Mormon Passive-Aggression

by: hawkgrrrl

May 14, 2013

There was a recent article in Sunstone [1] studying the prevalence of avoidance as a conflict strategy among Wasatch front Mormons (students at Weber State specifically).  Organizational leadership courses have been teaching these concepts for decades.  Avoidance is generally considered the least effective conflict strategy; rather than addressing the conflict by making one’s own needs known and by understanding the needs of others, the avoider defers the conflict for another day, unwilling to express his/her own needs and not interested in understanding or meeting the needs of others.  Avoidance can lead to resentment as one’s needs continue to go unmet, and passive aggressive behaviors may emerge.

Conflict Management Styles

First let’s look at the data.  The study in the article is based on a student self-assessment and compares the responses of students in the midwest and Texas with those in Weber State. Comparisons are also made distilling only the data from those raised in Utah vs. not Utah-raised and those raised LDS vs. not LDS-raised.  The highest instance of avoidance as the prevalent conflict strategy is LDS + Utah raised (a score of 9.1).

Here is an overview of the five conflict management styles:

  • Collaborate.  (win-win)  Solutions optimize the result for all parties involved.  Both sides get what they want; negative feelings are minimized.  Pros:  High mutual trust, creates strong commitments.  Cons:  Time and energy consuming.  Collaboration requires both parties clearly expressing their needs and listening well to ensure a solution meets both sets of needs.
  • Compete.  (win-lose)  Authoritarian approach.  Pros:  Quick solutions.  Cons:  Low trust, low commitment, breeds hostility.  In this approach, one party (often with more power than the other) forces his or her will on others.
  • Avoid.  (lose-lose)  Non-confrontational approach.  Pros:  Postpones the difficulty, conflicts don’t escalate.  Cons:  Problems go unaddressed and unresolved.  This approach involves walking away from conflict, pretending it doesn’t exist or simply refusing to engage in dialogue to resolve it.
  • Accommodate.  (lose-win)  One side gives in to maintain the relationship.  Pros:  Minimizes injury when one side is more powerful; relationships are maintained at a cost.  Cons:  Breeds resentment, exploits the weak.  Rather than one side imposing his/her will on the other party, one person suborns their own interests entirely in favor of “keeping the peace” by meeting the other person’s needs.  We sometimes call this being a doormat.
  • Compromise.  (partial win-partial win)  Middle ground approach.  Pros:  Useful in complex situations with no simple solutions, all parties are equal in power.  Cons:  No one is ever really satisfied; yields suboptimal solutions.  In this approach, both parties’ needs are known, but a solution requires that each one give up something.  Some needs of both are met in the process.

According to the study, the 286 samples from the midwest and Texas ranked their conflict style preferences as follows:

  • Compromise (7.9), Collaborate (7.6), Compete (6.1), Accommodate (4.4), and Avoid (4.0) coming in very last.  

By contrast, a Weber State sample of 157 showed the following preference ranking:  Avoid (7.5), Compromise (6.8), Collaborate (6.0), Accommodate (5.6), Compete (4.1).  When the sample was distilled to only those who were raised LDS in Utah, the strategy preferences were as follows:  Avoid (9.1), Compromise (7.7), Accommodate (5.7), Collaborate (4.1), Compete (3.3).

Avoidance and Passive Aggression

The article uses the terms avoidance and passive-aggression interchangeably.  While there is undoubtedly some correlation, these terms are not truly synonymous.  Are Wasatch front Mormons generally more passive-aggressive than the rest of the country (as is posited in the article) or are they simply more prone to use avoidance in conflict situations?  From the article:

A passive-aggressive person will generally deploy such behavioral tactics as: keeping one’s distance and remaining silent or aloof; hiding one’s true thoughts, feelings, or emotions; suppressing, setting aside, or ignoring issues that otherwise should be addressed; postponing or ignoring decisions; resisting change and otherwise championing the status quo; citing rules, policies, procedures, or higher authority as both a defensive and offensive tactic; and providing little meaningful or worthwhile feedback.

I also noted this comment from co-blogger Jeff Spector on a post four years ago about high power-distance index in the church:

I find that church members can have a passive-aggressive nature to them where they act as though they follow, but in reality do not. They pick and chose how and what they will do and make excuses for why they don’t do some things or believe some things. – Jeff Spector

What he is describing is something we’ve all encountered plenty in the church.  Is it more prevalent in Utah?  I can’t say for sure, but when my brother-in-law who is from New Jersey came to stay with my husband and me in Utah (many years ago), he asked us how we dealt with all the complacency of Utah Mormons.  I suspect how we dealt with it was by being complacent ourselves.

Power Distance Index

The author puts forward three working hypotheses for the prevalence of avoidance as a strategy among Wasatch front Mormons:

  1. A simplistic interpretation of 3 Nephi 11:29, equating contention with being “of the devil,” and conflating all conflict into “contention.”
  2. A culture of obedience and submission.
  3. Deference to church leaders and the power-distance index (PDI), which I also blogged about here.

Obviously there is anecdotal evidence to support the above theories.  High PDI cultures are ones in which decision making is concentrated at the highest levels; in low PDI cultures, there is an egalitarian approach to decision making.  High PDI cultures correlate with conflict avoidance because there is a sense of powerlessness.  However, a high PDI culture can also foster a lack of ownership at the lower levels because their input is not solicited or valued.  Is that because of the members or the leaders?  The article puts the onus squarely on church leaders.

We must let Church leaders know that we are watching  them in this regard, and that we will hold them accountable for the ways in which they shape LDS culture and tradition.

But I believe this is just another way to defer our own responsibility.  We could instead just not conform to stupid stuff.  We could learn to live the actual gospel, not just to pretend for the sake of not being called out.

we can decide that as a matter of principle and conscience, any time a male’s name is put forward to fill a calling for which women are by policy excluded, we should seriously consider registering an opposing vote. There is no formal Church rule or policy against exercising our franchise as members to cast an oppositional vote; we simply aren’t used to it. And after the meeting, when we are inevitably taken aside by church leaders and asked to explain our dissenting vote, we can share our reservations about the practice of staffing nonpriesthood callings only with males.

I have a couple of problems with this suggestion.  First, members may or may not view these callings the same way the author does.  Secondly, in a high PDI culture, like the one being described, local leaders don’t have the ability to make changes any more than members do.  Why are we holding these low level leaders accountable in this way vs. raising issues to the source itself?  It’s possible that the culture is so high PDI that we don’t allow members to provide input, but that input will come out in other ways.  Like mercury in the desert, if you step on it, it will reform elsewhere.  Hence, the bloggernacle.

Face Negotiation

I immediately thought of another parallel based on my experience living in Asia:  Face Negotiation.  Working with some Asian cultures, there is a strong expectation that leaders will take responsibility for all decision making and take care of the employees.  The employees are often reluctant or simply unskilled at providing input because in their authoritarian culture, that is not expected.  Decades of submitting to authority and deferring to teachers and leaders results in lack of engagement, lack of accountability, and lack of ideas.  This creates conflict between western styles that have a high expectation for employee input and involvement in decision making and eastern styles that haven’t developed these skills and have higher expectations of leaders than themselves.  Sound familiar?

