Strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons

By: Andrew S
September 8, 2011

…if you wanted to make a TBM (true believing Mormon) cry you just tell him that the church is not true. If you want to make an uncorrelated Mormon cry tell him the church is not changing. ~Kiley, “The middle path…” We were going to be queens.

The above quote was just part of an expression of something that I think is best described as the second disaffection from the church (of which it appears from the rest of the post that Kiley is undergoing)1. If you’ve been around the Mormon blogging world, you may have heard of something called the Disaffected Mormon Underground (or DAMU)…which has gone through informal rebranding over time2.

Whatever it is called, if you are aware of the DAMU and of its major players, certain images and stereotypes may come to mind about it. You probably have the image of angry ex-Mormons. Why are they so angry? If you have heard some of their stories, then the reasons they would probably employ would be par for the course for the first disaffection. These reasons shouldn’t be tough to summarize: they feel deceived about what the church is and claims to be.

…In other words, as Kiley said, if you want to make a true believing Mormon3 cry, just tell him the church isn’t true4.

The First Disaffection

For me, the idea of the first disaffection made sense. It made sense in a way that, for a long time, I considered it to be the only disaffection. It was easy to believe that most people who disaffect and disassociate from the church do so because, one way or another, they have come to disbelieve that the church is true5. With this assumption, I have expressed skepticism about “New Order Mormons” and “uncorrelated Mormons” who still hold fast to Mormon identity while believing differently about many truth claims of the church. That is why I asked uncorrelated Mormons in a previous post to put their money where their mouths are.

My hypothesis and assumption in writing that post was that no matter what uncorrelated, New Order, liberal, or otherwise heterodox Mormons ended up being comfortable with, they would not be comfortable with serving in some critical capacities in the church as a direct result of their not accepting some truth claims of the church. To put it bluntly: if you don’t believe in the truth claims of the church, then you can’t honestly make a good missionary preaching about those truth claims.

I extended my post further with a weaker hypothesis: if you do not believe in the truth claims of the church, you do not have incentive to pay a full tithing6.

Unexpected Responses

The funny thing about that post was that the responses didn’t go quite as planned. People were responding in ways that I just couldn’t comprehend (and the same happened when I posted the topic on the New Order Mormon forum). One such person whose responses I couldn’t comprehend was Chino Blanco.

If you’ve seen Chino Blanco comment or post throughout the Mormon internet sphere, you may probably already have a strong opinion of him. He’s a distinctive character, for sure. I’m sure that he’s infamous around the Bloggernacle for being critical of the church and unafraid to post his criticisms anywhere he hasn’t yet been blacklisted. He doesn’t mince words. But one other thing I know about Chino is that he often says things I don’t comprehend. So, I thought that his responses to my post were just more examples of that.

However, I’ve been re-reading his comments, and over time, I’ve started considering something quite different…that my entire mental image of Chino Blanco has been incorrect.

I’ll start with a comment of his from my post on uncorrelated Mormons:

One of the dynamics that I suspect is going on with quite a few of us is that we feel we could potentially be helping the church to address any number of issues … but they never ask. I hit the wall as an AP in Brazil after working as an interpreter for the Area presidency. There was simply no mechanism available for suggesting how we might do better at retaining the members under our stewardship. Lord knows, I tried. And, yeah, I know I’m an outlier. 99% of the mishies just wanted to complete their two years in honorable fashion without bothering about outcomes.

At the end of the day, there’s the meritocracy that folks like us are comfortable with in the workaday academic or professional world, and then there’s church. And maybe I’m all alone on this, but I’m totally mystified (and yes, offended) by the lack of interest the church has displayed in my abilities.

And yes, there’s a point here. For anyone who’s listened in on John’s podcasts, what voices do you hear? I hear a lot of folks who sound just like me. I mean, folks from the same social class. We might have some skin in the Mormon game, but we’re also used to running the game, calling the shots, in our other pursuits. And we excel at networking. We’re not plebes. So unless you’re gonna utilize us, we’re gone anyways.

Joanna BrooksThe interesting thing about this comment is that it’s a discussion about what the church does or allows its members to do, and not one about what the church is or claims to be. The reason why Chino says people like him are “gone anyways” is not (necessarily) because of anything about the church’s truth claims, but because of how the church operates with respect to members within it who perceive of certain weak points and issues, and who want to help the church with respect to those issues. To the extent that Chino Blanco is discouraged by the church, discouraged enough to leave it, it’s because he thinks the church’s hierarchy is too inflexible ever to change in meaningful ways. It’s because when progressive Mormons like Joanna Brooks write out of a prescient and perceptive awareness of an increasing demographic that has nontraditional views of gays, feminists, and intellectuals, Lyman Kirkland of the LDS Newsroom rebuffs her articulation.

…If you want to make an uncorrelated Mormon cry, tell him that the church is not changing.

All Mormon Blogs and Bloggers Aren’t Made Equally

Within the next week or so, I plan to begin a comprehensive series on the different players and factions of Mormon blogging (since I suspect that while many of you are familiar with the idea of a “Bloggernacle” and of some blogs within it, you may not quite understand its dynamic). One lesson I’ve learned is that blogs and bloggers aren’t all equal in tone or topics.

Every day, many of you come here from the Mormon Archipelago, the Gateway to the Bloggernacle7. So even if you are vaguely aware that “Mormon” + “blog” doesn’t necessarily equate to “part of the Bloggernacle,” you probably suspect that we at Wheat & Tares fit the bill (and we authors certainly think so too.)

Nevertheless, if you visit other blogs occasionally, you’ll find Chino Blanco around various posts, expressing what he feels of their approaches. In an email, he summarized it thusly:

I respect what John D and Joanna B try to do.  Whether or not it ultimately results in any institutional changes, I think it opens up space for Mormons to breathe easier and think more freely.  It’s why, on the other hand, I don’t respect much of what happens in the Bloggernacle (a place that gives me the same suffocating feeling I used to get from the LDS hierarchy).

What does this mean? Why are John Dehlin and Joanna Brooks in the clear, but Bloggernacle blogs not? Are we in the clear?

…and who are the strange bedfellows I alluded to in the post title? Allow me to try to wrap everything up.

Strange Bedfellows: The Wind Down

Strange BedfellowsDuring and after Prop 8, many bloggers commented on how the LDS seemed to have “strange bedfellows” with (among others) the evangelical community. After all, why would the church join sides with a group that disagrees with us theologically and considers us to be a cult?

Well, perhaps the theological differences did not matter as much as the political similarities.

So what I would like to assert are that there are some strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons as well…and an opportunity for action. In a Millennial Star post that began as a discussion of a possible blog award hosted by M*, the discussion quickly turned to the need for boundary maintenance and redefinition. Scott B made the case that while a faithful/critical demarcation is necessary, various believing Mormons should not separate and divide.

John C continued that point, arguing that the believer/nonbeliever distinction is significant, but that a divide between, say, the generally politically conservative blogs of the Nothing Wavering aggregator and the (in comparison) more moderate-to-progressive blogs of the Bloggernacle is unnecessarily divisive.

My argument, which I’ve been thinking about ever since these comments were made, is that perhaps we should reconsider the boundary lines. Instead of thinking in terms of theological similarities and differences (as John C and Scott B’s comments do), why  not think in terms of political similarities and differences?

It sometimes feels that some Mormons view ex-Mormons as aliens from outer darkness (rather than outer blogness), unable to be communicated with. When ex-Mormons intrude in the Mormon blogging midst, they must be watched carefully and dealt with swiftly before they become hostile. And it’s all because we believe differently about what the church is and what it claims to be.

…but couldn’t we instead look at what we want the church to do? My argument is that here, there is far more similarity than perhaps we would be willing to admit.

I’ll go and state it bluntly again: Mormons in the Bloggernacle for the most part are progressive folks.

What does this mean? I think that Mormons in the Bloggernacle can be feminist and call for a reevaluation of the role and worth of women within and without the church. I think that Mormons in the Bloggernacle, even if they may not support gay marriage per se or even homosexual relationships, are in general aware of the pain that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people experience and do not want their church to exacerbate that pain. That Mormons in the bloggernacle would, even if they do not actively campaign for certain changes, be very grateful and thankful if revelation was received on one of these or other social issues. I think that Mormons in the Bloggernacle want to find a way to re-engage young adults, to re-engage single adults, to revitalize missionary work and re-engage the non-Mormon public.

And you know what? The same is true of the so-called disaffected Mormon underground, or Outer Blogness. Of many ex-Mormons. When someone like Chino Blanco thinks about the change that could occur in the church to improve the church, this goal is not counter to a faithful Mormon’s own desire for the church to be more successful.

So, why do we continue to divide by faithful and non-faithful? Why don’t we look at what we want to do, or what we want the church to do?…for that matter, what do you want the church to do, anyway? Are there some wishes you have of the church that you no longer have hope will ever occur?

