Lunch with Lou Midgley, and Musings from the FAIR conference

I spent 11 hours at the FAIR conference on Friday, and I believe that I spent about 5 of them with Lou Midgley.

The time with Dr. Midgley, and with the folks at FAIR (including Daniel Peterson), reinforced an important lesson that I keep re-learning regarding the Mormon Internet–we are sometimes not ourselves when we engage in Internet conversations, and more importantly, those we converse with are often not exactly who we think they are.

Now before you start thinking that I’m gonna get all slobbery about Dr. Midgley, let me remind you of something a good friend (Gregory Prince) told me in his studies of Mormon History: “There are no black hats, and there are no white hats.” The purpose of this post isn’t to say that Dr. Midgley’s hat is white. But for those of you who have never met him–let me assure you that his hat is not black either. A few reflections…

  • If you think that Dr. Midgley is a “blind apologist”, not willing to hold those within the church to the same level of scrutiny that he holds his anti-LDS foes, you do not know Lou Midgley.
  • If you think that Dr. Midgley has not stood up for what he feels is right within the church as he has without (sometimes at a personal cost), you do not know Lou Midgley.
  • If you think that Dr. Midgley is not sincere, and is not driven by a firm conviction as to the thruthfulness of the church, a deep love for it, and a desire for goodness on this earth, you do not know Dr. Midgley.
  • Finally, if you think Dr. Midgley beleves that he is without sin, and is not willing to acknowedge his error when he makes it, you don’t know him either.

Now I’ll grant you that I have similar feelings about Grant Palmer, Michael Quinn, and many other people that have suffered collateral damage (sometimes self-inflicted) in the war of words between apologists and the disaffected. I really, really detest when people’s faith or character are called into question, and I still retain a strong loathing for mean spiritedness and ad-hominim (sp?) attacks. But I also now better understand that sometimes, what is meant in jest, is sometimes taken as mean-spiritedness. And what starts out as a desire to defend what is most precious (on either side), far too easily spills over into defensiveness and anger. I’ll always fight against heat…but I also see that I have been the cause of some heat myself.

Truth be told, the stuff I have written is not only applicable to Dr. Midgley, but also to Dan Peterson and pretty much all the rest of the FAIR volunteers. These are sincere, good-natured folk with good intentions–who are honestly trying to do what they believe is right. In fact, I would claim this about many of us in the LDS “borderlands”, and in many instances, those in the DAMU as well.

Something else that crystalized for me was the realization that each one of us has a very clear bias, and strong opinions about HOW we might be able to make a difference in this world. Perhaps these biases and differences in approach are what divide us most.

I used to say that Mormon Stories was all about “open, honest and respectful.” I still desire these things, but those words are so charged, and so subjective–and do not fully encapsulate what I really hope to accomplish on the Mormon Internet (if I am able to accomplish anything at all). What I now am interested in doing, is building bridges. Between apologists and anti’s. Between conservatives and liberals. Between the estranged and their families. Between the believing and the disbelieving. Between all of us.

At FAIR, I watched Dan Vogel and Brent Metcalf sit in presentations where their work was openly discussed (and sometimes criticized), and then witnessed them both clap for, and go up to their “opponents” at the end and shake their hands, and discuss their differences. This was so beautiful to me. We need much, much more if it.

Anti’s force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Anti’s help inspire change within the church.

Apologists force the anti’s to be credible, accurate, and thoughtful. They keep anti’s on top of their game, so to speak.

In the end, I believe that they are all both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause. In fact, I believe that they share MUCH more in common with each other, than with the average “asleep” member.

If we can focus on that which we have in common (love for truth, desire to make the world a better place, a passion for more joy and less pain in each of our lives), and less on what divides (historical BOM vs. non-historical BOM, “one true church” vs. really good church, etc.)–I believe that we can create something beautiful out of what we have started.

That is my new hope and mission. More bridges. Thanks to you all (across the ENTIRE spectrum) for helping me see this more clearly. I look forward to doing it with you (or folding up shop).

Comments

comments

37 comments for “Lunch with Lou Midgley, and Musings from the FAIR conference

  1. August 5, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree about your comments on the gentlemanliness of both Metcalfe and Vogel as they were sitting in on listening to their works being reviewed by various FAIR speakers. Metcalfe and I have been friends for a few years and I have so very much enjoyed the fact that he appears at our FAIR conference, and shares his ideas, and migles, and learns, and then invites us to Sunstone, etc. The interaction is very good, and builds a comradare that cannot be built otherwise.

    I don’t agree with a lot of what Vogel and Metcalfe, and Marquardt, and Quinn, and others have written all the time, but that has nothing to do with being friends, congenial, and working together to come to better understandings and a deeper faith………..

