Fortresses or Keeps: What are we Mormons building online?

By: Andrew S
June 20, 2012

Come late July, I will be flying to Utah. My first pilgrimage to the Mormon Mecca will actually be to attend Sunstone for the first time (which, I guess is not so much of a Mormon Mecca, depending on whom you ask…perhaps we should call it the everything-but-orthodox Mormon Mecca?) There, I will be able to verify that many of the people whom I previously suspected of existing only as appendages to the internet are actually human beings, and likewise, others will be able to verify that I am, indeed, a dog. Even better, while I’m meeting people in person for the first time, I’ll be able to talk about one of my favorite blogging topics, for I have been invited to participate in a panel on the ways that online Mormon communities create boundaries. Hawkgrrrl covered this topic a bit yesterday, so I hope you aren’t burnt out on the discussion (and I hope that I can provide something new to the table anyway.)

What drives this post is two posts that Bruce Nielson wrote regarding community boundary maintenance (and his explanation of why he is declining to attend Sunstone.) In the first post, a couple of the major sections (at least, to me) were as follows — these are selections from his response to Chanson from Main Street Plaza:

First of all, you think Nothing Wavering is the “super conservative end” of the Mormon blogs. This alone means you’ve bought into a certain view of how the communities are split up that I believe to be inaccurate. My feeling is that ‘conservative and liberal’ aren’t always meaningful ways to describe the communities as they currently exist. My views is that all of the communities are actually broken up by which of three rough groups that community has created a ‘safe zone’ for – believing, ‘questioning’ (sometimes non-believing, but that is considered a bad word), or ex/anti Mormons.

For example, you can easily find people that would rightly be called ‘conservative’ on what you called ‘the core bloggernacle.’ In fact there are quite a few highly conservative people on the ‘core bloggernacle.’ But the one trait I perceive they will always have in common is a willingness to make a “safe zone” for “questioning members.” And I believe the desire to make such a safe zone is often very well intended. But I think it also often comes at the expense of some believing members. (Though these communties may not be aware they are losing such people since they show up a few times and then disappear aftering finding hostility towards their more “conservative” views.)

I believe the reverse is true of Nothing Wavering. There are many ‘questioners’ that participate on the Nothing Wavering community, but they always share one thing in common — willingness (at least while on Nothing Wavering) to create a safe zone for all believing members. But both of these communities can be very hard on anti or post Mormons unless they [the antis] are willing to severely temper themselves and enforce the safe zone that is in place. Meanwhile, the anti/ex community has created a safe zone for anti/exs, etc.

Now I am actually very optimistic on all this. My feeling is that it’s actually possible to have your cake and eat it too here. I believe we can both form communities around various safe zones while ‘cross talking’ with each other. For example, I’d love to see M* and BCC or W&T or Sunstone all post about each others’ posts/articles and critique each other. But perhaps we’re not ready for this just yet. And I haven’t had the energy to do it myself as of yet. But I look forward to that happening some day.

Responding to his comments in reverse order, I will say that this post (and Hawkgrrrl’s before it) probably matches Bruce’s ideal of “cross talking”…and I do like the idea of the various blogs responding to each other’s posts. Just as interesting is Bruce’s model of safe zones, and of the potential for safe zones to alienate those outside of the target “safe” audience. But the question I had on my mind was: must safe zones necessarily exclude others on the content of their beliefs?

When I read Bruce’s second post, which was actually a response to a poll that wheatmeister posted earlier, those same questions — as well as some others — came to mind. “Do 52% of the Wheat and Tares Community Admit They No Longer Believe?” Bruce provocatively asks, based on a poll that asks whether someone would join the church now if they were being introduced to it to the first time. His reasoning, as per his post:

My guess is that there is nothing to explain for the 52%. They like W&T precisely because if makes them feel safe compared to, say, going to Church. And there are probably many faithful Mormons that have tried W&T and abandoned it silently, thus allowing a majority of unbelief to become the majority…

…I think respecting a communities value-boundaries is something a community must demand for itself if it wants to keep it’s community. And with the majority of that community no longer believing, there will be some limits on what W&T can post about regularly that someone like me is likely to feel frustrated with.

