Why Cultural Mormonism doesn’t exist

By: Andrew S
February 12, 2011

Am I a Pharisee?Earlier this week, J. Max Wilson wrote a substantial critique of the Mormon intellectuals who argue that orthopraxy is more important than orthodoxy (he doesn’t explicitly mention many examples, but I can’t help but feel that Enoch’s nuancimony at Faith-Promoting Rumor, along with a lot of things here or on New Order Mormonism, would draw his ire). His central image was pointed: this trend represents the rise of modern Mormon Pharisees. Between the comments section and some buzz around disaffected and former Mormon blogs, the post struck a nerve. So I want to disclaim: maybe some of the NOMish and liberal believers on this site would be “right in the cross-hairs” of Wilson’s criticism — maybe Wheat & Tares in its entirety has this image problem. Maybe you will personally feel attacked.

Interestingly enough, I’ve addressed this topic individually in comparing and contrasting Mormonism with Judaism. I’ve grappled with the issue, but more and more recently, I’ve been resigned to the fact that maybe Mormonism cannot be as “open-tent” as some Jewish denominations…because Mormonism is a religion.

Mormon Perspectives: faithful, cultural, and other believer

Image courtesy of Chanson via Main Street Plaza. Click for source post with full-sized image

But in comparing and contrasting my post with Wilson’s, I think I found an interesting difference. If I have any fault, it is because I long for an acceptance of a kind of cultural Mormonism in addition to religious, believing Mormonism. But the fault that Wilson proposes is in the advocacy of a kind of liberal, orthoprax Mormonism in addition to conservative, believing Mormonism.

So, I feel that while I wouldn’t fit on Wilson’s “good side,” I avoid some of his criticisms and fears.

Nevertheless, it is true that I wouldn’t be a “seeker.” And I would be asking for some concessions of the church (the big tent movement generally asks for some changes. For example, changing the climate to accommodate “cultural” believers would by itself have ripples through doctrines and beliefs.)

…Anyway, I’m nearly 400 words into this post, and I’ve been assuming something that I have yet to justify.

Is there such a thing as cultural Mormonism?

I’ve always intuited that the answer here is, “Yes, of course!” I compare and contrast denominations, and conclude that Mormonism gives those who are raised in it not merely a vocabulary but a language — a language that seems mostly intelligible with super-culture languages (like, say, English, for the United States), but which still has some unintelligibilities. Mormonism inculcates vantage points and habits that one doesn’t so easily shake off even if they may not believe in core doctrines. Not a lot of other denominations do that.

I was trying to think of why this could be, and at some point, I supposed (can you guess what Mormon-related thing I’ll link to the word “suppose”?): aha! Cultural Mormonism exists as a function of correlation.

Correlation is what allows generations of Mormons to speak the same language and understand the same symbols, metaphors, and idioms. And the best thing is…this travels across the country and the world — we can go to any Mormon church the world over and basically feel at home.

Utah Culture: JelloI feel a lot of people conceive of cultural Mormonism very differently. They think of cultural Mormonism as a “Utah” thing — and reel in horror at it.

(This is obviously problematic for me, because if I mention cultural Mormonism, then someone will say, “But you never grew up in Utah!”)

So, I thought: cultural Mormonism is different from Utah culture. Once again, correlation is the reason why.

I thought for a time that this would be a slam dunk for cultural Mormonism…and when people could see that there legitimately are people who are Mormon through and through culturally (even if not orthodoxically), they would accept that cultural Mormonism should be accommodated.

…unfortunately, more and more, I’ve begun to think that there are holes all around.

For The Strength of Youth (vintage)For one, the solidifying tool of correlation on Mormon belief and practices also works against me. I saw this through several posts. One was a post at Main Street Plaza about the changes in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. J. Seth’s final lines struck me:

…maybe that’s why the 1965 edition surprised me: it’s a relic of a church I never knew, a reflection of a culture pre-correlation, and a reminder that members were at one time not nearly as micromanaged as they are now.

But that wasn’t all…because I realized there wasn’t simply a divide between a culture “pre-correlation” and a culture now…but that today’s correlated Mormon culture is just as ephemeral…because of correlation itself. Alan once posted before about the elusiveness of the LDS Newsroom, and when Ms. Jack posted her frustrations with talking both to Mormons who fully accept certain unique LDS doctrines and Mormons who reject those same doctrines as anti-Mormon and completely undoctrinal, I had to note that the quiet way correlation often works allows for a surprising diversity of belief.

There are times when the church changes some thing without much fanfare, and you might never know unless you were paying close attention. Consider the quietude of the Poelman conference talk change in 1984 (or see Rock Waterman’s written post about the same). The people who pay attention then can say, “Well, we believe (new thing.)” and be aware of the history of what we once believed. Meanwhile, the people who weren’t paying attention never know the wiser and stick with old beliefs, while the people who join after never know the wiser and stick with new beliefs.

Even if certain beliefs are simply dropped out of favor (“I don’t know that we teach that”), the ambiguity as to whether the belief is debunked or simply de-emphasized allows people to go where their mileage takes them.

I mean…did you know about the race-related changes to footnotes and chapter headings in the scriptures? Even if you don’t, these mean that some group of Mormons will “grow up” never having even recognizing there were ever such phrasings.

In the end, I have to admit: cultural Mormonism becomes more and more flimsy of a concept. Now, I can’t be so sure that I can identify via shared language or experiences with other Mormons…now, I am limited by age demographic, time of activity, and so much more.

The final nail in the cultural Mormon coffin is the fact that, even disregarding the frequent (and sometimes silent) changes in doctrine and practices that bifurcate the group of people who would otherwise share a Mormon experience…the problem is that none of this would even be possible without the believers in the first place. Cultural Mormonism always exists as an unintended and undesired byproduct of a real religion predicated upon belief.

EDITS: I’ve been editing the piece to fix my sloppy attributions. Please note the attribution of the Mormon Perspectives venn diagram and the corrected attribution of the article on the 1965 For the Strength of Youth to J. Seth Anderson.

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123 Responses to Why Cultural Mormonism doesn’t exist

  1. SteveS on February 12, 2011 at 6:14 AM

    Andrew: I liked this post, particularly because I share many of the same feelings as you do. I would say that in terms of cultural mormonism both being a real thing and too squirrelly to pin down, orthodoxy has an identical problem. Arguing for Mormon orthodoxy could simply mean advocating for following whatever interpretation of scripture or policy that the leadership of the Church currently espouses. While that is a simple-enough concept to wrap one’s head around, it obviously acknowledges that what was orthodox 100, 50, 20, even 10 years ago is no longer. And while changes to theology and resultant orthodoxy occur under the aegis of “continuing revelation”, ironically with extremely few exceptions changes in “theology” aren’t ever presented as such to the Church; rather, they creep/seep into the collective consciousness as patterns of discourse and organizational policies shift from the top on down to the local congregations.

    My point is that the idea of arguing from a position of rock-solid stability on doctrinal/practical issues in the Church to caste aspersions on those who think or believe or act differently is completely delusional because it simply doesn’t exist in reality. For anyone. And yet it is amazing to me that the self-proclaimed orthodox actually forget this about quite readily, pretending that somehow their form of orthodoxy is the only one that has ever existed.

    What really discourages me sometimes is the amount of intellectual effort expended by the orthodox to define and exclude the “other”, or to purge the “impurities” from the fold. I just finished reading Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s The First Paul, in which the authors make an argument about their claim that Paul’s take on the Church as the “body of Christ” was one of radical equality for divergent segments of the population (Jew and Gentile converts, male and females in positions of authority, slaves and free citizens) and that the Church needed to accommodate and accept both the keepers of Judaic Law as well as those who did not. Sadly, by the end of the 1st century, the (natural) inclination of individuals leading the churches in Asia minor moved to define more narrowly one orthodoxy, in direct conflict with many of Paul’s counsel. Is this an unavoidable trend in the life of human organizations? I don’t know. But I do appreciate that fora like Wheat and Tares exist wherein issues such as these can be voiced and explored, even if no solution can come from them.

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  2. Chino Blanco on February 12, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    Thanks for the link, but pls note that MSP post about the old FtSoY pamphlet was written by Seth Anderson.

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  3. jks on February 12, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    What about the idea that #1 most important thing to a Mormon’s identity is your “testimony” or that you belong to the true church. If you don’t have that your identity as a Mormon is difficult even if you grew up Mormon.

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  4. Tim on February 12, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Thanks for including all those links. Fascinating conversations.

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  5. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    “Cultural always exists as an unintended and undesired byproduct of a real religion predicated upon belief.”

    Correct.

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  6. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    “Cultural [fill in the blank] always exists as an unintended and undesired byproduct of a real religion predicated upon belief.”

    Correct.

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  7. Apmex on February 12, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I’m not sure I dig Wilson’s pontifications. He makes some good points, but all of it is premised on the following:

    “The seeker isn’t looking to influence the Church into changing to match her views, she is attempting to change her views to match those of the church by putting into practice what the churchteaches.”

    My issue with this is that what the church teaches can, does, has and will continue to change. While the scriptures assert that neither God nor the gospel changes, how the church puts either of those into practice and precept does change. Oftentimes, it does so in troubling ways.

    His entire diatribe is based on that premise: that the church – and her leaders – is the end all, be all. That, whether you like the interpretation or not, is one strong component of cultural Mormonism. It seems to replace one definition of “cultural” with another definition, under a different name.

    Truth be told, everyone is a Pharisee. Many fundamentalists are pharisees, many orthodox members are pharisees, many NOM members are pharisees – all in their different ways. Fundamentalists preach polygamy as the crowning achievement of mortality; orthodox members preach “follow the Prophet” as such; while NOMs (and others) preach a more liberal form of belief… and yet each and every “group” preaches both their own form of culture and own form of Phariseeism.

    While Wilcox would have you believe it’s the NOMs or more liberal component that are the chief Pharisees, he’s ignoring the very idea that orthodoxy engenders as much Phariseeism as any other.

    “So let’s resist this new Mormon Pharisaism and aspire to real faith; to be real, believing Latter-day Saints and not Mormons in Practice Only. And to those who do not yet believe: aspire to believe; yearn to receive a personal witness and act upon that yearning with integrity.”

    Believe just what, presactly? Believe what the Church(tm) teaches (even when it conflicts with scripture), or believe what scripture dictates (even when it conflicts with the Church), or believe a mix of inspiration + Church + scriptural teachings (even when they conflict each other)?

    Based on the article, it seems that the main point is that what the Church and her leaders teach is what should underscore our belief. And, I’m afraid, that’s his cultural belief. Not mine.

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  8. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Apmex,

    I thought the main point of the article was to not lie.

    And, you’ll forgive me, but it’s a pretty big stretch to claim that it’s impossible to identify teachings of the LDS Church. Even granting that it’s hazy at times, it really no harder to identify core beliefs for the LDS church as for any group of people anywhere. All groups have a somewhat hazy border. This seems to be very nearly built into the very concept of ‘group.’ But that doesn’t mean there are no uniting beliefs that caused the group to form in the first place.

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  9. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Andrew, you said: “Nevertheless, it is true that I wouldn’t be a “seeker.” And I would be asking for some concessions of the church (the big tent movement generally asks for some changes. For example, changing the climate to accommodate “cultural” believers would by itself have ripples through doctrines and beliefs.)”

    This line doesn’t quite make sense to me. Did you mean “And I would NOT be asking for some concessions of the church…”

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  10. Apmex on February 12, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Bruce:

    I never said that it’s “impossible to identify teachings of the LDS Church.” To the contrary, it is easy. But they are teachings of the Church, and not necessarily of the gospel. They can, do, have and will deviate from time to time and, occasionally, in substantial ways.

    My point is that the teachings of the Church and the gospel are not guaranteed to align, while Wilson never delineated between the two, nor did he admit that they do, at times, stray. To assume that the Gospel and the Church are synonymous is as cultural as it gets (IMO).

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  11. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Apmex,

    The Church leaders to not claim infallibility, but they do claim authority. To take Wilson’s belief on this subject and call it ‘cultural’ is to make a caricature of yourself in favor of Wilson’s very point.

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  12. [...] I was glad when I noticed that Wheat and Tares had produced this respectful response from Andrew S to make up for the bad link. And, just as I would have expected of Andrew S, he actually understood [...]

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  13. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DH, Wheat & Tares Blog. Wheat & Tares Blog said: New Post! Why Cultural Mormonism doesn't exist http://bit.ly/i0rCQ2 #mormon [...]

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  14. Mike S on February 12, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Here is my main issue with this discussion. There are some aspects of religion that someone can control – and there are other aspects of religion that someone CAN’T control.

    I can follow all of the current practices of the LDS Church. I can follow the WofW, serve in my callings, pay a full tithing, attend my meetings, etc. I can read the BofM every day. I can pray every day, including praying about the BofM. These are all things I can choose to do or choose not to do.

    But there are other things that are beyond my control. I can’t force God to give me an answer as to whether the BofM is true. I can’t force God to give me a testimony of Joseph Smith. I can’t force God to do any of these things.

    But, I was raised Mormon, I attend the Mormon church, my family is Mormon, etc. So what am I?

    The article suggests just being open about all this in order to not be a hypocrite. Can anyone here seriously recommend that? Can anyone here imagine me getting up in a testimony meeting and saying, I don’t really know if all this is true. I’m going through the motions in the hopes that someday God will answer be. It’s been over 40 years, but maybe tomorrow it will happen.

    I don’t know a good name for someone in my position, but I suppose cultural Mormon fits it as good as any, if a “true” Mormon is someone defined by their testimony.

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  15. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    “But, I was raised Mormon, I attend the Mormon church, my family is Mormon, etc. So what am I?”

    Mormon.

    And you seem pretty dang open to me.

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  16. Chris H. on February 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    I am a Mormon until people like Bruce (don’t let the passive aggressive front trick you) and J. Max find a way to excommunicate me. Between the ex-mos and the right wing douche bags (see any post at M*) I feel pretty confident that there is a place for liberal Mormons. I am in it.

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  17. Mike S on February 12, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    I’m pretty open here. For obvious reasons, I’m NOT open in my ward. It’s just not accepted.

    The biggest issue is that everyone defines for themselves what being “Mormon” means, and then defines what they think “not Mormon” means based on that.

    As an example, for beliefs, just in Joseph Smith, where does the line fall:

    - Joseph Smith was a chosen prophet, essentially 100% correct in the things we still agree with and just misunderstood or misquoted in the things we no longer agree wtih, the judge of everyone in this dispensation, etc. (This is the version presented in the correlated manuals, general conference, etc)
    - Joseph Smith was a prophet. He did everything he said. But, like other prophets including David, Moses, etc, he had some flaws. Perhaps marrying 14 year-old girls or other men’s wives wasn’t truly God’s will, but I’m willing to let that slide or put it on a shelf. (We don’t really talk about this version – and many people don’t really know much about his flaws)
    - Joseph Smith was a prophet in the sense that he communed with the Divine. He brought forth inspired scripture. But he wasn’t necessarily unique in this regard. There have been many men who also were prophets and who communed with the Divine. This may include Mohammed, Luther, Buddha, etc. (This gets into the more murky area where the exclusive claims of the LDS Church can start to be questioned)
    - Joseph Smith was sincere but deluded. He perhaps had some touch of the Divine, and truly believed in what he taught, but he was misguided.
    - Joseph Smith was a charlatan. He was a fraudster driven by gain, women, fame, etc. His money-grubbing, seer-stone using ways preceded all of this, and continued after.

    So, obviously, someone holding the last point of view might not be considered “Mormon”. But given the gradation (necessarily crude), where would you draw the line in what it takes to be a “Mormon”. The official correlated version at the top, or can you still consider yourself a Mormon if you fall further down.

    And just on a testimony of Joseph Smith alone, there are levels:
    - I had an overwhelming, undeniable spiritual confirmation that Joseph Smith is absolutely God’s chosen prophet
    - I have had good feelings when I have read the BofM. JS brought this forth, so he must be what he says
    - I feel good when I read some of JS’s writings to the extent I feel good when I read truth in other places as well. There are some things I question, but overall I think he’s likely a prophet
    - While there is some good that JS has done, the negative things about him overpower the good. I think it’s less likely that he was the “chosen one” to the extent that the modern LDS Church teaches, but I’m willing to go along with it.
    - I absolutely know he was a fake.

    Again, where do you draw the line? Which of these would you be comfortable hearing in a testimony meeting? Which of these is acceptable for a temple recommend? Which of these is acceptable for a bishop? And if someone hasn’t had the spiritual confirmation that they can say “I KNOW” JS is a prophet, could they have a TR? Be a bishop? Etc.

