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It never stops hurting

November 25, 2010

When I started Irresistible (Dis)Grace, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to try to be a (prepare to gag) *reasonable* blogger. I wanted to reach out to both sides of the Mormon fence.

Because I am not completely satisfied with any of the existing camps. I do not believe, so I cannot be a part of the traditional believing camp (or its blogs). I’m not an academic (especially not of Mormon issues), so I can’t even keep up on that front. But…I also don’t believe that the church is the devil incorporated, and so I’ve felt a disconnect from many disaffected members and exmormons who feel strongly against the church (although I’ve recognized that the different life experiences that some have had may help explain the depths of their sense of betrayal and indignation.)

On top of all that, I don’t often “get” the middle way or New Order Mormon position.

So, I’ve found myself trying to stake out a position that I haven’t really quite seen before and I don’t even know how it works.

…but I’m not even doing a good job at it.

You know, sometimes I *do* want to vent. Sometimes, I want to make an example of people. Some times, I want to feel free to say unkind things about people.

How *unreasonable*. How petty.

I hate it.

And I know…the internet…srs bsns. I know I’m not supposed to take any of this seriously, but I still really feel bad whenever I cross someone’s path. It really drains me.

What can I say, this time?

This time, I feel like I’ve swung further to the dark side. It all started with a discussion about make-believe. That discussion really bothered me, because I wondered — with how cavalier people are about truth, it seems — whether people even care. (But really, I don’t particularly care about the truth aspect that much…in fact, that’s a point where I really disagree with a lot of exmormons. I think many exmos fetishize the pursuit of these ideals of truth, objectivity, “facts,” and “reason.” I was more concerned at the time of how cavalier people were about belief.)

But that wasn’t all. Next was a discussion on why young people leave. Followed by similar discussion at MSP and my own discussion.

But even THAT wasn’t all. What became a rather popular subtopic was Ardis Parshall’s post in response to many disaffected members’ charge that they left because of all the history they learned that the church doesn’t teach.

Yeah, this one hasn’t been all that well-liked by the DAMU, to say the least.

I had to laugh at someone’s ludicrous claim that if “nothing [Ardis] has ever learned about Church history causes [her] the least amount of stress, insofar as [her] testimony of the gospel and [her] support of the Church is concerned,” then that must mean that “she probably hasn’t read enough history.” Because obviously, anyone who has read x historical fact of the church will be stressed out, no matter what.

If you’re suggesting that Ardis Parshall probably hasn’t read enough history, then you do not know who Ardis Parshall is and you should stop talking now, because you’re embarrassing yourself.

…Ah, speaking of embarrassing…

I wrote a comment to Ardis’s post. It was really out of line. It was loaded; it was tongue-in-cheek; it was everything I know better than to say.

And yet, at some level, I was trying to find an answer: Ardis’s experience seems extraordinary. It does not seem generalizable to the average Mormon. If this is the case, then what are people who don’t have such experiences supposed to do? Despite my loaded language, I was (and am) interested to hear how Ardis would answer.

Ardis had a pretty thorough response, which I’ll have to think about in depth for a bit…but which I also think doesn’t fully answer my question. (It still assumes “knowledge” of certain things that I don’t think every Mormon would consider “known” or easily knowable — it may be true that “learning that Joseph Smith was a polygamist doesn’t affect the origin of the Book of Mormon” — but the origin of the Book of Mormon was a questionable point already. Same with the disparate aspects of Mountain Meadows Massacre and the First Vision — there are enough questionable points about the First Vision itself that the MMM just adds insult to injury) And so I was interested in continuing the conversation, and started drafting a new comment.

…until I realized she had responded a second time to me.

Andrew, having now read your remarks elsewhere, I realize there wasn’t a shadow of sincerity in your question. No need for you to respond here again.

:< :< :<


Yeah, I deserved that.

But what a joke I am. Turns out I’m still a monster. I’m not really doing anything different here.

IB”Oh there goes Andrew S trying to start up drama, dishing it out but not being able to take it.” etc.,


From → Uncategorized

  1. I’m essentially shooting for that same space. I’m not out to destroy the church, I don’t think its members are all brainwashed idiots, but I don’t believe it’s true, either. I discuss mormonism because it’s interesting.

    Yet, I feel like this space is working out pretty well.

    I’m probably just setting the bar lower than you are. For example, I think your question to ardis was reasonable.

    Also I think you worry too hard about whether people like or respect you. When you’re discussing a touchy subject like religion, some people will think you’re a jerk no matter what you say.

  2. I definitely do worry too much about that, and I recognize that. But it doesn’t change my gut reaction.

  3. Well Andrew, I for one am ever fascinated and interested in your take on things. Keep a’ pitchin’ in, brother.

  4. Naomi permalink

    I first started reading your blog for that reason: your ability to be reasonable about issues.

    It’s a hard place to find yourself in–as you say ‘reaching out to both sides of the fence.’ But are you? Could some of your frustrations come more from trying to keep both ‘sides’ happy,(which it doesn’t appear they are) and neglecting to express what you *know*?

