What Has Changed?

I entered the world of online Mormon discussions at about this time 4 years ago.  It was shortly after visiting the Newport Beach Temple.  Upon returning home my wife promptly fired up the internet to find out all the sacrets that our tour guide wasn’t allowed to tell us.  That lead me to not only learn those sacrets but to discover a dearth of information concerning a fascinating topic I thought I already knew a lot about (but didn’t).  I haven’t learned everything I know about Mormonism from the internet, but certainly most of it.  I used to spend a great deal of time at FAIR, and then Ex-Mormon.org. Then after having a bad taste in my mouth from both places I played around a little bit on the MySpace Mormonism forums and then dove into the blogging world. (for a more complete history of my life with Mormons, check out my series: Me & Mormons)

I have noticed some changes since I started hanging out on the web with Mormons. The change I have seen has been how Mormon history is discussed.  When I first started blogging, I made a decision to not focus on Mormon history as much as possible.  It was being done elsewhere and the tone of the discussion didn’t seem all that fruitful for what I was after.  It used to be that discussions on Mormon history where a back and forth about what the facts really were, mostly focusing on Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy, Brigham Young’s teaching of the Adam-God doctrine, the Mountain Meadow Massacre and translation methods of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.  Now those facts are for the most part pretty much agreed upon.   The discussion has instead turned to “does it matter”.  The conversation has become about theology rather than history.

Occasionally you’ll find an odd nut attempting to claim that Joseph wasn’t a polygamist, but when that happens both Mormons and Non-Mormons come at them with the same ammo and knowing smirk on their faces.

If I had to say there was one thing that changed the focus of the discussion on the internet it was Rough Stone Rolling.  Bushman provided a faithful Mormon voice to the same things that Non-Mormons had been saying for quite some time.  He gave Mormons permission to own their history rather than being forced to repudiate it.  I’d say very few of us involved in these discussions have actually read the book, but it gave us a common source to point to and agree with.

If I had to say there was one site (or person) that has changed the discussion it would be Mormon Stories (and John Dehlin).  While few of us have the time to read Rough Stone Rolling, it was quite easy and accessible to listen to a podcast that discussed the same things.  Again Mormon Stories provided a voice from someone attempting to be faithful to the church but delivering information that was typically viewed as threatening to Mormonism.

While I’m on the topic of changes on the web I’d have to say the rise of “New Order Mormonsim” is right up there as a shift in the community (again John Dehlin probably gets the lion’s share of the credit for bringing that community out of the shadows).  There’s also the rise of friendly ex-mormonism.  If you haven’t checked out the Mormon Expression Podcast you should.  I’m impressed with their ability to discuss Mormonism and Mormon culture from a knowledgeable but outsiders viewpoint without anger or reprisal.

Of course, if you’re still looking for a good history and archeology debate, the Book of Mormon holds a great deal of potential. But even there, you see very few strongly holding to the Lamanite and Nephite people living near or visiting Palmyra, New York. If they are out there, they find themselves debating against Mormons more so or as much as Non-Mormons.


130 thoughts on “What Has Changed?

  1. The landscape of internet Mormondom has indeed changed, but as someone who weekly talks to Mormons on the street (such as last night at Temple Square), it seems that the new wave of historic consciousness hasn’t substantially trickled down yet. The big test is whether the LDS Church makes more of an effort to take the Richard Bushman approach via its own institution literature (which has a far broader impact).

  2. I’m fairly new to the Internet, with only a little over a year on the blog circuit. Aside from a few contentious people, those I call “Defenders of the Faith” and their more extreme versions the “Inquisitionists,” I’ve encountered a lively and vibrant discussion about Mormonism and the church. I’ve done my best to constructively contribute to that discussion.

    If you’re looking for the next great debate, it think it will be what I address in my blog (www.mormonprophecy.blogspot.com) and my website (www.mormonprophecy.com). It’s an interdisciplinary debate that has profound implications for Latter-day Saints–all religions, actually–and their view of the past, present and future. It covers topics in cosmology, ancient history, archeology, geology, astronomy, paleontology, mythology and biology, just to name a few. It bears directly on the interpretation of revelation (ancient and recent), prophecy (the iconic or metaphoric system employed by all the prophets), the teachings of Joseph Smith and the symbolism, ritual and meaning of the temple and the endowment.

    Judging by my own excursion through these topics and that of others who have followed the same course, it proves to be the most enlightening, encouraging, testimony-building endeavor available to faithful Saints today. Outside of the basic doctrine taught openly by church leaders, it seems to be the most fruitful area of inquiry on the Internet … or anywhere else, for that matter.

    I invite you to join the discussion.

  3. I agree with Aaron (!) that whatever influence Bushman has had hasn’t trickled down to the general membership. Those of us who are active in the bloggernacle or regularly participate in discussions such as this one are quite a small portion of the Church, probably less than 1%. I’d be surprised if more than a half-dozen people in my ward know who Bushman is, and I’ve talked in person with only two other persons who have read his book (and one of those is a family member).

    Based on what little evidence I have, I’d say that the writer in recent years with the biggest influence (outside of official church channels such as Ensign or General Conference) isn’t Bushman but Stephen Robinson. We regularly have missionaries over for dinner, and I’d say that at least a dozen of them have mentioned at one time or another about how Robinson helped provide them with a fuller understanding of the Atonement.

    And as to what has changed in recent years in Internet discussions, I’m not sure that this acceptance of history is all that recent. I joined the church in the mid-1990s and extensively researched before I joined. I did quite a bit of research on the Internet (in its infancy as a mass medium then), and after finding out quickly that most anti-Mormons lied, fudged the truth and/or relied on logical fallacies, I learned a lot from the LDS apologists of the era (and others). Much of the history that some people find challenging (e.g., Joseph Smith’s implementation of polygamy, the Book of Abraham issues and various statements of Brigham Young and other early prophets) I was well aware of before joining the church, and I “knew” faithful Mormons online (and a couple people in person) who weren’t whitewashing it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where exactly that was, as that was back in the days before blogs, although there were various mailing lists and many forums (including the Usenet group soc.religion.mormon) where such folks congregated.

