Open Letter to a Lazy Internet

Guest post by David Clark

Dear Lazyweb,

Some variation of the idea that Mormons have little or no official doctrine is believed with near 100% unanimity by the bloggernacle. However, I must confess I have never actually seen any justification for this idea. I have seen many people express it, and I have seen many differing opinions on doctrine offered in the bloggernacle, but I have never seen any justification for this idea.

I’d like to point out, if it isn’t obvious already, just because one loudly and continuously expresses an idea, doesn’t mean that it’s rooted in the truth. It is also the case that just because there are many differing opinions on what consitutes doctrine, it does not mean that there is no official doctrine.

Related to this, just because few people believe or practice a doctrine does not make it unofficial. As an example of this, most Catholics probably use artificial contraception, even though it most definitely is official doctrine of the Catholic Church that artiticial contraception should not be used (no, the comdom comments made by the pope and taken out of context by the media do not change this). More closer to home, as far as I know masturbation is still doctrinally considered a sin in Mormon circles, but one would be hard pressed to find a sin more widely and frequently comitted. But, this does not change the Mormon view on masturbation (again, bloggernacclers, this isn’t the place to wax eloquent about your own masturbation views and experiences, it doesn’t change what the view is, assuming it exists).

So now, dear lazyweb, I ask for statements, policies, or any other type of official communication which establishes this idea. I would ask that the following be considered before offering up a statement as support for this idea.

  1. Statements that say that members can have a wide variety of opinions on matters, and won’t be disciplined, is not good support for this idea. This could also support the contention that although the LDS church has many official doctrines, it’s pretty lenient and merciful towards those who disagree. Thus Jeffrey R. Holland’s campsite talk is probably not the best support for the idea that the church holds little or no official doctrine.
  2. Statements that are taken out of context are not good support for this idea. Joseph Smith’s oft quoted, “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” was likely given in the context of civil governance, as Joseph Smith was most likely talking to a member of the Illinois legislature at the time. I hedged a lot in the previous statement because the earliest source for this quote appears to be John Taylor, and it was communicated many years after the fact (1851 to be precise). Thus it’s not a good statement talking about lack of doctrine.
  3. Newer statements should be preferred to older ones
  4. Statements made by persons higher up in the church hierarchy should be preferred to statements made by those lower in the hierarchy
  5. Statements published in official and/or correlated sources should be preferred to those which are not
  6. Published statements should be preferred to hearsay and rumor. For example, it’s often said that David O. McKay had grave misgivings about both the content and existence of Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. But, as far as I can tell, David O. McKay never came out and said anything of the kind in a public setting.
  7. Disagreement does not mean lack of official doctrine. Brigham Young and Orson Pratt disagreeing about the nature of intelligences doesn’t really say much about official doctrine. It might say something about that particular doctrine (even then, one could make a case that it may not even affect that, but I’m not interested in making that case), but it doesn’t say anything about doctrine in general
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98 thoughts on “Open Letter to a Lazy Internet

  1. Your points are well taken, but I think what’s still missing in your post is an actual positive case for the existence of the ever-elusive, abstract, supposedly consistent notion of official, binding Mormon doctrine.

    As for me, I’m done chasing shadows. I’m sold on the idea that we’re better off approaching the idea of Mormon “doctrine” only as we explicitly recognize the diversity of Mormon approaches to officiality:

    sola scriptura – The Standard Works are the final and alone binding source of authority. If it is not in scripture, or if it is not inferred by scripture, it is not doctrinal and it is not binding.

    prima scriptura – Scripture is the highest, most final binding source of authority, but it is not the only source of that which is binding and doctrinal. Other sources, such as current church leadership (considered lesser because they are compared with scripture and discarded if in contradiction with scripture) are also binding.

    prima ecclesia – Modern church leadership is the highest, most final binding source of authority and doctrine, and may override other sources of authority and doctrine, like scripture, if there is contradiction. This is rarely done by direct repudiation and instead is done by re-interpreting, making obsolete, or questioning the preservation of a particular text. When addressing the question of whether living leaders trump scripture, or vice versa, BYU professor Robert Millet admits with refreshing honesty:

    “I think most Latter-day Saints would be prone to answer this by pointing out the value and significance of living oracles, or continuing revelation, or ongoing divine direction through modern apostles and prophets, and thus to conclude that living prophets take precedence over canonized scripture” (Claiming Christ, p.31).

    Note: Rather than endorsing this mainstream approach, Millet goes on in the book to promote an approach much like prima scriptura.

    There is a layer of theology that Mormons assume is true yet don’t feel obligated to publicly confess or defend. A 19th century example of this was polygamy. One 21st century example is that of belief in Heavenly Mother: Mormon theology and even some institutional teaching lead most Mormons to assume her existence, yet because her existence isn’t explicated by minimalist standards of what is “official”, many Mormons feel like they can simultaneously believe in her and yet publicly deny that she is part of what outsiders may acceptably consider when critiquing the religion. I’m done playing that game. It’s so slimy.

    When Jesus said to watch out for false prophets and false teachers, and that we would know them by their fruits, he did not say, “You shall know them by their fruits, but the only fruits you are allowed to consider are binding and official fruits voted on in General Conference for inclusion in the Standard Works.”

    Truth matters far more than officiality.

    Grace and peace in Jesus,

    Aaron

  2. Why don’t we just cut to the chase? Obviously, asking Mormons to provide an official statements that there is no official doctrine just sets you up to argue that if there is no official doctrine that its a logical contradiction for any Mormon to try to appeal to some official statement to argue there is no official doctrine. I think most people get the point.

    My perspective on the matter is that it is more fruitful to examine what function it serves for Mormons to argue something is or is not official.

    And finally, it’s nice to know that not only are Internet Mormons all liars but they are also lazy too. Beautiful way to begin a conversation.

  3. I suspect, David, that what you’re trying to do in your post is to get Mormons on the Bloggernacle to take more seriously the fact that the LDS Church essentially fosters the prima ecclesia approach. This is, after all, what the Fourteen Fundamentals (reiterated two Conferences ago) point Mormons to.

  4. Dear Aquinas,

    Calm down homey. What I asked for was this: “I ask for statements, policies, or any other type of official communication which establishes this idea.” What I meant by that was something in print (on official letterhead or in a church publication) by someone having some authority in the church, that’s it. That’s why I used official communication, not official statement, though I guess in retrospect I should have been more carefule. I know that asking for proof of non-existent official doctrine by only accepting official doctrine is a contradiction in terms. I thought that was so blatantly obvious that I need not specify that. I guess one can never be too careful.