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  18. John Gustav-Wrathall on February 12, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    I absolutely agree with your conclusion.

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  19. Mike S on February 12, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    That was just beliefs. How about practices? Take a simple example: “Keep the Sabbath day holy”. We teach lessons on that, but what does that mean?

    - Attend Church every Sunday
    - Attend Church every Sunday you’re in town
    - Attend Church almost every Sunday
    - Attend Church at least monthly
    - Attend Church on special occasions
    - Wear a white shirt and tie
    - Wear a colored shirt and tie
    - Wear a shirt but no tie
    - Wear church clothes all day
    - Rip church clothes off the second you get home
    - Go school shopping on Sunday
    - Go grocery shopping on Sunday
    - Buy one item you forgot for the Sunday dinner you are making that is half done
    - Go out to eat on Sunday
    - Go out to eat on Mother’s day so she doesn’t have to cook
    - Go to Barnes and Noble to buy a book on Sunday
    - Buy a book on Amazon on Sunday
    - Shop for books online on Sunday but just put them in your cart for “buying” on Monday
    - Watching football on TV
    - Watching the Superbowl on TV
    - Playing football at a family gathering
    - Playing football with some friends
    - Having football practice
    - Going for a walk
    - Going for a jog
    - Going running
    - Going to the gym
    - Etc.

    Just in “Sunday observance”, the list could go on and on and on. The problem is that the orthodox/orthoprax members generally decide what is “right” and implicitly or explicitly judge others according to this as “good” or “bad” Mormons.

    The problem is – there is NOT AN ACTUAL DOCTRINE. The Church does NOT define what a “full tithing” means. The Church does not define any of this. I actually think this is good, and that it is really between a person and God, but many members have an expectation of what other members SHOULD be doing.

    And, in general, the “less” orthoprax/orthodox members are willing to let the “more” orthodox/orthoprax members interpret the gospel as they see fit, but it rarely goes the other way. This is what people mean by having a “bigger tent” – having the “more” orthodox/orthoprax accept those people who might have a “less” orthodox/orthoprax interpretation of what being “Mormon” means.

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  20. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    “Again, where do you draw the line?”

    To me this is obvious. At honesty.

    If you are only comfortable with saying “I believe” instead of “I know” then say that. And feel free to emphasize what works for you.

    I think the only real issue is if you start to Clintonize and say “I believe X” when you know you really mean Y but have reworded X to mean Y.

    Even then, I don’t have much concern over it if it affects no one but you.

    Personally, I felt like “I did not break the laws of my country” was a pretty good answer to an inappropriate question. Yes, still deceptive, but probably closer to the truth than merely saying “yes, I used to smoke pot” on national television.

    So I’m willing to grant gradation here.

    The problem is that Clinton honestly didn’t see a difference between “I did not break the laws of my country” and “it depends on what you mean by ‘is’”

    If you are looking for a clear line, there isn’t one. If you are looking for a correct principle, it’s honesty and how you affect others.

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  21. Chris H. on February 12, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Clinton? Wow, do you try real hard to [edited] or does it come naturally?

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  22. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    By the way, Mike S. For what it is worth, I’m not just giving advice in a vacuum. I’m saying this is what works for me. Your mileage may vary.

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  23. DavidC on February 12, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    “The Church leaders to not claim infallibility, but they do claim authority. To take Wilson’s belief on this subject and call it ‘cultural’ is to make a caricature of yourself in favor of Wilson’s very point.”

    That’s rich. So Wilson decrying the hypocrisy of pseudo intellectualists isn’t cultural, but Apmex’s comment is?

    Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, meet Pot.

    As for the “authority” issue, are you asserting that the “Leaders” have the “authority” to do whatever they come to agreement on? After all, that is their interpretation of the “mind and will of the Lord.”

    Take, for instance, the change in the duties/charge of the apostles. Back from 1835 through the mid-1890s, all apostles were told that part of their “charge” was to receive a visitation from Christ himself. Due to some personal insecurities and faithlessness, among other things, that charge changed to a testimony based on “as if” you had seen him.

    Here’s some of the chronology:

    1835: ““It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. … That is more than the testimony of an angel. … Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.” – Oliver Cowdery, 1835

    1889: The privileges of an apostle include “the privileges of having the ministration of angels, and of seeing the Savior Himself; of hearing the voice of God as audibly as we hear a man’s voice… .” – Abraham Cannon

    1890: Lorenzo Snow reported that the apostles “should, if we sought it, live to see the Savior in the flesh.”

    1903: George Albert Smith states the responsibilities of the apostles to attend quorum meetings, sustain the first presidency and the twelve, to express their views “boldly” in quorum meetings and to lead an exemplary life – but no longer was the admonition to search for, expect or yearn for visions.

    1907: “The Twelve are Special witnesses of Jesus Christ & should be able to testify that he lives even as if he had been seen by them.” – Francis Lyman

    1942: Heber J. Grant confesses that he had “never prayed to see the Savior. … I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith. … I have seen so many men fall because of some great manifestations to them.”

    1956: “Every member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles should have, and I feel sure have had, the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This does not have to come by direct visitation of the Savior, but it does come from the testimony of the Holy Ghost. … The testimony of the Holy Ghost is the strongest testimony that can be given. It is better than a person visit” (- Joseph Fielding Smith, emphasis is in the original – Doctrines of Salvation, 3:153)

    1958: “[My] charge included a commitment to give all that one has, both as to time and means, to the building of the Kingdom of God; to keep himself pure and unspotted from the sins of the world; to be obedient to the authorities of the church; and to subjugate his own thoughts and accept the majority opinion – not only to vote for it but to act as though it were his own original opinion after it has been approved by the majority of the Council of the Twelve and the First Presidency.” – Hugh B. Brown

    Now, Wilcox would have us believe (my assumption based on reading his OP) that I must accept what the church teaches (present tense) on this and every issue, unless I’m to be a Pharisee. If I see anything which which I disagree, I must not seek to change the church, but rather change myself to match whatever the church teaches today.

    “The seeker isn’t looking to influence the Church into changing to match her views, she is attempting to change her views to match those of the church by putting into practice what the church teaches.”

    To winnow that down, whatever the church teaches (present tense) is what I have to match my comportment to. If I find something from a past teaching that I like better than the modern teaching, I have to throw away that past teaching in favor of whatever the present teaching is.

    If that is the case – and that seems to be one of the main take aways – then I’ll happily go my way and be a Pharisee by his illogical definition. I just happen to live by my own definitions – so be it.

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  24. DavidC on February 12, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Mike:

    “The problem is – there is NOT AN ACTUAL DOCTRINE. The Church does NOT define what a “full tithing” means. The Church does not define any of this. I actually think this is good, and that it is really between a person and God, but many members have an expectation of what other members SHOULD be doing.

    The amorphous definitions are appreciated in my home, actually. You touched on something important, though, in that many people have an expectation of what others should be doing. And with an “authority” driven culture (generalization), when leaders speak from a pulpit that someone shouldn’t have 2 sets of earrings (for example), then those who disagree with that and don’t change to match what the church teaches, then they’re viewed as suspect.

    And, in general, the “less” orthoprax/orthodox members are willing to let the “more” orthodox/orthoprax members interpret the gospel as they see fit, but it rarely goes the other way. This is what people mean by having a “bigger tent” – having the “more” orthodox/orthoprax accept those people who might have a “less” orthodox/orthoprax interpretation of what being “Mormon” means.”

    I think I agree with this.

    Can orthodox members allow others to practice the gospel as they see fit without calling them Pharisees, apostates, degenerates or whatever the name du jour is? For example, orthodox members can bear their testimony all day long and the only place someone will call them on anything is on the internet, largely anonymously. But, if a liberal member gets up and bears their testimony that they don’t believe in [insert something here - i.e. the differences in the Word of Wisdom teachings, the "Follow the Prophet" mantra, that gays should be allowed to get married, that the fruits of prophecy/revelation/seership aren't present today, that xxxxxxxx - anything, I don't care...something that goes against the modern teachings, but may have some basis in fact historically or otherwise], will they be able to make it out of the Church building before either being corrected or reprimanded?

    Honest question. I doubt that they would be able to get out without something said to them.

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  25. JT on February 12, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    This is totally a threadjack, but remember how there was a big stink back in November about the new handbook supposedly imposing a more restrictive standard on fathers participating in certain ordinances? Today in the worldwide leadership training, Elder Cook clarified that fathers would not have been able to participate in baptisms, baby blessings and confirmations under the old handbook. In other words, the new standard is a _less_ restrictive standard, contrary to what everyone throughout the bloggernacle seemed to be thinking. I think this should give us all pause. It is amazing how quickly an idea can catch on in the bloggernacle, how quickly that idea can be understood as the standard or status quo, and how quickly competing (and, in this case, correct) ideas can be shot down as unenlightened or uninformed. Anyway, it was a big eye-opener for me. Sorry for the threadjack.

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  26. Bruce on February 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    David C,

    If your point is that there are different rules for on the Internet then in a Church (of any religion) I’d have to agree with you. And?

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  27. Mike S on February 12, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    In spite of the jokes about Clinton, definitions really are what it comes down to…

    For example, if I accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, and my definition is different than your definition, who gets to choose?

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  28. Bored in Vernal on February 13, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    JT #25: I see that as a real spin the leaders are putting upon the new policy. Under the old handbook, there was no clear policy. Bishops let baptisms and PH ordinances take place at their discretion. Now, although baptism by a non-temple recommend-worthy PH holder is still left to the discretion of the bishop, it is specifically stated that confirmations and ordinations may NOT be done. This is a spin that is not well understood by those not having access to the old handbook. If you want a real eye-opener, go to the original sources and do the comparison yourself.

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  29. JT on February 13, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    BiV – It’s not spin. I am very familiar with the old handbook, and the term “worthy” was not used as ambiguously as you may think. Every AA70, stake president, and bishop that I have talked to has understood it that way. Elder Cook clearly understands it that way.

    I don’t mean to sound pedantic or be rude in any way, but this is pretty well understood by those in priesthood leadership. The more-restrictive camp is mostly confined to those who have not had much experience applying the handbook (old or new). Are there bishops who may have understood it differently? Sure – misunderstandings happen. If they would have talked with their stake president, they could have cleared up any confusion.

    Again, I hope I’m not coming across as rude in any way. I would just like to resolve some confusion I saw here over this issue.

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  30. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    Hey everyone!

    Thanks for commenting. I was gone (again) for a fencing tournament, and this time, I forgot to bring my cell phone to the tournament venue to keep up with all the comments.

    So, I’ll try to respond over a comment or two.

    re 1:

    SteveS,

    Your statement about orthodoxy being as squirrelly to nail down as cultural Mormonism rings completely true to me (and that’s why, I think, inter-faith dialogue like the kind Ms. Jack does is challenging.)

    Because it’s not just that orthodoxy is “whatever is current.” After all, the church changes some things that they don’t publicize. Does that mean that all the people who didn’t get the memo are now unorthodox?

    I think the reason the church has quiet rollouts is so that a wide range of beliefs can be orthodox, while the church’s “official” phrasings and positions will be less of a liability. As you put it, it’s a creeping/seeping process.

    I think your final question is EXTREMELY interesting and perhaps should get its own post. Do human institutions unavoidably define (and alienate) others and outsiders?

    I for one am glad that you find W&T a good place to discuss issues, but I am aware (and it bothers me) that there are some others who would say that W&T just has a different (liberal) orthodoxy and “otherizes” the conservative, traditional believer.

    re 2:

    Chino Blanco,

    You’re right! I was juggling a few MSP posts, and I think I had Alan’s post in the next tab, but I misattributed J. Seth’s in the process. Let me get to that. (Also, I have corrected the attribution to Chanson’s Mormon Perspectives Venn diagram to go to her post.)

    re 3:

    jks,

    I think you bring a good point. But I would invite you to consider: groups who grew up in the church who had a testimony.

    Additionally, suppose there is a group in the church who grows up without a testimony. Don’t you think there is a common experience between members of this subset of challenge, of struggling, of feeling defective for their lack of testimony? Couldn’t this be a part of Mormonism — because this angst is a reaction to uniquely Mormon situations.

    re 4:

    Tim,

    Unfortunately, I seem to have misattributed half of them. :) That’s what I get for writing a post the night before at someone’s house before a fencing trip.

    re 5:

    Bruce,

    I had you in mind there. I was also going to link to some things you had said specifically on the matter, but didn’t want to put the time in searching ;)

    re 7:

    apmex,

    If you check the comments, I think you’ll find that many people disagree with Wilson on similar points.

    I think SteveS’s comment in 1 also hits on this point…orthodoxy is slippery to define, so how can anyone begin to say, “Well, x isn’t being orthodox.”

    Nevertheless, I agree with what Bruce is saying in 8. Apparently, there is enough of a concept of orthodoxy established (or understood) that when we are talking, we can imagine what others would call orthodox. So, we are AWARE that if we answer certain questions in certain ways, we will probably be seen as heterodox.

    And what Wilson opposes then is for people who would believe in ways that are understood to be heterodox to ANSWER and SPEAK as if they are orthodox.

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  31. Zeke on February 13, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I suppose bisexuality is impossible too….

    I wouldn’t define myself as a cultural Mormon, but I don’t see why others shouldn’t. Personally applied labels like this aren’t about satisfying someone who doesn’t claim that label, but those who do. The fact that Andrew doesn’t think cultural Mormonism isn’t a viable concept doesn’t make it any less necessary to those who don’t feel comfortable with thee more accepted labels like plain old “Mormon” or Jack Mormon or whatever.

    And regardless of his relationship to jell-o, Andrew’s insistence that “I get to say if your name for yourself is valid,” is pretty damn patriarchal and Mormon–culturally Mormon, that is. I get so sick of Andrew’s platonism, his allegiance to ideal forms, and his dismissal of everything that doesn’t fit his sense of the ideal. What would we ever do without him telling us what forms of belief and self-definition are and are not possible and/or valid?

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  32. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    re 9:

    Bruce

    That line seems to be correctly written as is. In the prior bullet points, I was explaining how I feel my position (as “cultural” Mormon) is different from the liberal/new order/Pharisaical position that Wilson criticizes…but in the line you quoted, I am conceding (e.g., the “nevertheless”) some places where I probably would still be criticized. For example, Wilson approves of the nonbelieving seeker, but I probably wouldn’t fit that category.

    The second point is to say that while Wilson would rather nonbelievers not try to “change the church,” my cultural Mormon vision DOES want to change the church — by making it more amenable to cultural Mormons and others without traditional conservative beliefs. I recognize that an attempt to do this would naturally cut against Wilson’s goal of a strong church tailored for believers and those seeking to be believers.

    Does that make more sense?

    re 14:

    Mike S,

    The problem is in the LDS church, agency applies to belief as well. As from the earlier discussion, many people answered, “God does not withhold the gifts the spirit” and things similar to that. The argument was, if you haven’t gotten an answer — then that is a guaranteed sign that you’re doing something wrong because there is no delay time.

    I don’t know how to work with that, in light of knowing (and experiencing) experiences to the contrary.

    re 16:

    Chris H,

    Really torn here. I want to say, “You are a Mormon or not even if people like (insert names) find a way to excommunicate you. The excommunication is irrelevant in determining either way.

    I want to say someone like John Gustav-Wrathall, who is excommunicated but who probably has a greater testimony than most members I know, is a Mormon.

    But this gets back to the issue of: what is orthodoxy, how limited is it…etc., etc.,

    re 17 and 19,

    This is a real tax joke that probably won’t make sense to anyone here, but when you said,

    “The problem is – there is NOT AN ACTUAL DOCTRINE. The Church does NOT define what a “full tithing” means. The Church does not define any of this. I actually think this is good, and that it is really between a person and God, but many members have an expectation of what other members SHOULD be doing.”

    I thought: Oh, so personal revelations are like private letter rulings from God. Not useful as precedent because they only pertain to the individual believer. Maybe the church should get some Revelation Rulings on the books?

    re 24:

    DavidC,

    Can orthodox members allow others to practice the gospel as they see fit without calling them Pharisees, apostates, degenerates or whatever the name du jour is?

    I don’t think it’s so simple. The “more orthodox” members cannot do this because this constitutes the degradation and degeneration of religion. The less orthodox members can do this either because they don’t see this as degradation/degeneration or because they actually want to see the status quo religion degenerated.

    Take your gay marriage analogy. Suppose an orthodox member believes that gay marriage will cause harm to society — either spiritually or temporally. Then he cannot simply sit idly by and see some people within his church try to define “bad” as “good.”

