I was there.

DougG was not a permablogger at Mormon Matters at the time, but instead a regular commenter. He was as self-proclaimed “New Order Mormon” (Which I used to joked was not New, nor an Order, nor Mormon.) Essentially a “New Order Mormon” is another name for a “Menu Mormon” or a “Third Path Mormon” which was essentially either a practicing-but-not-believing Mormon (as was the case at the time for John Dehlin, Clay Whipkey, and John Nilsson) or was also used for a non-practicing-and-non-believing Mormon who still culturally identified with Mormonism in some way. The later was DougG. I have to mention DougG because he was the person on Mormon Matters I was the closest too. We would talk a lot on the phone and we became close enough friends that we made several attempts to go to lunch and even bring our wives. The thing I liked about Doug was that he was completely open about his beliefs. Even more so than Clay Whipkey. (More on this later.)

Interestingly, I have a similar relationship, as I did with DougG, with Greg Rockwell who is on the Sunstone board. Greg is a self-proclaimed “apostate” Mormon that is a sort of Network king of the Mormon Internet world. My conversations with Greg (about declining Sunstone) in part led to this series, so here’s my shout out to him.

I seem to get along particularly well with highly open and highly straightforward types even if they completely disagree with me over everything. As I’ll discuss later, I had a huge struggle to getting along with people who are not open about where they are coming from or who use deceptive language to imply things that aren’t true. In fact, such people sometimes hated me because I had a bad habit of piercing their rhetoric with “illegal questions.”

So, in general, I got along with all of the above (with some tensions) because all of them were relatively open about their beliefs and mostly avoided deceptive language. (Though John Hamer pushes the boundaries of ‘spin’ as far as was humanly possible in my opinion.)

One other person that I think deserves special mention, even though he was not one of the original permabloggers or even commenters, is Ray. Ray eventually became a permablogger at Mormon Matters. Ray is still a major commenter over at BCC. Ray is belief-wise, a believer. He is highly liberal leaning (as you’d imagine from a BCCer) politically and even religiously. He showed a strong desire to ‘defend’ Mormon beliefs and practices openly against those that wanted to spin them as negatives. Ray was probably the second person I was closest to on Mormon Matters after DougG and we used to talk on the phone a lot too. Ray’s counsel to me played a strong role in why I resigned from Mormon Matters.

In all actually, the players changed regularly. For example, I didn’t mention Bored in Vernal who was important there. (And who wouldn’t like her?) And Chris Bigelow, who I didn’t know at all and hardly interacted with, played an important role in why I quit when he was removed as a permablogger by John Dehlin in part for stating that he supported the Church’s doctrines on homosexuality on the permablogger email list. [1]

Nor did I mention Nick Literski or Joe Geisner, who while not very active as permabloggers, played an important role in my choices. In fact, there are far too numerous people who I can’t possibly mention.

So Why Did You Resign?

So this was the environment I found myself in. It was a fun and enjoyable (particularly at first) and I remember my time there fondly. I still enjoy talking to all of the above people now and again.

So why did I quit then?

In another post that previously made I gave a few high level reasons for why I quit.

Those reasons are accurate but do not represent the whole of my reasons. They do not get to, as I like to say, “the heart of the matter.”

In that post, the reasons I gave boil down to the fact that I had a growing feeling of non-relevance to that community. The topics I was interested in were mostly ignored. The only post I ever did that broke 100 comments was one that had accidentally turned into a polygamy argument because I had mentioned polygamy in passing. Most of my posts got 10 or so comments with half of them being me. Really, perhaps, not bad. But nothing like the number of comments Mormon Matters would get on its regular topics of homosexuality, gay marriage, what if the Church wasn’t true after all, etc. It was very clear that certain topics were of far greater interest than others.

Remember, I was a Bloggernacle newbie at the time. Indeed, I was a blog newbie period. It is rare that any blog post gets over 100 comments without there being the ‘train wreck’ effect. Controversy and argument breeds heavy commenting. But I didn’t really know that at the time.