    As for lazyweb, it’s a term of endearment. Please see the Urban Dictionary for how this term is used. As the Urban Dictionary says, the term was invented by jwz, a.k.a. Jamie W. Zawinski, one of the original employees of Mosaic Communications Corporation a.k.a. Netscape Communications Corporation. I thought it was more common knowledge, my apologies.

    As for the function it serves for Mormons to argue something is or is not official doctrine, I’m quite frankly not interested in that. If I were, I would have asked that question.

  5. Aaron,

    I don’t have any ulterior motives on this one. It just have never seen any statements from GAs or the scriptures or anything else with the church’s logo on it that argues for this particular idea. I’m genuinely open to being proven wrong on this one. Fire away bloggernacle!

  6. Rather that claiming that there is no official doctrine, I’d instead say that pinning down what exactly that doctrine is is like nailing Jello to a wall…. as your call for evidence so eloquently proves. Seven points of criteria to narrow the field of acceptable evidence? REALLY?

    Yes, there is doctrine but not doctrine to match the claim that it is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    “Doctrinal statements must be new, correlated, in context (and therefore rarely applicable to other times and places), published, come from as high up in the hierarchy as possible (but no definition on how low is acceptable…just higher than any other contradictory statement I guess?).”

    By that criteria we could wipe out D&C 132 since Hinckley said publicly that polygamy wasn’t doctrinal… but there it is in the scriptures. He’s newer, correlated, high in the hierarchy… but there it is published, in correlated material and it is practiced via sealings every day in temples all over the world as widowers are sealed to 2nd wives.

    Is polygamy doctrinal? Like nailing Jello to a wall even within your criteria.

  7. “And finally, it’s nice to know that not only are Internet Mormons all liars but they are also lazy too. Beautiful way to begin a conversation.”

    This.

  8. “I think most Latter-day Saints would be prone to answer this by pointing out the value and significance of living oracles, or continuing revelation, or ongoing divine direction through modern apostles and prophets, and thus to conclude that living prophets take precedence over canonized scripture” (Claiming Christ, p.31).

    Oh hello Aaron.

    Only quoting HALF of Millet again I see.

    Well, here’s another quote for you – from the last time you came on here and pulled this rubbish on us:

    [start quote]
    “Oh incidentally, I just looked up the quote from Robert Millet that Aaron quoted thus:

    “I think most Latter-day Saints would be prone to answer this by pointing out the value and significance of living oracles, or continuing revelation, or ongoing divine direction through modern apostles and prophets, and thus to conclude that living prophets take precedence over canonized scripture” (Claiming Christ, p.31).

    Well, turns out Aaron cut out half the context from it. So here’s the whole thing:

    “It’s a little tough to answer the question: Which is of greater importance to you people, the living prophet or the standard works (another way of describing our scriptural canon)? I think most Latter-day Saints would be prone to answer this by pointing out the value and significance of living oracles, or continuing revelation, or ongoing divine direction through modern apostles and prophets, and thus to conclude that living prophets take precedence over canonized scripture. ON THE OTHER HAND, a number of LDS Church leaders have commented that while Mormons look to living prophets and modern revelation as their guide to walk and talk in modern times, they are quick to ADD that prophetic pronouncements will be in harmony with the standard works, the canon. From this perspective, then, it appears that THE STANDARD WORKS TRUMP THE LIVING PROPHETS. And so, to be honest, it’s a little tough to decide which is the chicken and which is the egg. It is rather fascinating that the above does not seem to pose a particular problem for the Mormon faithful; most do not see it as an ambiguity but rather continue to study their scripture and hearken to the words of their living prophets”

    Millet & McDermott, “Claiming Christ” pp.31 (emphasis added)

    Now gee Aaron… I wonder why you could have missed all that other stuff in there. Since “refreshing honesty” is such a theme today – maybe you could take that theme and run with it a bit. How would that be?”

    [end quote]

    I’ll save you the trouble of linking to the conversation Aaron. Here it is:

    https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/romans-8/#comment-19115

  9. Seth, you missed my up-front qualification after the above-quote:

    “Note: Rather than endorsing this mainstream approach, Millet goes on in the book to promote an approach much like prima scriptura.”

    But, ahem, you should have already known this, as in the linked conversation I said:

    Seth, I in no way meant to imply that Millet himself endorses the common Mormon approach to the primacy of living leaders over scripture. Not only do I already assume people here know Millet is an advocate of prima scriptura (scripture takes precedent over uncanonized statements of leaders), in my article on the various Mormon views of officiality I write the following (after the quote from Claiming Christ):

    “Rather than endorsing this mainstream approach, Millet goes on in the book to promote an approach much like prima scriptura.”

    I apologize for not being clear. But methinks you’re mainly on a get-Aaron kick.

  10. Aaron, I didn’t think your qualification amounted to much of substance then, nor do I now. The quote was utterly misleading and none of the qualifications you gave it changed that.

    And Tim, is there a way to delete that wholly unnecessary and rather rude sentence I tacked on after the word “this” in my first post?

    If not, I apologize for being a crank.

  11. Aaron S ~ We’ve already been through this before. I know you feel your note or disclaimer more than explains Millet’s perspective, but Millet’s words make it clear he thinks the issue is more nuanced than your categories allow. I don’t agree that your note is a sufficient substitute for Millet’s own words. We will continue to disagree on this point.

  12. I fail to see how Millet went on to contradict his own claim that “most” Mormons view the leaders as having precedence over the Standard works. His original point stands. He goes on to say that leaders have taught things that go against the prevailing notion, yet members don’t see a problem. Millet glosses over the problem as a chicken and egg question. Lame.

    The expanded quote does little but reinforce that the whole mythical idea of a consistent notion of “official doctrine” in Mormonism is in disarray—a mess that Millet feels comfortable shrugging at.

    On another note, in a few of Millet’s books (such as this one) he repeats the story of a woman asking him about early Mormon teachings that essentially communicated that God the Father had sex with Mary. Millet’s response? Don’t worry, it’s not official doctrine.

    She then said with a great deal of emotion, “I want to believe you, but people have told me for years that we believe that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary and thereby Jesus was conceived.”

    I looked her in the eye and said, “I’m aware of that teaching, but that is not the doctrine of the Church—that is not what we teach in the Church today. Have you ever heard the Brethren teach it in general conference? Is it in the standard works, the curricular materials, or the handbooks of the Church? Is it a part of an official declaration or proclamation?”