    If there’s anything that has changed much in the past five years, I think it may be a sense that people have (whether valid or not, I don’t know) that those in the church hierarchy may be paying some attention and/or that what is being said might have some sort of an influence somewhere. Half a dozen years ago, it seemed like people got involved in various ‘Net discussions because they were happy to find people who looked at issues the same way they did. Now it’s a given that such people exist, so the attitude toward discussions has shifted a bit. I don’t have anything substantive to back this up, it’s mostly just a feeling I have.

  4. Even though we now have Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” the majority of Mormons have not read it. I have not found it to be a topic of conversation anywhere but on the Internet. Chapel Mormons are not talking about or discussing the book and some view it suspiciously. Even fewer have read Compton’s “In sacred loneliness”, which gives a more in depth and accurate view of Joseph Smith’s polyandry (Bushman only briefly mentions the topic in his book and moves on). Still Bushman’s book is a great place to point LDS members to that are looking for a source they can trust and is candid.

  5. Interesting post, Tim. I think I’d disagree a bit with Eric about RSR: I know many people who have read it but they don’t blog at all. For them, RSR gave them the “permission” to say what people who’ve been blogging have been saying for quite some time. I agree with you, Tim, that RSR has also increased the number of Mormons on blogs who “own their history.”

  6. The big test is whether the LDS Church makes more of an effort to take the Richard Bushman approach via its own institution literature (which has a far broader impact).

    I doubt very much this will happen. If the past is any indication, the LDS Church will not make any official statements so as to not get pinned down in the future about its position on controversial issues. Instead they allow other “non-official” spokespeople broach these tender subjects. I believe it is thought this will ease members into the troublesome details and give them time to work through them on their own. The problem is that the Church discourages reading or studying anything that does not have its seal of approval on it. So the chances of lay members picking up outside literature is reduced, even if it is Richard Bushman.

  7. Jay, “I have not found it to be a topic of conversation anywhere but on the Internet. Chapel Mormons are not talking about or discussing the book and some view it suspiciously.” Do you have any evidence for this other than anecdote? I mean, if that’s just your personal experience I’m fine with that, but you state it as though it’s a universal. (See my comment above for why I might disagree.)

  8. “The problem is that the Church discourages reading or studying anything that does not have its seal of approval on it.” Source please.

  9. “The problem is that the Church discourages reading or studying anything that does not have its seal of approval on it.”

    Is that true Jay?

    I haven’t noticed discouragement of other reading as a stance of General Authorities.

    Perhaps Boyd K. Packer on occasion. But even he is very oblique about it.

    I just don’t get the sense that the LDS Church is discouraging “non-correlated” reading. But maybe that’s just my experience.

  10. Seth: I think the official discouragement is from non-correlated sources, and because the Church secretly discourages you from reading its private, undisclosed orders you are unaware of them. Make sense?

  11. I think Jay is speaking culturally more than doctrinally. To back up his point, how often is reading non-KJV Bibles discouraged (in the culture), and that’s the Bible.

    And yes, my post was about the Internet not the Chapel. For an interesting conversation about the difference between the two check out this podcast. http://mormonexpression.com/?p=85

  12. Yeah, I’m with Tim. I think the discouragement of “non-official” sources is more cultural and folklorish, something that kind of hangs in the air but is never pinned down directly.

    I remember getting the whispered sense for years that there was something unsettling hiding in church history and that I’d be better off just leaving alone.

    And I gotta say, that’s not inaccurate. Learning about some of this stuff SHATTERS your expectations and it’s hard to pick the pieces up.

  13. Nah, Tim, that’s not a good comparison. Any non-KJV Bible is a substitute for the standard edition used by the Church. It’s culturally discouraged because it causes confusion (if others try to read along), raises possibly distracting questions of “correct” translation, creates concern over pet doctrines introduced by the different translations (a most extreme example: would you ever read out of the JW bible?), etc.

    If Jay is indeed “speaking culturally more than doctrinally,” then he shouldn’t say that the “Church with a capital C” is the discouraging body.

  14. I’m not talking about which version to read out of at church. I’ve heard from people that while quietly reading from a non-KJV they were asked “why are you reading that version, hasn’t it been corrupted by the Protestants?” (or something along those lines). Either way, it’s just an anecdote and not central to the bigger idea of how popular or encouraged non-correlated material is.

  15. I am also a “late” entry to the Bloggernacle/Outer Blogness/whatever, so it’s interesting to hear about “ancient history” (haha, where ancient is…at best, 2004 or 2005). I also must say (from the disaffected side) that I’m glad there are more “friendly” ex-Mormons blogging or talking…because some sites (RfM) aren’t fun for me. Even I will go apologetic at some of the things certain ex-Mormons or anti-Mormons will say about the church…because it just seems disgraceful to bend or break the truth to try to prove a case.

    However, I too must lament that it seems like the changes that are happening are muchly confined to the internet. So, while I do enjoy frequenting several faithful LDS blogs and even LDS-evangelical blogs like this or Jack’s…real life is sobering and depressing.

  16. Huh, I never thought of that.

    Maybe instead of classifying blogs by faithful or not, we should classify them as friendly to Mormonism or not. Hence, the bloggernacle or Outer blogness, niblets and browdie-treats.

  17. BJ,

    Yes I am talking about the culture created by the Church. Growing up I was encouraged to not read “anti-Mormon” material, loosely defined as anything not church approved. This was reenforced on my mission when my Mission President forbid any of his children (as he called us) from reading anything without the Church logo. While I don’t have quotes from general authorities of the Church there is at least one New Era article I read a while ago that urged members to be cautious when reading non-church books. Of course my experience could be an anomaly.

  18. I agree with a lot of what’s already been said. Mormonism as presented by those who like to congregate on the Internet has changed quite a bit in the 11 years since I began studying it. Mormonism in real life… overall changes have been small.

    I would suggest that these things have changed though:

    (1) The church is more open to intellectual inquiry and venues of criticism. It isn’t actively disseminating information about its troublesome past, but it seems to be taking a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy when other people do. We aren’t going to see a repeat of the September Six anytime soon.

    (2) The washings and anointings were changed in 2005. Not a major change, but it was something that always makes it to the complaints list of ex-members, and I think it was a change that better accommodates the current culture. I also think that if I’d predicted in 1998 that it would change, most of the Mormons I was talking to online at the time would have sneered at me that the church doesn’t change things to accommodate culture. I keep the example in mind when people sneer at my other predictions.