With this background in mind, you’re ready for the rest of my series.


[1] Chris made the mistake of saying that in his view, though people might be born with a sexual predilection one way or the other, God expected them to still move themselves towards heterosexuality. This statement lead to the previously mentioned brawl between him and John Hamer and John left Mormon Matters for BCC within a day or so after that. It looked bad, though I suspect that John Hamer was actually telling the truth that the brawl had little to do with his choice to blog at BCC. But regardless of John Hamer’s reasons for leaving, the end result was that John Dehlin dismissed Chris soon thereafter. In the email John Dehlin sent to Chris stating why he was removed, he listed three reasons. One of which was his argument between him and John Hamer on the issue of homosexuality. Hawkgrrl later convinced me this wasn’t the primary or most important reason, however.

43 thoughts on “Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)? – Introduction

  1. To help you out, I am starting the comments. You just need 99 more!

    I have found over the years of blogging that people love train wrecks. Controversy means people can proclaim their personal beliefs with enough passion to ensure that it then is fact, and not just opinion.

    Sadly, a group like Mormon Matters does not open dialogue, it just allows for lots of voices to spout off. The problem is, in the din of loud voices, no one hears anything but their own voice. Christ taught that contention is Satan’s doctrine (3 Ne 11). Blogs akin to MM do not help people strengthen their testimonies. Because many posts are fraught with contention and/or contentious issues, there is little unity (doctrine of Christ) established. Eventually one thing happens to those who prefer Christ’s peace over Satan’s contention: they either go elsewhere, or they fall prey to the hypnotic siren call of loud voices, and becomes one of them.
    It is not a surprise that more people fall away from the Church reading Mormon Matters or other such blogs, than have their testimonies strengthened.
    BTW, I met John Hamer at the Kirtland Sunstone Conference. I think he’s a very nice and amiable person, and a very good historian. However, I haven’t seen him act in a moment of controversy, so cannot comment regarding that.

  2. awww, I regret that I never asked this question. I do love tales of the history of the bloggernacle.

    I think that building a community, attracting commenters, etc., is always a work-in-process. The phrase, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t seem true to me. I mean, yeah, there are controversial topics that attract folks like honey attracts flies, but I think for the most part, it takes work.

    I experience this these days. How do I present a post on Twitter? How do I present it to a FB group? On Google+? Etc., And where should I present it? Different posts should be presented in different ways to different audiences to get the right response.

    I personally am pretty good at getting the middle-way to disaffected audience. I know what channels to go for that. I know how to frame posts for those groups. I don’t know all the groups and channels for believing members, and I don’t even know what I would even say to present a post.

  3. This was a good post. I’ve been on and off the bloggernacle infrequently (this time being my longest, especially in terms of actually posting), so I miss out on a lot of things. I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about Mormon Matters, and this post helps me understand why.

  4. In fairness, I don’t believe anyone objected to Chris Bigelow simply on the basis of his views regarding homosexuality. Rather, it was a matter of how he treated others in relation to those views. You may remember that he wasn’t just holding to LDS teachings on the subject. He was an extremist, to the point of “prophecying” more than once that gays and lesbians would force all faithful members of the LDS church to literally flee into the wilderness and establish their own seperatist society. He believed that gay men were a serious threat to his children, to the point that he would knowingly not allow his children to be in the same room/building as a gay person. The ideas he was promoting were outrageously bigotted, not “religiously conservative.”

  5. I am mixed about these types of posts because they are extremely personal and also involve a lot of navel-gazing. That being said, there is some interesting “history of the bloggernacle” here that probably should be told, so I will be reading this series with interest.

  6. Based on the early stats, there appears to be huge interest in this subject because a LOT of people are reading this post. These navel gazing stories appear to be popular.

  7. Geoff B,

    re 6, 7,

    it has all the elements of scandal needed. JOHN DEHLIN. HOMOSEXUALITY. LIBERAL NONBELIEVING MORMON OUTRAGE.

    plus, anyone mentioned by name in this post can at least theoretically challenge the telling of the series of events presented here.