Do you think that a shift in focus to actions over beliefs is workable, or is there a necessary chasm between ex-Mormons and Mormons?

~~~

  1. If you are familiar with Ricouer’s Second Naivete (of which, I’m not, except through reading summarizing blog posts), then I would suppose that the second disaffection is what happens if the second naivete doesn’t work out so well for you.
  2. See, for example, Holly’s post on the idea of a “Mormon Alumni Association” or, even more recently, the Outer Blogness aggregator.
  3. I am well aware that the term “true believing Mormon” is a loaded term whose use serves best as a Mormon shibboleth. Nevertheless, I’ll use it with the defense that I do not intend to imply its more acerbic possible connotations.
  4. Please understand the implications of this statement. Many disaffected Mormons are former “TBMs,” whatever the term means.
  5. Ironically, I believed that even while believing that I was a rare exception: I do not feel like I came to disbelieve the church’s truth claims (because I never believed them), but rather I came to a point where I realized I didn’t have to pretend to believe in something I didn’t, and that for other Mormons, church is not a game of pretending. (Or maybe it sometimes is.)
  6. Now, this hypothesis seems even weaker than it did before. It requires some crazy leaps in logic.
  7. Yeah, I check traffic daily.

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147 Responses to Strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons

  1. hawkgrrrl on September 8, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    Hmmm. I think the fundamental issue is that people’s political convictions run deeper than their religious convictions. Because I am not an activist (or even a slacktivist), I can easily navigate both worlds. I would like changes I would like, but my actions are unlikely to create those changes, and I can deal with it either way. A true independent, neither averse to change nor blowing up bridges to bring it about.

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  2. John Mansfield on September 8, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    Suggesting that teaming with Chino Blanco is their best hope seems like another way to get somebody to cry.

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  3. me on September 8, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    i dig this post.

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  4. SilverRain on September 8, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    I think perhaps the “believing” and “nonbelieving” dichotomy most often IS a divide between what we want the Church to do. Most of those categorized by “believing” have a vastly different perspective on what the role of the Church is, what their responsibilities towards their members are, and how those things should be filled than the “nonbelieving” people have.

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  5. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    re 1,

    hawkgrrrl,

    That’s interesting, because it seems like it *should* be the opposite, but it’s not. In some ways, I consider myself similar (unlikely to create changes), but I think it’s for a different reason (as mentioned, discouraged in political process.)

    re 2:

    John,

    I got a hearty laugh from that. But in a way, I think that’s what the “strange bedfellows” concept should be like in general. For people who supported Proposition 8 (and this is not a proposition 8 topic), they should’ve “cried” to see such close work with evangelicals, who would then in the very same breath talk about how Mormons are not Christian.

    re 3,

    Thanks me/hm! Although one day I would like to know who you are…

    re 4,

    SilverRain,

    To an extent, I can definitely see what you’re saying. After all, every person who wants to dramatically change the church (or any thing) alienates those who think that the church is fine (or doesn’t need to be changed in whatever way proposed.)

    But what I’m seeing is that for the most part, there isn’t a huge difference between some of the groups. I *do* believe that things are different with a lot of the Nothing Wavering blogs, but I think one of the reasons why Nothing Wavering is a different aggregator than Mormon Archipelago is because the Bloggernacle blogs are more open to people who would be pleased with some changes. So, to someone who doesn’t want to see any of those changes, it looks like a “Murmurnacle.”

    I completely agree that even when the desires for change align between bloggernacler and, say, disaffected Mormon, what will be VERY different between the two is how that change should be accomplished. But I think that’s part of my point: maybe disaffected Mormons get to the place they do because they are discouraged/disaffected from the official process. They don’t trust that “divine inspiration” will operate quickly enough.

    I hope this makes sense.

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  6. KLC on September 8, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    “One such person whose responses I couldn’t comprehend was Chino Blanco.”

    Good to know I’m not the only one.

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  7. Jon on September 8, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    I’m a believer. The main thing I would like to see changed in the church is to move in the direction of truly renouncing war. It would be nice if its members would do the same, i.e., renounce war by choosing not to participate in it. It boggles my mind why people choose to be mercenaries (i.e., someone who fights for money, which is the main reason I hear for joining the military).

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  8. Happy Guy on September 8, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    “So, why do we continue to divide by faithful and non-faithful? Why don’t we look at what we want to do, or what we want the church to do?”

    I believe the reason for the faithful/non-faithful divide is that the church is more interested in faithfulness than actions. To be an adult member in good standing, you need to hold a current temple recommend. To get a temple recommend you have to correctly answer questions that demonstrate faithfulness to the core beliefs and practices of the institution. I don’t have a problem with the church doing this, but I think in contributes greatly to the faithful/non-faithful divide.

    Full disclosure: I’m in the disaffected camp.

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  9. Martin on September 8, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I want the church to reveal, disseminate, and advocate God’s word and will. I would like it to do a better job at that. I think many unbelievers want that too. But that does not make us bedfellows.

    If the church isn’t what it claims to be, then I see no reason it deserves more consideration than any other institution. If the church is what it claims to be, I don’t see how someone who doesn’t claim divine direction/revelation could possibly fix it. Therefore, the only way I could give the philosophies of the unbelievers equal allegiance is if I were one myself.

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  10. Jettboy on September 8, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Please New Order Mormons, do get together with Chino Blanco and DAMU ex-Mormons. You will only prove a point that us “True Blue” Mormons have been claiming for a very long time; that the two groups really are one and the same.

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  11. Martin on September 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    Let me make a point regarding Joanna Brooks and the LDS newsroom reaction. I was listening to Joanna Brooks on Talk of the Nation, and she said “The church is evolving in some way as well, while most Mormons do maintain a view that homosexual activity in itself is sinful, there are also signs towards greater reconciliation, understanding, and growth in the way we handle gay issues as they relate to our LGBT brothers and sisters. An openly gay Mormon man, for example, was just called to a leadership position in a congregation in San Francisco, and for progressives like me, that’s a really wonderful and hopeful sign.” (note, my transcript matches the audio better than the official version).

    There’s nothing inaccurate in what Joanna said, but listeners could easily get the impression that the church’s stand on homosexual sex was equivocal and that it had sanctioned a practicing homosexual lay minister, and those impressions would be incorrect. Joanna clearly has personal agendas (as do we all) which affect her word choice. When she appears so publicly as a representative Mormon, I’m not surprised church public relations might want to clarify things.

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  12. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Personally, I would just be happy if the Church made the changes that were in its own obvious interest. I mean, no one is expecting gay marriage to be universally accepted. But why should the notion of singles trying to get a good program or women trying to get a legitimate voice be the impossible dream? Why should picketing Temple Square daily seem necessary in order for them to even hit the grid of the First Presidency?

    I don’t understand how the Church will grow in the future if we cannot conquer our divisions even within active orthodoxy. Maybe some huge world disaster will be what gets people to join and return in droves. Sad.

    For me personally though, it is hard for me to be a member missionary to my single friends. And it should not be so hard. That is where the irony is thicknest for me. But it brings up another point. The Church has all this pent-up positive energy with nowhere to go but the internet. Yet maybe that energy is actually reaching the proper places. Time will tell.

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  13. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Silver Rain,

    We missed you in the singles discussion the other day.

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  14. Jettboy on September 8, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    I really don’t understand the attitude that, “I would just be happy if the Church made the changes that were in its own obvious interest” if it is a “world wide” Church that should be a-political and a-cultural. Basically, I don’t understand why the LDS Church should go the way of modern European and American progressivism/liberalism? Islam is anything other than progressive and it is not only thriving, but growing! I think that morally Mormonism is closer to Islam than it is politically liberal Christianity.

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  15. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Jettboy,

    Helping people fulfill the commandments of obtaining marriage and family (singles program ) , and giving them a place at the table once the have that family (better callings for women in higher places) is hardly liberaldom.

    “And we should be more like Islam.” Wha?

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  16. Jettboy on September 8, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    I did not say “and we should be more like Islam” so don’t put that in quotes. I said we are already morally more like Islam (notice I didn’t put that in quotes because its not a quote, but a paraphrase). Because Islam is both huge and growing, Mormonism should examine why that is and see if there is anything that can learn to use rather than give in to political liberal Christianity and current Western culture.

    “Helping people fulfill the commandments of obtaining marriage and family (singles program ) , and giving them a place at the table once the have that family (better callings for women in higher places) is hardly liberaldom.”

    To you and those who think like you it might be, but to many what is proposed is liberaldom. This is especially the case with callings for women in higher places; a very liberal position.

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  17. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Islam appears to thrive in teetering dictatorships, and areas of very limited natural resources. A lot of it could be geography. Not so much with Mormonism.

    On the other hand, people get concrete answers from Islam as in Mormonism. In religion’s shifting tide, this is attractive to the world. Yet I don’t see millions of single Moslems with dour faces. But I guess they have their own program for single men. 100% success rate. No complaints.

    The face of Mormonism is changing. I think most members under age 50 are curious if not outright happy to see this change. Many of us are smart, internet saavy, independent thinkers. Nevermind political affiliation. And we are the future of the Church. Those who are left tend to also believe that there are problems within the Church, although they have no idea how to fix them and merely await the word from above.

    But I am convinced (as many are ) that, as always in any large organization , change comes from the bottom, up.

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  18. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    re 8:

    Happy Guy,

    The interesting thing is that there are frequent discussions that suggest that the church values orthopraxy (your ACTIONS) over orthodoxy (your BELIEFS). For example, the temple recommend interview’s questions about beliefs are not all that comprehensive…and they leave quite a bit of room for interpretation. More of the questions have to deal with actions (following the WoW, Law of Chastity, etc.,)

    So, this is to the extent that you can believe all sorts of things, but as long as you do the essentials and believe (in some way…no one will question further) the basics, you can get away with a lot.

    re 9:

    Martin,

    If the church isn’t what it claims to be, then I see no reason it deserves more consideration than any other institution.

    Well, here’s the funny thing about this statement. People devote a lot of their time to “any other institution.” So, even if the church isn’t what it claims to be, and it doesn’t deserver any more consideration than any other institution, then that could still mean it deserves a lot of consideration.

    If the church is what it claims to be, I don’t see how someone who doesn’t claim divine direction/revelation could possibly fix it.

    This is just uncreative though. First of all, in a system where personal revelation is a given, there you go. It could be the case that some people have divine direction without realizing it (and think of the scriptures: unlikely characters end up “getting it” the most several times.)

    So it’s easy to conceive of a situation where the church can be exactly what it says, yet require people on the ground level to improve it.

    re Jettboy,

    One thing I would like to mention is that in all of this discussion, I completely agree that the Nothing Wavering crowd has less in common. I just think that for as much as some people try to say that Nothing Wavering and the Bloggernacle should be aligned similarly because of theological similarities (even though they have political differences), just as strong an argument could be made to say that the Bloggernacle and NOM, Outer Blogness, etc., can be aligned because of political similarities (even though they have theological differences.)

    I don’t think this makes the groups one and the same (any more than an “alliance” between the Bloggernacle and Nothing Wavering blogs would make them one and the same)…it’s just, despite the differences, we can choose to focus on different aspects and that changes who the most favorable alliance would be with.

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  19. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    re 12,

    Glass Ceiling,

    But why should the notion of singles trying to get a good program or women trying to get a legitimate voice be the impossible dream? Why should picketing Temple Square daily seem necessary in order for them to even hit the grid of the First Presidency?

    This is an EXCELLENT point.

    Even without getting to thornier issues, there are some issues that many of us can probably agree could be changed in the church’s *current* best interest. For whatever it’s worth, a church that offers more opportunites to singles, women, etc., is a good deal for everyone. Disaffected Mormons aren’t opposed to that.

    re 14 & 16:

    Jettboy,

    This is an interesting point. How could the church be a-political or a-cultural? What does political neutrality mean when you have very strong values that you would like to share with others?

    Perhaps the church should be countercultural, and perhaps the church shouldn’t adopt certain kinds of political stances. But that doesn’t mean it should do nothing political or cultural.

    For example, Islam is very cultural and very political. It’s just a very different cultural and political bent than American liberal Christianity.

    And you know what? I think that there are still changes the church could make to “thrive” better in a non-liberal, non-progressive sense. Perhaps it’s not “callings for women in higher places” (a very liberal position)…but it has to be SOMETHING if you don’t want women to drop off. Something that gives the church continued relevance.

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  20. Mike S on September 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Regarding some of your questions:

    Re: the fundamental divide between the “faithful” and the “non-faithful”, it is driven by something deeper. Trying to summarize a complex issue in one statement can probably best be done by asking a simple question: “Do you believe that this is the One True Church?”

    For some people, the answer is YES. These folks suggest that all of the decisions about programs and policies are inspired. For example, they might suggest God actually had a reason to deny blacks the priesthood for so long. This group tends to follow the letter of the law in the CHI and everywhere else, even if they think a particular policy is wrong. To this group, it’s not worth suggesting changes in policy from the Bloggernacle, because any change that God wants would come through inspired leaders far above our pay grade. The “faithful” also tend to have a VERY hard time understanding and accepting the “non-faithful”, because if this is the only way back to God it is illogical to argue with it. The 14 points play into this.

    For other people, the answer to the question is NO. These folks might accept that leaders from Joseph Smith on down were devout and inspired men. But they also understand that they were just men and that not ever program was necessarily inspired. Using the same example, they may feel that the ban on blacks was essentially just Brigham Young’s racism (which was common in his society) institutionalized. Additionally, while people in this group appreciate all the things they have received by being a member of the Church, they realize that a lot of the 99.9% of people who AREN’T active LDS are also going to “make it” back to God. Thus, the One True Church idea fades a bit. Since they accept many people “different” from us, it also makes these folks more likely to accept the “faithful”, whereas the converse isn’t true. And in this case, it also makes more sense to clamor for change in the Church from the ground up to see if we can appeal to more people.

    Do you think that a shift in focus to actions over beliefs is workable, or is there a necessary chasm between ex-Mormons and Mormons?

    I think this already takes place – to a great extent. The list of things in a temple recommend interview that will keep you out are largely actions already. The “belief” questions are fairly vague.

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  21. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Jet,

    Yes, but what else could that something be?

    As far as a political stance for the Church, we should all be clamoring for a third, fourth, and fifth party. The problems in the Church politically are the problems of the nation politically. We are all held hostage by this illusion-of-choice soft fascism, IMO. We are set up to oppose each other needlessly…the Church by circumstance; the government by design.

    Andrew,

    Thank you. And thank tpu for the post. I guess I just feel like the Church has a choice. Either it can stay in 1950, or it can live in the present. There are consequences in either choice. I still blame middle management, however. Not the leaders.

