John Dehlin, Joanna Brooks, and the Secret (Combination) Mormon Stories Cabal
I remember when I had my first ultra-Mormon professional troll. It was not fun.
But Joanna Brooks, a person of far more importance, gets far-more-professional troll Ralph Hancock to cover her. This time Ralph has an article in Meridian magazine to explain how Joanna Brooks’ Book of Mormon Girl exposes her ignorance of Mormonism at every page turn. Ralph’s early conclusion about Joanna and her testimony as he has gleaned it from her book:
I have been describing Brooks’ account of her understanding of the gospel as a child and an adolescent. Still, I attribute this understanding to the mature author of The Book of Mormon Girl, since nowhere in her book does she suggest that her youthful understanding of LDS teaching might have been incomplete, not to say distorted. The reader familiar with a richer Mormon teaching is left to conclude that the thin, even caricatural understanding of doctrine presented here, the dangerous mixture of pure selflessness and pure self-discipline she will soon rebel against, remains the author’s understanding of “mainstream” or un-“reformed” Mormonism still today, as Joanna Brooks steps forward in this “Mormon moment” as a kind of media celebrity and self-styled “national voice” for Mormonism.
But of course, Brother Hancock’s comments aren’t the best part about this article. Recently CNN had a post as part of its coverage of SXSW over the (relatively noncontroversial) idea that, for most sites, the comments section is a cesspool.
Let’s just say that on this level, Meridian Magazine’s commenters do not disappoint.
Here is one comment that came to mind.
I speak from experience having watched this movement on the Internet now since 2005. Please pay attention to what I have to say. Individuals reading this should be warned that there is a whole movement of disaffected or questioning people, some still in the closet, on the internet that think similarly to Joanna Brooks, coalescing in the so-called “bloggernacle” and in places like Mormon Stories and Mormon Expression. Joanna is not so much the leader of this phenomenon, as much as a man named John Dehlin who runs Mormon Stories. These people are all genuine in their desire to find a middle way where they can feel Mormon without having to be “correlated” by correlation, as far as I can tell. But be warned that this philosophy is becoming more and more pervasive in the libral parts of the church as people that are intellectually leaning become more and more connected to these “Internet Mormons.” These people seek to form online communities that get together with each other that are “mixed belief” communities, where apostates and believers rub shoulders and have “story meetings” which is their type of “testimony meetings.” Through the telling of their stories, they seek to bear one anothers burdens in their mutual loss of faith once they have bitten the forbidden fruit of the historical problems of the Church. But the common theme throughout this movement is that compassion should outweigh concerns such as mingling with those who are critical of the brethren and who are bitter against the Church. And also a pervasive denial of the gift of the Holy Ghost is evident in their descriptions of their newly found and newly “framed” spirituality “on their own terms.” This is a new and very deceptive and pervasive form of apostasy that people need to look out for. Bishops and Stake Presidents need to familiarize themselves with this movement, and pay particular attention to it. More and more members as time goes on will be succoming to these philosophies. It is a new Universalist movement in the Church of generalized spirituality and denial of the Holy Ghost in the sense that they are more into beng Mormon for the social aspect, because there isn’t any better spiritual path for them, rather than being truly converted.
Also, please pay attention to what I have to say, but these groups carry secret animal sacrifice rituals.
I kid, I kid. I think the best part about this comment in particular is that, after you’ve gotten past all of the conspiratorial thinking, this comment at the very least actually seems to describe several aspects of Mormon Stories and other uncorrelated Mormon movements pretty well.
But it’s in the juxtaposition of the conspiratorial thinking and the for-the-most-part accurate description that makes me wonder if this comment isn’t meant to be parody.
(As an aside, I would like to point out that anyone who has read my series of posts about the Mormon internet communities would realize that you really can’t place the Bloggernacle, Mormon Stories, and Mormon Expression in the same ideological grouping. At some point, it feels like the guy just wanted to throw in all the buzzwords: Bloggernacle, uncorrelated Mormon, Internet Mormon, etc.,)
Let’s get back to discussing this comment, though.