    I haven’t perfected the science of popular posts, but i mean, yeah.

  8. 1. Andrew S, you seem to be good folk.
    2. David F, exactly!
    3. I never mind anyone having diffences of opinions or interpretations from my own, it just bothers me that they mind.
    4. A good bloggernacle blog invites conversation and recognizes a variety of views, all in the absence of superiority, egomania, and self proclaimed victimization.
    5. I don’t like blogs that seem bitter and resentful in nature. I don’t care if you are liberal, moderate like me, or conservative. Just make your point, share your views, and stop posturing. In the end, it’s not necessarily about being right or wrong, that might have to wait to be determined…it’s that you are polite, not a whiner, and have your view backed by good documentation. If you are expressing your opinion, don’t get hurt by some that have an opposing opinion.
    6. Mormon Matters can run as it wants to, but I am not wanting any part of a one sided story here.

  9. I think its really in bad taste to publish a long post on why you left some sorta-Mormon blog. Its pretty boorish.

  10. I wonder how many people “get” Adam G’s joke in #11. Lotsa inside baseball from a few years ago. It’s funny how we are a community with such inside jokes.

  11. Really, wow, I had no idea there were still comments going on. I guess leaving a blog and blogging about it guarantees you immortality.

  12. If you were the Glenn Beck of Mormon Matters, you’re the Michael Moore here on M*.

    I think it’s important to communicate respectfully with people you disagree with on a fundamental level, but I can understand why Mormon Matters was too much. I think we all need to find that balance between becoming too comfortable and only communicating with people who agree with us, and being so surrounded by people we disagree with that we run into problems. For those of us who can’t find that balance in our geographic or/and church community, the community of the bloggernacle can be a big help.

  13. Bruce, remember that Tim comparing you to Michael Moore is meant as a compliment. Just so we’re clear. 🙂

    The truth is that Bruce is in a category all his own.

  14. Comparing him to Michael Moore might be offensive, but not quite as offensive as comparing him to Glenn Beck. 🙂

    Bruce is a moderate. Which makes him a bit of an extremist on Mormon Matters and M*. Quite frankly, I respect the moderates (Bruce, Ray, a handful of others) more than I respect anyone else on the bloggernacle, even if I sometimes disagree with them. I think they have the ability to see both sides of an argument, a skill the rest of us too often lack.

  15. It’s definitely about the personalities.

    Chris Bigelow is an interesting guy. He’s fairly liberal and seemed at home in the more liberal areas of Mormonism. But then, because of his rather orthodox and strident stance on homosexuality, he was metaphorically excommunicated from those areas. It’s quite interesting to see what issues are “deal breakers” for particular communities.

  16. “If you were the Glenn Beck of Mormon Matters, you’re the Michael Moore here on M*.”

    Tim. Like! Gave me a good laugh.

  17. Comment #5 (Nick)

    Nick, I remember when you claimed Orson Scott Card was suggesting that defenders of traditional marriage should start a violent over throw of the government. When I looked at what he actually said, it turned out that he had suggested that defenders of traditional marriage should peacefully call a constitutional convention and change the constitution.

    So forgive me if I’m skeptical of your memory of the situation. It doesn’t even come close to matching mine.

    I was trying to avoid getting into any details on Chris’ dismissional and to avoid details like this. But it seems unfair to let Nick state his memory of it without now counterbalacing it with mine.

    First of all, I have no idea what Chris’ beliefs about homosexuality are other than what he said in that one conversation and his post afterwards. So it is entirely possible that Chris has the types of issues that Nick suggests. That is to say, Nick might have access to other information that I did not. So I’m going on only what was said in the backroom and in a follow on post that got Chris dismissed.

    You may remember that he wasn’t just holding to LDS teachings on the subject. He was an extremist, to the point of “prophecying” more than once that gays and lesbians would force all faithful members of the LDS church to literally flee into the wilderness and establish their own seperatist society.