    And for the record, as I also talked with Metcalfe (along with Juliann, one of the FAIR Board Members), I have to agree with him that he is not an anti-Mormon, in the classical sense. He isn’t exactly a Mormon though either – GRIN! Affiliation aside however, there is great value in Brent’s work, and now, thanks to Brian Huaglid’s presentation, this entire Joseph Smith Papyri issue seems to be moving forward beyond mere polemics, and into something of more informed and better quality substance and discussion. This is only to be loudly applauded!

    THe only enemy is ignorance, not someone else who is not Mormon, or not Catholic, or not of “our” faith. It is by associating with all people that we find out more about our own selves also.

    The FAIR conference this year was of a high caliber and quality that interestingly enough, increases each year. Scott Gordon and the the FAIR Board is doing substantial work, and having some delightful success in their endeavors,…. in all our endeavors of growing together in studying the best books, and listening to the best scholars on the best subjects. It is indeed always a delight to attend the FAIR Conferences.

    Best,
    Kerry A. Shirts

  2. August 5, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    Anti’s force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Anti’s help inspire change within the church.

    I don’t think so. But perhaps I have a different definition of anti. I don’t think Vogel, Metcalfe, etc. are antis.

    I hope to attend next year’s conference.

  3. August 5, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Truth be told, the stuff I have written is not only applicable to Dr. Midgley, but also to Dan Peterson and pretty much all the rest of the FAIR volunteers. These are sincere, good-natured folk with good intentions–who are honestly trying to do what they believe is right.

    Well said.

  4. August 5, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    “What I now am interested in doing, is building bridges. Between apologists and anti’s. Between conservatives and liberals. Between the estranged and their families. Between the believing and the disbelieving. Between all of us.” – John Dehlin.

    I’m on your side John, as you know. So many times the disillusioned member feels out in the cold when what they needs is love and support.

    “THe only enemy is ignorance, not someone else who is not Mormon, or not Catholic, or not of “our” faith. It is by associating with all people that we find out more about our own selves also.” – Kerry A. Shirts

    Perfectly said Kerry; ignorance is the enemy. I remember the first time I learned about Joseph Smith’s seer stone for example; it was after my mission. I brought it up to an LDS friend who actually got upset at me. He immediately accused me of reading “anti-Mormon literature.” He said that Joseph would have never done such a thing, for it would make the whole thing look contrived. When I provided evidence in a little known piece of LDS literature (see Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, July 1993, 61) he backed down a bit and saw me less as the enemy of his Faith.

    Often times the New Order Mormon or the Post Mormon feels like the messenger who delivers the facts wrapped in the truth, causing cognitive dissonance in the receiver, leading to personal attacks on the messenger as a form of dissonance reduction. I’m not sure how to fully accomplish respectfully delivering the truth without this usual result?

    Maybe the key is being honest and RESPECTUL as Dehlin stresses. We can build bridges by seeking what Steven Covey says in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Principle 5 is “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If we do that and then think in terms of win/win (principle 4) and engage in Socratic dialogue, with mutual respect, maybe then we can build bridges and the truth will prevail?

  5. August 5, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    “What I now am interested in doing, is building bridges. Between apologists and anti’s. Between conservatives and liberals. Between the estranged and their families. Between the believing and the disbelieving. Between all of us.”

    Woo hoo!! I am very excited to see this goal realized by you and hopefully many others, John! I think that bridging that “reality gap” is more grand and nobler than the polemic proving/disproving that we all get caught up in (anti’s vs apoli’s).

    “In the end, I believe that they are all both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause. In fact, I believe that they share MUCH more in common with each other, than with the average “asleep” member.”

    That is so profoundly true to me. Anti’s, if former LDS, were usually the oposite of your average “asleep”/head in the sand member. They are many times RM’s and many times thrived in studying the gospel on their missions. I was the same way (very apologetic and studious about the gospel) and now I don’t know where I find myself on the “spectrum”. That is why I can’t be happier for these types of goals to be laid out and sought for in the communities of LDS scholarship. It’s going to be very fun to see if these bridges really can be made.

    Thanks, John!

  6. August 5, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    I appreciate your thoughts and insight John. I totally forgot about the conference, otherwise I would have gone. Oh well, there’s next year.

  7. August 5, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    John,

    I enjoyed reading your comments about the FAIR conference and your lunch with Bro. Midgley. I applaud your goals of bridge building, and of treating everyone with more respect and dignity; however, I’m with J. Stapley and his observation of your comment:

    Anti’s force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Anti’s help inspire change within the church.

    I also strongly disagree with you here:

    In the end, I believe that they are all both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause.