    Sometimes you post something e.g. the “Ask Andrew”(called something like that?) and it confuses me a little as to where you stand. Nothing wrong with this, but I wonder what your thoughts and opinions are, and what you are arguing *hypothetically* – Does that make sense?

    I’m actually having trouble trying to word this because, as much as I hate to admit it, I find myself doing the same things, even as argumentative as I can be–people pleasing.

    You’re doing something different here, Andrew. This very post is proof to that. And I can’t say I’m not curious to see what one of your ‘vents’ contains/entails?

  5. Naomi permalink

    Oh, and although your response to Ardis may have been a little ‘loaded’, I find nothing insincere about someone looking for a thoughtful response, and opening up intelligent discussion about things that the post seemed to ‘brush over’…ekkk no one hit me

    Your comment about dishing it out but not taking it can definitely go both ways there. Discussion isn’t drama. To me, the way you worded you response was just your Andrew ‘voice,’ which I admit can carry a tone of sarcasm –But this may just be the wannabe writer in me… 🙂

    Just my two cents

  6. Ardis came down on you because of who you are, not what you said in that comment. I disagree with her approach in this, but then I’m also not worthy of interaction with the elect. :- ) I’m sure she’s a fine person, even if she’s wound a little tight.

    If you did something that you’re not proud of, welcome to the human race. Learn from it and go on. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, “We did then what we knew how to do. When we knew better, we did better.”

    Relax, have a cold one and go on to another day.

  7. I didn’t see anything insincere or out of line about your questions, but since you called them “loaded” yourself, I guess this is my too-literalness coming through again.

    But I’m in the same space as you and chanson. I don’t hate the church — it actually helped me a lot back in the day — I just don’t believe it’s “true.”

    Anyway, I thought Ardis described really well what I experienced in the church. I think this is really hard for a lot of people in Outer Blogness to understand, but for some people the church simply works.

    Not just socially, but “spiritually.” And not just in the sense of rare visions and voices and such, but on a small, regular, daily basis. The church says things like pray and you’ll feel this way, read the scriptures and you’ll understand this, get or give a blessing and this will happen, etc. For most people in OB, none of that ever worked.

    But for some people it really does work. They pray and they feel what the church said they’d feel. They read the scriptures and they understand what the church said they’d understand. They give or get a blessing, and the things that the church said would happen, happen. Consistently.

    So I think that’s where someone like Ardis is coming from. Her belief comes not just from one big, life-changing experience, but from an accumulation of hundreds or thousands of little experiences. Individually, those experiences are barely significant, but taken cumulatively they’re huge.

    So I think that when someone like Ardis finds out, say, that Joseph Smith was unethical sexually, well that’s troubling, but on the other hand there are hundreds or thousands of data points from her personal experience that in her mind have always pointed to the church being “true.” And those thousands of data points outweigh the new, troubling, ones

    At least, that’s how it was for me.

    Anyway, the family’s starting to wake up, so I probably won’t be back for further discussion until tomorrow. In the meantime, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Naomi,

    What you raised about the unclear purpose of “Ask Andrew” is interesting. I’ve had some people say it before whenever I’ve tried to write satire. I should probably work on that.


    I guess that makes sense. I just hate being put into a box and stereotyped. And since it keeps happening again and again, I don’t know what I’m supposed to learn from it to go on.


    It was definitely from other things I said elsewhere, and not just that comment. Several things I phrased in the comment at Keepa were more diplomatic phrasings of less than charitable thoughts.

    But I completely agree — for some people the church DOES work…but for others, it DOESN’T. My point is always: people don’t really CHOOSE for it to work or not work. People don’t choose not to get answers from prayers, or not to ever hear the voice of Christ (or etc.,) in their lives. So, that’s why I think that my question holds whether it address one monolithic experience (hearing Christ) or several smaller experiences (reading the BoM and getting the impression that it is anything other than fiction; praying and getting anything other than your own blankness of mind back, etc.,)

    Have a happy Thanksgiving too!

  9. Mike S permalink

    I saw the post that you are referencing. I actually commented on the post, but mine was one of the comments which was deleted. Perhaps I’m on the same list as you? I actually did relate quite well to the post that she made about the effect her mission president had on her – a long-lasting effect.

    My comment was essentially this, although I forget the exact wording:
    My first mission president sounds much like yours (Ardis’). After a particularly overbearing set of zone conferences by the mission president and the APs, there were no baptisms in the ENTIRE country for 2 months. Luckily, my second mission president was a gem of a man. I was able to work closely with him. I still talk to him and it still warms my heart.

    My brother wasn’t quite as lucky. His mission president brought his wife with him, but also apparently a mistress. It was eventually “corrected”, but it did affect many missionaries, even to this day.

    I’m not really sure why it was deleted, but at least I wasn’t attacked. It is something that had affected my entire religious life since that time, as well as that of my brother. It was applicable to her post. It was a chance to try to discuss some of these things and try to make sense of them. But it was deleted.

    So I do think forums like yours serve a valuable purpose. I see all of us on a continuum of life – with no two people at the exact same place. I think we move around on this continuum as well as we have various experiences, etc. While I may be at a different place than you, someday, you may be where I am or vice versa.