    (3) I’m meeting more Mormons who either don’t know that the church teaches God the Father was once a man who had to progress to become God, are ambiguous on whether that’s the case, or believe God has always been God. Not huge numbers, but the church does seem to be moving away from that doctrine.

    (4) More emphasis on grace and attempts to frame LDS soteriology in an understanding of grace.

  19. Brian J said:

    … and because the Church secretly discourages you from reading its private, undisclosed orders you are unaware of them. Make sense?


    Seth R. said:

    I just don’t get the sense that the LDS Church is discouraging “non-correlated” reading. But maybe that’s just my experience.

    My experience as well.

    Katie L said:

    I remember getting the whispered sense for years that there was something unsettling hiding in church history and that I’d be better off just leaving alone.

    And I gotta say, that’s not inaccurate. Learning about some of this stuff SHATTERS your expectations and it’s hard to pick the pieces up.

    That’s true only if one has unrealistic expectations. (And I’m not saying it’s all, or even mostly, your fault if you did. Unfortunately, there’s a part of the LDS culture that’s pretty good at encouraging that.)

  20. OK, so as a crazy chemist, I think there’s an activation barrier. There are so many anti-intellectual Evangelicals out there, who will misconstrue data because it looks Mormonism look bad, and unless you’re willing to put the energy to overcome the activiation barrier (to read a lot, and not just the little bit of biased anti-Mormonism that the low-life’s spread on the internet) you’ll probably fall into the pit digged for you by the loving evangelical. But for those of us willing to view the data (all of it) and make our own conclusion, we’re able to find a more nuanced version of the truth. Quite frankly, we’re adapting, and finding that ignoring the problem doesn’t help. When we see Evangelicals shallowly investigating Mormonism, and just looking for the best place to land a blow, we find we have to investigate ourselves fully, so we know how to best contextualize our history, warts and all.

  21. That’s true only if one has unrealistic expectations. (And I’m not saying it’s all, or even mostly, your fault if you did. Unfortunately, there’s a part of the LDS culture that’s pretty good at encouraging that.)

    I’d say it’s more than just the culture. The Church could discourage “leader worship” but instead encourages it by remaining silent about something they know is part of the culture. The well known statement of Wilford Woodruff that “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” continues to be frequently quoted today and encourages those unrealistic expectations you speak of. It would be very easy for the Church to combat that by teaching in their manuals prophets are just people doing their best. They are not above making major mistakes on occasion. However, the only places you find these kinds of statements emanating from are apologists. So while it is true the LDS culture elevates prophets to super human, rock star, status, the Church does little to discourage it.

  22. Jay, a list of quotes you may find interesting:

    “We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” … (J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 31 July 1954, 9).

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation…. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:150).

    “Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of church doctrine. Moreover, the church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.” (LDS Newsroom “Approaching Mormon Doctrine”)


    And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
    And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
    And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
    Numbers 11:27-29

    “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 162).

    Joseph Fielding McConkie (son of Bruce R. McConkie) once said that to claim that anything taught in general conference is official doctrine “makes the place where something is said rather than what is said the standard of truth. Nor is something doctrine simply because it was said by someone who holds a particular office or position. Truth is not an office or a position to which one is ordained” (Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, 213-214).

    “The Lord uses imperfect people… He often allows their errors to stand uncorrected. He may have a purpose in doing so, such as to teach us that religious truth comes forth ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ in a process of sifting and winnowing similar to the one I know so well in science” (Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist, 47).

    “There are exceptions to some rules. …But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord,” (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006, 16).

    “I teach the people correct principles, and they govern themselves,” (Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, 10:57-58).

    “I make no claim of infallibility,” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Need for a Prophet,” Improvement Era, June 1970, 93).

    “We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators,” (Elder James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, November 1989, 11).

    “the First Presidency cannot claim, individually or collectively, infallibility” (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist, Deseret Press, 1957, 1:206).

    “even the president of the church has not always spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost” (J. Reuben Clark, “When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” July 7, 1954).

    “…if He (God) should suffer him (Joseph Smith) to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray. … It would be because they deserved it … ” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 4:297-298).

    “The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:100).

    If the LDS membership hasn’t caught on to the concept that prophets are not to be followed blindly, I’m not sure it’s for lack of trying on the part of the leadership.

  23. Seth,

    I ask you, if LDS canonized scripture, by which the Church is bound, says the Prophet can “never lead us astray”, why on earth would anyone feel compelled to question what he has said when speaking in an official capacity? I have yet to read a quote from a sitting Prophet in an official statement from the Church that would soften or overturn the canonized proclamation of Wilford Woodruff.

    Where do you find quotes like the ones you shared in official church manuals? General Authorities say a lot of things that are later denied or downplayed. When was the last time you were taught from a priesthood manual that following what the prophet says is optional for members in good standing?

    If the LDS membership hasn’t caught on to the concept that prophets are not to be followed blindly, I’m not sure it’s for lack of trying on the part of the leadership.

    Well Seth, maybe these quotes from Church leaders will give you some indication as to why members continue to trust so implicitly in the prophet despite the few quotes you gave attempting to disabuse them of such thoughts. Many of these are from the same sources you pulled from.

    “…learn to do as you are told. …if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it, none of your business whether it is right or wrong.” (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 6:32)

    The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are “found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a bade in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray….” ( Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 9:289)

    “If you do things according to counsel and they are wrong, the consequences will fall on the heads of those who counseled you, so don’t be troubled.” (William Clayton’s Journal, p. 334)

    “God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me to be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 363/History of the Church, 6:319-20)

    “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95)

    “Recently, at the Church-wide fireside meeting held for the women of the Church, Young Women President Elaine Cannon made the following statement: “When the Prophet speaks,….the debate is over.” (Ensign, November 1978, p. 108). I was impressed by that simple statement, which carries such deep spiritual meaning for all of us. Wherever I go, my message to the people is: follow the prophet.