    Actually, John Hamer made a direct prophecy to Chris that the LDS church would accept homosexuality openly and throw Chris under the bus and then deny that they changed anything and never apologize, so chris should just shut his mouth and not say anything because that was what was going to happen to him if he continued to support the LDS church’s current teachings.

    Only then did Chris suggest — in a post later on, not in the backroom discussion John Dehlin cites as the issue — the possibility that it might come to a partial withdrawl with the way things are going. I don’t recall him saying anything like “flee into the wilderness and establish their own seperatist society”. I think it was Matt Thurston that interpreted him that way and used words similar to those.

    He believed that gay men were a serious threat to his children, to the point that he would knowingly not allow his children to be in the same room/building as a gay person.

    Do not recall this in the slightest. And I remember re-reading Chris a few times because everyone was so offended at what he said. I simply do not recall him ever saying something like this or even hinting at it. I guess it’s possible I can’t remember now. But I doubt it.

    If Chris does hold the view of Nick’s second quote, then I wholly disagree with him and find it offensive. But given my concerns with Nick’s ability to correctly recall information like this, I am hesitant to assume Nick is correct without an actual quote from Chris.

  18. Bruce, let me clarify something here. I was not saying that the “backroom discussion” you describe had nothing to do with Chris’ expulsion. I wasn’t even part of that particular discussion, so I’m pretty sure it took place during the time that I was choosing not to receive the backchannel permablogger bickerings (which was honestly my impression of many of the posts). My comment in #5 was only to indicate that there was a larger context, in which others (not just me, not just John) took issue with Chris’ extremism on the topic.

    That said:
    (1) I do not believe that your characterization of Orson Scott Card’s comments is correct. If you can find where he suggested “peacefully calling a constitutional convention and changing the constitution,” I’d be interested in seeing that—mainly because it would be an entirely different quote from the ones I’ve pointed to, where he called for a government treating GLBT citizens equally under the marriage laws to be “destroyed” by “any means necessary.” If you feel I’m interpreting his words in the worst possible way, I can only say that your “peacefully call for a constitutional convention” version is at the opposite extreme.

    I don’t have any reason to dispute your suggestion that Chris’ “prophecy” was made in response to comments by John Hamer. Chris made that statement publicly, however, in both Mormon Matters and his own personal blog. I’ll grant that I summarized by using the word “separist,” but that accurately describes what he said. To be specific, he directly made the comparison to Nephi taking his followers and fleeing into the wilderness to get away from his brother and their followers. I’d say that qualifies as “separatist.”

    As for Chris’ stated distrust of gay men (and implied assumption that gay men = pedophiles), I’m willing to grant that it may not have been stated specifically within Mormon Matters. Frankly, I saw his outrageous comments in a variety of venues back then. It’s entirely possible that he only said it in other venues, such as his personal blog. In any case, it appeared to me that the bloggers at Mormon Matters were largely aware of his outside statements—and yes, I think they were an influence on his removal.

  19. The guy who wrote that long post and superlong comments thread about leaving Times and Seasons isn’t me. It’s another blind Greek blogger of the same name.

  20. Adam and Bruce,

    Clearly, M* is a refugee camp for those who have fled from the visceral and angry mobs involved in so many other Mormon-related blogs.

  21. Nick,

    Fair enough! I have no problem with anything you said.

    Hey, can you find the quote you have in mind from Orson Scott Card? (When you have time.)

    I’ll try to find mine. Then we can see if they are the same quote with different memories or not.

  22. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700245157/State-job-is-not-to-redefine-marriage.html?pg=all

    (As I post these quotes, the bold emphasis is mine.)

    Card wrote this article leading up to the California Prop 8 vote. He began with the “not at all hysterical” claim that court decisions recognizing the Constitutional right to marriage equality as “the end of democracy in America.” Then, after a litany of highly-confused, misleading claims about science, he makes a bizarre claim that marriage is the “property” of heterosexual couples, subject to legal property rights:

    If property rights were utterly abolished, and you could own nothing, you would leave that society as quickly as possible — or create a new society that agreed to respect each other’s property rights and protected them from outsiders who would attempt to take away your property. Marriage is, if anything, more vital, more central, than property.