These comments make sense, and both this post and his previous one help to flesh out Bruce’s model of communities. It goes something like this, if I understand him correctly:

  1. Communities are based on the issues, topics, perspectives, or questions that are considered — either explicitly or implicitly — to be safe or worthy of protection. (From the second post, Bruce writes that he thinks that “safe zones” may be “almost the definition of a community.”)
  2. Communities cannot violate their safe zone with frequency, or they’ll risk destroying their community.
  3. Cross-talking, because it is not a frequent intrusion to a community, can be a way that communities can preserve their identity while entertaining other issues, topics, perspectives, or questions.

I want to address these three points in time, but first, I want to take a detour and address what seems to be more specific assertion Bruce is making in his second post. So, Bruce points out that he is “not entirely comfortable at W&T.” But he doesn’t take this as personal insult; it’s just not his community. And the reason it’s not his community is because our community is (according to him) mostly nonbelievers, while he is a believer. His evidence? 52% answered a poll saying they would not convert if they were introduced to the church for the first time!

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I‘m sure Bruce doesn’t mean to misinterpret our earlier poll, but to me, he is making a big stretch. From the fact that 52% of poll respondents answered “No way” to the question of whether they would join the church if they heard about it recently for the first time, it simply does not follow that that means that these 52% of respondents “no longer believe.” I’ll sum things up with Hawkgrrrl’s response comment:

I am firmly in the I don’t know camp. Would I recognize the value in the church without being raised in it? I have at times wondered if it wasn’t for the best that I was raised in it because I would probably find all religion off-putting if I hadn’t been. Then again, I do find some aspects of Mormonism inherently attractive to the point that it might have interested me as an outsider.

Again, I’m sure Bruce doesn’t mean to purposefully misinterpret the poll, but it seems to me that there are quite a few *reasonably likely* interpretations of the deeper issues behind the poll that he either did not consider, or (mistakenly) considered to be implausible. Two such deeper questions the poll is (or at least reasonably could be assumed to be) asking: Do you believe in your own ability to discern the value of the church? Do you believe in the church’s ability to accurately depict its value through the missionary program? So, I disagree with Bruce’s conclusion. I think he makes a fantastically controversial headline, but it’s got to be taken with a lot of salt. …but to me, the fun part comes in playing what if. So, what if 52% of Wheat & Tares’ audience “no longer believes”? How does that work?

Testing Bruce’s Model

Personally, I find the 52% figure interesting. Even if it made sense to say that 52% equates to the percentage of people who do not believe in the church, that is not the ideological landslide that Bruce is thinking of. Notwithstanding what people say about Prop 8′s passage rate or President Obama’s margin of victory, 52% does not a mandate make. (I will nuke this site if this discussion derails into a political debate about either Obama or Prop 8. Y’all have been warned; thanks and gig’em!) 52% is a number that can be flexible…on a scale, 52% doesn’t represent one side overbearing the other; it could represent a scale that could still seesaw the other way to balance.

If we are able to have around a 50/50 split (and I know…really, the poll wasn’t 50/50, since there was the “I don’t know” option…), then that to me suggests quite interesting things. (Keep in mind that tipping points can require far less than a majority…) Belief, as it were, can coexist pretty flexibly with unbelief. I’m not quite saying that this means that Bruce’s first point regarding communities is wrong or contradicted. What I’m doing is what Bruce himself did: Bruce protested the division of the online Mormon communities based on “conservative and liberal.” I similarly challenge the division of the online communities in terms of believing or nonbelieving. So, then, what issues, topics, perspectives, or questions might we be privileging then, if it is not belief, or nonbelief, or liberality, or conservatism? I think Hawkgrrrl started this conversation well in her post, but that gets me back to a question I thought about earlier

Must safe zones necessarily exclude folks on the content of their beliefs?

For this, I thought of two related, yet connotatively different concepts: the fortress and the keep.

Fort Bourtange

When I think of “safe zones,” both fortresses and keeps come to mind. But there is a meaningful difference between the two that I think can be illustrative. The fortresss, for example, keeps a certain group safe, but it does so by actively keeping others out.

It seems to me that explicit comment moderation and banning policies often approach things from a fortress perspective. Even if you want to participate in a site, if you are perceived as an enemy, you won’t be let in the gates. (Or past the moat.)

The Keep

The Red KeepIn contrast to a fortress, when I think of a keep, I think of the safe zone as emphasizing keeping people in. (Interestingly enough, while the Red Keep was the location that the privileged nobility stayed to hold out from the attack on King’s Landing in the second season of Game of Thrones, the term keep apparently overcame previous usage of the term “donjon,” from which we derive our modern dungeon. Dungeons incidentally happen to be safe zones that operate by keeping people inside them as well.)