    A five-hundred-pound weight seemed to come off her shoulders. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she said simply, “Thank you, Brother Millet.”

    So “virgin birth” in the end might very well end up being redefined as “an immortal had physical sex with Mary”, but for now we shouldn’t worry about it, because hey, it’s not official!

    As though officiality mattered more than truth.

    More than lame. Disgusting.

    – Aaron

  13. Yes Aaron.

    Disgust is the usual response a fundie has when he encounters nuance in the world.

    This is hardly a news flash.

  14. “Did God the Father have sex with Mary?”

    “Well, we don’t know the mechanics of how Heavenly Father impregnated Mary. All we know is that we believe in the ‘virgin birth.’ Whether McConkie was right to redefine ‘virgin birth’ as entailing a conception where an immortal had physical sex with a mortal, we’re not sure yet. Whether God had sex with Mary or not, it’s still a virgin birth. But it’s not official doctrine, and we don’t currently teach it, so it’s not a big deal, and we just don’t know yet.”

    “Huh? Shouldn’t the answer to whether God had sex with Mary be a simple, ‘no’?”

    “Oh my gosh, we’ve got a crazy fundamentalist!”

  15. Aaron,

    In your opinion, did God the Father use a ghost to artificially inseminate Mary?

    Simple yes or no please.

  16. Seth, have some Mormon leaders essentially taught that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary?

    Answer my question with a simple yes or no, and I’ll return the favor.

  17. Where does Millet say that “officiality” is more important than truth? I just don’t see it there.

    As to what constitutes doctrine, here’s the most recent semi-official statement I know of:

    Approaching Mormon Doctrine

    That works fine for me.

    I’m not sure that meets any of the original poster’s criteria, but when you set criteria for considering opposing arguments in such a way that your own views are certain to be validated, that shouldn’t be surprising.

  18. Aaron S asked Seth:

    … have some Mormon leaders essentially taught that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary?

    I’ll give you my answer: Yes.

    So what? They’re not infallible.

  19. Actually Aaron, I don’t give two figs whether you answer my distorted, misleading, and rather unfair question.

    It’s more than enough for me to simply point out the parallel for the benefit of the other readership here.

    Religion – ANY religion – always looks ugly when cross-examined by an opportunist who wants to set the terms of the debate.

  20. Millet consoled the woman with the idea that the teaching wasn’t official. He did not console the woman with the teaching wasn’t true.

  21. Mistyped:

    He did not console the woman with the idea that the teaching wasn’t true.

  22. It shows that Millet saw more value in consoling with notions of officiality than with truth (specifically the truth of whether God had sex with Mary). As though non-officiality was a salve to the Mormon soul.

  23. David’s #2:

    “Statements that are taken out of context are not good support for this idea. Joseph Smith’s oft quoted, “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” was likely given in the context of civil governance, as Joseph Smith was most likely talking to a member of the Illinois legislature at the time.”

    Oh really? Just because the visitor happened to be legislator, this quote had to be about civil governance?

    Seriously David, is that your only reason for discounting this quote?

    “I hedged a lot in the previous statement because the earliest source for this quote appears to be John Taylor, and it was communicated many years after the fact (1851 to be precise). Thus it’s not a good statement talking about lack of doctrine.”

    OK David, so you’re beef with this statement is that it’s coming from a later source.

    But then you make this statement in #3:

    “Newer statements should be preferred to older ones”

    OK…

    Do you really not see the contradiction here?

    Besides, shouldn’t you be more concerned with how Joseph’s statement is being USED by the modern church – rather than what Joseph Smith originally meant?

    Just going by your own criteria here.

  24. I think it’s just fine.

    I don’t think God the Father’s sex life is any of my business. Neither was it that woman’s business. Neither is it your business Aaron.

    Stating “we don’t know” and getting on to the actually applicable doctrines of the Gospel seems like an exceedingly practical and useful response to me.

  25. David Clark — You are approaching this backwards.

    X = a large body of “official Mormon doctrine”

    If you are arguing that “X exists”, you don’t do it by saying “people believe that X doesn’t exist, but they fail to show solid evidence for the non-existence of X”. The problem is that — even if everyone arguing for the non-existence of X so far has flawed arguments — that still doesn’t imply that X does exist.

    If you want to demonstrate that Mormons have a lot of official doctrine, then first define what you mean by that (doctrine = theology…? commandments…? something else…?), and then give your examples of things that are official doctrines and show evidence for why they fit your definition. Then it will be possible for others to assess your definition, examples, and evidence, and see if you make a good case that official Mormon doctrine exists.

  26. The bottom-line question for me is, “What is the LDS teaching its members?”
    I’ve come to the conclusion—and I’d like to know if you all agree—that the Gospel Principles book is the best place to go. It has what the LDS is teaching its members on a daily basis.

    I don’t go first to the Book of Mormon or Doctrine & Covenants for the same reason that I wouldn’t go first to the Bible if I wanted to know what the Methodist church teaches. If I just went to the Bible to find out what the Methodist church teaches, I would still wonder how they interpret it.

  27. chanson,

    If you want to demonstrate that Mormons have a lot of official doctrine, then first define what you mean by that (doctrine = theology…? commandments…? something else…?), and then give your examples of things that are official doctrines and show evidence for why they fit your definition.

    Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt.

    I’m not trying to establish that Mormons have any official doctrine. I’m asking why so many people in the bloggernacle are 100% convinced that Mormons have little to no official doctrine. Since I don’t feel like researching it myself (hence “Dear Lazyweb”), I thought I would ask others what statements or teachings from the church are used to arrive at this sentiment.

    The problem is that — even if everyone arguing for the non-existence of X so far has flawed arguments — that still doesn’t imply that X does exist.

    I’m in agreement. I’m just asking for a measly quote from some GA, manual, or something that Mormons have little to no official doctrine.

    And this seems to be a common assumption, that I am trying to establish that Mormons do have doctrine based on the fact that people can’t prove otherwise. This would be a variation of an argument from silence which I am aware is almost always invalid. I am not trying to do this.

    I’ll say it again: All I am asking for is some support for the assertion that Mormons have little to no official doctrine.

  28. David, I think it’s a distortion to declare that even the “bloggernacle” people I think you are talking about are “100% sure the Church has no official doctrine.”

    For instance, I don’t believe that.