    Anti-Mormons do not in any way shape or form force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Nor do they help inspire change within the church.

    Anti-Mormons have not and do not fight for similar things as those of us who believe in the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph, the Truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and the authority of the current Prophets, Seers and Revelators who guide Christ’s Church today.

    Perhaps there is not clear definition of who or what is an Anti-Mormon; but, I think a good beginning is here.

    That said–I wish you well on trying to build bridges where such bridging is possible. More civility, respect, and dignity should be afforded to all, whether strident anti-Mormon or hard core apologist. President Hinckley has so admonished us.

  8. noel
    August 5, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    I look forward to hear a podcast of your talk with Midgley, I received a rather nasty email from him years ago. I wondered if he has mellowed. He seems more interested in confronting people in shops, dlgging for dirt (Palmer and Walters)

  9. August 5, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    I agree. While some people sometimes get heated, I don’t think most apologists I know consider the main “Signature” figures to be anti-Mormons. They definitely adopt a thorough naturalist viewpoint – perhaps from an LDS view a bit unfairly at times. But it would be the height of naivete to expect everyone writing on LDS topics to buy into Mormon truth claims.

  10. August 5, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    About half way down the Wikipedia article on the term “Anti-Mormonism” we come to:

    “Rejection of the term:

    Some members of the church who write negatively about the church, especially those who call into question its divine nature, have had their writings labeled anti-Mormon despite rejecting that term. Members critical of the church tend to get disfellowshipped or excommunicated, making active members less likely to approach their work (for example, the September Six, Grant Palmer, Thomas W. Murphy, etc). Exmormons who write about the church are likewise frequently labeled anti-Mormon, even when their writings are not inflammatory in nature.[57] The debate of who is “anti-Mormon” frequently arises in Mormon discussons of authors and sources. One view suggests, “It’s just another label used to draw the line in the sand and separate us and them.” Another view suggests, “Everyone is anti- what they’re not pro-.[58]”

    I was surprised that footnote 57 links to my personal story as a former Mormon who is friendly torward the church. I give a definition of the term anti-Mormon in the introduction to my webpage from an LDS apologist here:
    http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000/intro.html

    I personally would like to see more use of the term post-mormon or exmormon rather than just lumping all “former Mormons with opinions about the church” into the anti camp. Wouldn’t it be hard for a Latter day Saint to have a friendly sit down with a Baptist if the Baptist kept calling him or her an anti-Baptist just because they disagreed with the doctrine of the Trinity?

  11. August 6, 2006 at 12:26 am

    wkempton:

    I believe a fair reading of the Wikipedia article you actually quote in your comment does not in fact state you are a former Mormon who is friendly toward the church.

    In fact is seems to suggest the opposite, i.e., that some ex-Mormons who write about the Church are sometimes labeled anti-Mormon.

    I’m not interested in a semantical discussion on who is or is not an anti-Mormon. In my brief review of your website, to which you link, in my opinion you are not “friendly” toward the Church. But, again that is only my opinion.

    My point, I guess is this:

    1. Regardless of where you fit on the “faith” spectrum, you, and everyone else are still entitled to be treated with respect, civility, and dignity in online discussions;

    2. I do not believe websites such as yours force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Nor, do I believe they help inspire change within the church;

    3. Further, I do not personally believe you and I are both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause.

    These were points where I disagreed with John in his post. Where I did agree with John, is that you, and everyone else is entitled to the civility, dignity and respect previously referenced. This is true whether you are labeled anti, or friendly, or whatever label you want for yourself.

    I referenced the Wikipedia article only as a starting point toward some definition. I recognize there can likely be no definitive all encompassing definition.

  12. August 6, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Guy Murray,

    Thanks for your comments. I also don’t wish to get into a “semantical discussion on who is or is not an anti-Mormon.” The Wikipedia article is complex, it states my website is “not inflammatory in nature,” insinuating it shouldn’t be labeled anti-Mormon, as you agree I am friendly torward the church. Anyway, I just had an idea. Maybe John caould post a list of definitions. Post-Mormon =, anti =, New Order/Cultural Mormon = etc. Just a thought. Then everyone can offer suggestions until we reach a concensus on the meaning of terms.

    First, thank you for wanting everyone to be treated with civility, dignity and respect.

    I would like to briefly comment on two of your points:

    “2. I do not believe websites such as yours force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Nor, do I believe they help inspire change within the church…”

    Well there is no way to know this. I personally believe that people like me both inside and outside the church influenced the 1978 revelation to give blacks the priesthood for example. If, “if,” that is true then those like me, and John Dehlin for that matter, do influence the church, do we not?

