Reframing Internet and Chapel Mormonism

It’s been a rather hot topic on this blog recently if “Internet Mormonism” exists and whether or not it conflicts with “Chapel Mormonism”. I’m beginning to see “Internet Mormon” as the new pejorative equaling “Anti-Mormon” in tone, intent and offense.

As I was thinking about the distinctions between the Internet and the Chapel my mind wandered to the differences between Protestants who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and Protestants who believe in the infallibility of the Bible. I would probably describe myself as believing in inerrancy. But if I were described as an “Inerrancist” by someone else I’d probably want to know what she meant by that. My belief in inerrancy is highly qualified and shouldn’t ever be classified with Biblical-literalism. If I were being asked to defend the Old Testament formula for Pi I might default to a position of infallibility to avoid a long nuanced explanation of my belief in inerrancy.

Moving the discussion back into Mormonism; there’s a joke that states “Catholics say that the Pope is infallible, but no one believes it. Mormons say their prophet is fallible, but no one believes it.”

David Clark described Internet Mormonism this way:

The main dividing line between Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons is how they view the prophets. Chapel Mormons view the prophets as authoritative mouthpieces of God who give modern revelation that members of the church should listen to and obey. A representative view of the prophets, from the viewpoint of an Internet Mormon, was articulated by none other than yourself on this blog when you said:

“What I do not have a particular testimony of is whether Thomas S. Monson is absolutely authoritative in overruling any of that, or interpreting it for me.

I basically view most modern General Authorities as highly persuasive commentary on Joseph Smith and the scriptures and little else. Other than that, I concede their mandate to run the Church and have no desire to challenge them in this role.”

In other words, what a prophet says is not authoritative nor binding on the members of the church.

I think it’s a mistake to view the “Internet” and the “Chapel” as locations when discussing Internet and Chapel Mormonism. Many will say “I’m in the chapel every week” or “I know other people in the chapel who think like I do but never interact online.” Instead it might be more helpful to think of the “internet” and the “chapel” as sources of information.

Mormons who gain their understanding of Mormonism exclusively from the chapel will be more likely to contend that the LDS Prophet can not and has not ever lead the church astray in any doctrinal teaching. Those Mormons function with a belief in prophetic infallibility. But when those same Mormons encounter information (e.g. The Adam-God Doctrine, most certainly taught by Brigham Young as authoritative doctrine) from outside-the-chapel sources like the internet, they default to “Internet Mormonism”. A belief that LDS authorities are useful guides but not necessarily binding arbiters of doctrine or truth.

When later Mormon leaders disavowed the Adam-God doctrine they effectively smashed the idea that a prophet could not lead the faithful astray. “Internet Mormons” are those who understand/believe/practice their faith with this kind of understanding. They reject the idea that a living prophet is more vital than the standard works. Ezra Taft Benson and any who reinforce the “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” are “Chapel Mormons” and have not been exposed to information/understanding to sufficiently dissuade them from the idea that prophets are fallible and have never been in error whether the topic is earrings or the nature of God.

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60 thoughts on “Reframing Internet and Chapel Mormonism

  1. Tim, there is no useful way to salvage the terms “chapel Mormon” and “Internet Mormon” and I suggest dropping the terms entirely. I agree with your observations that “Internet Mormon” especially as it has appeared on this blog, is a pejorative term as it is synonymous with people who deliberately lie about what they believe.

    I appreciate your attempts to reframe the issue, but I don’t think viewing these terms as “sources of information” redeems these terms because you can’t create a person who receives no information about their religion outside of the chapel, or receives their information exclusively from “The Chapel.” That isn’t realistic. Latter-day Saints, like other people, receive information from a variety of sources and are influenced from a variety of individuals including family, friends, books, their personal experiences, etc. Furthermore, Mormons who access information from the Internet, like everyone else, can access general conference talks just as they can blogs.

    If people want to make distinctions between Latter-day Saints who hold different views, that’s fine. But let’s make distinctions without feeling the need to employ poorly conceived and nonsensical labels like Internet Mormon and Chapel Mormon. It’s unfortunate that these terms were introduced and uncritically accepted by some. I think the goal should be to persuade people that these terms are not useful, rather than try to find some way to salvage them and perpetuate their existence.