  29. My experience is that a large number of Mormons believe as an article of faith there is some true and reliable corpus of “official” doctrine, but in reality, very few of them can really agree on what it is.

    Apologists recognize this, but instead of acknowledging that there is a problem, they capitalize on it by spinning the descriptive (there really is in fact very little clear, identifiable official doctrine) as prescriptive (asserting that there is not supposed to be official doctrine).

    The irony is that in substance, these apologists are just doing exactly what all of the other Mormons are doing.

  30. I haven’t read the comments yet.

    I don’t have much to say at all about the challenge in the original post because it seems directed at (against) someone/some group who doesn’t/don’t believe what I believe.

  31. Why would you assume that anyone here agrees with that assertion in the first place? And what do you mean by “official doctrine”?

  32. I was just listening to a podcast with some of Aquinas’s compadres and it was mentioned that Hugh Nibley said something about there being no such thing as heresy in Mormonism. If there is no such thing as heresy the only way such a statement is true is that there are no doctrines that can be rejected or distorted in any way. So the idea is definitely out there.

    There’s a bit of me that thinks the “no official doctrine” line is a way of saying “we’re not accountable for anything any Mormon might have said” OR “we reserve the right to officially change our minds about anything.”

    To restate what David is saying from an outsider’s perspective, “I hear you saying that there is no such thing as heresy, can you tell me where this idea comes from that there are no doctrines that cannot be rejected?”

  33. Tim ~ I think the part of your question asking “where this idea comes from” is a much improved version of the question. What I am suggesting is that it is useful to ask what is the function that is served when Latter-day Saints make such kinds of statements. It goes without saying that this will depend on the person and the context. Thus, I don’t claim it will give us some universal answer that holds true regardless of space and time, but I am suggesting it will yield answers with higher explanatory value. Now, I think your second paragraph shows the beginnings of asking that type of question, which I think is the right direction. I recommend examining actual cases or examples of the usage of these phrases much like a cultural anthropologist would do: examine what function this type of language serves when it is used, and be open to the fact that it may serve different functions depending on the situation.

    In regards to Hugh Nibley reference, I’m not certain that is a direct quote. Rather, it sounds more like a paraphrase of something Nibley said in his Sunstone address “On Criticizing the Authorities” in 1989, which can also be found in print. I highly recommend listening to it. I consider this to be required reading on the subject.

  34. okay Aquinas, I’ll bite. What do function do you think is served when Mormons claim something like “there is no official doctrine?”

  35. Being a lawyer, I tend to see Mormon theology as acting more like the common law. If you want to know what the law is on many things, you have to wade through all kinds of decisions and piece them together. Some of the decisions are badly decided, but still count as authority. Subsequent judges go to great lengths not to explicitly over rule bad decisions but in fact they do. In the end you have lots of different opinions but a general trend. The model puts the law in flux based on who is at the bench.

    In constitutional jurisprudence you start with a single discrete document and it morphs into thousands and thousands of divergent opinions. Some of which hold sway for a time and then are cast aside by subsequent justices.

    All of this said, I don’t think it makes sense to say that there is no official constitutional law. There is. However, the model never precludes further argument on any particular subject.

    In courts, you have multiple appellate courts interpreting the law, sometimes wrongly, but only on relatively rare occasions do you have a Supreme Court set them straight.

    Mormon theological thought is similar, you have all kinds of sources of opinions, but the ultimate authority seldom comes out with a cut and dried decision on a particular issue.

    The gospel principle manual and other materials are more like a restatements than actual law.

    This differs from the Catholic model that painstakingly lays the doctrine out in a careful “statutory” way.

  36. And BTW, I think people say that there is no “official doctrine” in order to allow for their new and interesting views of scripture, science, and history.

    The “no official doctrine” line is also a good way to maintain unity of the faith as well as leave room for lots of personal revelation.

  37. The only time I hear a member of the LDS church claim that there is “no official doctrine” is in regards to specific questions based on speculations others have made. For example, there is no official doctrine on HOW Mary conceived Christ because God hasn’t told us HOW he did it. Only that He DID. (The passages in the New Testament tells us that the Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary and she conceived. That’s as much as we have.)

    So I can’t answer DC’s question in the OP for the simple reason that I have not encountered the “nearly 100% of the bloggernacle” that believes that the LDS church has no official doctrines. If you were to ask me what the current official doctrines of the church are, I would say that “Gospel Principles” gets close, but even then, there are some issues with the text that I consider to be erroneous – such as the carry-over of the 1970s rhetoric describing the long night of Apostasy as a time when people did not know God loved them. I don’t know any Mormons who believe this to be accurate, and numerous recent General Conference addresses about the men and women who preserved the Bible and the leaders of the Reformation would support the idea that good people knew of God’s love even when, to the LDS view, the true church of Christ was not absent on the earth.

    All in all, I think that Mormonism is still entirely too young to have a detailed catechism of doctrine, and our belief in continuing revelation allows doctrines to change, be done away with, or start anew.

  38. “…the simple reason that I have not encountered the “nearly 100% of the bloggernacle” that believes…”

    I would echo what Alex says, but take it a step earlier and admit that I haven’t even encountered 100% of the bloggernacle.

  39. This differs from the Catholic model that painstakingly lays the doctrine out in a careful “statutory” way.

    Eh, I think that the Catholic model of “statutory” doctrine is a lot more like when a state passes a statute that codifies the common law.

  40. Jared C said:

    Being a lawyer, I tend to see Mormon theology as acting more like the common law.

    I like that analogy. And as is the case with common/constitutional law, reasonable people can differ in their interpretations on some points, but not all points.

  41. The analogy between common law and Mormon doctrine is a popular one. My guess is that this is mainly because so many Mormon intellectuals are really lawyers moonlighting as Mormon intellectuals (unlike REAL Mormon intellectuals, who are computer programmers moonlighting as intellectuals, now THAT’S some intellectual firepower). And, since one knows how to use a hammer, it’s really convenient to treat everything as a nail, at least to a first degree approximation.

    The reason it doesn’t work is that in common law, a law is valid and binding until it is declared to be otherwise. That’s why American lawyers can and do cite British law predating the formation of the American colonies. It all got grandfathered in and it’s still in force (at least in a technical sense), until a new decision overturns the existing precedent.

    My contention is that a common law approach would show that the Adam-God theory is either still Mormon doctrine or at a minimum was Mormon doctrine, both conclusions are anathema to both LDS apologists and bloggernacle Mormons.