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  22. Mike S on September 8, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    #21 Glass Ceiling: … I still blame middle management, however. Not the leaders.

    The problem is that the middle management are required to follow a strict set of guidelines imposed by the leaders. The ones who don’t follow the pattern usually aren’t leaders for very long.

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  23. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    re 20,

    Mike,

    While I can see your point re: what drives the fundamental divide between faithful and nonfaithful, that’s exactly why I think the strange bedfellows scenario can work.

    Because, let’s take the first group you’re talking about. For the most part, these are not the people on the Bloggernacle. Bloggernaclers can be very faithful, believe the church is very inspired, but they certainly will have spent a lot of time considering the priesthood ban…and many of the readymade answers won’t sit well with them. So, as you say, “to this group, it’s not worth suggesting changes in policy from the Bloggernacle.” As your phrasing implies, this group is different than the bloggernacle, and probably wouldn’t accept many of the Nacle participants ideas.

    re: shifting to focus on actions/beliefs

    I completely agree that this occurs in the temple recommend interview, but I think it occurs in a different way. For example, the behaviors reinforced are things like, “Do you follow Word of Wisdom/Law of Chastity.” So here are areas that you can still make a functional divide between ex-Mormons and Mormons (gasp! many ex-Mormons drink coffee, tea, and alcohol. SHUN!)

    So, there has to be a different shift to actions…say, if many people in the Bloggernacle can agree that, say, missionary work as currently performed is suboptimal, and to improve conversion and retention something must happen…then Bloggernaclers should look at people who agree that missionary work can be improved.

    Obviously, the first group of people you described would say, “There’s nothing wrong with the inspired mission program.” But DAMU personalities would definitely have a lot of ideas of how the missionary program could be improved *while* maintaining its mission of bring people into the church.

    re 21,

    Glass Ceiling,

    I guess I just feel like the Church has a choice. Either it can stay in 1950, or it can live in the present. There are consequences in either choice. I still blame middle management, however. Not the leaders.

    One thing to think about (that I have to think about a lot as an accounting major) is…aren’t leaders supposed to set a tone at the top? I feel that a lot of organization leaders don’t nip middle management problems at the bud (and sometimes they help to sustain them! For example, if they were middle managers themselves once upon a time)

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  24. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Then I blame everyone. But I still support leadership. I just feel like I know how the leadership-middle management conversations go. “How is such-and-such going? ” “Great, sirs!”

    For all the derogatory rhetoric the internet suffers within Church environs, it may well prove the Church’s best friend.

    And the walls come tumbling down.

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  25. Martin on September 8, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Andrew S, I’m not sure what particular scriptural examples you were getting at, but it’s true that everybody can have revelation and some of that revelation can have general application. So, I can wander the world collecting wisdom and use my own personal revelation to determine what’s from God and what isn’t, and to some extent I do exactly that.

    But if that is all the wisdom of the church is, the collective wisdom of individuals whose personal revelation puts them in general agreement, then it is no different that any other institution. I want more from the church. I want what it claims — general direction/revelation from God by which I can evaluate the bits of wisdom or foolishness around me. Those who claim wisdom but no direct revelation from God aren’t going to help me with that. I have no interest in “changing” the church to accommodate whatever the majority thinks is right.

    On the other hand, I’d love for God to give us more wisdom on topics regularly discussed around here, and I’m convinced that one of the reasons we haven’t gotten it (through the church) is because we’re not ready to receive it — we’re too smug, unrighteous, judgmental, proud, or unwilling to accept.

    But that’s exactly why the unbelievers are no bedfellows of mine. Even if their wisdom about something or another happens to be correct, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I’m looking for messengers from God to teach me, and as self-confident of their rightness the unbelievers may be, they’re not going to help me with that.

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  26. Jettboy on September 8, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    I think Andrew S. and Glass Ceiling have touched on the real question. Does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to be a conservative or a liberal church? It seems too much like it wants to be both with a more conservative bent. This has caused some confusion and I am not sure if there is an easy answer. Because of this the fight has to be in the trenches where it can be spiritually bloody. For myself the choice is clear; that “progressive’s” are trying to devalue the Priesthood authority of Mormonism where it stands or falls in its purpose and meaning for existence. It is also trying to change is basic and well defined theological tenets of family and community.

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  27. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    re 25,

    Martin,

    Think New Testament: the established religious classes were the ones who were critiqued. Jesus spent his time with the undesireables of the society at the tiem. In several parables, the righteous didn’t realize they were righteous, or would have been assumed by the general public to be undesirables.

    I will address your point in two ways…first, I’ll point out that I’m still not seeing what the problem if the church isn’t different than any other institution. I admit this is my disaffect Mormon speaking.

    I’m the treasurer of my fencing club. That’s completely mundane, not divine. Even worse…Fencing clubs…there aren’t a lot of things you can do to make them different. The weapons are standardized, rules are standardized, etc., But you know what? I can make my fencing club better than the other club. And I can cultivate a culture of success, of friendship, of support…or I can cultivate one of hypercompetitiveness. I can do all sorts of things to make it more or less inviting. In fact, the effort that we put in as people is precisely where the magic comes from. That’s what makes my club my club, and other clubs can be good too, but they aren’t necessarily my club. Notice how I use the term “magic.” Perhaps if you asked club members, they wouldn’t say that. They wouldn’t say that it was anything inspired. It’s just that we like doing what we do, and we have fun with it. It’s very easy for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. So it’s easy for you to have “revelation from God” without recognizing it as such or calling it such.

    In fact, I’d go to say that if you’re going about saying you receive direct revelation from God, you should watch out because you’re probably more likely to miss the mark.

    However, I will address you a second way. You say:

    I want more from the church. I want what it claims — general direction/revelation from God by which I can evaluate the bits of wisdom or foolishness around me.

    I’m going to answer this in a similar way to how I answered the last, but with a different bent.

    It just seems entirely uncreative. What does it mean to have revelation from God? I think that you view that in a very narrow, particular sense. E.g., some guy gets revelation, and diseminates it to everyone else with a “Thus Saith The Lord.”

    But what if it just doesn’t work like that? What if DIRECT revelation from God is realized from people striving with one another after an ideal that they glimpsed, something on the tip of their tongue, a scent that gave them a craving? What if that is the process by which you evaluate the bits of wisdom and foolishness around you? And what if that’s an intrinsically social process?

    You want God to give you more wisdom. But what if you’re supposed to work for it? And what if God gives it to you through others? You recognize the possibility that the reason we haven’t gotten it is because we’re not ready, but you seem to have a very limited view of what we’d do to change it.

    What if the unbelievers are the prophets who serve a divine role to tell believers not to be smug, unrighteous, judgmental, proud, or unwilling to accept? That’s straight Old Testament — prophets were people who disrupted. Who called people to action. It wasn’t about predicting the future, but calling people to social change.

    Ultimately, you may be looking for messengers from God to teaching, but failing to see all the ones he has sent you. Consider again Matthew 25: 31-46.

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  28. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    re 26:

    Jettboy,

    I think I can kinda see what you mean by a-political now.

    Maybe instead of being a conservative or a liberal church, it should try to play on a different playing field completely. “Family” and “community” are not conservative OR liberal ideas. Different conservative and liberal policies help and hurt different aspects of family and community.

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  29. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Martin,

    I appreciate your stance. I for one though , an active and orthodox, but I find myself living with two opposite thoughts in my head all the time:

    1) The Church is inspired by a prophet of God. 2) The Church is somewhat disfunctional as a bureaucracy, and at this juncture is behaving reactively during what could be termed as “the onset of the global cyber-revolution.”

    For the record, I am 0% concerned about the path of gay marriage supporters in the Church, or those expectung women to get the priesthood. These are fantasies. I appreciate their position, but it isn’t Mormonism.

    I do however believe that Mormonism believes in charity, equal representation for all members, and marriage itself. It also believes in its own self-preservation. ( I am referring to missionary work and the marriage investment for more than just ages 18-30. )

    In any case, there are real problems, and admitting them does not require one to consider him/herself a heretic. It does require some courage though. I believe that many of the Mormon bloggers discussing these issues are of the same disposition as myself …holding irony itself in their head, heart, and hands until we no longer have to. It is just the way of things at this time.

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  30. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    The Brethren are inspired. They are also running a worldwide Church that in many ways acts like a corporation in order to exist at all. Changes get made at tectonic speed because the Brethren just don’t get answers from on high. They also get them by working it all out in their heads.

    But once they make a change, it’s made. So it bettet be right. So, they are extra conservative. Naturally. None of this is the problem. Rather, the problem lies in the dissemination of upward information to them. People treat them like celebrities, so they get the information they get.

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  31. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    In terms of the OP question, we are a 3 year-old in churchtime. A baby-church. We still separate Mormons and ex-Mormons because we have no precedent yet.

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  32. Jettboy on September 8, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    “Maybe instead of being a conservative or a liberal church, it should try to play on a different playing field completely.”

    Here is where I think that liberals are not allowing them to play on a different field. I understand that liberals are reacting to a rather conservative membership and church structure, but their aggressive tactics and motives are causing the problems they are trying to alleviate. They have been attacking the leadership and basic teachings of family and community that make up the definition of Mormonism. I know this sounds counter-productive to those who are raising the liberal flag in the church, but your ferocity is causing backlashes rather than changes. To us conservatives who are more likely to go to church and hold callings (and therefore make decisions) the kinds of changes hoped for are seen as devaluing what believers hold dear. They come off less as suggestions and more like demands.

    Then you have those that want to make Mormonism into some kind of secular Jewish type religion. That would totally destroy the LDS Church, and conservatives suspect that is the point.

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  33. Martin on September 8, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    Andrew S,

    None of your examples illustrate the “Word of the Lord” being transmitted to the believers via the unbelievers. Scripturally, aren’t you unbelievers usually scourges, not mouthpieces — ie., destroying the wicked believers, not calling them to repentance?

    All poking aside, I actually agree with your club analogy and much of what you wrote. If all I was looking for was a club with the most “magic”, we’d be on the same page, but I am indeed looking for direct revelation of the “Thus saith the Lord” variety, as “uncreative” as you find it. Of course much revelation can be received through interaction with others, I acknowledge its value, and I’m not adverse to working for it. And it’s available anywhere. But I would turn that around on you and say it’s “creative” to call that direct revelation. You imply my type of direct revelation isn’t necessary, and then cite direct revelation (your Matthew citation) to prove it.

    I’m not saying unbelievers have nothing of value to say, or that I have nothing to learn from them, but when it comes to the church we are neither allies nor bedfellows.

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  34. jmb275 on September 8, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Interesting Andrew. I’ll have to chew on this some more. While I remain a member, even enough to get a TR, I am most definitely uncertain about many many things. My experience, like Happy Guy said, is that the church members care more about beliefs than actions. In fact, I think members care a lot more about it than the leadership. We have evidence from E Holland that the church will not ask someone to leave over disbelief in a historical BoM. But I’ve been personally told by members that I’ve fallen away from the path, and need to come back to the light for holding an uncertain view of the historicity of the BoM.

    Also, I can’t understand Chino half the time either. I always figured I was just missing some background information. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

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  35. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Andrew,

    Your fencing metaphor is spot-on. The Church is true. But if people feel isolated and unrepresented, a certain amount of them will leave while yet retaining a testimony. Others will leave and forget their testimony.

    Forgive the cliche, “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. “

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  36. Greg Rockwell on September 8, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    The OP is great and points out something important. I am in the unbelieving camp, but certainly still highly invested in what happens in the Church/what the Church does.

    As I see it, the faithful are also highly invested in the idea of change. After all, we believe that God will yet reveal many important things, right?

    Even a very faithful reading of the history of the Church shows that change continues. There is absolutely no need for the concept of continuing revelation if there will be no change. Progress is eternal, right?

    So, the question is where the change comes from. Bottom up (i.e. faithless), or top down (faithful)?

    If God decided to allow gay marriage in the temple, it *becomes* Mormon, regardless of current interpretations. History has taught us that God does not hold himself responsible to make sure that everything lines up all the time, so as an example of something that could (and likely will) change, I think this is a good one. Bruce R. claimed blacks would never have the priesthood. When the policy changed, he said, in effect, I was wrong.

    The Church is much more than a place to commune with God, it is a place to commune with our community. We remain invested because we are human, and we have ties to the community. Further, we care about what happens to people we love, and, as the post says, we care about progress; simple… human… progress.

    Believers want to see change come from God. Nonbelievers simply want to see change.

    In the end, *I* believe both will get their wish.

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  37. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    re 32:

    Jettboy,

    Here, I think that there’s disagreement. I think that in many cases, liberals are trying to address different aspects of family that they think are underserved by the church. It looks like it’s a zero sum game, with someone “winning” or “losing” because the different groups highlight different aspects more than others.

    As far as ferocity, yeah, I think that the ferocity sometimes scares people even further. But I can’t help but feel that a little “ferocity” allows an easier shift into a happy medium. (For example, Martin Luther King wasn’t really paid attention to until Malcolm X came along to really scare people. Then people realized that hey, maybe they should listen to the nicer guy.)

    …and certainly, there’s no denying that there are theological differences that are unlikely to be resolved between all the various groups…so I completely understand that liberals and conservatives in the church will not agree on that.

    re 33:

    Martin,

    I guess I’m emphasizing New Testament over Book of Mormon (where it’s certainly true that there’s a lot of destruction from unbelievers rather than a call for better action), in a way. Jesus’s own dealiings with unbelievers as opposed to believers is quite different — he’s always using unbelievers to call out the problems in believer’s behaviors (hey, if a Samaritan can do this, why can’t you? etc.,)

    Then again, maybe the way the Book of Mormon pride cycle works exactly the same? After all, the unbelievers only succeed as scourages when the believers are wicked, as you point out.

    Of course much revelation can be received through interaction with others, I acknowledge its value, and I’m not adverse to working for it. And it’s available anywhere. But I would turn that around on you and say it’s “creative” to call that direct revelation. You imply my type of direct revelation isn’t necessary, and then cite direct revelation (your Matthew citation) to prove it.

    It’s not that I’m implying your type of direct revelation isn’t necessary. Just it’s probably not how direct revelation often works. Historically or in modern times. You can say that revelation wrought through seeking Zion socially is creative…but is that bad? God’s ways are not our ways. So why wouldn’t the way he reveals stuff to us appear extremely creative and out-of-the-box?

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  38. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    re 34″

    jmb,

    hehe, I missed that “members” part from Happy Guy’s comment…yeah, then I would have to agree.

    I don’t know why that happens…that the membership is quite divergent from leadership in this respect.

    re 35:

    Glass Ceiling,

    I don’t know how I’ve never noticed this before, but you’re an awesome commenter and I will have to keep track of your comments on other posts here…

    re 36:

    Greg,

    Another thing to think about would be…why must bottom up be considered faithless? Maybe the leadership needs insight from the bottom in order to evaluate all the data and do whatever they do with it to come up with a final decision?