    Whereas the liberal believing member doesn’t see gay marriage as bad or harmful, so won’t be so adamant to close out the discussion.

    re 25:

    JT,

    I’m not going to comment specifically on the previous post here, since that wasn’t mine, and I don’t know the full details, but I’d like to point out that this isn’t a fault specific to the bloggernacle. I think we can see this in ANY news item…I mean, if you’re interested in any field of science and know a bit about it, I dare you to look at the science popularizations that come out about that field. They will make you cringe.

    There is a Mark Twain quote about the easy spreadability of misinformation, though: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes

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  33. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    re 31:

    Zeke,

    To try to relate your first statement to where I’m going with, if I were to say, “Bisexuality is impossible,” it wouldn’t be to argue that, “You either like men or women, but not both.” Rather, it would be to argue, “Our current system of sexuality is a false construction situated in time.”

    And that’s my point for cultural Mormonism. My point is not that people don’t have certain experiences. But rather, collecting these experiences in something called “cultural Mormonism” is a false construction situated in time and the whim of correlation.

    I am going to politely decline to respond to the second paragraph because what is this, I don’t even.

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  34. [...] I hastily published my newest post at Wheat and Tares, collecting my rumbling thoughts on the tenuousness of the concept of “cultural Mormonism.” As has been the case for the past few weekends when my posts go live, I was away at a [...]

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  35. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Andrew says: “…my cultural Mormon vision DOES want to change the church — by making it more amenable to cultural Mormons and others without traditional conservative beliefs. I recognize that an attempt to do this would naturally cut against Wilson’s goal of a strong church tailored for believers… Does that make more sense?”

    Yes, except that you are misrepresenting this a bit. Such a goal doesn’t just cut agasinst Wilson’s goal of a strong church tailored for believers.

    I guess my point of view is this: if you are (as you are saying) open about your goal to make changes in the Church, I can hardly accuse you of deception, now can I?

    But there will, of course, consequences. You should accept those consequences. Presumably, the Church will be sure that your point of view is declared to be out of alignment with the authorities of the Church. This should be non-offensive to you because it’s the truth.

    From there, go for it. Try to change the Church all you wish. You are not doing so non-deceptively. Will you still hurt people? Perhaps. Will you help people? Perhaps.

    But at least you are being non-deceptive and handling it in a moral way.

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  36. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Mike S,

    “In spite of the jokes about Clinton, definitions really are what it comes down to…”

    Um, actually, I wasn’t joking about Clinton. I was being dead serious. I think Clinton was sometimes right to ‘dodge’ and sometimes completely dead wrong. I was trying to make an honest attempt to suggest which way was which. If it didn’t work for you, then ignore it and let’s move on.

    “For example, if I accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, and my definition is different than your definition, who gets to choose?”

    MikeS, my point was that this is the wrong question.

    The answer to this question (even though it’s the wrong question) is that everyone gets to decide this for themselves.

    At issue here isn’t if ‘your definition’ is ‘correct or not.’ At issue is if you decide to deceive people in such a way as to take away their chance to decide for themselves.

    Let’s use a realistic example. Let’s say you write a book and in the book you declare that you believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet. Now suppose you are fully aware that you define ‘prophet’ in a very different way then most members of the Church. Furthermore, one of the main reason you have put that you believe ‘Joseph Smith is a Prophet’ is because you don’t want people to be prejudiced against your views at the outset. You want them to, instead, read your book and look at the actual arguments you made.

    I am here to say that someone that does such a thing is, without a doubt, being immoral. No matter how well intentioned they are.

    The reason why is because you don’t get to define ‘prophet’ for someone else like this. If you know you have a different definition, you had a moral duty to tell people that in this situation. This is because people have a right to decide for themselves if they wish to read your book or not. They, if you will, have a right to be ‘prejudice’ against your arguments. In so far as your well meaning decision to misrepresent yourself removed this choice from them, you have harmed them through deception.

    I realize this binds your hands, so to speak. If you tell the truth, then fewer people of your key audience will not receive this message of yours. But that is what morality is. It’s a sacrifice. It’s choosing to do the right thing even when it hurts you. It’s treating people as you wish to be treated even though you didn’t have to.

    On the other hand, what about temple recommend interviews? Tougher question. Some people might feel the need to explain to their Bishop how they understand the word ‘prophet’ differently than how the Church at large defines it. Fair enough. Other might feel it’s okay to make a personal interpretation here because there is no real potential to hurt others on a personal question like this.

    But then, let say, that because someone has a temple recommend, they then feel they can accept a calling as a Bishop.

    But now it’s no longer personal. Now you aren’t in a position to just ‘define this for yourself’ any more. You now have a moral duty to recognize that you are using a different definition than the Church at large. Your moral duty is to now explain this before you accept the calling.

    This isn’t really a morally gray area. It just treating people the way you want to be treated. Don’t make it into something it isn’t. It’s just a matter of thinking how your actions (including how you choose to define a word) will affect others.

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  37. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    “You are not doing so non-deceptively.”

    should have read “You are NOW doing so non-deceptively.”

    Oops.

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  38. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I don’t think it’s so simple. The “more orthodox” members cannot do this because this constitutes the degradation and degeneration of religion. The less orthodox members can do this either because they don’t see this as degradation/degeneration or because they actually want to see the status quo religion degenerated.

    Take your gay marriage analogy. Suppose an orthodox member believes that gay marriage will cause harm to society — either spiritually or temporally. Then he cannot simply sit idly by and see some people within his church try to define “bad” as “good.”

    Whereas the liberal believing member doesn’t see gay marriage as bad or harmful, so won’t be so adamant to close out the discussion.

    Well said, Andrew.

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  39. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    re 35:

    Bruce,

    Yes, except that you are misrepresenting this a bit. Such a goal doesn’t just cut agasinst Wilson’s goal of a strong church tailored for believers.

    What does it also do? That is, what causes you to say put in the word “just” there?

    I guess my point of view is this: if you are (as you are saying) open about your goal to make changes in the Church, I can hardly accuse you of deception, now can I?

    Well, let me think of this scenario.

    I am a “cultural Mormon,” pushing for changes in the church so that cultural Mormons are accepted as Mormon insiders (rather than as non-Mormons who just happen to have a history/familiarity with Mormonism). As a result, when I speak to others, I say, “I am a Mormon.”

    Am I being deceptive if I don’t reveal what that phrase means to me upfront?

    Am I being deceptive if when asked, I say, “I am a Mormon but do not believe in x, y, z” and I don’t reveal that, “Well, most Mormons would believe that to be a Mormon is to believe x, y, z, so my position is a fringe position and shouldn’t be taken as a normative statement about Mormonism”?

    In these cases, I could be open in my goals, but only at certain times and after certain questions are asked. Alternatively, I could be open in my goals, but as a result of my goals, that causes me to frame the discussion an entirely different ways. (As a cultural Mormon pushing for cultural Mormon acceptance in Mormon society, I am not seeking to be labeled like J. Max would label me: an outsider pushing for change on the church. My position causes me to view my struggle as being an insider pushing for change from the inside, even though I openly admit I do not believe.) J. Max’s approach turns liberal Mormons and cultural Mormons into outsiders, while my approach assumes we are insiders. So, is there any deception in holding these assumptions and not revealing them upfront?

    But there will, of course, consequences. You should accept those consequences. Presumably, the Church will be sure that your point of view is declared to be out of alignment with the authorities of the Church. This should be non-offensive to you because it’s the truth.

    Right. I can accept these consequences. However, what happens if I accept this consequence, respectfully disagree with the particular alignments with the authorities of the Church and say, “I am still Mormon. This is a point of diversity in Mormonism, in fact.”

    From there, go for it. Try to change the Church all you wish. You are not doing so non-deceptively.

    But am I doing it as an insider or as an outsider. If I’m doing it as an outsider (a non-Mormon — because I’m a nonbeliever), and I continue to say I’m an insider (a Mormon — because I’m “culturally” Mormon), then am I being deceptive?

    re 36:

    Bruce, you REALLY REALLY REALLY ought to read the Faith-Promoting Rumor piece on Dirty Belief (and its comments). It’s long, but I think it’s really germane to the discussion. It tries to address differences of belief, and the burden of disclosure (as you say, the moral duty) on various parties. If a party means something very different about “belief” or “prophet” than how his audience might interpret it, does he have a burden to disclose upfront the differences in definition?

    You have already addressed a negative perspective (e.g., someone who really wants to write against the church, but draw people in.) But this happens from a positive perspective too. People say things like, “Look, he knows the dirt of the church but still believes.” — What they won’t say is, “But his belief is nuanced and very different from what most people who don’t know this will be.”

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  40. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    “What does it also do? That is, what causes you to say put in the word “just” there?”

    The Church, by definition (see our other conversation) does not wish to have itself changed by those that disagree with it. This is not Wilson’s point of view. He’s really just repeating the truth here. (Not necessarily true for everything he says, but true here.)

    “Am I being deceptive if I don’t reveal what that phrase means to me upfront?”

    Depends on the circumstance, of course. Who is going to get hurt that I didn’t reveal the whole truth? Did you have a fair chance to reveal it or was this the closest you could get to the truth within the time allotted to you? What were your reasons for withholding? To be deceptive, or some other reason?

    Again, we are NOT talking about moral gray areas here. Most likely there is no problem with saying this in 99% of the circumstances we can imagine.

    “But am I doing it as an insider or as an outsider”

    Given your scenario, an outsider in terms of beliefs, though maybe an ‘insider’ culturally. Objective fact. Sorry. Again, nothing morally gray here.

    “If a party means something very different about “belief” or “prophet” than how his audience might interpret it, does he have a burden to disclose upfront the differences in definition?”

    Probably, yes. Might depend somewhat on who might be hurt and how much time is being allotted. I make allowance for the ‘sound bite’ problem. You just get as close to the truth as you can approximate within the time.

    “But his belief is nuanced…”

    The LDS Church has a huge history on accepting vary nuances on all sorts of positions. The problem is when you try to cross that point over to areas that are incontrovertible. TT does this all the time and I call him on it.

    Believing the BoM is a ‘modern expansion’ is a well accepted way to interpret the BoM. It is NOT half believing half disbelieving as TT wants to claim. TT forces this over and over again wrongly.

    The real truth is that it’s an incontrovertible fact that the LDS Church does teach the BoM is historical.

    I’m glad they don’t make this a requirement for the temple. But it’s deceptive to then claim that means it’s not an official belief of the LDS Church. (And I also note that they DO require you to accept — sorry, from my bad memory — that Joseph Smith restored the Gospel and was given unique priesthood keys. I don’t recall the exact wording, but I do remember it wasn’t wording that you can shape to any way you wish either.)

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  41. Chris H. on February 13, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Bruce,

    The TR question is about having a testimony of the restoration. It is not very specific.

    I am pretty sure you have no idea what TT is saying. [edited]

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  42. Zeke on February 13, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    My point is not that people don’t have certain experiences. But rather, collecting these experiences in something called “cultural Mormonism” is a false construction situated in time and the whim of correlation.

    No label ever perfectly fits an entity or experience. Language is always inadequate. Every label is a construct, and new labels emerge as new circumstances emerge. Things can be constructs without being false constructs in the way you intend. If enough people decide that the label “cultural Mormon” fits an experience they have, then it is merely a construct like any other, whether you like it or not.

    You might as well argue that the concept of “boyfriend” as applied to adult men is a false construct, since boys are males who are not adults, while men are adult males. On top of which, before certain relationships were accepted by society, the term didn’t exist, so it’s obviously influenced by a certain time, which makes it even more of a false construct, since if it was a “real” construct, it would have emerged sooner. So the way a person who is romantically involved with a man must refer to him to avoid a “false construct” is “manfriend.” Or “beau.” Or “gentleman caller.”

    Your basic argument just shows a profound ignorance of how language and culture actually work. On top of which I figure that anyone who got baptized, served a mission and/or paid tithing for a couple of years has paid for the privilege of referring to him/herself however they damn well please.

    I intend to use “cultural Mormon” all the more vigorously in defiance of your insistence that it’s not valid. We’ll see in 40 years if it’s still in common usage despite its supposed false construction.

    Correlation, as a human construct, btw, and an entity without volition, is incapable of having a “whim.” That’s a false construct you’ve employed in your comment, and I hope you’ll stop doing that.

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  43. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    re 40:

    Bruce,

    OK. Got it. I read your comment wrong. (I agree that it’s not just J. Max’s point but the Church’s.)

    re: deception,

    I guess I just want to ask one question: if your reason for withholding information is ultimately, “to improve relationships,” then is that deceptive? I mean, you say this isn’t about moral grays, but I think this is where the grays interject. People want to keep the family together, keep friends. In order to do this, they don’t say everything they think or feel. But it may happen that eventually they will go further in this game: e.g., a calling to an important role. Rejecting a calling would be bad for relationships and raise suspicion, but accepting the calling might cause harm (harm at least from the Church’s perspective — the individual might not agree with the Church on that).

    Given your scenario, an outsider in terms of beliefs, though maybe an ‘insider’ culturally. Objective fact. Sorry. Again, nothing morally gray here.

    But that doesn’t answer anything…the question is whether being an ‘insider’ culturally is good enough to claim one is an insider (with no qualification afterward).

    Cultural Mormons (among other groups) would like the answer to be yes. J. Max would like the answer to be no.

    [FWIW, I also say the answer is no -- because I don't want people thinking I'm a believer of things that I'm not. So, I will disclose pretty early on in conversations that cultural Mormon =/= Mormon [no qualifications afterward] for me. I think cultural Mormonism should count as something different than non-Mormonism [although, I'm not sure anymore what], BUT I can see how, for liberal/heterodox Mormons, they have something at stake to be considered Mormons [no qualifications afterward].)

    Probably, yes. Might depend somewhat on who might be hurt and how much time is being allotted. I make allowance for the ‘sound bite’ problem. You just get as close to the truth as you can approximate within the time.

    So, with this discussion about harm, do you think that if there is a net benefit to deception, then it is moral?

    E.g., to show that some people can “know x history, but still believe*” as it will lead to the benefit of some people toughing out those issues.

    *what they mean by “belief” is different than what the average “orthodox” member would mean.

    The LDS Church has a huge history on accepting vary nuances on all sorts of positions. The problem is when you try to cross that point over to areas that are incontrovertible. TT does this all the time and I call him on it.

    Believing the BoM is a ‘modern expansion’ is a well accepted way to interpret the BoM. It is NOT half believing half disbelieving as TT wants to claim. TT forces this over and over again wrongly.

    I guess we then need to get into what is well accepted/what is valid nuance/how wide the range of orthodoxy is…because it’s not just you and TT who disagree…

    re 41:

    Chris, I just don’t know what you could be saying to get all your comments edited here. Actually, I can guess. lol.

    re 42:

    Zeke,

    Things CAN be constructs without being false constructs, I agree. But things can also be false constructs. You can have a construct that fails not because of the inadequacy of language but simply because it doesn’t describe experience very well.

    Suppose for example that many ex- and former Mormons argue that all True Believing Mormons are ignorant, gullible rubes and they base their claims on their experiences with TBMs (including, perhaps, themselves at some point). And suppose that said TBMs argue that ex- and former Mormons just wanted to sin, are secretly convinced that the church IS true, but deny it because they want to sin. And they base their argument on experiences with family, friends, etc., who have moved away from the church.

    So, these are constructs. These are constructs that are very popular. You can make people fit in them if you want.

    …but they are false constructs. They don’t capture a lot of the nuance, and they distort experiences.

    In this case, the construct is not false because of an inadequacy of language, but because it has some flaw in the experiences it seeks to capture.

    So, I dunno, I don’t feel like the boyfriend analogy is quite the same deal. A construct isn’t “real” just because it is technically precise according to a definition, or because it is older or whatever — so a construct isn’t “false” just because it is technically imprecise or newer.

    Your comment overall just entertains me so, overall. I mean, you’re really passionate and serious about this, I can tell.

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  44. Chris H. on February 13, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Wait! I didn’t even swear in the last one. You all are getting strict.

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  45. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    “I guess I just want to ask one question: if your reason for withholding information is ultimately, “to improve relationships,” then is that deceptive?”

    I’ve thought a lot about this. This *is* a moral dilemma. But let’s say that you decide to lie here because you feel like that is the best moral answer possible under the circumstances. Does that then mean you should accept a calling as a Bishop? Of course not. Still, no moral gray area on this one.

    “But that doesn’t answer anything…the question is whether being an ‘insider’ culturally is good enough to claim one is an insider (with no qualification afterward).”