    Brigham Young was an authoritative figure who declared frequently on the subject in authoritative situations. This is like a respected jurist frequently deciding cases in the same way using the same reasoning, it is a de facto precedent which forms the basis for laws in a common law system. Thus at one point in time Adam-God was doctrine on this reading of Mormon Doctrine.

    Further, has this ever been explicitly overturned in by a similarly authoritative person in an authoritative setting? I’ve never seen it. Again, following common law, the law only seems to get overturned by a court at least as high as the one setting the precedent. This makes sense, the local county judge can make a decision contrary to a Supreme Court decision, but it will not change the precedent and hence the law. In fact, that judgment will almost surely get overturned on appeal, unless the higher court decides to overrule the past decision.

    The analogy to common law also makes no sense because many Mormons like to use some sort of “decay factor” in deciding if something is really doctrine. In other words, if the GA’s don’t talk about something for a while, it’s a good candidate to be declared non-doctrinal. As far as I know, there is no “decay factor” in common law. Lawyers can cite all kinds of old, obscure, and rarely used precedents in order to make their case. One of course assumes that they usually try and use newer precedents, but there is no rule that the older ones are somehow “dead” because they are too old.

    Now, I am sure some lawyer is going to jump in here and tell my I’m an idiot and I don’t know anything about common law. Fine, if that’s the case, then it’s not a good analogy to use around educated non-specialists. It might make for a good analogy to be used when all you Mormon lawyers get together to have a hearty root beer, but it doesn’t work well for us regular folk.

  42. The analogy to common law also makes no sense because many Mormons like to use some sort of “decay factor” in deciding if something is really doctrine. In other words, if the GA’s don’t talk about something for a while, it’s a good candidate to be declared non-doctrinal. As far as I know, there is no “decay factor” in common law. Lawyers can cite all kinds of old, obscure, and rarely used precedents in order to make their case. One of course assumes that they usually try and use newer precedents, but there is no rule that the older ones are somehow “dead” because they are too old.

    Indeed there is! It’s called “desuetude.”

  43. Usually it is applicable to statutes as opposed to common-law principles, but you have to remember that the common law is not necessarily a body of rules,/i> as it is an interpretive tradition. A way of determining what the law is.

    The analogy of Mormonism to common law can only be taken so far–like any analogy–so while your criticisms are factually correct, they miss the point.

    Jared C is not saying that Mormonism is in all ways identical to the common law tradition. He is only saying that the sources of Mormon doctrine are analogous to the sources of common law.

  44. If you want to read the original article(s) see:

    Nathan B. Oman. “Jurisprudence and the Problem of Church Doctrine.” Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology 2.2 (Fall 2006): 1.

    Nathan B. Oman. “‘The Living Oracles’: Legal Interpretation and Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 42.2 (Summer 2009): 1-19. Oman’s articles available here.

    If you are really interested in this issue, make sure to read Loyd Ericson,”The Challenges of Defining Mormon Doctrine,” Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology 3.1-2 (Spring and Fall 2007): 69-90. Available here. Ericson critiques all the major schools of thought on this issue.

    There are articles that have already been published on these points. Rather than continually reinvent the wheel, it makes much more sense to me to critique these articles and contribute to the ongoing discussion.

  45. Dear David Clark and others:

    Rather than comment on your own comments, some of which are poorly articulated and others largely derivative of what others have already said (only they said it better), you should familiarize yourselves with the literature and then contribute. Aquinas has done you the favor of adding some links to use.

    As per Shaf’s disgust about “officiality” and “truth”: If your efforts were motivated by anything other than your continued attempts to discredit Mormonism I might nod my head in agreement. As it stands, though, I’ll just direct you and others to my own thoughts on “official doctrine,” with links in the footnotes to what I consider to be useful approaches to the questions.

    http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2009/06/who-speaks-for-mormons.html

    Thanks yo!

  46. ps- please don’t take my somewhat incendiary remarks as an excuse to ignore the more charitable posters in the thread. My main point is that I’d personally enjoy some thoughtful reactions to the things that others have published on this topic rather than rehashing the same old debates. If I didn’t think you folks were capable of coming up with better responses I would just ignore you altogether! So again, apologies for the snark, impulse got the best of me. I hope you can overlook it to check out the sources referred to above. 🙂

  47. David Said:

    Thus at one point in time Adam-God was doctrine on this reading of Mormon Doctrine.

    Further, has this ever been explicitly overturned in by a similarly authoritative person in an authoritative setting?

    The Adam-God theory was actually “overturned” during a Priesthood session of conference in October of 1976, Spencer W. Kimball :”We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some General Authorities of past generations, such, for instance is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine” (Church News, 10/9/76).

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1976.htm/ensign%20november%201976.htm/our%20own%20liahona%20.htm

  48. Thanks Aquinas for the article references. I hadn’t read the article before I posted the comment but it did capture the thrust of my observation.

  49. Kullervo,

    You might want to consider editing the Wikipedia entry on desuetude.

    From the “British Law” section:

    The doctrine of desuetude is not favoured in the common law tradition. In 1818, the English court of King’s Bench held in the case of Ashford v Thornton that trial by combat remained available at a defendant’s option in a case where it was available under the common law. The concept of desuetude has more currency in the civil law tradition, which is more regulated by legislative codes, and less bound by precedent.

    If this does not apply to American versions of common law, then Mormon doctrine needs to be analogized to American common law, not common law in general. Or if the Wikipedia entry is incorrect, it needs to be corrected.

  50. The Adam-God theory was actually “overturned” during a Priesthood session of conference in October of 1976

    Thanks for the heads up.

    So, on the common law analogy, was Adam-God doctrine up until October of 1976?

  51. Blair and aquinas,

    Thanks for the pointers to my old neighbor’s articles on common law. No, I’m not interested in looking at them as I don’t think it’s a compelling analogy. But more to the point, I really don’t feel like going on an extended foray into common law analogies, which would require me to learn more about common law, a subject I have zero interest in. No, what interests me is how much doctrine Mormonism really has (according to the bloggernacle, Internet Mormons, etc.), and how they identify it.

    To take the common law approach to learning about Mormon doctrine would seem to be the equivalent of telling someone who wants to learn about physics to first go and learn to be an auto mechanic.

  52. David, I don’t think the common law approach is mentioned here as a nod to what we should all accept as binding, normative, or correct. It’s just a well-articulated point for consideration.