    “It is difficult to understand why there are many people who fight against the counsel of the prophet and FOR the preservation of the very things that will bring them misery and death…. Latter-day Saints should be able to accept the words of the prophets without having to wait for science to prove the validity of their words. We are most fortunate to have a living prophet at the head of the Church to guide us, and all who heed his counsel will be partakers of the promised blessings which will not be enjoyed by those who fail to accept his messages….We cannot serve God and mammon. Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the debate is over.” (The Debate is Over, President N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, August 1979, p. 3)

  24. Jay, I’m interested in what LDS canonized scripture says the Prophet can “never lead us astray.”

    It seems to me you’ve listed a great deal many quotes (and I could probably find a lot more), but no canonized scriptures.

  25. Taken from: Doctrine and Covenants Official Declaration 1

    The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)


  26. okay, next General conference comes around keep a tally sheet of obedience to the church/prophet/leaders vs. discern the Holy Spirit for yourself. Just interested what you’ll find.

    There is a belief of the pulpit vs. belief of the pews interaction that I think needs to be wrestled with in figuring out what a particular faith believes. Not at all saying they are equal, just something that needs to be wrestled with.

    As the saying goes, Catholics teach that the Pope is infallible but nobody believes it. Mormons teach the Prophet isn’t infallible but nobody believes it.

  27. If you want canonized scripture here’s an interesting one for disciplining a prophet:

    D&C 107:78-84

    78 Again, verily, I say unto you, the most important business of the church, and the most difficult cases of the church, inasmuch as there is not satisfaction upon the decision of the bishop or judges, it shall be handed over and carried up unto the council of the church, before the Presidency of the High Priesthood.
    79 And the Presidency of the council of the High Priesthood shall have power to call other high priests, even twelve, to assist as counselors; and thus the Presidency of the High Priesthood and its counselors shall have power to decide upon testimony according to the laws of the church.
    80 And after this decision it shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord; for this is the highest council of the church of God, and a final decision upon controversies in spiritual matters.
    81 There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.
    82 And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood;
    83 And their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him.
    84 Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness.

    If the prophet doesn’t screw up, why would we need a procedure for disciplining him?

  28. I’ve already been knocked out once in this conversation. So, you see, I can’t fight again unless someone has a phoenix down.

  29. Seth,
    Wouldn’t an outside observer be cool enough to not worry about these silly “conversations?”

  30. Eric: I wrote,

    … and because the Church secretly discourages you from reading its private, undisclosed orders you are unaware of them. Make sense?

    And you replied,


    For the record, it wasn’t meant to make sense. I was being facetious.

  31. Jay, Seth: you’ve taken opposite sides in a debate: The Church (i.e., officially) does/does not teach that prophets are fallible and the church members do/do not believe they are. Or, more succinctly: should Church leaders do more to prevent being viewed as Rock Star by members?

    The question is only as good as the reality of the situation it explores. If 0% of members viewed leaders to any degree as Rock Stars, then it’d be pointless for leaders to talk about it—Jay would mistakenly take a lack of quotes as evidence of a problem that doesn’t even exist. OTOH, if the view is deep and pervasive, then the few quotes Seth mustered would seem pitifully inadequate. Therefore, the right approach is poll the membership, not the leaders, before you head to a battlefield of your own creation.

  32. LOL! Alright I’ll be the first to say good job Seth. I can be honest enough to admit there is a good case to make that prophets are not required to be perfect or even close to it, even if most members hold very high expectations of them. There is plenty of material for both of us to go on for days and I don’t think that was the original point of this post. So I’ll bow out. Sorry for the threadjack Tim.

  33. For the record, I grew up with a rather orthodox LDS father. He definitely would have been one of those leaning toward infallibility. I remember complaining about BYU policies once, and he sternly reminded me that BYU is administered under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve, and presided over by a general authority. His tone left no doubt that the discussion was over.

    So, been there, done that, I guess.

  34. Seth,
    what I think is interesting is that you know EXACTLY what Jay is talking about but you argue that it isn’t that way. You certainly have the “ammo” to argue that it shouldn’t be that way and/or that the membership is in error, but I don’t know that you’re being completely up front to say that Jay has got it wrong when he describes his experience in the church.

    Jay, no worries about the thread jack. I miss your contributions buddy.

  35. Thing is, there is a long tradition of LDS General Authorities trying to convince the membership that they are not perfect or infallible. But no one ever believes them.

    I remember quite often hearing local authorities make this point. At that point, the membership reaction seemed to usually be to just nod their heads knowingly and exchange a wink or two – and then continue believing they were perfect.

    The tendency toward idolatry is just hard to suppress, I guess.

  36. I still get stutter-y when I talk to him. I usually end up feeling 12 years old again.

    Maybe blogging is my subconscious way of rebelling.

  37. I had to take a driver’s test today. (Tip: It is in your best interest to never let your out-of-state license expire.) I was impressed by the exam administrator’s ability to make me feel like an incompetent teenager all over again.

    Your dad sounds a lot like that.

  38. And Seth how would you rank his knowledge of Mormon history and doctrine compared to yours? I’m guessing since you’re one of the few Mormons I’ve met who likes the King Follett Discourse AND polygamy, he’d be on board as well.(?)

  39. re Jack:

    I’m on my way to net myself a 2009 niblets. So you’d best prepare!

    re Seth:

    I completely agree with the sentiments of blogging as rebellion. I dunno…I just feel more articulate online (so even if I’m going back and forth with my dad online, like on Facebook, I feel on top of things). Face to face, though, I have terrible composure. I can’t be a debater because even though I’m not “mad,” I look, sound, and act “mad” or “disturbed.” People say I talk really loudly and in a demanding tone on the phone too.

    Personally, I think the church speaks both ways when it is expedient. So, you can find quotes from prophets and GAs and feel justified believing either way. (just the same, you can become disillusioned either way.)

  40. Andrew, I’m sure you’ll cream me at the Niblets next year. The novelty of a friendly evangelical in the ‘Nacle is dwindling and I’m sure that my 15 minutes of fame are nearly up.

    Tim, from what Seth has said elsewhere, I’m rather doubtful that his father agrees with his position on polygamy. At least, not the awesome part.

    Speaking of which, how much fun would it be if we compiled some of Seth’s edgier blog rants from over the years and mailed them to his dad? You said he’s a general practitioner in Orem, right Seth?