  2. I agree with aquinas that there’s probably no salvaging the ‘Internet/Chapel’ distinction in terms of general sources of information, even if it does have certain allures (i.e., one might at least instinctively suggest that the sort of discourse prevalent among Latter-day Saints in Internet discussion forums evinces a different approach than that sort of discourse prevalent among Latter-day Saints in chapels, as a general but exception-riddled principle). Even apart from the misleading labels and the potential for offense, it was far too simplistic to attempt a mere dichotomization. There do seem to be real distinctions, I think, between the varying general approaches that Latter-day Saints have to the nature of religious authority; and some sort of (non-value-laden) categorization would be a very useful device for achieving a greater sort of clarity. We simply need to invest more energy in developing one in which the designations aren’t misleading. (And, hopefully, one in which none of the designations would come to be used predominantly pejoratively… but I’m not an optimist.) I think one serious obstacle to producing a categorization very easily is how easy it is to radically but unconsciously shift approaches when confronted with certain sorts of challenges. Still, I think much more work needs to be done here.

  3. I stand by my previous point that this has almost nothing to do with where you interact or receive your information about Mormonism, and almost everything to do with personality.

    The friends I alluded to in the previous thread don’t even know about Adam-God, let alone the later repudiations; they don’t read discussions like these online; they have almost NO understanding of messy church history; they couldn’t care less about the intricacies of the viviparous spirit birth debate, and so on and so forth.

    They have a more nuanced view about prophetship, not because they were “exposed” to difficult issues that required them to adjust their worldview in order to make sense of their faith, but because their natural worldview makes them automatically predisposed to seeing shades of grey. As a result, and recognize that human beings are human — even General Authorities.

    And they haven’t had to wrestle with Nauvoo-era polyandry to recognize that fact. It’s just the way they’re wired.

  4. Aquinas for the win: “there is no useful way to salvage the terms “chapel Mormon” and “Internet Mormon” and I suggest dropping the terms entirely”

    Tim: In an effort to salvage (for what purpose, I can’t imagine) the useless terms “Internet/Chapel Mormon,” you’ve introduced the distinction of those who believe the prophet is fallible vs. those who do not. So…if fallible/infallible is what you want to mean by Internet/Chapel, why not just use the terms fallible/infallible? Why use terms that are so problematic and require such lengthy explanation? Everybody knows what the terms fallible/infallible mean, so we don’t need a handy layman’s nickname to keep them straight—especially when the nickname doesn’t immediately clue one in on what you mean.

  5. Mostly what I want to do here is expand on what Katie L. said, because she’s right, but first I want to join in the chorus to agree that the terms “Internet Mormon” and “chapel Mormon” are useless, misleading and subject to misinterpretation.

    A few years ago in the bloggernacle, the favored terms in some circles to refer to people as the “iron rodders” and the “liahonas” to indicate a similar distinction. Those terms fell out of favor, possibly because the terms could be used pejoratively, and perhaps because it dealt with only attitudes toward certain behavior issues and not so much the divides between infallibility vs. fallibility or literal vs. figurative approaches to the scriptures. (Those who are more likely to view the stories in scripture as literal history tend to be those who are most strict about behavioral issues, but not always.)

    Aside from the problem of dividing people into two groups, I have to agree with what BrianJ said. If by “Internet Mormon” you mean those who are comfortable with fallible prophets, then use the latter description. If in the discussion that begin with David Clark’s post, if he had said from the start that he wanted to hear arguments from those who believe there’s no such thing as Mormon doctrine rather than to hear “Internet Mormons” take positions that probably nobody here agrees with, the discussion would have gone quite a bit differently.

    Aside from that, I have no suggestions about what would be good terms to use. Around my home, we use the terms “rigid type” and “nonrigid type” to describe two broad groups of Mormons, although those terms certainly have their shortcomings.

    I’ll put my reaction to Katie’s remarks in the next comment.

  6. Katie L., in referring to so-called “Internet Mormons” who don’t get their primary information about the Church from the Internet, said:

    They have a more nuanced view about prophetship, not because they were “exposed” to difficult issues that required them to adjust their worldview in order to make sense of their faith, but because their natural worldview makes them automatically predisposed to seeing shades of grey. As a result, and recognize that human beings are human — even General Authorities.

    Yes!

    I don’t know if it’s personality or what, but whatever differences there between these two broad groups of Mormons (whatever we want to call them) don’t really have all that much to do with Internet habits or exposure to problematic history or whatever. And I don’t know exactly if they’re “wired” that way, or if it comes from upbringing or what, but people do seem to be naturally disposed to take different approaches to matters of faith.