    Moreover, it isn’t all that was offered. Loyd Ericson’s article is quite interesting to consider. He doesn’t solve the problems as much as he tries to clarify what the problems are. Bob Millet has published a response to which he has published a rejoinder in the recent issue of Element. I haven’t had the time to read them yet, but I think he raises something like what Shaf raises which is the relationship between “doctrine” and “truth.”

    (PS- Thanks for overlooking my earlier snark.)

  53. So, on the common law analogy, was Adam-God doctrine up until October of 1976?

    Not really, Adam-God could be analogous to a wrongly decided case that was disregarded until it was finally overruled.

    I think the Oman article gives a good example of how Mormons find out what doctrine is using an interpretive method.

    No, what interests me is how much doctrine Mormonism really has (according to the bloggernacle, Internet Mormons, etc.), and how they identify it.

    I think you are right that Mormonism has doctrine, but like the law on lots of points, there is room for argument and discussion because of different traditions.

  54. If this does not apply to American versions of common law, then Mormon doctrine needs to be analogized to American common law, not common law in general. Or if the Wikipedia entry is incorrect, it needs to be corrected.

    Again, Mormon dictrine is only being analogized to the common law tradition as a source of law.

    What that means is, in Mormonism, “official doctrine” is not contained in one document, but is rather synthesized from a large number of diverse sources of varying weight of authority.

    That’s also how the common law tradition decides “what the law is.” Although there are documents purporting to set out the corpus of the common law (treatises, Restatements of the Law, etc.), whose documents are not themselves the primary source (although they do gain the weight of authority over time!).

    Nobody is saying that Mormonism is like the common law in that Mormon doctrine involves a process of doctrinal rulings based on binding precedent but where higher authorities can contradict and overrule leser authorities. Nobody is making that analogy. We can compare two things in one sense in order to make a point or to better understand them in that sense without also needing them to be alike in every other possible sense.

    An analogy is not flawed because the two things compared are not absolutely identical in every way. If that was the case, all analogies would be flawed. An analogy is only flawed if the things being compared are not sufficiently similar in the sense in which you are comparing them.

  55. An analogy is not flawed because the two things compared are not absolutely identical in every way. If that was the case, all analogies would be flawed. An analogy is only flawed if the things being compared are not sufficiently similar in the sense in which you are comparing them.

    I agree. However, an analogy becomes useless once too many exceptions for incorrect comparisons have to be made. From where I sit, that has already happened.

    Analogies also break down when they become too general. You seem to be saying that common law is like Mormon doctrine because it “is not contained in one document, but is rather synthesized from a large number of diverse sources of varying weight of authority.” Fine, but that also describes computer programming. And plumbing. And tons of other things. In large part it seems to be saying that it’s just really messy. But at that point, why bother with the analogy? It’s very generalized and seems to be reducible to simple English.

    I’ve only ever heard the common law analogy from lawyers (unless Jared C is not a lawyer). And I can understand that, everyone likes to make analogies from what they are familiar with. Since they know the ins and outs of the analogy, it makes sense to them. So Mormon lawyers, continue to use the analogy amongst yourselves. I don’t think it’s a good analogy for the reasons I listed above (and more), but I will concede that perhaps among lawyers it makes a certain amount of sense.

  56. I’m not a Mormon lawyer, nor is Loyd–the only two people in the thread I can speak for in that regard–and you seem to be overlooking a few other points raised.

  57. Analogies also break down when they become too general. You seem to be saying that common law is like Mormon doctrine because it “is not contained in one document, but is rather synthesized from a large number of diverse sources of varying weight of authority.” Fine, but that also describes computer programming. And plumbing. And tons of other things. In large part it seems to be saying that it’s just really messy. But at that point, why bother with the analogy? It’s very generalized and seems to be reducible to simple English.

    The difference is that “law” is a whole lot more like “doctrine” than it is like a description of activities like plumbing or computer programming.

    And the idea being put forward here is that the sources of Mormon doctrine are more like the sources of common law than they are like, say, the sources of civil law (which is generally contained in a single authoritative code).

    I’ve only ever heard the common law analogy from lawyers (unless Jared C is not a lawyer).

    He is indeed. and so am I. However, I do not necessarily agree that “official mormon doctrine” is analogous to “common law.” I just don’t think the analogy is incoherent.

  58. David Clark ~ One cannot dismiss these articles and related ones by merely saying you aren’t interested in the common law analogy. Not everyone makes a common law analogy, and even those who make it are careful about the extent to which the analogy applies, and it would be more useful to directly critique Oman’s analysis rather than claiming you are not interested.

    There is a larger discourse about how best to understand the parameters of Mormon doctrine, to which many people have made contributions, and I think it would be a mistake to ignore what work has already been done.

    You write: “No, what interests me is how much doctrine Mormonism really has (according to the bloggernacle, Internet Mormons, etc.), and how they identify it.”

    It is difficult to understand what you mean by this when you disregard the authors that I reference, who are arguably are bloggernacle and Internet Mormons par excellence, and who write directly on this topic. This smacks to me as if you don’t want anything to hear anything relevant on point.

    This is especially confusing when taken together with other comments you have made on this blog about “Internet Mormons”:

    “Internet Mormons want to be loved and/or accepted by the Christian community, so they lie about what they really believe.”

    “I would love nothing better than to talk with average Mormons about the issues I see that are problematic in Mormonism. The problem is that most Mormons either can not or will not engage these issues. So, I’m stuck discussing stuff with bloggernacle Mormons who will engage the issues but don’t like referring to lived Mormonism all that much.”

    “In summary, I like Mormonism just fine (though I think it’s false), it’s Internet Mormonism that really annoys me.”

    So you would really would like to not have to speak with Internet Mormons, but feel you are stuck with this group as your only interlocutors. So how are we to understand why you persist in participating in a forum where the only Mormons who participate are of the Internet persuasion?

    Your current post takes an unexpected turn from your prior comments, because here you surprisingly claim to want to hear from Internet Mormons or the bloggernacle, yet continually respond that you aren’t interested in anything that Internet Mormons or the bloggernacle have to say or write on the topic. This sounds to me as if you don’t really want to talk with anyone here. Given your comments, I’m not really certain who it is exactly that you really wish to communicate within this forum.

  59. I just get the feeling David that you want to complain about things, but the whole topic tires you, so you don’t particularly want anyone to actually respond to you.

    If that was the case, you could have saved us all a lot of time and just had Tim close the comments from the get-go.