    “3. Further, I do not personally believe you and I are both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause.”

    We may not both be on the side of endorsing the BoM as a history of the American Indians but are we not both on the side of promoting ethical principles? Don’t we both want to learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Don’t we both want to understand the other’s perspective and seek win/win outcomes? Don’t we both want a world of peace and harmony?

  13. August 6, 2006 at 8:04 am

    wkempton:

    1. I believe you misread my comment. I do not believe your website is friendly toward the Church. In fact, I believe just the opposite.

    2. We will have to agree to disagree on the influence of your writings (or similar writings of others) on Church policy and/or doctrine; however, I think it a far stretch to assume that The Brethren read and/or care about the types of writings and links that appear on your website (or similar websites) or those to which you link. I believe this is true now, and believe it to have been true in 1978.

    3. My comment to fighting for similar things was in direct reference to the Divinity of the Book of Mormon, The mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the current authority of the Q12 and FP, mission of and Divinity of the Church. Here we are at polar opposites.

  14. Paul
    August 6, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Great post, John. I think the new tag line for mormonstories is much better.

    All it takes to turn a healthy dialogue into a hopeless argument is a little rhetoric that places one person’s argument on a higher moral ground than the other’s. It takes real discipline to avoid such rhetoric given the passion we all feel for these topics.

    Speaking of rhetoric, I think it’s time to drop the label “anti-Mormon.” It’s an emotionally charged label that has been traditionally too broadly applied. The label has caused the sincere (even loyal) critic to be placed in the same category as the evangelical recuit who protests general conference by blowing his nose into garments. This kind of stereo-typing only widens the gap.

  15. August 6, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Guy Murray

    It appears that I did misread your comment, you don’t believe my website is friendly toward the Church. Sorry about that. I understand why you might feel that way, but just keep in mind that I don’t know of any other allegedly “non-friendly websites” that has a long essay on the why they are pro-Mormon:

    See http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000/positiveside.html
    Or a website that has a side by side fair and balanced link page to both the pro and con, see http://www.geocities.com/exmormon2000/testimony.html.

    As Paul said above so perfectly, I and those like me, are not “an evangelical recruit who protests general conference by blowing his nose into garments.” I’m not selling another dogma, I do not hate the church or want to destroy it, and I make no money off my writings. I have dinner with my TBM parents every Sunday and am very friendly to them and respect their choices.

    You are absolutely right; it would be a far stretch to assume that The Brethren read and/or care about my writings and links that appear on my website (or similar websites). Then again, you never know! And there is the snow ball effect. Apologists mingle with critics, apologists mingle with The Brethren, and this influences change I believe. Take the temple penalties being removed in 1990. Was it because the critics we’re exposing those elements of the ritual? Was it because of a questionnaire sent out to LDS temple goers? Or both? Was it those protesting the practice of polygamy that influenced change? Was it insider LDS intellectuals that rejected the early Mormon doctrine of the Godhead in the Lectures on Faith, that the Holy Ghost wasn’t a person, that led to the removal of the Lectures on Faith? I could go on giving examples but you see my point. Perhaps we can agree to disagree on that.

    You’re right that I’m not fighting for the “Divinity” of the Book of Mormon; I have dropped that premise and started over. I start with the facts, gather information, and form my opinion based on where the evidence leads me. Regarding Joseph Smith, the divine calling of church leaders, and D&C 130: 1; perhaps you’re right, we appear to be at polar opposites. But in the spirit of building bridges, and applying the LDS commitment pattern of building on common beliefs, I believe the BoM has many great philosophical insights like “wickedness never was happiness” and “there must need be opposition in all things” etc. Second, I admire Smith’s humanistic leanings, e.g. his rejection of original sin and saved by grace alone, and his concept of a three tier Heaven where the majority of people go, which was more in line with the Universalists of his day (I believe someone close to him was a Universalist). I believe the LDS church does more good than harm, and when LDS leaders preach the Golden Rule, to love one another (even Post-Mormons like me) and other ethical principles I am on the side of that.

  16. August 6, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    In the 1850’s the Apostle Orson Pratt declared “…Convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds” (The Seer pg 15-16).

  17. Juliann
    August 6, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    Quote: I personally would like to see more use of the term post-mormon or exmormon rather than just lumping all “former Mormons with opinions about the church” into the anti camp. Wouldn’t it be hard for a Latter day Saint to have a friendly sit down with a Baptist if the Baptist kept calling him or her an anti-Baptist just because they disagreed with the doctrine of the Trinity?
    ————

    This position is part of the polarization problem. It is absurd to even suggest that those who *disagree* with doctrine would be considered “anti” by any believing LDS. If that were true, we would be calling most of the world’s population “anti”. There will be no bridges when the guy on the other side is refusing to represent the other accurately.