    Well, that depends on the context, right? If the statement, in context, implied only culutral insidership, then no qualifer is necessary because it’s implied. If the statement, in context, implied belief insidership then a qualifier is necessary to avoid misrepresenting.

    Making allowances or mistakes, of course, this is generally pretty obvious.

    “J. Max would like the answer to be no.”

    I know J Max well enough to know this probably isn’t the case. The hang up seems to be a comment he made that *had a specific context.* Go back and read it and look at the context and *do not* assume he’s saying anything more than what he specifically said. It might read differently then. Or maybe not. But it does to me.

    “So, with this discussion about harm, do you think that if there is a net benefit to deception, then it is moral?”

    You know, here’s the thing, Andrew. For people that are sincerely trying to communicate with me — like yourself — this question has an obvious straightforward answer. Of course there are situations where lying is moral. No question.

    But if I say that, people who are just trying to hate me or dislike me will ignore the context of what I said and how I said it and try to paint me as having said something else. Soon people will be saying “Bruce think’s it’s okay to lie,” etc.

    But between you and me, we both know there is only one possible answer to your question. :)

    A better question is “who gets to decide what the net benefit is.” Presumably the moral thing to do is err on the side of truth as much as is humanly possible even if you think it will harm you and your cause. (Think Global Warming here.) Moral lying ought to be an exception for relatively extreme circumstances, I’d imagine.

    “I guess we then need to get into what is well accepted/what is valid nuance/how wide the range of orthodoxy is”

    This is actually a remarkably easy question to answer. But if you do answer it, people on the Bloggernacle will intentionally take things out of context to try to shut you up. But I suspect you could spend 10 minutes and write down an answer and it would be identical to mine.

    In fact, if I need to prove my point, I’d be happy to do this with you off line. You spend 10 minutes and write down things that ‘the LDS Church officially teaches’ and so do I. Then we assume everythings else is open to at least some level of interpretation and we’d probably have a 80-90+% match on our first try if you are honestly sincerely trying to not undermine it. :)

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  46. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    “I guess I just want to ask one question: if your reason for withholding information is ultimately, “to improve relationships,” then is that deceptive?”

    If I take your question literally, the literal answer is:

    Yes, of course it’s still a deception. But arguably it might be a moral one. I guess you’ll have to pray (or equivalent) and figure this out for yourself, etc.

    But you should never forget that you are deceiving people here. So if you are also trying to be moral, then you should pay attention to if this deception is hurting anyone or not.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that it just isn’t true that in general Mormons can’t deal with a situation like this. There are ‘more faithful’ ways to frame your dissent and ‘less faithful’ ways for example.

    And framing things as ‘I’m weak in faith’ tends to get you support, not hostility. (Though perhaps you didn’t want support? Still, it’s not all bad.)

    So when you make a decision to lie about what you believe for the sake of a relationship, presumably (and hopefully) you first considered all other alternatives and there was some really good reason why they didn’t work for your situation.

    And, of course, it goes without saying that people will sometimes take that logic of the above and then use it as an excuse to lie when the truth, framed rightly, would have been fine. They just really didn’t want to do the moral thing.

    But we’re speaking so abstract here. I am not one to tell someone ‘you need to tell your spouse/parents how you really believe.’ Without being inside the person’s life I probably wouldn’t have enough information to make that sort of judgment for that individual.

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  47. Chris H. on February 13, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    “….people on the Bloggernacle will intentionally take things out of context to try to shut you up.”

    Even this Kantian thinks that is a good example of the ends justifying the means.

    If only if worked….

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  48. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    re 44,

    Chris,

    I don’t even know what to say! Since I’m gone half the days when I post, I just get here and everything has already been edited.

    re 45:

    Bruce,

    But let’s say that you decide to lie here because you feel like that is the best moral answer possible under the circumstances. Does that then mean you should accept a calling as a Bishop? Of course not. Still, no moral gray area on this one.

    Haven’t you ever heard people who say you should never turn down a calling, because it means you’re doubting the inspiration of the people who called you/abstaining from the opportunity for growth?

    Someone who has lied to keep up appearances in the first place will put himself in a hairy situation if he starts turning down big callings.

    Well, that depends on the context, right? If the statement, in context, implied only culutral insidership, then no qualifer is necessary because it’s implied. If the statement, in context, implied belief insidership then a qualifier is necessary to avoid misrepresenting.

    What if the statement implies cultural insidership, but the listener infers something else. Or is simply ambiguous about either cultural or belief insidership. (I think either of the cases are quite likely: after all, people don’t talk about how they can better lie. They talk about how they can give an answer that covers their scenario but to which the other person might not infer what they were meaning unless they were listening very closely. Or, they will just be sufficiently ambiguous when they can reasonably expect the average Mormon to infer belief.

    I know J Max well enough to know this probably isn’t the case…

    OK, let me see. This was the part of the post that got me. (Sorry, I didn’t paste the entire post, but trust me that I read the entire thing again for context.)

    “But, they have fervent testimonies of the Atonement of Jesus!” I hear some remonstrate. “They are good people.” These things are equally true of many Catholics and Protestants I know and it doesn’t make them Mormons. I have no problem with my Catholic and Protestant friends who want to hang with us Mormons, come to church, participate in activities, and basically participate to the full extent any non-member can. They may even come to hold Joseph Smith in a favorable light, and consider the Book of Mormon to be inspired after a fashion. But that doesn’t make them Mormons either.

    The idea is that someone can be a person with a testimony of Jesus and not be Mormon. (Noncontroversial.) But additionally, even if someone comes to view Joseph Smith in a favorable light and considers the BoM to be inspired in a fashion, that still doesn’t make them Mormon.

    Yeah, this isn’t reading any differently. His message seems to be this: Mormons are those who believe in Mormon orthodoxy. Others may have other beliefs, may be good people, and may have an affinity toward Mormon concepts, but these things do not make someone Mormon.

    re lying: BRUCE THINKS IT’S OK TO LIE WOW WOW WOW WOW. I am so disappoint. ;)

    re orthodoxy:

    That would be an interesting experiment to conduct…just so I could get a post with hundreds of comments all raging at me.

    re 46:

    And framing things as ‘I’m weak in faith’ tends to get you support, not hostility. (Though perhaps you didn’t want support? Still, it’s not all bad.)

    I think there are mixed reactions here. Sometimes, saying, “I’m weak in faith” is like saying, “I have the plague.” Again, I might be biased by the circles I run in about the percentages of who will react in what way, but I would say it is a non-negligible amount of cases.

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  49. Harry on February 13, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    I don’t really think that being “Christian”, or being OF His Church has anything to do with dogma. It has to do with Him – Do I believe in Him and am I coming unto Him?

    Our “form” of godliness is found in doctrinalizing and dogma-tizing and trying to wrap our natural man brains around His Love and His Grace – and our hearts remain far from HIM. We seek to make our Selves righteous by our own labor and sheer genius, and He patiently continues to entreat us to come unto Him, and He will give us Rest (the Fulness of His Glory). Forms and methods and “authority” and dogma take us away from Him, and surrender brings us into Oneness with Him.

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  50. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Andrew in #48.

    First of all, I’m going to back track a bit on the moral lying thing. See comment here.

    I think the concern I have with what you are asking me, Andrew, is that it seems like you are just trying to get me to define a border on something that needs no border because frankly it’s all obvious.

    For example: “Haven’t you ever heard people who say you should never turn down a calling… Someone who has lied to keep up appearances in the first place will put himself in a hairy situation if he starts turning down big callings…”

    No, I’m sorry. This is easy. If you now don’t believe in the LDS Church, you also don’t believe in that you can’t turn down a calling. And you won’t get into a hair situation because you can use the all purpose Mormon answer “I prayed about it and I felt wrong about.” If you are now an atheist, well… there you go. Perhaps this is still a deception, but then it’s certainly significantly less a deception then accepting the calling on false pretenses. Being truthful would probably be better, but there is no case at all for accepting the calling on false pretenses.

    I not only don’t buy this ‘I can’t turn down a calling’ argument, but I find it a bit offensive. (Not from you asking theoretical questions, but from people who say it with a straight face in real life.)

    For that matter, when are you going to get real about honesty? If the worse thing in your life is that if you turn down a calling people are going to wonder if you are not faithful and in fact that is the truth you are someone with a serious need for a reality check in your life. And you really need some instruction in personal ethics too. You are not an island.

    “What if the statement implies cultural insidership, but the listener infers something else…”

    There is no question here. The responsibility is on you, as much as is humanly possible, to not misrepresent yourself. If you are worried about it, tell the truth. Say, “I was raise Mormon and love Mormon culture, but I can’t really say I believe in all the core beliefs” or something like that. Truth. Honesty. This is easy.

    If you do your best here and someone still misunderstands, then of course that isn’t your fault. You tried. But you would still have a moral duty to try to straighten out that misunderstanding.

    On J Max, I need to go back to what I understand a religion to be. I understand it to be a collection of truth claims that people gather together around because they honestly believe them and are supporting each other in those beliefs and associated practices.

    Splitting hairs over the definition of ‘Mormon’ with me is pointless. Of course there is a sense that a cultural Mormon (and I’m assuming we mean that tautologically as someone that decidedly does not believe in the beliefs of the LDS Church) is “a Mormon” and of course there is a sense that they are not. (i.e. in terms of their beliefs.)

    “Word policing” like this really just confounds clear understanding. I never clarifies it.

    We have to be ‘charitable’ in our choice to understand what someone said because there is no set of words someone can use that can’t be reinterpreted to mean something else. We choose if we are going to understand or not.

    There are two ways to read J Max’s quote you gave.

    One way to read him would be that he is saying: “A person that does not believe in the Church is in no legitimate sense Mormon at all ever, even culturally.”

    Another way to read him would be to assume he’s talking about “Mormon in beliefs” and assume nothing beyond that.

    It seems pretty clear to me that J Max meant the second, not the first.

    If you *still* disagree with J Max in this more obvious interpretation, then that is fine. Say that. But I do not accept that J Max was making the broader claim you say he was. Argue against what he seems to have meant. This is good policy all around.

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  51. Bruce on February 13, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Just to be clear, all statements above were aimed solely at Andrews hypothetical situation of someone that rejections all the beliefs of the Church but wants to still be culturally involved.

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  52. [...] for getting faith and intellectual integrity to cohere. Naturally, Andrew S. got into the act and rounded up and summarized all of the main discussions about this topic over the past year or so. Then we got a [...]

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  53. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    re 50:

    Bruce,

    Duly noted the M* comment.

    No, I’m sorry. This is easy. If you now don’t believe in the LDS Church, you also don’t believe in that you can’t turn down a calling.

    But that does not change what your family, your friends, and people in your ward believe. I don’t disagree with you on the part of the nonbeliever. BUT if I were someone trying to keep peace in my home and I was already concerned more about what others think than what I do, then this would apply here too. Please note that most of the ex- and former Mormons I talk to do not advocate this kind of argumentation either, and we are opposed to it for the same reasons you note.

    And you won’t get into a hair situation because you can use the all purpose Mormon answer “I prayed about it and I felt wrong about.”

    I’m surprised. Have you never heard the all-purpose Mormon response? “Sometimes you might feel bad about a chance for growth, but you should have faith and take it.”

    I not only don’t buy this ‘I can’t turn down a calling’ argument, but I find it a bit offensive. (Not from you asking theoretical questions, but from people who say it with a straight face in real life.)

    I guess you should confront this part of the culture ;). I just want to emphasize that it’s not just theoretical — people DO say it with a straight face offline. Why? Because there is some strain of reasoning within the church — right or wrong — that suggests that it really ISN’T ok to reject callings.

    For that matter, when are you going to get real about honesty? If the worse thing in your life is that if you turn down a calling people are going to wonder if you are not faithful and in fact that is the truth you are someone with a serious need for a reality check in your life. And you really need some instruction in personal ethics too. You are not an island.

    The church: serious business. I’d also say the same thing for the people in question who would make such judgment calls (e.g., all the wives who have divorced or separated over lack of faith in the church or its teachings — in the cases where that really was “the issue” and not something else.)

    Once again, I point out that for many people who have left the church, it is because they “got real” about honesty. Sometimes, to an obnoxious and overbearing extent.

    There is no question here. The responsibility is on you, as much as is humanly possible, to not misrepresent yourself. If you are worried about it, tell the truth. Say, “I was raise Mormon and love Mormon culture, but I can’t really say I believe in all the core beliefs” or something like that. Truth. Honesty. This is easy.

    OK, those were *my* thoughts. But the counterargument was (I may still be botching this): in no other relationship would we expect such disclosure. In no other relationship would we expect such radical, blunt honesty and self-revelation.

    On J Max, I need to go back to what I understand a religion to be. I understand it to be a collection of truth claims that people gather together around because they honestly believe them and are supporting each other in those beliefs and associated practices.

    Splitting hairs over the definition of ‘Mormon’ with me is pointless. Of course there is a sense that a cultural Mormon (and I’m assuming we mean that tautologically as someone that decidedly does not believe in the beliefs of the LDS Church) is “a Mormon” and of course there is a sense that they are not. (i.e. in terms of their beliefs.)

    “Word policing” like this really just confounds clear understanding. I never clarifies it.

    See, I don’t get this right here. If you define a religion as you have done, and you define a cultural Mormon as you have done, then the answer is there is no way that a cultural Mormon is a Mormon. They don’t honestly believe the claims — end of discussion.

    That is the point of the splitting hairs. It’s not difficult.

    There are two ways to read J Max’s quote you gave.

    One way to read him would be that he is saying: “A person that does not believe in the Church is in no legitimate sense Mormon at all ever, even culturally.”

    Another way to read him would be to assume he’s talking about “Mormon in beliefs” and assume nothing beyond that.

    It seems pretty clear to me that J Max meant the second, not the first.

    To say “Mormon” is to imply to “Mormon in beliefs.”

    It cannot be to imply to cultural Mormon, and in fact, the cultural Mormon has the responsibility, as much as is humanly possible, not to misrepresent himself — that is why he must instead say, at the very least, “I was raised Mormon, and I love Mormon culture, but can’t say I believe the core beliefs.” By your definition of religion, this is akin to saying, “I was raised Mormon, and I love Mormon culture, but I’m not a Mormon” It would be misrepresenting himself to call himself a “Mormon” when others are going to use “Mormon” to refer to “Mormon in beliefs.”

    The reason why you can say “it seems pretty clear to me that J Max meant the second” is because it’s obvious that “Mormon” means “Mormon in beliefs.” Because Mormonism is a religion…about beliefs — as you pointed out yourself.

    So I don’t see why you disagree with me here.

    Maybe it’s because the term “cultural Mormon” has the word “Mormon” in it?

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  54. Jeff Spector on February 14, 2011 at 2:45 AM

    Is there cultural Mormonism? Of course, if 2/3 of the entire Church is not active, then the range of identification with the Church also extends to them as well.

    Some want nothing to do with the Church, do not identify with it what so ever. Others fall in between the ultra orthodox and the non-identifiers.

    Some non-menbers will even identify with mormon ancestors.

    That, my friend is cultural mormonism. It is not terribly different than Jews. Really.

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  55. Bruce on February 14, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    “Because there is some strain of reasoning within the church — right or wrong — that suggests that it really ISN’T ok to reject callings.”

    My response already addressed this fully. Your point seems to be that the Church should change so that if a person has to turn down a calling because they no longer believe then it shouldn’t be detectable that there are faith issues there now. This does not strike me as a valid point at all. Yes, of course they are going to detect it. Because it will be the truth.

    “In no other relationship would we expect such radical, blunt honesty and self-revelation.”

    What the heck are you talking about? You mean there are equivalent situations where you have equivalent chance to harm others if you don’t self disclose (and remember, it’s you that forced the situation to be one where the person had to, not me) and in those situations people don’t self disclose? I find this very difficult to believe.

    I think what you are really doing is comparing apples and oranges. Your saying that there are many situations where a lack of self disclosure causes no harm at all, so there is no moral need to do so. Then you are trying to draw an inappropriate parallel from there.

    “See, I don’t get this right here. If you define a religion as you have done, and you define a cultural Mormon as you have done, then the answer is there is no way that a cultural Mormon is a Mormon. They don’t honestly believe the claims — end of discussion.”

    Word policing again. Now you are claiming that there is no such thing as a person that knows the lingo, knows the culture, and maybe even loves it yet has no connections belief wise.

    “It cannot be to imply to cultural Mormon”

    Huh? Words have no definitive meaning outside of what we mean by them. The question is one of honesty and misrepresentation, not what a word does or doesn’t mean.