  60. David said: “No, what interests me is how much doctrine Mormonism really has (according to the bloggernacle, Internet Mormons, etc.), and how they identify it.”

    It seems to me, David, that you assume doctrine should have a certain agreed-upon definition, be quantifiable or identifiable by an agreed-upon standard, and that doctrine as such should have a certain identifiable function in the religious lives of Mormons.

    Is this an accurate observation?

    If so, I would question some of your key assumptions, and the articles which we’ve referred to (not just Oman’s) bear on those assumptions. This is why I completely agree with aquinas when he observes: “There is a larger discourse about how best to understand the parameters of Mormon doctrine, to which many people have made contributions, and I think it would be a mistake to ignore what work has already been done.”

  61. All this is to say that “Internet Mormonism,” which David says “annoys” him, seems to be a microcosm of Mormonism generally, with various perspectives, attitudes, measures of orthodoxy, areas of emphasis, levels of experience, and unique interpretations. When I see “Internet Mormonism annoys me” I read it like this:

    “Mormonism annoys me.”

  62. By the way, are any of the Internet Mormons around here sick and tired of talking to the Internet Evangelicals, the Internet Atheists, and the Internet Others?

  63. From what I’ve seen, “Internet Mormon” is a stupid term that doesn’t describe anyone around here, so it’s kinda hard to answer your question. But I’m finding this discussion rather entertaining.

  64. I’m sorry, BrianJ, but do you by chance know any “Entertained” people? I’ve spoken with plenty of “Internet Entertained” people today!

    😉

  65. BTW: I’d like to add a number to the list.

    #8: The sheer fact that a person was formerly a member of the LDS Church does not give that person de facto authority to gate-keep regarding what sort of things Mormons ought to be beholden to in terms of Mormon doctrine or beliefs generally. They do not, by that fact, become automatic lie-detectors nor should they be considered the best arbiters of pseudo-sociological categories like “internet” and “chapel.”

  66. Blair, regarding your proposed #8: if that’s directed at David, I’m not seeing any place on this thread where David appealed to his experience as a former member of the church as a source of authority. He may have done this in the past—I don’t know for certain—but it doesn’t strike me as his style.

    I have so much to say and so little time to say it in, but I want to put in that I personally don’t believe in “Mormon doctrine,” not because Mormons don’t talk about something called “Mormon doctrine” or because Mormons don’t believe in “Mormon doctrine.” I’m wary of the category because I think too many people on different sides of the debate try to use it as a weapon in a war of words.

    I find it more useful to say that there is only LDS thought and the history of LDS thought. Some strands of LDS thought are large, common, and widely taught by the church and believed by church members. Some strands are rare and less commonly taught, but still believed by a minority of the members. All of them are worthy of consideration and some degree of value in the discussion of what Mormons believe.

    What this means is that I refuse to dismiss ideas simply because they are uncommon, unofficial, or no longer taught by the church. I’m interested in LDS feminist theories of God, Heavenly Mother, and gender identity, even if they have never been spoken across a pulpit. I’m interested in what aquinas has to say when he expounds on Mormon beliefs using the Book of Mormon as a source, even if I feel that these ideas are closer to Protestant thought because the Book of Mormon is more 19th century Protestant theology than anything else. I’m interested in what folks like Kevin Barney and Bored in Vernal have to say about how God the Father sired Jesus, even if this idea makes other Mormons intensely uncomfortable and they’d rather shut down the conversation by calling that “not-doctrine.”

    It’s all Mormon doctrine to me, and it’s all worth some degree of discussion and consideration.

    I’m not irritated by my conversations with Latter-day Saints on the Internet. I only get irritated when people question my own experiences with what Latter-day Saints say and believe, as with my “Denial is a River in Utah” post a while back. Maybe my experiences with Mormon have been atypical, maybe they haven’t been, but I promise that they have been genuinely mine and I’m being as sincere as I know how to be.

  67. Well, here’s the thing: many Mormons believe that there is such a thing as official Mormon doctrine, which means that when we are talking descriptively about what Mormons believe, it is important because it is one of the things that many Mormons believe, and it in turn shapes their other beliefs and practices.

    Just as long as we don’t slip into thinking of Mormon belief prescriptively instead of descriptively.

  68. Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt.

    Ah, so you’re syaing you have defined Mormon doctrine and have given examples of it. OK, so where’s the link to the relevant post(s)?

    I’m not trying to establish that Mormons have any official doctrine. I’m asking why so many people in the bloggernacle are 100% convinced that Mormons have little to no official doctrine.

    I’ll venture a guess: because there’s no compelling evidence that it does exist…?

    Since I don’t feel like researching it myself (hence “Dear Lazyweb”)

    Arguing that it’s too difficult to come up with a clear definition and a relevant example or two doesn’t really help your case.

  69. chanson,

    I’ll venture a guess: because there’s no compelling evidence that it does exist…?

    Which is an argument from silence of sorts. Those are dangerous to make, which is why I was hoping that the bloggernacle would make a positive case for lack thereof.

    Arguing that it’s too difficult to come up with a clear definition and a relevant example or two doesn’t really help your case.

    For the love of anything anyone considers holy, I’m not trying to make a case here. I’m asking other people to do a better job of making the case that seems to be made on a regular basis.

    Furthermore, I didn’t make a case because I’m lazy, hence “lazyweb.” If I understand this correctly, you have written some books on software engineering. You of all people should understand that I, as a software engineer, value laziness. I don’t invent crap from first principles, I look it up on stackoverflow.com. I don’t write multi-threaded code in Java, because I’m too lazy to get it right. I use GPars, or maybe break out clojure if it’s a really hairy multi-threaded program. Why? Because I’m lazy. My current project is 100K lines, not 200K lines. Why? Because I’m too lazy to maintain 200K lines, so I switched from Java to Groovy so I could be more lazy. Upwards of 90% of the variables in the application lazy load. Why? Because instead of figuring out and optimizing use cases, I just lazy load all the variables and then whatever use case gets pushed through the application, only that which needs to get loaded gets loaded. My variables are lazy because I’m lazy.

  70. Blair, regarding your proposed #8: if that’s directed at David, I’m not seeing any place on this thread where David appealed to his experience as a former member of the church as a source of authority. He may have done this in the past—I don’t know for certain—but it doesn’t strike me as his style.

    I can’t recall ever doing that. Though if someone points out a post I have written or a comment I have made where I did that, I will concede that I have done it. Hey, we all make mistakes.