Face negotiation is not common in the United States where individualism dominates.  For example, our news stories are often critical of our leaders or put forward alternate ideas.  We don’t necessarily assume that is an indictment of us personally by association.  We have the learned ability to distance ourselves from policies and ideas that we don’t like about American culture.

Mormonism may have a tribal identity that trumps individual concerns.  Here’s a quick overview of face negotiation theory:

People from collectivistic cultures usually adopt conflict styles of avoiding or integrating because the “mutual face” or the face of the group is the top concern. People from an individualistic culture adopt a conflict style of dominating because their main concern is maintaining self face because they have a “face” independent from that of the group. . . in collectivist cultures, the face of the group is more important than any individual face in that group. In individualist cultures, the face of the individual is more important than the face of the group.

Something that invariably comes up when there is a Mormon moment that goes viral is that people wish it weren’t public, and they may even attack the insider who “leaked” the story.  People don’t want issues to be published or conflicts to be known.  Is this because of the potential damage to missionary work or is it just group loyalty?  I posit that it is the latter because the focus is not on actually understanding and addressing issues unpalatable to outsiders.

Individualistic cultures usually see obliging and avoiding conflict styles as negatively disengaged, favoring instead more direct forms of conflict.  Collectivistic cultures see these [conflict avoidance strategies] as relevant and viable methods of dealing with conflict employing them in an attempt to protect mutual-face interest. Collectivistic cultures view more direct means of conflict communication as negative.

What are some of the “direct” conflict styles that threaten group face?  Activism, publicity, and blogging are three that come to mind.  Going back to the 5 conflict styles, these are examples of individuals articulating their unmet needs.  And for some, that seems to be sinful.  Whatever elevates individual interest above group interest is a threat.



[1] Michael J. Stevens “Passive-aggression Among the Latter-day Saints,” Sunstone Issue 170.

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82 Responses to Mormon Passive-Aggression

  1. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    I wrote that? I don’t really remember, but I do agree still. In order for there to be passive-aggressive behavior, there has to be the aggressive part as well, not just passivity. I would agree that in their Church life, many members exhibit that passivity and allow leadership to direct them. Not just “lead me, guide me, walk beside me” but tell them what to do. But we are taught in Church to “study it out in our minds,” determine for ourselves… OTOH, we are also taught to be obedient…..

    Not all counsel and advice fits 100% of the people, 100% of the time, so some personal discernment is necessary. After all, we have agency and we are expected to use it.

    Which brings me to the question. Where is the “aggressive” part? I guess you could use the example of someone who has committed to do something, like Home Teaching, but does not do it.

    At work, I saw passive-aggressive behavior manifest itself by someone agreeing to your face, but going to your manager and complaining about your idea. Or, agreeing with the group, but then being the one who says no when the final decision is being made. Now that is aggressive!

    Again, as I commented on the article itself, whether the data and study was valid was one thing, but the author used it as a jumping off point for his personal opinions about the Church and how it is run. One had absolutely nothing to do with the other.

    Which makes it a bad article!

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  2. Paul on May 14, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Looking at the Sunstone article, the statistics on the Avoidance vs the other alternatives is pretty stark (starker than I imagined before lookinmg at the data).

    I’m still struggling with the linkage between avoidance and passive-agression, just as you are.

    I find that how I respond to the kind of survey the Sunstone article cites depends on the context in which I take it. Do I respond as an employee, as a father, as a church member, as a member of a ward council (which I’m not now, but have been in the past)? As much as I’d like to say I am what I am, who I am and how I act may be influenced by context. I’m much more likely to be an “avoider” at church than at work, for instance.

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  3. Howard on May 14, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Well the unvarnished view suggests the church is a culture of behavioral compliance enforced by threat and fact of progressive punishment up to and including excommunication and it uses fear, guilt and shame for reinforcement along the way. It revers obedience and submission and often accepts snitch tips. A passive aggressive reaction to this repressive culture should be no surprise nor should the presence of posers, fakers and hypocrites. That this should be more statistically obvious in higher concentrations like the Wasatch front shouldn’t be a surprise either. How and when they intend to transition from this O.T. Mosaic behavioral model to the Christian Beatitude model I can’t imagine. The Beatitudes presented a new set of Christian ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction. Clearly the church is still stuck in the force and exaction mode at least in the form of a strong perimeter fence that surrounds some kinder principles. Joseph said “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” While this may occasionally get some lip service from the pulpit putting us to sleep on this issue in fact it clearly isn’t practiced today without the perimeter fence of enforcement enclosing it.

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  4. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Gees, Howard, I am not sure what planet you are orbiting? “Enforced by threat?” hardly. More to the point is that people’s eternal progression is in question by their lack of compliance, which is mostly a secret between them and their Heavenly Father.

    There is no wide-spread active policing of Church members. We’re all hypocrites, some more than others.

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  5. anonlds on May 14, 2013 at 1:53 PM


    If their is no active enforcement why are so many women afraid to wear pants?

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  6. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 2:23 PM


    So what happened when women did? pretty much nothing…..

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  7. anonlds on May 14, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I’m pretty sure some people removed themselves from the pool of potential leadership and other callings and otherwise reduced their social standing for their audacity to dress like a professional women in today’s society.

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  8. Howard on May 14, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Threat: an indication of something impending. So there’s no threat from or enforcement by church disciplinary action? Of course there is! It lurks in the backs of members minds, it even has a hushing affect by preventing some members from speaking their minds on the bloggernacle for fear of another September Six like wave of disciplinary action. Wake up Jeff, it’s not as obvious as the gun, mace or handcuffs on a policeman’s belt but you can’t argue it doesn’t exist.

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  9. Bob on May 14, 2013 at 3:15 PM


    The funny thing is, maybe there’s no top-down hierarchical policing of anything, but to deny that there is a general local-level policing is naivete in the extreme. The most conservative, and those requiring most conformity, are those at the local level. You might not see it or experience, but your lack of seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Sure, some stories may be sensationalized, but it’s not that much of a stretch to suggest that the majority of congregations in North America, at least, suffer from enforced conformity – whether it’s bishops and stake presidents enforcing white shirts and ties, no beard rules for local leadership, etc., etc., (all of which I’ve personally witnessed in several states AND stakes and throughout several congregations AND stakes).

    I don’t believe that it’s anything more than local membership thinking that they have the best intentions at heart, but today’s Mormonism is hardly an area which encourages individuality in thought, dress and behavior.

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  10. Howard on May 14, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    The church is enamored with 1950s social conformity without recognizing that it was an anomaly caused by the unifying affect of world war followed by an unprecedented economic expansion that produced an abundance of readily affordable new goods and services. Those days are over and so is Father Knows Best although you wouldn’t know it on must Sundays. Social conformity is a form of repression, passive aggressiveness is a predictable response to repression.