    As for terminology, there is a substantial body of information and data from sociologists of religion that is growing by the day on apostates, leave-takers and the like. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel or argue over definitions.

    QUOTE: The apostate is a defector who is aligned with an oppositional coalition in an effort to broaden a dispute, and embraces public claims making activities to attack his or her former group. Unlike typical leave takers whose responses range from indifference to quiet disenchantment, the apostate assumes a vituperative or hostile posture and pursues a moral campaign to discredit the group.
    Daniel Carson Johnson, “Apostates Who Never Were: The Social Construction of Absque Facto Apostate Narratives,” in The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements, ed. David G. Bromley (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1998), 109.

    QUOTE: Apostates may pursue a variety of strategies to solidify their careers: consolidating their experience and acquiring credentials that support a more permanent social niche; reconstructing their position and experience within the organization, particularly status inflation, so that their testimony becomes more valuable in sanctioning the organization; modifying the narrative content so that it appeals to the specific interest of one or more elements of the oppositional coalition; and embellishing the narrative so as to maintain niche viability, particularly when the existence of a cohort of apostates creates role competition.
    David G. Bromley, “The Social Construction of Contested Exit Roles: Defectors, Whistleblowers, and Apostates,” The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements, ed. David G. Bromley (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1998), 38.

    The most common type by far, of course, is the “leave-taker” who responds with indifference or “quiet disenchantment.” They simply walk away and do something else.

    What continues to fascinate me is the apostates refusal to accept what is obvious to the most casual observer. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time in an effort to discredit a group, no matter how objective they may think they are in doing so, is an apostate..or whatever term one wants to apply to the behaviors described above.

    The advantage to admitting to what is going on is that it enables us to look at conversion and deconversion and see them as the same process. That is what will build those bridges. But until the critics/apostates/anti-Mormons whatever come to terms with what they are doing there can be no more meaningful dialogue than we see here.

  18. August 6, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    Juliann,

    Thanks for responding.

    You said: “It is absurd to even suggest that those who *disagree* with doctrine would be considered ‘anti’ by any believing LDS. If that were true, we would be calling most of the world’s population ‘anti’. There will be no bridges when the guy on the other side is refusing to represent the other accurately.”

    Amen to that!

    I don’t have that much of a problem with the term apostate as long as it is recognized that it does carry negative connotations, and would include many Mormons themselves as apostates. When I googled the word apostate some less than favorable definitions came up. Many active devout Mormons are “apostate” themselves by definition by the way. Many LDS converts have apostatized from being Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim etc. This site here refers to Mormons (or anyone) who apostatized from another religion as:

    “One who has abandoned one’s religious faith, a political party, one’s principles, or a cause.”

    “disloyal person who betrays or deserts his cause or religion”

    “A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.”

    “Traitor.”

    “A person who has defected.”

    Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/apostate

    Personally, I prefer to call my exCatholic friends, who are now Mormon, something else. As for me, I prefer the terms former Mormon, exmormon, Post Mormon, critic, etc. These are neutral terms that at least describe me I think. As for the first quote you provide Juliann, it states that:

    “The apostate is a defector who is aligned with an oppositional coalition in an effort to broaden a dispute, and embraces public claims making activities to attack his or her former group…”

    Isn’t this ambiguous? The word “attack” here can mean anything from a terrorist act to slapping a priest in the face if you’re a former Catholic that apostatized from the so-called only true church in Rome and joined the allegedly only true church in Utah.

    “…Unlike typical leave takers whose responses range from indifference to quiet disenchantment, the apostate assumes a vituperative or hostile posture and pursues a moral campaign to discredit the group.”

    This is saying that apostates engage in “verbal abuse.” Who does that? Not even the Tanners are verbally abusive to my knowledge. I don’t know if you would call me an apostate or not Juliann. But my point is that these definitions are too broad perhaps? And at least for me it does not clarify the problem of certain labels that impede amicable dialogue. Maybe the simple answer is to just call people what they want to be called instead of using a label as our weapon against them?

    You wrote: “what continues to fascinate me is the apostate’s refusal to accept what is obvious to the most casual observer. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time in an effort to discredit a group, no matter how objective they may think they are in doing so, is an apostate…or whatever term one wants to apply to the behaviors described above…”

    As an LDS missionary I spent “a significant amount of time in an effort to discredit” traditional Christianity. When I wasn’t discrediting Fundamentalist Christianity with my Bible, I would bear my testimony that Christiandom is in a state of apostasy, Joseph Smith said the creeds are an abomination, and there are save two churches (referring to the BoM). Obviously I was more subtle, but this was my goal, to discredit their religion and get them to join mine. If I happened to be an Evangelical Christian before I joined the LDS church would you call me an “apostate’ Christian?”