    Katie referred to friends who have a “kind of nuanced perspective on the authority and role of the General Authorities” yet didn’t get that from conversations such as this one. Similar things could be said of the person I’m married to. I remember once talking to her about theories that Joseph Smith included substantial interpolations in his translation of the Book of Mormon and/or included parts of the Bible wholesale into his translation even though they weren’t expressly written on the plates. Her reaction? Even if that’s the case, it wouldn’t make the Book of Mormon any less true. As far as I know, she’s never frequented an LDS apologetics forum or anything of the sort; the issues that some of us discuss endlessly simply don’t matter. What matters about the Book of Mormon for her is what it teaches us about the Atonement, and details about how the book came to be aren’t all that relevant to real life. Matters such as archaeological verification simply aren’t important, because they don’t affect whether the Book of Mormon is true.

    Similarly, I’ve mentioned things such as the Adam-God doctrine to her, and that Brigham Young probably taught it. Her reaction? “So what?”

    On a different matter, I remember watching, while it happened, President Hinckley bring up the earring thing. The instant reaction of the person I was sitting next to? “That’s just what we need! One more thing to judge people by!” Yet this is from someone who firmly believed he was a prophet called by God to lead the Church.

    I’m not saying these views are typical in the church. But I’d guess that the vast majority who think similarly didn’t get their views from Internet discussions.

    Undoubtedly, the power structure of the church is dominated by what I’ll call the “rigid” type. But there are many, many of us (including some leaders) who have, as Katie L. calls it, a nuanced view about the role of our prophets, seers and revelators. Many of us are not only comfortable with gray, but we may thrive on it. It just doesn’t have much to do with hearing critical information about the Church.

    I probably first became aware of these two broad approaches to faith ages ago after, while attending an evangelical Christian college, going to a presentation by a rabbi. The rabbi (I think he was from Reformed Judaism) talked at length about the beauty he sees in the symbolism of Jewish observances and that sort of thing. I found his presentation inspiring; in fact, I was surprised at how much he said resonated with me, and I was impressed with the faith that man had in what we call the Old Testament, even though he didn’t take much of it literally. But one of my friends who attended with me had an opposite reaction: “That guy doesn’t believe anything!” I was stunned by his reaction. I thought the rabbi believed a lot; he just didn’t see it all as literal.

    The same differences that there are between “Internet Mormons” and “chapel Mormons,” or whatever we want to call them, exist in evangelicalism as well, and they existed since long before the Internet was born.

    Tim said:

    My belief in inerrancy is highly qualified and shouldn’t ever be classified with Biblical-literalism.

    Why the qualification? Is that because of your personality, or is it because of exposure to ideas that conflicted with an earlier view and challenged the core of your faith? Or is that what you were raised with? Did you ever believe in what I might call a fundamentalist view of inerrancy (which I guess would be literalism)? Just wondering.

  7. I have only been participating in the bloggernacle for a few years now, but I have been around long enough to learn what seems to be a key reason for people to call others Internet Mormons: It is to invalidate what that person has said. The only times I have had the term thrown my way was when I made a statement that did not mesh with what the other person believed about Mormonism. So rather than accept that Mormon thought is a heck of a lot more nuanced than they want to believe, they just say, “Oh, you’re views don’t count, because you are an ‘Internet Mormon.'”

    Many of those who participate in these blogs use pseudonyms or partial names. (I’m one of the few exceptions, if you choose to believe that I am being honest about my name.) As a result, I don’t know where most of those on the bloggernacle attend church. It is quite possible that there are members of my ward who comment regularly, but it doesn’t come up in our meetings. I don’t know anyone who starts statements with, “I was reading on such-and-such blog last night…” but that doesn’t mean their ideas are not drawn from such.

    For me, the big question isn’t what makes the distinction between Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons. It is why we must make such distinctions in the first place.

  8. Alex (if that’s really your name): I don’t see an inherent problem with making distinctions between people/groups—in fact, I find it quite useful. I just think the terms and the distinctions should be useful.

  9. I really appreciate the comments made by everyone and I can’t agree more. A couple of follow up comments.

    In regards to what Katie L and Eric are saying, I can add my own experiences as well. Just recently I am speaking with a friend of mine who admits he has never read one book on Mormon history or its origins and he is just now beginning to read one at the request of a co-worker who is not Mormon. My friend was curious to know my point of view and I’ve expressed my perspectives, but as I have discussed various issues with him, I can already sense he is not bothered by certain positions or approaches and it isn’t because he reads any of these Mormon journals, it isn’t because he is an avid-reader of Mormon history, and it isn’t because he participates on online forums. He doesn’t do any of those things as far as I know. It’s just the worldview that he has based upon his lived experiences.