    ““I was raised Mormon, and I love Mormon culture, but I’m not a Mormon””

    Well, given the scenario you’ve built up here, this is sort of true, right? But it’s semantics. You do your self a dis-service to play semantic games like this. Word ownership like this is a waste of time (this is the Popperian in me talking now.)

    If someone decides they want to define “Mormon” in a cultural way, I have no objection. (Even if this is a new way of thinking of it, as you are implying.) I only object to them then doing a word swap where they say “I’m a Believing Mormon” with intent to leave the impression that they believe things they do not.

    Maybe your, right Andrew. I don’t know. I don’t know people’s hearts. If what you are suggesting is true then you are claiming that the only reason a person would ever call themselves ‘a Mormon’ after they no longer believe in Mormon beliefs is because they want to deceive people. Could this be true? It seems a bit far fetched to me. But who knows, maybe you are right.

    But even if you are right, then I still feel I need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume otherwise and instead hold my criticism to actual misrepresentation, dishonesty, and when it crosses that line where they become hurtful (like recommending to people to join a Bishopric when they just said they didn’t believe.) It feels wrong to me to merely assume from the outset that the whole program is dishonest like you seem to me to be claiming.

    But you are welcome to see this as you like, of course.

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  56. Bruce on February 14, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    Break through Andrew. I just got what you are saying.

    Okay, I’ll put up a more plain answer to you on the other thread that I think clarifies what I am saying to you.

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  57. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    Andrew #39: As a result, when I speak to others, I say, “I am a Mormon.” Am I being deceptive if I don’t reveal what that phrase means to me upfront?

    I’m an active LDS member and I too wonder about this question myself. Saying “I’m Mormon” implies a wide variety of things to a listener — things that may not apply to me, or even apply to people who consider themselves mainline/orthodox LDS.

    For example, when I told an old friend from high school that I had joined the LDS church, he remarked: “So, you can’t go swimming on Sunday anymore? That sucks.” To him, being “Mormon” entailed this thing — but I doubt many people, when they say “I’m Mormon” have this aspect in mind. But I don’t think that’s deception on their part to not make sure they mention that caveat.

    For me, I see no problem with drinking beer and being in line with D&C 89. However, I don’t think it’s deceptive [every time I meet a new person] not to make sure I tack-on “– who doesn’t mind drinking a beer,” to the phrase, “I’m a Mormon.”

    I know the Church(TM) is big on members being walking “advertisements” for the Corporation, carefully monitoring the public image that the members “sell”, etc. but I am under no obligation to align myself with what the Church(TM) says things mean.

    When I’ve been asked by non-member acquaintances about something like beer consumption or plural marriage — I just say that I read the revelation that discusses alcohol consumption or monogamy differently than most.

    That’s not Pharisaical — and everyone I’ve had encounters like that with aren’t “deceived” by me stating I was a “Mormon” when they first met.

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  58. Chris H. on February 14, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    For all the talk of honesty…my most honest comments always get edited. WTF? My guess is that holy Bruce is more committed to his agenda than he is honesty.

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  59. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    re 54:

    Jeff,

    Why do you keep breaking our unrealistically rosy pictures of Jewish life? Why? :)

    re 55:

    Bruce,

    I think what you are really doing is comparing apples and oranges. Your saying that there are many situations where a lack of self disclosure causes no harm at all, so there is no moral need to do so. Then you are trying to draw an inappropriate parallel from there.

    Conceded. (BTW, that was a devil’s advocacy point from a previous discussion that I didn’t know how to address.)

    Word policing again. Now you are claiming that there is no such thing as a person that knows the lingo, knows the culture, and maybe even loves it yet has no connections belief wise.

    No, I’m not claiming there is no such thing as such a person. Just that that person is not a Mormon.

    Think of an anthropologist whose job it is to study some group of people. He may know all these things about this people, but he is not part of that people. Neither is he a “cultural” part of that people.

    Huh? Words have no definitive meaning outside of what we mean by them. The question is one of honesty and misrepresentation, not what a word does or doesn’t mean.

    To imply “cultural Mormon” from “Mormon” is dishonest and misrepresentative.

    If someone decides they want to define “Mormon” in a cultural way, I have no objection. (Even if this is a new way of thinking of it, as you are implying.) I only object to them then doing a word swap where they say “I’m a Believing Mormon” with intent to leave the impression that they believe things they do not.

    But this is what I’m saying: suppose someone says, “I’m a Mormon,” with no context at all. They mean “in a cultural way,” but they don’t have that context (on the other hand, they don’t explicitly add “believing” either).

    Wouldn’t the default inference be that when someone says, “I’m a Mormon,” they MEAN, “believing Mormon”? Do you agree or disagree? Someone says, “I’m a Mormon.” What do you infer? That’s all I’m saying.

    Maybe your, right Andrew. I don’t know. I don’t know people’s hearts. If what you are suggesting is true then you are claiming that the only reason a person would ever call themselves ‘a Mormon’ after they no longer believe in Mormon beliefs is because they want to deceive people. Could this be true? It seems a bit far fetched to me. But who knows, maybe you are right.

    My argument is kinda like this: you have said that people have a responsibility to, as much as is realistically possible, make sure they are not misrepresented. I feel that if someone says, “I am a Mormon,” they can REALISTICALLY recognize that the person they are talking to will infer, “Oh, he is saying he believes in Mormon doctrine.” THAT is why I pushed for the recognition of cultural Mormonism, because I wanted to change that. I wanted it to be that when people heard the word “Mormon,” they might ALSO suppose that it was someone who grew up Mormon but didn’t believe.

    But that is not the case. And I recognize that.

    So, because they/I understand this and can preemptively see the potential for miscommunication, don’t they/I have the responsibility to say, “Hey, I grew up Mormon, but I don’t believe.” to preemptively fight out misrepresentation?

    That’s why whenever I talk, I do try to always put the caveat, “a cultural Mormon” and explain it. BECAUSE I KNOW that if I don’t, most people are going to assume I’m saying I’m a believer, and I don’t want to give that impression. (sorry, I’m not trying to be a liberal infiltrator sneaking into ur home base, eating all ur cookiez). If I don’t put that caveat, then I’m either being verbally lazy (which happens sometimes), talking to someone who already knows my situation, or trying to make a point where I feel it is more advantageous to be seen as part of Mormons.

    Is that last part deception? Maybe. Probably. I don’t care. I try not to do it often. I try not to use it for bad and write books bashing Mormons under the false pretense that I am one.

    re 56:

    I saw your response (or what I think was your response to the other post), and I wasn’t quite happy with it…which is why I am continuing my argumentation here. I actually think I’m arguing from a very different vantage point here than I am over there. If that is not totally confusing and “deceptive”. :)

    re 57:

    Justin,

    Exactly! I feel like even when I was struggling in the church to be an active believing Mormon, saying, “I am a Mormon” wasn’t enough, because I could anticipate, “…so you have nine moms?” or “so you can’t drink any caffeine?” etc., etc.,

    The worst part is when you’re talking to other members. Because everyone has his/her own idea of orthodoxy, and what are the ranges you can go and still be orthodox.

    I’m curious about your position.

    If you are under no obligation to align yourself with what the Church(TM) says things mean…BUT most people would expect that you are, then don’t you feel a responsibility to point out the difference. I mean, at the very least so you are not misunderstood and misrepresented.

    You say it yourself: when asked, you say you “read the revelation that discusses alcohol consumption or monogamy differently than most.” So, when asked, you aren’t trying to pretend that you have the “average” interpretation — you point out that you clarify when asked.

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  60. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    re 58:

    Chris,

    You’re just “causing too much harm” and so in this case, the lie is moral. ;)

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  61. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I’m curious about your position.

    Honesty and disclosure are points that I don’t quite understand.

    For example, when in middle school, I watched MTV’s the Real World TV show. There was always one gay house-mate, and the first episode was usually about the other roommates trying to figure out who the gay one was. There was an implying obligation for him/her to make sure they “fully disclosed” their homosexuality to everyone else — as though there is a common obligation to disclose heterosexuality to all new acquaintances.

    I think how silly that all is. Why should a human be required to make sure he/she fully discloses all things about him/herself in order to be “honest”. People only demand this kind of disclosure when there is conflict [hey, that's not what that words means to me] or things make them uncomfortable [hey, I don't like gay people] — honesty is a lot like the “pornography” definition: “I’ll know it when I see it,” — but there’s no working definition for me to apply to my interactions.

    For me, I focus on being true to what I understand things to mean. As an agent, I’ve read D&C 89 and accept it as a revelation and manifestation of the spiritual gift of the word of wisdom. What the text says and what the Church(TM) expects in response to the text are two different things. What’s true? Like I said, I go with the scriptures and I’ll clarify if the need comes up.

    I’m not going to be bound to making sure I keep a working list of caveats I have to add-on every time I tell a person I’m LDS — making sure I fully detail, footnote, and annotate what all my terms mean. We start with the fact that I identify as LDS.

    “Full disclosure” comes as we get to know each other. You asked, “don’t you feel a responsibility to point out the difference? — sure, just not on our first meeting/casual interaction. We don’t do that in other human interactions. I feel no obligation to tell the people I meet/interact with casually that my parents are divorced, or how many children I have, or my views on politics or diet or vaccines or marijuana, etc. You’ll learn these things about people as you work/interact together with them.

    We don’t exist as Platonic Ideas — pure representations of labels or concepts.

    I’m me — I’ll tell you I’m Mormon if you ask about religion — I’ll tell you about tribal plural marriage if you ask too [sometimes I'll link to it even if you don't ask].

    You said, “you point out that you clarify when asked.” — I clarify when clarification is needed. “Full disclosure” is unreal/unnecessary. Expediency is the word that’s coming to mind.

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  62. Wayne W. on February 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I think that Cultural Mormons exist by default. Most Mormons, as with many religous people, don’t walk around with the current rule book so they have a ready reference for every situation they encounter.
    Most have a general idea of the basics and try to adhere to those. i.e. my mom grew up in the pre-correlation church my sister grew up in the post-correlation church, their beliefs are very similar. Probably, my sister learned more from my mom than she did from the Church hand book.
    This handing down of beliefs happened and would have happened with or without the church fathers approval.
    I am guessing that with an accurate measure, anyone who cared to take the time, would find that most Mormons fall into the Cultural Mormon category as you have them defined here.

    One last comment for the pop-cultural Mormons: The Joseph Smith Sphinx:
    Website for this image

    utahgothic.com

    * Full-size image – Same sizex larger

    Size: 396 × 297
    Type: 21KB JPG

    This image may be subject to copyright.
    Now that is Culture!!

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  63. Wayne W. on February 14, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    aww my image did not show up.

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  64. FireTag on February 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Chris H: #58

    I just saw a Star Trek movie marathon. One of the movies had Kirk and Spock caught in 1980′s San Francisco, and Spock trying to hide his alienness by engaging in the “colorful metaphors” of the era. He was under the impression that their use made people take him more seriously. He was, of course, mistaken.

    It was intended to add comic relief by making an intellectual giant look emotionally retarded, leading to Kirk’s classic excuse: “He was in Berkley in the ’60′s and took too much LDS.”

    Bruce is not the one editing your colorful metaphors; that’s a panel-wide decision. Your arguments will be more persuasive without them. You are mistaking colorful metaphors for honesty; they are not the same.

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  65. Bob on February 14, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Couple of quick comments:

    (a) It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone try and dominate the conversation as much as Bruce has here – fully providing 33% of the responses up to this point (that’s 21 comments for those counting). And, while I appreciate some of his responses, others bring out a decidedly juvenile tone that provides no helpful information. Seriously, since when (other than high school) does anyone respond to anyone else with a “And?” declaration. Reminds me of those good old Uncle Rico days.

    (b) Justin pointed out a part of the OP that I didn’t think of, but is important. I think I’ll try to begin all of my conversations in church next week with the following (or a similar) opening salvo:

    Hi, my name is Bob. I’m a Mormon. I think it’s OK to drink beer, have no issue with my brothers – as active temple recommend holders – smoking marijuana, and think we are mostly a church comprised of whited sepulchres. The church’s teachings on vaccinations are beyond me. I think the church’s involvement in City Creek Center is ridiculous, anti-scriptural and an ugly abuse of the tithing program. Likewise, I think tithing – as it’s presently understood – is likewise anti-scriptural. The Church(tm) isn’t interested in me and my individual beliefs, but is interested in me as a public billboard. I still can’t fathom how Heber J. Grant mortgaged the entire Salt Lake temple block to finance for-profit ventures. I think President Monson is a good guy, who tells nice stories, but I don’t think he (or anyone really) is revealing, prophesying, or seeing anything. How could he when he’s so busy managing a Fortune 500 corporation that’s involved in multi-billion dollar for profit ventures? I think we worship our leaders and the institution, but rarely do we actually worship Christ. And, yes, I’m a pseudo-intellectual Pharisee who happens to be active and a temple recommend holder.

    Pleased to meet you.

    Oh, and yes, I’ll be available at 6:30PM on Tuesday night to discuss all these issues, and more, with the Stake Presidency and the High Council.

    And, yes, I’ll bring my recommend with me.

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  66. Chris H. on February 14, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    FireTag,

    I know how the process works. I have already been filled in on that. I am not making arguments, just expressing contempt. It is honest contempt. I just do not express it in a passive aggressive way.

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  67. Andrew S. on February 14, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    re 61:

    Justin,

    The idea is minimizing the harm to others. When you misrepresent yourself (from a lack of disclosure) in a way that causes people to make misinformed decisions, you are responsible for the damage you’ve caused.

    For example, when you say, “I’m Mormon,” to someone, then you can reasonably expect them to infer certain things from that. You can then also contrast what they would naturally infer from what you really mean: for example, as you mention, you don’t see certain things as the Church would.

    This is important information because it can cause harm. Say, a person hears you are “Mormon” and starts viewing your actions and words as representative of what the Church believes. If you don’t disclose that you are not representative of what the Church says, then you are responsible for the miscommunication that occurs.

    Or, say you are called to a teaching or leadership position. If you don’t disclose your unorthodox positions, but go ahead and teach them, you are responsible for leading people astray (even if YOU don’t feel that is “astray”.

    I’m me — I’ll tell you I’m Mormon if you ask about religion — I’ll tell you about tribal plural marriage if you ask too [sometimes I'll link to it even if you don't ask].

    The problem is when you tell me (or anyone) you’re Mormon if they ask you about religion, you mean something decidedly different than what most people would mean. You don’t see any harm in not disclosing the difference until they ask…but that’s the thing: the other person doesn’t know enough to ask!

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  68. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    re 62:

    Wayne,

    That thing with the image is pretty weird. Did you remember to you a img src HTML tag?

    That’s an interesting way to re-approach Mormon culture though. I can see what you’re saying.

    re 65:

    Bob,

    (a) I really don’t think this is fair. This is my post, really, and Bruce and I have actually been going on about this topic across two sites. (What, are you now going to now say that means he’s been dominating even MORE of the discussion???) I do not see any of his comments taking out a juvenile tone.

    FWIW, I respond with “And?” all the time. So?

    (b) It would be far better to do that than the believe all those things and say nothing about it just to give the impression to others that you don’t believe any of those things. Or just to avoid having a confrontation about any of these.

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  69. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Andrew:

    For example, when you say, “I’m Mormon,” to someone, then you can reasonably expect them to infer certain things from that.

    This might tie in well with that post from here a while back [What's the least you can believe and still be Mormon -- or something like that -- I think Jeff wrote it]. How much am I reasonably bound to infer? I believe in the truth claims of the resurrection of Jesus, first vision of Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon as describing factual/true events — is that not enough?

    I’ve met many Christians who agree with me that I meet the minimal threshold to reasonable call myself a Christian. However, there are still some hold-outs who would say that I do not. If asked, “Are you a Christian?” I answer in the affirmative. Unless our conversation continues, and they ask for more clarification ["What church do you go to?" etc.], I don’t add more specific information [e.g., "I'm Mormon", "I'm LDS", or "I'm a tribal anarchist"]– then my initial admission to being Christian is sufficient.

    I would say that it only crosses into dishonesty for me to hide/obscure my Mormonism/tribalism thru deliberately false statements. Just b/c a person does not fully reveal all things at all times to all people — that doesn’t make them dishonest or being unreasonably vague.

    This is important information because it can cause harm. Say, a person hears you are “Mormon” and starts viewing your actions and words as representative of what the Church believes. If you don’t disclose that you are not representative of what the Church says, then you are responsible for the miscommunication that occurs.

    This assumes that I am the intellectual property of the Church(TM)’s IRI. And that my beliefs cause damage to the religious product that they sell.