    Question: if a former Catholic who converted to Mormonism hands the book The Great Apostasy by James E. Talmage (that seeks to discredit Catholicism) to their former Priest are they “apostates”?

    If I’m walking along the side walk and trip over a crack in the road, should I warn my neighbor behind me who didn’t see me trip? For me, I don’t wish to discredit or attack but share information, seek mutual understanding, and promote full-disclosure and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Once again, I propose we call people the names they want to be called rather than use negative labels that often act as conversations stoppers. Being called a Mormon is something LDS members usually do not like to be called. When I was active LDS I would say, “Mormon is a dead prophet, I’m LDS…” My point is that those who were being respectful called me an LDS Christian in order to accomplish bridge building. Other Latter day Saints don’t care if you call them Mormon. My point is that I call people what they want to be called out of respect.

  19. August 7, 2006 at 12:18 am

    Regarding my reference to the Trinity. For everyone’s information, in the book Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. Talmage admits that the Mormon concept of atonement is “a mystery,” but then he turns around and attacks the Catholics for saying their doctrine of the Trinity “is a mystery.” Talmage does not grant Catholics the same leeway in referring to their dogma as a mystery that he does (See pg. 43). Talmage argues that their three in one God is basically a nonexistent deity because it’s an incoherent god-concept, thus implying that all Catholic and Protestant Christians are a type of atheist: believing in an incoherent concept. He dismisses the Catholic attempts to refer to the Trinity as a mystery, but does not hesitate to refer to the Mormon concept of atonement as a mystery. According to Talmage, only Mormons who are Social Trinitarians or Henotheists, and believe in materialistic finite Gods, are true theists (See pg. 43-44).

    So again I ask, wouldn’t it be hard for a Latter day Saint to have a friendly sit down with a Catholic if the Catholic kept calling him or her an anti-Catholic just because an official LDS publication attacked and tried to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity?

    Shouldn’t we avoid negative labels and respectfully call people what they want to be called?

  20. August 7, 2006 at 10:46 am

    “Maybe the simple answer is to just call people what they want to be called instead of using a label as our weapon against them?” Ooh, I agree with this wholeheartedly. I want to be called “King of Kolob.” Thanks.

  21. Kaimi
    August 7, 2006 at 11:09 am

    John,

    You haven’t answered the question that’s on everyone’s mind, however:

    Was there fondue?

    You can’t very well build bridges if you’re holding us all in suspense on the important stuff.

  22. Hiram Page
    August 7, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    The difficulty with the term “apostate”, whether it is commonly used in the scholarly literature or not, is that at its roots it is a theological term. It is the term that has come to be used by the so-called “faithful” to stigmatize not only people who leave, but also people who disagree with some supposed normative position. I think the term continues to be an unfortunate choice, and I think even scholars would do better to adopt a term with less baggage.

  23. Juliann
    August 7, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Hiram, I agree that the use of “apostate” as a technical term is unfortunate. But…it is what it is. I do like the term “leave taker” and “whistleblower”. The advantage in using sociological lingo is that it cuts through the hysteria and levels the playing field so a discussion can proceed. When it becomes clear that active believers and active disbelievers (apostates) are merely the flip side of the same coin in many instances it tends to reduce the temperature. Well…unless the “apostate” is so reactionary that being compared to a believer n any way sets them off, which I have seen happen. But I have also seen the realization that deconversion is the flip side of conversion to be a release from unfair accusations of wrong doing.

    WKempton, you have taken what I think is a reasonably clear description from a scholar and inserted your own verbiage to change what was actually said to “verbal abuse”. This is where any meaningful dialogue stops and I will stop. It is not that difficult to use the appropriate terminology when presented with someone else’s work.

  24. August 7, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Admit it, y’all are missing Mayan Elephant. Just a little bit. Come on, admit it.

  25. August 7, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    One has to be careful in recognizing ones audience. What goes in the scholarly community often doesn’t in the more lay community. The words often have significantly different connotations.

  26. Hiram Page
    August 7, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    Juliann, I think the idea that deconversion is the flipside of conversion is extremely useful. Still don’t like the term apostate, although I get your point. ‘Leave taker’ doesn’t roll off my tongue, but I do agree that sociological terms are often preferable.

    My problem with our usage of the term in connection with things LDS also includes the fact that it is sometimes applied to members of the Church who disagree with each other, jokingly and in earnest.

    Cheers!