    I think Alex hits upon what bothers me most about the usage I’ve seen related to types of Mormons. That is, these labels have been used to justify the wholesale dismissal of opinions and experiences of certain Mormons who seek to contribute their voices to discussions. I’ve seen situations, including outside this blog, where a person claims to want to engage in dialogue with Mormons, but only certain kinds of Mormons. They don’t want to hear from Mormons who are informed, who have read books, or have thought about issues or have formed responses to questions or are knowledgeable about the issues. Those Mormons are dismissed from the forum. That isn’t interfaith dialogue. The person wants to talk with Mormons, but only Mormons who give the responses that they want to hear. That isn’t interfaith dialogue. We can debate the merits of what people say, the contents of their communications, but eliminating people merely because they have formulated responses and are informed of the issues, or because they don’t match or conform to our preconceived notions of some hypothetical pure Mormon specimen, unadulterated, and untainted by books, articles, scholarship, conversations with others, uncorrupted by any kind of information or contact from the outside world, cannot be considered good practice where true dialogue is the goal.

    I agree that there are distinctions among people in terms of what they believe or the limits of those beliefs—we discuss these all the time—but I don’t think we should be looking for good substitute labels for Internet Mormon and Chapel Mormon. Why not describe the specific beliefs of the kinds of people with whom you have met or otherwise have had conversations? If one can do that effectively, what is to be gained by going further and smacking some label on them?

    Look at a label’s track record. Does it help or hinder effective communication? Has it moved the discussion forward? There is no reason to use some short-hand label that is misleading, reductionist or pejorative, if you can accurately and effectively communicate without it.

  10. I think we should make up new labels:

    Awesome Mormons and Lame Mormons.

    Awesome Mormons are ones like me. Lame ones are everyone else.

    😉

  11. Katie: I like it, but I was thinking more of a tripartite model: Psychedelic Mormons, Grapefruit Mormons, and Battery Mormons.

    (To be clear: “battery” as in a “portable source of electricity,” not “assault and battery.” I’m sure my labels now make perfect sense.)

    Aquinas: “Why not describe the specific beliefs of the kinds of people with whom you have met or otherwise have had conversations? If one can do that effectively, what is to be gained by going further and smacking some label on them?”

    I think you answer your own question with a question: “Look at a label’s track record. Does it help or hinder effective communication? Has it moved the discussion forward?”

    That is, labels can be useful because they allow us to communicate—every word is merely a label for something else we hope to convey. “Mormon” is a label. “LDS” is a label. “Evangelical” is a label. Labels can be useful, but only if they are used well.

  12. I agree that labels are useful when they are appropriately applied. My disagreement with the usage of many, though, is that they set up a false dichotomy. As has been indicated above, there are a lot of people who not only see the shades of grey, they thrive on them. So to divide a group in simple divisions of black and white leaves out many who don’t fit in. It is like Americans trying to label everyone as conservative or liberal. Too many people recognise that life is too nuanced for such a simple division.

  13. My own perception of the internet/chapel usage has been rather different from those of you who have mentioned a parallel with Liahona/Iron Rod, not that I think you’re wrong about your own experience. I’ve seen it used instead as a restatement of the common view that Mormons are inconsistent, or evasive, in stating their beliefs. The idea seems to be that in the chapel everyone is well aware that the church teaches certain doctrines (such as de facto infallibility of leaders or straightforward historicity of the Book of Mormon), notwithstanding genuine reservations some individual members do have. Yet Mormons encountered on the internet deny that such teachings exist, cite their own idiosyncratic divergent views as positive proof that they do not, and engage in casuistic hairsplitting and evasion to protect the Church from any and all criticism without regard to its validity.

    To the extent I am right about this sometimes being the intended meaning, I tend to disagree with aquinas that the objection is to well informed Mormons per se, but tend to agree that the term is of questionable utility, and that it degenerates to mere invective when applied to individual Mormons.

    I was born into an LDS family, and as I grew up I found that being Mormon was not an entirely comfortable fit. I had different political and intellectual outlooks than the “average” Mormon, and some issues–I’ll use organic evolution and the age of the Earth as an example–were very uncomfortable for me (this was closer to the heyday of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie; it may be a less pressing matter now). At church I was constantly hearing that no good Mormon could believe in evolution. It was a favorite topic in priesthood meeting in my ward. I was aware that some Mormons did, that I was not the only one in the ward, and that there was support from David O. McKay and others. However, at least once a month I had a very immediate experience of belonging to a silenced minority perceived as illegitimate by many in the ward.

    In that context, when a non-member asked me if I thought the earth was created in seven days, my answer was rather passionately no, certainly not, it was absolutely not a requirement of Mormonism, etc. They got the full effect of the ongoing internal conflict I felt part of, but without an explanation of where it came from. I think it would be fair to say that “the Church”, in a sense, *was* teaching “no evolution” at the time, and that the vehemence my denial was directly proportional to that reality. However, as I saw it I was standing up for the insufficiently acknowledged but inarguable (David O. McKay, people!) fact that the church had no such teaching, whatever Joseph Fielding Smith might have said.