    Or, say you are called to a teaching or leadership position. If you don’t disclose your unorthodox positions, but go ahead and teach them, you are responsible for leading people astray (even if YOU don’t feel that is “astray”.

    I hold a teaching position — have for the last 3 years. I stay true by sticking to the scriptures. I’ve taught my disagreements with the LDS practice of tithing — but I taught it during a lesson on tithing and I taught it using D&C 119. I received no censure and I believe no harm was done.

    All I’m asking that we do is treat religious views as any other view with regard to my interpersonal contacts.

    When I first meet someone for a work-related reason — I don’t bombard them with all of the things that might be relevant in getting to know me. We start basic — and progress to more specific/personal as [or if] the relationship goes that way.

    Telling them that I am Mormon is a good start. I don’t need an introduction like Bob (#65) just to be “honest”.

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  70. Bookslinger on February 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Andrew S: I really like the way you’ve expounded (here and in comments on 16Small and on M*) on Wilson’s and Nielson’s points of the matter.

    Your positions seem very consistent and logically sound.

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  71. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    re 69:

    Justin,

    This might tie in well with that post from here a while back [What's the least you can believe and still be Mormon -- or something like that -- I think Jeff wrote it].

    Absolutely. And the fact is that “orthodoxy” allows for a lot of leeway. The problem isn’t so much what is legitimately part of orthodoxy (or what is part of the leeway), but in what others will perceive, and how well you can anticipate what they will perceive.

    After all, if you can predict that they will misinterpret and misunderstand you, then I don’t see why it’s going out of your way to try to head them off to begin with rather than letting something negative occur.

    I believe in the truth claims of the resurrection of Jesus, first vision of Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon as describing factual/true events — is that not enough?

    I’m not going to be the orthodoxy police here. Suppose this is enough. Nevertheless, what if someone believes that something more is required, and they will infer that you believe these additional items if you say you are Mormon. Suppose that you can predict the miscommunication will occur.

    So, why would you just let the miscommunication occur, under the idea, “Well, they shouldn’t have inferred that much”?

    I would say that it only crosses into dishonesty for me to hide/obscure my Mormonism/tribalism thru deliberately false statements.

    I think that dishonesty (or at least deception) also comes from omitting certain details when you are aware that those details are salient. In this way, saying, “I’m a Mormon” when I know that the other person will infer certain untrue details or fail to infer certain true details that are important is just the same as outright saying those untrue details or obscuring the true ones.

    This assumes that I am the intellectual property of the Church(TM)’s IRI. And that my beliefs cause damage to the religious product that they sell.

    I’d say it more assumes that you are an *agent* of the Church, and your relationship can incur liability to the principal.

    For whatever it’s worth, suppose that by whatever metric you are deemed to be unorthodox. Pushing your unorthodoxy, even if you disagree that is unorthodox, *does* cause harm to that religious product.

    All I’m asking that we do is treat religious views as any other view with regard to my interpersonal contacts.

    When I first meet someone for a work-related reason — I don’t bombard them with all of the things that might be relevant in getting to know me. We start basic — and progress to more specific/personal as [or if] the relationship goes that way.

    OK, I guess what I would say is this. When you meet someone for a work-related reason, you don’t bombard them with everything. But you do bombard them with information that would be important to make key decisions regarding the work. E.g., your qualifications, your terms of agreement, what you plan to do.

    I think that in a church setting, beliefs are fair game for the information sharing process.

    Telling them you’re a Mormon is a good start if it properly conveys information about your beliefs to the other person that they receive. In some cases, it just doesn’t.

    re 70

    Bookslinger:

    Thanks!

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  72. questionable on February 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Re Bruce-
    I think this cuts both ways, and I think you ignore the other half.

    I think the only real issue is if you start to Clintonize and say “I believe X” when you know you really mean Y but have reworded X to mean Y.

    I agree with you that this is dishonest in a sense. But I think we all do this all the time. I think in many ways I fit the description of what Wilson was aiming at. And yet, I categorically reject his analysis and label as a pharisee (though I am pharisaical in other ways I’m sure). I have redefined my faith and sometimes those redefinitions involve me using a term in a way that Mormons might not imply. I don’t really feel it is incumbent on me to delineate those nuances. I’m not trying to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing so I fail to see why I should feel bad because I don’t fit into somebody’s cultural definition of being a Mormon.

    Besides any of this, redefining X to mean Y is what groups do best. Consider the word “translation” and its use in our culture. Surely we do not accuse Pres. Monson of lying because he believes the BoM to be a “translation” in the colloquial sense of that word? Or what about the use of the word “fallible” as you used it? Of course our leaders don’t claim they’re infallible. Nor would any of us, when asked that question, claim they are. Nevertheless, it is clear to anyone in our culture (and more tellingly outside our culture) that we act as if what they say is straight from God’s mouth to our ears. It’s easy to point to single words and definitions to avoid painfully obvious accusations. But the practical implications of our culture are hard to see, let alone describe.

    At issue here isn’t if ‘your definition’ is ‘correct or not.’ At issue is if you decide to deceive people in such a way as to take away their chance to decide for themselves.

    Again, I claim we all do this all the time. We persuade through our use of language. Unless you speak mathematical prose, you use language to convey things your way in such a way that the choice is obvious. Consider our missionary efforts. Does the convenient dearth of negative (even factual) information about the nature of our foundational story in an effort to convince people of the “truth” constitute a lie? Personally, I think we are deceptive in our missionary work, and I think the proof is in the pudding. That is, many who convert, wouldn’t if they read RSR first. And yet, I have heard so many creative justifications for why this is okay, even in full light of the current historical scholarship that would suggest we ought to tell a more forthright (even if positively “spun”) version of that story. When my own bishop has to ask me for recommendations on “innoculating” his kids there is clearly a problem.

    Sorry, I get my knickers in a twist a bit when I hear pots calling kettles black.

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  73. LDS Anarchist on February 14, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    Andrew #67, you wrote the following in response to Justin:

    Say, a person hears you are “Mormon” and starts viewing your actions and words as representative of what the Church believes. If you don’t disclose that you are not representative of what the Church says, then you are responsible for the miscommunication that occurs.

    Andrew, Justin is the church and as long as he remains the church, his views are representative of what the church believes.

    Now, the Church(TM) is something altogether different. None of us are required to be representative of what that says. This is why Justin states:

    I know the Church(TM) is big on members being walking “advertisements” for the Corporation, carefully monitoring the public image that the members “sell”, etc. but I am under no obligation to align myself with what the Church(TM) says things mean.

    That is why the Church(TM) has official Church(TM) spokesmen. If we all were official representatives, there would be no need for specifically called official representatives, now would there? The actual official representatives do not represent the church, they represent the Church(TM). It’s important to keep these things in mind.

    We were baptized into the church, not the Church(TM). People understand this in all other religions. I was Catholic and just because someone says they are Catholic does not mean they subscribe to everything the Pope says. Catholics know this and non-Catholics know this. But the LDS Church(TM) has done a marvelous advertising campaign to get everyone believing (LDS and non-LDS alike), that to call yourself Mormon or LDS means that you conform to everything that comes from the LDS Church(TM). That’s BS anyway you look at it. And it is this view that many LDS have, having bought into this lie, that causes non-LDS to look at Mormonism as a cult.

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  74. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Andrew: I guess I would agree with you that given that I “can predict that they will misinterpret and misunderstand” me, then it wouldn’t be “going out of your way to try to head them off to begin with rather than letting something negative occur.

    However, I disagree with how “traumatic” a “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed that you believe that” experience would be. We can learn that what I mean by “Mormon” and what you mean by it actually differ without either of us feeling like the other was disingenuous, dishonest, or deceitful.

    Like my homosexual example in #61 — I might be surprised to learn that someone I work with is gay. But I don’t think they should be under an obligation to divulge that to me upon our first meeting — for the sake of “full disclosure” and all. Some people might.

    We should treat religion like we would the work example, homosexual example, or anything else: meaning in interpersonal dialogue, people start basic — and progress towards more specific/personal as [or if] the relationship goes that way. I give general work-related info on a first meeting and get more specific as I get to know the colleague better. Same for a first date, etc.

    I’m Mormon” is generally not a bad first start [for me at least]. I attend my meetings weekly, I hold a temple recommend, I have a church calling, believe in the truthfulness of the church, etc. However, I do understand certain things differently and hold a bit more of a nuanced opinion of church authority, priesthood keys, marriage and family relations, etc. Those views aren’t applicable to every relationship I have with other church members. Should they come up, I don’t hide/obscure them — but I don’t hand them out like business cards either.

    I’d say it more assumes that you are an *agent* of the Church, and your relationship can incur liability to the principal.

    I know it might not have been what you were getting at, but I am not listed on the corporate charter of that agency — therefore I am not their agent.

    The definition of “church” is given in D&C 10:67-69. Therefore, as a professed agent of Jesus Christ — if I can do right by the scriptures, then I have very little concern for if that would be considered contrary to “general Church(TM)-approved practice”.

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  75. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Man — I get kicked in spam moderation for two links now.

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  76. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    LDSA: Andrew, Justin is the church and as long as he remains the church, his views are representative of what the church believes.

    That’s interesting. I had something very similar to that written in my comment but then decided to take it out. After I posted my comment #74 I noticed what you had commented as I was still writing.

    This is true. Many LDS will speak of “the Church” as this entity that exists outside of themselves. However, the “the family is the basic unit of the church” doctrine that is acknowledged in word [but very rarely in deed] is entirely correct. My family is the church — at the most basic/foundational level.

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  77. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    re 73:

    LDSA,

    The problem is that when people say “the church,” once again, the inference is to The Church(TM).

    So, to even begin this argumentation as you do here, you have to begin to elaborate. You have to make your point and link to other posts. You differentiate your position and interpretation from the standard one. Notice how YOU must differentiate the church from “The Church(TM)”, but not a lot of others here are doing this? Whether you’re wrong or you’re right, you have the responsibility to communicate your position effectively.

    That is why the Church(TM) has official Church(TM) spokesmen. If we all were official representatives, there would be no need for specifically called official representatives, now would there?

    Corporations have Boards of Directors, Executives, and employees. The executives and BoD may seem to be the official representatives (and they have a level of higher agency in the principal/agent relationship), but the employees are ALSO agents of the corporation.

    The same thing is true of the church. It doesn’t not follow that because low-level employees can incur liability for the principal that therefore high-level employees would be needless. It’s a matter of efficiency and effectiveness to spread the power lower in the chain. E.g., missionaries in specific, but every member is a missionary.

    re Justin,

    You actually had three links. We just implemented a new plugin that linkifies scripture references automagically.

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  78. FireTag on February 14, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Justin:

    The admins implemented a new plug-in within the last 24 hours that turns an LDS Scripture citation into a link automatically. It turned your two-link comment into a three-link comment. Sorry.

    I’ve retrieved it from spam, but I’ll have to leave it to the admins to deal with that bug in general.

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  79. Thomas on February 14, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    My thinking on this subject comes down to this:

    The idea of a universal, small-c catholic religion is nice, but unworkable in practice. The only religions that seem to maintain an influence in the lives of significant numbers of people, are religious tribes — in the United States, Jews, Catholics and Mormons, for instance. There must be a sense of being separate from the larger society. (A century of more or less exclusive familial and cultural inbreeding in Utah accomplished this nicely for the Church.)

    The universal brotherhood of man, or the fellowship of all those people who are sincerely dedicated to loving God and their neighbor, is a pretty dream — but in practice, there are just too darn many of those people to fit into a cohesive tribe.

    Marx (who was a fool) declared that capitalism requires a “reserve army of the unemployed” to keep wages down. Sectarian religionists thrive by differentiating themselves from a reserve army of the damned. And if there aren’t sufficient numbers of damnable people about, then il faut les inventer.. They must be invented.

    And so sectarian religions tend to create all sorts of sectarian observances, practices, and mandatory confessions of faith to set themselves apart from the sinful World. These practices may have little or nothing to do with the First and Great Commandment, or the other one like unto it.

    Now, these things have at least some useful function. Something like the Word of Wisdom or kashrut can serve as a reminder that we don’t know it all, and can benefit from acknowledging our duty to obey an authority greater than our own subjective judgment (which we can so easily make to accommodate our appetites).

    But probably the greater function of sectarian observances — certainly, the function of having more than one or two symbolic ones, which are recognized as serving the purpose stated above — is to allow the Saved to identify some convenient Damned to define themselves in opposition to.

    Mormonism operates with this dynamic, although it (like Catholicism) may take more care than Protestant evangelicals to reduce the harshness of its implications.

    Believing everything that Joseph Smith declared as truth, is a good reason for being a Mormon. I’m still waiting for a good explanation as to why it is not also a good reason to be Mormon, to believe that Mormonism is close enough to God’s truth for government work.

    In artillery and the Air Force, I recall there’s a concept called the “circular error probable.” The CEP is basically a circle, within which it can be expected that 50% of the rounds fired will land. The more accurate a weapon, the smaller the CEP; thus, with a CEP of 50 meters, 50% of the shells will land within 50 meters of the aim point.

    A corollary of this is that it may make sense to have your bomb be powerful enough to obliterate everything within a radius equal to the CEP radius. If your CEP is 50 and your blast radius is 60, you can be confident that if you fire a couple of shells, even if you miss directly hitting the target, it’ll get properly blown up.

    I believe that the saving truths of God are within the circular error probable of Mormonism.

    If a man wants to bolster his own self-confidence by defining his faith and salvation in opposition to mine, I suppose that’s his business. I’m concerned with a different judge.

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  80. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    re 74:

    Justin,

    However, I disagree with how “traumatic” a “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed that you believe that” experience would be. We can learn that what I mean by “Mormon” and what you mean by it actually differ without either of us feeling like the other was disingenuous, dishonest, or deceitful.

    That’s why the specific situations matter. Maybe there is no harm caused in a difference of beliefs that is undisclosed. But at least one should be thinking about that, and additionally thinking about one’s responsibility to manage and minimize such harm.

    Like my homosexual example in #61 — I might be surprised to learn that someone I work with is gay. But I don’t think they should be under an obligation to divulge that to me upon our first meeting — for the sake of “full disclosure” and all. Some people might.

    Yeah, there would have to be situational issues relating to that.

    “I’m Mormon” is generally not a bad first start [for me at least]. I attend my meetings weekly, I hold a temple recommend, I have a church calling, believe in the truthfulness of the church, etc. However, I do understand certain things differently and hold a bit more of a nuanced opinion of church authority, priesthood keys, marriage and family relations, etc. Those views aren’t applicable to every relationship I have with other church members. Should they come up, I don’t hide/obscure them — but I don’t hand them out like business cards either.

    But this is where we get into the orthodoxy and orthopraxy discussion. Notice how you back up your statement first with statements of practices you have: “attending meetings, holding a TR, etc.,”

    I think that what some would argue is that these ones aren’t relevant. What is relevant is believing in the claims of the church (which you say you do.) You say you understand certain things differently — so the question here is: does the difference in understanding fit within the leeway allowed for orthodoxy? If so, no disclosure required.

    If not, and this discrepancy could cause harm, then *yes* there is a disclosure duty. Maybe in the end, they aren’t conclusive. Maybe your Bishop or Stake President says, “Well, I want you for this calling anyway, because you won’t lead people astray.” BUT at least when you disclose, they have accurate information to base decisions off of.

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  81. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    I think “Mormon” is a lot like “Christian” — it is more about what the person professes to believe. For example, the LDS insistence that we are Christian just like everybody else — we base that on our professed belief in Christ. Others would claim our more nuanced understanding of Christ, the Godhead, etc. are beyond the leeway allowed for orthodoxy — however, we profess to believe in Christ and I think that qualifies us as Christian. Thus we call ourselves “Christian” — is this dishonest too? B/c we don’t say “We’re Christian, specifically believing in the distinctness of the members of the Godhead, exaltation of humans to God-like status, etc.

    Likewise, the Church has a hard time with professed Mormons that practice polygamy — thinking the term “Mormon” belongs to the corporation. However, polygamist Mormons are Mormons. RLDS are Mormons — this b/c of their professed belief in the Book of Mormon. We may have more nuanced approaches to certain things [polygamy being the best example of our differences], but [like "Christian"] it is a very general term that correctly identifies all of us [in a general sense].

    Notice how you back up your statement

    I do not list these things as a proposed minimal standard — but merely to show that even given a strict definition of “Mormon” or “LDS” — I should still fit. Beyond that general designation, expediency and discrepancy would dictate rather I disclose more in detail [tribal anarchist, etc.].