    I like how you say: The Church is much more than a place to commune with God, it is a place to commune with our community, but I would take it one step further and say that in Mormonism in particular, the two are closely related. Mormons commune with God *by* communning with the community. So, for example, a Mormon monastic order wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

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  39. Greg Rockwell on September 8, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    @Andrew

    “why must bottom up be considered faithless?”

    It’s not that bottom up change needs to be faithless, it is that faithless change needs to be bottom up.

    The best things about Mormonism (or any faith for that matter) is when the communion with God brings us to each other, e.g. Mos 2:17.

    We should note that in the (relatively constant) absence of God’s presence, we must/should act as proxy for him to each other. Isn’t that (in a way) King Benjamin’s point?

    While I no longer feel welcome in Church, I definitely feel welcome in the larger (“liberal”) community.

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  40. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    re 39:

    OK, I see. Yeah, that makes sense.

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  41. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Andrew,

    Thank you. That means something to me. Really. I read you regularly for the same reasons. My phone is gonna die here, and I don’t have my charger with me. I’ll pick up when I get home if you all are still going. :)

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  42. Chino Blanco on September 8, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    I’ll try to think of something witty and insightful to add to this thread, but in the meantime, I’ll just note my inchoate sense that this may be the most important Bloggernacle post ever written.

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  43. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Seriously? If you mean it give us a little somethin’. :)

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  44. Chino Blanco on September 8, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    No worries, GC. Since it’s you, I’ll be glad to oblige…

    @6: KLC- I’d be curious to hear your views on how Alison Moore Smith wrapped up that recent T&S thread about the Mormon art of shunning. Here’s how I saw it: AMS sarcastically compared a sincere commenter to a heroin addict before quickly closing the thread. I was going to complain that this sort of mean-spirited and unfair behavior too often passes without being called out by other Bloggernaclers. To its credit, in this instance, BCC did step up and post a response to Alison’s unfortunate post and shenanigans. At the end of the day, considering that we’re all here talking about a religion, it boggles my mind that some ‘naclers apparently think there’s something to be gained by being rude and mean to those they deem interlopers.

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  45. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    Sorry for my behavior to you recently, Chino. I let myself get annoyed at your communication style.
    But I meant it when I said you were smart.

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  46. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    The prominent emotion I feel, as an active single Mormon, age 42, who has tried to improve things for me and those like me…is that of forgotten. Here we are, most of us on the same team, and we watch the Church fighting itself. Case in point: singles reluctant to sharing the Gospel with single people. What do you do with that but try to improve the plight of singles in the Church? Then you get nowhere again and again. Then what?

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  47. Chino Blanco on September 8, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Oh, give it a few minutes, and I’d give it even odds you’ll be rolling your eyes again, GC.

    @10: Jettboy- I think Andrew S enjoys a fun meta discussion about the Maginot lines that pop up around various Mormon online groupings, but if only for the sake of your own mental health, I’d suggest not taking any of this too seriously. It’s a pity that ‘Grosse Point Blank’ got an R rating because that means you’ll never be able to appreciate the scene in which John Cusack explains to an old high school nemesis that no matter what the bully’s febrile mind might be telling him, there is no “us”… In any case, my sense, Jettboy, is that 90% of your commentary can be fairly described as the result of a relentless projection bias.

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  48. Chino Blanco on September 8, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    @46: GC- Indeed. Then you ponder if those who value outward displays of loyalty above holding leadership to account aren’t really doing the most damage? Steve Evans has called me an enemy of the Church. I would humbly suggest that a true friend of the Church ought to be more worried about what’s going wrong on the institutional level than whether or not folks like me have got commenting privileges on a blog.

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  49. Chino Blanco on September 8, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    @11: Martin- You write:

    “When [Joanna Brooks] appears so publicly as a representative Mormon, I’m not surprised church public relations might want to clarify things.”

    So, perhaps, Martin, you could point out where in the Newsroom’s post that it clarified LDS policy? All I saw was a lecture on attribution that ironically enough… failed to mention Brooks by name. When I tweeted Lyman Kirkland to suggest that he follow his own advice and include a link to JB’s piece in his post, he responded by blocking his account from my tweets.

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  50. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Chino,
    I see your position. I find myself squarely between you and Steve. I get both sides and try to see them objectively. Half my family has left the Church, and the one sister who I absolutely cannot get along with is the only person on my Dad’s side of the family who is still Mormon. It’s ugly. It all goes macro and micro.

    Then others want to tell you that there are big problems. It’s just your attitude.

    That may bear truth for me. But I struggle for the right reasons. At least I think I do.

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  51. Glass Ceiling on September 8, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    …that there are no big problems…

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  52. Mormon Mercenary on September 8, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    Re: #7

    Commenter #7…You’re an idiot.

    LOVE YA *wink* stupid…

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  53. hawkgrrrl on September 8, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    “All I saw was a lecture on attribution that ironically enough… failed to mention Brooks by name.” I’m not sure it can be ironic when it’s done the same way every single time since 1830 (barring the call outs by name in D&C). My ironic eyebrow can’t stay up that long.

    I do think that a core question is whether the church should change or the church should change people. Any church worth a darn should have the power to inspire people to better themselves. We just have some really weird change systems in place in ours. When our change systems work, we pretend they don’t. When they don’t work, we wear it like a badge of honor.

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  54. Andrew S on September 8, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    re 52,

    what a convenient internet handle…

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  55. LBK on September 9, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    In a awy I thought I was back in 1972 again when I joined the Church. The conundrum I faced was very simple.

    I had received personal revelation and knew the the Church was true. It would be the guide for me and my family to return to our Heavenly Father. It was as simple and clear as that.

    I was also a 1960′s non-conformist radical (more precisely, my radicalism did not conform with a lot of radical beliefs or practices of the time). As such I hated racism, ethnic prejudice, sexism, homophobia, class warfare from above and economic injustice. As to ending those things I wrote, marched, picketed and dodged a few rocks. The year we changed from a teachers association to a union I helped see that our contract forbad discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, politics and sexual orientartion.

    Our Ward had a number of racists, homophobes, misogynists, John Birchers and people further to the right of Attila the Hun. What did I do?

    I kept both religious and political life separate. Virtually everyone knew where I stood-being a union president, political activist, and letter to the editor writer, it would have been very hard not for that to happen.

    I only ran into problems twice. Once another teacher and I were brought in to be deans at the high school. We had a couple of touchy-feely he/she promises never to do that again types nearly ruin the school. We were to be the “Hammers.” About two weeks into it, some church kid got into a dispute and called a young lady a bunch of racist names. He made a mistake and tried to cut a deal with me because I was a fellow Mormon “and you just know what these_______ are like.” I suspended him for the maximun number of days allowed and excoriated him for about five minutes (I did get a side benefit, a few black parents and kids were worried about a Mormon Dean in a racially mixed school, I was apparently a bit loud when I climbed all over the kid, other kids overheard it and the word got around that I was “fair”))

    The second occurred when I was a High Council Speaker and was to talk on becoming politically involved. It was a standard “you can’t complain if you don’t vote,” and “You can disagree and still be friends” type of talk. Nothing controversial. Well, no one told me why I was supposed to give it. The town was bitterly divided between old town (retired hippie, artsy-craftsy, lower middle class) and the hills (yuppie, upper middle class). There was only one Ward in town and the leaders of both factions were in it. After the sacrament meeting I felt like a marriage counslor trying to re-unite a dysfunctional family. A filed Marrige counslor in fact.

    What made my politics and Church Membership work was a technique I learned in Graduate School: Positive Interactive Listening. These are your Brothers an Sisters, treat them with respect. Listen, just don’t tell them want you want to blither. You can disagrre, but do not reject them. Seek to understand, not judge. Show that you care and are listening.

    No matter what type non TBM Mormon one is, I believe too many share a common problem. The inability to find someone who will listen. That, I believe, only exascerbates, the problems they are having with their faith.

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  56. Jacobhalford on September 9, 2011 at 5:02 AM

    Jon, “I believe the reason for the faithful/non-faithful divide is that the church is more interested in faithfulness than actions.”

    The church tends to conflate the two. It makes what we do the same as faithful. So it tells you that what you do is what makes you faithful and by drawing a distinction between faithful and unfaithful it is a way of influencing/controlling your actions.

    I tend to think that divides such as faithful and non-faithful is done so that the faithful can feel self righteous. They define what is not faithful ie. drinking, smoking, then by the fact that they don’t do that they are faithful. By dividing between the two and then defining it by saying that a non faithful person criticizes the church, reads non-church approved books, has liberal attitudes towards certain things, therefore because I do not do any of those it means I must be faithful. Its a small-minded way of generating a feeling of moral superiority.

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  57. John Mansfield on September 9, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    Andrew, going with your strange bedfellows concept, besides a coincidence of desires, the bedfellows need to each bring to the partnership something that the other needs and doesn’t already have. With Proposition 8, the Mormons brought money and organized manpower, and the other churches provided more broad-based social acceptability. What would these former Mormons and uncorrelated Mormons each provide the other?

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  58. Andrew S on September 9, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    re 57,

    John,

    I could think of a few things, but I’m not sure which is necessarily the case.

    One thing is that there’s already a big debate (which we haven’t really touched here) about whether change happens better from the inside or the outside. If it’s split (or you can encourage change from either direction reasonably well), then why not have a two-direction assault?

    Secondly, former members serve as an ideal consultation group. If you need people with fresh perspectives, but enough insider information, that’s where former Mormons fit.

    Or, kinda related to the first position, it may be that faithful Mormons are restricted from taking certain actions in favor of change by the demands of loyalty to the organization (whether those demands are actual or perceived.) Former Mormons would not be similarly constrained.

    …However, in many ways, I do have to admit that what interests me about the comparison is more of the similarity in skillsets, rather than the difference/complementarity. In that sense, it’s not necessarily about covering up for weaknesses through another group’s strength, but can be about having greater numbers or a coalition, which is more likely to have more clout than if either group went it alone.

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  59. SilverRain on September 9, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Andrew S.—I think you misunderstand many people who are commonly categorized as “believers” online. Most would be pleased to see some changes, they just disagree with HOW those changes should be discussed and made. Just like you explain the difference between those who are officially disaffected, and those who are still optimistic about changes being made from within.

    I, for example, am perceived among my fellow ward members as quite radical. Which adds all the more to the irony when I am ostracized as being too conservative online.

    So let’s all get off our high horses, here. People in general are judgmental, no matter what their beliefs. Judgmentalism is hardly the sole domain of the more conservative.

    #13—Thanks, Glass Ceiling. :D I didn’t notice it until it had died.

    Recently, my daughters have a way of crying and yelling to get what they want, especially when I don’t understand what they are asking for. As I found myself explaining to the two-year-old yesterday, the louder she cries, the less inclined and the less able I am to help her. It suddenly struck me . . . she felt that if she was loud enough, repeating the same things long enough, eventually a light would come on in my brain and I’d understand her and grant her what she wants.

    Unfortunately, repeating the same thing to the same person frequently and with increasing volume doesn’t do a thing to further the cause. Now, if they ask respectfully and attempt to find another way to ask, I am more inclined to listen. The answer still may be no, but I can at least understand the question.

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  60. Glass Ceiling on September 9, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I agree with everything in Silver Rain’s last comment.

    I feel like the best we can do is to be painfully honest, as folks usually are in line. The various threads act as a collective diary. That information is good resource for anyone who wants to write a book about such issues.

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  61. aerin on September 9, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    It’s all political. Far be it from me to understand why anyone posts or comments on anything…other than politics. Politics not in a governmental sense, but the process of working with various groups, gathering consensus, making concessions.

    I lost much of my political capital when I publicly expressed disbelief, I lost all of it when I formally had my name removed. That’s just the way it is. I lost any ability to change the faith of my ancestors when I left. Just as someone defecting from a major national political party loses capital when they defect, or someone loses the ability to enact changes in a work environment when they give their two weeks.

    So why I continue to read and comment on blogs is a bit of a mystery, to me and others (no doubt). I would like to say that it’s because many people I know and love remain in the organization, and I’d like to see change for their sake. Perhaps it’s the thousands of hours I invested in various church services and meetings over the years.

    I don’t know why that’s the case for groups of humans, but it is. We sometimes define ourselves by who we are, but sometimes who we aren’t.

    Perhaps progressives and former but still interested for unknown reasons do have things in common. I would humbly submit, however, that just as Republicans and Democrats disagree among themselves, there are so many different viewpoints, hopes and perspectives there is not much the groups have in common. For many former mormons, I’m not sure they would be unhappy with the LDS church as we know it to cease to exist. I’m almost certain that is heresy in some (many) quarters of the bloggernackle. I should point out I’m speaking for myself only here. I’m not saying that I intend to bring that about, simply that there is so much that needs to change (to my mind), it may not be possible given the current structure and hierarchy. Again, another definite disagreement with many in these parts.

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  62. Glass Ceiling on September 9, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    We also must remember that the element of time plays a role. People get older …experience more of life, and they change. Collectively, the Church is changing.

    That shift , and also the resistance to it, could be defined in political terms, but that would only show part of the picture. We love to see things in terms of Democrat and Republican, conservative and liberal. That divide is encouraged in the media, as well as we ourselves… but the government pretty much does what it wants with us these days, IMO. In other words, the two-party system divides and conquers by design. And we let it infiltrate the Church because it’s the only way we know how to communicate, except when semi-anon on the internet. But the thick walls party politics have built in society are really breaking down because of the authoritative leveling element of the internet. And that is a good thing. Maybe even of God, IMO. It’s too early to say. But something will become of it.

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  63. Glass Ceiling on September 9, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    On the other hand, the internet could backfire on the Church. If the prophet were to ever be perceived as if his inspiration was coming from blog threads, he might by choice become more stoic and less inclined to speak about anything of import. Then he would start to resemble the Pope. Same with the apostles.
    Those would then be dark days for the Church, as well as the planet.

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  64. Andrew S on September 9, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    re 59:

    SilverRain,

    great comment. I do recognize that I have a hard time completely understanding some faithful bloggers, so I doubtlessly probably misinterpret many.

    Recently, my daughters have a way of crying and yelling to get what they want, especially when I don’t understand what they are asking for. As I found myself explaining to the two-year-old yesterday, the louder she cries, the less inclined and the less able I am to help her. It suddenly struck me . . . she felt that if she was loud enough, repeating the same things long enough, eventually a light would come on in my brain and I’d understand her and grant her what she wants.