    Note the language about leaving that society, or creating a new one. It’s important, given where he goes later in the article:

    Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary.

    Okay, so far you can charitably say he’s talking about voting, or seeking to lawfully amend the Constitution, right? But look where he goes next:

    Why should married people feel the slightest loyalty to a government or society that are conspiring to encourage reproductive and/or marital dysfunction in their children? Why should married people tolerate the interference of such a government or society in their family life? If America becomes a place where our children are taken from us by law and forced to attend schools where they are taught that cohabitation is as good as marriage, that motherhood doesn’t require a husband or father, and that homosexuality is as valid a choice as heterosexuality for their future lives, then why in the world should married people continue to accept the authority of such a government?

    Note the repeated language here, urging rejection of the government itself. Card then takes the next step:

    How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

    Lest readers have any remaining excuse to interpret Card as “do your duty and VOTE,” he finishes with:

    If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

    So there you have it, Bruce. Card’s comments are bad enough in isolation, but when you read them in the context of his whole article, it takes an astounding level of mental contortions to believe he is calling for anything short of overthrowing the government—by violence if necessary—in the event that marriage equality is recognized.

  23. I miss excitement I felt when I started writing on Mormon Matters. I was brand new to the bloggernaccle at the time so it was fun to have a place like that. I still like blogging (now at W&T) although I don’t write much write now.

  24. Nick,

    Thanks for setting the record straight.

    I’m glad to see that the idea of violence is NOT introduced by Orson Scott Card, but rather by you.

    It is pretty clear he’s not talkig about a violent overthrow, but a withdrawl of support and an unwillingness to defend.

    Here is a link to another article by him that further explains his non-violent means of withdrawing support.

    Thanks for clearing that up. As an honest person, I would hope that you’ll start to correctly represent him from this point forward and drop out your inferences that he is talking about violent overthrow.

  25. Oh, here is the article where he talks about how to undo the existing constitution via the peaceful means of calling a convention.

    These are pretty extreme things he’s talking about. But you are falsely claiming that he’s calling for a violent overthrow.

    Here he explains this for himself:

    At that point, what can we do? I’ve heard frustrated people talk about armed rebellion, about overthrowing the government. Those of you with itchy trigger fingers, put away your guns. We are committed to democracy, not to violence.

    Please read a history of the French Revolution. And then the Russian Revolution. Armed rebellion does not restore constitutional government, it most likely replaces one dictatorship with a worse one.

    Card is calling for Peaceful Noncompliance, not violent overthrow.

  26. Thank you, Bruce. I was unaware that approximately four months after Orson Scott Card made his intemperate (read: “looney”) remarks, he attempted to walk them back somewhat. This makes sense, of course, since he was widely ridiculed for the original article.

    You have every right, of course, to advocate for your theory that the October article accurately reflects the viewpoint which motivated Orson Scott Card’s July 24th call to arms. If I was a devoted defender of the LDS faith, perhaps I’d be equally motivated to “excuse away” an article which reflects so shamefully on the more thoughtful members of your church. Similar attempts, after all, have been made to recharacterize Sidney Rigdon’s “salt sermon” so as to appear less inflammatory.

    That said, I must take exception with your claim that any “honest person” would dismiss the plain language of Card’s July article in order to make it sound less treasonous. All an “honest person” can do in this circumstance is point out that Orson Scott Card issued a subsequent diatribe in which he backed down from his call for armed revolution, while demostrating a rather dramatic level of confusion regarding the Constitution of the United States.

  27. Nick,

    I already posted you a link to this post where Card outlines what he means by withdrawl and non-support. He outlines specifically peaceful means.

    And that article is a full four years before the Deseret News article!

    Tricky tricky to ingore the earliest article and only look at the later one four months after yours and then work up a narrative about how he changed his mind four months later.