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  11. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    “I’m pretty sure some people removed themselves….”

    Now, there some strong evidence!

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  12. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 4:39 PM


    It’s amusing to me that the cliche about 1950’s conformity is used so much even though most of us were not even adults in the 1950’s so how would we know?

    Most of this rhetoric is unfounded hyperbole based on a secular view of the world. Not a Gospel view.

    “You might not see it or experience, but your lack of seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

    Sounds a bit like UFOs and ghosts…..

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  13. anonlds on May 14, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    I’m sorry I don’t have the resources to track the future callings of those who participated in pants sunday compared to the skirt wearing women. That doesn’t remove the discrimination. Just look at the facebook entries on the topic and you can see that their was a whole lot of judgmentalism going on.

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  14. Howard on May 14, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Sorry to have awakened you Jeff! Go back to your folding chair and quad and don’t forget to raise your hand when they ask for volunteers to clean the chapel.

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  15. brjones on May 14, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Jeff, you seem to have a fundamental inability to acknowledge other people’s experiences. No matter how many people tell you they have experienced a certain thing or view things from a certain perspective, you consistently maintain that they are wrong or imagining things, and your experiences and perspective are accurate. For example, just because you’ve never been given a hard time for wearing a beard doesn’t mean that many wards and stakes don’t draw a hard line on facial hair. At some point you can just state that your experience doesn’t reflect what other people are seeing, while acknowledging that it’s possible there are things going on that you haven’t experienced. It’s possible that your perspective is the one that is skewed. Declarative statements that other people don’t know what they’re talking about or thinly veiled implications that people with differing points of view must be unrighteous are obtuse and unhelpful to the discussion.

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  16. brjones on May 14, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    By the way, Jeff, conditioning members to dismiss and deride experiences of fellow members that tend to question the validity of a group’s message is exactly the kind of intimidation and supression Howard and Anonlds are talking about. Kudos for so aptly proving their point.

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  17. hawkgrrrl on May 14, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    Howard – To me, this is the most salient point: ” It revers obedience and submission and often accepts snitch tips.” While all Christianity reveres submission and obedience to God, the question is whether we revere submission and obedience even when it is to something either trivial or wrong. Unfortunately, we often do. I will agree with Jeff that it’s not always my lived experience, but I’ve seen enough examples to know that people are experiencing it regularly in other locations, especially where there are a high concentration of Mormons. And a key is how the church responds to snitch tips. How did Jesus respond to a “snitch tip” about the woman taken in adultery? Does that differ from how the church responds to a “snitch tip” that someone is wrote a facebook status that another person thought sounded like they were questioning the church?

    I would love to think these are the rogue actions of fanatical members, but my experience at BYU would indicate otherwise. When the church is in full charge, the enforcement of cultural norms and use of guilt, fear, threats, victim blaming, and snitching is far worse, not better.

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  18. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 9:58 PM


    “Sorry to have awakened you Jeff! Go back to your folding chair and quad and don’t forget to raise your hand when they ask for volunteers to clean the chapel.’

    Well, at least I am there to witness what actually goes on instead of seeing something that isn’t there.

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  19. Jeff Spector on May 14, 2013 at 10:02 PM


    “By the way, Jeff, conditioning members to dismiss and deride experiences of fellow members that tend to question the validity of a group’s message is exactly the kind of intimidation and supression Howard and Anonlds are talking about. Kudos for so aptly proving their point.”

    And, it is exactly the collective attitudes of disgrunted members who can’t seem to get their way…..


    “Just look at the facebook entries on the topic and you can see that their was a whole lot of judgmentalism going on.”

    As if Facebook was a true representation of anything having to do with reality or what Church leaders think?

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  20. brjones on May 14, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    It’s interesting to me, Jeff, that the most judgmental and rigid members always fall back on the tired cliche of accusing anyone with a criticism, regardless of its merits, of being a disgruntled member who can’t get what he or she wants. Your ever strident comments and condescending attitude make it hard to understand how the church’s membership numbers could possibly be flagging. Who doesn’t love to have their concerns thrown back in their face by fellow members with a heavy handed dose of “why can’t you be more faithful like me?” added for good measure?

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  21. Howard on May 14, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    I think you’re making a good point but i would like to differentiate it quite a bit more. I have a number of friends who are Catholic and there are a little bit guilty Catholics and a LOT more guilty Catholics but in practice today I haven’t seen much shame instilled by the Catholic church. I’ve attended a number of Christian churches and my daughter goes to a Lutheran school, there is NO shame and very little guild instilled by Christian churches as they rely much more on grace than works. Now people tend to conflate guilt and shame but there is a HUGE difference between them in practice; guilt basically means “I made a mistake” (neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more) (or say five hail Marys and three Our Fathers) but shame basically means I AM a mistake and shame is often felt by LDS transgressors in part because of the public display of not being able to partake of the sacrament or other ordinances for protracted lengths of time and in part because of the O.T. strongly polarized good vs evil view of the church and of many of it’s disciplinary leaders. (I know these days they are supposed to be courts of love lead by the spirit…well some are and some aren’t) The LDS disciplinary process is very, vary far from Jesus’ Christian example of; neither do I condemn thee adulterer, go and sin no more. And until recently one need not even transgress to feel shame all they had to do was to turn out to be gay!

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  22. hawkgrrrl on May 15, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    Howard: The differentiation I have always heard between guilt and shame is that guilt is earned but shame is inherited. Some families are prone to imbue mistakes with shame, whereas others have more healthy approaches to resolving guilt. I don’t think the church, as close as it is to our lives, creates shame in those whose parents provided a more healthy model to dealing with sin. It’s possible the same holds true of passive-aggressive behavior. People learn conflict styles in their homes. Is this a genetic / familial propensity to avoid conflict or is within Mormon culture? I believe more data is needed to determine that, but something is clearly going on in this data.

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  23. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    I don’t think the church, as close as it is to our lives, creates shame in those whose parents provided a more healthy model to dealing with sin. Well I do agree somewhat with this carefully worded statement but based on more than 30 years of personal in depth interest in psychology and having personally worked with a number of shame clients including a few Mormons I don’t believe anywhere close to a majority grew up with a healthy shame model, that is they grew up feeling truly worthy of love and belonging although I think this is improving because nationally we’re coming out of the 1950s one lifestyle fits all repressive social conformity closet making individuality more socially acceptable. Now many people will say that they feel worthy of love and belonging even when they don’t because they perceive admitting it as shaming so this is how pervasive and penetrating shame is, no one wants to admit they actually have it. If by “shame is inherited” you mean largely genetically, I very strongly disagree, shame is largely created by an early galvanizing parental over-response to a specific often sexualized experience and then reenforced as we grow and it’s not necessarily poor parenting at all but it’s textbook genesis is often created by a mom or dad who when startled strongly overreacts to finding a child innocently pleasuring themselves or in some other embarrassing (to the parent) and often sexualized situation and then that galvanized prototypical shame that has been seared into the child’s mind is reenforced as they grow. In my experience the church layers in indoctrination that can easily be interrupted as implying, inviting or even creating shame by it’s exaggerated reaction to sin and most things sexual. Think of it as creating the overacting parent who while otherwise is generally healthy, loving and well intended unintentionally overreacts and shames the self pleasuring child when surprised by what is going on setting that child up for a life of shame if it is later reenforced which is often obligingly done by the church directly and indirectly through the church indoctrinated parent. Think of it as the wife who catches her husband pleasuring himself to porn and makes the matter much worse by catastrophizing and running to the Bishop or threatening or considering divorce because her Prophet led her to believe that this is over the top evil right here in her own home. So I don’t see how you can back the church’s yarn and weave out of the adult’s fabric of shame, it prominently adds to the color and texture of the final product.

    Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

    Brené Brown: Listening to shame

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  24. hawkgrrrl on May 15, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    Howard, yes I enjoyed those TED talks too. I’ll just caveat a few things. When I say “inherited” I mean passed on in families, parent to child, not necessarily genetically (although I do ask the question about passive-aggressive behavior having some sort of “nature” link to explain its prevalence in the data). I wouldn’t restrict “shame” to sexual feelings. I think you can also pass shame on through intolerance for making mistakes.

    It’s certainly true that some of the indoctrination, particularly about sex, is unhealthy in the church – whether inherently or in how it’s presented, I suspect it’s because there are quite a few messed up people perpetuating unhealthy attitudes.

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  25. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    I suspect it’s because there are quite a few messed up people perpetuating unhealthy attitudes. Yes, I agree with this unfortunately one of them happens to be an apostle.

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  26. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    “It’s interesting to me, Jeff, that the most judgmental and rigid members always fall back on the tired cliche of accusing anyone with a criticism, regardless of its merits, of being a disgruntled member who can’t get what he or she wants.”

    So, brjones, exactly how would you characterize it then?

    What is interesting to me is how some like to turn being a “faithful” member into a pejorative.

    And how do you think it feels to those who do remain faithful to have to endure the barrage of criticism parading around as truth? And why isn’t calling that out just as valid, instead called the product of “that the most judgmental and rigid members….”

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  27. ji on May 15, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Jess, you no. 26 is very profound — thanks for the thought…

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  28. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    I think the conflict arises because being a “faithful” member is somewhat synonymous with don’t question or look too deeply, just accept but criticism comes from the process questioning and looking deeply and when one does, one finds!

    Black and white thinking by definition is a minimum knowledge decision, it truncates for the purpose of speed and simplification. It is a valuable time saver in many situations but the nuance of gray scale thinking explains because it contains abundant knowledge. We need both, if you are limited to one chances are you will have little patience for the other.

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  29. Bob on May 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM


    Look back to the pictorial… your approach seems to be much more on the aggressive side of the spectrum, whereas a true gospel approach would be one that shifts the balance towards collaboration (in my own opinion).

    You routinely use such terminology as “disgruntled”, “seeing what’s not there”, etc., etc., to describe people who haven’t lived what you’ve experienced. One of the chief complaints I (and others) have with you is that you routinely refuse to see the other side of the coin, but do so by metaphorically claiming that the other side simply doesn’t exist or, if it does, it’s a figment of someone’s imagination. To put it in more simplistic terms, if brjones, howard, anonlds or ANYONE else isn’t witnessing what you’re witnessing, then they’re seeing UFOs or ghosts.

    To do so is invalidation in the extreme and devoid of any form of empathy. A true sign of spiritual maturity is to be able to appreciate what others experience and empathize with them in their path. A true sign of pride is to look at others and downplay what they feel as though it doesn’t exist, or as though they’re simply disgruntled (and their feelings are thereby invalidated as being insincere), or to reposition oneself on higher moral ground, thereby, again, invalidating their feelings.

    I’m not saying that what you experience isn’t true (i.e. no issues with beards, no issues with local membership enforcement of arbitrary moral standards) – in fact I wish that were the status quo – but I am confident that that is unique and vastly different than what I’ve ever personally experienced. When I was in bishoprics, our meetings would routinely discuss whether all the young men had white shirts AND ties, whether so-and-so was struggling because they had recently grown a beard. I wasn’t mature enough at that time to recognize the pettiness of the discussions, but they happened countless times and in many different settings. I’ve had multiple stake presidents in multiple stakes discuss, in stake priesthood leadership meetings, that beards were signs of rebellion and to look out for them, that colored shirts had no place among priesthood “holders,” etc.

    You calling out what you perceive to be criticism “parading as truth” is hardly the issue – it’s that when you “call out” someone or something, you do so in an overly aggressive way which, I can only presume, is done in such a way as to purposefully invalidate that persons experience. If you feel their experiences aren’t valid, you simply can’t say, “well, I’ve never experienced that so you’re seeing something that’s not there.” Life, debate, discussion, and conversation simply don’t work that way. That’s either passive aggressive, or just aggressive, but it’s not helpful to anyone but yourself.

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  30. Paul on May 15, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Jeff, I’m glad you’re here. I appreciate your perspective.

    Howard, I think there are plenty of faithful (without scare quotes) members who are not as you describe. There are many faithful member who do ponder things they do not understand immediately and then conclude that what the brethren have taught is correct and acceptable.

    Bob, I think expecting collaboration in a religion whose chief feature is modern revelation of absolute truth is going to lead to disappointment. I’m not so sure the Savior was collaborative when he taught, either.

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  31. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    I’m sure you’re right about that and I strongly suspect you’re one of them but notice your clarity, use of reason and measured tone as compared to those who choose to use a broad brush to categorically discount, diminish and dismiss others adding little to the discussion in the process. Btw, the scare quotes weren’t mine, it was a copy & paste.

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  32. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2013 at 11:13 AM


    “I think the conflict arises because being a “faithful” member is somewhat synonymous with don’t question or look too deeply, just accept but criticism comes from the process questioning and looking deeply and when one does, one finds!”

    I think the problem arises when “faithful” is used as synonymous with “dumb”, “like sheep”, “not questioning”, or “not critical.” I can attest that some of us, like Hawk and myself, are faithful members but do not fall into that category and certainly have been critical of some aspects of our Church life.

    And we have just as long and just as valid a Church experience as those with complaints. Given my experiences, i just have a hard time believing these “abuses” are as wide-spread as attested to.

    In 30 plus years, I’ve never been in a Bishopric Meeting or meeting with the Stake Presidency where beards or shirts have ever been discussed. In that time with a beard, I only had two encounters about my beard, one was a missionary calling and one was about working in the Temple. So, am I to suppose my experience is the exception?

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  33. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM


    Sorry, don’t know what to say….. you seem just as judgmental as you accuse me of being. And if you go back and read some of the comments I was critical of, you would find they were speculative in nature, which is why I have a problem with them.

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  34. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    I liked your 32 comment.