    There was no bloggernacle at the time, but if there had been, that’s how I might have become an Internet Mormon in the sense I described. I have no way of knowing how representative my experience might be, but for what it’s worth, there it is.

  14. Brian said

    So…if fallible/infallible is what you want to mean by Internet/Chapel, why not just use the terms fallible/infallible?

    I agree with you. Those are better terms. I don’t use “internet Mormon” because I recognize it to be an inflammatory term. But hopefully my exploration of the terms can help supposed “internet Mormons” understand what the underlying issue is about.

    I totally understand why “internet Mormonism” frustrates both ex-Mormon and non-Mormon critics. It’s a shift from a hard edge to a squishy center. It’s the same reason people want to classify all Evangelicals/Intelligent Design Theorists as young earth creationists. It’s much much easier to disprove. I doubt anyone here Mormon or Non-Mormon would have much of a problem showing why LDS prophets are not infallible.

    Part of the problem in this debate is that the infallibility view is still being taught and promoted by LDS leaders in General Conference, church manuals and recent publications. Using Millet’s rubric for discerning church doctrine . . . it’s still church doctrine (while simultaneously not church doctrine).

  15. Aquinas said:

    Why not describe the specific beliefs of the kinds of people with whom you have met or otherwise have had conversations?

    I think part of the problem is that when you ask Mormons (in general) what they believe, they are more likely to tell you what the LDS church teaches than to give you a look at their personal beliefs.

    Then when they start getting into speculation, minority views or heterodoxy they don’t necessarily inform you that they are no longer presenting what’s their own opinion. Or they make a shift into a fallibility position once they

  16. I once actually thought the distinction between “liberal” and “conservative” or “iron-rod” and “liahona” or “Internet” and “chapel” was useful.

    My own father – who I would have said fell on the conservative end of all those match-ups – proved that they weren’t so useful after all. He’s in some ways as conservative as they come – but he’s constantly surprising me with his unconventional and nuanced views on a variety of church subjects.

    It’s established to me that you just can’t pigeonhole people.

  17. Seth R. said:

    It’s established to me that you just can’t pigeonhole people.

    It’s especially difficult when trying to pigeonhole people into one of two (or even a few more) categories.

    I can think of one LDS bishop I’ve known who was what I would consider extremely conservative in many areas; he, for example, believed that literally there was no death before the Fall, a belief which would preclude all sorts of things that we know through science about the origins of human (and other) life. Yet, he had a close relative who was gay, and probably because of that he had developed some highly nuanced views on that subject; if all you knew were his views relating to homosexuality, you’d probably consider him a liberal, or at least as liberal as can be without teaching against firmly, explicitly established doctrine.

    On the other hand, as BrianJ said, using labels is the way we communicate:

    Labels can be useful, but only if they are used well.

    “Internet Mormons” and “chapel Mormons” (and many of the others that have been mentioned) are labels that seldom, if ever, are used well. But labeling of some sort is inevitable, and is probably even required as part of the thinking process.

  18. Maybe we could just distinguish between two types of people: those Who Can and those Who Can’t be pigeonholed.

  19. Yes. Let’s call those who can be pigeonholed “Chapel Mormons” and those who can’t “Internet Mormons”

  20. BrianJ ~ It goes without saying that labels can be useful. I’m not at all concerned that there is a need here to stress that point, or to assure everyone of the utility of the concept of labels in human language. This is all true but I doubt there is a need to correct for that here. I don’t see a huge problem in our discourse with people running around taking way too much time to carefully and accurately describe complex and nuanced phenomena when there is some really good label they could use to express the identical information. I don’t see that problem.

    The problem I see is that labels are used as a substitute for dialogue. Once a person effectively has labeled the other person, they no longer need to ask them what they believe, because the all-knowing label tells all. The label explains everything. The label provides them with all the information they need. There is no need to ask the other person any questions, the label performs that function for them. There is no need to treat them as a human being who has a variety of life experiences and perspectives. The label serves that function. People become fungible objects. In this context, the goal is to just label people so you no longer need to engage in the more difficult activity of actually engaging in dialogue with them.

  21. Tim said: I think part of the problem is that when you ask Mormons (in general) what they believe, they are more likely to tell you what the LDS church teaches than to give you a look at their personal beliefs.

    Isn’t this the same with Protestants or Catholics as well, especially when it comes to “creed” oriented beliefs.