    Plus, there is the fact that the Deseret News article doesn’t meantion violence at all, only you do when interpreting it.

  28. Actually, I didn’t ignore the article—I honestly thought you were linking in both cases to the same one. Having read that article now, I see that I may as well have ignored it, as it says nothing whatsoever to support your contention. It’s just another lengthy diatribe by a man who profoundly misunderstands basic Constitutional law. The closest thing to your “non-support” he mentions is a peculiar reference to how “traditional Americans” are “willing to FIGHT AND DIE” (emphasis mine) to promote his laughable concept of an America ruled by the dictates and ideals of his religion.

    Sorry, Bruce, but you’re clearly grasping at desperate straws here. I’d be much more impressed if you were to agree with Card’s position while acknowledging that he’s a raving nutcase, rather than trying to defend his position by falsely claiming he’s rational.

  29. Okay, I’m going to let the readers of M* decide for themselves which of us is clearly grasping at straws. I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

    You just mentioned that Card mentions FIGHTING AND DYING (emphasis yours) as a way to try to connect up his rhetoric to your supposed reading of him advocting violence. For all readers that cherish truth over political advantage, here is the full context of what you quoted with emphasis on “fight or die” to support your claims:

    Let’s take a poll of our volunteer military — especially those who specialize in combat areas — and see what civilization it is that they actually volunteered to defend.

    Since the politically correct are loudly unwilling to fight or die for their version of America, and they are actively trying to destroy the version of America that traditional Americans are willing to fight or die to defend, just how long will “America” last, once they’ve driven out the traditional culture?

  30. 1) Wow, the site just up and changed designs on me. I approve! Although comment numberings would be greatly appreciated.

    2) I am struck by the poignancy of the statement to “let the readers of M* decide for themselves which of us is clearly grasping at straws” especially with respect to the topic of your post. It just seems to me that there must be an immense comfort in being able to reasonably expect what answer you’ll get from one community — because I suspect the answer from “the readers of M*” is going to be different from the answer you would have gotten at MM, W&T, etc.,

  31. Well, I don’t think I fit the mould of the average M* community member. But going off of that quotation (I haven’t read the article from which it comes), I don’t think Card is advocating violence. It looks like he is making an observation of how people would probably react (including, perhaps, himself).

    To draw an analogy, Iran’s president Ahmedinejad has said on multiple occasions that Israel will be exterminated. Many westerners have taken this to mean that Ahmedinejad is actually advocating violence against Israel, partly because we think we know what is going on inside his head. But that is a false assumption. He is merely making a prediction of which he is certain. He really isn’t the aggressor which his critics paint him to be.

    Card seems to be making a similar kind of statement. He is observing, and predicting. I see a syllogism:

    -The military, and the conservative thinkers who participate in it, fight for their version of America
    -Their version of America is under threat by constitutional revisionists
    -The military et. al., will fight the constitutional revisionists

    It’s a dumb argument, and not at all sound, but I see no threats.

  32. Andrew S,

    I hate to say this (and looking over DavidF’s response) but that isn’t necessarily an endorsement for W&T or MM.

    Nevertheless, you are right and I in fact meant it that way. But it’s Nick’s own choice to make his argument here where people aren’t already primed to see the worst.

  33. It seems pretty clear to me that Orson Card is saying nothing more remarkable than an America without people willing to fight and die to defend it isn’t likely to last very long, and the only people who show any inclination to do that do it in favor of a cultural and civilizational concept that is rapidly disappearing. There is no suggestion that those folks will fight back, but rather that they will lose heart.

  34. There was definitely a brouhaha over Chris’s attitude and positions that seemed designed to offend a few of the permas. As I recall the other issue was his desire to publish a book using everyone else’s posts without permission. To me that was a bigger issue, along with the lack of awareness of why that would not be copascetic. I also personally felt his posts were drawing an extremely negative quality of discussion. In fairness, he wasn’t the only one. What I discovered there was that many of the powerkegs had a short shelf life.

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