    But I would like to point out that I have not implied dumb. I’ve searched this thread for the words dumb and sheep and you are the the only one using them so why do you have the impression that the faithful were called dumb or sheep?

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  35. Frank Pellett on May 15, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    So . . . based on the comments of the thread, do we get to have fun deciding which category bloggernacle comments fit into?

    For bonus points: quick, someone tell me what I believe, demean it, then say you were mischaracterized!

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  36. BethSmash on May 15, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    So… I haven’t read the comments on this, but I really wanted to add this. Passive Aggressiveness sucks. I had a family member who would thank me for things I hadn’t done yet, to point out that I hadn’t done them. I knew she was doing it, and she knew she was doing it. But I didn’t realize how awful and manipulative it was until one day I cleaned out the cat box, and my mom thanked me for doing it (hadn’t even been asked) and I broke down and yelled, “I did clean out the catbox!” and I started to cry. So… yeah… passive aggressiveness sucks, and I lived with a passive aggressive person for a decade. I’m still working through stuff.

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  37. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2013 at 2:17 PM


    So just what is the implication you are making toward faithful members?

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  38. Bob on May 15, 2013 at 2:23 PM


    Explain to me how Jesus doesn’t collaborate.

    If He doesn’t then we’re left with Jesus either exhibiting competition (forcing his will on us), avoidance (non-confrontational), accommodation (merely keeping the peace). Explain to me how either of those fit His personality??


    Where you see judgmentalism, I see observation. I have observed your behavior over the course of many months, especially how it relates to any and all comments that go against your personal experience. Your responses are almost as well scripted as they are predictable. That’s not judging you, but it is making an observation based on your interactions with many people here. You can’t claim that you’re merely objecting to speculative arguments or claims when you do it over and over and over again.

    Was anonlds speculating about those who have lost their opportunity at leadership positions because of the pants movement? Sure, but does that make her claim wrong? Of course not. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to foresee the backlash that many liberal members face the minute they come out of the closet…especially when their liberal mormonism is – gasp – branded as unfaithful simply because it doesn’t mesh with a conservative mormon’s world view. That’s no more speculative than your claim that it simply doesn’t happen. Same coin, but only yours escapes scrutiny in your book.

    And, to spotlight the issue any further, how speculative is your claim that facebook doesn’t reflect any sort of reality either as it relates to church leaders. Dismiss it all you want, but in today’s society facebook (or social media of any type) can indeed be a barometric indicator on many issues… Your claim that it doesn’t have any bearing on reality simply doesn’t hold up to any logical scrutiny.

    But, then, maybe that’s just speculation on your part and something we should overlook for the sake of avoiding this discussion.

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  39. Paul on May 15, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    First, the Savior taught truth; He didn’t negotiate it. Second, He also taught that his doctrine would divide people, not necessarily unite them. It was up to His disciples to unite themselves around Him.

    Now, one could argue that He exhibited a modified form of collaboration, since He knows our needs before we express them, and (as Elder Corbridge taught so clearly a number of years ago), His way is the only way to true happiness and meeting our eternal needs. But He does not get us there by inviting us to propose truth; He tells us what is true and we accept it or not.

    Frankly, I don’t think the diagram mentioned in the OP is particularly applicable to conversations with diety.

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  40. Male Gaze on May 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    It really does suck. I’ve lived with it too for the past 10 years and only recently was freed from the clutches of passive-aggressive manipulation. It’s emotional abuse when done in an intimate relationship and it’s very damaging.

    @Frank Pellett
    Clearly you believe this doesn’t apply to church members since you’ve so nonchalantly dismissed it. I don’t understand why people can’t see how this avoidance stuff totally leads to PA manipulation! Just one more way the church and its culture undermines our ability to become healthy functioning adults while the faithful deny there’s any problem at all.

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  41. Frank Pellett on May 15, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    @Male Gaze – Clearly you read something into my comment that wasn’t there. It applies quite well to both church members and non-members. Or were you intentionally proving my point, conflating what you thought I said with how the Church as a whole must be? ;)

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  42. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    In #28 I simply stating why I think conflict arises in discussions like this one. I’m *describing* the very different and largely incompatible viewpoints or frames of references of faithful vs critical and of black and white vs gray scale thinking *without judging them*. However I am judging those who understand only black and white OR only gray scale thinking by pointing out that they will likely lack patience dealing with the other and that holding both views is much more useful.

    One of the big problems with black and white thinking is the world becomes truncated, dividing it over simply into just two camps; us and those who oppose us. This simplified thinking is the basis of all prejudice and is easily reenforced by portraying the “us” camp as victims of let’s say religious persecution that is clearly being perpetrated by many of Satan’s minions such as blogger Howard. There are many more positions than just us vs them, there’s a whole rainbow of color choices in between.

    I’m not against you, the faithful or the church. I’m sure you’ll find this hard to swallow but criticism like mine and the discussions that ensue will eventually make the church better in fact they already appear to be having that affect and they will provide a bigger tent for a wider variety of believers and I pray it will send our care taking prophets to their knees in search of the path to reopening the heavens making them great Prophets once again. So call me an ark steadier if you like but a anti-Mormon I’m not!

    Some people have trouble hearing or reading what is actually being said without reading into it things that have not been said or even implied. This is contaminated thinking and it is often contaminated with criticism not from the present but from the reader’s past usually their critical childhood which is overlaid on what is actually said in the present. In other words the reader redefines what was said to hear it as being more critical than it was offered. This is another reason for conflict to arise.

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  43. Male Gaze on May 15, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    @Frank Pellett
    No I was definitely not proving your point…you read into it what you want. I don’t see how I could have possibly read something into your comment. When you make a mockery of the legitimate complaints those on the margins have it shows just how conformist in thinking the church is. When conformance is the requirement it will lead to avoiding any potential conflicts…which ultimately ends up being PA manipulation. The comments in this thread underscore the problem.

    (how’d I do? I was trying to be clever, subtle, but not too subtle in the limited time I have for virtual life adventures)

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  44. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2013 at 3:14 PM


    “Where you see judgmentalism, I see observation.” Ah, I get it now. I am predictable in my observations and my experiences, which by their very nature invalidates them?

    And yet, you subscribe some sort of speculative purgatory to liberal Mormons as unfaithful? Just amazing.

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  45. Dara on May 15, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Howard on May 15, 2013 at 8:15 AM
    I suspect it’s because there are quite a few messed up people perpetuating unhealthy attitudes. Yes, I agree with this unfortunately one of them happens to be an apostle.

    Of course you don’t this mold just other people.

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  46. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Been there done that long ago, that’s how I know.

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  47. KLC on May 15, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to foresee the backlash that many liberal members face the minute they come out of the closet…”

    Bob, here is why I align more with Jeff than with you. What kind of data/evidence is there in foreseeing the future based on your personal bias? That’s just a guess wrapped up in a better vocabulary. I think much of what Jeff says here at W&T is, “show me the data, show me the evidence, conjectures based on presuppositions don’t cut it.” It makes me wonder why that makes you so mad.