    *heads for Google*

  41. I take it back Jack. Evangelicals ARE evil.

    Tim, my dad would tell me that I’m wasting time that I could be working to feed his grandchildren and that my home teaching hasn’t been done this month. And he’d be quite irritated that I’m still up past 3:00 AM.

    That’s probably the most I’d get out of him on the subject.

  42. I already did my EVIL for the year by pushing Kullervo over the edge on resignation. I’ll leave Jack to disturbing the good doctor’s time with silly nonsense.

  43. I object to your use of “silly nonsense,” Tim. Seth’s blog rants are srs bsns.

    But I would never contact the relative of someone I only knew through teh intarweb. That would be creepy and stalkerish. I’m creepy, but definitely not stalkerish.

  44. Tim said:

    okay, next General conference comes around keep a tally sheet of obedience to the church/prophet/leaders vs. discern the Holy Spirit for yourself. Just interested what you’ll find.

    I don’t think there’s any question you’ll hear more of the “obedience to the church/prophet/leaders” than to “discern the Holy Spirit for yourself.”

    And I don’t see that as a bad thing either. If we claim that we have prophets with us today, it would be silly to ignore what they say.

    I suspect the rough equivalent would be true in many evangelical churches: If someone faces a question about whether something is right or wrong, the first place he/she should look to is the Bible. If you were a youth pastor, for example, and a teenager came to you asking you if it’s OK to have sex, your first response probably wouldn’t be, what does the Holy Spirit tell you? It would more likely be, what does the Bible say (or perhaps, what has God told us, the understanding being that God has spoken to us through scripture)?

    And of the evangelical sermons I’ve heard (in my life, that would be hundreds), I’d guess that at least 90+ percent would be based on what the Bible says rather than what the pastor says the Holy Spirit told him. Again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    While both Mormons and evangelicals believe we should listen to the promptings of the Spirit, neither of us advocate ignoring reason or ignoring scripture and/or church teaching in doing so.

  45. My response to the teenager probably would NOT be “what does the Bible say.” With a teenager struggling with that particular issue, just a hunch, but… you probably can’t take unquestioning agreement with the Bible as a given.

  46. Fair point Eric. But Evangelicals teach that the Bible is correct all of the time, so we feel it’s a place you can feel confident placing your obedience. According to Seth, that is not the case with the LDS leadership (and they’ve been saying so all this time).

  47. Tim said:

    Evangelicals teach that the Bible is correct all of the time, so we feel it’s a place you can feel confident placing your obedience. According to Seth, that is not the case with the LDS leadership (and they’ve been saying so all this time).

    But doesn’t that infallibility apply only to the original documents, which you don’t have?

    Actually, that’s not the main point I want to make here. It’s that I don’t see confidence in a prophet and disbelief in his infallibility as mutually exclusive.

    Furthermore, as a practical matter, I have seen basically no need to question the inspiration of what’s taught at General Conference. The same goes for the scriptures (Bible included, which I fully believe to be the Word of God). Nearly all the time, infallibility/fallibility is one of those theoretical concepts I don’t really need to concern myself with in terms of how I live my life.

  48. Ditto.

    I see absolutely no reason to require a 100% track record before I can place my confidence and allegiance in something.

  49. I think it’s interesting to note a bit of circularity to Eric and Seth’s responses. Would either of you be so relaxed about LDS leaders’ fallibility if Mormonism didn’t teach (in a manner of speaking) post mortem repentance? i.e., God will straighten out misconceptions later; what really matters now is that you are charitable, etc.

    We don’t worry about our leaders being wrong in part because our leaders teach that it is okay to be wrong. But what if they’re wrong?

    (I don’t mean this as a rebuke of any sort, just as an interesting—and even a little flippant—observation.)

  50. Whether prophets say it or not Brian,

    I see no reason to require a 100% track record on things before I can put my trust in them.

    Inerrancy is a worldview that I find nonsensical and unwarranted in every respect. And I reject it – prophets or no prophets.

  51. Yup.
    Infallibility and inerrancy = nonbiblical assumption that can damage faith (ala Bart Ehrman).

  52. I think the “blind obedience to leaders” caricature of Mormons just doesn’t reflect reality (especially when 1/2 of Mormons don’t even attend church regularly) and frankly is a bit played out.

    What have “LDS authorities” ordered obedience to that has been out of line with biblical teaching that could not be mirrored by at least a dozen Protestant churches?

    Is the problem simply that Mormons listen to their ecclesiastic leaders more? or talk about them more? don’t say “Jesus” enough?

    I haven’t seen anybody worship their leaders anymore than they worship the flag. .

    What’s the difference with having a picture of TS Monson on your wall then having a flag in your yard? or joining the military?

  53. BrianJ asked:

    Would either of you be so relaxed about LDS leaders’ fallibility if Mormonism didn’t teach (in a manner of speaking) post mortem repentance? i.e., God will straighten out misconceptions later; what really matters now is that you are charitable, etc.

    I hadn’t thought about it that way. For me what it mostly boils down to is that the scriptures (including the Bible, despite what some evangelicals may say) don’t teach infallibility/inerrancy, and church leaders haven’t claimed it, so why should believe in it?

    BJM said:

    When a teenager in your church is struggling with sex, the correct answer is to expose them to Pam Stenzel.

    I can’t speak one way or another about Ms. Stenzel (although, to be honest about it, I’m as suspicious of a Liberty University grad as much as many evangelicals would be suspicious of a BYU grad), but I will say that evangelicals have come out with better resources on sexuality than you’ll come close to finding from official LDS channels.

    And to be blunt about it, telling most teenagers that they shouldn’t be doing something because a 90-year-old (or scriptures written centuries ago) says they shouldn’t isn’t a particularly helpful approach.

    The LDS instruction materials do an excellent job of indicating that chastity is important, and I unequivocally agree. But they do a poor job of explaining why, other than that sex outside of marriage is wrong because the scriptures and the prophets say it’s wrong.

    I’d better get off my soapbox. I don’t want a threadjack.

  54. Re: the blind obedience to leaders thing, here’s a quote from David A. Bednar which came up in the comments over at Andrew’s blog (emphasis mine):

    Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. He cared for her very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. This relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.

    The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe.

    Promptly and quietly obey the prophet at all times and in all things? That sounds a lot like blind obedience to me. And it’s from a current Q12 member in a 2005 Liahona message, not some obscure quote from the 70s. The message that the prophet is to be obeyed and not questioned is definitely alive and kicking today.