  71. David, we just finished a thread where you were pitting your experience of Mormonism through your own past ward, and your family members against whatever it was you felt we of the “bloggernacle” believe.

    Not to mention statements like:

    “Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt.”

    Which pretty much imply the “I speak from experience” theme.

    And anyone who’s been paying attention to the last few threads this month is well aware you were trying to “make a case.” You were trying to make a case that there is an official Mormon doctrine and that people on the bloggernacle are dishonestly denying or hiding its existence.

  72. Okay. I’ll bite. I don’t know if you’re sincere about your question, David, or if you’re just trying to argue. But I’ll take your question at face value. I don’t mind discussing the issue if you’re genuinely curious to learn why I don’t love the term “chapel” Mormon, while something like “mainstream” is more palatable to me. Just know I really won’t get into a fight about this; it’s an interesting topic, but not something I’ll die trying to convince you of.

    In my experience, the terms “internet” and “chapel” Mormon are problematic because they are loaded and often derogatory, generally used to call into question the authentic “Mormonness” of Mormons who hold either nuanced or minority theological positions. In other words, they imply, “You aren’t really Mormon — you’re one of those ‘internet’ Mormons who is less Mormon than the ‘normal’ membership in the pews.”

    I know that you, David, hear “internet Mormon” and think of someone with a more nuanced view of prophetship. I respect that, but because the terms specifically refer to the chapel and the internet, they are pretty misleading. I know I never thought of it that way, never knew anyone thought of it that way, until you brought it up a couple months ago. Maybe I have a simple mind, but I thought, Gee, there are plenty of Mormons with nuanced/minority viewpoints who have never engaged in a single online discussion, and many involved in internet-based Mormon dialogue who worship in the chapel every week, sincerely and devoutly. So those can’t be all that correct.

    “Mainstream” Mormon is a more neutral term that is descriptive in nature, indicating that a position or cluster of positions is/are more common in contemporary Mormonism. If in usage it begins to take on some of the negative connotations that “internet” vs. “chapel” have, I’ll have problems with it, too. I’m not married to it by any stretch of the imagination. What I want to get away from is the de-Mormonizing of people who hold less prevalent positions. Those of us with minority or nuanced viewpoints know we are outside the mainstream in this sense. But we still claim authentic Mormon identity. We believe that we are solidly within the bounds of Mormonism.

    From what I’ve gathered from interacting with you on this topic, David, you really do feel that people with more liberal/nuanced positions, especially on prophetship, aren’t authentically Mormon. I understand that’s how you experienced Mormonism, and I really do respect that. But my experience is different, so I disagree with your conclusion that someone with a more nuanced perspective can’t be Mormon. Mormonism is roomier and wider for me than it was for you. I don’t deny the reality of your experience, but neither can I deny my own. That’s why I bristle at the terms “internet” and “chapel” Mormon, which seem to be primarily about marginalization and identity politics.

  73. Katie,

    Thanks for your reply, I appreciate that you took the time to give a response. I can’t say that I agree with much of it, but I do appreciate it. I’ll move along now.

  74. Half the world believes nothing but bullshit. That is the only reason you even have anything to discuss on this site!

  75. There isn’t a dividing line, right one side, wrong the other. It’s evenly distributed. Nobody is immune. All I have to say. Goodbye!

  76. Wait, so you’re saying that, for example, half of Christians who believe in the Trinity believe nothing but bullshit, and the other half does not? That doesn;t even make sense.

  77. Some people know what the score is, but also know enough to keep away from conflict–thus they avoid places like this, where everyone pretends to be open-minded, but has an axe to grind. And then there are people like me, who like to throw kerosene on the fire–and watch fools on both sides piss in the ocean while trying to make a point. It’s hilarious! But the novelty only lasts a minute or two, and the fun is gone. It’s like watching a movie you’ve seen a dozen times, over and over. Or the same old broken record, where the needle skips endlessly–“This is the truth…the truth…the truth…the truth…”

  78. And then there are people like me, who like to throw kerosene on the fire–and watch fools on both sides piss in the ocean while trying to make a point.

    And, apparently, mix metaphors with reckless abandon!

  79. Who’s trolling? I’m telling it like it is. The world is 50% idiots, and they are evenly mixed with the rational citizens. It’s a good thing. It makes it easier for idiots to hide among the rational and yell, “Look at that fool!” And who’s using metaphors? A fool, is a fool, is a fool…regardless of smile or clever disguise. This site is to attract foolish Mormons who think they can reason with those who don’t know what reason is. Evangelicals proclaim, “I know what I am talking about.” But so do Jews, and Muslims, and Hindus, and Taoists, and Shintoists, and the natives of the Amazon. To hear them tell it they are all right. If you’re open-minded you say every man to his own poison. That’s fine, except they can’t all be right, and they can’t all be wrong. But nobody on this site is going to resolve that or solve any of that. Tim says he is fascinated with Mormons–but that doesn’t stop him from trying to discredit them–on the pretense of reasonable dialog.

  80. The world is 50% idiots, and they are evenly mixed with the rational citizens.

    If, by “Idiots”, you mean people that deeply believe relatively unsubstantiated propositions and make important life decisions based on those beliefs, then you have to include a lot more than 50% in the club.

    And who’s using metaphors? A fool, is a fool, is a fool…regardless of smile or clever disguise.

    Since when does smiling make you look less like a fool?

  81. And then there are people like me, who like to throw kerosene on the fire–and watch fools on both sides piss in the ocean while trying to make a point.

    There are also people like me that supply you with kerosene, at a hefty margin, and watch while the sheep are led by the nose out of the cave by the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s as if they(almost) literally jump out of the frying pan, into the fray, at the drop of a bucket.

  82. But nobody on this site is going to resolve that or solve any of that.

    Actually, everybody on this site that believes anything at all, is going to essentially resolve all of that one way or another.

  83. You’re right Jared. Your smile makes you no less a fool. The proof is that you are still here. I’m not anymore. Gone as of 10:36, Pacific time…

  84. I have resolved that you can’t lead a horse to the slaughter but you can’t make him drink if you don’t look him in the mouth.

  85. Thank you for your kind words. It’s really too bad he left, it’s rare to find someone who is willing to “tell it like it is”.

  86. What’s the matter Tim? Your outreach to folks you are fascinated with but feel contempt for stagnating…? Big surprise huh! Pretending you’re a friend when you’re really an enemy is a little hard to put a genione face on!

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