    Unfortunately, repeating the same thing to the same person frequently and with increasing volume doesn’t do a thing to further the cause. Now, if they ask respectfully and attempt to find another way to ask, I am more inclined to listen. The answer still may be no, but I can at least understand the question.

    This is a good point.

    re 61,

    aerin,

    For many former mormons, I’m not sure they would be unhappy with the LDS church as we know it to cease to exist. I’m almost certain that is heresy in some (many) quarters of the bloggernackle. I should point out I’m speaking for myself only here. I’m not saying that I intend to bring that about, simply that there is so much that needs to change (to my mind), it may not be possible given the current structure and hierarchy. Again, another definite disagreement with many in these parts.

    Yeah, I think that the issue is definitely complex here. I think that it’s true that a lot of former Mormons might indeed be ok with the church as it currently stands ceasing to exist. I mean, just a brief check on various ex-Mormon sites will confirm that view.

    BUT what I’m trying to raise is that I think it’s more complicated why that is. A lot of people are upset because of things that have happened to them in the church. And a lot of people think that the current church has cultivated those grievances…so if they don’t think the church will change (or, as you say: it may not be possible given the current structure and hierarchy), then it’s reasonable that they would want the organization to end instead of be reformed. Sometimes, you can’t renovate a building and just have to tear it down.

    So…I think one disagreement is over whether the church can change or whether its current structure will not allow it.

    But I think another sensitive issue is…certain changes, if made, would warp the fabric of the church…there would functionally be a different church after the changes were made. So, current members and former/disaffected members may not see eye to eye on those changes.

    re 62:

    Glass Ceiling,

    The time aspect certainly is true…but I think some people want to move quicker than general time passage. I think of it as an investment…investments always have to be discounted at some rate (perhaps inflation)…so if you have $1 today, you may think you’re earning 5% on it, but if inflation is 5% as well, then effectively, you’ve stayed pretty static If you’re earning 6% and inflation is 5%, you’re still earning, but only 1%.

    So people will try to earn a value *over* their discount rate. And I think that’s what people do with attempts to change.

    Re: politicization within the church…I think this is interesting…historically, it hasn’t been this way. Historically, religion wasn’t so polarized to one way or another, but it was a move by some folks (Jerry Falwell of Moral Majority, etc.,) to align evangelicals with conservative/Republican politics that has really changed the political/religious climate.

    I think this is starting to change with time because young people are becoming more frustrated with the political allegiances as they currently stand.

    re 63:

    One thing about the Pope is…the Pope (at least, some of the previous popes whose things I have sometimes glanced at) is pretty well informed. From looking at encyclicals like Deus Caritas Est, it’s clear Pope Benedict XVI, for example, is a theologian and philosopher who has thought out an entire system relating to love, God, etc.,

    So, I don’t know if the Pope is more “stoic” or “less inclined to speak about anything of import.” In actuality, while various encyclicals may be very controversial, they are very deep-reaching and thoughtful.

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  65. Glass Ceiling on September 9, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Andrew,

    I think some Popes have been better than others. But I think historically Mormon Prophets have been less reactive than Popes of the same period. But that is admittedly a biased assumption on my part.

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  66. Adam Greenwood on September 9, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    So, if I understand you correctly, you’re basically saying that progressive Mormon BCC types aren’t much different from non-believer DAMU types?

    Ha!

    Here again we see strange bedfellows, your position basically being the same as a flinty old Mormon bulldog like me.

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  67. Adam Greenwood on September 9, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Incidentally, on your actual post:

    Insider activists would have their credibility and their ability to change shot if they were percieved as allied as with outsider activists.

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  68. Michael on September 9, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    A very intriguing essay. I read all of the comments as well. I appreciate the good tenor of the views presented so far.

    As a faithful Mormon who has a somewhat unorthodox background, I can honestly say that the US culture of the Church is definitely going through shifts and phases. We see the cracks and rifts up close here on the Internets.

    We are truly divided in many different ways. A far cry from the gospel unity that presumably ought to prevail.

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  69. FireTag on September 9, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Andrew:

    I really appreciated the point about the second kind of disaffection. I came to the conclusion that the institution of my church (CofChrist) was an obstacle to the mission of my church, and that the church would consume itself in a futile attempt to preserve the institution ahead of fulfilling the mission.

    When the leadership acknowledged that it was not the “only” true church, I decided the mission should take priority over the institution. Getting beyond the trying to fix it and then crying is a long process, so I don’t know what I would still be doing if I was in Jettboy’s or GC’s position.

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  70. Jesse Stay on September 9, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    There are ways to pitch in and have an impact on the direction of the Church. The Church won’t change its doctrines (except through revelation), but it will change its processes to support those doctrines.

    I’d love to see more people supporting http://tech.lds.org or http://create.lds.org or http://vineyard.lds.org. Each one of those is a great way to provide feedback and have a part in participating in the building of the Kingdom. Believe it or not, the Church is listening. Its doctrines don’t change, but its processes to support those doctrines do and the Church needs all the help it can get.

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  71. Chino Blanco on September 9, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    @66: From the perspective of this DAMU-ite, Mormon BCC types aren’t much different from the LDS church… the same control/authoritarian tendencies on display every time the admins gleefully wield their beloved bannination stick.

    And just like BCC, Mormon social media maven Jesse Stay makes sure none of us show up in comments at his blog. All it took was one, and I was banned.

    Here’s a protip, Jesse: The next time one of your nevermo, atheist friends recommends you check out “The God Delusion”… you might not want to reply by recommending they read “The Secret”… It’s called knowing your audience.

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  72. hawkgrrrl on September 9, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    GC 63 – I don’t think it’s true that there is a problem if church leadership takes information from sources like member and ex-member discussions on the internet. That’s happened since day one. Hopefully we are a better source of inspiration than John C Bennet. The leader can easily explain it: “Because of X (outside source) I went to the Lord in prayer to ask about X, and here’s the answer I got.” Problem solved.

    To make an analogy about taking ex-Mo input, it’s partly like exit interviews at work. There are plenty of people who figure only the untalented or those with bad attitudes leave (obviously to those who stay). But there are also people who realize that orgs DO in fact lose top talent sometimes and do have things to learn from those people about their organization and about themselves, just as we can learn from competitors and marketplace intelligence. Companies who dismiss everything but insider perspective don’t have staying power. The problem I see is that we listen to the wrong external sources or draw the wrong conclusions from them. We have the wrong strange bedfellows (as pointed out in my MM post Andrew S linked above).

    Evangelical bedfellows infiltrate our doctrine and culture with their anti-science and homophobic rhetoric. Why are we befriending those less enlightened than we are when they do everything in their power to undermine us? Who is the acolyte here?

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  73. Andrew S on September 9, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    re 66:

    Adam Greenwood,

    I’d like to make an important distinction…in your comment you frame it in terms of belief “progressive Mormon BCC types” and “non-believer DAMU types.”

    As far as beliefs go, that’s where all the differences are. The issue is…why make belief the primary point of categorization?

    As far as political goals, that’s where similarities are. And I think that’s a more reasonable point of categorization.

    re 67:

    It’s a shame that that’s the case. Preferably, the first change would be to fix that.

    re 69,

    FireTag,

    This is often a common theme I see from your posts and comments…but I’m curious as to whether your co-religionists see things similarly (e.g., mission takes priority over the institution.) For example, I don’t read too much of John Hamer’s posts/comments, but he seems to have a different perspective.

    re 70:

    Jesse,

    Wow, I am humbled to see you here. Although it appears Chino isn’t as impressed…but I actually like the various efforts of things you have posted…like LDS Tech and the vineyard…but it seems to me that the way the church asks for participation is limited and, perhaps, superficial. The church already has a message/goal, and you can help achieve it by providing photos/videos/programming apps/etc.,

    But the church is disinterested in hearing how it could tweak its message to better reach its goals.

    re 72:

    hawkgrrrl,

    Great analogy to exit interviews. In fact, that idea really goes pretty far if you want (not to toot the horns of all the exmormons)…people who leave organizations often do so to look for more stimulating opportunities, because they perceived their current situation as being stifling.

    I think the reason Mormons have so far aligned with evangelical bedfellows is not because they have infiltrated the doctrine/culture, but because elements of those already exist in the doctrine and the culture. So, anti-science and homophobic rhetoric disturb progressive Mormons, but make a natural fit for others.

    Instead, how Evangelicals undermine Mormons is theologically — just because Mormons also oppose gay marriage doesn’t make Mormonism any more acceptable to evangelicals as a religion.

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  74. Jesse Stay on September 9, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    Andrew, I’m unsure what it is you want changed. If it is the Gospel message, the Church is never going to change that. That’s our crown jewels. Take it or leave it – what’s in the scriptures is in the scriptures, and what is lead by revelation is lead by revelation. The message is the goal. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something?

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  75. FireTag on September 9, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    Andrew:

    John has a wonderful congregation and is still in the honeymoon phase of his religious affiliation with the CofChrist. May he be blessed with that situation for as long as possible. I’ve also got that foundation in my background, plus a couple of generations of testimonies of being led into the church, or I probably would have gone through disaffection type one instead of disaffection type two

    The funny thing is I probably would never have caught on to the priority of mission over institution if the LEADERSHIP ITSELF hadn’t been saying the words for several decades. For example, read Section 164 of our D&C from the CofChrist.org website.

    But when you live with a community (like a family) you realize what values are spoken, what values are consciously enforced, what values are internalized and subconsciously practiced, and by what percentages of the people and leaders. Then you have to decide how best to navigate the disconnect.

    I guess the merits of the various ways of doing that on an individual basis are what this whole thread is about, isn’t it?

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  76. Geoff - A on September 10, 2011 at 2:08 AM

    jesse Stay, 74

    I think the thing that needs to change is not the Gospel but the succession of Prophets so we can have a leader who is under 60.
    I would also like to see leaders (I think Uchtdorf and Eyring are) changing the emphasis from obedience to the Prophet and rules to following Christ.
    I would hope these changes would lead to a more progressive Church that can include married Homosexuals, ordain all worthy members, and encourage members to be better people not just more obedient.

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  77. Andrew S. on September 10, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    Re 72,

    Jesse,

    I certainly think there are points which would be more and less controversial, but even if we took a less controversial point…Like how the church could better serve the needs of single adults. There was recently a letter reported here at Wheat & Tares regarding the subject (but since I’m commenting from my phone, I can’t easily link to things,unfortunately.) In any case, this should be uncontroversial because better approaches to single adults is win-win for everyone. If single adultsm are disaffiliating or disaffecting because they aren’t getting anywhere in the current system, then that doesn’t help the church, and at least theoretically, it cold be prevented. It’s not a “gospel” problem. But perhaps there does need to be consultation with people far lower (or even outside of), the hierarchy to consider different solutions.

    I guess a fear is that anyone could just assume that if people want a solution that differs from what the church leadership is currently suggesting, then by default that is a threat to the gospel and thus invalid. There’s a lot of confusion between gospel, church institution, and informal culture.

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  78. SilverRain on September 10, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    I have met a few of those “older than sixty” men who run this Church, and I think they are far more savvy than people like to think.

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  79. Jesse Stay on September 10, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    SilverRain, as have I – I agree. I can assure you they are well suited for the job, and definitely lead by revelation. The closer you are to them, the more you see that. This Church is indeed the Lord’s Church, and he leads it – I know that.

    Andrew, I’m open to hearing new ways the Church could be serving young single adults. There are many working on this problem at the Church, and the Church is actively involving young single adults in the process, and actively listening to those that are providing suggestions and feedback. I’d be happy to pass on any suggestions.

    Also, feel free to post your suggestions to the tech.lds.org forums – that’s another way to have your feedback passed on and get introduced to the right people. I promise you – the Church is listening.

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  80. Jeff Spector on September 10, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    I would be the first to admit that the church organization is not perfect, run by imperfect people who make mistakes. but I also wonder if those who become disaffected are ever introspective about it and whether they see a pattern which also affects other parts of their lives, employment, relationships, etc.

    In the case of some, not all, that might, in fact, better explain the problem they have with the Church.

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  81. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Jesse,

    Please read the August 31st post on this site. I’d be interested in your thoughts. Btw, young single adults are only part of the single adults. There are more single folks over 30 than under 30, I have to believe.

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  82. Andrew S. on September 10, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Jesse, Glass Ceiling really put it better than I could.

    Jeff, the interesting thing is that disaffected Mormons seem not to have pervasive issues in other parts of their lives. So how would it work if someone did look introspectively, but came to the conclusion that there was something different about the church with respect to all their other major involvement, not necessarily with them.

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  83. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I think some of the people which leave view the problems of the Church as a personal affront to the functionality of their lives. As in, “This is no longer working for me, regardless of whether it us the truth or not.” And off they go.

    Others struggle for years until their faith and will are long since kaput, and they either leave weeping or screaming. It doesn’t help that, as far as…shall we say… content value, the typical Sacrament meeting often suffers because so many speakers are struggling too. A deferred talk from General Conference can rarely compete with personal testimony, IMO.

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  84. Ray on September 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Jesse, I know this is simplistic, but I love Elder Wirthlin’s “Concern for the One” – particularly as it relates to members who leave, either activity or the Church itself.

    Of course he mentions “those who have strayed” – but he also mentions those who are “different” and those who are “weary”.

    I know the Church leaders are concerned, and I know they are doing lots of things to try to address the issues the Church faces (and I absolutely LOVE many of the recent changes), but the basic message isn’t reaching the end of the row in too many local congregations and stakes. Those who are different still aren’t accepted (their differences still are used to define, categorize and belittle them), and those who are weary still are asked constantly to continue to serve more than their capacity allows. It’s being preached in a General Conference talk now and then, and it has been VERY clear in the most recent CHI training – but the implementation is falling short locally where the pressure is to staff organizations and visit every single person (in order to be seen as “successful”), and where 90%+ of the membership is conservative politically. Those who are different and those who are weary often end up leaving or fading into “active inactivity” due almost entirely, imo, to local leadership’s unwillingness to stand up and demand that their situations be recognized openly and addressed proactively in a way that is kind and caring and charitable.

    If I have ANY “advice” to people whom I support and sustain as leaders (including as prophets and apostles), knowing how presumptuous that is, it would be simply to be even more assertive in their condemnation of rejecting people who are different and weary and have strayed.

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  85. Ray on September 10, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Jesse, one more suggestion:

    Read the following post and the comments there.

    “Improving Our Sacrament Meetings” (http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2011/09/improving-our-sacrament-meetings.html)

    I’ve had almost the exact same experience as is described in the post, having attended meetings where local leaders blame members for not being fed in meetings that simply don’t provide good nourishment.