    Eric, as far as Pam Stenzel goes, for the record I’ve never heard her go off on Mormons specifically or even theology in general. Her message has always strictly been about sex and the dangers of premarital sex today. I heard her speak at a youth conference in 2000 when I was 17 or 18, but she’s also invited to public schools regularly because of the non-religious version of her message.

  55. If we’re asking Bart Ehrman for the definition of inerrant or infallible then I know we’re talking about something different than I believe. Ehrman sets up a straw man which neither dignifies his opponents or himself. Certainly there are some who believe in the kind of inerrancy he describes but they’re hardly any more mainstream than Mormons who believe Adam was God.

    If you’ll recall, the conversation about Mormon obedience was raised by another Mormon. Jay was reflecting on how few LDS will read anything that hasn’t been correlated by their leaders, this in turn has contributed to the average Mormon being unaware of significant details of Mormon History.

    Saying “other people do it too” is really not an argument. It in no way answers the objection. It reminds me a bit of Scientology apologetics in defense of brain-washing techniques in which they quote Jehovah Witness and Moonie sources. No one mentioned putting pictures of Monson on the wall. (and for the record I agree that people worship the flag)

  56. “Certainly there are some who believe in the kind of inerrancy he describes but they’re hardly any more mainstream than Mormons who believe Adam was God.”

    Not even close Tim.

    If you want to say that Evangelicals have differing views on inerrancy, that’s fine. But to say the faction of Evangelicaldom that holds almost exactly the same view of inerrancy that the younger Bart Ehrman did is as inconsequential as “Adam-God Mormons” seems a gross underestimation.

    Your “super-fundies” may not be even close to a majority of your denomination, but they aren’t miniscule to the point of non-existence either. Adam-God Mormons are just about as common as Curse of Ham Baptists these days. They’re probably out there, but they have no voice really.

    The die hard inerrantists however do have a BIG voice. Big enough to caricature the entire Evangelical movement with their own brand of faith. Heck, they even control their own colleges!

  57. I have never heard anybody say they even believe the Adam-God theory. Every time I have heard it brought up, on the very rare occasion, it has been disclaimed on that note, nobody I have ever met thinks Brigham Young was infallible.

    Fair enough Tim,

    I wasn’t answering the objection really. I just don’t think its a substantial, all things considered, even if it was as bad as some believe.

  58. the brand of inerrancy that Ehrman critiques is not even the brand of inerrancy that he once held (or was taught at Wheaton). It’s the kind of inerrancy that says the earth is a flat square because the Bible says it has 4 corners.

    McConkie felt the need to speak out against Adam-God for a reason. He didn’t start calling people “cultist” out of nowhere. I haven’t met flat eathers either, but they’re out there.

    See this interview with Ben Witherington:
    [audio src="http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3?http://www.strcast2.org/podcast/weekly/061409.mp3" /]

  59. I wasn’t answering the objection really. I just don’t think its a substantial, all things considered, even if it was as bad as some believe.

    regardless, the better question is “What is God calling us to?”

  60. If I were married to a guy like the one in that story, I would shoot myself in the head.

    Seth and Jared, I think you’re underestimating the number of people who are active in our culture and faith tradition who basically believe in the GA’s inerrancy/infallibility. Or at least, their influence is such that those who are less convinced are very much a smaller, more silenced voice.

    At least in my experience.

  61. “I think you’re underestimating the number of people who are active in our culture and faith tradition who basically believe in the GA’s inerrancy/infallibility. ”

    I am not. 🙂

    There is a difference saying that you should follow the president o the church/prophet and not question than saying that the prophet is infallible. Just like there is a saying that a soldier to should follow the commander-in-chief without question vs. saying the commander-in-chief is infallible.

    There are reasons people think that following the prophet is a sign of character and shows good discipline that don’t have to do with whether they believe he can do no wrong.

    The earring question is an example of an issue that nobody seriously considers that important in itself, but it matters in the context of how the President of the Church is prosecuting the mission of the church.

  62. Jack: For the record, I listened to the Pam Stenzel lecture and thought she was great. I really like that she frames the issues in terms of the “price you will pay” and makes it clear that she is not there to make choices for anyone.

    re Bednar quote: “nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading.” “Pleading”? I thought this was something Pres. Hinckley brought up once. On the other hand, I remember him really pleading with us to be more forgiving….

  63. Jared C said:

    There is a difference saying that you should follow the president o the church/prophet and not question than saying that the prophet is infallible.

    The term I would probably apply to scriptures and the prophets is reliable. It’s different than inerrant or infallible.

    I could probably ramble on here for quite some time about the earring thing, but I have work to do that I get paid for, so I’ll abstain except to say that a) Jack is raising a serious issue; b) I’d prefer to look at the principles behind what President Hinckley said rather than focus on specifics, and I do consider what he said inspired counsel; c) I’d be lying if I said I have great appreciation to the way the church has responded to the issue; d) Although I wouldn’t literally shoot myself if I were married to a gal like the guy in the story, I fully understand Katie L’s sentiment; e) I agree with Jared C that it’s a good thing that couple didn’t get married; and f)Some of Elder Bednar’s talks I have more appreciation for than that one.

  64. I think the analogy of Mormon culture of following the prophet is very, very similar to the military culture of following orders.

    Soldiers take orders.

    But not one of them believes for a moment that the general is infallible. They just happen to know that even if the general is off his rocker, they themselves are simply going to make things ten times worse if they don’t execute given orders. End of story.

    The Mormon attitude about following prophetic orders is actually very similar.

  65. Having seen my father discuss his activities in leadership capacity in the Church for over 25 years I would say that the analogy is almost perfect.

    The order of the Church involves people deferring to those in the leadership position, to avoid contention, to make things run in harmony, to have the oneness that is necessary to do the work of God. Without deference of some sort you just can’t have oneness in human organizations. Infallibility never comes into play, and when people go way out of line people generally don’t follow or they go up the chain of command to seek correction, but that is relatively rare.