    If ALL blogs were ones where comments that were remotely “non-typical” were just deleted, it wouldn’t really be that different from Church, where we all put on our smiling faces and best foot forward. There needs to be a place to discuss non-correlated things. So thank you.

  10. Mike,

    you’ve probably already been tagged as an eeeeeevil apostate. Now there’ll be no way you’ll get past the gates of the faithful blogs!

    In general,

    I’ve been thinking about the events of the past day or so…I’ve been so concerned about trying to be taken seriously by everyone that I try to reach out to people that aren’t even interested in what I have to say. And then I get upset when they show me that they aren’t interested. Either that, or I want to have my message (and experience) accepted by everyone, so sometimes I blunt what I want to say for the sake of trying not to offend people. And then I let things get to me when I offend people anyway.

    But I’m going to try to stop caring about this.

    I mean, I understand that some people — no matter how they frame it — don’t really want to hear anything that doesn’t validate their opinion. So why try to share an opinion that they don’t want to hear? And why get upset when later, they reject that?

  11. Building on what Kuri said, this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from participating on the LDS-interest online discussion. Before the Internet, I hadn’t really grasped how different people’s expectations and experiences with Mormonism are.

    Specifically, the people who leave are not all leaving for the same reasons, and the people who stay aren’t all staying for the same reasons. Different people value [respectively, despise] vastly different aspects of Mormonism; as I’ve said before, one man’s baby is another man’s bathwater…

    That’s why the discussion on Ardis’s thread exploded my irony meter. Basically, she writes a title that evokes someone else’s experience in Mormonism, and follows it with a post that explains how that person’s experience must be wrong/inferior because it’s not the same as Ardis’s experience. Andrew asks a perfectly reasonable question about what to do about the fact that Ardis’s personal experience doesn’t automatically generalize to others. Then SilverRain ices the cake with “I think that many of us, in the “information age” have forgotten both courtesy and a willingness to be wrong, or to allow others to make different decisions than we have.” — which makes sense in context only if we assume she meant it as a criticism of Ardis and her post.

  12. Andrew,

    I completely agree that it doesn’t work for some people. I suspect that there might actually be some sort of physiological difference between the brains of people for whom it does work and people for whom it doesn’t. But whatever the reasons may actually be, certainly the church has found no way of making itself work for everyone who wants it to work.

    But my point is that the people for whom it does work have a huge number of data points of varying degrees of importance informing them on a regular basis (even a daily basis in many cases) that The Church Is True. That can make indicators that it isn’t true much less significant to them.

    And I think maybe this isn’t well understood in Outer Blogness, which seems to be populated mostly with people for whom the church never really worked. The number of OBers who left even though they experienced the church as generally working the way it was supposed to seems much smaller.

    Of course, people for whom it works often have even less understanding of the people for whom it doesn’t. I remember how I used to see people for whom the church had no real “spiritual” power and think “Why don’t they get it?” I concluded that it was because they didn’t didn’t take the church seriously enough or were less “spiritual” than I was. And I saw that as a weakness or failing on their part.

    But it wasn’t. It was just a difference, and probably an inborn one at that.

  13. kuri, I completely agree. As you note, the problem is most people *on both sides* neglect to see it that way. So for exmormons, it’s, “wow, if they only knew x, if they would only be rational about it, if they would only listen to reason” when it wasn’t ABOUT rationality and reason (because if you start with different premises, you’ll reason to a different conclusion). And for Mormons, “If they only took the church more seriously, if they only prayed/fasted/magnified callings,” when it wasn’t about orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

  14. And I think maybe this isn’t well understood in Outer Blogness, which seems to be populated mostly with people for whom the church never really worked. The number of OBers who left even though they experienced the church as generally working the way it was supposed to seems much smaller.

    That is so true! I wrote about that in one of my earliest blog entries, here.

    I think this ties back in with the discussion on why people leave. As “correlation” (and the church bureaucracy in general) micromanages the meetings more and more, it makes it harder for different types of people to carve out their own place within mainstream Mormonism. Here’s a scenario to explain what I mean:

    Someone in the COB decided that “people stay with Mormonism when they have a strong testimony” and therefore every activity must have a spiritual/testimony-building aspect. The trouble is that some people have a quieter spirituality, and may feel more connection with the Mormon community through shared social/cultural activities and might be put-off by an overdose of testimony-bearing. Similarly, some like teaching out of a simple manual, whereas some feel more edified when they are encouraged to put their own research into their lessons. But when management says that only one of those two approaches is acceptable, they decrease the number of people that Mormonism “works” for.

  15. Exactly. It’s like they’re trying to get colorblind people to stay in the church because of how colorful it is. The metaphor is imperfect because people for whom the church doesn’t work are neither lacking in something nor (probably) a minority, but the church is insisting that they should feel something that through no fault of their own they can never feel. I’ve never really realized it before, but that’s actually kind of a cruel thing to do.

  16. I wouldn’t take it personally, Andrew. Ardis’s response is about herself, not you.

    I don’t know her but my impression is that she might have bad a pretty rough life.

  17. (oops, your comment got trapped in pending…I fished it out)

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