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  86. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Ray,

    Thanks for your last two comments. Once again, your words are both validating and true.

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  87. Andrew S. on September 10, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    http://smidgensonreligion.blogspot.com/2011/09/religious-disaffiliation-is-driven-by.html

    This may be only tangential, but Chris Smith has a quotation excerpt that suggests that a lot of youth disaffection in general is a response to the politicization of religion (especially in overtly conservative directions.)

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  88. Jesse Stay on September 10, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Andrew, Glass Ceiling, I’ve passed on your feedback on the mid-Singles program to the appropriate people. You’ve brought up a more interesting thought though that I’m concerned about – how can we provide the technology so that our members aren’t having to shout out this feedback on their own blogs, but rather instead can interact in an environment where both the Church and members genuinely interested in helping are listening to each other (where it is appropriate). And more important, how can we do this so that local ecclesiastical leaders are a part of that process? You’ve got me thinking.

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  89. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Tangential to Andrew’s tangential, the age 30+ singles are by and large leaving for love, not politics. Most of them are divorced, long-term Saints with testimonies. There are also those who never married who held out for too long without love.

    A word about those who leave because of Church history. IMO, they are a wee bit ignorant about the nature of history, and human nature. People in high places always have and always will hate Mormons. Slander, libel, and half-truth have always been the name of the game. These entities work overtime to smear the Church.

    It is just very interesting how the Church answers so many questions for certain folks initially ; and then years later, they hear something from unreliable sources at best from 150 years ago… and that’s it.

    Even though today, we have more media than the world has ever known, and they get stuff wrong every day. And on a micro level, people gossip and misunderstand each other all the time. It us the human condition to hurt those that threaten you. Mormonism threatens Christianity to the core (our scriptures, our doctrine of The Fall, the nature of God, Heaven, works, personal revelation, eternal marriage, et al. Christianity is falling apart over these questions they can’t answer, that we can. We, on the other hand, are struggling over other things, but not the doctrine.

    Granted, some members are legitimately offended because they just don’t fit the program as it is (gays, as an example. ) But at the risk of sounding a bit thick, I think some leave simply because the world looks like more fun; but still they have to find a better reason for their conscious conscience. So it becomes history or Prop 8, or some other contentious thing.

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  90. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Re #74… I’d suggest never, ever using the phrase “Take it or leave it” when discussing one’s church. Or, if you must, at least remember to first mention how great it is that the discussion is even happening and that people are showing an interest in talking about it. And before skipping straight to bearing one’s testimony, those on the Church’s payroll might do well to acknowledge an awareness of the awful statistics and bad outcomes that are driving the discussion. I mean, rather than offer assurances that the Church is listening, how about providing some indication that you’ve been following along?

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  91. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Jesse, you are a Godsend! My email is jesslangis@gmail.com in case you may want it. Thank you deeply, Jesse.

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  92. Jesse Stay on September 10, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Glass Ceiling, mine is stay@ldschurch.org. Contact me any time if you’d like to pass along thoughts or feedback.

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  93. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Regarding my little rant a few comments ago,I said “some ” folks, not “most ” or “all.” I also believe that it is a hard decision for anyone, and often the circumstances are unfair against them.

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  94. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Re #88, wouldn’t it be awesome if the LDS church could show the same courtesy and respect and appreciation for the Bloggernacle (i.e., blogs like this one), that it shows for projects like the More Good Foundation and Mormon Defense League?

    For example, Jesse, you made this comment over at BCC just a few weeks ago:

    “Some times groups like MGF and MDL and other non-church affiliated organizations are the best ways non-members (and less-actives) can learn about the Church in a way the Church itself can’t always respond. I hope more people offer to help them out (as long as they are asking for help), or seek to find other ways to help.”

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/08/19/mormons-are-taking-over-the-internet/#comment-230105

    When will the Church (or its social media staff) offer the same praise of the Bloggernacle that projects like MGF and MDL enjoy?

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  95. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Jesse, I will. Thanks again. Best of luck with your efforts.

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  96. Jeff Spector on September 10, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Andrew S,

    “So how would it work if someone did look introspectively, but came to the conclusion that there was something different about the church with respect to all their other major involvement, not necessarily with them.”

    Then it makes perfect sense for one to separate themselves from such a group. If the problems are all with the group or, in this case, the Church, why belong?

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  97. Jeff Spector on September 10, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    “When will the Church (or its social media staff) offer the same praise of the Bloggernacle that projects like MGF and MDL enjoy?”

    Flying pigs, anyone?

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  98. Jesse Stay on September 10, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Chino, do you have any praise at all for the Church? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a positive word out of you.

    To answer your question, the fact is we do talk to many members of the bloggernacle other than those you mention. The problem is not everyone in the bloggernacle actively tries to talk to us. They’d just rather post for the public to hear than try to approach us directly when they have feedback to give. I genuinely want to know why that is, and I’d love to know how we can work closer with each person in the bloggernacle. I’m listening, if anyone that is not able to get in touch with us and truly wants to help, would like to work closer with us.

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  99. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Jesse, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a positive word out of you or the LDS church regarding progressive Mormon projects. Maybe that’s why a blog like Wheat & Tares is important. You are free to make your case for the good stuff that’s going on (and it is actually very cool to see you participating here) and I’m free to be the crank that I am.

    It’s the sort of open discussion that, sadly, would be impossible in an officially-sanctioned online venue. Can you at least admit that Mormon free speech zones like this one here have their own inherent worth and value?

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  100. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    I think that a certain point, people who have become inactive no longer want solutions. They feel that now that they have traveled the hard road out, it is just too hard to believe that it could ever be better now. Or others may feel more righteous in their anger than they ever felt righteous when they were active. Also, there is may be less inner conflict having made that final choice to leave. No more tug-o-war.

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  101. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    @100: GC- Now you’re just speculating as to the motives of those who don’t share your same POV. I’d suggest that it’s much more interesting to really discuss differences of opinion than simply ascribe moral failings to those with whom we disagree.

    For example, Jesse writes:

    “The problem is not everyone in the bloggernacle actively tries to talk to us. They’d just rather post for the public to hear than try to approach us directly when they have feedback to give.”

    As far as I can tell, what Jesse is describing as a “bug” is something that bloggernaclers would describe as a “feature” … i.e., does he really think that talking publicly and openly about one’s experiences and thoughts regarding a religion somehow constitutes a “problem”?

    What on earth does Jesse think of Dialogue’s searchable database of 40 years of public discussion of Mormonism? Or of Exponent II? Or of Sunstone? Never mind the Bloggernacle.

    At the end of the day, the real problem is that we’re talking past each other. What Jesse wants help with is presenting a positive face to the public. What most folks around here are looking for is an honest conversation. Neither one of those goals is objectionable (except when the former interferes with the latter) but they’re not the same thing.

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  102. Michelle on September 10, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    “What Jesse wants help with is presenting a positive face to the public. What most folks around here are looking for is an honest conversation.”

    I actually think Jesse cares about both. Participating in sharing the gospel online is something a lot of members find very satisfying…and actually involves more idea-sharing and feedback than I think a lot of people realize.

    But he’s also very tuned into the need for dialogue. He’s one of the most approachable people I’ve ever met. And here he’s shown that he’s willing to take constructive ideas and send them on to people working on different things in the Church.

    To me, what he’s saying is that actually engaging in dialogue and trying to work with the Church is different than just writing or talking about the Church. The latter isn’t necessarily a problem, but it isn’t necessarily the most effective way to give feedback, either.

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  103. Glass Ceiling on September 10, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    Chino,

    You don’t have a corner in inactivity. I was inactive for the majority of the 90s. I make no secret to why I left. I felt it was too hard to take seriously during that time in my life. Lucky for me, I had had enough knowledge of what the Gospel actually offers (especially in regards to making a real argument for its truth-fullness), that I eventually had to come to terms with the necessity to return. I think alot of folks leave not knowing much of the deep doctrine accept as it relates to anti-Mormon rhetoric.

    Therefore, I think we really need to have something like Know Your Religion or Institute available again. Heaven knows we need it. People who are often bored in Church would be anything but bored in real group scripture study.

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  104. Ray on September 10, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    Jesse, I would be more than happy to talk with you directly about what you are requesting. I’ve served on the High Council in my most recent two stakes, and I have just been released to serve as an Institute Teacher at the college where I work. I have spent many years talking and working with people who are struggling with crises of faith and would love to talk with you about that. I know HQ is aware of my blogging, so I will send you an e-mail.

    I appreciate your sincere effort to understand and help.

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  105. hawkgrrrl on September 10, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    Jesse – my lack of input to you is due to sheer lack of awareness, but I’ll certainly share thoughts with you there. You are always welcome to visit or lurk here as well.

    I agree with Chino B that there is a different need being met by blogging – creating a community to share experiences and work out ideas – my input would be informed by my experiences in blogging, but I don’t blog to be an activist.

    I confess that the discussions here surpass the quality of most weeks at church dramatically. I suppose they fill a different purpose. But intellectualism and questioning are like mercury. You can step on it, but it will just roll away and form again elsewhere. Especially at local levels, orthodoxy is such a test of loyalty that any fresh perspective is viewed with suspicion. This is not true in all wards I’ve attended (it seems to differ based on socio-economic lines IMO), but it’s so common an experience on these sites there’s got to be truth to it.

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  106. Glass Ceiling on September 11, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    …EXCEPT as it relates to anti-Mormon rhetoric ….

    Brain fart.

    ———–

    Hawkgrrrl, well said.

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  107. Glass Ceiling on September 11, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    Hawkgrrl,

    I reread this thread a few minutes ago because it is quite interesting. I noticed that you had some great comments that I should have acknowledged. I think I was too wrapped up in my one-track mind to keep up with you.

    Dang.

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  108. Jacobhalford on September 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Jesse,

    I think part of the problem is that people don’t think that they can engage with leadership in the church. We have for so long been told that revelation and instruction is mono-directional that to get them to engage is difficult again now.

    There was an interesting phenomena over her amongst the English YSA here, where they used a facebook group to express frustration with the YSA programme. I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while. But one of the frustrations that kept being mentioned is that YSA feel we are being told what we need rather then discussed about what we need, so you end up with activities that everyone resents and disengages with. So a way to let leaders know what YSA really need would be amazing.

    I would love for a meaningful forum in which ideas could be shared. I have had many ideas on how YSA could be improved along with my friends, and meet the needs of YSA in this country, but simply there is no forum in which to present them.

    I agree with Hawkgrrl, online blogs provide something different. Perhaps, it is due to the lack of an authority editing and censoring it (for all the decent blogs anyway). I think if it wasn’t for my discovery of online blogs that I would have left the church or at least attended a lot less.

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  109. Jesse Stay on September 11, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Jacobhalford, there is a difference between revelation and the Gospel message, and the processes used to support that revelation and the Gospel message. One can’t be changed. One can, if revelation supports it.

    The Church is actively listening to and engaging with YSAs right now and using that feedback to build better programs supporting the revelation received by our leaders. It’s not always evident, but it is happening and it’s being done in the right way, and doing so takes time. As I said, if you ever have feedback, feel free to send it my way and I can pass it along.

    I’m still not convinced that just complaining on a blog accomplishes anything other than contention and confusion though. Does it really bring people closer to Christ? Does it really fix the problems at hand in the most effective manner? Does it build the Kingdom in any way? If you have feedback, there are plenty of effective ways within the Church to provide that feedback. There is a place for blogs, as our leaders have suggested, but I’m not sure if it is for shouting from the rooftops frustrations people have with the Church. There are much more effective means of fixing those problems. Again, contact me if you can’t find them.

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  110. Jeff Spector on September 11, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    Jesse,

    “There is a place for blogs, as our leaders have suggested, but I’m not sure if it is for shouting from the rooftops frustrations people have with the Church.”

    What is the most effective way to communicate our frustrations? Or, are we in direct rebellion for even having them?

    How do you deal with the disconnect that seems evident between the General Church Leadership, who are in many ways trying to be progressive with a local leadership that can seem mired in the late 1800s’ And, in some cases, vis versa.

    I might add that becoming “closer to Christ” as you ask might not be connected with what goes on at Church.

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  111. Jesse Stay on September 11, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    Jeff, I mentioned numerous ways in the comments here. Or, again, contact me and I can point you in the right direction.

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  112. hawkgrrrl on September 11, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    Jesse – I know many of us here do appreciate your interest and would love to pass on feedback as we hear it all. They aren’t always our personal frustrations either; often we are just aware of the discussions and trends due to blogging. We are the listeners.

    “It’s not always evident, but it is happening and it’s being done in the right way, and doing so takes time.” If the results aren’t evident, how do you know it’s being done in the right way? 80% inactivity seems to indicate otherwise. Unless you are saying that singles should go sow their wild oats because they’ll come back when they have kids, so it will all work out in the end? Maybe that’s the plan. It’s what I see happening anyway (for those that do come back).

    “I’m not sure if it is for shouting from the rooftops frustrations people have with the Church.” Who’s shouting frustrations? More importantly, what rooftops? Our reach isn’t what you think it is. Is everyone in the church so dismissive of uncensored blogging?

    I just want to point out that most of us are fully vested. We magnify our callings. We clean the chapels. We pay full tithes. We work to brighten our spot of the kingdom. We send our kids to EFY and BYU. We payroll the church with our money and talents.

    “There are much more effective means of fixing those problems. Again, contact me if you can’t find them.” I’m not sure it’s realistic that there are ‘much more effective means to fixing problems’ in an organization this size with such an authoritative culture. Most of us here have no real expectation that the church will make many progressive changes in our lifetime.

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  113. Cynthia L. on September 11, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Jesse, I too am intrigued by this assertion you have that it is possible to provide feedback in the church. You said that you’ve given “numerous” suggestions for how to do that in the comments here, but the only one I see in a comment prior to that one is that the church was consulting with the YSAs in some unspecified manner (that doesn’t provide any usable feedback channel for anyone not already involved in that channel/effort), and to email you and you pass along the feedback. Were there others that missed?

    I feel like there is essentially no feedback mechanism in the church, and it’s not for lack of looking. So far my options seem to be the following:

    1. Write a letter to SLC. It won’t be read, and will be sent to my local leader, who will wonder what kind of nutjob I am that I would write a letter to SLC with “feedback,” which is inherently negative to some degree, no matter how diplomatically I might try to state it.

    2. Use my connections to find somebody who knows somebody who might sometimes have the ear of somebody who matters. This channel is not available to most people. Of course, SLC probably feels like they get tons of feedback on this channel, because there are tons of members whose great uncle are in the 12 or whatever. But what might be harder to realize is just how narrow a demographic slice (and not a representative one) that is.

    3. Whine to my husband/sister/mom.

    4. Blog.

    What else is there? Send an email? Call? Where are any numbers or email addresses published publicly? This only works if you have personal connections (see #2).

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  114. Jesse Stay on September 11, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Cynthia, see comment #s 70, 79, and 92 – when in doubt, just ask me. I’m available to anyone that wants it.

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  115. Cynthia L. on September 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    Ah, I did miss that #70. Not sure those really count as an open feedback channel, right? But they are some kind of venue for interaction, and nothing to sneeze at for sure.

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  116. hawkgrrrl on September 11, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Cynthia L – Jesse referenced 2 sites above (vineyard, techlds), which I did check out never having heard of them before. The sites are designed to help members do free projects for the church – create videos, edit church magazines, etc. If there was a place to provide general input on programs and policies there, I didn’t see it. Editing church magazines could be deemed input, but it’s a very narrow project.

    Jesse, you said: “You’ve brought up a more interesting thought though that I’m concerned about – how can we provide the technology so that our members aren’t having to shout out this feedback on their own blogs, but rather instead can interact in an environment where both the Church and members genuinely interested in helping are listening to each other (where it is appropriate). And more important, how can we do this so that local ecclesiastical leaders are a part of that process? You’ve got me thinking.” First, how to do it. Gather feedback in verticals by interest: e.g. youth programs, primary programs, singles, teachers (manuals are often outdated or otherwise in need of a refresh), leaders. Ask open-ended questions (“What’s working well?” and “What needs improvement?”) or lead in with closed ended questions (Y/N questions like “Do the manuals help you bring the spirit into the classroom?”) and only broaden to an open comments field where needed for clarity. Then, do a monthly update in 3 categories: 1) things that won’t be changed (due to logistics or doctrinal reasons) and why, 2) things that are complex and under consideration, and 3) things that are going to be changed (or clarified)and how. Allow people to see each others’ input and use “like” and “dislike” buttons on input from participants as well as the monthly update (this will help you see trends and cut down on comments to slog through).

    Now, a few cautions. A site like this could be very compelling, but will it eliminate the blogging need? Doubtful. People blog for a variety of reasons. The church gathering input should complement free expression blogging, not replace it. Many Mormons are uncomfortable being authentic, especially in front of authority figures. People don’t want to be blacklisted or viewed with suspicion. Even you said “where it is appropriate.” So what’s in and what’s out? People have to feel safe to express their views. That’s the genius of Andrew’s OP. We have nothing to lose by hearing input from people, including ex-Mos. We only gain insight. What we do with it is still up to us.

    Some of the local leaders are so invested in orthodoxy that they want permission from higher-ups for every tiny thing they do. Others want to one-up the orthodoxy by adding extra requirements. Not all are equal. Most are outstanding; some not so much. We’ve all seen time and again how members censor one another on public forums when they don’t like an opinion.

    There are also tiny little things that can shut down feedback. Making people register can shut down what they are willing to say if they feel it will be traced to them. As Cynthia points out, people who have given input through letters to Q12 have usually been singled out as a “problem” and then blacklisted. Sending letters back to local leaders is essentially a form of punishment. That must be the intent.

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  117. chanson on September 12, 2011 at 4:24 AM

    Andrew — this is a really fascinating discussion — I agree with Chino’s assessment @42

    Allow me to add some of my thoughts and goals as an organizer of Outer Blogness:

    I think a lot of the sexism and homophobia have potential to do harm to people in and out of the church (think Prop. 8 ), so naturally, I’d like to see those points change. Also, there’s a pervasive attitude within the church that leaving the church is both a sign of moral weakness and a rejection of one’s Mormon family. That attitude creates stress an difficulty in mixed-faith families, so I’d like to see that loosen up as well. And, ultimately, I’m proud of my Mormon heritage and I like being part of this interesting movement. So I’d like to see my people do the right thing, and I’d like to be able to mention my Mormon heritage in public without people immediately associating it with homophobia and far-right politics.

    I think that criticism can benefit the CoJCoL-dS. As Chino said @101, the CoJCoL-dS is too quick to view any criticism as primarily a publicity problem — and if the church can shut up the critics, or discredit them, or shout louder than them, then the leaders seem to think the problem is solved. That’s the vibe I’m getting from Jesse. But when you have real problems (eg. the micro-managed meetings aren’t edifying, no matter how many times you tell people it’s their fault for not being edified by them), shutting up the critics doesn’t solve the problem. If criticism eventually convinces the leadership of the CoJCoL-dS to acknowledge and address problems, that benefits the institution.

    That said, trying to change the CoJCoL-dS isn’t my primary motivation for blogging about it on the Internet. As I’ve said on MSP, I like talking about Mormonism because it’s an interesting topic that is more fun and less stressful to discuss than real problems like the economy or the environment. As a student of human nature, I find the whole Mormon experiment endlessly fascinating, and I’m curious to see where it will go next.

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  118. John C. on September 12, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    To Andrew S.,

    Re: Offer to be mole within the church.

    No thanks,

    Ta,

    John C.

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  119. chanson on September 12, 2011 at 6:17 AM

    @98:

    To answer your question, the fact is we do talk to many members of the bloggernacle other than those you mention.

    Chino didn’t ask whether you were having private discussions with various Bloggernacclers, he suggested that you should promote grassroots faithful discussion as well as you promote official sites.

    The problem is not everyone in the bloggernacle actively tries to talk to us.

    Posts on the Internet are addressed to everyone, including to you.

    They’d just rather post for the public to hear than try to approach us directly when they have feedback to give.

    If people like to use the Internet as a means of discussing subjects that are of interest to them, is that a problem?

    I genuinely want to know why that is

    Maybe it’s because they’re interested in exchanging ideas and having a discussion with each other.

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  120. Glass Ceiling on September 12, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    What a thread.

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  121. Jeff Spector on September 12, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    This is all getting quite obtuse to me. I vote for letting Ray figure out what is going on here. He seems to have approached it with less skepticism than most of us.

    But I have to agree with Hawk. Many of us (Not all) here ARE the mainstream Church who fully participate. But, like most thinking adults have questions, concerns and issues.

    To channel that through one guy who we do not know?

    Sounds almost like Strengthening Members committee redux.

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  122. Andrew S on September 12, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Hey, everyone…I’m just now returning from a weekend fencing tournament (so if some of my responses from before weren’t as spectacular as they could have been, I blame it on trying to comment by phone.)

    So, I guess I’ll try to respond to a few comments that have stuck out to me…

    re 109:

    Jesse,

    I’m generally not the most tactful guy, and so I’m going to take off the kid gloves, but when you say:

    “I’m still not convinced that just complaining on a blog accomplishes anything other than contention and confusion though. Does it really bring people closer to Christ?”

    Then I have to admit that for me personally, the blogs are what keep me interested in this subject. The blogs are what keep me continued to be engaged with Mormonism as a religion, Mormonism as a body of thought, of people’s writings, of people’s strivings.

    What I was learning within church every Sunday was not doing anywhere near as much as what the blogs do. When I hear about other people in the Bloggernacle talk about their wards (where many of them attend the same ward OR they attend a ward where there are other scholars, other candid thinkers, etc.,) I really think that they are lucky for being able to have similar kinds of discussions in their wards, because I know that in my ward and in many others, it quite simply wouldn’t be possible.

    And you know what? I think I’m ok with that. I think that Sunday School isn’t necessarily for exploring issues (Yes, even issues that have to be struggled with to be processed.) I think that perhaps, the church discussions are more sheltered because they are the “milk,” and the blogs can be more open because they are the “meat”.

    So, I guess, to answer this assumption that I see running through some of your comments, I would have to assert that for a lot of people, one thing that makes the church interesting and engaging is the very thing that is deemphasized or discouraged by the church — deeper discussion of doctrinal cultural, and historical topics.

    …and I understand that some of the issues discussed are thorny and people can get pricked, which’ll hurt. BUT what’s been most amazing to me is seeing faithful members still be able to discuss these issues (and not running away, or hiding, or whatever). I think that’s a stronger bearing of one’s testimony than a lot of what I’ve heard on Fast Sundays…

    If you have feedback, there are plenty of effective ways within the Church to provide that feedback. There is a place for blogs, as our leaders have suggested, but I’m not sure if it is for shouting from the rooftops frustrations people have with the Church. There are much more effective means of fixing those problems. Again, contact me if you can’t find them.

    I think there is a disconnect, in which case the lived experience of many people simply contradicts what you say. I would submit that most people try to go through official channels first…but when they are rebuffed, that is what is most damaging to them. Unfortunately, many of them *don’t* find faithful-friendly blogs like Wheat & Tares or any of our siblings in the Bloggernacle (By Common Consent, Times and Seasons, etc.,) If LDS bloggers aren’t encouraged to blog about these issues, then people who are having these struggles won’t have ANY faithful source to communicate with…since the official church institution rebuffs them; many of their local leaders, family, and friends may not be prepared to address all the issues, etc.,

    I submit once again that blogs provide a useful role. Consider an analogy: let’s take something like physical therapy. Through the process, there will be a lot of people who will probably be saying some bad things out of their pain. But it’s better to have them say all those things, get their frustrations out, because they have to experience pain to recover functionality.

    I am very appreciative that you’re coming here to offer suggestions…but I would counter that this is part of the issue. 1) You’re one person, having to come to one blog of all blogs in the Mormon blogging world. How can the solutions you provide be more effective than numerous blogs already up and running and in existence when you personally must come to blogs for many people to even learn about the solutions? 2) Several of your messages don’t “get” blogs. So, you’re trying to assert a better way (the various church-related organizations that you have linked to, yourself via email, etc.,) without truly understanding what the blogs do. This is ironically a tragic reminder for many disaffected persons of what caused them to disaffect from the church anyway: the church claims to be open to suggestions, but it only wants to listen on its own terms. It’s not willing to go out from the ninety and nine and reach the one wherever he or she may be.

    Here’s one thing I think is at odds between the two groups. In comment #98, you write:

    The problem is not everyone in the bloggernacle actively tries to talk to us. They’d just rather post for the public to hear than try to approach us directly when they have feedback to give. I genuinely want to know why that is, and I’d love to know how we can work closer with each person in the bloggernacle. I’m listening, if anyone that is not able to get in touch with us and truly wants to help, would like to work closer with us.

    I’d suggest that what’s at odds here is that many people have a desire for support, whereas the church as an institution has a desire for discretion/privacy. The two are sometimes at odds. People “post for the public” because support is public. Approaching the church singly and individually means that no one’s message will ever be publicly shared — so if I send a message to the church, I have no way of knowing how many other people have that same issue, because the church doesn’t have to tell me. In fact, the church could decide never to help me with my issue, arguing that it doesn’t effect enough people (or whatever)…but there’s no transparency or feel for how many people it affects in the first place.

    So the same publicity of blogs (and I’d argue that the blogs are not as widely read as you might think, even though we do tend to have generous little communities) seems to be anathema to the church’s current ideals.

    This, I will add, is why many of your suggestions from your topic seem to be unsatisfactory for many. For example, LDSTech, LDS Create, and LDS Vineyard each seem to be less ways to offer suggestions for substantive improvements, but ways for members to provide free labor for the church’s predefined programs/marketing/etc., To email you seems less to be a way of getting support and more to be a way for the church to minimize exposure to various issues. (And I will disclaim, when I say “less to be a way of getting support,” I am NOT claiming that you don’t care about helping people. Just that however you want to help, it want to be private, discreet, at the church’s call, etc.,)

    I really think that several commenters on this thread have had good responses (including, but certain not limited to a couple of co-bloggers here at Wheat & Tares, Jeff Spector and hawkgrrrl.)

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  123. Chino Blanco on September 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Mostly, I just hope Wheat & Tares continues to follow the example of Mormon.org by encouraging a diversity of viewpoints and voices:

    http://mormon.org/me/1474/Nikki/

    The message of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign is that Mormons celebrate their diversity. Good on those who do.

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  124. Andrew S on September 12, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Wow, *my* last comment was kinda long.

    Anyway

    re 117,

    chanson,

    I loved that quote when it was at MSP (“I like talking about Mormonism because it’s less stressful than talking about real problems like the economy…”) haha.

    re 118,

    John C,

    awww, thought so.

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  125. Paula on September 12, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Jesse, I can tell you one reason that people shout into the blogosphere instead of taking the Church’s preferred position of addressing it privately and directly with the Church. The Church has a history of shooting the messengers. While more public in the sense that more people can read it, the ability to not have your name and membership out there can be attractive. This is not just in cases where the fear is that the higher ups will punish. The way I understand it, if you thought my feedback about my ward and why I cannot attend it, never mind ask my friends to investigate as they keep sending missionaries to my house to ask me to do, you would communicate with my bishop about it and would not keep my identity confidential. You would not follow up on whether things changed or I simply got blackballed for my efforts. If you did not agree or found my feedback especially threatening, I could get blackballed by SLC. I’ve got little to gain since decades after Bruce R. McConkie admitted to being wrong, our Sunday School teachers are still bringing up the curse of Cain and our leadership refuses to risk “offending” by telling him that is counter to doctrine. Being offended by racism still rearing its ugly head at Church is of little to no concern, I guess. Contrary to what I might gain, I have a lot to lose up until the point where I am so disaffected that you have lost me anyway. Perhaps this might have something to do with the problems of activity rates?

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  126. Glass Ceiling on September 12, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    The active members are foot-soldiers. Church Leadership are the high command. The war has gotten worse; more complicated and costly. Some would say embarrassing. The rules seem to have changed overnight . The enemy is more efficient, and they have new allies.

    The troops, experts that they are, desperately need to get critical information to the top (that Leadership may not yet know) , but the lower and middle brass are not moving the message upward, for whatever reason. And winning the war may well depend on Leadership knowing this detailed information, so obvious to many of the troops…yet seemingly illusive to Leadership from their broadened perspective.

    After pleading with the proper channels for a very long time…and getting nowhere, the troops have to make a hard decision (afterall, a war is on and people are dieing. ) Finally, as a last resort, they send the message up directly, skipping protocol. They do it at the risk pf ridicule and/or punishment for the sake of the higher cause.

    I believe that describes at least some of us

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  127. Glass Ceiling on September 12, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    The enemy in my story is Satan in all his forms. And ya gotta believe he is loving, just loving our longstanding business -as-usual communication problem. I’m sure pride and fear are in his toolbag to keep the machine running smooth and steady into the horizon. .

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  128. Spencer L Jensen on September 13, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    My experience with progressive mormons is usually just that — Strange, and plenty of bedfellows.

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  129. Matthew Crowley on September 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    This is fascinating. Mormonism has such a powerful “in group/out group” dynamic that even apparently progressive members of the “in group” are asking the question whether the line should be drawn somewhere else instead of whether it ought to be drawn at all.