    The church is run like the Army in this respect but, by the same token, it is an army with a soft touch. Most in church leadership that I have known are firm believers and practioners of D&C 121″

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;


  66. I kinda don’t, but I grew up in a military family, so it’s kinda familiar and fuzzy now.

    Also, I’d rather have a church run like the military than a church run by hippies. Liberal denominations are a let down for this (poorly analogous) reason.

  67. It’s called an analogy Jack.

    Like all analogies, you can only go so far with this one.

    And I’ve never had my Elders Quorum President yell at me to “drop and give me 20!”

  68. What type of military brat were you, Andrew? My father flew C-130s and C-141s for the air force.

    Seth, it’s not fear of being forced to do push-ups that I’m worried about. The church can effectively force you to dress and act the way it tells you to dress and act. You can disagree with the prophet and apostles in theory, but try to do it in practice and you’re heading for the ecclesiastical woodshed. That’s what bothers me.

  69. pushups in mormontalk are verse. “Drop and read me 20 verses” is an apt spiritual exercise that many young Mormon men, in spiritual basic training, loathe to be forced to do in front of their peers.


  70. I think the analogy is good for what it was intended, which was to illustrate how members view their leaders.

    Jared says it is a military “with a soft touch.” One of the ways we see this is that in the military, failure to carry out an order lands you in the stockade or court martial. In contrast, I’m having a hard time coming up with a disciplinary council that would be held for inaction.

  71. Brian,

    I agree the organization is not like the military, just the deference to leadership.


    “The church can effectively force you to dress and act the way it tells you to dress and act. You can disagree with the prophet and apostles in theory, but try to do it in practice and you’re heading for the ecclesiastical woodshed. That’s what bothers me.”

    Unless you are talking about sex outside of marriage I don’t see the woodshed as a good analogy. People show up to church in whatever, 90% of the conformity to dress code is internal from my point of view, unless you are talking about deacons passing the sacrament.

    If you are openly rebelling against the leadership, you can have issues, but even then. Do Evangelical churches tolerate open rebellion against the pastor? Or worse yet, Mormon doctrinal sympathies?

    Every organization has some degree of internal peer pressure to produce community. I can’t see anything stronger than that going on in the LDS church when it comes to anything other than the most “serious” malfeasance, even then. . .

  72. I agree, I find it a very insightful analogy. As with anything, though, there are trade-offs.

    PROS: unity, uniformity, efficiency, general cohesion.

    CONS: sometimes severe consequences for non-conformity, outsiders feel VERY outside, creativity and individuality are stifled.

    In other words, it’s fantastic if you fit the mold. If not…well…go find another army to fight in.

  73. If the church is trying to get something big done, I don’t mind a bit of organization and discipline. Of course Mormons are not really known for their stringent discipline, most are pretty lackadaisical about most things by comparison.

    I went straight into the Mission training center from West Point, it was like a vacation, so I have a good basis for comparison.

  74. Brian, I’m not sure I agree that the analogy extends only as far as attitude toward leadership. The structure of the church itself is rigidly organized, with a “chain of command” that goes all the way up.

    Again, it makes for an extremely well-oiled machine. But the trade-off is you lose the heart sometimes.

  75. what’s interesting to me about the military analogy is that currently in the Evangelical world the big buzz word is “organic”. Everyone is fighting for ways to make their churches less centralized and more fluid. The movement was initiated by research around the Christian church’s greatest growth periods. All of them were marked by decentralization and destabilization. Just an interesting contrast, not a critique of Mormonism per se.

    “The Forgotten Way” by Alan Hirsch is a great resource for that conversation.

  76. That seems a rather controversial reading on history Tim.

    There’s another historical pattern of less disciplined societies being overthrown by more disciplined (and more passionate) outsiders.

  77. I agree, but the church seems to be altogether different than other societies.

    3 quick examples to look into 1)The first 150-200 years of Christianity 2) The Methodist movement 3) The underground Chinese church.

    In all three it’s the lack of central discipline that allowed them to be passionate. Contrary to Mormonism, Christianity is more interested in its ideas than its institutions.

  78. Jared, by “ecclesiastical woodshed” I didn’t just have in mind church discipline; I was also thinking of being stuck in the outer darkness of mediocre church callings, which is going to be a huge motivator to people who actually enjoy serving in local leadership callings. I heard a story somewhere (I think it was fMh) about a woman who was passed over to be YW president because she had a tattoo on her ankle. Then there’s the story I cited above—watch out, your fiance might even break up with you if you don’t obey the prophet!

    As for evangelicals, evangelical standards of dress aren’t nearly as stringent as LDS ones; I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a person being passed up for a local leadership calling because of the way they dress or the markings/piercings they have on their body or the way they do their hair. A pastor can certainly be respectfully challenged by members of his/her congregation who disagree with him/her. I would have to know what we’re talking about by a person who is living in “open rebellion” of the pastor’s teaching. I have seen people thrown out of church before.

    The thing about evangelical Christianity is, push comes to shove, you can vote with your feet and just attend a different congregation. I just spoke on the phone today with a pastor in Chicago at a church I was looking into attending who, upon finding out that I have a degree from BYU and a Mormon husband, felt the need to lecture me about how Mormons believe in a different gospel and a different Jesus. This person kept cutting me off and correcting me about how bad Mormonism is as I tried to explain my interfaith family situation. Glad I found out before I wasted a Sunday visiting.

    If it had been an LDS bishop with a crappy attitude towards evangelicals (much less likely scenario, I know), we’d have been stuck with him.

  79. It was a her and if you’re serious about wanting to call her, Tim, I’ll send you details on Facebook. I don’t want to name her in public.

    In better news, Willow Creek Northshore has made it perfectly clear to me that they would be nothing but happy to make a part-Mormon family with a special needs child feel welcome. I’m starting to think that the bad rep mega-churches get is really undeserved.

  80. Jack-“Then there’s the story I cited above—watch out, your fiance might even break up with you if you don’t obey the prophet! ”

    Again, you cite that story as if the breakup was a bad thing.

    And, what is a “mediocre” church calling?

    Most everybody I know would settle for Gospel Doctrine Teacher over Bishop anyday.

    My dad is assistant Ward Mission Leader (straight from Mission President).

    Arguably the most challenging, creative and interesting calling is Home Teacher/Visiting teacher, which everyone has.