    Mormons may be a bit different in that they are left with far more room to speculate without falling into the eternal pits of hell.

  22. Jared, I wouldn’t say that Protestants are usually organized enough for most of them to provide you with a pat party-line answer.

    As for Catholics, the membership is so far-flung and diverse, that predicting what any given Catholic will do becomes an exercise in futility.

  23. I think part of the problem is that when you ask Mormons (in general) what they believe, they are more likely to tell you what the LDS church teaches than to give you a look at their personal beliefs.

    Unless, of course, members of the church, in general, actually believe the same thing that the church teaches. Or, at the very least, they have a belief about what you mean when you ask them.

    This is something that has always been hard for me to answer. Any time someone asks me, “What do Mormons believe?” I have to ask them what they mean, first. It is so much easier to answer a specific question. “What do Mormons believe about Jesus Christ?” I can answer that. “What do Mormons believe about grace and works?” I can answer that. Or, rather, I can answer what the LDS church teaches (i.e. the official church publications on the topic), which is usually what people mean when they ask what Mormons believe.

    On the other hand, the questions “What do Mormons believe about…” and “What do you, as a Mormon, believe about…” can be very different questions with very different answers. The first is asking for official church teachings, which may or may not exist. The second is asking for my personal view, which may or may not have a correlating official church teaching.

  24. aquinas said “The problem I see is that labels are used as a substitute for dialogue.”

    And this is something that I heartily agree with. Protestants who want to dialogue with Mormons should come to the understanding that just like our own Main Line denominations a diversity of theological though is permitted in Mormonism for ecclesiastical unity. If as a conservative confessional Protestant I want to have my beliefs given an honest hearing, nuance and all, I owe someone more than a dismissal as an Internet Mormon.

  25. aquinas: “It goes without saying that labels can be useful. I’m not at all concerned that there is a need here to stress that point, or to assure everyone of the utility of the concept of labels in human language.”

    I did see that problem—or rather, I worried that some might mistake my objection to the “Internet/Chapel” labels as a rejection of labels altogether: “Oh, BrianJ, you’d be upset with any label!” So I just wanted to make it clear that I’m fine with labels, I’m even fine with being labeled. Just make sure the labels are good labels. That’s all.

  26. So I just wanted to make it clear that I’m fine with labels, I’m even fine with being labeled. Just make sure the labels are good labels. That’s all.

    Which is why I am perfectly happy being labeled Party Assassin Wife of Fury.

    So…did we just reach consensus that Internet / Chapel Mormon is dead?

  27. Did I miss it, or did nobody disagree with this line?

    When later Mormon leaders disavowed the Adam-God doctrine they effectively smashed the idea that a prophet could not lead the faithful astray.

  28. When later Mormon leaders disavowed the Adam-God doctrine they effectively smashed the idea that a prophet could not lead the faithful astray.

    I think it’s pretty obvious whoever said that in the first place was a little bit astray. 😉

  29. First of all, I think I can make a blanket statement that whatever Katie L says, I will agree with. It must be because she’s an Awesome Mormon. Also, that I tend toward a post-modern worldview, like her.

    When later Mormon leaders disavowed the Adam-God doctrine they effectively smashed the idea that a prophet could not lead the faithful astray.

    I imagine that God isn’t particularly concerned with whether a person believes the Adam-God doctrine is true or not. So, I don’t think it would qualify as leading the faithful astray. If a person spent their whole life believing it, and it was wrong, but dedicated their life to Jesus in all ways, was kind to their fellow man… I bet God would just tell them to read the ‘how it all started’ pamphlet that they hand out when you go to heaven, and highlight that part in particular. (What? With all of the pamphlets you see in chapels, I can only assume that continues into the afterlife, right?)

    I think in general, too many Christians get too caught up in too many of the details that really, really, really cannot be that important in the grand scheme of things. And if everyone focused, instead, on what mattered–following Jesus’s teachings, loving their neighbor, etc., there would be a lot less hate and anger in the world.

  30. Concerning Tim’s post: Forget about inerrancy vs. infallibility. What about biblical illiteracy? Seems like the internet evangelicals are among the growing number of biblical illiterates.
    (Low blow, I know.)

    I love your last paragraph, KatyJane.

  31. Chapel Mormon/Internet Mormon may be dead to the people on this board (especially the people on this board who have been personally called Internet Mormons by those who identify as Chapel Mormons) but it sounds like the terms are still going to be used on other sites whether we like it or not. If faced with someone like this, you could respond “It is ironic for you to tell me that you are a Chapel Mormon by posting this information on the internet. I actually also go to church and am probably on the internet less than you are.” This forced literalism of the terms will make your opponent switch to what he is really talking about.