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  82. Justin on February 14, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    Sorry — that last sentence should read:

    “expediency and discretion would dictate…”

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  83. Andrew S on February 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    re 81:

    Justin,

    I think Mormons very often are dishonest (or at the very least provocative) when calling themselves Christians with no clarifications. They/we KNOW that non-LDS Christians mean something very different with the term, yet we push the envelope to make political and theological points.

    I’m not saying that we should accept a non-LDS understanding of Christianity as being orthodox, but clearly there are ulterior motives to why we want to be considered Christians (things like: it’s better for our missionaries to get a foot in the door, our politicians to get a foot with religious Republicans, etc.,)

    The reason why is because we know that if we start disclosing all our differences, doors will close. When people hear that someone is Mormon, credibility crashes. So it is politically advantageous to let someone think we are Christian without letting on that we are Mormon.

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  84. jmb275 on February 14, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Well said Thomas. I couldn’t agree more.

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  85. hawkgrrrl on February 14, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Andrew S – “I think Mormons very often are dishonest (or at the very least provocative) when calling themselves Christians with no clarifications. They/we KNOW that non-LDS Christians mean something very different with the term, yet we push the envelope to make political and theological points.” I beg to differ who is the envelope pusher and who is trying to make political and theological points. Mormons who claim Christianity do so because they aim to follow Christ’s teachings. Most (in my experience anyway) do not understand why anyone would consider them otherwise. Mormons are very ignorant in general of other faiths (as are most religious adherents).

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  86. Apmex on February 14, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    I’ve been thinking about this today, and the more I think about how the discussion has turned, the more I think it’s utterly ridiculous.

    Nowhere else in life, including in dating relationships, do we expect the degree of upfrontedness that’s being suggested here. Nowhere. Not in dating. Not at work. Not in job interviews. Not in school. Nowhere. It simply doesn’t exist [maybe that's one thing going for it, but I don't think so].

    Examples:

    Dating: you meet someone you find attractive – be it physically, intellectually, spiritually or otherwise – and start dating them if they consent. You go on one date and start feeling each other out [not up]. You get some further “light and knowledge” as this date progresses. You talk over a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and go through a process of discovering who each other is. If things go good, you take a 2nd and 3rd date and more. Just depends on what you find out. Even by the 5th date (or more) you’ll likely know the other at a decent level, but even then you won’t know everything. What’s even more likely, though, is that you’ll have communications outside of the typical dates [texts, phone calls, emails], but even then not everything comes out.

    Take me for instance. Married for nearly 10 years. I didn’t know my wife’s stance on vaccinations until 6 years into the marriage. I didn’t know her stance on marijuana until 9 years in. Some things take time to come up, be it out of necessity, be it out of interest. I didn’t not find these things [and many others] because we don’t communicate, but because (a) things don’t always come up, (b) you don’t really know someones true feelings until their knee deep in something and (c) ideas/feelings/thoughts change as more information comes up.

    I quite like Maguire’s book Wicked [never seen the Broadway show]. Towards the end of the book Elphaba states:

    “Or is it just that the world unwraps itself to you, again and again, as soon as you are ready to see it anew?”

    That is life. Things happen, and happen, and happen. And rarely do we develop finality in any view, even though we might think so. And, only when we’re ready do we actually see something the way it is.

    Now, returning to your call for “full disclosure”, I would simply assert the following:

    “And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

    And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:3-4

    Perhaps that’s the standard. If you’re moved upon to say something, say it. If not, keep quiet. In the meantime, I think we should reject any call to curtail individual freedom to think, believe and act as one so chooses.

    “Now that we have chosen to establish “orthodoxy” we are risking the freedom to be individually accountable for our beliefs before God. We have also lost doctrinal adventurism. This is because of our critics.

    You see one of the harms of tolerating divergent opinions about doctrine is the clamor of the critics. They take a quote here and juxtapose it with another quote there, and say that Mormonism is a bundle of confusion. We targeted that in the Correlation process and have attempted to entirely stamp out the divergent or disagreeing doctrinal statements or positions. We want “oneness” in a different way than Paul suggested it in the post I referenced above. In doing so, we have conceded the point to our critics, and now make unity of doctrine a greater virtue than freedom to progress and develop our own understanding by degrees.

    Sometimes what you understand at one point is not what you understand at another. Hugh Nibley, for example, said nothing he wrote ten years earlier would be binding upon him because he continued to discover and learn. We would be benefited from a similar approach all the way from the top to the bottom. New converts will, by degrees, leave their earlier faith traditions behind them. Or they won’t. Instead they will bring with them an understanding from those traditions which have a resonance with the Book of Mormon or something in the Doctrine and Covenants which had escaped all our notice before. And we will all be “added upon” by tolerating their view, even embracing their view. Freedom always pays dividends which control cannot.” [Source]

    Now, as to the “And?” comments. I happen to think they’re trite, adolescent and generally add very, very little (if anything at all) to any discussion. It’s my experience that when someone says “And?”, they’re saying it because (a) they don’t agree with what they’re reading and (b) are either seeking to direct the conversation in another way or stop it altogether. Those are my experiences. And, yes, it’s a tactic that is generally used by high schoolers more than any other age group. A better synonym would be “So?”.

    So, you and Bruce and whoever else wants to, are more than welcome to do so, but I’m not convinced you’re doing it with any honest intentions.

    Take Bruce’s comment, for example [#26]. DavidC wrote 2 entire comments [#23 and #24], one of which seems entirely directed at Bruce in an attempt to engage him. Bruce’s response took one relatively small comment (which was actually a response to Mike) to which he thoughtfully retorts, “And?”, and ignores the entirety of everything else DavidC wrote. To that I would proffer that, yes, Bruce wasn’t attempting to engage in any meaning dialogue and was only using the time worn H.S. tradition of trying to stifle discussion while ignoring the issues raised throughout those two comments previously referred to.

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  87. Jeff Spector on February 15, 2011 at 2:44 AM

    I have always had the impression that the Ultra orthodox LDS people as so concerned that they are not fully measuring up to the false standards they have created in their own minds, that they turn to criticism of anyone who is not as “dedicated” as they are as a way to make themselves feel better.

    In reality, one knows what the true measure of a “celestial” Saint is because it hasn’t happened yet.

    We can only speculate and if you really tried to do every single thing that is recommended as “the perfect saint” should do, you’d go crazy trying to get it all done.

    The measurement, IMO, is more about what you do to follow the Savior’s two great commandments and not this laundry list of items that make one thing all they have to do is work hard enough and they work themselves to heaven.

    Not possible. Even if you could do it all, it would ultimately be for the wrong reason, if your only concern in doing it was your own salvation. That would be prideful and selfish. oops.

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  88. hawkgrrrl on February 15, 2011 at 3:32 AM

    I’ve been wondering (as Jeff has) why Mormons care if someone self-identifies as a Mormon. Would we be upset or flattered if Harold Bloom did? (Flattered) Or Ted Bundy? (Horrified). I think it’s due to 2 reasons:
    1 – the PR reason. We don’t want to be tainted by a poor association.
    2 – punishment. Being a Mormon is hard, and on some level as Mormons we resent that, and we resent those that don’t sacrifice being normal like we personally do, whatever our personal sacrifices.

    That’s why you might resent me for swimming on Sunday and I might resent you for watching R rated movies. We both think the other is a heathen, but it’s really our own resentment of sacrifices we’ve chosen to make that are difficult.

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  89. Jeff Spector on February 15, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    Andrew,

    Sorry to spill the beans on Jews but I’ve always known more cultural Jews than religious ones, Just keeping it real,

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  90. Andrew S. on February 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    re 85:

    Hawkgrrrl,

    Most (in my experience anyway) do not understand why anyone would consider them otherwise. Mormons are very ignorant in general of other faiths (as are most religious adherents).

    That is a good point. I suppose I’m biased from all the online discussions I have with people who really do know better (or ought to).

    re 86:

    Apmex,

    I expected this argument, since it was the counterargument at a similar post at FPR.

    I’d suggest that most of our relationships are laced with deception. Maybe we’re just ok with that because we are looking out for ourselves in each of those cases.

    Let’s take dating:

    You find someone you meet attractive. You do all the things you have described in your scenario. They don’t realize until quite far (maybe before the marriage…maybe after) that they were actually born the opposite sex…or maybe they are not transgendered by they are homosexual.

    Maybe you don’t care about this information by the time you hear it. But maybe you feel incredibly hurt, realizing that your entire course of action would’ve been very different if you had known these points up front.

    (But no one can deny that dating is about hiding these potential dealbreakers).

    You talk about not knowing your wife’s stance on vaccinations. Fine, fine. But plenty of couples go through with not knowing their spouse’s sexuality until several years into the marriage.

    Now, as to the “And?” comments. I happen to think they’re trite, adolescent and generally add very, very little (if anything at all) to any discussion. It’s my experience that when someone says “And?”, they’re saying it because (a) they don’t agree with what they’re reading and (b) are either seeking to direct the conversation in another way or stop it altogether.

    When I say “And?” or “So?” I’m saying it because I want to hear MORE, not less. I want to hear, “And what’s next?” “So what now?” OK, guilty, maybe I want a cliffnotes summary…but that’s not trying to STOP a conversation but push it forward. Maybe I don’t know what to say without further information.

    A better synonym would be “So?”.

    oh, I see.

    re 87:

    Jeff,

    Good points, all around.

    re 88:

    hawkgrrrl,

    I think another reason why Mormons would care if someone self-identifies as a Mormon is because they don’t want saboteurs. I guess this kinda goes with the PR reason, but being an insider (or being perceived as an insider) gives one the power to cause a lot more havoc than being an outsider.

    If you know that I’m not a Mormon, you can adjust how you will respond to my teachings accordingly. But if I say I am a Mormon, you may put your guard down (expecting me to believe certain things you are comfortable with), and as a result that may be my wedge to teaching people false doctrine.

    I think this is sufficiently ddifferent from your ending examples to be a 3rd option.

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  91. Jeff Spector on February 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    “I think another reason why Mormons would care if someone self-identifies as a Mormon is because they don’t want saboteurs.”

    Most of the time people I have known get a bad impression of Mormons is not from so-called bad examples but from member who probably see themselves as good examples. They just do something questionable, usually in a business transaction, that leave a bad and lasting impression.

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  92. Thomas on February 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    If you know that I’m not a Mormon, you can adjust how you will respond to my teachings accordingly. But if I say I am a Mormon, you may put your guard down (expecting me to believe certain things you are comfortable with), and as a result that may be my wedge to teaching people false doctrine.

    This is why people with unorthodox opinions, who find themselves in teaching or leadership callings where they act as agents for the institutional Church for the purpose of teaching what the institutional Church has decided should be taught, need to teach those things, and not their unorthodox opinions.

    But outside a teaching or leadership calling — or a lay member’s exercise of the teaching authority delegated to him or her — is a person who expresses an unorthodox opinion really “teaching people false doctrine”? “Teaching” implies a recognized authority to teach — to be taken as something other than a regular schmo, whose opinion is just that?

    Does anyone really think anyone is “teaching” when he sounds off on an Internet message board?

    Regarding “sabotage,” I’ve never much liked all this dark, fraught emphasis on le patrie en danger — this sense that if the reins aren’t kept chokingly tight in hand, the whole enterprise of Mormonism will be blown up by “saboteurs” (and “wreckers”, to finish the Leninist formulation?) Surely a church established by the Almighty must be more robust than that.

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  93. Jeff Spector on February 15, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    “Teaching” implies a recognized authority to teach — to be taken as something other than a regular schmo, whose opinion is just that?”

    Teaching is probably not the right word in that case, it is more promoting. The same impact but more to the point. There are people out there virtually and in person who promote their non-orthodox ideas and expect to gain a following for those ideas.

    That is where the trouble begins. They can’t really get you for thinking something. But verbalizing and promoting sets off the apostacy bells.

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  94. Andrew S on February 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    re 92:

    But outside a teaching or leadership calling — or a lay member’s exercise of the teaching authority delegated to him or her — is a person who expresses an unorthodox opinion really “teaching people false doctrine”? “Teaching” implies a recognized authority to teach — to be taken as something other than a regular schmo, whose opinion is just that?

    If every member is a missionary (and this wouldn’t have to have been a point explicitly made by leadership to be something to think about), then every member has an implied relationship to the church with respect to presenting its doctrines.

    As Jeff says in 93, promoting is probably a better word.

    Regarding “sabotage,” I’ve never much liked all this dark, fraught emphasis on le patrie en danger — this sense that if the reins aren’t kept chokingly tight in hand, the whole enterprise of Mormonism will be blown up by “saboteurs” (and “wreckers”, to finish the Leninist formulation?) Surely a church established by the Almighty must be more robust than that.

    I don’t want to sound like a faithless unbeliever (wait…who am I kidding?), but I’ll go and venture that maybe a church established by the Almighty is robust or not robust because of the actions of righteous Saints? Maybe the Almighty deems it best to implement his will on earth through people who rise to the call of the work?

    Is that anti-scriptural to say? Is that unorthodox to point out the role of human agency in carrying out divine work?

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  95. Thomas on February 15, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    go and venture that maybe a church established by the Almighty is robust or not robust because of the actions of righteous Saints?

    The advantage of systems organized around classical liberalism, is that they can be robust notwithstanding the stupidity, selfishness, and general all-around depravity of large numbers of individual members. They use a kind of aikido, causing the momentum of the various competing depravities to play against each other and result in a good result for everyone — or at least as good a result as the realities of human nature can permit.

    Contrast that with a system that requires unrealistic levels of sustained human virtue to maintain itself.

    To paraphrase my (alleged) several-times-great grandpappy Alphonse, if I had been present at the creation, I think I would have advised the Almighty against the latter system.

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  96. Justin on February 15, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    By way of full disclosure, I’d like to define my terms before my long-winded comment:
    * Christian = professed believer in Jesus Christ as Savior.
    * Mormon = professed believer in the scriptural authority of the Book of Mormon.
    * LDS = Mormon who is a professed believer in the uniquely true nature/authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake].
    * Cultural Mormon = someone who identifies with Mormonism for reasons that are not belief-related.

    So…

    Is there such a thing as cultural Mormonism?
    Clearly there is. I’ve encountered people who identify with Mormonism for reasons not related to their beliefs [Andrew, perhaps you know someone like this?]. The most common example for reason why being family.

    The real question that emerged in the comments with Andrew seemed to be:
    If, as a Cultural Mormon, one says to others “I am a Mormon.” is he/she being deceptive if they don’t reveal what that phrase means to them upfront?
    Since terms like “Mormon” or “Christian” are defined by virtue of a person’s professed beliefs, then I would answer the above question in the affirmative.

    In the case you described, Andrew, I think that “Mormon” is too general of a term. Thus, using an adjective to modify “Mormon” would be better — hence the term “Cultural Mormon”. This is more accurate/specific/honest way to describe oneself as a non-believing Mormon. Just like “Polygamist Mormon” is the more accurate/specific/honest way to describe a FLDS/Sister Wives believing Mormon.

    Much like the designation “Christian”, though accurately describing LDS/Mormons, may be too general of a term at times. When asked, “What’s your religion” in a survey [for example] Christian would accurately describe me — as opposed to other choices of Jewish, Buddhist, Agnostic, Hindu, Muslim, etc.

    However, when other choices include Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic, etc. — then it is more precise/specific/honest to clarify Christian [which is a true designation for me] with Mormon [which is a more precise way to state my Christianity].

    Also, If, as a believing/active LDS, one says to others “I’m a Mormon.” is he/she being deceptive if they don’t reveal the nuanced believes they hold that are in variance to general Church(TM)-approved practice?

    Generally speaking, “I’m a Mormon” is not dishonest for such a person. When the standard reference that all members are bound to is the scriptures [which can be ambiguous in places], we should not be ashamed to display a bit of a bell-curve variation with respect to how LDS understand things [e.g. the Word of Wisdom, tithing, authority, marriage, or the state]. Corporations generally dislike such variation — thus we get correlation, the CHI, etc.

    Specifically speaking, “I’m a Mormon” may be dishonest for some people. As things come up, it is important for a person to clearly explain his/her view of specific beliefs.

    Andrew, you said in #94: “If every member is a missionary, then every member has an implied relationship to the church with respect to presenting its doctrines.

    Again this touches on the assumption that “the church” is something foreign/external to me as a member/professed believer. The church is the members.

    Now if someone is not a member, then I think an introduction as “Mormon” or “LDS” by virtue of professed beliefs would be more honest to include “…but I’ve since left the church over disagreements with [blank].”