Perhaps the more implicit styles of comment moderation can be considered in light of this “keep” perspective — if you don’t fit in to a particular community, you may not be shut out of gates, but you won’t want to stay in castle keep. Additionally, those within the community may sometimes be encouraged to defend each other (or at least, give a fellow community member benefit of the doubt).

It seems to me that both fortresses and keeps have their uses…but at the end of the day, I still wonder what I am trying to protect.

Some folks think it is a liberal/progressive political ideology. Bruce thinks it may be certain axioms of questioning and non-believing Mormons.

…As I’ve thought about the reasons that I blog, I realized that I blog to be challenged. I understand I am not perfect here — I recognize fully that there are probably countless beliefs I hold that I have not thought about deeply, that I have not critically assessed. Furthermore, since I’m hardheaded, I understand that someone could tell me a thousand times where they think I’m being uncritical, and I probably won’t be able to see what they are talking about.

Yet…what I’ve found is that occasionally, someone can say things in just the right way to make me look at things differently. Even if I don’t change my opinion, I’ll know that there are different opinions and things aren’t so simple. I find that challenge can come from all across the spectrum — sometimes people whom I am close to theologically don’t really challenge me, and sometimes those who believe very differently than me are most fascinating because of that difference.

In this sense, I feel like I break down safe zones, rather than create them. I’m not building a fortress or a keep. This is the open field, the city marketplace. Even though I continue to make a nuisance of myself, even though I continue to challenge, play devil’s advocate, critique, question, and re-question, I feel like the point of a community is not necessarily agreeing, but respecting my fellow community members enough that even when we disagree, we will commit to consider one another’s thoughts. Similarly, in the marketplace, we may not buy each others’ wares, but what’s important is that this space provides access for people to share those wares, and that we resist monopolization. (OK, let’s not derail to economics…)

To me, then, the ideal that I want to aspire to isn’t to be nonbelieving or anti, or even to be believing or orthodox, but to try to create a space where I can talk to all of the above with respect.

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34 Responses to Fortresses or Keeps: What are we Mormons building online?

  1. Jake on June 20, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    I love this: “In this sense, I feel like I break down safe zones, rather than create them. I’m not building a fortress or a keep. This is the open field, the city marketplace.”

    Ultimately I think that in a true democratic culture there should be no safe zones or controlled domains for discussion. Simply because they shouldn’t be needed -everyone should feel able, and free to comment, discuss, and debate everything within all areas and domains. For this to work, however, it requires people to have respect for and take other peoples views seriously. Discussion breaks down when people feel threatened or attacked for their views. Fences are only constructed when we are defending ourselves.

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 20, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    I am trying to get thought. The problem is that with too much nuance and balance all that seems to occur is a “huh?” response.

    So, rather than endorsing or attacking SSM I would like to discuss the arguments qua arguments.

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  3. Will on June 20, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    From the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson

    “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, (ANDREW). 14% of people know that.”

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  4. hawkgrrrl on June 20, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    To a hammer, everything is a nail. I would really love a report out on how your Sunstone session goes. It’s an interesting topic, but I don’t feel like I have concrete answers. I go to a site (such as a few mentioned above) with the mindset of entering an open marketplace. Sometimes I encounter a bouncer or a guard or I just get ignored by that community or worse – misunderstood – and I know that’s not my posse. I don’t think that’s about safe zones actually. I think that’s about the mother ship calling you home.

    But I do see “safe zones” happening here and there. At StayLDS (where a couple of us also admin), it’s clearly moderated to create a safe zone. People who have doubts are safe to express them without fear of judgment. But it’s not acceptable to tear down faith or to encourage people to quit the church.

    Community is extremely important, but there has to be a balance with reaching out to others also and being inclusive. Some communities want to vet members and be exclusive. Others want people to self-select. Some allow the community to welcome or not welcome people organically and naturally. I’ve seen the church be all 3 of those. I’ve seen LDS blogs be all those different styles.

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  5. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    I get a little lost in the nuance and I’m pretty sure we don’t understand the frame of reference differences very well. But I think you could move towards a solution by partnering with M to allow the two different communities to post cross comments and/or parallel comments on the same or similar topics as viewed by each perspective. An M article could appear on both M and W&T and visa versa or M and W&T authors could collaborate on a topic to present it differently in each venue but timed to be published at the same time.