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  48. Dara on May 15, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Fit this mold
    What makes you think your attitude and your way of thinking are best?

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  49. Will on May 15, 2013 at 5:34 PM


    “…exhibiting competition (forcing his will on us)….”

    What does that mean? Isn’t the plan of Salvation the distribution of the souls of men? It is a merit based system? The plan of salvation is pure competition. It is survival of the spiritually fittest, is it not?

    It was Lucifer that ‘sought to take away the AGENCY of men” Moses 4, not Jesus. It was Lucifer that wanted collectivism ‘not a soul be lost’; and God that wanted a merit based system.

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  50. Howard on May 15, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    I have self confidence and I follow the Spirit, if you can’t trust yourself or the Spirit, who can you trust?

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  51. Douglas on May 15, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    Jeff Spector fairly much covered most of what I’d say so I largely defer to him. I can only add about this “passive-aggressive” which is a “phobia du hour”…consider the Savior’s parable about the two sons called by their father to labor in his field; the first one being openly defiant but later humbling himself and going to work. The second progress that he’ll work but then slacks. I’d say that many members are like the “latter” son (pun intended), and this form of cowardly avoidance would, IMO, constitute the P/A behavior that Hawkgrrl describes.

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  52. hawkgrrrl on May 15, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Bear in mind that these are conflict management styles. How did Jesus deal with conflict specifically? According to Mark, he kicked some tail and lost his temper (competition: I win, you lose. He didn’t ask the money changers at the temple what their needs were.) According to other accounts, he exhibited accommodation (e.g. “not my will but thine be done”). Our accounts vary, so maybe the NT authors’ styles varied. Joseph Smith could be said to have been an avoider at times (e.g. if my life is of no worth to my friends, it is of none to me – hello, passive aggression!). But destroying the press was kind of a competitive style, imposing his will on others.

    What I think is more interesting about this data set, a point I should have made in the OP, is that the results are self-reported. It doesn’t necessarily mean people really behave this way. It’s how they think they should behave, which is even more telling. I would definitely expect to see these kinds of results in Asia, but Americans do not idealize avoidance. Most Americans see it as a very ineffective way to handle conflict because nobody’s needs get met and people become resentful. It’s the foundation for sabotage. So why would this sample group think that it’s an optimal approach?

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  53. Roger on May 15, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    “The plan of salvation is pure competition. It is survival of the spiritually fittest, is it not?”

    That is not what I get out of the Beatitudes–but maybe I’m just spiritually stunted …..

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  54. Will on May 16, 2013 at 8:28 AM


    An those that don’t live the beatitudes lose. They finish at the bottom. They are assigned a kingdom based on merit. Is this not competition as some win and others lose. Agreed it is not a zero sum game, but you still have a lot of losers or those that end up in the lessor kingdom D&C 88:22-26

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  55. anonlds on May 16, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Competition is about trying to be better than someone else. The gospel is about trying to make everyone better. The more we help others get the positive end result in the next life, the better our end result is also.

    I think it is a mistake to view the highest level of the celestial kingdom as a fixed ceiling. Their is no highest level of the celestial kingdom. The more relationships and people, the higher it is.

    Zion is a community based effort that tries to help everyone get the prize with the help of the atonement.

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  56. Roger on May 16, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Dang, Will!

    I’ve been doing it all wrong. Next time I’m exerting myself to be poor in spirit or straining to be meek, not to mention the sacrifices inherent in hungering and thirsting and enduring persecution, I need to be looking over my shoulder because some apostate is repenting and gaining on me. And I’m eating the dust of a whole bunch of TBMs.

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  57. Stephen R. Marsh on May 19, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    It strikes me that making the lives miserable of those without power is truly passive aggressive. The author of the article you reference is encouraging people to act out and make life painful for everyone around them who does not have power to make changes in order to further his own specific political agenda.

    Assuming he is competent, which is a stretch, he is also encouraging a strategy that only leads to disengagement when the problem is a lack of engagement (assuming that is what is happening). That is, he wants to make life miserable for people and make the problem worse.

    Pretty much says it all.

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  58. writerteacher11 on June 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I came by this by accident after trying to make sense of my recent commentary on another Mormon blog. I found myself getting upset and it dawned on me today that the reason genuinely was my fault, but for reasons that go beyond self-discipline though that’s important too. The level of passive aggressive dialogue said to me and to others took me by surprise. I haven’t been attending the Mormon church in a while and I guess I’m not used to that much passive aggression in dialogue. It’s like we were speaking another language to one another, leading to misunderstandings. I really don’t think I fully understood what was being said to me half the time, and my words may have been without sufficient passive aggression to be considered polite discourse on a Mormon blog. I don’t know. I can’t make sense of it still. I’m totally confused.

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  59. writerteacher11 on June 25, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    I think I’ve forgotten how to speak Mormon. Really, I don’t know how to communicate anymore with people in my family’s own church that I was raised in. It’s an odd realization. That would help to explain years of misunderstandings. Maybe I just literally don’t speak the language? I’m lost. I don’t get it.

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  60. Hedgehog on June 26, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    #59, I wouldn’t worry unduely. Different blogs have different tones. Personally this one is more to my taste.
    If you were referring to your discussion elsewhere on the sermon on the mount – it might help to know, from my observation, it is normally Howard who invokes the sermon on the mount in discussion, so I’m guessing he was somewhat taken aback. It tickled my probably rather poor sense of humour anyway.

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  61. hawkgrrrl on June 26, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    writerteacher11 – as Hedgehog says each blog’s comment forum differs. I also blog at BCC, so I have read your comments there. Don’t overanalyze it. I know, I a blogger just said that. “Physician, heal thyself!”

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  62. writerteacher on June 26, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    I don’t disagree. Your points are well taken and accurate, both of you. Beyond BCC I’ve been psychologically reeling for a long time even in real life. Commenting on BCC was a big mistake I think. It was unfair to them and it also opened too many emotions for me at a time when there are open issues (my mother almost died of cancer, so a lot is on my mind; she’s a longtime deep-hearted, kind Mormon – most are very kind and I know it – and we finally opened up about religious stuff). It’s been sad for a long time for me to feel like an outsider. But the dialogue on BCC was a reminder that it’s a mistake for me to try to participate. That’s not a reflection on either of you, who have been gracious. But I’ve become too different. There’s no place for me even in conversation. I was hoping that if I opened up it could be beneficial to someone but I think in the end most people just wished I would leave. The article currently up is likely a response to the issues I brought up. Oh well. I won’t comment. It completely ignores why people really leave. It’s not about “Suzy was mean to me.” Do you think I’d be trying to blog on a Mormon site if I hated the church? I’d be on one of those “ex-Mormon” sites ranting and raving with froth out of my mouth. I was wishing something could benefit someone and that something could be passed on to a ward, somewhere, in a positive way. I’ve been ignored for decades and I’ve given up on any way of doing any good in the church other than this sort of thing, as limited as it is.