  81. Of course those who are going to church to score a cool calling with lots of respect and authority, then conformity will matter a lot, I agree, but if that is your motivation, who cares if you get turned down, probably something that should happen. You seriously shouldn’t care what calling you get, and if you are focusing on that you are probably going to be disappointed and disaffected eventually.

  82. Jared, Seth: just a thought about nursery. Could it be that you’re there because you are one of the few willing to accept that calling? It’s a notoriously difficult post to fill.

    And if so, is it possible that a person with a mind open enough to question authority is more likely to be willing to work with kids? i.e., not only your mind, but also your heart is open? (Just adding a little silver lining….)

  83. Katie L: I don’t think we disagree. I didn’t mean to imply that there was only one application for the analogy, I was just defending the analogy as good for what it was intended.

  84. Jared, it’s the intention of the narrative that I’m concerned with. We can all snort and say, “Lucky girl! She dodged a bullet,” but that doesn’t change the fact that the point Bednar is trying to make is that disagreeing with the prophet leads to negative consequences.

    I guess that, being evangelical, I’ve always found it strange that callings in the LDS church which give a person more leadership opportunities and influence are to be avoided and you’re supposed to sit back, play it coy and act reluctant to take one on. Pretty much all positions in evangelical churches are volunteer-based; even pastors are people who became pastors because of personal revelation (if you will) that being a pastor was God’s will for their lives. I have a huge heart for teenagers and I actually think I’m pretty gifted for working with them. I was a youth leader at my old church before I went to BYU and I strongly considered becoming a youth pastor.

    I did hold a calling in my second BYU student ward, on the activity committee (I blogged about this here). Let’s just say I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people who would rather be working with teenagers than doing mediocre stuff like that, and I’d be pretty pissed if I found out I’d been passed over for it all because of an extra set of earrings or a little ink.

  85. BTW, I should say that I agree that home/visiting teaching is a very cool program.

    Everyone doesn’t have that calling though. At least, that creature I live with sure doesn’t…

  86. Jack, it’s probably better that I don’t call her. My word for you is probably better than my word for her.

    Be encouraged. She was out of line. Even if we concede that Mormonism is much worse than she thinks, it’s a missed opportunity on her part to love you and your family and heap blessings on your head.

    I can’t imagine if you had called and said something like “my husband and I are struggling alcoholics and need a new church family when we move” that she would have had the same reaction. Who knows maybe she would have, and if so then she misunderstands the mission of the church.

  87. Tim ~ Thanks for the encouragement. It completely baffles me that there are people who will go on about how Mormons are lost and deceived and then refuse to do whatever it takes to make one feel welcome at their congregations. One of those “it’s not the way I present it, it’s the message that offends you” people.

    Eric ~ Yeah, it was. Is this any better?

  88. Tim: given the context, this is one time I’ll gladly accept comparing Mormons to alcoholics. 🙂

    Jack: I’m glad that you’re making progress on the church search.

  89. Your EQP doesn’t want to do any more work to assign Paul to a family?

    Or Paul doesn’t want to work to force the EQP to assign Paul to a family?

    You know, I’ve never considered home teaching something you can only do to people your assigned. The program is just there to make sure that those who might not naturally make that connection still get that connection. Enjoy your lest two weeks in Washington.

  90. PC, I mean that the EQP has overlooked him and he isn’t inclined to tell the EQP about this oversight because he doesn’t want to have to hometeach people every month. More work for him.

    Shirk, shirk, shirk.

  91. Jack,

    I don’t think the “passed over” story is very common in my experience. I have seen and heard of many many more stories of “less worthy” people being called to leadership callings. I have seen at least three bishops called when they were definitely not the most “stalwart” or “obedient” in the little superficial things.

    Although Elder Bednar’s talk is irritating, and the earring rule a bit over the top, I don’t know that these betray the way the church generally works.

    Yes there is that element, and I have experienced the “woodshed” you mention, (and I don’t consider the nursery the “woodshed”), but I don’t really see the iron rod mentality as big an issue as these data points suggest.

    I am not really trying to be apologetic of the Church or some of the pharisee-ism in it, but I think there is more below the surface that goes against that grain as well. In order to understand Mormons its worth understanding this as well.

  92. I’d concur with what Jared C just said. I’ve seen examples of both pharisaical attitudes and not. And while I personally haven’t seen any bishops called who didn’t “fit the mold,” I have been surprised by some callings for bishopric counselors.

  93. For the record, I should probably say that I’m not saying nursery workers aren’t important. It’s a thankless job but a very vital one.

    “Ecclesiastical woodshed” was probably a bad way of putting it.

  94. The Adam-God doctrine was no theory . but explicitly taught by Brigham Young . In terms of an objective biography (ie one that is no white wash ) of Joe Smith the definitve one is Fawn Brodie’s ‘ No Man Knows My History ‘ .
    The fact she was excommunicated by the Mormons for writing it speaks volumes .

  95. Fawn Brodie’s biography is an excellent piece of work in general and fully deserves the place it has held as the “definitive” bio of Joseph Smith for the last few decades.

    That said, her attempts to apply Freudian psychoanalysis to Joseph Smith were extremely amateurish. Her writings in this area in “No Man Knows My History” should be treated very skeptically.

    A lot of her scholarship has become outdated to with the passage of time and availability of new historical sources.

    From what I’ve heard Richard Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” is set to become the new definitive bio – taking Brodie’s place.

    And for the record, I think her excommunication was probably the wrong call.

  96. “The Adam-God doctrine was no theory . but explicitly taught by Brigham Young”

    Whoever taught it, and however much he believed it, it is still a theory.

    I think the problem with Brodie’s bio is that she just didn’t understand religion in general and essentially overlooked the depth and complexity of Joseph’s religious ideas, which is a big thing to overlook. You can’t really understand Joseph without it.

  97. In order to solidafy my newfound friendship with Kullervo. I agree with his last statement.

  98. hi my name is jahir and i’m mormon , also i read the publish of this page ,i’m not will to said to you that you are wrong is your opinion and i respect that, well if you like to know something about my church i only give a condition cause , i don’t know if in this page some body would try to insult my religion or trying to get questions that sometimes one member of the church can’t said , please i onl please to be respectful with the things that you paste on this page please well here is my email: ja_hhh3_dx@hotmail.com

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