These people seek to form online communities that get together with each other that are “mixed belief” communities, where apostates and believers rub shoulders and have “story meetings” which is their type of “testimony meetings.”
Oh my word! How terrible! How can we allow this?!
Wait, how is this even a bad thing at all? (I do think that the “story sharing” sessions of Mormon Stories conferences are pretty analogous to testimony meetings…and many people do play off that similarity, but still.)
Through the telling of their stories, they seek to bear one anothers burdens in their mutual loss of faith once they have bitten the forbidden fruit of the historical problems of the Church.
Bearing one another’s burdens. That sounds mighty socialist to me.
But the common theme throughout this movement is that compassion should outweigh concerns such as mingling with those who are critical of the brethren and who are bitter against the Church.
Compassion?! For those who are critical of the brethren! What an outrage! I need to ready my stones…everyone get ready to throw on “three”…
OK, but that was just one comment…there were a few other comments that I found amusing for certain reasons:
Joanna’s version of Mormonism would essentially boil it down to a kind of Reform Judaism-like structure, where people are allowed to be as “progressive” as they desire and still get to call themselves “Mormon”. Unfortunately, Brooks’ god is the god of far-left politics, not necessarily the Heavenly Father of Mormon doctrine.
I found myself reading this conversation as if it were from an evangelical speaking about Mormons. “The Mormon understanding of Christian allows people to be as “unBiblical” as they desire and still get to call themselves “Christian.” Unfortunately, Mormon’s Jesus is the god that was brother to Satan, not necessarily the Jesus of Christianity.”
or let’s take another one:
…I’m not sure about Sister Joanna, but feminist Mormons are big into praying to ‘Heavenly Mother’ and justify everything by saying that ‘men just don’t get it’. This belief, whether they understand it or not, thereby makes the Savior’s gift to us of the atonement of not effect in their lives, because in essence they deny that Christ took upon Him their sins because he is a Man and ‘just doesn’t understand me like HM does’. They don’t understand (either purposely or thru ignorance) that the Plan of Salvation, championed by our Savior Jesus Christ, was in fact our Heavenly Father’s plan….
Or, evangelicalified: “Mormons are big into believing they will “become as gods” and justify everything by saying that ‘plain and precious truths were taken out of the Bible during the Great Apostasy.’ This belief, whether they understand it or not, thereby makes the Savior’s gift to us of the atonement of no effect in their lives, because in essence they deny that Christ is fundamentally and necessarily different than humans, thus trivializing and distorting the Gospel because they believe that he and God were as man now is, and as they are, man may become. They don’t understand (either purposefully or thru ignorance) that the Trinity, and the distinctions of essence that it makes between God and humans, is the Gospel.” (HT Tim for linking me to that post)
OK, that was probably a little wordier than it had to be. I make a bad parody evangelical, so sue me.
OK, let’s play a game.
So, for the next comment quoted, I’m going to give you part of a comment…before reading the final part of the comment, guess whether you believe the criticism is coming from a disaffected/ex/post/former Mormon or from a believing Mormon:
…I’ve been aware of John Dehlin and Joanna Brooks; among others and have both read what they have written and listened to a few Mormon Stories podcasts to better understand the thinking. Ultimately, there is nothing of substance to what they say and their plea to allow some members a haven who would of left the church seems noble but misguided. There is no middle ground and this “Mormonism Lite” is just that “light” no substance.
Have you placed your bets? Maybe this will reveal the answer:
They find solace in the “mormon” story and their past experiences but want to bring new understanding and acceptance from the secular world to mainstream thinking; a divergent belief you would compare to “reformed” and “orthodox” judaism schism; this doesn’t work in the restored gospel. This is “apostasy-light” in reality. Same road, same consequences. I disagree with comments to this article who think it has no place on meridian. That kind of thinking is dangerous as well.Take the blinders off people- you would be surprised at those in your ward who feel and think this way.
I will stop here. I just wanted to share with you all a few of these comments.