  27. Juliann
    August 8, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Hiram, I’d like to think it is possible that even LDS can make the distinction between a technical usage and a common (and inappropriately applied) usage. That may be an impossible dream…but to use sociology to explain conversion/deconversion it is going to have to happen. I also find sociology useful in explaining exit narratives in a way that makes them the flip side of conversion narratives…they are both crafted and have to suit the audience. I think once people start realizing that humans behave in predictable ways that can be observed and analyzed it tends to remove the magical element that people on both sides tend to use as a weapon.

    QUOTE: These several scholars have, in one way or another, recognized a more active subject “working out” one’s own conversion. They have noted that conversion to new religions often means a series of affiliative and disaffiliative acts that constitute a conversion career, and that individuals are often only deciding to behave as a convert, playing the convert role, as they experiment with or affirm their personhood. These researchers have found that conversion is a social phenomenon, with affection and emotional ties playing key roles in the affirmative decision to negotiate with a group about possible participation and commitment. This new emerging paradigm competes against modern versions of the traditional “Pauline paradigm” that has been dominant for decades.
    Armand Mauss, “Research in Social Movements and in New Religious Movements: The Prospects for Convergence, “ in Religion and the Social Order: The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America, eds. David G. Bromley and Jerffrey K. Hadden (Greenwich, CT:JAI Press Inc., 1993), 172.

  28. August 8, 2006 at 12:51 am

    Hi John,

    You are completely right about this. The BEST thing we can do with these issues is to sit down and discuss them with people we can see, instead of debating with people half a world away.

    Unfortunatly, the Church basically outlaws discussing these things in a safe environment with friends and family. There is even a temple question about it. That is too bad.

  29. Juliann
    August 8, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    There is no temple question that regulates what I can discuss with my “friends and family”. If there were, I would not have a temple recommend because I discuss anything that comes up..and half of my siblings have left the church. We are only asked to not discuss temple topics *outside* of the temple and that is not even in the interview. This is part of what I find so discouraging in trying to have a discussion. One is constantly having to respond to egregiously inaccurate statements. If you have a temple recommend you would know what the question refers to…and it is most certainly not referring to conversations.

  30. August 9, 2006 at 1:00 am

    Hmmm, where is it? Oh yes, here it is:

    6. Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?

    To “affiliate”: 1 a : to bring or receive into close connection as a member or branch b : to associate as a member
    2 to connect or associate oneself

    Etymology: Medieval Latin affiliatus, past participle of affiliare to adopt as a son, from Latin ad- + filius son

    So, I guess the question could be stated like this “Do you have a close connection with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints …”

    Then, you can decide whether marital, family, or friendly relations are “close associations” when their “teachings or practices” conflict with those in the Church.

    I suppose one could interpret this so far as to not speak with anyone who smokes or drinks coffee, if you wanted. After all, their practices are contrary to those accepted by TCOJCOLDS.

    But even if one was not quite so strict, I know I was certainly not comfortable discussing “church critical” topics with others for fear of not being able to answer “yes” to that question when I was a member.

  31. Clay
    August 9, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Ryan,
    I think you are unreasonably skewing the interpretation of that question. This comment:

    Then, you can decide whether marital, family, or friendly relations are “close associations” when their “teachings or practices” conflict with those in the Church.

    I suppose one could interpret this so far as to not speak with anyone who smokes or drinks coffee, if you wanted. After all, their practices are contrary to those accepted by TCOJCOLDS.

    …seems like a ridiculous interpretation. That reading of the question would never have crossed my mind. Totally aside from dictionary definitions of the word “affiliate”, remaining close with friends or family who have chosen another path regardless of how critical of the church they may be would not be considered in that question by anyone that I have known personally.

    The part that actually contains more gray area is the “do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual” part. I.E. the “affiliate” part of the question would cover if I were a staff member of Recovery From Mormonism, whereas the “sympathize” part of the question doesn’t require that I be officially involved in anything, only that I agree with and would support their efforts. What qualifies as sympathizing is probably going to depend on the case of the individual and the person conducting the interview.

    Also, I have a hard time believing that people who refuse to even discuss controversial topics for fear of losing their temple worthiness are a significant segment of the LDS population. I’ve never heard anyone express that kind of fear before now, and I’ve heard lots of faithful TBM-types discuss critical topics. THe discussion don’t often go very deep, but no one is freaking out about the discussion.

  32. August 9, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    I know I was certainly not comfortable discussing “church critical” topics with others for fear of not being able to answer “yes” to that question when I was a member.

    Then you were sadly unreasonably afraid. I think church members DO in fact get uncomfortable with such topics, but not because of the temple recommend questions. I think they might be more afraid of not being able to reconcile doubts that may arise.