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  63. writerteacher11 on June 26, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Ignoring difficult issues doesn’t make difficult issues go away. And that does speak to passive aggression in a way. Fine, I’ll stop commenting anywhere in the Mormon community and I’ll be one less pesky voice bringing up pesky points. My jaw just dropped with one comment on BCC (hint – I’m a civil rights activist attending an AME Church now, you’ll spot the comment). It does no good to just brush things under the rug or to pretend that red is blue. The way to strengthen the church is by facing difficult issues head-on and taking them on and making positive strides forward. Oh well. I don’t belong anywhere in such a conversation.

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  64. writerteacher11 on June 26, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    The article currently up including the picture they chose is a good example of why I should never step foot in an LDS Church again. That article and picture is aimed directly at attacking and making fun of me in a passive aggressive manner.

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  65. Hedgehog on June 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    “Commenting on BCC was a big mistake I think.”
    I can sympathise with this feeling. My first interactions with BCC became very surreal. I retired to the metaphorical darkened room, and then crawled out to find somewhere more suited to my conversational style, once I’d recovered my equilibrium.

    “Ignoring difficult issues doesn’t make difficult issues go away.”
    Indeed not.
    “The way to strengthen the church is by facing difficult issues head-on and taking them on and making positive strides forward.”
    Agreed. I’ve seen difficult issues discussed all over Mormon blogs, rather than brushed under the carpet. Though to what extent this much in actual practice I don’t know.
    But this post by hawkgrrrl got a lot of comments:

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  66. writerteacher11 on June 26, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Agreed, Hedgehog, and thank you. Right now I’m a bit incensed that BCC chose to ridicule me. They didn’t mention me by name of course but the message being sent is loud and clear. That is clearly me in their picture. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I wasn’t trying to attack the church, the site, or anyone. It’s a bizarre over-reaction.

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  67. writerteacher11 on June 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    OK now I’m able to look at the article and laugh it off. It’s amusing that my commentary resulted in this. Kind of surreal. I’ve never experienced anything quite this bizarre. Oh well. That teaches me a lesson I guess.

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  68. Hedgehog on June 27, 2013 at 1:45 AM

    I’m glad you’re feeling a little better.
    Being a new commenter is a strange experience anyway. It can be quite bruising, and it is difficult to judge a persons tone from the things they write. BCC are the most difficult to navigate, in my experience, whilst also being the first I came across.
    It takes a while to begin to see how the different blogs can sometimes feed off eachother for discussion material, and how one persons comment on a post might spark a discussion for a different post. Personally, I like to point out rather more clearly where my thoughts are coming from, but some blogs do take the more oblique approach, and if you’re a commenter who perhaps sparked the discussion, that can feel quite passive-aggressive. Some of the time that may be intended, but I think a lot of the time it’s just meant to open up space to talk about it. Bloggers tend not to like it when the comments veer too far from the topic of their post. Some are more tolerant than others.
    For other sites discussing difficult issues, you might like Rational Faiths, a fairly new Mormon blog, and social issues come up from time to time on Feminist Mormon Housewives and on Doves and Serpents; there’s also The Mormon Worker (I think Ron Madson was one who responded sympathetically to your concerns). And there are probably more.
    This site likes the cut and thrust of discussion/debate. And most sites will have a commenting policy that explains the kind of thing they’re aiming for. Best wishes.

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  69. writerteacher11 on June 27, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    It gives me respect for Hawkgrrl and you that the comment(s) I left and my dialogue is still allowed actually. I re-read the article itself and commentary several times and have come to see the intent of the author as honorable and good, with no ill-intent, perhaps sparked by me but meaning the message in a positive way. It’s well written. The imagery and headline is what bothered me. I’m honestly unsure of how to feel about that and am open to the possibility I was over-reacting myself. Of course that’s the trouble with passive aggression, it can be difficult to tell when passive aggression is being applied and when you’re being ridiculous yourself, especially when your most recent conversation involved being basically told off. And I know in some publications the author isn’t responsible for imagery/headline. I really don’t know if I’m wrong. I’d feel better if I am wrong and it is really healthier for me to assume that I’m wrong. Letting it go and rolling my eyes at myself, apologizing for an over-reaction is healthier than my reaction yesterday or than an ongoing grudge. Like I said it does go to the point of this original article in May – a passive aggressive culture is rather poisonous and leaves me uncertain of whether I’m being made fun of or not in a picture.

    “Bloggers tend not to like it when the comments veer too far from the topic of their post. Some are more tolerant than others.” – Very true as is everything else you said. In the most recent dialogue that sparked a severe reaction I most a very personal “song to a mother” type plea and yes I was long but I took the risk it might do some good. I can understand where someone would be upset and I think both parties were at fault including me.

    The thing is that every culture has its difficulties in conversation. In South Carolina where I currently live for just a little while longer there is tongue-in-cheek passive aggression with the “bless your heart” type thing which used to irritate me (if someone is going to say “you’re an idiot” I’d just as soon have it said Pittsburgh-style, as in “ya yinzer, use your noggin.” – joking but you get my point). Every culture does have quirks. But not having attended a Mormon church regularly or blogged on a Mormon blog till now, the type of dialogue was something I did struggle to understand. I’d rather just have straight-forward conversation like you and I are having. There’s a saying “Real recognize real” and I want dialogue to be “real” not with so much passive aggressiveness and irony that I need to comb through cultural layers of background to understand a post.

    I guess I’m surprised by the level of negative reaction to me. Some reacted positively but there was a very clear backlash. I was expecting some of course the more I opened up, which is why my posts were often so long, admittedly overly long, I was really trying hard to clarify my intentions. But the level of animosity especially by the end just really through me for a loop, it’s like I was an enemy that needed to be expelled (passive aggressively expelled of course through remarks aimed at irritating me). That’s not something I expected.

    If anything I expected more people to do what you’re doing, Hedgehog, which is what I imagine my mother doing and what I associate with how she used to train me is the “Mormon way” – which is to be patient and kind and understanding and to hold your peace and hold your temper. You could easily be reacting negatively to things I’ve said. I’ve given you ample reason and justification but you’re not. You’re turning the other cheek and hoping I’ll work through things, you’re holding out hope and being a peacekeeper. Given the things I’ve opened up about if I do have a “chip” (as one person said after provoking me passive aggressively) should it be a surprise? That’s almost a given with the things I’ve admitted that I’m working through, and we can cate blame and castigate me or show kindness and understand I was trying to reach out. I expected compassion as what you’ve shown, Hedgehog. That’s what I expected more of and it took me by surprise not to find it.

    You’re also very correct that I didn’t come to the site looking for us to “cut and thrust and debate.” I know how to do that but it wasn’t what I was looking for or trying to do or wanting to do. I’m trying to reach out. And I’m trying to communicate some things I’ve learned over the years that could be valuable for a ward or stake, all of this personal stuff is really beside the point compared to the real “social gospel” message and strategy I wish I could be sharing with someone, almost anyone who’d listen instead of turning it so personal that the point gets lost.