    By the way, for those on other sites who identify as Chapel Mormons and feel that everything the Prophet says should be considered word for word to be directly from God’s mouth, would they feel the same way if they were born into the FLDS church and had Warren Jeffs for a Prophet? They can’t say that the burning in the bosom would have brought them to the true prophet because that certainly hasn’t happened to most of the FLDS church members and they pray every day (this isn’t even considering all of the people of other churches who don’t convert). The burning in the bosom brings people to all sorts of different faiths, including our very own Kullervo to Paganism. They can’t say that they can know the true faith based on church growth because the FLDS church is growing quickly and so is Islam. So why is it that they think they and they alone can be certain that everything their Prophet says comes word for word directly from God and that they should never question it even though they require that everyone else question their religious leaders? Do they just think that God loves them more than everyone else? I think Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” policy should come into play here somewhere.

  32. Rolling – the only people who have called me an “Internet Mormon” are either ex-Mormons, or non-Mormons.

    Why would that be, I wonder?

  33. In response to Cal: I don’t know about Internet Evangelicals, but Evangelicals as a whole compete well with Mormons on Bible knowledge. According to this Pew Survey, Mormons come in first place for Biblical knowledge, followed by Evangelicals, with Atheists in third place. The least knowledgeable group is the Hispanic Catholics with the “nothing in particular” group (the “apathetic nonbelievers” as I like to call them) only slightly more knowledgeable and the white Mainline Protestants next up on the totem pole.

    http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

  34. Seth R. : Really? Why would ExMormons use the term “internet Mormon” as an insult? You’d think that they’d view it as an improvement. Do they really like the so-called Internet Mormons less than the Mormons who say “when the Prophet speaks the thinking is done”. If they were criticizing you because they thought you said one thing on the internet and another thing in chapel (the whole “milk before meat” issue) then why would they label you as an Internet Mormon when they are essentially saying that you take both roles at different times? Tim’s post seems to suggest that you can only be one, not both.

  35. Is this the only post you’ve read here recently Rolling?

    Or did you catch David’s earlier post?

  36. First of all, I think I can make a blanket statement that whatever Katie L says, I will agree with. It must be because she’s an Awesome Mormon. Also, that I tend toward a post-modern worldview, like her.

    Also, I am very intelligent and extremely reasonable. 😉

    Which is why I tend to agree with everything katyjane says. Such as this:

    I think in general, too many Christians get too caught up in too many of the details that really, really, really cannot be that important in the grand scheme of things.

    Honestly, I think if God was all that worried about people believing the “right” theology in order to get in to heaven, He would have made it a heck of a lot easier to figure out what exactly it is.

    Not that we shouldn’t do our best to understand. But those heavenly pamphlets are going to come in pretty dang handy for ALL of us, I have no doubt.

    In the end, though, I think He’s way more interested in how we practice love and kindness and forgiveness and all those other boring, hard things. 🙂

  37. Rolling Forest, thanks for the survey.

    I believe the “burning in the bosom” that Mormons experience is really from God. The problem is—and we’ve all done this—we sometimes inadvertently add something of our own ideas or traditions to what God impresses on our spirits.

    God guarantees to let into heaven everyone who believes in (follows) his Son (Acts 10:43). Mormonism encourages people to believe in God’s Son. Also, 70% of its other teachings agree with the Bible and with evangelicals.

    If Kullervo has a burning in his bosom that leads him to Paganism, it is not the burning of the Holy Spirit!

  38. But then again, that’s beside the point. Rollingforest’s point, as I understand it, is merely to demonstrate how subjective mystical experiences are not a reliable indicator of objective truth. Attempts to show that they are despite the evident differences in different people’s subjective mystical experiences invariably fall into some sort of special pleading.

  39. I’ll chime in after reading everything, maybe my opinion will change, but at the outset my impression of these categories is that they are a sort of pseudo-sociological categorization of stereotypes which are based on various observable phenomena but which fall entirely short of representing actual circumstances in a meaningful way.

    Maybe this post will change my mind and maybe it won’t. We shall see.