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  6. Adam G. on June 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    I see what you’re getting at, but at the margins its sociologically quite naive. It rules out a large swath of beliefs that I think are pretty important, because they way people work they are incompatible with being discussed neutrally. For example, the proposition that child rape is unthinkable entails that it can’t be discussed neutrally. There’s a decent amount of psychology literature on this.

    It also makes presumptions about what discussion is for that are too narrow. It assumes that community exists for the sake of discussion, whereas discussion also exists to create a community. It takes the paradoxical position that discussion to learn and seek truth is an end in itself, whereas by definition the end there is knowledge and truth.

    Its also bad economics. One, its opportunity cost. The time you spent discussing X is not time you can spend discussing Y or even doing something worthwhile that isn’t discussion at all. If you try to discuss everything, you’ll probably end up with a pretty scattershot forum where the presence of deep and meaningful conversation is pretty haphazard. Two, it creates inefficiencies. If I want to know more about the implications of premise Y, I should probably seek conversations with people who share that premise. Debating premise Y, or discussing X, is inefficient. Communities with special focuses or identities are efficient. There’s a reason that the internet and even Mormonish bloggers have sorted themselves out, and its not because people are nuts.

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  7. Andrew S on June 20, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    re 1,

    Jake,

    I guess the really tricky thing is that mutual respect isn’t something that just happens. So, even if the goal is to have “no…controlled domains for discussion,” in order for people to feel comfortable with that, we still may have to moderate…not necessarily for content, but for things like dismissive tone, etc.,

    re 2,

    Stephen,

    I’m trying to think…what if instead of perfect “balance” and “nuance,” we just had people who have real positions (that aren’t smack dab in the middle) writing about those positions..? The balance, then, isn’t from any one person (necessarily), but from the dialogue between the group.

    re 3

    Will,

    I recall that something like 82% of all statistics are made up on the spot…

    re 4

    hawkgrrrl,

    There absolutely will be Sunstone reports. And if there are videos or whatever, I’ll be able to point people in that direction.

    …but yeah, I can understand that different communities may have different goals, and as a result, it’s good that there are different sites. So it’s good that StayLDS has the rules it has, because I don’t think it would be as effective in reaching its goals otherwise…similarly for other sites and ocmmunities. I’m just thinking that the existence separate communities with particular needs shouldn’t invalidate or make impossible the idea of a community that reaches across…

    re 5

    Howard,

    I think an arrangement like you described would be really neat.

    re 6

    Adam G,

    Thanks so much for your comment!

    I guess, to ask questions about each of your angles…

    1) Sociological: I can see how there would be several topics that can’t be discussed neutrally…but is neutrality necessary for communication? Why couldn’t it be several groups with strong opinions communicating with each other (rather than amongst themselves?)

    I guess I would have to check out the psychology literature, because I mean, it seems reasonable that there may be some issues that are “unthinkable” for us…but I dunno…it seems to me that most of us would like to think that our positions — even our mostly strongly held ones — are well-thought out. (And yeah, I know the psychological literature definitely points out that we are not as smart as we’d like to think on that issue). If that is the case (or if it is at least the case that we don’t want to admit that our positions — even the most strongly held ones — are in an “unthinkable” space), then I think conversation should still be possible.

    I don’t think most instances of beliefs are like the child rape one, but supposing they are…this is how it might go. So, suppose I strongly oppose child rape. I would, at the very least, like to say that the strength of my opposition to it is explicable (even if ultimately, the psychology may suggest that it’s not really explicable at all.) So, if there should happen to be someone who supports this activity, then we can at the very least pit reasons against reasons. We wouldn’t be neutral, and I probably would find the reasons absolutely foreign and abominable, but I can still have that discussion.

    2) On narrow presumptions: I think I’ll need more clarification on what you’re trying to say here. Perhaps you could provide examples of not-as-narrow presumptions about what discussion is for, so I can compare/contrast?

    3) Economically: I think at this level, then we could probably say that everything we do on the internet isn’t worthwhile. But we do it because we enjoy it — our enjoying it makes it worthwhile.

    That being said, your point about inefficiencies is well taken. I understand that if you already accept premise Y and want to take the second step (what’s the one journal called? “Square Two”?), then you’d probably want to go to a community where premise Y is shared and accepted.