    The problem with this is that regardless of which side of that line you are standing on it objectifies, otherizes and marginalizes whoever didn’t make it into your group. Rather than asking how to move the line so that more people are on your side of it, ask instead whether the line is useful. This is not to say that anyone has to accept anyone else’s doxy or their praxis. It is simply saying we can disagree with respect.

    For example, most people would agree that my ex-mormon status ought not define my relationship with my faithful brothers. The main component of our relationship is that we are brothers. We have shared experiences. Root for some of the same sports teams. Have the same cultural background. Our faith is just one facet of us. On the other extreme are people who we encounter in internet land who we have little in common with apart from a shared interest in a topic, though often from different sides of the issue. But must this disagreement still be the relationship definer? How about a person’s humanity as a commonality? Or how about simply the desire to seek and implement truth? Or how about the desire to do good? These are things most Mo and Ex-mos have in common as desires if we stop long enough to see them in each other.

    In my long experience on message boards and blog, difference works best when there is an understanding that where the other stands in legitimate, whether you agree or not. Having stood on the abyss, I understand why people decide not to step into it. I also know many who have walked up to the end, decided not to step in, but understand why I or anyone would.

    This approach may seem facile to some, but I really don’t think it is. I don’t see any utility any any of the lines proposed in the blog, not so long as we have to include actions as pertain to the church. I have no aspirations for the church apart from desiring that it not do harm, which is no more than I wish for any person or organization. Why not forget about any line? Why not simply engage upon the assumption that we all legitimately desire that people an institutions be and do good? Why must there be a line? Can anyone articulate the utility of this construct?

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  130. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Matthew,

    “These are things most Mo and Ex-mos have in common as desires if we stop long enough to see them in each other.”

    That is the irony. In a perfect, Christ-like world, the line would not exist because those who fully embrace the Savior’s teachings would not allow it to be there. OTHO, the ex-mo crowd has no real motivation for it not to exist in spite of commonly shared experiences. Some are very willing to reach across the aisle, so to speak, others will not.

    But at this time, the bitterness on both sides seem to prevent it.

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  131. Matthew Crowley on September 13, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Jeff,

    Today is yesterday’s latter day. We can make this our paradise planet, if we want to. :)

    I see your point, I’m just encouraging people to ask themselves whether carefully defining groups is useful and whether in their interactions they might not resist the urge to treat someone as one of “them.” That is a very human, very destructive tendency.

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  132. Andrew S on September 13, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    re 129,

    Matthew,

    Deeep comment. My working thoughts are that the in group/out group dynamic also expresses itself in the core language of the group. So, for progressive Mormons to have clout (or myself, writing as a disaffected Mormon/post Mormon for a not-so-disaffected audience) with their conservative brethren, they have to use the language, which distinguishes between in-group/out-group. Even if they want to move everyone to a different sort of language/discourse.

    My post is trying to make the case that we should move to a different kind of language, that grouping based on acceptance of theological claims doesn’t make as much sense as grouping based on desires/goals for actions. (Or, as you put it, “the desire to do good.”) But, as you can see here (or on Facebook), many people on both sides feel strongly about the current language (which puts the line based on acceptance or rejection of theological claims.) And I think that those guys make a decent case for why they make their dividing lines. For example, as I talked to one person, he says he doesn’t want to hash out whether the church is true or not; he believes the church is true (and has reasons for doing so) and then wants to talk about things with people who buy into that. Similarly, some disaffected forums and blogs don’t want to hear people preaching to them about the church, so they establish an area where certain facts about the church are established.

    I think that more generally, at W&T we are far better at avoiding to draw the line than certain other blogs. I also think we are better (but maybe I’m totally wrong) at recognizing that people can *legitimately* disagree and disagreement doesn’t make the other guy an idiot.

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  133. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Andrew S and Matthew,

    “I also think we are better (but maybe I’m totally wrong) at recognizing that people can *legitimately* disagree and disagreement doesn’t make the other guy an idiot.”

    One of the problems here, more so than other disagreements, is the one person believes and the other doesn’t. Inherent in that is a built-in conflict. It isn’t as though they have a differing opinion on how to do something but achieving the same goal.

    This is an ultimate conflict where both parties think the other is wrong. And that wrong, has, in the eyes of one side, eternal consequences. And in the case of faith and religion, it attacks a person to their core. And folks will defend their core to the death.

    so it is just not that simple, I’m afraid.

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  134. Andrew S on September 13, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    re 133,

    Jeff,

    But what I’m saying is that no one ever goes into a conversation here and sticks to one single point BECAUSE of differences in beliefs to the core.

    Maybe it’s because we tend not to debate non-negotiable core positions on doctrine and instead write/talk about fluffier/less essential points.

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  135. Matthew Crowley on September 13, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Jeff,

    I don’t accept that at all. That is something that I encountered all the time when I lived in Utah. Religion matters. One side is right and the other side is wrong. The stakes are really high! But my experience outside of that is totally the opposite. I count among my friends Mormons, ex-Mormons, Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, a Muslim and a Catholic priest. There is not one of them I can’t have a conversation on religion with where anyone feels they need to bare their fangs or have their knives out.

    Yes, it is an “ultimate difference.” So? My point is that no one needs to feel attacked to their core because someone disagrees with them. I agree with you that people do, but I would like to be part of encouraging people to be more mature that that. Part of that solution is not acting offended even when people try to offend you, and certainly not when it isn’t clear if they are.

    My point remains that the line is not useful and should be ignored. I’m not waiting for anyone else to do that, I’m going to go ahead and ignore it. That is all I’m saying any of us should do. If one does not act defensive, it is amazing how quickly an angry person one is in dialog with runs out of steam with respect to their own anger.

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  136. Andrew S on September 13, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Matthew,

    I do have to say, however, that I see where Jeff is coming from. To the extent that you REALLY believe what you’re saying and that you really care about someone else, then you *would* be more willing to bare fangs/have knives out.

    We see this on both Mormon and ex-Mormon sides, on evangelicals who “minister” to Mormons, etc., They are dead serious about their beliefs and because they care, they HAVE to put their energy into trying to convince the other.

    But I agree that if one person disengages/does not escalate the conflict, then things can generally turn out far better than otherwise.

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  137. Matthew Crowley on September 13, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    I don’t think being being aggressive is ever a sign of caring. But if someone else thought differently and got aggressive with me, I wouldn’t take it personally. I don’t take any discussion that relates to religion personally. I understand why others do, but I’m just saying we can all be part of modeling a better approach. Throwing our hands up and saying that the differences are just too big to be civil about seems like an admission to liking the ugly aspect of it. Which obviously lots of people do.

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  138. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Matthew,

    First, let me say that I think Andrew is on to something. We can have a dialog with anyone who does not overly challenge our own belief system in a negative way. One can always have a positive experience if there is respect shown on both sides.

    “If one does not act defensive, it is amazing how quickly an angry person one is in dialog with runs out of steam with respect to their own anger.”

    Anger and defensiveness are key. If the ex-mo in our story just says that the Church was not for him or her, or he or she is not that interested anymore, there is nothing threatening to the other person. but, if the person engages in hyperbole which criticizes the fundamental beliefs of the other, it creates the hostile dialog. the same as in Andrew’s example of the evangelical.

    OTHO, if the TBM comes out charging about flushing eternal life down the tubes to the exmo, there now is problem for the ex-mo side.

    Certainly, people can have peaceful, civil dialog, if they choose to, F2F is a much easier method than in a blog post.

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  139. FireTag on September 13, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    GC:

    “Finally, as a last resort, they send the message up directly, skipping protocol. They do it at the risk pf ridicule and/or punishment for the sake of the higher cause.”

    And then, AFTER the last resort, they ignore the chain of command, listen to the Spirit themselves, and find a place to make their stand for the sake of the higher cause.

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  140. Glass Ceiling on September 13, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    There seem to be two conversations on this thread, and it shows one thing above all else: There are two camps. Those who are active in the Church and still believe things can get better within in, and those who have quit the Church and no longer believe things can improve within it.

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  141. Glass Ceiling on September 13, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    And never the twain shall meet?

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  142. FireTag on September 13, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    GC:

    The second probably never goes back to being the first; the first may succeed in time to avoid becoming the second.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the other’s sincerity and sacrifice.

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  143. hawkgrrrl on September 13, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Glass: “There are two camps. Those who are active in the Church and still believe things can get better within in, and those who have quit the Church and no longer believe things can improve within it.” I think it’s more like a continuum, and yet, I think there are non-believers who think things can get better in the church and believers who doubt that the institutional church will make improvements. The former may be optimistic activists. The latter focus on the distinction between the gospel itself and the practicalities of a large organization fraught with human frailties. I don’t think we’re that different really. The line between hope and doubt is a fine one.

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  144. Matthew Crowley on September 13, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Jeff,

    One of the teachings of Jesus I love is never to give anyone else control over how you are going to react to them. Or as he said it, if someone steals your coat give him your cloak also. If he makes you walk a mile with him, walk two. And if he hits you on one cheek, well, you the rest.

    I understand that someone who comes out swinging is tough to not react to emotionally and negatively. But next time someone does, give it a try. Not only does it feel good, it is effective advocacy.

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  145. Jeff Spector on September 14, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    Matthew,

    You are clearly an exception to the rule and I applaud you for it.

    In the ideal sense, we should act exactly as you have said. I think I said the same thing above. A true follower of Christ would do that, no matter what.

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  146. Daniel on September 14, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    A little late here, but I wanted to add a few comments to what Jesse stated above, knowing full well he may have moved on to greener, more fertile pastures:

    There are ways to pitch in and have an impact on the direction of the Church. The Church won’t change its doctrines (except through revelation), but it will change its processes to support those doctrines.

    This is certainly the “company line,” but I highly doubt there’s much credibility behind this statement. I’m not trying to be snarky, but the church has changed “doctrines” many times over the years. Certainly some attempts have been made to whitewash some of those areas, but one of the more public (if not the most public) issues was the whole doctrinal justifications for restricting blacks from the Priesthood. It’s hard to call what happened there merely a change in how “its processes” supported those doctrines. As I recall, there was a very, very hard line on the doctrinal ban at the time. It’s not that changes don’t occur, but rather how glacially quick the changes come about.

    If it is the Gospel message, the Church is never going to change that. That’s our crown jewels. Take it or leave it – what’s in the scriptures is in the scriptures, and what is lead by revelation is lead by revelation.

    I’m not sure the intent of this comment, but prefacing something with a “take it or leave it” implies that the Church owns the gospel message. Many, many members leave or disassociate from the church while maintaining their belief in the gospel. The fact that the Church™ can even pretend ownership of the gospel is troublesome.

    I can assure you they are well suited for the job, and definitely lead by revelation.

    Would you care to share any of this revelation? Where is it being recorded? Do members have access to read, study and pray over the same (per the D&C requirements laid out)?

    how can we provide the technology so that our members aren’t having to shout out this feedback on their own blogs, but rather instead can interact in an environment where both the Church and members genuinely interested in helping are listening to each other (where it is appropriate).

    The issue I take with this thought is mainly because the premise of this statement suggests that those who blog shouldn’t air any dirty laundry about the church in any public venues. This appears to be little more than an attempt at correlating members in public spheres. Personally, I couldn’t care less if the Church had the technology available to create a feedback channel, there is value to be had in discussing these issues outside the bounds or confines of an institution. Spirituality isn’t confined to some box, nor should discussion of gospel ideas or principles be restricted to Church™ approved spheres.

    The problem is not everyone in the bloggernacle actively tries to talk to us. They’d just rather post for the public to hear than try to approach us directly when they have feedback to give.

    Should everyone in the bloggernacle actively try to talk with you? Why should anyone really approach you directly? The Church hasn’t been very approachable in past years (early 1990s, for instance), or even recently. The Church dictates a hard line of conformity which presupposes that feedback is useless, or at the very least faithless. Members who don’t fall in line with appeals at conformity are frequently marginalized at Church and leave feeling as though they have no other place to turn. Appealing to some technological forum simply doesn’t appeal to them. If the Church was really serious about a two-way street of feedback, freely flowing both directions, then the Church would do something about hard line local leaders who squash, reprimand or control members into a form of orthodoxy. If the Church was really sincere about this feedback channel, then the average member at the local level would feel open enough to share thoughts, questions, concerns and the like at the local level. The mere fact that members turn to the internet is evidence of these issues. Whether it’s for anonymity or simply for an arena to ask questions, the control exercised at the local level is where the feedback channel is most often irreparably damaged.

    I’m still not convinced that just complaining on a blog accomplishes anything other than contention and confusion though. Does it really bring people closer to Christ? Does it really fix the problems at hand in the most effective manner? Does it build the Kingdom in any way?

    Yes, it absolutely does… The ability to openly discuss, question, research, and collaborate without fear of local reprimand is what is driving the blogosphere, in my opinion. I would love to have my local meetings free of control of thought, but it simply isn’t possible with the overly correlated lesson material. We don’t go to Church™ to learn anymore, but rather to be told what to believe. Discussion doesn’t happen, questions don’t get answered (and, worse, are frowned upon). The kingdom gets built more on open inquiry and tolerance than it does on a closed canon and local inquisitions.

    I’d love for these issues to be restricted to local problems, but the chain of command almost necessitates that it ventures upward. Most, if not all, questions that are logged at the local level are rebuffed first by local, prying members and second by local leaders. When sufficient answers aren’t received at the local level, the next natural place of inquiry is the internet. Members have been told for years that they are to discuss any question they have with local leaders, and local leaders only. Upper leadership is simply too busy to deal with any question from the pauper crowd. Therefore when a member gets put off by local leaders and members, they turn to the internet crowd. When you, and other church leaders, deem this as merely wanting to cause “contention and confusion,” it merely muddies the water and pushes many members further away from the institution. Most members who turn to blogs do so because there is no other safe venue to turn to, or because their spiritual needs aren’t being met at the highly correlated local level. Orthodoxy is sufficiently ensconced within local wards and stakes such that any unorthodox view is immediately cast as apostasy, faithless and rife with deception.

    So, yes, it does fix things in the most effective manner that I can see because any other manner is couched in legalistic hierarchies which are extremely ill-prepared for such issues. Until local leadership is told to stop chasing off, reprimanding or scolding unorthodox members, and until orthodox members are told to stop being so judgmental of unorthodox members, I have little faith in any real change happening.

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  147. [...] the same time, Andrew S. was leading a discussion on this blog on how and why various progressives in the LDS church joined together or fractured in their [...]

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