    However, believing members are allowed to call themselves “believing members” without needing to bore the other person to death with drawn-out explanations as to the particular shade of belief they hold of the various doctrines that are open to interpretation.

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  97. Thomas on February 15, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    There are two kinds of people in the world: People who divide the world up into two kinds of people, and people who don’t.

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  98. Andrew S on February 16, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    re 95:

    Thomas,

    I don’t disagree with that.

    BUT I’m also not God. And if I were God (a God who allegedly cannot withstand any sin in my presence,) then I wouldn’t want to hobble a game theoretical checks-and-balances compromise for my church.

    I’d want to have a church that lasts on the sustained virtue of its members…where, if its members go astray, I’ll just have to withdraw my presence from them until they get their acts together.

    This is especially true if I value agency and free will and whatnot.

    re 96:

    Justin,

    Clearly there is. I’ve encountered people who identify with Mormonism for reasons not related to their beliefs [Andrew, perhaps you know someone like this?].

    But “reasons not related to their beliefs” is so amorphous that it doesn’t make as much sense to call this a “group,” is what I’m saying.

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  99. hawkgrrrl on February 17, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    On the sabotage thing, OK, I realize that there are scriptures about “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and “false prophets,” but I guess in 2010 real life, I think the fear of sabotage is either fearmongering or a desire to marginalize someone whose heathen ways are perceived to be persuasive yet contradict our own views. Basically it’s a control issue.

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  100. Andrew S on February 17, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    re 99:

    hawkgrrrl,

    And yet, for someone who REALLY believes in the church *as it currently is*, such heathen views (especially if they are persuasive) ARE a big deal. It is a control deal. So what?

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  101. hawkgrrrl on February 17, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    Well, I desire to marginalize fearmongering.

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  102. Andrew S on February 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    re 101

    hawkgrrrl,

    Understandable. That just makes you “the enemy” or whatever. :)

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  103. Chris H. on February 17, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    I think that fearmongering should be marginalized. However, marginalized groups become sometimes more dangerous. J. Max views himself, in some way, as a victim or target of the liberal bloggernacle. I think this is part of why he is so nasty.

    I, too, am nasty. I think that may be because I worry that the Jettboys and J. Max’s of the Church may at some point wield power with the Church. Nobody worries about me having power with the Church.

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  104. JC R. on February 19, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    Bruce,

    this whole discussion on honesty seems a bit ridiculous. When your bishop asks you whether you affiliate, or agree with any group or individual whose teaching/actions are contrary to the church (or something like that), how do you answer? When I was a child, I would have answered no resoundingly, this is because I interpreted the question to mean, do I associate with groups or individuals that are trying to destroy the church. As I have gotten older and my lexicon has increased (and correspondingly my understanding of the nuances of language), the thought surrounding my chosen words has become more nuanced, thus making my answer to that question more complicated. I have many atheist friends whom I support, love, and whose words and actions I accept. So if I were to answer the question today, I might raise an eyebrow, but my answer would still be no. Not to be deceptive, but rather, because I think the words (which are uncompromising) are not as important as the intent.

    If a person has a different meaning attached to a group of lexical objects, what does it matter. If it did matter, the interview questions would need to have a more narrow the scope linguistically. When people say that none of their actions are contrary to the teachings of the church regarding their family, that is a lie. And most active church members posting in this forum are currently affiliating with people whose “teachings” are contrary to the teachings of the church.

    The intent behind interview questions is to find out whether a person considers him/herself worthy (before a representative of God). This is a microcosm of all communication within the church, if somebody is using (and thinking about) the lexicon of the church differently than the general LDS populace does, why should you force them into full disclosure of their definitions? I define the JST as a more of a revision than a translation. But when speaking in church, I say translation even though I don’t agree with the term. Does that make me dishonest? I don’t think so.

    Look, if a person is lying in order to harm the church, that is a different story, otherwise, you and brother Wilson probably should chill out a bit and leave judgement to the one who (according to your belief system) transcends our imperfect language.

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  105. JC R. on February 19, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    *sorry about my lack of paragraphs – first post to any blog ever.

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  106. Andrew S on February 19, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    re 104:

    JC,

    I have added paragraphs where…I thought they might be?

    But I think you’re reading too much into Bruce’s position. Bruce’s position isn’t to police for orthodoxy — especially since he recognizes there is a lot of leeway and room for difference within orthodoxy (as is seen from the way the temple recommend questions. However, even if there is leeway, there are boundaries, and it is possible to deceive with those boundaries for a nefarious purpose.

    Anyway:

    When your bishop asks you whether you affiliate, or agree with any group or individual whose teaching/actions are contrary to the church (or something like that), how do you answer?

    Maybe this is part of my cultural education in the church (ah, cultural…let’s see how many others’ experiences will differ to point out the myth of “culture”)…but I have ALWAYS understood that question to be very limited in scope. It translates to me something like, “Are you a member of a polygamist group.” To which I can easily…and ALWAYS say no.

    I don’t hesitate even a second about my involvement with blogs (and trust me, I’m involved with some blogs that could be seen as quite hostile)…that’s just not how the question seems to me.

    Am I deceptive? Maybe. I dunno. I don’t care. (Then again, I also am not pretending to be a temple-recommend-worthy Mormon, but I’ll fail on other parts.)

    If a person has a different meaning attached to a group of lexical objects, what does it matter.

    What matters is the fact that communication is about the sharing of *meaning*, not the sharing of *lexical objects*. So a transmittance of lexical objects is really not important: the sharing of *meaning* is.

    If it did matter, the interview questions would need to have a more narrow the scope linguistically.

    But this is a related point to the follow. The interview questions are broad, vague, etc., precisely because the church openly does not try to hash out meanings in certain places. That is leeway.

    The intent behind interview questions is to find out whether a person considers him/herself worthy (before a representative of God). This is a microcosm of all communication within the church, if somebody is using (and thinking about) the lexicon of the church differently than the general LDS populace does, why should you force them into full disclosure of their definitions?

    I’ve already said stuff about leeway, but here’s what I will say. NOTWITHSTANDING LEEWAY, there are certain standards (“orthodoxy” and “orthopraxy”) about what it meas to be worthy before God — from an LDS perspective. So, even if these standards are not all-encompassing and are not brightline rules and have leeway, there are these standards. If you don’t fit these minimal standards, THAT’S when you should speak up. Otherwise, the mismatch between what message you present and who you actually are is your responsibility and your lie. Any harm caused by that is yours to bear.

    Look, if a person is lying in order to harm the church, that is a different story, otherwise, you and brother Wilson probably should chill out a bit and leave judgement to the one who (according to your belief system) transcends our imperfect language.

    Bruce, J. Max, and so on, are ONLY concerned about deception that harms the church or its members. It’s not “another story.” It’s the story they are talking about. If you aren’t harming the church, don’t feel like you are the one they are addressing.

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  107. If God Hearts Superposition | Wheat and Tares on February 19, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    [...] But if God really likes this feature of superposition, maybe He applies it to our spiritual development as well. And, if so, that has some interesting implications toward the issues discussed in a previous thread about whether there is really a “cultural” Mormonism. [...]

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  108. JC R. on February 19, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Andrew,
    Yeah… sorry, rereading through Bruce’s comments and J. Max’s post, I can see that I was interpreting somewhat anecdotally.

    I’m probably reading this at the wrong time in my life, and too early in the morning ;)

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  109. Mike S on February 19, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Reagrding “harming the Church”, I do think there is a fine balance as it goes both ways.

    I personally know very FEW people who try to be sheep in wolf’s clothing. I think there are many, like me, who question different things sincerely, but who would NOT try to tear anyone down. I think there are others who have left all together. But as far as people PRETENDING to be active yet being malicious, I just don’t really see it happening that much.

    However, going to other way, does the “Church” harm people? Obviously, the institution doesn’t do anything, it’s the people in the institution, but are there things that are fostered that “hurt” people? I do think that the “orthodox” viewpoint does cause people to be more judgmental. As far as mental health, we know that Utah leads the US in use of anti-depressants and “non-prescription use of prescription medicines”.

    So, while the Church works well for a lot of people, for many people it causes angst, fractured families, depression, discouragement, etc. And the number is probably higher than members who are “hurting the Church”.

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  110. Andrew S on February 19, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    re 108:

    JC,

    No problem. A lot of people interpreted Bruce that way.

    re 109:

    Mike,

    I guess harm and malice are also in the eye of the beholder, but have you seriously never heard someone say, “I don’t believe in x, y, z, but I want to change the church in a, b, c way and I need to be seen as an active, believing member to do that”?

    I guess what I would have to say as to the Church hurting people…well, if the Church is hurting people, those people ought to leave. To the extent that the church (or people within) are deceptive to portray the church as something it’s not, and that is the cause of harm, then shame on them. But I’d think that more of the “harm,” if any, comes from people who seriously believe in the claims that they are proselyting. They aren’t intending to deceive or mislead.

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  111. Mike S on February 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Andrew S:

    have you seriously never heard someone say, “I don’t believe in x, y, z, but I want to change the church in a, b, c way and I need to be seen as an active, believing member to do that”?

    I really haven’t. I do admit that it may be selection bias. I’m sure on the outside I appear fairly TBM. I go to church, fulfill my callings, follow the rules for a temple recommend, etc. So, maybe people just don’t talk to me about it for that reason.

    I have a number of old and dear friends who I went to seminary with, college with, missions with, etc. who no longer believe in what they did at one point (Most importantly, they are still old and dear friends as my friendships have never been based on beliefs) The majority just don’t care enough about it anymore to wear themselves out pretending they can “change anything”. Occasionally, one might turn “anti-” for a time as they make a transition, but pretty much everyone I have encountered in life is either in or out.

    I’m sure there are people I’ve READ about/of who might be considered in this way. I’m sure some people might consider John Dehlin in this category – ie. non-believer trying to effect change, but I’ve never actually talked to or corresponded with him.

    I think the whole “trying to change from within” thing sounds incredibly tiring and challenging to me. The institution is just too entrenched on too many levels to really do much good. I think people ultimately give up. The few people you read about in our history who have been able to do this (for example in David O McKay biography) have “friends in high places” – family ties in high places that protect them. For the rest of us masses, having unorthodox views effectively keeps you from getting to the level where you can really do anything.

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  112. Mike S on February 19, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    As far as “harm”, I agree with you – no one is specifically trying to deceive or mislead. And it is generally the people who believe the strongest who can also get the most hurt.

    I think the LDS-faith is a demanding lifestyle. It is obviously not taught, but there is an underlying tension that whatever someone is doing, it is not enough. There are great time and money requirements that place a lot of strain on relationships. Having a lot of kids places a lot of strain on people.

    It’s something that I’ve never really been able to articulate, but when I was desperately seeking for answers and trying to be a more and more “TBM/iron-rod/whatever” type of person, I was more stressed out, had more anxiety, and had more mood swings. Again, I can’t articulate why, but it was so. It is a correlation and not a causation, and will likely never be proved for the same reasons I can’t articulate it, but my opinion is that the same underlying tension is what causes Utah to have the highest anti-depressant use in the US and the highest use of prescription drugs for non-prescription reasons. Now, perhaps this might not be “harm”, per se, but I don’t think it’s healthy either. And as you mentioned, the people who are potentially “harmed” are the ones who believe the least that the Church is “harming” them.

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  113. Jeff Spector on February 19, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    “It’s something that I’ve never really been able to articulate, but when I was desperately seeking for answers and trying to be a more and more “TBM/iron-rod/whatever” type of person, I was more stressed out, had more anxiety, and had more mood swings.”

    I really think there is a major portion of the church that really believes they can work their way into Heaven. They come to that belief rather easily because of what they hear in church about all the things they SHOULD be doing. But, from a pure doctrinal sense, we CANNOT work our way to heaven. there is no amount of family history, home teaching, scripture study, FHE, prayer, etc. that one can do to qualify. but the messages can be that these things are required.

    In the end, we can only do some much or die trying. I firmly believe that God will judge us very differently than by how many times we’ve read the Book of Mormon or how many jars of peaches we canned.

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  114. Andrew S on February 19, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    re 111:

    Mike S,

    I’d say that that’s the entire point. You’re not going to hear it at church, because the people who are doing it in church are acting in disguise.

    If you were to hear it, it would be in certain sites or certain online communities. I’m just saying that within support communities for unorthodox Mormons (and even flat-out disaffected Mormons) is a contingent of people who want to “improve” or “change” the church. But to someone who believes in the church as is, their improvements and changes look like attacks on the church.

    It’s certainly a good point to say that many people with this perspective give up, or that many people never try it because they feel the status quo is too entrenched…but still, there are people who try (even if they give up.)

    For the rest of us masses, having unorthodox views effectively keeps you from getting to the level where you can really do anything.

    Right. Hence why someone would want to hide his/her unorthodox views and appear to be orthodox.

    re 112:

    That is another good point. I think Jeff (113) has a good counterpoint.

    My problem is this: why do so many people within the church think that they have to do it all? I mean, others seem to figure out, “OK, we can’t do it all…and that’s the point,” but many people never get to this point — and in fact, think that this view is heretical.

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  115. Mike S on February 19, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    #113: Jeff

    I really think there is a major portion of the church that really believes they can work their way into Heaven.

    I agree completely. I suppose the question is why this culture exists. I do think it is encouraged by conference talks about redoubling your efforts and paying even more than the 10% tithing and not a drop and rather lose my life than my virtue, etc.

    I bought into all this for nearly 4 decades of my life, and it wasn’t helpful to me, and was perhaps harmful in many ways to my psyche and relationships. I feel much better about myself now, now that I’ve “relaxed” a bit with church things.

    But how much can you choose to relax in the face of all these talks yet still be considered a “good” Mormon? At what point as you not “following the prophet” when you choose to do something that seems right to you?

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  116. hawkgrrrl on February 20, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    I read an interesting article in Time not long ago written by an orthodox Rabbi who posits that Jesus was a Pharisee. He says that there were two movements within the Pharisees at the time Jesus emerged as a teacher: The Shammai and the Hillel. The Shammai were very insular, tribal Jews, very focused on the laws and behaviors that set them apart. The Hillel believed in being inclusive and more universal, and in treating others as we would be treated.

    Under this theory, anti-Pharisee statements made by Jesus are very similar to statements made today in the bloggernacle about TBMs – a call to reform, to be more universal, to be less tribal, to care more about all people and less about our self-righteous letter-of-the-law observance.

    If you want to read the article it’s here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1048374-1,00.html

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  117. Andrew S on February 20, 2011 at 1:44 AM

    re 116,

    Hawkgrrrl,

    While I had heard before the idea that Jesus was closer “aligned” to the Pharisees (as you say, in a kind of reform role), I did not know about the two movements within the Pharisees. Thanks for this!

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  118. Jeff Spector on February 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I like that article but, IMO, it has some flaws. firstly, it does not recognize the outgrowth of Pharisaic or Rabbinic Judaism was a direct result of the captivity and that Jews were re-taught their religion by the scribes and “Rabbis.” It does not recognize that Pharisee or Perusim means “separate.” That Pharisees wanted to separate themselves from the others, in particular, gentiles. Thirdly, and most importantly from our theological POV, Jesus was schooled by His Father, not by Rabbi’s of His day.

    There was a great number of factions in Judaism at that time.

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  119. hawkgrrrl on February 20, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    The article points out some other gaps in the theory as well, biggest of all the absence of any explanation of divinity. It really only relates to Jesus’ teachings, not his “mission.” In that regard, though, ideas cannot always be traced back to a single source. A good idea whose time has come takes on a life of its own. And the Word was God. If Jesus were teaching today, he might quote the Mastercard commercials that talk about things being “priceless.”

    The reason this theory resonated for me was that I had seen a different interview with an orthodox Rabbi who said that Jesus was basically a “bad Jew” because Jesus didn’t follow the law and deliberately challenged authority. Again, consistent with this theory of different schools of thought emerging. And whether this theory is correct or not, it seems that this is a pattern in all types of organizations: centralize/decentralize, localize/globalize, retrench/expand.

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  120. Jeff Spector on February 20, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    I understand that theory all too well. History points to a number of competing factions at that time along with the “Messiah of the Week” club. Some of the most prominent Rabbis of the day promoted various men as the Messiah.

    Unfortunately, they hooked their wagon to the wrong horse.

    As I mention in my post from a while back on Mormon Matters that the Pharisees are given a bad rap(http://mormonmatters.org/2008/09/10/pharisees-bad-guys-or-bad-rap/ ) in the Gospel. they are portrayed as bad guys and enemies of Jesus. I never thought this was the case that they were merely having a discussion about their beliefs contrasted against what the Savior was preaching.

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