    So I’m not saying that there can’t be communities based on folks who already accept premise Y, or who specialize in X. But I think it depends on what you consider “deep” and “meaningful” conversation…so, if we can consider premise Y a foundation for a building, and we consider “the implications of premise Y” or “where we can go, assuming Y” to be stories built up from the building foundation, then you could view the height of the Y building as being like the depth of conversation.

    …but I think there’s an alternative way to look at these things…by keeping premises on the table for discussion, you might discover adverse implications of Premise Y (from those who do not believe in Premise Y because of A, B, and C adverse implications.) As a result, you can always modify your foundation, which should be “deep” conversation in itself…but also, you will have more insight as to where to go when building up from the premise (if you stick with it as is.)

    So, ultimately, if I were going to give a pejorative connotation to why the internet and Mormon bloggers have sorted themselves out, it would not be “because people are nuts.” It would probably be more like it’s “because people underestimate what they can learn from other traditions” or something like that.

    I guess, on the economics/opportunity cost front, I’d be more comfortable if people said, “I understand there’s a lot I could learn from you, but with my limited time, I would just rather prefer to learn from people closer to my thinking on X or Y” rather than “There’s not that much I can learn from you, because you’re so different. So I will learn from people closer to my thinking on X or Y, because it’s not really possible for me to get as much from you.”

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  8. Adam G. on June 20, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    You’re missing the point on the sociological/psychological front. As a matter of observed fact, treating something as a proper subject for discussion legitimizes it to a certain extent. So if my position is that child rape is wholly wrong and should not be legitimized to any extent, I should be against discussing it. There are ways of having discussion that don’t grant some de facto legitimacy to both sides, but these ways of having discussion look very much like if not identical to the techniques that establish ‘safe communities.’ The ideas can be discussed, but with disclaimers and other social cues, for instance.

    A non-neutral discussion sounds like a meaningless concept to me. If its non-neutral you’re not discussing, you’re fighting or browbeating. Or to the extent such a thing can exist, it probably looks something like BN’s safe communities concept again: there are social cues and other factors that hobble one viewpoint or otherwise neuter it.

    Your economics discussion has all sorts of assumptions baked into it, the primary ones being that I’m only tentatively convinced about premise Y (so I think its in need of refinement) or that I think debating premise Y with people who think Not Y is the best way to refine Y. Both assumptions look pretty contestable to me.

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  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 20, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I’m trying to think…what if instead of perfect “balance” and “nuance,” we just had people who have real positions (that aren’t smack dab in the middle) writing about those positions..? The balance, then, isn’t from any one person (necessarily), but from the dialogue between the group.

    That is an excellent way to explore things. Especially for me as I am far from perfection

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  10. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    So let’s not discuss child rape or what to do about it and maybe it will go away! We wouldn’t want to encourage more of it by discussing it!

    It is my observation that some who hold a strongly orthodox or strongly conservative views strongly prefer to not have their frame of references challenged only supported.

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  11. chanson on June 20, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Personally, I brought up “safe zones” (for faith) as a discussion point to start with on MSP because it was mentioned by both Bruce and J. Max. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily the most significant or most interesting distinction among communities.

    The one that I was going to bring up was the same one I mentioned in the couple of sentences I used as the description of the panel: the power struggle.

    There’s no question about whether people who are the most faithful/orthodox members of the CoJCoL-dS should be considered qualified to represent it. But the less positive membership cred you have, the less authority you have to speak on the subject.

    Everybody knows that the #2 brand can benefit from comparing itself to the #1 brand, and the #1 brand is better off just pretending like no other brands exist. In a similar way, the people with the biggest microphone have nothing to gain from sharing it with marginalized voices that they don’t agree with, whereas the marginalized voices have everything to gain from insisting that everyone be allowed to have their say.

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  12. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    How does discussing it legitimize child rape? I don’t see it! What would the result be?

    Strongly orthodox or strongly conservative positions are threatened by change. They like, support and defend the status quo which is an absolute because they currently have it. They dislike discussing anything heterodox or liberal because it might legitimize those concepts and they have nothing to gain from the discussion and may have something to loose from it or legitimizing those issues which might threaten them in the future.

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  13. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Threatened and selfish they use closed mindedness as a defense!

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  14. Adam G. on June 20, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Chanson,
    that’s a worthy point.

    Howard,
    your last comment is schizophrenic. You dispute that discussion has any legitimization effects and then excoriate us close-minded scaredy cats for refusing to allow other viewpoints any legitimacy through discussion.