    Seriously, don’t be ridiculous. I don’t think anyone I know who is faithful in the church interprets that questions like you apparently do/did (contrary to the very credible anecdotal evidence always presented in places like RFM).

  33. August 10, 2006 at 2:10 am

    Look, gentlemen, I appreciate the words “ridiculous” and “you were sadly unreasonably afraid”, but I believe my experiences and feelings were and are valid for me.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate the half-point granted from Clay that, yes, certain types of sympathy could be a danger to one’s worthiness checklist. Kind of like sympathizing with some of the goals of Al Quida might be as a US citizen. Maybe you can in honesty say something like, “I see where some ex-Mormons and gays and lesbians within the Church are coming from,” at your next temple recommend interview and see how it goes.

    I am grateful that you live in wards where you can question the accuracy of the first vision or the responsibility for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Sunday school.

    I have come to the realization for myself that every organization that seeks to limit the flow of information is evil. Every organization that seeks dissemination of facts and information and responsible decision-making using this information is good.

    Questions like these, and admonitions to avoid any non-faith-promoting literature as if it were the plague show what kind of an organization the Church is at present.

    “My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge”.

    For those of us who “believed what was being taught”, tried to be “100%ers” and souught to “live by every [often conflicting] word taught by ‘Living Prophets'”, it wasn’t always so easy. Seeing that the Church (or its prophets, depending upon how you see it) has apparent schizophrenia helped me relax about a lot of these issues.

    “Only if you are unafraid of the truth, will you ever find it.”

  34. Clay
    August 10, 2006 at 9:10 am

    Ryan,
    I wasn’t trying to speak to the validity of your feelings. Personally I don’t care for playing that sensitive political correctness game anyway.

    You seem to have this habit of making great leaps between a statement and the point you want to make. For example, I said “I’ve heard lots of faithful TBM-types discuss critical topics” and you bridge that to “question[ing] the accuracy of the first vision or the responsibility for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Sunday school”. Another issue with that comment is that you assume that discussing automatically leads one to the same conclusion to which you have come.

    Also, saying “I see where some ex-Mormons and gays and lesbians within the Church are coming from” probably wouldn’t have much effect on your temple reccommend. It might draw more questions, and if you elaborated to say something like “between the church and [gays/lesbians] or [ex-Mormons] I support the other side over the church”… that would probably keep you out of the temple. The key point being that those two are not the same thing nor are they interpretted as such by most LDS leaders.

    Look, I would probably no longer be considered a “TBM” by anyone who actually is a “TBM”. I recognize some of the dissonance that exists and it is forcing me to change how I understand the Gospel itself aside from its practice in the church. I can relate to people having doubts, but I will still demand that people be reasonable.

  35. August 10, 2006 at 9:36 am

    Looks like you guys are right. Taking things seriously can move people away from the church:

    http://onlyaball.blogspot.com/2006/08/empty-rites.html

  36. -Domokun-
    August 10, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Clay, I think Ryan may be on a tangent from the original point of members being free to discuss deep gospel topics free from censure. Try this experiment: Next Sunday, at the end of Gospel Doctrine SS Class, stand up and announce to everyone that you are forming a study group to discuss the extensive history and doctrine of polygamy, and that you will be meeting in your own home every Saturday evening. I think it would go over like a lead balloon, and very few, if any, members would show up at your study group meeting, and you would probably be asked by your bishop and/or stake president to disband.

    If you confidentially asked each member of your ward why they didn’t want to participate, I am betting that a majority would say that they didn’t want to go against the counsel not to meet outside of church to discuss the gospel, and possibly might even cite the temple recommend interview question as their reason. Self-censorship out of the fear is the worst kind of censorship.

  37. thad
    September 5, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    Dear Friends,

    It’s wonderful to have such a forum to present and review thought. With that, a quick thought on spiritual attribution.

    Every person on this planet has an innate spiritual dimension. Every Mormon, Hebrew, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Atheist, etc.. And Jan’s is no more profound or significant than Jim’s.

    What is fascinating to me is how people/cultures choose to attribute this common human trait. We like to “brand”, “label”, and “differentiate” our religions, and our spirituality. In America especially we like to choose sides. Are you Republican or Democrat, do you like the Dodgers or the Yankees, are you LDS or Protestant… Duracell or Energizer? The Holy Ghost or the Third Eye?

    Bridges…What a beautiful concept. Built with love, knowledge, and understanding, that connect to everyone, everywhere, no exclusion, no superiority, no inferiority. Bridges that traverse above all the “stuff” we tend to get caught up in.

    Keep up the good work.

    Sincerely,
    Thad

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