  40. Just finished, I throw all my weight behind aquinas’s points, as well as the other articulate folks who explained why they think the IM/CM framework is problematic. I was privileged to see the genesis of this dichotomy on the message boards a while ago. Dr. Shades went so far as to present it at a Sunstone gathering. Essentially, it was originally devised as a way to discount the opinions of Mormons in online discussion, to strong-arm them into accountability for various Mormon beliefs to which they do not assent, and thus to dismiss their own perspectives from the realm of acceptable conversation because they shouldn’t really “count” as representing real Mormon views. The line of thinking behind it seemed to go something like this:

    “Golly, when I went to church I never heard about that particular view. But now that I left the church I see someone making that claim online (because I was too uninterested as a member to realize this idea had been published 20 years ago, and I’m also too dense to realize that it isn’t an important argument to have anyway). So what has changed since then? Oh, the Internet is here now! And I am using the Internet! And people with these weird opinions are also using the Internet. Thus, they are unlike the type of Mormon I was, and who I assume the majority of Mormons to be, which is a Chapel person.”

    Trying to shift the definition to encompass the issue of prophetic infallibility as Tim does fails for me because the terms themselves have no connection to the concepts they are supposed to invoke. Granted, labels can be funny that way, but the labels are already being used in a different way and I see no reason why this new proposal should be taken seriously as an alternative.

  41. Kullervo said, “. . . . subjective mystical experiences are not a reliable indicator of objective truth.”

    Since we’re straying from the topic, I’ll be as brief as possible. My dictionary defines “subjective” as “of, relating to, or arising within one’s self or mind in contrast to what is outside.”

    When I move toward spiritual truth and consequently feel the peace of God come onto me, that’s from outside. It is as real as anything physical. It doesn’t come from any bias I have.

  42. When I move toward spiritual truth and consequently feel the peace of God come onto me, that’s from outside. It is as real as anything physical. It doesn’t come from any bias I have.

    All of your sensations from outside phenomena are experienced as internal subjective events.

    In other words, claiming that your subjective experience is “as real as something physical” doesn’t get you anywhere because your hypothetical experience of “something physical” would be just as subjective. Except the difference is that at least you could get a consensus from other people regarding the “something physical,” whereas the spiritual experience you describe is something that happens entirely inside you. Your insistence that it feels really really objective doesn’t make it objective.

    But even setting that aside, you are still engaging in special pleading by claiming that your experience of “the peace of God coming from outside you” is somehow more objective than, say, my experience of “the unbridled passion of Dionysus coming from outside me.”

  43. All of your sensations from outside phenomena are experienced as internal subjective events.

    This is a current debate in philosophy of mind. You appear to hold a standard empiricist theory of perception which is that all objective things in the world are perceived as subjective sense-data.

    There are several reasons to think that this picture of reality is inadequate and have lead philosophers and cognitive scientists to posit intentional and evolutionary approaches to solve this problem. My point is not to adjudicate who is correct here, but to point out that the correct theory may be something that neither of you are arguing.

  44. I’m interested in hearing more, but I am still confident that, whatever turns out to be the correct theory, it’s not going to vindicate Cal’s certainty that his spiritual feelings are objective based solely on the fact that they feel objective to him. Maybe I only needed to go that far. I will try again:

    When I move toward spiritual truth and consequently feel the peace of God come onto me, that’s from outside. It is as real as anything physical. It doesn’t come from any bias I have.

    Cal, the fact that it feels like it comes from outside doesn’t mean that it does.

  45. My point is not to adjudicate who is correct here, but to point out that the correct theory may be something that neither of you are arguing.

    Right, and the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a perspective-free, or paradigm-independent, or non-ultimately-circular way to adjudicate things at the present (or maybe ever?).

  46. Right, and the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a perspective-free, or paradigm-independent, or non-ultimately-circular way to adjudicate things at the present (or maybe ever?).

    How could there be? At the end of the line, you’re always left with the human brain interpreting the data that it is fed.

  47. Right, and the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a perspective-free, or paradigm-independent, or non-ultimately-circular way to adjudicate things at the present (or maybe ever?).

    I was referring to theories of perception in cognitive science and philosophy of mind, I wasn’t making an epistemological point.

  48. How could there be? At the end of the line, you’re always left with the human brain interpreting the data that it is fed.

    The great challenge facing cognitive psychology is that we are trying to use our brains to try to figure out how our brains do what they do when they do anything. We will never know for sure if we are right or not. We just have theories that make sense to us at the present.

  49. Kullervo said, “Cal, the fact that it feels like it comes from outside doesn’t mean that it does.”

    LOL. I’ll give you that one. However, it doesn’t matter so much to me where it came from. I just know it came!

    I’m not denying the reality of your “unbridled passion of Dionysus.” I am going to ask you, though, “Are you making this passion up to be cute or is it something you actually feel?”
    Is it a good feeling or bad?
    If it is a good feeling, is it short-lived?
    What do you do to get the feeling?
    After you do what you do to get the feeling, do negative consequences follow sometime later (as with sin)?

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