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  15. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Adam G,
    How does discussing child rape legitimize it? legitimize it in what way. What would the undesirable result be of legitimizing it?

    Schizophrenic? #13 was a simply a conclusion derived from #12. If #12 doesn’t explain it, please, explain it!

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  16. Andrew S on June 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    I will definitely have to respond more in detail later, but…

    re 12 and 13,

    Howard,

    I’m not really following you, either. Can you comment without making blanket statements about “strongly orthodox or strongly conservative positions,” being “threatened by change”? I mean, maybe you could make your point in a better way, but this way isn’t it.

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  17. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    Andrew,
    Sure, according to Wikipedia Orthodoxy is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds especially in religion and Conservatism “promotes retaining traditional institutions and supports, at most, minimal and gradual change in society.” In other words they both revere the status quo and therefore one assumes and often observes oppose change. So what happens when you upset the status quo by introducing significant change or even discuss the possibility of introducing change to the status quo? Don’t they consciously or subconsciously feel threatened and defend the status quo? Based on my relationships with many in those camps, some of whom I love very much, I think they do! This is how I see them respond. Of course, I may be wrong so I asked Adam G. to explain it if I am.

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  18. Adam G. on June 20, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    If you are saying that people who prefer the status quo prefer not to change the status quo I think you are right definitionally.

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  19. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Sure, but that’s only part of it. It also appears they don’t want to risk loosing (threatened?) some of the status quo they enjoy (selfish?) either now or in the future by having discussions on topics that might not benefit their position so they don’t (defense).

    Obviously that is how I derived #13.

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  20. Heber13 on June 20, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    “To me, then, the ideal that I want to aspire to isn’t to be nonbelieving or anti, or even to be believing or orthodox, but to try to create a space where I can talk to all of the above with respect.”

    I think it is easy to talk TO either camp with respect. The hard part is not knowing their reaction, or how they’ll talk back…to which, you have no control.

    I think part of the longevity of the church came from an isolationist/fortress-like move to the west. Realistically, it seems fortresses are sometimes needed. It would be nice if that wasn’t needed, and peacefully living in Nauvoo was an option for the church…but wouldn’t that have been naive?

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  21. hawkgrrrl on June 20, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    Chanson – “There’s no question about whether people who are the most faithful/orthodox members of the CoJCoL-dS should be considered qualified to represent it.” Actually, I do question this. For example, we’d rather hear positive things about Mormonism from outside scholars than from Mormon scholars. One non-LDS scholar stating that the BOM has value (let alone any historicity) would be worth ALL the LDS scholars’ views on the same. Likewise I believe articulate ex-Mormons who are friendly to the church do a far better job bridging the gap with a non-LDS audience than do currently active members. Impartiality creates credibility. Ex-Mormons who criticize are suspect just as insiders who praise are. It’s when people discuss against their own interests or when they have no dog in the fight that the conversation is most useful and lucid.

    Going back to this horrid analogy of discussing child rape, there’s a huge difference between psychologists or sociologists discussing it and convicted pedophiles or law enforcers discussing it.

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  22. [...] This morning, my latest article of many in which I gaze at my internet-community-attending escapades went up at Wheat and Tares: Fortresses and Keeps – What are we Mormons building online? [...]

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  23. Howard on June 20, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    “There’s no question about whether people who are the most faithful/orthodox members of the CoJCoL-dS should be considered qualified to represent it.” Perhaps the church with the exceptions noted by hawkgrrrl, but not the gospel as Christ demonstrated with the Pharisees.

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  24. chanson on June 21, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    @21 and @23: I agree. My comment was unclear — I meant that there’s no question on this point for a lot of people inside and outside the CoJCoL-dS. Personally, I would say that there’s no question that the most orthodox are qualified to speak about one important face of the CoJCoL-dS, but that to get a complete picture requires viewing it from more angles than that.

    I also agree that friendly, articulate ex-Mormons can do a good job of bridging the communication gap. That was essentially the thesis of the article I wrote for Free Inquiry.

    However, I’m a little unclear on the rest of your first paragraph @21. It seems like you’re saying that outsider voices are helpful/legitimate only inasmuch as they bolster the CoJCoL-dS’s image and truth claims. That’s not what you’re saying, is it?

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  25. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 21, 2012 at 7:27 AM

    Hawk, you beat me to the point. Discussing things often makes for real progress.