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  70. writerteacher11 on June 27, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Oops. Some typos. Meant to say “made a very personal son-to-a mother” type plea”.

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  71. writerteacher11 on June 27, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    The thing you saw me say about the Sermon on the Mount and the things I say on my blog about the “social gospel” if you click my name (I’m unsure if it’s as easy to get to my blog from here as it was from BCC) is really at the heart of what I came originally to talk about and to share. I’ve spent years working with churches and other organizations implementing strategies in line with the social gospel and what I said of the Sermon on the Mount. Am I perfect? Absolutely not? Things got so personal that everything I was trying to say got completely lost and it does give me heart that at least one person – you – remember what I said of the Sermon on the Mount. That was far more important than this personal stuff. I don’t need a blog site to be my therapy site. I do want – perhaps even need – to do some sort of good for the church in which I was raised if only second-hand through anyone who might listen to what I’m really trying to share if we could get past the personal stuff.

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  72. hawkgrrrl on June 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    I suppose at the heart of passive aggression is insecurity in both the value and content of one’s own views. It’s difficult to take a stance when conformity is critical to one’s social standing.

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  73. writerteacher11 on June 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Very true, hawkgrrl. What softened my own view from yesterday’s post is this very thoughtful comment by the original author of the article, recognizing the issues of being “othered” that would contribute to reaction such as what I experienced:

    “My one resistance to this post in general is that it reifies the us-versus-them mentality in suggesting that you have to find the not-inferno in the inferno. I suspect we could individualize the instruction … and say that we can also work to find the not-inferno in everyone. Practically speaking, though, I suggest there are at least a few people in every ward who can help sustain those who don’t feel they fit in at certain times. And if you can’t find them, I hope you’ll seek to become them, because we need each other.”

    I wish I could thank him, but further commentary on BCC is not an option.That comment by the author was self-reflective and clearly one of an earnest person striving to find a way to build improved communication and improved bridges between one another. I appeciate that.

    It goes to what Martin Buber was saying in “I and Thou” – let’s avoid treating people like objects and strive to understand people as individuals on a level of mutual respect and mutual equality.

    Just as it’s obvious you two are both good people with kind hearts. Thank you.

    Conformity has been something I’ve wrestled against throughout my life if you think of it. You can see the issues I grapple with in the Church that would have started to be issues in my teens. And of course within my field I tend to be more likely to cry out and say “Houston, we have a problem” (for humor I’m using that line) than to say “isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it lovely.” If something is wonderful great, cherish it, but there are still problems to be addressed. I’m no more intending to attack religion than I attack education when I’d point to problems in my field. That’s where the misunderstandings come into play. You’re right about the stress placed on conformity, within really all organized religions to greater and lesser extent (it does vary even within the LDS Church and if I stereotype here, the stereotype would fail).

    My exit from the church has been a long time coming since my teens. In the end if I thought I could be a force for positive change in my own way within the church I could have overlooked other issues (including “doctrinal differences” that are probably best left unstated since they are likely also rather obvious). But after a while I came to not only give up on the possibility but I came to see other churches as offering better opportunities for social change. Fine, I left after years of frustration, feeling like there’s nothing I can accomplish by staying, but that doesn’t mean I left in a nasty, brutish spirit or lost love for the church. I’d like to see a day when the church is increasingly a vehicle for positive social change that betters lives (in line with the “Fourth Mission”). It frankly is very sad to me that I did feel I need to leave. Not for my sake even, I’m sad for the Church, I’d like to see things be better. And I know many people don’t like me saying this but this is a multi-billion church we’re talking of, if it really threw its weight into that “Fourth Mission” an awful lot of good could be done. And I’d be very, very happy to be a partner.

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  74. writerteacher11 on June 27, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    The phrase “be a partner” is key there. It goes to the issue of member retention. Often it isn’t about this myth of “Suzy was mean to me” or “Oh my gosh I just realized the church is imperfect, that blows my simple little mind I can’t handle the complexity help me!” You know a key reason why people like me leave? We feel “othered” and we feel like we’re unable to be partnered rather than “othered.” After years and years pass we increasingly cry out about problems. Sometimes we might be excommunicated after writing a book (e.g. a historian or a feminist). Sometimes we might more quietly leave, with perhaps a little bit of an exit flourish on a blog but that’s it, like I’m doing. You want to know how to keep people like me? Work with me as a partner.

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  75. Hedgehog on June 28, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    writerteacher, I’ve bookmarked your site. It looks interesting. It is something I’ve been pondering on recently.
    (#69) “a passive aggressive culture is rather poisonous” … “I’d rather just have straight-forward conversation”
    I agree. I much prefer straight-talking (and indeed writing) to having to work out what all the under-currents might be, and what is actually meant.
    (#71) “Things got so personal that everything I was trying to say got completely lost..”
    I do find it strange that conversations can become so personal so quickly, to the point where the purpose of the discussion is buried. I can only assume, that where people are attuned to a passive aggressive culture, they perceive it as being a personal attack, rather than a rational observation. I agree with you that it can make communication very difficult.
    (#73) “Conformity has been something I’ve wrestled against throughout my life”
    You are not alone with this one. I think we could do with more nonconformists. A good antidote to complacency.
    I shall watch your blog with interest.

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  76. writerteacher11 on June 28, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Remember something please, the hands of people like me are and will always be reached out in an offer of (and request for) partnership in bettering the lives of children and families in need. It’s always going to be your choice to work with me or to brand me as a dissident and ignore me. And there are others like me. Your choice.

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  77. writerteacher11 on June 28, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    You have been good at talking with me here. My challenge is to find someone like me and work with that person in partnership to better the lives of others. Take strong and decisive action to better other lives please. In the end that’s what I’m saying.

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  78. writerteacher11 on June 28, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Hedgehog – feel free to email me if you ever wish. This name is the same name as for a youtube channel of mine with email capability.

    Something dawned on me just this morning. I grew up admiring Vaclav Havel, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and others who were dissidents in the past in their own ways. In a way I suppose I’m an LDS dissident, and yes that comes with an “edge” at times, it means I am an outsider and I’ll have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t absolutely love to see any ward at all be a very kind and loving place which contributes in a vital way to a community. I am not a dissident out of hatred for the church but out of love, as odd as that may seem.

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  79. writerteacher11 on June 28, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    my email is Even if its months or years from now feel free to contact me if you want to swap and share ideas toward strengthening a community.

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  80. writerteacher11 on June 29, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    Just so you know I wrote a blog in response to Lisa’s thoughtful post. I do not think it is appropriate for me to comment on BCC. But I wanted to let someone know in case anyone here or at BCC might be interested, not so much in me per se but in the lessons from the story that may be useful perhaps.

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  81. Hedgehog on June 30, 2013 at 1:38 AM


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  82. […] I met were very conflict-averse compared to those norms with which I was raised. There was even a study on this presented at Sunstone last year, although equating avoidance with passive-aggression may not […]

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