    Take child abuse. It was literally unthinkable for some — to the extent that there was a huge lack of protection or law. That was changed by discussion. It did not make it legitimate. It just made it clearly criminal — something we would all agree with.

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  26. Adam G. on June 21, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Ethesis,

    what was being discussed was whether and how it happened. So discussion only legitimated the notion that it occurred and how it occurred. It didn’t legitimate child abause itself. This is entirely different from a discussion of “Child abuse, is it right for you? Experts weigh the pros and cons.”

    Methinks this comment thread is validating my argument. Folks are more interested with agreeing with each other on the benefits of dialogue than with engaging with opposing viewpoints. In making their argments, they are enacting mine.

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  27. Howard on June 21, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    If your default preference is strongly the status quo have you considered what you are defaulting to? The status quo has no monopoly on truth or being right! Now if I were orthodox LDS and strongly conservative opposing what I just wrote I would say something like; it’s defaulting to the the gospel restored by Joseph and to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the great form of government created by men who were inspired by God! But it’s really defaulting to Brighamites rather than Josephites which brought change. And this great nation came into being by way of revolution, hardly status quo and it’s form of government clearly provided for change or it would have failed long ago! Also what about our conservative brothers and sisters who are citizens of other nations what are they defaulting to?

    Is it really a considered preference for the best or is it aversion to change in general? See, I think it is a form of control (well, actually the illusion of control) partly by aligning with authority and also a strong aversion to change fueled by a willful lack of discussion, introspection and examination. But I could be wrong, what do you think it is?

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  28. Julia on June 21, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Can I just say that anyone who lives in Oregon or is coming through the Mt Hood area is welcome to come over for breakfast/lunch/dinner and a good discussion, no matter where you fall on any particular political or spiritual persuasion?

    I think that anyone who is interested in having the kinds of discussion we have here, whether we agree or not, is someone I would love to talk to, outside of a church class or activity. That doesn’t mean that I categorize as anti-Mormon, conservative Mormon, believing or disbelieving of any particular thing. I don’t want an argument, but I would love an honest discussion, some good food and the chance to find friends outside of my ward boundaries.

    So, coming this way? Give me a shout out! My only request is that our conversation use language that in PG if the kids are around. ;-)

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  29. Howard on June 21, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Adam G.
    You probably know from prior comments on other threads that I respect your intellect even though we often disagree. However, regarding your second paragraph in #26 in an attempt to understand your view point I repeatedly asked: How does discussing child rape legitimize it? legitimize it in what way? What would the undesirable result be of legitimizing it? Please answer.

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  30. An Imperfect Saint on June 21, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Adam #26
    I have to say that I do find that conversations about some topics can be validating to the people who defend it, even if it is generally deemed less than acceptable. I think how we sent up the conversation is important though. Here is an example that I think might be relevant.

    Pornography – We can talk about this topic in many ways, I would like to contrast two of those ways.

    1) You could put up a post that has several examples of pornography in the post, links to multiple sites that have a variety of forms of pornography, and then ask questions about which things people think are okay or not.

    2) Someone could share their experiences with pornography, good or bad, and then ask people to share their own experiences, worries or fears about how pornography effects themselves or other people they have known.

    Each approach brings a totally different conversation, and each approach gives a different level of acceptance or legitimacy to pornography through the way it is framed.

    I am not saying we avoid any particular topic, but I do think that the way something is framed can make a huge difference in how a group or society discusses it.

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  31. Hit and Miss | Times & Seasons on June 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    [...] What are we Mormons building online? by Andrew S at Wheat and Tares. Kinda longish, but it’s always worth reflecting a bit on the nature and function of LDS online communities. Apparently Sunstone is going to kick this around at an upcoming panel. It would be nice if a solid Bloggernacler showed up on the panel to defend our turf. [...]

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  32. [...] SiOB, I’ll try and read all of the discussion threads — here they are for reference: Fortresses or Keeps, Declining Sunstone and Bloggernacle “Safe Zones”, Declining Sunstone: An Argument [...]

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  33. [...] why I am trying to do something different at Wheat & Tares — as I wrote a while back, I try to shatter safe zones, much to the chagrin of folks who are really hurting who feel I may be giving voice for their [...]

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  34. [...] Andrew S reviewed my past posts on both declining Sunstone and also on whether or not W&T was mostly non-believers. [...]

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